Saturday, November 23, 2013

Painting Circles

It's Scott from Brick by Brick. I love to repurpose materials—use materials in ways different from their intended purpose.

A quick purpose idea this time. Gather items that are all the same shape. Lots of different sizes but the same shape. The easiest shape to gather is the circle.

We paint with them. Encourage kids to experiment. What different kinds of designs can they make with the circles.

If you don't want to use paint, try stamp pads instead. 

We've made faces, flowers, and just lots and lots of circles.

(Need stamp pads? The ones I love are from Discount School Supply. The ink is washable. Really! It washes off with soap; hands are completely clean.)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thanksgiving Movement Activity: I AM THANKFUL FOR . . .

Thanksgiving is almost here!

The essence of Thanksgiving is that it is a time to reflect on those things in our lives for which we are thankful.  This is my favorite holiday of the year, because it is centered on family.  We celebrate by preparing and eating a lovely meal, and we enjoy the long weekend with family and friends. 

Here is a short and simple movement activity for children that gives them the opportunity to reflect on and dance about one or more specific reasons that they are grateful.

Thanksgiving Movement Activity:  


Here are two children's songs that capture the spirit of the holiday and that are fun accompaniments for this, and I use them both in the activity:

1.  Thanksgiving Day, by Tom Chapin, (from the album Mother Earth, Gadfly Records, 2001)

2.  Thanksgiving Song, by The Uncle Brothers (Danny Quinn and Tommy Gardner from the album Mooseltoe, Blackwater, 2007)

3.  One other upbeat selection (optional) 

Or, you can use any music that children like for dancing, if you do not have Thanksgiving-themed music.

You will also need:

Markers or crayons

I like to start this activity with the children gathered in a circle.  We each take a turn to say how we celebrate Thanksgiving, and what we like about the holiday.

Then, I pass out the paper, one per child.  I ask each of them to draw a picture about one thing for which they are especially thankful.  While they are working, I play the Tom Chapin song in the background.  

Then I ask them to put their papers aside and spread throughout the room (If you have a small space, they can each start in a home spot and dance around that spot).  I then play The Uncle Brothers song and ask them to dance about their drawings.

They may want to continue dancing, about other aspects of the holiday, or about more things for which they are thankful.  Play the Uncle Brothers song again, or something else upbeat and fun.

Happy Thanksgiving to all! 
And keep on dancin',


Sunday, November 17, 2013


Thanksgiving is drawing near and I can think of so many things I am thankful for! One of them being you! Thank you for reading our blog and sharing our blog! I means the world to all of us! 

 I am sure you can think of several things that you are thankful for as well! But, how would you narrow it down to just one thing if you had to?

That is what I have asked my kindergartners to docome up with the one thing that you are MOST thankful for and we use it to make a special placemat that they can use on Thanksgiving Day at home. We do this project over the course of a week. 

I start by asking my students what Thanksgiving means to them? Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? What does “give thanks” mean?

Then I read the book Thanksgiving is for Giving Thanks written by Margaret Sutherland. I then go back and ask the same questions I asked before to see if students may have changed their minds. 

We then talk about the things that we are thankful for. Some students share many things they are thankful for and others may only share one thing.
I make a predictable chart, “I am thankful for __________.”  I tell students that I know that they are thankful for many things and so am I, but I want them to think of the one thing that they are MOST thankful for. Then, one by one, students will tell me what they are thankful for and then come up and help me finish writing the sentence. It is nice when there is more than one adult in the room because then you can split the class into two or three groups to do this part and it won’t take as long. 

Once all of the students have been able to tell me what they are thankful for, the students will come up and read their sentence with the special Fall pointer, being sure to point to each word as they read it. 

Next, I will write out the sentences on small strips of paper and hand them out to the students. Students will read their sentences at their seats. Once they have done this, students will then cut out the words in the sentence and the period. When the words are all cut out, they will mix up the words and then put them back together in the correct order 2-3 times. I make sure that students leave a finger space between each word and they must read it to me one time after they have put their sentence back in the correct order.
Students then will glue their sentence on a white piece of paper and illustrate. I have also had students write out their sentences instead of gluing them on.

Once students are done illustrating, they will take their work and glue it onto an orange or brown piece of construction paper. I will then give them time to dry and laminate them so that we can use them for our Kindergarten Feast at school and then students can take them home and use them for Thanksgiving Dinner with their family. They can also help in saying the prayer before dinner by reading their place mat. 

