Five Classroom Management Games Kids LOVE!

Classroom Management Games

The end of the year is upon us, and most teachers are pulling every trick they have out of their hats to help them maintain class control (and their sanity!) as the school year comes to a close. In honor of this unique time of year, here is a collection of my favorite classroom management games that kids LOVE! Enjoy!

“The Don’t Say a WORD Game” (A Game for Transitions)


This is a game that I made up one year when I had a particularly “chatty” and social class. Every time we came into the classroom, (or lined up to go out,) they were very noisy, and the only thing that stopped them was negative consequences, which I hated!

What you need:
1.  Nothing!

How to play:

  1. Everyone must walk into or out of the classroom without saying a single word.  If they do, the whole class earns a reward, such as an extra five minutes of playtime.
  2. To make this work, I sometimes gave the extra playtime minutes to those that were quiet, rather than take the reward away from the whole class. Unfortunately, some kids actually seemed to enjoy the “power” of being able to derail this activity, although I can’t really figure out why.

The end of the game:
When everyone is settled and seated for the next activity, you’re done!  Praise the kids if they got it right.  My class would break into WILD CHEERS if they made it!


*  Wait until everyone is quiet in line before bringing them in (or sending them to line up) and remind them again of the reward when the game starts.

* Children usually have better luck waiting in line when the ones that are the “most social” don’t wind up right next to each other.  I have had a few classes (or students) that did best when they had actual places in line that they were assigned to stand or walk in every time.  This works well with SitSpots or even just by taping names or sight words, etc. to the floor, assigning each child a certain word to stand on.  (See photos.)

Sit Spots Sight Word Line Upsmlogo

*  It turned out to be much easier for them to be COMPLETELY SILENT than to ask them to “keep the noise down!”

Sight Word Line Up

The Quiet Game  (A Game For Keeping a Class Busy While the Teacher Answers the Phone, etc.)

If you have been following my blog for several years, you may remember this one!  This game has to be the silliest, “stupidest” game ever.  But I use it nearly every day; no teacher should be without it!  When I first started teaching Kindergarten, I taught the afternoon class, and I had moved into a room with a very experienced, expert teacher that new teachers tend to find somewhat intimidating!  Luckily, she took me under her wing, and taught me all of the things I should have learned in my student teaching experience, but didn’t. Anyway, when the AM teacher, Mrs. Kinne, taught me this game, I thought she was crazy.  What child would ever find this entertaining?  Who in the world would think of such a thing?

What you need:
1.  Your teacher chair.
2.  A DISTRACTION that pulls you away from teaching your class for a minute or two- like a child wetting his pants, or a parent that MUST talk to you right away, in private!

How to play:

  1. Choose one child to be the “starter.”  This child gets to sit in your teacher chair and chooses the quietest person in the room.
  2. The person that gets chosen by the starter gets to be the next leader.  He gets to sit in the teacher chair and picks the next quietest person to sit in the teacher chair.
  • Boys must pick girls, and girls must pick boys.  No “pick backs” allowed!
  • No “stalling” allowed; (you can’t just sit there and pick no one, or the teacher will choose for you.  If I notice kids stalling, I call out, “Okay, I’m going to count to three, and then I will pick for you!”  That always does it.  They pick someone immediately!

The end of the game:
When you are done managing your DISTRACTION: have the person in the chair choose someone to start the game next time.  Don’t let the person in the chair be the starter next time, or kids may sit and “stall,” refusing to choose someone- usually because they hope to be the starter next time!


  1. Keep track of who gets to be the next “starter” on a small white board and pin it to a wall or bulletin board nearby your teacher chair.  If you can find a small one that has a place to attach a little dry erase marker with an eraser on the end of it, then it will be really quick and easy to write it down each time.
    Quiet Game White Board
  2. If my “starter” is absent or busy with something, then I usually have my helper of the day start the game.

The children in my class last year loved playing this game so much that they would whine about it if we didn’t get a chance to play during the day!  And, sometimes while a few of them were waiting for their parents to pick them up at the end of the day, they would play it while they waited!  They would even play it when there were only TWO children in the room!  You wouldn’t believe how dramatically they would think and think before they would choose that other person!  I even had a child play it once by herself!  She got a couple of dolls and bears from the playhouse, put them on the carpet squares, and proceeded to pick the “quietest” one!  (Don’t ask me how she made THAT decision!  Ah, the wonders of the Kindergarten imagination!)


Graveyard!  (A Shorter Game For Keeping a Class Busy While the Teacher Takes Care of Something Quick)

Here is another silly game that is perfect for when you are in the middle of carpet time and something comes up that you need to take care of for just a moment.  This one is good around Halloween, especially.

Graveyard Game

What you need:

1.  Nothing!  Just a distraction that needs to be taken care of.

How to play:

  1. Yell out, “Graveyard!”  All of the children fall down and play dead.
  2. They must remain on the floor, “dead as a doornail,” saying nothing at all until you are done with your distraction.

