The Lion's Share: teaching fractions and doubling with yoga

Right before Winter Break I realized that I’d be coming back to both a new year and a new session with my early childhood classes.  Which meant a new lesson plan was in order. I had some time to think and plan for it, so it fell to the back burner.  As I wandered through Google to find the perfect book to use to teach emotions to a student with social needs, I stumbled on The Lion’s Share and immediately switched gears to focus on early childhood.  Animal characters to turn into yoga poses, an ethics lesson in greed and sharing, and a totally fun story to engage the kids.  And to take it even one step further - the story lent itself perfectly to a simple introduction of fractions (halving) and doubling.  I chose just one simple game to do with the kids as you’ll see in the below lesson plan, but there are a myriad of activities that tie in beautifully with this book.  A few additional ideas are included below, but I’m sure you could come up with tons of others.

With the really little kids (3-4 year olds) I only used the halves of cake for the activity, but for the older kids (4-5) I used halves, thirds, and fourths.  The kids all loved the game and kept asking to play it again and again.  From the get-go, this is probably one of my more successfully yoga/literacy lesson plans, and ranks right on up there with Chalk (lesson plan) as a kid favorite.

One more idea not listed below that would be fun to try is to actually incorporate the yoga/meditation into the math lesson.  Each student could become a “piece of cake.” Have an even number of students lay down with the heads towards the center of a circle.  Choose the same amount of students to lay down with their feet going towards the circle, and have everyone join hands. Take a minute and have the kids close their eyes and do a mini-meditation. Afterwards, have the remaining students count the number of “pieces” and then figure out how many people could share the cake evenly.

This lesson plan could be easily adapted for older kids, and I may try to collaborate with my friend who teaches 4th grade to figure out a way to work it into their math curriculum.  If so, I will definitely post the results here. 


Color Meditation (4th grade)

Marcey’s kids are awesome, and always engage in our yoga and meditation activities.  Their insights especially after meditating are really bright and interesting, so they are a fun group to try new types of meditation with.  Up until now we have done more guided imagery of “real” places, so we decided this last go-round to try something more abstract. In consultation with the book Calm Kids, I drafted a script focusing on color.  The kids could pick any color they wanted and were asked to envision it filling up a bubble surrounding their body.  With the breath, they visualize breathing the color into their bodies and then breathing it out. 

What the kids shared after was beautiful.  More than one said that they saw smaller bubbles inside their bubble, and the smaller bubbles were filled with pictures of people or things they loved.  They all visualized their bubbles in different places; some were on the ground, others floating, some in a forest, some on the ocean.  Gorgeous.

To tie in the more abstract meditation, we did a sort of abstract writing assignment.  We had the kids do a “stream of consciousness” activity.  In all fairness, I swiped the idea for the activity from  We talked through what stream of consciousness is, and I showed them a real-time example by typing out all my thoughts in a one-minute period via the SmartBoard so they could see the first part of the activity in action.  They were so excited and asked a ton of questions about what was allowed and what wasn’t.  Marcey and I dubbed it One Rule Writing - the only rule is that you can’t stop writing for 2 minutes. Paragraphs, spelling, and punctuation was out the window.  The only goal was to get all your thoughts down on paper to help guide future writing assignments.

It was brilliant.  Every kids put pen to paper for 2 minutes straight, even ones who usually take some time to get started.  They saw it as a game and at the end so many wanted to share their writing.  It was great insight for Marcey and I too, as we got to have a small glimpse into their minds, thoughts, worries, and interests.  It was a bummer that we ran out of time as we started to have the kids cross out half their words so they could create a poem/story from their writing (see the above link for the full activity). Hopefully they will find time to get back to it and complete it.  And for me, I will make sure next time to carve out enough time to at least have them start on the poems/stories.

Lost and Found

Its the end of first term here at Jakarta International School. With that comes lots and lots of report writing. Report cards, assessment reports, progress notes for my RtI kids, ILPs (IEPs in the States), etc. And so many meetings. So. Many. Meetings.

This is my roundabout way of saying that I fell behind in planning for my early childhood kids this go-round.  Yesterday afternoon I suddenly realized I had no book, no lesson plan, no yoga poses, and no activity planned for the next day.  Frantically I ran to the library to see if I could find any seasonal, non-Christmas books to fit the bill.  In the process I rediscovered Oliver Jeffers’ Lost and Found, about a lonely little penguin who befriends a young boy.  The boy rows the penguin all the way back to the South Pole only to realize that the penguin didn’t want to go home - he just wanted a friend.

