Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Children See...Children Do

This video was posted on Twitter today and I thought it was worth sharing here because it deserves more than the 140 character limit that Twitter has. This message speaks volumes to parents, teachers, mentors, grandparents, godparents, and other adults who have influence in a child's life.
It's no surprise to us that children like to imitate adults. As a former kindergarten teacher, I only had to look in my dramatic play area and see my students pretending to go shopping, cook dinner, feed the baby, go to work, drive a car...we have more of an influence on children then some of us even imagine. As teachers of young children, take a peek on your playground at recess to see children "playing school." As parents, watch your child play "mommy and daddy." They want to emulate the people that they look up to so it is up to us to provide a positive example of how to live!
How have you influenced the children in your life?

Thank You to @urbaneducation for sharing this wonderful video!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Book of the Day Activities: Multicultural Tales

Books of the Day for July 26 - August 1

Because this week's books are traditional fairy tales, you are likely to find various versions of them. I have included images of the versions with which I am most familiar, however, I encourage you to seek out other versions and read them to your class/children. They may take delight in comparing the various stories! Please respond below if you have other tales or activities that will go with any of the featured books for this week. Please add your own books and/or activities in the comment section!

Here are some activities that will go with all of the books on this week's list:
  • Mark on a map or globe the areas where these stories originated.

  • Make passports for the children and let them stamp them every time you read a book from a different country.
  • Connect with a different classroom (pen pals, e-pals, or another classroom in the school) and compare/contrast different versions of the stories.

  • Even young Preschool and kindergarten students can begin to learn the difference between real and pretend. Talk about what "fairy tales" and "folk tales" are and look for ways to tell if a story is real or pretend (ex: talking animals, magic, etc)

  • Make flags of the corresponding countries. Learn a little about what the colors and symbols represent.

  • Use the Internet to go on a "photographic" tour of the countries featured in these books.

  • Several of the books on this list are Caldecott Winners (Lon Po Po, Anansi the Spider, Strega Nona). Learn about the Caldecott honor and bring children's attention to the illustrations in these award winning stories!

Tikki Tikki Tembo retold by Arlene Mosel

  • Practice saying the main character's name: Tiki tiki tembo-no sa rembo chari bari ruchi pip peri pembo! The children will have fun just trying to learn the name.
  • Allow the children to clap out and count syllables in the name. Then count the syllables in their own names and classmates' names.
  • Research the meanings of each child's name. Older students can also research the meanings of their parents' names.
  • Tie this story into a theme on opposites. One brother had a long name and one brother had a short name. Make a list of other opposites with the children!
  • Note: Make sure that children know that this is a "pretend" story since most people of Chinese decent do not really give their children long names like Tikki Tikki Tembo...

Babushka's Doll by Patricia Polacco
  • Visit the author's website.
  • Use this story as an opportunity to talk about patience; the main character in the story wants things "now." Have children discuss and/or illustrate times when they have to be patient (waiting for their turn on a bike, going to the store with mom, etc).
  • Learn about Matryoshka dolls or Russian Nesting Dolls. The Russian Legacy Website has a lot of good background information for adults. Some websites have the dolls for sale between $30 and $40.
  • Have the students rewrite and illustrate the story.

The Mitten by Jan Brett

  • Make a mitten match activity: the teacher should cut mittens from tag board and decorate each pair various patterns and colors. Laminate the mittens and store them in a container of your choice. Encourage students to find matching pairs. Note: the mitten patterns can be used for all sorts of activities: matching upper/lower case letters, matching opposites, pairing pictures w/beginning letter sounds, addition activities, etc. Here is an example of mitten match game using colors.
  • Use Jan Brett's site which has mitten and animal patterns to make a flannel board or file folder version of the story.
  • Use the animal patterns from Jan Brett's site (see link above) to make an Beginning Sounds Game: have children match the animals with their beginning sounds. This game can be done on a magnetic board, flannel board, or made into a file folder game.

Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola *This story may not be a traditional "folktale" since it is an original story. But it has a lot of the elements of a traditional tale!

  • Make a chart of the various Italian words used in the book (Grazia: Thank you
    Per Favore: Please, etc).
  • If you (or a parent) has a pasta maker, make pasta from scratch!
  • Have a gelati tasting or make cannolis.
  • Compare/sort different types of pasta (elbow, bow tie, spaghetti, etc). Make a pasta collage.
  • At the easel, encourage children to paint their own pictures of their Magic Pot. Antony's pot had pasta but encourage students to come up with their own ideas of what they would want in their pots.

