Monday, September 1, 2014


Although you should be celebrating the last day of summer today, I know many of you will be “laboring” over lesson plans and schoolwork. Check out my website ( for a free download of “Grandparents’ Day.” Grandparents’ Day is officially September 7th.  (The person who chose this day was not a teacher because that's way too early in the school year to plan an event!)  I know many schools do plan a special day for grandparents at other times in the school year.  The good news is song Holly wrote can be used whenever and forever.  I guarantee it will give some proud grandmother or grandfather goose bumps! 

Grandparents’ Day - 1st Sunday after Labor Day
(Tune: “Simple Gifts”)
Grandma and Grandpa we just want to say
How much we love you on this special day.
With smiles and kisses and bear hugs, too
We want to say thanks for all that you do!
You make us feel like superstars!
You help us to see how wonderful we are.
The love and the time that you have shared
Will stay with us always and everywhere!
We play games together, we go for walks
We go out fishing or just sit and talk
We read books together and have so much fun!
Every moment with you is a special one.
You make us feel like superstars!
You help us to see how wonderful we are.
The love and the time that you have shared
Will stay with us always and everywhere!

I have some fantastic free downloads for monthly activity calendars, reading calendars, and family fun ideas that I hope you will take advantage of this year. The monthly activity calendars are a great alternative to homework for preK and K.  (One teacher suggested asking parents to do at least 10 and return it by the end of the month.)  Whether the parents choose to participate or not, you have to TRY! And if one parent sings a song, reads a book, or plays a game with their child because of you – that’s a good thing!!!

P.S.  Someone emailed me recently asking if I thought you should reward children who returned the calendars.  This was my response:
No, I would never reward children who returned them.  It's not their fault either way.  When you do family activities, you have to provide parents with the opportunity and then "let it go."  At conference time you might say, "How are you enjoying the reading calendars?  Most of the children are so excited when they return them at the end of the month."  That's what I call a gentle hint!!!

September Song Store Sale
You'll find the first sale I've ever had on my song store this month.  "Totally Reading" and "Totally Math" will make standards TOTALLY more fun in your classroom this year!

Sunday, August 31, 2014


The “low country” is a geographic and cultural term for where I live along the coast of South Carolina. I think it’s the best place in the world to live, but I also think we have some great cuisine. Forget about being a teacher today and do something that you enjoy like cooking or eating! 

Frogmore Stew
(aka Low Country Boil)
This is a great dish for company because you can have everything prepared ahead of time and then just throw it in the pot. Spread it out on a platter, put it in the middle of the table, and let your guests help themselves. The locals like to put newspaper in the middle of a picnic table and serve it that way.
¼ cup Old Bay seasoning
1 green pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 pounds small red potatoes
2 pounds kielbasa sausage cut into 2” slices
6 ears of fresh corn, halved
4 pounds unpeeled, large fresh shrimp
cocktail sauce

Fill a large cooker ½ full with water. Add Old Bay seasoning, onion, and pepper and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and boil for 5 minutes; add sausage and cook another 5 minutes; add corn and boil 10 more minutes.
Add shrimp and cook 3 to 5 minutes or until shrimp turns pink.
Remove with a slotted spoon or drain in a colander. Serve with cocktail sauce. 

*You can vary the amount of any of the ingredients. If you’re vegetarian just omit the sausage. It’s ALL good!

Low Country Pimento Cheese
It’s funny that you either LOVE pimento cheese or you don’t care for it. I happen to be in the LOVE category!

2 cups shredded extra sharp Cheddar cheese
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 small jar diced pimento, drained

You can put everything in a bowl and use an electric mixer, or just mix it by hand like I

South's Best Chocolate Chip Cookie
2 sticks butter, softened
½ cup oil
1 ½ cups white sugar
1 ¾ cups brown sugar
1 TB. vanilla
2 eggs
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
4 cups flour
12 oz. chocolate chips
(I added an extra 6 oz.)

Bake at 350 for about 12 minutes. Watch - undercooked is better because they are gooey and chewy!

Bon Appetite!

Saturday, August 30, 2014


You deserve a break this weekend because something exciting is happening!  It's the beginning of college football season!!!  Whether you like the game or not, it's the perfect springboard for engaging children in some of these learning activities.  This is a repeat from last year (Remember how important repetition is!), but as I read over these ideas it was clear how they connected with brain research and standards.  So, choose your favorite high school, college, or NFL team and get ready to kick off a great fall!

