Wednesday, June 29, 2016

HEY, I'm Learning!

Ha ha, it's new learning for me writing this blog.  Like how to add pictures.  The first time it took me hours!!  And I know there is more to learn. My latest discovery is how to make a link for subscribers. Silly me.
I have it now.  So check it out and see if it works for you.  Comments please, I want to know what is on your mind.  
I have also tried a larger font.  It is easier on my eyes.
In the meantime, are you saving these:

Frosting cans (save the lids too)

Don't you love the wording on the cup?  One of my favorite gifts from a parent!

scissors, pencils, crayons, hole punches storage
game supplies: cubes, rings, cards

Breakfast Buddies containers   (I told you I save a variety of things.)
My grandson loves these Breakfast cereals.  I first liked the octagon shape.  I was sure I could find a use in the classroom for these such as: 
Small sorting cups for beads first comes to mind.  
Glue mixture and sponge
Use for paint stamping
Use to roll die into so they don't fall on the floor

So I have a stack of them.  Do you have any ideas?

M&M tubes
I put coins for sorting.  
Pennies for stacking in groups of 10.  
Bingo chips
There are different sizes and colors.  Each student can have their own prefilled tube for activities.

Fine motor skills
I have just discovered another blog.
Check out Jamie's daily challenges.  Such a creative mom.
Since my grandson is 20 months, I am looking for developmental activities.   He was having a bit of a meltdown so grandma to the rescue.  Today we played with a strainer and pipe cleaners.
I adapted by cutting the pipe cleaners for easier manipulation.  Later we could use the varied lengths and colors for sorting. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Way back in high school, I used to cut out cartoons and articles that 'spoke' to me.  I have often referred to this one column by Art Hoppe's "Innocent Bystander" syndicated by the Chronicle Publishing Company.  I used rubber cement (remember using that) to mount it on construction paper and had it laminated.  I recently found it again.

If I may share with you, here it is:


Once upon a time there was a little boy named Emery Bord who could hardly wait.

Like most little boys, he could hardly wait to get into kindergarten.  "Gosh," he would say, "school will be fun."

Of course, once he got into kindergarten, he could hardly wait until he was promoted to the first grade so he wouldn't be just a little kindergartener any more.  And once in the first grade, he could hardly wait to be in the second grade so he could play in the Middle Yard.  As soon as he was in the second grade, he could hardly wait...

Well, by the time he was in the fourth grade, young Emery Bord, like many, many little boys, loathed school.  He could hardly wait for the morning recess.  Then he could hardly wait for the afternoon recess.  And hardest of all was waiting for the final bell.

"It'll be different when I get to high school.  I'll have a car and dates and things," he said.  "Boy, I can hardly wait!"

But high school wasn't much better.  What he looked forward to now was going off to college.  He could hardly wait.

Naturally, his grades were only mediocre.  So he could only go to a mediocre college.  Like many, many students, he found his professors a bore and his studies dull.  He could hardly wait for mid-terms to be over and then finals to be over.  He could hardly wait for the Thanksgiving recess, the Christmas recess and the Easter recess.  And hardest of all each year was waiting for June.

What he really looked forward to was getting out in the world, getting married and getting a job.  "Oh, to be finished with school forever!" he said.  "I can hardly wait."

So at last he got out in the world, got married to a girl named Imogene, and got a job.  He got a job with The Monolith Corp. as a memoranda processor.  And, like many, many of his fellow workers, he loathed it.

As soon as he was at his desk, he could hardly wait for his morning coffee break,m then his lunch hour and then his afternoon coffee break.  And the hardest hing of all was to wait for the clock, which he glanced at constantly, to tick over to 5:15.

Naturally, he was a charter member of Thank God It's Friday Club.  Every Monday morning he would arise with a groan, counting the days that lay between him and the coming weekend, for which he could hardly wait.

Not only did Emery Bord count the hours and the days, but the weeks and the months as well.  "Only three months and two weeks till my vacation," he would say to Imogene, "I can hardly wait."

