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! ūüôā

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! ūüôā

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!

 

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! ūüôā

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

 

Books Featuring African-American Children

February¬†is African American History Month, so what better time than to intentionally seek out some books that feature African American children? Whatever your¬†family or classroom’s racial and ethnic make-up, it’s always positive to show our children and students diverse people in the books we read with them.

Picture Books

When I Am Old With You by Angela Johnson

A grandson spends the day with his grandfather. As they do various activities together, he imagines that he will be able to do all of those things with his grandpa each day when he is grown up. Such a sweet read with beautiful illustrations!

Grandma Lena’s Big Ol’ Turnip by Denia Lewis Hester

Adapted from a Russian folktale, Grandma Lena discovers an enormous turnip growing in her garden… And calls on the whole family to help pull it up out of the ground! The ending is a fun celebration with the whole community.

Lola in the Library by Anna McQuinn

One of our favorite books to read as a family! Bold, heart-warming illustrations make this an eye-catching book for children.¬†And the¬†story of Lola’s regular trips to the library resonate with many families who also enjoy spending time together.

Is It My Turn Now? by Catherine Lukas

Part of a series of Little Bill, this book is one that our family often reads. It shows a tight-knit family that ¬†pulls together to help each other out in the children’s various activities, ranging¬†from chess to basketball to a school play.

Board Books

In the Wind by Elizabeth Spurr

A great book as spring is around the corner, this is the story of a little girl who plays with her kite on a windy day. Just when she thinks it may have blown away and lost forever, she gets a lovely surprise!

Good Night Baby by Cheryl Willis Hudson

A slightly older board book that has a timeless quality about it. The whole family is pictured in the book as they get Baby read for bedtime.

Whose Knees Are These? by Jabari Asim

Loving and playful text from a parent’s point of view. My children¬†loved this book as babies and toddlers, and they giggled¬†every time we read it!

Kia Tanisha Drives Her Car by Eloise Greenfield

A girl plays outside and visits her friend down the street while trying out some newfound freedom in a play car. Very short text that would be great for a child with a shorter attention span.

 

 

 

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. ūüėČ

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

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.