You Can’t Fly All the Time – Bird Safety Behaviors

Monday, September 17, 2012

Virtual Book Club: Lois Ehlert
We’ve had a couple neighborhood cats frequenting out backyard lately. The boys find it pretty entertaining to see one meandering between the swings or tip-toeing poolside, but I think they have an ulterior motive – not unlike the bold and spirited cat character starring in Lois Ehlert’s Feathers for Lunch. As you might imagine from the title, said cat has his eye on a lunch of the bird variety. I think the cats we’ve seen lately have similar intentions – we have a pet-less backyard, an abundance of chubby little lizards, and a few bird nests under our eaves.  I have to say, I’m rooting for the birds and lizards to come out on top in our yard, just like the birds in Ehlert’s book. 
For our book-club activity, we decided to investigate bird escape tactics.

The fabulous team of The Educators’ Spin on It, ToddlerApproved, and Mommy and Me Book Club are hosting a year-long virtual book club for kids, and this month’s featured author is Lois Ehlert. A different author is featured every month, and it’s not too late to get on board! Amy Krouse Rosenthal is slated for October. Visit one of the host blogs to get the full schedule!

We first discovered Feathers for Lunch in our local library, and as a result of Ehlert’s characteristic bright illustrations and the mischievous cat humor, it became a regular visitor to our home. The combination of Ehlert’s appearance in the virtual book club and our recent cat visitors prompted us to enjoy the book again. Narrated in simple verse, the illustrations are really the star. Twelve North-American bird species are brightly illustrated in Ehlert’s well-known collage style, and their calls are printed alongside them. An added bonus are the illustrations of various plants and wildflowers, with accompanying labels. The book follows the cats exploits in the garden, beginning with an explanation that his regular food has become “tame and mild” and he’s looking for something “spicy.” Fortunately for the birds, the cat wears a bell, and the birds “know what their wings are for.”

After reading about the birds’ escapes from the hunting cat, I asked the boys how the birds around our house might be avoiding the cat visitors we had noticed. While the fly-away strategy suggested by the book was quick to be mentioned, other ideas were lacking. I suggested B think about what he does when he’s playing monster with T. He pointed out that they run from each other and hide. I explained that the birds fly rather than run, but the hiding is an important part of staying safe when they’re not flying. We decided to be photo-detectives to look for bird hiding places around our home. Some of the locations we spotted included:
A nest tucked in a roof tile

An owl camouflaged in the tree branches (yes, an owl lives in our yard – so cool!)

Cypress trees with branches strong enough for bird perches, but not cat climbing

As for the lizards, their speed makes them very tough to pursue, but we did notice that they are good at finding tiny hiding spots, including:
the holes in the block wall

behind the shed

and even the attic vent (we’ve found more than one stowaway lizard upstairs, especially in winter).

I’d like to say we did some bird identification using Ehlert’s book as a field guide, but I’m afraid the zoom lens is the closest we’re going to get to our backyard wildlife for now, but the boys are working on the quiet waiting skills necessary for the birds to come around. How do you teach your kids to observe wildlife in a calm and quiet way?
Appropriate for: todders, preschool, primary grades

P.s. Loving the Ehlert feature? Check out my other posts on Ehlert books:
Fish Eyes (a book exchange activity)
Planting A Rainbow (included as a gift in a starting school post)

If you have a Lois Ehlert book and activity to share, you can add your link to the blog hop - if you have questions, be sure to visit a host before linking up!


Start Somewhere

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Stop Waiting for Perfect

Blogging is one (but certainly not the only) area of my life that I put off getting started because I want to be sure I do it “just right.” The scrapbook stalled several years ago… the recipe binder needing organizing… the child’s closet needing cleaning… the craft… the repair… the garden… you get the picture. Fear of mistakes is a paralyzing feeling for adults and children alike, but the truth is, there are few situations that can’t be overcome by just getting started. Errors are rarely earthshattering and can often be creatively converted to masterpieces, but they’re hard on the ego.
A Gentle Push
Sometimes what we need is someone we trust to give us a gentle push (or a swift kick) to get us going. Knowing someone believes in you helps when you’re having trouble believing in yourself. Last week I was helping in B’s kindergarten class. The classroom next door had an incubator of chicken eggs just hatching and I got to take over a few students at a time to see the chicks. When they returned to the classroom, the teacher asked them to draw what they saw. They draw people and animals and objects every day on their reading papers, but for some reason, drawing the chicks they just saw was mighty intimidating. I walked between the tables to choruses of “I don’t know how to draw a chick!” and “Can you help me?” While my first instinct was to respond with, “Just try,” I knew that wasn’t going to get them past the artistic roadblock of trying to accurately capture a newborn chick in pencil and crayon. So I appealed to their sense of humor and reminded them that they did possess some expertise:
“Well, let’s see – chicks have a body and a head, and six legs, right?” [grumpy “no”s]“Oh no? Well I know they have long tails.” [annoyed “no”s with a few giggles]“And they also have big sharp teeth I think.” [exasperated “no”s and eye rolling]
B painting
Not baby chick day art, but art,
Once they had to tell me what the chicks looked like (wings, beaks, feet, eyes) drawing them wasn’t such an enormous task. Were the drawings perfect portrayals of hours-old chicks? Not really. But they were sure adorable.

