A Fresh Look at “ME”

I received a very nice email from a talented reader in Australia, named Lavinia.  She told me that she really liked my book Special Me, but she asked if I minded if she redid it with updated text and graphics.  I am always happy to share, and she sent back her revised copy for me to share with you! If you would like to see my original book please click on Me Book Under the Categories on the right side of your screen. cover 5 1 name 2 colors 3 birthday 4 hand 5 foot 6 tall 7 family 8 TV 9 grow up  Lavinia also created different covers for you to choose from: cover 4 cover 3 cover 2 

Here is a link to open a pdf version that is easy to print:

I am Special

Lavinia sells things on Teachers Pay Teachers but she agreed to offer her adaptation of my book for free. Here are a few pages that she used to explain the book, including thumbnails of what the children did to complete my original book. Lavinia 1 Lavinia 2 Here is contact information if you are interested in what else Lavinia is up to!  I really appreciate the great job she did giving this book a fresh new look!  Hope you do too! Lavinia email

Small Group Organization

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i-knowDuring my teaching career I was always searching for the very best way to run my classroom.  Sometimes I even wished that someone would just tell me how I had to organize my day, but I didn’t really mean it.  The truth is, there is not one right way to do things.  Every teacher has to find what works best in his or her individual classroom, based on personality, teaching style, volunteers, space available, administrative restrictions, specials schedules, and a host of other variables.  Sometimes even a certain group of children thrive better with a different set up.  Over the years I tried lots of different ways to organize the day, but I am going to share what worked best for me.  One of my readers, Debbie asked for some information about how I used small groups and volunteers – this is for you!  Hope I don’t bore or overwhelm the rest of you – skip to the parts you think are interesting!

As a teacher I understood that my primary responsibility was to teach the district curriculum, which was based on State Benchmarks, and developed from National Standards.  We had defined curriculum for Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, and Science.  Music, Art, P.E. and Health were taught by “specials” teachers.  During my last few years of teaching my district had adopted several programs that we were required or expected to incorporate into our schedules:  Everyday Math, Reader’s Workshop, Writer’s Workshop, Handwriting without Tears, and Making Meaning; and some teachers were using Daily 5.   Each of these fine programs comes with specific lesson plans, sometimes even encouraging teachers to use scripted dialog to teach.  But as a Kindergarten Teacher I felt a huge responsibility to honor who the individual children are in our classrooms, and to use what I know about how children learn best.

When I switched from teaching half day Kindergarten to Full Day I was so excited because I felt like I had more time to teach the fundamental requirements in a way that worked well for me.  That isn’t to say that I didn’t struggle with fitting things in, interruptions, all the assessments that were required, and the huge range in my students’ readiness for what I was teaching.  Of course if I used every bit of each teacher’s manual for all those programs it would be impossible for me to get through the day, not to mention those little 5 year olds who begin the year so excited about being in school.  For the most part those programs should be tools to teach the curriculum that is required.

I know that children learn best when they are actively engaged with multisensory activities in a safe, fun environment.  I also know that it is easiest to learn when children can make connections and relate new learning to what they already know.  For those reasons I loosely organized my school year into thematic units, incorporating holidays and seasonal changes along with the study of units like:  ME – (5 senses, families, homes, feelings, etc).;  Animals –  (living vs. non-living, body coverings, habitats, etc).; Transportation (push and pull, float and sink), Weather, Ecology (earth materials), and lots more.  Using units like this allowed me to easily incorporate Science and Social Studies objectives, expose the children to rich literature and non fiction books, and it also gave lots of opportunities for hands on fun.

Oh, I do fully realize the ever-increasing pressure for reading and writing.  I also know that some districts are requiring 2 hour blocks of time set apart strictly for literacy activities.  I think you can do it all, and still use topics of learning that engage and motivate the children.   The most important thing I tried to keep in mind was that everything we did in my classroom had to be directed by the curriculum.  Whether we were acting out the Three Little Pigs, trying to sink paper boats by filling them with metal washers, or investigating how the tree outside our window looked when the leaves were changing color, we were always covering curriculum benchmarks.  When I first came around to this realization I had to look carefully at all the activities I introduced.  Some things were fun and cute, but really not connected to the curriculum.  I know that language development and fine motor skills can be enhanced during any activity where children are supported, encouraged and scaffolded by a caring adult.  But with the increased demands for reading and writing I became much more selective about the lessons and activities in my room.

