Saturday, February 25, 2017

Bunny Foo Foo - Bully, or Just in Need of Some Direction?

 Oh, Bunny Foo Foo!   There are so many different rabbits around.  Why do you persist?

I received a wonderful message on Facebook this week from the parent of a two year old. She wanted to let her Music with Mar. Instructor know how proud she was of her daugther.  One of the other children on the playground pushed her and instead of pushing back, she did what she learned in the "New, Improved Bunny Foo Foo" that she hears every week in Music with Mar. Class. She put her hand up and said "Stop!"  How good does it feel when we learn that what we teach is being not only heard, but used! 

Little Bunny Foo Foo is so well known because of his bopping the mouse on the head.  For years, children have sung this song and laughed.  When my job as a music teacher got me working with children younger and younger, I noticed it had different significance and provoked different reactions from younger children.  So, I changed the words.  In this version, BFF sits by himself to think of better choices and decides to hug the mouse.  
Here's the video:

Now, I'm not a big fan of political correctness; yet, this story needed some fixing.  When we teach about bullying, we must teach not just to the child who must defend themselves, but to the bully, too.  Peter Alsop, a child’s psychologist and award-winning children’s musician,  has some good songs (and advice) on this topic.   We can get everyone to learn how not to be bullied yet, if we don't teach the bully how to change, they'll just keep bullying.   
       It's important that a child feels uncomfortable when they make a bad choice.  Madelyn Swift, author of “Teach Your Children Well”,  has stated that if children are not made to feel uncomfortable for a bad choice, they will repeat that bad choice.  We must remember that children need us to take the time and explain what they've done and what that action has caused.  Be mindful that the action is hurtful, not the child.  Give the child a way out to fix what they've done.   Dr. Becky Bailey has very helpful information and tools through Loving Guidance materials.  A visit to her website by clicking on that link would be time well spent.
     The child must then apologize.  Saying "I'm sorry" is a quick fix so they can get on to hit the next kid.  It is important to learn to say "I'm sorry" and that has to be attached to what "I'm sorry" means.  A big last step is the person accepting the apology doesn't have to immediately play with that person again.  We can teach children to say "Thank you for apologizing.  I don't feel safe with you yet.  I need some space."  When we teach that when someone says "I'm sorry" we must play with them again, we teach people to stay in abusive relationships.  
   I'd like to state that we can go overboard about an anti-bullying stance.  Children need to learn, through uninterrupted interactions, how to handle things on their own.  Adults do not need to jump in at the first sign (or possibly second) of a child being 'pushy' or 'bossy'.  There's a good chance the other children will stop him (or her) naturally.  
   This week's episode of "Modern Family" had Lily's dad impose himself into the children's game.  There were so many other actions he could have taken.  The episode showed exactly what adults shouldn't do.
        Before closing on this statement, I’d like to share a bulletin board designed by children in a NYC Head Start Program.  I had worked with them on the story of Little Bunny Foo Foo.  The techniques from the book were used for conflict resolution and the children remember the lesson well.  As a matter of fact, I saw it in action.  
     A little girl had been poking the boy in front of her.  He kept moving his body as children will but saying nothing.  The director said to me, “Watch this.  You will be so proud.”  She walked over and asked “Is she bothering you?” to which the boy replied, “Yes.” 
“What would you like to say to her?” the director asked.  The little boy turned and said, “I don’t like it when you poke.  Stop it.” 
“I’m sorry” was the reply. And, she put out her arms for a hug.  The little boy said, as was taught by me, “I don’t feel safe but thank you for the apology.”
The director saw the little girl’s hurt fact and asked the boy, “Will you feel safe tomorrow?”
“Yes” he said and the little girl said, with a smile, “See ya tomorrow!” 
What a joy to watch two children work it out!  

If you must have Little Bunny Foo, please let it be the new, improved version, which is available at many outlets including The Mar. Mall.
I'd love to hear from you.  Like the brain facts by clicking on this brain:
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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Straws in the Blocks Center

Hi! It's Scott from Brick by Brick. I love to repurpose items and use them in different ways in the preschool classroom.

Sometimes I get things without any particular idea of what I'm going to do with it. (After all, I have those great thinkers in my classroom!) One day in the grocery store, I saw packets of neon straws. I tossed a pack into my cart and took them to my classroom.

I decided to put the straws in the blocks center. My group likes to build and I want to give them some different things to work with. We were talking about wells, so I also added a couple of small buckets with yarn attached. (In the past, kids have built wells and pretended to scoop out water.)

A couple of boys decided to use the straws as "water." They stuffed the straws into the buckets and transported them across the center. They dumped the "water" onto the picture of the well, I think to fill it up. The boys worked at this for a while.