Start Simple
In Peter Reynolds’ The Dot, young Vashti experiences the same art paralysis. She doesn’t know how to begin. Her encouraging teacher advises her to make any mark on the paper. In a characteristically immature move typical of an uncertain artist of any age, she jabs angrily at the paper. Rather than responding with frustration, the teacher directs her to sign her mark and proceeds to frame and display it. Inspired by her teacher’s demonstrative show of confidence, Vashti creates a whole gallery of very creative dots that become part of a school show. The teacher’s lesson is not lost on Vashti – she repeats it to a peer who is awestruck at the show. This book is a lovely story to share with your own child when he or she is feeling fearful of a new undertaking, to read for yourself when you’re stuck before you’ve started, or to give as a gift to a special teacher or inspiring person in your life. We’ll be sharing it with B’s kindergarten teacher for Teacher Appreciation Week. 

Appropriate for preschoolers, primary grades, everyone!

By the way - Teacher Appreciation Week happens to coincide with Children's Book Week this year - hoping to share lots more about the books we're enjoying as the week goes on, but if I don't get the posts up, it's because I'm "perfecting" teacher appreciation gifts - check out the LittleSproutBooks Facebook Page.

Linking up with a massive Children's Book Week Linky - hosted by Reading Confetti, among others (Mom to 2 Posh Lil DivasSmiling Like SunshineCarrots Are OrangeTeach Preschool, and Toddler Approved)



Read Across America

Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy Read Across America Day! 
Every year Dr. Seuss’s birthday is marked by the NationalEducation Association’s Read Across America Event. This year’s theme book is The Lorax, highlighted in conjuction with the feature film version of that title. If you’re a fan of the Lorax (or have yet to be introduced to this eco-minded creature) I’m sure you’d enjoy celebrating by reading it with a child (or a group). But you don’t have to love the Lorax or even Seuss to be a part of this worthwhile event. Read Across America is an annual recognition of NEA’s year-round goal of encouraging and motivating young readers. Whether you choose a book you love or explore a new interest, read a treasured classic or a noteworthy newbie, reading with a child is a wonderful opportunity for spending time together and cultivating a love of reading. Take the pledge at the NEA homepage or the facebook cause page and get reading!

If you want to take advantage of the Seuss theme, here are some fun resources to go along with the celebration:

Other good reading resources outside the Seuss-sphere include:

Any special celebration plans? Anyone going to see The Lorax in theaters this weekend? The Lorax has some pretty complex themes of ecology and responsible production, but B has been captivated by it since he was about 3 ½. Do you think there’s a “right” age for The Lorax?


A Jump Start…

Monday, February 13, 2012

…And Back Behind the Wheel
I’m back! When I realized I the other day that it was early December last time I posted, I was shocked! And then again, I wasn’t. Just before the holidays, I shared my desire to release the overwhelmedfeelings that result from trying to do EVERYTHING and instead focus on doing SOME THINGS to satisfaction. I gave myself permission to not feel guilty about not sticking to a posting schedule. I successfully let go of the guilt, but I missed the creative outlet, the feeling of accomplishment every time I posted something I was proud of, and especially the interaction and inspiration of the blog community I’ve become a part of. I also discovered that while I didn’t want to commit to unrewarding activities just because I “should,” the commitment of a schedule is good for me, blogging or otherwise. I knew I wanted to get back to my blog, but without a schedule it kept becoming another thing “I’ll do tomorrow.”
Inspiration by Mail
The Educators' Spin On It
In a serendipitous session of late night blog-browsing, I came across Amanda’s idea at The Educator’s Spin on It for an exchange of book and activity packs. Besides being a fabulous and fun idea, it was just the thing to put me back on a schedule and get me back in the bloggy-pool. So if you’ve read this far, thanks for the personal indulgence and now on to the good stuff:
What We Got

Our package came from Robyn at Pen Pals and PictureBooks. She sent us a copy of Lois Ehlert’s Fish Eyes. It’s an eye-catching counting book that lends itself to artistic expression as well as a variety of language and math skills. 
The package also included glue, paintbrushes, tubes of glitter, and construction paper fish. Her note pointed us to a recent post that featured her own experience with Fish Eyes. Like all Ehlert books, the colors and patterns are vivid, and while they don’t sparkle, glitter seems only appropriate in an attempt to capture the bright illustrations. The boys went to town with their glue “paint.” B experimented with patterns and stripes, while T favored abstract dots. I couldn’t help but decorate one myself… glitter is hard to resist! 
Fish Eyes provides a visually stimulating counting practice, but it doesn’t stop there. Each fish in the counted group has a cut-out circle for an eye, through which the color of the next page is visible. Because each number group is featured on a two-page spread, some of the cut-outs are on each side. We used counted the holes on each side and then practiced addition facts to determine the number of the total group (ie. 3 holes on the right plus 4 holes on the left equals 7 fish eyes). Ehlert also makes use of many vivid verbs to describe the number groups, offering opportunities for vocabulary development. The rhyming text calls upon the reader to consider what he might wish for. (Would he be a fish?) B decided it would be fun to be a fish as long as he knew he could turn back into a person. We very much enjoyed both the story and the art, and we are grateful to both Robyn for sending it and Amanda for the organization and jump-start!
**Don’t know if it was coincidence or careful planning on Amanda’s part, but our package went to the other half of Pen Pals, Whitney. We sent her a copy of The Alphabet Tree (the same one B gifted to his kindergartenteacher) along with some letter stamps and bug building supplies. Check out theadorable trees she created!
Appropriate for toddlers, preschoolers, primary grades.
[steering wheel photo credit kenski1970 on flickr]


Friday, December 9, 2011

In a continued effort to honor my commitment to simplicity (see last week) I am not going to stress myself out by composing a post in an already too full week. I am also honoring my commitment to spend more time visiting and promoting those who are committed to my link up, so if you didn't link last week, I'm adding a week to the linky. Go HERE and link to your book review - then go make some new friends!

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