Early Literacy: Aaron Becker


Have you seen Aaron Becker's book Journey and its sequel Quest? They are amazing wordless picture books, and I love that there two picture books that continue the same story in this way.  Such a great idea, and the illustrations are beautiful. When I first used Journey as part of a lesson plan on balancing, I was really excited because it was a perfect continuation on the theme of "flying" from an earlier class. It also allowed us to talk about recognizing the feeling of boredom and how we can use our imagination to become "unbored." The kids LOVED the book - it was probably one of the biggest hits of the whole term.  The poses I chose were also the right balance of ease and effort for this group, and they had a great time figuring out how to hold their bodies in the various arm balances.


So when I realized that Becker had released the follow-up book Quest, I immediately grabbed it from the library and designed a lesson that focused on the idea of imagination (specifically how we use our imagination in yoga). As with Journey, the kids were enamored with Quest. They were excited to predict what might happen next and to share creative ways of how they would defeat the soldiers in the story.  When it came time to create their own poses, the kids were (slightly) obsessed with the idea of what comes after Warrior Three, so we had Warrior 10 and Warrior 1000, and at some point, Warrior 71 made an appearance.  Because they kids were left somewhat to their own devices to either do the traditional poses or make up a new version, I tried to call attention to kids that were really working hard to challenge themselves. When I saw a pose (traditional or self-created) that was being executed safely and with focus, I would ask the class to stop and either just notice that person's pose or to try it themselves. 


Early Literacy: Shh! We Have a Plan

One day a few months ago, I was browsing Powells when I came across the book Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton. One quick glance through it told me that its was IDEAL for a pre-school yoga class.  If you haven't seen it, check it out right away from your local library because its hilarious and so clever. Even better, the book provides fantastic opportunities for yoga/movement but also expressive language development, social communication, and vocabulary building. From the yoga teacher perspective, I love this book.  From the speech-language pathologist perspective I doubly love this book.

The premise of Shh! We Have a Plan is that four hunters are trying to catch a bird, and one of them always ruins it by talking too loudly.  Each time they have a new plan, they say "Shh!  We have a plan!" When this happens during the read aloud, I have the kids all whisper it to each other around the circle.  Then the characters tiptoe, climb, paddle, and run to try to catch the bird, which we also imitate during the read aloud.  The kids improvised as well, all becoming little birds that I had to try to catch.  At the end, we did a ton of different bird-themed asanas.  I also added a little "catch the bird" game. The kids pretended to be birds, and when I turned my back they could get super silly - but as soon as I turned around they had to be in one of the bird-themed poses we practiced.  Otherwise I would "catch" them (meaning they sat down, but I'm such a sucker for a fun non-competitive game that I never actually "catch" them :)).

In addition, we did one of our regular warm-ups at the beginning, the Yoga Hokey-Pokey (pulled from this awesome video).  The kids really enjoy this but today they took it even further with their natural talents for improv and started shouting out all sorts of other body parts to "put in" and "put out." The warm-up became even that much more fun!  I love my little pre-school class - they are such creative little yogis!

Early Literacy: The Circus Ship

I found The Circus Ship by Chris van Dusen by accident a few years ago when browsing through my school's library. What a find! I have used it for language-based activities/group lessons in the past, but until now I hadn't used it for a yoga class. I'm not entirely sure why I waited…its a totally fun book that engages kids on so many levels. Language-wise, van Dusen uses a great rhyming rhythm that makes reading - and listening to - this book super fun.  Yoga-wise there are so many great animals to act out in the asanas. And Other-wise - the page where the animals are all camouflaged makes for a fun group activity, trying to find all of the hidden creatures.  Even better - its based on a true story, which could allow for some inquiry-based extensions if you're using it in a classroom (especially with older kids).

As with some other lessons, I included a language-based "play" activity that could extend the lesson. While I didn't have time to incorporate the play into this particular class, it is an activity I have done in the past with success. Have fun!

Early Literacy: Count the Monkeys

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Oh Mac Barnett - I think I may have a little crush on you. Your awesome books.  Your super fun Ted Talk.  Your limitless imagination. Who could ask for more in a children's book author?

