Saturday, November 29, 2014

These 8 Projects representing 8 Holiday Customs from around the world can be hole punched and hung on a piece of yarn for display in a Christmas Tree or anywhere for any Holiday.

This set is the perfect compliment to the Holidays Around the World KEEPSAKE BOOK at Silly Sam Productions. 

The book and ornament sets can make a wonderful keepsake gift that can be saved and displayed each year during our winter holiday times. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Native American Culture Unit

Exploring Native American Culture
 Each year we introduce our Native American Unit with a beautiful story retold by Tomie DePaola called,
The Legend of the Bluebonnet.

 Students decorate Tipis with Native American symbols.

 We read a huge collection of Native American stories. We discuss the Native American cultures and notice the different kinds of dwellings, clothing and tools that are used. We find the deep underlying themes throughout the stories like, family and nature and respecting the Earth. We look at the incredible artwork and how so much of it is inspired by nature. 

 Students color Thunderbirds with crayon and then paint over them with water colors, much like Native Americans may have used berries and leaves to make colors.
Native American Culture Unit FREEBIE

Here is a FREEBIE with my list of favorite Native American Children's Books and some activities and projects to go along with what the children learn from the stories! I hope you enjoy this little collection. 


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fall Leaves Window Project

I love this Fall Project! Have students collect leaves of different sizes, shapes and colors. Arrange them on a sheet of wax paper. Sprinkle crayon shavings, I actually have a special cheese grater just for crayons. Then cover with a top sheet of wax paper and have an adult iron over the top sheet, melting the colors all around the leaves. Looks awesome in a window!

Friday, August 15, 2014

The b d confusion is something that every new reader goes through. Some go through the adjustment quicker than others and some readers may have some developmental or visual issues that really make these letters a challenge. 

When I introduce this lesson, I ask the kiddos what sound they hear at the beginning of "baseball" and "drum".

Then I ask them to imagine that they are stepping up to the plate as a batter. We even stand up and act it out. 

I ask them what they need 1st in order to be ready to hit the ball. Sometimes the response is "a ball". This is great, so we have 2 students come up and act out a batter with a ball thrown to them...without a bat. A wrong answer actually works great here! They laugh and then correct the answer.

We then draw the lower case b and say, 
                 "First the bat: Then the ball"

Next we imagine playing the drums. What does a drummer need first? 
                  "First the drum: Then the sticks"

Draw the drum and sticks.

Then have students hold up their thumb hands facing each other. Trace the left thumb down, saying 1st the bat. Trace the remaining fingers in a circular motion, saying, Then the ball.

Trace the right fingers in a circular motion, saying, 1st the drum. Trace the thumb down, saying Then the sticks

Of course we also put those thumb hands together to make a bed. Point out the b as the first sound in bed, and the d as the ending sound in bed.

I always show them all the tricks, you never know which one will be the best trick for them!

Another one is that lower case b is inside of a capital B.
Lower case d is backwards from the capital D.

Whatever works! :)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


This is how we start the year off so that every student can feel Safe, Important and Appreciated in our own Caring Classroom!

We start with a group experience meant to start a thoughtful discussion about WHY we have rules.

Then Students brainstorm together to think about WHY we come to school and what RIGHTS we have when we are there.

 Next Students brainstorm together to think about WHAT rules we should have to be sure that everyone can *BE SAFE *LEARN & *BE HAPPY. 

Then we Color-Code the RULES to coordinate with the RIGHTS.

Any time a student breaks a rule, they look up at our poster to identify which RULE was broken or the category it would fit in and the coordinating RIGHT of another that was infringed upon. This has been such a powerful and effective way for students to realize how their behavior, rushing, or words, etc. can affect their classmates. It creates such compassion for others as we review our RIGHTS. We stress how every student deserves these things when they come to school and we all will protect those RIGHTS for each other. 

We do this whenever necessary, and it is hardly ever necessary.

The posters, lessons, group experience and discussion questions can be found in this pack at TpT in Silly Sam Productions.

I would like to offer 5 Sets for FREE to the first 5 people that respond here.
If you are interested please leave me a comment.
The first 5 can email me at to receive their FREE copy.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How to Calm a Crying Child: The Birthday Cake Trick!

This is a great little trick to use to help an upset little one gain control of their breathing and calm down.

We have all been there. 
  • A little one takes a hard fall and sustains a minor or major injury
  • A huge crack of thunder startles them
  • They realize that Mommy has left and won't be back for a while, or
  • They are taking the end of year benchmark as a formative assessment and get upset because they don't know any of the answers...

Whatever the reason is that sets our little ones off...
Here is a trick to help them calm themselves and get that control back so that we can begin to help them handle the situation.

When a child realizes that they are hurt, scared or feeling some extreme emotion, they may start to cry that big cry. The one that takes over their whole body, and makes them shake and hyperventilate.

They need US to model a calm and problem solving demeanor. If we react with an OMG panic reaction, it will only confirm to them that they are in serious trouble, and it will be much more difficult to calm them down.

Even an extreme emergency can be aided by calm, problem solving, clear minds.

