Posts tagged ‘kindergarten’

August 27, 2013

Will there be a sea monster in my kindergarten class?

SeaMonsterBossyFish_Tour_Banner

The countdown has begun in our house! We have new lunch boxes, new socks, and a whole whopping stack of new forms to fill out. The school year is upon us and for us, The Wizard of Why will be headed to the big leagues. You know, the Majors.

Kindergarten.

And right now, we are not TOO sure how we feel about that. Which is why it was so awesome to come home from the last vacation of the summer and find these books waiting for us as part of Chronicle Books Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish blog tour.

sea monster-Kate MessnerI was also lucky enough to interview the awesome author, Kate Messner. Here are some things she had to say:

1. Hi Kate! One thing I try to talk about in my blog is what we can do with books after the reading. Or in addition to the reading. In other words, when a parent reads your books to their child, do you have ideas for follow-up activities? Or conversation-starters so that they can keep carrying your message?

Every book can be a conversation starter when it’s shared as a family, but I think SEA MONSTER AND THE BOSSY FISH especially lends itself to those conversations because its subject matter is something to which every kid (and every adult!) can relate. Everyone knows a bossy fish, and learning to deal with that person can be the difference between smooth sailing and a really rough day at school or the office.

We often ask kids how they can relate to characters in a shared read-aloud, but I think sometimes, as parents, we forget that it’s powerful for us to share our own stories, too. SEA MONSTER AND THE BOSSY FISH can be a great springboard for talking about how to get along with people whose leadership styles might be different from yours.  Kids will enjoy hearing your own stories – both failures and successes – when it comes to negotiating those kinds of relationships.

2. Your fish pledge mentions speaking out when a child see bullying. We often tell kids this, but it is SO HARD. In fact, I would argue that most adults don’t even do it. How do we really teach kids to speak up? Can you think of a way to use your book as a starting point for that?

It is hard – harder than we think when we give that advice to kids – and that’s why I think conversations about these situations can be so valuable. When we discuss bullying before it happens, we provide a really safe environment for kids to imagine “what if.” What would I do if someone treated me this way? What if someone treated my friend like that?  Role-playing can be a wonderful, natural follow-up to reading a book like SEA MONSTER AND THE BOSSY FISH. Giving kids the opportunity to practice standing up for friends and modeling inclusive behavior in a fun, non-threatening setting makes it more likely that they’ll be able to be a positive force on the playground when a real situation arises.

3. I like the idea of parents reading books like these because they can share an important concept without lecturing their kids. Do you have advice for parents who want to talk further with their kids about this but don’t want to lecture?

Questions are  more powerful than lectures, I think. The very first time I read this book aloud to kids, I was visiting a classroom full of kindergarten students near Albany, NY, and I was blown away by their reactions. I think I asked a question or two as we read – things like “Hmm…how do you think that made the Ernest feel?”  But soon, all I had to do was pause after reading a page and let the kids reflect. Without me even asking questions, they wanted to talk about the impact of the bossy fish’s behavior. They were able to empathize with the fish being pushed around, and Andy Rash’s great illustration style makes it clear that school settings are full of emotions.  The kids used the facial expressions as evidence in their arguments: “Look, he didn’t say anything, but he’s upset. You can tell by the way his eyes look…”  These kinds of quiet discussions promote empathy and build memories that are likely to be recalled when there’s a need for kindness on the real-life playground.

4. What’s the most important thing you want kids to take away from your books?

That sometimes a “bossy fish” just needs help to be a better friend. As an adult, I love the Robert Frost poem “Outwitted.”

He drew a circle that shut me out,
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win.
We drew a circle that took him in.


I’d like to think BOSSY FISH is the preschool version of that sentiment.

Isn’t that all very cool? And in addition, I can offer you a discount:

Just enter this promotion code: SEAMONSTER on this website: http://www.chroniclebooks.com/. Offer ends September 6, 2013.

seamonstersfirstdayseamonsterbossyfishTitle: Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish (and the earlier release Sea Monster’s First Day)
Author: Kate Messner
Illustrator: Andy Rash
Genre: Picture Book
Ages: 4 – 7

Download your own Friend Fish pledge here. Use it in the classroom or your own home to promise friend-making over bullying. And good luck!

Have any other books you like to read before school starts? Share them here!

October 17, 2012

I like my robots with a little zombie, a little Frankenstein, and definitely some pie

I love this book! I love it so much that I think I screamed the first time I read it. Here, don’t listen to me. Listen to the awesome prose:

“Robot.”

“Robot.”

“Robot?” (one of the robots leaves)

“Robot ZOMBIE!” (He comes back dressed as a zombie. The other one leaves.)

“Robot zombie FRANKENSTEIN!” (He comes back dressed as a zombie Frankenstein.)

This continues until they are both dressed as Robot Zombie Frankenstein pirate superhero-in-disguise outer space invader chefs. And then there is cherry pie. That is shared. In just a few words (the new picture book is the minimalist picture book), Robot Zombie Frankenstein is truly “a tale of competition, friendship, and pie.”

Title: Robot Zombie Frankenstein
Author: Annette Simon
Genre: Picture book, Halloween, Awesomeness
Age: Any, really

Two great follow-ups to this book. One is art. Cut out a bunch of shapes in different colors and let your little ones assemble robots. Watching how the shapes fit together will not only give them spatial awareness and teach some beginning geometry concepts, but they will be doing art, flexing their creative muscles, and having fun to book!

