Calder Inspired Circus

This time we were inspired to make a circus using found objects and other things we had around the house! Everybody brought in something and we all shared. As you will see there were corks, clothes pins, ribbons and cupcake liners, bits and pieces from here and there, etc.  (Edoardo actually went outside, around his house on a hunt for objects and came back with the best treasures – including the sword for the sword swallower, parts to make a top hat for the ring master and the star decoration for the center ring!)

The lion, clown and the girl with the long red hair has the unfortunate job of picking up trash and animal poop (it must be awfully gratifying, she has a large smile on her face)!

A clown, the Ring Master in the center circle, to his right you can see a sword swallower and just below him a juggler.

A wider view of the circus with a view of the tiger (the rings of fire kept falling) and of course a beautiful mouse ballerina!

How can this be used as an ESL, EFL or bilingual tool?  Usually older kids know many of the animals and that’s always reassuring to them. Aside from introducing new animals, you can introduce various characters of a circus -like clowns, acrobats, dancers, etc as well as what they do.  Have the kids present what they’ve made and a little something about what it does. Let us know what you come up with!

To read this in Italian, click here.

Sweet Emotions

How about trying to make a face using little pieces of colored paper (maybe even something that has decorations on it, like wrapping paper or bits of magazines)?

First, carefully tear up some large pieces that could be the face.tear up lots of little pieces

Next, tear up lots of little pieces that could be eyes, noses and mouths.

Now, put them together and try to create different expressions like happy, serious, perplexed, annoyed, thoughtful, sad, really mad or surprised!

This is a great ESL activity to learn parts of the face and emotions.

Per la versione italiana, cliccare qua.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Crossword

To read this in Italian, click here.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a great first language book, even for older kids who are ESL. We’ve created something a puzzle them in mind:

*There was a mistake in the word bank, but it has now been fixed. Sorry about that!

Want to create a crossword puzzle of your own? There are many sites to create games and other activities all you have to do is search the web. is a great site that lets you create your own crossword puzzles. All you have to do is enter the words and the hints and it puts the puzzle together for you.

Make sure you check out our other activities for The Very Hungry Caterpillar!



Happy Birthday Alexander Calder

In honor of one of our favorite artists, Alexander Calder – we have a project for you!

(Don’t forget to check out our Calder inspired Circus).

This is a project that is a little tougher for kids and even the older ones may need some adult help.


  • scissors
  • hole punch
  • glue
  • twigs, stick or skewers (with the pointy end cut off)
  • thread (or light weight string) cut into approx 40 cm,                                               plus one longer piece to hang the mobile
  • construction paper or craft foam
  • Calder inspired shapes

Step 1: Draw (or trace) your shapes onto the construction paper (or craft foam). Remember when choosing the colors Calder used mainly primary colors (red, yellow and blue) and black. You can choose to be inspired by his color palette or make up your own. Cut out the shapes.

Step 2 Use hole puncher to punch holes into shapes

Step 3: Tie* a piece of string to each shape.

Step 4: We’re going to start from the bottom layer up. Choose 2 shapes and tie them on to each end of the stick, about equal distance from the end. Each shape should dangle approx 5-10 cm from the skewer. Put a dot of glue where the knot and the stick meet, this is to keep the string from sliding around. This will be stick 1.

Step 5: Now comes the tricky part, tie a string in the center of the stick. Hold the end of the center string and you will see that everything tilts from one side. You must slide the knot from one side to the other to try and balance the stick. Slide the knot towards the shape that is lower, this will help balance the weight out. You will have to slide it back and forth a few times to figure out where the perfect center of balance is. Once you’ve figured it out, put a dot of glue on the knot. Congratulations, you have just completed the first layer!

Step 6: Using the center string of stick 1, tie the layer to the end of another stick (stick 2) and put a dot of glue. Choose another shape and tie it onto the other end of stick 2 and put a dot of glue. Tie another string onto the the middle of stick 2 and then find the center of balance, then put a dot of glue.

