OPENING LINES: The year was passing. The Little Red Hen could feel the change of the seasons in the tips of her tail feathers. She could smell it in the barnyard air. She could see it on her calendar... SYNOPSIS from the book flap: Oy gevalt! The Little Red Hen likes baking matzah, but she's not so crazy about doing everything herself. Would it be too much to ask her friends Dog, Horse, and Sheep to help plant and harvest some wheat for the delicious Passover treat? Couldn't they at least help schlep the wheat to the mill? In this rollicking version of a favorite folktale, a harried, hardworking hen finds the true meaning of Passover.
WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: I love that a Jewish celebration is presented in a well-loved folk tale. Kimmelman sprinkles some Yiddish words throughout the story which I think really adds to the authenticity. At the back of the book there's a glossary, a recipe for matzah and a simple explanation of Passover. My favourite part is the ending, when the Hen forgives her friends and invites them to celebrate the holiday ... and guess who does the dishes?
Before reading the book, read the section that explains the meaning of Passover. If possible, invite a Jewish parent into the classroom to share some family traditions and to answer any questions.
Bake matzah! The recipe is in the back of the book.
At the beginning of the book there's a Jewish Proverb: The greatest wisdom of all is kindness. Print this on the board or chart stand and discuss what it means. Work in pairs to illustrate the meaning of the proverb.
Talk about the attitudes of Dog, Horse, and Sheep. What are some words you could use to describe their behaviour throughout the story? How do they change? What words would you use to describe them now?
If you're reading this story to a K or Grade 1 class, it's always great fun (and very worthwhile) to pull out the repeating parts. I've altered the words a little, but in this case it would be: "Who will help me?" the Little Red Hen asked. "No I," said Sheep. "Sorry, bub," said Horse. "Think again," said Dog, a little bit rudely. The Little Red Hen was not happy. If these words are placed in a pocket chart, the kids can practice reading them until they can do so with ease, appropriate pauses, and expression. It can be read whole class, in small groups, in pairs or individually. It's also great to mix up all the sentences then put them back in order. You can cut the sentences into words and do the same. You could have the kids print the words themselves and illustrate a small picture to go with each sentence. If you do this activity it generally requires a week of practice.
This week in my watercolour class we painted mandalas.
We started out by making an 8 part circular grid, laying a blank piece of paper on top of it, then drawing our repeating shapes using the grid underneath as a guide.
When that was finished we put our newly drawn mandala and watercolour paper on a light box and then traced the design onto the watercolour paper.
The next step was to trace over our pencil lines with a micron pen and then erase all the pencil lines.
It was a bit of a process but VERY relaxing.
Afterwards we were told to think of the mood we wanted to express and then choose the appropriate colours. I decided to go for a more serene look so I chose blue, magenta and shades of purple. We were instructed to paint each section fading from darker to light so that there'd be a feeling of movement.
Here's the result:
When I got home I decided to make another one, only this time I used brighter colours, as you can see. There was a lot of layering involved with this painting because my initial attempt was too pale for my liking.
For this mandala, I decided to paint the sections darker in the middle and then fade out to the edges.
If you'd like to paint mandalas in your class, you can grab this free template I made. It's a bit on the smaller side, so you may want to enlarge it on your photocopier, especially if little hands are going to be painting it.
I just finished making this 81-page bundle of math sheets!!
The WHOLE thing is free if you sign up for my email list. And please be assured that I NEVER EVER spam or give away your address.
I'm not a huge fan of worksheets, but let's be honest, they DO come in handy from time to time.
And what I like about these worksheets, is that they're sort of like a game. By that I mean each child generates their own sheet based on what they roll with their dice, spin with their spinner, or which playing cards or domino they pick up.
I've made 2 sheets each for addition, subtraction and fact families (6 different sheets). Then I added 12 different panda images to each set. Since each panda corresponds to a month of the year it means that there's a monthly set of math sheets.
So for January the panda is drinking hot chocolate, in February he's holding a heart, in March he's holding a shamrock, etc.
Here's an example of what you'll get:
In addition to the sheets, you also get a full set of instructions plus ideas for different ways to use them.
If you're looking for a way to help your kids understand related facts, part-part-whole and fact families, then be sure to join up and grab your gift.
This bundle is for personal or classroom use only.
Summary: This is a rhyming book about the month of March personified as a lion. He comes roaring into a little boy's house, full of mud and bad manners. Towards the end of the story he lets out a sneeze and a lamb comes riding in, at which point the lion happily curls up in the sun and has a long, well-deserved nap until next winter.
Opening Lines: March comes with a roar. He rattles your window and scratches at your door.
Why I Like This Book: As a teacher, I love this story because it's such a fun way to illustrate this old proverb and to explore aspects of winter and spring weather. I also love the pen and ink watercolour illustrations. They add a lot of movement, light and expression to the story. Fun Follow-Up Activities:
Personification: Talk about why March is represented as a lion and April as a lamb.