In my pre-school class, we recently read Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett.  Hilarious!  What a clever counting book that is engaging for kids who are well past the age of learning to count to ten.  And it makes for a perfect kids yoga class with all sorts of wacky fun characters and scenes to act out with our asanas. To keep the kids engaged and their anticipation levels up, we stopped on almost every page to act out the silliness that was occurring. 

With this particular lesson, I also began to introduce some mindfulness-based activities (e.g. Mindful Bodies and Mindful Listening).  I am floored time and time again with this age group because they just embrace all of the activities whole-heartedly with no fear or self-consciousness. Because 4-5 years naturally have a shorter attention span, we do these exercises in short bursts and will continue to build on them. For example, in future lessons we will also work on Mindful Breathing activities.

Teaching Yoga to Super Active Kids

Holy moly. So with the rise in popularity of teaching yoga to kids, I knew the day would come when I had a seriously boy-heavy, super active class.  But when that day finally came, specifically my current elementary class (grades K-2), I was woefully unprepared.  I went in with my regular routines and let's just say…things didn't go quite as planned.  But I kept at it, doggedly determined that at some point this class would fall into the routines as all my past classes have, and it would be smooth sailing from there on out. Hmm. Not so much.

About four classes in, I realized "huh - I think if I want this class to get on board with yoga, I have to really change things up." Said more bluntly - the kids weren't going to change, but I would. Specifically, I needed to modify my usual class routines to make them much more active from the very first moment the bell rang to signal the start of class. I also needed to bring in more action-oriented books that provided excitement PLUS yoga teachings.   

The first two lesson plans with the new routine are: The Warrior and the Wise Man and Ninja!.  Totally engaging and fun books, each in their own unique way. The class routines haven't changed a ton, but they now look more like this: quick sit with the mindfulness bell, movement/warm-up, breath break, another big movement/warm-up, breath break, read the book, do lots of fun asanas, engage the kids in a challenge pose, and then relax.  In terms of behavior management with lots of wiggly kids (not just boys :)), I did have to begin assigning mats, and the savasana is much more structured.  For resting time, I guide them in 3-5 Starfish breaths, a body scan, and then I count backwards from 10 very slowly.  At 1, they sit up quietly and we finish with Friendly Wishes.  

While there is still LOTS of wiggling and giggling, this new approach works so much better overall.  I am excited to keep fine-tuning the class lessons to use the kids' energy in really fun, engaging, and productive ways. I love when my students push me out of my comfort zone - I end up learning so much!

Early Literacy: Not a Box

Not A Box.  What an incredible book!  Antoinette Portis is one of my favorite children's book authors because she brings a level of creativity to her writing that engages kids, makes read-alouds super fun, and even sends kids away with ideas for using their imagination in new ways.  What else could you ask for in a picture book? Oh wait - Not A Box (and its partner story Not A Stick) is PERFECT to read during a kids yoga class.  Way to go Antoinette Portis!

After you look at the Not A Box yoga lesson plan, I'm sure you'll be able to guess which pose was the most exciting for the pre-school kids.  While moving like a robot and "driving" our race card were super fun, the big winner was blasting off like a rocket.  I have used Rocket Blast-Off with other pre-school yoga classes as well, sometimes during class and sometimes as a beginning routine - and it is always a huge hit.  I highly recommend it, even for Kinder and 1st grade!

The only part of this lesson plan that just didn't resonate with the kids was the final meditation. I kept it in the lesson plan though because I think its a great idea, and with the right group it could really work well.  But my little group is pretty wiggly and this type of guided visualization just didn't seem to work for them on this particular day.  Since this lesson, we have adjusted our final resting time to instead include music and foot massages, which works SO much better for these little guys.

Early Literacy: Fat Cat

This fall, I am teaching a pre-school (4-5 year olds) yoga class, which has been super fun.  It took the kids 1-2 sessions to settle into our routines, and now they are just really engaged and excited about both the books and the asanas.   

For this class, we read the book Fat Cat by Margaret Read MacDonald. I LOVE this book for all of the language concepts included - specifically rhyming, sequencing, and phonemic awareness (of the /f/ sound).  Its also a perfect read aloud because of the reoccurring refrains that allow kids to chime in and help "read" the book. In addition, Fat Cat is a really fun book to act out - the characters and all of their different movements (i.e. marching, clomping).  Ideal for a pre-school yoga class!

