Fireflies: January 2012         

Jan 30, 2012

PEN IN HAND: Create a Cinquain Poem

[Print Communications]

Cinquain is a form of a short poem.  It has only five lines that closely link to each other.  Cinquain is initially originated by Adelaide Crapsy (1878-1914).  She constructed this kind of poem based on Haiku.  (Haiku is a form of Japanese verse and is made up of five, seven, and five words in unrhymed lines of three.)    

Have your child come up with the words to complete their own Cinquain poem.  If your child prints or you type the finished poem, be sure and highlight your child's first and last name in color, so the name stands out when you view the poem.

Line 1     Your (child's) first name

Line 2     Two words that describe you (your child)

Line 3     A three word phrase that describes something they like to do

Line 4     Four "feeling" words or adjectives

Line 5     Your (child's) last name

My grandson, Davis' first 3D experience

brother - grandson
loves to ask questions
smart - tender - silly - loved
Remember that the presentation and the display is extremely important.   Consider creating a mat for your child's poem.  Perhaps you could add an image of your child to your poem and frame the completed project.    

Please send us a .jpg of your child holding their print comm creation.   Email 

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Jan 28, 2012

CLIP Review: Snow Day!

Author - Lester L. Laminack
Illustrator - Adam Gustavson

I can still remember the thrill of waking up to my parents calling up the stairs, "No school today! Boy, did it ever snow last night!" My sisters and I would race, wide-eyed, to the window and gaze out at a winter wonderland, squealing with delight at what vast possibilities this 'snow day' would hold.  Reading Snow Day! brought back this rush of excitement. You'll be transported into a frigid, icy playground as the family enjoys a winter day.  The vibrant artwork only adds to the magical wonder of this delightful book, which will have readers of all ages wishing they could be whisked away into enjoying their very own snow day!

Two other excellent books about snow days, which are also beautifully illustrated:
Snow Riders by Constance W. McGeorge
SNOW by Uri Shulevitz


Jan 27, 2012

CLIP Review: Llama Llama Home With Mama

Author - Anna Dewdney

Sniffles and colds are inevitable, but finding a way to cheer up your little "patient" may have you wondering what to do. Llama Llama Home With Mama to the rescue!  Little Llama is home from school sick and wants Mama close by.  I guarantee you'll experience smiles and snuggles in this most recent of the highly acclaimed Llama Llama stories by Anna Dewdney.

Rhythmic words and cuddly drawings will once again delight young listeners and readers.  The ending provides an interesting twist which may lead to some thoughtful discussion.

Other books in this series are:
  Llama Llama Red Pajama
  Llama Llama Mad at Mama
  Llama Llama Misses Mama
  Llama Llama Holiday Drama


Jan 26, 2012

"Snow is Falling"

Each month, Jenna will be sharing an original song based on our theme for that month.   Songs will be available for downloading soon, but in the meantime we hope you will enjoy our first Fireflies song, "Snow is Falling" written by Jenna Paulette.   [Thanks Jenna - how very blessed we are to have you partner with us on this dream adventure.  You are a treasure and we're honored to have you share your talent with us.]

see lyrics below

"Snow is Falling"

Snow is falling,
Snow is falling,
Covering the ground.
It's the Lord calling,
The Lord calling,
I want to cover you.

Snow is falling,
Snow is falling,
Covering the ground.
It's the Lord calling,
The Lord calling,
I want to cover you.

In white, pure in light,
In white, how He make us right.
with white, pure in light
with white, how He makes right

Snow is falling,
Snow is falling,
Covering the ground.
It's the Lord calling,
The Lord calling,
I long to cover you.


Jan 23, 2012

2012 Caldecott Winner

A Ball for Daisy
by Chris Raschka
Announced at the ALA Convention Today:  January 23, 2012
Information from American Library Association
The 2012 Caldecott Medal winner is A Ball for Daisy, written and illustrated by Chris Raschka, published by Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
In a wordless book with huge children’s appeal, Chris Raschka gives us the story of an irrepressible little dog whose most prized possession is accidentally destroyed.  With brilliant economy of line and color, Raschka captures Daisy’s total (yet temporary) devastation. A buoyant tale of loss, recovery and friendship.
“Chris Raschka’s deceptively simple paintings of watercolor, gouache and ink explore universal themes of love and loss that permit thousands of possible variants,” said Caldecott Medal Committee Chair Steven L. Herb. ‘A Ball for Daisy’ holds as many unique stories as there will be young readers and re-readers.
NPR Interview with Chris Raschka

The Caldecott

The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.


