Making Mask Wearing Easier for your Young Child

Tips for success and easing anxiety

We’re all getting used to wearing those masks. And over the past few months you may have sheltered your child from going places where mask wearing is mandatory. So now what do you do as they get ready to go to school- and wear that mask all day long? As a seasoned early childhood educator, I’m invested in your child’s well-being. And I’ve put together these tips to make mask wearing easier for your young child.

Choosing the mask

Can your child pick out their mask? If they have a say in what they are wearing, they are more likely to be excited about wearing it. Browsing online is easier than browsing in a store these days, so do a search and give your child a chance to see the variety of masks out there. Even if you can’t order one today, just giving your child a chance to look at a variety of child friendly masks will help take away the scary element.

Consider accessories- There will be ‘mask breaks’ throughout your child’s day. Consider adding a fanny pack to your child’s wardrobe. (Did you save yours from the 70’s??) This will give your child a clean spot to put their mask when they are outside and an easy access to grabbing it to put back on.

There are also some cool lanyards out there that hook onto your child’s mask. Look for the break-away ones that will come detached when you give it a good yank- so there’s no choking hazard. These lanyards also allow your child to keep their mask close and clean when having a mask break. Google child mask lanyards for lots of choices.

Getting comfortable Seeing Masks

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Spend some time desensitizing your child to masks. You want your child to have experienced that ‘people wear masks and I am still safe’.  So, have your child see people in masks in public, like at the grocery store. Have them spend time with people they know who are wearing masks, such as their family members or close friends.

Getting Comfortable Wearing Masks

Wearing a mask gets easier as you get used to it. Pick times throughout the day to practice wearing a mask- and make it fun. Motivate your child with a fun activity paired with mask wearing. “Let’s walk around the block in our mask, and then let’s have a snack.” Motivate your child to wear a mask during a fun activity like playing a game or watching a favourite show.

Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

Your Attitude Counts!

As a parent you are dealing with a lot of anxiety here! So, this is where you’ll need to draw on your inner actor and put a smile on your face. Your attitude toward these masks will make a huge impact on how your child will cope when wearing one. Of course, you are going to be understanding and listen when your child talks about discomfort in wearing the mask. But comments about your child being in danger, or that the ‘masks are ridiculous’ will only make your child more anxious. Keep it light. Keep it fun. And check that you are having those anxious conversations out of earshot of your young child.

What You Need to Know about the Bathroom at School

“I can totally relate to Raj!” That’s what I hear every time I describe my new book, RAJ’S RULE (FOR THE BATHROOM AT SCHOOL) (Owlkids Books, 2020). Raj has a list of tips to help him get through an entire day at school- without ever using the bathroom. Although I, too, appreciate Raj’s preference for his bathroom at home (that’s the bathroom he knows) I’ve seen firsthand, as an ECE with over 30 years experience, the discomfort this causes, and how it stops a child from getting the most out of their day at school. So the moral of the story? Go when you need to- even at school!

And I’ve compiled 5 TIPS FOR SCHOOL BATHROOM SUCCESS. Because, let’s be honest- our kids are out of practice, because for months, they’ve not only stayed at home, they’ve ‘gone’ at home.

I’VE GOTTA GO! Our kids may have gone back to relying on a parent to remind them when they should use the washroom. Give your child ownership in this department so they can start thinking for themselves.

HOLD ON A MINUTE In a class full of children, kids will sometimes have to wait their turn to go to the washroom.  Encourage your child to not wait until the last minute (you know-that ‘dancing stage’) before taking a trip to the washroom.

CLOTHES CALL I realize those tights match perfectly with that headband, and those jeans are super cute, but can your kids undo the button or get the tights down quickly on their own— especially if ‘it’s an emergency!!’? Before your child’s clothes come home in a bag you might want to rethink that belt. The elastic waist is your child’s friend!

CLEAN SWEEP I know you do a more efficient job in the wiping department, but especially in our currently socially distanced world- your child will be on their own in the school stall and practice makes perfect. And make sure to encourage kids to be like Raj and independently ‘soak for a second and scrub every finger’ when washing hands.

