Baby it’s Cold Outside!

Baby It’s Cold Outside!

If I have to leave my house in -40 weather, at least I get to spend my day surrounded by young children. Mine is the best job! Daily, I’m the eyewitness to the moment a child discovers something new! To watch a child engrossed and excited about learning is one of the biggest perks to being an ECE in Full Day Kindergarten. And as I enter the classroom each day, I’m never quite sure where the adventure will take me.

We’ve evolved from our ‘theme based’ planning (I shared a giggle with a kindergarten teacher as we noted her stacks of Theme-a-Saurus Books placed high on a shelf, that were, at one time, a preschool, kindergarten teacher’s bible.) We no longer tell children what their activities will focus on- we let them tell us what they are interested in.  This type of ‘non-planning’ keeps educators on our toes for sure. Just when you think you’ve got an idea where the week (or even the morning) is going to take you, someone walks into the class on a fall day holding a snail they found on their way to school. So you drop your plans and go with it!

  • We need a group of researchers. What is in a snail habitat? {FDK science and technology curriculum}
  • We need a survey question, ‘What should we name our snail?’ {FDK language curriculum}
  • Someone needs to tally the results of our survey {math curriculum}
  • …and share with the class…..{Personal, social development}

But, although we are flexible in our focus, educators can take cues from things like the time of year and the weather to indicate a child’s recent experience and interest. So when I woke up last week to an extreme cold temperature alert, I knew I’d waited for the perfect day to read one of my favorites! HOW COLD WAS IT? by JaneBarclay Imagehttp://books.google.ca/books/about/How_Cold_Was_It.html?id=jy2XbiWp5cEC&redir_esc=y

This is the best book about a cold day! You will use it every year in your class! (And you’ll be so happy to put it away when the weather finally warms up!)

After the book we tried an experiment. We wet a mitten and put it outside for 5-minute increments. ImageWe were all amazed at how the soggy mitten so quickly turned white and rock hard. So with the predictions made beforehand, the measurement of time we calculated the experiment, and the documentation and sharing, we covered most of our kindergarten curriculum bases (and it wasn’t even snack yet!)

And you can’t do an experiment about a mitten without reading the story, THE MITTEN by Jan Brett. Imagehttp://www.scholastic.com/teachers/book/mitten#cart/cleanup

This story is a definite go-to if you are looking for a catchy story that makes a great re-tell. It’s just begging for puppets and a large white mitten that children can use to re-tell their version of the story over and over again.

Because many of the children had some experience with the icy conditions of the recent ice storm we discussed the danger of ice and how we could make it less slippery. A kindergarten teacher in the next class was teaching a ‘walk like a penguin’ technique of trekking safely over slippery ice. Which leads to the absolutely irresistible new penguin story by Patricia Storms NEVER LET YOU GO. http://www.scholastic.ca/titles/neverletyougo/Image

 

We did some research online about the effects of salt on ice and we were ready for another experiment. We had placed a bucket of water outside that afternoon. The next day it was a block of ice. Image

The children sprinkled colored salt on the ice, and watched the effects. Very cool!Image

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I was confident I knew where this week was taking me, as the children were engaged in our activities. But that night- the lights went out! I, like many of the children in my class, had lost power for several hours. The next morning the room was a buzz with talk of the power failure. So I put my “How to Make Frost From a Can” experiment on hold and we constructed a survey- Did You Lose Power Last Night? Yes or No. I scurried to the library for a copy of Andrew Larsen’s IN THE TREEHOUSE,Image http://www.amazon.ca/In-Tree-House-Andrew-Larsen/dp/1554536359

about a boy’s adventures in his tree house during a black out.

The children who did lose power helped me construct a list of items that did not work in their homes. They shared this list with the class and we had a lively conversation about electricity.

It was interesting to relate the cause of the power failure to the build up of ice- which the children had some knowledge of because of our discussions in the previous days.

Our creative art area had been set up with white paper and blue pencil crayons so the children could draw the effect of frost on our window, but we quickly added black construction paper and white chalk in case anyone wanted to draw the effects of the blackout.

