“Ladeez and Gentlemen, Children of All Ages…”

The circus came to town!  Children were excited to perform for their families on Zoom.  It was a grand finalé to a month of learning about animals, what happens behind the scenes in a real circus, and writing circus picture stories.

Here’s why all of these events are important to children:

Children like excitement and adventure, and animals.  If I can tap their interests, I have a ready-made foundation for learning.  We covered science and nature (what do the animals eat?  How do they travel and train to perform?), math (how much rope is needed to put up a circus tent?  How many gallons of food do the animals eat?), and geography (where is Japan, Hungary, and Spain, where many of the performers are from?). It is a long list of learning, and a good one.  Perseverance and determination is speckled throughout, much like sprinkles on ice cream.

How do I start?  With books, of course.  The best circus book is “Circus”, by Peter Spier.

It starts at the very beginning, arriving at a site and setting up the circus.  Full page color illustrations show children everything, from the circus families in their trailers, to the animals, to practice, and to the circus itself.  I love this book!

We also read:
“Circus Family Dog”, by Andrew Clement
“The Farmer and the Clown” trilogy by Maria Frazee
“The Circus Baby”, by Maud & Miska Petersham

We read fact books, too.  One of the most interesting facts is about the elephants (no longer in many circuses.)  They walked through the towns in the middle of the night, as they were too big to travel with the other animals.  Did you know that the circus elephants were the first to cross the Brooklyn Bridge?  When the bridge was completed, people didn’t believe it was safe.  P.T. Barnum walked 21 elephants over the bridge.

Children wrote picture stories about being in a circus.  “If I were in a circus…”

These stories are priceless!  Picture stories are empowering, because they are an imprint of the mind, and all the words a child wants to say.  Illustrating their story lets the child know how important their words are.  The art of illustrating is a great beginning in expressing words and feelings – exactly what children need to do.

We played circus!  All the fun and practice was really a step in children feeling good and confident.  Play is powerful.  When we planned a circus performance for families, this was different, as children picked their own parts and decided what to do.  Really.  Teachers supported and cheered.  The result was empowered children who knocked their socks off.  Parents loved it.  More importantly, children had a big dose of self confidence and what happens after hard work.

Give children the tools, let them investigate, support their discovery, and there you have Education 101.  Throw in sprinkles and you have the love of learning.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in children's books, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Imagination, Inspiration, joy, picture books, picture stories, Play, play performances and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

75 Responses to “Ladeez and Gentlemen, Children of All Ages…”

  1. Norah says:

    So delightful and empowering, Jennie. I loved reading their stories.

  2. Darlene says:

    I love this activity! It just reminded me that my daughter went to Clown College one summer when she was about 10. She loved it. On the last day, they held a circus for the parents to attend. My mom had made her a fabulous clown costume for the previous Halloween which she wore. She took the neighbours dog along on a leash wearing a matching ruffle around his neck. Together they handed out popcorn on a tray around her neck. So cute. One of her fondest memories.

    • Jennie says:

      Aww… what a great memory. I wish Clown College was available to children here. Did that influence your writing in the Amanda Alberta book? Thank you,Darlene.

      • Darlene says:

        Until now, I had not thought of including Clown College in any of my books, but what a great idea! I will make a note. In the summer I was always looking for things for my daughter to do as I was working and she got bored so easily. When I saw this advertised, I knew it would be perfect for her. Calgary Parks and Rec always came up with novel ideas.

      • Jennie says:

        With the bad guy being the clown in the parade in Alberta, I wondered if Clown College had been in the back of your mind. I guess not at the time, but I’m glad it’s something to think about for future writing. Way to go Calgary Parks and Rec!

  3. beth says:

    so very cute!

  4. beetleypete says:

    A joyful learning experience indeed. You really do enrich their lives, Jennie.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  5. Dan Antion says:

    It must be gratifying to see them all so confident after a long difficult year. It’s a testament to the work you and the other teachers put it. Gppd job, everyone!