The end of the game:
When you are done managing your distraction, that’s the end of the game.  I usually said something like, “Okay, everybody!  Rise from the dead!”  Around Halloween, we might say, “All my little ghosties can get up!” or something like that.


  1. Make sure the children realize where their feet are, and that moving their feet/kicking someone in the head might actually HURT!


Mr. Potato Head Compliment Game   (A General Behavior Motivational Game)

I saw this game in use when I presented at Hedgesville School in West Virginia last week!  The teacher told me all about it, and I loved it!  Here it is!

Mr Potato Head Compliment Game

What you need:

1.  A Mr. Potato Head Set.

How to play:

  1. Tell the children that each time an adult compliments the class on their behavior, they will get to add a piece to Mr. Potato Head.  For example, if someone says, “Gosh, your class is SO QUIET IN LINE TODAY!” then they would earn a piece.
  2. I do not know which child got to choose the piece out of the box, but in my class I would have probably had my helper of the day get to choose.

The end of the game:
When Mr. Potato Head is full, then the class earns a reward of some time.  You’ll probably want to let them know in advance what the reward is.

Mr Potato Head Star Wars


  1. I’m not sure what constitutes a “full” Mr. Potato Head, but you may want to establish this ahead of time!  LOL!


Too Noisy App

Too Noisy App

This is actually an app, called Too Noisy Pro!  It is $2.99 and works on both iOS devices and on Android! (There is also a free Lite Version.)  I saw this used in my friend Julie’s classroom one day when I went in to volunteer and try out a lesson, and I LOVED it!  You simply set it to the sensitivity that you want, and turn it on.  If the children get too noisy, an alarm goes off, and it “crashes!”  It looks like the screen is broken, but of course it is not.

Too Noisy App

You can set it to award the class Star Awards after a certain amount of time working quietly, as well- a feature that I LOVE!  You can work on building up their stamina that way!  You can also choose the background that you like.  You also have the ability to pause the app so that you can talk to the class without setting off the alarm, which is nice.

Too Noisy App

One way my friend Julie used it was by putting it underneath her document camera, so that the whole class could see the meter.  That worked great!  But then one group of students started getting a little louder than the rest, so she moved the meter over and just placed it right on their table group… which motivated them a little bit more to be really quiet.  It worked!

Music Notes

Also, you know I have to mention our The Classroom Management DVD!  :-) It’s perfect for teachers that are looking for a musical way to help children learn and review classroom rules and procedures! Even at the end of the year, these songs and concepts are great for review!

Classroom Management DVD
 Click here to go directly to the Classroom Management Product page! :-)

“I Can Follow The Rules” Song – Classroom Management

“The Tattling Song” – Classroom Management

If you liked this post, you might also like:

Getting Control of Dismissal FB

Getting Control of a Difficult Class

Getting Control of a Talkative Class - HeidiSongs

Making it Through the Final Stretch FB

Helping Kids Learn to Solve Problems without Fighting




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Classroom Management: Making It Through the Final Stretch!

Making it Through the Final Stretch

Managing a class of kids through the final stretch of the school year can be difficult for many reasons! Fatigue starts to set in on the parts of teachers, students, parents, and administrators. Things that have worked in the past seem to stop working as patience starts to wear thin, and sometimes children “get used to” certain consequences for their behavior and it seems some of them even don’t care anymore if they are disciplined! Often times, teachers have “just had it!” with recurring discipline problems, and parents and administrators are also at their wits’ end, having used up all of their ideas to help. Patience and understanding that were available in abundance most of the year are suddenly in short supply. What to do?

One thing that helped me make it through the last six weeks of one very difficult school year was something that we used to refer to at my school as “Five Minutes of Fun,” which was (modified) part of a school wide “Accountability Concepts” discipline program we adopted. (I found them on Facebook, but the company is now out of business.)  This is a completely motivational system rather than punitive. The one catch is that you need PLENTY OF TIME to implement it- which is why it is perfect for the end of the school year!  Using this system made a HUGE difference in my classroom during the last month of school!  In fact, when I did this, I had the easiest year end I have ever had, as far as classroom management is concerned- even though the group of kids I had that year was rather difficult.

First I’ll tell you what we were supposed to do as a part of our Accountability Concepts school wide discipline program- all year long.  We were supposed to stop once every hour and do something fun for five minutes with our whole class (yes, every hour of the day.) Only those children that had “been good” would get to participate.

The children that had made poor choices were supposed to watch the others having fun and think about making different choices next time.  Kids had to tell me what they did wrong, apologize if necessary, and tell me what they were going to do differently.  Otherwise, then when the next five minutes of fun time came, then they again would not be able to participate.

A Short, Motivational “Fun Time” Afternoon Rotation!

I found that in my Kindergarten class, managing the transition in and out of these “Five Minutes of Fun” times took us about 15 minutes. Much more time than just five minutes per hour, unfortunately.  This cut into our instructional time in a BIG way.

