Make a Story in a Bag

Make a Story in a Bag

What a great idea. Children would love making the characters and acting out.

A great way to get children to socialize with others and have fun while learning.

For lots of kids the beginning, middle and end don’t always come so easily.  Ask a first grader to tell a story of the day, for instance, and often the result will be hilarious because it’s all mixed up.  As fun as it is to listen teaching kids that stories have an order is important.  Want to give your kid some practice? Make some puppets and put them to work!

What You Need:

  • 3-4 old socks
  • Glue
  • Markers
  • Construction paper
  • Yarn (for hair)
  • Book of your child’s choice (from school, home, or the library)
  • Brown paper lunch bag

What You Do:

 

1. Set it up.  Explain to your child that you are going to read a story and then act it out! Let your child pick whatever book she’d like and start by reading the story together. Stop after every 2-3 pages to talk about what’s happening. At the end of the story, ask your child:

  • Who was the story about?
  • Where did the story take place?
  • What happened in the beginning of the story?
  • What happened in the middle of the story?
  • What happened at the end of the story?

Help your child write down the answers to each of those questions, to use for a puppet show later on, or take dictation if your child struggles with this task.

2. Reuse those socks! Sure, your toe may have wormed a hole in the tip, but old socks make perfect puppets. Just throw them in the wash first! Once they’re clean and dry, tell your child she’s going to make puppets for each of the characters in her story, and then act it out!  Give your child the craft supplies and let her use her imagination. Yarn makes great hair, googly eyes add a fun touch. And old ties or bandanas serve as great “costumes”. If she’d like, she can use construction paper to make background scenes, houses, or any other important settings from the story.

3. Act it out. Gather the family and announce the performance. Let your child take the lead and tell you whether she’d like to play all of the characters, or whether she wants some acting backup from you or a sibling. Once the show is over, place the sock puppets, scenery and written story summary in a brown bag and have your child write the story title on the front.  Be sure to keep your “story-in-a-bag” for future shows! This is a fun way to see if your child really understands and remembers a story, and who knows? It may become a new family tradition!

Kindergarten Journal

Kindergarten Journal

Is entering kindergarten for the first time a scary and thrilling prospect for your child? Here’s an activity that gives your child a way to articulate his thoughts about the new school year. Create a back to school journal! Decorate and personalize a notebook, then set aside time once or twice a week to discuss and write down the questions and feelings your child has about school.

Aside from reinforcing reading and writing skills, you’ll be getting the chance to openly communicate with your child. And by letting him jot down his fears, hopes, and expectations, he’ll be practicing a positive method of self-expression that he can use in years to come. Plus, you’ll have a keepsake that will last forever!

What You Need:

  • Spiral-bound notebook
  • Decorations for the notebook like glitter, glue, stickers, pictures, etc.
  • Slips of paper for questions
  • Pen or pencil
  • Small paper bag
  • Clear tape
  • Optional: Snack and journaling juice
  • Optional: Door hanger

What You Do:

  1. Write 10 to 20 questions for your child to answer on slips of paper, and place in a small paper bag. Remember, you want to explore his feelings and help him understand what to expect. Some sample questions:
    • What do you think the first day of school will be like?
    • What do you think you will learn this year?
    • What is one thing you would like to do this year?
    • What is one thing you would like to learn in school this year?
    • Will mommy be driving you to school, or will you take the bus?
  2. About 3 weeks before school starts, help your child select an appropriate yet snazzy notebook to use as a journal. Encourage him to decorate it with markers and his favorite art and stickers.
  3. Select a time of day, once or twice a week in which your house is relatively peaceful. Set 10 minutes aside as “official” journaling time.
  4. At the start of each journaling session, begin by helping your child write his name, the day of week, and date at the top of the page.
  5. Ask your child to choose 2 to 3 questions from the bag, leaving the others as a special surprise for next time.
  6. Read and discuss one question together. Talk about his thoughts, encouraging questions and gently dispelling any myths.
  7. Have your child tape the question in his journal, and then help him record his answer below it. It’s unlikely that your child will be able to write much himself, but you can record his answers for him, and let him help with pictures or new words he’d like to add.
  8. Repeat this process for each question.
  9. Optional: Make his favorite snack and special “journaling juice” during this time, and hang a sign on the door that says “Do Not Disturb, Journaling Time!”