Predictions, Crafts, Writing Sheet: The weather on the West Coast of Canada is always unpredictable, but especially so in the late winter/early spring. For this reason we always took some time to predict whether or not we thought March would come in as a lion or as a lamb. Using our predictions, we made a graph, craft and then wrote about it. Here's another post with the same or similar activities.
Drama: I would often read a story to the class (2nd or 3rd reading) then have them silently act it out while I was reading. As long as everyone understood there was no yelling or running, it was always lots of fun to do. In the link above, there's another drama activity that's well-worth doing.
Writing: Brainstorm other animals that could represent March and April then have the children write and illustrate their own sentences. Eg., March comes in like a grizzly bear and goes out like a panda.
When I recently came across this beautiful book I just knew I had to share it with you!
The simple, sweet illustrations, and the lovely poetic text not only help children to think and talk about their emotions, but they demonstrate a calm and peaceful way of being in the world.
When we learn to be in the here and now, we understand ourselves better, we see beauty, and we act with kindness, compassion and empathy. When we learn to pause and be present, we find our calm, our center, and our peace. When we feel our own sense of peace, we can share it with others.
-- Author's Note
During my last couple of years of teaching my students and I practiced being mindful and present. In addition to focused breathing exercises, we also read books about kindness and compassion. The children really enjoyed these moments and it always brought a peaceful vibe to the classroom.
Publishing: 2017, Abrams Books for Young Readers Suitable for Ages: 4 to 9
Theme: Fiction, Mindfulness, Peace, Kindness
Opening Lines: "There are times when I worry about what might happen next and what happened before. The thoughts in my head are like rushing water and I feel like a boat with no anchor ..."
Brief Synopsis (from the book flap): This book is "a gentle expression of the tenets of mindfulness, encouraging children to breathe, taste, smell, and be present in the here and now." Why I LOVE and Recommend This Book: Mindfulness is one way for children to learn to focus and self-regulate. Learning to manage emotions can be challenging for some people, and this book helps put things in perspective and shows that we can choose our responses to situations, rather than just react. BONUS: The book includes a guided meditation!
Synopsis (from book jacket): When Ruby's favorite day of the year rolls around, she and Lovebird work feverishly to plan the perfect party for everyone in Heartland. But when Valentine's Day arrives, an unexpected snowstorm threatens to ruin all of Ruby's plans. Will Ruby find a way to save the day, or will everyone in Heartland have to wait until next year to celebrate?
Why I Like It: I love the colourful, light-hearted, sketchy illustrations of Ruby and Lovebird. Also, the rhyming text has a rolling rhythm which, as a Grade 1 teacher, I always appreciate because it's important for young kids to tune their ears to language which helps immensely with reading, writing and oral language skills. The book's message is a great one, too ~ "If you're with the ones you love, that's all you need to celebrate."
Activity: Ruby learn that planning the perfect party is not what makes Valentine's Day great, it's being with the people you love.
After discussing that message with the class (or your own kids) it would be fun to let go of your perfection, and let the kids plan their own party.
Sounds scary, I know, but you'll be surprised at what kids come up with. Most parents and teachers have too much on their plates, and planning a Valentine's party is a lot to take on.
But most young children have had lots of party experience and would be able to take on tasks of their own, i.e., cutting out Valentines or drawing pictures to decorate the room, bringing a treat from home, and bringing a favourite game from home.
If you give them the space and trust to come up with their own party plan it will come together and be fun for everyone (I know because I've tried it several times with my own grade 1 class). It's not perfect and things are forgotten, but the kids are proud of their accomplishments and always have a great time with their friends!
A String of Heartsby Laura Malone Elliott, Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, 2010, Katherine Tegen Books
Synopsis (from book jacket): Valentines come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some are home-made and some are store-bought. Some are funny and some are not. Sam wants to give just the right valentine to the most popular girl in the class, Tiffany. But what kind is the right kind? Mary Ann helps Sam figure out how to make all sorts of valentines. But will Tiffany even notice Sam if he gives her a special valentine?
Why I Like It: I thought this book dealt really well with the meaning of friendship. It's so easy to get caught up in liking the popular child (because everyone else does) and losing track of who your true friends are. Mary Ann is a good friend, and happily Sam figures that out!
Activity: After reading A String of Hearts, it would be really nice to have everyone create their own string of hearts (for a family member or family friend), with a message about why they love that person(s). Knowing who you like or love is easy, but coming up with several reasons why is a great way to extend thinking.
Synopsis (from book jacket): Keep Out! That means you, Dolores! reads the warning sign on her big sister Faye's dresser. But when Dolores spies Faye hiding a mysterious heart-shaped box, she can't resist sneaking into Faye's room and taking a peek inside the box. What she discovers is a frog. Not just any frog--it's a singing froggie, a Valentine's Day necklace. Why not try it on, Dolores wonders. And, once she's wearing it, why not show it off to a few friends? Faye will never find out...Or will she?
Why I Like It: This book is immensely relatable! The number of times I've heard complaints about younger siblings is hilarious. Even though Dolores is too nosy for her own good, and needs to learn to respect her sister's property, the story has a lovely little twist--and I'm SURE Dolores finally learns her lesson.
