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Bears in the classroom: Picture books that matter

A shopworn bear searches for a lost button and finds a friend and a new home.

Match the button
(ages 3 and older)
Here’s what you need:
button collection, 50 or more
sorting tray

1. Prepare the activity by putting a collection of buttons in a basket.
2. Invite children to match the buttons according to some criterion—color, size, or number of holes, for example.

Button patterns
(ages 3 and older)
Here’s what you need:
button collection
sorting trays

1. Place a collection of colored buttons in a basket.
2. Talk with children about pattern sequences. Demonstrate a typical pattern sequence like red-green-red-green-green. Help children duplicate the pattern.
3. Ask two children to work together—one to set the pattern and one to copy it. Encourage the partners to read the patterns individually and together—and to trade places after each round.

Bear Shadow
When Little Bear’s shadow gets in the way of his catching a fish, he decides to get rid of it. No matter what he does though, it won’t go away! Help children explore the shadows inspired by Asch’s books.

Shadow tag
(ages 4 and older)
Get the wiggles out—and cardiovascular systems revved—with a game of shadow tag. This is most successful on sunny days.
1. Ask children to find a partner.
2. The partners take turns being IT.
3. IT tries to step on the partner’s shadow and says “tag” when successful. When tagged, the partners switch places.
4. Encourage gross muscle movements!

Trace shadows
(ages 4 and older)
Here’s what you need:
mural paper
colored chalk, paint, and markers

1. Help children identify an interesting shadow on the playground or on a walk.
2. Place the mural paper on the ground where the shadow will fall on it.
3. Invite children to trace the shadow with a marker.
4. Encourage the group to decorate the shadow tracing with chalk or paint.

Measuring shadows
(ages 3 and older)
Here’s what you need:
cardboard bear shapes (see diagram on page 20)
drinking straws
thread spools
large sheets of newsprint
crayons or markers

1. Ask the children what they know about shadows. Read to the group. Use questions like “Why did Bear’s shadow disappear when he hid behind the tree?” to stimulate conversation.
2. Introduce the activity by explaining that children can use bear shapes to investigate shadows and predict how shadows change throughout the day.
3. Give each child a bear cutout and a straw. Show them how to tape the bear to the top of the straw.
4. Pass out thread spools. Show how to insert the lower end of the straw into the spool hole so the figure balances on the spool end.
5. Take the figures outdoors and place large sheets of newsprint on the ground in sunny areas.
6. Encourage the children to place their figures in the center of the newsprint and observe the shadows. Use a crayon or marker to mark each shadow’s length.
7. Repeat the observation and marking several times during the day.
8. Discuss the changes in the shadow, helping children understand the relationship of shadow to the sun’s position overhead.

Bear builds a rocket to take him to the moon—so he can taste it.

Rocket construction
(ages 3 and older)
Here’s what you need:
paper and pencils
large cardboard box
craft knife (for adult use only)
collage materials
paint and brushes

1. Encourage children to draw a model of the rocket they’d like to build. Refer to the book illustrations and help the children negotiate and plan a model.
2. Using the craft knife, make large cuts for an entry and windows in the cardboard box. Follow the planned design, but make sure children are standing well away from the box and knife.
3. Invite the children to add construction details. For example, a cardboard tube rocket nose, tissue box wings, and foil instrument panels.
4. Take the rocket outside and let children add paint details. Let dry thoroughly.
5. Use the rocket inside or on the playground as a dramatic play prop or in a quiet reading nook.

Mooncake snacks
(ages 3 and older)
Here’s what you need:
large rice cakes
low-fat cottage cheese
corn flakes
serving plates

1. Invite children to have a taste of the moon by making their own mooncakes. Review health rules and give children time to thoroughly wash their hands.
2. Ask each child to place a rice cake on a plate.
3. Pass around the cottage cheese and spoon. Show the children how to scoop two spoonfuls of cottage cheese onto the rice cake.
4. Invite the children to make their snack more moon-like by adding cornflakes and raisins to their moonscakes.
5. Serve with fruit juice for a wholesome, low-fat snack.

Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?
Simple verse describes the morning-to-night adventures of Jesse Bear.

What will you wear?
(ages 3 and older)
After sharing the book, invite children to talk about the clothes they are wearing. Ask about favorite shirts and pants, shoes, and pajamas. Explore vocabulary and encourage children to use descriptive adjectives like “my and shirt.”

