Sunday, March 22, 2020

Justin Colón Interviews Connie Dow

Hello Spring!

For today's blog, I am posting an interview by Justin Colón that is a conversation about writing and dance:

I’m excited to welcome to the blog this week, author Connie Bergstein Dow!

Interview with Connie Dow

I’m excited to welcome to the blog this week, author Connie Bergstein Dow!

About Connie:
Connie grew up in Cincinnati and took her first dance class at age four.  She went to Denison University, and received her MFA in Dance from the University of Michigan. She had a professional performing career in contemporary dance and ballet for twelve years, which took her from Michigan (Harbinger Dance Company), to Venezuela (Macrodanza), Guatemala (Ballet Nacional de Guatemala) and finally back to Cincinnati (Contemporary Dance Theater). She has taught dance in colleges, conservatories, studios, and public and private schools; she has taught students who are having their first dance experience at three years old, senior citizens in wheelchairs, and every age in between. Five years ago, she founded a dance program called Healing Through Movement at a safe shelter for trafficked women.
Connie writes books and articles about dance and movement, including the picture book From A to Z with Energy! (Free Spirit Publishing, 2019)She has written two books for teachers, Dance, Turn, Hop, Learn! Enriching Movement Activities for Preschoolers, (Redleaf Press, 2006), and One, Two, What Can I Do? Dance and Music for the Whole Day (Redleaf Press, 2011). She also writes articles for magazines and journals, and verses for Highlights magazines.
She shares her passion for dance by writing, teaching, visiting schools and libraries, and offering movement workshops to early childhood professionals. She believes that dance and the other arts are essential and transformational forces in our lives.
Please tell us a bit about your debut picture book, FROM A to Z WITH ENERGY: 26 WAYS TO MOVE AND PLAY. 
This is my first picture book. In my long career as a dance teacher, I have often used stories, poems, and verses as inspiration in my dance classes for young children. I have written two books for teachers about bringing movement opportunities to young children. I wanted to write a picture book that speaks directly to the preschool-aged set. This book is a playful way to inspire children to be healthy and active.  And for the adults who are reading along with them, there is a guide in the back about movement, with ideas for ten simple activities to enhance the enjoyment of the story, while addressing early literacy concepts through movement.
Who might this story appeal to? 
The story is written with the preschool set in mind, in that it is about what children love to do every day — move and play. Each letter of the alphabet shows children participating in a different activity. I also used rhyme and rhythm, which makes it a good read-aloud and inspires the readers to move along with the words and illustrations.  It appeals to adults who want to try simple movement activities with children.
What about bringing movement and play to the picture book format, specifically for an alphabet book, resonated with you? 
I am passionate about bringing awareness of the benefits of movement to the forefront, as research continues to show the connection between moving and the brain, as well as countless other benefits. I am always on the lookout for venues to bring this message to teachers and parents.  Alphabet books are a fun and accessible learning opportunity, but a layered alphabet book with other positive messages is even better.
I visited your website, movingislearning, and was instantly greeted by all these amazing images and fun stories of you instructing, dancing, and choreographing. Please tell us more about your background! 
I feel fortunate to have had a  long career in dance. You may know that a dancer’s performing life is comparable to that of a football player’s. By about 35 (there are exceptions, of course), the rigors of staying in performing shape — taking class and dancing all day — catch up with your body. Also, for women, our childbearing years are in that small window (I have three children), so I am grateful that I could dance professionally until my mid-thirties, both in the US and Latin America. I had also been teaching dance since I graduated from college, so I continued teaching children and adults. I have planned or helped with many community dance events, and I also speak and give movement workshops at early childhood conferences.
I love the creative aspect of our art form, and found I was gravitating more and more toward teaching younger children. This led to writing my two books for teachers about creative movement, and particularly how to integrate it into the daily lives of children, including into the classroom. I then began writing picture books and verses so that I could write directly for the 3-6 age group.
To backtrack a bit, what is the meaning behind ‘moving is learning’? 
The more I have danced,  and the more I have written about, read the research, and analyzed the benefits of movement, I have realized that there are learning opportunities for everyone who dances. (I use the terms “movement” and “dance” interchangeably, as I am referring to the art of movement, which is dance). There are physical benefits, benefits for the brain, the nurturing of social-emotional learning skills, creativity, and the possibility of teaching virtually any subject through movement.   Here are some of the things going on in our body and brain when we dance:
What are the basic steps?  What do your arms do, your head, your torso?  Where do you go — right, left, forward, back, diagonal circle, stand in one place, etc.?  How does this change as the dance progresses?  Sequence: What comes next?  What are the counts?  Regular, irregular, repeating?  If there is accompaniment, how do the steps fit with the music or the beat?  What is the overall floor pattern?  Does it repeat, does it have variations?
What is the formation with other dancers?  A line, circle, face to face, partners, holding hands, etc.? How does that change as the dance progresses? And that is not all! You can see the many opportunities for learning, even when you are doing a very simple, basic dance. features a poster with ‘Moving is Learning! Bringing Dance to the Lives of Young Children’ on it. What captured it most about it was the children featured on it, clearly from different backgrounds with different experiences, but all connecting and sharing experiences through movement. Would you tell us more about that.
I’m happy to hear you like that delightful poster! It was created by the folks at Free Spirit, using Gareth Llewhellin’s beautiful illustrations from the book.  [I will attach a copy of it. Free Spirit asked that if you use it, to please link the image back to the book page for From A to Z with Energy!]
What was the timeline like for FROM A to Z with energy, from your inception of the idea to publication?  
I had written a poem about being active that was four stanzas long, for the letters A through D, with the idea of submitting it to Highlights.  While I was editing it, I thought about expanding it. That led me to a lot more ideas:  E is for the Energy you need to run and play!  F is for the fun you’ll have while moving every day! and before I knew it, I had what I thought could be a picture book manuscript.
I started researching publishers that might be interested in a story that would inspire children to be active. In addition to the other benefits I have already mentioned, dance also addresses many social-emotional learning (SEL) concepts, such as problem-solving, body awareness, impulse control, and creativity.  I came across Free Spirit Publishing and submitted to them. They were interested in the ways I tied dance/movement activities to SEL and also early literacy skills.
I had submitted to them in October, 2016, they contacted me about two months later, and by the time we had a contract, it was a little under two years to publication.
Who were the team members you worked with on it and what was the process like collaborating with them?  
It has been a pleasure to work with the whole team at Free Spirit.  They ushered the book through the editing, chose a fantastic illustrator (Gareth Llewhellin, who added so much to the book with his bright, lively, energetic and inclusive illustrations), and also guided me through the release and publicity process. I am enjoying working with them again on my second picture book.
What about writing this story in rhyme appealed to you? 
I think it must be my dance and musical training that have made writing in rhyme something that I really enjoy.  Rhyme’s core premise is really about rhythm, and of course, rhythm drives music and also many types of dance. An underpinning of rhyme, especially in this type of concept book, gives the story a lilting framework that appeals to children.
The rhyme and meter quite literally keep this story moving. Was that a conscious decision from the start? 
That is what I was hoping!  Yes, it was a conscious decision.  When I decided to write a verse that ties the alphabet with movement, I thought that the story should have a rhythm  and beat that is reminiscent of music. That way the story has a built-in accompaniment; the rhythm of the story and the words and images of movement are like dancing to music!

