You Lift Me Up

Wow!  God gives us such amazing gifts!  If this doesn’t lift you up, nothing will!

Jeffrey Li, 10 years old, from Canada, and Celine Tam, 7 years old, from Hong Kong.  What an astounding talent and stage presence from two young children!

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Savanna Safari Mural


Turn a corner of your classroom into an African savanna!  Step-by-step directions show you how to make a beautiful background for a classroom center or mini museum.  Get a Sample Mural Savanna Safari or learn more.

I hope you are all having a relaxing and refreshing summer vacation!

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Memorial Day


Thank you!


Photo Credit:  Sleeping Soldiers:  Photo by skeeze, via
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Memorial Day Activities


Memorial Day gives us all a chance to remember and think about those who serve and protect us in some of the most horrific conditions imaginable.  Much of the time they are thousands of miles away from home, family, and comfort.  They serve in cultures vastly different from that with which they are familiar, and are asked to do things that would unhinge many of us.  Those who return home are all affected in many ways by their experiences, and some are scarred, or broken, for life.  Memorial Day is the perfect time to allow students to share their deployment experiences with classmates, and send a message of encouragement and hope to military personnel.  Deployed parents or friends of your students are great recipients.  Students could:

  • Make a video greeting which can be emailed
  • Create a card
  • Write a letter
  • Construct a poem
  • Compose a song
  • Design a banner with a small group

Simply giving the students access to red, white, and blue construction paper, and some star stencils allows them to make original, creative, and diverse products which can be easily sent overseas.  Younger students may finger paint and dictate short notes or questions.  I hope you’ll take some time this year to talk about deployment and how it affects families with the students you serve.  Stars and Banner Stencils

Books for Children about Military Deployment

Photo Credit:  Soldier:  Photo by skeeze, via
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Student-Made Books


Classroom publishing has always been dear to my heart.  I first realized the power of publishing student’s work when I was working at a university lab school.  I was studying ways to teach students with learning and emotional disabilities.  One of the students I worked with was the first grade daughter of a professor.  She was having a lot of trouble with reading, but she loved to talk and was very capable of expressing herself.  After trying some of the new techniques I was learning, and having little success with them, I went back to one of my favorite reading methods:  language experience.  Together we wrote stories, revised and edited them, and printed them into little hardback books that we bound with fabric.  I quickly abandoned the flashcards we had also made, finding that having a “real book” was all that was needed for learning to recognize words.  We made lots of books and working from the whole text, began to explore the concept of an idea, a sentence, a word, a letter, and a sound, until she was able to sound and blend as well as other students in the class.  By the end of the year she tested at grade level and was able to keep up with her peers in the classroom, both in reading and writing.  The only materials I used with her were the books we created together, paper, pencils, and crayons.

The conditions I was working under were pretty ideal—I never had this type of situation in my “real” life.  She and I were working one-on-one for an hour a day.  I had complete control over what I did with her, how I did it, and where we worked.  Still, I’ve used student-dictated or student-written stories and articles for teaching materials throughout my career.  They are among the most powerful tools in my arsenal of tricks!  And the funny thing is, each year they are way better than the ones produced before!

Posted in Classroom Publishing, Integrated Instruction, Language Arts, Literacy Activities, Project Based Learning, Special Education, Thematic Teaching | 1 Comment

Savanna Safari Animal Puppets / Masks


I finally finished the first of many products celebrating life on the African savanna.  I am always looking for ways to get students to read where they don’t realize that they are actually reading!  (It helps a little to be a trickster if you’re a teacher.)  These realistic animal cutouts give students an up-close-and-personal look at the faces of some of the amazing creatures living on the grassy plains.  Although the sets overlap some, there are materials for students at different reading levels, from emergent to independent readers.

K-1 Set includes 10 animals and has simple paragraphs that may be printed on the backs of the images.

Grades 2-3 includes 10 animals, and has information included in outline form.

