Today we did a quick one day study of Rainbows! Inspired by some Skittles, I threw together this afternoon unit using mostly library books we had checked out and not yet read. (That happens when you check out 60 books at a time!)
They started by watching the read-aloud version of “A Rainbow of My Own” by Don Freeman and talking about the watercolor-like pencil illustrations while I arranged our Skittles on a white plate.
Next, we talked about the color wheel using our Big Book of Colors and learned about prisms. I read All the Colors of the Rainbow, which we had found at the library, and we made observations about the order of the colors in a rainbow. I showed them the ROYGBIV acronym, which they found hilarious, and we arranged crayons in rainbow order. I brought out our Skittles and we slowly poured hot water around the edges. We watched as the color dye bled toward the middle and noticed what colors were made when they began to mix. We’ve done this before, but it hasn’t lost its magic!
We explored color mixing using our rainbow glitter blocks by holding them up to the light, which we’ve done before in the natural course of play, but discovered a more intentional play with them through this lesson. (I can’t wait for our light tablet to arrive!)
I had previously purchased rainbow art scratch paper, which is always fun. Unfortunately, we seem to have lost the included scratchers and only had one to share between the girls, but they did a lovely job of taking turns. They had a good time discovering the colors underneath the black and talking about things that could be made out of rainbows (rocks and surfboards, apparently). They especially liked practicing writing letters on this paper as it makes each letter a rainbow.
We concluded by watching one of our favorite rainbow songs and I read another book aloud while they finished up their scratch art. I love our library, and this story was a gem- a perfect fiction story to end our afternoon! We loved the tie-in of days of the week and our five senses and the illustrations are just beautiful. Enjoy!
Ornithology is such an accessible study for all ages. Birds can be observed anywhere! With the leaves falling off the trees and the beginning of winter, bright red cardinals and cheeky finches are much easier to spot.
Our feature activity on the Big Table upon Rascal arrival today was magnets! I love using scrapbook containers for sensory activities since they come with a built in lid. For Bird unit, I mixed birdseed and discs from our magnet kit (these kits are AMAZING and perfect for preschoolers!) together, then provided a wand to collect the discs. This was a big hit!
We started our day with our usual instrument play and ABCs, then dove right into our book of the week. Feathers for Lunch (by Lois Ehlert) is such a perfect story for preschoolers. The pictures are dynamic and there is so much to talk about on each page. I’d recommend reading it several times, as the story gets a little lost if all the other elements are also discussed. I’d read just the story the first time through to really capture the rhyming and lovely rhythm, then be sure to identify the noises another time, and the birds yet another time. There is really just so much!
Once we finished Feathers for Lunch, I noticed that there were LOTS of wiggles, so we did a movement poem about baby birds in nests that got us moving arms and legs and fingers. I found the poem in one of my favorite preschool resources and I’m glad I planned some movement activities because we sure needed them!
I utilized a few different Montessori printable resources for this lesson, but the favorite was the movement game from Trillium Montessori preschool pack. (found here) Each card in the stack had a direction to follow, such as “find a door and knock on it two times” or “wave hi to a friend.” Easy to follow but fun and interactive. Once the kids were wiggle’d out a little and ready for a little more focused learning, we sat together in front of the sorting chart and got down to business. We had a lot of fun classifying objects into groups based on their “fly” or “not” ability. Did you know that carrots can fly?! Just kidding! This was a great thought-invoking activity, because some of objects are tricky: a chicken, hot air balloon and frog proved to need further clarification. Frogs can jump really high so it’s like they can fly, and a hot air balloon “floats” (as I was told) and doesn’t really fly.
We then moved to the math center and worked on skills including counting to twenty, adding one, and one-to-one correspondence as well as matching sets. I love our math chart as it has so many functions and encourages movement while learning. We used food cards to count sets and match, but there are other types of objects on the counting cards included with the chart as well. The Rascals really liked putting the number card in the corresponding pocket and helping each other put things in order correctly. It was a joy to watch them work as a team.
Next, I heard some rumbly tummies, so we gathered at the big table for our snack. I really wanted some kind of nest theme, and happened upon waffle cone BOWLS (!!!) which perfectly held our eggs: melon balls and grapes! The kids were so excited to eat their “chew nests.” While they snacked, I read Nest by Jorey Hurley and we talked about the changing seasons, growing process of baby birds, and the goings on in each picture. A simple read, it was a great snacktime read-aloud choice.
