Saturday, January 26, 2019

Shapes Preschool Lesson

Shapes! What a wonderful topic for a preschool lesson, right? I was excited about this one. After browsing the internet for ideas (as I always do), my interest was piqued by the plastic tiles in various shapes used to make mosaic-like pictures. Have you seen them? I thought the idea was great: a fine-motor activity showing how different shapes fit together to form a beautiful picture. I was a little skeptical that they would keep the kids attention, however. Still, reading all the glowing reviews, I took a chance and bought a pattern block set by Learning Resources and some accompanying activity cards.

I had the tiles and cards out while the kids arrived, along with basic wooden blocks and Magformers (your family knows and loves Magformers as much as mine, right?) I was so thrilled; the kids loved the cards. The first thirty minutes of preschool saw five little preschoolers excitedly putting together pattern after pattern (two of the kids preferred blocks and Magformers. Either way, all the children were engaged creating with shapes!) What a great, fine motor activity as well as tactile geometry lesson.

As a few of the kids grew restless with the tiles, we cleaned up and did our usual circle time, reviewing our letter and number of the week. I could tell we needed some large motor movement, so we watched and danced to this "dancing shapes" video. It's not great, but the kids just needed something lively, and it did the job.

After asking the kids to name all the shapes they could think of, I read Shape by Shape by Suse MacDonald. It's a delightful book that slowly builds a dinosaur, well, shape by shape. I have to say, I was a little worried that these kids, many of whom are five, would already know all the typical two-dimensional shapes. I was surprised to find several  needed reminders on the most basic of shapes.

Then, I handed the kids a pile of Q-tips and began reading The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns. As the triangle added more sides and angles in each stage of the book, the children created each new shape with their q-tips. This was a nice, natural way to talk through many of the basic shapes. After the book, we made all the shapes again, this time using our bodies! Again, it showed me how much the kids like being involved and doing large motor activities.

Next, we talked about how shapes are all around us. To demonstrate, we took turns playing "I Spy," shape style. Each child had a chance to say he or she spied a certain shape in the room (usually with the color, too, to make it easier.) The kids enjoyed the game, and it again highlighted how several of the kids could not quite tell different shapes apart and gave us a chance to teach the correct name: "That is actually an oval, not a circle. See how it is more egg shaped and longer across this way than across that way?"

We briefly dipped into the world of three-dimensional shapes with our wooden blocks, identifying some of the more common ones. We played "Which shape is missing?" where three differently shaped blocks were put in front of a child. Then, after covering up the shapes, one was removed, and the kids had to see if they could remember what shape was now missing.

Our last book was Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh. I thought it put a nice cap on the end of our activities. We began the day by using shapes to make predetermined pictures on cards. Now, we read about mice creating their own pictures with shapes and afterwards went to do just that ourselves. I was delighted that the kids really engaged in making their own pictures using various shapes cut out of construction paper. I love open-ended art projects that really allow the kids to create rather than merely copy.

To wrap things up, we did a "snack sort" where they had to sort a medley of crackers, cereal, and chips into groups by shape before eating them. In hindsight I should have found more nutritious options. . . there are whole grain Triscuit crackers, at least!

Thanks for another fun preschool, kids! I'm grateful we have a chance to learn together.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Mammals, Reptiles, and Amphibians Preschool Lesson

Mmkay, the title already sounds like a doozy, right? I hosted preschool this week, and the topics assigned to me on the master calendar were insects, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Sheesh! That's a lot to cover in two days (fish and birds carry over into next week.) I happily reused my Very Quiet Cricket Lesson from last year (after consulting with SourPatch to see which parts I should change. He said the whole thing was great. He's such an endearing kid...) I added a more comprehensive introduction to insects and had them label a cricket in lieu of the salt painting, but otherwise, it was pretty much the same, butterfly snacks and all.

