Teaching the Five Senses

Hooray for Hoppy! by Tim Hopgood tells the story of a bunny who is eager for spring to come, leaving his burrow and uses his five senses to determine if spring has truly arrived. My daughters appreciated the cheery, colorful illustrations, while I appreciated the clearly defined five senses presented in a fun way.

At the end of the story there is a clear diagram of the 5 senses paired with an illustration from the book that exemplifies each sense. My daughters and I reviewed that each time we read the story, a helpful educational tool that cemented the topic in their mind without being too repetitive or boring.

For more books and reading activities that incorporate the five senses, see my previous posts Introducing Helen Keller and Helping Children Cultivate Thankful Hearts.

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

For Parents:

  • After reading the book with your child, point to the different parts of your body as you review the five senses (i.e. point to your mouth for tasting and your eyes for seeing). Ask your child to point to those body parts, too, and repeat each of the five senses.
  • Gather together some items from the house and put them in a bag or box. Ask your child to pull one item out at a time, then decide which of the five senses they would use for that item. (For example, apples can be tasted and a soft scarf can be felt.) Explain that sometimes we can use multiple senses at the same time!
  • Play this fun learning song to reinforce the five senses.

For Teachers:

  • Play this fun learning song to introduce the five senses. Then ask students to listen for each of the five senses as you read the book.
  • Hold up some items and ask students which sense they would primarily use to interact with that item. For example, hearing for a CD or tasting for an orange.
  • Create a printable book of the five senses. Review as a class and if desired, assign as reading practice, place in students’ individual work folders or assign to weekly book bins.

Alphabet Fun!

When we checked out the book Alphabetics from the library, my two-year old was IN LOVE! We renewed it twice before finally returning it for another child to have a chance to enjoy the book. 😉

Suse MacDonald, author and illustrator, won the Caldecott Honor for her bright and creative illustrations she developed based on the letters of the alphabet. I admit, even I had fun looking through the pages to see how the shape of the alphabet morphed into a completely different shape…. beginning with that same letter, of course!

Not only is this an outstanding read-aloud, but what a fun book to include in the class library or in a learning station for letter work!

Best Ages: pre-k – kindergarten

5 Concept Board Books

Looking for some fresh books to help your baby or toddler learn concepts? Here are 5 that our family recommends:

  • Follow the Yarn by Emily Sper (Teaches COLORS)

One of the most unique color books I’ve seen. A cat plays with yarn and the colorful lines of string build up on each page. My preschooler even loved this one because she enjoyed tracing the strands of brightly colored string back to its original ball of yarn.

  • We Love Each Other by Yusuke Yonzu (Teaches SHAPES)

A one-of-a-kind book to introduce and reinforce shape learning. Two animals are creatively positioned to form each shape, and the book has cut-outs that young children will enjoy feeling and tracing.

  • Monkey World ABC by Matthew Porter (Teaches JOBS)

Can you think of a career that starts with each letter of the alphabet? While admittedly not my preferred style of illustrations, this book has a fun array of professions displayed… literally from A to Z. Both my daughters both enjoy reading this one!

  • 1 2 3 Beep Beep Beep! A Counting Book by Brian Biggs (Teaches NUMBERS)

Bright and slightly off-beat illustrations make this book really fun. My daughters liked counting the vehicles on each page and sharing which was their favorite. The final page provides a cute ending.

  • I Love You, Papa, In All Kinds of Weather! by Nancy White Carlstrom (Teaches DAYS)

I picked this up expecting it to provide basic weather learning and found that it does a better job of clearly emphasizing days of the week. From Monday to Sunday, Jesse Bear describes the activities he does given the weather. Very sweet!

Best Ages: 0-3 years

 

Patience and Generosity

Counting Chickens by Polly Alakija tells the story of an African boy named Tobi, who patiently waits for his new hen to lay eggs… And then waits patiently for the eggs to hatch. Meanwhile, his other friends from the village watch as their various livestock have baby animals. The story underscores the vast number of people around the world who live in rural areas and depend on raising animals to provide for their families.What a gem! A book that is multicultural, educational and can be easily used to encourage patience as well as generosity in the home and in the classroom.

What a gem!

This book allows you to teach or introduce:

  • Days of the week
  • Ordinal numbers (i.e. first, second, third)
  • Names of animal babies (such as “kid” for baby goat)
  • Patience

At the same time, the book provides a look at another culture. Although it takes place in Africa, a similar story could be told in many villages around the world.

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

For Parents:

  • Throughout the week, reflect on the times that your child waits patiently (in the line at the supermarket, dinner being prepared, etc.) and praise him/her for demonstrating patience just like Tobi did in this book. Maybe even give your child a high five!
  • Take a look at options available through  World Vision or Ox Fam to donate animals to families in need around the world. This is an incredible way to be generous, and many options begin around $20. If it’s financially possible for your family, allow your child to pick out an animal to donate to a family like Tobi’s somewhere in the world to provide a sustainable way to support themselves.