It had been a very cold week, no doubt about it. But the weather had definitely sparked lots of curiosity, lots of exploration and lots of great stories in our kindergarten class!

Getting Dressed to Go Outside- Stories to Support this Valuable Part of Kindergarten!

A Toronto elementary school is considering canceling mid-morning and afternoon recess for full-day kindergarten because they say that class time is wasted while kids get dressed and undressed. Their concern is that they are losing  “40 minutes of instruction time” each day because it takes “too long for kids to get into snowsuits.”

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/12/17/cancelled_recess_at_davisville_school_to_be_reviewed.html

As I shake my head I have to wonder- apart from having these children at school all day every day, how much of the FDK program is this school following? I am an early childhood educator with over 20 years experience working with young children. I have been working in full day kindergarten for 4 years. And don’t get me wrong- as soon as those snow pants come out, the transition from outdoor to indoor is my least favorite part of the day. But I understand that it is a fundamental part of the day!

And I can’t quite get my head around the term ‘instruction time” as the FDK program is an inquiry based program in which children learn through active engagement in meaningful activities. Children who get dressed and undressed in winter gear are actively engaged in the full day kindergarten curriculum. It allows for much needed physical activity once outside (don’t even get me started the recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity for children who spend a good chunk of their waking hours at school, or the valuable experience of engaging in outdoor play!!). The actual act of getting ready to go outside involves desperately needed exercise in fine motor control, and it develops imperative personal, social and emotional skills.

  • Think of it as Kindergarten Occupational Therapy! As an early childhood educator, I can tell you that many children in kindergarten lack the strength in their hands to not only perform necessary self-help skills such as putting on their shoes, but also lack the strength required to hold a writing tool properly, or bear down on a writing tool in order to print with success. Children will be more successful in academics if we give them the time and space to work those small muscles in their hands, and putting on and taking off all those clothes is an excellent way to do it!
  • It’s a Valuable Exercise in Self-Regulation  As children get themselves dressed and undressed in winter gear they are actively engaged in developing independence, self-regulation and responsibility. Children in full day kindergarten are expected to demonstrate independence, self-regulation, and a willingness to take responsibility in learning and other activities. They are expected to demonstrate self-reliance, and a sense of responsibility, as well as take care of their personal belongings. Every time children get dressed or undressed from all that snow gear they exercise these skills. BUT…in order for children to be successful the adults in the room need to give each child space, time and encouragement when it comes to maneuvering their young bodies into snow pants, boots, coats, mitts, neck warmers and hats. It’s a daunting task for sure, when a young child stares at that pile of winter items she needs to put on herself. No wonder there are so many meltdowns! But as adults we need to be patient and allow children time and space. We are not doing it for them. But we are encouraging them! It is so important that our expression and demeanour be one of patience and encouragement. This is hard work! We must not make these children feel that they are infringing on our schedule, or ‘wasting instruction time’. “Let me show you the firefighter flip. Why don’t you try spreading your snow pants out and then scooting into them…etc” My teaching partner and I invite the children to find a spot in the classroom to spread out their things when getting dressed. Split the duty, so that one adult takes out the children who are dressed, while the other adults stay with the children still dressing. This cuts down on frustration and behaviours from those poor kids who are ready and roasting in their gear.

You might even want to take some pictures of this dressing process and create a class visual schedule of getting dressed in the proper order.

