Monday, December 14, 2009

Gingerbread Lane

Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man! How many of us recognize this famous line? Here are some familiar – and some not-so-familiar – gingerbread stories. Mmmmmm…I can smell the gingerbread already!

Happy Eating…oops… I mean... Happy Reading!

  • Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett
  • Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett
  • The Gingerbread Man by Jim Aylesworth
  • The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup (thanks to roseuttmiller for this suggestion!)
  • The Gingerbread Man by Karen Schmidt
  • Musubi Man: Hawaii’s Gingerbread Man by Sandi Takayama
  • The Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Squires
  • The Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst
  • Gingerbread Land by Katie Grrim
  • The Gingerbread Kid Goes to School by Joan Holub

More Gingerbread Fun

· Gingerbread Collage: Cut gingerbread pattern out of felt or construction paper. Give children various collage items to decorate their gingerbread boy/girl: buttons, sequins, yarn, ribbon, glitter, felt shapes, wrapping paper scraps, etc. You can string the gingerbread people together and hang them in the classroom!

· Gingerbread Play Dough: Make your favorite play dough recipe and add spices (ginger, nutmeg, allspice) to give your play dough a gingery smell!
· Gingerbread Ornaments:
Make gingerbread ornaments (scroll down to the bottom for the gingerbread ornament recipe but save all of the other recipes to use at a later time!)
· Gingerbread Cookies: Jan Bret has a recipe for Gingerbread Baby Cookies and Icing. When you cook with children, it’s always great to have a recipe chart. Here is a gingerbread recipe chart that you can use to create your own chart!
· Runaway Gingerbread: This was always a favorite activity in my classroom. After you make the gingerbread cookies (recipe above) take them to the kitchen to bake. While the children are busy or outside, take the cookies out of the oven and hide them someplace in your center/ school (someplace clean and safe of course!). When you bring the pan to the classroom to show the children they will see that the cookies are missing and have fun away! The class will have to go on a hunt around the school for their cookies! Have other teachers in on the gag so that the teachers can say things like, “I just saw your cookies in my block area…I think they went to the office…” The children will get so tickled at having to search for their cookies!
· Gingerbread Map: After the children have found (and eaten) their cookies, have them make a map of all the places they looked for their cookies!

· Gingerbread House: Visit your local craft store or general merchandise store (or even your local grocery store) and purchase a few gingerbread houses. This is a great way to get the parents involved – invite them in and assign one parent to a small group of children to make a gingerbread house! Of course, after you take plenty of pictures, have fun eating the gingerbread!

· Same and Different: The teacher should print gingerbread cookie patterns – make enough so that you have 5-7 pairs. Decorate each pair of cookies identically with crayons, markers or paint. Laminate the patterns. Have children match up the pairs. For younger children, you can make the pairs more obvious older children, make the differences in the pairs pairs a little more subtle!

· Ginger Journal:
Use this card pattern to make a front/back cover for the journal. Insert blank pages an each day of the unit have children draw/write about a different topic. Some journal topics can include: draw a gingerbread person and give him/her a name, draw a picture of your favorite part of the story, make up a story about your gingerbread person, etc…
· Ginger Bread Cake: Try a simple gingerbread recipe or you can buy gingerbread mix in your grocery store (usually with the brownie and cake mixes).

· Gingerbread Rebus: Make a chart with this rebus story or make up your own with the students!

· Favorite Book Graph: Make a copy of the cover of 3-5 gingerbread books that the class has read. Have children write their names on a small gingerbread pattern and place it next to the story that they like the best. When the graph is complete, have the children count to see which story was the favorite. Use comparison language such as, “What story has the MOST/LEAST votes?”
· Visit these GREAT Jan Brett Links:
Making Gingerbread Baby Cookies

  • Jan reads and draws Gingerbread Baby

  • Gingerbread Baby Board Game

  • Interactive online gingerbread house

  • Gingerbread Mural Patterns

  • Thursday, December 10, 2009

    Holiday Celebrations in Preschool

    So many schools and early childhood centers find themselves trying to be so culturally fair that we erase holidays from our curriculum altogether. We have become so afraid of offending someone that some of us just act as if the holidays don’t exist. To that I say, BAH HUMBUG!

    Now do not misunderstand me. We MUST be culturally sensitive to the children and families we work with each day. We cannot decorate a Christmas tree in our classroom and ignore the fact that some families may not celebrate the holiday. Holidays are a time of joy and wonder. Many children are excited about their Christmas trees, Hanukkah presents, or Kwanzaa kinaras. And for us to simply ignore that excitement is unfair. Preschoolers should be allowed to share their excitement with each other. This is one way that children will learn about each other. We have to learn about and embrace our differences if we are to learn acceptance.

    Here are some suggestions for having an inclusive and culturally relevant December in your preschool:

    1. Start by talking to your students’ parents. Survey them or speak to them individually. Ask them what type of traditions they share. Ask them if there is any part of their celebration that they would like to share with the classroom.
    2. Refrain from taking the tourist approach to holidays (“This is how Jewish children celebrate Hanukkah” and “This is how African-Americans celebrate Kwanzaa”). You must recognize that not all families celebrate the same holidays in the same way. You cannot stereotype a group of people and they way they may or may not celebrate. So rather than sharing stereotypes, just have the children talk about how they celebrate in their homes. Make it personal!
    3. If you have children in your class that are Jehovah’s Witnesses, talk with their families about how they recommend holidays be addressed. Some families often have celebrations that are not attached to a specific holiday. Be respectful and hopefully the parents will see that you are genuinely trying to be inclusive.
    4. Avoid the “Party Spiral.” Don’t spend all month talking about all of the Winter Holidays only to end up having a Christmas Party as your culminating activity! This sends the message that while all of the other holidays are “nice,” Christmas must be the most important so we have to have a party!
    5. Do not dedicate the whole month of December to holidays. By the third week, the children will be on holiday overload!
    6. Focus on things that the holidays have in common: many celebrations include lights/candles of some kind, the gift of giving/love/kindness, etc. Have children collect toys or gloves for those that are less fortunate (or some other type of community service).
    7. Realize that each year, with each group of students, your Holiday discussions will be different – and they should be! Personalize and Individualize!!!!

