Category Archives: book activity

Three Little Pigs

The next time you share the story of the Three Little Pigs, don’t just tell it, have the children be a part of it!  These masks are inexpensive and easy to make.  And the kiddos have a blast as they step into the story!

Start out with some simple supplies: a toilet paper tube, felt, scissors, glue, a Sharpie, and yarn or elastic string. (Oh, and the hole puncher and pencil were sluffing class when the picture was taken, but they’ll come in handy too.)

For a pig snout, cut the tube so that it’s not quite in half.  I would use the piece on the right for the snout.  Then trim down the other to match and you’ve got two snouts from one tube.  (It works out to about a half-inch strip cut out of the center of the tube.)

Punch holes in each side of the tube to aid in stringing it later.  Use your pencil to mark how wide your tube snout is and then roll the tube along to measure how long it is.  You’ll end up with one long rectangle to cut out and then glue around the snout, covering the sides (and the holes – don’t worry, we’ll get to those later).

Set the snout down on the felt again and trace around the outside.  That extra little bit from the pencil will push the outline out a bit and create a circle that is slightly larger, which is exactly what you want.  Cut out the circle and draw on those cute piggie nostrils with your Sharpie.  Then glue the circle to the top of your snout.  (Be sure to align your nostrils with the holes you punched for your string.) 

If you’re using yarn, snip the felt over the holes and thread the yard through, knotting at the holes.  So you’ll end up with two yarn strings that can be tied together.  If you’re using elastic thread, thread it through a needle and feed it right through the fabric and the hole and knot it at each side, creating a band to be stretched around your child’s head.  For the wolf, follow the same directions, but use a full tube.

Enjoy acting out the story with the children you love and teach.  After acting out the basics of the story, let them continue the story or create new stories in their dramatic play.   Not only is storyacting more engaging, but it builds comprehension and fosters language and literacy skills for our budding readers.

Now that’s one fierce wolf!
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Filed under book activity, Building Readers, language activity, Learning through Play and Experience, Uncategorized

Dr. Seuss’ Birthday is on the Way!

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Dr. Seuss.  Not only is his writing creative, humorous, poetic, and lovably quirky, but as an educator I’ve found it to be the perfect vehicle for promoting phonological awareness, a critical skill for building readers.  With his birthday looming just around the corner (March 2), this is a popular time of year for all things Seuss!

Last year I wrote about some of my favorite Dr. Seuss activities in these three posts:

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Five Favorites…To Start

A Triple Scoop of Seuss

This year, I went looking around the blogosphere for some new ideas and found some I can’t wait to try! 

  • An entire Dr. Seuss unit from Chalk Talk, with 40 pages including patterns and printables!
  • Make a hat like the Cat in the Hat using an oatmeal canister with these pointers from Frugal Family Fun Blog.
  • Amy lists some irresistible ideas at Serving Pink Lemonade (Thanks for including mine by the way!)

Do you celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday?  What are some of your favorite activities?  (Feel free to add your links!)

Top photo by EvelynGiggles.
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Filed under book activity, Building Readers, language activity, Learning through Play and Experience, Unit Themes

Author Study: Robert Munsch

Robert Munsch grew up in Pennsylvania, in a big family with nine kids.  Well, to be more accurate, Munsch specifies that he lived in Pennsylvania when he was young, and that he never really did grow up at all.  The prolific author struggled through most of his schooling, but always had a passion for writing.  He particularly enjoyed writing poetry, both the serious and silly varieties.  But writing was his past time, not something he, or anyone else, really valued at the time.

Fast forward a few decades, and you find Robert Munsch working in day cares and preschools, captivating children with his storytelling.   On his official website, Munsch recalls,For ten years I did this without thinking I had any special skill. After all, while I made the best stories in the daycare centre, most of the other teachers made better play doh. I eventually got a long list of stories I told, but I never wrote them down.”

Eventually, Munsch found himself working in the lab preschool at the University of Guelph  in Ontario, Canada, his boss (with some prompting from his wife, a children’s librarian) gave Munsch two months off to write down some of his stories and send them off to ten publishers.  One accepted his manuscript and an author was born.