I felt that the children in my class did their best work and were most ready for learning in the morning.  Many children were very tired in the afternoon, especially in the beginning of the school year.  So I structured my morning differently than the afternoon.   The afternoon was usually more low key, especially for the first half of the school year.  I always tried to get as many parent volunteers as possible and I scheduled them to come in the morning when the children had the most energy and focus.  I asked for volunteers who could commit to coming every week or every other week.  I often had parents who wanted to come once in awhile, or once a month, and they were always welcome, but I found out that those parents sometimes came along on a field trip, attended a program or class party, or some special event instead of helping in the room.  Also, parents who commit to coming regularly get to know the children and routines and really contribute a lot to working with small groups of children.  Sometimes the best use of a parent volunteer was asking her to run interference so I could concentrate on working with a group or doing assessments myself.  Volunteers who were good at that would help keep children on task and answer questions or solve problems so I would not have to divert my attention from the children I was working with.   Some parents were more comfortable than others with different activities, and as I got to know the regular volunteers I could sometimes plan my lessons and schedule activities for different parents based on what they liked to do with the children.

Here is a form I used for Parent Volunteers.  I included it in my First Day Packet.

Volunteers Needed

I know it’s taking me a long time to get around to talking about how I organized small groups, but what those groups were actually working on is the most important part.

I began each day with routines and rituals that helped build a collaborative school family environment.  I wrote about those in another post on this blog.  The more you include, the longer circle time lasts so I saved the Calendar activities, which are an important part of Everyday Math – until the end of the morning or right after lunch.  During morning circle time I always introduced or reinforced what we had been learning about.  It always included a read aloud and interactive reading and writing,  I also introduced and modeled exactly what the children would be doing for the rest of the morning.  Usually there were about 4 required “jobs” that everyone would do.  I knew that I needed to differentiate for children of various abilities and readiness, I did that through Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop, by having different expectations of children at varying levels, and by sometimes including different activities.    I ended circle time by making a list on my easel of the jobs the children would be completing that morning.  I used sight words and lots of pictures.  I encouraged the children to take responsibility for completing all the work, but I also kept check off lists to keep track.

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I laminated charts like this and put them on a clipboard so I always had one handy.  I often used this type of list where I could make a note about the child’s work or behaviors I noticed.  It was the easiest way I found to do anecdotal record keeping.

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I also gave these to volunteers to write down anything they noticed, if a child struggled with an activity or went above and beyond what was asked, etc.  I punched holes in these and kept them in a binder, it was really helpful to get an overview of how a child was doing.  If I noticed I had not made notes on a certain child in awhile I would star their name and be sure to make some notes as we worked.

My classes always made many books, completing a page for a book was usually one of the activities.  They also did many drawing and writing responses to literature, recalling facts from informational texts, adding their own ideas as a take off to literature.  Sometimes they made a construction paper project to go along with their writing and drawing because I think cutting and assembling projects is great for fine motor development and following directions.   I modeled everything I asked them to do to be sure they understood before I sent them to work in their groups.  Sometimes they also might be doing a science experiment or math activity.  Everyday Math has many math games, and I also used lots of old activities from Math Their Way.  At the beginning of the year we also made several Alphabet Books.  Sometimes they completed a page in those books too.   I realize that explaining and modeling all these activities during circle time can be overwhelming for some teachers.   Some people I worked with were much more comfortable doing one activity at a time, but I guess I am a bit of a multi-tasker.  I did this for many years and my kids always did great, we were able to accomplish much more.  I did all I could to help them including the list with a sketch of what they were to do, I put my examples up for them where they could see and remember what to do.  Of course I built up to doing several activities, I didn’t start the school year doing as much.

My children had assigned tables of 5-6 children because I found that sitting with the same group for several weeks was the best way to help the children get to know each other in our large class.  I put a different shape and different color on each table, red circle, yellow triangle, green square, etc.  I could call a group by their color “Red table please line up.”  They usually ate snack at their own table, and always sat at their table as we got ready to go home in the afternoon.  Sometimes the children did all their work at their own table – they would get the materials they needed for each job and bring them to the table, or I would have baskets of materials on the table for them.  Sometimes I would call them away from their table to sit with me individually or with a group.  Sometimes a parent might call a group to complete a task or do an activity too.  Other times the children moved from table to table as they worked.    That depended on what the tasks were and whether I had volunteer help that day.   I would often pick one activity and work with small groups of the children at a time.  Sometimes both a volunteer and myself would be working with small groups while other children worked independently.  Sometimes the volunteer would oversee one activity while I monitored the rest.  The BEST was when I happened to have more than one volunteer (I was blessed!) and we could each work with small groups.  Children gain so much more from any activity when a caring adult is interacting with them.  Regardless I asked each child to show their work, read their own writing, read the book we were making, etc. to an adult before they put it away.  Reading these child created books, and reading their own writing, was what made these activities valuable.

