Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Plant Sitter and the Garden of Eden: Another Read Aloud to Real Challenges Lesson

As summer blooms add color to our yard, I am reminded of the fourth lesson I facilitated in the Read Aloud to Real Challenges Course that I created for a homeschool co-op a little over a year ago.   The flowers that the children fashioned in that class (as well as the ones my own children made when I repeated the same class for them at home) were as colorful as the perennial garden patch in our yard now is.  The attention and creativity with which they created their flowers was equally as beautiful.

Two ways I continually try to train up my children with happy hearts are to:

  1. honor and encourage their creative genius.
  2. relate how their creativity is borne of our creator’s genius

The lesson I centered on The Plant Sitter and the Garden of Eden aimed to do just that.

Materials and Tools Needed
  • a copy of The Plant Sitter by Gene Zion (I believe this book is out of print.  We got our copy from the library and were thrilled with it.  If you cannot secure a used or librarycopy of the book, you could use a book on the same theme, such as Planting a Rainbow by Lois Elhert.)
  • blue paper
  • scissors
  • yarn
  • pipe cleaners
  • construction paper
  • recycled plastic lids
  • tape
  • styrofoam trays
  • leftover “great stuff” from other craft and challenge times
  • hole punch
  • stapler and staples
  • white boards and dry erase markers or scratch paper and writing tools
  • a picture book or painting with the Garden of Eden for inspiration

Welcoming Prayer and Stretch

The same as in Lesson Three.

Warm-Up Challenge: April Showers Bring May Flowers

To set up the challenge, bring out a pile of blue paper pre-cut into rain drop shapes, cut shapes as you chat with students and present the challenge, or challenge students to cut some rain drop shapes.  In the spring, ask what April showers bring:  May flowers.  Or, at this time of year, ask what thunderstorms help: plants and flowers.  Finally, challenge students to create as many bloom/flower shapes as possible within five minutes using only the raindrop shaped pieces of paper (and, perhaps, some pipe cleaners.)

As tempting as it may be to guide, model or help students make blooms, be sure to honor each child’s creativity by staying quiet during the pause that may occur as students solve the problems involved with this mini-challenge in their heads.  If a child gets “stuck” and seems “too” frustrated, simply ask some questions as guidance:  Can you name any flowers?  How many petals do you notice in such a flower?  What shapes do the petals make? Etc.

Read Aloud: The Plant Sitter

Ask children if they can guess what today’s story might be about.  Then, show the cover of The Plant Sitter.  Take a picture walk through the story’s rich illustrations and ask children to predict what they think the story might be about or ask questions that the text might answer.

Read The Plant Sitter, asking individual children to help read any text that they may be capable of and taking time to stop to really notice the details within the pictures and to make connections and predictions about the story as you go.  Be sure to identify what the problems in the story are and what the boy does to solve them. 
Ask children how the boy applied the strategy for solving problems that we have used for the past few weeks. How did he identify his problems, come up with plans for solving them, test his ideas and, if necessary, adapt his approaches?

For a richer experience, also discuss themes and values related the book—responsibility, hard work, ingenuity, the value of research, etc. Maybe even liken the way the plants grew and grew in the story to the miracle of the loaves and fishes.  Isn’t it amazing the way when one child offers meager gifts and talents, plenty can be creates?

The Main Challenge: Creating A Model of the Garden of Eden

Planning the Designs
Note that in the story we read, there were lots of growing things.  If it is winter or spring, mention that as the weather warms, many folks plan and build gardens.  If it is summer, talk about all the growing things outside.  If it is autumn, discus which plants are still growing and which are dying off for the winter.  Ask who can name the parts of a plant (roots, stem, leaves, petals, seeds).  Then ask if children can think of a Bible Story about a very special garden?

