May 19, 2015

The Animal Boogie

 Title: The Animal Boogie
Fred Penner (Author)
Debbie Harter (Illustrator)

Arts Modality: Creative Movement

Can you boogie? Down in the Indian jungle, the children and animals are learning about actions like leaping, stomping, shaking and flapping while meeting jungle creatures. (Summary from Barefoot Books.)

Materials: The Animal Boogie
optional toy binoculars OR toilet-paper tube binoculars

We're going down in the jungle. 
Come if you dare.

Turn your story time into a moving singing adventure with The Animal Boogie—an award winning title from Barefoot Books. The simple, predictable text, written as a song by acclaimed children's performer Fred Penner, offers clues to the discovery of six different animals, each with their own movements and own style of "boogie boogie." The inviting illustrations by Debbie Harter are arranged in a pattern so that every other page first invites students to look for details and then surprises them with with a child and animal dancing pair. My favorite reason for recommending this book for story time is the accompanying song, performed by Fred Penner himself. (The book includes an enhanced CD with the song on it, plus an animated video.)

Want to see if this sing-along book is right for your literary jungle? Take a peek at the video:

Prior to your story time, purchase toy binoculars from a discount store or make pretend binoculars by stapling pairs of toilet paper rolls together. Provide the children with the binoculars. Explain that there are many things they will see "down in the jungle" and that it will be important to focus on important details in the illustrations. As you read the verses of the book, the questions in the text will provide clues as to what the children should look for. For example:

"What can you see swinging through the trees?"
"What can you see stomping its feet?"
"What can you see flying in the sky?"

Ask the children what special body parts each animal has to help it boogie oogie. Then help the children discover ways that they can move their own bodies like each animal. Use the binoculars again to examine how the illustrated children are copying the dancing animals. At this point, taking a break to dance along with the CD is sure to be a hit!

To extend the movement opportunities, also consider these ideas:

Dance a pattern.
Have the children help you decide on a movement that will be repeated every time you hear "boogie, woogie, oogie!" For example, in the following verse featuring the bird, students might flap their arms and then point upward. In this way, the movements become a slightly choreographed dance with an AB pattern.

He goes flap, flap, boogie, woogie, oogie.
Flap, flap, boogie, woogie, oogie!
Flap, flap, boogie, woogie, oogie!
That's the way he's flying in the sky!"

Dance with a partner.
Invite pairs of children to face each other as they dance the pattern described above. You might also challenge them to take turns so that one partner does the first movement and the second child does the movement designated for "boogie, woogie, oogie." Students are introduced in a simple way to the teamwork of partner dancing.

Dance in an ensemble.
Assign each of six children a different animal part. Then have the entire group of children form a circle. As his or her animal is featured, each of the six children can be invited to step into the middle of the group to perform the animal's action. The group continues to move along in the "boogie, woogie, oogie" style. All dancers sway on the last verse. What a performance!

January 28, 2015

The Gruffalo

Title: The Gruffalo
Julia Donaldson (Author)
Axel Scheffler (Illustrator)

Comprehension Strategies: Visualizing, Inferring
Arts Modalities: Visual Art, Drama

A mouse is taking a stroll through the deep, dark wood when along comes a hungry fox, then an owl, and then a snake. The mouse is smart enough to know he would be a tasty treat, so he describes the gruffalo. Visualize the gruffalo: a creature with terrible claws, terrible tusks, terrible jaws, knobbly knees, turned-out toes, and a poisonous wart at the end of its nose. Wait. Could there really be such a thing as a gruffalo?

The Gruffalo
chart with picture of gruffalo (covered for beginning of lesson)
crayons or markers
character masks (optional)

Before you begin reading, show your class the spread of pages in the book that shows the setting.

Activate schema by asking questions such as:
“Have you ever been in the deep, dark wood?”
“What animals live in the forest?”

Discuss the words predator and prey.

Show the cover of the book with the picture of the gruffalo covered.

Explain that as you read the first half of the book, the students should listen for clues that help them visualize what a gruffalo might look like. Read aloud until the gruffalo makes his first appearance.