When I worked with a small group of students I chose my group for different reasons.  Sometimes I worked with children of similar abilities, sometimes I wanted to be sure there were role models in the group.  Sometimes I wanted to be sure that my group didn’t have too many children who needed a lot of help – I usually worked with those children individually or in smaller groups.  A lot of it depended on the task or activity I was doing.  Children not only have a wide variance in their ability, but also in the pace that they work.  Different activities take a different amount of time too, that is why rotating stations never worked well for me.  There were always those children who were not finished, or those who had been done a long time.   Other times my groups and activities were very flexible.  If there was a chair available a child could come over to work, when they were done they moved on to another job.  Check off lists helped me be sure that each child completed the assignments.  When they were done they independently got their snack, then after they cleaned up they chose a center to work/play at.   I would ask volunteers to monitor some of these activities, I would oversee others.  Again the children always showed their work to an adult before they were done.   In the morning most of the centers in my classroom were usually available – we used a clothespin chart to limit the number of children at each center.  If you want more details please look at the post I wrote about Free Choice Centers.

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During the afternoon I was usually alone in my classroom with the children.   We used that quieter time for Reader’s Workshop, Writer’s Workshop, Literacy Centers and Math activities.  The children experienced many math activities in small groups in the morning too.   At the beginning of the year I alternated between Reader’s and Writer’s workshop.  Later we sometimes had time for a block of each during the afternoon.  There were also some times that I changed and began my day with Reader’s Workshop, then moved on to regular circle time.  I have another post about Literacy Centers and the types of activities that were available.  All of those activities could also be chosen during free choice center time.

I had a series of cubbies under a large chalkboard where I kept the materials for literacy centers.  Some of these changed, others were more permanent.  I also had shelves containing tubs of books that were sorted by genre or theme.  The baskets were labeled as well as the shelves they belonged on.

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Getting Ready for Kindergarten!.006

In the afternoon I seldom allowed the children to choose among all the centers in our room.  Usually they were limited to only literacy centers – which included things like reading the room, writing the room, the writing center, our library, listening center, as well as the games and Handwriting Without Tears materials.  There were lots of opportunities to read, write, listen and speak in different ways.

Other times the children were restricted to just math materials in the afternoon.  Again, math tubs were always a choice in the morning, but by limiting choices in the afternoon I knew all children were finding time to use these materials.  Here is how I organized and stored math tubs.  The children took out the tubs and carried them to the carpet or a table to work.  The top 2 baskets A and B contained books that we were working on.  The tubs with numerals were the math materials, the shelf numbers matched the tubs in size and style so it was easy for the children to put things away.  The shelf on the far right was a mailbox – each slot was labeled with a child’s name.  I had 2 sets of those in my room to accommodate all the kids.

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It took a lot of time to introduce each of the centers – free choice centers, math tubs and literacy centers – in the beginning of the year.  I took time to explain and model every thing in our classroom before the children used it.  I brought each math tub and literacy tub to the whole group at circle time and talked about how to use and care for the materials.  Often I chose one game or activity to use in small groups in the morning before it was available for everyone to choose at the centers.  During the year when I changed an activity or added a game I would take time to model and explain it first.  I learned that taking all that time, especially in the beginning of the year when it is SO hard for them to sit still, is really worthwhile.  It makes a huge difference in how independently the children can use the materials and clean up!

It takes some experimentation to find a system that works best for you.   Nothing works wonderfully all the time with all the children.   I tried to always think about giving children opportunities to make choices every day as well as challenging them cognitively.  I wanted them to have time to work closely with a small group of other children and an adult, to be able to participate in whole group activities, and I also expected them to learn to work independently some times.  It’s a lot to ask of a little 5 year old!

Pat the Bunny Party!

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Please indulge this blessed Nana while I share a little more about my precious grandchildren!

We recently celebrated Nora’s first birthday with a Pat the Bunny party!   Her Mom made these cute invitations, using fiberfill under the bunny cut out.