I hope you have wonderful Thanksgiving, spend it well with family! 

Carie is a kindergarten teacher from Illinois who writes on the 17th of each month. She shares her experiences and ideas from her classroom, writing about reading, writing, math, Art, and several other fun and exciting things!
Carie also writes her own blog: 

Carie Ramirez

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Thematic Obstacle Courses from Miss Carole at "PreK+K Sharing"

Miss Carole from Macaroni Soup in Chicago, where we’ve already had our first snow!  When nasty weather forces you to stay indoors, here’s an idea for an activity with lots of gross-motor skills, cooperation, following directional words, imagination and FUN!  Create an obstacle course!  It can have as few as 4 tasks, or as many as your space allows.  It may be that you just follow the sequence of activities around the room, or perhaps you add a narrative and some music.  Once you have presented the Obstacle Course that you’ve invented to your children, let them help create the next one.

Preschool Obstacle Courses Developed around a Theme by Miss Carole at PreK+K Sharing
Walk the Troll Bridge (top), roll across the Red River, through the Ring of Spider Webs, and under the Bat Cave!

    A bit of history:  when my children were little, we’d head for the backyard with hula hoops, chairs, blankets, boxes – whatever we had handy.  Sometimes they became forts or houses, but often they turned into an Obstacle Course.  Soon the shouts and giggles would be heard by neighbors and we’d have 4-6 children “running” the course!  As my children got older, the courses no longer required my assistance and became more and more elaborate (up the slide, down the slide, through the wading pool, into the garage, through the snow drift, etc.)  Now I get to create just a few a year for my music and movement classes – but I still enjoy them.

    Here’s a sample of a Slightly Spooky Obstacle Course I did in October with classes of 3’s and 4’s in a preschool setting.  Thanks to St David’s Nursery School in Glenview, IL for sharing their photos!

PROPS USED:                          
Gross Motor Skills Developed during an Obstacle Course in ECE by Miss Carole at "PreK+K Sharing"
Under the Bat Cave!
Small table
Fabric to cover table (bat optional)
4 chairs
Low balance beam
Fun-foam stepping stones
Red bath towel
Hula hoop  (scarves optional)

    First I had all the children sit in the middle of the room, leaving the perimeter open to place the obstacles around them.  As I placed each obstacle, I described it and demonstrated what to do, or in some cases I asked a child to show how to do something, such as crawling through the Bat Cave!  These were my obstacles:

Troll Bridge – the low balance beam
Bat Cave – table with black sheet over it, bat on top
Tall Tree Forest – 4 chairs, placed about 2 feet apart in a line
Stepping Stones – blobular shapes cut from fun foam, tape on back.  This can also be done with brick blocks.
River of Fire – the red towel
Ring of Spider webs – hula hoop with scarves or streamers attached

    My narrative went something like this (be sure to use directional descriptives):

“We’re going on a Slightly Spooky Walk for our Obstacle Course today!  First, you’ll have to crawl UNDER the Bat Cave.  Lucy – can you show us how to crawl through to the other side?  Then, placing one foot in front of the other like this, you must cross OVER the Troll Bridge – don’t fall off:  I hear there’s a nasty Troll waiting below!  Then, you must WEAVE IN AND OUT the Tall Trees in the Dark Forest, in and out, in and out.  Next you’ll come to the Stepping Stones to take you ACROSS the Hot Sand Desert.  Then, you’ll have to STOP, DROP and ROLL across the Red River of Fire – John, can you show everyone how to barrel roll across the River?  Then you have to duck THROUGH the Giant Ring of Spider Webs.  If you are successful, you can go around again.  Remember not to push the person in front of you – wait for them to finish an obstacle before you begin.”

Props for Use in Obstacle Courses in Preschool by Miss Carole at PreK+K Sharing
Through the Spider Webs!
    I placed 2-3 children in front of each obstacle.  I played the “Theme from Ghostbusters”, and off they went!  They went round and round the obstacles for about 3 - 4 minutes.  The whole activity, including setting the scene and putting things away took about 8 minutes.

    I have created Fairy Forest (“Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies”), A Super-Hero Training Room (“Star Wars Theme”) and Jungle themes (“The Lion Sleeps Tonight”). 

    You can add a book related to your theme, sing a song about one of the obstacles (yes, we did my “Black Bat Farm” – always a favorite), or segue into an art project, mapping lesson or dramatic play that use the theme. 
     It’s so much fun.  Have you tried an Obstacle Course with your kids?  Please tell me about it!  I am always looking for new ideas!  Remember – this activity works wonderfully outdoors, too!

