Yoga and literacy: Can You Make a SCARY FACE?

In one of my first preschool teaching jobs, we kept a zipped canvas tote bag in the circle area.  We called it “the surprise bag,” and we kept it stocked with books and symbols of songs and games (a frog for one song, a pinwheel for a favorite game) that were “sure things” with the kids in our room. On days when our lesson plans weren’t catching the kids’ attention or snack was late and we had a low-blood-sugar uprising on our hands, we’d take out the surprise bag and draw everyone back in to a more focused, happy place with a crowd-pleasing story or activity.

Can You...for blogI would definitely have put this book, Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas, in the surprise bag. I tried it out with a few groups of kids this week, and it was a big hit across the board. The fact that it encourages kids to move in a silly way, do “face yoga,” and even includes some intentional breathing (kids pretend to blow out a pretend bug that has landed in their mouth, which is a great opportunity to remind them about deeeeep breaths in and loooooong breaths out!) makes it a perfect fit for a children’s yoga class.

In my opinion, the very best “sure thing” activities end with the kids in a quieter state than when they started.  So, my only disappointment is that the last page of the book, while funny, leaves the kids in a keyed-up state,  making silly, scary faces to chase away a bug and a giant frog.

(Also, some tender-hearted sweeties in one class wanted to tell the bug that they weren’t really scary and that it was okay to come back – awwww!)

One way to transition the kids into a quieter place is to immediately move into a round of “Yogi says” with the main postures used being: bug (bug on its back = happy baby pose), frog (prayer squat), savasana when the book ends. That helps kids focus back on the teacher’s words and siphons off some more energy. During one of the savasanas, you can quietly transition the kids to the next activity.

Have fun with this one!

Who sings that song? Fall preschool edition!

Wondering about some of the music played in Friendly Yoga classes this fall?

I’ve listed a few favorites from the preschool classes below so that you can listen to them with your children at home. Play the yoga games we learn in class, lay down and relax for a song or too, or just sing your hearts out!

I’m full of gratitude for these wonderful artists whose music adds so much to Friendly Yoga classes.

Please support them by downloading favorite songs, and remember that most of them have CDs that make fantastic, meaningful, and beloved birthday and holiday gifts. And check out their websites to find out about touring dates so you can dance to their music live and in person!

You are my little birdMost of the music playing as you’ve arrived for class this fall is by Elizabeth Mitchell. Little Wing and If You Listen are from her album You Are My Little Bird, and Arm in Arm, I Wish You Well, and Circle of the Sun are on Blue Clouds (which was nominated for a Grammy).  You can find her duet with Alastair Moock (also a Grammy nominee), Take a Little Walk with Me, on Singing Our Way Through: Songs for the World’s Bravest Kids.

We’ve warmed up with Sometimes by Frances England (see this blog post from earlier this year) and played with Popcorn by  Barenaked Ladies (another post from this blog).

Dancing Bear by Bari Koral is from her album The Apple Tree and the Honey Bee. (Keep an eye out for Bari’s new kids’ show, Yogapalooza on Z Living this fall.)

I don’t think Laurie Berkner knew, when she wrote The Goldfish, that she had just penned the perfect beginning-yoga song. Kids of all ages love it (again! again! again!), and it’s a heart-pumping workout, with plenty of child’s pose resting in between bursts of activity. Laurie Berkner

And finally, the sweet song where your kids do yoga poses and then run over to give you a big hug at the end? That’s If I Were by Sammie Haynes and Lisa Flynn (of Childlight Yoga), and it’s from the album I Grow With Yoga.

We gear up for another session of Friendly Yoga in a few weeks, and I’m already gathering more good music to share during class, so stay tuned!

 

 

Yoga and literacy: dog theme

(I teach a weekly yoga and literacy class for preschoolers at a local library, and plan each 45-minute class around a specific book and related yoga/movement activities.)

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 11.22.20 AMSometimes a new preschool student will run into one of my yoga classes and announce, “I already know how to yoga!”

They then launch their little body into one of three poses.

Tree or…

Some kind of crazy-but-awesome, un-named, rubber-boned contortion or…

Downward facing dog.

Down dog is such a great pose to work on with children.  It ‘s fun to pretend to be dogs. It’s challenging to be halfway upside down and figure out where all your body parts should be.

And downward facing dog feels great, through the backs of the legs and the hips and the shoulders.

When planning a dog-themed class, I was so happy to find STICK! by Andy Pritchett.

Literacy Ideas:

Focus on the big, red letters on the cover. We might talk about which ones are curvy and which are straight, like sticks.

There is an exciting exclamation point to be noticed and played with! We practice saying “stick” in a calm way and “STICK!” with lots of enthusiasm. (Later in the book there is also a question mark to play with.)

The word “stick” is repeated MANY times in this book. I have the kids “read” it for me when they see it on the page. We might stop and explore what our mouth is doing when it says the word, hissing like a snake at the beginning, and making a the /K/ sound in the back of our throats at the end.

This is a great book for exploring vocabulary related to feelings. At different times the dog is confused, happy, playful, hopeful, sad, very sad, and curious.

 Yoga/Movement Ideas:

The little dog in this book has a very expressive face and body. Challenge the kids to imitate what he does with their own faces and bodies.

Bring in pictures of real dogs doing upward and downward facing dog. I like to print out large versions of these and laminate them so they can handle some wear and tear from class to class.  Have the kids try these poses, and add in some movement, puppy tail-wagging, and maybe even a three-legged dog (the kids think it’s hilarious to pretend to pee!).

Play FETCH!

After teaching the kids up and down dog,  add “stretching dog pose.” (I have a photo from a dog yoga calendar of a dog doing tabletop with one arm stretched out in front and the opposite leg stretching out in back. This is a challenging, fun pose for the kids to do!)

Bring out  sticks, dowels cut short, and “hide” them around the room while the kids watch. Kids 5 and under seem perfectly happy to have sticks “hidden” out in the open.

Explain that there is one stick per dog (reminders often required – in the fun of the game, some kids just start grabbing any sticks they can find!), and that once kids find theirs, they should crawl back to their mats, put their sticks down, and take a dog nap (child’s pose).

Sing this song, doing up, down, and stretching dog poses. (I usually sing it quite slow to give kids time to really get into each new pose). When you say FETCH!, it’s time to fetch those sticks!

Up dog, down dog

Up dog, down dog

Give a little stretch

Up dog, down dog

Up dog, down dog

Now…. it’s time to FETCH!

This one is a good workout and requires a lot of physical focus and concentration.  Enjoy!