Thursday, January 26, 2017

hOppy New Year - Routines & Rituals

hOppy New Year.  Here is to new beginnings – January.  Although the year is new, our children’s routines should stay the same as much as possible.  Children flourish with routines and rituals.

This blog will share some ways to celebrate the Chinese New Year as well as discuss the importance of routines and rituals.

Encourage parents to keep their child's routines.  Participating with their child when they can in extra activities outside of school. Just because a child is enrolled in a preschool, doesn't mean a child can't go to a music enrichment class, or any other enrichment program.  (It's best when the parent participates with the child.)  In Music with Mar. classes, we are proud to share the brain research this program is built upon.  I have personally spent years studying the research behind what is going on in those little brains and finding ways for parents / teachers to use that information with music and movement. Looking for a good book on what is best for the baby's brain?  Click this link:

Brain Fact – It takes 1200 repetitions for the young child’s brain to learn a new fact / task
Routines help children feel safe; they know what to expect and their brain builds by adding new information to old.

Rituals help children feel a part of something bigger than they are.  They connect us to the world.  Rituals should be inclusive for all ethnicities represented in our schools.  Chinese New Year is just a day or two away.  
2017 is the "Year of the Dragon"  

Here is an easy activity for little ones to make for the Year of the Dragon.
 Here is a link to some Chinese New Year Music
This link will take you to Easy to Make Chinese Instruments.

Look for the joy to celebrate throughout the year.  Having something to look forward to each month is healthy for the brain.



Sunday, January 22, 2017

Choosing a Creative Movement Class for your Child

What exactly IS creative movement? 

What should I look for in a creative movement class?  

How can it benefit my young child?  

Over the years, many parents and teachers have asked me these and similar questions.

And they are important questions.  There are so many activities available for young children.  Parents must be choosy, given time constraints, expense, and overall benefits, when looking for classes for their young children.  I would like to give my perspective from my long career of teaching dance to young children.

Creative movement serves many of the important developmental needs of children ages 3-6.  Children love and need to move.  Children's imaginations should be allowed to roam freely and not be constrained by too much structure at this age.  A movement class may be one of the first times a child is in a class with peers, and many times it is their first experience without a parent with them in the classroom.  The teacher must be aware of how to help ease little ones through this transition.

My definition of creative movement (or creative dance; the terms are interchangeable) starts with my definition of dance:

DANCE is an art form whose medium is the body in motion and stillness.  Dance crosses many boundaries; it is a creative art as well as a performing art.  It is also a visual art.  It is an athletic endeavor as well as an artistic pursuit.  

CREATIVE MOVEMENT embodies a little bit of all of these wonderful aspects of dance.  It centers on the fact that dance is a creative art, and its medium is the body in motion.

Here are my Top 15 (I just couldn't keep it to 10!) reasons that I advocate for every child to have the opportunity to experience creative movement:

 1.  Nurturing the imagination
 2.  Working on basic locomotor skills, such as hopping, marching, galloping, tiptoeing,  skipping, turning, crawling . . . while developing strength, flexibility, and body control
 3.  Learning to be aware of and control the speed at which they move; learning to slow down and stop
 4.  Awareness of direction and level in space
 5.  Learning to solve movement problems individually
 6.  Learning to solve movement problems as part of a group
 7.  Moving to rhythms, music, and sound
 8.  Learning the concept of personal versus shared space
 9.  Becoming aware of the idea of taking turns, and other classroom etiquette
10. Opportunities for dramatic play
11.  Learning early literacy skills (dancing to stories, learning new vocabulary words, sequencing)
12.  Learning early math skills (patterns, counting, number sense)
13.  Developing the skill of listening to instructions
14.  Following those instructions and responding through movement
15.  Being part of an experience where the important thing is the process, not the finished product

I could go on for quite a while, but I think this gives a good glimpse into the many joys and benefits of a creative movement class.

So, how does one go about choosing a quality creative movement class for children ages 3-6?

Here are the Top 8 things to keep in mind when choosing a creative movement class:

1.  Teacher Background

  • Does the teacher have a solid dance background (at least several years of training)?  
  • Does the teacher have experience working with young children?  
  • Does the teacher have a college degree in dance education or some other dance education certification?  (For example, NDEO, the National Dance Education Organization, gives courses that lead toward dance teacher certification.  Visit National Dance Education Organization -- They are a great resource)  

At least two out of three of the above are highly recommended.

2.  Space

Is the space for the class free of obstacles?  Is it big enough for the children to move around freely?

3.  Number of students

I have found that no more than 12 young children in a class is optimum.  If there are more than 12, the teacher will often have an assistant or co-teacher.  I have had more than 12 in my classes over the years, and many teachers do a good job with more, but I think it is best to have 12 or less per teacher. 

