family activity · story · writing

Idea Jar

Do you ever struggle to know what to write about? Do you have too many ideas? Not enough? Typically in the early childhood years, children do not struggle with ideas of what to write about, but they often need encouragement to branch out and choose new things to write about.

Today, read the story Idea Jar by Adam Lehrhaupt. In this book, the class collects story ideas in a jar. The Viking from the the idea jar wants very much to be part of the story. The students learn that stories can be written, drawn or just told aloud. Stories can be about one thing, or many things. The children use the ideas from the idea jar to create a story together.

Today, begin collecting ideas for your own Story Idea Jar. What could you put inside? What topics would be fun to add to a story. Then pull 2, 3 or even 4 ideas out of the jar and create a fantastical story with those fun ideas.

Hmmm lets see I think I’ll pull “penguin”, “chocolate”, “train” and “happy” out of my jar.

Once there was sad, little penguin. He was sad because he was all alone near the edge of the ocean. He wanted friends. As he started to waddle away he heard a noise. What was that? Toot, Toot, he heard. The penguin looked around, he saw a train. Wait that isn’t just a normal train, it is a chocolate train! Yes, the train is pulling cars full of chocolate. The penguin waddled closer to the train. Not only was he happy to see the train, but the sweet smell of chocolate drew him closer and faster. As he drew closer to the train he noticed something that made him smile. More penguins! The passenger cars were filled with penguins. This made the little penguin a very happy penguin riding on a chocolate train.

high frequency words · story · writing

A Word Tree

This week’s post are all about writing. Often times when people think about writing and the primary aged child, they think about penmanship. There is so much more to writing than forming letters correctly. When I talk about writing with your child, I want you think about story telling. Getting your child to see him/herself as an author. Tell me a story. Write me a story. Spelling, letter formation, sentence structure… that will come with time. But the concept of seeing yourself as an author… you can either make or break this for your child. Tell them they are doing it wrong, they won’t want to do it… praise their efforts and attempts… they will thrive!

Today let’s listen to the story Rocket Writes a Story. by Tad Hills. In the story, Rocket, a dog, works with his teacher, a yellow bird, to write a story. He collects words and puts them on his word tree. Then uses those words to make his story more meaningful. This story goes through the process of picking a topic, learning more about it, and writing then rewriting a story. While children at this age don’t necessarily needs to go through all the steps of editing, it is helpful for them to see you can go back and revisit a story to make it better.

Today, begin creating your own word tree. Find a space in your home and help your child collect words. These words can be written in word form or written in picture form. The key is add words. Add words that make your writing easier, such as high frequency words (a, I, the, in, it, go etc) but also add words that make your writing more interesting (colors, sizes, motions, emotions etc). Encourage your child to look around their world, inside and out. Add words you hear in stories. Add words you see in the store. Add words!

story · teaching thoughts · writing

A Squiggly Story

This week we will focus on writing. Listen to the story A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larson. Next, encourage your child to write his/her own story. They can choose to draw a picture and write the story based on the picture or just write the words as the boy does in the story. But, the goal is for your CHILD to do the writing. Just as the sister did not write the words for the boy. Remind your child that he/she is the author and the author decides what the story is about. If they draw the pictures, then they are the author and illustrator! (My example is actually a poem)

I love books. Big books, little books. Long books and short books. I love books

There are many ages and stages of writing. Children begin by imitating what it looks like when adults write (some form of squiggly lines typically). Then as they begin to recognize and learn about letters and numbers, they transition to writing random forms that begin to look more and more like letters. Then move into writing beginning sounds, ending sounds and finally words. Once children are able to form words they will typically transition to writing sentences. (read more on my post about stages of writing here)

Often times adults are the reason children do not write. Adults see children “writing” and are quick to jump in and do the writing for the child. They want children to write like an adult, but the goal is for a child to write like a child. You need to encourage your child to write like a child. Call it prek writing or kindergarten writing or child spelling and “correct spelling” is book spelling. Children will learn and recognize that they will transition from child spelling to book spelling and it is a process.

So, what is the adults job? Ask questions. Can you read to me what you wrote? What is going to happen next? Who is your story about? Why did that happen? Where are they going? How does the story end?