For Teachers:

  • Explain (or remind, if it’s already been taught) that our world has 7 continents. On a map or globe, point out the continent on which you live. Then point out the continent of Africa, where the story takes place.
  • Practice ordinal numbers with an activity like this free Winter Ordinal Numbers and Positional Words or these free Ordinal Number Picture Cards.
  • Fundraise money for your class to purchase an animal through a non-profit organization such as World Vision or Oxfam. Hold a bake sale, invite students and parents to donate with an announcement in your class newsletter, or organize a Valentine’s Day candy gram! See how many animals you are able to purchase with the money you raise.

 

 

A “Berry” Good Read-Aloud

I know… “Berry” good… Such a cheesy line. But seriously, if you want a fun read-aloud for your children or students, please pick up the book Jamberry by Bruce Degen. It is playful and imaginative and kids adore the illustrations!

Degen’s inspiration for the book are his own memories of berry-picking with his grandfather as a child, then returning home to bake or can the fresh fruit. In Jamberry, a boy imagines that he and a bear are in their own incredible, magical world of berries. Berries pour from a waterfall, overflow train cars and make up a rainbow. My daughters delighted in looking through the pictures each time we read the book to find something new!

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

For Parents:

  • Make toast or pull out some crackers topped with your favorite jam. Or make a berry smoothie like this one. Then eat the yummy snack as you read Jamberry together.
  • Choose one or more of these “25 Super Sweet Berry Crafts for Kids.”
  • Set up plans for the summer to go berry picking in your area.

For Teachers:

  • Share the health benefits of berries with your students – great information available from a Registered Dietician in these articles: Boost Up with Blueberries and Superfoods: Cranberries.
  • Write out 5 common berries on the board and then take a vote of your students’ favorite berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and cranberries). Make a chart to mathematically and visually demonstrate the information.
  • Coordinate with your art teacher (if necessary) and have your students make these Berry Sweet Handprint crafts. Display in your classroom!

 

Zoooom!!

Children love to learn about airplanes, trains, cars, trucks and other means of transportation. Despite gender stereotypes, my daughters are no exception to the rule. They love to read books about all kinds of traditionally “boyish” topics!

A fun book we recently read in this genre is Planes Fly! by George Ella Lyon. Ever since our family trip to visit my husband’s family in southern California last March, our daughters are intrigued by airplanes. Given that we live in a large city with major air traffic, we see and hear planes fly overhead regularly throughout the day and night.

Planes Fly! has rhyming text that describes various types of aircraft and the jobs that people have related to air travel. My two-year old particularly liked connecting this book to her own experience on an airplane.

For any parents or family members planning to travel by air sometime this year, Planes Fly! would be a great precursor to the trip. It also makes an excellent addition to a transportation unit or learning center for the classroom.

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

For more reading on means of transportation and construction equipment, check out two of my previous posts, Summer Bike Rides & Means of Transportation and Mighty Dads.

Talking with Kids About Bullying

My husband and I discuss emotional health and boundaries in age-appropriate ways with our daughters, who are ages 2 and 4. We especially appreciate using books and Bible stories as practical tools to help our children gain understanding of how to best handle conflict.

Even with kids who are not yet in school, like mine, or children who are homeschooled, bullying is an important topic to address. We’ve dealt with minor instances of bullying at the park, the children’s museum and the public library. Having conflicts with other people is unavoidable! But we can prepare our children and our students for the best way to handle those conflicts.

As a side note, my husband and I also teach our children to check their own behavior and make sure they aren’t bullying others… or even one another!

My favorite picture book for introducing this topic with younger kids is Llama Llama and the Bully Goat by Anna Dewdney. Not only is the book cute and relatable, but it outlines 5 important aspects of bullying:

  1. Clear description of bullying behavior.
  2. Clear boundaries established by an adult (the teacher) that apply to all the children (students in the class).
  3. Simple and clear language to say, “That’s not okay.”
  4. Adult involvement and appropriate consequences for the child who demonstrates bullying behavior.
  5. Opportunity for forgiveness and a “second chance.”

For many children who encounter bullying and/or domineering behavior, this is a great way to break down the way to handle that behavior. Llama Llama and the Bully Goat is an excellent resource for home or school use.

Note: If there is a serious, ongoing issue with bullying and your child is involved, please use your discernment on how to ensure your child’s safety and emotional well-being. Don’t be afraid to seek assistance from appropriate people such as a classroom teacher or school counselor.

Best Ages: pre-k – kindergarten

 

 

Celebrating MLK Jr. & Coretta Scott King

On Monday, January 16th, the United States will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

And what a perfect timing.