    • Jennie says:

      It is, Dan. Children need to boost their confidence, and a play performance (where they get to pick the parts) will do just that. Thank you!

  6. Ritu says:

    This is so.lovely!

  7. quiall says:

    “Play is powerful.” That is so very true and the core for children learning. You are precious example of that. Your last two lines say it all.

  8. willedare says:

    I wish every educator — no, every human being — on planet earth could/would read your blog, Jennie!!! What a wonderful learning project!!!

  9. Literacy & Learning! Love it and must share… ❤ xo

  10. K.L. Hale says:

    Jennie, do you know what a hero you are? I wish the world could sit under your “big tent” of instruction, love, and wisdom. 💛🤗

  11. Great fun! (With so many learning opportunities!)

  12. Brilliant Jennie, and those pics are adorable!🥰

  13. Oh my gosh. What adorable photos and what fun. I love the way your tie it all together, Jennie.

  14. 21 elephants across the Brooklyn Bridge to prove its safety? Wow. I’m surprised the city leaders ‘let’ it happen even back then – I mean the clean-up would be kinda a big deal, too!

    • Jennie says:

      Hadn’t thought of the clean-up. Ha! The builder knew his bridge was not accepted as safe, and he wanted a showy, grand opening to prove people wrong. It worked!

  15. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, this is a beautiful lesson on how to teach!

  16. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Please read this post! It is a wonderful lesson on how to teach!

  17. All wonderful, Jennie. Thank you for sharing.

  18. I have never been to the circus, Jennie. It sounds like a lot of fun.

  19. Sounds like wonderful learning!

  20. petespringerauthor says:

    You are a master in creating cross-curricular lessons. The great thing about literature is there are books for just about any occasion.

  21. santro23 says:

    Children’s needed true path for progress and this activity is very interesting for children’s…

  22. jilldennison says:

    I can only repeat what I’ve said before … EVERY child should have a teacher just like you! You rock, my friend!

  23. I want to be in your class!

  24. Your ideas are fantastic, Jennie! I also want to be in your class! 😉 xx Michael

  25. M. Talha says:

    Exciting 😍😍

  26. How fun! The stories are so cute, and so are the two kids’ images you shared.

  27. Mireya says:

    wow this is education what it should be. This is amazing and such a wonderful idea. I bet they wereexcited to talk and write about it. The problem is childreb are ot taught to have opnions and teach themselves.

  28. dgkaye says:

    They are just too cute! 🙂 x

  29. I LOVED the pictures of the kids! Your last paragraph says it all. I also agree with Liz G. I want to be in your class too. If we could just clone you. 😉 I did not know that about the elephants going over the Brooklyn Bridge! Wow! Thanks for being in those children’s world.

    • Jennie says:

      You brighten my day, Marlene. Thank you! I wish you could be in my class, too! One of the hardest things for teachers to do is to give children the reins. If teachers could let go and have children plan what to do… but that doesn’t happen. I still have hope, and that’s why I write.

      Isn’t that the coolest thing that PT Barnum’s elephants were the first to cross the Brooklyn Bridge?

      • I am realizing how much I controlled every aspect of my children’s life when they were young. I was a neat freak too so no cooking with me in the kitchen. Too soon old, too late smart. Sigh. I love elephants and PT Barnum was quite the business man.

      • Jennie says:

        I controlled my children’s lives, too. I feel badly about that. It took me becoming a teacher to be a better mother. And fortunately they were young when I started teaching. Marlene, you are the only other person who knows that Pennsylvania Dutch (which is really German) expression. Hubby and I say it all the time, except his family pronounces smart ‘schmart’. Yes, PT Barnum was definitely a business man as well as a show man. I really miss that elephants aren’t part of their circus.

  30. vrolikenote says:

    Your story makes me long to be a young student in an excellent teacher’s class!

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