Thursday, August 14, 2014

Top 10 "All About Me" Books

Little Nippers Top 10

by Michelle Berg

It's that time of year again!  Yes, the new school year is right around the corner.  For all you Pre-School teachers out there planning your curriculum, Little Nippers pulled together a top 10 list of  books for your All About Me unit!   These books not only focus on identity, family and emotions for toddlers but also on confidence and self-esteem for all ages. The following is a list of my favorites.

10. A Bad Case of Stripes
Written and Illustrated by David Shannon. Ages 4-8.

Camilla Cream is so worried about what the other kids think of her that she refuses to eat her favorite food! Lima beans are apparently unpopular with the other kids at school and she’s afraid if she eats them she’ll be laughed at. However, her body clearly needs them as she discovers after contracting a very unusual disease; she is literally covered from head to toe in rainbow colored stripes! A Bad Case of Stripes is an amusing, spellbinding tale of self-respect like no other. As her stripes change to stars, polka-dots and checkerboard squares, Camilla realizes that being well liked is less important than being yourself.
It's Okay To Be Different9. It’s Okay to Be Different

Written and Illustrated by Todd Parr. Ages Pre-School-Grade 2

This is a great book that focuses on both social and emotional development as it talks about self-acceptance, individuality and tolerance of others. I love the bright colors and simplicity of Parr’s illustrations. They successfully grab the attention of young readers. For example, on the page that reads It’s Okay to be a different color, there are two childlike images of zebras; one black and white, the other multicolored. This is a positive, feel-good book with an important message of common appreciation.
8. Today I Feel Silly

Written by Jamie Lee Curtis. Illustrated by Laura Cornell. Ages 4-8

Through a witty rhyming narrative, a young girl talks about the variety of moods she experiences day by day. Whether silly, sad, grumpy or confused she relays an acceptance of her feelings by illustrating how moods are just something that happens to everyone each and every day! This book also includes a “mood wheel” on the last page that allows the reader to change the expression on the little girls’ face; a great tool for parents and teachers to discuss the concept of emotions.
The Family Book7. The Family Book

Written and Illustrated by Todd Parr. Ages Pre-School-Grade 2

Discover diversity with this whimsical book as Todd Parr presents a variety of different families; some are big, others are small, some adopt children, others have one parent instead of two. But most of all Parr emphasizes that ALL families are special. Again, as with the book listed above, It’s Okay to be Different, young readers will be drawn to the simple, childlike drawings with bright colors and happy faces.
6. The Skin You Live In
Written by Michael Tyler. Illustrated by David Lee Csicsko. Ages 4-8.

Tying in self-esteem with diversity, this book teaches us that although we may all look different, we are very much the same. Tyler stresses that there are many different shades of skin and emphasizes that we are all created equal on the inside and out. This is a remarkable book that celebrates diversity with a fun lyrical narrative.
The Way I Feel5. The Way I Feel

Written and Illustrated by Janan Cain. Ages 4-8

Author, Janan Cain understands that it’s hard for little ones to express their feelings when they don’t have the words to describe them and she’s taken steps to remedy that problem with this charming and joyous word book for emotions. Lively and straightforward, this book will help alleviate frustration for both parent and child.
4. The Loveables in the Kingdom of Self-Esteem

Written by Diane Loomans. Illustrated by Kim Howard. Ages 4-8

This is a spiritually moving book that is both beautiful to read and hear. Through rhyming prose, the animals in the Kingdom of Self-Esteem offer an uplifting message of happiness and self-acceptance but furthermore remind us that we all have a gift to share in our own special way.
I Like Myself!3. I Like Myself
Written by Karen Beaumont. Illustrated by David Catrow.  Ages Pre-School-Grade 2

Energetic and fun, this is indeed a wonderful tale of a young girl who has an abundance of poise and self-confidence. No matter what someone else may think or say, she’s too busy being herself to let anyone bother her. Even if she had fleas or warts or a silly snout that snorts, she still has a sense of self-worth! I applaud the author for her witty and clever narrative, as I truly love this book!
2. I’m Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem
Written by Jamie Lee Curtis. Illustrated by Laura Cornell. Ages 4-8