  • It’s a Terrific Activity for Interacting Cooperatively  Children in full day kindergarten are expected to develop the social skill of offering and accepting help in group situations. This lifelong skill is exercised every time a class of young children gets dressed together. The adults encourage children to help their peers, whether it be to demonstrate the ‘firefighter flip’, help find a lost mitten or assist in zipping a coat. Don’t look at this as a waste of time! Put the watch away and give these children lots of time and encouragement and you will see that getting dressed to go outside can be a positive activity in community building.
  • Set the Stage for Success  Although we want children to dress and undress independently we need to recognize their limitations. Sometimes children arrive at school with the cuff of their coat bound so tightly around their mitten that I have a hard time undoing that Velcro! And that elastic on the bottom of snow pants is extremely tight. Many 4 year-old fingers are just not strong enough to lift that elastic away from their boots. We want the children to do ‘most ‘ of the dressing, but we can’t leave them stranded in an activity that is just beyond their strength at this point in their lives. But believe me, if they practice a few times a day, they will gain strength and master many skills they couldn’t do before. The kindergarten curriculum asks that children demonstrate a willingness to try new activities, and that they demonstrate self-motivation, initiative and confidence in their approach to selecting and completing a task. It takes time. It’s messy. It’s exhausting at times. But it’s worth it! And that’s kindergarten. There is nothing better than witnessing the joy on a young child’s face when he has mastered that coat zipper or when she stands in front of you announcing, “I got dressed all by myself this time!”

And I’ve got some books you can share with your children regarding the need for winter wear!

The Jacket I Wear in the Snow Image

by Shirley Neitzel http://www.harpercollins.com/browseinside/index.aspx?isbn13=9780688045876

has terrific repetitive text that builds upon itself (think, The House That Jack Built). Children will relate to the daunting task of dressing when they hear,

“this is the scarf, wooly and red, that’s caught in the zipper that’s stuck on the jacket I wear.”

The Mitten Image by Jan Brett

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mitten-jan-brett/1100321532?ean=9780399219207&itm=1&usri=9780399219207

For every child who struggles with keeping track of all his things, there is The Mitten, by Jan Brett. Nicki insists he wants snow-white mittens, and his Nana knits them, even though she’s concerned he will lose them. Nicki drops one white mitten in the snow, and one by one, woodland animals find it and crawl in. The wool mitten stretches with the arrival of each new animal, until finally a bear sized sneeze sends them all tumbling out. The mitten flies in the air and into Nicki’s hand just as he heads home.

This story makes for a terrific ‘re-tell’. Make a large mitten out of felt or construction paper and finger puppet animals and the children will enjoy re-telling this story over and over again.

 

How Cold Was it? ImageJane Barclay Janice Donato

http://www.amazon.com/How-Cold-Was-Jane-Barclay/dp/1894222032

Jane Barclay does such a terrific job describing incredibly cold temperatures

“freezing, sneezing, goose-bumpy, teeth-chattering…kind of cold,”

that children will be motivated to bundle up before heading outside.

This story is excellent for introducing the measurement of temperature!

 

 

Thomas’ Snowsuit  Image by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko

Children love to live vicariously through Thomas who refuses to wear his new snowsuit. This very silly story is a fun read aloud that illustrates to children that it might be a lot of work to get dressed, but it’s worth it in the end when you get to enjoy all that a winter’s day has to offer. http://books.google.ca/books/about/Thomas_Snowsuit.html?id=pfprVqJJkIAC

 

 

The Snowy Day   Imageby Ezra Jack Keats.

This classic story reminds children that all of that dressing is worth it so that they may experience the magic that is a winter day.

Want a great science experiment to go along with this story? Pack 4 snowballs and put them in bowls. Put the bowls in different spots that the children believe have different temperatures (ie; back outside, in the classroom, in a refrigerator etc.) Chart predictions. Check on the snowballs throughout the day and encourage the children to document their findings.

http://www.amazon.ca/The-Snowy-Day-Board-Book/dp/0670867330

“To Elf or Not to Elf??” that is the Question!!

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My girls are teenagers so I missed the “Elf on the Shelf” craze, created by Carol Aebersold and Shanda Bell http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/elf-on-the-shelf/9780976990703-item.html

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So when this year’s creative elf photos once again began appearing on Facebook, I was thinking, “I would have totally been into that when my girls were young!” So a Facebook status from a great friend (who just happens to be an amazing grade one teacher) sparked my plan to have an elf on the shelf appear in my kindergarten classroom. I put my own status on Facebook…and that’s when the controversy began!

