Monday, November 12, 2012

We Are Heading South!

Sometimes it overwhelms me to take my kiddos to the library to find a good stack of books to take home for reading.  Where do I start?  Do I search by author?  By theme?  And how do I find a good new author?  Should I start in the Clifford or Arthur section?  And you should see me try to thumb through books to find keepers while trying to chase my two curious boys (also trying to keep their noise levels to a minimum—almost impossible).  Lately I have requested books online through my library’s website.  I place a hold on them, and then when a good bunch comes in I swing over to pick them up.  Sometimes the stack that awaits me has many treasures, other times not so much.  Recently I searched by the theme of “leaves” and “fall.”  One of the books from that search turned out to be a real keeper—South by Patrick McDonnel.  We are adding this one to our Fall Reading Family Favorites list (that list really just exists in my head—nothing fancy.)

Here’s What the Book is About
South is a wordless book.  I “read” a wordless book for the first time as a child  Snowman by Raymond Briggs.  Even without words, the story was magical—whisking me away to a land where snowmen came to life.  Wordless books hold great potential for teaching kids narrative skills and igniting their imagination.  This particular story starts with a practically leafless tree full of tweeting birds.  All the birds fly away, but we find at the bottom of the tree one little bird left—sleeping.  The last leaf of the tree floats down to land on this little birdie’s head and the birdie jolts from sleep, only to find that all of his birdie friends have flown away.  Luckily, a nice dog nearby sees in which direction they flew (south).  Hand-in-hand they set out together in search of the lost flock of birds.  Along the way they find many different friends—but no birds.  Just when it seems there is not hope the two companions hear something promising.  Go check this book out from your library if you want to "read" the ending to this endearing tale.  The journey that the little birdie and the kind dog take together is a story you will not mind “reading” over and over again.  McDonnell’s will perfectly perk your interest and keep you pleasantly entertained.  Read more about his comic Mutts, read his biography, or check out other wordless books of his like Me . . . Jane which has won many awards including the 2012 Caldecott Honor Award.  

Here’s How We Made It Come to Life
I thought this story provided the perfect opportunity to build some narrative sequencing skills.  I am not sure if I was right or not.  Mr. Big Stuff was not as excited about the activity I chose as I was.  I decided to sketch a few scenes from the book for us to use to put in order and re-tell the story.  You can print them from here, here, here, and here.  (If you are like us and need to start with fewer scenes try this printable here.)  Sequencing and re-telling a story is actually a pre-Mathematics skill.  It helps children to grasp concepts like first, second, third, next, after, and last—it gets their minds thinking in a linear manner.  Depending on the age of your child, you can choose how many scenes to have in your story.  We started with five. First I told the story and laid each scene out in order as I spoke.  Then I laid out the first one and gave verbal clues like, “First the birdies flew out of the tree.  Then what happened next?”  I let Mr. Big Stuff try to pick the next scenes in order.  He did a great job retelling the story but laying them all out proved to be a little trickier, so we tried again with just three scene tiles.  Even so, Mr. Big Stuff wanted to put the last scene down and then fill the middle in next.  I guess we have some practice to do on story order!  Glad we tried though, it is always fun to try something new.  I am excited to try this type of exercise again with this story, and possibly with others.  As you can see from the printables above, I sketched many more scenes than five, so this is an activity that can grow as we do!  I used to do this type of activity at the preschool I worked at—it is a good one for the 3 to 5-year-old set.  Happy sequencing!    
First I told the story and put all the story tiles in order.
Then I mixed them all up and said, "Okay, now it's your
turn to tell the story!"
I helped by placing the first tile and saying, "First the
birdies fly away."
"Then what happens next?"
Mr. Big Stuff knew what happened next, but it was a little
tricky understanding where "next" goes in the order.

So we got a little mixed up.

But that's okay!  When doing this activity don't worry
about mistakes.  Let your kids try, then if the order gets a
little mixed up, go back and tell the story together.  Then
when you get to the tile out of place say, "Ooops!  I think
this one goes...(after, next, before, you fill in the blank.)"