Activity: This is a great text to use for predicting. Give each student a piece of paper that they fold into quarters. Divide the story into 4 logical stopping points and after reading the first section, give the students 5 minutes to draw a picture of what they think will happen next. It's important to stress that this isn't an art lesson -- they just need a quick sketch, and if there's time they can add a little colour.
When everyone has their sketch ready, bring them back to the carpet to share their predictions. Usually I have them all hold up their pictures and then pick just two or three students to share their thinking (otherwise it takes way too long).
Read the next section of the story, stop and draw predictions, share, and repeat until the story is finished.
With this story, my first stop would be at the bottom of page 3 where Dolores peeks into her sister's drawer.
Second stop is top of page 11, "In the bathroom, Dolores finally figured out how to open the clasp of the necklace."
Third stop is the end of page 18 when Dolores realizes she's lost the necklace.
Fourth stop is bottom of page 26 when Dolores puts the new froggie back into her sister's dresser drawer.
Of course you can divide the story any way you like, but I thought I'd tell you how I'd do it just in case you were unsure.
Synopsis (from book jacket): In a faraway canyon, Valentine goes about her business, tidying her cabin, running errands, and baking pies. Little does she know that someone very special things about her every day. Her bashful admirer wants to ask her an important question. But, try as he might, none of his notes, letters, and heartfelt messages ever end up in the right place!
Why I Like It: This book is very comical and kids will enjoy all the funny ways that the suitor's letters and messages to Valentine go missing. There's lots of lovely detail in the illustrations that might require second and third readings. The entire text is written to the tune of "Oh My Darling, Clementine" which I just love! And of course there's a happily satisfying, though somewhat surprising, ending.
Activity: There are 12 verses to this story. It would be SO much fun to give groups of children (2 or 3 per group depending on the size of your class) one of the verses to memorize and sing. They could also draw/colour/paint a picture depicting that verse. Once everyone is finished, the class could stand in a circle with their partner(s) and drawing, and sing the story! If they practiced enough, it would also make a FABULOUS assembly presentation!
Synopsis (from book jacket): Because Mr. and Mrs. Bear always hibernate in the winter, they have never celebrated Valentine's Day. This year Mrs. Bear decides things will be different. Just before she and Mr. Bear settle down for their long winter's sleep, she sets her alarm clock for February 14. When the alarm goes off, Mrs. Bear gathers some of Mr. Bear's favorite treats. Then she brings out two Valentine poems that she herself has written. But alas, bears are meant to sleep through the winter, and no matter how hard Mrs. Bear tries, she can't seem to wake Mr. Bear.
Why I Like It: This is a very sweet story about love. I really like how Mrs. Bear goes out of her way to show Mr. Bear how much she adores him. And of course Mr. Bear has a valentine for her, too -- he was only pretending to be sleeping. I also find the illustrations intriguing. They look like ink drawings with a bit of watercolour, but only red and a pale shade of orange. As a result, the book has an appealing, old-fashioned feel to it.
Activity: Mrs. Bear wrote two poems. Here's one of them:
Red Berries are Red,
Blue Berries are Blue,
Termites are sweet,
And you are, too.
It would be very doable to have Grade 1 students write their own poems based on that frame:
_____ are red,
_____ are blue,
_____ are sweet,
And you are too.
A good copy could be glued to the centre of a great big valentine!
I hope you enjoyed these books and the activity ideas.
Before you go, be sure to check out some other Valentine posts I have on the blog:
Summary (from Amazon): "Over the snow, the world is hushed and white. But under the snow exists a secret kingdom of squirrels and snow hares, bears and bullfrogs, and many other animals that live through the winter safe and warm, awake and busy, under the snow. Discover the wonder and activity that lies beneath winter's snowy landscape in this magical book."
Opening Lines: Over the snow I glide. Into woods, frosted fresh and white. Why I Love This Book: One of the reasons is that it fits in perfectly with what I'm teaching. But it's more than that. I just love the illustrations. I'm not sure how it was done. The inside cover just says "mixed media". But they're simple, beautiful, peaceful and enchanting. And the text follows suit.
Resources: 1. A video of a red fox hunting in the snow:
Fox Dives Headfirst Into Snow | North America - YouTube
2. Winter Landscapes: This beautiful art lesson is free from Deep Space Sparkle. Click the pic below to find the lesson on Patty's website.
3. Winter Tree Art:
I put painters tape on construction paper.
Then the kids painted the paper with white acrylic (tempera would be fine, too).
I peeled off the tape (you need to do this before the paint dries ~ it's easier to get off that way).
Once the paint was dry the kids used black crayon to trace the trees, add bark, and some of them chose to draw little animals under the snow.
4. Primary Creations has this wonderful freebie called "Animals in Winter". You can click her pic to see it on Teachers Pay Teachers.
5. Under the Snow is very similar to Over and Under the Snow. If you click on the image it will take you to a post where I have a LOT more winter resources.