A Pirate’s Treasure Chest of Learning

treasure chest

In the world of education, creativity knows no bounds. A simple shoe box, often discarded after serving its primary purpose, can be reborn into a treasure trove of learning opportunities. The allure of adventure and the thrill of discovery captivates the imagination of young learners.

When I found this handsome box discarded I saw its many potentials! So I secured it with paper tape, reinforced it on the inside (with parts of another pizza box!), cut it in the middle, covered the parts which had letters on them, tried to imitate the style of the rest of the box with various matching paints, crafted a lock, and finally, lined the interior with red wafer paper. When my treasure chest was ready, it was time to put my treasure inside! Children’s jewellery, plastic or glass gems, lucky plastic coins gathered from vasilopita pies (vasilopita is a traditional Greek New Year’s Day bread, cake, or pie that contains a hidden coin) and any other trinket I could think of!

I will use my treasure chest with my 3rd graders, since there is much scope in their 1st and 2nd Units for a re-enactment of the lessons where the treasure chest is discovered by Kelly and then used by the pirates in Captain Cook’s crew!

Here is a map in imitation of the map in Lesson 1 of Unit 1: Treasure Hunt Map

and the bamboo leaves with the panda on them (like a puzzle) in Lesson 2: Bamboo leaves

For a pirate hat have a look at my ‘Ahoy mates!’ blog post here.

Have students make their own pirate treasure chest: this activity will not only add sparkle to the lesson but also encourage students’ fine motor skills and imagination as each one of them will create their own. Have students recycle (or rather, upcycle!) materials such as boxes, cardboard scraps, ribbons, strings, or any other embellishments in order to make a treasure chest for their “treasures.”


Transforming a shoe box into a pirate treasure chest not only engages students in a fun and hands-on activity but also opens the door to a wealth of educational possibilities:

Literacy and Phonics:

Hide letters or words within the chest, prompting students to identify and spell them correctly.

Creative Writing:

Encourage students to develop pirate-themed stories centred around the treasure chest. This activity fosters creative writing skills, expands vocabulary, and allows for imaginative expression.


Introduce counting and sorting using the toy coins or jewels. Create math problems based on the number of treasures hidden in the chest. 

History and Geography:

Explore pirate history and geographical locations of famous pirate adventures. Incorporate maps and discuss the concept of buried treasures to tie the project to real-world historical contexts.

Teamwork and Collaboration:

Assign group projects where students work together to create a collective treasure chest. This fosters teamwork, communication, and collaboration skills.

Reward System:

Fill the treasure chest with small prizes, such as stickers, candy, or small toys, to reward students for exceptional work or good behaviour.


Unlock a treasure trove of educational opportunities through this tangible artifact!!!

Making (and using) a storytelling chair

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Storytelling for kindergarten (and, of course, primary school) children is highly beneficial. Not only does it inspire imagination, but it’s also highly engaging. It captivates young learners’ attention, acts as a language booster, and ignites a love for literature.

Using puppets, props (even the simplest ones can have a tremendous effect on the little ones! – try pressing all your fingers to the front, using your hand as a beak and then engage in a dialogue with it), body language and animated voice can encourage imagination and creativity and foster social interaction: children empathize with characters and engage in discussions, developing, thus, their critical thinking, a much sought-after skill not only for their personal growth but also for their academic success. Sometimes nothing else is needed when telling a story other than imagination: creating mental pictures and getting the children physically engaged through movement can do the trick (‘imagine being the wind that blows the leaves off the tree, or being the leaf thrown out of the tree by the wind!’, ‘imagine climbing up the beanstalk, careful not to slip and fall, looking down as we climb’).

Finding the age-appropriate book for our students is of paramount importance. Books that contain simple language (or you can simplify it yourself as you read), and repetitive patterns are very helpful: fun aside, repetition can boost students’ confidence, consolidation of new vocabulary and sentence structures.

And how should you narrate (or read) a story? Standing or – better – sitting in the middle of a designated storytelling area is a good idea. A storytelling chair can serve as a focal point for teacher-student interaction during storytelling sessions, fostering a positive learning atmosphere. It can enhance engagement, create a sense of anticipation, and provide a comfortable and focused environment for children, making the storytelling experience more memorable and enjoyable.

