Thursday, September 11, 2014

Knuffle Bunny inspired Activity Mats for Kids

Mo Willems is one of my most favorite children's authors. He is a three time Caldecott Honor winner and has won two Geisel awards for his early reader books. The critics who truly matter, my two boys, have also given Mr. Willems two thumbs up. They love his Elephant and Piggie books, Pigeon books, and Knuffle Bunny trilogy. This month, the Virtual Book club for Kids has selected Mo Willems' books. The Virtual Book Club for Kids is a group of bloggers (including me) that feature specific books each month and provide book activities to accompany these books. These activities are great for families, homeschoolers, preschool and kindergarten teachers. I have chosen to focus on Mo Willem's Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale. Keep reading the post to find book activities on other Mo Willem's featured books of the month.

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale

Does your child have a security blanket or toy? In this book, a toddler named Trixie has a beloved Knuffle Bunny. One day the bunny gets left at the laundromat. Trixie tries to inform her dad of the missing bunny but poor dad doesn't speak toddler. An upset Trixie arrives home. Mom notices the problem. A return trip to the laundromat results in a retrieved rabbit and a talking toddler. Trixie pronounces her first words, "Knuffle Bunny!" This is a hilarious narrative story that parents and children will love! Children will also love the follow up books in the series Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity and Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion.

Knuffle Bunny Activity Mat

Knuffle Bunny is a great first narrative text for children. It shows children a strong beginning, middle, and end of a small moment of life. It is very beneficial for children to be exposed to many of these stories before entering school. Listening to stories embeds the story structure into a child's oral language and eventually helps the child to easily retell and write stories.
One of the best parts of the Knuffle Bunny series is that a child could pick up the book and easily retell the story by using the engaging illustrations. The illustrations are a mix of sepia toned photographs with cartoon characters drawn over the top.

I created some Knuffle Bunny inspired activity mats to encourage my boys to expand their own story ideas through talking about a story. I began by taking pictures of various locations-- their classrooms, school, library, hallways, etc. I even found some cool pictures of buildings. I printed these photos in black and white. Then the boys created drawings of themselves and family members or friends and colored them.

We glued their drawings onto magnets. We get a lot of free magnets in the mail with business information printed on them. They were the perfect size for holding our artwork. I cut around the illustrations so they became magnets.

I posted the Knuffle Bunny activity mats on the fridge or an easel where the boys had easy access. I put the magnets nearby and let them tell their stories with the magnets. I often posted more than one picture at a time to allow the boys to build their stories. So far, I have visited Tyson at school a lot and Tyson has zip lined on the power lines outside school A LOT! I love the mind of a four year old.

 Helping your young child to develop strong oral language skills around stories will help your child to be a successful reader and writer in the future.

The Virtual Book Club for Kids is featuring the following Mo Willems Books. We look forward to doing all of these activities this month!

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale
Mo Willems Inspired DIY Bunny Costume Felt Headband

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
Letter B is for Bus Craft 
Don't let the Pigeon Drive the Bus Puppets
Pigeon Handprint
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus: Puppets, Crafts and Storytelling
Cardboard Box Bus Craft & Number Game for Kids
Pigeon and Bus Activities inspired by Mo Willems 
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus Activity

The Duckling Gets a Cookie
Nut Free Alphabet Cookies
The Ducking Gets a Cookie Printable Clothespin Activity
Counting Chocolate Chips - Duckling Get a Cookie

I'd love if you'd join the VBC next month as we explore these books by Julia Donaldson. You might want to order your copies now or put them on hold at the library! I will share those book activities on October 9th.
The Gruffalo
Stick Man
Room on the Broom


Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Giraffe that Walked to Paris