A quick note: I included a "play" option in the lesson plan. I didn't end up with enough time in this particular class to include the play activity - but I have done it many times before with this age group and it is ALWAYS fun. 

Early Literacy: The Red Chalk

For the latest Kinder-2nd grade yoga class, I chose the book The Red Chalk by Iris van der Heide.  This is a such a terrific book to talk about the ideas of imagination and boredom, and also lends itself perfectly to a class focused on backbends.  In The Red Chalk, Sara is super bored with her toys and constantly is "trading up" - or so she thinks.  Each time she trades a toy with a friend, she turns her back and walks away. With her back to her friends, she misses all the fun ways they are using their newfound treasure. We used this observation (on each page) to talk about how sometimes we forget to pay attention to our backs in yoga because we can't see them!  The kids spent time in both prone and supine backbends, and all of them noticed that when in prone poses (on their bellies) it was so much harder to breath. We played around with shifting our bodies in the poses to see if breathing became harder or easier.  We ended class with a Challenge Pose - Wild Thing. I love teaching this pose because it is so rewarding and motivating for the kids, but its also a bit of a "risk" for them in that flipping over can be a little scary.  Seeing their faces when they successfully flip - and then do it over and over - is such a great experience!

Early Literacy: Up and Down

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Holy cow!  Its been forever since I posted on the Wild Things Yoga site!  All I can say is that it was a crazy summer - moving home from Indonesia to Portland, doing my adult yoga teacher training, visiting my mom, and going to a weeklong Mindfulness in Education retreat. Topped off by just settling into new jobs, a new house, and a new(ish) life here in the Pacific Northwest.  Whew!

One of the new jobs I'm settling into is teaching after-school yoga classes - one to preschoolers and the other to Kinder-2nd grade.  This particular post is about the Kinder-2nd grade class, and other posts will focus on the pre-schoolers.  But any of these lessons can be modified for various ages. 

For the first K-2 class, I used a previous lesson plan based on the book I Wonder by Annaka Harris.  For this second class though, I brought in the book Up and Down by Oliver Jeffers, which is the sequel to the book Lost and Found. I absolutely love Oliver Jeffers and his characters, and I feel like his stories are appealing to both kids and adults.  In Up and Down, a little penguin decides he wants to fly. So he leaves his best friend and joins a circus to be shot out of a cannon - only to find that he misses his friend. During class, we worked on the idea of "flying" in yoga by focusing on balancing poses. The class culminated in a Challenge Pose, which was Crow.  This was a really fun class to do early on because the poses are super fun, motivating, and accessible for every kid no matter their level.

Early Literacy: I Wonder

I just received the book I Wonder by Annaka Harris in the mail, and LOVE it.  Its gorgeous and perfectly simple, with a great message for kids and grown-ups.  On the first read through, I saw all the possibilities for a kids yoga class, and came up almost instantaneously with this lesson plan.

I Wonder captures the beauty of saying "I don't know" and coming up with all sorts of fantastic ideas and wonderings about the mysteries of the universe.  It opens the door for a conversation around what the kids are curious about, and I loved not only hearing their questions but also the responses from the rest of the group.  For example, one student "wondered" where the planets came from and the ideas from the rest of the group ranged from the scientific to the spiritual.  It was really lovely.

The actual practice was a blast. It felt so joyful and fun to just let go of my own control and expectations (to an extent :)) and open the class up to the kids' experimentations with their bodies.  When I "wondered" what might happen if we tried to balance on our hands, the kids gradually found themselves at the wall playing around with all sorts of balancing postures.  When I "wondered" about putting our heads to our knees, the kids showed me a full range of creative poses. And when I "wondered" about keeping our feet perpendicular during poses, I was really aiming for the Warriors and Triangle, but my eyes were opened to SO many more possibilities.  

A class I will absolutely repeat!