Monster Doodles Group

SOOOOOoooo… I decided to “save up” our “fives” for one longer twenty minute period of fun in the afternoon, which I decided to call our “Fun Time.” This Fun Time was separate from our normal play time that everyone got anyway, so I liked that nobody was losing out on that developmentally important period of time.  I also liked that the kids didn’t have to lose their recess, which of course they really needed. I do consider myself very LUCKY that my administration supported this!

This is how my adapted system worked:

  • If I had to put a child in time out during the day, I made a note of it. That child lost five minutes of the twenty minutes of Fun Time that came at the end of the day.
  • If a child got two time outs, then he lost ten minutes of our Fun Time.
  • If he got three time outs, then he lost fifteen minutes of our Fun Time, and so on.

The children really valued this “20 Minutes of Fun” because I would get out math manipulatives, science manipulatives, special markers, rubber stamps, and other toys that were normally forbidden during our usual play time, because I didn’t want them mixed up with the other toys, etc. Basically, I set up a “play rotation” for the children that had been good, and that was most of them.

Pom Poms table

Sometimes I put a whole bunch of stickers at a table and let them spend the whole five minutes choosing two each. With the rubber stamps, I just got out my “teacher stamps” that they would normally never get to touch, and some blank paper, and let them just try them. I got out things like my “teacher bell” and let them ring them, some modeling clay, magnets, and stuff like that. Nothing had to hold their attention for a very long time- it just had to be APPEALING- appealing enough to make the other children REALLY WANT TO JOIN IN!

Here are some things we did during our Fun Time Rotation.

Remember, these things only needed to keep them busy for five minutes or even less.

Chain Links

Chain Links

Electronic games, such as Hot Dots or Leap Frog Devices

Electronic Games

Counting manipulatives normally used in math only, such as Farm Counters, Zoo Counters, Insect Counters, etc.

Farm Animals Counters

Geoboards and Rubberbands

Geoboards & Rubberbands

Write On, Wipe Off Cards, such as Monster Doodles from Usborne

MonsterDoodlesCover logo
MonsterDoodles2 logo

Pom Poms and Tweezers

PomPoms and Tweezers

Fine Motor Kit Challenges



Rubber Stamps, especially those normally reserved for teacher use only, and blank paper

Rubber Stamps in rotation

Plastic Spiders

Plastic Spiders

Sorting Collections

Shiny Sorters



Clay or playdough

Science manipulatives such as magnets, magnifying glasses and birds nests, ramps and marbles or cars

Classroom bells and buzzers normally reserved for the teacher only

Answer Buzzers Box

Kids LOVE pushing these buttons, and others like it, such as the Staples “Easy” button!

“Crazy Scissors” and scraps of paper

Paper cups to stack


Other Fun Motivational Ideas (To be used at other times, only for those that have been good all day. Children who have had issues during the day lose time in just five minute increments.)

Bubbles (only for outside, of course!)

Extra recess

Let everyone chew a piece of gum

Let everyone play with a piece of silly putty for a few minutes

Let everyone work with their shoes off

Let everyone switch desks and sit with a friend, as long as they are still working quietly

Let everyone sit under their desks for a while to work, using a book as a clipboard if necessary

Give everyone a sticker

Let them lay down on the floor while listening to a story

Show a movie (Put those who lost time out of view of the screen or in another room)

Set up a painting station to rotate through during playtime for those who have been good.

Sing some really fun songs your kids like, allowing them to stand with a friend while they sing.

Managing the “Fun Time” Rotation

I put them into their normal groups because that was what was easiest for me (although sometimes I mixed up the groups to make it more fun,) and set the timer for five minutes. The rest of the children that had had time outs had to sit in chairs and JUST WATCH the children GO CRAZY with all of the fun stuff I had put out! I let the noise level “go,” not caring about loud voices or anything.

Spiders table

Having the children that were watching sit in chairs turned out to be important, because if I had them sit on the floor, they just rolled all over the place, talking, and playing, etc., and then I had to discipline them MORE- WHICH I DEFINITELY DID NOT WANT TO DO. The children that got to do everything actually felt REALLY SORRY for the others!  I think it sometimes tortured them more than it did the ones that did not get to do it!  In fact, once I caught some of them bringing some of the stickers and things over to the kids in the chairs because they just felt sorry for them! I had to remind their friends that we were trying to get them to change their behavior and make better choices next time.

Farm animal table

On some days, I changed it up a bit- I got out bubbles and let them play outside with them. Sometimes I brought popcorn for the class, and we ate it while we watched a movie. The kids also enjoyed going outside to play a fun class game.

Class singing with DVD

On other days, we sang our favorite HeidiSongs, and the kids got to stand ANYWHERE THEY WANTED TO (within boundaries, of course!) They loved this! They got to partner up with a friend!  We did songs that have movements that include partners, (the ones that are like patty-cake style songs) and the kids that had made poor choices had to watch and think.

Music Notes

“HeidiSongs Partner Songs” to Do Just for Fun:

The Come Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 3) (Plays like patty cake while spelling “come.”)

