Four Fabulous Ways to Engage Children through Stories

Melissa Smith Teaching in Early Childhood Leave a Comment

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  1. Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

A favorite classic children’s book, this Caldecott Honor–awarded book has great potential for children to learn a variety of skills. The book was written in 1948, and while the pictures are all in black and white, the message of this story is heartwarming. Activity Ideas: Find a tin pail and freeze a container of blueberries. Put a handful of frozen blueberries in small plastic bags for each student. When the words “kuplink, kuplank, kuplank” from the story are read, ask each child to come up and drop their blueberries in the pail. The children will just love hearing the frozen berries hit the pail like Little Sal would in the story. Have the other children say the sound words together as they practice oral language skills. Math can be integrated into this story as children practice counting and simple addition and subtraction skills. Have children practice following a recipe to make blueberry muffins, as long as there are no food allergies.

  1. You Are My Work of Art by Sue DiCicco

This book is an excellent way to begin teaching young children about famous artists and their work. Use this story as a way to host an art performance night for your early childhood families. Divide up students so that all artwork from the story is covered. Have one teacher read the story. As each piece of artwork is read, have the assigned students walk in with a song related to the artwork and dressed up with props highlighting the art. Examples include the following:

  • Young Hare by Albrecht Dürer: Have students make bunny hats and hop in to “The Bunny Hop.”
  • Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges-Pierre Seurat: Play “Groovin’” by The Young Rascals and have students walk in with fun colored umbrellas.
  • Mother and Child by Mary Cassatt: Give each child a toy baby doll and have them walk in to the song “How Sweet It Is” by James Taylor. There are many other songs to select from as well.
  1. The Sparkle Box by Jill Hardie

This is a great story to read around Christmas. Talk with your students about those less fortunate. Share with your early childhood families resources offered through The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod that provide help to those in need. This book includes a paper sparkle box that you can use in your classroom. You can fill the box with prayers from your students, or have students each make their own sparkle box to open any time of the year! This visual is a great reminder of this verse: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).

  1. Counting with Wayne Thiebaud by Susan Goldman Rubin

Wayne Thiebaud is an American painter, currently ninety-seven years young. This artist is known for his colorful depictions of food, mainly sweet desserts! Children will enjoy learning about this type of pop art and will relate to Wayne’s paintings of pies, cakes, gumballs, and much more. Have your students re-create Thiebaud’s work with their own favorite dessert or food. The story easily integrates math concepts as well.

Scripture: ESV®.

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About the Author
Melissa Smith

Melissa Smith

Melissa Smith is the Assistant Professor and Coordinator for the Early Childhood Undergraduate Program at Concordia University Chicago. Melissa is a former Lutheran school teacher, early childhood director, and assistant principal. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and a Lutheran Teachers Diploma from Concordia Chicago, a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Northern Illinois University, and will soon be starting her dissertation in order to obtain a Doctorate in Early Childhood Education. Melissa resides in Chicago with her fabulous husband and has a passion for weight lifting, playing tennis, and singing in the band at church.

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