Present the day’s main challenge and its guidelines:

  • We will build a model of our own imaginary Garden of Eden.
  • It should be a rainbow of colors and contain plants in all shapes and sizes.
  • Each plant must have all its parts (stem, leaves, petals, seeds, roots).
  • Each planet must be freestanding.
  • Each plant must be made from materials provided, using  the tools provided (which may not actually become part of the construction).
Creating and Testing Designs
To encourage students to plan their model plants out first (as well as to avoid a free-for-all with materials), let them know they must use white boards and markers (or scrap paper and writing utensils) to brainstorm.  Once they have sketched their ideas and/or listed the materials they would like to use to test out their designs, they may collect materials that their plans specifically require.
Once children begin using their requested materials, if they discover they need other materials, offer them freely, but ask them what each new material might be used for.  As always, encourage children to look critically at any problems they may run into with their designs and to helps each other discover ways to overcome these or to revise their plans.
Challenge Complete!
Finally, of course, have students put their plants together to form a garden!

  • If you wish to add another parameter to the challenge, consider bringing one-inch cubes.  Suggest that plants may stand no taller than 12 stacked cubes and no shorter than three.
  • If any students finish early, simply extend the challenge by asking them to create more plants.  Or, add related challenges, such as a suggestion to creatures that could be found in the garden.
  • Inspiration for this lesson plan came from Planting a Rainbow at Children’s Engineering Educators, LLC.
  • If you happen to use ideas from this plan for your own home or classroom, please point folks back to this post (or series), and, also, be sure to stop by again with a comment to let me know how it went.  I always enjoy hearing how others adapt my lesson plans and collaborating to improve them for future use.
Want more?

Check out:

·         Lesson One, when Albert’s Alphabet inspired us to build self-standing letters in honor of the Holy Spirit

·         Lesson Two, when My Friend Rabbit had us building towers to point to God.

·         Lesson Three when Mr. Bear’s Chair encouraged us to build our own Sabbath chair models.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Match It Up: A Nature Study, Sensory and Reading Game to Prevent Summer Slide

Happy first day of summer!

I cannot believe it’s supposed to be sweltering hot today when just 10 days or so ago, the kids an I were comfortably tramping through nearby woods in long pants playing an impromptu reading game that I made up and Luke named:

Match It Up

A Game to Promote Nature Study and Early Reading while Enhancing a Sensory Diet


·         a bag of word, sentence or phrase cards
·         an extra bag
·         a natural outdoor space


Match word cards to real objects in nature.

Set Up

  1. Make word cards.  (We usually use the backs of junk mail or misprint paper to make ours, and, since my children are just beginning to read, we use one easily decodable or puzzle word per card.)
  2. Put the word cards in a small bag or which can be easily carried.  (We used zippered baggies when we first played, since it had been wet out in the days prior to us playing and we thought that the woods might still be damp. In the bags, our cards would be protected.)
  3. Dress players appropriately and apply sunscreen and bug spray as needed.

Simple Steps to Play

Give each child a bag of cards tailored to the child’s ability and keep an extra empty bag for yourself.

  1. Head outside.
  2. Challenge each child to pull out a card, read it and then match it to an object it found in nature.
  3. Once a child has used a card to label an object correctly, have the child tell you a bit about what they notice about the object (color, size, weight, texture, location, etc.) and, then, place the card in your bag.  (No littering!)
  4. Continue to play as such until all cards are in your bag.
  5. Then, use the children’s to collect tiny treasures or, if feel comfortable doing so, to collect bits of stray trash.


    • Reading (decoding phonics, recognizing sight words or both)
    • Fine Motor Skills (opening and closing the bags, picking up cards, placing the cards on natural objects)
    • One-to-One Correspondence (matching one word with one object)
    • Gross Motor Skills (maneuvering around natural space)
    • Proprioception (bending and stretching to reach objects, maneuvering through woods)
    • Tactile (touching objects)
    • Focus (concentrating on finding specific objects) 

