Sunday, September 22, 2013

Inspire young children to move with these books about autumn!

Autumn is here!

Fall Books that Foster Dance and Movement: Connie Dow at PreK+K Sharing

One of my favorite activities for getting children up and moving is to start with a wonderful book, add a little bit of imagination and a few movement prompts, and you have a ready-made lively and fun movement session. I have written about this many times in previous blog posts.

I decided to put together a list of some of my favorite books for dance stories for the autumn season, which have sparked creativity in children over and over.  When you use these books as inspiration for movement, not only will you and the children have fun, you will be enhancing early literacy skills by reading the book, then moving and dancing to the stories. Through kinesthetic learning, the dance story activity reinforces sequencing, develops the children’s ability to identify with different characters, helps them to explore and learn about the setting and background, strengthens vocabulary acquisition, and nurtures many other valuable pre-literacy and early language skills.  In addition, the children will have that all-important large motor activity time in which they can develop movement skills such as balance, body awareness, stamina, strength and flexibility, and coordination.

Late Summer/Early Fall:

In the Tall, Tall Grass, by Denise Fleming:

Children love the color, sounds and movement evoked in this beautiful story of life in the tall grass.  Some of the movement suggestions are:  wings flapping, snakes gliding, hummingbirds darting and dipping …

Fall/Early Winter

Barn Dance, by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault:

A dance teacher friend told me about this book years ago.  Children love to dance this story.  Prop suggestions:  Bandanas for the children, orange paper plates on which the children draw pumpkin faces, felt apples.  Music suggestion:  Bluegrass instrumentals.  This story can be developed into a wonderful classroom presentation for family and friends.

Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton:  A fun book to use in conjunction with Barn Dance.

Books about leaves and the autumn season:

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert:

Tap the Magic Tree, by Christie Matheson.

Let It Fall, by Maryann Cocca-Leffler:

Leaves and trees inspire movement, and with the wind and rain in autumn, the leaves begin to fall to the ground.  Twirling, swirling, falling, raking, jumping, these are all movements that can be woven into the stories.

Have fun with these dance stories!

Keep on dancin’,

Connie Bergstein Dow

Friday, September 20, 2013

Dr. Danny Brassell's Top 5 Articles

Dr. Danny Brassell's Top 5 Articles @ PreK+K Sharing

We here at the collaborative are so grateful to have so many celebrities in our midst. 
This month for Dr. Danny's article it's fitting to provide you with 
Danny's Top 5 Articles in order of their popularity. 

Enjoy the opportunity to see what your peers have found MOST helpful. 

Beginning the countdown with #5........ 

I give you Danny's article: 

       5.   The Secret Steps to Creating a Thriving Reading Environment 

The Secret Steps to Creating a Thriving Reading Environment by Dr. Danny Brassell

How Parents Can Integrate Math with Reading by Dr. Danny Brassell

Come find out what that wise professor from Harvard has to share. 
Lesson Learned from Teaching English Language Learners

Come find out how teaching children compares to blue jeans! 

Parents can Improve Children's Vocabulary by Dr. Danny Brassell

And now........ 
{A *HUSH* comes over the crowd} 
DRUMROLL please..................................................

The number one Dr. Danny article of all time? 
If you have ever heard the man speak,
this probably won't come as any surprise. 

He is truly passionate about this subject. 

10 Ways to Get Boys Reading by Dr. Danny Brassell 

We welcome Danny back in our midst, 
once his travel schedule allows. 
At this moment he is in Canada, but he is back and forth across the country as much as any presenter I know. 

Keep your eyes open! 
If you see him on a program in your area, 
be certain to mark your calendar accordingly. 

On behalf of Dr. Danny
This is your editor-in-chief reporting, 
Debbie Clement

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Teaching Kindness and Acceptance

I just adore Chrysanthemum...How can you not fall in love with this sweet, cute, precious little mouse?? Even my students love her!

This year, we kicked off the year using the book Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, to teach our unit on names. After reading the book to students and completing the activites, I had to ask myself, "Why have I never used this book to teach names, acceptance, kindness and respect for ourselves and others? WHY WHY WHY??"

 On the first day I just read the story to students and let them discuss what we read.

One the second day, before I read the story, I had a large red heart that I showed the children. We talked about how nice and pretty the heart was without any crinkles or markings on it. Then I told the children that each time they heard hurtful words, to crumple up the heart. I got this idea from Nancy over at First Grade W.O.W! Click on the link to take you directly to her post on this particular Chrysanthemum mini unit and to get other ideas! (She has some really great ideas for teaching social skills, I love her blog!)