    Below are some holiday books that I enjoy and a few more that my Twitter Followers recommend. During this busy season, never forget to take the time to curl up with a good book. And when you are doing your shopping, remember to pick up a good BOOK (no assembly required)!

    Season’s "Readings"

    · The Spirit of Christmas by Nancy Tillman
    · The Polar Express by Chris Van Alls burg
    · The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett
    · The Twelve Days of Christmas by Jan Brett
    · If You Take A Mouse to the Movies (Special Christmas Edition) by Laura Numeroff
    · Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer
    · Mooseltoe by Margie Palatini
    · Merry Christmas Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
    · The Seven Days of Kwanzaa by Melrose Cooper
    · My First Kwanza Book by Deborah Chocolate
    · The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola
    · Christmas Around the World by Mary Lankford
    · Light the Lights! A Story About Celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas by Margaret Moorman
    · Lights of Winter by Heather Conrad
    · Christmas Around the World: A Pop-Up Book by Chuck Fischer

    Twitter Faves

    · How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss (amandagarces and Mozeeski)
    · ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (MariaV2B)
    · Corduroy’s Christmas by Don Freeman (lovelyladylibra)
    · The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (IdealECE , mpreble1 and YTherapySource)
    · All for the Newborn Baby by Phyllis Root (VividScope)
    · My First Kwanzaa by Deborah Chocolate (VividScope)
    · Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera (jstano1)
    · Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup (roseuttmiller)
    · Olive the Other Reindeer by Vivian Walsh (Librariansview)
    · Santa’s Stuck by Rhonda Greene (BabetteR)
    · Mortimer's Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson (libmaryann)

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    To Play or Not to To Play: That is STILL the Question

    I came across an article in the Washington Post today that brings to the forefront the debate on the value of play. The article suggests that this debate has been ongoing among early childhood educators...but I wonder if this is really true. Somehow I believe that most early childhood educators know, value, understand, and respect the important role that play has in the preschool classroom. I think the debate about the value of play is one that some parents and legislators have. Legislators want children to pass tests, parents want children to be successful in school (i.e. to pass tests), so early childhood educators find themselves in a position of having to defend why play is such an integral part of our curriculum. The debate really isn't one among early childhood educators, it really is a debate that we have with the rest of the world!

    The Post article recognizes that the debate about play really becomes an issue when schools are placed in a position of having to achieve certain benchmarks of federal legislation. With three and four year olds increasingly being integrated into public school programs, they are at the mercy of testing methods that are inadequate or inappropriate for their developmental ability.

    The article quotes Education Secretary Arne Duncan who spoke at the NAEYC conference: "If we are to prevent the achievement gap and develop a cradle-to-career educational pipeline, early learning programs are going to have to be better integrated with the K-12 system." I couldn't agree more! But it seems now, that young children are expected to assimilate into an already existing K-12 system instead of having that system reworked to accommodate the unique needs and learning styles of young children. We all learned in preschool that you can't fit a round peg in a square hole... well, maybe you only learned this if you went to a school that valued play and exploration.

    The Post article points to research that suggests what early childhood educators already know: young children who have a chance to play and explore have better social skills and reasoning ability, both of which are predictors of future school success. Surely, we have some significant improvement to make in the world of early childhood education: higher training requirements, more communication with the K-12 system, and more training for teachers of high-risk or ESL preschoolers. But the answer is does not lie in creating a society of children who can pass tests but cannot think creatively. We have to start the discussion and kudos to the Washington Post and Education Secretary Arne Duncan for starting the conversation (again)!

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Germs Make Me (and You) Sick!

    Well, in case you haven't noticed, my weekly blog has been on hiatus because I've been under the bed for the last week, sick, sick, sick! So today is the first day I've been able to focus my eyes and coordinate my thoughts enough to write and it took me 2.2 seconds to decide upon my topic for this week. In fairness, I will give some of the credit to this idea to PBS Teachers. Last night I attended an awesome (and FREE) webinar called, Helping Kids Understand Viruses and Vaccinations with Sid the Science Kid. During the session, some of the participants expressed the everyday challenges we face in the classroom with helping children to learn the important habits that we all know spread germs. Several of us started exchanging ideas that we use in the classroom and I thought this might be a good place to expand that conversation.
    So here we are in the middle of cold and flu season and people are still deciding whether to get the seasonal flu vaccination, where to find the H1N1 shots, and how to survive these upcoming weeks and months without getting sick. Despite the lingering questions, there are things that we know that we can do right now in our classrooms to reduce the spread of germs. Below you will find some of my favorite books for preschoolers that I hope will inspire a healthier classroom environment for you.

    Germs Make Me Sick by Melvin Berger

    • Listen to the book at PBS Kids/Reading Rainbow.
    • Turn your dramatic play area into a Doctor's office! Be sure to have several dolls and stuffed animals to act as patients. Items to include: gauze, toy doctor kit, band aids, note pads for prescriptions, calendar for appointments, telephone, etc...

    Germs Are Not for Sharing by Elizabeth Verdick

    • Make Germ Stopper Badges for the children and award them when children are seen doing things to prevent the spread of germs (washing hands, sneezing into elbow, etc).
    • How do germs spread? Cover one child's hand with flour (some teachers use glitter, lotion, or paint) to represent germs. Then let that child shake the next child's hand, and then let that child shake another child's hand, and so on...This helps give children a visual idea of how germs spread, even though we can't see them.
    Those Mean Nasty Dirty Downright Disgusting but...Invisible Germs by Judith Anne Rice

    • Make "Sneezing Faces" by having the children decorate a paper plate to look like themselves. Trace the child's hand on skin-toned construction paper; then cut it out. Glue a tissue on the nose area and then glue the hand on the tissue. Here is an example.
    • Hand Wash Scramble: Take any hand washing poster such as this one cut out the steps and laminate them individually. Have children practice putting the steps in order.

    Wash Your Hands by Tony Ross
    • Make up a hand washing song for your class.
    • Have the class illustrate their own hand washing posters to post at each sink. The posters should illustrate each of the four steps in the process.
    Resources for Teachers

    Share your ideas:
    • Do you have a favorite hand-washing song?
    • How do you remind your preschoolers to wash their hands?
    • What kind of information do you share with the parents of your students?
    • Do you have other books or activities that you use to teach children health-related information?