Once we cleaned up, I arranged our nest activity: an invitation to create their own bird nest using natural materials including moss, clay and feathers. For my preschoolers I used playdoh because I had enough on hand for everyone, but my Kindergartner used modeling clay when she completed this activity. I found some great wrens and robins for each child to make a home, and they each named their bird. Bob, Eva and Superhero Powers each had lovely nests as unique as their names. I set out lots of books open to nest pictures (resource list coming) and found an awesome bird call video on YouTube so we could listen while we worked. The Rascals had some great conversations about nests among themselves while I quietly sat by in case they needed anything.
It was an easy transition to painting with feathers as the feathers that weren’t used in nest-building were re-purposed as paintbrushes. I simply rolled out kraft paper and set out paints in the trays and they got creative. I wrote their name in Sharpie in front of them and gave them the option of tracing it with paint using fingers or feathers, which they all worked hard to do before promptly making handprints and color-mixing puddles. They let me know when they were finished, we washed up and moved the party outside for bird feeder activities.
Outside, we set a funnel and measuring cup up and took turns pouring birdseed into the new feeder. I’m not sure what kind of seed we used (it looked like a basic mix including sunflower seeds) but we had suet for woodpeckers as well. My favorite rascal comment of the day was referring to suet as “birdie guacamole.” This was a great activity for motor planning, estimation skills, and eye-hand coordination as well as building hand and wrist strength. Then we all worked together to pick a spot to hang the feeders and “plant” the hooks on which they’d hang. We even got to use a hammer to hammer the post into the ground!
I had other activities planned, which I will list below, however these Rascals were wiggly today so I adjusted our lesson plan to accommodate their needs and we had an awesome time. Milestones were reached for some of the kids and some had easier days than others, but we had a great time! I have expanded lessons for the rest of the week for my Kindy Kid, which I’ll post with a resource list once we’ve completed the mini-unit.
Wingspan measurement and wings craft: Using a roll of paper (we like kraft paper as its a little thicker and able to withstand paint), have your kid lay down with arm outstretched and measure their “wingspan.” Compare their wingspan to those of common birds in your region. You could also mark their span, and cut that length, then cutting wing silhouette along the bottom and have the kid decorate their wings. You can punch holes and secure to arms with ribbon. [I plan to complete this activity with my kids this week. Will update!]
Track birds at the feeder and use watercolors to illustrate them as they eat.
Write a story about the birds at the feeder using either a handmade book or pre-assembled book like these. We love writing our own books, and at this age, the child will dictate as I scribe, then illustrate themselves.
Count! Use a tracking chart to count how many birds you see at your feeder. I love this one from Tanglewood Hollow as it is simpler for preschool age with lots of space for recording.
We used more materials than usual for this lesson, which required much more money, time and prep-work than I was expecting. However, it proved worth the effort as the Rascals seemed to learn a couple new concepts today and it was really cool to observe the seeds of learning planted. We focused on a lot of fine motor skills, math and science concepts with this lesson.
All because of a barrel of monkeys.
I love Caps for Sale for so many reasons. You truly can cover so many subject areas using this story without even seeming to try. And the illustrations are so visually interesting that it easily holds the attention of even the squirmiest child. I tried to plan a lesson that would provide a little bit of everything and provide lots of movement, as the weather has finally turned cold and I knew outdoor exploration wouldn’t be on the schedule.
We started with some prompting practice, wagging fingers and repeating key phrases like “You monkeys, you!” I read through the story, making sure to note the order of the colored caps, and any physical cues within the text (“stood very straight” is a good one). We stood up and stomped, wagged our fists, and made the monkey noises with all our might. It was a great way to get up and move our bodies in conjunction with the story.
After we read through the story, we practiced following directions by folding our own paper hats. This simple introduction to origami was fun- the kids were mostly able to complete the folding themselves, only needing a little help to press the crease to secure the fold. The kids were proud of themselves for making their own blue cap. Pro tip: make sure to have tape nearby to secure the folded hats!
Once we made our own hats, I brought out the sensory box. I had filled the box with the leftover leaves from our alphabet hunt on Leaf Day and the ten monkeys from our Barrel of Monkeys. Our monkeys happen to be orange, which blended well with the fake leaves and provided an extra bit of tricky task-work to find them in the box. We used tweezers to pull out those cheeky monkeys and put them into their barrel. Tweezers are awesome for building hand strength! Once we gathered all the monkeys, we transitioned to a new task.