4.  Mix of ages

I have had experience with some older two-year-olds wanting to join the class for three-year-olds.  Generally, this is not a good idea.  At this age range, even a few months can make a big difference.  I would look for a class that sticks to a minimum age requirement, so that a child is three years by the time the session for three-year-olds begins.

Three and four-year olds do well together in a creative dance class.  As the children get older and approach age six, the mix of older fours, fives, and six-year-olds is usually fine.  They learn from each other, share ideas, and interchange leadership roles throughout the weeks of classes.

5.  Length of class

For children who have just turned three, a class that lasts 1/2 hour is plenty.  As children get older and more comfortable with the class, four, five, and six year-olds can easily handle a 45-minute class.  

6.  Length of Session

There are many different settings for creative movement classes (private dance studios, recreation departments, YMCA's, summer dance camps, etc.) , and each will have different session lengths.  In order for your child to really get a feel for the class, I would recommend at least a six-week session.  I have had many students in my classes who are reluctant at first, and it takes several classes for them to feel comfortable participating.  And often the ones who are most reluctant are the ones who are the most enthusiastic by the end of the session.  So make sure to give the teacher, the class, and your child a chance to become familiar with each other!

7.  Sample a Class

If this is an option, it is a great way to go.  You can keep this checklist in mind as your child tries the class.  However, remember what I said in #6 above.  Your child may be reluctant at first.  If you are happy with the general feel of the class, encourage your child to try a few more.

8.  Parent Observation

Parents should be allowed to view the class, but it is better if they are not physically present in the classroom once the class gets underway.  Doing so divides the child's attention and distracts him or her (as well as the other children) from the activities and learning that is happening in the classroom.  The best possible situation is a window so that the parents can peek in from time to time.

Most teachers will invite parents to attend observation days scattered throughout the session, when parents and friends are invited to visit the class.  The children are told ahead of time that they will be dancing for guests.  This is a fun chance for children to get their first taste of performing!

I hope I have answered many of the questions and addressed some of the concerns parents have when looking for activities and lessons for their children.  

I hope you will give creative movement a try!

Note:  All the photos on this blog post are of creative dance classes I have taught over the years in Ohio and Michigan

Keep on Dancin'!


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Montessori-Inspired Penguin Activities Using Free Printables

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now 

I love studying both Arctic and Antarctic animals in the winter. Last month, I focused on Arctic animals. This month, I'm focusing on penguins from Antarctica and other parts of the Southern Hemisphere. 

I have a post at Living Montessori Now with free penguin printables for preschoolers through first graders. You'll find many 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

At Living Montessori Now, I have a post with resource links of Free Printables for Montessori Homeschools and Preschools

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

Shelves with Penguin-Themed Activities

Montessori Preschool Shelves with Penguin Theme 

My shelves with penguin-themed activities include a free printable penguin culture card (available with or without description) designed by The Montessori Company for Living Montessori Now. 

You'll also find Montessori-inspired penguin numbers and letters (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password … or check the bottom of your latest newsletter if you’re already a subscriber) 

You could mix your penguin themed activities among your shelves according to curriculum area. Or you could have a special penguin area something like the one pictured. This one is more for 2½-4 year old preschoolers. I didn't add my more advanced activities to the shelves, although you could have activities for mixed ages in a classroom or homeschool. If you're a homeschooler, just choose the activities that work for your child's interests and ability levels. If you don't have room for all the activities you'd like to do, just rotate them.

Penguins Cultural Card with Penguins Book 

I was lucky to have The Montessori Company create a lovely hand-painted penguin culture card for you to use on your shelves to introduce the penguin theme. I'm hosting the free printable as an instant download at Living Montessori Now. You can always access the free penguin culture card hereYou can use the version of the card with the title only, although I like the description: "These flightless birds live in colonies and huddle together for warmth during the winter months." 

I like to buy at least one book specifically for a theme. I really like this National Geographic Kids Penguins reader

Penguin Shape Matching Penguin Shape Matching Tray Free Printable: Penguin Shape Matching Game from Life Over C’s 

For this activity, I used a multicraft tray, Montessori insets from Alison's Montessori, a Montessori Services basket, and small tabletop easels to hold the penguin shape cards. These cards are such a fun extension for work with geometric shapes!

Penguin Shape Matching Layout

For most preschoolers, you could have two sets of the shapes that match metal inset shapes. 

I use a Montessori Services rug on the floor for the layout. 

Penguin Shape Matching Layout for Readers    
For children who can read, there are word cards included! 