I’ve had my eye (and set my heart!) on getting one – but then I thought: why not MAKE one? So I bought a plastic chair with ample writing space and got a pencil, a rubber and some permanent markers, and some days later … my storytelling chair was ready!!!

You can see the story of my chair unfold here:

Ways to use a strorytelling chair

Tell stories and repeat them often. Children feel more confident listening to stories when they know them inside out and know exactly what comes next.

When children become very familiar with certain stories invite them to sit on the storytelling chair and recount (or repeat) a part of the story. Anyone who sits in it becomes the storyteller with powers to entrance their listeners!

Have students identify another character on the chair. What would happen if the hero of the story met another hero (and became good friends with them?) – time for some critical thinking and communication development then!


Food for thought

How about you?

How would you use a storytelling chair?


Can you find the stories that appear on my chair?

How many can you find?

(here is something that will help you 😆 Books that appear on the storytelling chair)


How many have you used in your teaching?


Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the process yourself: approach storytelling with enthusiasm and joy. Your genuine passion for the story will be contagious, and the child will sense your enjoyment and engagement.


Classroom routines


Routines in the classrooms are very important for children’s development. They help children to feel safe, comfortable and confident in the school environment but also to be organised and be independent. Research shows that children with regular routines have self-regulation skills, the building blocks of good mental health.

Routines should be clear and consistent. Creating and maintaining routines can also help us, teachers, manage the classroom.

3 things are essential for the ‘recipe’ to succeed!

  1. To integrate the routines into the daily schedule
  2. To stick to the routines,

          and, most importantly,

  1. To make routines enjoyable, in the form of e.g. games

I tried to encapsulate my experience with classroom routines and management in the following videos. These ideas helped me not only to ‘survive’ in the kindergarten, but also to make my life and the adorable cuties’ life easier and more pleasant. These ideas also work well with 1st, 2nd  and – why not? – 3rd graders.

You will find instructions on routines and classroom management (and other useful ones, I hope!) in the Tips section (Tip No5, Parts 1-7 is for classroom management).

Have a look here: 


Shark In The Park By Nick Sharratt

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Nick Sharratt is a children’s author and artist who has written and illustrated close to 300 books; his illustrations are known all over the world. (His work is split between producing his own picture books – around 40 – and illustrating for numerous highly regarded authors including favourites by Julia Donaldson and Jeremy Strong as well as the much-loved Tracy Beaker series by Jacqueline Wilson). publicity pic rectangle RGB 1

Find more about the author and his book here: Nick Sharratt

Shark in the park is a story about a boy named (Timothy Pope) who is testing out his new toy telescope in the park. He looks up, he looks down, he looks right and then left with his telescope and then he thinks he sees a shark fin ….could it be a shark? Or … ?

This is an enjoyable and suspenseful story with a lot of repetition and rhyme. It is constructed so that pages have a circular opening that mimics what the boy would see in the telescope. Then, when the page is turned, the reality is revealed! (In the hands of a gifted presenter who would pause at the proper time and have the children guessing, this book will keep children riveted!)

This book can also help young children learn directions (such as right and left). There is a lot of of rhyme and repetition, as mentioned earlier, which provides pace for reading aloud, opportunities for children to apply their phonics skills as well as the possibility of children joining in.

Children could make wonderful telescopes after reading

or say what they would see through their telescopes

What can you see through your telescope?

or even play a guessing game (alternating the pictures behind the circle) 

Shark in the park flashcards

And why not draw a shark (and other sea creatures!) with Nick Sharratt?

Draw Sharks and other sea creatures with Nick Sharratt


I hope you enjoy this delightful book!




Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body

Joseph Addison

So…. let’s get those young minds exercising!


For a host of reasons:

  • to help kids develop basic language skills
  • to profoundly expand their vocabularies
  • to widen their consciousness
  • to entertain them!

to name but a few!