I had a small wooden jewelry tree set up on a new tray. I distributed the monkeys to each kid and they hung them at their discretion on the branches of the tree. Then, I gave each child their own Peddler Peg Man and checked cap that I had made in preparation for the lesson. They were delighted by the mustaches! I spread some red, blue and gray “caps” (painted wooden buttons) around the tray and the children practiced balancing the caps on their Peddler’s head. The Peddlers have spherical heads and it took a little fiddling to get their hats to be level enough on which to balance buttons. One Rascal balanced seven buttons! This simple activity was lots of prep, but worked on so many important skills: color sorting, ordering, fine motor skills, story sequencing, social interaction, reading comprehension and more. Each Rascal got to take home their Peddler and his checked cap, as well as a handful of assorted caps to practice balancing.
The Rascal tummies were growling at this point, so we took a break for some bananas! Each child peeled and sliced their own banana with a butter knife. They worked hard to hold their knives properly and safely slice their snacks. They then we used fun tiny forks to eat the little pieces.
Once hands were washed and we were all ready to move on, each child got their own Rainbow Name snake to weave their names. I used a mustache ribbon to tie in to our story today, and the kids thought it was hilarious to hold it up to their face and give themselves mustaches. They weaved the ribbon through the letters of their name, in rainbow order as a little hint, working on fine motor skills as they went.
Our last two activities were a challenge, but incredibly rewarding. First, I gathered every hat I could find in our house and our friends brought hats too. We added them all into a bin and then tried to see how many hats we could balance on our own heads like the Peddler. The kids thought it was most fun to balance the hats on my head. I had to issue a couple of reminders about how we respect others’ bodies, but generally this was a fun physical manifestation of today’s story. The cowboy hat makes things tricky! I utilized the Caps For Sale felt story alongside this activity to reinforce ordering and counting skills. Once they were ready to move on, I brought out our balance scale.
The balance scale proved to be an excellent science experiment for these curious kids. I tasked them with gathering small objects from around the school room for us to weigh. I prepared for this lesson by creating a document: Monkey balancing [Click the link for the free PDF]. I clipped the chart to the easel and we got to work. Each child had the opportunity to choose something to balance. We balanced (weighed) one item at a time, each time using our orange monkeys as the measurement unit. We measured how many monkeys a crayon, three buttons, a green paintbrush, an orange paintbrush, and some other small items weighed by placing one item into a scale bucket, and then counting how many monkeys it took in the other bucket for the scale to balance. I used phrases like “weighs as much as” and “balanced with” and we paid close attention the indicator arrows and everyone gave a big holler when they matched up, showing the items in the buckets were equal. This scale is a top five favorite tool in our school room and I highly recommend it for any early education schoolers. The kids loved estimating how many monkeys each item would weigh and then recording the data. They found it fascinating that two paintbrushes of the same size weighed different amounts of monkeys (the paintbrushes were made by different manufacturers). We probably could’ve balanced things all day, however I ended the activity once I could tell the Rascals were impatient to pile lots of things into the bucket. I really want to give them opportunities to explore this concept on their own (indeed, to have the chance to pile things in!) but feel that would best be done individually so each child can work at their own pace. So, I plan to have the balance scale out on the Big Table as a free play item, accompanied by a random assortment of items and measuring standards, when the kids arrive for the next few playschool days.
We wrapped up this playschool lesson with another jam sesh to the ABC song using our instrument box, and then cleaned up and gathered the take home materials. A busy, fun day!
We just wrapped up our South America Unit and I remembered to better document the books, movies, CDs, shows, poems and resources we used so I could share them. Some of the movies are really just for fun.** We had a heavy focus on the Amazon rainforest as we completed a project on the layers of the rainforest for a Literacy Fair on our last day of the unit. My kindergartener chose a Jaguar as her animal profile report so there are many resources on that as well. These resources are in addition to the books included in the Build Your Library- Kindergarten as assigned reads (though some of those are included here as well) and I’ve only listed those we utilized- there are many, many more out there.
Inspired by an article by The Audubon Society, we took a break from our current unit to do a fun seasonal mini-unit and learn about “spooky” owls after we finished our daily studies today (Halloween).
