Sunday, December 28, 2014

Learn Something New!

We should all have a bucket list, even in kindergarten!  Come on, what new thing would you like to learn, or do? 

Go deeper.  Think about things you never thought of before.  Or things you thought about in passing, and then forgot again. 

If you google hobbies, or flip though Pinterest pages or talk to a friend, you'll find something new that catches your imagination. 

So start a list, even if you're in kindergarten.  That's what I'm asking my kids to do--and put it into their New Year's Keepsake Book.  So when they forget their dreams, there's a place to find them again.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Peace On Earth Cards

Here's a holiday card for every spirit.  It's simple: Peace On Earth--with a torn-paper craft of the Earth.

I fold plain copy paper in quarters and trace a circle on the front.  The kids add their name, the tag line, and then begin the craft.

We start by looking at an aerial photo of the Earth, and note the land shapes and colors.  Then the kids color their circles blue and green.  Some of them draw land mass shapes.

Each child gets a small rectangle of blue and of green construction paper.  This is "torn paper art"--so kids don't cut, they tear, their blue and green into tiny pieces with their fingers.  Then they glue-stick them artfully onto their Earth shape.  Each one is gorgeous!

Inside their cards, they draw pictures of their choice: an evergreen, elf, gift box, candy cane...

And they write a more personal phrase if they wish, such as Season's Greetings, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Diwali, Good Bodhi Day!

I love the tradition of home-made cards.  It's personal and creative, and even now, I'll often make a home-made card for a friend.

Teddy Bear Magnet Gift

Nothing beats this Teddy Bear Magnet Gift for cuteness!

No kid can resist adding details like hair, hearts or eyelashes...and then coloring, cutting and choosing their oak tag color to glue it on.
Final touches include matching googly eyes, a craft bow and glitter arm-bands.  When it all dries, they glue a magnet to the back.
And, when kids take it home for the holidays, what parent can resist this cute-as-a-button gift from their child?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Giveaway Bundle!

My friend at TPT, Michelle Dupuis, is turning 40--and she's celebrating by giving away bundles of teacher goodies!--among them is my own Brain Breaks for the 5 Senses.

Check out all the wonderful bundles of freebies here!
These are some of those teacher treasures:

Be sure to visit her blog by December 17th for a chance to win.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

10-Second Brain Breaks

Kids wriggle, fidget, and focus on whatever.   That's just what kids do. 
Here are some quick brain breaks you can do at any time to calm kids' bodies and minds:

1)  Breathe deeply.  Put your hands on your waist.  Let all the air out like a balloon.  Hold breathe in slowly and quietly, fill the bottom (see your hands expand), now fill the top (see your chest expand), hold it...then breathe out.

2)  Eye exercise.  Hold up your thumb.  Look at your thumb, now look at me.  Thumb, me...thumb me...thumb, hands down, squeeze your eyes gently shut...and focus here...

3)  Best stretch ever.  Clasp hands low, behind your back.  Lean forward and stretch down, hold.  Let go.   Breathe and focus.

4)  Palming.  Cup your hands and place the palms gently over your eyes.  Count down 5-4-3-2-1.  Try one eye first, then both.

5)  Shoulder roll.  Shoulders up, back, down...up, back down...back, up, forward hunch...back, up, forward hunch...breathe and focus.

6)  Sniff and Pant.  Sniff 3 times, pant (say a non-vocal "ha") 3 times.  Repeat 3X, and end with one big, breathy sigh and a big up-and-down shrug of your shoulders. 

7)  Twist and count.  Twist both wrists to a count of ten, then fold your hands in your lap.  Twist both hands together or alternate left and right.

8)  Thumbs up.  Thumbs down.  Thumbs out.   Thumbs in.  Twiddle your thumbs around and around.  "Clap" your thumbs.  Thumbs bow down and up.  Fold your hands.  Great show! 

9)  Silent mirth.  Open your mouth wide and laugh hard, but silently!   Count on your fingers up to ten.  End with a big smile and your finger on your lips. 

10)  Say 10 character traits.  Kids show what the trait looks like, but using their faces only.  Suggestions: happy, sad, mad, scared, excited, lazy, silly, kind, fierce, and proud...