PEN IN HAND...Winter Prompts

SOC: Print Communications
When encouraging students to create a print comm (creative writing) project, remember to focus on the message and the finished product.  Each print communications piece should ultimately be "published".  (Yes, posting on the refrigerator door is publishing!)  

For this project, create a "canvas" that is special.  Perhaps you have some left over winter stationary used for your Christmas newsletters, if not, simply decorate paper with snowflake stamps or stickers.  Let your child select images on received Christmas cards to cut out and place on their writing paper.  Show that you respect the effort your child puts forth by providing him/her with appropriately decorated stationary.   

Think about where the finished project will be displayed and/or shared.  You may be surprised at how motivated your  child will be to write for you when he/she knows there is a purpose to the writing - that someone will read what they have written.

Winter Writing Prompts            
Choose from the prompts below to write a story or poem.
  • The snow is falling and there is a small dog shivering in the doorway of the church... 
  • SNOW DAY!   There is no school tomorrow so I think I'll...
  • I looked through the front window at the snowman in the front yard.  All of a sudden...
  • My Mom and Dad said it is going to snow tomorrow.  I'm so excited because I've never seen snow before.  (Describe what you think snow is like and tell what you will do.)
  • Splat! Splat! Another snowball came flying..... 
  • One huge icicle hung dangerously from the corner of the old house... 
  • Thank God for the beauty of winter beginning with...
  • Sitting by the warm fire I looked up to see...
  • It's getting dark and I'm running home but there is so much snow, my boot gets stuck... 
  • I want to go sledding but I don't own a sled.  Suddenly I have a great idea...
  • I was ice skating on the pond when I saw a reflection....
                                                Create your own prompts! 

Remember that this should not feel like homework.  Perhaps instead of writing stories, your child would enjoy using these ideas as verbal comm prompts.  Write each prompt on a separate strip of paper.  Have your child select one and then complete the sentence or make up a complete story and/or poem using the prompt (depending on the age of your child).   You may want to set a time limit - depending on your child's age, ability and attention span.   Have them keep talking until the timer goes off.  Remember that mom and dad (grandma & grandpa) must take a turn too!   NOTE:  Please don't assume that your child is too young or too old for this activity.  You might be surprised.   

Send us your child's response to the writing prompts by posting them in the comment box below!   We love seeing your children's writings and hope that your responses will motivate and inspire other parents and their children.


Jan 20, 2012

CLIP Review: Stranger in the Woods

Author - Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick

"For those who protect wild places and to the snowman that lives in every child's heart" is the dedication in this captivatingly beautiful book.  Whether or not you have lived in a snowy climate, your senses will be drawn to each incredibly photographed picture...the mother doe and her babies with the snowflakes dusting on their noses, the brilliant crimson cardinal sitting majestically in the snowy branches of a tree.  The woodland animals gather around 'the stranger' in their midst, drawn to its eyes and mouth of nuts and carrot nose.  The children stay quiet and hidden behind trees and watch as the creatures are fed by their snowman.  

A delightful recipe for a snowman (beginning with the ingredient for 1 generous helping of wet packing snow), is given at the end of this book.

A companion book, First Snow in the Woods, is also available.

YouTube Video - About the author/photographers of Stranger in the Woods.


Jan 19, 2012

Masterpiece: Pilgrims Going to Church

by George Henry Boughton

George Henry Boughton was born in England and his parents took him to America when he was a baby. When he grew up, he became a painter and sold his first painting when he was 19 years old.  He took the money and visited London.  Then he went back to America for a couple of years.  He decided to study in Paris for a while, but eventually made London his home.  He established an art studio there in 1861 and began to concentrate his work on early American Colonial history.

He liked to paint landscapes and also pictures of people.  In this painting, he shows a group of Pilgrims walking to church.  Life was very hard for these early settlers, and many of them died because of the extreme conditions.
Boughton also was an illustrator or books. He drew the pictures for Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter and Washington Irving's books Rip Van Winkle and The History of New York.