Summer is a relaxed time at our home. We try to hang out at the pool a LOT, spend time in our backyard, and visit fun places around town. We also try to make time for reading. According to the National Summer Learning Association , children lose an average of 2 months of knowledge during the summer vacation. If you multiply that by 6 years of Elementary School, that equates to at least 12 months of learning loss. Before we get too fixated on the numbers, however, it should be noted that the majority of the studies supporting this idea were conducted on low income families or on families who had less access to reading materials. In fact, the research shows that children in middle income families actually make slight GAINS over the summer. What the difference? I think one difference could be access and exposure to books and "life experiences". One study showed that by simply providing books to students who normally wouldn't have access to books, students retained as much knowledge as if they had gone to summer school. In order to go a little deeper with our summer reading this year, I'm trying out the Five in a Row Curriculum. The local library actually has all of the volumes of Five in a Row. I'll be sharing our favorite picks from Five in a Row here at Ready-Set-Read this summer.  I'll also be sharing a picture book of the day every day on my facebook page. These are book recommendations I have made as well as recommendations from other book bloggers. Today I am sharing, The Giraffe the Walked to Paris. 

The Giraffe that Walked to Paris Review

The Giraffe the Walked to Paris by Nancy Milton is the true story of a giraffe that was given as a gift from the Pasha of Egypt to the King of France. In 1826, the ruler of Egypt decided to give a gift to the King of France to appease him after a disagreement. There were no giraffes in France at the time, so the decision was made to send a giraffe to France. The book details the travels of La Giraffe and the reactions of the French people and the King. It is a well written, well illustrated story that kids will love to read over and over again!

Book Activities for The Giraffe that Walked to Paris

Introducing the Book to Kids

The Five in a Row book has wonderful suggestions for orienting your child to the book. For my boys (ages 4 and 6), we took a picture walk. We looked at the images of Egypt and talked about the landscape, weather, dress of the people. We also talked about the names of the characters in this book as their names sound different to my boys. Then we flipped to the pages that featured France. We talked again about the landscape, the dress of the people, and the potential time period. I also gave the boys a brief introduction to the plot.

Measuring a Giraffe

My goal for my little learners was to understand how tall a giraffe might be, compare heights, and use non standard measurements.
We went outside to our driveway and measured 11 feet, the height of La Giraffe. Then we measured our own heights and compared. We used rocks to measure and compare as well. Then Logan wondered, "If I stand on Tyson's head would I be the height of La Giraffe?" So, we drew it out on the driveway to find out.

book activities, the giraffe that walked to paris, five in a row

When we came inside the boys were still interested in measuring. They used blocks to measure each other and compare heights.

Draw an Animal

book activities, the giraffe that walked to paris, five in a row

In the story, the king of France is getting very impatient to receive his gift of a giraffe. He has never seen a real giraffe and can't hardly wait. One of his researchers is tasked with drawing a picture of a giraffe for the King. Of course, the researcher has never seen a real giraffe either. However, his picture is fairly close. I found this fun activity to try drawing a pangolin, an animal with which my boys would not have familiarity. I had to wikipedia pangolin and go off of their description.

Animal Movement

In the story, King Charles is surprised by how the giraffe walks. He compares the way La Giraffe walks to how his horses walk.  We used the animal movement cards from my free zoo unit to explore how a variety of animals move.

free printable, book activities, the giraffe that walked to paris

La Giraffe ends up in the French Zoo so many of the activities from my free zoo unit would be useful with this book. Some activities that your child might enjoy are:
Zoo Animal Cookies

Concept Sort: Zoo Versus Farm

Animal Roll and Count

Printable Early Reader Book "At the Zoo"

Sailboat Science and Wind Power

In The Giraffe that Walked to Paris, the Pasha of Egypt and his men must transport La Giraffe from Egypt to Southern France. This requires her to travel across the Mediterranean sea. They use a boat with sails powered by wind to travel. The boys were interested in exploring boats and wind power. We made these fun sailboats used our wind power to blow them across our water table. We also experimented with floating. We used foil to create a boat and tried to see how many people could float in one boat. It was pretty amazing to the boys that the boat that carried La Giraffe held people, a giraffe, cows, and an antelope!