While you’ll do most of the writing, encourage him to practice forming letters, learn new words and express himself by drawing pictures. When school starts, tuck the journal away for safe-keeping and revisit it once he’s had a few months of school under his belt. Or continue the journaling process even after the school year begins.

If he likes journaling, you can even make this an annual tradition and have him write at summer’s end about what he looks forward to and what he wishes might happen in the upcoming year.

 

 

My Shape Book

My Shape Book

At the beginning of the year, kindergartens spend lots of time on shape recognition. more often than not, kids are introduced to shapes in preschool, but in kindergarten, they’ll start learning more about the way our world is made up of all those shapes. Here’s a great way for your child to get ready for the new challenges in a kindergarten classroom. Back in preschool there were lots of books to teach kids about shapes. Now’s a fun time to switch the roles. Help your child make her own shape book.

What You Need:

  • Construction paper in bright colors
  • White card stock paper
  • Marker
  • Scissors
  • Several 5×8 index cards
  • Digital Camera

What You Do:

  1. Take a walk with your child around your home and look for shapes.  You can help point out windows, or doors, or pictures, and trace your finger in the air around the object to help her visualize the shapes.
  2. Ask your child what shape she sees.
  3. Write the name of the object along with the a picture of the shape it represents on on an index card, and then tape it up.
  4. For example: “Door” would be an example of a rectangle.
  5. If your child knows the letter sounds, have her help you write the word. Have her sound it out phonetically.
  6. For example: Your child may only write “D-R” for door. Many kids do this—vowels are among the hardest letters to understand and use. Let your child misspell at this stage – there will be plenty of time later for corrections! If this is too challenging, however, don’t fret: let your child dictate and you can write the object’s name in clear block letters.
  7. Now take a photograph of your child next to each one of those shape locations, and make a book!
  8. Help your child make a cut-out of each shape, out of colored construction paper. Make sure to cut the shape no larger than 3×3 or so.
  9. Each page of the book will be a piece of white card stock paper, oriented horizontally. Glue the cut-out shape onto the upper left hand side of the page. On the other side of the page, help your child glue down the photo of her standing next to that particular shape in your home. Do this for four or five shapes, and you’ve got a shape beautiful book!
  10. Take one extra piece of blank paper, and help your child make it into a cover. Write “Shapes in My House” on the front, and have your child add decoration—whatever she likes! Make sure she signs her name as the author, too!
  11. Bind your book by stapling the left hand margins. This is sure to make your teacher’s day!

When you and your child are finished with the book, before she gives it to her teacher, go over the book with her and she how well she can recognize and identify the shapes in her home. You can do this activity without making a book any time you like with your child, to help giver her a leg up on those important kindergarten skills.

make-shape-book-kinder-bigthumb

Thanksgiving Books for Children

 Thanksgiving Books for children

I love the fall season with the leaves turning beautiful colors and the air so crisp and bright. Often Halloween is the fall holiday that excites children. And while I enjoy the costumes and the parties (and even those delicious snack-sized candy bars!) that are part of Halloween, I am always ready to move past that holiday and turn a child’s attention to the holiday of Thanksgiving. While Halloween seems to focus on getting things (candy and costumes), the Thanksgiving holiday provides the opportunity for children to reflect on and recognize the important things to be grateful for – family, friends, our wonderful earth, etc.

I know that this tends to be a hectic time for parents, as well. Stores are already bombarding our senses with signs of the December holidays, so it is refreshing for me to step back from that and introduce children to Thanksgiving. While teaching children about the history of Thanksgiving, as well as the spirit of the holiday, I also remind myself to take time to think about everything I have to be grateful for.

One of the best ways to introduce children to Thanksgiving is through beautifully written and illustrated picture books. I have listed 10 books that I enjoy. Some are wonderful resources for teaching young children about the first Thanksgiving, while others highlight the importance of recognizing and being grateful for the wonderful people and things in our lives. There are also a few books that incorporate the holiday season in an entertaining story.

