Monday, January 22, 2018

Reinforcing Early Literacy Skills with a Multi-Layered Dance Activity


This movement lesson explores letter knowledge, including recognizing letter shapes, making the shapes with the body, and learning the sound the letter represents.  It also explores sequencing, word meanings, and making words and sentences.  In addition, encouraging children to make letters in space, whether standing, sitting, lying down, or jumping, helps to develop a child's spatial sense.

 Before we begin, it is important to note that the kinesthetic exploration of letters is what is important in this activity.  Whether or not he accomplishes the exact letter shape, it is the child's recognition of the letter, his attempts to make the 
shapes with his body, and exploring new ways to move
that are the valuable learning experiences

Dancing About Letters!

Time of Activity:  15-30 minutes

Materials:  2, 3, 4, or 5 letters written on paper, or letter flash            cards; and a large, open space, if available

  • Choose two to five letters that make a word, and write each of them on separate sheets of paper (or use flash cards). As an example, let's use the letters D-A-N-C-E.

  • Hold up one of the letters, say the name of the letter, and have the children repeat the name and the sound of the letter.  Now ask the children to make this letter using their whole body (not just hands and fingers).  Do the same for each letter.  Practice this until the children can make each letter in their bodies without needing the visual cue of the letters you are holding.

Continue with these playful activities that will help to reinforce the learning:

  • Play a lively piece of music.  Allow the children to dance while the music is playing.  Stop the music and call out one of the letters, and ask the children to make that shape in their bodies.  Continue this until you have named each letter several times, in random order.

  • Using a drum, tambourine, or just clapping your hands, now call the letters out one after the other on each beat or clap.  Ask the children to make the shape as you name each letter.  Start out slowly, and increase the speed as the children become more efficient at responding.  When you have done it as fast as they can respond, ask them to freeze in the shape of the last letter you called out.  Then ask them to melt to the floor holding the shape as long as they can, and then make the letter shape on the floor with their body.

  • Bring five children up to the front, or to a place where everyone can see them.  Have them make the letters for the word "D-A-N-C-E" in order, and see if the class can figure out the word.

  • Move the children around so that the letters are out of order, and see if the class can remember the correct order of the letters in the word.

  • Once the letters are in the correct order again, ask each child to hold an imaginary pencil and trace the letters of the word one by one in the air.

  • Finish with a free dance about the letters or the word the letters make, such as an alphabet song or a song about dancing.  Two examples are Dance in Your Pants by David Jack, and Funky Bluesy ABC's by Taj Mahal.

Expand the activity:

  • Choose a different word each time you do this activity

  • Repeat the activity using another corresponding word, or several words, such as D-A-N-C-E  I-S F-U-N.  This is a good exercise for practicing sequencing and making sentences.

  • Build this lesson around a specific piece of music that includes the word you are using, or tells a story using the word (for example, if you are spelling the word F-I-S-H,  play Goldfish by Laurie Berkner).

  • Try doing the word or words using all uppercase letters first, and then do the same using lowercase letters. 

  • Ask the children to walk the path of each letter on the floor, imagining they have paint or chalk on the bottoms of their shoes.

Keep on Dancin',


Monday, January 15, 2018

Montessori-Inspired Panda Activities Using Free Printables

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now 

One of my favorite themes for Chinese New Year or a study of China in general is the panda bear. Because the giant panda is the national animal of China, it's a perfect addition to almost any China unit. Of course, it's an important part of any bear unit study, too. 

At Living Montessori Now, I have a list of free panda printables featuring real pandas. The free printables include my latest subscriber freebie (a Montessori-inspired panda pack). Here, I'm sharing ideas for using free panda printables to create Montessori-inspired activities.  

You'll find many 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

At Living Montessori Now, I have a post with resource links of Free Printables for Montessori Homeschools and Preschools

Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links (at no cost to you).