Five Penguin Puppets and Counting Activities 

Five Penguins Tray

Free Printable: Five Little Penguins: Counting Songs from Let’s Play Music 

Free Printable: Five Funny Penguins Book and Game by Sheila’s Leaps in Learning at Teachers Pay Teachers 

For this activity, I used a multicraft tray, with the penguin printables attached to craft sticks to make puppets. You could sing the songs in the post at Let's Play Music. I like the printable Five Funny Penguins book to go with the penguins as well. I printed out 4 pages per letter-size page, so it's smaller than it would be normally. 

Penguin Cards and Counters
Penguin Cards and Counters Free Printable: Penguin Numbers (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password … or check the bottom of your latest newsletter if you’re already a subscriber) 

I used a Montessori Services medium-size tray and 55 silver fish in a glass bowl. I LOVE these little fish beads! They're reasonably priced yet feel like a high-quality material. They come in sets of 50, so I ordered two sets. I like that they're all the same color and small enough to be used with many different activities. 

I like to lay out my numbers and counters in the traditional Montessori way of rows of two counters with a left-over counter centered below the bottom row. This gives a visual impression of odd and even. For more about creating DIY numbers and counters and a link on how to present the lesson, check out my DIY Cards and Counters post. 

Penguin Cards and Counters Layout 

I use a Montessori Services rug on the floor for the layout. Penguin Adding to 100 with Hundreds Chart Penguin Adding to 100 with Hundreds Chart Free Printable: Penguin Adding to 100 with Hundreds Chart from Life Over C’s 

For this activity, I used a multicraft tray, large Bambu condiment cup, and brad and paper clip for the spinner. 

The game is designed for addition, although younger children could spin and then put that many fish on the hundreds chart until it's full. 

Penguin Word Family Sort Penguin Word Family Sort Free Printable: Penguin Word Family Sort by Squirmy Scholars at Teachers Pay Teachers. I printed out the fish words in sets of 4 to make them small enough to fit in the penguins' stomachs. I used 4 nouns for each penguin, but you could use as many or few of the penguins and words as you wish. 

Again I used a I used a multicraft tray, large Bambu condiment cup, and the printables.  

Penguin Word Family Layout 

3-D Penguin Paper Toy Craft 3-D Penguin Paper Toy Craft Free Printable: 3D Penguin Paper Toy from Easy Peasy and Fun For this craft, I used a multicraft tray, Fiskar scissors, and glue. This cute activity would be best for kindergarteners and first graders who have good cutting and gluing skills.

More Free Penguin Printables

Go to my post at Living Montessori Now for links to free penguin printables from around the blogosphere: Free Penguin Printables and Montessori-Inspired Penguin Activities

And be sure to subscribe to my email list if you'd like to get an exclusive free printable each month (plus two more awesome freebies right away): Free Printables.

More Penguin Activities

Montessori-Inspired Arctic and Antarctic Unit 
Montessori-Inspired Continent Activities – Penguins of Antarctica
Montessori-Inspired Multi-Level Penguin Activities 
Kids’ Winter Activities Pinterest Board 
Antarctica Educational Resources Pinterest Board
Montessori at Home or School - How to Teach Grace and Courtesy eBook

If you'd like to focus on manners with children, please check out my eBook Montessori at Home or School: How to Teach Grace and Courtesy! It's written for anyone who'd like to feel comfortable teaching manners to children ages 2-12. I'm also one of the coauthors of the book Learn with Play – 150+ Activities for Year-round Fun & Learning!

Have a wonderful rest of the winter!
Deb - Siganture
Deb ChitwoodDeb 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 San Diego with her husband of 41 years (and lives in the city where her kids, kids-in-law, and toddler granddaughter live). She blogs at Living Montessori Now.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

VIEWER GETS TO CREATE THE BLOG - that's right, you!


I had a crazy idea, and then thought.... it's not crazy, it's perfect for an early January Blog.  For those who don't know me, I'm Enrique, and I'm an educator, public speaker, performing artist and composer, inventor of children's books, music and more.  The more consists of being a devoted father to two incredible kids, now 18 and 22, the cook in my household, and living life to the fullest with my partner, friend, life-long love, and wife, Marie.

So, it's early January of 2017 and here we go!  Today's blog is one where you get to create the direction we take and where you can interact with me directly.                                                    

Below are some images.  Each image is numbered.  Choose as many images as you like and ask me any question... be bold, passionate, curious and courageous (hint... the images and sequence of images are related)

Know that while a large part of my educational activities focus on early childhood, I have worked with all ages of students.  I encourage you to visit the highlighted links above to get to know me a bit more.  That may give even more food for... questions.

Have fun!


























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