Quick Tips/Extensions

  • Indoors or in the yard?  Try a similar game we enjoy, Read and Run!
  • This game can be played as a competitive game, too.  Simply race to see who can finish matching the cards in their bags to objects first or see who can match the most within a given time frame.
  • For more sensory diet connection, mix this activity up with Tiny Treasures.
  • To encourage more proprioception, be sure to include words or phrases that will require children to look under logs and boulders (think bugs, salamanders, etc.), stretch high (think tree top, high branch, etc.) and bend low (think sand, soil, pebbles, moss).
  • To encourage more tactile input, think about the textures of words or phrases you include, such as moss, rocks, bark, petals, etc.
  • To encourage writing skills, after playing the game once or twice, have children make cards for you or for other children to play with.
  • For pre-readers in the crowd, simply include picture cards.
  • Work in grammar by using phrases that include specific types of words, such as adjectives (a large rock, a spotted rock, a gray rock, smooth bark, rough bark, velvety moss, spiky leaves, etc.) or verbs (a log you can balance on, a branch that has fallen, a leaf that is blowing, etc.)
  • To add more challenge for older children, use full sentences with new vocabulary included in them.
  • To add a problem-solving element for older children, write riddles on the cards instead of simple words or sentences, such as “I am food and produce food.”  (A leaf!  It produces food for trees and is food for insects.)
  • Combine with Nature Notebooking by having chidlren pause to sketch and take notes about their favorite "discovered" object.
  • Be sure to slow down for special things, such as noticing rare species.  (If you scroll back up to the first photo collage in the psot, you will see some lady slippers in it.  We were so excited to find these "rare" flowers in our nearby woods recently!)
  • As with any outdoor activity, be sure to review local safety concerns, such as poison ivy, ticks, etc. 

We just enjoyed this game again last night after dinner!  The kids saw me reviewing pictures of it and got busy making their own cards to play it in the yard.  It really is a keeper of a game here.  Hope it is for you and yours, too.

What games and activities do you use to prevent summer slide or simply to maintain year-round fun and learning, especially outdoors?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father (on Earth and in Heaven) Day!

Part of This Year's Stangtastic Father's Day Book

Today, our family has a lot of celebrating to do.  We'll be getting together with Grammy, Grampy, some cousins, some aunties and some uncles to celebrate Nina turning five, Jack turning two and our fathers, grandfathers and godfathers continuing to love and be loved by us.  Of course, we have all this to celebrate because of our one, awesome God. 
So, last night, after the kids and I made our Father's Day creations, Nina, Luke and I engaged in a faith formation strategy that I often use: simply sharing what we think and know.

Since the kids and I had just finished creating Daddy's 2012 Stangtastic book (a tradition that I will write about another day), I decided to use the "creating a graphic" kick we were on to invite conversation.  In lieu of our regular bedtime talk,  I whipped up a Venn Diagram and challenged the kids to think about how Daddy and God are alike and how they are different.  I asked them if they might share two or three ideas to fill in each space of the chart.

In seconds, Luke and Nina were coming up with more comparisons than my tired, typing hands could capture.  "Mommy, did you write my idea?"  "And this one..." They bounced beside me, all smiles, so proud of their "good thinking". 

Before long, I stopped typing out the suggestions they offered and just began to actively listen.  It was beautiful -- and amazing -- to witness my young children sharing their thoughts, building on one another's ideas, declaring truths as they now understand them and forming questions that might guide their future understanding.  In fact, it was so rewarding for me to observe their excitement with the exercise and to listen to their examination of paternal love, that I failed to notice it becoming long past bedtime.

Thus it is this morning I wake earlier than everyone and  wonder if I will have bleary-eyed babes at our family party today.  Even if they do begin to act out in an overtired state this afternoon, however,I know the day is blessed.  Celebrating their growing bodies, minds and faith, while honoring our fathers is sure to make this a day of delight.

Have you invited your little ones to share what they know and think lately?  Have you asked them to describe what they can see, hear, touch and interact with hear on earth in order to begin to imagine that which is far greater?  Father's Day can open an illuminating opportunity for such discussion. 

Training Happy Hearts:
A Call to Faith Formation for Young Children

Friday, June 15, 2012

Lessons I Keep Learning from My Kids (A 7 Quick Takes Post)

I finally got some recent pictures uploaded from my camera and, as I buzzed through viewing them, I  realized how many life lessons my children keep reinforcing for me.  So, I thought I would share some with 7 Quick Takes:

Muck can be fun!
How often in life, when unexpected muck -- like this smelly tide of red seaweed -- infiltrates a day, do I cringe and get grumpy?  Too often!  Instead, couldn't I look at the muck as an opportunity?  My kids sure do! 