Robert Munsch enjoys connecting with kids and often draws his stories out of experiences and conversations with some of his smallest fans.  It’s this connection that makes his stories so authentic and appealing to kids of all ages.  His child-like imagination and sense of humor combined with his storytelling style make his books some of the best on the bookshelf.

With over 25 books to choose from, picking the best titles by Robert Munsch is not an easy task.  Between my own children and those I’ve worked with, I think I’ve narrowed it down to my three picks.

The Paper Bag Princess (Classic Munsch)

The Paper Bag Princess.  Who doesn’t love a good story about a princess who saves herself and calls the superficial prince a “bum”?  At least that’s what I like about it.  My boys just love the dragon and the way he gets tricked into using all his fire and all his energy, causing him to be anything but fierce.  It’s a unique story and a clever plot.

Mmm, Cookies!

Mmm, Cookies!  This story really lends itself to Munsch’s storytelling style.  It includes sound effects (which I always add actions to) and it’s an easy one to get the kids to join in.  You can read a full summary and story activity for this book here.

Alligator Baby

Alligator Baby.  Kids love this book!  It’s a silly story (of course) about Kristen’s parents who accidentally go to the zoo instead of the hospital to have their baby.  Exhausted, they make several trips between their home and the zoo, trying to bring home the right baby.  By the end, their home is full of baby animals, and Kristen saves the day by retrieving her baby brother from the zoo.  The story is hilarious and the pattern in the text keeps kids engaged.

What’s your favorite book by Robert Munsch?
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Too Many Toys











Spencer has too many toys!  He gets them from his parents, his friends, his Auntie Mim and Uncle Fred, Grandma Bobo, Poppy and Grandiddy.  He gets them at school, at the dentist, at the doctor, and at the drive-thru. 

The Spencer I’m talking about is the character in David Shannon’s fantastic read, Too Many Toys .  Though the similarities between the Spencer in the book and my own little guy with the same name is so eerie, there are times I wondered if David Shannon might have been in our home recently as part of an undercover research mission.  This might as well have been a custom-made book!

Spencer’s mom (both the real one and the fictional one) finally has had enough with all those toys!  But when she suggests getting rid of a few, Spencer (both the real one and the fictional one) resists, hesitates, and negotiates.  Finally, they whittle down the toy supply, which is when Spencer discovers that the very best toy he has is his own imagination.

I picked up this book as I was shopping for the “something to read” portion of our kids’ Christmas list.  Our family has been David Shannon fans for a while now, reveling in the David series as well as Alice the Fairy and the Trucktown series he collaborates on.  His stories are always clever, funny, and portray childhood in a way few can.  So the familiar cover illustrations staring up from the bookshelf were quick to catch my eye.  A few page flips in and I was sold!

It helped that just a few days before picking up this book, I was having a very serious discussion with my boys about why no one could actually get every single toy in the world for Christmas…even if they were the very most well-behaved children in the history of mankind.  Couple that with the main character’s name and the all-too-familiar request to thin out the toy collection, and this book buy was a no-brainer.  This one will certainly be sitting under the tree at our house this Christmas, and I’m quite sure it will be a frequent favorite at storytime as well. 

If you too can relate a little too well with Spencer’s mom and dad (both the real ones and the fictional ones)  Check out this guestpost by Mandi Ehman of Life…Your Way at Blissfully Domestic for Decluttering and Organizing Children’s ToysThinning the toys before Christmas can be helpful.  I have friends who have had great success with their children sorting out their toys to make donations to those less fortunate and others who finally had success only when they promised their children all procedes from their contributions to the family yard sale.  At my house….for now we operate on the “hide it in the trunk of the car for a few weeks, and if no one asks for it, drive it on down to the donation center” method.  It may not be perfect, but it seems to maintain everyone’s sanity.

How do you keep from having too many toys? 