Early Literacy: The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (lesson plan, part 2)

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Last year, I did a yoga class around the book The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gernstein because it is probably one of my most favorite picture books of all time.  So here it is, making a reappearance in this new lesson plan.  And I'm sure it won't be the last time! Besides being a fantastic tool for teaching almost any subject (it encompasses comparisons of non-fiction vs. fiction, a plethora of math concepts, stellar vocabulary, lends itself beautifully to social studies/current events, touches on geography, and could be used for any number of narrative and language building activities), The Man Who Walked Between the Towers also provides the perfect foundation for a yoga practice focused on balance, perseverance, self-awareness, and risk-taking.

Three things I loved - and felt really successful with - in this particular class: 1) The Connection activity where everyone had a chance to share a time they had taken a risk and/or were brave; and 2) the use of a tactile drishti (we used plastic gemstones, representing a crystal) to help kids stay engaged and focused during balancing poses; and 3) the use of the "crystal" for Savasana.  For the latter I placed a gemstone on each child's forehead and led kids on a guided meditation where they imagined the light of the crystal traveling all through their body and then shining out to the world.  The lesson plan goes into all the detail for the class so I won't break it all down here, but needless to say this is a class I will repeat again and again!

Because of some changes to the schedule, we were a bit rushed on time and didn't get to the game, but I have played it with kids before and its a real crowd-pleaser.  But it can take time depending on the size of your class, so allow for at least 10 minutes :)  


PS. There is a great slideshow on Youtube that shows cool pictures of Philippe Petite actually walking on the wire in 1974.  This 1974 news story, showing an interview with one of the policemen who tried to get Philippe off the wire, is also a really nice complement to the read aloud.  And then this mini-documentary is also a great addition to any lesson if you have an extra 15 minutes (it shows some of the same footage as the above news story)! The documentary Man on Wire is also a great resource :)

Early Literacy: Manfish lesson plan


For this last term of school, I re-started my after-school Storybook Yoga class for 1st and 2nd graders.  For this set of classes, I wanted to establish "themes" more related to the yogi way of life, meaning that within each class we talk about a yama or niyama, and/or focus on building self-awareness, self-respect, the idea of non-competition, etc.  through asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing).  For this class, I used the gorgeous picture book Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne and Eric Puybaret to talk about Ahimsa, or non-violence (the first of five yamas).  This tied in perfectly to Earth Day, as the book touches on water pollution and the efforts Jacques Cousteau has undertaken to clean up our waterways.  Because we live in Indonesia, a country of 15,000+ islands, the kids have all witnessed first hand both the beauty of the wild ocean and the trash that pollutes it.  This read aloud sparked some great connections and ideas for what we can all do to practice Ahimsa with our precious earth.

With the asanas, backbends were the name of the game.  After a bit of core work, we spent a lot of time on our bellies imitating various forms of sea life (including scuba divers!), and then finished it off with some restorative forward folds and "jellyfish" shakes.  This physical practice really challenged the kids to move with their breath and use it to support the poses, and they all had a great time pretending to be manta rays and puffer fish.  

Before final relaxation the kids laid on their backs and pretended to be starfish, breathing and stretching out from their core. We inhaled and stretched our bodies as much as possible, and then exhaled and relaxed the whole body. I forgot my music for Savasana, so after starfish stretches I did an impromptu "ocean journey" guided meditation, taking the kids from the beach to the waters edge and then all the way under to explore the various ocean life that we talked about during our class.  I'm not always comfortable leading guided visualization and usually have to psych myself up for it, but it worked out great!  It was so lovely to see the kids just melt into the floor and rest so peacefully.  Often times, they continue laying there after we have finished.  Its a good reminder when this happens that while kids love to move, they also crave rest, relaxation and silence.  Something to keep in mind for future classes.  

This book also lends itself beautifully to some great literacy areas, including non-fiction vs. fiction, vocabulary growth, and reading comprehension strategies.  I highly recommend it!

Early Literacy: Extra Yarn

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If you haven't read the lovely book Extra Yarn, then hurry hurry to make it part of your repertoire.  Its got everything - a generous heroine, an evil villan, humor, magic, and mystery.  It asks kids to think deeply about the power of magic and giving, and encourages imagination and discussion.  And the book has some great vocabulary words, starting with knit, but also including ridiculous, fond,  twitched/quivered, and hurl.  Its also a great opportunity to talk about Asteya, one of the yoga yamas, meaning "non-stealing."