Meanwhile, in another part of the center, one of my builders was at work creating a large structure.

After the others left, the builder completed his building and began to scoop and play with the straws.

Then he decided to incorporate the straws in his structure.

I love how each straw is strategically placed. He worked really hard to find just the right spot in his structure.

I enjoy exploring and experimenting just like my kids. Sometimes I'll put things out and they will be ignored. Sometimes the kids do things that I expect. And sometimes I get a block structure filled with straws. And if I put these same materials out with a different group of kids, I'll get a different result.

That's what's great about the early childhood years. Children are exploring the things they want to know more about or things they wonder. And, with a tiny push like a new material or a different idea, they explore into really great areas.

What experiments and explorations are you seeing in your classrooms?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Winter Warm-Up Song: "Hat & Jacket, Pants & Boots!"

                  Hello from balmy Chicago!  
Miss Carole of Macaroni Soup here, anticipating tomorrow’s predicted 60 degree temps in FEBRUARY and persisting on singing WINTER songs!  I know the East Coast has had 3 blizzard-y storms in the last few weeks.  I know the West Coast has seen some truly chilly weather.  

So – this one is for all of you experiencing cold AND those like myself who actually like cold and snowy weather!  Even if you don’t, what better than to sing about it from indoors!

I’m guessing most of my readers know the tune for “Head & Shoulders, Knees & Toes”.  This will be simple if you do – the lyrics fit perfectly!  

Then make sure you make a visual to show.  I drew these simple pictures, slipped them into page protectors and taped them together.  I can show just one picture at a time, then pull it out to show all the pictures.


Hat & jacket, pants & boots, pants and boots!

Hat & jacket, pants & boots, pants and boots!

When it’s cold and we go outside to play, we wear

Hat & jacket, pants & boots, pants and boots!


1. Walk through the motions, touching hands the part of the body covered by each piece of clothing.

2.  Sing the song slowly to start.  Children should be able to follow along easily.

3.  It’s going well?  Increase your tempo JUST A LITTLE.  Your students will be very excited by even the smallest speed change, so keep the increments of going faster small.  Repeat at least 3 times for maximum fun!

Most of you do not know that on December 14 I had surgery to repair the tear in my right hip’s labrum.  I couldn’t work for 6 weeks, wearing a brace from hip to knee round the clock during that time.  Crutches were not easy for this first-timer.  BUT, I’m recovering (9 months to 100%) little by little, and am happy to be back in classes, concerts and workshops.  What really lit up my weeks at home were thoughtful gestures by friends and fans. 

Watch this video – “Hat & Jacket, Pants & Boots” sung enthusiastically by the children at the Fox Valley Park District Preschool in Aurora, IL.  Thanks to all involved in making and sending the video. 


Now it’s your turn!  It’s easy – go for it!  Guaranteed to warm up any room and bring on the smiles and giggles!

If you’d like to own my cd with this and many other wonderful songs for all four seasons, it’s on “Season Sings!”  It’s available HERE.

Yours for a WINTER-Y Song!

“Miss Carole” Stephens
Macaroni Soup! Active Music for Active Learners!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Montessori-Inspired Lamb Activities Using Free Printables

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now 

I never realized how versatile a lamb theme was until I started searching for free lamb printables. I have a post at Living Montessori Now with free lamb printables for preschoolers through first graders. It includes printables for "Mary Had a Little Lamb," March's "in like a lion, out like a lamb," lamb as a farm animal, and even lamb used in a Christian context. 

Free Lamb Printables and Montessori-Inspired Lamb Activities

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 Lamb-Themed Activities

Montessori Shelves with a Lamb Theme  

My shelves with lamb-themed activities include a free hand-painted printable sheep culture card designed by The Montessori Company. You’ll also find Montessori-inspired lamb 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) 

The books on my shelves include Mary Had a Little Lamb with illustrations by Tomie dePaola (see information below), Seasons on the Farm (another book from when my children were little), and Animals Born Alive and Well (another good book from my children's childhood). Note: It now has a different illustration on the cover. 

You could mix your lamb-themed activities among your shelves according to curriculum area. Or you could have a special lamb area something like the one pictured. This has a mixture of skill levels. 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. 

Sheep Culture Card

Sheep Culture Card with Mary Had a Little Lamb Book
I was happy to receive a lovely hand-painted sheep culture card from The Montessori Company. You can use it on your shelves to introduce a sheep or lamb theme. I’m hosting the free printable as an instant download at Living Montessori Now. You can always access the free sheep culture card here

The description says: “Sheep graze the grasslands and generate natural wool. A young sheep is called a lamb.” 