And as he grew older, he began counting the years.  "Do you realize that in only twelve more years I can retire?" he would say to Imogene.  "I'll never have to work again."

"I'll bet you can hardly wait, dear," she would reply.

So the hours and the days and the weeks and the months and the years finally passed.  Old Emery Bord retired.  He found he had a lot of time on his hands.  He could hardly wait for the Monday night football game or the one drink his doctor allowed him be fore dinner or...

Well, one evening, he clutched his chest and collapsed in his chair.

"Don't worry dear, dear," said Imogene, fluttering around him anxiously.  "The doctor will be here soon."

"I can," gasped old Emery Bord, breathing his last words, "hardly wait."

MORAL:  Life is a drag sometimes.  But seeing where it inevitably gets you, why hurry?

Just sharing a memory.

Give childhood the Gift of Time.  Curriculum expectations has been pushed down to the younger grades thus sacraficing social, emotional and physical development.  PLAY is how children learn.  They should go outside and explore.  Run, jump, climb, build, make mud pies, dig, listen to the sounds of nature....

This doesn't mean free play all the time.  But to develop creative thinking, we need to challenge them to think and problem solve and take responsibility.  We should give them time to figure 'it out.'  Technology is wonderful and exciting but has also created a rushed response.    BALANCE and make MEMORIES.

Test scores do not define them.  

I will later explore the three words that 'get to me.'
They are so misinterpretted and overused.  


Friday, June 24, 2016


Here it comes....
Yes, August and returning to school is just around the corner.  Here are some ideas to get started for today.

Fine motor practice
 Developing the correct pincer grasp is important for a lifetime of stable pencil grasp.  I cringe when I see a sales person with the thumbwrap over the index finger grasp.
Yes, they adapt but the strain they will experience.  Practice developing specific finger strength by doing: 

Finger plays

"Where is thumbkin?" helps with individual finger control.

"I Have Ten Little Fingers"
I have 10 little fingers    (hold both hands spread and wiggling fingers)
And they all belong to me.  (touch fingers to chest like saying "Mine")
I can make them do things
Would you like to see?
I can make them jump high   (wiggle them above your head, make your voice higher pitch)
I can make them go low   (wiggle them below knees, make voice lower pitch)
I can fold them so quietly  (fold hands together)
And hold them just so.   (sit crisscross with hands in lap)

Counting with fingers one at a time.  It is a big deal to me.  The children have many variations.
1 show with the dominant pointer finger.  (never just thumb)  
*and thumb holds other fingers down.

2 is bunny ears using index with tall finger *and thumb holds other fingers down.  NOT index and thumb.

3 is index, tall with ring finger *and thumb holds pinkie  down.

4 is all fingers up while thumb is still crossing palm

5 all fingers

6 all dominant fingers and pointer on non-dominant hand
7 all dominant fingers and bunny ears on non-dominant hand
8 all dominant fingers and index, tall and ring finger on non-dominant
9 all dominant fingers and fingers on non-dominant with thumb crossing palm
10  all fingers on both hands.
Make up a quick game, Put both hands behind your back or in your lap.   Teacher says: "Show me....2....4....8" This sounds easy but is more difficult at the beginning of the year.  Practice quantity 0-5 so they can do it quickly without needing to count fingers.  Advance to include 0-10 randomly.
Roll a number cube or die for number selection and connecting numeral and quantity.

Tongs and ice cube trays
Demonstrate how to hold the tongs with the first two fingers on top of tongs and thumb under tongs.  The students must use the tongs to pickup the porcupine balls from the tub and put them in and out of the ice cube trays.  They are NOT to touch the porcupine balls with their hands.  They may select specific colors or make a pattern.  The kids love this!

Pegboards and pegs
This used to be a staple activity in kindergarten classrooms.  Bring it out again.  There are so many variations of boards and pegs.  I have straight wooden pegs.  Make sure they are picking up and holding the pegs with their fingertips (index and tall fingertips and thumb) not their thumb against the side of their index finger.  The children can match the pegs along a drawn shape or makeup their own design.  At first, they just love to fill the board with pegs in every hole.