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears by Verna Aardema

  • Young children will love to say this big word "onomatopoeia" which is really a fancy word for words that imitate sounds. Have the class make a list and write it on chart paper. Examples: buzz, wham, woof, moo, bang, choo-choo, etc...
  • Make sequencing cards and have students put the major story events in order.
  • Do "nighttime" drawings using colored chalk and black construction paper.
  • Learn about a few of the animals in the story (iguana, python, rabbit, crow, monkey, owl, lion, and of course, mosquito). Sites such as National Geographic for Kids often have video, pictures, and facts that are appropriate for young children.

Anansi the Spider by Gerald McDermott

  • Use a child-friendly computer program like KidPix to have children create their own spiders.
  • Visit the PBS Kids' Africa site.
  • Learn about spiders and other arachnids
  • Make a spider - search the web for "spider crafts" and you will find dozens of options!
  • Make a spider snack: body = large marshmallow, legs = stick pretzels, eyes = mini chocolate chips (attach w/ a dot of peanut butter if there are no allergies)
  • Make a Venn Diagram and compare a "real" spider with Anansi

Lon Po Po by Ed Young*Thanks to peekabooplay (on Twitter) for reminding me to add this one!

  • Read this version and a more familiar version of Little Red Riding Hood and help the students compare/contrast the stories.
  • Make a graph of what version the class likes the most. When making graphs with young children it is most important to be very visual.
  • Do a "Fact" vs "Fiction" activity about wolves.
  • Learn to write some letters or count to 10 in Chinese.

Other Favorite Folktales from Twitter:

Katjewave said, "The Bossy Gallito is a Cuban folktale retold by Lucia Gonzalez."

peekabooplay loves Brett's version of Goldilocks.

Katjewave likes Just a Minute! by Yuyi Morales. It's a counting book in a tale about how Abuela tricks Sr. Calavera.

meristemstudio said, "Some of my favorite multicultural fairy tales are retold by Gerald McDermott..."

Katjewave is a huge 'Cinderella' fan, and since she's EVERYWHERE in the world, suggests Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by Steptoe.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Affordable Child Care ... a CRAZY social program?

Tonight I decided to relax and polish my nails after a long hard week...but then somehow I found myself browsing around on Google News. I read a story about a preschool program called the Early Childhood Inititive in Ohio having to close because of funding, or lackthereof. So I am putting away the nail polish and getting out the proverbial "pen."

As I read the article, I felt sympathy for those parents who are struggling financially who now have no child care. What about the single mother who has a minimum wage job and manages to pay her rent, utilities, clothe and feed the chidlren, and has no money left to pay for quality childcare? How is this mother supposed to go to work to continue to support her family if there aren't programs like the Early Learning Intiative? No child care for many single parents means NO WORK.

And then I read this quote and I felt my feelings of sympathy being overcome by anger:

Warren County Commissioner Mike Kilburn is all for the [budget] cut. "We've got to stop the craziness of all these social programs," he said. "They're breaking us. We have got to send a message to people that you've got to have responsibility for your kids and your family and doing good by yourself," said Kilburn.


Will we, as a nation, ever grow up and realize that it really does take a village to raise a child? Many other countries are so far ahead of us in providing free or low cost quality programs for children.

Research shows that programs like ELI are succussful and beneficial for children and families. I certainly don't think that such programs will solve all of the woes in our society. But it's foolish of us not to consider the profound effects that quality PreK programs can have on children, especially children who may be potentially at-risk. Pre-K Now describes Ohio's efforts to put early childhood at the forefront; now it seems that they may be taking a couple of steps backwards.

How is your state doing?

Book of the Day Activities: Tickling Your Funny Bone

These are a few preschool books that children and adults alike will find humorous. Chances are these books will be read over and over again! Feel free to add your favorites to the list!

Books for the week of July 19 - 25

If You Give A Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff

  • Make pancakes in the shape of the letter P.

  • Visit the author's website.

  • Read other books by the author such as If You Give a Moose a Muffin, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, If You Take a Mouse to the Movies, etc...