This classic Mary Had a Little Lamb with illustrations by Tomie dePaola was a well-loved book from when my now-adult children were little. I’ve always enjoyed books illustrated by Tomie dePaola. Fortunately, many of his books are still in print. Unfortunately, Mary Had a Little Lamb illustrated by Tomie dePaola is out of print, although there are many fun book versions of Mary Had a Little Lamb that are still available.

Mary Had a Little Lamb Puzzle Mary Had a Little Lamb Puzzle 

Free Printable: Mary Had a Little Lamb Puzzle from Mary Had a Little Lamb Pack (Tot Pack) from 3 Dinosaurs 

For this activity, I simply used a Montessori Services basket and the puzzle pieces. 

For a younger child, you could copy the page twice and have one copy (not cut apart) on the tray to help the child assemble the puzzle. For children who are a bit older but have some difficulty with puzzles, you could help them understand what to look for, such as, "Can you find the pieces of Mary's head?" 

Admiring Her Completed Mary Had a Little Lamb Puzzle
Admiring Her Completed Mary Had a Little Lamb Puzzle

Handbells with Note Cards and "Mary Had a Little Lamb" Sheet Music Handbells with Note Cards and Mary Had a Little Lamb Sheet Music Free Printable: Mary Had a Little Lamb Piano or Boomwhacker by Susan Hong Studio at Teachers Pay Teachers (Note: I printed this at 50% to have plenty of room on the tray.) 

Free Printable: Colored Music Note Cards from Imagine Our Life 

For this activity, I used a multicraft tray, small tabletop easels with the printables, and the C, D, E, and G of the preschool handbell set

Letter L Object Basket 

Having Fun with Letter L Object Basket
Having Fun with Letter L Object Basket

Free Printable: Lamb Letters for Letter L Object Basket (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) 

Some of the objects are ones I had at home (such as Safari Ltd. TOOB objects and a miniature lamb from a Nativity set), although many are from Montessori Services (they have individual phonetic objects or a whole set available.

My granddaughter always loves the object baskets. She thought it was especially fun to put the lemon on the lamb's head!

If you'd like ideas for teaching phonics, check out my DIY Beginning Montessori Phonics post.

Lion and Lamb Squeeze Number Game Lion and Lamb Squeeze Number Game  

Free Printable: Lion & Lamb Squeeze Number Game by Over the MoonBow at Teachers Pay Teachers 

This activity was super-easy to prepare. I used a multicraft tray and the pieces from the printable. 

You'll find directions for playing the game in the printable. You can have your number line from 1-10, 1-20, or 1-30. Mine is folded so you can't see the entire number line in the photo, but it's for 1-20. 

March I Have Who Has Sight Word Game March I Have Who Has Sight Word Game Free Printable: March I Have Who Has Sight Word Game by Jill Gillen at Teachers Pay Teachers 

For this activity, I used a basket I had and the printable. 

This is another activity that was super easy to prepare. Games like this one are especially popular in both classrooms and homeschools. Children have a chance to socialize while still learning. I like to use games cooperatively whenever possible. This game is a great one for being fun and engaging while practicing an important reading skill.

More Free Lamb Printables

Go to my post at Living Montessori Now for links to free lamb printables from around the blogosphere: Free Lamb Printables and Montessori-Inspired Lamb 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 Farm Animal Activities at Living Montessori Now

Montessori at Home or School - How to Teach Grace and Courtesy eBookIf 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!

I hope you find the lamb printables and activities useful!

Deb - Siganture
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 San Diego with her husband of 41 years (and lives in the city where her kids, kids-in-law, and 3-year-old granddaughter live). She blogs at Living Montessori Now.

Living Montessori Now Button

Friday, February 10, 2017

Parenting - The Everyday Hero!

The Everyday Heros
What is means to be a parent

We each have our own perspective, experience, triumphs and challenges when it comes to being a parent. I am in my 22nd year as a parent with two children whom I have guided as best I can, and still do.  My parenting experience has been with my partner and love, who happens to be my wife, Marie Sierra.

We’re not perfect parents… no such thing. What makes me the happiest as a parent today is that both our 18 and 22 year old talk with us openly about everything, and I mean absolutely everything, no matter how shocking it might be.  This open communication has led to some tense moments, but in the end, it has resulted in the four of us having an authentic, meaningful and relevant relationship.

So what does it mean to be a parent?  For me it has do with how I help my children think and perceive.  For me, it doesn’t have anything to do with telling them what to do.  I tried that as a young parent and the result was conflict, and depending on their personality, they might do whatever they want anyway.  Even if a child has a laid back personality and tends to follow directions, eventually, they will breakout and decide on their own actions. Better to help them self-regulate and be outstanding critical and creative thinkers.

Take a moment now and ask yourself the question, 
“What does it mean to be a hero?”
Doesn’t a hero empower others?  Help others? Look for the good in others?  Is a role model for others?