Step 7:  Repeat step 7 for the rest, until you have just 2 shapes left. (You don’t have to do all the shapes, just until you are satisfied).

Step 8: Tie all the layers to the end of another stick (the top stick)  and put a dot of glue.

Step 9: Tie this last layer onto end of the top stick.  Tie a long piece of string to the center

Step 10 :Tah dah! You are finished! You have just completed your Calder inspired mobile.  Now hang the mobile up and you watch it move.  Do the shapes make different things when it moves? Does it look like a fish? A smiling face?

*To tie a regular knot, we like to say a little poem to remember what to do:                    Over, under, easy to do. Reach through the hole and pull it through.

However – we like to use a surgeons knot, the end of the string is pushed through the hole twice before pulling.  This keeps the knot from unraveling so easily. You might have to change the poem to: over, under and under again, easy to do. Reach through the hole and pull it through :o)

Just in case you can’t understand the pictures, perhaps an illustrated version might help!

ESL EFL bilingual vocabulary to concentrate on: opposites left, right, heavier, lighter, higher, lower.

To read this in Italian, click here.

Alexander Calder

Louise reminded me that today is the birthday of our beloved Alexander Calder.  I recently got this book all about him, in particular it’s just right for kids of all ages.

Patricia Geis, “Guarda che artista! Alexander Calder”, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

It’s more than a pop up book, it’s also a book that inspires to create Calder inspired art.  You won’t be able to wait and experiment and have fun making something just like him.

And just so you wont forget – aside from inviting you to make a Calder mobile or stabile (perhaps on a smaller scale), don’t forget about his circus art! Have fun!

To read this in Italian, click here.

Counting Rhymes

The purpose of counting rhymes is to choose who goes first or who is ‘it’ (like in a game of tag). It’s a fun way to choose a person and encourages the kids to speak in English, because everybody likes to be the King Caller!

Eeny Meenie Miney Moe instructions:

Everybody puts their fists into a circle and the Caller touches a fist per syllable while saying:

  • Eeny Meenie Miney Moe
  • Catch a tiger by it’s toe
  • If he hollers, let him go
  • My mother said you are it.

The last person to be touched is ‘it.’

Other rhymes:

Bubble Gum

  • Bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish
  • How many pieces do you wish (the person who is ‘wish’ says a number and caller counts it out and the last person is ‘it’).

Mickey Mouse

  • Mickey Mouse built a house
  • How many bricks did it take (‘take’ says the number, etc)

Ink a Bink

  • Ink a bink a bottle of ink
  • The cork fell out and now you stink
  • My mother told me to choose the very best one
  • and you are it!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Sculptionary

Memory game isn’t the only thing you can do with those The Very Hungry Caterpillar cards, how about a game of Sculptionary? It’s like Pictionary, but three dimensional.

For 2 or more players.


  • play dough (homemade* or bought)
  • Egg timer (optional)

Place cards and dough in the middle of the table. Decide who goes first, we usually use the Eeny Meenie Miney Moe method. The first player draws a card (and turns over the egg timer) and makes a sculpture of what’s on the card. Everybody else can guess what it is. Once the sculpture is guessed, the turn goes to the next player on the left.  We don’t usually keep score so feelings don’t get hurt – it’s just fun getting to play with the dough and guess what the other person is doing. But, for bigger kids you can keep score or play a version where whoever guesses gets to sculpt next. If you are playing with a timer, when the timer runs out and the card isn’t guessed, the ‘sculptor’ turns over his/her card and reveals the answer and the player on his/her left goes next.

* You don’t have any play dough around? Well we’ve got a recipe for you:

1 cup of salt
1 cup of water
2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon of cooking oil

Mix the salt, flour, oil, & water together.

Per la versione italiana, clicchare qui.

The Goldilocks and the Three Bears

We love the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. There are many versions of the story, but we like James Marshall’s the best. It’s the classic story, but a little sill too.

You can find the video on youtube as well:

Now it’s time for you to use your imagination:

You can try cutting things out of magazines and glue them on!