Some possible questions to share as you explore Pilgrims Going to Church with your children:
  1. What time of the year is it?
  2. Is Is the light in the picture direct sunlight?  Have you ever seen light like this on a snowy day?
  3. There are some things that make the picture seem very quiet; what are they?
  4. Do you know the early history of the Pilgrims?  If so, do you think the people are talking to each other?
  5. What does the picture tell you about the men who are leading and following?   Who are others in the group?
  6. Is there anything in the picture to make one feel that they are in danger?  What do they fear?
  7. How important do you think gathering for worship was to the Pilgrims?  Why?

    Please share additional questions a parent could ask about "Pilgrims Going to Church" in the comment section below so that we can expand our art appreciation database.

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Jan 18, 2012

Training your Child to Appreciate Art

Each month we will highlight one way to train your child to effectively communicate a message through print, verbal and visual arts activities.  This month, let's begin with the Visual Arts.   I'm a firm believer in children being exposed to great works of art and also creating their own art.    Each month we will focus on works and styles of art by various artists.   We will also share an art activity to experience with your child.  (See Post: Block Print Winter Scene)   We will archive these activities under the label: Visual Comm.

When was the last time you actually chose to visit an art museum, let alone take your child to one?  I must confess that I was not an enthusiastic museum visitor as a young parent.  I did not want my children exposed to some of the art displayed and I simply didn't know how to introduce them to great works of art.

What I did do however, was to sign my children up for many different art experiences in our area, (and I have a complete set of coil pots to prove it).  I chose wonderful art teachers who inspired them to replicate great works of art, explore different styles of art, and to create messages through the visual arts.  My parental experiment was a success!  Both of my adult children are fearless when it comes to a creative project (probably to the dismay of their spouses...), and I am convinced they both will do a much better job of walking their little ones through MOMA and the National Portrait Gallery.  I believe with all my heart that my children benefited from the art lessons, and that's why I'm committed to sharing these experiences with you.

Through Fireflies, we can share our love for the process of art exploration.  Each month, Julie Hagan and I will highlight a piece of artwork to share with your children as they grow to appreciate God's creation through the Fine Arts.  For those of you who do not know Julie - she is the artist.  She is a master teacher whose heart for growing children to become all they were created to be, inspires me every time I'm with her.  (You are in for a treat - I promise.)  Through our Visual Comm posts, we hope you will be encouraged to create opportunities for your children to view and create art.   After all, everyone needs their own set of coil pots!

Art Appreciation and the Young Child

Parents can initiate young children’s appreciation of art by letting them
view and make art.

For young children, visiting an art gallery or museum can be a great introduction to art. Here are some suggestions to make your trip a success:
The Sisters of Charity by Charles Burton Barber

Start small. Choose a theme that relates to your child’s interests, such as ballet or animals, and look at just three or four pieces to see how different artists represent the subject.

• Pay attention to the artwork’s message. Artwork that shows people gathering food or nurturing a child or that highlights daily activities in other ways carries powerful positive messages.

• Listen to your child’s response to artwork. Children may find some work frightening, such as Georgia O’Keefe’s Horse’s Skull with White Rose. Experts say toddlers respond to scenes of daily life and abstract art like that of Picasso or Klee, but show little interest in landscapes.

• Watch for art in progress. Children are fascinated to see art in the making so watch for people who are sketching or painting.

• Learn when to lead and when to follow. A child will let you know when he’s ready to look at a piece of art more deeply.  The goal is to help your child to acquire an appreciation of art...follow their lead when possible.

• Find something for everyone. Having at least two adults with a family group allows you to split up and accommodate everyone’s interests.

 Find creative ways to keep little hands off. Touching an object related to the artwork makes it easier for kids to accept “hands-off” policies. When looking at a sculpture, for example, bring a smooth stone for kids to touch.

First Steps
Look at the winter scene above.   Keep in mind your child's developmental level as you begin to discuss artwork.  Practice designing questions that will engage your child in the discussion of art.  

Questions about The Sisters of Charity might range from "How many deer are in this picture?" to "Why do you think the artist titled his art work, The Sisters of Charity?" 

Share your questions as well as your child's unique responses with us in the comment section below.   Discuss, explore and enjoy ART!  

