Creative Thinking Fun for Kids

Creative Thinking Fun for Kids
Creative Thinking Fun for Kids

Creative thinking is the ability to invent and/or create something new.  It is based on looking at things in a new way that hasn’t previously been considered.  Teaching kids to use their creative thinking skills can be done easily using everyday happenings.

As a teacher of Talented and Gifted students, creative and divergent thinking activities were common. Divergent thinking involves looking at things and making new connections. When we encourage divergent thinking, we help to motivate student learning.

A favorite activity I used in the classroom was asking children to generate 100 ideas to melt a snowball. It involved little teacher preparation and fostered kids thinking skills. There ideas were VERY CREATIVE, and some were hilarious. The outcome of the activity was that kids were thinking and communicating their ideas.

Here’s a super easy example that can be replicated with small changes. Show the picture below of the yellow house.  Challenge the kids in your life to name 100 things that are almost the same color. Help kids think of things by thinking about categories such as cars, signs, plants, food, clothing etc.  Don’t be surprised if you start seeing yellow all around you.  Have fun!

The yellow house makes me think of…..
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Math Enrichment Primary: February

Math Thinking Skills can be strengthened when solving problems
Math Thinking Skills can be strengthened when solving problems

Math Enrichment activities should teach kids to solve problems using strategies that promote thinking. These activities are perfect for those kids that need math problems that go beyond calculation skills.  For those kids we need to nurture a love of math while challenging them to deepen their mathematical understanding and thinking skills.  Try some of the problems this month to challenge their thinking.

Don’t forget to use 1 of your 6 problem solving strategies

  • Draw a picture
  • Guess and Check
  • Use a table or list
  • Find a pattern
  • Logical reasoning
  • Draw a picture Working backwards (try a simpler version first)

Math Enrichment: Count Them Up

  1. 2 farmers each have 2 barrels. In each barrel are 3 cats who each have 2 kittens. How many legs are there? (HINT: Don’t forget the farmer’s legs)
  2. Connall collected a dozen eggs from 4 chickens.  How many eggs did Connall collect?
  3. Declan collected 5 dozen eggs but on the way to the house he dropped 9 eggs.  How many eggs did he give to his mother?
  4. Old Macdonald had a farm, and on that farm he had 2 cows, 2 pigs, a horse and cat.  How many heads were on the farm?  How many shoulders? How many eyes? (HINT: Don’t forget to include Old Macdonald)
  5. The Smith parents and their 3 kids, 1 cat and 1 dog went for a walk.  How many legs were walking? 
  6. A spider in a box had 100 babies.  How many legs are there in the box? (HINT: Don’t forget Mommy Spider)


  1. 30 legs
  2. 48 eggs
  3. 51 eggs
  4. 7 heads, 14 shoulders, 14 eyes
  5. 18 legs
  6. 808 legs
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Historical Dates: March 2020

 Start the month knowing some historical dates in March
Start the month knowing some historical dates in March

For kids in school, knowing historical dates helps them relate to history and builds their general knowledge. The dates can be used in many classroom activities. These activities can help build relevance into everyday lessons. Knowing these dates will certainly impress your students!

Special Events This Month:

  • Music in Our Schools Month (MIOS)
  • National Nutrition Month

Historical Dates to Remember

  • March 2  Dr. Seuss born (1904)
  • March 2 Read Across America Day
  • March 3  Alexander Graham Bell born, (1847)
  • March 7 Iditarod Race Begins
  • March 12 Girl Scout Day
  • March 14 Pi Day (3.14)
  • March 17  St. Patrick’s Day
  • March 18  First Walk in Space
  • March 20      First Day of Spring
  • March 21     Children’s Poetry Day
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Community Foundation Grants: Hudson Valley

Community Foundation Grants of Hudson Valley Grants applications are available now
Community Foundation of Hudson Valley Grants applications are available now

Teachers of PreK – 12 in Dutchess, Putnam and Ulster Counties (Parochial, Private/Independent, and Public Schools)

3 Foundation Grants Categories

  • Fund for Excellence in Education Grants: Funding opportunities for classroom teachers that fulfill one or both of these criteria:
  1. Support for classroom projects and initiatives which will improve learning opportunities for students. **Grant funding not to be used for field trips or after-school activities.**
  2. Support for the personal and professional enhancement of teachers (not to fulfill Masters program or certification requirements).
  • Writing Grant(s): A grant will be awarded to K-12 teachers for either professional development in the field of teaching writing or for a specific program designed to enhance the writing abilities of students.
  • Verizon STEM Grant(s): Grants will be awarded for STEM related projects, activities and equipment.