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    Happy 40th Anniversary Sesame Street

    This week I am swamped with things to do. There are projects unfinished, articles to write, a fundraiser to plan, extra hours to be worked, and mounds of work to be done. So yesterday I posted on Twitter: "Hey Tweeps... no new blog this week -- I'm a busy, busy bee - BUT I will re-post some previously mentioned (and wonderful) BOOKS OF THE DAY!" I felt confident that I could cross off "Write Blog" from my Things to Do List. And I went to bed happy.

    And then I woke up this morning. I happily went to check my email when I saw a familiar pair of orange legs on my Google Page and I was reminded that Sesame Street's 40th Anniversary is fast approaching! Well, I thought, I cannot let the day pass without paying a little homage to the show that is so synonymous with childhood.

    I am thirty-eight years old so I have literally grown up with Big Bird and Friends (my, hasn't he aged well?). I have so many fond memories of watching Sesame Street. What's amazing to me is timelessness of the show. My niece, who is not yet two, knows all of my old favorites like Big Bird and Cookie Monster and she's met some new friends along the way like Elmo, Zoe, and Abby Cadabby. I am amazed when I hear her singing Rubber Ducky and C is for Cookie. Of course, she listens to those songs on her Mommy's i-Pod while I had the old LPs (which I think are still stored in my parents' basement).

    Take a walk down Memory Lane by checking out these CLASSIC CLIPS from Sesame Street! (Oh how I looooooved Grover! Cookie Monster was blue and fuzzy but in my mind he had NOTHING on Grover! In fact, one of his books made by BOOK OF THE DAY Monster Mash blog!)

    Well, I feel better that I took time out of my day to share a little bit of my childhood with you. Happy 40th Anniversary Sesame Street! I am looking forward to a year full of PBS excitement!

    Visit the Sesame Street Store to get your FREE Big Bird Google Doodle T-Shirt with every 40th Anniversary item purchased!

    Sunday, October 25, 2009

    Monster Mash

    While you might not want to do an entire "Monster" theme for your preschool or kindergarten class, this is the time of the year when many youngsters might begin discussing monsters, bats and other scary things. Here are a few monster ideas you can use in your classroom from A to Z Teacher Stuff and Pre-Kinders.

    So here are a few books that young children might enjoy:

    • There's a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer
    • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
    • Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley
    • The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone
    • In a Dark Dark Wood: A New Twist on an Old Tale by David A Carter

    Monster-Related Classroom Activities:

    • Real or Not Real File Folder Game: Get a pocket folder and collect various pictures. Title and decorate the front of the folder (You can name it Real or Pretend?) and write "Real" on one pocket and "Pretend" on the other pocket. Laminate the pictures and the folder (use an exacto knife to cut the lamination over the pockets in the folder so that that the pockets are usable). The object is for children to sort the pictures appropriately. For examples, pictures of monsters, unicorns, superheroes, etc would go in the "not real" pocket. While apples, pumpkins, fire trucks, etc would go in the "real" pocket.
    • Paper Plate Monsters: Give children paper plates and collage materials (yarn, wiggle eyes, confetti, construction paper, buttons, etc) and allow them to create their own monsters.
    • Monster Math: Make monster cut-outs out of felt. In small groups do simple math problems with the children. Example: One monster had a party and invited 2 friends, how many monsters were at the party?
    • Monster Hunt: Change the words to old favorite, "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" and instead go on a monster hunt!
    • Monster Sequence: Cut out monsters from smallest to largest and have students put them in order.
    • Cyber Monsters: Use a program like Kid Pix and have children create a monster. Put the monsters into a Power Point Slide show!

    Friday, October 23, 2009

    Just What the World Needs...Another Baby Who Can Read!

    I wrote the original post a few months back, but today, I saw an article from the Baltimore Sun about Disney refunding money because of accusations that the company may have overstated the educational benefits of Baby Einstein videos. This is another example of a product, in my opinion, that seeks to exploit a parent's desire to do what's best for their child. Is there anything wrong with making and selling these products? No, after all, this is a free country. Parents should be able to buy what they want for their child and if they want their toddler to watch these videos, then so be it (even though the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages TV for children under two). But parents should not be duped into thinking that these products offer a magic solution to teach their baby to read. The magic is in the parenting: Read, Talk, and Sing. THAT'S the magic!

    Visit the Campaign for a Commerical Free Childhood.

    When I was first inundated with commercials posters, videos, and talk shows promoting these programs promising to teach babies to read, I hoped, no I prayed, that this was just a passing fad like leg warmers or sea monkeys. The videos of little babies reading flashcards annoy me to no end. I know, I know...I proclaim to be an advocate of early literacy. So why am I so agitated by these baby reading programs?

    OK, here's the deal: I just think babies have more important stuff to learn. Exposing children to language and literacy in meaningful and relevant ways is what helps children become happy and effective readers; reading skills rarely come in a neatly packaged box tied with a bow.

    The biggest problem I have with these programs is that I think they capitalize on a parent's desire to do the right thing. Parents want to raise smart babies and most of what these programs promise can be provided for FREE. One of these programs cost as much as $200!!! A parent who provides a literacy rich environment can probably achieve the same (or better) results without having to spend enormous amounts of money. It's like those credit repair companies who swear that they can repair your credit for the low cost of $199.99 but all they do is call your creditors, which you can do yourself for the low cost of FREE.

    The first five years of a child's life is a time of rapid brain growth and parents and teachers are right to take advantage of this period of wonder and amazement. But, what is the advantage of a baby who can read the word "dog" but can't point to a dog in a book, who has never seen a real dog? I'm just saying that it is about BALANCE and EXPERIENCES. Really...what is the rush? Do we stand a 4 month old up on his feet in an effort to make him "walk"? Because surely if he walks at 4 months old, he will be the best walker in his class by the time he gets to kindergarten! Why do we have to rush children? Why do the wonders of infancy have to be punctuated with flashcards and DVDs?

