A Year of Chapter Reading, 2022

Here is my newsletter to parents about our year of chapter reading.  It’s the best part of the day in the classroom.

Chapter Reading
June 10, 2022

Chapter reading is one of our treasured moments of the day.  We bring to life the imagination, the world, and the past.  The anticipation of ‘what happens next’ stirs excitement every day.  Children listen and think.  They ask questions.  Ask your child, “At chapter reading where do you make the pictures?”  You will hear your child say, “In your head.”

When we finish a good book and then start a new one, emotions run high and low.  The end of a good book is so satisfying and pleasant, yet…it is over.  That is the wonderful roller coaster of reading.  And, with each chapter book we read, we ride that roller coaster again and again.

We have finished Little House on the Prairie, and it was thrilling; from Jack the dog, to building a house, to Indians in the house.  Pa and his neighbor Mr. Scott dug a well, and we learned about the bad gas deep inside the earth (Pa had to save Mr. Scott) that only a candle can detect.  Of course, I had to bring in my grandfather’s childhood portrait wearing a miner’s hat with the same candle. Laura and her family had fever ‘n’ ague (malaria), an illness that people thought came from eating watermelons.  There was also fear of Indians, which was an opportunity for Gloria to discuss diversity and prejudice.

We read a second Doctor Dolittle book, Doctor Dolittle’s Journey (ask your child about Long Arrow and Spider Monkey Island), and we added a new book to our chapter reading this year, The Wild Robot.  It is simply wonderful, and the children know there is a sequel.

These are the chapter books we have read this year.  Good books are meant to be read over and over again.  We encourage you to revisit these wonderful books with your child:

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles

The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Florence and Richard Atwater

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Doctor Dolittle’s Journey, adapted by N.H. Kleinbaum

The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown

The fundamental constant that gives children the tools to succeed in school is languageThe more words that children hear, the better they will do in school.  Reading aloud to children is far more than an enjoyable experience.  It increases their language development!  In kindergarten through grade four, the primary source of instruction is oral.  The more words that a child has heard, the better s/he will understand the instruction, and the better s/he will perform in school, in all subjects.  Therefore, we will always campaign to read aloud.

A wonderful guide to book recommendations and to understanding the importance of reading aloud is the million-copy bestseller book, The Read-Aloud Handbook.  I have used the book since my children were little.  The author, Jim Trelease, visited the Aqua Room and GCS.  We are featured in the seventh edition of the book.

Jennie

Posted in chapter reading, children's books, Early Education, Inspiration, literacy, reading aloud, reading aloud, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 48 Comments

A Package From the White House!

My class loves singing, and this year “God Bless America” has been a favorite song.  How do I know?  Children sing it from the loft in the classroom, and when using the bathroom.  They sing it while building with toys, playing on the playground, and at lunch.  When something becomes a passion for children, I do something more to bring that passion to life.

A relative of one of my students is the Coast Guard Liason to the White House.  Yes, I was the brave one; I emailed her to tell her how children love the song.  I asked if we could send her a video of the children singing, as a Memorial Day Remembrance for the White House.

She was thrilled!  So, we got to work to practice and videotape the performance.  It is fabulous!  Off the video went to the White House, and a few weeks later we had mail!

We received a package from the White House!  Our “God Bless America” video was well received.  Each child was given two packages of candy, signed by the President.  That was very exciting.  The letter reads:

Dear Aqua Room,
It was such a wonderful surprise to see the video of you singing patriotic songs for Memorial Day!  You sounded fantastic and it made me so proud see you commemorate Memorial Day.
I showed your video to lots of people in the White House and they loved it!!
Hazel’s favorite aunt

What an experience for children to sing their favorite song for the White House, and then receive a thank you letter and a gift.

In a separate email to me, she said, “Thanks for teaching the kids about Memorial Day and recognizing those that gave us everything we have today!”

Jennie

P.S. I told her the story of making the God Bless America quilt years ago, and how it came to go to the Intrepid Museum and then hang at the Fisher House in Boston.  She knows Fisher Houses, and visited the one at Dover Air Force Base.  That must have been a humbling experience.

Posted in America, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Giving thanks, Inspiration, military, patriotism, quilting, School, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , | 75 Comments

Pen-Pal Explosion


Our Pen-Pal Wall

Back in April, when school was celebrating children around the world, it struck me that reaching out to other children would be a wonderful thing to do.  We could write letters, send cards, get to know each other.  We could become Pen-Pals.