This was a great longer picture book and Five in a Row was super helpful in suggestions for book activities. I'm enjoying exploring longer picture books with the boys at this age and reading closely on each of our rereadings. I'd recommend this for an educational and engaging summer read.

You can also find me busily pinning on Pinterest, tweeting on twitter, and chatting about the best Children’s literature on facebook and Google+.


Monday, June 16, 2014

The Very Lonely Firefly Book Activities

Welcome back to the June Virtual Book Club for Kids. This month we are celebrating the author Eric Carle. We've been exploring many Eric Carle books and recently completed a Reading and Writing About Insects Unit featuring Carle's books. This month, I decided to focus on building vocabulary. Vocabulary is one of the five components of reading instruction. It's super important! In fact, many studies have shown that a preschooler's oral vocabulary is the best predictor of future reading success. It's also important for my soon to be first grader to build his vocabulary. I feel that vocabulary instruction needs to happen in a constructivist approach. This means, I like for my boys to experience vocabulary in authentic texts and make generalizations about the words. Together, we talk about the words, apply the words, and firm up their working definitions of the words. It just makes sense that oral language skills should be built through conversations about words. However, vocabulary instruction does not have to be boring! We found a great way to practice the  vocabulary from our Eric Carle books by playing a night time vocabulary word sort game.

The Very Lonely Firefly

This month we chose to focus on Eric Carle's book, The Very Lonely Firefly. One summer night, a very lonely fireflies goes to search for firefly friends. He sees many lights in the night sky such as  owl's eyes and headlights, but it takes him several tries to find his firefly friends.

Vocabulary Word Sort

book activities, the very lonely firefly, eric carle, early literacy

Who hasn't spent a summer night collecting fireflies into jars? We decided to play off that old tradition by collecting vocabulary words into jars.
I began by creating a word board. I used a black piece of paper decorated as a night sky with word cards placed on it. We've been reading several of Eric Carle's books about insects. My first grader also finished up an insects unit at the end of the school year. It seemed like a good choice to sort words by insects and land animals. I provided two jars to sort the insects and land animals. These are the words I wrote on the cards that I attached to the black paper.

Land animals:



praying mantis
stink bug
walking stick

To play the game: chose a word, read it (or I read it to them) and deposit the word into the correct jar.

This is a great game to play outdoors in the evening, perhaps while you wait for the fireflies to come out. Once they do, dump the vocabulary words and use the jars to collect fireflies.
Also, it's super fun to add glow sticks to the jars with vocabulary words... not for any educational reason, but just because glow sticks are fun. This is summer learning, it should be fun, right?

What you talking about?

After we played, we talked about the definition of insect. What makes us classify something as an insect. My super smart soon to be first grader already knew all about insects' three body parts and six legs. We were able to go through and firm up our knowledge about our sorts. In fact, Logan wondered if a centipede was, in fact, an insect. We checked it out and learned it is NOT an insect. Great conversations have a way of extending the learning!

This game was inspired by an apple picking sort game that I found in the book Vocabulary Games for the Classroom by Robert Marzano and Lindsay Carleton. The version in the book involves a relay race with the sort. Since it was dark when we were playing, I decided to leave out the racing. There are several ways to switch up this game and make it fun and meaningful for children.