A long time favorite of mine, this book was one of my daughter’s firsts. Curtis uses repetition and rhyme to show children how easy it is to like yourself even if you give a wrong answer in school or fall down and get hurt. My daughter's favorite line was: I’m gonna like me/when I jump up so high/I’ll twist and I’ll stretch straight up to the sky because while reading this page I would literally JUMP, TWIST, STRETCH and try to TOUCH THE SKY! My favorite line is: I’m gonna like me/’cause I’m loved and I know it/and liking myself is the best way to show it. I highly recommend this book. If you don’t have it already, purchase it today!
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon1. Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon
Written by Patty Lovell and Illustrated by David Catrow. Ages 4-8.

Molly Lou Melon was not born with grace or beauty. She is naturally clumsy, curiously short, has buck teeth and a peculiar sound to her voice. However, with encouragement from her Grandmother, she stands tall and proud, smiles frequently and sings to her heart’s content! Furthermore, she finds that the world smiles right alongside her. Illustrated by David Catrow, who is also responsible for the lively images of I Like Myself. His style is charming and vibrant, reminiscent of Dr. Seuss. This book is loved by my family as its powerful message seems to have the ability to connect with us all.

Copyright 2014 by Michelle Fiore

Friday, June 13, 2014

Dr. Seuss Books

DR. SEUSS once said “he had a hard time finding anyone to pay attention to his first children’s book.” Fortunately, he never gave up! Before he died, Dr. Seuss wrote over 60 books! While everyone is familiar with The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham and Horton the Elephant, there are many other Dr. Seuss books that are lesser known but are equally great. The following is a list of my favorites (For a complete list of books check out

10. I’m NOT Going to Get Up Today
Published: 1987

We’ve all had those days when we felt like staying in bed but the boy in this book takes it to a whole new level. Nothing can get him up! Not a shake of his bed or cold water on his head. His alarm can ring/the birds can peep/his bed is warm and his pillow is deep. No matter what his family, friends or neighbors do, this determined boy continues to sleep. Illustrated by James Stevenson, this charming story is a great beginner book for first time readers.

9. I Wish That I Had Duck Feet
Published: 1965

Imagine what it would be like to have duck feet! Think of the things you could do. What if you had a whale spout, a very long tail or an elephant’s nose? In I Wish that I had Duck Feet, a young boy imagines what his life would be like with each of these things, however, in the end he realizes being himself is really the only way to be! Illustrated by B. Tobey, this is a very fun read aloud book for children ages 2 – 8.

8. I Can Read With My Eyes Shut
Published: 1978

In this fun loving book the Cat in the Hat returns to teach a young cat the many reasons reading is important and all the fun that goes along with it! The more you read/the more things you will know/the more you learn/the more places you’ll go! With illustrations similar to Horton the Elephant and Oh the Places You’ll Go, Dr. Seuss’ clever rhymes teach us that reading is fun!

7. On Beyond Zebra
Published: 1955

Conrad Cornelius O’Donald O’Dell thinks he knows everything there is to know since he has learned all 26 letters of the alphabet. But his friend, kindly, informs him otherwise. He advises him to open his eyes and go beyond the letter Z to find a whole new world. According to this young man, there is an entirely different alphabet out there for the exceptional characters that he encounters in his daily life. For example, there is a letter called WUM for Wumbus; a high-spouting whale who lives high on a hill and another letter called FUDDLE for Miss Fuddle-dee-Duddle; an exceptional bird with a very long tail. Such are the unique characters that occupy all the pages of Dr. Seuss’ books. On Beyond Zebra offers a great lesson on imagination and creativity and teaches us all to look beyond the letter Z.

6. Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are
Published: 1973

A cheerful old man sitting on top of a cactus delivers a clever message of positive thinking. By remembering how lucky you are not to have the troubles that others have, he advises, you’ll find happiness. Thank goodness, he says, you’re not poor Herbie Hart/who has taken his Throm-dim-bu-lator apart! Or the Schlottz whose tail is entailed with un-solvable knots! Entertaining and fun to read, I love Dr. Seuss’ optimistic message!

5. Daisy-Head Mayzie
Published: 1994

Young Maisy, a seemingly average young girl is astounded one day when a daisy sprouts on top of her head! Try as they might no one can discover the reason for this oddity and Miss Maisy catches quite a bit of attention! This is a very cute story, one that has become a favorite with my children. Although, written in the 1960’s, the text for this book was not discovered until shortly after his death in 1991. His wife found this work and got it published. Little is known about the illustrator; however, the drawings were inspired by Seuss’s original sketches found with the manuscript.

4. Oh, The Thinks You Can Think
Published: 1975

The king of imagination offers advice on using your brain creatively. Oh the thinks you can think up/if you only try, says Dr. Seuss. In this very silly book, Seuss gives us examples of what he can think up when he tries; a guff, schlopp, snuvs, bloogs and jibboos to name a few. Also, black water, white sky and Kitty O’Sullivan Krauss’ big balloon swimming pool over her house! Yes, Dr. Seuss was indeed the master of creativity. Oh how I love those silly words and quirky illustrations!

3. McElligot’s Pool
Published: 1947

A young boy defends his decision to fish in a pond where there are no fish and states very imaginative reasons to support his theories! This is now one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books. I find it interesting to see how different his early illustrations are. While you may notice recurring images such as the fish from One Fish, Two Fish the people and the buildings are more realistic. He really was quite a talented artist. The witty rhymes are the same and, as with all of his books, it is absolutely a joy to read.

2. The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins
Published: 1938

Poor Bartholomew, he was trying to be respectful and polite by taking off his hat in front of his king but this particular hat was no ordinary hat! A bit of magic, perhaps, who knows but every time he tried to take it off an identical one appeared! Illustrated in black and white ink, Seuss added drama with a spot of red for the hat, emphasizing the story very well. This book is unique from other Dr. Seuss classics as it does not rhyme. It is long but highly imaginative and worth reading. Try breaking it down to a few pages a night.

1. I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew
Published: 1965

Although nameless, the main character of this hilariously delightful story looks like most of Seuss’ heroes. This one resembles a young, less sinister looking Grinch. Unfortunately, this young guy has had his share of troubles and after experiencing one annoyance after the other he decides to travel to a place called Solla Sollew; where they never have troubles, at least, very few. But along the way he encounters MANY troubles; a treacherous road; a terrible storm; a flood; even a war! He finally reaches Solla Sollew only to discover yet another problem! Ultimately, he learns a valuable lesson: Although things may seem brighter elsewhere, eventually life catches up to you wherever you are. In the end, armed with a positive attitude and a newly found sense of determination he decides to head back home to face his problems.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Jan Brett Activities & Book Giveaway

Back in January, I wrote about the activities I used in my classroom with the help of books from Jan Brett.  This post was widely popular.  Therefore, as a thank you to my readers I am hosting a Book Giveaway!


~ To add your name to the drawing, simply leave a comment to this post.

This giveaway will end on November 21, 2013 The winner will be chosen by Random drawing from all valid entries submitted. The winner will be notified via email and will have up to 48 hours to contact me with their mailing address before another winner is chosen. Open world wide! No P.O Boxes please.

Good Luck!
Michelle Berg
Little Nippers

Jan Brett Activities for Preschool

Last January we began our Jan Brett Author Study in TK with activities inspired by "The Mitten", "Comet's Nine Lives", "Hedgie Blasts Off", "Trouble with Trolls" and "Annie and the Wild Animals". We had loads of fun check it out...

