Brain Basics

This set of GREAT Skills trading cards on the brain and motivation includes:

Brain Facts: The human brain weighs about 3 pounds and is 75% water. It uses about 20% of the oxygen in the body. The brain is very complex, but a few Brain regions at Brain Basics include the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for executive functions, and the amygdala, where the fight or flight response takes place. There are five kinds of brain waves, and the brain is influenced by chemicals known as neurotransmitters.

A to-do list for your brain:

Learn new things, and exercise your brain with games.

Scientific American debates the effectiveness at brain games at Brain Games: do they really work. See one man’s experience at Training my Aging Brain from Discover magazine. But if you’d like to try a few just in case, there are some free online brain games at this Pinterest Board.

Eat dark chocolate! Psychology Today says so.

Meditate. 7 ways meditation can change the brain from Forbes.

Exercise. Harvard School of Medicine says so.

Brainbows from the Center for Brain Science

More Resources:


2016 Screen and Page

I’ve devoted this year to reading books that have been adapted into movies, and then watching the movies. It’s been an interesting year! This is a great way to run a book group, because there are lots of resources to help, and if you don’t have time to read the book, you can still watch the movie and participate. (although without comparing the book to the movie!) At the Screen and Page on Goodreads, I tried to find both “Theater Reads” (currently in theaters) and “Watch at Home Reads” (available on DVD or to stream) options. I found that at times there weren’t too many options for theater reads that might lead to good discussions. I stuck to options for adults, and some of them are rated R.

I started out with Manhattan Night, based on the book “Manhattan Nocturene” by Colin Harrison. If you like dark and twisty, you might like them, I quite enjoyed both.

Next up was the Oscar winning “Room” by Emma Donoghue. Some of these titles were outside of what I usually might read or watch, and led to some pleasant surprises.

“Me Before You” by JoJo Moyes was another pleasant surprise. I bought the book and shared it with several friends. We planned to go to the movie for ages, but it was hard to get our schedules on the same page! We finally got to see the movie recently, enjoyed it a lot, and felt it closely followed the book.

I liked the book “The Light Between Oceans” by M.L. Stedman. Haven’t had a chance to see the movie yet, but it’s on my list.

Another dark and twisty one: “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins. Loved both the book and the movie!

“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak is one that’s been around for awhile that I had not gotten around to. I struggled a bit at first with the book, but I’m glad that I read it before watching the movie. Brilliantly filmed, with great characters, and it’s in part about the power of books and reading.

“The Dressmaker” by Rosalie Ham was another pleasant surprise that was a stretch beyond what I normally read. I enjoyed the book, and hope to see the movie soon.

Along the way, I watched some book-to-movie adaptations without getting the book read.

It’s about a wrap for the year 2016. I enjoyed this so much I intend to keep it up in 2017!





Reading Record Punch Card

How can libraries create excitement about coming into the library to check out books or other items on a regular basis? I’m thinking a monthly drawing with really neat (but not too expensive) book related prizes. When patrons check out (at least) once a month, they get a monthly punch on a Reading Record Punch Card, and can enter their name for the monthly drawing. If they get a punch each month they can enter their card for the annual grand prize drawing. This is aimed at adults only, no kids allowed! (why should they be the only ones having fun?!) Actually, school librarians could modify the idea a  little and have fun with it too.

You could even set up a selfie photo booth. A word bubble could say “Check me out! I checked this out at the library!” with a checkerboard background.

There are so many great possibilities for prizes. There are a lot of book lovers out there! Here are some of the prize ideas I’ve come up with so far.

