Learning About India: Family and Clothing

My preschooler fell in love with the book My Dadima Wears a Sari by Kashmira Sheth after checking it out from the library. The story tells two granddaughters who wonder why their grandmother – or Dadima (pronounced DAH-dee-mah) – only wears saris even though her children and grandchildren wear western clothing now that they live in a western country.

Dadima explains the many things she can do with a sari, the traditional clothing for women of India, and then shows her granddaughters her most precious saris. The girls try some on and feel a connection to their grandma and their family’s culture.

The illustrations are beautiful and the relationship between Dadima and the two children is heartwarming. My Dadima Wears a Sari is a delightful read-aloud and provides insight to another culture.

Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • Ask your child what types of clothing he/she likes to wear every day and if there is a particular outfit he/she prefers for a special occasion.
  • Print and color this free page of a woman wearing a sari. (This educational site has lots of other free coloring pages of traditional clothing from countries around the world.)
  • Watch the beginning of this dance at an Indian wedding, featuring children wearing saris and dancing to Indian music. Discuss the video with your child, including the style of clothing, music and dance. How is this similar or different to how your culture celebrates a wedding?

For Teachers:

  • Discuss the importance of clothing in our everyday life. Review appropriate clothing based on weather and setting (school, home, church, party, etc.).
  • Show the first 1-2 minutes of this dance at an Indian wedding, featuring children wearing saris and dancing to Indian music. Discuss the video as a class, touching on the style of clothing, music and dance. How is this similar or different to how your students’ culture celebrates a wedding?
  • Use this free Hot and Cold Weather Clothing Sort with your students. Compare that clothing to the clothes you saw the characters wear in the book.
  • Find India on a map and review some basic information about India from National Geographic kids.

Exploring Our World with Dr. Jane Goodall

Isn’t it incredible that God has given us an orderly world and given some people the incredible capacity to study and further understand that beautiful world?

One such person is Dr. Jane Goodall. Her interest and work in animal studies and environmentalism have inspired many people to take greater responsibility in taking care of wildlife and our earth’s natural resources. You can share her story with your students or children by reading the book Me… Jane by Patrick McDonnell. He tells the story of Jane Goodall’s growing up years in a lovely, simple way. The illustrations earned the book the Caldecott Honor and uniquely included some of Jane’s childhood notes/illustrations in addition to a photo of her as a young adult for the ending. My children really liked reading this book – and so did I!

Check out my post Snowflakes and Science for another excellent children’s biography of a scientist. Sharing these life stories of scientists with children, who already have a natural curiosity, helps to encourage their spirit of inquiry and exploration.

Happy reading! 🙂

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

 

Study Your Heart

Hear Your Heart by Paul Showers teaches children about the importance and function of the heart in our bodies. The illustrations include easy-to-read diagrams to show how blood flows in and out of four chambers of the heart, what veins and arteries look like in our bodies and more. The author also explains that heartbeats vary by age and activity, and that your heart is actively pumping blood all the time, even while sleeping!

My daughters really enjoyed reading this book and completing the suggested activities. We pumped our fists as a tangible connection to the work our heart, as a muscle, does every minute of every day. We listened to each other’s heartbeats using an empty toilet paper roll. Finally, we tried various physical activities and monitored how they increased or decreased our heart rate.

What a great learning resource!

Hear Your Heart is a helpful addition to a unit on science, health or non-fiction books. Enjoy! 🙂

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

For Parents:

  • Use an empty toilet paper roll to listen to your child’s heart beat and allow them to listen to yours.
  • Try various exercises that are listed at the end of the book and then listen to your heartbeats again. Did your child notice his/her heart beat faster after physical activity?
  • Print off and color in this free human heart coloring page from Crayola.