Toothpicks and Pickup Sticks 
Use thumb and pointer to pinch when picking up.  Allow time (days) to free exploring. 
Then teach them how to play pickup sticks.  Hold all sticks (or begin with 10 sticks) over play area and let them drop all at once.  Take turns picking up one at a time, WITHOUT moving the other sticks.  If another stick is moved, the next person gets a turn.  

Scratch pictures with a toothpick
You can buy these premade  through Oriental Trading Company (my favorite) or make your own.  Here's how to make your own.  I take out the extra colors in boxes of 16 pack crayons such as red-orange, yellow-orange etc and use these as 'fancy colors.'  Use these extra colors to fill up a card. The children will want to stand and make their strokes from their shoulder.  Let them fill up the card using their whole body movement.
AH, yes, coloring is an excellent finger strengthening activity in itself.  

Now paint over the entire card with black paint.  

When it is dry, use a toothpick or nail cuticle stick to scratch off paint to reveal colors.  You DO NOT need to SCRATCH all the black paint off,  write a name or make a shape or squiggles.   

So have a little fun and wiggle those fingers.  Pretend you are playing the piano or trumpet.  Pretend your fingers have magic sprinkles and sprinkle some magic!  

Please leave a comment so I know what you like or don't like.  If we can take away at least one new idea or try something old in a new way, we are making a difference together.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Tubs and trays: MATS and BOXES

"Third time is a charm", they say.  I have retyped this post three times.  Although I saved each time, near the end somehow it had become lost.  Maybe it's been a reminder  message to ...SAVE and SAVE again.  Another lesson!


I refer to tubs and trays as FLOOR WORKJOBS.  The children have access to these during FREE CHOICE and/or during a CENTER switch.  The contents of the container vary such as pattern blocks, cubes, beads, popsicle sticks, tangram puzzle pieces, pegs and pegboards, toothpicks, 1-inch tiles, parquetry tiles, lacing cards, etc.
The building process develops from flat to more complex vertical structures and designs.
I prefer to allow the children to explore and share with partners rather than trying to teach them how to make something.  PLAY is the way they truly learn!
There are rules using the contents such as keep items on the mat.
We do not throw or bother others 'work' (respect other learners and things).
These are learning tools not toys like they may have at home.

I save cardboard boxes from cans and reinforce the corners with packaging tape.  I have also covered inside and outside with contact paper for extra support.
The plain ones are used as contained mailboxes.  (See the beautiful wooden mailbox made by my first principal and another parent.  They are at least 40 years old and still so functional.)

I pick these up at the dollar stores.  They are ideal for setting out multiples of pattern blocks, unifix cubes, etc.  The children can easily carry them with a partner or alone.

The containers with lids are nice for stacking at cleanup time on the limited counterspace.  The contents are easily seen and accessible for partner work.  I teach them to put the lid under the tub during play/use for safety.

I use rubberized shelf and drawer liners.  They come in a variety of colors and are relatively inexpensive.  I can cut them into a square that folds nicely like a washcloth (a housekeeping skill some need to learn).
Using the mats, helps confine their floor space and materials for SAFETY.  The square mat is large enough to allow for two children to partner nicely. 
Occasionally, some manipulatives such as my wooden letters need a larger mat so the entire alphabet can be laid out.  These mats are kept just for those items.
During cleanup, the mats can be folded and stored in a 'mat box'.

I love Sterilite storage boxes from Walmart.  I use them to store my themed books and activities.  I can also set them out with books for the students to 'read'.   They stack nicely as you can see and hold quite a lot.

There are so many baskets and bins that are also convenient, colorful and thrifty containers.  I've received free containers, pitchers and trays used in hospitals years ago and still have them in my classroom.

More to share next time.  What are your favorites?

Friday, June 17, 2016


Fun Friday has become a term many of us have used to end our teaching week with a good feeling.

So I will try that in my Friday posts.
If you have something fun-ny to share, send it my way to post.
We all need to laugh more so posts can be activities you do with your class or just a good story to make us feel good about what we do and our experiences as teachers, people.