I emailed fellow preschool teachers – Beth in Michigan I didn’t have my glasses on….  and Ritu in Kent, U.K. But I Smile Anyway…

My goodness, they were as excited as I was.  The children were, too.  We wrote cards with pictures and words, straight from the heart.  It was days of work, swinging from fun to serious.  Children wanted to make beautiful pictures, and they wanted to write words to other children.  This was a big deal.  Writing is hard for preschoolers, yet wanting something makes the hard much easier.

Michigan is 720 miles away.  Beth’s students replied with a flood of cards and Eric Carle cut-outs.  We were on our way with Pen-Pals!  Here is my post on Beth’s cards:

Pen-Pal Cards Arrived!

Of course we wrote a giant thank you letter.

Giving is receiving and giving again.  It’s a wonderful cycle.  The detail in the drawing is incredible.  Children are saying beautiful things in their own way.

Kent in the UK is 3,311 miles away, and it’s on the other side of the ocean.  We pulled our Big Book Atlas to find England.  When we mailed our cards, it was exciting, because we had Pen-Pals in another country.  Their cards to us arrived, and children were thrilled!

We immediately wrote a think you letter to the children, our new Pen-Pals.

Note the detailed illustrations, yet another validation of the love and importance of these Pen-Pals.  Their drawings are screaming words from the heart.  Really.

Beth’s class got our thank you letter and they replied!

Times may have changed, but children have not.  Making friends is universal, and Pen-Pals have been around a long time.  I’m so glad my students became Pen-Pals with children in Michigan and the U.K.

Jennie

Posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Giving thanks, Inspiration, Learning About the World, literacy, preschool, Teaching young children, Writing | Tagged , , | 45 Comments

Today’s Quote

I was ready to write a blog post, but first I always read my comments and notices from fellow bloggers. Low and behold, there was this blog post. Thank you, Theresa on Soul Gatherings.  It bowled me over. It is so simple yet profound. Leave it to Shakespeare to give a powerful message in few words. I often write about Mother Nature and music. Shakespeare’s words are far better.

Soul Gatherings

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Daily Quip

Butterfly Sand

You only truly get old when you stop believing.

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Playdough

Playdough is much better when it becomes
a melting pot of colors.
People are, too.

Jennie

Posted in Diversity, Early Education, Imagination, Inspiration, preschool, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , | 51 Comments

A Memorial Day Remembrance, and Much More

Air Force Master Sergeant Michael Kennedy was our guest speaker at school for our Memorial Day Remembrance.  Children sang “God Bless America” and “Red, White, and Blue.”  The Aqua Room held the American flag.  Can preschoolers understand Memorial Day?  You bet they can.  Mike told them about Remembrance Day and poppies, decorating the graves of soldiers who had died.  Children love flowers and giving.  Thank you, Mike, for making that connection for children.

Mike helped two children from each class plant American flags in our gardens.  They understood it was honoring and remembering soldiers who died in order to protect us.  We plant the flags so we never forget.

When the Aqua Room held the American flag, Mike was at attention, saluting the flag.  Children watched.  They knew his salute meant something special.  Sometimes words aren’t necessary.  This was one of those moments.

After the event, children were still ‘feeling it’.  How wonderful!  We decided to write a big thank you letter to Mike.

How do I teach preschoolers about Memorial Day?  I start at the beginning, with a great book that teaches children about America and our flag.

I teach them how to sing “God Bless America”, starting by singing the book.

We made a video singing “God Bless America” and sent it to the White House.  Really.  The Coast Guard liaison is the aunt of one of the children.  She was excited to get the video and show it to staff.  I think more is coming.

We learn about the flag, and flag etiquette.  We count 50 stars for 50 states.  We call the flag Old Glory.  By this time, children begin to feel proud.  They want more.  I sing the book, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

You can see how worn and well-loved it is.  The full-page illustrations bring the words to life.

We see the rocket’s red glare.  We stop to see a flag flying at half-mast at the resting place of soldiers.  When I get to this page, I stop.  I tell children this is a sad page, yet a proud page.  We talk about flying the flag at half mast, and about soldiers who have died for their country.  Children understand.

img_1945

Children saw the poppies at the bottom of the picture.  They remembered what Master Sergeant Kennedy told them about poppies.

