Thursday, June 20, 2013

Wordless Books

Why Expose Kids to Wordless Books?

  • Expands their verbal skills and vocabulary.
  • Stimulates imagination.
  • Allows for a variety of shared and independent writing experiences.
  • Helps children understand the visual art of storytelling.
  • Creates understanding of subtext.
  • Gives kids a greater understanding of characters, setting and plot.

Online Resources:
Tips on Sharing Wordless Books by What Do We Do All Day?
A Wordless Book Lesson Plan Idea by Rusty and Rosy

Wordless Books
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Bee & Bird by Craig Frazier
The Boy and the Airplane by Mark Pett
A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog by Mercer Mayer
The Boys by Jeff Newman
Chalk by Bill Thomson
Changes, Changes by Pat Huchins
Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle
Frog on His Own by Mercer Mayer
Good Dog Carl by Alexandra Day
Leaf by Stephen Michael King
Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola
Rainstorm by Barbara Lehman
The Red Book by Barbara Lehman
Robot Dreams by Sara Varon
Sector 7 by David Wiesner
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
Truck by Donald Crews
Tuesday by David Wiesner
Wave by Suzy Lee
When Jack Goes Out by Pat Schories
Where’s Walrus by Stephan Savage
Wonder Bear by Tao Nyeu
Zoom by Istvan Banyai

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New Toddler Unit: Ocean

A Week of Oceans:
This is a great unit to do before a trip to the beach or a cruise. Or before buying fish for a family pet. 

How to Begin: Exposure

The easiest way to begin this unit is with books and short toddler-friendly videos. If you're headed to the beach soon, or have been their in the past use family photos to open the discussion. Or begin by taking a trip to an aquarium.

*Don’t forget the best thing you can do to educate your child (besides read!) is to give them experiences; let them explore and expose them to new things. Don’t worry if you’re not near a beach. Your child can still have tangible, valid ocean experiences. Aquariums, pet stores, even doctors offices have ocean life. You may have to research a little but the more they see with their eyes (and touch if you can swing that) they more meaningful the experiences. 


Commotion in the Ocean by Giles Andreae
Ocean Colors by Charles Reasoner
Ocean Wonders by Daniel Mahoney
Out of the Ocean by Debra Frasier
You Can Count the Ocean by David Brooks


Websites and Teacher Guides:

Language Arts: 

  • Fishing for Letters by Pigtails and Tutus 
  • Expand your child’s vocabulary by doing a lot of talking during this unit. Tell them the names of the animals, ask them questions, have them describe what they’re seeing, feeling and experiencing. 



  • You Can Count the Ocean by David Brooks
  • Take any opportunity you can to count: fish, seashells, ocean animals, whatever.
  • Sorting. Sort your ocean toys by color, size, stripes, etc.
  • YouTube Sesame Street: Elmo The Musical - “Barnacle Subtraction Song”

Arts and Crafts:

  • Make Fish and Ocean Life Masks.
  • Melted Oceans by Crayola. This involves heating the crayons, so you may want to practice yourself first and closely monitor them. 
  • Cute puffer fish craft. 
  • Sea shell crafts. I always see little bags of seashells at the dollar store. These are great for touching, rubbing, sensory tubs and making things with. What kinds of crafts can you make with seashells?
  • Sponges! Sponges are great craft tools and they come from the ocean. (especially if you can find some natural sponges.) They can be used to paint with, or paint with water on the sidewalk, dry them out and compare wet to dry, soak them with seeds and watch how things grow.
  • Lots of cute ocean animal crafts on totally tots. 


Dramatic Play:

  • Use your Fish and Ocean Life Masks and pretend to live underwater. Set the scene by hanging blue sheets or curtains, or do it in the backyard pool.
  • Imitating ocean animals. Watch some short video clips or live animal cams of ocean animals, including ocean mammals like sea lion, dolphins or polar bears and birds like penguins or sea gulls. Then see if your child can make those same movements. Swimming, diving, twisting, flapping.



  • Watch an online animal cam (see Websites section) and observe how the animals behave. Ask your child to describe what he sees. Are they swimming, eating, walking, breathing, etc. What do they look like? Are they big or small? What colors?
  • Build a Water Table (see how below).

Bath Tub or Water Table Activities: 

**Water table and sensory tub activities are great for building science knowledge, fine motor skills and kinethestic awareness and if you’re asking questions and encouraging a dialogue, language development. Drawing what they did in the tub afterward helps them explore pre-writing skills as well. Here’s an article about all the other ways they are great for your little ones.