I had about 30 minutes to figure out what to do with this book with my little ones. I scanned through and figured that we could do a quick picture walk/yoga sequence with “penguin pose” (feet in ballet first position and arms at the sides), “house pose” (arms over the head with hands forming a point), bird pose, boat pose (with rowing action), and “wave pose” (arms up and then forward into a fold forming the motion of a wave).

So. Book chosen? Check.  Yoga/movement sequence planned? Check.  Activity?  Activity…?  Activity…..?

I turned to my good friend Google for penguin-y activity ideas, and came up with the idea to play “lost and found” with a penguin crafted from a toilet paper tube, construction paper, and googly eyes. Two kids would leave the room while I hid the penguin, and the other kids will help the seekers find it by telling them if they were hot/cold. Brilliant!  We could work on opposites, such as warm/cool and hot/cold, as well as more descriptive words like freezing and burning.

Today was my “guinea pig” lesson - the first of the new cycle.  Hmmm.  It’s the end of the year, it’s a Friday, we had a special assembly today, and everyone is equally amped and exhausted.  Needless to say there was a lot of “everyone back to the carpet!” and “once more, we don’t tell the seekers where the penguin is - that ruins the game!” and “are they warm?” being shouted by me over the noisy din of 13 4-year-olds.  My voice is on its way out - and I have five more of these classes to teach!

That said, the kids had a blast “rowing” through the ocean. They were so enthusiastic about telling the seekers if they were hot/cold.  At the end, some of the boys came up with different variations on how to play the game, and another little girl was so excited to teach her mom.

My guinea pig classes are always fun and definitely help guide me for the next 5 classrooms.  With the next class, I will do things a bit differently.  For instance, we might go outside. The classroom was full of things they tripped over in their excitement to play. I will explain the rules more specifically, as well as the idea of teamwork.  If you have a partner, work together.  If people are giving you clues, make sure you listen to them.

But overall it was a successful lesson considering how quickly I planned it.  Good to know I can do these things in a pinch now that I have some more experience under my belt!

UPDATE: I have done this lesson with two more classes, one EC1 (3-4 year olds) and one EC2 (4-5 year olds). All in all, they love the movements, especially “wave” and acting like a penguin.  So very cute to watch. In other areas…

  • With the EC1 class I modified the activity a bit to make it simpler.  I hid the penguin while all of the kids closed their eyes.  Then they went on a scavenger hunt for it. Whoever found it got to help me hide the penguin for the next round.  In theory this was a great activity.  But in reality, the kids are still a bit too young even for this.  With one penguin and 13 kids, there was some level of crying at not being the one to find it and grabbing of my little penguin causing an eye to fall off.  I would further modify this activity to maybe have a little penguin for each student hid around the room.  Or…just do an arts and craft activity with the little ones :)
  • For EC2, we did the original activity and it worked much better as all of the kids who were giving the “hot/cold” clues had to stay on the carpet while the two seekers looked around the room.  This eliminated the problem of kids giving away the hiding place.  It was very sweet as they all cheered each other with great enthusiasm!


Rainforest Meditation

Marcey’s class (and the whole of 4th grade) recently did an inquiry unit on the Rainforest. To celebrate the unit and all they learned, the students hosted a Rainforest Conference. They split into different groups and presented to other students and teachers about a topic of their choosing.  Endangered animals and mining were among the topics, and the kids put a lot of effort into their tech-based presentations. 

But along with presentations comes the dreaded task of public speaking.  Marcey and I decided that a guided meditation about the rainforest might help calm the kids down before the conference, and get their mind focused and ready to talk about what they learned. The script is in a separate post below.

I haven’t checked in with them yet on if/how the meditation helped with nerves.  But I do know that when they came in to the room, they were a bundle of nerves, and when they left they seemed more relaxed.  Hopefully that feeling stayed with them!

One thing that worked really well was the room we used.  We almost always do yoga and meditation in Marcey’s room, which requires us to move desks and the kids are laying down everywhere.  For this meditation, we used a more open music room space which allowed the kids to be more in a group and less scattered during meditation. I’m also working on getting mats for the kids to help them maintain their space a bit more, as well as some weighted items that they can place on their legs or stomachs to help keep them grounded.

Chalk: Dinosaurs Come to Life!