Our favorite patriotic music is the Singing Sergeants singing “God Bless the USA”.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Jennie

Posted in America, American flag, Early Education, Giving thanks, military, patriotism, picture books, preschool, Singing, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , | 58 Comments

Thunderstorms, Courage, and So Much More

Two days of mid 90-degree heat is rare in May up here in New England.  I knew a thunderstorm would soon roll in.  I sat on my porch, watching the sky, and was drawn to memories of thunderstorms and how they are a great source of strength.  I wrote to families in my preschool about this years ago and want to share it again.  It’s fundamental to what I do as a teacher, giving children ‘Roots and Wings’.

Some years ago I was on my porch with my adult daughter watching the big thunderstorm rumble into our yard. We were both enjoying the anticipation as well as the storm itself. I asked my daughter what memories popped into her head whenever she heard a big storm. She replied, “Camp, of course! We had nothing else; no TV, no computer, just the outdoors. Thunderstorms were great!” Funny thing. This was the same experience with me as a child at camp.

We talked about exciting and adventurous experiences in our childhood, and about childhood itself. We analyzed why children feel the way they do, and what is it that ‘makes a difference’ when they grow up. One thing kept ringing loud and clear. Children who are given experiences that challenge them, who are encouraged to take a chance and ‘do it’, and who have the firm love and support of their family, seem to grow up with a good, strong sense of self. Roots and wings.

I think of the swings on the playground and ‘yelling’ commands with excitement when a child first learns to pump a swing.  “Kick them out.  Tuck them in.  Pull.  Yes, you can do it!”  As children grow older, I think of opening the front door and letting my child ride his bike, alone, to the playground.  Then, going to sleepover camp for a month, at age eight.  My children begged to go, loved every minute of it, and I am convinced it was part of their foundation.  Roots and wings.

I was the opposite of a helicopter parent.  Friends were a little shocked to see my child roller-blading to school.  He couldn’t quite tie the laces tight enough, so his first grade teacher helped him.  They wondered if there was a ‘problem’ when my children went off to camp, and to prep school.  My daughter went to Italy, alone, after college graduation.  We’re talking speaking no Italian, as well.

After all of these different experiences, friends would then say, “Your children are so lucky to have these opportunities”.  That was quite a change.  I would smile and just say, “Roots and wings”.  They had the roots, with plenty of love and support.  Sometimes I felt brave and alone giving them the wings.  That was the hard part.  I’m so glad I did.

In my classroom, I approach each learning experience and activity, planned or unplanned, as an exciting opportunity. We are a family. We help each other, support each other, and encourage each other. We provide roots for each other with daily routine, tenderness, and a positive, fun attitude. We give each other wings when we learn how to write our name, pump a swing, stand in front of a group to talk, or try something new. Roots and wings.

Remember, it’s all the little experiences, over and over again, that we build upon. It’s not the big things that make a difference. Dancing with painted feet, coming to school at night and singing in the dark, shopping in a real Indian market, painting to classical music, setting up nap mats for other children, finding a new place on our big map with the magnifying glass, reading all the name cards without help….it is the culmination of all these activities, and many others, that make the difference.

I hope that in years to come, you and your child sit through a thunderstorm together, walk through the woods together, or sing in the dark together, and find it is an experience that is exciting. We hope that the Aqua Room has helped to give your child the experiences to feel a happy and confident sense of self. Roots and wings.

Jennie

Posted in Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, Learning About the World, Mother Nature, Nature, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , | 88 Comments

Meeting a Blogger: The Letter, The Book, and the Otter

Do you often think how wonderful it would be to meet a favorite blogger – in person – and spend the day with them?  I certainly do.  And it happened!  Well, in order to tell the wonderful story, I must start at the beginning:

It Happened Like This…

Pete Springer is one of my favorite bloggers.  Our mutual interest in children and teaching was the start of our connection.  It has grown to include the love of children’s books, the great outdoors, how the little things are the big things, and more.  It’s a long list, and a good one.  When he planned a visit to see his three brothers, he wanted to connect with two bloggers.  Yes, he wanted to meet me!  Was I excited?  You bet!

It was as if we had known each other for years.  Well we had, of course, through blogging.  ‘In Person’ was the frosting on the cake.  With whipped cream and cherries and chocolate sauce.

Pete knew just how to start the day.  A letter arrived for the children.  It was from Oscar the Otter.  We love letters.


Dear Aqua Roomers,
My name is Oscar Otter.  I hope you liked my story with Billy Beaver.  Even though we’re different animals, we still want to be friends.  The most important thing about friendship is we accept others the way they are.
I have a big favor to ask you.  As much as I like Billy, I need a vacation.  I wondered if  it would be okay if I stayed in the Aqua Room with Jennie for a while.
I heard a rumor that one of my good friends, Gloria, is staying with you.  Even though people often tell me I’m cute on the outside, I know what’s most important is what’s inside our hearts.  I like Gloria because she is kind.
If I stay with you, we must promise each other that we’ll try our best to get along and share.  We need to make sure Gloria doesn’t get her feelings hurt, so remember to be a good friend to her, too.
Your new friend, Oscar Otter 

Here is proof that Oscar really typed this letter:

As soon as we read the letter and got over the surprise of getting a new friend, one who could actually type and likes Gloria, Oscar appeared.  He was immediately hugged by fifteen children, and then he was finally in Gloria’s lap.

You see, Pete understands children.  He knew how to bring Oscar into the classroom, knew how important Gloria is, and knew just the right way to combine everything.  Yes, he made the stars align.  I wish I had been in Pete’s class in elementary school.  Reading aloud to children is one of Pete’s passions.  He shared the book about Oscar to a captive audience.

We discovered that we both read aloud with heart, gut, and passion.  Yes, we laugh our heads off, and cry- in front of the class.  That’s how children learn empathy and joy, and all the social and emotional elements they need in order to become good people.  Isn’t that what’s most important?

There was music!  We belted out singing “This Land is Your Land.”  There was building and math.  Actually it was intense, because the building was tricky.  At lunchtime there were Jennie Stories.  Oh, that was fun!

Pete stayed in town at a lovely historic inn.  He toured nearby Concord, famous for Revolutionary War history.  We had dinner together with hubby that night, which was delightful.  A two hour dinner felt like thirty minutes.

What a perfectly wonderful day!

The next day at school, children wrote a big thank you letter to Pete.  Gloria and Oscar helped.  It’s in the mail to him with a few other thank-yous.

Thank you, Pete!

Your friend, Jennie

P.S.  Pete has written a blog post about our visit.  He has included many photos.  Please visit:
https://petespringerauthor.wordpress.com/2022/05/20/the-springer-brothers-reunion-tour-part-1/

Posted in books, children's books, Diversity, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Gloria, Inspiration, literacy, picture books, reading aloud, self esteem, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , | 135 Comments

Book Bears and Making Wishes

Today was the last library Book Bears meeting for the year.  It was also the last Read-Aloud meeting for the year.  Here’s what happened, or I should say, It happened like this…

Both books for the two groups were about wishes, which was coincidental.  Book Bears read Snow Day in May from the Wish Library series.

It was outstanding.  As soon as I arrived at the library my Book Bears couldn’t wait to tell me how much they loved this book.  Two children read it twice.  I did, too.

Our Read-Aloud book for the year was Wishtree.  The storyline is deeper, and today I read aloud the final 30 pages.

At one point I stood up and yelled as I read the wonderful words in the text, and yes I cried in front of the children.  They were silent, because they understood and felt the same way.  There was so much that happened in those final 30 pages.

I asked the children what their wishes were.  It was a perfect question after reading two books about wishes.  Here are their wishes:

I wish I could talk to animals, then life would be perfect.

I want to understand what the wind is saying.

I wish everybody would like me.

I wish I could talk to characters in the movies.

I wish I could go ‘snap’ and go someplace else and disappear into that world.

I wish animals would help me, like if I needed to get out of a dungeon.

I wish I could make flowers wherever I put my hand.

I wish I were a vet.

I wish I could shapeshift.

Thank goodness for wishes.
Thank goodness for books.
Thank goodness for reading aloud.

Jennie

Posted in Book Review, books, children's books, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Imagination, Inspiration, literacy, Love, reading, reading aloud, reading aloud, self esteem, Teaching young children, wonder | Tagged , , , , | 72 Comments