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Jan 16, 2012

Create a Block Print Winter Scene

Use dark construction paper and white tempura paint to create winter scenes like those in Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin  

SOC:  Visual Comm
Replicating the art of illustrator Mary Azarian   [1999 winner of the Caldecott Medal]
See Friday's Fireflies post - CLIP Review of Snowflake Bentley.

Materials needed:   
   foam piece or balsa wood
   white tempura paint 

   dark construction paper
   paint brush (or shallow dish for paint)
   a tool to etch your picture into the foam
       (I used the tip of this paint brush)

Have your child sketch a simple scene on to a piece of artist foam.  [I went to Michael's and got a small piece of florist foam.] Press lines into foam with a pencil or other tool such as a thick plastic knitting needle, a chopstick or a tip of a paint brush handle.    

Optional - Glue a cork or empty spool on the back side of the foam so that you can hold the foam piece while dipping it into a shallow bowl of white tempura paint.

Paint white paint onto the block and press the block onto a piece of dark construction paper.   Make adjustment as needed so that the outlines show up well and the paint is even. My florist foam wasn't perfectly flat so I had to rub the paper onto the foam block to get a final picture.   Looking at the picture above of the etched foam and the finished picture, I think a simple picture works best.  So we tried again....and are happier with our snowman.   Bottom line  - experiment and have fun!   

I love creating opportunities for children to explore the visual arts. Even if they never perfect the craft, they will have a deeper appreciation for those who do...the real artists. After your child creates their block print, have them again look at the illustrations by Mary Azarian.  Discuss the process and appreciate together the effort and talent of this artist/illustrator.

Display!   We will talk more about this later, but when communicating there must be a sender and a receiver.   At SOC [School of Communications] we are developing opportunities to not only "send/create" but to "receive" the message. Soon we will talk about creating a Family Louvre, kicking it up     a notch from the traditional refrigerator door art display.

We would really enjoy seeing your children's block prints.  Send them to our email address. for a chance to be chosen to receive your own copy of Snowflake Bentley.  

Crystal Snowflakes!
It's a holiday and the kids are home from school...  Why not make
Borax crystal snowflakes with your child?  Check out this YouTube video...

Snowflake Photography
Thanks to Vanessa Silly Eagle Books for the info on the snowflake photography of Ken Libbrecht.   Check out his books!   Also, check out the Silly Eagle Blog if you haven't done so already.


Jan 14, 2012

CLIP Recipe: Fresh Apple Bars with Snowy Topping

3 eggs 
1 3/4 cup sugar   
1 cup oil
1 tsp baking soda         
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt         
2 cups flour

2 cups diced apples           
1 cup nuts (optional)            
powdered sugar ("snow") for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat eggs, sugar and oil together. Add sifted dry ingredients. Fold in apples and nuts and pour into a greased and floured 9"x13" pan. Bake 40-45 minutes. When done, let your child sprinkle with "snow" (powdered sugar) and cut into bars.

JOT [Just One Touch]
Wrap up a plate of bars and have a family JOT night.  As a family, deliver your treats to someone you wish to thank or encourage.  It is never too soon to teach your child to say  "Thank You".  [A thank you is especially thoughtful when it comes with a plate of Apple Bars with Snowy Topping.]


Jan 13, 2012

Snowflake Bentley

Author - Jacquelyn Briggs Martin     Illustrator - Mary Azarian

Booklist Review
From the time he was a small boy, Wilson Bentley saw snowflakes as small miracles. And he determined that one day his camera would capture for others the wonder of the tiny crystal. Bentley's enthusiasm for photographing snowflakes was often misunderstood in his time, but his patience and determination revealed two important truths: no two snowflakes are alike; and each one is startlingly beautiful. His story is gracefully told and brought to life in lovely woodcuts, giving children insight into a soul who had not only a scientist's vision and perseverance but a clear passion for the wonders of nature. "Of all the forms of water the tiny six-pointed crystals of ice called snow are incomparably the most beautiful and varied." -- Wilson Bentley. 

Meet the Illustrator
Illustrator Mary Azarian was born on December 8, 1940, in Washington, D.C. She grew up on a small farm in northern Virginia. She started making woodcuts when she was a young girl, and then studied the printing process when she went to college.