When one beach we were headed to for our Sabbath Family Day was closed due to e. coli counts and another proved unavailable due to a full parking lot, we headed to a third one that we sometimes go hiking at, only to find its entire shoreline covered in red mucky seaweed.  After a walk and picnic, my kids did not let the red stew of the sea stop them!  Nope, they grabbed our strawberry container and used it as a strainer to explore what was new to them.  Oh, to see every "problem" as an opportunity the way they sometimes do.
Stretch your comfort zone!

Luke has never been that into sports.  However, when Little Sister said she wanted to try soccer this spring, he agreed to try it, too.  (We didn't push him to do so, but we did let him know that THIS season was the time to try the sport if he had any interest in it at all, since in the fall he'd age out of the introductory learning league.)  Well, try he did.  And he LOVED it from Day One. 

Likewise, I was a bit reluctant to give soccer a go.  Saturdays are precious to me since they are one of the only days all week I can get stuff done around the house without having full responsibility for the kids.  Thus, I knew that in signing the kids up for soccer I was signing off on any productivity for Saturday mornings.  Daddy would need me at the field with him to help since Jack is getting busier by the day (although still calm for a kid his age) and Luke and Nina would undoubtedly need some help and attention as they tried soccer out.  The "sacrifice" of my Saturday mornings was well worth it.  Everyone enjoyed the season!

~ 3 ~

Rigidity has no place in a happy home.
Nina's fifth birthday was scheduled to be a full day, so I got up before everyone else in the household to prep the kids' soccer bag, check strawberry picking directions, make breakfast muffins and a cake for a later celebration, etc.  However, I had not yet wrapped Nina's gifts.

When the kids got up, Luke, who was eager to give Nina the things he'd helped me pick out for her, suggested that we celebrate her birthday before heading out.  Nina excitedly echoed his idea.  A breakfast birthday celebration was not in my plan for how to facilitate the day, but it was very clear it was in theirs!  I acquiesced, by quickly wrapping Nina's gifts in some scarves that were handy and popping candles into the muffins I had made.  Boy, did that make Nina's day! 

(And, a good thing, too, because the day continued to throw changes at us.  Just as we were headed out the door to a Lowe's Build-and-Grow Clinic that all three kids wanted to go to, Luke asked Daddy and me what was wrong with his finger.  Yikes!  It was swollen with a free and red tip.  That meant a visit to the medical clinic, not the Lowe's one before soccer...  Nina later told me the visit was the only "thorn" in her day.  However, with a breakfast birthday and soccer and strawberry picking bracketing it, her first day of her fifth year began with more rose petals than thorns, I'd say!)



One recent day, Jack's EI Specialist offered us last-minute tickets to a David Polansky concert, (a local, yet acclaimed children's musician).  Although Daddy was busy the evening of the concert, I decided I wanted the kids to experience it.  So, I called the local Y, where the concert was to be held, to see if some friends might go with us.  (Always good to have other adult eyes when going someplace new with my kids -- especially some place where sensory overload might set in and wreak havoc.)  They put our friends on the list and we all met at the concert location.

What a fun time!  The concert itself was fabulous and, after it, the kids came home and asked if they could give me a personal concert before bedtime. It was awesome.  They used all our instruments and made up their own (like Nina's drum in the picture, which she made from a drawer of her wooden kitchen set, a box and two SmartMax Extreme pieces.  Just goes to show how flexibility and improvisation -- both in plans and in play -- bring rich rewards!


Bad day?  Jump in!
We were having "one of those" days the other day.  Lots was going wrong and attitudes reflected it.  they just kept getting worse and worse.  Worse, that is, until I agreed to blow up the pool we had bought for Nina's ball pit balls.

Nina, Luke and I took turns blowing it up (and all that breathing sure worked its magic in calming us.)  Then, the kids dove in (which admittedly negated the calming effect, but did so with a smile-inducing result!) 

Had I said what my habit prompted me to when Nina begged to try out her pool ("No!" or "Later."), we would have missed out on the fun.  Sometimes, saying "Yes!" right NOW brings the best consequences.  It sure reframed all our brains the other day.

