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Getting to the Core

pumpkin glyph, pumpkin art, pumpkin math, pumpkin graphingI love GLYPHS. I really was only familiar with them as an architectural vocabulary word from Mayan history, or an icon for today’s symbolic road signs. I just learned a few years ago that teachers were using them to create adorable characters and unique art work!  I think it’s a wonderful way to learn about your class, use as a math extension and create graphs, and really incorporate the science technique of compiling and analyzing data. It works wonderfully well with literature as a great comparison- contrast tool and makes for distinctive art projects! What a super cross curricular tool! 

I designed a Pumpkin Glyph for you to use for October. Click on the link for a short and tall pumpkin, the glyph directions, 3 pages of Tally Time adding fun, and 5 graphs!  I do all of these activities in a short amount of time. My students learn so much and have a great time doing it! Pumpkin_glyph, october art project, pumpkin math, pumpkin graphing,

Besides math, include reading by choosing any two pumpkin stories; read them to your class; then compare and contrast them.  (Check out my side bar blog "Books Of The Month" and click on the October Bibliography for lots of great pumpkin books! )
How were they the same, different? I always like to use a Venn diagram and introduce that math concept to my kids too. A fun way to do a Venn diagram is with two hoola hoops!  Lay them on the floor and then write out student answers on sentence strips, snip them into pieces and lay them in the appropriate sections. After your discussion, graph which story they liked best. (I've included that in one of the graphing options.)   After story time have your students transition to their seats to make an adorable pumpkin glyph!  What a fun way to whole-group assess listening and following directions as well as be able to toss in a fun art project that reinforces all sorts of report card standards!  Then you can decorate your hallway or classroom with the finished product!

Pumpkin Glyph: You can cut out a supply of black rectangles, squares and black/purple triangles or you can have your students draw them for the pumpkin face. Do the same for the yellow, green, and purple nose circles, and the green, brown, and white stems. (Because circles are harder to cut, I use colored stickers for the nose that people buy for their garage sales.)


  • Pre-cut pumpkins or run them off on orange construction paper and have the children cut them out.
  • Pre-cut the construction paper circles, triangles, rectangles and squares. (I opt to pre-cut the shapes, and have them cut their pumpkin.  It takes less time for them to glue rather than draw; + most of my Y5’s can’t draw shapes at this point in time. Triangles are virtually impossible and their squares and rectangles look the same.)
  • Graph the results for great math extensions and discussions.
  • When the glyphs are done, post them in the hall along with the glyph directions and your graphing results.
  • Prior to making their glyph, to help your students decide if they are tall or short have them line up according to height; tallest to shortest, then let them decide which group they want to be in. I tell them that I am considered a “short” person since I’m only 5.2” and I stress that we are all different and special and that it is great being short or tall. If you’re worried a parent will get a complex over this, just let your students  pick out whatever pumpkin size they want.
  • The same thing with the “feelings” smiles part of the glyph. I like to know how my students are feeling so I can address those issues,  but you might not want to post that graph in the hallway. One way you can handle this is to simply let the children decide how their PUMPKIN feels.
  • I write my students names in tiny print on the bottom of their pumpkin so that people can see who made them. I’ve learned from past experience that having them write their name on the back of their artwork is the best, because they write so big.
  • I have samples of each kind of mouth posted on the board.
  • I like to do tally’s because it’s a fun way to count as well as a math concept we do all year.
  • Since graphing is one of my report card standards, I do it every day in a variety of ways. Glyphs gives me another chance to graph with my students and they LOVE giving their opinion and having their turn to write their name on the graph and color in a box. pumpkin glyph, pumpkin art, pumpkin math, pumpkin graphing
  • It's also another great opportunity to compare, contrast and count.
  • I designed this type of graph so that parents can see how their child voted and children can easily see a color-type bar graph.
  • You can have children write in their own names; or to speed things up I often use a sticker name label or their photo.
  • I simply type my students names in the Windows Word Mailing Labels list and print off a bunch of labels each month for when I want things to look sharp on folders, files, artwork or do quick graphs.
  • As soon as school pictures come back I make a bunch of copies on the copier on the photo setting and cut each child’s pix into an oval shape. I have a room mom helper do this for me and she puts them in little envelopes that I put in a picture file folder. They are perfect for all sorts of “keepsake” art projects and these kinds of graphs.   I often use them in my little reading booklets as a surprise ending. I find that parents are more apt to read and keep them if their child's picture is in the booklet.  My students also love being the "star" character in the books as well.
  • For the square box they can color it in, put an X in it or put a sticker in it.  I’ve included a blank template of each #-columned graph if you need more spaces. 
  • After the month is over, keep the pumpkins and make these tally’s and graph papers into a class book. Laminate it and lay it out for conference time. Do an example of your own for the cover and title it: Our Pumpkin Glyphs: A Cross Curricular Activity of Reading, Math, Science and Art! They’ll enjoy seeing how their child voted as well as look at their child's personal pumpkin glyph. At the end of the year you can send them home.