    Here are things that parents and early childhood educators can do to promote early literacy skills in young children

    • Talk to your child. Sounds simple but many parents don't do it. Reading is nothing more than oral language written down so children need to have a solid sense of oral language. Talk about what is happening when you change her diaper. Describe all of the things you see on your walk. Talk. Talk. Talk.
    • Read to your child. I know that this sounds like another no brainer. But it's a crucial step in learning to read. Reading to your child often is just part of the process. Read with emotion. Point to some of the words in the book to help children make the connection between written and spoken words. Choose books with interesting pictures, rhythmic texts, and predictable plots.
    • Siiiinnnnggg.....sing a song. Music has been proven to have a positive effect on the ability to learn. Music exposes children to language, patterns, and rhythms all of which are related to reading!
    • Visit the library or connect with friends to find new books. Look for books that are sturdy and durable (like board books) so that babies can touch, hold, and manipulate the books. Baby books can be expensive so visit the library or swap books with friends/neighbors!
    • Recognize that children learn from repetition so even though you should look for new books often, never abandon the favorites because children will want to hear them over and over and over. Early strides towards reading start with some imitation and memorization so read those favorites often. Your baby will let you know what their favorites are!
    • Point out words and letters in the environment when it is appropriate. If toddlers can recognize the McDonald's logo then we know that they can recognize other letters. They learned the McDonald's logo probably because they see it often or because the place has something that they enjoy. So use environmental print whenever the opportunity presents itself: the box of Cheerios on the breakfast table, the K on the K-Mart bag, headlines in the newspaper, etc... print is all around us and we don't have to pay $200 for the fancy packaging!
    • Provide your child with rich and varied experiences. I suspect that at least part of the reason why these type of programs work is because they require parents to spend a certain amount of time providing planned experiences with their child. So, why not do that anyway without the fancy kit? Take a walk, join a play group, go to the zoo, blow bubbles, paint a picture, make a tent, do a puppet show, find wonders in the world!!!! Remember things that are old news to us (a lemon, a butterfly, an empty box) are NEW to babies and toddlers!!!!
    • Remember that children are rapidly growing in all areas of development. It is important to expose your child to activities that will promote the overall growth: Social Development (do you really want a child who can read but doesn't know how to take turns or say please?), Physical Development (obesity is a huge problem among today's children. Learning to navigate the environment is important for infants and toddlers), and Problem Solving Skills (so, your toddler can read but can't figure out how to put together a three-piece puzzle) are important areas that parents and teachers must not ignore.

    Do I think these teach your baby to read programs are harmful? I don't know. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't recommend TV for children under the age of two. Other studies link TV watching to disorders such as ADD and ADHD. I really don't think that parents who purchase these type of programs are plopping their children in front of a TV just for the heck of it. I know that any parent who spends $200 on an infant reading program is doing so because they believe it will benefit their child. I don't blame parents who want their parents to be ahead of the curve. As parents, we all want our children to excel. I am confidant that most of the money spent on these type of programs could be better spent doing things that really matter to your child... and I can guarantee that the things that matter most to your baby have nothing to do with flashcards and DVDs!
    Reading is not a sprint. It's a long distance marathon.

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Batty Batty Bats

    Bats are often wrongly depicted as scary, dirty, blood-sucking creatures, so this is a good unit to do during this time of year because it will help your children (and some adults!!) distinguish between fact and fiction.
    I would begin this unit by asking the children what they know about bats. Write down (but don't dispute) what the children say. At the end of the unit, go back to the chart and see if the children can identify things that were true and things that were not true. This is a good way for children to reflect back on what they have learned!
    The books below are a combination of story books (like Bat Jamboree) and information books (such as Amazing Bats). It's a good idea to talk with the children about which books are story books and which books are information books so that they begin to learn the difference between "real" and "pretend."

    Bats by Gail Gibbons
    • Visit WildWatchCams and watch video of bats and live bat-cams!
    • Bat Body Parts: Cut a large bat pattern and label the major parts of a bat. Here is a diagram from Enchanted Learning that can be adapted.
    • B is for Bat: I am a fan of using a child's environment to teach literacy skills. So if you are studying bats, then it is a good time to reinforce the /B/ sound. Give children paper shaped like a bat and let them draw other things that begin with B.
    • Rhyme Time: During small group time make "at" word families with the children: write the letters "at" on a sentence strip. On a cut-out of a bat, write other letters that will make words when added to "at". For example, write the letter "B" on a bat cut-out. When the children put the "B" in front of the "at" they will make the word "bat." Other "at" words: cat, fat, hat, mat, etc...
    Bat Jamboree by Kathi Appelt

    • Handprint Bat Craft: Use this template from First School
    • This is a counting book so do some Bat Math! Check the local dollar stores or craft stores for bat stickers, which are easier to find during this time of the year. Give each child a sheet of construction paper with numbers written on it. The children should count and place the appropriate number of stickers on the paper. For younger children, you may want to use the numbers 0-5 while older children are likely to be able to count higher.
    • Also read Bats Around the Clock (by the same author) and then dance like the bats in the book. You can also use this book to introduce time.
    • Make play-dough and give the children bat-shaped cookie cutters.
    • Bat Song from

    Bats Are Sleeping (Tune: Frere Jacques)

    Bats are sleeping,
    Bats are sleeping,
    Upside down,
    Upside down.
    Sleeping in the morning.
    Waiting for the night to come.
    To fly around.
    To fly around.

    Zipping, Zapping, Zooming Bats by Anne Earle

    • Bat Map: Show children a map (or globe) and place a bat shaped cut-out on all of the places bats live (everywhere except Antarctica)
    • Helping Hands: Have children draw a picture of some ways that bats help us.
    • Night Creatures: Introduce the word nocturnal. During circle time, have children think of other animals that are awake at night.
    • Measure It! Use yarn (or links) to show the difference between bats' wingspans (some are as small as 3 inches while others are as wide as six feet).
    Outside and Inside Bats by Sandra Markle (Note: While this book may be geared towards older readers, preschool and kindergarten students will enjoy the facts and photographs; You may want to read certain parts of the book each day.)
    • Make a Slide Show that children can view on their own while visiting the Computer Center. (Here is a PowerPoint, Batty About Bats, that I made some time ago about bats. Some of the photos and information might be interesting and helpful. By uploading your PowerPoint to SlideShare, children can watch it at home with their families!)
    • Visit the Organization for Bat Conservation. There are many resources and photographs.
    • Provide the students with bat-shaped writing paper.
    • Make bat finger puppets.