~ 6 ~

Make lemonade and light sabers!

Last Halloween, I ordered discounted glow bracelets to offer as one of the treat selections to costumed kids that came to our door.  They did not come in on time.  So, I decided to save them for New Year's and Independence Weekend -- two times when our extended family often  incorporates glow sticks into our fun.

Well, so much for that.  We used some of the glow bracelets over the winter holiday and I thought I'd tucked the rest away sufficiently.  However, Nina got into them the other day.

At first, I was chagrined that she had "wasted" the bracelets and precluded the fun we would have with them.  then, I realized she had just changed it.  I took the "lemons" of our glowing remainder of bracelets and decided to make lemonade with them by tossing them in the tubbie for the kids to enjoy.  (We've enjoyed glow stick tubbies before, but had not for a while.)

Enjoy they did!  In fact, they even discovered a new way to use them.

Luke and Nina have wanted Star Wars light sabers for months and months, but still have none.  They discovered that they could stuff the glow sticks into the turkey basters they play with in the tub in order to make their own glowing tubbie light sabers.  Love it!  I am continually amazed with the ingenuity God grants children and the timing He offers for me to appreciate it.

~ 7 ~

You know how that peaceful feeling of a moment of quiet in your home can turn into a dummy slap of, "Why didn't I realize they were being too quiet?!?"  Well, I thought I was going to experience yet another one of those the other day when I realized that Jack and Nina had quietly disappeared from my presence and were not answering my calls.

Silly me, when I peaked into their room, I did not find the next great disaster that might degenerate into my camera taking a bath. Nope.  There was no new art work on walls or bodies.  No powder strewn everywhere.  No bits of paper cut into shreds all over the place.  Nothing broken.  Nothing amiss at all, in fact. 

Instead, there was Nina "reading" to her baby brother.  So sweet.  Such a reminder to trust in GOOD.  Not everything is drama.  All moments can be treasured when their true worth is valued.

In living and learning alongside my children, that is perhaps one of the biggest lessons that I am continually relearning:  to think about "whatever is true... noble... pure... lovely... admirable... excellent or praiseworthy."  God graces life with so many of these things (even if sometimes we must pull back a cloudy "worldly" veneer to uncover them!)

I am sharing this post at Conversion Diary, a blog that always brings blessings and inspiration!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Making of a New Family Mix and Match Recipe for GFCF Chocolate Cake

Remember the Bill Cosby skit:  “Dad is great.  Give us the chocolate cake!”  It is exactly what was going through my mind one Tuesday morning last month when I realized that I was out of many of our usual breakfast food ingredients, but had just spied a recipe for Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake on the side of our light buckwheat flour bag.

A more thorough perusal of the recipe revealed that we did not have all the ingredients listed in it in the house either.  However, we did have substitutes that I thought would work, such as almond butter for peanut butter and clementines to blend in place of apple sauce, agave in place of sugar.  With these, the cake would not just be doable, but seemed like an almost healthy option for breakfast.  Sure, the recipe called for a fair amount of sugar.  But, with the way we were making it, that sugar would be low glycemic-index sugar and would be countered by fresh produce and organic nut butter protein.  That makes it good for the body, right?

A Plan Comes Together

So it was that I decided that my children and I would all indulge in chocolate cake as our “filling breakfast” that morning even though we usually reserve chocolate for Sundays. 

As my children ate a fresh, produce power appetizer, I set the oven to pre-heat and assembled ingredients and baking tools.  Then, my baking assistants got to work helping me to prepare the cake.

Fifty minutes later, after the cake had baked and cooled, Luke asked if he could “decorate” it by carving letters into it with a knife.  Permission granted, he carved a small F L B into it, which he told me stood for “for lunch and breakfast” – the times he felt we should eat the cake.

Decoration done, we dug in.

The verdict?

Luke gave it a thumbs up an wanted more-more-more.  Jack liked it, too.  Nina thought it needed butter or powdered sugar atop it, which I nixed. 

Later that day, Daddy devoured the portion of the cake we had saved for him.   So, the recipe is a keeper.