If you do it, kids will imitate--they're hard-wired to.  And they actually love to relax, if you show them how. 

If you'd like to print out the eye exercise poster, it's here and it's free.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Calendar Color Coding

I love plain paper calendars!  Here's why:


I get to write in all the special events of the month.  And color coding them makes them pop and easy to read. 

Kids quiver with anticipation as they see each special day approach.  They count down to special days, or skip count by weeks.  "Not this Thursday, but 2 Thursdays from now..."

Blue means it's someone's birthday.  Orange means no school or a half day.  Pencil means it's for the teacher only (which kids love to know about, too).

It's also a way to reminisce.  Kids love to pour over old calendar pages stapled like a "Big Book" at the library center.

Each day, a child places a colored number square on the calendar, and the color patterns create more math talk. 

Calendars can have as many pictures, characters, and events as a great story book...and we get to live through them!

Monday, December 1, 2014

What’s a Keepsake Book?

It’s made of the unique, unexpected, unforgettable, and priceless, things that kids say—and then write about. 

Amazing things happen when you ask kids (or grownups) about their opinions, dreams, and wishes.  That’s why my kids are adding more pages to their Thanksgiving Keepsake Books, long after Thanksgiving is over. 

And maybe in 50 years, when their moms pull those books out of a dusty old box, they’ll be thankful they kept them.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

More Insomnia Tips

Here are more insomnia tips from my friends at again, sweet dreams!
My favorite counting song is this one--Counting Backward.  It has a soft plucked guitar and new-age sound with a calming voice counting backward.  It's more soothing than sheep.
I get up out of bed, drink some water , and I go sit in the living room. I turn the TV on and usually within 20 minutes, I start feeling sleepy.  Silvia 

-Turn off electronics an hour before bed if possible,
-Drink a small glass of milk - if it's cold out, warm milk does double duty by warming you from the inside as well as relaxing you,
-Rub nice smelling lotion or moisturizer on your hands.  I usually curl up as I drift off to sleep, and a nice scent helps me relax,
-Purposefully choose to think of something happy; when you find yourself thinking of your worries or non-relaxing things, tell yourself to stop, and go back to your happy thoughts.  Remind yourself that you need to rest so that you can deal with whatever it is in the morning. 

I try to picture myself asleep.  I lay with my eyes closed and visualize what I would look like if I were standing next to the bed watching myself sleep.  For some reason, this relaxes me. 

If my mind is running a million miles a minute:  I have a really boring word game on my phone.  If my mind won't shut off I play this game for a little while.  It usually clears my mind enough to start to fall asleep.  The trick is to find something that is boring for you.

Exercise really does help.  I sleep so much better on the days that I exercise.  I know we're all busy, but it's worth it for your health to carve out some time everyday. 
Mrs. E Teaches Math

Teacher Insomnia

Now that we know healthy sleep prevents stress, obesity, Alzheimer’s etc. etc....

Can we talk about teacher insomnia?  Planning lessons, behavior management, organizing paperwork, testing, admin protocols, parent concerns…they stir up a chatter that’s hard to turn off.

There’s no cure-all for insomnia.  But I’m posting some of my best all-natural tips.  

1)      Have a pad, pen and flashlight at your bedside.  If a school idea pops into your head, write it down, so it doesn’t keep you up.

2)      Breathe deeply and slowly.  Keep focused on your breaths.

3)      Be aware of body tension.  Briefly rub your shoulders, twist your ankles, or pull your jaw gently down and side to side.

4)      Lay a soft sock across your eyes.  Even better, fill it with a small bag of uncooked lentils or rice.  The weight relaxes the eye muscles and face.

5)      Listen to relaxing music.  Loop it softly on your MP3 player.  It helps shut off the teacher voice.  My favorite: guitar music or hypnotic counting songs.

6)      Repeat a phrase (silently), like “Sleep” or “Go away…”

7)      Massage your face.

8)      Open and close your eyes slowly, every few seconds.  Increase the intervals till you fall asleep.

9)      Stop drinking 2 hours before sleep.  A full bladder will keep you awake.

10)   Meditate during the day, even if it’s only for a minute at a time.  Less stress during the day will help you sleep at night.

 …and have sweet dreams!