And even more important than asking questions… LISTEN! Children love telling stories. Encourage them to tell them through writing.

story · topic

Brown is Beautiful

Yesterday I sat down multiple times to type up a post, but I couldn’t formulate figure out an at home activity that matched the story I wanted to share. I couldn’t make it meaningful. I’ve learned as a teacher that if activities aren’t meaningful, approachable and memorable then they won’t be impactful with children. So, sorry I didn’t share an activity, but here is the link to the story I wanted to share: It’s Okay to be Different by Todd Parr.

Onto today’s stories and activity:

Today I am sharing two stories that deal with the same topic, skin color. Often we hear people talk about skin in terms of black and white. But, I challenge children (and adults) to look again. The first story compares these colors to those of the earth. All the Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanaka. The Colors of Us by Karen Katz finds a young girl and her mother walking through the neighborhood looking at all the beautiful shades of brown that she sees on her friends and neighbors. She compares theses shades to foods that are familiar.

From the palest of sand to the darkest of chocolates, shades of browns are beautiful. So, today let’s celebrate that. Make a collage of all shades of brown paper. Draw with multicultural crayons. Blend paints to create shades of brown. Whatever meaningful, approachable and memorable activity would help your child see the beauty of browns. For me… I drew a rainbow, Because together we create a beautiful rainbow of colors

story

All are Welcome

This week we will focus on accepting differences. Today’s story is All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold. In this story you will travel through a school day learning that all are welcome and accepted for who they are in the classroom. They learn to treasure differences. My favorite page from the story “We’re part of a community. Our strength is our diversity. A shelter from adversity. All are welcome here.”

This is a great opportunity to talk about acceptance and inclusion. Roll play greeting others as well as asking people to join in. Adults often assume that children know how to join a group, AND that they will naturally ask others in join the fun. But, these are skills that need to be taught. Many children learn from watching others as well as from other people greeting them and asking them to join, but direct instruction of these skills are helpful for many children.

What would you say if you saw a child alone on the playground? How could you help that child feel welcome? How would you feel if you were the one not included?

Let your child ask questions. Take the time to look, listen and learn together.

drawn with “people” crayons… I cheated and drew them from the back (:

Have your child draw a picture of him/herself playing with someone who is different from them. This could be someone you know or a character from this or other stories. Discuss the similarities and difference. This could be physical differences as well as habits. Remember that the goal is to celebrate the differences. “Our strength is our diversity” Helping children see that the things that make you different are the things that make you special will help him/her see and appreciate the differences in others and view these differences as assets!

family activity · story · topic

Elmer is Unique and so are YOU

This week we will look at stories and activities that help children appreciate differences and acceptance of the uniqueness of individuals.

Today listen to the story Elmer by David McKee (read by David McKee). Elmer is a patchwork elephant that lives in a herd of all gray elephants. Elmer’s friends love to laugh at Elmer’s humor, but Elmer worries that they are laughing at his patchwork. He finds a way to change his skin to gray to fit in, but then realizes that the herd isn’t the same without Elmer the Patchwork Elephant’s presence.

Elmer and his friends learn a valuable lesson… the things that make you different are the things that make you special. This is a lesson that educators work to instill in their classes. The look that uniqueness is not a thing to be looked down upon, but instead to be seen as assets.

Chat about the things that make your child special. Look at physical, emotional, behavioral and other differences. Discuss likes and dislikes. How to these attributes make you… you?

At the end of the story, all the elephants have one day a year where they decorate themselves to show their own unique differences too. (Elmer paints himself gray on these days, to still stand out in his own way). Have your child draw an elephant, or print one off the web. Write on the top of the page “I am special because I am ME” Then around the elephant write attributes that make you… you!

Finally decorate your elephant to show off these attributes. What makes you different is what makes you special, celebrate these differences.

This would make a great family project. Have each member of the family create their own unique elephants. Show that there are attributes that are similar across the family, and ones that are special and unique to each individual.

story · teaching thoughts · topic

Books!