    Bats at the Library by Brian Lies
    • Take a Trip: If you have a public library close by, take a visit!
    • Bats Everywhere: Make up a class story change the title (ex: Bats at the Mall, Bats at the Post Office, Bats at the Supermarket... etc).
    • Using the class story created above, have children narrate the story and use Voice Thread to record their narration. Upload the story and illustrations and children can watch their story over and over again! They can also share it with parents and other family members.
    • Read Bats at the Beach by the same author. Compare and Contrast the stories and/or illustrations.
    Amazing Bats (Eyewitness Junior) by Frank Greenaway
    • Learn more about Echolocation with this activity from Scholastic.
    • Visit National Geographic for Kids Site about Vampire Bats
    • Learn how dolphins also use echolocation.
    • Bats are the only mammal that can fly. Make a list of the ways bats and people are alike (babies drink milk, baby bats need help from mother/father bat, have hair/fur, etc).

    Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

    • Put on a puppet show! Folkmanis makes some of the best puppets I've seen. Here is their bat puppet.
    • Make a Venn Diagram comparing birds and bats. How are they alike? How are they different?
    • Partner with another class that is also reading Stellaluna and share emails, letters,and/or drawings.
    • Allow children to listen online to the story at Storyline Online.
    • Watch the Foxy Fruit Bat Video from National Geographic for Kids.
    • Make a Friendship List - Have children list the qualities of a good friend and talk about why Stellaluna and the bird became friends.
    Bat Loves the Night by Nicola Davies

    • Read the online story of Echo the Bat by Ginger Butcher and NASA. The story concludes with an activity that may be a bit advanced for younger students to complete on their own. But you can use the story to create your own age-appropriate "quest" for students to follow Echo.
    • Make nighttime water color paintings: On day 1 give children water color paper, wide paint brushes and blue water color paint (The Liquid Water Color from Discount School Supply works well). Have them paint their whole paper blue. It's OK (and preferred) if the painting has various shades of blue. The next day, when the paint has dried, give the students thin paint brushes and tempera paints and allow them to paint a night scene - encourage them to include nocturnal animals!
    • Make a class book about nocturnal animals. Have each child draw a picture of one animal that is awake at night. Bind all of the pictures together in a class book.

    More Batty Resources

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Music Makes the World Go 'Round

    Music Mondays

    Every Monday I will list some of my favorite songs or CDs for Early Childhood. Feel free to add your own favorites!

    • Song of the Week for October 19, 2009: In the spirt of the upcoming Halloween Holiday, how about a song to the tune of the Adams Family?

    Days of the Week

    Days of the week, (snap snap)

    Days of the week, (snap snap)

    Days of the week, Days of the week, Days of the week. (snap snap)

    There's Sunday and there's Monday,

    There's Tuesday and there's Wednesday,

    There's Thursday and there's Friday,

    And then there's Saturday.

    Days of the week, (snap snap)

    Days of the week, (snap snap)

    Days of the week,Days of the week,Days of the week. (snap snap)

    • October 12: Autumn Leaves are Falling Down Music and Lyrics at
    • October 5, 2009: The Mozart Effect- Music for Children, Volume 2, Relax Daydream and Draw (CD)
    • September 29, 2009 Greg and Steve: The Number Rock (on the We All Live Together CD)
    • September 21: Baby Beluga by Raffi: Book and CD

    • September 21: Baby Beluga by Raffi: Book and CD
    • September 14: Check out Music for Little People's 49 cent Downloads
    • September 7: Smilin' Island of Song: CD
    • August 31: Bibbidi Bobbidi Bach: CD
    • August 24: Where Is Thumbkin? Book and CD
    • August 17: I Like Me by Dr. Thomas Moore MP3
    • August 10: The World is a Rainbow by Greg and Steve MP3 and Lyrics
    • August 3: Big Beautiful Planet by Raffi MP3 and Lyrics

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    Should Child Care Employees Be Required to Get Flu Vaccines?

    Salt Lake City Vaccinates 4,000 Seniors

    I learned a few weeks ago that medical staff at some hospitals are being required to get flu vaccinations. On one level this makes absolute perfect sense to me... hospital workers come in contact with thousands of people each day. Doesn't getting the vaccine prevent the hospital workers from potentially contaminating all of the people they come into contact with each day? Won't having the vaccine protect the hospital workers from the hundreds of people who drag themselves to the ER with the flu?

    We require children to get shots before they enter school - for their protection and for the protection of others... isn't this the same principal? What if you need emergency care at the local hospital and the hospital is shut down because most of the doctors, nurses, and technicians are home recovering from the flu? Some hospitals are even changing their visitor policies, preventing children under 18 from being in the hospital unless they are a patient. Have we gone too far?

    So I began to think about our field of early childhood... should child care providers be required to get flu vaccinations? What about those caregivers who specifically work with infants younger than six months? These infants, who are too young to get a flu vaccination, are at great risk if an unimmunized caregiver exposes him or her to the flu virus.

    I'd like to know what you think: Should childcare employees be required to get the seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccines? If so, who should pay for the vaccine - the employee or the employer?

    Here are some recent news stories about Child Care environments and the Flu:
    Flu Resources for Early Childhood Programs:

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009

    Book of the Day Activities: Apples and Pumpkins

    The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons

    • Visit Scholastic's site for a Life Cycle activity and learn how to sprout apple seeds!
    • Serve warm apple cider with a real cinnamon stick. This is especially soothing after coming in from the playground on a brisk fall day.
    • Ordinal Numbers: Photocopy and laminate the stages of the apple tree. Have the students put them in order and help them to use the words first, second, third, etc.
    • Have an apple taste test. Allow students to try various types of apple then pick a favorite. Make a graph showing which apples were the favorites! Invite visitors to participate in the apple taste test and add to the classroom graph.
    • Way up High the Apple Tree Fingerplay:
    Way up high in the apple tree,
    Two little apples smiled at me.
    I shook that tree as hard as I could,
    Down came the apples....