There are few new ideas, they are just repackaged and renamed to sound fresh.
Reciprocal teaching is one that comes to mind.  I came across a handout from the 1990's decade labeled teaching strategies and again in 2014 decade it was presented at a staff meeting with a new label, reciprocal teaching.

Teach-talk-share-  turn to your partner- ......

So share with me . 

Let's laugh and have fun.   

My ideas for Fun Friday with students:

-keep it SIMPLE.  It doesn't have to be an all day experience.

-pull out the SCRAP BOX and make something.  No reason just CREATE.  The complexity of their creations really develops throughout the year.

-PLAYDOH again. I usually try to change colors to keep it fresh.  Try blending two primary colors and learn how to make a new color.

-SHOW and TELL.  Students can bring in or tell something.  We sit in a circle and one at a time we stand to take our turn to show and tell.  Everyone participates.  If a child has difficulty thinking of something, I provide a starter, 'tell about your pet, what you did last night, your favorite food ..'  Even reluctant speakers can usually say something.  At the end, they get to stand up and go to talk to someone personally to look at or ask something more.  This usually takes 20 minutes.  Try not to drag it out.  Limit one item, picture or one topic.  We also clap when the person is finished and sits down as a thank you.

-BIG BLOCK building.  Sadly I do not have my big wooden blocks open everyday anymore in the academic world of kindergarten.  It is important to continue this opportunity for learning.  So dust them off and get them out.

-VARIETY OF MATERIALS to create something.  Scraps of material, buttons, beads, colored glue, glitter, markers, colored pencils.

-HOMEMADE or SMALL MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS   In our half-day kindergartens, we experienced art, music and p.e. within our own efforts.  We used rhythm sticks, triangles, tambourines, bells, clackers, maracas, etc.  If they are tucked away, pull them out to keep time with songs.

-DANCE PARTY  Put on a video and/or music to dance for fun.



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Child Development Reads

I have been greatly influenced by writings of the ages and stages of children by Louise Bates Ames and Frances L. Ilg through the Gesell Institute of Child Development.  If you are going to be teaching 5-and 6-year olds, you should read Your Four Year Old, Your Five Year Old and Your Six Year Old.
Understanding the general growing up characteristics of each age will help you be able to provide appropriate learning opportunities and activities.

Did you notice my Four and Five-year old books are not in the picture?
Someone has borrowed them again.

For the past 20 years, I explain I am now teaching Kinderst Grade.(I made up that term.)   We are teaching "kindergarten age" (5 and 6 year old) children AND expecting them to learn academics that used to be taught in First Grade.  Yes, children can surprise you and can do so much but not YET truly know it because they need time to MATURE their understanding.
For example number conservation is concrete by third grade.  So our activities used to be a lot of repetition of counting, ordering, writing, ways to combine sets to TEN.  Now the push is for kindergarten to read, write and use numbers to 100.  Most are successful but many are still counting to reassure the quantity of sets. They have not yet been able to see the cluster.  This skill is developed by grouping, counting, sorting sets to 10 over and over. The more hands-on activities we can do will help.

HANDS-ON learning
I will admit that I have succumbed to doing more paper pencil work than I believe in.  I hope that with this blog, I will do as I say more and concentrate through my actions and words how children learn best.  BEST PRACTICE is a term used most recently in education to describe how to teach children.  So my goal is to concentrate on the BEST PRACTICE in kindergarten.  I am not a researcher but I know what I've experienced.
Let's learn some more....

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


So you're ready to plan what you will do.  I always over plan, even after all these years.  There's that HIGH EXPECTATIONS again.  So I'll call this WEEK ONE to allow for flexibility.  Oh, that's another necessary element in teaching. 
Songs are essential to use when needing an attention grabber or JUST FOR THE FUN OF IT.  Sometimes the children just begin singing while they are working.  Don't we adults get a tune in our head that we hum, whistle or sing to ourselves?
Get your favorite list of songs to begin and end each day.
Change up your song list to make it fresh and fun.