Dress paper dolls
(ages 4 and older)
Here’s what you need:
heavy tag board
wallpaper samples and other colored or textured paper
repositionable glue
storage basket

1. Prepare the activity by drawing or tracing patterns of simple figures and shirts, pants, shorts, hats, and skirts to fit the figures. (See example that you can enlarge and copy.) Cut out the figures and make clothing pattern templates for children to use.
2. Invite children to dress paper dolls. Provide each child a tag board figure.
3. Show how to trace the clothing template onto a scrap of wallpaper or other colored or textured paper.
4. Tell the children to cut out the clothing item and use temporary glue to affix it to the doll.
5. Ask children to store their dolls and fashions in designated container. Make the activity available for continued play.

Ask Mr. Bear
Danny surveys a collection of animals for a suggestion on the perfect gift for his mother’s birthday.

Move like the animal
(ages 3 and older)
After reading , challenge the children to a guessing game. Invite the children to divide into two groups: the actors and the guessers. Gather the actors into a huddle and tell them to move like one of the animals in the book—a hen, cow, pig, or goat, for example. Tell the children that they can add animal sounds if they’d like.
Let the group switch roles for as long as the game is engaging. Add spice by suggesting animals that aren’t in the book—a snake, rabbit, and bird, for example.

Move with Danny
(ages 3 and older)
Notice the verbs in the story. Danny and . Write the action words on index cards. Let children choose a card and follow the directions as they move along an outdoor path or sidewalk. Focus on balance. Suggest, for example, hopping on the right leg for three hops, the left leg for three hops, and then alternating legs.
Skipping is a challenging motor skill for children to master. Help a child’s development by holding a hand. Say “Right foot step and hop, left foot step and hop” over and over.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
This chant-and-response adventure chronicles a family’s explorations through a meadow, river, mud, forest, snowstorm, and finally a bear cave.
Michael Rosen recites on YouTube at His performance offers teachers a great example of effective—and dramatic—voice control as well as ideas on hand and body movement. This video clip is not intended for children and is not a substitute for direct teacher-child interactions.
Invite children to develop alternative actions for the story segments. For example, rub hands together to mimic a grass swishing sound; shiver in the snowstorm, and terrifyingly touch the bear’s face in the dark cave.
Vary the original book and chant with replacement words and motions. For example, introduce, “We’re going on a camping trip.” Develop the rhyme with
“We have to pack the minivan” (carry equipment and squeeze it in)
“Stop for gas before heading up the mountain” (pump gas; drive and swerve)
“Finally we’re at the camp site” (unpack)
“Pitch the tent and shake out sleeping bags” (hammer stakes, flap arms)
“And gather wood for the dinner fire” (gather wood, stir pot)
“Look out at the stars, and wiggle into our sleeping bags for the night.”

Blueberries for Sal
In this timeless story, Sal and Baby Bear switch mothers as they pick blueberries.

Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk
(ages 3 and older)
Here’s what you need:
empty metal pail
wooden mallet
large open area

1. Gather children in a large open area indoors or on the playground. Invite the children to play follow-the-sound game.
2. Demonstrate different tempos by beating the pail with the mallet. A slow tempo tells the children to walk slowly and quietly. A fast beat signals running.
3. Lead the children in beating on the pail. Be sure to include several different tempos to ensure a cardiovascular workout.

Blueberry smoothies
(ages 2 and older)
Here’s what you need:
fresh or frozen blueberries
low-fat plain or blueberry yogurt
grape juice
measuring cup
ice cubes
serving cups

1. Prepare ingredients for the smoothies. You’ll need about 2/3 cup berries, 1 cup yogurt, 1 cup grape juice, and 6 ice cubes for five half-cup servings.
2. Invite children to help prepare and serve snack. Review safety rules and give children time to thoroughly wash their hands.
3. Divide children into groups of five. Divide tasks as follows: rinse and drain the berries; spoon berries into blender container; measure and pour grape juice into container; spoon yogurt into container; and add ice cubes to the container.
4. Cover and turn on the blender. Process the mixture until smooth.
5. Pour into five cups.
Repeat the process so all children can participate. Serve smoothies for snack with whole wheat crackers.