A keeper, that is, for everyone but Nina.  She whined loudly about the cake the first time we made it for breakfast until she finally wound down  and decided to munch upon a self-selected cold, alternative from the fridge for breakfast (leftover sea-salted edamame). Now, this begs the question, What child does that?  Whines over chocolate cake and eats cold edamame?  Really?  But while I will continue to wonder if Nina really is mine and Mike’s (because how can a child of ours not devour anything chocolate), I will not complain about her choice.  (It meant all the more cake for the rest of us.)

Nina's balking also inspired me to experiment with the recipe further in a quest to find a combination of ingredients that would please her palette as much as the rest of ours.  Thus...

The Mix and Match Recipe

I developed the cake into a mix-and-match recipe, which you can access as a Mix-and-Match GFCF Chocolate Cake printable freebie here.

Enjoy and let us know which combination you find the tastiest!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Read Aloud to Real Challenges: Mr. Bear's Chair and Constructing A Sabbath Chair

Sharing creative ideas with one another...
Three things that I do in training my young children up to know and love God are:
1.      Regularly surround them with others who live and love our faith, such as with families in our local Catholic homeschool co-op.
2.      Weave together traditional learning (such as language and literacy studies), out-of-the-box experiences (such as engineering challenges) and faith (such as discussion of Bible stories and the Catechism).
3.      Encourage them to recognize that God made each of us with our own unique gifts, talents and creative genius, and  He expects us to share all these with others.
The other day, Amy, a Training Happy Hearts Facebook Fan, reminded me of a course I put together with these three things in mind:  the Read Aloud to Real Challenges: An Early Literacy and Challenge Course that I planned and taught for our Catholic co-op in Spring 2011.  Amy also asked me to share what books I used for the course, besides the ones that I have previously written about (Albert’s Alphabet , which inspired us to build self-standing letters in honor of the Holy Spirit and My Friend Rabbit, which brought us to building towers to point to God.)
3 Chair Designs
Determined not to let my recent computer failure prevent me from answering Amy’s question in a timely manner, I spent some time last night searching old photos that I had on a different hard drive.  Success!

Beaming over rocking chair design...
I found photos from the third lesson that I taught both at co-op to 5-7 year olds and at home on my lawn with my then 3 and 5 year olds.    These helped me to reconstruct the lesson plan for the third class session of my Read Aloud to Real Challenges Course.

Delighting in cushioned chair design...
So, today, please enjoy this plan for a class centered around Thomas Graham’s Mr. Bear’s Chair and constructing a Sabbath Chair – a plan that would work for any week, but would tie in particularly well with:
  • exploration of the Creation Story.
  • discussion of the Sabbath
  • Father’s Day (since Dad’s work hard, but need rest, too!)
Materials Needed
To facilitate Mr. Bear’s Chair and A Sabbath Chair, you will need:
  • a copy of Mr. Bear’s Chair  by Thomas Graham.  (A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams could also work.)
  • a bag of mini-marshmallows (or gum drops)
  • a box of toothpicks
  • old magazines or catalogues
  • one sheet of address labels for each child or pair of children (These can be recycled from freebies you get in the mail; we were out of those, so I used blank labels.)
  • a “great stuff” box of materials and supplies leftover from prior classes or donated by children for this class
  • scissors
  • white boards and markers (or scrap paper and pencils)
Welcoming Prayer and Stretch

Welcome students back and ask if anyone can remember what we should do with our bodies to help our minds work. That’s right – stretch and move! Lead the following stretch, adding in movements according to students suggestions:

We thank you God for the sky above, (Stretch onto tip toes, arms up high, really reaching for the sky. Reach with one arm way up as high as you can. Reach with the other. Reach with both.)
and for the ground below. (Bend over and touch toes or floor. Tickle your own toes. Walk your hands up your ankles, calves, knees, thighs, tickling and/or squeezing your legs with your hands.)
We thank you, God, for everything (Lunge to one side, really stretching arm out. Press toward the wall.)
that we come to know. (Lunge to the other side. Then, feet together, bend over and touch the ground again, Roll up. Stack knees on top of feet, hips on top of knees, shoulders on top of hips, head up… Scrunch shoulders up to ear together. Then, one shoulder, the other, back to the first, back to the other. Up and down with both. Wiggle the entire body, turn around and sit down.)