At the end of the book, our heart was crumpled and it actually even tore a little bit. This brought us to the discussion of how words that we use can be hurtful and when we use hurtful words, they make a mark on someones heart that can't be fixed. I showed that students that once a heart is broken...or crinkled, it may never be the same...we can't smooth out the heart after those words are said...we can't take back hurtful words. I let that soak in for a little bit and let the students discuss their feelings and if someone has ever hurt them.

Day 3, I read the story yet again and this time we talk about ways to help heal someones heart or keep it from getting hurt. Some of the ideas my students came up with were: Saying I am sorry, not using those words at all, being kind to everyone, not  making fun of others and helping others.
After that discussion, we took our band-aides and helped to heal Chrysanthemum's heart and attached a poem to the center that reads: Before you speak, think and be smart. It's hard to fix a wrinkled heart!

Day 4 - Students made their own Chrysanthemum! The kiddos were so proud of them and I must say, they turned out adorable! We also made speech bubbles, from Chrysanthemum that say "I think the name _________ is perfect! Love, Chrysanthemum" I made this into our bulletin board for the quarter, to remind my students to always think before they speak.

Day 5: I let the kiddos act out the story as I narrated. Since this was our first acting of the school year, of course many of the students were shy and not sure what to do, but they tried their best and NO ONE made fun of each other...and that is all that mattered because that meant, the lesson taught them exactly what it was supposed to :)

And I must say after doing this mini unit, I hear my students complimenting each other all day long, every day! It is such a wonderful to my ears.

 Carie is a kindergarten teacher from Illinois who writes on the 17th of each month. She shares her experiences and ideas from her classroom, writing about reading, writing, math, Art, and several other fun and exciting things!
Carie also writes her own blog: 

Kindergarten Hugs

Monday, September 16, 2013


Introducing the Great Big Ball to the class.
     Hi from Miss Carole at Macaroni Soup:  Active Music for Kids!  In 24 years of teaching Music and Movement, I have yet to find a child who doesn’t like balls!  One of my son’s first 10 words was “BALL!”  after Mama, of course!  His eyes would light up and his hands would reach for any ball in sight!  
So what could be better than a

     To start you need a very large ball.  I have used medicine balls, but prefer an inflated beach ball because it weighs less, can be transparent and is familiar to children.  Google “giant beach ball” and you’ll find lots of options for 42”-48” balls ranging from $5.95 – 23.95.  The one you see in these pictures is a 48” ball that was about $12.  (Even has them!) Also, it’s the end of the season, so check out your local stores for clearances on Summer beach toys.

    Learn the song – the lyrics are VERY simple!  I don’t have an author credit for this song- I don’t know who wrote it or even where I heard it about 15 years ago!  But it stuck in my head – and it will in yours!  If you know who wrote it – please contact me!

Who’s gonna get that great big ball as it rolls around the room?
Who’s gonna get that great big ball as it rolls around the room?
Who’s gonna get that great big ball as it rolls around the room?
We’re gonna find out soon!                                                                          

Passing practice - before singing!

Jessie’s got that great big ball                         
Rolling from her head to her toes
Rolling from her head to her toes
Rolling from her head to her toes
Jessie’s got that great big ball
Rolling from her head to her toes
But look out, Jessie – here it goes!

Once passing is going well, start singing!
    What to do:  Introduce the ball to your children once they are sitting in a circle on the floor.  Stand in the middle of the circle to keep the ball moving as the children pass it all the way around the circle once.  Tell them that when you stop singing, whoever the ball is in front of lays down and you will roll the ball up and down their body, from head to toes!  BEGIN!

    Believe it or not, I did this last week with my classes of 4 year olds at the first music class – and they LOVED IT!  If you have some shy violets, they can sit in someone’s lap, and you control where the ball stops – don’t stop at someone who looks the least bit fearful.

    Helpful Hints:
  • Get a battery-powered or electric pump – it makes for easy inflation/deflation.
  • Remember – passing is a learned skill, not something children innately know how to do.  Take a moment to teach passing.  It will make this activity run smoothly.
  • Sometimes a child holds onto the ball – that’s why you’re in the middle – to keep it going!
  • If there are more than 10 children, have them lay down 2 at a time – “Joe and James have got that great big ball…” or “2 girls have got that great big ball…

2 boys have got that great big ball...
...rolling from their head to their toes!


What is learned?  Cooperation can be fun!  Especially at the beginning of the school year, learning to “share” by passing is an easy thing when done to music!  We’re also saying the names of the children – another chance for classmates to identify each other.  We also create shared experience, or community.  Look at the boy’s face in the left picture above as he shares the excitement with a friend – priceless!