Do you have a great idea to share for your favorite Eric Carle book? Link up your ideas here.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Reading and Writing Narrative Texts

As April wraps up and May approaches, we approach field trip season. Whether you are traveling with a class or making memories with your own children, field trips provide a wonderful opportunity for writing narrative texts. Strong readers and writers should be able to "write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective techniques, well-chosen details, and well structured event sequences" (CCSS W.3). The language experience approach is a great way to introduce narrative text writing to kindergarten and first grade students. Students experience an event and then record details of the event. Children can then transfer that knowledge to their reading as they look for examples of narrative texts. We've applied this to our study of Eric Carle books.
Reading and Writing Narrative Texts, Eric Carle

Writing Narrative Texts Using the Language Experience Approach

We love to visit The Butterfly House in St. Louis or the Insectarium at the St. Louis Zoo. I prefer the butterflies to the creepy crawlies. Some kids, of course, would rather experience piles of cochroaches. Gross! After a recent visit, we recorded our experiences in our journals. We drew pictures of our favorite butterflies and insects. Through interactive writing, we recorded the events that happened on our outing. I wrote a lot of the text and they contributed the parts they knew. We talked about words that show order (first, then, next, last).

Reading Narrative Texts for Details and Story Order

After writing about our experiences, we began to explore imaginary narrative texts. We connected to our learning about insects and butterflies as we read Eric Carle's books "The Very Clumsy Click Beetle", "The Very Lonely Firefly" and "The Very Hungry Caterpillar".

Recalling Details in Text from "The Very Hungry Caterpillar"

Our first book activity was very engaging for the boys. After exploring real butterflies, we looked at the life cycle of a butterfly in the narrative text, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar". We read the book and created a caterpillar out of an oatmeal box and retold the story.
Reading and Writing Narrative Texts, Eric Carle
Here's How we made our Very Hungry Caterpillar
Cylinder container with plastic lid (oatmeal box, pringles can, etc)
Construction paper (red, green, yellow)
Purple pipe cleaner
Printable food for Very Hungry Caterpillar

Cover the container with green construction paper.
Trace the plastic lid circle onto red construction paper. Cut.
Cut a large mouth hole from the plastic lid. Trace onto the red construction paper and cut out. Glue on the face, lining up the openings.
Then I provided them with printable copies of the fruits and foods that The Very Hungry Caterpillar ate. They "fed" the printable paper food to the caterpillar by putting the cards into his mouth. We talked about story order and used story order words. (You can find all of the food cards in my insects unit or draw your own based on the book).

Exploring Beginning Middle and End with The Very Lonely Firefly

We began talking about the order of events by talking about stories that have a strong beginning, middle, and end. We read The Very Lonely Firefly and drew sketches of what happened at the beginning, middle, and end of the story. This is an interesting book because it begins at night. It's fun to contrast this with The Very Hungry Caterpillar book and talk about how it begins on a Sunday morning. Students can discover that the time of day is the setting and doesn't necessarily impact the order of the story.

Reading and Writing Narrative Texts, Eric Carle

For classroom purposes, you might want to display these sketches in the classroom with labels. You could also have students draw and write the beginning, middle, and end on a graphic organizer. These printables are included in my Reading and Writing about Insects Unit.

Determining the Order of Events with "The Very Clumsy Click Beetle"

One of my favorite classroom activities for teaching order of events is team sequencing. This activity helps all readers talk about their thinking. It is fantastic for struggling readers as there is scaffolding provided by working in a team, but each student is "forced" to particpate. Here are the rules for team sequencing. Each child gets one card. Each child may only touch his or her own card. The team must get all of the cards in the correct order. Team members should use verbal cues and work together to get the story in the right order.

Reading and Writing Narrative Texts, Eric Carle

You can use this with any story by creating picture cards to retell the story. I've created a set for The Very Clumsy Click Beetle in my Reading and Writing about Insects Unit.

Additional Resources
You can find more activities including scoring guides and more graphic organizers in my complete unit Reading and Writing about Insects which you can purchase in my store.
Reading and Writing Narrative Texts, Eric Carle

Reading and Writing Narrative Texts, Eric Carle

Reading and Writing Narrative Texts, Eric Carle

How have you used the language experience approach to teach writing? How do you connect your writing to reading? I'd love to see your ideas-- share in the comments. I'll pin and share links to posts as well.

You can also find me busily pinning on Pinterest, tweeting on twitter, and chatting about the best Children’s literature on facebook and Google+.