Monday, October 28, 2019

Halloween movement ideas, a dance story, and a short Halloween story!

Hello and Happy Fall,

Here is a playful movement lesson plan based on the classic picture book Barn Dance! by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault, along with a Halloween-based warm-up and a very short original story!

Halloween Warm Up and the
Barn Dance! Dance Story


The children will make up movements for the Halloween characters below. Ask them to stand in a circle. Begin with "Bat,"  ask the children to move away from the circle like a bat, and then back to their spots in the circle. Continue this same exercise through the list:

Rolling Pumpkin
Black Cat
Falling Leaf
Outer Space Alien
Take suggestions from the children for more ideas, and continue this activity as long as the children are engaged.


*A special thank-you to Kathleen Smith, fellow creative dance teacher, who introduced the ideas for this lesson plan to me.*


  • The book Barn Dance! by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
  • Lively musical selections, such as a classical piece, and blue grass instrumentals
  • Optional props (1 per child): 
    • Sparkly/swirly streamers (crepe paper or fabric)
    • Bandannas
    • Orange paper plates

Instructions for presenting the dance story:

Read the book aloud to the children. Ask the children to spread out in the space.

Retell the story through movement, using the following movement prompts. Allow the children to explore each one until you move on to the next one.

It is a very quiet, clear night. Lie down and listen to the night sounds. Now wake up, stretch, tiptoe to the window, and sneak outside.  (Note:  remind the children this is a pretend story, and they should never sneak out of the house!)

Now let's dance about the night: the sparkly stars, the floating clouds, and the wind!  (play classical music selection, and pass out swirly streamers if you have them)

Listen!  The scarecrow is calling all of the animals with his music. How does a scarecrow move? Let’s move like the scarecrow. Can you play a pretend fiddle, like the scarecrow?

Now move like the animals who were following the scarecrow to the barnThere were horses, sheep, cows, pigs, raccoons, foxes, rabbits, chickens, skunks, and crows!  (play a bluegrass piece)  

Help the children put on bandannas, give everyone a "pumpkin" paper plate, and instruct the children to go to a corner of the room to hide (like the little boy in the story), asking the children to cover their faces with their paper plates. One by one, call the children's names. When you call a name, instruct the child to put her "pumpkin" down, run and jump over the apple barrel, and go back to her hiding place.  

Now ask them to all come out together and spin around like the pigs (play another bluegrass piece). Finish this section by asking each child to make a shape like a dizzy pig, and turn off the music.

Now grab a pretend apple!  It's time to go home! Do you hear the rooster crowing? That means the sun is coming up.

Walk quietly up the stairs, and sit on your bed. Take a bite out of your "apple." Was it a dream, or did the barn dance really happen?

And now, for a short (97 words!) Halloweensie story:



Oh my deary, time to get ready.
What shall I wear to the Hallow’s Eve Ball?

My crookedy hat,
my raggedy gown, 
my tappity boots
for my clackity dance. 

My face will be painted a ghastly green,
with lumpity warts on full display. 

My scraggledy “do” I’ll primp and prime, 
with cobwebs twisted and tangled and tied.

And what shall I bring?
My cleverest spells, 
my gnarliest broom,
my trickedy, terrible, powerful wand.

The finishing touch:
My stinkedy, horrible potion perfume.
A little dab here, a little glop there, 

and I’ll be the smelliest of them all!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Montessori-Inspired Gratitude Activities Using Free Printables

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now 

I love gratitude activities at any time, but they're especially wonderful in the fall. We're having a whole gratitude unit this fall with activities that can be used year round. I've added a lot of free gratitude printables and activities along with a free gratitude 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 Gratitude-Themed Activities

Montessori Shelves with Gratitude-Themed Activities 

You’ll find Montessori-inspired gratitude 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 some books showing gratitude from individuals in other cultures. Gracias/Thanks is written  in both Spanish and English. Giving Thanks focuses on gratitude expressed by the Iroquois people and We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga  focuses on gratitude expressed by the Cherokee people. I added the Montessori continents globe to show where the people in the books would live.