*** HAPPENS Kk accidents happen, and it’s always better to be prepared. On the off chance your child doesn’t make it to the washroom, make sure they have a change of clothes that can be easily accessed without making a big scene. (bonus tip- don’t forget to pack extra socks!)

I hope you’ll pick up a copy of RAJ’S RULE (FOR THE BATHROOM AT SCHOOL) (@owlkidspublishing) fabulously illustrated by Hatem Aly. And hey- I’m available for school visits virtually this year! I can customize a visit, and pop right into your classroom- wherever your school is located! Send me an email at lanabutton3@gmail.com to find out more, or check out my website at http://www.lanabutton.com

Check out my picture books that encourage self-reliance, empathy, resilience and anti-bullying.

I am (optimistically) wishing you a year of fun, health and lots of learning this school year.

5 Essential ‘Starting School’ Skills for Kindergarten Success

Hey Parents— If you’re spending the last few weeks of summer coaching your child on counting and reciting the alphabet, take a breather. Your time will be better spent teaching these 5 key non-academic skills.

What kind of skills?

“Those that foster independence are the most important skills to have when entering kindergarten,” says Linda Savel, veteran kindergarten teacher at St. John School in Burlington, Ont. As a registered Early Childhood Educator, I’ve also done time behind the kindergarten curtain and have witnessed the struggles, the frustration (and the downright shock) of rookie kindergartners adjusting to life at school.

Today’s kindergarten curriculum is stuffed with exciting academics, and classrooms are packed with very young students. Children with strong self-help skills are able to focus on these academics and start off on the right foot.

We’re accustomed to taking care of our kids and go on autopilot wiping noses and zipping jackets, but many of us don’t realize how much we ‘over-do’. (And let’s be honest; it’s a lot faster and more efficient when we do it for them!) But you want to set your child up for kindergarten success. So consider how your child will handle self-help tasks when you’re not in the room.

Skill #1: Getting dressed

black shoelace placed on gray floor

Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

Your child’s first school challenge will be met in the cubby area every morning, every afternoon and as many as three recesses. They’ll deal with shoes, boots, coats (and before you know it – snow pants, mitts and hats). I’ve seen many a meltdown as children wrestle with buckles and zippers, or watched as they stand staring at their jacket or shoes, ready for someone to do it for them. And after spending the summer in shorts and sandals they may need a refresher course! Let your child practice dressing independently without being pressured. The more they do on their own at home, the more confidence they will have to do it at school.
Out the door. Foster your child’s independence by giving them some say in picking their clothes. But do a test-run before school— because not all zippers are created equal. Your child can be the coatroom champ and the first one in line if his jacket has a quality zipper with an easy-to grasp tab.

Easy feet. You may be tempted to purchase those cute lace-up sneakers, but if your child can’t tie them tightly or properly, save them for the weekend. Go for slip-ons with a good rubber sole. Otherwise, your child will spend a good chunk of the day doing the lace dragging shuffle, or be one of 20 kids waiting for the teacher to tie them – again!

Skill #2: Bathroom success

white toilet paper

Photo by hermaion on Pexels.com

I know—your child has been ‘trained’ for years: which is exactly why many parents don’t consider the bathroom an issue. But believe me, the kindergarten washroom can be a challenge.

I’ve got to go! Many children have relied on a parent or caregiver to tell them when to visit the washroom. Give your child ownership in this department so he can start thinking for himself.

Hold on a minute. In a class full of children, kids will sometimes have to wait their turn to go to the washroom. Teach kids to not wait until the last minute before deciding to make a dash for it.

Clothes call. I realize those tights match perfectly with the headband, and those jeans are super cute, but can your kids undo that button or get the tights down quickly on their own, especially if they really have to go? Send kids to school wearing elastic waist bottoms – especially in September.

Clean sweep. Teach your kids to wipe efficiently. Some parents still assist with occasional bathroom visits. But children are on their own in kindergarten. Give them plenty of practice with solo wiping and hand washing.

