Sunday, August 31, 2008


Preparation: Glue uppercase and lowercase letters and digits 0-9 (or more) to each cube and cover with clear nail polish for durability. Make several sets of each. Make sets of opposite words, rhyming words, sight words and punctuation cubes.
1. These are great for practicing the alphabet. You can link them together using all uppercase, all lowercase or uppercase A-lowercase a.
2. Put each child’s name in a zip lock bag for name practice.
3. You can build words with them.
4. They are great for word families too. Have (a-t) linked together and ask what letter can go in front to make a word.
5. Link together word opposites like, big-small, or long-short.
6. Link together words that rhyme like red-bed, or tall-fall.
7. Practice reading sight words that are on the cubes. Make a tower of correct and incorrect words. Try again on the incorrect words. Try to make a giant tower with all the sight words correct.
8. Build sentences with word and punctuation cubes.
9. Have the children cover the outline of a large letter on an 8”-11” paper.
10. Count the red cubes.
11. Great for measuring objects. How many cubes long is your pencil?
12. You can make color patterns for the children to copy. Example: Red, red, blue, blue, red, red, blue, blue. As students are creating patterns using connecting cubes, teachers can ask them to describe different patterns that they find in different sequences of cubes. Have the children create and describe their own patterns.
13. Practice ordering numbers 0-9.
14. Link the even numbers together. Link the odd numbers together.
15. Start with one cube, next to it put two cubes, then three cubes. (This works best when you make towers that lay flat on their backs)
16. Race to Make a Staircase- Object of the game is to build a staircase. (1 tower of 1 unifix cube, a tower of 2, a tower of 3, ...until a tower of 6. You stand them next to eachother so they look like stairs. This is a partner game. Player 1 rolls the dice and builds a tower of that many cubes. Player 2 does the same. They keep going until someone comletes a staircase of 6. If a player rolls a number they already have, they lose that turn.
17. Race to Make 30. Similar object--using unifix cubes, make a long tower of 30. Each player rolls the dice and adds that number of cubes to the tower. This tower has to stay flat on the ground. Keep going until 30. Partner game.
18. Practice adding or subtracting with the cubes.
A. The teacher will give each child 2 unifix cubes.
B. The teacher will ask the students to write down how many unifix cubes they have on paper (2).
C. The students should then write a + sign below the number 2, like this:


D. The teacher will then pass out 3 more unifix cubes to each student.
E. The students will be asked to write down how many unifix cubes they were just given. They should write this number below the number 2 that they just wrote, so that it looks like this:


F. Students should now draw a line under their 3.
G. Now the students should count how many unifix cubes they have together and write this number just below the 3, like this:


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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Positive Reinforcement Shapes Behavior

When young children receive immediate positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior, they are more likely to repeat that behavior. Positive reinforcement is “catching” a kid doing something you want them to do and rewarding it. This is an effective way to shape a child’s conduct, and attitude. Children naturally want to earn and keep your approval. Check out the many ways in this article that you can use to foster good behavior.

A recent study dramatically reinforced this teaching approach. A research group at the University of Rochester conducted a three-year study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They interviewed 278 mothers of 3-year-olds and observed mothers and children playing and working together. The women and children represented all socio-economic groups.

They found that the children of parents, who were negative and controlling, verbally and physically, were “situationally” compliant. This means as soon as the parent became distracted, the child reverted to inappropriate behavior because they had not learned the correct skills. By contrast, the children of parents who use gentle guidance or positive reinforcement showed “committed compliance,” which means they understood the correct behavior.

Positive Reinforcement works because it gives children positive goals to work towards instead of only focusing on negative consequences to avoid. Positive reinforcement fulfills strong basic psychological needs of every child as well as setting a more positive and healthy tone for the caregiver-child relationship. Some parents find it helpful to display a note where they can see it often. The note might read, "notice the positive" or "catch'em doing good."

Use Verbal Praise
Always praise the behavior, not the person. Praises like good girl or good boy risk misinterpretation. The child may think they are bad if they misbehave. It’s better to praise the behavior by saying, “You did a great job cleaning your room, son.”

Praise Genuinely
Complimenting a child’s behavior can lose its punch if you praise usual, expected behavior or if you praise too much. Don’t over do it. You may want to keep a mental note of the number of times you are using praise in a day. Use eye and body contact during your delivery to reinforces your sincerity. A child can tell when you’re faking it.

Use a Variety of Ways to Praise
To keep a child’s attention, change the delivery of your praise. A teacher can give a pat on the head or shoulder to show approval, while a parent can give a hug or a kiss. Body language like a thumbs up, communicates approval in a cool way. You might want to write a note praising their clean room and leave it on their pillow. Children love behavior charts with colorful stars or stickers, because they can show visitors their accomplishments by showing them the chart. Charts are interactive and fun. Let the child help you make the chart and make daily entries.

Help your child draw a picture of his reward. Put dots around the prize about an inch apart. With each day of successful behavior, allow the child to connect a dot. When the circle is complete, the child gets his reward. They enjoy watching their own progress as they get closer and closer to finishing the circle. Keep the time until the prize is collected short. For a toddler, use end of the hour rewards; for a preschooler use end of the day rewards; and for the school age child use end of the week rewards. In fact, for a preschool child it’s best to refer to an event as the ending time such as, ‘after dinner” or” at bedtime.”