The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett

front cover

A brilliant children’s book is Jan Brett’s ’The Three Snow Bears’: one of her most beautiful picture books, a wintry spinoff of Goldilocks, set in the Arctic. A polar bear family leaves its igloo for a walk to let baby bear’s soup cool just as Aloo-ki, an Eskimo girl, runs past, searching for her team of huskies, which have drifted away on an ice floe. Being a curious girl, she goes inside the polar bear family igloo to eat some soup, wear their boots and take a nap into the ‘littlest’ bed!

Not only the story is gripping, but also the wonderful, intricate illustrations, so typical in all of Jan Brett’s books: the distinctive borders and graphic side panels are hallmarks of her illustrations, and they help beginning readers by foreshadowing events.

Make sure then that kids look at the borders of her drawings: sharpen, thus their observation skills and encourage them to retell the story that takes place in the main frame, but also in the borders!

This is the way I used it with my kindergarten students:

You can see a video of how I used all this material (not at the Kindergarten, though, for reasons of children’s safety)

For the story patterns I used pics from the book. Here are the pdfs:





Here’s a worksheet (with a matching activity) I created and used:

The Three Snow Bears worksheet


For the little figures around and in the igloo I used the material for the bears I found in Jan Brett’s site and I drew Aloo-ki myself (not as well as Jan, I must admit!)

Aloo-ki and the polar bear family

For the igloo I used white self-hardening clay which I rolled into a flat sheet with a rolling pin and put it on top of a bowl covered in cling film. When the clay hardened I carefully removed the bowl and painted the igloo. Follow the steps here to make your own set:

You can also use a white plastic bowl or a plastic cup and a white plastic plate to make your Arctic scene (use blue permanent marker – and a steady hand!!!- to draw the ice blocks of the igloo).

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As a follow-up activity I made some igloos for the students, a little eskimo and a little penguin (the kids had to colour the eskimo clothes in specific colours; blue for the pullover, red for the pants and also the penguin’s flippers and beak). Before attaching them with Blu Tack we practiced placing them in or on the igloo.



Enjoy this brilliant book!!!


mary bear hybernating 1

It’s winter time! Let’s talk about animals hibernating!

But what is hibernation?

Watch these enlightening videos (I learnt a lot myself!!!)

Getting Ready for Hibernation!  and Hibernation of Animals

Here are some nice puppets: Hibernating animals puppets 


I wanted to find a simple way to show kids what the animals do when they hibernate: I built a cave using a large storage box which I covered with brown paper bags and brought my bear family (kept from the time my daughters were little …). Then, showing a picture of autumn and winter we pretended to fall asleep, while in the pictures of spring and summer we stretched out our hands to say ‘Wake up!’  The bear family entered the cave one by one, after yawning and saying ‘I want to sleep’ and at the end we covered them with a warm blanket!

We also sang the song (to the tune of ‘Frère Jacques’)

Bears are sleeping (2)

In the cave (2)

Soon it will be springtime (2)

Wake up bear! (2)


You can watch the song here in this small video I made (with the help of our music teacher, Mr John Aivazis!) 

Bears are sleeping


We also made a very simple construction with a sleeping bear (which we cut and put cotton on top of the cave) that I found here:

Hibernating bear craft



Another animal that hibernates is the cute hedgehog!

There are so many easy crafts to make with the kids (have a look at Krokotak ) but I have a soft spot for paper rolls! (find the hedgehog along with other animals in my post: Make your own zoo with paper rolls from the loo! )

This time we made a whole hedgehog family from brown clay (or plasticine) and various other materials: wholegrain or spinach spaghetti or sunflower seeds or wooden fork tines (avoid toothpics !!!)

Have a look here:

Cute, aren’t they?

This is a little song I made up which we sang (to the tune of ‘I’m a little teapot’) accompanying it with some movements:

I’m a little hedgehog 

Brown and small

Here are my spines (or spikes)

I roll into a ball

When the weather ‘s cold 

I build my nest

Away I crawl

and have a rest


Here is a small video I made (with the help of our music teacher, Mr John Aivazoglou!)

I’m a little hedgehog

Here is another sweet song about hedgehogs: The Hedgehog song

And here is a sweet video about friendship among a prickly hedgehog and other animals: Erste Christmas Ad 2018: What would Christmas be without love? 


