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!

Yoga and literacy: popcorn 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.)

What a treat to find this fun new book, Bob & Rob & Corn on the Cob by Todd McQueen!

In the tradition of Green Eggs and Ham, a cast of animals and and a silly robot try new foods. The rhyming text is jaunty, and the illustrations are original and lots of fun. I won’t spoil the ending for you, except to tell you that popcorn is involved. Hence the theme!
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Literacy Ideas:

Revisit familiar vocabulary: squirrel, rabbit, chicken, dog, duck,pig.

Explain new vocabulary: tofu, fondue, kabob. Print out photos from the internet to illustrate, since not all of these are illustrated in the book.

Connect with children’s prior experience: Ask who has had corn on the cob. Where? Did they like it? Do they put butter or salt on it or nothing? What does it sound like when you eat corn on the cob?

The title and text of the book provide plenty of fodder for emphasizing and playing with rhyming words.

Yoga/Movement Ideas:

Pop and stop: In this game, kids jump like popcorn and then try to do a balancing pose.

I like to give them a specific number of jumps. We might start with 6, and then get into our balancing pose. You could do something as easy as lifting one foot off the ground, or do a tree pose. Or, try “balancing Bob & Rob pose!” Pretend to hold corn on the cob up to your mouth, reach one leg (squirrel tail!)  behind you, bend forward, balancing on one leg in a modified airplane pose. See if you can balance there for 6 seconds to match the 6 jumps. Stretch those “squirrel tails” out behind you.  Work your way up to 10 jumps and 10 seconds.

CORN ON THE COB!!!: This game renames savasana or resting pose “corn on the cob” pose. We talk about how corn on the cob is long and straight and just lies there on the plate. I have cards that either say “front,” “back” or have a picture of corn on the cob printed on them.  The front/back cards also have a picture of a kid standing at the front or back of their mat, so that the kids can “read” them.  I flash the cards, and the kids go to the right places on their mats, quietly.  When corn on the cob picture comes up, they get to say (loudly!), “CORN ON THE COB!” and then quickly lay down on their mats, being as still as possible.  I wiggle the toes of the stillest corn cobs, and they stand back up. Do it again!

This fun popcorn game is always a crowd pleaser.

Happy popping!