It seems that people feel very strongly about this little elf- on both sides of the shelf. Teachers and early childhood educators who I highly respect posted what a terrific experience it is for the children, how much joy and excitement it’s added to their class. Other teachers and early childhood educators who I highly respect stated that the elf reminds them of the boogy man, and that those eyes watching your every move gives them the creeps. Even my daughter in second year psychology sent me a private message, “Mom we read a study in child psychology that the elf on the shelf can be damaging to children.” Yikes!

I did some poking around and found that experts have chimed in on both sides of this elf craze. David Kyle Johnson, Ph.D wrote in Psychology Today that the “Elf on the Shelf should be Benched”. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/plato-pop/201212/let-s-bench-the-elf-the-shelf He states that the elf on the shelf is a ‘steroid shot for the Santa lie.” He says our children will mistrust us if we ‘lie’ to them about Santa. He also states that promoting this belief promotes credulity in children, which is a gullibility and propensity to believe things that are false.

“But where does imagination and creativity fit in there?” I have to wonder.  I have visions of Dr. Johnson walking through my dramatic center saying, “No you aren’t the mom. And he can’t possibly be the dog- he’s a boy.” How many stories do we read to children that ‘suspend reality’.  We’d have to throw out everything from Franklin to Calvin and Hobbs to Harry Potter.

Melinda Wenner Moyer for Slate Magazine says that believing in Santa helps children develop everything from cognitive development to ‘theory of mind’ (helping children predict and understand other people’s behavior).  She points to studies that show that fantasy play bolsters children’s reasoning skills and is therapeutic for children going through a difficult time. http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/the_kids/2012/12/the_santa_lie_is_the_big_christmas_con_hurting_our_kids.html

So I am once again very thankful that my teaching partner is so open to my ideas- I got my elf! The storybook was wrapped up when the children arrived in class. We read the story. And a survey was quickly constructed over what to call our elf. Votes were tallied and his name is Zoomy Caloomy. Our one rule (as stated in the book) is that you don’t touch him. This has proven to be a great exercise in social development, as the children understand that Zoomy is our classroom elf and that, as tempting as it is sometimes, they have a responsibility to their peers to keep this rule.

But they do know that they can talk to him. Nothing is more precious than seeing a four-year-old boy with his elbows propped up on a shelf having a heart to heart talk with his elf!

And they know that they can write letters and draw pictures for him. The literacy center has been packed with children sending notes to Zoomy.

Our day begins with joy, magic and excitement as the children search for Zoomy’s new spot.

I don’t go on the website, or watch any tv shows. I don’t focus on him watching their every move. I don’t discuss the implications of being ‘caught’ being ‘bad’. (ever). In our classroom we know that in kindergarten we learn- about numbers and letters…and about being kind to each other and being responsible for ourselves. And when we learn we make mistakes. When we’ve made mistakes we try again next time. And Santa will still come.

I don’t see it, as Dr. Johnson described as “the fun you have tricking your children into believing something false”, but I see Santa and his little helper elf as a way of encouraging creativity, and imagination. And in terms of Christmas, it’s a hands-on concrete way for very young children to grasp the abstract understanding of that incredible gift that was given to us on that day. I’m keeping the elf, and focusing on the magic, the joy and the love that Christmas brings.

Picture Book Stories of the Nativity

Christmas excitement has definitely hit my kindergarten classroom! My teaching partner and I are searching for the perfect balance of constructing a variety of Christmas countdowns and encouraging letters and lists to Santa, with keeping a focus on Advent and the true meaning of Christmas.

So for my read aloud, I focus on nativity stories. Reading a variety of nativity stories allows me to expose the children to different texts that each tells the same story, whether it be the classic Little Golden Book, from my childhood, THE CHRISTMAS STORY by Jane Werner Watson, illustrated by Eloise WilkinImage

http://www.amazon.ca/Christmas-Story-Jane-Werner-Watson/dp/0307989135

 to ROOM FOR A LITTLE ONE, by Martin Waddell and Jason CockcroftImage

http://www.amazon.ca/Room-Little-One-Christmas-Tale/dp/1416961771

we talk about what is the same and what is different in each story.

I love ‘playing nativity’ where the children take on the role of different characters as we build our own live nativity scene. This is an excellent way for the children to work together, to sequence and to retell a story.