I read over at Lydia Lukidis’s blog ( that at the end of the book you provide ideas for “integrating movement into the classroom, the books also includes information about the benefits of movement, ideas for classroom management, and modifying movement to include all children in the activities.” Do you perceive those to be gaps that exist within early childhood environments such as schools? And if so, was filling them a conscious mission of this story?
Oh, yes. I am driven by a passion to offer movement opportunities to children.  I think it is important that we remember that children’s work is play, and creative dance is playful and fun.  Also, it seems that teachers feel more comfortable with art, music, and drama, but are somewhat intimidated by movement. I understand this. They might have an image in their head about children running in all directions and creating a chaotic situation. But the wonderful thing about movement, that I always stress, is that not only can it be a fun learning environment for children, it is also a gift to teachers, in that guided movement activities can actually aid in classroom management. During creative movement, children learn body awareness, including regulating their speed, changing direction, and stopping and starting. They learn about personal space vs. shared space, and how to respect other children moving in the space with them. They learn about taking turns, individual and group problem solving, and using the medium of movement to look at problems in new ways. I tell teachers that guided movement activities, with built-in boundaries and guidelines, are a win-win for both teachers and students. The suggestions in the back for enhancing the reading of the story was a way to extend its use and enjoyment, and to offer more learning opportunities for young children.
Have your own suggested ideas mentioned above influenced how you present your book signings and/or engage with young readers? 
Definitely. When presenting my book to parents, teachers, and young children, I use lots of movement. I usually start out by saying that we are going to read, and we are also going to dance. I do a playful warm up, and often use the alphabet as a framework. For example I might say, A is for arms.  How many ways can you move your arms?  B is for bounce — bend your knees and bounce slowly, then keep bouncing all the way to jumping. C is for Cat. Can you move like a cat? . . . O is for opposite.  Does anyone know what the word opposite means? A lot of little ones don’t know, so they learn what it means through movement (moving is learning!): Can you march slowly, then quickly?  Can you reach up, then down to the floor?  Can you walk quietly, then very loudly?  Can you make a straight shape like a pencil, then a twisty shape like a pretzel? Can you show me how you move when you’re tired, and when you are energetic? Once we have done these activities for a while, I read the story, and then finish with some more movement games.