The Some Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 4) (Plays like patty cake but while spelling “some.”)

The All Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 4) (Plays like Ring Around the Rosie, but while spelling the word “all.”)

The Put Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 4) (Plays like patty cake while spelling “put.”)

The Funny Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 5) (Kids make funny faces at each other while spelling “funny.”)

The Made Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 4) (Plays like the Tooty Ta while spelling “made.”)

The Very Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 4) (Everyone pretends to be VERY scary monsters while spelling the word “very.”)

Music Notes

HeidiSongs Songs to Do in Lines (Like Conga Lines, or Choo Choo Train Lines, etc.)

The Now Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 4) (Form a Conga line and Conga around the room, singing about how to make a number 30!)

The Thirty Song (Jumpin’ Numbers, Vol. 2) (Choo-choo around the room behind the teacher in a line.)

The Friend Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 4) (Hold hands in a line or circle; swing hands back and forth. It’s at the end of this video!)

Music Notes

HeidiSongs Sit Down Songs (Songs done while seated on the floor- especially fun while seated by friends!)

The Good Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 4) (Calls children to “sit down flat on their cushion, no fighting or pushin’ and be “G-O-O-D, good.”)

The In Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 2) (Kids pat their own knees and their neighbor’s knees in time to the music and making a pattern, while spelling the word “in.”)

The An Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 2) (Plays like Johnny Works with One Hammer.)

Before the Children Who Had Misbehaved Could Join the Group…

As they were watching, I would continually ask those children to tell me why they were there. They could not get up from their chairs until they told me what they did wrong, and what they would do differently next time. If a child stubbornly refused to respond or admit what he did wrong, then I did not allow the child to get up at all, and that was that. They absolutely HAD to tell me what they were going to change next time and/or apologize to a child that they had wronged, etc.; this was part of the Accountability Concepts training that we went through, and I really liked that about it!

All of these things made the children who were given to misbehave (and even more so at the end of the year) began to think twice before they started to break the rules. And although the “Fun Rotation” seemed to be essentially a great big waste of instructional time, it was the same amount of time as stopping every five minutes. And we STILL had our regular playtime inside anyway.

For children with very severe infractions, they occasionally lost playtime as well, but that was rare, and it was essentially because there was just nothing left to do; they hadn’t responded to any of the motivators at all, and I couldn’t figure out what the underlying problem really was.

The children began asking first thing in the morning me what we were going to do for our “Fun Rotation” or Fun Time in the afternoon, and I started using that to my advantage!  So I would remind everyone of what was coming and that they would want to make good choices. I even started letting the children help me encourage their classmates that were in the midst of misbehavior to make better choices.  I would ask them if they would like to play with their friends during our Fun Time later when we were going to ____.  Then the kids would all start to encourage their friends to behave!

The thing I like about this system is that it automatically rewards everyone, while only taking away an EXTRA fun time for the ones that didn’t earn it. So it’s not meant to be punitive, but rather motivational. And it was definitely HARD to make those mischievous ones sit and watch, knowing how miserable they were, because I’m just like most teachers- I have a soft spot for all children, and I hate disciplining them as much as anyone. But it did seem to work pretty well, especially at the end of the year. The secret seemed to be to keep changing up the little rotation centers and keeping it fresh.

If I were to do it again and started running out of manipulatives, I think I would start trading items with other teachers so that there would be new things there consistently.

Other Management Tips

– For me in Kindergarten, setting up the Fun Time Rotation meant that I needed a little time when the children were occupied with something else. Projecting an e-book often really helped. There are lots of e-books online that you can tune into and let your children watch while you set up or put things away. Check this blog post for some links, and also my Pinterest Board “E Books Online.”

Follow HeidiSongs’s board E Books Online on Pinterest.

– Ask your children what they would like to do for their Fun Time for more ideas!

– Put off the Fun Time for the very end of the day as much as possible. Try NEVER to take away something that is meant for the next day, unless the “Fun Time” is already over for the day and the child is breaking rules during dismissal. SEVERAL of my kids had this all figured out; they figured that once Fun Time was over, “all bets were off” for the day and they had no more reasons to behave. So I was really FORCED to start making lists of children that would lose five minutes for the following day. Once they saw that I would truly follow through with that, they mostly stopped misbehaving during dismissal- except for  a couple of them!  And I think that the reason was that these rather immature children were the type that simply couldn’t think through what was going to happen the next day and self-regulate their behavior in hopes of a good day tomorrow.

The ONLY way I was able to help them with that was to physically separate certain children during dismissal, putting some of them alone at tables so that there was really nothing they could do to get in trouble during dismissal time. Basically, I “rigged it” so that the child would be good during dismissal, since I already knew that certain children just wouldn’t/couldn’t do it for themselves, and I didn’t want to start out the following day with instant negatives from the day before.

