Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Tree Advent Calendar

photo of: Countdown to Christmas (Advent Calendar) by We Heart Art at Prek+K Sharing


photo of: Countdown to Christmas Advent Tree Project via We Heart Art at PreK+K Sharing

This is a lesson that I used to do waaaay back in the day while my kids were wild and crazy during Thanksgiving week. I decided to pull it out of the vault this week for my students and they are SOOOO happy that I did! This is a Christmas Tree Advent Calendar, and is a great directive-style art project which will have your kiddos swooning!

For this project you will need:
25 strips of paper (I cut ours 1.5"x10" long)
  • 1 yellow strip per child
  • 5 red strips per child
  • 3 brown strips per child
  • 16 green strips per child
1 hand-held stapler per table (I use mini staplers, you will see them in pictures down below)

You can pretty much see the configuration of these strips when you look at this photo. It's basically loop one, hook two, loop two, hook four, loop 3, hook 6, trunk. I know, I'm speaking jibberish....
Here you can see the top of the tree. The rest of the tree follows suit. You surely need to practice making this before you try to do it with kids! If you feel that it too complicated, you may have each student decorate individual strips and YOU can assemble them for your classroom.

Either way, you're going to have some ecstatic kids in your classroom once this whole thing comes together! Don't have time to do the 25 days of Christmas on your Advent Calendar? Hop on over to We Heart Art to see how you make a "12 Days of Christmas" version!
Happy Holidays from We Heart Art to you and yours this season. Thanks for all the love and support you have shown PreK and K Sharing this year!

My Peppermint Plah-doh recipe was a HUGE hit here last year. 
Be sure to mix up a batch for your family or as a gift for your appreciative neighbors. 

photo of: Peppermint Play-doh Recipe by We Heart Art at PreK+K Sharing

Joanna Davis is a National Board Certified Art Teacher and teaches Art at Garden Elementary School in Venice Florida. She doesn't like tacky holiday crafts, but this project would be welcome on her fridge ANY day! Happy Holidays!

This post was linked to the following Blog Hops:
PhotobucketMade in a Day

Craft Scrappy Happy Happy Hour Link Up
Craftaholics Anonymous Link-Up

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Letter of Encouragement for Diversity in ECE

Hi Deb Dearest and My Family of Friends Who Love and Care for Our Children,

In early November, Columbus, Ohio, celebrated our annual International Festival. Our huge Vets' Memorial center was colorful with booths of many cultures, crafts, clothes, delicious smelling food , activities for children and continuous performances in music and dance representing the diversity of communities living in central Ohio. As always, my eyes were on the children!

Many many young children were dressed in the clothing of their family's backgrounds. Bright reds and golds, tunics and saris, headbands and fishermen's caps, ribbons, lace and leathers, the children brightened every moment of the festival. For the first time in years, young children were part of the performances, singing and dancing their rich traditions . They brought down the house!

Through the festival days (I am always a performer, volunteer, MC, whatever they want me to do) beneath the sights and sounds of the festivities, an old familiar song kept flowing through my mind."You've got to be taught before it's too late, before you are six or seven or eight, to hate everybody your relatives hate, you've got to be carefully taught..." (from South Pacific.)

Here, at this wonderful event that brought together people from the many subcultures enriching our city, that song took on greater meaning. The beauty of all the children, all the races, languages, clothing, food, crafts, songs and dances was contagious! 

We needed to remember the powerful gifts each culture offers. We need to hear people speaking in the language of their homelands. We need to taste their food and appreciate their style of dress, listen to their songs (even though we may not understand the words , we feel the messages). Our children need to know that the world is made up of many kinds of peoples but we are all part of one incredible family- the human family.

Not all communities in our country are as lucky as Columbus,Ohio, to offer such multicultural experiences. That makes the challenge of helping our children learn about and love the wonders of the diverse citizens of our planet even greater. We need to start with ourselves --examine our own attitudes, honestly explore our own convictions.

"Before I teach others, I must teach myself." (Sylva Ashton-Warner) Our communication (verbal and non verbal) our behavior, our beliefs are demonstrated in everything we say and do. We can create communities of learning for our children where they learn to love and respect themselves, each other and others they meet in this ever widening world. That is our hope! That is our journey! 

Enjoy the adventure! Peace and Love, Mimi

Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld, consultant, teacher, author- 

Her books"
Teaching By Heart, Celebrating Young Children and Their Teachers
are available directly from Mimi.
Her text, Creative Experiences For Young Children is available by ordering from Heinemann

Monday, November 26, 2012

A little singing, dancing AND learning!