College Goals – It’s never too early to plant seeds of attending college in your students.  Give them a dream and a goal!  One school I visited displayed pennants of the schools where the teachers graduated from in the front hall.  Have the children brainstorm all the colleges and universities in your area.  Talk about why it is important to go to college.  Encourage your students to think about where they would like to go to college.  Give them paper shaped like pennants to decorate with their college dream.
Math – Let children do surveys of favorite college teams.
Graph favorite teams.
Predict who will win the game.  Who was right?  Who was wrong?
Predict what the score will be.  Who was closest?
Let children choose a favorite player and write their number on a jersey.  How many math facts can they think of to equal that number?

Social Studies – Use a map of the United States and locate where games will be played.

Internet Search – Look up team mascots and colors.  Listen to college fight songs.  Do exercises to fight songs.

Art – Cut pictures of players out of the newspaper or sports magazines.  Challenge children to write creative stories about favorite players.  They could also write letters to favorite players.

Guest Readers – Invite a local high school football team and cheerleading squad to visit your school to read books.  There’s nothing more motivating to a young child than to see someone in a uniform model how “cool” it is to read!

Teacher says:  How do you feel?
Students bend over like they are hiking a ball and in a gruff voice say: We feel good.  Huh! 
You're A - W - E       S - O - M - E  (Clap on letters.)
Awesome!  Awesome!
Totally!!!  (Hands on hips with an attitude.)

Team Mascots
This game can be adapted to any school mascot, action hero, or seasonal character.  Since I graduated from the University of Georgia, UGA was my first choice.  This is a quick, simple game that can be played with any age level or any skill that needs to be reinforced.  It’s the perfect game if you’ve got a few minutes before lunch or a few minutes at the end of the day.
WHY?         shapes, colors, letters, words, numerals, math facts, etc.
WHAT?       flash cards, picture of a favorite school mascot
HOW?         Have children sit in a circle and encourage them to identify the
information on the flash cards as you place them on the floor.  Tell the children to turn around and hide their eyes.  Take “UGA” and slip it under one of the flash cards.  The children turn back around and raise their hand if they think they know where UGA is hiding.  One at a time, have children call out a word, letter, shape, etc., and then look under that card.  The game continues until a child finds UGA.  That child may then be “it” and hide the mascot.
*Use a pocket chart to play this game.  Arrange the flash cards in the pocket chart and then hide the mascot under one of the cards as the children hide their eyes.
More?              Make a concentration game using various college mascots.
Make a matching game where children match mascots to college names.
What characteristics do you need to dress up and be a school mascot?
Have children write which mascot they would like to be and why.

Friday, August 29, 2014


Get rid of wiggles and learn at the same time with these kinesthetic activities. 

Sports Spelling
Act out different sports as you spell words.

Football – Pretend to hike the ball as you say letters. Throw a touchdown pass as you say the word.

Basketball – Bounce the pretend ball on letters and throw a basket as you say the word.

Soccer – Kick slightly on the letters and then score a goal as you say the word.

Baseball – Swing on the letters and hit a homerun and turn around on the word.

Hint! Let children suggest different sports and movements.

Cheering Words
Children stand and step from side as they clap and cheer words:
Give me a B. B! I’ve got a B, you’ve got a B.
Give me an E. E! I’ve got an E, you’ve got an E.
Give me a D. D! I’ve got a D, you’ve got a D.
What’s it spell? BED! Say it again. BED!
One more time. BED!
Spell out words or count as you do toe touches, jumping jacks, march, box, and make other motions.

Karate Writing - For letters that start at the top dotted line, punch up high. For letters that start at the middle dotted line, punch out in front. For letters with a tail that go below the line, give a little kick. When finished, fold hands together, bow, and say, “the alphabet.”
            A – punch from waist
            B – punch up in the air
            C – punch from waist
            D – punch up in the air
            E – punch from the waist
            F – punch up in the air
            G – give a little kick…etc.