Here are some other blog posts on classroom management, for those of you who are interested:



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12 vs. 21: Strategies for Kids that Struggle with Reversals


12 vs 21:  Strategies for Kids that Struggle with Reversals
Many young children reverse numbers and letters when they are just learning to read and write, and this is normal for most kids in Pre-K, Kindergarten and First Grade!  It’s just part of the growing process of becoming literate.  Unless the child has a true learning disability, most of them do outgrow it and can work past it.  Meanwhile, what can you do to help?

If you are a parent or teacher looking for information on dyslexia or dysgraphia, you can learn more about it here.  This post isn’t about dyslexia. 

Disclaimer:  These activities won’t “cure” any learning disability that includes letter, number, or word reversal, although they should certainly help!  But for the rest of the children, who are just regular education kids that occasionally reverse or mix up a couple of numbers or letters, these activities might just turn things around!



12 vs. 21:  Strategies for Kids that Struggle with Reversals

In this picture, the children are building stacks of 12 or 21 on top of the SitSpots with the numbers written on them.



Of all of the concepts that need to be taught in Kindergarten, the simple task of just recognizing which 12 vs. 21 can be one of the most difficult for many young children!  I always have several Kindergartners who are never able to get the numbers in order to 30, simply because they cannot tell the difference between the 12 and the 21.  There are other skills that those children do not pass either, purely due to this confusion, such as matching sets to 30 and place value types of activities, and writing the numbers as well.


Using manipulatives to show what the numbers REALLY mean is ALWAYS a great idea!

Using manipulatives to show what the numbers REALLY mean is ALWAYS a great idea!  In this case, I used pompoms.

Clearly, this is a question of how well developed their visual perception skills are, and how much exposure to print each individual child has had, and whether or not the child consistently progresses from left to right when reading.  So below are some different activities that have helped my students in the past!  I hope that they are helpful!


Prompts and Strategies to Help Children That Are Struggling with Reversals:

Here are some prompts and strategies that might help children that are struggling.  Hopefully, the children will start to learn some of these “tricks” to help themselves remember which number is which by the time you have done several of these activities. Try them all and see what helps individual children the most, because you never know what is going to work!

12 vs. 21:  Strategies for Kids that Struggle with Reversals

See the 12 and the 21 in the pocket of this Show & Tell Apron? I love this apron because it is like wearing a pocket chart around, and you can teach right from it!


1. Try a musical approach: Remind them of “The 12 Song” (Jumpin’ Numbers Vol. 2), “The 21 Song” (Jumpin’ Numbers Vol. 2), or “The 12 vs. 21 Song” (Musical Math Vol. 2) as needed.

Jumpin Numbers Vol 2


2. Teach kids to figure out which side is their left or right side.  Help them figure out which side is their left by teaching them to hold up a hand and make an L. If the L is heading the correct direction, that’s the left side.  Some children may be able to figure out which hand is their left hand by knowing which one is “their pencil hand,” and by knowing if they are “a lefty” or not.  For most of us, the hand that we write with is our right hand.  “We write with our right hand.”  Get it?

3. Ask children to close their eyes and visualize the arrow (from the 12 Vs. 21 Sort Flash Cards) in their minds. What does it look like? Where is the dot, and where does it begin? Can they put their finger on that imaginary dot and run their finger along that imaginary line?

4.  Match the number to one on a number line.  Have the child first count up the number line to the number that he thinks he is looking at, touching the numbers one at a time.  Then have him place the number on the flash card right underneath it.  Do they match?  Touch them.  Are the two numbers in the same places?

Five Ways to Help Children With Reversals

But in any case, here are FIVE different ways to help teach young children with reversals, especially if they are reversing numbers and learning to tell the difference between the number 12 and the number 21!  These activities should work just the same for any basic “look-alike” numbers, letters, or words that a reader consistently confuses.  Some classic look-alike letters are: b/d, p/q, w/m, n/u.  Some look alike numbers are 6/9, 12/21, 13/31, 14/41, 15/51, 16/61, etc.

1.  Build the Numbers with Blocks and Label Them.

Children must first understand that there is a difference in the quantities of each number.  12 has one group of ten, and two ones; but 21 has two groups of ten and one one.  (It’s even a little confusing to try to write it down!)  But when children work with blocks to build those two numbers and then practice labeling them, things start to get a little more clear!  For kids that reverse words, have them build the words and label them with pictures.

12 vs. 21:  Strategies for Kids that Struggle with Reversals

Here is a SitSpot with base ten blocks on it to represent number 12. SitSpots are pieces of VERY STRONG Velcro that you can write on with a marker!


2.  Play Games with the Numbers

Number recognition games are always a good thing to help kids with this, but sometimes I think it’s necessary to narrow it down to just the trickiest numbers (or the ones that they need the most) and use THOSE for the game!  That’s how I came up with “The 12 vs. 21 Game!”  For children that reverse letters or words, just play the game with letters or words instead.


12 vs. 21:  Strategies for Kids that Struggle with Reversals

The numbers were written on SitSpots.  And the big, soft die with the color words on it was part of a large game set I bought years ago that is no longer available. But you can get similar customizable dice here.  See the picture below.