Often times I have parents ask me “What are the best books for me to read to my child?” or “What books should my child be reading?”…. Ok I’m going to give an answer that might shock a lot of teachers… Any book your child is interested in reading is worth reading to/with them! Often times teachers poopoo the reading of stories based on tv shows or movies and such. I say… if your child wants to read it… read it!

Also many teachers have children read “just right books”.

While having your child read books that are really hard is often frustrating for children, if your child wants to read the book and is willing to put in the effort because they like the story/topic/whatever… why would you stop them?

Some people do not want children to read books that are too easy. But, this builds fluency. There is a need to increase both oral fluency as well as silent reading fluency and endurance.

I say… let your child pick books they are interested in reading/having read to them. If they like the book/topic they are more engaged and more interested in listening.

That being said…. I do encourage parents to read aloud even after your child learns to read independently. You should be reading books 2-4 levels above your child’s reading ability. I always encourage kindergarten families to start reading chapter books to your child. When they listen to chapter books they learn to envision the story in their mind. They also learn to hold the story between sittings which will help when they begin reading chapter books on their own.

I leave you one last thought on reading….

STEAM · story · topic

Mooseltoe

Today let’s read a fun holiday story: Mooseltoe by Margie Palatini. Moose wants everything to be “Perfectly perfect” for Christmas, but will he remember EVERYTHING?

Moose forgot the tree! Oh no… what would you do if you forgot to get a Christmas tree? Well you aren’t a moose, so you can’t decorate yourself. Today’s challenge…. create a tree for Moose!

You can use some of the same materials we had yesterday for the Christmas engineering projects or let your child get creative on his/her own. Encourage them to mix materials and think outside the box.

Some ideas: pipe cleaners, construction paper, Lego, popsicle sticks/tongue depressors, a pile of socks?, garland, toys… food…. your imagination is the limit!

Want to add more academics to this fun project? Pick a challenge to add to the creation. Here are some examples: Can you make a tree that stands without support? Can you make a tree that is taller than 10″? Can you make a tree that will hold ornaments? Can you make a symmetrical tree?

Also, have your child plan ahead. What do they think it will look like? What materials do they plan to use? Why?

Encourage multiple attempts, failure is part of the learning process… if that didn’t work, what else could you try?

Then at the end, if not totally exhausted from the process… have your child draw and write about the end result. Write a letter to Moose to go with the tree.

art · story · topic

Christmas Tree

When we think of Christmas, one image often comes to mind… the Christmas tree. It is believed that this tradition began in 16th century Germany. Trees were originally decorated with foods such as nuts, berries, apples and dates. Beginning in the 18th century, people began adding candles to their trees, but this was not very safe. The first Christmas lights were added to the Christmas 1895.

Let’s read some Christmas tree stories: The Littlest Christmas Tree by Janie Jasin and The Biggest Christmas Tree Ever by Steven Kroll.

I decided to share this Art for Kids Hub video How to Draw a Christmas Tree… it is a folding surprise picture. I chose it because when the picture is folded, it is a little Christmas tree, but when opened, it is the biggest one.

Let’s work together on a torn paper picture.

  • green sheet of construction paper
  • another color to use as the background
  • glue
  • markers
  1. tear the green paper into smaller pieces. encourage your child to use their pincer grasp to hold and tear the paper (fine motor work!)
  2. arrange the torn paper into the shape of a tree, if struggling draw a rough outline on the background paper
  3. After gluing all the pieces down, pick up the paper and let any that didn’t stick fall off. Glue them back on if needed
  4. use markers (or other colors of construction paper) to add ornaments and other decorations.
story · topic

Light the Lights

Many winter holidays have a light component. Christmas lights and candles, Hanukkah’s Menorah, Kwanzaa’s Kinara, Winter Solstice’s yule log, Diwali’s lanterns, St Lucia’s candle headdress, Chinese/Lunar New Year’s lanterns, and more! (Lights of Winter by Heather Conrad)

While many families only celebrate one winter holiday, others celebrate multiple. Let’s read a few books about families who celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah.

Light the Lights by Margaret Moorman and Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Momma by Selina Alko.

This is a great opportunity to complete a venn diagram, or double bubble web to compare and contrast the holidays. What makes them the same? What makes them different?