Another option is more literary and would be fun for home-schoolers or a classroom teacher. While I do LOVE this book AND it’s zen-like prose which is perfect for this particular story, it would be interesting to ask budding writers how it could have been written in story form. Example, rewriting the lines quoted above: Once upon a time there were two robots. They saw each other and smiled. But then one of them left. The other robot wondered where he had gone. He was sad that his new friend had disappeared so quickly. But wait! Here he was again. But something is different…what is it? He’s dressed as a zombie! Etc…

If I’m not conveying it’s awesomeness strongly enough, here’s the trailer.

Happy reading! And artsying! And rewriting! And while you are here, tell me what YOU think about the trend for picture books these days to be so minimalistic in their word usage.

July 18, 2012

words + numbers = 1derful wumbers

One of the first words the Wizard of Why learned to read was “no”. This meant that everywhere
we went he had to ask what the “no” signs said. “No what?” he would constantly ask
from the backseat of the car, the jump seat on the double stroller, or just his spot walking
next to me on the sidewalk. Thus we spent a lot of his third–and so far all of his fourth–
year, reading things like “no parking”, “no smoking”, “no loitering”.

This book came along at just the right time. We are not quite learning how to read, but we are definitely recognizing a few words and intrigued by the idea that one day we might be able to read. This is a great book for that age. (And a lot of other ages, as I mention below.)

Title: Wumbers
Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal
illustrator: Tom Lichtenfeld (of Sharks vs. Trains and Duck! Rabbit! fame)
Genre: Picture Book, Numbers
Ages: 3 – 7

Book Review and How to use this book with kids: This is a fun, whimsical book. It’s almost like a comic book–each page is a beautiful picture. Then each picture has a caption written in “wumbers”, a mix of words and numbers. For example: one picture shows two kids in the kitchen below a cookie jar. One kid says “Here’s the plan. I’ll climb to the s2l and go st8 to the cookie jar. You be on the lookout 4 mom.” The other one chimes in, “Okay, but I’m frigh10d“.

While the nonsensical spelling might be seem to be overwhelming to a young reader, I think it’s the opposite. It shows them how to look at each word for each sound on the page. It shows them that each word is made up of sounds and that some of those sounds may be familiar in other ways.

You could make a great game of this. How many words can your child think of that use the sound “8” or “2”? At my house, that would keep the kids in their seats at the dinner table for a few extra minutes at least.

Older children will like the book, too, and it will throw them off their reading game in a healthy way, making them stop to think about the words and the sounds. They will also likely laugh at the illustrations and the captions. You can go further with your challenges to older kids…how is the sound “8” spelled in different words? What about straight? trait? fate? weight?

If you are a teacher, or a babysitter on a rainy day, or the parent of kids who enjoy pen and paper work, you could easily have fun making up your own pictures and captains and before you know it you might have a sequel.

Remember, you don’t have to stop when you’ve read the book. You can play with it, talk about it, interact with it. Let me know if you try any of these ideas at home and if you liked them or didn’t or if you have ideas of your own to add! I love to read comments!

January 7, 2012

A fix-it kit so your own Polka-dot can fix kindergarten, too

I don’t remember my first day of kindergarten. I remember second grade, when I met the principal for the first time and I wrote my age (7) backwards. I had to ask for an eraser because my pencil didn’t have one and I was mortified, but he didn’t strike me dead with a lightening bolt so everything turned out okay. This book is about the first day of kindergarten, but it’s a great read for any kid at almost any point in the school year.

Title: Polka-Dot Fixes Kindergarten
Author: Catherine Urdahl
Illustrator: Mai S. Kemble
Genre: Picture Book
Ages: Perfect for 3 and up, or anyone going to preschool, kindergarten, summer camp, or anything else!

Why I loved it and how to use it with kids:

There are a lot of reasons to love this book. Here are some:

  • Her name is Polka-Dot, which is the best nickname for Dorothy I’ve ever heard
  • She lives with her grandfather, and I think books with non-traditional family structures are really important to show kids.
  • She’s spunky and wonderful and afraid of her first day at school.
  • Her grandfather fixes everything with duct tape, polka-dot bandages, and runny soap.
  • He gives her a mini fix-it kit with all three of these things to take to kindergarten and she uses all of them. The runny soap doesn’t fix the mess she makes with the paints, and the bandages don’t help when she’s really sad, but the duct tape does help an enemy turn into a friend, and it saves the day, as duct tape always should.

Not only does this book have wonderful characters and absolutely gorgeous illustrations that would help any kid visualize school, but it gives parents and kids a really good idea. For those children who are too old for a binky or stufftie, or too practical for either, making them a small fix-it kit to take on their first day of a new activity might be just the thing to help them feel in control. Giving kids a sense of ownership and power is often all they need to feel a little less anxious. Maybe this is just what you need for that first day back from winter vacation! Here are some of my own ideas of things you could include in your kit:

  • duct tape of course
  • stickers, if you have that kind of kid (that likes to put stickers on everything to brighten up his/her world)
  • small rocks or shells or feathers if you have that kind of kid (that likes to feel them in their hands to calm down)
  • a small card that says how much you love them
  • a photo of family
  • a card with phone numbers on it

What about you? Any memories, good or bad, from your early school days? And any ideas for a back-to-school kit?