Preparation:  I decided to make this a life sized path game, so I cleared a spot on the carpet for it.  I wrote lots of 12’s and 21’s on those wonderful Sit Spots for my game and laid them down in a figure 8 design, indicating a starting and ending point for the kids.  However, you may want to simply lay down or tape down some index cards.  I really had too many of the spots for the game; half that many would have been fine (maybe 25-30?)  The other alternative is to play it on paper rather than on the carpet “live.”

12 vs. 21:  Strategies for Kids that Struggle with Reversals

“The 12 Vs. 21 Game” plays just like CandyLand, except that each colored spot also has a number 12 or 21 on it.  Children roll a colored die and move their marker up to the nearest color that they rolled.  For example, if the child rolls a blue, then he moves his marker to the next blue space.  Then he reads the number that blue spot.  And THEN, while the others are taking their turns, he has to build that number using base ten blocks.  The first person to make it to the end is the winner.  Watch the video below to see how we play it!

3.  Sing About It!

If you just watched the video above, you probably heard the 12 vs. 21 song in it from our Musical Math Vol. 2 CD!  That is one of the songs I wrote to help children internalize the difference between the two numbers.  (We are now working on a DVD, and are shooting for an August release date.)  We have six different “Sing and Spell the Sight Words” DVD’s that are great for little ones that struggle with reversals or other reading issues.  Check them out here!

The 12 vs 21 Song from
On our Jumpin’ Numbers Vol. 2 CD/DVD, we have a song that teaches kids to write and recognize number 12 and another for number 21!  In fact, there is a song for each number, 11-30!  (The songs for 0-10 are on Jumpin’ Numbers Vol. 1.)

This is the 12 song below.

12 Song


And this is the 21 song below, also from Jumpin’ Numbers Vol. 2.

The 21 Song from HeidiSongs


4.  Get Some Flash Cards and Sort Them:  Is It a 12 or a 21?

12 vs. 21 Sort Cards Freebie from HeidiSongs

This is a picture of the 12 vs. 21 sort free download, but using pom poms to show the quantities rather than the ten frame cards.


For this activity, all you need are some flashcards with 12’s on them and 21’s on them.   You can make your own, or download mine here.  (My set also has blank cards included with the arrows and dotted lines, so that you can adapt them for letters and words.)  Just mix them up and have the children pick one and decide which pile it goes into.  Is it a 12 or a 21?  To make sure that the child is not just guessing, have him or her explain how he knows what it is.  For example, he might say, “I know it’s a 12 because the one comes first, starting on the left.”  For children that reverse words such as “was” and “saw,” have them sort the words instead of numbers, following the same procedure.

Here is a suggested lesson plan for sorting 12’s and 21’s with children that are struggling with reversals:

1. Practice sorting the 12/21 cards from set one with the arrow below them (12 Vs. 21 Sort Arrow Version). The children should say the number aloud each time they sort, reading it by running their finger under the number from left to right.

12 vs. 21 Sort Cards with Arrows


2. Once your kids get pretty good at the “12 Vs. 21 Sort Arrow Version” switch to the cards with just the dotted line on the bottom, “the 12 Vs. 21 Sort Dotted Line Version.” Remind them to visualize the arrow in their mind. Where would it start from? Keep having them say the number aloud each time they sort, reading it by running their finger under the number from left to right.  (If children are struggling, mix the arrow cards in with the dotted line cards.)

12 vs. 21 Sort Cards with Dotted Line


3. Eventually, the hope is that you will be able to switch to the plain 21 vs. 21 cards, and that the children will be able to identify the numbers without getting mixed up. Keep reminding them to visualize the arrow in their mind. Where would it start from? Encourage them to run their finger under each card from left to right as they read it aloud.

12 vs. 21 Sort Cards- blank

 If children are struggling, mix in the cards with the arrows and/or the dotted lines, and then gradually remove those cards with these supports.  When you mix all three formats together, you may get an insight to see if the children are doing better with the dotted line at the bottom, with the arrow at the bottom, with the flash cards with no cue at the bottom, or if those supports make no difference at all.  This may help you figure out what will help certain children in the future if they reverse letters, numbers, or words.

12 vs 21 Sort Freebie


5.  Do a 12 vs. 21 Roll & Graph Race

For this activity, just download the graph and the printable dice here, and have the children roll the numbers.  Each time they roll a 12, they color in a 12 box.  Each time they roll a 21, they color in a 21 box.  The first person to fill in any row to the top is the winner.  The download also contains blank graphs and dice so that you can adapt this activity to words or letters, etc.

12 vs. 21:  Strategies for Kids that Struggle with Reversals


You can also use a plain old block as a die, and just print the 12’s and 21’s on the block.  That’s the easiest way!  The younger the children are, the more likely it is that they will “squish” a paper die.  The other alternative is to put a foam die inside the printable dice provided so that they don’t get squished.