Montessori Shelves with Panda-Themed Activities

Montessori Shelves with Panda-Themed Activities  

My shelves with panda-themed activities include a free panda culture card designed by The Montessori Company. You’ll also find Montessori-inspired panda numbers, letters, spinners, and and more (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password … or check the bottom of your latest newsletter if you’re already a subscriber) 

I always have related books available throughout a unit. On my top shelf, I have the Scholastic Pandas, 40 Panda Facts for Kids, and a homemade Giant Panda book using the free printable Giant Panda by A Special Day in College and Career Readiness at Teachers Pay Teachers. A free printable reader with more words is the Panda Bear Nonfiction Reader from Simply Kinder. 

I have a number of other panda books in a book basket. I love the National Geographic animal books. There are a number of great National Geographic bear books. I have both Pandas and Mission Panda Rescue for this unit. I also have the National Geographic Red Pandas book. Even though red pandas belong to their own family, I think it's important to read about them since they share the name "panda" with the giant panda and also like to eat bamboo. 

I have fictional panda books in our book basket, too. I even have two books for babies and toddlers. My 4-year-old granddaughter, Zoey, loves to share books with her month-old sister, Sophia, so these are especially fun for Zoey. Sophia loves having Zoey read to her, although I'm sure she doesn't care if her books fit with a theme! I have the adorable Little Panda Finger Puppet book and Bill Martin, Jr.,/Eric Carle's Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? They aren't Montessori-style books, but they're favorites at my house. 

Zoey, loves puzzles, so I have a giant world foam puzzle with 54 pieces in a large basket (not shown in my photos). That's great for using with Safari Ltd. or Schleich animals. When Zoey was younger, I used the puzzle that I have displayed for  animal geography. I don't think it's available any longer. For home use, I don't use the Montessori continent puzzle, which is a bit too large and impractical. I like to get world puzzles that are less expensive and can be changed according to Zoey's developmental level. 

On another shelf, I have the beautiful world map from Pin It! Maps that's perfect for animals of the continents as well as other geography activities. 

You could mix your panda-themed activities among your shelves according to curriculum area. Or you could have a special panda-themed area something like the one pictured. My shelves this month have a mixture of skill levels. Many of the activities can be adapted for a variety of levels. If you’re a homeschooler, just choose the activities that work for your child’s interests and ability levels. If you don’t have room for all the activities you’d like to do, simply rotate them.

Panda Culture Card (on Shelf Introducing the Panda Theme)

Panda Culture Card on Shelf with Pandas Book and Schleich Pandas  

I'm happy to share with you this hand-painted panda culture card from The Montessori Company. You can use it on your shelves to introduce a panda unit or as part of a bear unit. I’m hosting the free printable as an instant download at Living Montessori Now. You can always access the free panda culture card here

The description says: “Pandas are a bear native to China. They eat almost only bamboo. They live mostly solitary lives except when raising cubs.” I displayed the card with a Schleich giant panda, Schleich giant panda cub, and Pandas book. 

Panda Same or Different Activity Panda Same or Different Activity 

Free Printable: Panda Same or Different Cards from Wise Owl Factory 

This activity just uses the printable and a  Montessori Services basket. It's simply a fun way to discuss panda photos and visual differences. 

Panda Skip Counting Puzzles Panda Skip Counting Puzzles Free Printable: Panda Skip Counting Puzzles from Wise Owl Factory 

There are a number of different skip counting puzzles in this printable. I used two puzzles, counting by 2s and counting by 10s, to make it more challenging. That way, Zoey has to sort out the two puzzles before putting them together. 

For a younger child, just use one puzzle in your basket, pencil box (often a good size for these types of puzzles), or other container. 

P is for Panda Salt Tray and Movable Alphabet Work

/p/ is for Panda Salt Tray and Movable Alphabet Work 

Free Printables: Panda Letters for Letter P Salt Tray (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password … or check the bottom of your latest newsletter if you’re already a subscriber) 

For the salt tray, I used the wooden tray from the Melissa & Doug Lace and Trace Shapes. You can use whatever tray or container work best for you, though. I added a Safari Ltd. panda and cub from the Pandas TOOB for interest.

For the movable alphabet work, I used the panda movable alphabet cards from our subscriber freebie pack  for matching or spelling along with a traditional small wooden movable alphabet. I also used Montessori Services language objects pin, pin, peg, pan, and pot as objects for spelling with the movable alphabet. 

