Every year in December we celebrate Special Days. The idea came from some December preschool ideas book, and I’m firmly committed to the idea. It gives me a wonderful way to teach the children about winter, and to introduce some of the holidays that are celebrated in December in a low-key way. It also gives me a way to channel the excitement that builds in December into some age-appropriate activities. But mostly I do these special days because they bring joyfulness and magic to the classroom.
First up: Marvelous Mittens Day. The children come in that morning to find a giant mitten traced on the floor of the meeting area with masking tape. This in itself is very exciting and mysterious. At centers time we make mitten ornaments (see above) and we made mittens that I ordered from Oriental Trading that Miss Slinger placed in their memory books. By the time Miss Slinger and I were done with getting 20 children through two mitten-making centers, we were utterly exhausted.
Then came story time. We had done some preparation by reading Jan Brett’s The Mitten the day before.
For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it’s an old folktale about a boy who loses a mitten in the snow, where it is found by a series of animals who crawl in to get warm. The mitten gets stretched to ridiculous proportions (I enjoy asking my class, “can a bear really fit into a mitten?”) and then finally the bear sneezes, everyone flies out, and when the mitten is in the air, the boy finds it again.
I discovered Jan Brett’s website a long time ago, and made masks of each of the animals in the mitten. Instead of using the pictures as masks, however, I turned them into necklaces of sorts, and we just hang them around the children’s necks. We act out the story for the first time on Mittens Day, with me reading/paraphrasing the book and acting as MC/narrator.
At the end the actors lined up and bowed, everyone else clapped, and the kids said, “Can we do it again?”
It was time to go home, but I promised we could, and we have. Every single day since then.
I used The MItten has a focus in my class this week. I wanted to do a picture walk on Monday, but ran out of time and so we read it cold on Tuesday and I told them to look for “clues.” They had so much fun reading it and for one center on Tuesday, using the animals from her site, I had the kids color them in. Wednesday, we re-read it, talking about the order th animals went in. Then the most exciting part, we cut out or own mittens (two on constructionpaper), then my para and I stapled them shut. They cut out their animal and viola, their own mitten! Then we re-read it Thursday with them putting their animals in as we read the book. After that, we started with our own The Mitten books. That had a picture of each mitten on each page and said.. “The mole was in the mitten..”and so on… We also used this oppurtunity to teach the word ‘was.’ So then they colored in their books, practiced “reading” to us. And we sent them home with their own book to read and their own mitten to act it out. A successful week, if I do say so myself!
We usually do that activity too — I have enlarged Jan Brett’s mitten pattern, and the kids cut it out and a teacher staples it, and then the kids color and cut out animals (from the teacher guide that goes with the big book version of the Mitten) and glue them to popsicle sticks — but this year it was too much to do all in one day. (I haven’t been feeling well; more on that later.) So I’ve been sitting at the art center at centers time and the kids who are interested are coming to do it four at a time. It may take us weeks to do it this way!
I love those art mittens at the top. Look at all that glue and glitter. Someone had a good time!
OOOOHH. Glitter glue. Nothing beats glitter glue. It’s even more fun to spread on your hands. Those are beautiful!
I love your idea of having “special days” in December – I kind of do the same thing using favorite folk tales – ending with The Gingerbread Man. Usually we aren’t having mitten weather until January so I will wait to do all your mitten activities – but we have broken out the wooly box early this year, it is freezing right now in the Puget Sound! Have you seen the new publication of The Mitten story? Same story and an artist as wonderful as Jan Brett but different, I’m glad for a new version, I just saw it at Barnes and Noble – can’t remember the author.
You might be thinking of Jim Aylesworth’s retelling, illustrations by Barbara McClintock. It is definitely worth looking at. Here is the book’s page on Amazon:
Wonderful! Love your idea of using masks as necklaces–everyone still gets the idea, but no one puts anything over their faces, which never works. LOVE that your class acts out the story, and that you say yes when they want to do it again and again. Thanks for sharing.
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