12 vs 21 Graph Race Freebie with a homemade die


If you are worried about possible signs of dyslexia in your child, you may be interested in reading this blog post of mine here, called “Signs of Dyslexia?”  Also, visit the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity for expert, up to date information and guidance.





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Can HeidiSongs Be Used as a Complete Curriculum? (15% OFF SALE!!!)

Can HeidiSongs Be Used as a Complete Curriculum

Can HeidiSongs be used as a complete math or language arts curriculum?  This question is asked from time to time by both teachers and homeschooling parents, and the answer is both yes, and no!  Most of the materials that you would need are there, but a basic teaching manual is not.  This may not be a problem for an experienced teacher, but it may be a big hurdle for a new one or a homeschooling mom who with no experience in the field of education.

However, I have written many blog posts that can guide you along as you go.  Plus, I’ve written a Kindergarten Pacing Guide and posted it as a free download here. (See the sample picture below.) If you use the Pacing Guide to tell you what to teach, and use the related blog posts to help you implement the curriculum, you probably won’t have much trouble!  Read on below for more information.

Pacing Guide Week 4

Before we dive in, I have to tell you about our Teacher Appreciation Sale that starts TODAY!!! Use the code TEACHER2015 (all caps, no spaces) to receive 15% off EVERYTHING!!! It’s valid from today through May 6th!!! :-)


I am beginning to teach Kindergarten in a parochial school this year. Superkids was used by the previous K & gr 1 & 2 teacher, but not anymore. I am basically starting from scratch. I have been looking at HeidiSongs and would like to use them. It is possible to just use Heidi’s program without any curriculum? What would you suggest? Should I get the whole Kindergarten set offered? We do have the Everyday math program, but that’s it.  I am feeling overwhelmed.

First of all, let me say that I’m sorry that you are feeling overwhelmed!  Been there, done that!  Check out the links below to some key blog posts on how to use my materials.

Music Notes

Here are some links to blog posts for teaching letters and sounds with my materials.

Tips for Teaching the Alphabet to Struggling Learners

Tips for Teaching the Alphabet

Teaching Kindergarten: What’s Working Week #7

Teaching Kindergarten: What's Working?

Top Tips: Transitioning from Letters, to Words, to Books!

Transitioning from Letters, to Words, to Books

Here are some links to blog posts for teaching numbers and shapes, and counting skills, etc., with my materials.

How to Teach the Numbers 0-10 and the Shapes

How to Teach the Numbers 0-10 and the Shapes

Teaching Kids to WRITE the Numbers

Teaching Kids to Wright the Numbers

Counting Creatures Addition Book

Counting Creatures Addition Book

A Counting Creatures Workbook for Numbers 11-20

Counting Creatures Workbook Volume 2

Those Tricky Teens and Twenties

Tricky Teens and Twenties

Here are some links to blog posts on teaching kids to sound out words with my materials.

How to Teach Kinds to Sound Out Three Letter Words

How to Teach Kids to Sound Out CVC

How I Got 21 Out of 27 Kids to Master 100% of Their CVC Words in Kindergarten

Mastering Three Letter Words

Eight Great Tricks for Sounding Out Three Letter Words

Seven Tricks for CVC Words

Gone Fishin’ For Nonsense Words

Fishin' For Nonsense Words


HeidiSongs can be used as a basic curriculum, but there will definitely be some gaps.  

The main thing that is missing is that you will need some BOOKS for your students to learn to read from (easy readers.)  Perhaps there are some leftover from the SuperKids series that you can use?  Otherwise, you may be able to use some books from the Scholastic Book club or something like that.  I supplemented our district books quite a bit with the “Bob Books” to help practice reading stories with CVC words in them.  There is now a Bob Books Sight Word set of books, too, although I haven’t seen it except online.  My kids REALLY loved the Biscuit Phonics Fun set of books, too.  They actually liked them better than the Bob Books, but I liked having both sets to pull from.

Bob's Books

In both cases, I ordered multiple sets of the books (mostly with bonus points and coupons from the Scholastic book club) and then had one book per child for reading groups.  Also, if you order a lot from Scholastic, there is usually a ten dollar certificate in each order for the teacher to use, as long as the order is a minimum of twenty dollars.  I often took that ten dollars and spent it on book sets like the ones I mentioned above, or on multiple copies of whatever books they were selling for a dollar each that month, which is quite common for Scholastic.  Just check the reading level on the books before you buy to make sure that they will be easy enough.

Biscuit Easy Reader

They even have some good non-fiction sets of books to purchase as well.  I got this set of Guided Science Readers and they are just perfect for Kindergarten early readers!

Non-Fiction Easy Reader Book Set

Easy Reader Desert Animal Books

Also, you will need some kind of phonemic awareness program to follow.  I used Michael Heggerty’s program.    It’s simple to use and follow, although the kids do get bored with it after a while. However, it does cover EVERYTHING and the children do learn with it.  And it takes no prep work at all.  The kindergarten version is $75.