In front of the books on the shelf are free gratitude conversation starters by teachingwithsteph at Teachers Pay Teachers. I printed them out four to a page and am rotating three at a time to use for gratitude discussions. I'm displaying them on a small wooden display stand from Montessori Services.

You could mix your gratitude-themed activities among your shelves according to curriculum area. Or you could have a special gratitude-themed area something like the one pictured. My shelves this month have a mixture of skill levels mainly from preschooler through early elementary. 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.

Continents Globe with Gracias/Thanks and Giving Thanks Books

Books Gracias Thanks and Giving Thanks with Continents Globe 

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga Book with Gratitude Jar and Cards

We Are Grateful Otsaliheliga Book with Gratitude Jar  

Free Printables: Thankful jar and cards from Mama Miss 

There are many nice gratitude jars for November. I especially like this printable set because it's lovely and can be used year-round. I like the idea of having "I am thankful for" cards available throughout the year. I divided mine by color and put them in a Montessori cards display box.

Seed Bead Writing Tray with G for Grateful Font Cards

Seed Bead Writing Tray with G for Grateful Font Cards

Free Printables: Grateful letter g font cards for a seed bead 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 writing 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 used tiny seed beads, which have a fun texture and work quite well for writing! 

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.

Matching Cursive Gratitude Alphabet Cards to Manuscript Gratitude Alphabet Cards

Matching Gratitude Cursive Letters to Manuscript Letters 

Free Printable: Gratitude 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 almost-6-year-old granddaughter, Zoey, really enjoys this activity. I use 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 places the manuscript letters in alphabetical order. Then she matches each of the cursive letters to the manuscript letters.

Th Phonogram Card and Booklet

Thankful th Phonogram Card and Booklet 

Free Printables: Th phonogram card (showing "thank you" in sign language) with word "thankful" (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) 

Free Printable: Th Phonogram Picture and Letter Cards from MontessoriSoul 

These activities are very simple to prepare. I just print out the materials and make them into little booklets. I have a post and video on how to introduce words starting with phonograms, even with very young children (although I don’t introduce phonograms to very young children except in a word like “shark” that can’t be explained as starting with /s/).

DIY Gratitude Cards and Counters with Odd and Even Labels

Tray with Graittude Cards and CountersFree Printables: Gratitude Numbers and Odd and Even Labels (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 love making DIY themed cards and counters to introduce odd and even and add interest and variety to cards and counters. I used acrylic hearts. You need exactly 55 acrylic hearts if you want to do the numbers and counters 1-10. These are the same hearts I used for our heart activities last winter. 

For Zoey and other kids who are already comfortable with symbol and quantity, I’ll typically use the cards and counters for hands-on addition, subtraction, and other mathematical operations. (See some of my other themed posts for ideas.) But sometimes, I like to use the odd and even labels.   

The odd and even labels can be used with the cards and counters to reinforce the actual words “odd” and “even.” It’s a great way to be sure readers understand the concept of odd and even.

Gratitude Cards and Counters Layout with Odd and Even Labels 

Gratitude Scavenger Hunt for Fall

Gratitude Scavenger Hunt 
Free Printable: Gratitude Scavenger Hunt for Kids from Natural Beach Living
I just printed the scavenger hunt out at 60% and added it to a small tabletop easel on the shelf. Even my toddler grandkids will be able to have fun with some of the scavenger hunt ideas!

Fingerprint or Handprint Gratitude Cards and "Giving Back the Gratitude" Thank You Tray

Free Printable: Thank you cards from Picklebums Free Printable: Fingerprint inspiration such as the fingerprint bugs from Rays of Bliss for older preschoolers on up. Free Printable: Giving Back the Gratitude Cards by Cathy Ruth at Teachers Pay Teachers I added the Giving Back the Gratitude Cards as inspiration for a giving back tray (seen on the bottom right shelf).

Free Gratitude Printables for Preschoolers-First Graders

Montessori-Inspired Gratitude 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).

More Gratitude Resources

Have a happy and grateful autumn!
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 43 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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