May 17, 2015

Good Night, Gorilla: A Teacher's Review

Good Night, Gorilla - Activities, Lesson, Plans, Teaching Ideas


Good Night, Gorilla is, without a doubt, the most requested readaloud at my preschool. Besides "good night," there are only ten other words in the book, but that belies the richness of the conversations and the possibilities for learning that the book provides. Every time I read this with the children, they discover something new, and new questions arise. Among the many wonderful surprises in Good Night, Gorilla are the pictorial nods to other standards of early childhood like Curious George, Babar, and Sesame Street.

"Good Night, Gorilla" could be the first book your child "reads"

The pictures in this book are bright and simple, yet extremely detailed on a closer look. Children want to see it over and over. Because they see it so many times and the few words are either repeated over and over ("good night") or have strong visual cues (names of animals), before long children as young as two or three can "read" this book. Being able to read a whole book instills confidence and an appetite for reading.

Good Night, Gorilla Video - A teaser of the Scholastic production

"I wanted to teach sign language to gorillas, but after taking a class in signing, I realized what I'd rather do was draw pictures of gorillas." --Author Peggy Rathmann

Good Night, Gorilla Activities, Lesson Plans, and Projects - Resources for parents and teachers

There are tons of projects, lesson plans, and activities that relate to Good Night, Gorilla. I've curated some of the best ideas from the web to help you get the creative juices flowing.

Please leave a comment with your "Good Night, Gorilla" ideas.

March 3, 2015

Fractal Tree

Fractals are lots of fun. Very helpful for multiplication, exponentiation, place value, and counting in base two, base three, etc., not to mention art! Helpful hint: use different colors for each layer.

For lots of other great math ideas, check out and

November 24, 2014

Make Discipline Fun!

A 7-year-old kid I know (his name and relation to me will be withheld to protect the not so innocent) recently tried to stretch a base hit into an inside-the-park home run in a sand-lot game. His brother tagged him out at the plate (or did he?). An argument ensued. The baserunner proceeded to pick up his bat and hit his brother with it. (Fortunately it was a nerf-type bat that didn't hurt much.) That ended the game. I heard about it later that day.

Japanese Kid with Bat

Me: I heard that you hit your brother with a bat today.

Boy: He called me out, but I was totally safe.

Me: (Thinking about punishing the kid, but deciding to see where the conversation would go) Have you ever seen Buster Posey hit an umpire with a bat when he gets called out at the plate?

Boy: No.

Me: How about Hunter Pence? He plays with so much passion, but does he hit umpires with bats?

Boy: No. The umpire would eject him.

Me: What should we do about you hitting your brother in the face with your bat.

Boy: I should probably be ejected from the game.

Me: (Confused) But the game's over. How could you be ejected?

Boy: We didn't finish the game. We're planning to finish it next weekend.

Me: OK, that makes sense. You're ejected from the game. Your team won't have you when the game is resumed next week. Do you know what a suspension is in baseball?

Boy: Yes, like A-Rod. For using drugs.

Me: That's right. Players also get suspended for arguing too much with umpires, especially if they touch the umpires.

Boy: So I should get suspended too?

Me: Yes. No using your bat for a week.

Boy: OK. Can we still play catch though?

Me: Of course.

The boy lived up to his self-imposed ejection the following week and didn't even ask to use his bat during the suspension. Too often, we discipline kids out of anger or just routine. Let's be creative. Maybe if Lou Piniella had been disciplined better as a kid we wouldn't have scenes like this.

October 31, 2013

Ordinal Number Fun - Baseball Lineup Card

Teach with your student's interests in mind.  My first-grade son likes baseball, so when we did ordinal numbers (1st, 2nd, 3rd...), he made his own lineup card. I'm not sure I agree with his batting order decisions but hey, it's math practice, not baseball manager practice.

October 16, 2013

Work While You Work - Poem Study

"Work" is another old, anonymous poem introduced in First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind but with slightly different words. It speaks directly to the modern condition of multitasking and continuous partial attention. We would all do well to heed its advice.

 Work while you work
  Play while you play;
One thing each time,
  That is the way.
All that you do,
  Do with your might;
Things done by halves
  Are not done right.

"Work" has a snappy meter and a simple rhyme scheme. More than anything else though, the meaning of the words is what makes this poem worth studying. Work and play are equally valuable, but each must be done at its proper time and with all of one's might.

Working "Work" Through the Curriculum

Bible: Talk about similarities between the poem and Colossians 3:23. "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men." (KJV)

Math: Discuss the idea of doing things "by halves."

Life Skills: Help your child plan out a day on the calendar. Be sure to schedule some "work" time and some "play" time.

Music: March or drum to the poem. It has a very regular rhythm and each of the words has just one syllable.

I've also written poem study guides for Christina Rossetti's "The Caterpillar,"  the anonymous "Mr. Nobody," and "Hearts Are Like Doors." Please check them out, and feel free to leave a comment below. Also, check out the other posts on Trivium Tuesdays.

October 7, 2013

Uh-oh. Matthew 12 again.

I recently noticed my kids getting grouchy and snippety with one another during (home)school time, especially while working on something together without a parent involved. Kid One would read too fast or mumbly for Kid Two to hear. Kid Two would nudge and poke Kid Three into whining. A good time was being had by none.

So I did what came naturally--I got grouchy and snippety with them. That just validated their behavior. Then my morning reading took me to Matthew 12: "A house divided against itself cannot stand" As it has many times before, the light of Jesus' words illuminated the log of wood on which my critical eye was impaled. The problem didn't begin with my children. How could I expect them to treat one another lovingly when I was gruff and impatient?

Like it or not, I am the mood thermostat in my home. The attitude I have when I teach my kids in the morning, or when I come home in the evening, pervades the home. When I don't like what I see in my family, I need to check my own heart and take responsibility. That's just part of being Dad.

So after repenting and resolving to watch my own attitude, I asked my older kids to read Matthew 12 and tell me what they thought. It's a long chapter, 50 verses that span several topics, but both kids came right back with verse 25: "a house divided against itself cannot stand." They recognized that their attitudes toward one another had gone bad and they wanted to change.

It's been a week now. The house is peaceful. More laughing around the table. More helpfulness. More encouragement. Experience tells me this won't last forever. But at least for now, when whining starts or a temper begins to flare, someone is quick to laugh and say, "You'd better be nice or we'll have to read Matthew 12 again."

Love and unity are the way to go. They are what really make learning fun.