Phonemic Awareness

The other thing you will need to do is teach writing, and I really don’t have explicit instructions on that in my materials.  I do have some good blog posts on it, though.

Getting Kindergartners Started Writing When it Seems IMPOSSIBLE!

Getting Kindergartners Started Reading When it Seems IMPOSSIBLE

Common Core Based Writing Rubrics and Writing Samples for Kindergarten – FREE

Writing Rubric & Writing Samples for Kinder

Once you get started, it is really just a matter of continuing on by giving them a new topic to write on each day, and hopefully have them include whatever sight words you are learning into the sentences that they are learning to write.  I had my kids first write a sentence of my choice and then after that, they could write one of their own.  Example:  “I see a ____.”  (In the blank they would write the name of a farm animal that they found on a word wall, because our theme was farm animals.)  Everyone would need to write this sentence first.  THEN, they could write something else, such as “It is brown.”  or “I like to ride.”  Or, “They are furry.”  Etc.

Okay!  I hope that this helps a bit and you are not so overwhelmed anymore!

Let me know if you have any more questions. And don’t forget about the sale!!! Today through May 6th! 15% off EVERYTHING when you use the code TEACHER2015 (all caps, no spaces!) :-)



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I’m also on PinterestFacebookTwitterGoogle+ and YouTube, too!  Don’t forget to sign up for our email newsletter (on the left sidebar) for special deals and promo codes that you won’t find out about anywhere else.
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Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall, and “A Wandering Word Wall” FREEBIE!

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

The Wandering Word Wall
Today I am going to explain how to teach kids to use a word wall, and about a really great writing tool that I like to use in my classroom called “The Wandering Word Wall.”  “The Wandering Word Wall” is a small, portable word wall that you print and mount on a file folder so that children can take it with them and use in any area of the classroom.  But whether your word wall is large or small, if you don’t teach the children how to use it, you’ll probably find that it is just taking up valuable wall space in your classroom and that it serves little or no purpose!

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

A portable word wall is a great tool to have, because often there are so many children in a classroom that they wind up trying to do writing assignments while sitting in desks that are a bit too far away from the real word wall, and so they can’t really see the words well enough to use it.  This makes them want to get up and walk around the room to check the spelling of a word, etc.  I think that kids tend to get more done when they stay in one spot and keep working without needing to get up and walk around, so the Wandering Word Wall solves that problem nicely!

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

If you have been following my blog for several years, you may remember that I mentioned my Wandering Word Wall in a blog post before!  But since it is such a great tool, I wanted to give it it’s “own” blog post. To download a copy of my Wandering Word Wall, click here. 

HeidiSongs' Wandering Word Wall

One word of caution, though:  you will need to teach them how to use it and what it is, or it will just become a “tent” and a barrier to play with rather than a useful word wall as you intended!

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!


To teach the children to use the Wandering Word Walls, or ANY word wall in your classroom:

1.  Pass out the Wandering Word Walls, or point out to the children the real word wall in your classroom.

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

2.  Show the children how the words are in alphabetical order.  Point to each letter and sing the ABC song as you point.

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

3.  Tell the children to find and point to a word, such as the word “see.”  Explain that the word will be in the box with (or underneath, etc.) the letter S, since it starts with an S sound.

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

4.  Have the class sing the ABC song again as they point to the letters until they find the S words, and then look for the word “see.”

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

5.  Ask the children to write the word “see” on a paper or on marker boards, etc.  If time is an issue, just have the children spell the word aloud, or write it in the air, or draw it on a friend’s back, etc.

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

6.  Repeat this process with a few other words until the children understand how to use the word wall to help them find and spell words.  It’s like having a small spelling dictionary right there!

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

To make a set, just download the word wall and glue it onto a file folder for each child.  Then laminate it, and you’re done!  I made two copies for each child, and put one three-hole punched copy into their binders so that they could have a word wall at home as well. 

Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

Tip:  I collect my Wandering Word Walls that go in the children’s binders at the end of the year, so that I do not have to make them again the following year!  I doubt that any of the parents would get them out for the children the following year again anyway.


Teaching Kids to Use a Word Wall! & "A Wandering Word Wall" FREEBIE!

We used the Wandering Word Wall for journaling when my kids were all spread out throughout the room and could not necessarily see the word wall from where they are seated. It worked out really well!

If you are unfamiliar with our Sing and Spell the Sight Word Songs, check out the video below!  They are also extremely effective in getting young children started writing because the songs and movements help kids memorize the spellings of so many of the high frequency words used in their writing.

I hope you enjoy this and find it useful.



Follow me!   Did you enjoy this post? Do me a favor and share it with your friends!  And follow this blog by signing up email updates, or follow on Bloglovin’, or follow me on TPT!
I’m also on PinterestFacebookTwitterGoogle+ and YouTube, too!  Don’t forget to sign up for our email newsletter (on the left sidebar) for special deals and promo codes that you won’t find out about anywhere else.
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