After reviewing our Letter and Number of the Week (J & 11) and doing circle time (welcome song, calendar, weather, etc.), I asked the kids to feel down their back for their backbone. I explained that many creatures, like the insects we discussed last time, have no backbone (or bones at all!) I showed them pictures of a medley of invertebrates and had them name them. I then said that animals with backbones are divided into different groups, and we were going to discuss three of them today. First the mammals:

Admittedly, this section was the hardest for me. I think it's because mammals can seem more diverse than some of the other groups, and my time was limited. I did find a few books that make great introductions to the characteristics of mammals (forgot to picture Is a Camel a Mammal?; it's also a winner.) In the end, I just had time to read About Mammals by Cathryn Sill.

I wanted something large motor for our activity, so we played "mammal charades." I had several of SourPatch's toys in a sack, let each child take turns taking one out where no one else could see and then acting it out for the rest of the children (sounds allowed, but no talking.) After they correctly identified the animal, we set it up front and discussed the mammal characteristics it has.

Since they were still full of the wiggles, I put on Hop Little Bunnies. Now, this is Gumdrop's favorite song, and he is 2 to 3 years younger than these kids. I was worried they'd think it was lame to hop like bunnies. Not so--apparently this song transcends age and was a blast.

Next, we introduced reptiles with Miles and Miles of Reptiles. It's a long one, but they were attentive. We felt due for a song, so we watched this video of I'm Getting Eaten by a Boa Constrictor two (and then three) times to learn the words and sing along.

We then watched some Planet Earth: Jungles (it's currently on Netflix; I haven't checked to see if clips are available on YouTube.) These kids were mesmerized by Planet Earth; they could have watched it all day. Specifically, we put on the clip of the Draco lizard roughly from minute 8:40 until 11:50. When the lizard leaped into the air, spread its skin flaps, and soared away in a daring escape, the kids "ahh'd." Adorable.

Next we read Blake the Snake, an endearing if not very educational snake book. It segued into my idea to have the kids trace J's and 11's in glue and then, like Blake in the story, have their yarn "snake" make the letter and number. We also utilized our time at the table to do this simple (and free) mammal/reptile sorting page to see if they understood the difference. I'd say half the kiddos could actually do it on their own, but it was a good review for everyone anyway. This is a good age to practice using glue sticks, too.

What was our snack? We had "snakes" in the dirt: chocolate pudding topped with crushed Oreos and a few gummy snakes (okay, they were worms, but the kids went with it.)

Did you know almost 90% of amphibians are frogs (toad are frogs, come to find out.) That's what wikipedia says, anyways. Go figure; I couldn't think of any amphibians but frogs and salamanders. There's also a creepy creature called a caecilian that looks like a slimy snake. That's about all there is, folks.

Luckily, I love frogs (and salamanders! Jury is out on the caecilian...) I used the beginning of this video as an introduction with some hesitation; it makes some generalizations that aren't 100% true about all amphibians. Still, it was an efficient sum-up, and then I again turned back to Planet Earth and the jungle at minute 29:55ish to 35:24. There's this tiny, see-through frog that bravely guards his eggs from wasps. I did skip over the middle where the wasp eats some of the eggs (these are sensitive kids) but absolutely showed the part where the dad frog fends off the next batch of wasps with his kicks. Atta frog! Again, the kids couldn't look away (and begged for more.)

No time for more! Actually, we were running out of time. We didn't get to sing 5 Little Speckled Frogs or watch Caribbean Amphibian, nor did we hope across the living room on felt lily pads. We didn't read any of these great books, either:

Instead, we had time to do our salamander scratch art. After showing photos of how beautiful and colorful salamanders can be, we returned to the table to make some of our own. Do you remember doing scratch art in school? I do, and I remembered it was amazing. Turns out, it still is. My original plan was to DIY the paper with crayons and black paint. After practicing beforehand with SourPatch, the result was lackluster, so I caved and bought this paper instead. It came with four wooden styluses, and I made a few more out of kabob skewers for the rest of the children. I had preciously scratched out the outline of a salamander for each child, but they could then decorate it and the paper as they chose. I was thrilled that they really seemed to love scratching off the black surface to find bright colors beneath.