For the asana portion of this storybook practice, we focused on backbends and heart openers to "help our hearts get bigger and more generous" like Annabelle's, the main character in Extra Yarn. Often we "knit" our hands together behind our back for poses.  I will admit - the kids in my after-school activity, for which this practice was planned, were really tired this particular day (2:00 on a Friday, right after school - enough said...).  They struggled to get through the whole asana practice, so we modified it a bit by cutting out Bow, Windshield Wipers, and rocking on backs at the end.  

I also modified this practice to fit a 20-minute session with our early childhood students.  Essentially, we opened with three Sun Breaths, read the book and talk about all of the above, and then did poses such as forward bend (with hands "knitted" behind backs and arms stretched), Cobra, Shark, Camel, Bridge, etc.  We ended with LovingKindness and an OM.  

As mentioned above, I love this book for all the things you can discuss. Is the box magic or not?  Why didn't Annabelle just keep the yarn for herself? Why didn't the yarn appear for the Archduke?  Did the yarn re-appear for Annabelle?  Why did it work for her and not for the Archduke?  Its an incredibly engaging tale, and is a perfect fit for a "yogi" story about heartfulness.



Early Literacy: The Leopard's Drum (with modification for shorter class)


The Leopard's Drum by Jessica Souhami has been my go-to book the past few weeks with story-telling yoga.  Its  a fantastic story filled with great vocabulary (magnificent, fierce, boastful, and jealous) and opens itself up for an ethical discussion about fairness and sharing.  And, of course, it lends itself to many different animal yoga poses. The Leopard's Drum is a West African tale about a leopard who makes a huge drum but then refuses to share it.  The Sky-God wants the drum, and the forest animals conspire to steal it from the leopard. The animal that is successful is promised a reward from the Sky-God.

The lesson plan included here is for a full 35-45 minute class, but I have also been adapting it to a 15-20 minute read aloud for the EC and Kinder students.  During the latter, I open with three Sun breaths/OM and then go right into the story. We do each pose as we come to it in the book, and I have focused on the above vocabulary words during the reading (using the SSTAR model from Hanen). We close with a conversation around the fairness of the animals stealing the leopard's drum and brainstorming other, more positive, solutions (i.e. the animals could all make their own drums, the leopard could make drums for them and the Sky-God, etc.)

All in all, this book has lent itself beautifully for EC through 2nd grade, and I think it would be a great read aloud for older grades as well.  

Early Literacy: ABC Yoga


I just started again working with our early childhood students (ages 3-5), incorporating movement/yoga and breathing into literacy activities.  Its always such a wonderful surprise (no matter how many times I experience it) to discover what natural yogis kids are, especially the really little ones.  Because it was our first class, we practiced doing Sun Breaths and our Om on the third breath.  Unlike older kids, these little guys don't feel silly or self-conscious the first time they do this.  They just settle into the breath and Om like a fish to water.  The silence right after the Om is so gorgeous.  Then I introduced Om as a way to manage behavior.  When we are getting really silly and the kids hear me "Om" they are expected to come back to their seated position.  We practiced this and again - amazing.  No matter how crazy they got, when hearing "Om" they got just as peaceful just as fast.

Our activity this week focused on letter/sound knowledge. I made up flashcards with each letter of the alphabet and corresponding animal.  The kids would name the letter that was coming next ("what comes after C?  Yes D!") and we would make the sound together.  They would guess the animal or I would show them, and then we would do the corresponding pose.  Because we only had 20 minutes, we got through about half the alphabet in one class.  It was so fun!  The kids were engaged throughout with both the literacy activity and the poses.  We imagined what each animal might sound like, and then incorporated a breath activity by breathing in through our nose and breathing out while making the sound. We also gave the animals different emotions and played out what the animals sounds would sound like if they were happy, sad, angry, etc.

At the end of class, I worked with the kids on sending "friendly wishes" (culled from Susan Kaiser Greenland's The Mindful Child) , which is another name for "loving kindness."  We put our hands on our hearts and send a wish to ourselves for happiness.  Then we visualized our moms and dads, and sent them a wish for happiness also.  Beautiful!

