Saturday, July 20, 2013

Jack and the Beanstalk - Preschool Unit

Letter: J

Story: Jack and the Beanstalk (here are the printables I used to make magnet board characters)

Rhyme: Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley

Vocab words: cow, bean, hen

Literacy Activity: Compound words. I taped the words corn, bean, and stalk onto separate duplo blocks and we practiced building one word out of two smaller words and then practiced taking away a word and seeing what we were left with. We made the word cornstalk and beanstalk. Then I would take away stalk and the kids would shout out the word we were left with. We did the same thing with cowgirl and cowboy later in the week.

I can't remember what days I did what printables, unless they specifically went with the focus for that day (like I know we did most of the letter J printables on Monday). So I am just going to link to the packet and you just realize that I printed worksheets off and we did them as needed/wanted.

Monday: Letter J
Alphabet sidewalk chalk game (found here)

Tuesday: all about beans
We learned about the life cycle of a bean using this worksheet. Cut and paste in sequential order.
Started our lima bean sprouts in sandwich bags. (Instructions here)
Painted lima beans, said some magic words to make them magic beans, and then planted them. I made the kids draw a picture of what they thought would grow. (Day 1 a sucker stick grew, day 2 a small pompom was added, day 3 a bigger pom-pom, day 4 a sucker!)
Beanstalk art project. (found here)

Wednesday: numbers
Sidewalk chalk beanstalk game. I drew a beanstalk on the sidewalk and numbered the leaves from one-ten. Then I would say "run to the 8" or "skip to the 4". The kids loved it.
Add 'em up dice game. I drew a beanstalk and numbered the leaves 2-12. Using two dice we practiced adding/counting. The first person to roll all the numbers won.
Counting worksheets.

Thursday: Review
I made golden eggs out of yellow construction paper and put a lowercase letter on each one since Miss J has been struggling with those. Every time the kids found one they had to tell me the sound it made before putting it in the bag. Max played this over and over by himself throughout the day.
I cut out cardboard giant feet and attached yarn. The kids took turn feeling like giants and knocking over towers and terrorizing their Fisher Price Little People.

We also added a literature element to our days. I have been reading the first story in A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh out loud to the kids. (The one about the balloon and the bees) Then we are working on this lapbook. The book is a bit complex so we read it through slowly and now we are reading it again as we do the lapbook and we will probably read it through a third time as well.

We also started doing a few Brainquest cards at night.

Jane has started reading the first Bob Book, "Mat". I will probably have her read it every day for a week, maybe do these worksheets/activities, and then move on to the next book. She decided she wanted to do this on her own, and so we are taking it very slow and I'm trying not to push anything.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

No tears in the writer...

There is a quote from Robert Frost that says "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader." While I have read from other writers about the agony of putting one of your beloved characters into hard situations, I had never experienced feeling that pain for an imaginary person until I wrote "Cradle and All."
This short story is being released today as part of the anthology "Summer Burn" from Elephant's Bookshelf Press. You can buy it here!

When I read the call for submissions, stories about love that didn't last, I didn't initially have a story idea. However, throughout the next day or two, one slowly came into my mind. It wasn't a fleeting thought, it was a nagging, obsessive barrage of thoughts. All of a sudden I had this character who was talking to me and I could feel what she was feeling and I could see her going about her day and I knew her story.

It might sound strange to say, "I knew her story." Because, obviously I knew her story. I wrote it. But when a character becomes real to you as a writer, sometimes you discover their story along with them as you go along for the journey, get to know them better and understand how they will act and react. And yet at the same time, I knew what I was going to do to this character. I knew the pain and the hell I was going to put her through.

I sat down and typed. 1000 words every night and finished the story within five days. Without any rereading, I sent the story off to my critique group, expecting to have lots to fix. Instead I got comments back that said, 

"Wow! This is haunting. I don't know if I'll be able to sleep tonight."
"This brings back a lot of painful memories for me."
"Your ending is heartbreaking and yet inevitable at the same time."

I was floored by their reactions and so I went back and read it and found myself crying along with my character. Not necessarily because I am such an amazing, powerful writer (Because I'm not. I'm still learning the ropes of this thing). But because I knew this character, I'd created her, and I could feel everything she was feeling.

I wanted a more thorough critique though, so I sent it off to a critique partner who I knew would be harder on it. She too loved it, but offered very thought provoking questions that I had to ponder for a few days while I got to know my characters and their history. I know it sounds crazy, but that's exactly what it was. Getting to know my characters, even the antagonist.