By Laura Eldredge

A few weeks ago, I had the great opportunity to attend and present at the NAEYC annual conference in Atlanta, GA.  My partner Tressa and I presented a workshop called "Through new eyes: Enhancing preschool literacy experiences" on Thursday morning. 

In our workshop, we combined lecture, discussion, lots of classroom photos and movement activities that provided ideas for incorporating literacy experiences into all classroom early learning centers.  A large part of our presentation talks about how literacy links to movement, and how music and movement activities can enhance language and literacy learning - which we demonstrated by having everyone up and doing a little “Book & Boogie” activity!  (You can learn more about “Book & Boogie" by following the link).

We  had a really FUN group doing some "Book & Boogie" during our presentation!

A little singing, dancing and learning with BOB!

After being presenters ... we had a couple of days to be participants and attend some great workshops.  A frequent presenter at the conference was a childhood favorite of ours ... Mr. Bob McGrath from Sesame Street!  How fun it was to sing songs that I remember from the show (all the words come back to you!). As an early childhood professional, it's interesting to look at all those songs with different eyes ... and how those songs tie into early learning concepts for children.  

Bob McGrath presents at NAEYC in Atlanta.

Very calming and entertaining, Bob McGrath gave a great presentation in Atlanta, despite arriving very late the night before due to the winter storm that hit NY that week. And much to our great delight ... he talked about how all those fun songs from Sesame Street can be used with your preschoolers to extend learning topics that you may already be working on with your children at home or at school.

A "Book & Boogie" in the making

One of our favorite songs that Bob performed was "Everyone Asked About You", which is basically a song version of this book. I love the rhythms in the music and the story that is told through the book and song.

In the story, Nora experiences that feeling of being lonely, which children can relate to. So it opens up an opportunity for discussion with your children ("Why do you think Nora didn't want to come out at first?" "How was she feeling?" "Have you ever felt that way?"). When all the very colorful and vibrant characters come at the end of the story, it's a great celebration!  

The song component really helps to make this a story that the children will remember.  And if we add some movement to it as well ...then it will become an visual, auditory AND kinesthetic language and literacy experience.  I think I feel a new "book & boogie" coming!

Laura Eldredge is a teacher and curriculum coordinator at a NAEYC accredited early childhood program in Connecticut. She also co-founded the website The SEEDS Network, as a way to provide early childhood professionals with ideas and resources that support them in their quest to provide quality care and education to our youngest learners. She blogs at

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Steps to Independence

I’m so delighted to join this online community and share some educational insight, or at the very least another voice and perspective!  My name is Meagan Ledendecker and as the Director of Education at The Montessori School of the Berkshires, I’ve recently been working with some of our toddler and early childhood parents to help promote independence as children arrive at school. 

As a parent of a nine-year-old, a four-year-old, and a four-and-a-half-month-old, I’m no stranger to the need for efficiency as we try to get out of the door and to our destination in the morning.  It’s important to keep in mind, though, that young children have a strong desire for independence.  They need to feel capable.  As Maria Montessori determined 100 years ago, the young child’s motto could very well be, “Help me do it myself.”

photo of: Maria Montessori Quote at PreK+K Sharing

So how do we lend just enough support and give just the right amount of space, when we really needed to be out the door five minutes ago?

In upcoming posts, I’ll share some tips for steps to take at home or school, but we’re going to first take a look at the endpoint: arriving at your intended destination.  Whether walking into a store or through the entryway of your child’s school, it’s so important to let your child have the opportunity to walk in on his or her own. 

Yes, the time it takes to traverse the distance from the car to the door may take five minutes rather than the less-than-one-minute long-legged clip you’d prefer.  Sometimes it may feel easier to scoop up your child and just get there!  But I challenge you to take a deep breath, gently offer your hand, and allow your child the opportunity to take those steps. 

photo of: Child Walking Independently with Adult at PreK +K Sharing

Our children have worked so hard to be able to walk on their own!  Celebrate this skill and slow down to the child’s pace, even if only for a couple of minutes.  Check out Aid to Life for some fabulous reminders and tips about young children’s need to master their movements.

photo of: "Steps to Independence" via PreK+K Sharing

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Building Traditions of Kindness In Kinders

It was a couple of years ago that I wondered across a post from Katherine over at (HERE) and also Tracie from tsjphotography (HERE) about how they created a tradition of Random Acts of Christmas Kindness with their children.  With three little guys of my own at home, I knew this was a tradition I also wanted to start with my own children.  It has since become the most favorite of all family traditions during this time of year. 

Each day for the 25 days leading up until Christmas, we open a small bag with a task of kindness to complete. 

