Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Believe it or not, there actually is a “Collect Rocks Day.” It’s September 16, the same day as Play Dough Day, but several sources claimed it could be celebrated any day in September. So here are some ideas for collecting rocks today or any day. Rocks are everywhere and are a perfect spark for scientific investigations.

When you collect rocks or look at rocks, explain that scientists who study rocks are called geologists. Remind the children that they can be geologists, too!

Take a nature walk and invite each child to pick up ONE rock. You might need to limit the size to a rock that will fit in their hand. Take the rocks to the classroom and ask the children to observe their rock for one minute without talking. Go around the room and ask each child to make one statement about their rock. Encourage them to use descriptive words.
*Ask older children to write descriptions about their rocks.
*Place the rocks in a basket. Gently shake the rocks and then pass the basket around the class to see if each child can find his rock.
*Let the children sort the rocks. What was their sorting rule? Can they sort them another way?
*Check out a book on rocks from the library. Place it in the science center along with a magnifying glass. Ask the children to do research and identify the different rocks they collected.  (Remind the children to return the rocks to nature after they have finished investigating them.)
*Are rocks older than you or younger than you?
*Make a list of all the things that rocks are used for.
*Let children paint rocks or use other art media to make paperweights. 

*Place rocks in the math center for children to explore with the balance scale.
*For homework, ask families to take a walk and look for different kinds of rocks in their neighborhood.
*Encourage children to start their own rock collection with this idea. Cut an egg crate in half. Attach a pipe cleaner handle and use it to collect little rocks and pebbles.

And, speaking of rocks, we rocked at the NC AEYC Conference in Raleigh last Friday!  PLAY was the theme, and we reaffirmed that adults even learn more through play!

Thanks for all your comments about my blog a few days ago called “Be Wary!” This is what Linda Nelson @ Primary Inspiration sent:
So well said! Keep your teaching flexible, focused, and fun, and they will learn, regardless of what the experts-of-the-day happen to be promoting.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Tomorrow is “National Play Dough Day,” and you know how much I love play dough because it’s multi-sensory and great for building up those little muscles. If you go to a dollar store you can get enough play dough for every child in your class for less than a fancy coffee drink. 

It’s great to just put out play dough and let children create whatever they want. Scissors, cookie cutters, craft sticks, rolling pin (aka cylinder block), cup cake liners, birthday cake candles, lids, and other textured objects offer lots of exploration. It’s helpful to use lunchroom trays, cookie sheets, or vinyl placemats to give children a defined space.
Hint! Make sure children wash their hands before and after playing with dough. 

You can also tie play dough into “intentional teaching.” (You’re going to get tired of hearing me say that word. We have always done intentional teaching in early childhood, but some people don’t “get” that purposeful play is how children learn!) Beginning sounds, letters, rhymes, story characters, sets, measuring, addition…   

How can you substitute screen time or a worksheet with play dough in your classroom tomorrow?

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Yeah, I love holidays and I love to celebrate. Holidays give children something to look forward to, but many schools discourage celebrating religious holidays. So, I’ve decided to focus on some wacky holidays each month. I’m a little late for September, but I’ll try to do better in the future. 

I posted a blog about “International Talk Like a Pirate Day” which is coming up this Friday, September 19. But did you know that September 15 is “Make a Hat Day”? That’s Monday! Kids love to make hats, so here is an easy one you can make on Monday. Yes, you could tie the hat in with a theme or any skill you are working on.

Sentence Strip Hat
Materials: sentence strips or heavy paper cut in 2 ½” x 24”, markers, crayons, stickers
Directions: Let children decorate the sentence strip and then fit to their head and staple or tape in place.

Children can write letters, numerals, or vocabulary words on the headband. Sure beats doing a worksheet and accomplishes the same thing! 
Children can add ears or other details to create an animal from a story. Let them wear their hats to retell the story. 

How about an “all about me” headband?
Children can make an autograph hat with friends’ names.
If you cut a zig zag line on one side every child can be king or queen for the day! 
Hint! Two brad fasteners and a rubber band will make the hat easier to adjust to the head, but it’s a lot more trouble. 
Tuesday, September 16 is National Play Dough Day, so come back tomorrow to learn some play dough learning activites.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


This is your mother talking to you today!

I’ve been around this rodeo a LONG time and there’s one thing I must warn you about! There are people in our profession who think it’s THEIR way or NO WAY. They think there is only ONE way to teach phonics, writing, math, etcetera, etcetera. They are very authoritarian and think they have the magic formula. You need to do it their way or you are wrong!!

Well, guess what? There is no one correct way to teach children to read or write or do math. Take a look at who’s running our country right now. Most of them learned with Sally, Dick, and Jane, some learned with phonics, and some learned with whole language, but they all figured it out. In the “old days” when we taught “writing” we meant penmanship. The kids copied off the board and we never asked them to express their thoughts. Yet somehow those adults figured out how to write.

I’ve had teachers tell me, “We are not allowed to sing your songs because you make the sound too many times. Children can’t sound out words that way.” That’s just plain silly!

Another teacher mentioned that they weren’t suppose to do math without a ten frame. Isn’t it interesting that children have been adding and subtracting for hundreds of years using their fingers?

Oh, here’s another one. A teacher was told that crossing the midline was a waste of time. Brain experts Ratey, Jensen, Hannaford, Schiller, Wolf and hundreds of occupational therapists promote cross-lateral activities with successful results.

There are also people who truly believe the world is flat.

I don’t know where some of these “experts” get their ideas. When you hear something suspicious you need to say, “Do you have scientific research studies to support that?” (You see, sometimes people do research with such a small sample and in such a controlled study they can skew the results. People wanting you to buy their product are often guilty of this.)