Have the class help you make a chart similar to the one shown that lists the physical characteristics of the gruffalo.

Tell students to pretend that they have been asked to illustrate the book. How would they draw the gruffalo based on the clues given in the text? Provide time for students to draw and then share their illustrations.

For added fun, play the song from the audio recording of the book. (Available at Click the image to go to the recording.)

You can also listen to the song with this youtube link:

Now reveal the gruffalo on your chart and have students compare their drawings with Axel Scheffler's gruffalo.

Read the entire book from start to finish!

During another read aloud time, use the illustrations to have the children practice inferring. Show the students the picture of one of the animals as it approaches the mouse (remember that predator/prey relationship!). Compare to the picture of the animal after Mouse describes the gruffalo. What facial expressions change? How do the animals' movements change from showing confidence to fear? Invite the students to practice making these actions.

These masks are a hit when it comes to retelling and dramatizing the story. Of course, you can use them when leading students through a reenactment. To increase the thinking-skill level, ask a student to choose a character mask. Then interview the character to find out what it was thinking at different points in the story. Click the image to download the masks from Early Learning HQ

We went out to the "deep, dark wood!"

This wonderful site also contains finger puppets, word cards, posters and more!

Here's another video worth sharing to your young readers and and writers. Julia Donaldson shares her drafts of the book. Then she delights her audience by singing the gruffalo song with Gruffalo himself!

January 20, 2015

Sometimes I Like to Curl up in a Ball

Title: Sometimes I Like to Curl up in a Ball
Vicki Churchill (Author)
Charles Fuge (Illustrator)

Arts Modality: creative movement

Reading Strategies: inferring, making connections

Summary: Little wombat spends a day doing favorite things--what could they be? Are they your favorites, too? Let's look and see! He especially enjoys walking around and around, and doing a pigeon step till he falls down. Or sticking out his pink tongue--and pulling funny faces (now that can be fun)! And maybe he'll jump just as high as he can, and see how much noise he will make when he lands. But when the day ends and the sun starts to fall...he goes back home to mama and curls into a ball. Good night! (Summary from Sterling Children's Books.)

Sometimes I Like to Curl up in a Ball

Do you ever feel like curling up in a ball? Or maybe jumping as high as you can? Either way, you and your little listeners are sure to connect with the feelings of the toddler-like wombat in Sometimes I Like to Curl up in a Ball

In this charmingly illustrated book, the wombat and his woodland friends spend the day doing some of their favorite things, such as jumping, walking around, falling down, and just standing still. Along with all the romping and rolling, there's rhyming as well. The simple rhyming phrases are easy for little ones to listen to, repeat, and understand. In much the same way, the simple movements are easy for young movers to watch, mimic, and enjoy.

Begin your story time by simply asking the children, "Have you ever wanted to curl up in a ball?" Go ahead. Let them wrap their arms around their legs and curl up into balls. Next explore the feelings that would make someone want to curl up so small that no one could see him or her, like the combat wants to do in the beginning of the book.

Continue this exploration of emotions with a picture walk through the book. Invite the children to look carefully at the wombat's facial expressions on each spread. Also consider the expressions of his companions. What feelings and situations would make them want to move the different ways they move in the book?

After you've used the illustrations to infer the animal's feelings, invite listeners to connect to the text through movement. Help the children find their own spaces. As you read each rhyming phrase, allow the children to copy the wombat's actions. Help them describe his movements. Where are his arms? Do his legs go in the same direction every time? When is his body up high? When is it down low?


As you read, children can:
  • Curl up in a ball
  • Jump high
  • Walk round and round
  • Fall down
  • Stand still
  • Make funny faces
  • “Play” in mud
  • Run fast
  • Curl up in a ball and “sleep”

If you feel like reading another book that connects emotions with movements, try Sometimes I Feel Like a Mouse: A Book about Feelings by Jeanne Modessitt and Robin Spowart. Another good pairing is with Quick as a Cricket by Audrey and Don Wood.