Skill #3: Eating- without help

analogue classic clock clock face

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Lunch (or nutrition breaks as some schools call it) is like a game of beat the clock. In 25 minutes or less can you wash your hands, get your lunch, open everything, eat, and tidy up? It’s hard enough to eat without spending too much time chatting. Imagine if you can’t open a zipper or unscrew a Thermos lid.

Opening act. Can your child open every buckle, clasp, zipper and snap on all those fancy pouches and containers within the time limit? Practise at home.

Bums in seats. Make lunch at home a ‘sit down affair’ where nibbling and roaming isn’t permitted. Your child won’t be allowed to wander around during lunch at school.

Cutlery 101. Can your child use utensils, including gauging how much to put into their mouth at one time? Give lots of opportunities to practise this skill. No more ‘helping’ in this department.

Contain yourself. Test-drive the new Thermos. It’s great to send him to school with last night’s spaghetti. But digging pasta out of that container can be tricky! If you plan on sending a container full of soup make sure he can manage broth and a spoon without giving himself a bath!

Drinking challenge. Opening juice boxes and milk cartons can be tricky. Every time your child pries open her own milk container or spears her own juice box she gains a sense of pride and independence.

Napkin know-how. Go for lunch and have your child do everything, from ordering the meal to putting the trash in the garbage. And if she gets ketchup on her face, don’t wipe it off! Start a conversation about wiping your mouth while eating. And model it yourself.

Tip: Play the ‘school lunch’ game. Pack lunches for your child and a friend (to add a social challenge). Set the timer for 25 minutes and see how they manage. Sit on your hands for this game so they really do everything themselves.

 

Skill #4: Being responsible for belongings

boy in brown hoodie carrying red backpack while walking on dirt road near tall trees

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

From bringing home forms to bringing back library books, to remembering backpacks from the bus, your child will suddenly have lots of things to monitor and remember. This takes practice on their part, and lots of patience and guidance on your part.

Cubby control. Children will have a bin or a hook where they are expected to keep their things at school. Managing this new space can be daunting for someone who’s always had someone do it for them. So back off at home and let kids pick up after themselves. Let them bring their own things in from the car, hang up their coat, put their shoes away. Give them a designated spot for their backpack so they can start great organizational habits.

Backpack management. Every day your child’s backpack needs to be checked for letters from the teacher, forms, library books and lunch bags. Establish a time and a space where you can go over this together. Keeping this organized needs to be a group effort. You want your child to be independent- but he needs you to fill out the forms and sign that agenda. But don’t add this to the list of things you do after he’s in bed. Do it with him. Go over the notes with him, while you fill it out. It’s an excellent opportunity to jog his memory about his day and can lead to a great conversation. Consistently keeping his backpack organized and ready to go for the next day not only helps your child establish organizational skills, it shows him that you value his education.

Skill #5: Following directions

boy wearing blue crew neck t shirt sitting on cardboard box

Photo by Sunbae Legacy on Pexels.com

Kindergarten expectations incorporate lots of self-regulation; children learn to put the breaks on impulses, wait their turn, and follow directions.

Step by step. Listening and following directions gets better with practice. Start with simple tasks at home, such as, “Please put your shoes away.” Then add more steps: “Please put your shoes in the closet, hang up your coat and put your hat on the shelf.”

Wait your turn. The kindergartener spends chunks of his day waiting; waiting for everyone to join the group, waiting in line for their turn, waiting for the teacher to give direction. It’s good practice for your child to experience waiting patiently for something at home, instead of having immediate gratification. They might wait for you to get off the phone before having dessert, or wait for you to finish the dishes before you play a game.

Picture Books to Support

big or little BIG OR LITTLE by Kathy Stinson and Jennifer A. Bell https://www.amazon.com/Big-Little-Kathy-Stinson/dp/1554511682 A great read aloud to celebrate your child’s new accomplishments as a ‘big kid’ while reminding everyone that in lots of ways, they are ‘still little’.

