What made this map so fun for the preschoolers is that they decided exactly how to design it! Using a large piece of paper-big enough for all the kids to draw on, the teacher takes a marker in hand, and starts at the bottom middle. “We are making the roads” she says, “Which direction do you want the road to go?” If you look closely at the picture, you’ll see how the kids really started to have some fun with it! Up and down, right and left, zigzag, straight, and even traffic circles were asked for! Once the roads were all connected, the children got to draw all the other features of a community, including people, buildings, plants, vehicles, and even a big fire for the firefighters to put out!
This is one of those great activities that connects multiple facets of learning. Read one of Laura Numeroff’s books, such as “If you Give a Mouse a Cookie”. Then let the class work together to create their own similar story! We were learning about the letter “D” during this time, so we used “Dinosaurs”. The kids took turns deciding what would happen next. The teacher just needs to know how to get the story back to the original idea, in this case, something the dinosaur ate. It wasn’t hard to do this, as when the story was sufficient in length, we just encouaged the kids to realize that after doing an activity, the dinosaur may have been hungry again…
Susan, the main teacher, wrote the story on a large poster, and hung it on the bulletin board. Next to it was hung pictures the kids had made of dinosaurs. Using a template, they colored in the dinosaur with dots (another “D” word!). Those always turn out so nice, and the kids enjoyed it! (We used Do-A-Dot-Art! Markers)
It doesn’t matter what the kids paint. For this example, the kids painted anything they wanted that had to do with snow. What does matter is that you only use one color of paint (less distraction because the paint color is not what you want the kids to be thinking of), and that you offer the kids two brushes: one big, and one little. This was to help with cognitive development. I made a point of telling the children that they had two brushes, and that before they painted whatever they had in mind, they should think about what size brush would be the best to use. To make sure they understood, I prompted them to think of a snowflake: what size brush would work best to paint it? And then a snowman: which size brush would you like to use? I didn’t give them the answers, I simply wanted to get their minds thinking about their prior experiences with brushes, and what might work best, BEFORE they actually started painting. It was fun to watch them think, and then work!
One of my favorite things to do with children is to point out the colors all around them in nature. A flower is rarely just one color. A tree trunk is not just brown. And my favorite are clouds – I love color in the clouds!
For this idea, go on a walk together outside. Pick a flower or leaf. (You could even do a rock, if you are studying them). Bring it into class and have the children paint or color a flower on their own, or trace a template for them to color. Make sure they add in all the colors to their drawing. Preschoolers often need encouragement to use more than one color. This will help them see why. You can use an activity like this for many different units of learning. Add science facts if you like.
I’m learning to love Venn Diagrams. With the fall very much underway, we have done a lot of science and other activities related to apples and pumpkins. We checked out the inside, the outside, and everything inbetween! After carving a jack-o-lantern and doing some painting with apple cutouts, we made a venn diagram as a class. What things about apples and pumpkins are the same? Which are different? This final activity of making a venn diagram helped tie all our learning together, and made the kids really think.
Colored Pasta! This is similar to the colored rice. (Rice does take on the colors better, since it’s white, but the pasta is a lot of fun with the different shapes). Be sure to pick out different shapes and sizes for your pasta. Then decide if you want to keep the shape groups the same colors, or mix the shapes up and color them all differently. In this example, we mixed all the shapes together first, and then colored them into 5 different colors. (I like both ways, but this way does add a demention for a sorting project. You can now sort by color, by shape, and by both color and shape together!)
Use this pasta for multiple purposes:
Stringing pasta necklaces, sorting for math, gluing to a picture for a colage or other art project, and of course, placing into a sensory table!
To color, place desired amount of pasta into a large sealable bag. Mix about 1/2 cup of rubbing alcohol with food coloring of choice. Place the mixture into the bag with the pasta, and let all the kids help shake and mix the bag. Let the pasta sit for a couple hours to absorb the color. Then empty the bags onto some trays lined with paper towels. Let the pasta dry overnight.
The teacher I currently work with did an excellent lesson that included literacy skills, cognitive skills, and creative skills all in one. First, read “The Mitten “by Jan Brett. The next day read it again, but this time look for clues in the side bar pictures as to what will happen next. The following day read a different version of the story. (We did one by Alvin Tresselt). Compare and contrast the two stories using a Ven Diagram. Finally, let the kids draw any 5 animals they want in their own mitten! So cute, the kids loved it, and it looks nice displayed on our wall!
The importance of a name. In my current preschool position, we are discussing “family”. I also have this focus in my own curriculum, with a stronger focus on identity. This was on my mind when one of the children said something in class that showed how much their name meant to them. And the way we say their name means a lot too. A name should be treated with respect. That thought is the starting of a good lesson plan! It could be a lesson on respect and appreciation. It could also help the child feel good about themselves, or a stronger sense of identity. For fun, add in a art lesson in connection with their name. For example, draw a picture of something positive that comes to mind when they think of their name. Or Give them a black letter-the first letter of their name-and a bunch of black shapes. Glue the shapes around the letter to make it decorative-like something you would see on a stamp. Love the child, and love the name that goes with him/her!