*Use karate writing for spelling names, word wall words, vocabulary, etc.
*Do “ballerina spelling” by placing hands over the head for tall letters, in front, or down low. Turn in a circle as you say the completed word.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Do you think I’m making all this stuff up?  The truth is you know what works for children.  They tell you if they are making the connections in their brains by their behavior – eyes light up, faces are animated, bodies are attentive.  I had taught for decades before I was introduced to “brain research” about 15 years ago.  I remember reading everything I could get my hands on and thinking, “I know that!  Yep!  I know that!”  If you are a teacher you intuitively know what works!

I thought it might be interesting to do a brain break on two of my favorite “brainy” books for you today.  It validates and reaffirms the necessity of games, singing, movement, and best practices.

Here are some of Jensen’s rules for strengthening memory:
            Foster attention
            Ask questions
            Use novelty
            Use movement
            Group and regroup
            Use rhyme and songs
            Use repetition
            Rehearse, review
            Use error correction with feedback

John Medina BRAIN RULES (Pear Press, 2008)
Take a look at some of Medina’s principles:
            Exercise – Exercise boosts brain power
            Wiring – Every brain is wired differently
            Attention – We don’t pay attention to boring things
            Short-term memory –Repeat to remember.
            Long-term memory – Remember to repeat.
            Sensory integration – Stimulate more of the senses

See, you already knew those things, didn’t you.  We’re on the same page when it comes to things that work in the classroom.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


I was doing some web research and I came across this tip for learning a new skill:
            1st   Repeat it out loud.
            2nd  Repeat it as you visualize using the skill.
            3rd  Repeat it with a partner.

It’s a simple formula that could be adapted to many things that our students are expected to master.  Having students say things out loud or visualizing them in their brain is something I know you all do.  Isn’t peer teaching (repeating with a partner) something that you might do a little more often?
Each week pair children up to be “study buddies” for the week.  (This will eliminate the confusion of finding a partner.)  If they need help with an assignment, they can go to their study buddy.  They can also do the activities below.

Partner Teach – One student pretends they are the teacher and demonstrates or explains something to a friend.  Then they switch places.

Partner Coach – One student demonstrates a skill while the other student “coaches” (corrects, makes suggestions).  Switch places.

Partner Retell – After listening to a story children get a partner and retell the story.  After a lesson they can explain two new things they learned.

Partner Recall – Before children go home at the end of the day have them recall something they learned and something they did that made them feel proud.

Back Writing – Study buddies take turns making letters, shapes, numerals, spelling words, etc. on their partner’s back.  After the partner guesses correctly they can change places.
*Hint!  Pass out pictures of ears and mouths.  The student holding the ear listens while the student with the mouth speaks.  Switch cards.
Buddy Sticks - You can also put like stickers or matching letters or numerals on the ends of craft sticks.  Child match sticks to find their partner.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Children have different learning strengths, so these ideas might be especially beneficial to your kinesthetic learners.

Rainbow Writing
Write letters, numbers, shapes, words on a sheet of paper.  Children trace over the figure many different times using different colors of crayons or markers.  Encourage them to repeat what the figure is as they trace over it.
Body Writing
Let children make shapes, letters, words, etc. in the air with different body parts.  They could use their invisible finger, elbow, foot, or write on a friend’s back.  Tummy writing where they lay on the floor and then extend an index finger and write is another powerful technique.

Palm Pilot
Children hold up one palm and then use the index finger from the other hand to write on it.  Model for the children as you explain:
            Show me your palm pilot.  Let’s write letter, number, shape, word on it.
            Take it to your brain.  (Pretend to run fingers up your arm to your head.)
            Let’s write it again.  (Write on palm.)
            Take it to your brain.  (Run fingers to brain.)
            Better write it one more time just to make sure we remember it!
            (Write and then take it to the brain once again.)

Sign Language
What could be more sensory and engaging than sign language!  Use sign language to introduce letters or teach signs for words. is an excellent free website with manual signs for the letters as well as videos that demonstrate words and phrases.

Good Teaching Is Good Teaching
I will close today with something I learned over 40 years ago in a book called “Teacher” by Sylvia Ashton Warner.  One of her successful strategies was to write a word with a crayon.  She then asked the child to trace over the word as they said it.  That way the child could “see” the word and “feel” the word. 
Talk about multi-sensory!  How many of you have taken the ice bucket challenge?
My husband took the bucket and I wrote the check!!