To work, a reward must be something the child likes. You can become a detective and ask some leading questions to find out what rewards a child wants. The following are examples of leading questions.

“If you could do some special things, what would that be?”
“If you could go somewhere with a friend, where would you go?’
“If you had a dollar, what would you buy?’

Make reward coupons to be redeemed when they earn a certain number of points. But remember that children need reminders. Reminders are less likely to provoke a refusal or power struggle. You might give a clue like, “Where does your plate belong?” You might want to write a list of positive behaviors or responsibilities on a poster board. You can review these lists with the child as needed.

A child who receives positive reinforcement develops high self-esteem; and a child with a high self-esteem usually exhibits self-motivation. A child who exhibits self-motivation generally becomes a successful achiever at home and at school.

There are some who say rewards can stunt creativity in children, and children should perform for the joy of the activity. But, life is full of rewards. If a person follows the rules, and works hard, they are rewarded.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Show the children a real x-ray. Share with them that an x-ray is a picture of human bones. The human skeleton consists of 206 bones. These bones support your body and allow you to move. Bones contain a lot of calcium (an element found in milk, broccoli, and other foods). Bones manufacture blood cells and store important minerals.

The longest bone in our bodies is the femur (thigh bone). The smallest bone is the stirrup bone inside the ear. Each hand has 26 bones in it. Your nose and ears are not made of bone; they are made of cartilage, a flexible substance that is not as hard as bone.


This pasta skeleton is easily made from a few different types of pasta and dried beans glued to a piece of black construction paper. They can write the word X-ray on the bottom of the "X-ray".


X is the Roman name for ten,
X is the mark of many men;

X means a crossing, as drivers may note,
X in a square also counts as a vote;

Xmas is Christmas, a season of bliss,
X in a letter is good for one kiss;

X is for xylophone music renowned,
X marks the spot where the treasure is found.

Make a xylophone paper craft!

1. Cut out eight various size color bars for a xylophone.
2. Discus and identify each color bar. Example: Hold a color bar and say: What color is this? Yes, yellow. What other things are yellow. How about the sun or a lemon.
3. Shape - The rectangle. For this activity we can focus on the rectangle shape of each color bar. Discuss that the color panels are rectangles (two long sides and two short sides). Have the children find other things around them that are rectangles - a door, a refrigerator, window, area rug or table.
4. Alphabet Letter X- Each color bar displays two letter X's, discuss and identify the X. Display the Xylophone poster and say that xylophone starts with the letter X.
5. Counting & Sizing: Have the children count and organize the color bar rectangles in size sequence from shortest to longest. Ask which bar is the shortest? Which is the longest?

Make a Water and Rainbow Colors Xylophone

Many of you are probably familiar with the water xylophone in elementary school. This one has one additional element: color mixing

1. You need six to eight glasses or glass jars (I use jam/jelly jars) the same size.
2. Line them up next to each other but not touching. Gradually add water to each jar from a little to the last one close to the rim.
3. Add a bit of tempera paint or food coloring showing children how mixing the primary colors will yield the secondary color - start with red, then mix red and yellow to get orange, the third glass is yellow, and so forth in the same order of the rainbow.
4. To keep the glasses steady make a base with play dough and press the glass on the base.
5. Give children new pencils or regular metal spoons and have them tap the glasses to hear the different sounds that are produced. The glasses with more water will produce a lower pitch sound, and those with less water will produce a higher pitch sound.


By crossing two lines
this letter called X
Can sound like K-S
If it comes at the end of
A word such as flex

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Number Writing and Recognition

There are only ten digits that repeat themselves to make all numbers. It's essential for children to learn how to write and identify these digits. Children will enjoy reciting the following poem that explains how to write each digit. You can tape large numbers on the floor, have the children walk on them the way they would write them, as they recite this poem.


Number 1 is like a stick
A straight line down
that's very quick!

For number 2
go right around
Then make a line
across the ground!

Go right around
What will it be?
Go round again
to make a 3!

Down and over
and down some more
That's the way
to make a 4!

Go down and around
Then you stop
Finish the 5
with a line on top!

Make a curve
Then a loop
There are no tricks
to making a 6!

Across the sky
and down from heaven
That's the way
to make a 7!

Make a "S"
And then don't wait
Climb up again
to make an 8!

Make a loop
And then a line
That's the way
to make a 9!

Make a 1
and then an "o"
10 are all your fingers
you know!

Use golf tees and foam board to practice forming numbers.

Have the children walk around a line of chairs. Place a number on each chair. When the music stops, everyone sits on a chair and holds their number up. The children take turns identiying the numbers.

Place poster board pine cones with numbers on the back onto a small Christmas tree. The children take turns grabbing a pine cone and identifying the number. For added fun everyone can jump in place to match the pine cone number. If you want an activity that can be done in their seat, the children can count out a number of objects to match the pine cone number. To take this activity to the next level, have a child pick two pine cone numbers for the class to add together.

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Friday, August 22, 2008


A great way to help kids learn their 3 times table is to teach them skip counting by 3's. See how fast they learn skip counting by 3's when you teach them this simple rhyme. You may even want to create a little dance to go with the rhyme. Remember, the more senses a child uses to learn something, the more he will be able to retain.