Mr. Big Stuff really just wanted to cut the pink paper.  After
we were done I let him chop to his little heart's content for
all that hard work he did for me.  Proud Mama.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Going On A Leaf Hunt!

Today we read We're Going On A Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger.  We loved this book!  For anyone who has ever heard the song “Goingon a Bear Hunt” by Greg and Steve, you must check out this book as well and make it a family fall tradition. 

Here’s What the Book is About
Three children set out on a leaf hunt and have to problem solve when they come across big obstacles standing between them and the tree they want to collect leaves from.  They come across a mountain, a waterfall, a river and more.  Part of the problem solving introduces some great prepositions like climbing over the mountain or going around the waterfall.  Also, each tree the children come to is a new type of tree—maple, birch, oak.  Read this story at your home, but watch out for what comes at the end sending the kids running home from their leaf hunt! 

Here’s How We Made It Come to Life
We have been very busy collecting leaves this fall.  Every time we hop in our wagon, the boys like to pick up leaves along the way to stow in their wagon bench.  We enjoy talking about the different shapes, sizes and colors of the leaves, and looking way up into the sky at the tall trees the leaves come from. 

When you read the story you can pat your legs to start the rhythm and do some actions for climbing over, walking around, and going through—it is a great way to practice understanding prepositions and gives your kiddos a visual of what the words mean.  Funny, but embarrassing story, Mr. Big Stuff thought it would be fun to climb over a mountain at our house—only this mountain was made of laundry.  He had fun climbing over it, and sitting on top of it.  I usually tell him to stop, but since he was applying the story I was actually somewhat proud of him. 

A great place to learn about trees in Kansas City is at Burr Oak Woods.  I had been there before when I was younger, but my friend invited us to go in September and we had a blast!  We have been back a few times since then.  They label all the trees and have pamphlets in the nature center and interactive movies, games, books and activities for the kids to learn for families to learn about the flora and fauna of this region.  The snakes are Mr. Big Stuff’s favorite, and My Little Guy likes the helicopter and giant squirrel.  You can also go herehere, here or here to learn a little about the trees mentioned in We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt.  We found a yellow birch tree in our own front yard!

See the pictures below to see what we did with our leaves once we collected them.  What have you done with your leaves this fall?  What types of trees do you have in your area?  In your yard?
First we collected our leaves...

We held each leaf against a paper to figure out what
color it was.  Green? No. Yellow? No. Orange? No.  Red? Yes!

Once we figured out the colors we sorted them.
Then we decided to graph them to compare
how many of each color we found.
Last, we colored in a box to represent each
leaf.  This way was a little more accurate since
our leaves were all different shapes and sizes.

This post is linked to "Show and Share Saturday Link-Up" at 
I Can Teach My Child

Monday, November 5, 2012

Autumn is Here

October seemed to pass by us so quickly that we are taking every opportunity to enjoy fall to the fullest in November!  How are you and your family living it up this fall?  The weather in our parts has offered plentiful days of warmth and sunshine—great for enjoying the outdoors, family walks, and squeezing the most out of the beautiful fall leaves and landscapes. 

Here’s What the Book is About
For one of the first books this fall we read A is for Autumn.  Big, beautiful photographs fill the pages of this book, each accompanied by a bold capital letter of the alphabet.  Although some fall words they give for certain letters take a stretch of the autumn imagination (“I is for Ice Cream” for example), each picture in this book really offers a multitude of fall-esque images in which your eyes can indulge, and about which your curious minds can converse; pumpkins and gourds pop out at you; a page about fall rain shows a puddle you think you could jump in; an owl peers out at you looking like he is about to “whoo-hoo.”  

I love books that offer subjects that our family can jump into nature with and observe around us.  Like “B is for Birds that fly south to warmer winter homes,” introduces the idea of migration and explains all the birds flying in the sky or gathering on telephone wires that we observe on our fall walks or drives.  The text that accompanies each photograph is not a rhyming poem, but it is full of great alliteration and assonance (“S is for Scarecrow stuffed with corn husks and standing tall”) and a broad scope of vocabulary—the appreciation for this comes from the nerdy English major of my past.  But even without the alphabet, or the verse, the photographs alone are worth checking this book out from the library or buying a copy for your home.     