So pretty much, writers live in an imaginary world, where they hear voices drawn out in complete conversation with other voices and they "get to know" characters that don't really exist and that they can basically control. 

I, of course, would love everyone to read this story. But before you do, I want to make a few important clarifications. First, this story is about domestic abuse. It is not based on anything that I have experienced personally, especially not at the hands of my own, tender husband. Writing this was purely an exercise in imaginative empathy.

Second. because of the nature of this story, it is rough around the edges. There is some swearing. Nothing awful, but it's just pretty much impossible to make an abuser come off as genuine when he's saying "heck" and "darn". I do not apologize for the language, I just thought some of my friends might want to know.

Of all my acceptances so far, this story is the one closest to my heart. I truly felt inspired to write it. It is hard to put something like that out there for the world. What if no one likes it? What if my friends judge me by it? Oh well, I guess. That's part of being a writer. Putting your heart on the line. I hope you'll read it and I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Little Red Riding Hood Preschool Unit

Letter: R

Rhyme: A Tisket A Tasket

Literary Exercise: words that rhyme with red

Vocab words: red, wolf, basket

Day 1: Talked about the letter R. Did R and r cookie sorting, letter finding, and writing practice from this worksheet package. Most of the worksheets/games I talk about are from this packet.
Color mixing. We experimented with mixing colors and learned how to make purple, orange and green.

Day 2: Practiced writing the letter R. Did the scrabble letter word building activity.

Made a map to get Little Red Riding Hood to her grandma's house. Then we made a map showing how we got to our grandma's house. Kids had to recount the "directions" to me and then to grammy over the phone.

Day 3: Did the clothespin number wheel and "add 'em up" dice game. We also glued construction paper to make a letter R.

We drew pictures of our grammies and then used proper pronouns and complete sentences to describe them.

Day 4:  Shadow matching, Cut and paste following directions with prepositions, pattern worksheet.

Learned about healthy and unhealthy food and planned our picnic.

Day 5: This will happen tomorrow, but we plan to replay some of the games from the last week and went on a picnic. The kids will help make the "healthy food" and put them in our basket. At the picnic I hope to have everyone act out the story of Little Red Riding Hood.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Fourth of July: More than just red, white, and blue

When I was trying to plan preschool for this week, I knew that I wanted to have the theme be Fourth of July. But I was super disappointed with what I found on the internet as resources for preschool. Most of it was just various, cutesy crafts, painting fireworks, or decorating with red, white and blue. All those things are great, of course, and they are nice to do. But I wanted a lesson plan that really celebrated America and all I was finding was fluff.

So I had to come up with something on my own. I'm sharing some of what we are doing early so that you can do it with your kids, if you would like. Red, White and Blue is nice. But a beginning introduction to what makes America special, our flag, and some American history is better.

First, the flag. This was easiest part because you can find F is for flag worksheets, crafts, lesson plans, etc. Be sure to count the stripes. What does each strip represent? What does each star represent? What are the colors? Who made the flag? All of these questions can be discussed while working on one of the various flag crafts you can find around the internet.

Second, What makes America special? Every day we are briefly discussing what makes America special. I am using the rights guaranteed in the First Amendment as our guide. Here I've included the pictures and quick explanation for each. With younger kids, just this explanation will do. These explanations are, obviously, very simplified. But we're talking about 3-5 year-olds here. With a little bit older kids you may want to discuss further, maybe do a little playacting or something.

Freedom of Religion: We can go to whatever church we want.

Freedom of Speech: We can say whatever we want.

Freedom of the Press: The news can say whatever it wants.

Freedom of Assembly: We can meet with whoever we want.

And now for the big story of the week! We are talking about Paul Revere! I decided to tell the very simple story and then read (the very abridged) poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. When reading the poem I use the following pictures, a lot of expression, and a ton of sound effects. You HAVE to keep your kids attention. Once Paul Revere takes off on his horse, intersperse throughout the rest of the poem the sound of a horse galloping, followed by "The Redcoats are coming! The redcoats are coming!" (I know he didn't really yell this, but it adds to the drama of the story so I keep it in.) I've included my abridged version of the poem below along with the pictures I use for it. Be sure to make the picture of Paul Revere "gallop". Get into this! It's fun.

Here's a video of me doing it with the kids. They were thrown by the camera, but Jane is usually a lot louder with her sound effects.

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,

On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse’s side,
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,

And the twitter of birds among the trees,

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,—
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,

A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

Well, I hope you're inspired!