We planned a game for each page of the book.  I was thinking that many of these activities could be used to reinforce 5 senses too!

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Please overlook the chewed on bunny page, Nora did a little teething on my book!

Pat bunny times

I got these giant fly swatters at the Dollar Store.

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Sharpies worked well for decorating the outside of the styrofoam cups.

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Here are the pictures we used to match the smells.

I used baby food jars to make the smelling containers.  I punched holes in the lids and covered them with a strip of construction paper.

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Directions for games5

I found these stick on glasses, mustaches, etc. online and bought an unbreakable mirror at the Dollar Store.

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scratchy face dirWe made cut outs on the ends of a large cardboard box for the children to climb through.  On the inside of the box we attached bubble wrap, sandpaper, corrugated cardboard and cotton batting for the children to feel.

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Directions for games6

Here are the pages for the books we made.  I just stacked all the pages and cut through them all and stapled them to make individual books for each child.  Some of the guests could do their own writing, parents wrote for the others.

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Okay, I was stretching things a bit for the Bye Bye page!  Put they liked knocking down the cans. 

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Nora had a wonderful time at her party – oh, and she loved her new wagon too!

 

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Happy 4th of July!

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You can’t start off any holiday better than with delicious donuts!  We enjoyed ours while waiting for our local small town parade!  Later in the afternoon we had a family party and I decided to share the games we played.  All of these were very simple, fast games – nothing that new or exciting but the kids had lots of fun

I hadn’t really intended to make a check off sheet, but when Owen arrived he asked me to make a list of all the games – so I couldn’t resist!  I found a booklet of 4th of July stickers at a dollar store, so the kids put a sticker on their chart when they finished each game.

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The games were set up all over our backyard and driveway, and the kids and parents went off to do them any way they chose.

Bucket Brigade

Water fun is always a hit!  Lily loved filling and pouring the water, and she always wanted to pour it into the same tub as Mommy!  That way they both win!

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Skyscrapers

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Car races I thought I had a bunch of these ramps that I brought home from school but I couldn’t find them.  Luckily, my in-house handy man nailed together these ramps in just a few minutes.

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Airplanes

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Float and Sink

My original idea was to use margarine tubs or paper cups and put pennies in them to make them sink.  When I was gathering materials around the house I found these cardboard food containers from Gordon Food Service, like they use for nachos, etc.  So we used those with the little people from Fisher Price toys.  They loved this game!

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Tower of Cups

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One of our guests took the direct route and just pushed the bean bag into the pyramid of cups – it was very effective!

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We all had lots of fun!  I hope you had a wonderful, fun and safe holiday too!

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The Pout-Pout Fish!

Pout Pout Fish I am so grateful to the Kohl’s Cares Program, because they are sharing so many wonderful, quality books for only $5.  I hadn’t had a chance to read this new book they are offering, and I just love it!   It is so much fun to read stories that have a catchy refrain that makes children want to join in and chant along. You just can’t help but join in … “I’m a Pout-Pout fish, with a pout pout face, so I spread the dreary wearies all over the place!” refrain The illustrations are really engaging too.  The colors are bright and the characters have personality.  The story is told in rhyme, and includes some great new vocabulary words like tentacles, grimace, and locomotion.  But my favorite part of this book is the way it shows how your feelings affect other people. Young children are usually very egocentric, it can be difficult for them to see another point of view, or understand other people’s feelings and reactions.  In this story. while the Pout Pout Fish was spreading dreary wearies all over the place, other ocean animals were trying to encourage him to cheer up.   The whole idea that when you have a “pout pout face” you ARE spreading dreary wearies is a good introduction to a discussion about how our feelings, and the way we act affects other people. I thought it would be fun to make a chart – or list – of other types of feelings, and what you would be spreading if you were experiencing those feelings.  Here are a few ideas … chart You could recite the chant, replacing Pout Pout like this: I’m a Giggle Giggle Fish, with a Giggle Giggle face so I spread lots of laughing all over the place. You could also encourage them to think of positive behavior traits too – a Friendly Friendly Fish, or a Sharing Sharing Fish, etc. Here are some clipart pictures of fish. If you click on the pdf link after the pictures you will find enlarged copies.  You could laminate these, or put them on necklaces and pass them out to children.  They might work in pairs or as a whole group to think about what trait each fish has – friendly, pokey, angry, helpful, etc.  and then what they would “spread all over the place.”    Then they could chant the phrase from the book about their fish. Fish page1 Fish page2 fish pics     Later the children could choose what kind of fish they would be and create it by cutting out a construction paper fish or drawing a picture.  Then they could think and write about what they would be spreading “all over the place.”   Here are a few samples of writing papers you might like to use. writing1 Or you could post their writing next to fish they draw or make: 2 on pg I noticed that the children in my class often had trouble filling in the blanks with this type of writing – if they couldn’t read all the words they weren’t sure what they were supposed to write, and where to write it – so I like this form a little better. Writing no pic   I’ve been having fun reading this book to my grandchildren!.  I hope you get a chance to pick up a copy at Kohls and that you’ll enjoy reading it to the children in your life too!