We started with a little tablet time and read through the awesome Audubon Society article giving some brief details about a small selection of owls. The photographs included of each were so detailed and beautiful- they were clear and focused, kind of like mugshots!- they held my kids’ attentions while I read the description. I brought out a tape measure and we measured out each owl and then compared their height to our bodies and other things in the room. I was slightly surprised that they were so interested in the height of each owl. My preschooler was fascinated to know that a Flammulated owl would fit in her hand and my kindergartener was shocked to learn the Eurasian Eagle-Owl hunted foxes! The picture atlas was opened to a world map and they pointed out where each owl lived as we read.
Next, we looked up owls in our Picturepedia (one of our favorite non-fiction references) and read a little more about owls in general.
The kids enjoyed making owl sounds, so we looked up common owl calls and found some awesome resources that had multiple owl hoots, including some from the article we had just read! We also watched a video on the Flammulated owl per request (because “they’re so cute!”) and an additional video on Great Horned Owl territorial hooting (because it was mentioned in the Audubon article). By chance, we were linked to a ScienceLive! video about Flammulated Owl conservation- short and super informative- which led to a discussion about conservation vs. hunting.
Since we already had the tablet out, we watched the Owl Babies animated read-aloud, which the kids LOVED. Afterward, we sequenced the story of Sarah, Percy and Bill and identified the beginning, middle and end of the story. Then we watched it again because it was really fun! I had been saving the “hay” from our Three Little Pigs Preschool Rascals to use as paintbrushes and threw some cotton balls on there too, for fluffy baby feathers. We cut out owl silhouettes and used some felt, foam sheets and googly eyes to create owl faces and painted some white feathers like the owl babies onto our cutouts. We identified each owl part as we went and confirmed that these owls would be daytime hunters because of their eyes using this fascinating article from The Owl Trust and then put everything together. Finally, they used the top of the paintbrush to outline feathers in the paint.
The kids then worked together to review the things owls eat and used this cut-and-paste activity from the Highland Heritage blog to create a collage of the items. They wanted to add a fox after learning about the Eurasian Eagle-Owl, so they drew one and added it to the belly.
I transcribed as the girls completed the Owls graphic organizer to review some vocabulary and facts, then my Kindergartener traced the words. They did really well with this, its the first time we’ve done one and I was impressed with how quickly they caught on to the task.
Screen Time can be a divisive topic in the parenting world. Since I mention YouTube videos and other resources that utilize a screen, I thought I’d address how our family chooses to incorporate screens and digital media.
Our family started out with very minimal screen time, eventually incorporating Sesame Street and select PBS Kids shows sparingly. At this point, TV is something we watch when we need some quiet time or as a family movie night or on a rainy day after lessons. We don’t watch TV every day, sometimes the kids will go a week or more with no TV.
We didn’t own a tablet until our oldest was four and my then-youngest was two years old and we knew we would be homeschooling for the upcoming year. So, I got a great Black Friday deal and that Christmas the family gift was a Samsung Tab A and a blue kid-friendly case. I loaded the tablet with some apps that would be helpful with schooling or on long trips and set firm boundaries the minute the gift was opened and my kids realized what it was. The youngest wasn’t allowed to use it very often at all, but my oldest would use it for about 20 minutes at a time while I got the toddler down for a nap.
This past spring, we realized that our summertime adventures included three major road trips, two of which were over 9 hours one-way. So we invested in a yellow-cased Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition as a joint third and fifth birthday gift. Looking back, I’d have just bought the regular Fire because I’m super unimpressed with the Freetime software and the parental controls it offers. However, its fine and works for our usage needs.
Our kids use the tablets on their own infrequently, we mostly save them for long trips and they are stored out of reach. We do use the Samsung tablet more frequently as it is bigger and clearer for when we need to watch videos for academic purposes (animal research, musical instrument demonstrations, etc). It is also more user friendly with more app options. Ultimately, they are rarely used at home for playing (maybe two or three times a month depending on circumstances) and if so its usually because I really need to get something done (ahem, shower.) or as a super special reward. The Samsung has specific folders for the kids (I have yet to find a parental control app that functions for our needs) and the Fire has profiles for each child with age and interest specific apps loaded to each.
Thus far, the most used app on either tablet has been Usborne’s Teach Your Monster to Read. The Endless apps are a close second, and I really like how fun they are in addition to notbeing sneaky about their educational purposes. I’ve included these and others we’ve liked in a list below, broken up by device.