I love Jamie Lee Curtis picture books! https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/search/?keywords=jamie+lee+curtis These two are awesome books for celebrating the trials and tribulations of being a kindergartner:

Hard to be 5 IT’S HARD TO BE FIVE: LEARNING HOW TO WORK MY CONTROL PANEL by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell

 

I'm Gonna Like Me I’M GONNA LIKE ME: LETTING OFF A LITTLE SELF-ESTEEM by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell

This is my new picture book, which encourages self-reliance and self-confidence when your school day takes an unexpected turn: https://www.amazon.com/Teachers-Not-Here-Lana-Button/dp/1771383569

My Picture Books

Kitty proves to herself she can get through an unexpected day at school.

 

 

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!

 

 

 

What’s in Your Lunch?

What’s in YOUR Lunch?

We’ve had two exciting inquiries pop up this week, both relating to what the children are eating. A child, who was enjoying snack with a group of children, brought to our attention that there was a seed in his orange. “That’s very interesting! Does anyone else have a seed in their food?” That’s all it took! A book was soon being constructed, and the children were eager to add a page to “I Have Seeds in my Lunch”. Our Health and Nutrition strand definitely came into play as it was determined that any food that contained seeds was a healthy choice.

After a quick trip to our library, we soon had lots of reference materials regarding fruit and seeds and our science table was transformed with donations of seeds found and labeled.

And things really got interesting when it was discovered that some seeds were on the inside of the fruit, while others were on the outside! Extracting those strawberry seeds took a great amount of patience and concentration! (pic)Image

Our light table made a perfect spot for displaying baggies of seeds. The children organized the seeds from biggest to smallest. We will soon discover what happens when those seeds are planted in soil! I can’t wait to share with them the beautiful picture book If You Hold a Seed by Elly MacKay Image

I also shared Karma Wilson’s beautiful Mortimer’s First Garden with the children, and we discussed the miracle of growth from one little seed.Image

And it just so happens that another child brought in chopsticks to eat his sushi. The children were amazed by this utensil, which got us talking about how we eat our food. The story, Maggie’s Chopsticks by Alan Woo came to mind, Image

so I quickly ran back to our library. It wasn’t available (heading to the public library this week!) so I was introduced to a new story, Chopsticks by Amy Krouse Rosenthal Image

We began charting information about whether we prefer to use a fork, a spoon, or chopsticks with different types of foods. 

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The next day, upon further reflection, the children realized that there were lots of foods they ate using just their hands, so we added a column to our chart. Image

During lunch, the conversation was extended as we observed how our friends were eating. We decided to take a survey,

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And it was determined that most of the children ate their lunch with their hands. This brought on the conversation about the importance of washing our hands before lunch!

All this talk about food inspired a change in our dramatic center. There’s now a bustling restaurant set up, complete with signs and a menu. The cash register is being put to great use and the children are doing a terrific job regulating who prepares the food, who delivers the food and who will be the customers.

Through a lot of exciting exploration we covered every strand of learning with these two inquiries. As Elly MacKay so beautifully illustrates, “It truly is magical what can come from one little seed!”

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.

 

Common Core- Meet Inquiry Based Story Time!

 

In a recent Open Book Blog entitled Compare and Contrast with the Common Core in Kindergarten, http://networkedblogs.com/TcvVz Jill Eisenberg compares the 8 page level A reader MEAT PIES by Celenia Chevere and Patricia M. Hubert (about a boy who makes Empanadas with his grandmother) with the 8 page level C reader TIME FOR TACOS by Carla Golembe  (about a boy who makes tacos with his dad.) Eisenberg describes how to dissect these two stories in order to meet the common core curriculum of comparing and contrasting.  Can I make another suggestion?

Story time is an excellent opportunity to compare and contrast text. There are tons of terrific picture books just begging to be used in a ‘compare and contrast’ manner!

Have you shared HOW COLD WAS IT? by Jan Barclay, yet?Image http://books.google.ca/books/about/How_Cold_Was_It.html?id=jy2XbiWp5cEC&redir_esc=y

 Imagine the fun of comparing the scenes with such extreme weather contrast, when you then share her story, HOW HOT WAS IT?  Imagehttp://www.amazon.ca/How-Hot-Was-Jane-Barclay/dp/1894222709

I guarantee you’ll not only cover your common core literacy comparison and contrast, these two picture books will spark conversation, exploration and inquiry into temperature that will cover many math and science strands as well.

