Thursday, August 22, 2019

"Bird Count" Picture Book, With a READ AND DANCE Lesson Plan


For this blog post, I am introducing a beautiful new picture book by Susan Edwards Richmond, with gorgeous illustrations by Stephanie Fizer Coleman, and published by Peachtree Publishing Company, Inc.

        This book will be released on October 5, 2019!

Here is a 
READ AND DANCE lesson plan to present to young children, to enrich and enhance the enjoyment of this book! This lesson is a collaboration between Susan and myself; I developed some movement prompts based on her book, and she created this full lesson plan around my movement ideas, tying it to arts and early literacy standards. She includes materials needed, explanation of how to present it, accommodations for children with special needs, and an idea for expanding this activity into an informal performance for parents and friends. 

You will find this plan, and many more imaginative ideas for preschool through fifth grade, on Susan's website. Some of the resources she has developed for a unit on birds and bird watching include linking the book to technology and math, art and music, social studies and geography, Next Generation Science Standards, and so much more! 

 Susan Edwards Richmond's Bird Count Activity Plan: 

Moving Like a Bird 

Description and Goals
Children will use movement to retell the story of Bird Count, by creating a dance that incorporates their interpretations of different birds described in the book. This activity offers children an alternative method of storytelling through a kinesthetic learning experience.
Developmental Areas and Skills: Creative and Physical Domains

Curriculum Standards and Guidelines
Guidelines for Preschool Learning Experiences (MA Department of Education):

Guiding Preschool Learning in the Arts: Movement and Dance: 6. Act out ways that movement
and dance can show feelings or convey meaning.

       Common Core English Language Arts Standards

Reading Literature #2: Key Ideas and Details
Reading Literature #7: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas Speaking & Listening #2: Comprehension and Collaboration


      Children will use their bodies to act out the movements of       birds in the story.

          Children will work cooperatively to create a dance based on their creative ideas.

  • Materials

  • Bird Count by Susan Edwards Richmond, illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman. 
  • Music and a method to play it, such as a CD player.

  •  An open space in the classroom or outdoors.

  • Introduction

  • Read or review Bird Count by Susan Edwards Richmond, illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman. Ask children if they can think of other ways to tell the story without using words. Tell them that, today, they are going to recreate the story using movement, or dance.

  • Procedure

  • 1Introduce Activity (above)

  • 2. Show children the illustrations of each bird in the story, one at a time.
            For each bird, ask: How might this bird move?

       3. Give movement prompts, and incorporate childrens ideas. Here are some examples:

  •  Canada goose: Can you fly like a Canada goose? They are very strong fliers. Flap your wings as you sail through the sky. Now land in Curcurbit Farm’s fields, just like in the story.
    Fly like a Canada goose!

  •  Downy woodpecker: Fly like a woodpecker, and land in a tall tree. Use your long beak to peck and find insects.

  •  Duck: Imagine you are swimming like the mallards in the pond, and turn upside down with your bottom sticking up! Now dive like a merganser.

  • Great blue heron: Stretch your long neck looking for fish. You see one! Try to catch it.

Turn upside down like a mallard!

  • 4. Once you have explored movement with all of the birds in the story, play some lively music and ask the children to dance freely about pretending to be all of the birds in the book.

  • 5.  Optional: If children are interested, have them choose which birds theyd like to be.Then retell the story, asking each one to perform when they are introduced in the text.

Wrap up the activity when interest wanes or the activity begins to stray. Ask children if they would like to perform their dance for their families. If so, tell them you will revisit the activity at a later time to practice and prepare. If there is interest, you may wish to add an art component by encouraging children to create costumes or sets.


This activity provides children with challenges expressing themselves verbally an alternative method of expression. Allow children to participate using whatever kinds of movement they are comfortable with. Children who use a wheelchair can use their arms to imitate birds or maneuver the wheelchair in ways that imitate bird movement. Give children who may need additional focus a job to do, such as helping to display the book pages, or leading particular movements.