More Fun with The Very Hungry Caterpillar

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Our community library hosted another great family event this week, this time all the activities were based on Eric Carle’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  Last year I shared some of the ways I used this wonderful picture book with my Kindergarten classes, check out the link under the Insects section if you are interested.  After this terrific evening I have more great ideas to share.   The kids loved getting to meet the giant caterpillar, and they even got a chance to dance with him!  And I got a shameless opportunity to share a picture of my youngest granddaughter!

One of the children’s librarians began the evening by retelling the story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar using a flannelboard, felt food pieces and a wonderful sock type Caterpillar puppet.  The felt pieces all had large slits cut in them so they fit over the sock caterpillar on the librarian’s arm.  Very cute!

After that parents and children were free to explore all the projects and activities that had been prepared and set up around the large community room.  It was very well organized and clear instructions were posted on each table giving directions for the craft or game.  Oh – and one of my favorite ideas – they set out adhesive name tags for the children to wear, and they were all punched with several holes, I heard several parents and children laughing and enjoying how the caterpillar must have nibbled on them!

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The first activity my grandchildren decided to do was making Hungry Caterpillar bookmarks.  They used red and green Bingo markers to make their caterpillar on a strip of card stock, then they used a hole punch to make nibble holes, and a hole to tie a ribbon at the end.  I loved having kids use hole punches in Kindergarten, I think it is a great way to help develop hand strength which is so important for fine motor control.  They had a new kind of hole punch for the children to use – they were easy to squeeze and most of the children were able to punch independently.  I am sure I need one of these!

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Here is 2 year old Lily’s bookmark!

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The librarians had made large cardboard cutouts of some of the foods that the caterpillar ate.  They were cut out of corrugated cardboard and painted.  The parents held them up and the children had so much fun crawling through the holes.

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My favorite project of the evening was making butterfly wings!  The project had been prepared ahead of time by cutting open brown grocery bags, they were shaped so they were larger at the outsides and a bit narrower in the center.

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On the back of the grocery bag, the inside of the wings, they attached 2 handles, one on each end.

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The set out glue sticks and small squares of tissue paper, along with crayons to decorate the wings.  They decorated the sides of the bag that did not have the handles.  Glue sticks are by far the most convenient, but a lot of the tissue paper squares fell off because the children didn’t press them into the glue.  I used to use watered down glue and paint brushes, the tissue paper adhered more easily, but sometimes they had to be left to dry awhile and that would not work for the library program.

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But the most fun part was using the wings when they were done!  The children held onto the handles and the wings went across their back.  When they moved their arms the wings flapped in and out!  It was so cute!

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Another fun idea was making pompom caterpillars, glued onto a spring clip clothespin.  The jiggly eyes had already been glued onto the red pompoms.

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The children had fun “feeding” the hungry caterpillar a variety of colors and sizes of pompoms.  This encouraged even my little ones to recall the food from the story – they called the purple pompoms “plums,” the red ones were “apples,” etc.

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The children used dry erase markers for the final activity.  I loved the idea of gluing large pompoms on the ends of the markers as erasers.

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They provided a laminated paper with the numerals 1 – 5.  The children needed to remember the foods at the beginning of the story, and draw them.  Then they put on a cute caterpillar glove (another great idea – the caterpillar was made of felt and glued onto the pointer finger of the glove), and pointed to each food as they retold the story.  At the bottom of the page there was a butterfly that was covered with dry erase marker and they had to rub off the marker to reveal the butterfly.

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So I see the fruit on this paper were not drawn in the right order – of course that wasn’t done by my grandchildren!  Mostly because I prompted them!  It might have helped to have a copy of the book close by in case children needed to check out which food came next, but it really didn’t matter anyway – the whole idea was to think about the story and to have fun!

