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!

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