June 14, 2014

Lines that Wiggle

Title: Lines that Wiggle
Candace Whitman (Author)
Steve Wilson (Illustrator)

Comprehension Strategy: Synthesizing
Art Modality: Creative Movement

Here's the gist of this monstrously fun book written by Candace Whitman. Through the book runs a line of rhyming text that reads with a steady beat. A glittery purple line that wiggles, bends, curves, and curls also runs through the book. The illustrator, Steve Wilson, tops the book off with creepy and creepy and creative creatures. Sound inviting? You and your little ones won't be able to take your hands off of it!

Materials: Lines that Wiggle
streamers, colorful scarves or fabric ribbons
painter's masking tape

Lines that Wiggle is a great book for teaching rhyming and for teaching lines in art. But after moving my finger along the glittery purple line that runs through this picture book, I wanted to move more! I can say with a giggle, Lines that Wiggle is a great book for teaching movement, too!

For a sneak peek inside, visit the publisher's site here.

I have three suggestions for using the book to help little learners discover how their own bodies are "lines that can wiggle" through the space around them.

Wiggle Number One:
Simply stop after you read each page. Ask the children to explore how they can make their own bodies wiggle like the line on that page. Can they move just their arms like the line? How about just their legs? Can they move their feet to make an imaginary line on the floor that looks like the line on the page?

Wiggle Number Two:
Provide your listeners with lengths of ribbon or scarves. Again stop after you read each page. Encourage the youngsters to make matching lines with their ribbons on the floor. Can they make the same lines in the air with their ribbons?

Wiggle Number Three:
If you have the space, use painter's masking tape to create all kinds of lines on the floor—wavy, straight, curvy, crisscrossed and more! Encourage the children to move along the lines. How would you move on lines that scurry? How would you move on lines that twist? How would you move on lines that sway? Of course, adding music makes the movement more fun.

So what  does this book have to do with reading and how does it lead to a better understanding of synthesis?! Well, remember that line that runs through the whole book? It changes and represents different things, but it's always there.  

When you read you constantly gain information and so your thinking changes. Every new piece of information changes your understanding and helps you make meaning. In the end, you put it all together to make big conclusions.

When explaining your thinking about this book to your students, you might say, "At first I thought the line would be a snake and then I thought it would be a bridge. Then I saw that the line could be whiskers or even waves. At the end of the book, I realized that lines can change. When lines change they can remind me of different things."

Synthesis combines new information with old information to create new meaning. Your thinking out loud might sound like this, "At first I just looked at the line, but then I looked at the other art around it. When I looked at everything, my thinking changed. The head at the end of this line, made the curvy line a snake."

You can use this book conversation to start your little readers on a path to understanding how to synthesize, or you can use the book with older readers as a simple reminder of how synthesizing works.

April 23, 2014

Tap the Magic Tree

Title: Tap the Magic Tree
 Christie Matheson (Author & Illustrator)

Comprehension Strategy: Questioning                       
Art Modality: Creative Movement

It begins with a bare brown tree. But tap that tree, turn the page, and one bright green leaf has sprouted! Tap again—one, two, three, four—and four more leaves have grown on the next page. Pat, clap, wiggle, jiggle, and see blossoms bloom, apples grow, and the leaves swirl away with the autumn breeze. The collage-and-watercolor art evokes the bright simplicity of Lois Ehlert and Eric Carle and the interactive concept will delight fans of Pat the Bunny. Combining a playful spirit and a sense of wonder about nature, Christie Matheson has created a new modern classic that is a winner in every season—and every story time! (Summary from HarperCollins Children’s.)

Tap the Magic Tree
felt: red, yellow, orange, blue, purple, pink and two different colors of green

Begin your lesson by focusing on students’ background knowledge. If possible provide a collection of photographs of trees in all seasons. You might collect these photos from calendars, Google images, or photography books. A walk outside to look at trees would be a nice beginning to discussing how trees change during the seasons.

After asking, “What do we already know about how trees change?”, begin to ask questions about Tap the Magic Tree. How are the branches on the cover different? Why are the branches different? What causes the branches to change? What will happen if we tap the tree? Is it really magic?