Many Americans experience genuine and ongoing pain surrounding the events of 2016 that revealed ongoing racial tension in our nation, from police shootings to a gut-wrenching and divisive presidential election. On Monday, we need to be reminded of the incredible dedication of those who have already lived out how to charter these waters of injustice and division…. peacefully.

In a previous post, I wrote about an excellent children’s book on the life of MLK Jr. This week, my children and I read the book Coretta Scott by Ntozake Shange.

Beautiful illustrations and poetic text make this book a wonderful read-aloud.  While is not religious in tone, the book describes how Coretta and her husband prayed together for peace and equality, and also referenced the work MLK Jr. did as an ordained minister. This background information helps children to understand an important reason the Kings chose to fight against injustice in a non-violent way. They were acting in obedience to Jesus’ call to Christians to “bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:28).

The book also references Ghandi, who held very different religious beliefs, but chose to act and lead in non-violent ways. Ghandi’s example in India was a source of inspiration to many civil rights activists in the United States.

Coretta Scott proclaims a timely message for our children and for this nation: We can be agents of change within our families, our communities and our country.

And we can do it with respect, dignity and peace.

Best Ages: pre-k – 2nd grade

The Life and Work of Diego Rivera

I have personally seen the work of Diego Rivera as painted in the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City… And it is spectacular. How delightful to be able to share that with my daughters with the children’s book Diego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuth.

Surprisingly, my two-year old liked this one even more than my preschooler!

This book is a biography of Diego Rivera but also explores themes of art. For those of you who know a bit about Rivera, he was classically trained in Europe before returning to Mexico when he was commissioned by the government. He often selected everyday people and scenes, or important events in his homeland’s history, to paint in public murals. The author ends the book by asking the reader to consider what Diego Rivera might have chosen to paint if he lived today.

Author-illustrator Duncan Tonatiuth created illustrations that imitate Rivera’s style. And the back of the book contains some educational bonuses: a glossary of words and references in the order in which they appear in the book, an author’s note, a list of some places where you can find Diego Rivera’s artwork, a bibliography and a list of Rivera’s artwork which inspired the illustrator of the book.

This would be an asset to any unit on Hispanic Heritage study, intercultural unit, art, history or multiculturalism. Or simply a stand-alone for home or classroom use.

Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • Print off a coloring page of one of Diego Rivera’s more well-known murals. See if your child can find that same artwork in the book, or if there is another illustration that is similar. Then allow your child to color in their own artwork.
  • Use an atlas world map (print or digital) to look up some of the places where Rivera’s artwork is displayed. Refer to in the index of the book! 🙂

For Teachers:

  • Have student volunteers locate the various countries that are mentioned in the story on a globe or world map. Ask students what prior knowledge they have about these places, or if any of them have traveled to those countries.
  • Use a DocuCam or projector to go through this “Inside Scoop” on Diego Rivera with your class, as published by the National Art Gallery in Washington.
  • Check out this amazing idea for creating a classroom mural based on Diego Rivera’s famous artwork! The teacher here suggests swapping with another school through the mail, but you could do it as your own grade level or with another class in your school.

Calendar Practice

Happy New Year! January is the perfect time to practice calendar work with your child or students. The book When Lucy Goes Out Walking: A Puppy’s First Year by Ashley Wolff provides a great platform to kick off learning or practicing months of the year.

calendarpractice
Having fun learning with the calendar…Although my 4 year old would only smile AFTER taking the picture 😉

My daughters both enjoyed this book. They are dog lovers (although we don’t have one ourselves… yet!) and liked seeing the different activities that puppy Lucy does in each month. They also liked the rhyming text that could be easily incorporated into a poetry unit.

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

For Parents:

  • Read through the book once with your child. Afterward, give your child a calendar and ask them to flip to each new month as you read Lucy Goes out Walking. (If you only have a digital calendar, you could pull that up on a screen or you could purchase a hard copy calendar at the dollar store.)
  • Go through the calendar together, practicing the names of each month in order. Discuss the special events, birthdays or holidays you celebrate during various months each year.
  • Count how many months there are in one year (12).
  • If you speak more than one language, or want your child to learn a second language, this is a great opportunity to practice the months of the year in that language. Check out these fun songs for months of the year in  Spanish and French.

For Teachers:

  • Go through the months of the year as a class. Give students a print-out of the 2017 calendar and ask them to find dates that you say – write out a list in advance. For example, you could say, “Draw a star on April 5th” or “Circle October 1st.” Review as a class.
  • Play this song for your students. Have them point to the month as the song sings each one. (Start at 0:15 to skip ad for the Learning Station).
  • Use this free resource for calendar practice as morning work, a learning station activity, or small-group or whole-group practice.