Skip, skip, skip, count by 3.
Skip, skip, skip, count with me!

3, 6, and then there’s 9.
Now repeat, that’s just fine!

12, 15, then 18.
Don’t be mean, count 18.

21, 24, 27.
Count straight up, up to heaven.

30, 33, 36.
Just for kicks, get in the mix.

Skip, skip, skip, count by 3.
Skip, skip, skip, count with me!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Teaching Tips for Early Readers

There’s nothing quite like seeing a child’s eyes light up with joy because they’ve finally read their first word. Having fun with language is the key you need to unlock the world of reading to your child. The following are tips for hooking kids on reading. Try them and see what works for you and your child.

1. Make reading a habit. Give your child lots of opportunities to read. Bring a book with you wherever you go. They can read in the car, or waiting in the doctor’s office.

2. Play a rhyming game with a puppet. Have the puppet say, “My name is Mark. Can you find words that rhyme with Mark?” If the answer is yes, jump up and down, and if the answer is no, squat down low. “Does park rhyme with Mark? Does ball rhyme with Mark?”

3. Trace and say letter sounds. Involving the senses of touch, sight, and speech is a powerful tool for learning letter sounds. Use a finger to trace a letter while saying the letter sound. Do this on a paper, in a sandbox, or on a plate filled with sugar.

4. Play sound matching games. Using a set of alphabet letters, have your child pick the letter that matches the sound you make. Start with five letters and add more letters when your child is ready.

5. Pick books that are the right difficulty level for your child. The aim is to give your child many successful reading experiences. Have fiction and non-fiction books available. Dig deep into the meaning of books. Ask comprehension questionsd.

6. Have your child watch your lips to see how you make certain sounds. You can ask, “Can you see my tongue touch my teeth when I say (th)? Does it tickle your tongue?”

7. Play sight word concentration games. Make two sets of common sight words, and have them hunt for pairs. If they can read the word, it goes in their pile.

8. Point out words all around the town. (traffic signs, grocery signs, advertising signs)

9. Gently correct your young reader.

10. Say silly tongue twisters, sing songs and say rhymes. This will help kids become sensitive to sounds in words.

Keep reading fun! With activities like these you can inspire your child to practice every day. The more kids see and work with words, the more they are able to effortlessly decode them. Be patient and encourage them. This will give them the desire and confidence to continue to learn, and soon they will be hooked on reading.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Activities for Read Alouds

Children enjoy read-alouds. I suggest you read to them as early and as often as possible. But don't forget that older children get a lot out of read-alouds as well so don't stop just because they can read for themselves. Here are some ideas you can use to making reading aloud fun:

1. Use musical instruments to create suspense, silliness, happy and sad sounds. This can bring your story to life as well as keep each child engaged. You can even have them make simple shakers with beans or rice inside a can of pringles and decorate. They can use it at different times. For example: shake the shaker when you hear the word ______. Or, shake the shaker when you hear a verb (noun, a word that starts with B, etc.). The possibilities are endless.

2. Teach part of speech or grammar with signs as you read. Discuss verbs or exclamation marks, etc.. Give out index cards so that each child can write either the word VERB (pronoun, nouns, etc.) or any grammatical mark. Each time you read a sentence with a verb (or other) or a grammatical mark, the child should raise the index card.

3. Create the atmosphere created in the book. For example, use cardboard to build a rocket if the book is about outer space. Tons of possibilities here with this one.

4. Have the children act out what you read. If the character walks to the store, they should be able to walk in place as they reach a door and open it and grab some groceries. This should be fun and can help on those days it's raining out and their energy levels are high. It's a good idea to give them boundaries for control. You could have them stay inside a hoop on the floor.

5. Use a prop bag to illustrate parts of the story. Collect items that pertain to the story, and display them when they are mentioned in the story. Let's say your reading, "MIss Spider's Tes Party." You could take out rubber bugs, a tea cup, silk flowers, or a hankerchief to dry Miss Spider's eyes. If your story is about bananas, pull some bananas out of the prop bag. It would be fun to eat them while they listen to the rest of the story.

6. Ask your child questions about the story. Reading comprehension is one of the hardest things to teach a child if it doesn't come naturally to him. In order to comprehend something, you must be paying attention to it. Help your child to develop his ability to comprehend stories by asking him questions either about what he thinks is about to happen or what has already happened. This develops critical thinking, which helps later in life in making major decisions. It teaches him how to survive in the world, once he is put out in it.

7. Do a fun activity after you finish the book that relalates to the book in some way.
For instance, if the book is about a tall person, make your own stilts using metal cans. Punch two holes on either side of each can, near the bottom. Measure a piece of rope so it is the appropriate length for children. Thread one end of the rope into each hole and secure with a knot. To walk on stilts, children stand on the cans, holding the rope in their hands. It's not easy, children will need practice! (Verify that the edge of the can is not sharp, add masking tape for extra protection.) If you read a book about lions or the circus, you can have your child jump through a hoop like a lion at the circus. This activity may be done indoors or outdoors. Add words of encouragement such as, "Come my beautiful lions!" Continue raising the hoop, then alternate between high and low.

Reading aloud to your child helps them to learn the correct way to read. By hearing you read the words on the page and sound them out, he learns that letters make words, and words make sentences, and sentences are how we communicate with each other. Communication is very important in how a person relates to the rest of the world. Reading aloud to your child encourages interpersonal communication, which is vital to a child's development.