Most of the tasks I tried to have us do anonymously which made it even more exciting for the boys.  I kind of wondered if we might get arrested lurking about the the animal shelter after dark to drop off a bag of dog food, but we didn't.  The boys really wanted to be able to see people as they found their treasures, but they had alot of fun wondering what those people thought or felt when they were 'RACKed.'
Our cards included some tasks like:
    I was horrible at documenting all the fun we had last year, but I'm determined to do a better job this year.
  • Leave quarters in washing machines at a local laundry mat.
  • Let someone go first today
  • Ring bells for the Salvation Army
  • Adopt a needy family
  • Bring your teacher her favorite morning beverage
  • Leave a present for our neighbor.
  • Get doughnuts for Daddy and buy an extra dozen for the shelter.
  • Bring a secret treat for our lunch lady.
  • Visit the local nursery home and deliver flowers and cards.
  • Leave a bag of dog food at the local animal shelter.
  • Leave dollar bills on the vending machines at the hospital.
  • Invite someone you do not usually sit next to or play with to sit with you at lunch or play at recess.
  • Take empty cans back and purchase a gift card with the money you get back.  Give it to the teller to give to someone they think needs it.
  • Wash the car and leave money for the next person in line to wash their car too.
  • Buy popcorn for kids at school who don't usually get it.
  • Buy hot cocoa for bell ringers.
  • and others

You would think with all the commercialization of the holidays, that getting kids to think of others would be difficult, but, in fact, it wasn't at all.  My boys really enjoyed knowing that THEY were the ones that made someone's day special.  So much so that it was my oldest son (almost 8 at the time) that was the one that actually suggested that this year, I should do something similar with my class.  'Mom, wouldn't it be fun for your kids to do 25 days of kindness?' Out of the mouths of babes? Yes! I often struggle with how to instill kindness in my kinders, to use manners, to think of others.  Face it, at these tender ages, teachers often hear "it's mine . . . I want to . . . let me . . ."   This would be a PERFECT activity get them started thinking about others instead of JUST themselves.  So here's my twist and plan for 15 Days of Kindergarten Kindness. 

Much like my own family's 25 Days of kindness set-up, I will be stringing 15 (one for each day we are in school in December) small bags in the window of my classroom.  This alone will cause enough buzz to get their attention and build the anticipation needed to make the activity exciting and fun.  After spending that first day talking and writing about 'KINDNESS' students will take turns each day taking down the bags and reading each days' task.  While my own family's '25 days of Christmas Kindness' involved some financial backing, acts of kindness don't need to be expensive or even cost money. In regards to my classroom, I really want to demonstrate to my kinders how even a 5 year old or 6 year old can make the difference in someone else's day.  So here is a list of some acts that cost little or no money that you might want to place in your own 15 Days of Kindergarten Kindness bags.  You can find great ideas for acts of kindness all over the web.  Katherine has one on her site HERE that might help or just have fun and come up with some ideas of your own. 
  • Make Christmas cards for a local nursing home.
  • Invite a friend whom you don't usually play with to come sit by you at lunch or play with you outside
  • Thank the person who brings you to school for getting you here safely and on time.
  • Walk in front of the office window, smile and wave to our office workers at some time during the day
  • Tell your principal she/he is AWESOME
  • Clean the trash off the playground
  • Let someone go in front of you or before you today
  • Walk by a student you don't know and smile and say 'hello.'
  • Help someone tie their shoes/zip their coat.
  • Give someone a compliment and let only kind words come out of your mouth today.
  • Buy popcorn for another class.
  • Use best manners when getting lunch in the lunch room.  Say 'please' and 'thank you.'
  • Visit the local nursing home, sing songs, make a craft and have a snack!
  • Pick up any coats or snow pants that have fallen in the hallway
  • Make thank you cards for our school's playground staff!
  • Ask someone if you can 'help.'
Can you think of some more?

Want to join in on the fun?  Let me see if I can help you get started.  You'll need some small bags and a way to display them.  You'll want to number your bags (I'm just using plain white ones for my classroom):

click  HERE to get a copy of ones I made up for you.  I wanted something a little more fun and not too Christmas-y for my classroom and for those of you that can not use Christmas themes in your rooms.  I hope this works for you. 

And you'll want a little festive or fun card to place inside your bag where you can describe the task for that day and  RAK'ed card (notice the C for Christmas is missing).  I made up some editable ones so that you can write your own tasks and messages.  If you click  HERE, you can download them.