   As you see in this last picture, I have EVERYONE lay down and I pass the ball over all of them.  Each child does not get a chance to be singled out with a verse each time we do this song, so this final “EVERYONE LAY DOWN” verse solves the “…but I didn’t get a turn” whine!
    One of the funniest things is how the ball bumps along their tummies - because they're laughing!

To hear the song, click here.  It is also available on my newest cd,
SEASON SINGS!, which includes 30 great songs like this one!  To purchase it, go to the Recordings page on my website.    

Yours for a Song – and a Great Big Ball!

“Miss Carole” Stephens

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Montessori-Inspired Fire Safety Activities Using Free Printables

Free Fire Safety Printables and Montessori-Inspired Fire Safety ActivitiesBy Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now 

For my post today, I want to share some activities using free fire safety printables. The hands-on activities in this post are for preschoolers through first graders. 

I think a community helpers theme is great for a number of times throughout the year. Community helpers activities are great at the beginning of the school year as children focus on their neighborhoods and personal safety. They're great for times like the anniversary of 9/11 to focus on the helpers who make such a positive difference in any tragedy. And they're great for times like National Fire Prevention Month in October and Fire Prevention Week from Sunday to Saturday during the week where October 9th falls. 

You'll find many more activities for preschoolers through first graders throughout the year along with presentation ideas in my previous posts at PreK + K Sharing. You'll also find ideas for using free printables to create activity trays here: How to Use Printables to Create Montessori-Inspired Activities.

Disclosure: This post contains Montessori Services affiliate links at no cost to you.  

Fire Engine Cards and Counters
Fire Engine Cards and Counters Tray

This activity used the free Fire Truck Numeric Order Activity from Making Learning Fun. This is a wonderful printable for placing numbered fire trucks in order from 1-20. I used the printables as number cards for Montessori-inspired cards and counters with a fire safety theme. If you want to use a fire theme throughout October, you could always use the numbered fire engines for cards and counters in the beginning of the month and for the numeric order activity later in the month. 

For DIY cards and counters, I only used the fire engines numbered 1-10.
I used a clear acrylic tray from Montessori Services, 55 glass gems from a hobby store (Michaels) for counters, and a glass bowl from Montessori Services to hold the counters. 

Fire Engine Cards and Counters Layout

I like to lay out my numbers and counters in the traditional Montessori layout of rows of two counters with a left-over counter centered below the bottom row. This gives a visual impression of odd and even. For more about creating DIY numbers and counters and a link on how to present the lesson, check out my DIY Cards and Counters post

Dalmatian Spot Counting Activity

Dalmatian Spot Counting Activity

This tray uses the Dalmatian Spot Counting Cards from Making Learning Fun. I used an economy tray from Montessori Services, black crystal-like decorative filler which was on sale at a hobby store (Michaels) after last Halloween, and small containers to organize the crystals and numbered collars for the dalmatians. 

I used the printables for 1-10 and 55 crystals. You could add some sort of tweezers or Montessori Services quick sticks, although picking up the crystals with the fingers is a good practical life activity, too.

Firefighter Graphing Game

Firefighter Graphing Tray

For this activity, I used the Firefighter Graphing Game from Firemen Printables ~ Kindergarten Pack by Jolanthe from Homeschool Creations. I used a large plastic tray from Montessori Services, water beads, and a glass bowl from Montessori Services to hold the water beads. I think it's easiest to prepare the die by printing it on cardstock, cutting it out, folding it, and gluing it together. Rather than laminating it, it's typically easier to use clear packing tape to hold the die together.

Water beads are wonderful for the pincer grasp. If you have the cardstock graph laminated and leave a laminate edge, it's fine for it to get wet from the water beads.

I don't recommend using water beads for this particular activity for a child who has difficulty with fine-motor coordination and becomes frustrated easily. The water beads require fairly good fine-motor coordination skills and tend to move around easily. For children who have fairly good coordination and would enjoy a challenge, I love the water beads as a fun addition.

I especially enjoy cooperative games, and this could be made into a cooperative game where each child takes a turn rolling the die and placing a water bead on the graph for the appropriate fire symbol. I like the cooperative aspect of having the children work together to add water beads to the graph until one of the symbols reaches 10.
Firefighter Graphing Game

Even though the game is cooperative, you can still use it to teach sportsmanship. At the end of the game, the children could shake hands with each other and say, "Good game!" It's helpful for children to learn the social etiquette for games without the emotions involved in winning and losing. 