Here's what I call my Teacher Insomnia Pack.  It has 5 counting songs with a soothing voice that counts over relaxing music.  It's my go-to pack for a 5-minute meditation at lunch time, too!   

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving Keepsake Book

Kids of any age can create this Thanksgiving Keepsake Book.  Across 10 pages, it follows the Pilgrims' Journey, step-by-step, and allows kids to imagine their own ideal "trip!"

Creative, divergent thinking pops off the page, as well as daydreams and wishes.  A lovely keepsake!  And grown-ups, you'll find yourself filling in the answers, too.  Thanksgiving starts here!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Needs vs. Wants

It's Thanksgiving!  Let's be thankful for the things we need, and also the things we want...

...and for the line that's sometimes blurred.  What a great way to get kids talking.  Do you always get what you need?  Are some "wants" really must-have "needs?"  

Don't kids need toys?  How many, and what kind?  Don't you think we should teach shopping in kindergarten?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Teachers Pay Teachers Store is a beautiful place!

It’s where teachers share their wonderful creations—for free, or a fair price—thousands of carefully crafted, classroom-tested gems. 

Now that I’ve set up a shop, I’ve got tips for others who are thinking of starting a store. 

1)      Choose your store name carefully.  Use either your own name or a name that brands your products (e.g., Kindergarten Fun).

2)      Create your products in PowerPoint, not Word.  You’ll see why…

3)      Comb TPT for all available tips for newbies.

4)      Expect hard work.  Only well-thought out, unique, well-executed products with eye-catching visuals on the covers, and good social marketing will succeed.

5)      It’s a long haul.  “Once you get over 20 products, daily sales increase.  Over 50 then they really start to churn.”  (To quote Two-Boys-And-A-Dad-Productions from the forum.  Thanks, Two-Boys!) 

So…(I keep telling myself) slow down, breathe deeply & smell the roses (ie, your fully-rounded life)!  Look at the learning curve as your type of crossword puzzle—it’s good for your brain.

That’s the “Starter Kit.”  After you join TPT, you can dive into the seller’s forum for more.  It's not easy (that's an understatement), but it is rewarding.  You have my best wishes if you decide to jump in.

BTW, If you'd like to visit my store, it's right here.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Halloween Bat Craft

This Halloween Bat Craft uses geometrical shapes and free-form wings.  Kids get a bat that “flies!”

Each kid gets a 9 X 12” black craft paper.  They each trace a circle (I use a container lid).  They cut it out, and cut 2 triangles. 

Then they fold the leftover paper in half, draw a bat wing free-style, and cut 2 wings together.  They glue the parts and draw a face with white crayon.  Each bat looks a little different, and that's the way I like it.

When the glue dries, they hold the bat by the head and bounce it slowly up and down for a graceful flight, to the tune of our favorite Halloween songs.

Halloween Jack-o’-lantern Mask

A Halloween Jack-o’-lantern Mask is fun and easy:

Kids choose a colored 9 X 12” craft paper.  Then they draw a large pumpkin, face, “ridges,” decorations, hair, etc.

They cut the pumpkin shape.  Then they fold the pumpkin down at the eye-line, and cut 2 semi-circles which open into eye-holes.

Two kids walk around and glue a pop-stick to the back.  If you’re feeling ambitious, glue a 1” paper strip that will fit like a head-band around the top of their ears. 

Voila!  A silly, scary, cute holiday costume.

Halloween Candy Count Buffet

You can’t fight the candy on Halloween! Here’s how I join it:

I create a Halloween Candy Count Buffet. Kids travel from left to right and count the right amount from each tray to stuff their baggies. Kids who can’t count objects get a buddy to help.

While kids wait their turn, they do an art project at their seats (and munch on a couple of M&Ms). They’re like kids in a candy shop—or is it heaven?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Window Leaf Sun-Catcher Art

Window leaf sun-catcher art is so easy.  Any kid can create a gorgeous artwork!

I precut the leaves, and place clear contact paper over a central oval hole.  The kids cut square, rectangle and triangle shapes out of colored tissue paper and stick them onto the oval.

These sun catchers all look unique, beautiful, and they brighten up the room for months!

Halloween Fun at Starfall is so easy to navigate; even a 5-year-old can do it! 
Click on the pumpkin icon, and you can build infinite pumpkins, step-by-step. 