After reading the book, ask, "How do the heat of the sun and the movement of the wind affect the tree?” To explore these ideas through creative movement, pair the students. Explain that one student will be the tree. The other student will be the wind and the sun. As you reread the text, invite the sun/wind partner to move around the tree. This student will pretend to tap, jiggle and rub the tree to create a collaborative dance.
For example, when you read, “Now blow a whooshing breeze...” the wind partner might wave his arms toward the tree. When you read “Rub the tree to make it warm...”, ask the tree partner to explore how she might move her hands to represent the leaves and flowers as they bloom.

Art Extension:
To create a tactile center for creating art similar to the text’s illustrations, you’ll need red, yellow, orange, blue, purple, pink and two different colors of green felt. Duplicate the bare tree at the beginning of the story onto card stock. Cut simple leaves, blossoms, apples and snowflakes out of the felt to match the colors and sizes in the story. To use the center, a child taps and claps and wiggles his fingers to change the magic tree. As he is arranging the felt pieces on the tree, he will also have the opportunity to practice his sequencing and story retelling.

To get a peek at how delightfully interactive this book can be, watch the trailer:

You can also peek inside the book here: 

An activity guide with Common Core State Standards is also available: 

April 3, 2014

Giraffes Can't Dance

Title: Giraffes Can’t Dance
Giles Andrae (Author)
Guy Parker-Rees (Illustrator)

Comprehension Strategy: Making Connections                     
Art Modality: Drama, Creative Movement

Meet Gerald, the humble and inspiring giraffe in Giraffes Can’t Dance, written by Giles Andrae and illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees. Gerald is tall and slim and a really bad dancer. Other animals show up at the Jungle Dance to skip and prance. In fact, the warthogs waltz, the rhinos rock and roll, the lions dance a tango, the chimps do a cha-cha and the baboons even spin a Scottish reel. Feeling useless and lonely, Gerald leaves the dance. Just in time, a cricket gives him a wonderful piece of advice: “...sometimes when you’re different you just need a different song.”  Gerald finds his boogie, and his dance is like a dream. The moral of the story? “We all can dance...when we find music that we love.”

Giraffes Can’t Dance

We know that good readers ask questions before, during and after a story. With this lesson, good readers will be guided to making connections before, during and after a story.

Begin by asking, “Have you ever tried to do something and you didn’t think you were very good at it?” The story I tell my kids is actually about dancing. When I took my movement class during my Integrated Arts program, I was very nervous. I didn’t think I’d be able learn the steps fast enough and I already knew I wasn’t very coordinated.

Read aloud Giraffes Can’t Dance. There is also an animated version you can enjoy: 

After the read aloud, use these ideas to practice making connections through movement.
Travel through the story from Gerald’s perspective:

How does it feel to be tall and slim? Stretch your neck to eat the leaves.

Try to run around, but buckle at the knees. What are your feelings when you fall?

Slowly walk onto the dance floor. Freeze. How does your body look when you feel useless?

Creep away. How do you move when you are sad and lonely?

Find your own space where you can look up at the moon. 

Shuffle your hooves in circles on the ground. Gently sway from the neck. Swish your tail.

Throw your arms out sideways! Leap into the air!

Twirl and finish with a bow.

Just for fun, try out some dance movements inspired by the other animals. Your students’ will probably not be familiar with this dance lingo, so be sure to use the illustrations to increase their understanding of the new vocabulary.

Waltz like the warthogs.
Rock and roll like the rhinos.
Get a partner and do a bold and elegant tango like the lions.
Do a cha-cha like the chimps.

Now for making connections after the story. Again, I tell my kids that in my class, I learned to enjoy moving in my own way—even if it was a little bit fun and funky. When we acted out this story, guess who played the part of Gerald? (I’m not sharing pictures of this part!) Ask, “What special skills or talents do you have? What is something you didn’t think you were good at but you now you have fun doing it anyway?”

Need more Gerald?
Visit Deep Space Sparkle for a step-by-step art lesson.

I jumped for joy when I recently found this new Gerald book…