    Ummmmm were they good!
    The Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Steven Kroll
    • Size Ordering: Cut a series of pumpkins in various sizes. Children can put them in order from biggest to smallest or vice-versa.
    • Look online for video or photographs of Biggest Pumpkin Contests.
    • Get a few pumpkins for the class and weigh them. Make a Slide Share story of the project to share with parents.
    • Seed Counting: At the math table provide children with small cups that have a number written on each one (1 through 5 or 1 through 10 depending on the ability of your children). Give them a bag of pumpkin seeds collected from a pumpkin (rinsed and dried). Children can place the correct number of seeds into each cup.

    The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall
    • Apple Prints: cut an apple in half and let children dip them in paint (red, green, yellow) and make prints on paper. Note: before doing this activity you may want to evaluate your own philosophy and feelings on using food for art activities. Some programs and teachers believe that food should not be wasted and should only be used for eating.
    • Make an easy Apple Pie. There are many child-friendly recipes online like this one.
    • Read the Apple Star Story. There are many versions online. As you read the story aloud be prepared to have an apple to cut in half (width-wise). The seeds will make a star pattern! You might want to practice before trying this one with children.
    • Apple List: Cut a piece of chart paper into the shape of an apple. Ask the children to name all of the things made with apples. Write their responses on chart paper (apple pie, applesauce, apple juice, apple butter, apple cider, etc..)

    Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington

    • Have the children predict what they will find inside of a pumpkin. Cut the pumpkin open and allow children to explore the inside.
    • Roast the pumpkin seeds!
    • Fruit or Vegetable: Ask children if they think a pumpkin is a fruit or a vegetable. Then, learn what actually makes it a fruit (namely, having seeds inside). Read It's a Fruit, It's a Vegetable, It's a Pumpkin by Allan Flower.
    • Paper Bag Pumpkins: Have the children stuff a paper lunch bag with newspaper and, with adult help, tie it at the top with green or brown yarn. Have children paint the bag with orange paint and paint the "stem" (the top part that is tied) green or brown. The next day, after the paint had dried, the children can use black paint to paint a face on their pumpkin.
    Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden by George Levenson

    • Make flannel board pieces of the stages of a pumpkin and allow children to put them in order.
    • Talk about other "Garden Circles" like apples.
    • Watch the video of Pumpkin Circle. Available in VHS from Amazon.
    • Pumpkin Collage: Give each child a pumpkin cut out. Then give them a variety of orange, and brown tissue paper squares (previously cut out by the teacher). Children use a paint brush and watered down glue to put the tissue paper onto the pumpkin (using the brown paper for the stems). OPTION: Give the children large pages of tissue paper and let them tear it before gluing. The tearing of the paper adds extra fine motor practice and also gives the collage a different look. Brush the pumpkin with a thin layer of glue and allow to dry.
    Picking Apples and Pumpkins by Amy and Richard Hutchings
    • Make applesauce. Here is an easy recipe from Mr. Rogers and PBS Kids
    • Compare apples and pumpkins using a Venn Diagram. Here is one classroom example.
    • Use yarn to measure how big around the apples and pumpkins are. Compare the sizes. Use a scale to record the weights as well.
    • Practice the difference between the A sound and P sound. Give children a basket of small toys/items that begin with A and P. Allow them to sort the items by the correct letter.

    It's Pumpkin Time! by Zoe Hall

    • Plant pumpkin seeds.
    • As a class, write a story about pumpkins and have the class illustrate it. Scan the illustrations and make a PowerPoint or Slide Share presentation that students can watch at home with their families!
    • Make blank books by cutting paper into the shape of pumpkins. Staple a few pages together and place the blank books in your writing area to encourage children to write or illustrate stories.
    • Five Little Pumpkin Fingerplay:
    Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate,
    The first one said, "Oh my it's getting late."

    The second one said, "There's a chill in the air."
    The third one said, "Well we don't care."
    The fourth one said, "Let's run and run and run."
    The fifth one said, "We'll have a lot of fun."
    Then "wooooooooo" went the wind,
    And out went the lights,
    And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.

    More Pumpkin Books from Scholastic!

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009

    Book of the Day Activities: Autumn Trails

    Last Tuesday as I was taking my dog for a walk and stopped dead in my tracks. Wait a minute! Something looked different! Hmmm.....although the lawn was still summer green, it was speckled with yellow leaves (*gasp*)! Could fall be here already? But wait! I wanted to take one more dip in the pool. And I didn't get to wear that green sundress I bought on sale! Urgghhh...what about that cookout that I've been wanting to have? Those sparsely sprinkled leaves on my lawn reminded me of all those things I was planning to do this summer; but I realize that I can't stop Mother Nature so I may as well get on the bandwagon. Here are a few books and activities that will help you ease into the autumn season:

    Red Leaf Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert

    • Leaf Journals: Choose a tree near the school's playground. One that the children will see every day. Have the children observe it on a regular basis (once or twice a week) and draw pictures in their leaf journals. The children and teachers should take photographs of the tree as well. This project could last several weeks into the beginning of winter when the tree becomes bare!
    • Coffee Filter Leaves: Cut coffee filters in the shape of leaves. Give students eyedroppers (like these from Discount School Supply) and small cups of red and yellow liquid water color (or you can add food coloring to water). Students add red and yellow to their leaves a few drops at a time to create a design.
    • Color Mixing: Add red and yellow food coloring to the water table. Before doing so, discuss with the children what they think (predict) will happen. Also add red and yellow paint to the easel to continue encourage color mixing.
    • Finger Painting: Cut finger paint paper into the shape of leaves. Give students red finger paint and yellow finger paint. Allow them to blend the colors and create orange
    • Red Box, Yellow Box: Go to your local Dollar Store and purchase a red container and a yellow container (or: cover two cardboard boxes, one with yellow paper and one with red). Have children sort objects by color. As home activity, each night choose two students to take one of the boxes home and fill it with a few objects of the corresponding color. The next day, have the pair of students show the rest of the class (during circle time) what they found.
    • Leaf Prints: Have children paint the vein side of several leaves and place them on top of paper to make a print. (Source: Scholastic)