For children working on their phonetic sounds, they the /p/ objects could be used in an object basket. If you would like help with introducing phonetic sounds, introducing objects with sounds, or beginning phonics in general, check out my DIY Beginning Montessori Phonics with Preschoolers

Parts of a Giant Panda Activity Tray with Parts of the Giant Panda Activity 

Free Printable: Label the Parts of a Giant Panda by Green Tree Montessori School at Teachers Pay Teachers 

This can be a cut-and-paste activity or word tracing and writing activity. The control page is shown in the photo. I'm using the cut-and-paste page on a Multicraft tray. 

Heart Panda Paper Craft Tray with Heart Panda Paper Craft  

Free Printable: Heart Panda Paper Craft from DLTK’s Crafts for Kids 

Free Printable: How Many Hearts Do You Need to Make the Panda? (trace and color page with hearts) from Making Learning Fun 

I typically encourage process art activities, although it's fun to have a more structured craft sometimes for holidays or as an activity for following directions. As a child, I always loved making heart animals for Valentine's Day, so I couldn't resist this heart panda paper craft. It can be a simple cut-and-paste activity. 

Older kids can learn to cut out the hearts and create a panda without a printable. For young children who have difficulty cutting, you could have a pasting activity. The results wouldn't need to look like the model! The second free printable adds a math activity to making a heart panda. I have it on the same tray. 

Adding with Pandas Activity Adding with Pandas Activity Free Printable: Adding with Pandas from China Printable Pack at Every Star Is Different 

This is a fun hands-on addition activity. It uses the Safari Ltd. Pandas TOOB. (Mine had 11 pandas when I got it a few years ago, but now there are 9 in the TOOB. Use whichever cards work best with your TOOB.) I also used Montessori Services baskets, whatever size of clothespin you prefer (I like small clothespins, such as 1" clothespins for interest and extra fine-motor work), and a small container for the clothespins. 

I use a small dot to mark the back of the correct number on each card. Then the child can turn the card over to check his or her answer as a control of error. 

Matching Teen Numerals with Miniature Pandas and Bead Bars Adding with Pandas Activity Free Printable: Panda Numbers (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password … or check the bottom of your latest newsletter if you’re already a subscriber) 

This activity uses a piece of felt for a table mat (I used the Montessori Services felt table mat) and bead bars from the decanomial box in a Multicraft tray and a Bambu condiment cup (what I used here) or  Montessori Services basket. (My bead bars, which I love, are from Alison’s Montessori. You can get bead bars on Amazon, although I haven’t personally used materials from those companies.) I also added 20 Safari Ltd. Good Luck Mini Pandas. A great place to get them for a reasonable price is Alison's Montessori

Admiring Her Panda Bear Teen Number Wor

For the activity, you could start with a column of 10 bears and then spin the spinner to find the units. Zoey loves the Safari Ltd. Good Luck Minis, and she enjoyed lining them up and counting them before adding the bead bars. 

In my Montessori-inspired bear activities, I had another way to do the activity if you don't use the spinner. 

More Free Panda Printables 

Go to my post at Living Montessori Now for links to free panda printables from around the blogosphere: Free Panda Printables and Montessori-Inspired Panda Activities. I also have printables for a general bear unit: Free Bear Printables and Montessori-Inspired Bear Activities. If you're looking for more activities for Chinese New Year, check out my roundup of Montessori-inspired Chinese New Year activities. And be sure to subscribe to my email list if you'd like to get an exclusive free printable each month (plus two more awesome freebies right away): Free Printables.


Montessori at Home or School - How to Teach Grace and Courtesy eBook

If you'd like to focus on manners with children, please check out my eBook Montessori at Home or School: How to Teach Grace and Courtesy! It's written for anyone who'd like to feel comfortable teaching manners to children ages 2-12. I'm also one of the coauthors of the book Learn with Play – 150+ Activities for Year-round Fun & Learning!

Have a Happy Martin Luther King Day today and a Happy Chinese New Year in February!
Deb - Siganture
Deb Chitwood
Deb 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 San Diego with her husband of 42 years (and lives in the city where her kids, kids-in-law, and 3-year-old granddaughter live). She blogs at Living Montessori Now.

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