 Thanksgiving Books for Children

  1. Thanksgiving is for Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland –  Beautifully illustrated and written, this book highlights the importance of being grateful for the wonderful people and things in our lives.
  2. Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes – Appealing, detailed illustrations and simple text focus on the children in a loving family as they recognize all that they are thankful for. This book truly captures the spirit of Thanksgiving and even has a page at the end of the book to allow children to write down what they are thankful for.
  3. T is for Turkey by Tanya Lee Stone – This delightfully illustrated book uses the alphabet as the structure for telling children about the first Thanksgiving. The rhyming text adds to the enjoyment of the book.
  4. The Littlest Pilgrim by Brandi Dougherty – This sweet tale about a small girl will be easy for young children to relate to. The fact that the main character is a Pilgrim offers children a glimpse into the life of these early American settlers.
  5. One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims by B. G. Hennessy – This adorable book, which can be sung to the familiar tune, is a great introduction to the first Thanksgiving feast. The book gives accurate information in an easy to understand way with young characters that will appeal to children.
  6. The Night Before Thanksgiving by Natasha Wing – Modeled after the poem ‘Twas the Night before Christmas, this rhyming book tells the story of a family as they prepare for the Thanksgiving meal. The story also shows this family sharing their meal with extended family and saying a prayer at the table.
  7. ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey – Another book set in the rhyming style of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, this adorable tale of eight children visiting a turkey farm will delight your little one. The author has a sense of humor as he names the farmer, for example, Mack Nuggett. This is an entertaining book, told with the turkey’s perspective in mind.
  8. A Plump and Perky Turkey by Teresa Bateman – Rhyming text and playful pictures are fun for children. The turkey theme sets the stage for discussions about Thanksgiving.
  9. The Thankful Book by Todd Parr – The bold, colorful, and easily recognizable illustrations by Todd Parr grab children’s attention. This book is a wonderful springboard for discussions with children about the many small things in the world to be grateful for.
  10. Arthur’s Thanksgiving by Marc Brown – While not about the Pilgrim’s first thanksgiving or a family celebration, this is an entertaining story for fans of the Arthur series. Arthur is given the job of directing the class Thanksgiving play which poses quite a dilemma for this favorite storybook character.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I hope you are able to spend this special time with the special people in your life.

Halloween Story Problems

Halloween Story Problems

Seasonal story problems are fun, and motivate kids to think critically. Here’s how you and your child can work together to craft your own story problems from scratch. Remember, every good story problem shows an incomplete number sentence and ends with a question.

What You Need:

    • Orange or black construction paper
    • Handwriting paper
    • Colored pencils
    • Markers
    • Scissors
    • Glue
    • Index card

 

write-halloween-story-problems-slide

write-halloween-story-problems-pumpkinwrite-halloween-story-problems-mummywrite-halloween-story-problems-ghostwrite-halloween-story-problems-witch

 

 

What You Do:

      1. Cut two lines of handwriting paper.
      2. Glue the handwriting paper to the bottom of the construction paper.
      3. Print out multiple copies of the attached  Halloween Characters, around three of each character.
      4. Color them and cut them out.
      5. Draw a background on your orange paper. Ideas to consider are: graveyard, haunted house, crumbling wall, or pumpkin patch. Remember to draw a full moon!
      6. Move your Halloween characters around and start to imagine your story problem. Stumped for ideas? Here are some examples:
        • There were two pumpkins sitting on the wall. Three more joined them. How many pumpkins were altogether? Answer: 2+3 = ?
        • A ghost went trick-or-treating with a witch and two mummies. One of the mummies had to go home early. How many trick-or-treaters were left? Answer: 1+1+2-1=?
        • A mummy walked through a graveyard and four witches rose from a grave. How many were there altogether? Answer: 1+4=?
      7. Write the story problem on the lines. Use neat handwriting. Be sure to give all the information the reader needs to solve the problem. End with a question.
      8. Write the answer out in a number sentence. Make a trap door by cutting a corner of the index card to hide the answer. Draw a question mark on the trap door.
      9. Find someone to solve your problem.
      10. Make another one!

 

How Nursery Rhymes help development

How Nursery Rhymes help development

Developing oral language through nursery rhymes

Nursery Rhymes contribute to the foundational skills young children need in their oral language development. 

Ask any kindergarten teacher about what they wish incoming Kindergartens knew, and you will hear most of them include Nursery Rhymes in their list. They are fun and engaging for young children, and provide a bonding experience when they are read together.