Hopefully, that will make it easier for them to remember to show good sportsmanship during an actual competitive game. See "How to Use Cooperative Games to Teach Sportsmanship" for more ideas on using educational games cooperatively.

Fire Truck Skip Counting by 5s

Fire Truck Skip Counting by 5s

For this activity, I used the Fire Truck Skip Counting by 5s from Royal Baloo. I used a large plastic tray from Montessori Services and glass gems from a hobby store. I used a permanent marker to write the missing numerals on the glass gems and added a sugar tong from Montessori Services for a practical life component to the activity.

Five-in-a-Row Fire Edition Addition Game

Five-in-a-Row Fire Edition Addition Game

For this game, I used the Five-in-a-Row Fire Edition by Sweet Kinderland at Teachers Pay Teachers. Two children could play by taking turns rolling the two dice, adding up the total, and placing a fire-hose card or fire-extinguisher card on the game card until there are 5 in a row. Again, this could be made into a cooperative game by using the same game board and working cooperatively to reach 5 in a row.

Fire Play-Set Craft

Fire Play Set Craft

I love this printable Fire Play Set from Royal Baloo. This is a fun craft for children with fairly good cutting skills. It just requires simple folding once the pieces are cut out. The 3-page printable even includes African American firefighters. The cutting-and-folding craft is simpler than the police station and police car craft from last month's Montessori-Inspired Police Activities Using Free Printables

For a child with very advanced cutting and assembly skills, there are two advanced fire safety crafts in my Free Fire Safety Printables and Montessori-Inspired Fire Safety Activities post at Living Montessori Now. One of these could even be a gift that an older child could prepare for younger siblings.

More Free Printables 

Go to my post at Living Montessori Now for links to LOTS of fire safety freebies from around the blogosphere: Free Fire Safety Printables and Montessori-Inspired Fire Safety Activities.

Living Montessori Now
Deb ChitwoodDeb Chitwood is a certified Montessori teacher with a master’s degree in Early Childhood Studies from Sheffield Hallam University in Sheffield, England. Deb taught in Montessori schools in Iowa and Arizona before becoming owner/director/teacher of her own Montessori school in South Dakota. Later, she homeschooled her two children through high school. Deb is now a Montessori writer who lives in Colorado Springs with her husband of 38 years and their cat of 12 years. She blogs at Living Montessori Now.  

Linked to Tuesday Tots, The Mommy Club Resources and Solutions at Milk and Cuddles and Crystal & Co., The Weekly Kid’s Co-op, Hearts for Home Blog Hop, TGIF Linky Party, Preschool Corner, Sharing Saturday, Saturday Show & Tell, Show-and-Share Saturday, The Sunday Showcase, Link & Learn, and Afterschool Express.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Handling Aggressive Behavior in Young Children

Handling AGGRESSIVE Behavior in Young Children (Bill Corbett at PreK+K Sharing)

First Comfort the Victim.  The next time you witness younger children fighting or hurting one another, your first response should be to comfort the victim without pity or drama.  If possible, you should also include the aggressive child in comforting of the victim.  Ask him to retrieve a cloth, a blanket, or even a drink of water if it's appropriate.  Be sure to use a quiet, calm and respectful tone as you take control.  Your immediate feelings may involve anger or frustration toward the aggressive child, but maintain control and stay calm.  Once the drama has cooled and the victim is cared for, take the aggressive child aside and remind him calmly and respectfully about boundaries and acceptable behavior.  This more peaceful response to the situation will provide an outstanding model and learning tool for both children.  

What is Bullying?  Bullying is any form of physical, emotional, or verbal mistreatment in which one holds an unequal power over another, purposely and repeatedly with the intent to hurt or humiliate.  A bully can be one tough kid harassing someone who is different in some way.  A bully’s behavior can be as simple as name-calling or as serious as confrontation resulting in injury.  No child is ever exempt from being picked on by a bully at some point in his life, and neither are adults.  In a recent study released by the American Medical Association, it was estimated that 3.2 million children are victims of bullying each year.  Being able to defend oneself when attacked by a bully requires both courage and skill – traits you can begin instilling in your child at any age.  

Teach Them How Not To Be A Target.  A bully’s common target is someone who demonstrates a lack of confidence and exhibits characteristics of weakness or insecurity.  Teach your children to stand tall, use a full voice, look the other child directly in the eyes, and exhibit confidence when stating what they want.  If your child does this, it will help to reduce the risk of being targeted by an aggressive child.  You can teach this to your child by modeling it yourself.  The most effective way of teaching children a new behavior is to role-play with them.  Allow them to see what the behavior looks like by modeling it for them, then allowing them to practice.  A child who stands, acts with and speaks with confidence is less likely to become a target of a bully.