Language and Literacy Activities:
Our TK'ers loved reenacting "The Mitten" as they pretended to be the various characters of the book with the help of animal masks downloaded from Jan Brett's website.

We were asked to do this activity again and again!

Art Activities:
While Jan Brett's stories are compelling I noticed that the children were even more interested in her border artwork! This inspired a brainstorming session about what kind of border we would use if we wrote a story about snowmen. This sparked some amazing comments from my students:
"A happy Snowman"
"A Snowman with tears"
"A Snowman dancing"
"A Snowman melting"
"A Snowman sleeping"
After our discussion, I gave them paper to bring their ideas to life!

The next day, we read "Comet's Nine Lives" and I asked them to draw a picture of their favorite part of the story. What I found most interesting about this project was how much my students have grown in the past few months. Back in September, most of them could not draw representational drawings. A few weeks ago in an attempt to make art less intimidating to my students I gave a mini art lesson before we sat down to draw. As a child, I had absolutely no artistic ability at all! In fact, it isn't until quite recently that I discovered how to do it! It's really all about finding the shapes in what you see. I gave this tip to my students as we discussed what our favorite parts of the story were. One child mentioned that they liked the picture of the lighthouse and I explained that a lighthouse is simply a rectangle with a triangle on top. Then, I told them that Comet's face is just a circle with 2 triangles for ears. One child asked how they would make the waves from the hurricane. I drew squiggly lines. Then I gave them paper to work on their own. I was AMAZED with the results! So many of my students drew lighthouses with waves. A few drew cats and even added themselves into the scene! It was very exciting to see.

This boy not only drew the lighthouse and the waves
but began to draw a patterned border around his artwork, Jan Brett style!

Another great activity for older children is a 3-D Diorama. My daughter did the one below for a school project about "The Mitten". She drew 3 separate pictures from the book and glued them to the inside of a shoe box. Then she made an owl and the mitten (with animals inside) out of clay and added them! My daughter is 10 years old, much older than my preschool students but it's a great project and I wanted to add it for inspiration. She was also asked to write a short paragraph about what was shown.

Science Activities
"Annie and the Wild Animals" is another great story by Jan Brett. It's about a little girl who leaves Corn Cakes near the woods in hopes of finding a new pet. Last week for our Science unit we baked our own Corn Cakes but instead of feeding them to wild animals we ate them ourselves! I just used Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix and they came out delicious! (This is also a great Math Activity since it requires measuring)

Math Activities
1) We played a game of concentration with character cards from various Jan Brett books. These can also be found on

2) I created a few Math Sheets. This counting game was used after we read "Comets Nine Lives":

This one was used after we read "Trouble with Trolls":

I also tried to recreate a page from "The Umbrella" for my sensory table. This was a very popular station!

Fine Motor Activities
We made a class mural of Hedgie in outer space inspired from "Hedgie Blasts Off." You can download the artwork from Jan Brett's website, First we enjoyed finger painting with black paint on a large sheet of butcher paper. Once it dried, we colored the artwork, cut them out and glued it onto the mural. It turned out beautiful!

My Book Giveaway ends November 21st! 

See above for how to enter!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013




A few years ago, I taught in a TK classroom for 20 kids and 5 of them required special needs.  I was fairly new in this type of setting.  I had been teaching for a while but not for a classroom with quite that many students.  Furthermore, I hadn't any experience working with children with special needs. As one would expect, the first few months were very rough!

During my summer break of that year, I reflected on how I could have done things differently.  I have since planned a curriculum that I think works very well.  It integrates traditional education along with the Montessori philosophy. I'd like to share my thoughts with my readers:

Firstly, I'd like to state that I have not been trained in the Montessori principles. If you are searching for information about this philosophy there is a great deal of material available online or at your local bookstore.  I have, however, done quite a bit of research and have used many of their ideas in my classroom. 

So lets start with the first month of school... September:

Week 1
Typically, the curriculum for the month of September usually involves Apples, All About Me and Fall.  While these themes are tried and true, I think the first month should really focus on Social Development: 
  • What is expect of the child in the classroom? 
  • What is proper behavior? 
  • What does it mean to be a good friend?