For Teachers:

  • Check out this great idea for a visual demonstration of how the human hearts takes in blood and pumps it out. You will need a bucket of water and a tennis ball with a hole in it to show your class how our hearts work.
  • Play a clip of the Magic School Bus episode “Inside the Human Heart.” (This may be available through your school district or even available at your public library – it is at ours!) Otherwise show this online educational video clip (approximately 6 minutes) about the human heart with an animated red blood cell that acts as a host.
  • Brainstorm your classroom’s favorite sports/physical activities. Remind them that being active keeps their hearts healthy! Then divide students into pairs to play a matching game with sports and equipment (pre-k and kindergarten) or this Olympic Winter Sports matching game (1st-2nd grade).

 

 

A Sweet Story of Friendship

Since my daughters were each born, I have been praying that they would be good friends with each other. I also hope that they will cultivate meaningful and supportive friendships with children their age as they grow and develop. As Anne in the well-known novel Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery states in Chapter 8, many of our hearts long for “A bosom friend–an intimate friend, you know–a really kindred spirit in whom I can confide my inmost soul.”

I have had the honor of having such friends in my life, past and present, and I sincerely hope to see my children have the same throughout their lives.

One children’s book that tells the sweet story of such a friendship is Penguin and Pinecone by Salina Yoon. My daughter received this as a gift for her birthday from a friend, who told us that it is one of their family’s favorite books. Since then, we have read it too many times to count! The story is easy to follow and relatable for people of all ages, as a friendship is forged and the two must consider what the other needs. It shows children the power of love and sacrifice and kindness.

In the fall, my daughters found pinecones on two family outings – once during a snack break on a bike ride, once during trip to a family friend’s cottage up north – and they immediately connected them to our oft-read story Penguin and Pinecone. So we gathered pinecones, brought them home to paint them and enjoyed the book again..

eliyahpinecones

Happy reading! 🙂

bucketpinecones

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

 

Practicing Gratitude

It’s a fact that practicing gratitude is good for our overall health and developing a more positive outlook on life. My Christian faith has greatly influenced my views on practicing gratitude, and although I don’t all have it down perfectly, it is something that I try to constantly grow in and model to my children. Here are some of my favorite passages from the Bible that reveal the significance of having a grateful heart and mindset:

  • Now our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. 1 Chronicles 29:13
  • I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your deeds. Psalm 9:1
  • Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” John 11:41
  • And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
  • Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

As our family practices gratitude, we found an exceptional book that can be used in all families and classrooms, regardless of faith background. It is called Giving Thanks! More Than 100 Ways to Say Thank You by Ellen Surrey. The book gives prompts to help you and your child/student think of various areas of life in which they can express gratitude.

Please feel free to leave a comment sharing something that you are thankful for today!

For more reading and activities, check out my post Helping Children Cultivate Thankful Hearts.

Best Ages: pre-k – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • For one week, take a prompt from the book and go around the table at mealtime to allow each family member to share their response.
  • Select some of your favorite prompts from the book and with your child, write responses on slips of brightly colored paper. Staple or tape the strips of paper to make a paper link chain. Hang in your child’s bedroom as a visual reminder of all that you are thankful for!
  • If you are a Christian family, take one evening this week to write down a list of what you are thankful for. (This could be incorporated in a devotional or prayer time.) Then use that list to pray together as a family. Hang the list in a prominent place to reflect on throughout the rest of the week.

For Teachers:

  • Use as a journal prompt each morning for a week – or incorporate into morning work or circle time.
  • Have students work together in small groups to make posters of thanksgiving.
  • Write a note to someone you are thankful for – a family member, neighbor, friend or someone in the school. Use this as an opportunity to teach the skill of writing a letter. If desired, allow students to address and mail letters!

 

On the Same Day in March…

March is here and I have the perfect book to recommend at the beginning of the new month: On the Same Day in March: A Tour of the World’s Weather by Marilyn Singer. This book is a fabulous way to help children understand that on any given day, people around the world experience different weather depending on their location. It also features a circular plot, in which the book starts and ends in the same way (or in this case, in the same geographical location).

