Why I Wrote This Themed Guide
I love spring! I love bird’s nests in the trees and bushes by the porch where you can watch birds hatch and grow. Last year, we watched a hummingbird build a nest. Before long, there were two tiny eggs in the tiny nest. As we watched the baby birds from a distance, the mother hummingbird stayed near, making sure her babies were safe.
The sights, smells, and sounds of spring remind us of all things new. As you walk through the neighborhood, observe the buds on trees, the sprouting plants, and the bird’s nests. Record what you’ve observed in your nature journal and look for changes on your next walk.
Explore spring with "Seasons and Weather", an education app for 3-5 year olds. Use the matching, sorting, and coloring activities for spring to start a list of what to look for outside on a spring walk. You can also use the learning tabs to find out what spring is like and explore what we can see and do in the spring.
The Empty Pot
Young readers glean great lessons when they have a reason to read, listen, and observe a new book. On repeated readings you can propose a variety of reasons. For The Empty Pot, you may wish to guide discussions toward feelings, honesty, or problems and solutions. Before reading, you can say something like, “Today, when we read The Empty Pot, let’s think about what the characters are feeling. We can stop and talk about their feelings and we can talk about their feelings when we are done reading.”
Look at the cover and ask your child, “What do you see on the cover?” Point out the flowers and animals on the cover. End with Ping and his empty pot. Ask, “What do you notice about the child in this picture?” and “How do you think Ping feels?” Read the title, then say, “Let's read the story and find out how Ping feels about his empty pot.”
As you read, point to individual pictures, summarize what has been happening and ask a question related to the reason you have set for reading. For example, you could say, “Ping has beautiful plants. They all grow so well. Now the seed from the Emperor doesn’t grow. How do you think Ping feels when his seed won’t grow?”
Talk About It
After reading you can continue the discussion by asking more questions related to your reading purpose. You can ask your child, “How did Ping feel when he gave his empty pot to the Emperor? Have you ever felt like Ping?” “How do you think the Emperor felt when Ping showed him an empty pot?” “Did the Emperor surprise you at the end of the story?” and “How do you think Ping felt when he was praised by the Emperor?”
What you will need: a few large seeds such as beans, a pot, water, your nature or science journal
What to do:
boil a few beans
soak uncooked beans overnight in warm or room temperature water
open one boiled bean and one uncooked bean (it can be a soaked seed)
you might want to sprout the beans by placing both cooked and uncooked beans in damp paper towel in a glass or dish, keeping them watered, and observing which beans sprout and which beans do not sprout
make observations: what you see, how the beans are similar, how the beans are different
record observations in your science journal
If you choose to sprout the beans, you can watch Elmo’s World: Growing Beans while you wait for the beans to sprout. Elmo narrates his friend Cody’s project of sprouting and watering a bean, waiting for it to sprout, then planting and caring for his plant. As you watch ask, “What did Cody do with his bean?” and “Did we do the same things?” Note that we do have to wait for our bean to sprout, too.
Spring Is Here by Taro Gomi
Ask your child, “Did you see anything different outside on today’s walk that you didn’t see last week?” If so, ask “What has changed outside?” Give your child time to talk about the changing seasons and weather. Then introduce a purpose for reading Spring Is Here by saying, “Let’s read Spring Is Here and look for what changes each season.”
Point to one picture and then next picture and ask, “What changed?” If your child is not sure what to point out, point to two pictures of the calf and ask “What is different?” “Is the calf growing?” and “What happened to the calf’s hide?”
Summarize by asking, “What was everything like at the beginning of Spring Is Here?” “What changed in the middle of the book?” and “How were things different at the end of the book?”
As your child is able, talk about what changes with the seasons, what changes for animals as they grow, and what changes as we grow.
Explore animal babies with the SeaWorld Kids app “Cute and Cuddly Animal Babies” and watch them grow. Talk about baby animals and the ways they change as you use the matching app to play a memory game or put together a few large-piece puzzles. As you explore videos, puzzles, and games on this app, talk about the changes in the baby animals as they grow. When a baby animal is shown with an adult animal, help your child notice the differences between the baby and the mature animal. Explain that the baby animal will look like the parent when it grows up.
Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin
Plan a purpose for reading by asking your child what a worm would write in his diary. Explain that a diary is a record of what you do and think about in a day. You could also ask a few questions such as, “If you were a worm, what would you eat?” or “If you were a worm, what would you do at school?” After chatting about it, say, “Let’s read this worm’s diary and see what life is like for him.”
Point out the features of a diary such as the date, notes on what the worm did and thought, and photographs to remember the days by. Enjoy the details the illustrator has included in book titles, name tags, and photographs, as well. As you read, look to see if the work eats what you and your child thought the worm would eat or does what you think a worm would do in his day. Talk about which items are facts and which items, like a worm keeping a diary, are fiction.
Extend the Reading with an earth sensory bin.
You will need:
noodles or raffia for filler
earth objects to find, dig up, and describe: seeds, flowers, plants, rocks,
What to do:
Place all of your items in the bin, some above “ground” and some below “ground”
Ask your child to describe what can be seen: what it looks like, smells like, what its texture is
Ask your child what is below the surface
Ask your child how we can know what is below the surface
Let your child explore
Option: Do a sensory bin scavenger hunt by naming objects for your child to find and describe or by giving your child a sheet with pictures of the items you’ve placed in the bin for him or her to find.
Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate
With its emphasis on looking at the birds near home-from suburbs to inner cities-this invitation to bird-watching is an engaging addition to any collection. By grouping birds by colors, shapes, behaviors, feathers, calls, habitat, migration, and more, the spreads highlight the multitude of avian features to be observed. Cate emphasizes the importance of observation and includes sketching instructions as a way to hone those skills on the individual aspects of a bird along with its species' characteristics. (School Library Journal)
Extend the Reading
Grab your camera and take a walk to identify birds. Snap photos of birds to add to your nature journal. Use an authoritative app, like "Audubon Birds and Butterflies Field Guide", to identify birds. Label the pictures that you add to your nature journal. Note where and when you saw the birds and what they were doing.
Later in the year, do you see the birds in the same places? Are they doing the same things or are they doing something different?
The Cloud Book by Tomie dePaola
In this unique approach to the sky, readers will learn about the types of clouds, how clouds show the coming changes in the weather, and the myths that have been inspired by their different shapes. This book will tell you many things about clouds we bet you didn't know! (Publisher)
Rain by Linda Ashman
Use an app, like "GazziliScience", to explore spring topics such as plants, the water cycle, and seasons. Each level of activity that you and your child pass unlocks the next activity. In the water cycle activity, learn about evaporation, clouds, and rain, then help Lilly put up her umbrella so she can stay dry in the rain. When the sun comes out again, you learn that rain soaks in and evaporates, completing the water cycle.
Before Reading or Exploring
Ask your child, “What is rain?” “Where does rain come from?” and “Where does the rain go when it dries?” “Do you like rain?” “What is your favorite part of rain?” “Does everyone like rain?” Introduce the book or app you are going to share by saying, “Let’s look for the answers to our questions in Come On, Rain or Rain.”
Interactive Reading or Exploring
Look for the answers to your questions as you read and explore. Whenever possible ask your child to share which part of the book or app answers the question. Pause in the reading and ask, “Which questions can we answer?” and “What part of the story tells us this is the answer.” Listen carefully and encourage your child to think about the evidence he or she is pulling from the book to answer questions. Often, your child’s answer isn’t wrong. Instead, your child is trying to make connections and think carefully about what he or she is reading and hearing. By listening, you may hear his or her meaning so you can reinforce the connections that have been made.
Extend Reading by making it rain.
What you will need:
a glass container of hot water (jar or vase)
a bowl of ice
Check out the HooplaKidz video, How To Create an Indoor Rain for instructions
Questions to ask before you try this experiment: If we put ice in the warm water, what will happen? If we put the ice in a bowl on top of the warm water, what will happen?
Questions to ask after this experiment: What made it rain? How did the ice and warm water work together to make it rain? If your child has a difficult time thinking through this, try holding a small chip of ice in your warm hand to make it melt. Then explain that when the ice gets warm, the frozen water melts. Then try asking questions about the experiment again.