  • Have children (individually or as a class) write their own If You Give a _____ a _____ story! You can scan the stories, have children record narration, and post on Voice Thread. Here is an example of a kindergarten's ABC Book.

Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

  • Give children a cut-out of a "cap" and allow them to decorate it using paint. Post all of the caps on a bulletin board display (one on top of the other) so that it resembles the "caps for sale" in the book.

  • For a math activity, make a variety of caps of various colors and patterns using tag board and laminate them. Have the children 1)sort the caps by various attributes such as color or size and 2) make patterns with the caps (red cap, blue cap, red cap, blue cap, etc).
  • Help the children to learn what they can buy for 50 cents (this is the price the peddler was selling his caps for in the story). Set up a 50 cent store in the Dramatic Play Area.
  • Make a word bank and have the students "collect" words that rhyme with "cap"
  • Go to your local arts/crafts store and purchase hats (foam hats or painter's caps are often reasonably priced). Allow children to decorate their own hats.

The Giant Jam Sandwich by Janet Burroway and John Vernon Lord

  • Make strawberry jam. Here is one recipe that children can do with adult guidance. Here is another.

  • Cut paper shaped like a sandwich. Staple a stack of the pages together and allow children to write and illustrate their own stories.
  • Learn about wasps and why they are attracted to the jam.

  • Sorting Js and Ws: Help the children learn the sounds of J (for jam) and W (for wasp). Provide a bucket of various items (wallet, jar, jacks, watch, toy whale or walrus, empty juice carton, etc) and allow children to sort the items by beginning letter sounds.

Stephanie's Ponytail by Robert Munsch

  • Encourage children to draw or paint their own picture of Stephanie's ponytail.
  • Listen to the story online.

  • Read other books by Robert Munsch. Some of my favorites are: Purple, Green and Yellow (what happens when you color yourself with "super indelible never come off until you are dead and maybe even later markers?) ; I Have to Go (as soon as you get into your snowsuit, of course you have to go to the bathroom); and Alligator Baby (what happens when an expectant mom goes to the zoo instead of the hospital?).

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs By A. Wolf

  • After reading this funny story told from the Wolf's point of view, have children rewrite some other famous fairy tales such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears or Little Red Riding Hood.

  • Read a "traditional" version of The Three Little Pigs and have children vote on which they prefer. Children can also compare the two stories.

  • Act out the story using props.

A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon

  • Before reading the story to the class or to your child, just look at the cover and ask children to predict what the story is about. You can write the predictions down on chart paper and review them after reading the story.

  • Math: Encourage children to paint a picture of Camilla using a pattern of stripes (blue, yellow, red, blue, yellow, red). The older the children, the more complex the patterns can be.
  • Add some of the props (doctor outfit, empty box/can of lima beans, etc) from the story to your Dramatic Play area and allow children to act out the story.

Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi Barret

  • Have children illustrate and write about another animal that should not wear clothing.

  • Read Animals Should Definitely Not Act Like People, another funny story by the same author!! Or try Never Take a Shark to the Dentist!
  • As a science unit, study the animals discussed in the story. Compare the animals in the story: Which have fur or feathers? Which have scales or shells? Which are mammals and which are reptiles?

  • Letter Match: Print pictures of each of the animals in the book. Use a large stencil to cut out the beginning letter of each animal. Have children match the animals with their beginning sounds. Older children can match beginning AND ending sounds.

Other Funny Books Recommended Via Twitter

Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathman is another funny story recommended by @Katjewave

Silly Sally by Audrey Wood is a silly favorite in @TammyFlowers classroom

@Katjewave says "A funny bone tickler is Anansi and the Moss-covered Rock by Eric Kimmel. Janet Stevens' illustrations are terrific."

How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long and its sequel Pirates Don't Change Diapers are recommended by @linkstoliteracy

Pete's A Pizza by William Steig, The Pigeon Finds a Hotdog and Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct both by Mo Willems recommended by @Sara_Sue

A great (and funny) story is "Abiyoyo" by Pete Seger, illustrated by Michael Hays, is recommended by @Katjewave

Katjewave says: My kids really like John Denver's "Grandma's Feather Bed", illustrated by Christopher Canyon...comes with the song on cd

Katjewave says: How about classic Seuss? "Green Eggs and Ham" is always a crowd pleaser.

Katjewave says that "Love You Forever" by Munsch is very funny for kidlets... touching for adults.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Who Says You Get a Reward for Doing What You are SUPPOSED to do?