     If you’re at the Annual NAEYC Conference in DC next week, please come say hello at Booth #937, and come to my workshop, “Developmentally Appropriate EC Music and Movement: Brain Food, Body Fuel” in ROOM 206, Washington CC.

    If you came to this blog looking for turkey songs/activities, check out my November 2012 blog – gobble gobble them up!

Yours for a Turkey Hop!                                              Gobble Gobble Gobble -->                      

“Miss Carole” Stephens

Friday, November 15, 2013

Montessori-Inspired Turkey Activities Using Free Printables

Free Turkey Printables and Montessori-Inspired Turkey ActivitiesBy Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now 

Even though I'm a vegetarian, I enjoy using turkeys as a theme for Thanksgiving ... I just don't focus on turkeys on the Thanksgiving table. Today, I want to share some free turkey printables and ideas for hands-on activities for preschoolers through first graders. 

You'll find many more activities for preschoolers through first graders throughout the year along with presentation ideas in my previous posts at PreK + K Sharing

You'll also find ideas for using free printables to create activity trays here: How to Use Printables to Create Montessori-Inspired Activities.  

Disclosure: This post contains Montessori Services affiliate links at no cost to you.  

Turkey Practical Life and Color Matching Activity 

  Turkey Practical LIfe and Color Matching Tray

This was a fun activity to prepare. I used the the Turkey Template by The Mommy Teacher to create a turkey from a colander. Because I had found a small colander at the grocery store, I printed out the turkey template at 50%. With a larger colander, I would have used the larger size. I also printed out the Turkey Feather Color Game from TOADally Tots for the feathers. I used a large plastic tray from Montessori Services.

Turkey Practical Life and Color Matching Activity

When I laminated the feathers before cutting them out, they were stiff enough to insert into the colander holes for a practical life activity. I would recommend using this as a color-matching activity as well. I only used two feathers of each color for the matching activity. 

For a child who isn't comfortable with identifying colors yet, you could first lay out the feathers on a table or rug. Then place one of the feathers on the table or rug in front of the child and ask him or her to find the matching feather. After that, the child could insert the feathers into the colander. A child who's more comfortable with color names could be asked to find the red feathers and so on before inserting them into the colander turkey. 

Although I used feathers from the printable, I imagine colored feathers from a craft store would work very well. You could also use different colors of pipe cleaners and have the child place matching colored beads on each pipe cleaner after it's inserted into a hole in the colander. 

Turkey Cutting Activity 

Turkey Cutting Activity

For this activity, I used the Thanksgiving Cut It Out from This Reading Mama. This printable has many fun turkey cutting activities for various skill levels. The photo is just one example of a tray for cutting straight lines to make turkey puzzles. The tray is an inexpensive wooden tray from Michaels hobby store.

Ten Little Turkeys Activity and Song 

Ten Little Turkeys Tray

I always loved holiday songs and props for "circle times" as a Montessori teacher and as a homeschooler. This activity uses the Ten Little Turkeys Activity and Song printable. I especially like that it includes a link to a very cute "Ten Little Turkeys" song with original melody and audio by Rachel Rambach. You could use the props at circle time and allow children to use the tray to act out the song on their own. 

Ten Little Turkeys Activity

Turkey Fractions Activity

 Turkey Fractions Tray

The turkey fractions activity uses the Turkey Fractions printable from Classroom Game Nook. This is just a fun themed extension to fraction work. The printable also contains the fraction words, but I only used the symbols and numerical fractions. I put the layout on a large hemmed work rug from Montessori Services.
Turkey Fractions Layout

Build-a-Turkey Phonetic Reading Activity 

Build-a-Turkey Phonetic Reading Activity

This was a super-easy activity to prepare. I used Build a Turkey - CVC Freebie from My Fabulous Class and a a medium-size tray from Montessori Services. This is simply a fun way for children to work on blending phonetic sounds into words. 

Build-a-Turkey Phonetic Reading Activity Layout

More Free Printables and Thanksgiving Activities 

Go to my post at Living Montessori Now for links to LOTS of turkey freebies from around the blogosphere: Free Turkey Printables and Montessori-Inspired Turkey Activities

Deb - Siganture 
 Living Montessori Now Button
Deb Chitwood 
Deb Chitwood is a certified Montessori teacher with a master’s degree in Early Childhood Studies from Sheffield Hallam University in Sheffield, England. Deb taught in Montessori schools in Iowa and Arizona before becoming owner/director/teacher of her own Montessori school in South Dakota. Later, she homeschooled her two children through high school. Deb is now a Montessori writer who lives in Colorado Springs with her husband of 38 years and their cat of 12 years. She blogs at Living Montessori Now. 