I love to compare and contrast different versions of folk and fairy tales. I’ve started with the classic Little Golden Book, LITTLE RED HEN by Diane Mudrow,Image http://www.amazon.com/The-Little-Red-Golden-Book/dp/0307960307

and then introduced another version of the storyImage

http://www.amazon.ca/The-Little-Red-Paul-Galdone/dp/0899193498

The children love identifying the similarities and differences of each version.  And they become very excited when yet another version is discovered.Image

http://www.harpercollinschildrens.com/books/Little-Red-Hen-Byron-Barton/?isbn13=9780060216757&tctid=100

I’ve invited children to look through their fairy tale collections at home and bring in a version if they have one. We’ve charted the differences in the versions told (ie, sometimes the little red hen has chicks, sometimes she doesn’t. Sometimes her friends are a dog, cat and rat, sometimes they are a duck, pig and dog etc.) And with all this talk about bread- we just had to bake bread one day!  So not only are you covering your common core comparison and contrasting of the key ideas and details of each story, the structure, and the relationship between illustration and print in each story, you are adding the language, math and science exploration of reading the recipe and baking the bread.

And can you imagine the excitement when we found a version where the Little Red Hen and her friends live in a high-rise apartment in the middle of the city, and she’s making pizza!Image

 http://www.amazon.ca/The-Little-Red-Makes-Pizza/dp/0142301892

We were going to town, comparing the ingredients of these two items. (and the pizzas we ended up making were delicious!)

Introduce some felt pieces to your felt board, some puppets to your theatre, and suddenly children are telling (and eventually writing) their own creative version of the Little Red Hen.

 

If your children like the latest Jon Klassen story, THIS IS NOT MY HATImage

http://www.amazon.com/This-Is-Not-My-Hat/dp/0763655996

about a tiny fish who has swiped someone’s hat, they will have a blast comparing and contrasting that story with Klassen’s  original, I WANT MY HAT BACKImage

http://www.amazon.ca/I-Want-My-Hat-Back/dp/0763655988 which has the same visual dead-pan humor but is told through the eyes of the ‘victim’, as apposed to the ‘perpetrator’.

Part of our job, as educators, is to be greats story tellers. We need to guide children through stimulating conversation regarding the stories they hear. (Think of yourself as the leader of your very young book club.) When we invite children to make connections and identify comparisons in a picture book, we provide an opportunity for each child to make a deeper connection with the book. This does so much more than cover curriculum; this plants the seed for a lifelong love of reading.

Top 3 Snowman Stories

 

Our playground was covered with perfect snow! The sensory bin was just begging to be filled with it! Our children soon discovered that mittens made things much more comfortable!Image

And they created this…Image

 

So it was the perfect opportunity to read one of my favorite picture books, SADIE AND THE SNOWMAN by Allen Morgan, and illustrated by BrendaClark.

Imagehttp://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/sadie-and-the-snowman/9780919964785-item.html

This book has that perfect combination of rhythmic words and wonderful pictures to tell the story of Sadie’s attempts to her onto her beloved snowman throughout the winter and into the spring.

 

 

My other favorite snowman book is SNOWBALLS by Lois Ehlert.Image

http://www.amazon.ca/Snowballs-Lois-Ehlert/dp/0152020950

Children delight in seeing different members of the snowman family being creatively put together with ‘found objects’.

 

 And then I introduced the class to Caralyn Buehner’s story SNOWMEN AT NIGHTImage

http://www.amazon.ca/Snowmen-at-Night-Caralyn-Buehner/dp/0803730411

I love this terrifically illustrated rhyming tale that reveals what really happens to snowmen at night.

I asked all interested children to tell me what their snowman would do at night. Some black construction paper, white paint and round sponges, Q-tips, and white chalk were provided. The children set to work creating and writing about their snowmen (my favorite was playing the xylophone!) Image

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