There has been a lot of talk of providing financial incentives for students who do well in school. Not to toot my own horn...but I was a pretty good student in school...and never had to be paid. So why should we pay kids for doing what they are supposed to do? Going to school and getting decent grades is one of the few things we expect from our children so they should not be compensated financially. We clothe them, feed them, provide that is their "payment," right?

Hmmmm...I'm just not sure. Times are different now. When we perform better at work, don't we expect a raise, a promotion, some kind of recognition? Should students have the same opportunity? If paying for grades is the only way to encourage students to do well in school, why not?

As an educator I know about the value of intrinsic (as opposed to extrinsic) motivators. But when I think back to my own childhood...I didn't get "paid"for good grades....but there was always an uncle who gave me $5 for getting As or an aunt who would take me to lunch for a good report card. There was also the proud looks from my parents when they would show my family my report card during family gatherings. Or the times they took certificates and plaques that I earned to work so that they could show off to their friends. So,what if a child doesn't have those parents who show pride in academic achievement? What if there is no uncle with a five dollar bill or an aunt waiting for a lunch date? What if the only reward or pat on the back a child receives is a financial one?

I am still very torn on the issue. I worry about whether such a program will encourage cheating or reduce intrinsic motivation. Is there an age range where these type of rewards work better than others? What about students with unidentified learning disorders that may always lag behind - who will reward them? The research on these type of programs have mixed results so I am not the only one who is still undecided on this issue! There are all kinds of questions still stirring around in my head. Maybe I'll rewrite this blog when I come to a conclusion.... in the meantime, I'd love to hear what you think. Should students be rewarded for good attendance and good grades?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Book of the Day Activities: ABC Books

Books of the Week for July 12 - 18

Under each book you will find supporting activities and links. Feel free to comment and add your own activities and favorite alphabet books!

Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert

  • Have a taste test by tasting some of the foods and make a graph of class favorites.
  • Learn about the author Lois Ehlert by visiting the Reading Rockets Website.
  • Read Planting a Rainbow, also by Lois Ehlert, and talk about the differences/similarities.
  • Create watercolors or collages similar to Ehlert's illustrations in this book.

Alphabet City by Stephen T. Johnson

  • Find letters of the alphabet in the environment. If possible, take photographs.
  • Make an alphabet collage using various items (Popsicle sticks, straws, yarn, fabric, etc).
  • Have children make their own illustrations or use photographs to create their own alphabet book.
  • Learn about the Caldecott Medal on the cover of this book and read other books that have won the award.

Animalia by Graeme Base
  • Visit the PBS Kids Animalia site.
  • Break the students into groups or pairs and let each study one of the animals in the book. Let the groups share what they've learned with the rest of the class!
  • Introduce the students to alliteration by having them create their own silly sentences using one letter of the alphabet. Have the children illustrate their sentence and bind all of the illustrations into a class book.

The Icky Bug Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta

  • Take magnifying glasses and bug view finders outside and go on a bug search. Help children to learn how to observe bugs without harming them.
  • Visit the Kaboose you will find a list of kids' links about bugs and butterflies!
  • Become e-pals with a classroom in another part of the country or part of the world and learn about the bugs that live in their region. Sites such as E-Pals make it easy for teachers to connect with other teachers.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault

  • Make a large coconut tree from butcher paper. Hang it on the classroom wall. Give each child a large cut out letter of the alphabet to decorate using various media (collage, markers, watercolors, crayons, etc) and hang the letters on the tree.
  • How many of your children have seen a real coconut? Purchase a couple and let them explore it. Make an experience chart that describes the children's initial reactions. Open the coconut and allow the children to taste test (remember to get parental permission first in case there are any food allergies). Learn about coconuts (How do they grow? Where do they grow? What can you make with a coconut?)
  • Here is an old favorite that a lot of preschool teachers love: Have children make their own individual trees - paint the child's arm brown and lay it on a piece of paper (this imprint will be the trunk of the tree); paint the child's hands green and allow them to lay them at the top of the "trunk" to make the "leaves" of the tree. To make the coconuts children can glue circles or paint their own coconuts. When the tree paintings dry, children can use alphabet stamps (or stickers) to illustrate the letters going up the alphabet tree!