    Why Do Leaves Change Colors? By Betsy Maestro
    • Leaf Hunt: Go outside and collect leaves that have already fallen. Observe the trees and look for leaves that are beginning to change colors. The teacher should photograph the tree (perhaps once or twice a week) so that the students can see the gradual changes. Make a class book of the tree.
    • Fiction or Non-Fiction: Discuss the difference between a story book and an information book. Explain why this book is a non-fiction or information book.
    • Evergreens: Look near and around your outdoor environment and show children which trees are evergreens.
    • Leaf Identification: Find out what trees are native to the area around your school and neighborhoods. The teacher should find images online of those leaves and print them out to create a chart to hang in the classroom (like the one to the right from When children find leaves encourage them to use the chart to identify them!
    • Leaf Paper: Place leaf-shaped paper at the easel and writing areas to encourage creative expression.
    Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert

    • Leaf Rubbing: After collecting a few leaves, show children how to find the side with the vein. Have them turn the leaf, vein side up, and place paper on top of the leaf. then take a crayon and rub it over the leaf to make an impression of the leaf.
    • Leaf Art: After finishing the leaf rubbings (above), encourage the students to use the leaves and other nature items to make leaf people like those in the story.
    • Leaf Collage: Have children draw a tree trunk (or they can cut one from brown construction paper) and glue real leaves onto the tree.
    • Leaf Cookies: Use refrigerated cookie dough and leaf cookie cutters to make leaf shaped cookies. Children can lightly "paint" their cookies with clean paint brushes and water (or milk) colored with food coloring (tip: remind children not to wet cookies too much).

    When Autumn Comes by Robert Maass
    • Autumn Leaves Song (to the tune of London Bridges): Here is an oldie and I am unsure of it's original source
    Autumn leaves are falling down, falling down, falling down,
    Autumn leaves are falling down, to the earth below.
    Watch them as they dance and whirl, dance and whirl, dance and whirl
    Watch them as they dance and whirl
    It's autumn time!
    • Dancing Leaves: Put on some upbeat classical or jazz music and have students pretend to dance like leaves floating off of a tree.
    • Pressed Leaves/Leaf Suncatcher: Place a few leaves between paper towels or wax paper. Put the paper towel or waxed paper between large books (such as telephone books). Take the pressed leaves and place them between two pieces of clear contact paper or laminating paper. Punch a hole in the top and add a string or ribbon at the top.

    Nuts to You by Lois Ehlert
    • Gray Squirrel Poem: This is another poem I've used for so long that I do not know it's author or origin -
    Gray Squirrel, gray squirrel
    Swish your bushy tail.
    Gray squirrel, gray squirrel
    Swish your bushy tail.
    Wrinkle up your funny nose
    Hold a nut between your toes.
    Gray squirrel, gray squirrel
    Swish your bushy tail.
    • Squirrel Mini-Science Unit: Learn about squirrels, their habitat, diet, etc. National Geographic is a great place to start!
    • Squirrel and Nut Matching Game: Find a squirrel pattern such as this one and an acorn pattern such as this one. For this game, choose what skill you want to reinforce. You can make the squirrels and acorns match using upper/lower case letters, colors, numbers, etc. Laminate the patterns and have the children match the squirrel with the appropriate acorn. For example: a blue squirrel would match with a blue acorn or a squirrel with an upper case A would match with an acorn with a lower case a.
    • Science Table: Add a variety of leaves and/or acorns to the Science/Discovery Center for observation. Provide magnifying glasses and reference books.
    • Nuts About Patterns: Cut leaves and/or acorns in 3-4 different colors and have students make simple A-B-A-B or A-A-B-A-A-B patterns and glue them on paper or a long sentence strip. Example: red leaf, yellow leaf, red leaf, yellow leaf, etc OR red leaf, red leaf, yellow leaf, red leaf, red leaf, yellow leaf, etc. Hang the leaf patterns on a bulletin board titled We Are Nuts About Patterns!
    Bonus Book of the Day for Teachers: Since several of the titles above are by Lois Ehlert I thought I would add this book to the list. I don't own it and have not used it personally but I know it may be of interest to my readers. If you have this book share your thoughts with us: Teaching With Favorite Lois Ehlert Books: Engaging, Skill-Building Activities That Introduce Basic Concepts, Develop Vocabulary, and Explore Favorite Science Topics by Pamela Chanko

    Saturday, August 22, 2009

    ECE Science: More Than Dead Leaves and a Magnifying Glass!

    Why Science?
    Young children are curious learners and therefore, natural scientists. They don’t walk into our classrooms with closed-minds and preconceived set-in-stone ideas. As teachers of young children, we should take the opportunity of these “wonder years” and provide our students with the chance to make discoveries, develop theories, and test their hypotheses. We must give them a safe environment with adequate materials to help them extend their understanding of the world around us. But let’s not be confused: Science isn’t just a set of experiments or a table in a corner that we fill with magnifying glasses and leaves. Science should be happening every day in most areas of the early childhood classroom. In the block area, children are learning about cause and effect, weight, balance, classification, and many other science concepts. The water and sand areas should be filled with items that support discovery: eye droppers, funnels, food coloring, ice cubes, spray bottles, soap bubbles, sink/float objects. In the art center, have students actually help you make play dough and clay and talk about the chemical reactions between wet/dry ingredients. Every cooking activity that you do can be a science activity! Get a class pet or at least a fish aqaruium to learn about animal life cycles. And let’s not forget those teachable moments; you know, those moments that are not planned, but present themselves as a chance to teach something: Outside on the playground, do you help the children notice the wind, a bug, rain droplets, or shadows? Have your students discovered that sometimes static electricity makes your hair stand up when going down the sliding board? Look around your classroom and see what types of science discoveries can be found; I am sure there are plenty!

    The Connection Between Science and Literacy
    Not surprisingly, science has a direct connection to literacy development. Science helps students with logical thinking, communication skills, making predictions, drawing conclusions, and interpreting information; all of these skills enhance literacy development for students of any age! Science also provides a spring board for reading and writing activities. So this week, I am taking a different turn for the Book of the Day. This week the books are not for children, but for teachers! I’ve listed my some of my favorite Science books for early childhood educators.
    Please comment below: What are your favorite Science Resource Books? What are your favorite science/discovery activities in your classroom? Do you have any obstacles that prevent you from doing science in your classroom? If so, how do you overcome them? What are some science activities parents can do at home?