That's it.  The rest is pretty easy.  I hope you have fun with this activity.  I know I will be doubly blessed this year by giving back through my own family's Random Acts of Christmas Kindness and my Kindergarten Acts of Kindness as well.  I'd love to hear your own ideas of how you teach your students kindness or ideas that I could add to my classroom list, so drop me a line, and come visit me at my own blog sometime.

Friday, November 23, 2012


Happy Thanksgiving (well, day after)! It's Scott from Brick by Brick. I love to repurpose materials—use materials in ways different from their intended purpose. Repurposing, reusing, and recycling are important for the world and are great ways to have fun resources for little or no cost.

Since it's the day after Thanksgiving, I'm thinking about leftovers. Do you ever have leftovers in your classroom? What can you do with things left over? Here are a few ideas.

I had leftover white paper scraps. I had cut paper into shapes for an activity and just couldn't toss the pieces away. So I dropped them into a ziplock bag and kept them. Several months later, I put the odd-shaped paper out with tape, stickers, and manila paper. Kids had a great time taping and creating.

Brick by Brick: scrap paper

Brick by Brick: scrap paper

Brick by Brick: scrap paper

We did a group painting. The abstract art hung in our room for a while. Then I punched out circles and cut triangles and we used it in our collage art. I still have pieces of that painting in my collage box. This is a great way to use old paintings or drawings that are ready to go. Don't toss them; cut them up! (The collage box is a great place for all kinds of leftovers from art explorations.)

Brick by Brick: recycled painting

Brick by Brick: recycled painting

Brick by Brick: recycled painting

We made books one day. (Just strips of manila paper stapled together on one end.) We had several leftover blank books, so I tossed them in our writing box. Those books appear occasionally; one just appeared this week. I often toss different paper leftovers into the writing box for kids to use. I also use leftover notepads or other odds and ends into the writing box. Kids love to write on all kinds of things.

Brick by Brick: homemade book

Of course, we have a basket that always stays out in the kindergarten classroom. Paper scraps go there all the time. The paper will just stay there for a long time, waiting for the right time and the right use. Kids use those leftovers for all kinds of things.

Brick by Brick: baskets

What do you do with your leftovers?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

ART and CREATIVITY: An Important Gift for Children

ART and CREATIVITY: An Important Gift for Children

Hello EC Community,

My presentation at NAEYC 2012 in Atlanta, Moving is Learning: 

Dancing Across the Curriculum, was on Friday, November 6, with special 
guest Debbie Clement!
Dancing to Debbie Clement's song Monkey Fun at NAEYC 2012

In my introduction, I talked about how dance can offer children the gift of body awareness, coordination, and self-confidence, among many other benefits.  Case in point, myself!  Debbie suggested to me that this would be a good blog entry for PreK and K Sharing.  As I write this entry during the week when we are all getting ready for the 
Thanksgiving holiday, I realize 
that the opportunity I had to 
participate in the arts as a young child is one thing in my life for which I am extremely  grateful.

When I was a young girl, I was very awkward and uncoordinated.  My parents were concerned because I fell down a lot, bumped in to things, and, as my mother says, I would even trip over the patterns in a carpet.  I was the one who was always chosen last for any playground sports team, and I was a disaster in gym class.  I remember feeling like I could not get the different parts of my body to work together. 

Connie: Harbinger Dance Company
Detroit, Michigan, 1976

My parents decided to put me in a neighborhood dance class.  As I started to gain strength and become more confident, I learned that, lo and behold, I was not so much uncoordinated, but just very flexible and needed to learn how to move in an integrated way.  Dance was the gift that I needed in order to help me develop this awareness, and I found that I loved it.  I have been very fortunate to have a career in dance, from performing, to teaching, to writing, and for the past five years, offering workshops for educators.

Once I discovered dance, I loved it so much that I never wanted to stop, and that passion continues to this day. And, the message that I want to give to teachers everywhere, is:  Dance (and all the arts) can be integrated right into the classroom.  I do not see them as "extras," I see them as essential and transformational.  

In fact, here is a pop quiz that was also part of my presentation:

In a 2010 IBM Global Study of 1500 CEO's, from 60 countries, and 33 different worldwide industries,  what do you think was the ONE crucial quality that CEO's cited as the most important factor of future success?


The "chief executives believe that more than rigor, management discipline, integrity, or even vision -- successfully navigating an increasingly complex world will require creativity."

Dance, and the other arts -- visual, music, writing, drama -- by their very nature help to nurture creativity.  We must offer children the opportunity to participate in the arts while they are young, so that we can help them to develop nimble, open, and flexible minds that can look at a problem in many different ways, in order to come up with innovative solutions. It is one of the most important gifts we can give our young children, so that they can grow up and compete in an increasingly complex and competitive global workforce.