See lots of ideas at this Pinterest BoardPinterestLogo

  1. Color Your World at the Library: an adult coloring book & pencils.
  2. Sweeten Your World at the Library: hot chocolate & chocolate trail mix.
  3. Organize Your World at the Library: a Household Binder Notebook.
  4. Light Up Your World at the Library: a book light & this mug.
  5. Rock Your World at the Library: a music CD or gift card, or vintage record label coasters.
  6. Game On! Level up Your World at the Library: a big wooden scrabble letter sign that spells READ or scrabble letter fridge magnets from PBS.
  7. Caffeinate Your World at the Library: a coffee mug & Starbucks gift card.
  8. Turn Up Your Creativi-tea at the Library: Novel Teas.
  9. ACT-ivate Your World at the Library: a movie quote mug & CD of great movie soundtracks or popcorn.
  10. Carry On at the Library: a Where the Wild Things Are tote bag or pouch. Or a Keep Calm & Carry On tote.
  11. Relax & Read at the Library: a literary pillow or a Keep Calm & Read On mug.
  12. It’s Time to Read at the Library: a literary clock or a Book Lover’s Calendar.
  13. Annual Grand Prize: maybe a literary garden sign post, or a Once Upon a Time lamp.

I looked for things that might appeal to anyone, and most cost around $10 or $15. It would take a little bit of a marketing budget to pull off. This idea might also work for bookstores looking for a way to encourage customers to return on a regular basis. And those in search of great gifts for book lovers, of course these things would totally work. Which ones do you like the best? What should be used for the annual grand prize? Let me know your thoughts at the Daily Planit Facebook page.

Here is a Reading Record version of the punch card:

Fun Online Phonics Games to Practice Reading Skills

Smart Skills You Need to Take You Far

“Perseverance!” That’s the rally call chosen by the class of adult learners I work with as a literacy tutor. Learning to read isn’t an easy skill to master, and it takes time and practice. But sometimes practicing the skills needed for reading can be fun! Many websites provide free online games that make learning more fun.

When I began volunteering with the organization to help adults learn to read, I discovered something astonishing. I may have learned to read a long time ago, but I didn’t realize how little I knew about the process of mastering this skill! I wanted to be a super good tutor, so I began to look for information on the Internet to learn more about how to learn to read.


There are many tools and sources of information for learning to read that are available online, but it takes a lot of time to find the best resources. If you are looking for great resources organized logically in one place, just check out the eBooks I put together. The free eBook “Learn to Read With Fun Online Games to Practice Reading Skills” has many links to free online games. This provides easy access for students to practice their skills anytime they have access to a computer and an Internet connection. Please note that many of the games require Flash and may not work well on some tablets and smartphones. Download the free pdf eBook by clicking on the link at the end of this post. If you want to learn more, consider the “Learn to Read: Smart Skills You Need to Take You Far” eBook, which provides more information and resources at a low cost. Now available at Amazon, see the link at the end of this post.


In becoming a literacy tutor, I learned about the importance of phonics: understanding the relationship between letters and sounds. There are 44 sounds in the English language. With a few exceptions, the consonants make one sound. Vowels can make different sounds, and there are some clues to tell if the vowel is long or short. Finally, there are some other sounds made by different combinations and conditions. The games in this post are targeted to practice the skills needed to understand the sounds of the English language.


Short and Long Vowel Sound Clues

(If you are thinking, “what in the world is a diphthong?” see the glossary of literacy terms at the end of this post!)

Vowel Clues

3 Clues of a SHORT vowel:

  1. CVC (Consonant-Vowel-Consonant) Words, which have closed syllables.
  2. Closed syllables.
  3. A vowel that comes before double consonants, like apple, letter, dinner, off, summer.

3 Clues of a LONG vowel:

  1. Silent e.
  2. Open syllables.
  3. Diphthongs-some vowel teams make a sound like a long vowel.

To learn more about these clues and the other sounds, check out the eBook “Learn How to Read: Smart Skills You Need to Take You Far” at the end of this post.

Please note that many of the games require Flash and may not work well on some tablets and smartphones. 