Museum ABC by NY Metropolitan Museum of Art

  • Plan a field trip to a local museum.
  • Purchase some canvas from an art supply store (make sure the canvas will work with "child friendly" paints like tempera) and allow children to create their own works of art.

Alligators All Around by Maurice Sendak

  • Learn the lyrics to Alligators All Around by Carole King.
  • There is a video called Really Rosie that has this book and a few others in animated form.
  • This book, like Animalia, uses alliteration. Compare the two books with your children and make more tongue twisters!
  • Learn about alligators! Compare alligators and crocodiles.

Other ABC Books Recommended via Twitter

Alligator Arrived With Apples: A Potluck Alphabet Feast by Crescent Dragonwagon recommended by @Katjewave

Aardvarks Disembark by Ann Jonas recommended by @Katjewave

Gone Wild by David McLimans (all of the letters are shaped by an endangered animal) recommended by @linkstoliteracy

K is for Kissing a Cool Kangaroo by Giles Andreae. The illustrations have other pictures for each letter. Recommended by @Katjewave

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Dear Readers,

I’ve been blogging for about two years now. Impressed? Don't be! I’ve only been “blogging” in my head – I cannot tell you how many times I’ve “written” a story, post, or comment in my head. Usually something in the world inspires me to comment on and I think of an entire blog to write. The problem is, none of those thoughts actually transferred from my head to paper (or to the computer for that matter). Occasionally I would scribble something down – random thoughts and ponderings, sometimes a question, perhaps an opinion or two. But those scribbles never made if from the paper to the computer. Don’t be alarmed…you read correctly…I still actually write stuff down on paper and…get this…I actually use a pen. I just finished graduate school and every single paper I wrote (whether it was 2 pages or 20) started out with a paper, legal pad, and a pen. Old fashioned? A waste of time? Just plain old weird? Who knows…but writing the old fashioned way provides a kind of organization and creativity that I find hard to get by randomly typing on the PC.

But I digress…so, yes, I’ve finally decided to make the jump and transfer some of those thoughts (the ones that have been swirling around in my head) to the blogosphere. So…I set up the blog, decided what I wanted to write about and then I thought, “Wait, I should introuduce myself to the folks first, right?” I am sure that only two people might visit my blog…and chances are those two people might already know who I am (thanks for reading my blog Mom and Dad). But, what about when I hit in BIG on the web and a whole 10 people actually read my blog? Shouldn’t I introduce myself to the eight people who don’t know me? So I started out by writing the typical autobiographical information. Then I realized that you might not really care what town I grew up in, my pet’s name, or my astrological sign. So I threw that draft (ok, there were three drafts) in the garbage and thought about what you might really like to know about me. So here it is. My deep dark secret: I. Am. A. Plant. Killer. There (*sigh*) I said it. I have a couple of college degrees, I effectively supervise a staff of 25, I’ve even kept my dog alive for the past 12 years. Here she is, living proof:

But put anything in soil within 10 feet of me and it instantly turns brown, crunches to a crisp, or withers away. And yet, I keep buying plants with the hope that this one will survive. Here’s a picture of my latest victim-to-be:

So, wish me luck with this one. It's been alive for a whole seven days. I'll keep you posted on my progress as I learn to be a Blogger and a Plant Owner!

So, now that you know at least one of my deep dark secrets and we are now friends, I can comfortably begin the blog that I’ve been writing in my head for the past two years. What will I blog about? What are my interests? Well, I am passionate about developmentally appropriate early childhood education and the value of literacy. The first topic that I will tackle later this week will be about something I’ve been seeing on television over the last few months. Have you seen these commercials for “teach your baby to read" type of programs? I have a definite and very strong opinion on these programs…and it might not be the popular opinion. So, come visit me later in the week to read what I have to say! Other topics I will address in future blogs will be:

  • Book of the Day Activities for Preschool Teachers and Parents

  • My Favorite Children's Books (if you want me to list your favorite children's books along with your Twitter name, send me a tweet @literacycounts)

  • Must Have Resource Books for Early Childhood Educators

  • Technology's Role in Enhancing Early Childhood Literacy

  • Bilingual Children in Child Care Settings: How Teachers and Parents Can Boost Language

I have an extensive list of Blog topics (yes, the list is written on paper) that I hope to cover in this Blog so come along with me for the ride. I hope to see you soon!


New Blogger, Twitterer, and Plant Owner!


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