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It’s all in the story

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By Jenny Morriswriter and teacher who has run her own nursery school

Books are an excellent educational resource. Jenny Morris explores just how much young children can enjoy and learn from a simple story book

Peek-a-boo Penguins

I cannot think of a better early book for young children than Matt Buckingham’s Peek-a-boo Penguins (Little Tiger Press). It is such a rich source of educational value. The children will experience handling the book, turning its pages, touching the soft penguin bodies and counting the penguin friends, as well as looking carefully to see where the penguins are hiding on each page.

The following activities demonstrate how many different areas of the curriculum can be covered in just one book. Far more important than the stories they tell, books give information, promote language development, rouse emotions and social awareness and stimulate the children’s imagination for creative ideas and role play. They are the starting-points for problem solving and understanding the world we live in.

The story

This wonderfully simple story is about a game of hide-and-seek. Penguin’s friends find numerous ways of hiding among the ‘local’ animals. The animals can’t help Penguin find his friends because they are also joining in with the game. What a surprise there is on the last page when all the penguin friends are found hiding in a very unusual place!

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

  • The penguin friends love playing together. Ask the children who they enjoy playing with and why. l
  • Moose grinned when Penguin asked him if he had seen his friends. What do the children think Moose found so funny? Encourage the children to talk about what makes them laugh.
  • Polar Bear grunted and chuckled at Penguin’s question. Suggest that the children make noises to demonstrate their feelings and see if the rest of the group can guess what they are.
  • Penguin was really surprised when he found his friends hiding in the igloo. Invite the children to talk about things that have surprised them. Do they like surprises?

Communication, Language and Literacy

  • Penguin flipped and flapped through the snow. Ask the children to think of a variety of other words that start with a ‘fl’ sound, such as flip-flops, flash, fly, flan, flea, flight and flower.
  • Draw an outline of a walrus and encourage the children to draw the whiskers on his nose. Encourage older children to draw the nose themselves.
  • Penguin searched over hard rocks and soft snow. Invite the children to name the opposites of other words such as high and low; deep and shallow; in and out; in front of and behind; and so on.
  • Walrus ‘harrumphed’ – that is the sound a walrus would make. Whisper the name of an animal sound that you would like each child to make – ensure that there are at least two of each sound. Ask all the children to make their noises at the same time and see if they can pair up with another child who is making the same sound.

Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy

  • The penguins liked to hide. Arrange five items on a tray such as an apple, a pencil, toy car, small doll and brush. Show the tray to the children and ask them to name each item. Take the tray away from view and cover one object. Show the tray to the children again and ask if anyone can identify which item is hiding.
  • Point to the penguins on each page of the book and encourage the children to count them.
  • Moose has very fine antlers that branch out like the branches on a tree. Branches are very useful to hang things on. Ask the children to find places in the room where they are able to hang their coats.
  • Whale is enormous and a grain of sand is tiny. Explore size words and find items that are relatively small or large, depending on what they are compared to.

Knowledge and Understanding of the World

  • A penguin is a bird that can swim. Ask the children to name other birds that can also swim, such as ducks, pelicans, swans geese and seagulls.
  • When the penguin friends played peek-a-boo, they went away to hide. Babies play peek-a-boo by covering up their eyes. Encourage the children to cover their eyes and ask them if they know why babies do this. Explain that babies think they cannot be seen if they cover their eyes!
  • The little fish peeped out of a hole in the ice to watch Penguin. Freeze some water in a wide bowl and let the children observe how the ice cracks open when it is knocked.
  • Penguin gurgled ‘Hello’ to Whale when he was underwater. Give each child a beaker with a small amount of water and a straw to blow into and listen to the gurgling sounds they make.

Physical Development

  • The penguins hid in and out; under and over; in front of and behind; high and low; through and around. Provide an obstacle course for the children to move about in the same way.
  • When Penguin slithered over the ice he met Seal. Ask the children if they can safely slither over the floor like Penguin.
  • Help the children to build an igloo for their soft toys using building blocks and some cloth for the roof. Talk about how igloos are made out of blocks of ice and can be very warm inside.
  • Water birds have webbed feet to help them swim and prevent them from slipping in the mud. Show the children how to walk around slapping their feet down as if they were a water bird with webbed feet.

Creative Development

  • Penguin crunched and scrunched through the crispy snow. Encourage the children to crunch and scrunch up small pieces of tissue paper, greaseproof paper and foil, then stick them on to a large piece of coloured paper to create a group collage.
  • All the penguins in the book look sparkly. Put some glitter into the paint pots and invite the children to paint a sparkly picture.
  • The penguins left a lot of footprints in the snow. Dip rubber dolls’ shoes and rubber animals’ feet into a saucer of black paint, then encourage the children to make ‘footprints’ on a piece of white paper.
  • Penguins are black and white. Draw an outline of a zebra crossing, or a chessboard and help the children to crayon in the black parts. Do they notice that they are black and white like a penguin?