Grants Available to Public Schools Only:

  • Marionette/Puppet Grant(s):  A grant will be awarded to a public school teacher for projects which incorporate student and/or teacher-made marionettes and puppets in the curricula.  Preference will be given to multi-cultural or multi-disciplinary projects.  
  • Dutchess County – Dennis Markle Memorial Community​ Service Grant(s):  Community Service Grants will be awarded to Dutchess County public school teachers for projects involving their students in community service.  These community service awards are made from the Dennis Markle Memorial Community Fund which was started by the Dutchess County United Teacher’s Council.  Examples of the type of projects which would be considered for these grants are:  projects involving senior citizens, hospice, day care, disadvantaged populations, community beautification projects, etc.  

Awards: Grants made through this program will not exceed $2,500. 
Online grant application. Click here to access the Grants Portal.

Applications must be submitted by March 15th. Awards will be announced in May. 

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

Let’s Get Our Creative Grant Writing Hats On!

World Poetry Day: March 21, 2020

World Poetry Day is March 21st. Why not start a poetry unit?
World Poetry Day is March 21st. Why not start a poetry unit?

World Poetry Day is celebrated each year on March 21st. The special day was started by the United Nations in 1999 as a day to celebrate the greatness of this type of writing. Younger students find the simple rhymes, actions and colorful imagery an opportunity to have FUN. Older students find it a way to learn about topics and/or express their own ideas.  However, there are many other reasons to enjoy poems at home and school.

5 Reasons to Love Poetry

  • Encourages kids to read aloud.
  • Helps students find reading easier because they can predict the beat of the poem.
  • Imagery helps expand student vocabulary.
  • The “non-rules” of free verse allow creativity in word choice. Imagery promotes adjective use.   

2 Favorite Websites

Each website below includes many resources to make poetry teaching easy and FUN! The resources include articles to help you understand how to teach it and many lessons and activities.

  • ReadWriteThink: An amazing resource you can use to help teach your kids about poetry. (It’s an amazing site on all literacy topics) There are many interactive lessons for kids of all ages to help them understand more about poetry and how to write a poem. There are lessons on a wide variety of styles (haikus, shapes, riddles, nursery rhymes).
  • Poetry4Kids is a site created by Kenn Nesbitt, a children’s author.  I like this site because it includes funny poems for kids (and kid-like adults) to read.  You will also find classic children’s poems, games, lessons, and activities.  Be sure to look at the rhyming dictionary and videos.  One stop FREE resources for all your needs.  Fun to explore!  

If you’ve been hesitant to try poetry in your classroom, why not make World Poetry Day the start of a new beginning?  You’re going to love it!

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Dr. Seuss Day: March 2, 2020

Dr. Seuss Day is March 2, 2020
Dr. Seuss Day is March 2, 2020

Read Across America Day, also known as Dr. Seuss Day, is a yearly observance in the USA inaugurated by the NEA (National Education Association). It is held on the school day that is nearest to 2 March, Dr Seuss birthday. Theodor Seuss Geisel was an American artist, book publisher, animator, poet, a political cartoonist as well as an author. He is best known for authoring over 60 children’s books.

The Read Across America initiative began in 1997 to encourage children to read more and get excited about reading. The holiday mainly focuses on motivating children to read as it improves their performance in school. On this day, hospitals, bookstores, community centers, churches, libraries as well as schools host many events. So, it’s time to grab your Dr. Seuss hat get reading!    

You don’t have a hat, nor Seuss book to read?

Relax, my friend and take the lead

Put your memory cap on and do not worry

The Seuss characters will return to you in a hurry.

OK my Seuss -ish poem was not very good, but you get the idea!  Enjoy Friends!

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Happy Valentine’s Day 2020

Valentine's Day 2020
Valentine’s Day 2020

Valentine’s Day is a “BIG DAY” in classrooms across the country. Valentine’s cards, parties and dressing in red, it’s a day to celebrate LOVE.   

For those without a classroom party to attend, it’s a day of thinking about the ones you love in your life. Last week while trying out some new speakers, I heard a rendition of a song that has always been one of my favorites.  It was a song I always included in our Kindergarten Graduation ceremony to remind the guests of the wishes for our young graduates.  The rendition i heard was performed by the Canadian Tenors.  It had little accompaniment with lyrics that I never heard. 