Grades 4-5 includes 11 animals, again with the information presented in outline form.

I prefer to use the images as puppets.  Just print and attach painters sticks to the back with packing tape and you’re ready to go!  I usually print classroom materials at draft or fast mode–it saves a lot of time and ink and the image quality is fine.  This time, however, I printed them at standard mode.  The images are really stunning!

  • The cheetah cub is sticking his tongue out!
  • The elephant is a wrinkly ole guy!
  • The hippopotamus opened his mouth to give a little look at his peg teeth.
  • The wildebeest has just come out of his mud bath.
  • The giraffe is licking his nose with his 18 inch tongue.
  • The vervet monkey can’t believe we’re looking at him!
  • The olive baboon has a lot on his mind.
  • The ostrich is showing off a big grin.
  • The crocodile displays ALL his teeth (well, almost all).
  • The little hyena cub looks downright sad.

Who knew animals could have such a variety of expressions on their faces!

You can also make the images into masks (just cut the eyes out and attach elastic to hold the mask on.  You can’t print the info on the back if you use them as masks.)  In addition to story telling, researching, report sharing, dramatic play, (and lots of other things included in the directions), you can use them to inspire descriptive writing, retelling of Aesop’s Fables, or character creation.

If you’d like a preview of the materials, click here.  (It includes a free hippo puppet and its information for all three levels.)  You can also check them out at Teachers Pay Teachers, or Teacher’s Notebook.  I just love it when children play to learn, don’t you ?


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Happy National Teacher Week!



Teachers wear lots of hats, expend enormous amounts of energy, and invest lots of their own time, money and emotions in their jobs!  Here’s to all of you who spend your days pouring your love into little (or young) people.  Enjoy your day!  Enjoy the week!  And if you need a little token to gift your friends (or to gift yourself), feel free to use these bookmarks.  I made them just for you, just for today, with a little help from the wonderful folks at Pixabay!



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Photo Credit:  Lioness with Young:  Photo by AdmMH, via

The “king of the jungle”, actually lives on the grassy plains of Africa’s savanna, and the dry, arid plains of India’s national preserves. At one time they were found across the southern part of Europe and throughout all of Africa, but they have been wiped out of those areas by their most dangerous predator—man.  However, recently scientists from Germany photographed lions in the rainforests of Ethiopia, so maybe he is “king of the jungle” after all!

Lions are the only big cats that live together in groups. The group, called a pride, often has 1-3 adult males, and 12-15 adult females and their cubs. All of the female lions in a pride are related to each other—grandmothers, mothers, sisters. The females rule the pride. Each pride needs a large territory. They mark it by spraying urine, and rubbing their scent glands on plants, rocks, and the ground.

Adult lions are 5-8 feet (1.5-2.4 m) in length, and weigh 330-500 pounds (150-227 kg). They can run up to 50 miles per hour for a short time, but are not built for running long distances or hard fighting. A flap of loose skin on their bellies protects them from kicks directed at them as they attack prey. A lion’s rough tongue has sharp hooks on the top. The hooks catch and remove loose hair as they groom themselves. These hooks are also strong enough to tear skin off their prey. Their large claws retract into their paws. They can extend them to help them grip and hold.

The females of a pride hunt together at night. Several lions will spread out and hide in the grass as the rest of the group chases the prey toward them. When the prey reaches the hidden lions, they spring up in ambush, attacking it together, from all sides. Medium sized animals such as wildebeest, antelope, and gazelle are their favorite prey. Sometimes males assist the females in hunting very large prey such as cape buffalo and giraffe, but male lions do not generally hunt. Their huge mane makes them too noticeable. After a kill, the male adults eat first, then the females. Finally the younger members of the pride are able to dig in.

Male lions leave their pride when they are two and a half years old. The young males form their own group, and start looking for a pride to take over. They attack the pride’s male lions, and if they are able to kill or drive them away, the pride becomes theirs. They often kill, and sometimes eat, the cubs of the previous males to get rid of any competition from them.