PHONICS  Online Games
ABCs/Letters-uppercase & lowercase Alphabet antics at learnenglishkids
Letter Sounds The quiet machine at, initial sounds at funfonix
Short & Long vowel sounds

Vowel Sort & Short Vowel Sort games at 

Coconut Vowels at abcya (free on pc only), short or not at, color short & long vowels at

Syllables: Open & Closed word jumbler game at

syllable games at

syllable factory game at skillswise

Double consonants

double consonants game at

CVC words (Consonant-Vowel-Consonant)

Jungle Jumble from & CVC words at, CVC words at & put it on the shelf at

Silent e

Silent E game at and from

Diphthongs (vowel teams) that make a vowel sound

Diphthongs at and the Coconut Vowels game at arcademics. BBC games (in Explorer) and Forest Phonics from ictgames.

Consonants w/more than 1 sound: hard & soft c & g, s

Hard C and Soft C sort from (here’s a no flash version)

Consonant Digraphs Beginning & ending digraphs sadlier-oxford. Forest Phonics also has some digraphs.
Consonant Blends

blends at and some final consonant blends at kizphonics

Diphthongs that make new sounds special vowels and dipthongs at kizphonics.
Bossy r

R controlled words at Starfall, R control race at Mr Nussbaum, and a Game from PBS


Treasure Behind the Mask at Sadlier-Oxford

The games at Symbaloo

All the websites in this post in alphabetical order: – a teacher-created website that provides fun and educational games for kids. Pre-K through 5th grade, and includes games for learning letters (also numbers and more) It is free for use on pcs (ads) and can be obtained for mobile or tablet use with a subscription. – arcademic skill builders are free online educational video games that offer a powerful approach to learning basic math, language arts, vocabulary and thinking skills. These are highly engaging and some are multi-player. Apps are available for both Android and iOS. – has many resources on a variety of topics. To access worksheets and more resources there is a subscription fee, but there are many games available for free for learning reading skills. – free online games (and worksheets) for phonics. – free online games for phonics

Kizphonics – an online phonics program which provides a few games on each level free, access beyond that requires a membership.

Learn English Kids -from the British Council – free online learning games

Mr Nussbaum – has lots of literacy games and interactive resources – a website from the Public Broadcasting System which is aimed at preschool kids. – an educational publisher of books and materials for grades PreK to 12+. 

Skillswise – provided by the British Broadcasting Corporation, this website includes a section of English Games. There is lots more about reading, writing, and math for higher levels. Some archived games are at as well. – provides many resources for free. A premium subscription is available that removes ads and lets teachers set up student account to track progress. – provides some free content on phonics aimed at early grade levels, with expanded content available for a subscription. – provides many resources for free. Premium subscription removes ads. – some free online games for reading.

Glossary of Literacy Terms

  • Digraph-a pair of letters representing a single speech sound
  • diphthong-two vowels combine to make one sound
  • graphemethe written representation of a phoneme
  • phoneme-the sounds that make up a word
  • phonicsthe relationship between letters and sounds
  • schwaa lightly pronounced “uh” vowel sound that can be represented by any vowel
  • syllablea unit of speech generally containing only one vowel sound

Too many people struggle with learning to read. Low literacy levels often mean limited options for employment, according to “A First Look at the Literacy of America’s Adults in the 21st Century ” at the National Center for Education Statistics. Help to make a difference by sharing these resources with anyone who wants to learn how to read.

Which games do you like the best? I’d love to hear your vote for a favorite game, or if you know of some others that would be great to add. Also I appreciate knowing if any of the links change. Just leave a comment at the Daily PlanIt Facebook page.

Get the Free eBook “Learn How To Read With Fun Online Games” (pdf) with links to these free online games, plus even more games to practice more advanced skills for reading. Download it to your computer, smartphone, and/or tablet for easy access to the games wherever you are. The eBook includes a tip for a way to play Flash games on mobile devices.

Now at Amazon: Learn more with the eBookLearn How to Read: Smart Skills You Need to Take You Far.” This book also includes explanations, charts with examples, and links to videos and other resources for learning the needed skills. Save tons of time with everything you need to learn how to read organized and easily accessible in one place.