  • I'm thinking of making an entire book of helpful glyphs; one or two for each month, with the same format as the pumpkin one. I'd like  your feedback. Is this something you'd like to have for your classroom? Any suggestions of topics/themes?

             A reader just asked if I had a spider glyph, no, but I'd be glad to whip one together so here it is. Click on the link. Spider   Glyph. 

                   If you're looking for more graphing activities for your students I have a 140 page Graph Book with 55 graphs + full color answer keys so that you don't have to make them all for only $1.99. Click on the link to check it out.

pumpkin glyph, pumpkin art, pumpkin math, pumpkin graphingI hope you have fun making these pumpkin glyphs with your little "punkin(s)"!

Have you tried sign language? It's a great fine motor skill for young children.

My students LOVE it and they learn fast. If you're thinking you have to be certified and know all about it to teach it, forget that.

Just keep it simple, do a few words and phrases, some songs and you're set! That's all I do. I use a few fantastic ASL sites that show you how it's done!

child_signingFor example I teach my students  how to "sign" all of the bolded words. in the following chant that I made up to teeach them the seasons.

Winter-Sping-Summer-Fall. There are 4 seasons, and I love them all

Here's how:

  • For winter, close your fists, put your arms on the sides of your body and shiver.
  • For spring, using your left arm at the side, bend your left elbow up, this will be a tree. Make a fist at the top of your tree. Grab your left wrist with your right hand and slide it down your left arm. As you are sliding your clenched hand down your arm, open your left fist, "splaying" your fingers, to show that your tree is growing.
  • For Summer, put your right index finger on your left eyebrow and move it all the way across to your other eyebrow and then completely off your face as if you are removing sweat.
  • For Fall, flip your left palm up. Using you index and middle finger make a person's legs. Have the legs stand on your palm and "fall" or flip off.
  • For the letter "I" make a fist with your left hand and put your "pinky" finger up.sign_language
  • For love, cross your arms over your chest.
  • For them,  point your finger at your students and wave it back and forth.
  • For all, hold both hands out in front of you. Using your right hand make a half circle around your left, coming around to slap the back of your right hand onto the palm of your left.
  • If this is clear as mud you can check out two of my favorite sign language websites. Link One and Link Two
  • I really enjoy doing sign language with my Y5's. AND I'm no expert.
  • I teach them all the color words and then the words to whatever themes we are studying + a phrase or two for the season, like "Happy Halloween" for October, or "It is snowing/raining." 
  • I also like to teach them several songs as well. It's simple.
  • You just go to these sites, look up the words you need, practice 'til you get the hang of it, write down directions to jog your memory, then teach your students.
  • Don't make things too difficult. Choose only a few words in a song. A good gage is one per sentence, unless it's a simple song like my Welcome song (below) where I choose a word in the beginning and  towards the end of the sentence.
  • You always want to choose the major noun that they are singing about.
  • They catch on quickly. Mine absolutely LOVE it + it's great for exercising their finger muscles.
  • My parents have given me wonderful feedback as their children always seem to go home and share this information with their families who are delighted.
  • We start our day off with a sign language song:
  • "Welcome to school today! Welcome to school today! Welcome to school today! We have come to learn and play."  They sign the bolded words. For welcome you make two waves like you are scooping towards your self. For school you clap sides ways in front of you twice, for learn you have your left palm up and you use your right hand to pick something out of the "book" (left hand) and then touch that (knowledge) with your right hand to your forehead. Play is the same as fun. For that, you raise both arms, elbows bent, make a fis with both hands, now put your thumbs and pinkies up and shake them.
  • Why not give it a try today.  Simply look at a song that you are singing, choose a few words and look them up on either site. While you're there look up your spelling words, vocabulary words, the themes you are studying, the science unit you are doing, or a phrase that fits the season like "It is fall!" Or "Welcome back to school!" or "The leaves are falling!" Have fun! We do. I know you'll enjoy learning right along with your students, and what a fun way to increase finger dexterity and increase their muscle strength and coordination. musical_notes

Web Quests:

computersOur school wanted our students to be more computer savvy so I designed "Web Walkers" last year. All of the children who had computers at home enjoyed it. It was basically a contest to get children interested in doing more educational things on the computer. We had planned to run it all year, but enthusiasm died out about the end of December so we informed our parents with our Christmas newsletter that our "contest" would end then. In a nutshell it's simply sending your kids on safe "Web Quests!" sort of like a treasure hunt through the Internet.