My daughters both liked reading On the Same Day in March. While at the public library, we even found its companion book by Marilyn Singer titled Nine O’Clock Lullaby. Despite the word “lullaby” in the title, it is not a babyish book. It has a similar premiss to On the Same Day in March, but focuses on how time changes depending on a person’s location in the world. Our family read both books multiple times and found them very helpful for introducing basic concepts of geography, weather and time.

Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • Look at the illustrated map before the story begins. Point out where you live on the map.
  • After reading, ask your child which country he/she would like to visit, and why. Also ask which type of weather your child prefers.
  • Make a simple and fun weather chart craft using a paper plate. Then use it each day this week to describe the weather.

For Teachers:

  • Write the name of 5 locations featured in the story on small slips of paper. Place in a basket. After reading the book, ask for student volunteers to choose a slip of paper. As a class, help that student locate the place on a world map or globe.
  • Set up learning stations with activities targeted for a selection of countries featured in the book. Activities can include books, travel guides, popular items imported/exported from the country, coloring pages, music or video clips. Or simplify and create learning centers for one country out of the book that interests you or corresponds to your curriculum. (For example, highlight Argentina with 4 centers: this free handout for  Tradition Day, a colorful buildings art collage center with color print-outs of Argentine streets,  a screening of this 2-minute film and a soccer center with this fun coloring page and some soccer-themed items.)
  • Track the weather for the month of March in your classroom. Integrate into your morning circle, daily work or science class. Check out this free daily weather chart or this free monthly handout.

Art Inspiration

Looking for ways to make art and creativity more a part of your daily schedule at home or in the classroom? Check out this book called The Art Box by Gail Gibbons. It is a nonfiction book that explains common art materials, colors and more.

My daughters love to do art at home, at the local children’s museum and at play group. This book has inspired us to think about what other materials and projects we can do together!

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

For Parents:

  • Put together an art box, if you don’t already have one at home. We’ve used old shoeboxes as ours, but you could buy fun and more fancy baskets or containers! To get more bang for your buck, check out your local dollar store or print coupons to use at national craft chain stores such as Jo Ann Fabrics or Hobby Lobby.
  • Talk about the art materials you are using as you and your child sit down to do some art together.
  • For inspiration, take a look at my favorite art blog hosted by an elementary school art teacher. Search by age, media or theme!

For Teachers:

  • Invite your art teacher into your classroom. Read the book aloud to your students together, then allow them to rotate through stations that explore different art materials as described in the book.
  • Ask students to share their experiences working with different types of media. Take a vote on which station was their favorite.
  • Use one of these free graphic organizers to integrate art with one of your core content areas. For younger students, complete a a class.
  • Choose one idea from this art teacher for reinforcing the color wheel as introduced in the book and try it out with your class!

Reader’s Theater for Early Readers

Reader’s Theater can be such a fun literacy activity for a traditional classroom or homeschooling co-op group!

In our weekly visit to the library, my children and I came across a picture book that would make for a wonderful reader’s theater activity: Where Are You Going? To See My Friend by friends and illustrators Eric Carle and Kazuo Iwamura. This is a bilingual book in English and Japanese that tells the story of a dog who invites animal friends one by one to join him in meeting his friend. It is written in a basic script for early readers to be able to read independently and has a solid pattern and rhythm that will help students to stay on track as they perform.

What makes it especially unique is that the first half of the book is in English, while the second half of the book is in Japanese (which is read from the last page to the middle), with the same text but different illustrations. Such a unique twist!

Where Are You Going? To See My Friend is a fun read aloud when you make a distinct voice for each new animal character who appears in the story. But for slightly older students, it would be very exciting to follow it up with a reader’s theater!

If you’ve never done a reader’s theater before, try it out: After reading the book aloud to your class, simply assign each child one animal and rehearse the lines in groups of 6. (You may need to facilitate the rehearsals more closely depending on the age and reading ability.) Then allow each group to present to the rest of the class!