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We also read the wonderful Jan Brett book ‘The Hat‘.

You can find the story patterns here: Kizclub story patterns

A nice activity (I found here by Jennifer Phillips is to print out the animals from the book, hand them to children and ask them to bring them when you get to the animal in the book. Easy and fun!!!

Or colour this page from the book!

You can even print the animal masks and put up a little show!!!

For more Jan Brett stuff visit the author’s website: Welcome to the world of Jan Brett



Next animal (that doesn’t actually hibernate but also keeps warm in her den) is Foxy (a little fox that I bought second hand for just £1 (!!!) at the Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Show some time ago). If you do not have a puppet or a stuffed fox you can easily make one from a paper roll (I have a photo on how to make one easily together with templates for other animals in a previous post in my blog: Make your own zoo with paper rolls from the loo!


With a smaller storage box covered with brown paper bags (again!) and a song (to the tune of London bridge is falling down), Foxy will go to sleep, too:

Foxy’s sleeping
In her den (2)
In her warm fur!


We also made a very simple construction with a sleeping fox that I found here:

Sleeping fox craft


What do you say? Shall we dance our hearts out before we hibernate 😛 ?

Hibernation song


What Does The Fox Say?


PS: I found some very nice material for flashcards and a picture with sleeping animals here:


Pete the cat!

He’s super cool, a blue furball remaining calm in the face of adversity: when his pristine, white shoes, his pride and joy, become red, blue, brown and, finally, wet, does he lose his calm? Does he cry? No, no, no! He just changes the words to his song!

That’s what makes Pete the cat so popular with kids and educators alike. Kids want to relate to such a cool type and teachers want to instil the abilities of self regulation and resilience to their students. This imperturbable blue cat is such an appealing role model for kids to relate to! (Come to think of it, why not for teachers, as well?)

Its main character’s upbeat, happy attitude, coupled with vivid colours and a memorable, repetitive ditty make the book a must-read, suited for primary students of all grades. I used it with first graders, and plan to use it not only with kindergarten pupils but older students as well!

There are a host of activities and resources that relate to the book, this delightful book, written by Eric Litwin (who brings bookwriting and music together!) and wonderfully illustrated by James Dean (not the actor, of course!)  and video.

I made this funny story prop to help pupils repeat the story (after we have read the book and watched the video). The rotating disc enables the impressive change in Pete’s shoes when he inadvertently steps in all kinds of colour-changing substances: the disc is separated in 4 quadrants (white, red, blue and brown.) The disc is covered by a green circle on top of which the cat is glued. The shoes are cut on the green surface (best cut with an exacto knife pen for more precision). All the layers are connected in the middle with the help of a split spin.

Here are some pics:

And here’s the end product, with velcro straps to hold the laminated images of strawberries, blueberries, mud and the bucket of water (found at kizclub Story Props)

Here’s how I used it with my 1st graders:


I will use some easy artwork as well from Pete the Cat Activities: Pete the Cat Rocking In My School Shoes: Coloring

Hope you will find this article useful (and not  CATastrophic!!! 😆 )

Name tags

Name tags are so useful for teachers: apart from their obvious function ( to make teachers’ life easier and help them remember their students!) they can be used in other instances.

 I will use mine in order to establish the following routine: I call out a name, ‘George, where are you?’, George comes forth, says ‘Here I am!’, I give him his name tag saying ‘Here you are’, he says ‘Thank you’ and I say ‘You’re welcome’.

Name tags can also be used to form groups for collaborative activities (could be Simon-says-type). When, for instance, animals have been taught all students with a certain animal will have to do something (e.g. bark), or when colours have been taught students can be grouped according to the colour of their name tag (yellow birdies clap their hands) etc, etc.

They needn’t be fancy: 3 or 4 free clipart animals that allow some space to write the name of the pupil drawn on cardboard (of 2 or 3 different colours), laminated and suspended by a colourful piece of yarn.

Just don’t forget to make one for the Kindergarten teacher or else s/he will be very jealous!!!

Here some pics: