Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Secrets to Get Kids to Listen

And how to give directions they will follow

Getting Kids to Listen
  1. Be a good listener. Children learn best from modeled behavior.*
  2. Always acknowledge and validate what they’re saying and how they’re feeling--even when you disagree with them. Kids are also more likely to listen, if they feel they’ve been heard.
  3. Talk less. Your directions should be short, concise and easy to understand. 
  4. Get on their level. Instead of shouting directions across the room, walk over to the child, get down at their level and look them in the eye.
  5. Use a calm voice. It’s easy to fly off the handle when we’re tired, frustrated and angry--but all that does is create a release for us. It does nothing to change kids behavior, or get their attention. Kids tune out yelling.
  6. Be mindful of your tone. A stern tone is appropriate when they’re doing or did something dangerous. Use a softer tone to show disappointment or concern, and when reading a story, use a dramatic flair, expression, etc.
*This is sometimes the hardest thing to do in a room full of 22+ children. But it needs to be a priority. Making time to listen to every child several times a week will improve their listening skills and their behavior. If you have a rambunctious class, begin this by focusing on the kids with the wildest behavior and the natural leaders. But be careful not to ignore the quiet ones who do what they’re told--they sometimes have the best stories!

Giving Directions
  1. Keep your language positive. Kids will begin to ignore the Don’ts and the Nos. Instead tell them the right thing to do.
  2. Repeat directions--especially for those kids who have trouble focusing, tend to “forget” or are very young. 
  3. Have them repeat the directions back to you. (I’ve only ever had to have them do this a few times before they’ve learned to listen.)
  4. Leave your feelings and frustrations out of it. Tell them what they did wrong, why it was wrong and what their consequences are. 
  5. Understand where they’re coming from. Phrases such as “Why did you do that?” and “You know better” are empty to a child. Kids are curious and impulsive. They don’t always know better and they don’t always know why they do things. 
  6. Follow through after giving directions. Monitor their progress, praise their achievements.
  7. Limit choices and give the kids incentive to listen and follow directions. 
    1. No Choice: There are some directions that need to be followed no matter what. ex: Don’t touch the fire. 
    2. Two choices: For younger children 2 to 5. You can do this, or that. (Offering choices, even to the littlest ones builds confidence.)
    3. More choices: For older children who may want to have their own input and who have experience in making appropriate choices.
  8. Put your instructions in writing. This is a teaching trick I learned during one of my countless laryngitis episodes--even with 5 year olds--and the kids loved it. Write out simple, step-by-step instructions for things such as getting themselves and supplies ready for the next lesson. Let them read the the directions out loud. The stronger readers will help the others and they’ll all feel smarter, more in control and they’ll strengthen their reading skills. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Earth Day Books and Resources

Arthur Turns Green by Marc Brown -- Through this Arthur adventure kids will learn ways to save energy at home. Make a class poster like Arthur does on your favorite Earth Day topic.

The Berenstain Bears Go Green by Stan and Jan Berenstain -- The town dump is ruining the Bears favorite creek. This book can spark a great conversation about the problem with pollution and what kids can do to prevent it.

Earth Day--Hooray! By Stuart J. Murphy -- One of Murphy’s fabulous Math books, this one focusing on place value and counting, it’s a cute story about some friends who want to plant flowers in a nearby park.

Emeraldalicious by Victoria Kann -- Perfect for any fan of the Pinkalicious fan. In this book, Pinkalicous and her friend discover their beloved park has been destroyed by litter. Printable activities

Fancy Nancy: Every Day is Earth Day by Jane O-Connor -- Fancy Nancy’s overzealous attempts at trying to get her family to “go green” has some disastrous outcomes. Make a list of the Rhyming words from the book, or make a poster of all the rules Nancy shares with her family such as "Get clean, but stay green."

The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynne Cherry -- This is a favorite with teachers and you can find lots of activities online to go with this meaningful and powerful book.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein -- This tear jerker gets to heart of how meaningful trees are to us.

A Leaf Can Be by Laura Purdie Salsa -- This is a great book for a science based writing activity. Have kids explore different types of leaves outside, then write what leaves can be.

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss -- The ending always gets to me. The Lorax Comprehension Questions and Classroom Project ideas

Michael Recycle by Ellie Bethel -- Michael Recycle is a Superhero who teaches people about how to take care of the planet. Kids can create their own Earth Day Superhero by drawing or writing about her. What's her name? Her symbol? What super power does he possess that can help planet earth?

Over in the Jungle: A Rainforest Rhyme by Marianne Berkes -- A sing-song, rhyming story, with beautiful illustrations that toddlers up to primary school will love. There are non-fiction facts and learning activities listed in the back. 

The Rainforest Grew All Around by Susan K. Mitchell -- A fun and rhythmic take on the song, “And the green grass grew all around.”

The Tree by Dana Lyons -- Beautifully illustrated, thought provoking and told from the perspective of an 800 year old Douglas Fir. It also gives information about the Pacific Rain Forest. Shared writing or journaling activity: Write a story from the perspective of a tree, an animal that's about to lose his tree home or a body of that has been destroyed by pollution or littering.

The Umbrella by Jan Brett -- As always Jan has tons of activities and printables to go along with her beautiful books. Check out her rainforest coloring pages

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Monster at the End of This Book

Questions to ask during and after reading: 
  • Why is Grover scared?
  • What kind of animal is Grover?
  • What color is Grover? What color is his nose?
  • Is Grover a nice monster or a mean monster?
  • Why are some words in the story big and some words are little?
  • Why doesn’t Grover want you to turn the page?
  • How does he feel when we turn the page?
  • How does Grover try to stop us from turning the page? 

  • monster
  • book
  • brick wall
  • end
  • scared
  • lovable
  • embarrassed
  • heavy, thick, solid, strong

Activity Ideas:

  • Make a Grover Paper Craft (sample coming soon)
  • Make a Grover Puppet: blue felt or an old blue sock, a pink puff ball and some googly eyes are all you need.
  • Draw a picture of Grover doing something in the book.
  • Use legos to build a brick wall like Grover did.
  • Buy some Grover stickers, like these and use them in a picture.
  • Print out several Grover coloring pages and make a book. It can be the same story or their own story. (see links for coloring pages below)
  • Grover has several alter egos. Super Grover, Dr. Grover, Marshall Grover, etc. Play dress up and pretend like Grover does.



In this video Grover reads this story aloud is hilarious. It's great for early readers too because the text is highlighted and they can follow along. **This a fabulous story for helping increase fluency as Grover's emotions are all over the place. 

You can also down the app for $4.99 and if you have a subscription to Sesame Street ebooks it's there too. 


Coloring Pages:

Text Connections:
What to read next? There are tons of cute Grover books. Here are a few favorites:

Video Games:


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Toddler/Preschool Nursery Rhyme Unit

This can be a one week unit, or a multiple week unit, depending on your child's interest and how many activities you want to do. 

How to Begin: Exposure
  • Read to them. Most Nursery Rhymes can be found online, but they will absorb more if they can hold a book--especially one with colorful illustrations. 
  • Watch Nursery Rhyme videos. 
  • Learn finger plays, acting out the rhymes, looking at pictures of the rhymes, etc.
  • Spend a little time each day reading new or favorite Nursery Rhymes and choosing activities to go with them.

Expanding Vocabulary: 
Throughout the week, constantly pull words from Nursery Rhymes and give your child real world, hands on experiences with those words. Show them photos, let them hold or touch the objects, taste new foods, etc.  Possible vocabulary words: Pail. Candlestick. Tarts. Curds and Whey (cottage cheese). Fiddle. Kettle. Wool. Posies. Cupboard. Fleece. (also see Crafts for ways to strengthen their connection to word and object) This is also a great time to make sure they know the names of animals, vegetables and other every day objects. 

Fine and Gross Motor:
  • Build a wall, knock an egg off of it: Humpty Dumpty. Act out the rhyme with toy horses, etc.
  • Walk crooked: The Crooked Man. Tape a crooked line on the carpet, or draw with chalk outside. Have fun walking crooked, sitting crooked, talking crooked, doing everything crooked.
  • Be the cow: Hey, Diddle Diddle. Draw a paper moon and let your child pretend to be the cow. Then use paper plate and plastic spoon to act out the rest.

  • Make Spiders: Little Miss Muffet   
  • Decorate an egg: Humpty Dumpty
  • Pigs: This Little Piggie Went to Market      Paper Plate Pig   Pig Nose craft
  • Stars: Twinkle, Twinkle
  • SheepBaa Baa Black Sheep, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Little Bo Peep
  • Candlestick: Jack Be Nimble (also see Dramatic Play) 
  • Cow and Moon: Hey Diddle Diddle
  • Make a Pumpkin House: A fun fall activity. Since an adult needs to do a lot of the work, you can make this a more child-centered activity by asking your child for a lot of input. What does a house need? Where should the door go, the windows, what goes inside, etc. (A quick search of "pumpkin house" on Pinterest gives lots of cute examples.) Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater
  • Vocabulary Painting: Instead of a paintbrush, let your little one paint with objects found in various Nursery Rhymes. A swatch of wool, flowers, etc. OR, paint on scraps of fleece or wool, bricks, wooden spoons, etc. instead of paper. 

Personal Skills:
  • Lace up a pair of shoes or boots: There Was An Old Woman
  • Helping around the house: Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush

  • Gardening: Plant or pick flowers Mary, Mary Quite Contrary; Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley Grow
  • Baking: Pat-A-Cake, Little Jack Horner, etc. (also see baking ideas under Lunch)
  • Mother Goose Cookbook
  • Make plum cake: The Lion and the Unicorn 

  • Finger play/subtraction: Ten Little Children, Five Little Ducks, Five Little Monkeys
  • Play with magnet, felt, wood or die cut numbers. One, Two Buckle My Shoe; One, Two, Three, Four, Five
  • Count potatoes: One Potato, Two Potato
  • Make a paper plate clock and talk about time. Hickory Dickory Dock

Dramatic Play:
  • Pretend to be Jack jumping over the candlestick.
  • Act out the motions to I'm a Little Teapot.
  • Pretend to be Jack and Jill, walking up a hill with a pail. Roll down the hill together. *Make sure this is a small, safe hill with no obstructions at the bottom, no large rocks or twigs.
  • Act out One, Two, Buckle My Shoe--up to 10. Gather a shoe with a buckle, several sticks, a stuffed hen. 
  • Act out: Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
  • Finger play: The Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Turn an old boot into a home for Little People or other small dolls. There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. 
  • Grab a bunch of stuffed animals and act out Ten in the Bed (just make sure your little one plays the little one in the rhyme)
  • Make or buy animal masks and re-enact rhymes such as Hey Diddle Diddle, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Old MacDonald, This Little Piggy, Little Bo Peep, Three Little Kittens.

Lunch: Read to them while they experience new or familiar food.
  • Bread and butter: Little Tommy Tucker
  • Plum Cake: The Lion and the Unicorn Easy Plum Cake Recipe
  • Golden pears: I Had A Little Nut Tree
  • Pumpkin: Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater
  • Pie: Simple Simon, Little Jack Horner
  • Cottage Cheese: Little Miss Muffet (curds and whey)
  • Apple pie: Apple-Pie Alphabet/A Was An Apple Pie
  • Peas: Five Fat Peas
  • Pudding: Georgie Porgie
  • Cherries or cherry pie: Cherries are Ripe
  • Tarts: The Queen of Hearts Make super easy tarts using Pepperidge Farm puff pastry cups, instant vanilla pudding and fresh fruit.

Bed Time/Nap Time
  • Read Brahm's Lullaby
  • Read Bedtime
  • Read Hush, Little Baby
  • Read Rock-a-bye Baby
  • Read Ten in the Bed
  • Read Sleep Little Child
  • Read Golden Slumbers, then sing Hush, Little Baby or Rock-a-bye Baby
  • Read Star Light, Star Bright. Find the first star and make wished

Field Trips:

Websites to Check Out:

Favorite Nursery Rhyme Books and DVDs:

Videos/Technology Extension:


Other Resources:

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Why I Do Not Use The Word "Bully" and Will Never Teach an "Anti-Bullying" Unit

As teachers we are expected to focus on the positive. Begin parent teacher conferences on a positive note. State class rules in positive sentences: say Walk instead of Don’t Run, say Keep Your Hands to Yourself instead of Don’t Hit. 
If we focus on the positive, the kids will focus on the positive. If we teach them the right way to do things, they won’t learn the wrong thing to do.  

So why are we told to teach “No Bullying” instead of Be Kind to Others and Stand Up For Your Friends?

In my classroom, I choose to focus on kindness, feelings and language development. At this age I hope to prevent bullying--instead of creating it--by building character, strengthening self esteem and teaching appropriate ways to handle disagreements. 