Hold on… that sounds a lot like a parent!  
And I believe a parent is a hero.  The only real question is 
“What kind of hero/parent are you choosing to be?”

Here are some simple (not always easy) strategies which have helped Marie and me in our journey through parenthood.  

1. Ask your children questions as often as you can instead of making statements.  When you do, make sure to be patient enough to listen.

2. Read the book “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman and know your children’s love language preferences.  This will improve how you connect with them.  Ask your child the question, “How do you know I love you?”  Their answer will give you a clue as to how you can improve with how you show your love for them.

3. Read to your child everyday starting when they are in the womb.  When you do, and they interrupt you, give them time to say whatever it is they are saying.  Listen carefully and find a way to connect what they are saying, to the book or if that isn’t possible, connect their comments to their interests.

One of all-time favorites, "Jazzy in the Jungle" by Lucy Cousins!

Bilingual books that help young learners learn two languages!  They also introduce concepts like embracing multiple perspectives, seeing diversity as strength and looking for opportunity in adversity.  Co-written with my daughter Sam Sierra-Feldman 

The second book in the series.... it's one big story and each book has a perspective twist!

4. Make puppets with your children from old socks and markers.  Let your child make their own puppet, without your help or perhaps with a little help if needed.  Use the puppet to model different kinds of behaviors.  Encourage your child to be the puppets teacher.  Use the puppets to breathe deeply (see #7).

The famed puppet "Eddie the Elephant" who is known for helping children and adults learn how to breathe!  You can accomplish that and much more with a handmade puppet from a sock.

5. Play Early Classical music for your children like Mozart, Bach, and Vivaldi.

Great early classical compilation CD I produced in 2004 and is still heavily requested.  Found online at the above link.

6. Practice basic yoga with your children.  There are plenty of free videos on line.  Look for something that is at the beginner level and child-friendly.  This will set their body and mind up for success early on.

7. Breathe deeply with your children when they wake up, before meals and before going to bed.

Know that if you are a parent, you are a hero and if you see yourself as a hero, you’d make one heck of a parent!

Music Producer of Children’s Music

Monday, February 6, 2017

More QR Codes for the Classroom

Hi!  It's Carolyn from Kindergarten: Holding Hands and Sticking Together.  I am so excited to have finished my packet of MORE QR Codes to use for listening centers. I wanted to show it to you and explain how I use it with my class.

My children LOVE to use QR codes.  I use them all the time for a literacy center.  This packet features stories from eight authors.  Here are the stories included in the packet.

We do lots of author studies throughout the year.  I like to introduce the children to these authors and their different styles.  The children feel so smart and ARE so smart to know about these great authors. We often refer to different techniques that the different authors use as we write our own books.

So, since the children love the stories so much when we read them, I wanted them to be able to hear the stories over and over again- which gave me the idea to make Author Study QR Code Books.

I have scanned all of the videos through ViewPure to remove any advertisements or distractions. Please check the sample QR Codes to be sure ViewPure isn't blocked at your school.  If it is, many times the IT person at your school can easily unblock the site for you if you ask (or give them cookies or donuts...).  

I print the QR Codes out with the author cover page, and the children can choose an author packet to use for center time.

I have also included a biography page for each author in the packet.  We talk about the authors and learn about their lives, and then I send this page home with  each child so parents know who we are learning about in class.


My Author Prezi is also a huge part of our studies.  I have included a link to that in this packet as well.  As we study a particular author, I show the videos of that author throughout the week on the Smart TV.

It is so rewarding when the children hear a story and connect it to an author we have studied!  I am pretty sure I hear angels singing.  "That picture looks like an Eric Carle drew it!"  And I love when the children write a story along the same lines as a particular author.  My children LOVE Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and  I get lots of variations of this book after we read it and they hear it a few times.  I get The Question Mark BookThe Period Book, and Quotation Mark books with lots of talking going on in the story and quotation marks everywhere!

Image result for exclamation mark amy krouse rosenthal activities
The last section in this QR Code Packet is Favorite Familiar Stories.  I included lots of nursery rhymes and stories that SHOULD be familiar to children.  Unfortunately, these stories are not so familiar anymore.  Having the QR Center allows the children to listen to the stories many times and be able to retell them, since many don't have stories read to them over and over like children used to.

I hope you enjoy this packet as much as I enjoyed putting it together!

I also have these QR Codes with Writing Prompts.

Sometimes I use the prompts as a quick little activity or assessment after a center- or as a whole group activity.  They also are fabulous activities to leave as sub plans!  This packet has the QR Codes for making into books, as well as the QR Code on the writing prompt so you can send the story right home with the children!  They LOVE that. 

Thank you so much for stopping by.  Have a great week!
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