A sense of togetherness

There is a sense of togetherness that Nursery Rhymes provide. As a new mom, I found myself singing Nursery Rhymes when I needed a little song to get a smile out of a little one. When my child  was in preschool, he would come home singing a Nursery Rhyme and I’d chime right in. They were songs and poems that we both knew. Suddenly, we had a common connection between home and school. As a teacher, I find myself using Nursery Rhymes with my pre-k students all day long. When I need to get their attention, I sing Nursery Rhymes. When we practice rhyming words, we chant Nursery Rhymes. When we need a familiar story to retell in our reading lesson, we use familiar Nursery Rhymes. In the first week of pre-k, I’m able to sing several songs with my students who are familiar with Nursery Rhymes. Students who are unfamiliar, learn them quickly and chime in. In just a few short days, we become a team and Nursery Rhymes help develop that sense of togetherness.

Foundational skills in oral language development

We know that listening comprehension comes before reading comprehension. Long before kids can read sight words or sound out unknown words, they are listening to songs, stories, poems, and rhymes. As they are listening, they are developing their comprehension skills. As parents and caregivers read Nursery Rhymes with their children, it’s a great time to ask kids about what is happening in the story, what they think will happen next, or even act out the story they hear.

Creating mental images, based on stories they hear, can be challenging for kids but can strengthen listening comprehension. Television tends to make mental images for us. Kids can sit down for thirty minutes, be entertained with a great story, and see the visual right there on the screen. When they are singing a Nursery Rhyme, for example, there may not be a visual for them to look at. Asking kids what is happening in the rhyme, having them close their eyes and make a picture of it, or pretending to make a movie in their mind will strengthen their listening comprehension.

There might be new language and vocabulary that kids run across when they are listening to Nursery Rhymes. Talk about these words and point them out! Kids will also be introduced to alliteration (a string of words beginning with the same letter), onomatopoeia (words that represent a sound, like woof or honk), and rhyming words. As children are chanting or singing Nursery Rhymes, they learn how to articulate words, practice using pitch and volume as they read and sing, and they are pronouncing words over and over while having fun!

Dramatic play using nursery rhymes

One of my favorite ways to learn about Nursery Rhymes is through dramatic play. Rhymes, songs and stories can quickly be turned into plays, puppet shows or felt board stories. All of these reenactments help deepen listening comprehension. 

Puppet shows are terrific way for your child to retell a story or Nursery Rhyme. Using a store-bought puppet show is fine, but there are very simple ways to create your own puppet theater. Draping a blanket over a coffee table or a few chairs can provide enough space for kids to hide behind, with their puppets or stuffed animals. If they are acting out Hey Diddle Diddle, The Cat and the Fiddle, and don’t have a cow to jump over the moon, use a toy horse and just change out the word. Point out that they’ve just created an adaptation of a Nursery Rhyme and that authors do that all the time! Printing characters onto cardstock and attaching them to popsicle sticks is another way to create characters quickly. It’s fast, easy, inexpensive, and the possibilities for characters and props are endless.

Kids can also just act out a rhyme. Grab a tuffet, a fake spider, and a bowl, and suddenly you have little Miss Muffet happening right in your living room. It’s a great chance to develop those higher level vocabulary skills too, since we don’t often call our “low to the ground pillows” tuffets anymore. Acting out Jack and Jill can be quick, simple, and fun too. A pile of pillows will make a great hill to tumble down. Kids will be able to internalize the new word, tumble, and it may even become part of their vocabulary.

There are many great reasons to use Nursery Rhymes in your daily routine. Aside from providing foundational skills for oral language development, these rhymes are fun and engaging for young children. It’s a time to connect with your child, provide a home-school connection, and simply have a great time learning together. There are plenty of Nursery Rhyme CD’s out there too, so the learning and fun doesn’t even need to stop when you’re in the car! One word of caution – many of these Nursery Rhymes were written during a very dark time in history, and some of the rhymes themselves can be a bit dark and scary. Steer clear of those! We don’t want kids having nightmares of someone cutting of the tails of the 3 Blind Mice with a carving knife. Stick to fun rhymes like Jack and Jill or Little Miss Muffet. And by all means, if you are acting out Jack Be Nimble with your child, and jumping over the candlestick, make sure it’s not lit! Other than that, have fun!