I noticed that my Rascals really loved any kind of blocks, so I thought some kind of building lesson plan would be really fun. Well, I wasn’t wrong! The Three Little Pigs is such a great classic and the repetition of the storyline is helpful for kids to process cause and effect, among other literary devices. And who doesn’t love to say “chinny chin chin” in a funny pig voice?
We started our day a little differently than usual and skipped the ABC singalong with instruments in order to color piggy noses to get ready for our day of pigs- something I really thought about as I think consistency is of utmost importance with kids but decided the noses would be a great way to start the day. This was a super easy project to prep- I simply cut an egg carton into single cups, then attached elastic cord to make it easy to adjust and wear. I made every kind of pink art media available (except paint- I wanted them to be ready for immediate use and not have to dry) and the Rascals chose how they wanted to color their pig nose. I added “nostrils” with a black marker and away we went!
We then marched back to the school room, where I had our puppet theater set up and 3LP puppets cut/laminated/sticked and ready to go. I used this printable pack and chose the images I wanted to use to simplify the story to meet my Rascals’ attention spans. I attached them to popsicle sticks to use as puppets. I ran through the story once, discussing cardinal numbers and story sequencing as we went. The kids caught on really quickly to the key phrases and participated readily.
[To add: I did use some of the other pages from the printable pack in wipeable pockets with dry erase crayons in our morning basket this week. My older kid really likes to do mazes, and I used the clip card pages as “cross out” activities instead of individual cards.]
When done, we made our own piggy puppets. I traced circles onto pink foam sheets (I used a tomato paste can as a stencil- it was just the right size!) and then cut triangles from the scraps. I found some great adhesive silly eyes at the dollar store, and drew on the noses and mouths. Each popsicle stick had a number on it to reinforce First, Second, Third concepts, and we took turns choosing eyes for the piggies. I provided glue in a small container and some paintbrushes and the Rascals chose where to glue the pig ears. For the Big Bad Wolf, I glued a large black pompom to a small bit of foam for stability before gluing the foam to the popsicle stick the night before preschool so they’d be dry and ready for little hands. I used red puffy paint to add a little mouth and the kids picked silly eyes for their wolves.
After we completed our puppets, we used REAL STRAW (raffia) and REAL STICKS- collected them from the backyard the day prior- and (not so real) BRICKS to build the piggies some houses. I introduced The Big Bad Wolf (a set of googly eyes and felt ears taped to my blowdryer) and the Rascals set to work, building houses for the pigs that would be strong enough to withstand the wrath of the huffing and puffing Wolf. I’m not sure they knew exactly what was going to happen, but the giggles that ensued were worth the mess. They worked together to build a house for each pig (first, second and third!). They each had a turn to be the wolf, as well. This was perhaps the most fun activity we’ve done yet! We talked about which material was strongest and how to shore up “brick” walls to make them stronger to protect the pigs within.
The Rascals were super hungry at this point, so we made our snack: graham cracker houses, peanut butter, and Craisin “bricks.” They practiced spreading skills and then proceeded to simply lick their utensils, which is clearly the best way to eat peanut butter.
We moved on to our name activity of the day (I try to do include some kind of personal project with each Rascal lesson plan), incorporating rolling marbles, mud, and Pink for Pigs. Using adjustable letters, I prepared each Rascal’s name in the middle of the paper, provided a small dollop of brown paint and a few marbles in a tray, and they tilted the pans to roll the marbles through the paint and over their names. Once they declared they were done, I peeled off the letters to reveal their names in relief against the brown roller marks. They turned out pretty well!
Our final project of the day was to practice our hammering skills. Maybe one day we’d be able to build our own houses! I had been looking forward to this part of the lesson for a few days, as I’d never done this particular skill practice intentionally before and I was really excited to incorporate a seasonal item. So, each kid got a smallish pumpkin (pie pumpkins are just about the right size) and a hammer. We opened a bag of golf tees and set to work, hammering each tee into the pumpkin in whichever location the Rascal chose. This was a great activity to practice so many skills: hand-eye coordination, pincer grasp for fine motor and pencil grip skills, motor planning and execution, and concentration, to name a few. I provided some rubber bands that we use for geo-boards and the kids then built hand and finger strength by stretching them around the pegs they had just hammered. We talked about the shapes the rubber bands created on the pumpkins and the colors of the bands as well. A simple activity that reinforced so many important skills.