I recognize that bullying is a real problem, and it’s a very serious problem. However, this is a site dedicated to 4, 5, and 6 year olds. Children who are still learning how to make friends, how to be a friend, and how to handle anger. What can seem like "bullying" is often a small child who is frustrated or upset and doesn't know the appropriate way to communicate those feelings. 

The annual Anti-Bullying Week that over took our school every spring filled me with horrible dread because every year it created more problems than solutions. 

When I taught the Anti-Bullying curriculum the first thing I had to do was teach my class what the word “bully” meant. It broke my heart because it stabbed away at their innocence. Instead of teaching them how to be kind and be a good friend, I had to teach them about mean children and what name we called them.

Once they learned that term, for the rest of the year if they had a argument, if they didn’t get their way or got their feelings hurt they called each other bullies.  
And so did their parents. 

When adults are calling 5 year olds bullies, it's time to re-evaluate what's going on the schools and the media. I have had parents call a child they’ve never met a bully because that child got in a disagreement with their child over what game they wanted to play at recess. I’ve had parents report a kindergartner to the principal for being a bully because they took a book away from another child without asking. What child hasn’t done that? Now bad manners makes children bullies? How is that fair to the kindergartner who doesn’t have the language skills to ask for the book? Or the second language learner who doesn’t have the vocabulary to express his frustration?

Labeling a 5 or 6 year old, who do not always understand their emotions and are still learning the right ways to express themselves, with such a derogatory, inflammatory name is not only unfair, but a type of bullying itself. 

Kids need to be given the language and vocabulary to express how and what they feel. Simply saying "Think about what you've done," "Say you're sorry" or "You know better" does nothing without the child having a clear understanding of what they're feeling and why. It is our job as teachers and parents to teach help them understand what they feel, teach them the words to express those feelings--especially to their friends--and validate those feelings. 

Those are the lessons I teach my students. Not, 'this is a bully and this is what a bully does,' because all that does is give them permission to call another child a name. 

So, a few years ago I stopped participating in Anti-Bullying Week. Instead, I did a week on friendship, acceptance, diversity and understanding. And as always, we read books and did mini-lessons on feelings and appropriate ways to express those feelings. I taught the kids to accept one another, respect others and stand up for each other. And I never once used the term “bully.” They learned much more from a unit focused on positive behaviors than one that taught negative language.

All of this being said, I have had to deal with a couple of kindergartners and 1st graders who did "bully" other children. I have had classes who already knew the word “bully” and I have had kids in my class bullied by older children in the hallways or bathrooms. These were fortunately rare situations which were dealt with as they came up.

While I don’t condone involving small children in “Anti-Bullying weeks” or teaching No Bullying units, I do believe we need to teach them to stand up for themselves and for their friends. We need to teach them to accept differences and to deal with their emotions without hurting others. Using open discussions, role-playing, reading and writing activities and giving children the right words to say to express their anger or frustration all help with these lessons. 

Kids will deal with bullies their whole lives. They will learn and use that term, they will get teased, they will see their friends get teased. But we have to consider the age and emotional maturity of these kids. Why introduce them to something negative before they experience it? Why not give them the tools and confidence to deal with situations in a positive, productive manner before they need it, and without the name calling. 


Our role-playing, discussions and mini-lessons on feelings, manners and expressing ourselves appropriately came from a school adopted program called R-Time. Used school-wide it was a great at promoting healthy, positive relationships and it gave them the vocabulary to talk out problems and feelings--which is exactly what the little ones need! Check out their site (and sample activities):

Books to Help Teach Friendship, Acceptance, Getting Along, 
Diversity and Communicating Feelings:
The Crayon Box That Talked by Shane Derolf and Michael Letzig (diversity)
Pig in a Wig by Alan McDonald (teasing and acceptance)
The Recess Queen by Alexis O'Neill
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson (read aloud on (making new friends)
Let's Be Enemies by Janice May Udry (arguing with friends)
The Berenstain Bears Get in A Fight by Stan and Jan Berenstain (arguing with loved ones)
Ruby the Copycat by Margaret Ruthann
Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfizer (sharing)
The Rag Coat by Lauren A. Mills (teasing)
The Way I Act by Steve Metzger (positive behaviors such as compassion and responsibility)
Whoever You Are by Mem Fox (acceptance and diversity)
Words Are Not For Hurting by Elizabeth Verdick
The Meanest Thing to Say by Bill Cosby (standing up for yourself)
It's Hard to be Five: Learning How to Work My Control Panel by Jamie Lee Curtis