Teach your children.  Teach them that they have the power to stop anyone from touching them, hurting them, or taking their things.  One of the most effective actions you can teach your child is described in many self-defense and confidence courses.  Stand tall and erect, and distribute weight evenly on both feet.  Hold your head high, extend their hand straight out in front of them with their flat palm toward the other child, saying “STOP!” in a loud and strong voice.  A bully halted in his or her tracks by a child drawing a clear, personal, physical or emotional boundary is more likely to walk away, often even respecting a child who had represented a potential victim.

Bill Corbett is the author of the award-winning parenting book series, LOVE, LIMITS, & LESSONS: A PARENT'S GUIDE TO RAISING COOPERATIVE KIDS (in English and in Spanish) and the executive producer and host of the public access television show CREATING COOPERATIVE KIDS. As a member of the American Psychological Association and the North American Society for Adlerian Psychology, Bill provides parent coaching and keynote presentations to parent and professional audiences across the country. He sits on the board of the Network Against Domestic Abuse and the Resource Advisory Committee for Attachment Parenting International, and holds several degrees in clinical psychology. Bill's practical experience comes as a father of 3 grown children, a grandfather of two, and a stepdad to three.  You can learn more about his work at and

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Splat Monsters!

Welcome back to the new school year! I had a wonderful summer off with my kiddos, dreaming up new lesson plans, especially for my youngest students. This was an idea I saw on Pinterest and decided to take it a step further with my First Graders (it is totally adaptable to younger students, I did it with my 4 year old at home this summer, too!)

These "splat monsters" have had my kids buzzing for a couple weeks now...they are THRILLED with how they have turned out!
I began by reading the book "Jeremy Draws a Monster" by Peter McCarty. If you have never read this book, be sure to check it out! It is a great story about choosing the right friends!

Our production process started out with a small puddle of liquid watercolor paint* and the kids used a regular drinking straw to blow the paint around on their paper. They repeated this step 3 times with 3 different colors.

*I used Sax liquid watercolor paint, but any watered-down tempera or even acrylic will do!

We used google-eyes as eyeballs (this is NOT necessary, but they are very cute! I had a parent donate-no lie- about 2,000 eyeballs, so I'm literally swimming in eyeballs!)

After our paint splats were dried, we used black crayon (only!) to add mouths, arms, legs, and backgrounds to our picture.

Because each splat looked different, it was easy for students to decorate differently, too! A total win-win if you ask me :)

Our first grade teachers collected these projects and did a writing assignment to go along with them. They were completely adorable! Have a MONSTER of a time making these!

Joanna Davis-Lanum is a National Board Certified elementary art teacher and the author and voice behind her classroom blog "We Heart Art". She is glad to see all of her little monsters again this year!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Pool Noodle Ponies: DIY Hobby Horses

Hi! I'm Ayn and I am a Ga. Pre-K teacher, serving 4 and 5 year olds in an inclusive setting. I share my classroom adventures on my blog, little illuminations.

We are learning about life on the farm this week. As you might know from reading little illuminations or from my previous posts here, I try to accentuate our topics by changing our learning environment frequently. When I teach about farms, I add a barn and some hobby horses to our dramatic play area. 

 I've bought or made a variety of hobby horses over the years, but this idea from Pinterest is definitely my new favorite! They were SO easy and only took minutes! 
   Pool noodles
   Duct tape, ribbon or raffia
   Googly Eyes
   Felt or fabric scraps
   Hot glue gun/ glue sticks

First I cut 2 triangles from the felt for ears.  Then I took a piece of felt about 10 inches long and 5 inches wide and cut fringe on both of the long sides. Set these pieces aside.

Fold the top of the pool noodle over itself and use the duct tape to tape it together.

Next, hot glue the ears to each side of the pool noodle and glues the mane between the ears, running down the horse. Then glue the googly eyes on the front. Feel free to add reins or other decorative accents.

Now, the kids are off to the races! I was surprised when I put these out next to the store bought hobby horses that the children actually chose to use these more often than the others! They are in constant use, and I'm sure that even when we move on to learning something else, I'll have to leave these out. And, they are perfect to take outside to play, too! 


Some of our favorite farm books:

Stop by and visit me anytime at or visit the little illuminations fanpage on facebook! And be sure to check out PreK+K Sharing EEE!

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