Spring is finally here and we are all eager to shed our winter layers and enjoy some sunshine! Kids are always excited for spring, and spring brings fantastic teaching opportunities about the world around us. We have listed five fantastic picture books for younger elementary grades, and fun classroom activities that go hand-in-hand with each story:
1. Little Quack. Little Quack is sure to please young children. The story follows Little Quack and his four siblings (each with their own unique personality) on their journey into the pond. The ducklings are less than enthusiastic about leaving their cozy nest and venturing into the vast regions of the pond, but with Mother Duck's steadfast encouragement, the ducklings eventually find their bravery and dive in. In addition to beautiful, heartwarming art work, this book also weaves in a math lesson with a "quack-u-lator" along the bottom of each page, keeping track of the ducklings who are leaving the nest.
Try this activity: After reading Little Quack, keep the duckling fun going with a hide-and-seek game. Number small rubber ducks and then hide them around the classroom. While standing with your back to the wall, carefully tape one duck to your own back while the students are searching for the rest. Reinforce math and counting skills by having the students line up the ducks they find in numerical order. Once all of the ducks are found, ask the students which number is missing, and offer to help them find it. Once you move away from the wall, the students will see the duck taped to your back and probably get a real kick out of finding it!
2. Wonderful Worms. Worms might not be your favorite creature, but they never fail to fascinate children. Kids love watching an unearthed worm wriggle his way back home in the garden, and they are sure to love learning just what those worms do once they disappear under the dirt. This story teaches kids the roles that worms play as a part of our eco-system, and diagrams their underground homes.
Try this activity: After reading about worms, get your little ones up and moving with a fun "worm obstacle course". Set up an obstacle course with pillows, boxes, cones, beanbags, tunnels and any other materials you please. Have the students wiggle through the course on their bellies and gain a new-found appreciation of being a worm!
3. Tiny Snail. Tiny Snail teaches students an important lesson about determination and bravery. Tiny's quest for the maple tree takes her through a scorching land full of obstacles, but she presses on through it all to reach the her new home under the maple tree. When she reaches her goal, she feels pride in her accomplishment and gratitude for the parts of life she may have taken for granted earlier. In addition to this endearing tale, the last four pages of the book offer a factual science lesson about snails.
Try this activity: Have your students create a home for a snail. Talk about what type of environment snails need to survive-a cool, dark, moist place. Use a plastic produce container to build a home using moss, gravel, grass, bark, and fresh greens and vegetable pieces for snail food. Place a snail inside the new home and allow the students to observe it. If the classroom teacher allows you to leave the snail home for the students to observe for a few days, make an arrangement to pick it up afterward. If you captured the snail from outdoors, simply release it back to the wild. If you purchased it from a store, keep it and use it for future classrooms!
4. An Extraordinary Egg. This story is sure to provide some laughs for your students. Three frog sisters find a beautiful egg that they believe is a chicken egg, though none of them have ever actually seen a chicken egg before. They care for the egg and when it hatches into an alligator, they continue to believe it is a chicken. The frogs and the alligator become fast friends, and eventually the alligator's mother finds her baby. Although they have formed a devoted friendship, when it comes time for the alligator to leave, the frogs accept this with good nature. Children will delight in the frogs reaction to the mother calling her baby an "alligator" and learn important lessons about friendship.
Try this activity: Take to the outdoors for some fun alligator-themed games. Play "Cross Alligator Pond" by designating one child as the alligator. Use cones to outline a "pond" area in which this child stays. Have the other children try to cross the pond without being caught by the gator! When the alligator catches someone, they take the place of the child in the pond.
Try "Stay Out of the Swamp" by placing two jump ropes on the ground, running parallel to one another (the space in between is the "swamp"). Your students must try to jump across the swamp without landing in the water. Move the ropes farther apart after everyone jumps each newly spaced level.
5. The Night Before Easter. This story is fantastic for those days leading up to Easter, when children are excited for spring and a visit from the Easter Bunny. The Night Before Easter is a twist on the classic poem, and the charming illustrations will keep eager little eyes searching for hidden easter eggs!
Try this activity: Easter Bunny Jars are a perfect spring craft for your students. Bunny jars are made using small jars, glue, cotton balls, paint, googly eyes, and various decorating materials such as pipe cleaners, pom-poms, yarn.... Check out the link for complete directions, and feel free to swap any of the materials for different ones that your kids will enjoy.
photo credit: Lady Bug by Lauren Hammond