Printable Games for sale at my Super Tutor Tools store at Teachers Pay Teachers.

  • Final Consonant Blends-set of cards, each card has six words that end with a final consonant blend. Roll a die to build words and practice them.
  • Roll a Silly Sight Word Sentence-is a fun, free way to practice sight words.

Find still more resources at my:

PinterestLogo Pinterest Board on Reading

YoutubeLogo Youtube Playlist on Reading

Cultivating Relationships

The social aspect of our lives is undeniably important for our well-being and happiness. People who have strong connections with others report higher levels of happiness. Relationships can also be challenging at times, and can be a source of unhappiness if we don’t know much about them.


Levels of Relationships

Relationships move through several stages or levels, ranging from casual acquaintances to close intimate relationships. When we first meet someone, we exchange information and learn more about each other. Some relationships don’t progress any further. We might not ever see the person again, or they may be a casual acquaintance. Others move through the levels as a relationship grows. Sharing information about yourself is called self-disclosure, and knowing what to share and when is an important relationship skill to develop.

Level One includes casual acquaintances: classmates, group members, neighbors. At this level, we share our public self: observable general knowledge. We may make small talk about the weather, our jobs, sports, etc.

Level Two -Friends & Family: co-workers, cousins, aunts & uncles, nephews & nieces. We share the personal self: opinions, beliefs, and might discuss events and news.

Level Three -Close Friends, Immediate Family. We share the private self: ideas and problems, and might ask for advice or share what’s going on in your life.

Level Four -Intimate Relationships: a spouse or partner, best friends. We share the intimate self: reactions, thoughts & feelings, needs & wants. Explore deeper questions about goals, challenges, emotions.

Cultivating Relationships – Plant a garden

For a relationship to grow, it must be cultivated and tended to carefully. To cultivate a relationship, plant seeds of conversation with kindness, and attention. Sprinkle them with shared experiences and time. Fertilize them with caring and thoughtfulness, and add plenty of the sunshine of laughter. Pull out weeds of conflict that can strangle healthy flowers with lots of good communication. The closer the relationship, the more time and attention is needed to maintain the closeness.


How to Make a Friend

Be the kind of person you would like to have as a friend

Join a group to meet others with similar interests

Be friendly-greet people, smile, use their name, make conversation

Be interesting-share ideas & thoughts

Invite people to join you for activities you enjoy

Spend time together

Be kind and thoughtful. Call, email, send cards and gifts on special occasions

Learn more with Smart Skills Trading Cards on Relationships, and The Science of Making Friends from the Wall Street Journal. See more links about Friends at Delicious.

Smart Skills Trading Cards

GREAT Skills are smart! This set of Trading Cards is about Positive Psychology.


Set One includes four cards:

  • Martin Seligman – Pillars of Wellbeing
  • Mihaly Csikszentmikalyi – Flow
  • Carol Dweck – Mindset
  • Tal BenShahar – Happiness

Links to TED Talks and videos are at the Daily PlanIt Youtube playlist on happiness. Collect the cards as you learn about each skill, developing strengths to close the skills gap and open doors to opportunity. Download the Smart Skills Trading Cards at Slideshare.



2015 Book Roundup

booksTo prepare for planning goals for 2016 I am reviewing the past year. Here is a look back at the top five books I read in 2015.

  1. 18 Minutes by Peter Bregman – Getting the Important Stuff Done
  2. Start by Jon Acuff – How to Be Awesome in 10 Steps
  3. Give and Take by Adam Grant – Book Review
  4. The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson – Top Ten Ways to Improve Productivity
  5. The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry – Finding Your Sweet Spot. I didn’t write a post about this book, but I especially liked the concept behind the Personal Idea Pad. It was a good reminder that combining ideas to come up with new ones is fun, and should be part of a regular review.

I plan to keep track of the books I read in the upcoming year with a printable My Reading List from Money Saving Mom. (pdf) For a free printable annual metric chart and annual planner for tracking regular reviews, see an annual review.