For quick rainy day activities, check out this great list from Mommy Poppins or watch a new video. Our new favorite is Peppa Pig. Peppa and her brother George love jumping in Muddy Puddles. Instead of worrying about being covered in mud, Peppa repeats, “It’s just mud.”
A Rainbow of My Own by Don Freeman
This enchanting classic introduces children to rainbows. Our young hero sees a rainbow and wishes he could catch it, so he heads outside and plays with the rainbow until it disappears. Back home, he discovers a rainbow of his own, as the sun, shining on his fishbowl creates a rainbow on the wall of his room. (Zoobean)
The Rainbow Tulip by Pat Mora
Despite her awareness that her Hispanic family is different from the other families in her neighborhood, Stella fits in well and enjoys school. Her excitement over the May parade mirrors that of the other girls in her class. They will all be tulips, and Stella has definite ideas about her costume: it must include all of the spring colors… Her perfect execution of the Maypole dance, her teacher's approval, and, above all, her mother's quiet love result in a memorable day for Stella. (Library Journal)
Plan a reason for reading by asking your child what he or she already knows about rainbows. Some questions to ask include, “Have you ever seen a rainbow?” “When and where did you see it?” “What colors were in the rainbow you saw?” “Are all rainbows the same colors?” “What makes the colors in the rainbows?”and “How can you have a rainbow of your own?”
Extend Reading with a Rainbow Discovery Bag
What you will need:
items from around the house in every color of the rainbow
What to do:
Learn the colors of the rainbow with Sid the Science Kid: Colors of the Rainbow
Sing Colors of the Rainbow together, pulling items out of the bag that match each color
Pause and let your child sing the colors as you show him or her the item that matches each color
While young children may not understand the interactions between acids and bases, they can thoroughly enjoy a rainbow eruption. Mom, Allison, provides illustrated directions for rainbow eruptions using flavored drink powder, baking soda, and water.
After making rainbow eruptions, talk about colors, favorite colors, and other ways to enjoy experiments with color.
Ballet for Martha: Appalachian Spring by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
Martha Graham had a story that needed music, so she asked Aaron Copland to write a ballet for her and asked Isamu Noguchi to design the set. Set in Pennsylvania, “Appalachian Spring” tells, in dance and music the story of a young couple and their new home. The music, that Aaron Copland called “Ballet for Martha,” captures the energy and movement of spring, joy, and new beginnings. This book’s flowing prose tells the story of the collaboration that gave us “Appalachian Spring.” School Library Journal calls Ballet for Martha a love letter to Martha Graham. (Zoobean/ School Library Journal)
Music is movement. Young children intuitively move with music. This can help them understand the changes and themes in a work like Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.” This is especially true of the active learner who wants to move and do. Music never has to be a sit still and listen activity. Make it lively and interactive to make it memorable.
I love that listening to music also expands a child’s attention span.
Get active as you listen by handing your child some ribbons or scarves and asking him or her to move the scarves with the music. Encourage your child to move about the room with the scarves to show the music.
As you listen to Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” ask your child to describe the opening by asking “Is the first part of the music soft or loud?” “Is it fast or slow?” “How does the song change?” and “Which part of the song is the most like spring?”
As you move with the music ask, “How would you move with the music when it is soft and slow?” “How would you move with the music as it gets louder and faster?” and “How would you move with the music when it is loud and fast?”
Explain that Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring is written to help us hear the change of seasons.
About Rebekah K.
An insomniac since 1979, Rebekah has filled her nights with books & history. Rebekah's earliest memories are of watching documentaries, reading books, and playing Candy Land late at night with her dad. Is it any wonder that she doesn't consider being a librarian and teacher a job? During her fifteen years, in college and K-12 libraries and 10 years in English, ESL, and History classrooms, she has spent her days talking about books and history, sometimes at the same time. Rebekah says, "I love pairing readers with books that are a perfect fit. I feel like I have won a war when a reluctant reader returns to tell me they hated reading; but, after reading a book I recommended, they stay up with a flashlight to read until the page is blurry."