Reading to your child on a regular basis will give them an appreciation and respect for reading. If reading is important to you, it will become important to your child. A bookcase full of a variety of great books should be available. The "Dr. Seuss" and "Dick and Jane" books are wonderful, because they are full of repetition. This will enable your child to learn sight words such as: it, at, on, in, the, etc. Learning sight words will help keep the frustration level down when they start to read books.

So, read aloud to your child, and I guarantee that not only will he benefit in phenomenal ways, but you will bond with your child in the process! Reading aloud calls for a lot more than just listening when you have just a little imagination. Have fun reading!

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Uppercase & Lowercase Letter Recognition

Developmentally, upper case letters are easier so we teach them first. The upper case teaching order helps teach correct formation and orientation while eliminating reversals. At 3 and 4 fine motor skills can better accommodate uppercase letters. Learning capitals first makes learning lowercase letters easy. Teach lowercase c, o, s, v, and w, first because they are exactly the same as their capital partners, only smaller. By teaching capitals first, we have prepared children for nearly half of the lowercase letters that are similar in formation. Have the children learn this saying to help them distinguish a “b” from a “d.” When you write a “b,” just like in baseball, first draw the bat and then the ball—a bat and ball make a “b.”


Denise Griffith from Wheatley Early Childhood Programs in Port Arthur, Texas created the matching game pictured here. With a fine marker write an uppercase letter on one side of a clothespin and the corresponding lowercase letter on the other side. Glue letter pairs around an 8” by 11” poster board. At first, have the children match the uppercase letter and then the lowercase letter with its matching pair. When they have mastered that skill, prepare another two boards. Make one board with only the uppercase letters, and one with only the lowercase letters. Now the children can practice matching uppercase to lowercase letters.


First, read the story to the children, and then ask them to follow the directions 1-3.
1. Circle every letter “w” in the story below.
2. Underline every letter “p” in the story.
3. Put a box around every letter “m” in the story.

I saw a pig on the farm.
I saw some worms on the farm.
I saw a man on the farm.
I liked the farm.


Write the uppercase letters on 26 plastic spoons, and the lowercase letters on 26 plastic forks. Label uppercase letters “ABC” on one plastic plate, and lowercase letters “abc” on another plastic plate. Have the children Identify and sort the uppercase and lowercase letters.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Help your Preschooler Learn Large Motor Skills

Have you ever watched a group of children playing and noticed that some of them were uncoordinated and clumsy? These children need to develop their gross motor skills. Gross motor skills include: balance (the ability to maintain equilibrium), body awareness (for improved posture and control), laterality (awareness and coordination of the left and right sides of the body), spatial awareness (awareness of the body position in space and in relation to other objects in space), and major muscle coordination. These skills are needed for athletic activities and more importantly, physical coordination in their daily activities.

Physical activity should be a positive and fun experience for kids. Developing positive attitudes about movement at an early age is essential to making a commitment to an active lifestyle. Mastering some fundamental large motor skills means children are able to participate in a wider range of activities.

Because no two children are alike, some activities need to be modified to fit your individual child. Younger children have shorter attention spans and need more variety to maintain interest. Kids also need to be given the time to explore solutions to movement problems in free play situations and in independent creative settings. Activities should be fun, non competitive and success oriented. Make sure you keep the sctivity below their frustration level, or the point where the child has difficulty succeeding. Kids should be given adequate instruction and plenty of time to practice. Skills should be taught in a sequential manner. Kids need to feel safe while learning so there should be boundaries, rules and routines that they can follow. And most importantly, remember to give them tons of praise.

The three main types of skills that should be covered are stability skills (bending, balancing, stretching, swinging, twisting, dodging), locomotor skills (walking, running, jumping, hopping, leaping, skipping, galloping, climbing, rolling, creeping, crawling), and manipulative skills (throwing, catching, rolling, bouncing, kicking, striking, trapping). The suggested activities are endless. Here are some aimed for 3-5 year olds.

1. Play with a large ball. Kick the ball with one foot, and then the other. Throw and catch the ball, too. If your child has trouble catching a ball, you can slow down the process by using a chiffon scarf. The scarf moves slowly and has lots of surface area to grab.
2. Have a set of props that your child can use for exploration. Examples: scarves, hoops, sticks, flags, bean bags.
3. Play "Simon says," so your child will have to copy your movements, and improve his
listening skills. In "Mirror images" you face each other and mimic the leader's actions. Remember to go slow enough for your child to keep up. These activities are good for developing laterality and spatial awareness.
4. Play the balance game. Ask your child to count how long they can balance on one foot. Use a variety of balances holding your foot in several positions.
5. Ask your child to gallop like a horse or slide like a baseball player.
6. Log rolls or forward rolls are good for body rotation skills.
7. Tag is great for practicing sprinting, stopping, and changing direction quickly.
8. Kids can develop their skills in climbing and hanging by using playground equipment. This type of environment fosters development in spatial awareness, body tension and grip strength.
9. Learn action songs. Tell your child to act out animal moves: slither like a snake, waddle like a duck, or jump like a kangaroo. You can combine phonics and action with the "Animal Action Phonics Rhymes" found posted on this blog.
10. Set up obstacle courses with tunnels to crawl through, hoops to jump in, and inclines to
roll down.

Now is the time to give your child the right environment and opportunities to develop their large motor skills. Each time your child solves a movement problem it is recorded in his muscle memory. Gross motor memory is vital at this stage as it allows a child to recall the muscular steps used in the past for successful performance. Numerous muscle groups must be rapidly engaged, so that the right muscles are accomplishing the necessary steps at the right time. For some kids these processes will be nearly instinctive and for others continual training will be required. Have fun and enjoy this special time with your preschooler.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fun with the Letter Qq !

Mother Quail and her baby quails

Choose one child to be the mother quail and let the others be her babies. With everyone singing the quail song, the mother walks around the room and each time she tags someone they get in line behind her making a long chain.
(Tune: Down by the Station)
Out in the forest
Early in the morning,
See the mother Quail
Walking to and fro.
See a baby quail
Get in line behind her.
Quickly, quickly, off they go!

Move with Q

Set some boundaries with cones or lines for a movement exploration exercise. Remind the children that each person is surrounded by an imaginary bubble that can break if anyone gets to near. It's fun to use a drum or whistle that means everyone must freeze like a statue.

Move QUICKLY around the room.
QUIETLY, now tip toe QUIETLY.
Chop the stone in your QUARRY. Work hard in the QUARRY.
Walk like a proud QUEEN with your head up high.
Jump like a QUARTER that's being tossed.
QUIVER or shake like a leaf blown by the wind.
QUACK around the room.


Each child colors and cuts out a Q object like a quail, queen, or quill. Everyone glues their object onto a large poster board and then it is laminated. Make a giant Qq puzzle by cutting out 20 large puzzle pieces. Hide the pieces around the room. Have the children find the parts and place them together to solve the puzzle.


Make a large Qq or quarter on a poster board. This is a good time to introduce or review the quarter. The quarter (also called a quarter dollar) is worth 25 cents or 25 pennies. Have one or more children count out 25 pennies. One quarter can be written 25¢ or $0.25. The front of the quarter pictures a left-facing profile of George Washington, the first President of the United States of America.

The front reads, "LIBERTY," "IN GOD WE TRUST," and the year the coin was minted or made. The small initial by Washington is the mint-mark, showing the location that produced the coin (D means Denver, Colorado, S means San Francisco, California, and P means Philadelphia, Pennsylvania).

The back of the quarter pictures the presidential coat of arms (an eagle with outstretched wings). The back reads, "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," "E PLURIBUS UNUM," and "QUARTER DOLLAR." E PLURIBUS UNUM is Latin and means one out of many.

Let the children make crayon rubbings of the quarter using different color crayons. The children then cut out the rubbings and glue them to the giant poster board. This, too, could be used as a puzzle.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Bird Songs, Facts, Books, & Activities

Birds Action Song

The first verse remains the same: children walking around in a circle holding hands singing "Here we go round the Mulberry Bush".

2nd verse:
This is the way we scratch for worms.
(children move their feet in a scratching motion)
3rd verse:
This is the way we peck our food.
(children peck)
4th verse:
This is the way we sit on our eggs.
(children squat down and wiggle)
5th verse:
This is the way we flap our wings.
(bend arms at elbows, put thumbs under armpits, and flap)
6th verse:
This is the way we fly away.
(children can "fly" anywhere they want within a set boundary, but return to circle at end of verse)


When we observe the regal display of color on a male peacock, with his feathery fan-like tail spread out, his beauty fascinates us. Like thousands of other species of birds, this stunning specimen is staking claim to his territory and trying to attract a mate. His shimmering green and blue plumage shows other birds that he is a strong and healthy male peacock ready to defend his territory.

Using visual and auditory cues, each bird species has evolved a spacing method to let other birds know where his territory boundaries end. His vivid color sends a message of dominance and ownership. This is extremely important to his survival. When birds are too densely populated in a particular area, they may starve. If they are too widely spread out, they might never find each other to mate and reproduce. The red shoulder patch on red-winged blackbirds provides an excellent example. The patch is coverable and is shown to males and females of the same species but never to predators. Males who had their patch experimentally covered tended to lose their territories more often than did uncovered birds. Similar results have been shown in other species such as scarlet-tufted malachite sunbirds, confirming that the brilliant badges function primarily in male-male competition over territories.

In most species the female is a “plain Jane” with brown or gray markings, while the male is dressed for success like a “dapper Dan.” The reason for this difference is job related. The female needs to be camouflaged in the nest to feed and nurture her young. The male needs to stand out in a crowd to attract a female and win her love. His intense and dazzling plumage shows her that he will contribute strong, healthy genes to their offspring. In fact, during mating season, some males will exhibit breeding plumage, which is more lustrous and vivid than at other times during the year. House finches are monogamous and males exhibit orange or red in their crowns and elsewhere in their plumage. The extent and brightness of the color in individuals is directly related to carotenoid pigments that are picked up from high quality seed. Extensive field studies have shown that artificially brightened males were much preferred by females, and that naturally brighter males were better at providing food to the female and her chicks.

Activity for home or school:

For most birds, nest-building supplies consist of whatever nature has lying around — wood, grass, twigs, feathers, and fur. You can provide the birds in your neighborhood with easy-to-obtain nest fodder by stuffng a mesh onion bag with materials such as pet fur, colorful strands of cloth, bits of stuffing, hay, colorful yarn cut into short lengths, hair from your brush, or feathers from an old down pillow. (Avoid anything synthetic or sharp.) Snip a few large holes in the sack so birds can poke around, then hang it in a tree, ideally near a feeder so it will get noticed.

In the coming weeks, be on the lookout for birds visiting the sack, then watch what trees they return to — from the right viewpoint, you might even get to see your building materials being incorporated into the birds' nests.

Books for the classroom:

"The Backyard Bird Watching For Kids" by George H. Harrison

This book provides a fascinating opportunity for children to learn how to attract birds to their own backyards. And there's no better teacher than "Mr. Backyard Bird Watcher" himself, expert birder and author George H. Harrison. This book will kindle in readers a healthy, enduring interest in birds and other wild animals.
72 pages. For kids 5-12

"Are You My Mother?" by P.D Eastman

Soft and cuddly as a stuffed animal or a favorite quilt, this padded-cloth book, will delight a small child and the person who reads it out loud. Suitable for infants and children up to about five years old.

A baby bird falls out of the nest and explores the surroundings in search of its mother. This book goes beyond being merely illustrated--it's a real experience. A child can hold the small cloth baby bird and at the end tuck it under the found mother's wing. Highly recommended for a small child in your life.

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Saturday, August 9, 2008


Try this fun rhyme to teach adding doubles. Kids love to say it like a rap song.

1 plus 1 is 2 That's so true, I said 2.
2 plus 2 is 4 Yes, that's more, I said 4.
3 plus 3 is 6 That's the mix,I said 6.
4 plus 4 is 8 Don't be late, I said 8.
5 plus 5 is 10 Come on men, I said 10.
6 plus 6 is 12 It's time to shelve the number 12.
7 plus 7 is 14 Don't be mean, it's 14.
8 plus 8 is 16 It's so keen, It's 16.
9 plus 9 is 18 Have you seen? It's 18.
10 plus 10 is 20 Come rhyme with me, up to 20.

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Friday, August 8, 2008


The more proficient your child gets at phonics the easier it will be to combine sounds into words. If you're homeschooling or reinforcing the phonics your child is learning in school, the following activities will reinforce the alphabet sounds and get your child ready for reading.

PHONICS SCAVENGER HUNT Place several pictures or objects around the room that represent the sound you are practicing. Don't forget to put a few other sound symbols in the room as well. This will ensure that your child will test the object for the sound before declaring a find.

BEACH BALL PHONICS requires you to section off a ball into many squares with a marker. Each square houses a letter of the alphabet. Toss the ball to your child, who recites the letter name and sound of the letter under their thumb. (S sounds ss, ss, ss)

PHONICS TOSS Paint the letters of the alphabet on a large foam board. Under each letter, cut a hole big enough for a small beanbag to fit through. Being sure not to cover the holes, glue or staple the board to a large cardboard box. Your child tosses a beanbag into one of the holes and says the sound.

SKIP JUMP SOUNDS Using lighter colored vinyl, cut out shapes, put a letter on each one with a marker, and tape them to the floor. Your child can jump from letter to letter, saying each sound as they land.

SEWING LETTERS is a great craft and letter recognition activity. Using poster board, draw and laminate 6"-8" block letters of the alphabet. Cut them out and punch holes around the perimeter of each letter about 1" apart. Using a large needle and yarn, have your child sew around each letter.

PHONICS RELAYS This is fun when there are two or more players. If you have an older sibling play, you can give them a handicap like counting to 5 one thousands before responding. Call out a letter sound and the children run to a chalkboard or dry erase board and print the letter of that sound. When they’re ready, modify this game to words or even short sentences.

WORD CONCENTRATION Make two sets of the common sight words on index cards, and lay them out 5-10 at a time. Have your child try to find a matching pair. It's fun to have a set of color words, number words, animals, and family members.

GIANT SCRABBLE Make large letter tiles 12” squares out of poster board. Laminate them at an office supply place. Give clues like: drinks milk, has whiskers, is soft and cuddly, says meow. The first one to shout out CAT finds the letters C-A-T and makes the word cat. This can be done sitting at a table with letter tiles, but running to use large tiles adds more fun to the activity.

This is one of the most exciting times in your child's life, because they are learning so many new and exciting things. Decorate their room with everything they have made so they can show off to visitors. Have fun, try these phonics and reading activities, and create some of your own. The possibilities are endless.

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Thursday, August 7, 2008


A whale is not as small as us.
Most whales are bigger than a bus!
Whales are not like fish in the sea.
Whales breathe air like you & me.
Whales can't walk upon the ground.
Whales must swim to get around.
A whale is a mammal just like me.
But its home is in the deep blue sea.

How could a whale have evolved from a mammal that lived and walked in the forest to an animal that lives and swims with its flippers in the sea? When most animals were developing limbs and climbing out of the oceans, the whales were developing fins and walking into the oceans. Whales evolved from warm-blooded, air breathing mammalian ancestors that lived on land, had large brains, and gave birth to their young alive, to an efficient swimming and eating machine that lives in the great oceans of the world.

