Friday, June 29, 2012

The Secret Birthday Message: Storytime themes: Birthdays, Pirates, Directional Words, Shapes, Following Jesus

Title:  The Secret Birthday Message
Author/Illustrator:  Eric Carle
Word Density: Low
 Toddler to 8

I get really, really excited about ANY of Eric Carle's books. But I get especially happy when I find a new one (or in this case, old one.) First published in West Germany in 1971, The Secret Birthday Message is a little gem. With characteristically wonderful artwork, Carle presents a simple idea. A boy named Tim discovers a mysterious coded message in his room on his birthday-eve. In it are specific instructions for where to find his birthday present. Full of symbols, shapes, and directional words like "in," "behind," and "through," Carle uses specially-cut pages that lead the reader on a literal treasure hunt through the book. And of course, in classic Carle fashion, there's a surprise at the end of the search. A thoroughly lovely and educational presentation by my favorite author, artist, philosopher, and universal grandpa, Eric Carle.

Using this story as the basis for your lesson, choose from or combine the following themes found in this book to correspond with your current curriculum unit or lesson objectives:

Preschool themes:

1. Secret messages/Pirates.

2. Birthdays.

3. Shapes.

4. Directional words.

Christian themes:

1. Follow the Savior.

2. Jesus' Birthday.

3. The Greatest Treasure is Peace With God.

4. God's message for us.

Scripture connections:

1. Matthew 6:19-21: "Don't store treasures for yourselves here on earth where moths and rust will destroy them and thieves can break in and steal them. But store your treasures in heaven where they cannot be destroyed by moths or rust and where thieves cannot break in and steal them. Your heart will be where your treasure is." (New Century Version)

2. John 8:12: "Later, Jesus talked to the people again, saying, 'I am the light of the world. The person who follows me will never live in darkness but will have the light that gives life.'" (New Century Version)

3. Acts 10:36: "You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all." (NIV)

4. Ephesians 4:6: "[There is] one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (NIV)
Song suggestions:
1. "Follow the Saviour" by Colin Buchanan from "Follow the Saviour" CD.

 "The Greatest Treasure" by Colin Buchanan, from his "Practise Being Godly" CD.

 "The Best Book to Read is the Bible" from Colin Buchanan's "Follow the Saviour" CD.

4. Song,
 "Luke, Chapter 9 Verse 23," from Colin Buchanan's "Practise Being Godly" CD.

·Enrichment: Provide a "secret message" for the children to decode. Place a bag of treats in a hidden area. Draw a map using symbols and pictures, and show it to the children. Help them decipher the map and find the treats.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Owl and the Woodpecker: Storytime Themes: Being a Good Neighbor, Forest Animals, Owls, Birds, Peace, Problem Solving

Title: The Owl and the Woodpecker

Author/Illustrator: Brian Wildsmith
Word Density: Medium
My Recommended Age-Appropriateness: 4 to 12

1. Loving your neighbor.
2. Living peacefully with one another.

1. Settling differences.
2. Being a good neighbor.
3. Solving problems.
4. Forest animals.
5. Nighttime and daytime animals.
SUMMARY: In this classic fable about a group of forest animals who have property disputes, readers learn about how to be a good neighbor. With beautiful colors and lively textures, Wildsmith portrays the all-too-realistic argument between nocturnal Owl, who recently moved into the tree next door, and Woodpecker. Owl can't sleep and becomes infuriated with Woodpecker's daytime noise. Woodpecker, however, maintains that it's his right to peck on his own tree anytime and as loudly as he wants. The dispute grows more and more heated, eventually causing a siding of opinions among all the forest's residents. The tiny mouse sees Woodpecker's point of view, insisting that "Owl is always around." The larger animals tend to see Owl's perspective, encouraging Woodpecker to compromise and "stop pecking" so they can all get some peace. Finally the residents gather round to encourage the troubled Owl to do something to fix the situation. He, however, feels the problem is entirely Woodpecker's fault, and insists on Woodpecker moving house. Their neighbors get so fed up with it all that they actually try to push down Owl's tree. Of course, this doesn't work, but coincidentally, two beavers begin to take a liking to Owl's tree. When a big storm comes along and threatens to blow down Owl's tree one day while he's fast asleep, Woodpecker sees the danger and, disregarding all their earlier disputes, rushes in to waken Owl one last time with his frantic pecking. Owl is so grateful to Woodpecker for rescuing him, that all is forgiven, and a suitable arrangement is made so that everyone lives peacefully together. Altogether an excellent way of demonstrating how to be, and not to be, a good friend and neighbor.

Choose from the following themes, songs, and Bible verses to create a lesson that best suits your curriculum or learning objectives:

1. 2 Corinthians 13:11 "...Try to get along and live peacefully with each other." (CEV)

2. Proverbs 11:25 "...those who help others will themselves be helped." (CEV)

3. Romans 15:2 "We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord." (NLT)

4. Romans 15:5 "God is the one who makes us patient and cheerful. I pray that he will help you live at peace with each other, as you follow Christ." (CEV)


1. "Up All Night" (a song about nocturnal animals) by Zach Burba from "Cool Creatures" CD & MMMKids.

2. "Love Your Neighbor" from the Veggie Tales Veggie Tunes CD.
3. "This is My Commandment" from the Cedarmont Kids Platinum Collection.
Craft Idea: Let the children create paper plate owls. Give each child two paper plates, one large and one small. Staple the smaller one above the larger one to simulate the owl's head. Provide plenty of brown craft feathers (available in most arts and crafts supply stores) and let the children use glue to cover their owls in feathers. Finally, glue two plastic googly eyes (also available at craft stores) on the "face." Hang your lovely, silly owls around the room and enjoy!