That's it! It's always a little hard to tell how much the kids absorbed, but when one mom picking up her son asked what he learned today, he enthusiastically said, "A lot!" Right you are; that was a lot of information, and I'm glad you'll take some of it with you.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Human Body Preschool Lesson

I love autumn! I love the colorful leaves and crisp air; I love the pumpkins on porches (and in my bread!) It's also refreshing to get a second "new year" feeling so many months after January first. After all, school is starting, including my third (THIRD?) round of mom-preschool with SourPatch. We keep doubling in numbers; we've gone from two kids to four kids to seven kids. Feeling daunted but determined, I did my first week of preschool at our home last week, and I feel like it was a success.

So we've done an alphabet theme and a literature theme preschool; now we have a "all-sorts-of-topics-under-the-sun" preschool, coupled with a letter and number of the week. Deep breath. Fortunately, my topic for Tuesday was the human body, and boy howdy, I have a passion for it. The human body is incredible; now to just show these children how incredible! 

To try to tap into the "imagination mode", we based out preschool on the "Inside Your Outside" book, a doctor-Seussish journey through the human body. Therefore, I passed out tickets and required the kids to climb through our magical "machine" before we began.

Once through our "machine," we followed along in the book and started with our brain. After reading about the left and right sides of our brain, worked on some fine motor skills with our letter and number of the week. We practiced writing the letter "C" and number "4" to exercise our left brain, then colored a picture to exercise our right brain. I love the letters of all sizes that the Measured Mom puts on her blog (for free!) There are lots of great coloring pages such as this free download from The number four page I accessed through SourPatch's participation in Waterford's upstart program (which we love.)

Brain duly covered, we moved on to the skeleton. Our boys are transfixed by this Dem Bones book, and the preschool loved this semi-dancing video to go along with it. We also sang Hinges after discussing joints.

Since another mother is covering the Five Senses in an upcoming lesson, we moved on to the muscles. An active, large-motor activity here seemed like a must. Ergo, I made a giant, active animal dice (die, but that sounds weird, right?) and let each child have a turn rolling it. All of the kids then used their muscles to imitate the animal; they crawled like crabs, waddled like penguins, flew like birds, hopped like kangaroos... you get the picture.

For the heart section, I pulled out my stethoscope (helps to be a nurse here...) and let them listen to their own hearts beating. One or two weren't terribly impressed, but most got a magical look on their face. They were listening to their very own hearts pumping their blood. I'm glad they caught the wonder of it. The heart is incredible, after all. I also tried to get them to take a quick listen to their lungs while they were at it.

We read through the digestion/urinary part and then were about to wrap up with my grand sticker finale, when I noticed the liver was overlooked. Though I tried to let it go,  I couldn't; the liver is so fascinating and important. However, after finding some really informational videos clearly aimed at adults... I showed them this very, very obnoxious liver video for children. Still not sure if I made the right choice, but they were attentive...

So, to wrap up, I bought (what I consider) to be an extremely cool sticker set of organs in the body from Oriental Trading Company (on a free shipping day, naturally). I knew it might be a lot for preschoolers; I'd toyed with the idea of adding stickers as we talked about each part but quickly abandoned it as preschool kept rolling.Yes, the kids were excited for the stickers. I put up a completed sticker chart for them to copy and then tried to talk them from head-to-toe on how to assemble it. I'd say a third of them ignored me and went right to placing stickers everywhere and anywhere on the torso, a third sort-of-followed along, getting organs in roughly the right spot. The last third were meticulous; it was adorable to watch them carefully, carefully put each sticker in just the right spot.

Probably the most popular body activity we did was this one inspired from this blog's All About Me snack idea: body pizzas. Using a cookie cutter, I punched people shapes out of tortillas to represent skin. Next, I spooned sauce onto each of their "crusts" for them to spread out while we discussed what our blood does. Shredded cheese represented bones followed by pepperoni as muscles. The kids really seemed to enjoying making (and eating!) them.