story · topic

Purim

Let me start with a disclaimer… I’m learning about this holiday along with you. My goal is to share more varied holidays and traditions to enlighten us to the world greater than our own homes. Children love a celebration and teaching these often sparks an interest in learning more.

Last night was the start of the Jewish holiday of Purim, which continues until tonight.

Everyday Jewish Mom’s explains the history behind Purim here, this is more of an explanation for the adult.

A fun story for the kiddos. The Princess of Persia from BimBam

Here is a link to Everyday Jewish Mom where she shows some fun activities she did a home with her own little ones. a

Here is the link to the Hamantschen Dough that she uses to bake Hamantschen cookies with her children.

Today get out and celebrate Purim. Read the story, dress up in costume, make Hamantschen (even if it is just with play dough), learn something new.

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family activity · story · teaching thoughts

Laundry Time

Did you know that even laundry time can be a learning opportunity? Have your child help you with the laundry, especially his/her own laundry. First let’s read Mrs. McNosh Hangs Up Her Wash by Sarah Weeks. Now I’m sure you are not going to wash and hang up some of the crazy things Mrs McNosh washes and hangs up in her story, but it is a jumping off point.

Have your child draw a picture of rhyming things (s)he could hang up with Mrs. McNosh.

Have your child collect the laundry from around the house and help bring it to the washing machine (pushing a full laundry basket is great “heavy work” for young children). They can also help put the clothing into the machines.

When the laundry is done, they can help sort the clothes (put the shirts in this pile, the pants in that pile or put your clothes here and your brother’s there). Matching and rolling socks. Then help them put away their own clothes.

If you have clothes pins, these are great for fine motor practice. Your child can use them to pick up pompoms, beads, or other small items. Clip together pictures that match. Pop bubble wrap or so many other learning opportunities while working those fine motor skills.

Ok… let’s get to the laundry!

story · teaching thoughts

After the Fall

Yesterday I couldn’t decide what to write about, so I didn’t. I didn’t type anything yesterday. Some days life just gets to you more than you realize. I find that the more life is calm, the more I’m excited to sit down and blog. This morning I was reading some of the blogs that I follow and A Teacher’s Reflection, a blog written by a preschool teachers, mentioned the story After the Fall by Dan Santat.

I decided that this story is so important to hear right now. While the story is about Humpy Dumpty and how he copes after his fall, and about moving forward after and accident, we need to think about this in terms of the pandemic. What do we need to do to feel comfortable moving forward? How is your child coping and adapting to the changes that took place with the onset of Covid? How are they dealing with the change over time?

First thing you need to look at is how are YOU the adult dealing with these changes? The way you the adult are adapting and moving forward plays a huge impact on how your child deals with this. Are you talking about how unhappy you are with changes? Are you being positive about the world you are living in? Are you talking to your child about his/her feelings and listening to what they are saying?

As we get closer to having more and more people vaccinated, we need to see that there maybe some hesitation and concern still in children. You can’t see who is vaccinated. You can’t see who is safe. Children struggle to understand when big changes happen and when life begins to open back up again, we may see this struggle again.

How can we as adults help? Talk. Often times adults feel they need to shelter children from change and things that going on in life. We need to talk to children about what is going on. We need to express our concerns and listen to their concerns. We need to keep them in the loop. Using stories is a great way to start this conversation, this is why I shared this story with you today!

teaching thoughts

Brain Breaks

Ok… What are brain breaks and why are they so popular in school? A brain break is an opportunity for teachers and students to change gears. During the school day, children and adults are often hyper focused on the learning at hand. But, we know that this isn’t the best way to learn. You need to stop and change gears for your brain to process the information at hand. So, that is when you need a brain break. Teachers in the younger grades often use music and movement as a brain break. This gives your child the opportunity to move and change gears! We recognize the movement is a critical piece in learning. While many primary teachers (and some secondary teachers) allow and often encourage and provide opportunities for movement during learning it isn’t always possible. We need to get up out of those chairs and move around.

The addition of music also triggers additional parts of the brain to work. There are many wants to take these brain breaks and make them educational and fun! Many children’s musicians are seeing the need for this and creating learning based songs with movements. This connection helps our auditory and kinesthetic learners create additional learning connections through music and movement.

There are other ways to use brain breaks such as yoga, breathing exercises, classroom games and more. The key to a good brain break is change! A change from whatever you are doing at the time. So if you have been super active and need a brain break, then use breathing exercises to slowwwww down. If you have been sitting too long, get up and jump around.

Some brain breaks:

  • Go Noodle, Jack Hartmann, Dr Jean, Laurie Berkner Band, Raffi, Ella Jenkins for songs
  • head shoulders knees and toes– switch up body parts, change pacing of the movements, make it fun
  • freeze dance– put on music and then everyone freezes when the music stops
  • high knees/marching
  • show me how you: walk like a penguin, gallop like a horse, float like a snowflake etc.
  • blow bubbles
  • simon says
  • coloring
  • breathing exercises – Go Noodle, The Mental Heath Teacher
  • build with blocks
  • play with play dough
  • and so much more!

The key to brain breaks is to use them BEFORE your brain is ready to shut down. These should last 1-3 minutes (longer with younger children). Remember it is an opportunity change gears and refocus!

art · story · topic

Jazz on a Saturday Night

Today we will read the story Jazz on a Saturday Night by Leo & Diane Dillon. I have to say that I not only enjoyed this story, but the teacher who is sharing this book extends the learning to explain a bit about the musicians in the story.

The first activity today is to listen to Thelonious Monk’s Monk’s Mood. While you listen to this song, draw. Drawing to music is a great way to express feelings. There is no right or wrong way to draw to music and just as Thelonious Monk believed in adding dissonance to his music, encourage your child to add things that look a bit “off” to their art. When I draw to music, I tend to just like to draw in the abstract, but many children find inspiration to more true to life drawings.

