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July 29, 2011

Free Ideas For Sale – (Plus a Download, Too!)

Heidi at the New HeidiSongs Office in San Dimas, CA

As you can see in the photo above, this has been an exciting summer for us!  We have opened an actual HeidiSongs office.  So for the very first time, we have four walls (other than our home!) to run the business out of, and even a couple of friends to help out!  Above you can see a picture of me, Heidi, in front of the door.  I feel so very blessed to be a part of God’s plan in this, and so very fortunate that my husband Greg wants to run this business for me.  Because if he didn’t, I’d be truly lost- and I mean that sincerely.

Also new, I am now on Twitter!  So if you like to tweet along with me, you can follow me on Twitter! @heidisongs

And now down to the business of blogging!  One thing that I always love to do is look around at the exhibits at conferences, especially the larger ones where there is a good selection of new materials out for browsing.  Who would have thought that there would be so many good ideas out there, just free for the taking?  All you need to do is just start walking around the exhibits and look around.  There are always seem to be a bunch of things out there for sale that you could obviously make quite easily yourself, often for practically nothing!

Another thing that I also love to do at home is browse educational catalogs, just for fun.  I wind up with lots of great ideas just from looking at those, too!  I look at them every morning as I eat my breakfast, and in the summer sometimes at lunch too, if I am at home.  So here is my line up of ideas.  I hope that you find in here something worth keeping!


1.  Spelling Sticks
Spelling Sticks is one of those ideas that I found at I Teach K a couple of weeks ago.  All they did was print letters on some tongue depressors and let the children make words that way.  They do sell a stand to put the sticks in, but I couldn’t say that the stand looked absolutely essential to the activity.  The stands are also sold separately for $3.50 each, but it seems to me that if you just turned over a Styrofoam egg carton and cut a few slices in it, you would have a stand for free.  One thing that I noticed about the letters is that they were not printed very well on the sticks; the printing was a bit too light and I thought it might even be a little too light for the kids to read well.  So this activity might even turn out better if you make your own sticks with a fine tipped permanent marker.   Obviously, given that it is summer time, I haven’t had a chance to try this out.  But if I were to use this in the classroom, I would have them build the words while singing the sight word songs, just as I do with the letter magnets or white boards sometimes.



2.  How to Get Free Grid Clips
They always give away a few free samples of these wonderful Grid Clips when the StikkiWorks Exhibit Booth comes to conferences!  And that is always nice!  (Every time I go to a conference, I pick up a couple more!)  These are those gadgets that help you easily hang projects from the ceiling of your classroom without trying to use pins or staples, etc.  They also gave me a discount code to share also:  it is SDELV71120.  This will give you a 20% discount at checkout until 10/31/11.  I don’t know if it will work on everything on their website or not, but I guess it is worth a try, right?

Here is another thing to consider, though, as a way to get a supply of Grid Clips free!  Last year,  when I was getting my hair cut at HairMasters I noticed that they had their Christmas decorations hanging from the ceiling with Grid Clips.  I wondered whether they were going to throw away those beautiful cardboard snowflakes at the end of the season, so I asked if I could have them when they were done with them, if possible.  I was told that I could indeed have them.  When I stopped by to pick them up, I was given both the decorations AND the Grid Clips- free!  So just be aware that sometimes stores like this will give this sort of thing away- especially franchises.  Now when they gave it to me, everything was a big, giant, tangled MESS, but I gave the pile of strings and snowflakes to a parent volunteer who managed to untangle most of it. Then we cut off the strings that were impossible to untangle and replaced them.


Incidentally, the StikkiWorks exhibit booth also had this wonderful machine on display that will both fold and staple your papers into a booklet in one step in just seconds.  It’s called the BookletMate Booklet Maker.  It’s not a purchase that a teacher would make, but if a principal wanted to encourage teachers to have children make books or do journaling in the classroom, this would be a great thing to have in the staff workroom.  It retails for $799.00.  This weekend, I am posting a video on my Facebook page of how quickly it works.  I was drooling over it, for sure!


3.  Woodsy Words (AKA Pick Up Sticks With Words on Them)
Here is an idea that I found in the catalog:
Woodsy Words:  “It’s Pick Up Sticks with a Reading Twist”

How to play:
1.    Hold all of the sticks in one hand and let them fall onto a flat surface.
2.    Look for a single stick you can extract without moving any of the other sticks.
3.    Read the word printed on the stick (“flower,” “recycle,” “beach,” etc.) and then select another stick.
4.    Continue play until you bump another stick or get stuck on a word.
5.   The player with the most sticks at the end of the game wins! Put them back and start again or try to use all your words in a sentence!


Now it just seems to me that you could easily make this game yourself with tongue depressors or popsicle sticks and use only the words that you want to use.  Otherwise, you are stuck having your kids practice whatever words the manufacturer has selected.  Plus, they look like they were written on very small sticks, so this might be too hard for little eyes to read.  But I like the idea of using tongue depressors!  I think I might give this one a try!
I was thinking that I might make it a letter identification game rather than a reading game, and prompt the kids by singing the alphabet songs if they get stuck on a letter.



4.  Toppletree Game
This is another idea that I got just from looking at the catalog!  Actually, when I looked at it, I thought I was looking at a clothespin game.  Upon closer inspection, I discovered that the branches of the tree really just snap or screw on; I can’t quite tell from the picture.  But the idea that I got just from looking at it and assuming it they were clothespins was a good one, I think!  Just give the kids each a small plastic basket or bin, and some clothespins inside it.  Ask the entire group a question, and have the entire group answer it.  Each time they answer it to your satisfaction, allow them all to take one clothespin and clip it to the side of the basket.  (You could do it one person at time, but I think that it is better to keep them all actively involved.)  Eventually, they will have to clip one clothespin onto another onto another and another, creating a clothespin “tree” with branches.  If they do not keep it perfectly balanced, it will fall.  The first person’s tree to fall will be the loser.  I think that if I were the teacher, I would laugh, have them try to stand it back up and keep on playing.  Naturally, it being summer and all, I haven’t had a chance to try this game out and get the “bugs” out of it, but I think the idea of clipping one clothespin onto another each time the children answer a question is a good one because it will strengthen their fine motor skills as they play, and it will be fun.
For variations on the game, you could also have them read color words or sing the Color Word Songs and have them try to find specifically colored clothes pins to clip on to their tree.  I have found lots of colored clothespins at our local Dollar Tree store, so I think that a good supply of the pins wouldn’t be expensive.  I think that this would be a nice, easy game for an aide or a volunteer to manage, as well.

5.  Read Aloud Charts- Free Download!
I finally finished creating a set of Read Aloud ChartsHowever, I am only going to give away the August and September charts for you right now to get you started.  The entire set were quite a lot of work as far as the illustrations are concerned, so once we get our website updated, the rest of the set will go up for sale as a download for those that would like to purchase the rest of them.  Enjoy! **Update** Here they are!