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It was such a fun time!  Thanks and hugs to the Commerce Township Community Library, and all the dedicated, talented librarians who provide wonderful programs like this for our kids!

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Seeds and Flowers!

Our local libraries have been presenting some great FREE programs for children!  Last night my son and I took the kids to a Spring themed pajama night.  I always wish more parents knew that these great opportunities are available.  These programs include movement songs, stories, crafts, snacks and sometimes even parachute play!   What a great way to introduce children to some of the types of activities they will engage in when they go to preschool or kindergarten.

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This cute flower project made me think about some of the wonderful books I loved sharing with my kindergartners.

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flower seed books3 flower seed books2 flower seed books1 During the spring we always studied seeds and the parts of plants.  That usually included planting some quick growing seeds so the children could watch this exciting process and take home a small flower.

Dr. Jean has a fun song to the tune of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.  It introduces or reinforces the parts of a flower.

Of course the children touch their head, body, stick out their arms for leaves, and their feet for the roots!

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You can find this song on Dr. Jean’s CD – Kiss Your Brain

We made this project using the children’s hands to trace the roots and flowers, then again with their fingers close together for the leaves.

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The children wrote a short phrase about the job of each part of the plant.

Here are the details of the cute project the children made at the library.  I loved this because the children could pull the pipe cleaners down for the roots, and push them up to simulate how the flowers grow!  They always love to make a project they can play with!

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They started out with a 3 oz. paper cup that already was wrapped with paper, and 5 small holes were punched in the bottom.  You could easily make this with fewer flowers, 3 would still be great!

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They provided stickers to decorate the outside of the “flower pot” and the little flowers with holes inside were precut – probably a die cut.  Older children might cut their own flowers too!

The children poked one end of the pipe cleaner through a hole in the cup and put a flower on the other end.  Adults helped the little ones bend the ends of the pipe cleaners to keep them in place.

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Next they stuffed small strips of brown tissue paper into the cup around the pipe cleaners to make it look like dirt.

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With the pipe cleaners pushed all the way up the little flower pot will sit on the table.  The kids loved pulling the flowers down into the pot and pushing them up to “grow!”

Here are the directions that were posted on each table.

directions  I love simple, inexpensive projects that the kids can play with!   You might want to check out your local library and share the information about great programs like this with the families in your class!  Thanks to the Milford Public Library for a fun evening!

Happy Easter!  Happy Spring!

Some Kids Won’t Say Sorry!

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I bought this book in honor of one of my grandchildren who is often pretty resistant to saying “I’m sorry.”  I know that refusing to say sorry is not that unusual, and that the issue can become a battle of wills – which no one wins.  In Samantha Berger’s book, Martha’s family deals with the problem by leaving her out of fun activities and she decides to give in and apologize.  I thought this book could be followed by brainstorming and writing about a time you should say “I’m sorry.”  Here is a writing paper you might like to use.

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The whole issue made me think about what is really important here.  I believe that children need to realize that their actions affect other people.  They need to develop compassion and learn to care about how other people feel.  I’m not sure rattling off an insincere “sorry” really accomplishes those goals.  But there is another part of the problem, apologizing is considered good manners and common courtesy.  When a child refuses to apologize adults might look at him as uncooperative and even unkind.

I came across a blogpost that suggested requiring a child to do or say two kind things to make up for one unkind action or word.  Here is a link to the post in you would like to read about it:

http://kidlutions.blogspot.com/2009/10/when-sorry-doesnt-cut-it-put-downs-and.html

I think you will have to copy and paste it into your browser because I don’t know how to insert a link (sorry!)

I think this idea has some merit – it offers good opportunities to talk about how the other person feels, and what the child did or said that was hurtful.  It also encourages helpful and kind behavior.  But it doesn’t really help the child conform to the social expectation of apologizing.  It kind of sounds like if you do something nice it makes up for doing something hurtful.

In my Kindergarten classroom I often used role playing for situations like this.   Sometimes I would take on a role and exaggerate it myself.  I might ask a child to pretend he did something unkind to me, and then refused to say “I’m sorry.”   I would tell the child that I didn’t like what they had done.  I would tell them that it was hurtful.  I got into my role and acted a little silly, to make the kids laugh and get involved with the role play.  Then I would stop and ask the class what the other child should do.  Then I would prompt the child to say he realized he had done something hurtful and wouldn’t repeat the behavior.  Sometimes I would re-play a scenario that happened in our classroom.  Role playing several times helps children become comfortable with the language.  It raises the expectations of the class that we will treat each other kindly and be helpful and not hurtful.  It gives the children a chance to practice saying “I’m sorry.”