In nature, nothing is more constant than change. Animals adapt by producing anatomical, physiological, and behavioral traits that promote survival and reproduction. Adaptations evolve in response to interactions with other organisms and with the physical environment. Animals that adapt better, survive better, and leave more offspring with a copy of their genes than others in the population.

About 57 million years ago, certain animals lived near the sea and would hunt just off the shoreline for fish. Because the sea was not very deep they could do this easily. As the hunt required further excursion into the deeper waters, the proto-whales who were best at swimming reproduced in greater numbers than those who weren’t. Gradually, their front legs became smaller and were useful as flippers, while the hind feet became larger and helped better propel the animal through the water. Later, the back legs changed into the horizontal extension of the tail, known in the modern whale as the fluke. They further evolved adaptations for diving and hearing under water. The transition from land to sea presented difficulties for which adaptations developed over many generations. Smooth skin and loss of protruding ear parts and hind limbs streamlined whales for swimming. The nostrils moved to the top of the head to facilitate breathing and an insulating layer of blubber replaced hair for warmth. The body, supported by water, was able to reach its enormous size.

Whale fossils show the intermediate stages in the evolution of early whales to be of four distinct types. These fossils are evidence that whales evolved from a terrestrial animal.

A 52 million year old fossil found by Dr. Phil Gingrich, consisted of a very primitive whale skull with teeth and ear structures akin to those of terrestrial mammals, yet it had other features, which defined it as a whale. While it fed on fish, it could not dive deeply and probably spent much time on land.

A 50 million year old fossil shows a whale that was adapted to life in water as well as land. This transitional whale had large hind legs like a land dweller, and may have used them for walking as well as swimming. Its spine was long and flexible, with a tail not yet modified for propulsion. The most extraordinary feature of this animal was his enormous hind feet, which must have provided the major propulsive force in swimming.

A 45 million year old fossil shows an animal that had leg bones large enough to support the body on land. It is believed these whales spent most of their time in water, feeding on fish, but reproducing on land.

A 40 million year old fossil, Basilosaurus, burst onto the scientific scene with a bang. It was an advanced form of whale with a long flexible spine, forelegs modified into flippers for steering and stabilization, and a modified tail for propulsion. The hind legs were very tiny, and unable to support the animal’s weight. It was not able to walk on land.

Dr. Castello Banfi found 5 million year old, practically complete, 33-foot long fossil in 2007 in Itlay. We’re all anxious waiting for the exciting findings of his investigations.

Inside the fin of a modern whale, you can still find the bones of an arm and hand. Today’s whale is equipped with a pelvis bone, which has long ago lost its function. And unlike fish, modern whales have lungs and nostrils called blowholes, and must surface occasionally to breathe.

When climates change due to geologic processes, animals have to adapt or face extinction. Whales certainly changed in a most unusual way. By reversing the water to land adaptation, and becoming an efficient mammal for ocean life, it is remaining one of the most fascinating evolutions of all time.

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How to Find a Qualified Tutor

If your child is reluctant to talk about his progress in school, or he's "hiding his report card," it may be time to look for a tutor. You may think that you do not have the time or resources to hire a tutor, but it will require more time and be much more expensive if you wait. One of the biggest mistakes that parents make is waiting too long to intervene. For instance, in most subjects, especially math, the student must have the beginning concepts mastered in order to understand and succeed in the next. By waiting too long, the student develops learning gaps, which cause the entire learning structure to collapse.

There are several ways to find a tutor.

1. The very best source for finding a good tutor is the referral of a friend, someone that is a satisfied customer already.

2. School guidance counselors may be able to provide you with the names and phone numbers of some local instructors.

3. Homeschool organizations have many resources, including e-mail chains that may locate a tutor for you.

4. Bulletin boards at large churches may have business cards of local tutors, or you can write your own notice asking for tutor referrals from church members.

5. The Internet is increasingly becoming a source for local tutoring businesses that have a large teacher pool from which to choose.

When you find tutors that seem to fit your needs, there are several questions to ask that will help you pick the best one for your child. An interview with each tutor will help you decide if they communicate well, and can speak to the teacher on the child's behalf. You can also discern if your child will have fun with this instructor. If your child cannot relate to this tutor, the process will not succeed. Don't be intimidated by their teaching degree. It is best to come with a list of questions in hand.

1. A teaching degree is a must! Ask for a resume and discuss whether they have ever worked with children your child's age.

2. Three referrals from previous students will help you feel confident about their experience and competence.

3. Ask them to supply a background check or conduct one on your own.

4. Their payment policy should be discussed to guarantee a good business relationship with no surprises. For instance, ask about their cancellation policies, including possible charges you may incur.

5. Ask how many and how long the sessions should be each week. Depending on the age of the student, I recommend two, ninety minute sessions per week. Younger children do better with sixty minute sessions.

6. An assessment procedure is necessary to identify your child's learning gaps, and ensure that the tutor will be effective in helping them to succeed. They should be able to furnish this information readily.

7. Reward systems help to motivate students. Quite often the lack of motivation may be the very reason your child needs a tutor, so it is important that they provide some sort of incentive. Because some parents object to the sugar in a candy reward, I use a star system with a prize bag.

8. Most importantly, ask what is required from you, the parent, for your child to succeed. It might be as simple as checking that assignments are completed between visits. It's a small price to pay to assure that the tutoring you're paying for will be productive.