Early Literacy: The Chicken Thief


Wordless picture books might be among my most favorite genre of children's literature.  I love the idea that the stories can be changed over and over, and how the books lend themselves so easily to many different language concepts.  I also love the level of detail many wordless picture books put into their pages.  Without words, the pictures are allowed to tell multiple stories at once.  One of my go-to wordless picture books is The Chicken Thief by Beatrice Rodriguez.  Its a hilarious tale of kidnapping and chase with a great twist at the end.   For older kids especially, the unexpected ending could be predicted by really attending to the details and emotions of the characters throughout the story.

Because of the agility of the characters in the book and the final twist in the story, I focused this week's after-school yoga class on balancing and ending with a twist.  The balancing and agility poses involved using a ball as a prop between knees, feet and hands, which was really fun for the kids.  The twist the end was a perfect way to just end the asanas on a peaceful note.

Because it was nearing the end of the school year and was our final class together, the kids - and admittedly me - were a little more wiggly than usual.  As such, we scrapped  traditional sun salutations for warm-up again in lieu of Squeeze, Rock, Pop and Peel and we ended the class with a rousing game of Yogi Says. I started the game as the "Yogi" but then the kids took turns.  To help them out with remembering specific poses to call out, I laid out Yoga Pretzel cards of familiar postures.



Early Literacy: A Sick Day for Amos McGee

When I returned back to Jakarta after my dad's memorial service and bereavement leave, I was so full of compassion and gratitude for everyone around me. Knowing I was jumping right back into my after-school yoga class that Tuesday I wanted to pick a book that captured how I was feeling.  Enter A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead.  This is a gorgeous book all about the power of friendships, being kind, having compassion for those around you, and finding ways to make life a little brighter for your friends.  

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With my Kinder-2nd graders I don't spend a ton of time on a "class message" so to speak, but I did explain why I chose this book.  That after my dad's death, so many friends from all over the world sent me cards and emails, flowers and books, healing energy and kind thoughts. The power of this compassion that was shown to me made me feel so loved, which is an amazing feeling.   

A few things about this lesson plan that I really love, in addition to the message: 

  • The kids were really wound up at the beginning and asked for a new warm-up, rather than the sun salutations we typically do.  So I introduced "Squeeze, Rock, Pop and Peel" - which I'm sure has other names as it is likely used in many types of movement classes.  Sitting on the floor, we squeezed our knees to our chest and sang "squeeze the orange, squeeze squeeze the orange." Next we rocked on our back while singing "rock the potato, rock rock the potato."  Then we jumped up in a star shape and sang "pop the popcorn, pop pop the popcorn." Finally we did side stretches with our arms extended and sang "peel the banana, peel peel the banana."  And then we sang "go bananas, go go bananas" while the kids danced all over their mats.  They LOVED this warm-up. At the end I would say (loudly) "FREEZE" them and then one would yell "BANANAS" and they would start dancing again until I said "FREEZE AND SIT!"  
  • The game.  We played Invent-A-Pose, which tied in perfectly to the zoo animal characters from the book.  I put 5 different zoo animals in a bag, and each kid drew one out. Then they had a few minutes to think of a great pose to go with that animal. After thinking it through, each student came up to the "teacher mat" and taught the rest of the class.  It was really rewarding for the kids to come up and be the teacher, and they loved it.  However, they definitely needed some support to get the other kids' attention and interest at times.  I think I would set this up a bit differently next time, although I'm not quite sure how....
  • The final savasana/meditation.  This was a bit tricky as I have a few students who really respond to deep pressure and arm/leg massage during savasana.  In fact, this is sometimes the only way they can lay quietly during this time.  So I had to walk around and work with kids while doing the meditation.  It wasn't ideal, and is something to work on for sure.  The guided visual meditation took the kids on a path around a giant zoo, where they met a tiger, a turtle, and an elephant.  As they neared each fence, the animals came toward the kids and bowed their heads in gratitude for the kids coming to visit.  And then I had the kids envision themselves bowing or smiling back in gratitude.  I incorporated many of the senses, especially sight and touch. 