Passport Cover for Book Lovers


Turn a Mead pocket calendar into a Passport Cover

Are you looking for a simple, inexpensive gift idea? You won’t believe how easy it is to make this for your favorite book lover!

  1. Buy a Mead pocket calendar. These are available lots of places and only cost a few dollars. I found mine at Big Lots this year. The kitten in the picture is the calendar removed from the plastic cover.
  2. Find an image of a book cover that the person loves online.
  3. Right click and copy the book cover image, then paste it into a wordprocessor.
  4. Resize the image to about 6″ x 7 1/4″ and print it-I used cardstock.
  5. Alternatively, you could right click on the image and “save image as…” to save it to your computer. Then open the image in a photo editor to resize and print it.
  6. Cut out the book cover image and slip it into the plastic cover of the Mead pocket calendar.

This can be used as a passport cover, a checkbook cover, or even as a pocket calendar. Anyone who loves books will appreciate this personalized gift!

10 Ways to Be Like Dollar Shave Club

I have a new goal: Be Like Dollar Shave Club, because they know how to do things right.

  1. First they captured my attention with humorous commercials. They made me feel like this would be a fun club to join.
  2. They offer a great solution to a really annoying problem at a great price.
  3. Their fun vibe continues on their website. At the same time, they simply and efficiently answer questions and make it easy to sign up.
  4. They follow up. I received a friendly email to check and see if all was going well, and if I was happy with what I ordered. As it happens, I hadn’t received the package and wasn’t sure what to do next.
  5. They give great customer service. They immediately responded, apologizing and sending out a replacement package. They even said the next set of blades are on them for the inconvenience.$Shave
  6. The new package arrived exactly on my husband’s birthday and I was able to give him his gift on his special day. Woo Hoo!
  7. The packaging is really fun too. 
  8. It’s a great product. The razor is way superior to the products we had been using, and my husband absolutely loves it. Plus we never have to think about replacing the blades. Win Win!
  9. When you get great customer service, and become a devoted fan of a brand, you want to share the love. I put a post on my Facebook page, and now I’m sharing on my website. And the positive word of mouth continues to spread.
  10. I’m thinking about how I can be like Dollar Shave Club. Anyone who provides a product or service should consider it too.

The Habit of Complaint

When I worked at the library, one of our volunteers was the sweetest little old lady you can imagine. There were days I could tell that she wasn’t feeling her best, but she always got up, got dressed, and gave her best. And with never, ever, a word of complaint. She was an inspiration.

Around 80% of human talk in groups, is complaining.

I recently read this in the article “50 Psychology Facts Everyone Needs to Know” at Wow, I thought, “that seems awfully high.” And then I had one of those days when things weren’t going all that well. My husband was on a trip, and I poured out all my trials and tribulation in an email to him. Hmmm, maybe that percentage is actually pretty accurate. Sometimes it does help to share our problems with others. But I got to thinking: what if instead of complaining 80% of the time, we chose instead to express our gratitude, our appreciation, our praise, and our caring? What if we converted our habit of complaining into something positive instead? Even if we change the percentage a little bit, we will be improving both our own lives and the lives of others!

It reminded me of a movement started by the Reverend Will Bowen of Christ Church Unity right here in Kansas City Missouri. A few years back he asked his flock to take a pledge: to swear off complaining, criticizing, gossiping or using sarcasm for 21 days*. Those who take the challenge are issued little purple bracelets as a reminder of their pledge. If (or more likely, when) they catch themselves complaining, they switch the bracelet to the opposite wrist and start counting the days from scratch. I haven’t tried to obtain a bracelet yet (looks like it could take awhile), but any bracelet could work for a reminder.

Why not take it just a little further: don’t just stop a negative habit, replace it with a positive one. Practicing gratitude has been proven to increase our happiness. Are you ready to take the challenge? Find yourself a bracelet, grab a Seinfeld chart to track your progress from, and get started today!

*Studies now show that habit change takes an average of 66 days.