My co-teacher and I would spend some time checking out kidsites on the net and finding fun, but educational things for them to do that would relate to our standards and give them several options to do. The child with the most things done would be our Web Master for the month.

Click on the links to see our September & October Web Quests, Certificate, and direction Letter Home. 

This is a picture of our hallway bulletin board display where we set it all up. We would tape up the children's work as they handed it in. Passer's by were very interested, and parents really supported the project.

We also had a competition going between my class and the other Y5 class to see who had the most Web Quests each month.  The posters hanging from the ceiling displayed the photo of  the Web Walkers of the Month from each of our classes.  The students' work hung around the display. The board in the middle posted what the Web Quests were. This was the internet sites that we sent home to the parents at the beginning of each month. We even had other teachers and parents of children not in our class ask us for copies so they could do it with their children! As you know you can really waste a lot of time surfing  the net for safe and educational sites for your students.  kid_on_computer

The rectangle on the bottom is a key board. The posters on either side are graphs of each of our classes. The graphs were a great math extension.

I added a "Do you have a computer at home?" and "Does your child know how to use it? " questions on my "getting to know your child"question form that I handed out at the beginning of the year. Click on the link for a copy. So that parents who did not have a computer at home, but wanted to participate, didn't feel left out,  we let them know that we would be going to the computer lab and that they could come before or after school and work with their child. No one opted for this in either of our classes. We also gave the assignment sheet to our computer teacher but he didn't have time to visit the sites either.

If there is an interest in this, let me know and I will post November and December Web Quests. Also check My Favorite Kid Links on our home page. Click on the link to go there. HOME Are your schools pushing you to do more computer work with your students too? Take a moment to comment!

We discovered that a webquest was a wonderful way to get parents involved and our students more computer saavy!


CONSTITUTION DAY is coming up September 17th. Click on the link for my lesson that I do with my Y5's. Centers and song are below.


  • Rather than try to explain what the constitution was all about  I wrote a song to the tune of The Muffin Man to explain the constitution in a fun way. Click on the link to print a copy. Oh Do You Know About the Constitution? 
  • After I'd sing it through once, I'd teach the 1st two verses to my students; they had fun singing it with me. I'd put on some marching music and we'd chant that portion of the song to get it in their heads.
  • SigningAs the song helps them see, the constitution is a set of laws; laws are rules. 
  • I review our rules with my Y5's and we list them on our "Constitution Rule Sheet"; then everyone signs the "Signature Page"
  • .
  • Click on the link to print a copy of our Classroom Constitution.  
  • I've also included a blank page for you to use as a writing extension.
  • This is a great opportunity to give your older students some in-put in making their classroom rules. It's surprising that with a little guidance, they come up with the same ones as an adult will.
  • When I taught 1st grade, I sent this assignment home the night before and had my students brainstorm with parents. They had to list at least 3. They could list more if they wanted to; surprisingly, almost all of them did!
  • The next day we worked  on our Classroom Constitution  as a whole group.
  • Everyone  copied the list on a new sheet of paper.
  • I'd send one signature page around and everyone signed it; then I'd make copies for everyone on the copy machine.


Making Parchment Paper 

  • One year I used parchment paper. They thought that was cool, but the thiing that they thought was especially fun was to make their own parchment page the day before, by dabbing black tea bags on their paper.
  • I set up a blotting table with towels; and steeped black tea bags in a small amount of water.
  • When my students finished their Table Top work for the morning, they could come and make their parchment paper. We let them dry on the floor in the corner.parchment_paper
  • You could also submerge an entire sheet in a 9x13 pan.
  • Brew 5 bags of black tea in 4 cups of hot water.  Make sure your water is dark brown.
  • Let each student carefully submerge their sheet into the water for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
  • Gently lift it out letting the excess water drip off into the pan.  Shake gently.
  • Lay flat on paper towel, and blot with extra tea bag for dark spots on paper.This looks nice if you do it around the edges.  
  • The paper will look yellow, but it will dry darker.
  • The longer you soak it, the darker it gets, but obviously you have a lot of kids to get through this center.
  • I laid a few big beach towels on the floor for them to lay their paper on.
  • Make sure that they write they name with an ink pen on the corner of their paper.
  • You need to monitor this center with little ones as they like playing in the water, and the paper once wet tears easily.

Writing with a QUILL

  • Another center I set up is a Quill center. I tell my students that they didn't have regular pens the way that they do now. They couldn't go to the store and buy markers and bic pens etc I show them my grandmother's fountain pen and ink bottle. They are amazed. When I tell them that 200+ years ago they wrote with a feather called a quill they can't believe it. I let them each try quilland write their first initial with a turkey feather and some tempera paint on a special Quill paper. Click on the link to print a copy.