Life on the savanna, even for lions, is hard. Male lions live 10-12 years in the wild, while females may live up to 19 years.

To download this information sheet, along with one written for grades K-1 and grades 2-3, click here.

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Photo Credit:  Cheetah Snack:  Photo by kolibri5, via

A cheetah is built for speed. Its long thin legs, lightweight bones, and short coat make it the fastest land mammal in the world. It can go from 0-60 miles an hour in just 3 seconds, and it can run as fast as 70 miles per hour, although it can only maintain that speed for short distances before it gets too hot and breathless to go on. A cheetah hides in the tall grasses and shrubs of the savanna, watching his prey with his excellent eyesight. When the prey is within 50 yards, the big cat explodes towards it, attempting to knock it down by crashing into its side or jumping onto its back. Once the prey is down, the cheetah grabs onto its neck, crushing the wind pipe, and choking it. It may take 4-5 minutes for the prey to die. Once it’s dead, the cheetah drags it off into a shady hiding place to eat. Cheetahs eat about 30 pounds of meat at each kill, and don’t return to their kills later to feed. After a full meal, a cheetah can go for 2-5 days before it needs to eat again. Females caring for their cubs have to kill more often. One observer counted a female cheetah with cubs killing 31 gazelle and a hare in 35 days!

Female cheetahs give birth in areas with plenty of cover. They hide their cubs for the first month of life. The cubs are born blind, but they can crawl, turn their heads, and spit. When they are five and half weeks old, the mother leads them to her kill. From then on they follow her unless she is hunting. The family feeds together. The mother licks her cubs’ faces after eating. When the cubs are 6 months old, the mother brings live fawns and hares for them to practice catching and killing. They usually are able to get their own food by the time they are 15 months old.

Cheetahs live on their own. Females often settle in their mother’s territory, but don’t live with her. Males leave their mothers when they are 17-23 months old. They usually live in pairs or small groups, often with their brothers, and travel many miles away from their birth territories. Working in teams gives them a survival edge in the harsh world of the African savanna. Lions prey on cheetahs, and large eagles often feed on cheetah cubs.

When meeting other cheetahs, the animals sniff each other, lick faces, and rub cheeks. Cheetah sounds are very different from those of other cats. Their chirps, yelps, and yips can be heard a mile away. A mother uses a high-pitched roar (churring) to call her cubs to a kill. They bleat when they are in trouble, and moan, growl, snarl, and hiss when they are angry. When they are happy and content they purr, just like house cats.

Cheetah cubs are very playful. They chase, box, wrestle, and play tug-of-war. They climb trees, stalk, pounce, and ambush. Females remain playful for life.

Cheetahs are a high-interest animal for kids everywhere!  Click here to download information sheets on this amazing creature.  They are written at three different grade levels–K-1, 2-3, and 4-5.  (The above article contains the 4-5 information sheet.)

Posted in Animals, Integrated Instruction, Language Arts, Literacy Activities, Savanna, Science Themes, Special Education, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

African Watering Hole


One of the most interesting items I’ve found as I’ve researched the African savanna is this webcam of an African watering hole.  Although the Live Cam is dark during my daytime, there are highlights that can be viewed at any time.  It’s fascinating!  I find myself checking it out almost every day.  There’s just something about observing animals in the wild that beats a zoo any day!  The only down side is that the highlights are a continuous loop and once you’ve seen them all (and it only takes minutes) you’ve seen them all!  Still, I can’t get enough of the elephant maneuvering it’s baby around the water hole!

Those of you who live closer to Africa may do better with the Live Cam than I do!  It appears that you can snap pictures from the cameras as well.  How cool is that!  And there are LOTS of cameras to choose from in addition to this one.  Explore what they’ve got!  It’s worth the time.

You can find the original site here.    It’s provided by  Hope you and your kiddos will enjoy it as much as I do!

Posted in Savanna, Science Themes | 2 Comments