On this Valentine’s Day I share the lyrics as my wish for all my family and friends, both young and “not so young” for every day of the year. May we all be “Forever Young”.  

Forever Young

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others, let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the sky, climb on every rung
And may you stay, forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous, may you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth and see the light surrounding you
May you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong
May you stay, forever young.

Forever young,
Forever young,
May you stay,

May your hands always be busy, may your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation, with no winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful, your song always be sung
And may you stay, forever young.

Forever young,
Forever young,
May you stay,
Forever young,

And may you stay, May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes always come true
And may you stay, forever young

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Active Listening Can Be Taught

Active listening can be taught to kids.
Active listening can be taught to kids.

As a teacher and a principal, I was often asked by parents what they can do to prepare their child for school.  People were always surprised that I didn’t answer with pre-reading and/or math skills.  My answer was always active listening. REALLY LISTENING.  I laugh when I think about that now because even today, I say (or think about) saying “are you listening to me”?

Much of a child’s school day is spent speaking and listening. Schools and states recognize the importance of listening and speaking and include these components in most testing. A child with good listening and speaking skills will have increased comprehension and communication skills.

Your child can develop the skill of being an active listener.  Active listening means that a child uses what he hears and acts on what was said.  Listening activities strengthen the entire communication process and are necessary for daily living.  The activities below can be done often, anywhere and with little preparation.

3 Active Listening Activities

  • Following Directions – Create simple following direction activities involving things in your home or classroom. (Stand up, sit down, touch your head, turn around, count to 10 etc.) This activity involves listening and doing.  After saying a sequence of activities, the child is challenged to try to do the activities in the correct order.  Younger kids and “newbies to following directions” can start with 1 and 2 step directions and proceed to more difficult or longer sequences.
  • Blind Directions – Have kids sit back to back, to listen to directions from a partner to draw a picture of a simple 6-line design. When the directions are completed, the students can compare how close the new drawing was to the original.
  • Puppet Talk – Some kids find it difficult to speak in front of others, Playacting provides lots of opportunities for speaking and listening in a relaxed atmosphere. Puppets are one way to help ease public speaking.  It also encourages creative dialogue as the puppets (talk) to each other

By working with your child on these activities you can give him academic and social advantages in the future.  All the while having a good time. Enjoy!

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Test-Taking Strategies for Kids

Test-taking strategies can be integrated into all subject areas.
Test-taking strategies can be integrated into all subject areas.

Teaching students test-taking strategies can be controversial.  Up until recently, it was rare that kids were shown how to take or study for a test.  However, research has shown that students will score better on a test when the have test-taking tips to follow.  Therefore, many teachers have started to integrate test-taking strategies into course content. In some schools, it has even been included as a genre study in literacy. 

Whether you agree or disagree with high stakes testing, testing will most likely be part of your students’ lives.   Therefore, whether it’s in a current school setting or a future work setting, testing may be in their future.  Why not add some test-taking strategies?

Top 5 Test-Taking Strategies That Work

  • Pacing: Teach students the importance of pacing themselves so they don’t spend too much time on a single question.  Be sure you review with them how long 10 minutes really is.  We all sometimes lose track of time, so making kids aware of time periods can be beneficial.
  • Point Values Rule:  Point out to students that some questions are weighed more heavily and can influence their grades more heavily.
  • Read Through the Test First:  Give it a “once over”. Teach kids to give the test or a certain section a “once over”.  That means to look over the section of the entire test to get an idea of what’s on it.  Encourage them to answer the questions they are sure of before they go back to complete the rest of the questions.  Remind them that on tests with sections, it is common that students CANNOT go back to finish incomplete sections once they have moved onto another sections.
  • Proofread: Tell students to proofread their test before they turn it into the teacher if time permits.  Reviewing answers can give them the opportunity to change an answer or add details. Very often kids, especially young learners, think the first one to turn in the test does the best.  Rushing sometimes causes careless errors.
  • Outline Key Points:  Teach kids to create a quick outline with key points prior to starting an essay.  This strategy helps keep students on track.  It also helps reduce test anxiety.

The best thing about teaching test-taking strategies is that they can be used throughout a child’s school career and beyond. Reviewing and reinforcing the strategies throughout the year will help cement the strategies into everyday learning.  This will result in less stress when “spring testing” arrives.