May be linked to Afterschool Express, Thoughtful Spot, Tuesday Tots, The Mommy Club Resources and Solutions at Milk and Cuddles and Crystal & Co., Mom’s Library, It’s Playtime, The Weekly Kid’s Co-op, Hearts for Home Blog Hop, Learn & Link, TGIF Linky Party, Preschool Corner, Ultimate Homeschool Pinterest Party, Sharing Saturday, Saturday Show & Tell, Share It Saturday, Show-and-Share Saturday, The Sunday Showcase, Link & Learn

Monday, November 11, 2013


Mary Jo Huff
    “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much!” Helen Keller

NAEYC – Washington, DC * Saturday, Nov. 23 at 10:00 a.m. come celebrate with me in room 146A.  I am shipping give-a-ways totaling $300.
Watch for my new hat in the halls, vendor area, and hotel *** or on the street.  Visit me in the Kaplan booth on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. and check out the
FROG STREET booth for a special appearance and great give-a-ways.
This November is special because our family celebrates several birthdays during the month and on Nov. 11 we celebrate a grandchild’s birthday along with celebrating ALL the VETERANS who have helped keep our country a safe and proud place to live.  We salute the United States of America!

This purple heart has a place of honor in our house and was received in Vietnam by a proud Marine.  This book by Eve Bunting is an extremely SPECIAL publication.  The wall is history but when you visit you feel like it was yesterday.  When you know names and you can find them your heart hurts all over again.  If you have children in your care who are part of a military family so something special to celebrate.  Invite the parents to visit, military to wear their uniforms and show the children the flag and present them with facts about our country.  For Pre-K children I did not read this book word for word but was able to talk the pages because I have been to the WALL!



AUTHOR DIANNE DE LAS CASAS has written a forever on our shelves Christmas story which will truly be a classic.   It invites children to do repetitive actions and sounds.  It is rhythmic and filled with wonderful whimsical illustrations.  I am enclosing the information from the jacket flap so you can see how this book will fit into your Early Childhood curriculum and be enjoyed for everyone.  Go to and look for activities that can be part of the introduction of this book.


Become a PICTURE BOOK MONTH Ambassador and check out the website at where you will find interesting connections.  Authors from around this country have given their words of wisdom about picture books and their importance to all children.  One of my favorite reads is from Michael Shoulders - he hits it right where the page turns.



Stay tuned for more exciting information about my author friends and their great publications.

For information about a Keynote, Workshop, Professional Development, Visit or SKYPE visit contact me at 
SKYPE visits are being scheduled beginning Feb. 15, 2014.  Get on board and bring a presentation to your children filled with music, stories, finger plays and just plain EDUCATIONAL FUN!

Be thankful this holiday for all your treasures, thank a veteran, donate to a homeless veteran, share your food with someone who is hungry and God Bless each and every one of you.  I am thankful for our connection through the Early Childhood world and hope to share a hug along the way.

Hook up with me on Face Book, Lindedin, Pinterest, Prekandksharing and come back each month to see  MARY JO HUFF.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

printed turtles!

There is no doubt in my house that we are turtle-obsessed. MAJORLY. So, in honor of my turtle-loving 5 year old's fifth birthday, I bring you this fun, adorable sea turtle printing project!

Start out with some fun painted paper. I gave him a big brush and white, green, yellow, and turquoise paint to make a nice oceanic background!

Let the background dry. Then, use a cross-section of a pool noodle for stamping the turtle bodies!

Fun Fun Fun!!!

Next, use a plastic spoon to dip and print the head, front flippers, and feet. You could also use a paintbrush to do this, but I wanted to keep it in the printing theme!

So much fun!

Last, we used q-tips dipped in brown and white paint to make the eyes and spots on the shell, respectively. He went a little crazy with the white paint, but I think they look like bubbles in the water! 

Happy Birthday to my big boy...Kindergarten is right around the corner, I can't believe it!

Joanna Davis-Lanum is a National Board Certified Art Teacher from Venice, Florida. To say her kids are obsessed with turtles is a major understatement. For more fun, colorful lessons, head on over to her blog We Heart Art for some inspiration!

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