The activity will be successful if the children engage in movement that represents different birds in the story. Other measures of success are if the children are able to incorporate some of their own original ideas into their movements and if they can cooperate with others in performing a class dance!

Family/Community Engagement
Present the dance at a community celebration or special event. Or record the dance and share it in a weekly newsletter or on a class website.

Keep on dancin',


Moving Is Learning!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Apple Activities Using Free Printables for a Montessori-Inspired Apple Unit

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now 

It's time for a new school year! And it's time to expand my already-huge apple unit. So I've added a lot of free apple printables and activities along with a free apple pack (subscriber freebie at! 

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).

Montessori Shelves with Apple-Themed Activities

Montessori Shelves with Apple-Themed Activities

You’ll find Montessori-inspired apple numbers, letters, and and more (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 always have related books available throughout a unit. On the top shelf, I have How Do Apples Grow? by Betsy Maestro and Apples by Gail Gibbons. How Do Apples Grow? by Betsy Maestro is Montessori-friendly and has fairly in-depth information on the apple life cycle. It's recommended for ages 4-8.

I often have a book by Gail Gibbons as part of our unit. Her apple book is another great Montessori-friendly book for 4-8 year olds with a good amount of understandable information. 

On the right side of the shelf (book on a wooden cookbook holder), I have the awesome I Spy: An Alphabet in Art. It has a wide variety of paintings, but I love that the cover photo (the page I have open) is the fascinating Son of Man by the surrealist artist RenĂ© Magritte! The book is recommended for ages 4-8, but I love to adapt it for even toddlers. I also printed out and included an easel with Paul Cezanne's Still Life with Apples

You could mix your apple-themed activities among your shelves according to curriculum area. Or you could have a special apple-themed area something like the one pictured. My shelves this month have a mixture of skill levels. Many of the activities can be adapted for a variety of 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, simply rotate them.

Apple Books with Apple Life Cycle Work

Apple Books with Apple Life Cycle Work 
Free Printables: Apple Life Cycle Printables (subscriber freebie) from Welcome to Mommyhood 

I like to introduce the apple life cycle with a book like How Do Apple Grow? (see above). The materials were very easy to prepare. I display them simply on a Multicraft tray with the added Montessori cards display box (which I love and typically use for all my 3-part cards now).

Manuscript and Cursive Writing and Spelling Materials

It's a personal preference if you like to introduce manuscript or cursive first. Many Montessorians introduce cursive first, and many Montessorians introduce manuscript first. It often depends on what your child will be encountering most. When I was a Montessori teacher, my students went on to traditional schools, so I always introduced print first. I did the same with my now-adult children as a homeschooler. I'm doing the same with my grandchildren, since they're exposed to print so often in books and other areas. 

I do think that learning cursive is essential so that (at a minimum) children grow up able to read their grandparents' and great-grandparents' handwriting (and the handwriting of others from those generations). When my grandchildren are comfortable writing and reading manuscript print, I focus a lot on cursive. I do focus on it some earlier with the font cards I design to go with each unit. But it isn't a thorough, focused emphasis until they're comfortable with manuscript letter writing and reading. 

A is for Apple Sand Writing Tray (Left Side of Middle Shelf in Shelf Photo)

Free Printables: Apple letters for apple sand writing tray (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) 

For the sand tray, I used the wooden tray from the Melissa & Doug Lace and Trace Shapes. You can use whatever tray or container work best for you, though. I had gotten some lovely white sand for making kinetic sand and other projects. I love that it was so easy to make a bright color simply by adding gel food coloring and some water. I recommend spreading it on a baking pan to dry overnight. If your sand isn’t already sterilized, you might want to heat it up at a low temperature in your oven to partially dry it. 

If you would like help with introducing phonetic sounds, introducing objects with sounds, or beginning phonics in general, check out my DIY Beginning Montessori Phonics with Preschoolers.