Here’s How We Made it Come to Life
We have decided to put our own autumn alphabet photographs together, and you can do the same!  Just pick some of your favorite photographs from this season and compile them in a notebook or do an online book.  I think we will make a shutterfly book or something along those lines.  Here is a sneak peak…
C is for candy collected from homecoming

Z is for trips to the zoo with cousins!

S is for autumn sunsets.

P is for pumpkin.

L is for leaves from our leaf hunt.

H is for helicopter rides at Burr Oak Woods
 What great fall letter pictures do you have?  Click here to find a list of great parks in the Kansas City area for fall fun.  And check out these fun  prinables like "A is for Autumn".  Happy Autumning!


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Apples and Pumpkins and Fall, Oh My!

My Little Guy Turned
One in August!!
Our calendar was stuffed full at the end of the summer and into this fall with the Olympics, Spanish Camp, the beginning of school, Little Guy's First Birthday, the commencement of cousin days (more posts to come about that!), and a wedding in the family!  But nothing can keep us from reading, checking out way too many books at the library, and racking up late fees!  Check out our last post for a recap in photos of July and August, and see below for what followed in September and October.

Flower Girls and Bridesmaids

Little Guy and Me at the
Dress Rehersal of My Brother's
October Wedding
The Beautiful Bride, Groomsemen & My Bro...
Look at that lovely fall backdrop!

Big Stuff Having Fun at Rehersal

And now for a look at what fun we had with reading in September and October...

In September we did an apple unit for Cousin Days.
Definitely my favorite book about apples; probably
one of my favorite books of all time.
Storytime on Cousin Day, reading Apples to Oregon.  For
some fun ideas with this book go here.

We read, and re-read, The Apple Doll a lot through this unit.
One of the fun parts was seeing the apple tree through all the
different seasons of the year.
We decided to make apple trees in the
shape of our arm and hand--one for each season.

The arm is the trunk, and the fingers are
the branches!

Since Mom did the cutting, Big Stuff worked on ripping green
paper for leaves.  This is a great way to work on building those
fine motor skills in the fingers.
At first Big Stuff just wanted to pull the paper with fists, so
I ripped little "starter" rips for him to get the hang of ripping.
We labeled an arm and hand for each season.  We decided to start
with fall, the season we are in!

Then we glued on paper for leaves . . .

. . . and decorated each with craft supplies we had around the house.
Pink tissue paper flowers and bee stickers for Spring; hole-punched
red paper dots for small apples beginning to grow in the Summer; big
apples and leaves falling from the tree in Autumn; and flour and
glitter for snow in the Winter.  We got the idea for making trees
from hands here.

Our favorite book for October was probably
What Small Rabbit Heard.  This is a cute
story about Small Rabbit on a
walk with Big Rabbit, and try as Big Rabbit
might, her instructions to keep up and stay on the
path get caught in the wind, and Small Rabbit
entertains readers following the jumbled up
directions he thinks he hears.
On one of our Cousin Days we took a windy
walk around my parents' land (where the
wedding was), and had a picnic.  You can see
the tulle blowing in the background.

My Little Guy is getting so big!

Another book we enjoyed in October was Pumpkins by Ken
Robbins.  Great photographs depicting the life cycle of a
pumpkin and its many fun uses.
Making the most of the good fall weather,
we did some "painting" outside with
watercolor pencils.  Love these because
it is like watercolor painting, but you only
use water, so it is less mess.  Go here for
a great song about orange pumpkins
growing on a vine!

"P" is for pumpkin and painting!

I drew a big "P" for Big Stuff to trace with his paintbrush.

He always tries to put the pencil behind
his ear like he sees his grandpas doing.

We hope your family had as wonderful of an October as we did!