For this round of Early Childhood sessions I picked one of my favorite picture books: Chalk by Bill Thomson. If you don’t know it, I encourage you to run to Powells (or your closest locally owned bookstore if you’re not in Portland) and buy it for your library.  Its a wordless picture book that tells the story of three kids on a rainy day who find a bag of magic chalk, and one of them uses it to bring a giant T-Rex to life.  The ending is creative, and the whole tale leads to some great discussions around reality vs. imagination.  It even has an element of scary anticipation - will the T-Rex eat the kids or will something save them?

This is also a great book for yoga with kids (lesson plan below).  We took Rain pose from last session’s Little Cloud sequence and incorporated it as the starting and ending point for the Chalk sequence.  For Sun pose, we did a modified sun salutations, just allowing our bodies to stretch up as the sun rises and bend forward as the sun sets.  For butterfly pose, the kids had a great time making their “wings” flutter fast like a butterfly late for dinner, or slow like a sleepy, lazy butterfly.  And T-Rex pose was the best.  We did it three times and each time the kids’ roars got louder and louder.  It was awesome.

The post-reading activity is one I’ve done in the past, and its always a hit.  At first the kids are slightly disappointed that nothing they draw with chalk comes to life.  But once I start engaging them to think creatively, they really get into it and start spreading their art all over the walkways.  Today one little girl said with excitement,” Ms. Callaghan I drew a butterfly and then I SAW one!!”  She kept going with her imagination until she had conjured up tons of butterflies and other creatures that live in the tree next to her classroom building. 

Teaching Punctuation with Yoga

Today my friend Marcey and I co-taught a punctuation lesson (see lesson plan), incorporating literacy, yoga and writing.  The book Punctuation Takes a Vacation is hilarious when read aloud and allows the kids to do a lot of guessing games as to which punctuation mark is “talking” throughout the story.  This is the first time we attempted a full yoga flow with the class, so I did a demo of each “punctuation pose” and we talked about any alignment considerations (i.e. knees over ankles) first. Then we did the sequence together as a class in a flow after the demonstration.  The second time around, the kids really got it!  We are going to do the same class together next week with another punctuation lesson, so hopefully they can retain the sequence and poses.  Marcey and I also noticed that during the Relaxation at the end, the kids fell into it quickly and easily, and managed their own 1,2,3 Breathing - a direct result of the work we’ve done in previous weeks! 

Little Cloud Lesson Plan (the younger years

These past few weeks I have been doing a yoga/language/literacy lesson with our 3-5 year olds using Eric Carle’s Little Cloud.  What an awesome book!  The kids practice all sorts of animal and nature poses, and then come together as a group to create a rainstorm.  They practice breath support by becoming the wind that pushes clouds around our sky, and they use their imaginations to think up all sort of things clouds can turn into.  All of this great knowledge and discussion is then incorporated into an art activity.

A few things about the below lesson plan if you want to use all of it or even just bits of it:

  • Freeze/Om is my classroom management strategy.  When the kids are getting too silly or I need them back on the carpet, I say “Freeze!”  Then, when they are still, I put my hands together in anjali mudra and slowly sit while chanting “Om.”  The rule is that the kids have to join me by sitting quietly in their spot by the time I finish Om.  They love this, and always put their hands in anjali mudra and join me in the Om.
  • Another book you could use for this lesson or as an add-on is It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G Shaw.
  • There are extension activities that could be used for the early years but also older years too in the below lesson plan.  But other ideas include using whipped cream and marshmallows to create food-based cloud projects or to teach mindful eating with Little Cloud; using shaving cream outside to create large scale cloud art; creating a felt board replication of the story to use with retells and play; create “rainclouds” using cotton balls and eyedroppers with water, such as this activity from The Moveable Alphabet blog


The Story of Jumping Mouse (4th and 5th grade)

Week two in Marcey’s class went great considering it was our first experiment with incorporating active yoga into a read aloud and literacy activity for the older kids.  We chose The Story of Jumping Mouse by John Steptoe because it is one of the reserved books for my school’s 4th grade class and because its message ties in perfectly with a mantra I introduced the last time I was there: lokah samasta sukhino bavanthu.  It means “may everyone be free and happy.” I also add “and my actions, words, and kindness contribute to everyone’s freedom and happiness.” 

Briefly, this Native American story centers on a little mouse who journeys across the water, desert and mountains to finally make it to the faraway land he’s heard about in stories from elders.  Along the way, he selflessly uses his gifts to help other animals he meets.  Its a great message and a beautiful story. After we picture-walked, practiced the poses, and read the book, students were given pictures of each pose along with the name and asked to sequence the story based on those pictures.  Then they were asked to retell or summarize each part of the story in their readers notebook.