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Filed under book activity, Building Readers

Book Activity: Max’s Words

Max's Words

It’s no secret: I love to discover a great new children’s book.  While Max’s Words by Katie Banks is not actually a “new” book (it was published in 2006), it is “new to me” and I’m so glad I found it!

In this story, Max’s brothers have huge, wonderful collections of coins and stamps, from which they certainly aren’t willing to share with Max.  So, Max decides to start his own collection.  He struggles with what he should collect before finally deciding he will collect words!  Max cuts words out of magazines and writes them on slips of paper.  The illustrations are just great in this book, with the words coming to life and taking shape to show their meanings.  “Hungry” has a bite taken out of it, and “Park” is surrounded by trees.

Max’s brothers slowly become curious, particularly when Max begins to use his words to create stories.  Eventually, the brothers realize how cool Max’s word collection is and agree to trade a stamp and a coin for a pile of words.

I love this story for the way it calls children’s attention to the power of words, and the way these individual groups of letters on a page carry so much meaning.  It’s done effectively and naturally within a fantastic story!

As just one more endearing point of note, both the author and the illustrator each have a son named Max, to whom the book is dedicated (“To my Max- KB”  “No, to MY Max- BK”).  In fact, the two have another, more recent Max book called Max’s Dragon, which I think I may have to track down as well!

After the story, join your children in searching for words and letters in magazines.  Cut the words out together and create your own word collection like Max.  You may want to create stories together or simply glue the words onto another piece of paper.  Your children may want to cut out pictures of objects they like as well, and that’s OK too!  Point out any words on the picture, find the word describing the picture on the page to cut out as well, or simply write the word on a slip of paper like Max did.

This type of activity not only gets children excited about words, but makes them more aware of environmental print and helps to reinforce print awareness– the understanding that print carries meaning, that words are constructed from letters and arranged and read in particular ways.  But perhaps most importantly, this is just a fun read that your children will enjoy sharing with you!  And that alone will go a long way in building young readers!
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The Best Books are Ageless

About seven years ago, as a first grade teacher, I attended a workshop featuring Dr. Jean Feldman.  There were many things she shared that influenced me as a teacher, but there was one thing she said that I have thought back on many times:

“We are often so eager to give children all the things we didn’t have, that we forget to give them the things we did have.”

She was referring to the importance of Nursery Rhymes in building phonological awareness, and the tendency of many teachers and parents to neglect these classics in favor of the newest, coolest, and latest gadgets, gizmos, and doo-dads.  While nursery rhymes originate as far back as the 16th or 17th century, they are still one of the most effective tools for teaching children.

Lately, I’ve thought back on this quote again, as I’ve noticed some of my boys’ favorite stories were some of my favorites as a child as well.  As I pull some of our very favorite stories from the shelves and page through to the copyright, I’m often surprised to see how long some of these fantastic books have been around! 

And so, in spite of the fact that there are some truly fabulous new books out, I wanted to focus today on some of the classics that every child should get the chance to enjoy!

Caps for Sale Big Book (Reading Rainbow Book)

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina was first published in 1940, but its charming patterned story will always be one of my favorites!  Even though it was written before their grandpa was born, my boys love it too!

Goodnight Moon

What parent doesn’t have the words to Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown forever memorized?  I would love to see a counter displaying how many times this story simple story, first published in 1947, has sent children off to slumber.

 Image of Theodor Geisel - Dr. Seuss

All Things Seuss!  While the works of Dr. Seuss have been around since the late 50s, I’m often surprised to find children who have never actually heard the stories of a persistent boy named Sam-I-Am, one mischievous cat, or the Sneetches on beaches.  (Familiarity through cinema doesn’t quite countNo offense, Jim Carrey.  You make a great Horton, but as with most based-on-the-book movies, you just have to read the book!

(Find Seuss activities here.)

Very Hungry Caterpillar

  The Very Hungry Caterpillar , written by Eric Carle and published in1969, is another book that has aged incredibly well.  Despite the fact that this op-ed writer finds the text lacking in “narrative creativity” and “devoid of surprise” those who love and teach young children know that the repetition and pattern of text is instrumental in building new readers.  Besides that, kids love it!