I end the session with a quiet finish, to bring the energy level down, as I do for almost all of my creative dance activities.
Do you have any movement tips, tricks, techniques for writers who spend hundreds and thousands of hours sitting stationary as they write?
I can tell you some of the ones I use!  Sitting at a desk is a good time to work on posture. I try to sit centered and straight, not leaning to one side or another, with my shoulders down, my neck lengthened, and not slouching with my head forward. In addition to thinking about posture during writing time, it is really important to take breaks at least once an hour.  Walk around, stretch, or do some of your daily exercise routines in between long stretches of writing.
Is there anything you’re currently working on and would like to share with us?
I am currently working on two projects.  I am excited to share that I am writing a second picture book about movement for Free Spirit. It has an innovative format for offering movement activities. I am enjoying the challenge of the creative process in developing it with the folks at Free Spirit.
The other is a story that came to me through a friend. It is the true story of a border-collie mix, LouLou, who was born in France and adopted by my friend’s son when he was volunteering for WOOF. LouLou has had a long journey, but she is now at her forever home in Indiana, where she is a therapy dog and a CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate) for the courts.  She is the first dog in Southeast Indiana to receive this designation and be sworn in at a courthouse. It is a wonderful story, and LouLou continues to do lots of good work today for both children and adults. I am submitting this story now and have my fingers crossed.

What’s your favorite style of dance? 
I am reminded of my son’s violin teacher who was a member of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.  I asked him his favorite piece of music, and his answer was “whatever I am playing.”  His point is well taken.  I love to dance, watch dance, make dance, teach dance, any kind of dance!
But, I would have to say that contemporary dance is my favorite. Classical ballet and contemporary dance have been slowly blending together over the years, taking the best parts of each style, and the result is strong, gorgeous dancers trained in both disciplines. This mixing has also resulted in beautiful choreography, which celebrates both classical ballet and contemporary dance, and this type of dance is present today in the repertory of both contemporary and ballet companies.
If you could partner up with any dancer, living or dead, for one performance, who would you choose and why? 
It would have to be Merce Cunningham. While I was growing up and discovering contemporary dance, he was already a towering figure in the dance world. I had the opportunity to train on and off (sometimes he taught the classes himself) at his NYC studio. His contribution to the field of dance is hard to quantify. He basically separated dance from the constraints that music can put on it, which freed dance to stand on its own. It didn’t have to  have counts or follow a musical score. It didn’t have to be “about” something, other than the choreography, the space, and the dancers. I think he enabled us to look at and value dance in a new way.
Thanks for your time, Connie!
Thank you, Justin!
Reader, you can check out FROM A TO Z WITH ENERGY! By visiting any of the following links:

Keep on dancing,


Moving is Learning!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Montessori-Inspired Spring Activities Using Free Printables

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now 

Spring is almost here! And I have lots of hands-on spring activities for you! I also have a new spring pack (newsletter subscriber freebie at

Free Spring Printables and Montessori-Inspired Spring 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).

Montessori Shelves with Spring Themed Activities

Montessori Shelves with Spring-Themed Activities

You’ll find Montessori-inspired spring 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) 

Go to my Free Spring Printables and Montessori-Inspired Spring Activities post at Living Montessori Now for the free printables and activity ideas you see on the shelf and collage above!

Free Montessori-Inspired Spring Pack

Montessori-Inspired Spring Pack

Montessori-Inspired Spring 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 Montessori-Inspired Spring Activities

For more Montessori-inspired spring activities, check out these posts with lots of activities and resources:
If you'd like ideas for calendar-based themes throughout March, see March Themed Activities for Kids.

Be sure to go to my Free Spring Printables and Montessori-Inspired Spring Activities post at Living Montessori Now for lots of free printables and activity ideas!

Happy spring! :)
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.

Living Montessori Now Button
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...