Early Literacy: The Lion's Share Part 2

Way back when, I wrote a post about using the book The Lion's Share by Matthew McElligott with my early childhood kids.  I stumbled upon this book by accident but its on my must-buy list for this summer. It is a funny, clever story that teaches the value of sharing and the math skills of halving and doubling. Its also lends itself perfectly to yoga with all of the animal characters!

As such for my after-school Kinder-2nd grade yoga class, I adapted my original lesson plan using The Lion's Share. As with the younger kids, my K-2 group was so engaged in the read aloud and in anticipating how many cakes each animal was going to have to make. As I turned each page to reveal more and more cakes, the kids scooted closer and closer to my mat, their eyes getting wider and wider.  This book is brilliant!

A few things that I am so pleased with in this lesson plan:

  • I introduced a mantra to start the class. Sa Ta Na Ma is a mantra about the cycle of life and I think its really sweet set to the tune of Where is Thumbkin.  The kids touched their thumb to each finger for each syllable (Sa was thumb to pointer finger, Ta was thumb to middle finger, etc.) so they could synch movement to breath/syllable.  It was really lovely and have them a different way to settle into class.
  • After we did Sun Salutations and read the book, we did some warm-up breathing exercises and poses. I don't do this every time, but I really liked the way it set the kids up for doing bigger and more challenging poses.
  • The game! What a hit! I used a ball to represent a "cake" and each kid chose an animal to be from the book. The kids then "passed the cake" to each other using their feet and flipping into plow pose.  It was a blast!  Definitely one I will use again.   


Early Literacy: I Want My Hat Back


  I first discovered I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen when I was book shopping with my niece for her 5th birthday present last summer.   She was immersed in the Mo Willems section (rightfully so) while I browsed.  By happenstance I picked up this book and then proceeded to read it two more times in succession.  It is hilarious and lends itself to so many language-related discussions and activities. For older kids its a perfect book about inferencing and predicting, character development, and even into philosophical discussions of right and wrong.  Social skills and indirect language can also be addressed with this book.

For the younger crowd, we can target inferencing/predicting again, as well as text features such as text size, matching the color of the writing to the color of the character, and using color to represent emotion.  Sequencing and categorizing (of animals) are also great skills to focus on with this book.  I also find it very interesting to see which kids notice right away that Rabbit has stolen Bear's hat and which ones need a bit more time to figure it out.

With all of the great forest animals in I Want My Hat Back, this story also lends itself perfectly to an early childhood yoga lesson . We revisited previous poses such as Bear Pose, Frog Pose, and Snake Pose, as well as added a few new ones such as Deer Pose (Chair) and Rabbit Pose.  Afterwards we played a "Who Has My Hat Game" (see lesson plan) with modifications for the EC1 kids.  The game was a perfect activity to work on asking/answering questions, reading body language, and listening to your intuition.  The kids all had a blast and its definitely a game we will repeat with the next lesson using Jon Klassen's follow up book This Is Not My Hat.

Early Literacy: Where the Wild Things Are


As I mentioned on my blog, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak was perhaps my most favorite book as a child.  I am constantly surprised, living overseas, how many of my non-American kids don't know this book.  I feel like it should be give out at hospitals worldwide whenever a new baby is born.  I use it all the time with kids, not just for yoga, but also to work on vocabulary, storytelling, emotions, etc.  Its an all-around book and should be on every bookshelf.

Okay, I'm off my soapbox :)   I used Where The Wild Things Are for my last after-school class (lesson plan here) based on a request from one of my first graders.  We spent the asana/movement part of class working up toward Wild Thing pose, which was tricky for the kids - but they loved it!  With support from me, all of the kids made many attempts to twist and flip their bodies.  It was a perfect tie in.  We also used the story to talk about emotions, such as anger, and ways to use meditation and breath to deal with the times we get really mad at someone.  At the end, I took the kids through a guided meditation to their own "Wild Things" place where a forest grew in their room, a boat took them across the sea, and they met loving, kind creatures from another world. Each week I see the kids settle into the meditation/savasana so much more easily and peacefully.  Its a lovely sight to see!