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

Gradual Release of Responsibility

Using Gradual Release of Responsibility helps kids learn
Using Gradual Release of Responsibility helps kids learn

Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR) came up recently in a discussion with one of my student teachers.  The topic came up during brainstorming ways to meet the Distinguished criteria on the Teacher Evaluation tool. The GRR model of instruction suggests that learning should gradually shift from solely teacher modeling, to joint responsibility between teachers and students, to independent practice and application by the students.

I was introduced to Gradual Release of Responsibility during a Professional Development opportunity in our school. The consultant demonstrated an activity in our classroom, co-taught with us the next day and then observed us use the strategy. Each session ended with self-reflection. This method is successful both in classrooms and in Teacher Professional Development. Simply: “I do, we do, you do it alone.”

Gradual Release of Responsibility Principles:

  • Mistakes are part of the learning process; the more practice, the fewer mistakes.
  • Background knowledge and skills sets differ student by student which means that preparedness for learning also differs.
  • Many students learn best through hands-on learning as opposed to watching or listening to others. 

Although the GRR instructional model was first used in reading comprehension, it is now used in all content areas.  The model helps move classroom instruction from lecture and whole group instruction to a more student-centered classroom that uses collaboration and independent practice.

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Smithsonian History Explorer

Smithsonian Explorer is a great teacher resource
Smithsonian Explorer is a great teacher resource

The Smithsonian History Explorer is a web site designed to help K-12 teachers quickly find and use hundreds of standards-based classroom activities, interactive games, and other resources. Resources are from the National Museum of American History and are matched to the National Standards of History. Topics can be searched by resource type, grade level, historical era, and/or cross-curricular connections. Visitors can also choose to browse content using the following categories:

Smithsonian Explorer Links

  • Lessons & Activities are all standards-based and can be printed, emailed, and shared.
  • Interactives & Media features audio, video, and interactive resources, many designed to be used by students independently.
  • Museum Artifacts – Browse collections to use for object-based learning.
  • Books – Teachers or students can search for related books by keyword and filter by era, reading level, and genre. Bilingual editions can be searched as well.
  • Web Links – Additional links to other websites.
  • Themes – The site includes major themes in America history including:
    • A Nation We Build Together
    • American Experiments
    • Protest and Civic Action, the Civil Rights Movement
    • The American Revolution and World Wars
    • Presidential History, Politics and Voting
    • STEM Resources
    • Westward Expansion
    • Immigration
    • Hispanic Heritage Month
    • Teaching with Drama
    • Agriculture History

Exploring the Smithsonian website is definitely worth the time.

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Social Studies: Resources for Teaching

February Prompts to Get Students Writing

February prompts to encourage student writing
February prompts to encourage student writing

Writing gives children an opportunity to share their ideas and express their creativity.  But writing is not easy and many new writers struggle when faced with a blank page.  Writers, both novice and experienced, need encouragement but they also can benefit from getting some ideas (prompts) to get them started. 

Giving your kids a variety of topics to help them extend their vocabulary and language skills.  Kids can find their “voice” through writing poems, songs, jokes or stories.  But don’t limit their choices to “common” types of writing.  Encourage them to see and find “writing” in the world around them.  Commercials, plays, TV shows, ads, emails and blogs are all opportunities to share their writing.

February Prompts

  • Magical Garden:  Gardens grow many foods for us to eat.  But what if you had a magical garden?  What magical things grow in your garden?
  • Valentine’s Day:  Valentine’s Day is this month.  Have you given a compliment to anyone to make them feel good?  If not, it’s not too late.  Write down a compliment for 5 different people that you see often.  IF you decide to share it with them you might see some big smiles.
  • Soup of the Day: When it’s cold outside, don’t you just love a bowl of soup? How about a soup made with your favorite foods?  Write down your recipe with 15 different foods to make your “Soup of the Day”.  Do you think it will taste great?
  • Fortune Cookie: Fortune Cookies have small pieces of paper included inside with a message.  Sometimes it’s a prediction, a lucky number or some advice.  Write down 5 messages that you would like to find inside YOUR fortune cookie.  Then write down 5 messages that you would like to find inside a family member’s fortune cookie. 
  • Talk to me: How many times do you find yourself asking (and sometimes answering) your pet questions?  Are you hungry, do you want to go out, how’s my boy today?  Write down five answers to 5 different questionos you might ask your pet. Perhaps your pet will answer like a comedian or maybe he/she is having a bad day. Be creative!

Check out my monthly post of writing prompt ideas to help inspire our new authors. Let’s make 2020 the Year of the Writer! Enjoy!

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