Warm-Up Challenge: Make a Person
Let students know that now that their bodies are warmed up, it’s time to use their minds.  Ask if they can recall the Creation Story... Who made the world? (God!)  And us?  (God!)  Why? (To know Him, to love Him, to serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him forever in the next.)  Discuss how amazing God’s design for the world and for us is.  Ask them if they know in whose image God created us? (His.)  Then, take out a bag of marshmallows (or gum drops) and a box of toothpicks. 
Challenge children to take only ten minutes to make likenesses of people with only these two items, people.  Each created person should be able to sit on the edge of a table or chair without falling off.
After ten minutes, congratulate children on their creative figurine making and ask them to set their toothpick-and-marshmallow people aside until alter in the class.  If any child, however, has not finished creating a person, offer that child a choice of quietly doing so as you read the day’s story or waiting until later to do so.

Read Aloud: Mr. Bear’s Chair

Ask children if they can guess what today’s story might be about.  Then, show the cover of Mr. Bear’s Chair and take a picture walk through it.  Have children make predictions about what the text will be about.

Read Mr. Bear’s Chair, asking children to read text that they are capable of and taking time to stop to really look at the pictures and to make predictions as you go.  Be sure to identify what the problem in the story is and what Mr. Bear does to solve it.  Also ask what they think will happen next after the final page of the story.  How might Mr. Bear solve the problem suggested by the final illustration?
Ask children how Mr. Bear applied the strategy for solving problems that we have used for the past few weeks. How did he identify the problem, come up with a plan for solving it, test it and, if necessary adapt it?.

Finally, discuss themes and values related the book—loving relationships, enjoyment while eating together, care in work, serving one another, etc.

The Main Challenge: Building a Sabbath Chair

Ask what Mr. Bear and Mrs. Bear might do in a chair besides eat?  Respond to all answers, and, if no one suggests it, bring up the idea of resting.

Harken back to the Creation Story and ask if anyone knows what God did on the seventh day?  (He rested.)  What is a day when we honor God and rest?  (Sunday.)  Does anyone know another word that begins with “S” and means “a day of worship and rest from work”?  (Sabbath.)   

Suggest that just like Mr. Bear and Mrs. Bear might use their chairs for resting on the Sabbath, our newly created “people” might need a Sabbath chair. Review how to approach a problem: identify it, come up with a plan, test the plan, revise it as needed and, finally, share the results.

Present the day’s main challenge and its guidelines:

  • We will design and build chairs that the people we created can sit down to rest on.
  • Chairs must be self-standing.
  • Each chair must be able to support a marshmallow-and-toothpick person without the person falling off or the chair falling part, breaking or collapsing.
  • Only materials (address labels and magazines) and tools (scissors) provided may be used.  (You may also wish to include leftover materials from prior lessons or use items from a “Great Stuff” box.  All of the children in my class opted to go this route, and I honored their choice.)
Encourage students to plan their chairs out first on mini white boards (or scrap paper) and to meet the challenge on their own or through their collective creativity and problem-solving.  Encourage them to look critically at any problems they may run into with their designs and to helps each other discover ways to overcome these or to revise their plans.
Finally, of course, share the results!


If any students finish early, offer related mini-challenges, such as building people out of paper scraps, designing three-legged stools, creating rocking chairs, etc.
Inspiration for this lesson plan came from I Need to Sit Down and  A Chair for Mom at

As always, enjoy this plan, inspire creativity and remember:
  • process over product
  • experience and imagination over end-result and teacher-direction.
  • Credit where credit is due.

Honor each child’s problem solving and teamwork abilities and give thanks for creativity and personal interpretation that God grants each one of us.  And, most of all, enjoy!

Can my chair hold me?

Plus, if you happen to borrow ideas from this plan to use in your own home or co-op, please point folks back to this post (or series), and also, be sure to stop by and let me know how it went. I always enjoy hearing how others adapt my plans and collaborating to improve plans for future use.


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