Posts tagged Art
Kids Deserve good Poetry: Daffodils

There is a scourge on children's literature, and it is bad poetry -- sing-songy, not-quite-rhyming lines rife with an uneven number of syllables. But it doesn't have to be this way. The world is full of great verse -- A.A. Milne, Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, Edward Lear... You get the idea.

Sure, reading William Blakes' "The Tyger" might require a mental stretch from your kids (and maybe you, too) but that's a good thing! Plus, great poetry is simply fun to read!

Pro Tips

Poetry (like its cousin, music) is ancient, which is probably why children have such a natural affinity for it. Still, it never hurts to have a few tricks up your sleeve. Here are four:

  • Read it Morning and Night: Try reading poetry before bedtime or while your child is eating breakfast. Those two times work really well for listening.
  • Make it Available: Keep a poetry anthology on the dresser or in with the cookbooks. Adding poetry into your daily routine will make it, well, routine!
  • Don't Overthink It: Don't feel like you must pair every poem with activities or discussions of new vocabulary words or anything "schoolish." Just read and enjoy them!
  • Repeat: When reading a poem, go through it twice in a row if the kids allow it. This is especially important with the short poems. 

The Poems

To help you started on your good poetry adventure, here are three daffodil-ly poems to chew on.

Nursery Rhyme from The Little Mother Goose

Daffy-down-dilly has come up to town

In a fine petticoat and a green gown.


"Daffodowndilly" by A.A. Milne

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet

She wore her greenest gown;

She turned to the south wind

And curtsied up and down.

She turned to the sunlight

And shook her yellow head,

And whispered to her neighbour: "Winter is dead."


"I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud" by William Wordsworth

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed---and gazed---but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:


For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.


Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

A Puppet Theater for Your Montessori Playroom

Puppets are readily available toys in traditional preschools, but do they belong in a Montessori classroom or a Montessori playroom at home? I am giving you the Big Thumbs Up. And here's why.

Maria Montessori taught reading with a clear, no-nonsense phonics approach. This made sense for the Italian language, which is a purely phonetic language. Pretend play was not a large part of the language curriculum, only down to earth language practice.

This made even more sense to Maria, who was concerned about the children she was working with living in a fantasy life to escape their lives in poverty.

Maria's first class of children were mostly unattended during the day and lived in a slum!

I want you to imagine a large group of undernourished, unsupervised, unclean children entering her classroom for the first time in turn of the century Rome, Italy. The needs of those children were immense.

The government stepped in, created a housing community, and allowed Maria to serve the children. These were truly "the projects" of Rome, and Maria desperately wanted to change their lives for the better. Her great achievement was bringing those children real, meaningful experiences.

The Science of Puppet Play

Back to puppetry. I never attended a class with Maria, but I kind of doubt that she went around her classroom tickling the kids with puppets and encouraging them to freely make use of a puppet theater. 

I completely understand her position on downplaying pretend play and encouraging real-life activities given that she was concentrating so very hard on reality. However...there is a huge body of academic research that says puppets have enormous benefits for kids.

"Puppetry offers a chance to create a visualization of the thinking process. Seeing one’s thoughts facilitates empowerment and initiates the ability to discover intelligence and feelings, thus, widening the horizons of understanding others." - from Farryl Hadari at Puppets and Therapy

Many Montessori teachers of today recognize that pretend play has an important place in the intellectual and emotional growth of all children. Ultimately what you are doing when you use puppetry is developing auditory awareness. I can't think of an example greater than the use of puppets and storytelling to form a solid foundation for reading and writing.

The Crow and the Pitcher: Science + Literature Lesson

“Growth comes from activity, not from intellectual understanding.” - Maria Montessori

When you enter a Montessori classroom, you will likely first notice how pretty the shelves are with the "works" displayed in simple trays or baskets. If you stay and watch, you will notice that many of these activities are remarkably high level.

You think to yourself, "These preschoolers are doing algebra? You've got to be kidding me!" Yup, Montessori was reaching high. But when you take a look at what the kids are doing and how it is presented, you realize that they are not writing equations and discussing the hows and whys or the applications.

"The Child Will Absorb What He Needs to Know"

The theory behind Montessori's method is that the child will absorb what he needs to know at the right developmental time by using his own hands. And yes, Montessori felt that very small children were capable of learning/absorbing much more than traditional educators were giving them credit for. It's a wonderful material, but you don't have to purchase a trinomial cube in order to expose your child to the mystifying complexity of math and science. Everyday experiments will work.

Enter The Crow and the Pitcher. This science experiment plus literature activity has always been one of my favorites to do in the classroom, and chances are you already have what you need for it hanging around your house, but you don't need to begin with an explanation of water displacement. Simply showing, doing, and having fun with it is enough at this age. Like my kids, yours will probably want to do it over and over. 

Teaching Tip: Do this experiment yourself first if possible - how high you want to fill the vase is largely dependent on the size and shape of your vase and your stones.


The Plot

An Aesop's Fable...

A CROW, perishing with thirst, saw a pitcher, and, hoping to find water, flew to it with great delight. When he reached it, he discovered to his grief that it contained so little water that he could not possibly get at it. He tried everything he could think of to reach the water, but all his efforts were in vain. At last he collected as many stones as he could carry and dropped them one by one with his beak into the pitcher, until he brought the water within his reach, and thus saved his life.

Moral: Necessity is the mother of invention. 

The Materials

  • small necked jar or vase (mine is from maple syrup)
  • stones (glass is pretty, but pea gravel will work just as well)
  • sponge & drying cloth (cleanup)
  • pitcher and funnel (optional)
  • tray (preferably with high sides)

The Protagonist

When I introduce this story, I usually begin by making a bird with my fingers. The children are drawn in. I don't speak. I make bird-like movements. I fly my fingers around and peck at things. I may or may not caw. 

When I have totally 100% got their undivided attention, I begin the story in a calm, quiet voice. As the crow flies, so do my fingers. When the crow is thirsty and cannot reach the water, he hangs his head.

He perks up with an idea! He hops over to the pile of stones and picks one up in his pincer grip. He carefully deposits the stone in the water. At this point, the children take over spontaneously and my acting part is over. I recede quietly into the background.

The Big Finish

When the water reaches the top, the children are always surprised. Their crows happily slurp up the water, and they keep dropping more stones in, and the water keeps spilling out. See why you need the sponge and drying cloth on hand? And the tray with tall sides? They will likely want to do it again and again. When they do, you have the pitcher and funnel on hand so they can do it themselves.