Many years ago I was fortunate to hear William Perry speak about cognitive and ethical development. It’s a useful framework to consider when talking about teaching strategies, approaches to learning, politics, and life.

Phase I – Dualism – Right/Wrong – Good/Bad
            This is right so that must be wrong.
            This is the good way to do it and that’s the bad way.

Phase II – Relativism – Well, it depends.
            Maybe this is right and maybe it’s wrong?
            It could be this, or it could be that?

Phase III – Personal Commitment
            This is what I believe.
            This is what I know from my personal experiences.
            You can believe what you want, but this is what I believe.

I will end with chocolate chip cookies. We were discussing approaches to reading and one teacher commented, “You know, there are many ways to make chocolate chip cookies…and they all taste yummy!” Whatever we do we need to remember to make it “tasty” for our little learners!
There is no one correct way to teach all children. 
The only magic ingredient that I know about is the TEACHER!

Friday, September 12, 2014


I’ve been so busy giving you ideas for intentional teaching lately that I haven’t been giving enough LOVE to art. Here are a few ideas for what I call “smart art” - or reinforcing skills through art media. 
Note! I titled this blog “The Spot” because a teacher told me she called her art center “The Spot.” I thought that was rather clever and perfect for these simple, open-ended activities.
*Remember, it’s the process and not the product. Children will be using problem-solving and small motor skills as they do these projects.

Pop Up Scene
Skills: comprehension, setting
Materials: construction paper, crayons, markers, scissors, glue, scrap box
Directions: Prepare pop-ups ahead of time by folding the construction paper in half. Cut two slits from the fold 3 ½” from each side and 2 ½” down as shown. Bend the tab in so when you open there will be a 3-dimensional tab. Have children close their eyes and make a picture from a book you have read in their brain. Have them draw the setting of the scene on the inside of the pop-up. Finally, have them draw the main character and glue it to the pop-up.
*Pop ups are perfect for habitat studies or scenes from history.

Skills: letters, color, shapes, parts of speech, seasons, senses, etc.
Materials: paper plates, scissors, glue, catalogs, magazines, markers
Directions: Choose a theme for the collage that relates to a skill – letter, shape, color, noun, etc. Children cut out pictures and glue them on the paper plate. They can also draw pictures or decorate the rim of the plate.
Pipe Cleaner People
Skills: book characters, famous people, retelling a story
Materials: pipe cleaners, scrap box, cloth, scissors, glue
Directions: Demonstrate how to make a stick person from two pipe cleaners. Children can then add a face, clothing, and other details. Let them retell a story with their pipe cleaner people.
*Lunch bags are also perfect for creating puppets of characters from books.

Skills: geometric shapes
Materials: toothpicks, clay, Styrofoam
Directions: Children can use clay or Styrofoam to connect toothpicks and make sculptures. Encourage them to name their sculptures.
*If your school allows food then it’s fun to make sculptures with pretzel sticks and miniature marshmallows.

Dot to Dot
Skills: cardinality, counting
Materials: 2 dice, paper, crayons
Directions: Children roll the dice and add up the dots. They take a black crayon and make that number of dots randomly on a sheet of paper. Can they connect the dots and create something out of it?
*Have children make dots and then exchange papers with a friend.

Skills: shapes, numerals, letters
Materials: paper, crayons, markers
Directions: Draw a shape or glue a shape in the middle of each sheet of paper. The children choose a shape and then try to create something out of it. Encourage them to fill in the whole page to “camouflage” their shape.
*You could do something similar with letters or numerals.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


I was cleaning out my closet, and look at this great idea some teachers from Nebraska shared with me years ago. You know how those two letter words are difficult for children to learn because they don’t always follow the rules (phonics rules, that is!). Well, here’s a yummy idea to help them taste better. 

First, have the children brainstorm all the two letter words they can think of and write them on the board. Encourage them to look in books, look at classroom print, and so forth.

Second, give them a double stuffed Oreo cookie and show them how to open it. Hold one half in each hand. Lick the left side as you say the first letter in a word. Lick the right side as you say the second letter in the word. Then say the word. Continue with all the two letter words on the board.
*If you are in a s
chool where food is not allowed, just pretend you have a cookie in each hand.

Third, follow up with a class book. Write individual letters on 3” circles as shown. Write the two letter word on a 4 ½” circle. Read through the book as you demonstrate how to lick your left hand and say one letter. Lick the right hand and say the other letter. Clap hands and say the word.
Hint! Remind the children that they don’t want to really lick their dirty hand. Just pretend!!!
  You can also sing two letter words to the tune from “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”
If you want to spell me, say M –E.
If you want to spell me, say M –E.
It’s easy as can be when you sing and spell with me.
If you want to spell me, say M –E.

Here’s an Oreo cheer just for you!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Review and reinforce skills with these quickies!

Pinch Cards

Cut construction paper or heavy paper into 8 ½ “ x 5 ½” rectangles. Down the left side write the numerals 0-10. Write the very same numerals on the reverse side. As the teacher calls out math problems the children pinch the correct answer and hold up their cards. The teacher can quickly glance around the room to check responses.
*Make pinch cards for words, numeral recognition 10-20, phonics, etc.

Zip It
Write letters, words, numbers, etc. on the left side of a sheet of paper as shown and insert the paper in a zip bag. Call out a question, and children “zip” to the correct answer and then hold up their bag. 
*If you write numerals horizontally you can use it like a number line.
Hold Up!

Each child will need a wipe off board or magic slate. They could also write on their desk with a dry erase marker. The children calls out a word and children write down the beginning, middle, or ending sound. After several seconds the teacher says, “Hold up!” and the children hold up their answers.
*Adapt this for spelling words, math number stories, review questions, etc.
*Tell the children to “draw what you know” and then share with a friend.