Note: You may want to check out and utilize these Guidelines for Performing Reader’s Theater. Enjoy! 🙂

Best Ages: pre-k – kindergarten (read aloud), 1st – 2nd (reader’s theater)

 

Women in the Bible & the 19th Amendment

The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution provided women with the right to legally vote. It is an important part of our country’s history. Being a female US citizen, I am grateful for my ability to vote… And grateful that my daughters will someday be able to vote, too.

When I found the picture book Miss Paul and the President by Dean Robbins at the public library, I was thrilled to read it to my daughters. It provided another opportunity to teach my children about our country’s history, the courage of many women who have gone before us, and the truth that men and women are of equal value and worth.

Miss Paul and the President explains how Alice Paul and other suffragettes worked tirelessly to bring the issue of the women’s vote to national attention. She met with then-President Wilson, organized peaceful marches in Washington, D.C., and traveled the country as part of a dedicated effort to influence Congress to pass the 19th Amendment. And in the 1920 presidential election, she was among millions of other women who cast their ballots for the first time in American history.

In reading this book, I couldn’t help but think of to the numerous women in the Bible who worked with equal bravery and commitment: the Hebrew midwives who refused to kill babies as the Egyptian king commanded (Exodus 1); Abigail, who successfully negotiated with David and his soldiers in the wake of her husband’s foolish and reckless behavior (1 Samuel 25); Deborah’s distinguished service as judge over Israel (Judges 4); and Lydia, a prominent leader in the early Christian church who ran her own business (Acts 16).

My Christian faith has given me a firm belief in the value and dignity of both men and women in God’s eyes. Despite the fact that some people have historically misused the Bible to promote their own agendas regarding gender roles, the Bible stands out among any other writings of its time. The Bible asserts that men and women are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and that there is no distinction between the worth of men and women in God’s eyes (Galatians 3:28).

Jesus Himself demonstrated counter-cultural behavior during His time, astonishing even His closest friends and disciples at times. He spoke with women in public with respect and compassion, even if they did not share his same religious background or were viewed as moral people (John 4, Matthew 15, John 12). He healed women and young girls, as well as men, without discrimination (Luke 4, Luke 8).

Pretty amazing!

Whatever your personal faith and convictions, I am sure that you will find Miss Paul and the President to be an exceptional read in the classroom at home. Plus, there are extra notes and a bibliography included at the end of the book for your perusal!

To read another excellent book by this author, see my previous post on Friendship in Hard Times.

Best Ages: 1st grade – 4th grade

Check out this article to find out more about the 19th Amendment.

Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some of his most beautiful paintings at both the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Art Institute in Chicago. Although his work was not appreciated during his lifetime, Van Gogh’s art is well-known and world-renowned today!

The book Camille and the Sunflowers by Laurence Anholt touches on a brief time in Vincent’s life and career when he traveled to a small town and befriend the postman’s family. They helped Vincent settle into his home, visited him regularly and treated him kindly and respectfully despite the other townspeople’s distrust of an outsider.

My children liked reading this book and it provided an excellent opportunity to discuss biography, art history and friendship. The illustrations are nostalgic and include photographs of real Van Gogh paintings.

Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • Discuss how the townspeople treated Vincent and what was different about how the postman’s family chose to treat Vincent. How can we learn from them?
  • Vincent was a neighbor to the postman’s family and they welcomed him to their neighborhood with many kind gestures. Choose a neighbor (old or new) to show kindness to this week! Bring over a homemade treat, send a card in the mail or offer to shovel the sidewalk.

For Teachers:

  • Camille was sad when he took his painting to school and his classmates laughed at it. How should we treat our friends when they tell us about something that is important to them?
  • Find the country of the Netherlands (Holland) on a world map, as well as Belgium and France. Explain those were the 3 places where Vincent lived throughout his life.
  • If you’re feeling adventurous, complete this art activity based on Vincent Van Gogh’s painting style with your students. Coordinate with your art teacher if desired. Display completed paintings in your classroom, along with printed copies of his most famous work as seen in the book.