I love to sing Raffi's version of "The More We Get Together".  You can use your class names to include in ..."there's Sarah, and Zhyon and..."  After a few times of singing this, I have the children cover their name tags to challenge myself to remember their names!

Dr. Jean's "Hello, How Are You?This is good for an opening the day song.  It's going to be a happy day!

Fingerplays are fantastic to use when you need a brain and body break while going through all those procedures the first week.  

When teaching fingerplays be methodical.
SAY A LINE AT A TIME and class repeats. Here you can adjust repeating slower or in shorter or longer chunks as needed.  This stretches their memory.
Enjoy their smiles!  Do it again.

I wiggle my fingers     (stretch out hand and really wiggle those fingers)
I wiggle my toes.          (point to feet, while wiggling toes...can't see them under shoes)
I wiggle my shoulders   (wiggle shoulders)
I wiggle my nose.          (use #1 finger to wiggle nose, later I ask them to wiggle without 
                                          touching...can you do it?)
Now...all the wiggles are out of me  (shake hands and arms, then clasp hands overhead
                                                            and cross legs...BE CAREFUL and safe!)

So I can sit still          (when you say the word SIT, all should try to sit down carefully.                                  Challenge them to try this without uncrossing legs....CONTROL--
                                   practice at home) 

As still as can be."        (hands folded in lap)

I teach this at the end of the first day.

One little house    (hold up hand into a fist for a house)
Shut up tight  
Open the door
And there inside    (open hand and point to palm with opposite pointer)
Are   1,2,3,4,5        (count fingers holding up pointer as one, two bunny ears....)
Five little children 
Tall and straight     (opposite pointer finger strokes counting fingers up for straight)
Ready to go to kindergarten   (hold up both hands and wiggle all fingers--excitedly
Don't be late!        (put hands behind back) 

Teacher says  "The more you practice (right)"
Students respond "the better you get!"

Teacher says   "Are you ready?"
Students respond  "YES, I'm ready!"  There was a 60's song by Barbara Mason that comes to mind that begins with this line.  (dates me doesn't it)

Use lights out, chimes, a bells, hand clapping rhythm
Teacher says "Hands on top"
Students respond "Everybody STOP" (puts both hands on their heads and turn to speaker)

Lesson #1:  Move around the group so they have to turn their head first slightly, then their whole body to face me.  When I am talking here...where do you look?  The children think it's a game when I move from one side of the group to another. 
S- sit up straight
L-look at the speaker (direction of voice)
A-always listening 
N-never talking
T-track the presenter (voice)

So ..."Are you ready?" ..............


Friday, June 10, 2016


So today start saving things for school.  My daughters call me a hoarder but kindergarten classes need things.
At the beginning of the year, send a note home to families that you are collecting items for the class.  They can help too.  We used to have junk boxes for counting and sorting items.  More on that soon.

This is what you need:

*Cups - the plastic laundry cups from liquid detergent.      (Yes, that is my 30+ year old washer.)

Use for individual crayon cups.

They fit nicely in skinny supply baskets.

Pour bubble solution in.  (see bubble day post)
Use as a dice/cube cup for holding and rolling.  Children's hands aren't large enough yet to hold dice or cubes easily.

*Scoops - from laundry powder oxyclean, etc
Use these in the sand or rice tables for measuring.

*Frosting cans with lids
Yes, they hold paper clips, cubes for games,...
Wonderful for holding paint. Perfect as a pencil and scissors cups for tables.  Wrap with contact paper for decoration and label.

*Buttons -  so many uses (look for button day activities)

*Plastic bottle lids -

Use for sorting, patterning, counting sets, game markers.  (see Bottle Caps post for more ideas)

'Rings' from milk bottles (I told you I save lots of things.)

Use for sorting, patterning, counting, but most of all for ringing pictures on cards for beginning sounds, rhyming, calendar or chart paper circling (use blue funtak to stick)

That's not all, oh no, that's not all.....but that's enough to start.
Come back again for more and why you need these in your class!