 The Monster at the End of this Book (Sesame Street) (Big Little Golden Book)

As a shout-out to the children of the 70s, I have to add The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone.  It was one of my very favorites growing up!  I thought it was just a trendy book, lost in the past, until one of my first grade students brought it to school on the day the children were asked to bring one favorite book.  Soon after that, I bought a new copy for my own library while pregnant with my first son.  Six years later it is still getting good miles around our house!

I could go on and on….but I want to hear what you have to say!

What are some of the ageless books at the top of your “favorites” list?

Top photo by Horton Group.
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Filed under Article, book activity, Building Readers, language activity

Book Activity: Pete’s A Pizza

Pete's a Pizza

William Steig’s books are always clever and unique.  Pete’s A Pizza is no exception.  This book, published when Steig was about 90 years old, is based on a game he used to play with his own daughter decades earlier.  The character in the story, Pete, is disappointed when the rain spoils his plans.  His dad however, turns the day around by pretending to turn Pete into a pizza.  The typical steps for making pizza take on an imaginary element (checkers for tomatoes, paper for cheese) and soon evolve into tickling and chasing until Pete, of course, is happy once again.  It’s a fun read, and one that obviously invites some light-hearted participation!

Pizza Makers

Extend this book into an activity by simply following along with the game!  Make pizzas out of children by following the same steps in the book (especially the tickling part).  You could even write out a step-by-step recipe based on the book, increasing story recall.  Add your own spin as well, introducing other toppings or silly procedures.  Story acting is great for increasing literacy skills like comprehension as well as vocabulary as the children use new words and concepts they heard in the story.

Make it Real

Of course, this book is a great starter for a real pizza making activity as well!  (Combine the two by making your own pizza, and playing the game above while you’re waiting for it to bake!)  Pizza making is a sure-fire winner with little ones!  Make a big pizza together, or give each child a small pizza to customize to perfection.  Cooking together is great, as it increases the likelihood the children will actually eat the food, since they have some ownership in it, while it also promotes a wide variety of developmental skills.  Here’s how I go about turning the kitchen into a gourmet pizzeria.

Start with the dough.  I used to use a pizza dough like this one, which is great, but I was in a pinch and running late one day so I decided to use my usual soft pretzel dough recipe, since it doesn’t require any rising time.  I have to say, I think I actually prefer the pretzel dough!  Besides being faster, it’s a little more dense and chewy, which I like.  So try either one, depending on your preference — light and soft or dense and chewy.  The children love to work the dough, kneading and rolling to their hearts’ content!  It’s loads of fun, but it’s also great for the small muscles in their hands!

Now the sauce.  This is what makes it or breaks it for me.  With a little research and a bit of tweaking, I’ve come up with our family’s favorite pizza sauce.  This recipe makes one quart.  So I usually make a batch, use half on our pizzas, and put the other half in a jar in the fridge and save it for the next pizza night, or use it on pasta for a quick lunch for my boys.  So here goes:

Incredible Pizza Sauce

In a saucepan combine:

3 (8oz) cans of tomato sauce

3 Tbsp sugar

3 tsp extra virgin olive oil

3 tsp garlic salt or granulated garlic

3 tsp good Italian seasoning

1 tsp lemon juice

1/2 cup water

1 can tomato paste

Mix well and simmer for about 15 minutes.

And of course, the toppings.  Create an assortment of toppings and let children experiment with their own favorite combinations.  At our house, we need cheese (I mix Mozzarella with Colby Jack), ham, pineapple, and olives.  That gets pretty much everybody in one way or another.  Find what components meet the needs of your group, and arrange them salad bar style.  When everything’s ready, bake it at about 425 degrees for about 10 minutes (give or take depending upon the size).

I’m sure this kind of pizza would have cheered Pete up as well!

Pizza photo by Moi Cody.

You might also enjoy Welcome to the Pizza Shop!  Prop Ideas for Preschool Dramatic Play.
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Filed under book activity, Building Readers, language activity, Learning through Play and Experience, Recipes - Edible, Snack Time