National Geographic Kids Apples for Everyone Book with Manuscript and Cursive Movable Alphabet Apple Letters

Because I'm focusing on cursive as well as manuscript, I made a simple tray with the movable alphabet letters for apple in cursive and manuscript. (You could use the apple movable alphabet letters from our subscriber freebie pack.) I like to use the traditional wooden ones as well. We've been using a traditional small wooden manuscript movable alphabet, although we're starting to work with the cursive wooden movable alphabet. There are a number of price ranges available. You can find more movable alphabet resources in my "Inexpensive and DIY Movable Alphabets" post.

I often like to place a book with my materials to draw attention to both the book and the activity. I love the photography in National Geographic Kids books, including this Apples for Everyone book. While there aren't in-depth facts in this book, it's lovely to look at and can be used for toddlers through beginning readers.

Matching Cursive Apple Alphabet Cards to Manuscript Apple Alphabet Cards


Free Printable: Apple movable alphabet cards in manuscript and cursive (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) 

My 5½-year-old granddaughter, Zoey, really enjoyed this activity. I introduced it with a cursive tracing board. I got the 2-sided version (with capital letters on one side and lowercase on the other), since capital cursive letters aren't commonly seen on written materials. 

After tracing the letters on the tracing board, Zoey placed the manuscript letters in alphabetical order. Then she matched each of the cursive letters to the manuscript letters.

Parts of an Apple Tree Puzzle and Labels

Parts of an Apple Tree Puzzle and Labels 
Free Printable: Parts of an Apple Tree (subscriber freebie) from The Natural Homeschool 

This was another activity that was super easy to prepare. I simply printed out and cut apart the printable (laminate it if you wish) and placed it in a Montessori Services basket. See bottom shelf in the photo. 

This works well for children who can read, but younger children could match the labels to a control puzzle or just put together the puzzle without labels.

Montessori Parts of an Apple 3-Part Cards and Booklet-Making Materials

Montessori Parts of an Apple 3-Part Cards and Booklet-Making Materials

Free Printables: Parts of the Fruit Nomenclature Cards and Little Book from The Helpful Garden 

This is another easy-to-prepare Montessori activity.  I have two of these awesome Montessori cards display boxes, so I used the second one for this activity. It even worked to place the picture/word cards and picture cards in the same section of the display box so that I could place the booklet-making pages in the last section. 

I keep my booklet-making supplies in a separate location, so this was a perfect way to have activities displayed attractively in a small amount of space!

Greater Than, Less Than Apple Activity

Greater Than, Less Than Apple Tray

Free Printable: Apple Tree Numbers and Greater Than, Less Than Symbols (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) 

If you'd like some extra-fun ways to introduce greater than, less than, check out my greater than, less than alligator math activities. I typically introduce greater than, less than with those and then use an activity like this to reinforce the symbols. I used acrylic craft apples, but almost any small craft apples will work.

Greater Than, Less Than Apple Activity Layout

Free Apple Printables for Preschoolers-First Graders (some printables for up to grade 3)

Montessori-Inspired Apple Pack
Free Apple Printables and Montessori-Inspired Apple Activities

Montessori-Inspired Apple Pack for DIY Cards and Counters, Number or Letter Matching, Number or Letter Basket, Bead Bar Work, Hands-on Math Operations, Number or Letter Salt/Sand Writing Tray, Letter Tracing, DIY Movable Alphabet, and Creative Writing (subscriber freebie, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password – or check your inbox if you’re already a subscriber).  

Free Apple Printables and Montessori-Inspired Apple Activities
Free Seasons of an Apple Tree Cutting Strips (Montessori-Inspired Instant Download)
Free Apple Printable for Ten Apples Up On Top Activities {Instant Download}

Free apple printable for Ten Apples Up On Top activities (a Montessori-inspired instant download)

Free Fall Playdough Math Pack {Instant Download}

Free fall playdough math pack with apple printables (a Montessori-inspired instant download). For more free printables for this unit, go to my post at Living Montessori Now with Free Apple Printables and Activities for a Montessori-Inspired Apple Unit.

More Apple Resources

Montessori-Inspired Apple Unit {Hundreds of Resources}

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.

Have a happy school year!
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 44 years (and lives in the city where her kids, kids-in-law, and grandkids live). She blogs at Living Montessori Now.

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