After she married, Mrs. Azarian lived with her husband on a small farm in Vermont. They gardened, made maple syrup, and raised cows, chickens, sheep, horses, and oxen. In the 1960s she was a teacher for grades 1 through 8 in a one-room schoolhouse.

Mary Azarian frequently creates her artwork for books by using woodcut prints. This is a very time-consuming process. First, she draws each picture on a block of wood. She cuts away the parts of the picture that will be white. She then rolls ink over the design. She puts the inked block on the bottom of her nineteenth-century handpress. Next, she places paper on top of the block and rolls a heavy cylinder over the paper to print it. Finally, she hand-colors the picture with watercolors. Her woodcut prints have the look of rural folk art.

Visual Comm Project
Next week we will share a block print project to experience with your child after reading Snowflake Bentley and discussing the intricate illustrations of Mary Azarian.   You may also want to make crystal snowflakes with your children.   We'll show you how.


Jan 12, 2012

Favorite Book Apps: Mr. Morris Lessmore

Let's start with the best of the best, shall we?   
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Moonbot Studios
I measure all other Book Apps by this one, and so far the rest fall short.   This interactive story has everything you could want in a story, let alone in an interactive app.   It was the first Book App to hit #1 on the iPad App Store - and for good reason.  
 iTunes Description:
Inspired, in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, "Morris Lessmore" is a story of people who devote their lives to books and books who return the favor.  Morris is a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story.  Using a variety of techniques (miniatures, computer animation, 2D animation) award winning author/illustrator William Joyce and Co-director Brandon Oldenburg present a new narrative experience that harkens back to silent films and MGM Technicolor musicals.  "Morris Lessmore" is old fashioned and cutting edge at the same time.

I'm so crazy about this app that I think having it is enough reason to go out and get an iPad (in case you needed one more reason to get an iPad)!  Oh and don't miss the screen where the characters are lined up to check out books.  Pull the books over the characters and watch what happens.

You won't want to close this post without checking out the video below.  Sign up for Fireflies now, so that you don't miss future Book and Learning Apps reviews.
                                                                        Deni Corbett
Purchase for iPad from iTunes for $4.99


Jan 11, 2012


Mary Kline
SOC Reading Specialist
My mama’s birthday dawned on a blustery cold January day many long years ago.  To make it worse, she was sick in bed with a miserable cold. Due to the amount of snow we had received in the night, school had been canceled. That’s when I got the bright idea to do something to make mama feel better on her birthday. Even though I was only in elementary school, I’d baked beside her since I could stand on a chair and hold a wooden spoon. So I went downstairs to the kitchen and went to work on her favorite dessert – baked apples. I washed them, found the recipe for the pastry crust, measured carefully and tasted only a little. But when it came time to pat the pastry around the apple, it wouldn’t stick. I tried and tried, but finally just had to smash it on. The apples baked, but most of the pastry crust fell off during baking. When I took my ‘birthday disaster’ to mama, she sat up in bed and asked why I was upset. I told her the apples looked awful and they were supposed to cheer her up. Mom said anytime a child of hers showed that much determination and had that much flour on her face, she was cheered up!  She got out of bed, explained that we can either choose to learn from our mistakes or quit. Together we went back to the kitchen and made the best baked apples you ever tasted!                                                                                                
January – the month we think of for new beginnings, fresh starts, resolutions… Perhaps as we think of those for ourselves, we can also look for ways to help our children learn from their mistakes in more creative ways. Quitting isn’t learning. For fifty years Wilson A. Bentley, a simple farmer, developed his technique of microphotography to reveal to the world the grandeur of the snowflake. But his success came at a high price after years of failed attempts at trying to photograph and draw the snowflakes he saw.  In the 1800’s his parents saw his determination, and bought him a camera which cost as much as 10 cows in their herd. Jacqueline Briggs Martin has written the book Snowflake Bentley about this child who had a clear passion for nature and had parents that encouraged him to follow his dream. To this day I’m grateful for a mother who took the time to lovingly explain my error without judgment, laughter, or criticism.  It could very well be the reason that I absolutely love to bake today!  Oh, and by the way, you PEEL the apples first! 
Mary Kline


Jan 9, 2012


We are excited about Fireflies and hope you are too!
Thanks for joining us on this learning adventure.

Deni Corbett, Founder
Fireflies Blog