I accomplish these very important lessons with the help of Montessori practices.
 I really love the way Montessori schools instills courtesy and respect for others and how they have found a way to delineate work space for their students.  I can't tell you how many times a conflict has developed in my classroom over a child taking anothers toy or disrupting a friends Lego structure!  Montessori students place their work on trays or mats. 

These tools indicate a "boundary" for what they're playing with and the students
 in the class understand (from day one) how important it is not to ruin some else's work.

I found this idea from a great website about "Introducing Rules and Routines in the Montessori Preschool Classroom":

It talks about how to introduce classroom rules on the first day of school.  The teacher from this article gives her students a tour of the classroom and demonstrates the proper way to walk around anothers activity.  She has her students practice getting their activities, cleaning up and being respectful of others.  She spends a lot of time the first day role playing  and observing the children to ensure that these simple rules are followed.

I used this concept during the first week of school and it worked wonders! In my classroom, we typically have time allotted for a project after Circle Time.  However, during the first week of school, I didn't plan any projects.  Instead, I used this time to let them practice these basic grace and courtesy lessons, while I observed to make sure everything went smoothly.  There were more than a few students that needed gentle reminders but by Week 2, most of them were already getting the hang of it and we were ready to move on!

A Note About Parent Involvement: Motivating parents to be involved in the classroom was surprisingly very difficult when I taught the TK class.  This was due partly because the center I worked for was set up as a daycare which catered to working parents.  Honestly, I was disappointed because I feel that if you can get the parents more involved it creates a warm, friendly, family-like atmosphere.  Therefore, this year during my Open House I tackled this problem head on!  I requested that the parents stay in the classroom with their child during the first 10-15 minutes to help them do morning work.  I explained that in doing so, it acclimates the child, slowly gets them used to the environment and allows us all to get to know each other better.  What happened?  Well...there are less complicated drop offs, less  separation anxiety and we are all, slowly, becoming good friends! 

 The first week I started off with coffee and bagels.  This set the mood immediately!  Having a "Parent/Child Activity" readily available is also helpful.  During Week 1, I arranged letters on the tables and asked each parent to help their child spell their name and glue it to their "Communication Folder" (just a paper folder I use to store work being sent home and any parent letters).  See below for more ideas on "Parent/Child Activities".

Week 2 - Building A Rainbow
This idea I got from Mrs. Lee's Kindergarten.  If you are unfamiliar with her website, I'd advise you to check it out!  She has become my go to place for creative curriculum ideas.  Below is the link to her "Rainbow System":

She uses Rainbows for good behavior.  Every time a child is caught doing the right thing, they earn a piece for their rainbow.  At the end of the week, if their rainbow is complete they get a prize. 

I can honestly say that Mrs. Lee's system works!  I have students working very hard to earn their rainbow each week.  For prizes I've got small items from our local toy store such as: a baby slinky, rainbow sketch books and eraser puzzles to name a few.

I also planned a whole week of Rainbow activities to kick off this concept.  If you look online there are quite a few great Math, Art and Science lessons that you can incorporate into your week.  My personal favorite is the Teaching Heart Blog:

Parent/Child Activities:  In the above website there are some great worksheets that I used in the morning for my Parent/Child Activity.  Check out the "Rainbow Race" and the "Fruit Loop Rainbow" Sheet.  I've used them both and they are great activities.