One of my all-time favorite nativity stories is THE CRIPPLED LAMB by Max LucidoImage

http://www.amazon.com/The-Crippled-Lamb-Max-Lucado/dp/1400318076

 

 (Though I have to confess I cringe every time I hear the word ‘crippled’ and struggle with saying it out loud.) But it is such a beautiful story about Joshua the lamb who once again is left out and left behind because of his disability, but then realizes God’s plan for him when he has been chosen to cuddle the newborn king and keep him warm on that cold winter’s night. I look forward to reading it every year!

After we’ve enjoyed a few nativity stories I love to introduce Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman’s MORTIMER’S CHRISTMAS MANGER.

Image

http://www.amazon.com/Mortimers-Christmas-Manger-Karma-Wilson/dp/1416950494

This charmingly illustrated picture book is a perfect balance between a secular and religious Christmas story. I love how Mortimer is a ‘not so perfect mouse’ whose initial intention is to find himself a better home. He thinks he finds it in a stable full of statues. He removes the statues and makes himself at home. But after hearing the story of the nativity, he sees the significance of each statue and makes room for Jesus in the stable and in his own heart.

I also love how this story illustrates to children how simple and natural it can be to have your own ‘talk with Jesus’.

As Max Lucado said, “Returning to a familiar story is like revisiting an old friend…inviting and comfortable.” This is how I feel, and this is the feeling I strive to instill in young children, when Christmas rolls around and we can crack open familiar and newly discovered stories of the nativity.

The Many Lessons Learned by a Great Creative Non-Fiction Picture Book

There’s something very special about a great creative non-fiction picture book that opens doors to new information while entertaining and inspiring young children. This week I spent quite a bit of time with some great creative non-fiction, starting with Katherine Otoshi’s ZERO. http://www.amazon.ca/Zero-Kathryn-Otoshi/dp/097239463X

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I wanted to make the connection with last week’s read aloud, ONE, but soon realized that this engaging story about the number Zero wanting to feel like he counted, would serve as a terrific learning tool for number recognition, for printing numbers, and for number ordination. I love the message in the story about being yourself. I love the personalization of the numbers. And in my kindergarten class where we are encouraging number recognition and the printing of numbers, this story was perfect, as we examined the shape of each number. “One was solid and strong with bold strokes and squared corners. Zero was big and round with no corners at all.”

And the end of the story provided a fun way of counting by 10s.

 

This week also marked the first day we had snow! It was the perfect time for me to crack open my new copy of Lizann Flatt’s SIZING UP WINTER. http://www.amazon.com/Sizing-Up-Winter-Math-Nature/dp/1926973828

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Flatt is one of my favorite creative non-fiction author’s. Her book, LET’S GO!” is a terrific romp through the history of transportation. And her new ‘math in nature’ series is a must have for every kindergarten library.

SIZING UP WINTER is a beautifully written rhyming picture book, terrifically illustrated by Ashley Barron, that’s a joy to read aloud. Children not only experience animals enjoying the wonders of winter; they explore measurement of area, time, capacity and temperature.

My next book purchase will be to get the other 3 books in this series;

COUNTING ON FALL number sense and numeration

SORTING THROUGH SPRING patterning, data management, and probability

SHAPING UP SUMMER geometry and spatial sense

 

And as my week rounded out, I found the need to pull out another great creative non-fiction picture book. There were some pretty strong behaviors that erupted in the classroom. There was an incident where one child acted aggressively toward another child, and another incident where a child used some pretty unkind words. I was seeing a lot of anger, frustration, and hurt feelings. So I pulled out one of my favorite books, TODAY I FEEL SILLY & Other Moods That Make My Day, by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell. http://www.amazon.com/Today-Feel-Silly-Other-Moods/dp/0060245603

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This book is fun! And it also puts a name to a lot of emotions children experience. It validates children’s experiences and feelings and is a great way to open up conversation on how we respond and react appropriately to those feelings.

 

Those three books kind of sum up my week. Life in kindergarten is definitely like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates. “You never know what you’re gonna get.” Good thing I’ve got a pile of picture books to help me along the way!