I still think the bigger issue is helping children learn to treat each other, and adults, with compassion and respect.  Role playing can help with this.  I also took every chance I could to talk about how characters in a story were feeling, in the classroom I would take the opportunity to talk about how children felt when there was a problem over a toy or an issue on the playground.  This is something I brought to parents’ attention too, young children are naturally egocentric, but we can help them begin to think about other people’s feelings by talking about characters in books and on television.

Here are two other books that I used in my classroom.

Bucket

Heartprints

Our school adopted the Bucket-Filler program one year.  This book uses the idea of filling or emptying other people’s buckets when you are helpful or hurtful.

Heartprints, by P.K. Hallinan, really emphasizes how people can help other people feel good by doing acts of kindness.

I love both of these books and used them every year with my Kindergartners.

I just heard of a resource book called Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes… by Scott Turanksy and Joanne Miller.   The emphasis of this book is helping children learn to honor other people.  I am fascinated with this idea.  I looked up the definition of honor – it is to regard someone with respect.  I love the idea of teaching children not only to tolerate each other, but to honor each other.  I haven’t read the book yet, but the reviews were very positive.  Here is a link to copy and paste if you are interested.

Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes... in You and Your Kids

Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes… in You and Your Kids

Buy from Amazon

So what are they doing about my little grandchild who refuses to say sorry?  They are practicing at home.  They are noticing every time anyone else says they are sorry and talking about it.  They are encouraging and praising.   They are appreciating all the wonderful things he does do, and loving him just the way he is.

Building Children’s Brains

brain work child

I am very excited to share a wonderful resource with you.  I’m sure you are all familiar with some of the extensive brain research that has impacted how we teach, and even how we relate to children in the last few years.    I got permission to share an audio recording with you that explains brain development in very understandable language.  Dr. Joan Lessen-Firestone, the Director of Early Childhood Education at Oakland Intermediate School District here in Michigan, presented this information and the CD I received was sponsored in collaboration with the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health, the Michigan 4C Association, and the Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health.  Dr. Firestone is a wonderful teacher, and I have listened to this information again and again.  I also made copies for my adult children before they had babies of their own.

01 Building Brains 1

Dr. Firestone gave me permission to share this information.  I hope you will listen to it and share it to help build a basic understanding of brain development.

I have been thinking of all you teachers so much the last few weeks, with many of you working on report cards and holiday celebrations, and then with the devastating events that have overtaken the news.  I wish you all a wonderful and peaceful break from your jobs, and special times with your families.  I know you never really quit thinking and planning even when you aren’t in school each day, but please take time to enjoy your blessings.

Merry Christmas!

The Gingerbread Man!

Fairy Tales are one of my favorite kinds of stories to retell, and I especially love telling stories with a refrain that encourages the children to chime in.  Of course these stories are also great for acting out.  There are so many different versions of The Gingerbread Man, and so many take-off stories like Gingerbread Baby, etc.  Here are a couple that I used.

 

 

The characters are often different, and sometimes the story ends in a different way, but the basic idea is that they bake a gingerbread man and he runs away.

Here are some pictures of the characters from one version that I used to make necklaces or headbands for kids to act out the story.  Sometimes I reduced the size of the pictures and mounted them on popsicle sticks to make stick puppets too.  You could also glue them onto an upside down paper lunch bag and make puppets that way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a little game that can be used to retell the story.  After coloring and cutting out the Gingerbread Man and Fox, fold them so they stand up and can “move” along the gameboard.

 

Here are pictures that can also be used to sequence and retell the story:

 

 

Along with our reading, acting out and retelling of this story we made cinnamon applesauce Gingerbread Men ornaments (equal parts cinnamon and applesauce – then cut with a cookie cutter).  We also cut out gingerbread men shapes and used paint and markers to decorate them.  Afterward. each child would write a short sentence about something or someone that he or she could outrun.

 

 

I would make a display of this writing along with their paper decorated Gingerbread Men.  On cooking day we sometimes made real Gingerbread men to eat too!

I know that I often felt like I was in this story right about this time of year saying  Run, Run, as fast as you can!

I hope you are able to slow down and enjoy this special time with your children!

 

 

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