Keep on Dancin',



For more ideas on dance and movement:

And to order: 

1.  Dance, Turn, Hop, Learn!  Enriching Movement Ideas for Preschoolers
2.  One, Two, What Can I Do?  Dance and Music for the Whole Day (with double CD by Debbie Clement) please go to: 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

FEasT on Books as a Family by Dr. Danny Brassel

As the holidays beckon, many parents will find plenty of extra time with their children at home. Why not make it quality time and cuddle up behind a bunch of great books? My children and I try to “FEasT” on three a day.
            Alright – I’m no fan of teaching acronyms either. Still, I am a huge proponent of simple mnemonic devices constructed to make my life easier. The “FEasT” acronym stands for the types of books I’d like you to read every day during the holidays with your children: a “F”avorite book, an “Eas”y book and a “T”ough book.

            Favorite book. Remember what your favorite book was as a child? Maybe you marveled at the mischief of Curious George or yearned for your grandfather’s reassuring read alouds of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Perhaps you loved it when your mother sat you are on her lap in the family rocking chair and rocked away as you both enjoyed Robert Munsch’s Love You, Forever. All of us had favorite books as children, and I like to encourage parents to especially read these books to their children. You may not know this, but you read these books a little bit differently, and your children will pick up on that.
Additionally, when your children show preference to a particular book, you want to read those books constantly. If your children insist on you reading a chapter from a Harry Potter book, by all means – read that chapter. Have children who delight in the silliness of Captain Underpants? Read away! Almost all parents I have ever met can share a story of a book that annoys them to no end because their children insisted on them reading that book aloud 875 times. Sound familiar? You need to understand that your child is memorizing that book. This is a great confidence booster that will attract your children to read more. That is why easy books are so vital…

            Easy book. This is a book that you read again and again with your children. I have three children: Kate (a third grader), Sean (a first grader) and Samantha (a preschooler…and a handful!). While Kate and Sean may act cool in front of their baby sister, it never ceases to amaze me how transfixed they will become as Samantha enjoys Sesame Street on television or brings me her favorite Humpty Dumpty-shaped treasury of nursery rhymes for me to read to her. Easy books build confident readers. Even though Kate is a pretty good reader in her own right – reading plenty of chapter books about Judy Moody and Magic Treehouse sleuths Jack and Annie – she still delights in any of our endless collection of titles featuring The Berenstain Bears and Arthur. And Sean marvels almost as much as me at the true genius of Dr. Seuss, who manages to always include meaningful messages embedded in rhyming confidence-builders designed to interest anyone in reading by making all audiences view themselves as bonafide readers.
            Tough book. When I work with teachers, I usually point out that this is the greatest failure I most frequently see in schools. I bet just about every first grader in America saw the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, and I bet you all of those first graders understand the movie. I also bet that most of those first graders would not be able to read the script. Our listening comprehension significantly outpaces our reading comprehension at a young age. Thus, parent read alouds are vital.

            While I love that schools across the country celebrate Dr. Seuss Day every March, I am incessantly annoyed to see so many adult volunteers go to classrooms to read aloud Dr. Seuss books. Have you ever noticed that in the upper right-hand corner of many Dr. Seuss books there is a Cat in the Hat with the slogan “I Can Read It All By Myself” arched around it? That statement is meant as a reaffirming message for children, not adults. Kids can read Dr. Seuss books! They cannot read more complicated, “wordier” texts. So why not pick out more challenging texts with topics that will intrigue your child? My father was a history major in college, and he passed down his passion for history to me by reading me stories about explorers, our Founding Fathers, astronauts and an array of other figures. Parents have a responsibility to pass along this wisdom.
            So, the children have vacation from school. Mom and Dad have extra time off from work. The malls are packed, the freeways are parking lots and nothing decent seems to be on any of your 357 television channels. Why not spend this holiday season by visiting your local library, bookstore or even your personal home collection of books? Wouldn't it be great if more folks would choose to pig out on something that will boost their children’s intellect rather than their waistlines? “FEasT” on three books a day with your children during the holidays, and you can inspire your family to become a household of readers.

Danny Brassell, Ph.D., is “America’s Leading Reading Ambassador,” helping parents and educators inspire kids to love reading and achieve more. He is the author of eleven books, including his top-selling Secrets for Successful Readers. A father of three and professor in the Teacher Education Department at California State University-Dominguez Hills, he is the founder of The Lazy Readers’ Book Club,, Google’s #1-ranked site for cool, “short book recommendations” for all ages. Watch video tips and learn more from Danny at, and check out his TEDx-Village Gate talk The Reading Makeover next month.
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