Click on any word, and Starfall reads it aloud.  That’s Halloween Heaven!  Just ask any 5-year-old.  See for yourself at 


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Halloween & Thanksgiving Montage

Want to make people smile?  Nothing’s more cheerful than a themed montage!  

This Halloween and Thanksgiving cluster of scarecrows, jack-o’-lanterns, and hay makes me smile every time.  Kudos to my school’s welcoming committee!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Eye Health for Kids

Have you noticed that more kids wear eyeglasses now, and at a younger age?  Computer and TV screens “glue” the eyes, so they don’t move in a healthy way.
I teach my kids to exercise their eye muscles.   Here’s my eye exercise chant (kids repeat each line):

Of course I teach each step first:

1)      Hold up a thumb about a foot away from your nose.

2)      Look at your thumb, then straight ahead, beyond the thumb as far as you can see. 

3)      Focus back and forth, about five seconds each. 

4)      End by gently squeezing your eyes shut.

Did you know that you can improve far-sightedness by exercising your eye muscles this way?  It's true.  So enjoy your computers—and your eye health, too!

Here's a free poster of my Eye Health Chant.  Enjoy!!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Inspirational Mottos for Kids so often, we brainstorm inspirational mottos.  Everyone chimes in, and I write them all down.  Then I type them up, and hang them on the wall:

Then the real fun begins…

Whenever we need a pick-me-up, we have a call-and-response chanting of our inspirational mottos—with plenty of body language and attitude. 

For even more fun, I play the Rap Your Math song, with its rock drum beat.  Instead of chanting math drills, we chant our inspirational mottos.  Very rousing, and great for class spirit!
  Rap Your Math Song - with a Rock Drum Beat:           

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Calm Teacher – FREEBIE!

Let’s call it a hobby; I’m always coming up with new ways to bring calm into the classroom.

My other hobby is writing songs.  So, I wrote this Counting Song.  It’s simply me counting the numbers 1 – 20.  It’s not a typical kiddy song!  It’s relaxed, almost hypnotic, and I added some meditative music with a soft beat.

The best part is, the song is short.  That means I can play it—with my eyes closed, breathing deeply—and know I’m only taking one minute out of my insanely busy day. 

I’d love to share my song with you—as a gift, a FREEBIE. 

I hope you enjoy it and find it as useful as I do.  Please let me know!  If you like this song, I’d sure appreciate it if you’d leave your positive feedback and rating at the Teachers Pay Teachers website.  Many, many thanks!

BTW, you will have to sign up at Teachers Pay Teachers in order to download the song.  It’s very easy, and you’ll find thousands of wonderful teacher tools there. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Kindergarten Café

Starting day 2, I tell the kids that I don’t want to be the boss.  (A bit of a shocker, I know ; )  I want to help them to have a conversation. 
“Imagine we’re all sitting at a café, sharing ideas.”  I love that—and so do they, once they get the hang of it!

Here’s the poster I use:

Class Rules

Here are my class rules:

We go over and over them starting day one.  Why do we need rules?  Why is each rule important?  What could happen if you don’t follow the rule?  What are the fine points, the free-associations, and other important rules? 
Kids just love talking about rules!  And the more they process them, the more they follow them.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Classroom Set-up

Here’s how my classroom looks the first week of school (from last year).  Quite a transformation!

Notice that the plant takes up half my desk.   I know, it’s fake, but it’s so pretty!  It makes me feel like Ferdinand the Bull sniffing his flowers in the bull ring—very, very calming!

Would you like some more creative ideas for your classroom set-up?  Pinterest has many creative ideas for learning spaces.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Empty Classroom – Planning for Class Set-up

 I’m setting up my classroom for the first day of school.  Would you like to take a look? 

I’m always amazed at how a huge pile of boxes and bags “magically” transforms into a welcoming space; chaos into order; clutter into flowing feng shui. 

Oh, it’s magic, and tons of planning, and heavy lifting!

 If you'd like some classroom set-up tips and design ideas, Scholastic has a great classroom set-up tool here!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hello—and welcome to Teacher Ink!

This is where you’ll find my thoughts on living the creative teacher life--teaching, calming, and inspiring kids.

Thanks so much for stopping by!