Here's the Trick
  1. Use a calm, reassuring voice
  2. Hold up your index finger in front of the child
  3. Tell them that they CAN control their own breathing and that is the first step in helping them solve or handle the problem.
  4. Tell the child to imagine that your finger is a Birthday Candle on their Birthday Cake.
  5. Ask them to take a nice deep breath in and model it for them.
  6. Then tell them to S-L-O-W-L-Y Blow Out the Candle.
  7. Repeat, model and do it together until the child has their breathing under control.
  8. Congratulate them on taking control and then continue on with calm instructions for an injury or explanations for a scare.
  9. If the child is having trouble following your calm voice directions, tell them that you are here to help them, but that you cannot start to help until they are calm.
  10. Tell them that they CAN control their breathing and try the birthday candle again.

The birthday candle image already gets the child thinking about a happy time and a happy day. Your confidence in that they can gain control helps them to believe it. Your reaction to a stressful situation will very often become theirs. No matter what the situation is, everyone can better help with a calm manor and clear heads. Chatting a little about the last birthday or next one coming up can be a great calming distraction.

Don't promise to fix it, Mommy may be at work and is not coming back right now, but they can learn to develop the COPING SKILLS to handle it. A skinned knee can be cleaned out and bandaged, but we can't make it go away. Even if an emergency room visit is necessary, they can still be in control of their breathing and stay calm.

Developing coping skills is one of the best gifts you can ever give to a child.

For more thoughts about teaching Coping Skills to children see this post from my Laugh & Learn with Silly Sam blog.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Here is a tip for a "Word Wall". I have very little wall space available in my classroom, but I do have these large window shades. Use what you have and design something to fit your space. I wrote out the alphabet on chart paper and laminated them. I used black for consonants and black with Yellow highlights for the vowels. 

I write each week's Fry Vocabulary words under the correct letter and the kiddos do the same in their little green word book.

Now, here's the problem with a vocabulary list like Fry or Dolch, they have those high frequency words covered, but it is hard if not impossible to make sentences out of just those words.

So, I created my Nouns, Verbs & Adjectives program to compliment the Fry Vocabulary list. Each week my first graders receive 5 black Fry word cards. The first 200 words have been broken up into 40 weeks of 5 words. Then they also receive 6 color coded Nouns (red) Verbs (green) and Adjectives (blue), 2 of each. The words are carefully chosen so that sentences can be constructed using only the weekly words (with a few exceptions). 

This program has worked beautifully. I have large color coded word cards for my pocket chart to introduce, display and review the weekly words. The students copy the words and color code on their own in their vocabulary notebooks. We play Smiley Bingo with the words, This is a vocabulary game that I created many years ago. It is easily differentiated. I have Bingo boards with 6, 9 or 12 boxes. Students can play the game with just the 5 new words and an X box or a bonus word. Another option is to use the 5 new words plus 4 from the previous week. The most advanced students can use the Vocabulary words plus the Nouns, Verbs & Adjectives with a bonus word. 

Students receive 3 fun pages of vocabulary activities for their word work folders and also receive flashcards for homework practice and building and writing vocabulary sentences. This is also easily differentiated by assigning just the Vocabulary words or adding the Nouns, Verbs & Adjectives as well. Students that are required to use all 5 Fry words can use the nouns, verbs & adjectives as needed. The more challenging differentiation requires all 6 nouns, verbs & adjectives to be used in sentences. 

There is a pocket chart set of sentences to accompany every set of weekly words. All of the Fry words are used and some of the nouns, verbs & adjectives are used to create sentences for the week. Students can copy those sentences or create their own depending on their abilities. The assignments can also start out slower and each month have an additional differentiation added. Kindergarten, Second Grade and some Special Education classes are also using this system, according to feedback from some of my customers. This can be used for any students learning the first 200 Fry Words. This can be a great center, assigned word work or an RTI strategy, besides the whole class model that I have described for First Grade. 

There are options for color coding as well. One set can be printed in color and then others can be done on a color copier. I understand that stores like Staples can have very reasonable rates for a center station set. For student flash cards, printing or photocopying can be down in black, then have the students color code by drawing a red, green or blue square around the nouns, verbs and adjectives. This can also add a differentiation and make part of the lesson identifying the parts of speech that each word would belong to. 

Nouns, verbs & adjectives: I have found that my students were much more solid on the parts of speech by the end of the year because they have worked with them every week, vs. focusing on nouns for a week, then verbs and adjectives for one week, every now and then like in other programs that I have used.

Well, here are a few products that represent the program I have been describing.

1st 200 Fry Vocabulary Cards Large-Display

1st 200 Fry Words Activity Nouns Verbs Adjectives Large Display Cards

1st 200 Fry Vocabulary Flashcards Smiley Bingo Game

1st 200 Fry Words Activity Nouns Verbs Adjectives Cards to Build Sentences

1st 200 Fry Words Activity Nouns Verbs Adjectives Pocket Chart Sentences

1st 200 Fry Vocabulary Words Color Coded Activities BUNDLE

Sunday, June 1, 2014