 

 

 

 

Don’t Throw the “Bully” out with the Bathwater

It was anti-bullying week. We read ONE by Kathryn Otoshi,

http://www.amazon.ca/One-Kathryn-Otoshi/dp/0972394648

about a group of colours who stand against a ‘hot head.’Image

The Five Finger Retell approach is an excellent way to engage children in discussion. We use it a lot. And so I asked:

  1. Who was in the story?
  2. Where did the story take place?
  3. What was the problem?
  4. How was the problem solved?
  5. This story reminds me of…..

The children accepted readily that the colours were the characters, and that it took place ‘just in a space.’ We talked about the problem of Red treating Blue meanly, and how 1 helped him out.

The next day we read the story again. My question to the children was, “Is Red a bully?” and “Was Red a bully in the end.”

I love this book because we aren’t casting Red as the eternal evil villain never to be trusted, but as someone who has made a mistake, and who is given the tools to try again.

And so the next day I read my book WILLOW FINDS A WAY.Image

http://www.amazon.ca/Willow-Finds-Way-Lana-Button/dp/1554538424

 

The children are familiar with the story and so I asked them to compare the story ONE with WILLOW FINDS A WAY.  The children made the connection that Kristabelle is like Red, because they both act in a mean way. They made the connection that Willow is like 1 because both characters found a way to stick up for their friends and say, “no” to the mean behavior.

And in both stories, the ‘mean character’ is given a chance to redeem themselves.

We do need to stand up to bullying. But there needs to be education and empathy for all children. (Especially in early childhood!!)As much energy needs to go into coaching a child to act with kindness, to help them find the right words, to redirect anger and disappointment in an appropriate way, and consider how their actions affect others, as we put into teaching children to stand up to bullying.

I say to my class all the time, “In kindergarten we learn. We learn about letters. We learn about numbers. And we learn to be kind to each other. And while we learn, we make mistakes.”

Children are terrified to be labeled the bully. They are often as devastated by their mean behavior as the child they’ve been inappropriate with. Often I’m consoling both the ‘victim’ and the ‘villain’ at the same time. If our conversations go beyond, “Say you’re sorry” to finding out why there was upset feelings, what are some words we can say to express that, what can we do next time… then the child who was ‘hurt’ often feels like they’ve been heard in a more valid way. And we’ve given the ‘villain’ an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and some tools for trying again next time.

It’s my hope that conversation around how we treat each other continues well after this week! It will, in my class. And I’ll be using picture books to help me along the way.

“Dear Mrs. Spotswood,”

Mrs. Spotswood (the kindergarten teacher and my partner) was away this week. We are a pretty tight group and as the children dealt with the change in the room you could feel Mrs. Spotswood’s absence in the air. You could see it on some faces, feel it through some very tight hugs, and witness it through some behaviors. We all miss her.

So at story time I brought out one of my favorites. DEAR MR. BLUEBERRY by Simon James.Image

http://books.google.ca/books/about/Dear_Mr_Blueberry.html?id=xmYlAQAAIAAJ&redir_esc=y

Emily writes to her teacher asking for advice on how to care for a whale that she’s discovered in her pond. I’m proud to say the children in my class know it well. It’s brought up discussions regarding imagination and whale facts etc. But this time, after reading the story, I pointed out to the children that it takes place in the summer.

“Would Emily see Mr. Blueberry in the summer?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because there’s no school.”

“Why do you think she might be writing to him?”

“Because she misses him.”

So on a large piece of paper I wrote, “Dear Mrs. Spotswood” and I put it on our word wall.

The letters and the pictures started streaming in. “Dear Mrs. Spotswood, I miss you.”

“Dear Mrs. Spotswood, I love you.

P.S. When are you coming back?”

The next day we read the very funny DEAR MRS. LARUE by Mark Teague.Image http://www.amazon.ca/Dear-Mrs-LaRue-Obedience-Paperback/dp/0545315204 about a dog who writes persuasive letters home to his owner trying to get her to spring him from obedience school. Again I drew the children’s attention to “Dear Mrs. Spotswood” still on the word wall. Some children tried their hand at letter writing for the first time. Others were working on their second or third letter or picture.