Next, listen to Eboni Ramm and the band explore the various types of jazz combining the story Kayla and Eli Discover Jazz by Steven Earl and samples of the types of music. (click here for the link to SC Jazz Festival’s exploration of this story and music). While listening to this story and music, do not sit and watch the video, get up and move! Listen to the different styles of jazz. How can you move your body to match the different jazz styles? Some music types might make you want to move your whole body and others just your head, toes or fingers. There is not a right way… the goal is to move. Which type of jazz did you like best? Did you like the jazz that gets you moving a lot or the ones that make you just want to sway?

family activity · story · topic

Scat Singers

Yesterday we looked a little bit at Jazz music. This musical expression is a lot of fun for children. Today let’s look at Scat! First listen to this clip of Louis Armstrong singing Dinah. You will notice that Armstrong uses scat to create the music with out words. Let’s read the story When Louis Armstrong Taught me Scat by Muriel Harris Weinstein.

Want to hear a bit more scat? Here are Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington in It Don’t Mean a Thing. Want to learn more about this amazing singer? Let’s listen to the story Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa by Andrea Davis Pinkney or Little People Big Dreams Ella Fitzgerald by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara.

Scat is a singers opportunity to express sounds beyond the words. They play with sounds and phonemes. Phonemes is the sounds that make up words. Children need to play with phonemes and learn to manipulate the sounds letters make on their own and blended together before they try to read the written word.

Today spend some time dancing and singing. Listen to more Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald songs, or find other scat singers such as Sammy Davis Jr., Dizzy Gillespie, Aretha Franklin or many more. Listen to the sounds they make with their voices and how it impacts the feel of the song.

Listen to this song by Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Torme, notice that there are few actual words, but there is feeling, there is rhythm. Can you use your voice to sound like instruments? Can you express feelings with out words?

Now let’s get moving! Jazz music is all about movement. Can you move your body to match the musical feeling? Make yourself big when the tone goes up and smaller when the tone goes down. Move fast when the beat is fast and move slow when the beat slows down. Play copy me: I move you move and see if you and your child can create some jazzy moves to go along with the beat. Get up and feel the music!

story · topic

Jazz!

Today is Mardi Gras which is a holiday that is famous for the celebrations in New Orleans. This first book is about a fictional band that played in New Orleans, but went away. They are trying to imply the time of Hurricane Katrina, but do not speak about it straight out. It talks about the impact that the band and music has on the culture of New Orleans and Bourbon Street. The Bourbon Street Band is Back by Ed Shankman.

The second story is written by Wynton Marsalis, Squeek Rumble, Whomp, Whomp, Whomp shows how you can listen to your world and hear the music. Watch this video as Wynton Marsalis shows how you can take other songs and put them into a jazz feel! If you and your child enjoy this, I encourage you to find his Nursery Rhyme Swing concert at Lincoln Center.

Now it is your turn. Find sounds around your house and see if you can create your own jazz. Can you take a song you know and tweak it to make it more your own.

story · teaching thoughts

You Can Be President Too

Today is President’s Day. It is a day to reflect on the impact of the former Presidents of the United States. But, we don’t have to only think about the former presidents, we can think about the future too! Start by reading the book I Can Be President Too by Yanitzia Canetti.

One of my favorite YouTube channels to share with my classes is Kid President! If you have not checked out his videos, start today. Here is one called Kid President’s 20 Things We Should Say More Often.

Draw a picture of yourself as the president. What would you do as the president? What qualities would make you a good president.

We all need to dream big dreams. We need to focus on the qualities that makes us important. We need to encourage kindness, acceptance and love.

story · topic

Lunar New Year

Typically on Friday’s I write my series Why Do Teachers Do That? But, today I wanted to encourage you to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Did you know that many different cultures celebrate the Lunar New Year? Let’s start by reading Our Lunar New Year by Yobe Qui. Here is another YouTube video to explain more about how different cultures celebrate the Lunar New Year.

Think about ways you can incorporate some of these traditions in your home today? I’m all over the idea that there is no cleaning done on the Lunar New Year! Look at some of the foods they enjoy. Maybe choose to create red envelopes and give your child some new money. Help your child create lanterns. Maybe draw or craft a lion or dragon.

family activity · story · teaching thoughts

What is Given From the Heart

I was looking for something different to share. There are so many Valentine books out there for you to share with your kiddos, but I wanted something with more meaning. Something with more depth of love. I stumbled across What is Given From the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack. This is a touching story about compassion, resilience, gratitude and community. James Otis and his Mama have had a rough couple of months. Mama tell James Otis that “Misery loves company” but, as long as they have their health and strength, they are blessed. One Sunday in February they go to church the the Revered tells about the community creating Love Boxes for those in the community who are less fortunate. He tells them about a mother and daughter who lost everything in a fire. Mama says that she and James Otis need to give something to this family. James Otis struggles to find something worth giving, but plays over and over in his head the words he heard “what is given from the heart, reaches the heart”

Ok.. that was a longer recap than I normally give, but this story is very touching and a worthwhile read. We are living in a pandemic. There are so many families who are struggling to get by. There are so many who need a little more. Children love to help people. They do not always understand the struggle of others, but they know that people need help. What can you do to help your child see how (s)he can give from the heart. Look around your community. Is there a food bank you can contribute to? Is there a retirement community that is on lockdown that your child can mail pictures or stories? Is there a children’s hospital that your child can pick out stuffed animals to donate to or draw pictures? Write thank you cards and bake cookies to bring to the police, fire, hospital.

We all need to remember that we are a community. That we need to work together to help our neighbors. That when we give from the heart, we reach the heart!