All in all the lesson went well, and the kids were into doing the poses, making the animals sounds, breathing exercises, etc.  The sequencing was tricky for some, so we’ll need to go back and reflect on whether that was because sequencing in general is difficult for them or because we need to change something in the lesson to make it more clear.  One hiccup we ran into along the way was realizing that it was going to take slightly longer than 45 minutes to get through the whole lesson, including the retell/summary portion.  We had to stop before they could write the retell/summary, and Marcey had to revisit it later with the kids. 

The Story of Jumping Mouse lesson plan

The sheet with the pictures to be sequenced is on its way.  Google docs was giving me some trouble with this.  I used pictures of myself in the poses but the photos I took were too big. I will post pictures of others doing the poses pulled from Google images.  If you have time, I recommend you take photos of yourself or one of the kids doing the poses and use those as it will make it more personal, consistent, and fun for the kids.

Om Schooled

I just started an online training/certification course through Om Schooled. I am so excited to figure out more effective ways to incorporate yoga into my work with kids and my school’s curriculum!  The first two lessons I posted were good starts in my mind.  However, in addition to sharing my ideas and plans, part of the reason I started this blog was to track my progress as I learn more about teaching kids yoga.  It will be interesting to reflect back in a few months and see how my thinking and planning have changed based on all of the new information I am taking in and trying.  Stay tuned…

Early Literacy: Big Bear Hug

Each week I push into our early childhood classrooms (age 3 to 5) to do a read aloud, book talk, and related project or activity.  This year I decided to incorporate yoga and movement into my sessions with these little ones, so you’ll often see my lesson plans and the outcomes (what worked, what didn’t, how things can be modified).  You’ll also see the motor and language/literacy targets for each lesson. These lessons could be used or modified for slightly older grades, such as Kinder and 1st grade.  I’ve limited the number of poses for most of these lesson plans to about 4-6, but I have added additional ideas to some if you want to expand.

The first session of the year was an easy introduction since we have a number of new kids in our early childhood 2 (EC2) classrooms and all new students in our early childhood 1 (EC1) classrooms.  I chose the book Big Bear Hug by Nicholas Oldland because its a fun, heartwarming story, targets great values for this age (or any age really), and lends itself to a few wonderful poses.  

The kids were really enthusiastic about the yoga poses and got very silly during bear pose before the read aloud.  They were falling all over each other, giggling, tickling each other, and “growling.”  It was awesome.  But after the read aloud, when I asked them to “walk like a bear” to their tables for the art activity, they had a little trouble and fell back into complete silliness.  Getting them back on track was a little tricky, so next time I will model the walking first. I will also have them go to the tables two by two.  I may also try introducing a freeze game where they all freeze in a pose when I say “FREEZE!”  This may help some with the classroom management end.

All in all, it was a successful first lesson with yoga, and I’m excited to try (and share) more!

UPDATE: In another class, one student suggested lining up to do Bear pose to walk to their tables.  It worked like a charm!  They formed a train to the edge of the carpet, and then got up and walked the rest of the way to their tables.

Big Bear Hug lesson plan

Writer's Workshop and Meditation: Working on Settings

My friend Marcey is a wonderful 4th grade teacher and an even more wonderful friend.  Three things came together so we could make a co-teaching lesson work.  1) We love working together; 2) she wanted to incorporate yoga and meditation into her classroom; and 3) our schedules matched up!

We decided to use Writers Workshop as our guiding factor for this lesson, specifically working on the narrative structure and descriptions.  Because a well described setting is the foundation for any good story, it seemed like a logical place to begin.  As you’ll see from the lesson plan and script below, the goal was to get the kids visualizing a peaceful place in their mind using the 5 senses and then to have them write about it in their writers notebook.  The end result was fantastic.  Even some of her students who struggle with writing came up with gorgeous descriptions from this exercise.

Lesson plan

Meditation Script

Samples of kids writing after meditation activity:

“…the coco was chocolate, hot and sweet…”

“…with horses trotting around me, while smelling the grass in the summer air…”

“…and I go upstairs and I grab a book, and I listen to peaceful music…”

“…I can hear the peaceful water dripping down from my heart…”

“…it felt good going on the grass with no shoes…”

“…I can taste the mouth-watering bacon…”

“..I hear the sound of the waves crashing down.  This is my peaceful place.”

“…the air smelled meaty.”