And the day after that we read the very silly CLICK, CLACK, MOO, COWS THAT TYPE by Doreen Cronin.Image

http://www.amazon.ca/Click-Clack-Moo-Cows-That/dp/1442408898

 

I’ve seen some terrific evidence of literacy throughout the week. The children understand the format of letter writing and have had lots of practice creating their own letters. But more importantly, they’ve learned that when you express your feelings through written words and with pictures, it can help you deal with those feelings.

“Dear Mrs. Spotswood. We miss you and we love you!”

 

 

Age appropriate Remembrance Day activities for young children

 

Remembrance Day is a tricky topic that can be difficult to broach with young children.  Throughout my 20 years working in early childhood education, I’ve been in centers where worksheet poppies were completed by children, but conversation about what and why never took place, because ‘They won’t understand.” And at other times I’ve seen children scared and brought to tears with way too many details. How do you help children develop an understanding of this very important day, in a way that’s developmentally appropriate and within their realm of proximity?

I rely heavily on picture books (what a shocker!) to guide us through.

 

This year the conversation of Remembrance Day came up in my full day kindergarten class when a 4 year-old girl said, “Why do you have a red flower on your coat? My mommy has one too.”

 

We opened the conversation up to the class and the children offered up information they knew.  “It’s because people fought in a war.”

 

I introduced the cover of A Poppy is to Remember by Heather Patterson, illustrated by Ron Lightburn.

 Image

http://www.amazon.ca/A-Poppy-Remember-Heather-Patterson/dp/0545999812

We compared the poppy on my jacket to the real poppies that grew in the field where soldiers fought a long time ago. And we talked about how poppies help us remember how brave those soldiers were, and how thankful we are that they protected us.

 

Red and black paint, a few poppies, and the cover of this book and Linda Granfield’s Where Poppies Grow, are added to the creative table.

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http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/where-poppies-grow-a-world/9781550051469-item.html

 And children began painting their own poppies.

 We added the words poppy, poppies, remember and Remembrance Day to our word wall bank, and children began writing about the poppies.

The books are available to the children to look through, but I don’t read all the details to the whole group. I know the books well, so there are no ‘surprise pictures’ of inappropriate photos or details.

A few boys were very interested in the pictures, so they spent a great deal of time looking through the book, asking questions about some of the topics, and making their own book, (which they later shared with the class) while other children were comfortable with the idea of painting a poppy to help them remember the bravery.

I did manage to redirect a couple of very active 5 year-old boys (who are ‘in to’ super hero play) by pointing out that the soldiers on the cover of Where Poppies Grow were real live super heroes. That peaked their interest and they abandoned their rough-house play to spend some time at the creative table. (For a few minutes anyway 🙂 )

 Later that day I introduced this poem to the class, sung to the tune of Bingo

 There is a flower red and black that helps me to remember

P-O-P-P-Y,      P-O-P-P-Y,      P-O-P-P-Y

It helps me to remember

The poem was written out on ledger paper, and by the end of the day some of the girls were printing their own copies of the poem.

 

I use these great books as a reference and a point of discussion for the children, but I use my hands-down favorite Remembrance Day picture book Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion, by Jane Barcley, illustrated by Renne Benoit as a way to help the children make a safe but emotional connection to Remembrance Day.

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 http://www.amazon.ca/Proud-Peacock-Brave-Lion-Barclay/dp/0887769519

 A young child asks his grandpa questions about his experiences in the war. Grandpa explains that when he first wore a uniform he was ‘as proud as a peacock.’ He spent most of his days on the ship ‘as busy as a beaver’ and when he was in a dangerous situation he pretended to be ‘as brave as a lion.’ The illustrations are a perfect match to the story.

The very scary and very sad aspects of war are touched upon in this beautiful story, in a safe manner that young children can absorb.

As the young child watches his grandpa lay down a wreath in memory of his wartime friend, the child suggests that he and his grandpa be elephants, ‘because elephants never forget’.