If your child is locked in a downward spiral of frustration and failure in school, it is probably time to hire a tutor. Use the above guidelines to find a good tutor who can break the spiral by analyzing the problem, building basic skills to erase learning gaps, restoring motivation, and inspiring a love for learning. This will help your child reach their fullest potential and develop the self-confidence they will need to succeed in life.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Alphabet Animal Action Phonics

Many children find it difficult to sit and learn phonics, so give them opportunities for movement! It's commonly believed that when you hear something, 10% of the information is retained. If you see it, hear it and say it, 40% is retained. But, if you also DO it, you retain 70%-100% of the information. Using a multi-sensory approach to teach children phonics and reading enhances their retention and capitalizes on their natural tendency to wiggle. In other words, incorporate movement as a teaching tool for phonics and reading.


It is usually a good idea to introduce one letter sound a week. Learn and ACT OUT the first weeks letter sound S (The sneaky snake slithered up to me. It was a silly sight to see). Practice the rhyme as you do errands. Write the rhyme on a giant poster board and hang it in your child’s room. Flood your child's world with the letter sound of the week by looking for that letter everywhere you go (grocery store, signs, food they eat, books you read to them). Create a short book that emphasizes the new sound by cutting and pasting pictures of S objects. The following rhymes will give children many opportunities for action and fun.


A Andy the antelope started to clap, when an ant sat on his lap.
E Ellie the elephant swept and swept ate an egg, and then she wept.
I Ichabod inchworm started to twitch, because he had an itch, itch, itch.
O Ozzie the ostrich went hop, hop, hop, and his balloon went pop, pop, pop.
U The Umbrella bird under the sun wanted to run and have some fun.


B The baby baboon bought a mug, and gave his buddy a big bad bug.
C The curious cat began to creep closer, closer he did leap.
D The dolphin dives down under a wave, down so deep, his name is Dave.
F The freckled finch flew into the air, funny and fat, he was so fair.
G The grateful goat grew every day, he was so good, and he was so gray.
H The happy hippo loved to eat; he hopped all day in the heat.
J Johnnie the jackal would jump and leap; he never drove a jeep, jeep, jeep.
K Kenny kangaroo kicked his sis, than he gave her a kooky kiss.
L The lazy lizard would laugh and play, upon his log he would lay all day.
M The mild mouse moved with a squeak, to run from me he was so meek.
N The naughty narwhal has a nice spear, but make sure that you never go near.
P Polly pelican's pouch is pretty, it's empty, what a pity.
Q The quiet quail tiptoed quickly; his many quills were so very prickly.
R Roger rabbit ran and stomped, right through the river he romped.
S The sneaky snake slithered up to me; it was a silly sight to see.
T The terrific tiger would turn and skip, and every Tuesday he took a trip.
V The victorious vulture vaulted the best, and vowed to wear a vivid vest.
W Wally the walrus wiggled with a pig, and always wore a wonderful wig.
X The X-ray fish swam like a fox, but he never ever ate his lox.
Y The young yak yawned so very hard, on his yellow yacht in the yard.
Z The zany zebra zoomed like Flipper, but he always stopped to zip his zipper.


A The aging ape is out of shape, because he ate and ate and ate.
E The enormous eagle is so regal, when he fly's with a seagull.
I The idle ibex stands so high, in the icy, icy sky.
O The orange orangutan climbed a rope to see what he could scope.
U The unique unicorn, dressed in blue, was stuck on ugly, ugly glue.

The more proficient your child gets at phonics the easier it will be to combine sounds into words. Be creative and have fun with Action Animal Phonics!

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Games are a great way to include all learning styles and reach every student in your class. Enthusiasm is contagious! When I introduce a new math game to my students with excitement and joy in my voice, they respond in kind.

MATH AND MOVEMENT Coming from an elementary, as well as physical education background, I not only use conventional math games, but I also use math games that involve large motor skills. Instead of insisting that kids stay in their seats, they get to jump and hop as they learn math. Young children love to move, so when you combine math and movement, you are sure to have a winner!

BEACH BALL MATH requires the teacher to section off a ball into squares with a marker. Each square houses a math problem (add, subtract, multiply, divide, etc). The children toss the ball to each other, and when they catch it, they answer the problem under their right thumb. For young children the problem can be as simple as identifying numbers or shapes, and for older children a way of practicing multiplication or division facts.

MATH TOSS is a favorite game for all ages. The teacher paints and numbers shapes on a large foam board. In each shape, they cut holes big enough for a small beanbag to fit through. Being sure not to cover the holes, they then glue or staple the board to a large cardboard box. The children toss two beanbags into the holes and either add, subtract or multiply the numbers together. Use your imagination with the older students and have them square the numbers first and then add them together.

SKIP JUMP MATH is a favorite game for young children. Using lighter colored vinyl, cut out shapes, number them with marker, and tape them to the floor. The students jump from shape to shape, saying each number as they land. The children can skip count by 1's, 2's, 3's,etc. They can jump in ascending or descending order. Skip jumping is a great way to introduce multiplication.

Use your creativity! Any of these games can be modified to fit all age groups or concepts that you are teaching (even phonics or sight words). Create your own games using the kid's favorite activities. It could be anything from "soccer math" to "math bingo." I hope that I have sparked your imagination, so that you will invent innovative and exciting games for your students. Have fun! I know your students will.

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