    Science Resource Books for Teachers

    Mudpies to Magnets Robert Williams, Robert Rockwell, & Elizabeth Sherwood

    More Mudpies to Magnets by R. Williams, R. Rockwell, & E. Sherwood

    Worms, Shadows, and Whirlpools: Science in the Early Childhood Classroom by Karen Worth and Sharon Grollman

    Science Arts: Discovering Science Through Art Experiences by MaryAnn Kohl

    Science is Simple by Peggy Ashbrook

    The Giant Encyclopedia of Science Activities by Kathy Charner

    More Than Magnets: Exploring the Wonders of Science in Preschool and Kindergarten by Sally Moomaw and Brenda Hieronymus

    The Kids' Nature Book: 365 Indoor/Outdoor Activities and Experiences by Susan Milord

    Monday, August 17, 2009

    Book of the Day Activities: Your Best Behavior!

    So you're prepared for the first day of school and your Back to School Night is all planned…now it’s time to get down to the business of teaching. When I taught Kindergarten and Prekindergarten, I dedicated the whole month of September to “Getting to Know Us.” I didn’t worry about teaching letters, numbers, or shapes because my primary goal was to have my classroom be a happy and functional place. Imagine how tedious our job would be if we had to solve every problem and clean up the classroom on our own! We have to help our students become independent members of our classroom societies. In order to do this, we have to learn the rules and how to treat each other. Here are a few books and activities that are good reads in those first couple of weeks of school!

    Hands Are Not For Hitting by Martine Agassi

    • AMA Alliance has a wonderful reading guide for this book.

    • Class Hand Collage: On a large sheet of bulletin board paper or tag board, have children create hand prints in a circle. To do this you have two options: You can trace the children’s hands, cut them out and paste them in circle formation on the paper/tag board. OR you can have the children make hand prints using stamp pads or finger paint. In the middle of the circle of hand prints, have the children draw (or cut from magazines) things you CAN use your hands for. Some examples are: playing ball, baking a cake, giving hugs, learning sign language, etc… Hang it in your classroom with the title, "Hands Are For..."

    Words are Not for Hurting by Elizabeth Verdick

    • Kind Words Chart: Cut out a large heart and have children think of words that are nice/kind. Write them on the chart paper and hang it in the classroom.

    • Kindness in Action: When you catch children showing kindness, snap a photo, print it out, and post it on a bulletin board titled, “Kindness in Action.” Under the photograph, write a small description of what is happening such as “Carrie is sharing her blocks with Melanie.” Make sure to catch all of the children doing something nice! Remember that praise and positive reinforcement go a long way!

    It’s Mine! by Leo Lionni

    • It’s My Turn: Sharing is a skill that preschoolers are just beginning to master, so it will take some time and a great deal of teacher intervention/assistance. One thing that I’ve found helpful is to use a sand timer or kitchen timer (3-5 minutes) so that when children have to take turns, they will have a visual reminder of when their turn is over (or when their turn will begin). After a few days of guidance and modeling by the teacher, students will eventually get the hang of using the timer on their own!

    • Make a Paper Plate Frog. These frogs can be used for a bulletin board display entitled "It's OURS!" (Attach frogs to the bulletin board so that they depict sharing and kindness. Example: arrange 2 of the frogs so that they are sharing a book). The frogs can also be used so that the children can act out scenarios that depict positive behaviors.

    • Visit the Scholastic Lesson Plan site for more ideas on how to use this book.

    Manners by Aliki

    • Two Magic Words: I sang this song/chant for so many years that I don't know who wrote it but it goes like this - "There are two magic words that open doors with ease. One of them is thank you and the other one is please."

    • Visit The Manners Lady website.

    • Cover Your Sneeze: This is another one of those projects that kindergarten and prekindergarten teachers have been doing for years. Give each child a paper plate and let them draw their face on it with crayons. Be sure to provide crayons that reflect the children's skin tones like Crayola's Multicultural Crayons. You may want to provide the children with yarn and glue to create "hair" on their plate. Next, trace each child's hand on multicultural construction paper that, again, reflects their skin tone. Have the child (with teacher help if needed) cut out their hand. Attach a tissue to the child's nose (on the plate) and then attach the hand on top of the tissue.

    • Meal Time Manners (Teachable Moments): Meal times are a perfect time to practice manners and polite behavior. If possible, serve your meals (or at least part of your meal) "family style" so that children learn to say, "Please pass the fruit." In addition, a teacher should sit with the children and model polite behavior such as chewing with your mouth closed, saying please and thank-you, and cleaning up after yourself. In some schools, where children eat in a cafeteria or bring their own lunch this may not be possible. But, if you serve snack in your classroom you can apply the same principals to snack time.

    How Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends? by Jane Yolen

    • Do a Puppet Show and have students act out some of the scenes in the story.

    • Create a Voice Thread called How Do Kindergartners (or Preschoolers) Play with Their Friends? Here is a Voice Thread done by a First Grade Class. This sample will give you an idea of how you can create a similar version for your class. Take pictures of the students with their friends and create a Voice Thread about it!

    Know and Follow the Rules by Cheri J. Meiners

    • Play "direction-following" games like Simon Says and Mother May I?

    • Make a Classroom Rule Chart. Also, ask students to discuss some rules that they may have at home. Talk about why we have rules and how rules keep us safe.

    • Center Time: In the beginning of the school year, I did not open all of my learning centers. Each week of September I would introduce two new centers at a time. This way, we could focus on how to use the equipment/toys and how to clean up. We learned about each center in a slow and purposeful way. Throughout the year, if I added new equipment, I would introduce it at Circle Time before allowing the children to play with it.

    Remember, the beginning of the year sets the tone for your classroom for the entire year. Do you really want to spend the next nine months with students who don't share, hit each other, don't know how to clean up, and sneeze all over the toys? Set the tone NOW so that you can have a productive year!


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