  • “Make” an ocean. Using your water table, or small tub fill it with water and add salt. Let kids smell and taste it. Explain the difference between fresh water and salt water.
  • This is a great example of an Ocean Sensory Tub by totally tots. 
  • A beautiful ocean tub by Connecting Family and Seoul.
  • Another Ocean Sensory Tub by No Time for Flashcards. 
  • Adding icebergs to your miniature ocean by No Time For Flashcards.  
  • Create a Motion Ocean by National Geographic Kids 
  • Turn your bathtub into a temporary ocean.
  • Use a heavy glass casserole dish for little ones in their high chair because it's too heavy for them to move--just keep an eye on them!
  • Add food coloring, jello powder, kool-aid mix, corn syrup or cooking oil and talk about what happens to the water.
  • Add cooked or uncooked noodles and watch what happens to them.
  • Add Sink or Float items and talk about what happens: rocks, blocks, foam items, corks, filled and empty plastic bottles, toys, etc.
  • Add nature items like pinecones, large leaves such as lilypads, shells, stones and pebbles, dirt, plants, etc. and talk about what kinds of things are in oceans, lakes, ponds and rivers.


  • Eat Like a Baleen Whale by The Usual Mayhem 
  • Salt Water Taffy: Recipe 1 by Vanilla and Lace. Recipe 2 by This is definitely something kids cannot do without adults. 
  • Get creative with sandwiches like here and here.
  • Pepperidge Farm Goldfish.
  • Blue jello filled with swedish fish.
  • Hot Dogs cut up to look like an octopus. (We use soy or tofu dogs. Yum!)
  • These cute clam cookies.
  • Yogurt or pudding covered in crushed cookies such as Nilla Wafers in a little beach pail
  • I love these Ocean Animals Cookie Cutters. Use them on sandwiches/bread, pineapple, watermelon, cheese slices, poundcake, etc. 


Movies and Videos:


*WARNING--there are some gruesome ocean animal videos on YouTube, always preview before you show your kids.


Smithsonian Zoo App has live web cams. $1.99

Field Trip Ideas:

  • Local aquarium
  • Pet or fish/aquarium store
  • The beach. For little ones, take a baby bath tub, or small wading pool to the beach. Fill it with ocean water and that way your kids can experience the ocean while staying safe on the beach.
  • Whale Watching
  • Glass Bottom boat tour
  • Sea World or other ocean parks
  • Children’s Museum. Check your local children’s museum. They often have ocean units where kids can touch living things in shallow water, feel dried starfish or sand dollars, etc. 

Fun and Educational Toys to Take to the Beach

Friday, June 14, 2013

Teaching Informational or Expository Texts in K and 1st Grade

Examples of Expository Text: 
Informative texts
True fact books
Text books 
Dictionaries, thesauruses and encyclopedias
Websites ( is a great example to show kids)

Tip From My Classroom:
I taught non fiction by focusing on specific topics. For kindergartners you can easily incorporate these skills in a unit on Apples, Pumpkins, George Washington, etc. 
In 1st grade I had a week long unit on Inventors and a month long unit on Black History. Later, we used students acquired knowledge to create their own non-fiction book about Texas during a 2 week unit.
*I will post these units later this summer when I am no longer 9 months pregnant*

How to Begin:
Start whole group by visually comparing and contrasting the difference between narrative and expository texts. Display a variety of books from each genre and ask students to verbally describe what they notice. Guide them to notice the differences in titles, book covers, illustrations vs. photographs, etc. Point out/review story elements in fiction books: characters, setting, problems, solutions, etc. 

This can be done strictly with verbal answers, using ‘pick-me-sticks’ or other tools to ensure all students are participating. Or you can make a class list, Anchor Chart, KWL chart or venn diagram comparing the two types of books. 

Once students have a firm grasp on the different types of books remove the fiction books and focus on the features of informational/expository texts.

Point out the various features of the book including:
Illustrations, photographs, graphics, charts, and maps.
Glossary, index and table of contents
Headlines and subheads
Labels, italics and bold face words

Books to use:
In the beginning it’s best to choose books the children can relate to. Choose topics they’re interested in or directly connected to their lives. After they’ve grasped many of the concepts choose books that expand their knowledge and world view. Introduce books about other cultures, **

Owls by Gail Gibbons
Ice Cream: The Full Scoop by Gail Gibbons
Trains by Gail Gibbons
Sharkopedia by Nancy Ellwood
Abraham Lincoln by Wil Mara
George Washington Carver by Lynea Bowdish
Amelia Earhart  by Wil Mara
Insect (DK Eyewitness Books) by Laurence Mound

Book Series to Look For:
Gail Gibbons nonfiction books

Ways to assess students understanding of the book:
Oral retelling
Accompanying worksheets

More Online Resources
Free expository writing worksheets from I Love First Grade
Starting a Nonfiction Writing Unit from A Place Called Kindergarten: 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Mo Willems on The Today Show

One of my favorite authors to use with Kindergarteners and First Graders is Mo Willems. His interview this morning on the Today Show illustrates exactly why. His books are heartwarming, funny, sweet, goofy--and they're great for teaching kids (and parents!) to read with expression. I also love what he says about encouraging kids to doodle and keeping them drawing.

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