Quill Pattern Pens

  • Making a pattern is one of our report card standards and what more fun way to do that than with pony beads!
  • You'll also need a bag of feathers, and the kind of pen that you can twist off the clear plastic case, leaving only the metal writing tip and the plastic tube filled with ink. Our Dollar store sells all of these things.
  • I keep things simple because it's the first month of school, so I have my Y5's do an ABAB pattern and only choose 2 colors of beads.
  • I have a pen already done, and then I model one for them.
  • After I slide the beads onto the tube of ink (they won't fall off because they are caught on the metal writing point on the bottom) I put the end of my feather in a dollop of white glue and then shove it in the hole in the top of the tube. Instant "Quill" pattern pen.
  • TIP: Make sure that you have written with all of your new pens ahead of time so that you make sure they all write and that you've gotten the ink going.

Constitution Autograph Scrolls

  • Because learning to write their name is one of my report card standards I give each of my students a toilet paper roll that I already have pre-wrapped in brown construction paper. (I have volunteers helping me with this sort of thing so that I can plug in extra centers without burning up a lot of time and then I only concentrate on one specific skill..) Older students could cut the paper and wrap the t.p. rolls.
  • I write each child's name and the date in black marker on their toilet paper constitution "scroll"
  • The t.p. rolls have a sheet of parchment glued to them. We sit on the floor in a circle. Each child has a "quill" pen that they made for the day. We pass around our autograph constitutions and each of our new friends signs it with their quill pen.
  • The children then use their "finger muscles" to roll their constitution autograph scrolls up.
  • I give them a rubber band to put around them, and they have one of their 1st keepsakes from Y'5's .


ABC Rules:

  • Since I'm teaching my little ones the ABC's,  I also tell them I have an ABC information sheet for their parents that has some rules that the school made up about attendance, volunteering inabcs class etc.  I briefly share that with them and send it home in their Take Home Folders. I find it's a nice "quick look" review list in case parents didn't read their child's Student Handbook and ties in with rules and law making of the country versus the school. . I've included MY ABC LIST as well as a BLANK one incase you like the idea and would like to make one of your own.  Click on the links to print copies.

Please Share:

  • Do your little ones understand Constitution Day? What does your school do? Please take a moment and share with us!
  • Whatever you're doing I hope you have a FUN day with your children!

  Why buy a unit?

     Have you ever bought a book of lessons because it contained a few items you wanted, but had many other items that you didn’t want or never used?  My units incorporate multiple subjects and are available for purchase “a la carte” allowing teachers to buy only what they need, at an affordable price.  From our home page, click on a season, and the units can be found under each month.  Click on the link:  Home Page There are currently 43 themes!

  Painting_kidEach unit…

  •  -reinforces report card standards.
  •  -empowers students and frees up the teacher.
  •  -can be integrated with our matching Booklets
  •    and Art & Activity Books.

  •      Click on the link to see how I do  this with my Apple Theme. APPLES

     There are plenty of lessons for you to choose something that fits your students' level. The beauty of the variety is that you have easier skill sheets for those who are struggling and more difficult ones for children who have mastered a concept.

  Unit Skill Sheets…

  • become independent center activities;
  • involve core skills (cutting, gluing, writing, coloring,  sequencing, sorting, identifying, matching, tracing etc, );
  • cover basic subjects (math, writing, reading, language arts);
  • are themed so things are organized and cohesive throughout your day and fit seasonally as well;
  • use the same format for each theme, so that children get used to doing them, and can easily recognize what they are supposed to do even though they may not be able to read the directions;
  • involve the whole child.

  Unit Skill Sheets are great if you need somethingdrawing_kid

  • for “Table Top or to make into a booklet for morning lessons;
  • for review before an assessment;
  • to use as assessments;
  • to give to parents when they want to work with a struggling child at home;
  • when a child is going on a trip and a parent requests a packet of take-along materials;
  • for children who finish early;
  • for substitutes to plug in;
  • to include in portfolios.

     However you use them, I know that my Y5’s have excelled with this program.  I truly believe that one reason is that units empower students to work independently and build their self-esteem to such a level that they realize they CAN do the lesson before they even start!

     They are ready for workbooks in the next grade because they have practiced with a skill sheet booklet every day for "Table Top Time".  For example, by March they are doing a 15 -18 page booklet that takes them about 10 minutes, and they ENJOY it! They are also doing 6-8 centers independently and transitioning with no problem.

     My life is made easier because I’m not constantly planning the next day’s centers and I can incorporate art with confidence because I know that it is standards based, and best of all my students are learning and having FUN at the same time.

     Click on the links to read more about the program or go directly to free CENTERS or free TABLE TOP

     Read the article, "How to Get Students to Follow Directions" and see how to further empower your students through my "following direction icons" They really work!  Your life will be so much easier, AND your discipline problems fewer!


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