Top 5 Back-to-School Picture Books that Ease Anxiety and Promote a Positive Attitude

 

There is no way around it- whether you have a little one starting school for the first time, or a child heading back to those first few grades, starting school is an anxiety inducer. But your positive attitude towards the situation (and some great picture books) can alleviate the stress and help pump up your child’s confidence and optimism about school.

 

  1. 618RPzbO2WL._SX389_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg Pete the Cat, Rocking in my School Shoes, by Eric Litwin and James Dean https://www.amazon.ca/Pete-Cat-Rocking-School-Shoes/dp/0061910244

This is a fun easy read that shows children there are lots of great spots in school, and it’s ‘all good’!

 

  1.  51q9Smmke-L._SX402_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgWemberly Worried, by Kevin Henkes https://www.amazon.ca/Wemberly-Worried-Kevin Henkes/dp/0061857769/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1472559642&sr=1-1&keywords=Wemberly+Worried

You think you’re worried about school- well Wemberly worries about everything! How will she handle her first day? This is one of my absolute favorites! It provides support, understanding, encouragement and inspiration.

 

  1. willow_s_whispers.jpg Willow’s Whispers, by Lana Button and Tania Howells https://www.amazon.ca/Willows-Whispers-Lana-Button/dp/1554537444/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1472560178&sr=1-1&keywords=Willow%27s+Whispers

When Willow is at school her words come out as soft and shy as a secret. But not for long! Willow will inspire young ones to use their own big strong voice in school. This story also builds inclusiveness and empathy for every voice in the class.

 

  1. 61f83lXiPDL._SX439_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg Franklin Goes to School by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark https://www.amazon.ca/Franklin-Goes-School-Paulette-Bourgeois/dp/1771380101/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1472560561&sr=1-1&keywords=franklin+goes+to+school

So many emotions swirling around that first day! Even the children who can’t wait to start might find themselves anxious when it’s time to actually head off. This story allows lots of dialogue regarding the realm of emotions we go through when starting school, and illustrates once more, that we are heading off to a great spot filled with lots of new experiences and adventures.

 

  1. 51n2oEIWNQL._SX495_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers https://www.amazon.ca/Day-Crayons-Quit-Drew-Daywalt/dp/0399255370/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1472560981&sr=1-1&keywords=the+day+the+crayons+quit

…because, hey, when you’re anxious, you need a good laugh! And I love the message that we have the freedom to think outside the box and create new and exciting things— that’s the fresh start opportunity waiting for your child at school— like a brand new box of crayons!

 

So listen to your child when they tell you about their back-to-school anxieties. Don’t dismiss those feelings. Acknowledge that these are very understandable emotions that will go away in time. And fess up to your child that many of us are feeling the same way during this annual stress-filled transition. But while you remain supportive, concentrate your words, your body language and your attitude on the positive exciting aspects and opportunities of school. Hang on! In a few weeks, we will all be in the swing of things!

 

 

 

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Emergent Curriculum and the Olympics

There’s still a lot of confusion around emergent curriculum. What exactly is it? I’ll start with what it’s not. Emergent curriculum is not chaos or letting children do whatever they want. It is not the elimination of plans. Emergent curriculum starts with a spark- an interest from the child. And it requires adults who know the curriculum expectations of each learning area inside and out (mathematics, language, science and technology, arts and personal social development). These adults, who also know where each child is on their learning journey, encourage the spark. They provide children with materials to inquire, to investigate and to discover.  And they infuse the curriculum expectations into that discovery. Finally, they document when children demonstrate this learning.

But the first step to encouraging that spark is helping children identify what they already know. And so, with the excitement of the Olympics, our class has started with what we know, and I’m going to do whatever I can to encourage this Olympic spark!

We started with the rings. On the day of the opening ceremonies many children came to class with an Olympic spark.

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I pulled up some cool pictures of Olympians posing on the rings, which the children found very interesting.

http://www.businessinsider.com/athletes-sochi-photos-olympic-rings-2014-2

I asked them to help me figure out how many rings and which colours we’d need to make our own Olympic symbols. We did a search around the room to find an object just the right size and shape for our prints, reviewing what we already knew about shapes, counting and colour. The results were some pretty terrific pieces of art, accompanied by some great writing.

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(*I was told that the ‘exclamation heart’ depicts the child’s love and excitement for the Olympics)

The sports

I asked a child, “What sports do they play in the winter games?” He started a list of sports, and shared it with the class. This is what we know now. As we watch the games I am confident the children’s knowledge of these games will expand and they will add to this list. Creating a list is a language component in the FDK program.

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I plan to introduce the story Snowy Sports, Ready Set Play by Per-Henrik Gurth to the children.

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http://www.kidscanpress.com/canada/Snowy-Sports-P5898.aspx

 

The opening ceremonies

Technology really came in handy as we set up a smart board and watched the CBC Sports live stream of the opening ceremonies. The children were free to choose a different activity but most were engrossed by the event. They were fascinated to learn that the games were so far away that it was nighttime when it started. They were fascinated with our discussion of a ‘live feed’ and that the events were happening as they watched. And they were fascinated with the flags! Some children were thrilled and proud to point out countries they were born in or had visited. And we all cheered as the Canadian athletes paraded in. It definitely started a ‘spark’ about countries around the world.

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We’ve started mapping

After the opening ceremonies, I put up a large map of the world and invited children to come help me find countries. “What do we know about countries?” I asked.

“We live in Canada!” So we added a bright sticky label over Canada.

We also labeled Spain and Italy, as two children excitedly told me that was where they were born.

“I’ve been to Florida!”

“And Florida is a state in the United States of America, let’s label that country,” I said.

“Where is are the Olympics taking place?”

“Sochi Russia!” We added a bright sticky over the spot over Sochi, and another sticky over Burlington, Ontario so we could see the distance.

This is what the children know now. As we continue observing and inquiring about these flags and these countries taking part in the games, I’m sure we will add to this knowledge (and cover many math, science and language expectations while we’re at it!)

I’ve ordered a copy of P is for Passport: A World Alphabet by Devin Scillian and hope it arrives before the closing ceremonies!! https://sleepingbearpress.com/shop/show/11292

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 The medal count- I’m anticipating that at least some children will arrive Monday morning excited about the medals. And we’re holding on to the smart board and the CBC Sports live stream and I plan to show highlights of the races, the medal ceremonies and the medal count. My plan is to ask the children what they know about the medal count, invite them to investigate with me what has occurred over the weekend and co-construct with me a chart listing countries and the medal count. I will be armed with gold, silver and bronze stickers and am so excited to get this started! This chart will cover many areas of the math and language curriculum.

 I’ve also covered our visual arts board with white paper as some children showed an interest in making a winter games collage. I will re-introduce this interest on Monday morning, and make sure the markers are set to go!

 It’s Sunday morning, and although I do not have a scheduled lesson plan written out with specific tasks for children to do, I’ve got my spark, I’ve got my learning goals in mind and I’ve got a plan.

 

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