Week 3 - Establishing Jobs
By week 3, my students had started to remember the concepts of respect and courtesy and they were working very  hard at earning their rainbows.  This week, I introduced jobs.  Following the "Classroom Economy" concept, my classroom jobs consist of the following:
Pet Caretaker
Calendar Specialist
Line Leader

If you are unfamiliar with a "Classroom Economy" it basically means that the kids earn "money" for their jobs and at the end of every month they can buy items in our classroom store with the money they have earned.  The "money", is monopoly money and the "store" consists of donations of small toys and trinkets from the parents and the community.  At first, there were different salaries for different jobs.  For example, the Banker, being the most important received the highest salary.  However, given that my classroom consists of 4-5 year old children, this concept caused some conflict.  Therefore, I now give them each $1 a day for a job "well done".  This means that they have to try their best.  If there is any complaining that they do not like the job that they were assigned to for the week, they get docked a days pay.  I also read on a website (I apologize for not remembering which one) that the teacher issues "violations" for any "off-task behavior" such as running in the classroom, dishonestly and rudeness.  I've adopted this concept in my classroom and it certainly helps with general behavior issues!

Parent/Child Activity:  This week I created my own worksheets to follow our theme; (1) A Librarian Word Search, (2) A drawing of the weather, and (3) Make your own Calendar.  I'm having trouble uploading these worksheets because they were made in Word.  I hope to find a way soon!

Week 4 - Friends
This week we talked about what it means to be a good friend.  There are many books that can help explain this idea to children.  Any book about courtesy and respect will work.  The following are my personal favorites:

Parent/Child Activity:  For this theme, I created 2 word searches.  One with all the boys names in my classroom and another with all the girls names.  They also practiced writing each others names!  This was all very exciting for them!

This concludes my September Curriculum.  Once I've established these basic rules regarding courtesy and manners then I'm prepared to move on!  I have to say, using the Build a Rainbow and Classroom Economy concepts have really helped with Classroom Management, along with increased parent involvement.  Having the parents in the classroom for the first few minutes allows me to bond with them a little better and I've noticed that more and more of them have asked to be involved in other ways (such as reading a book or cooking a meal).  It's really been an eye opener!

Have you had problems with Classroom Management?  How have you solved behavior problems?  I would love to hear your comments!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Multicultural Activities for PreSchool

With the help of some of my favorite children’s books, I introduced my TK class to different countries around the world!

We began with Pippo the Fool by Tracey E. Fern, a true story about Filippo Brunelleschi, the man who built the dome above the Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy.

Pippo the Fool is a very inspirational story about a man who believed in himself even though nobody else did.  It tells the tale of how he persevered through persistence and determination. After I read the story to my students we talked about what they would build if they were Pippo. Then, using Blocks, Logs and Legos my TKers put there ideas to work! 

This project really held their attention like no other! They built Firehouses, Towers, Cars, Airplanes and elaborate Houses! It was so exciting to see our young architects at work! In addition, I created a Math and Fine Motor worksheet that looked like Pippo’s dome and asked them to count the bricks and practice writing Pippo's name. We set our expectations high and asked them to try as hard as Pippo did.

A few months later, one of my students visted Florence
and sent me a postcard of the Dome!

"Dear Ms. Michelle, Last week I was in Florence and saw Pippo's Dome. 
 It was fantastic and really big!  Looking forward to hearing from you. A big hug!"

Recieving this postcard, made my day! To know that one of my lessons made
a difference in a childs life is amazing! I just love being a teacher!

We also introduced them to Chinese Culture by reading The Empty Pot by Demi and Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel.

The Empty Pot is a story about honesty.  After I read the book, we enjoyed a great discussion about different occasions when each of us were honest with our parents and the resulting outcome.

For Math:  we counted the letters in Tikki Tikki Tembo's name and were very grateful that our name did not have so many letters!

For Art:  I researched the meaning of all my students names, wrote them in Chinese characters and asked them to trace the characters with a paint brush.  My students LOVED to find out what their names meant!  It proved to be a very fun project!

We also learned about Mexico and Africa and discovered that even though there are differences among us, we are indeed very much the same! In addition, a few of our friends brought in items from their own culture.  A boy from Germany treated the class with a large bowl of German Pudding! A boy from England brought in the British Flag and to another boy presented a Map of the World!

Great Books about Africa:

If you have any questions about my curriculum, please feel free to leave a comment!