Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

Preschool - December Holidays

(Because December is such a crazy month, I've only planned two days' worth of lessons for the next couple weeks.  Enjoy!)

Day 1: Kwanzaa and Africa

To start our month of holiday festivities, we started out talking about Kwanzaa.  I actually knew nothing about this holiday before this, so I was learning right along with Alex.

We started by looking at the book The Story of Kwanzaa.

This book was too wordy, but I summarized the beginning of the book that tells about how Africans came to be in America while showing Alex the pictures.  We read it sitting in front of the map so I could show him where Africa is and where the people come from who celebrate Kwanzaa.

Then we looked through the book A is for Africa.

It gives a good basic overview of African culture from a Nigerian perspective with one item per letter of the alphabet.

Then we read My First Kwanzaa.

This book tells about the festivities of Kwanzaa from a child's perspective.

We finished up our school-time activities with a coloring page of the kinara (the Kwanzaa version of a menorah) found here.

While we were doing all of this we were listening to the CD African Playground.  It has music from groups all over Africa and was nice background music while we were reading and coloring.

And later on for dinner we made this African stew.  It was really good and a great way to finish up our Africa and Kwanzaa day.

Day 2: Hanukkah

Our second December holiday was Hanukkah.  We learned about Hanukkah by reading the book Celebrate Hanukkah.

This book gave a GREAT overview of all the different aspects of Hanukkah and had pictures of people all over the world celebrating.  The back of the book has instructions of how to play dreidel and how to make potato latkes.  An excellent all-around view of Hanukkah.

We listened to the dreidel song while we made ourselves a homemade dreidel from a square piece of cardboard with a pencil stuck through the middle, then we played!  We used chocolate chips instead of money.  The game lasted longer than I thought it would, but in the end, daddy won.  But he shared the goods with us.

We also made potato latkes, which were really good.  We topped them with applesauce and sour cream, an odd combination, but really tasty!

Then we ended the day by reading Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins.

Happy December holidays everyone!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Preschool - Thanksgiving

Day 1: Turkeys

We started out with the book All About Turkeys.
There were parts I had to skim over because they were too long and too detailed, but we learned some fun things, like some male turkeys have a long hairy beard hanging off their chests, and that turkeys change colors when they get angry.  Who knew turkeys were so interesting?

Next we read the section from the book Turkeys, Pilgrims, and Indian Corn that talked about turkeys and why we eat them for Thanksgiving.

This was too much for Alex.  It was just two pages, but he was lost.  Too many words and descriptions of things we haven't talked about yet, like Pilgrims and Native Americans.  This would all probably have made more sense at the end of the week after we've talked about it all.  But for older kids, this book has lots of good info about Thanksgiving symbols.

I have no idea why the book is called that.  It's a terrible title that does nothing to tell you what the book's about.  But it's a cute story about a little old lady who raises a turkey from an egg for Thanksgiving dinner, but then instead of eating him, she invites him to dinner.  It's a bit pointless, but the kids liked it enough to have me read it a few times.

But talking about reading things a few times, our next activity has been repeated over and over and over and over again.  In our preschool book there is a story about a turkey who can't keep his temper and is constantly causing himself to change a rainbow of different colors (which makes a whole lot more sense once you know turkeys change colors when they get mad!!).  I printed out a bunch of turkeys and colored them the different colors from the story and then had a bunch of colored feathers to stick on the tail of the brown turkey since every time the turkey changes back to brown he keeps a tail feather of the color he turned.  So while reading the story I held up the appropriately colored turkey and let Alex tape on the colored feathers onto the brown turkey.  I thought the story was a bit goofy, but the kids love it.  Now I just read the story and they hold up the turkeys and act out the story.  

But after doing it twice during school, I put a stop to it so we could do art.  We made hand print turkeys.  I used a paintbrush to put tempera paint on Alex's hand in the shape of a turkey.  Fingers are feathers and palm is body and thumb is head.

Then he used his fingers again to add more feathers and a waddle and a beard (he loves turkey beards now!) and legs and so on.  This was super fun and not too messy and didn't take too long.

And best of all, Alex loved it.

There were a bunch of other books I tried to get from the library, but I guess three weeks before Thanksgiving isn't early enough to get the good books.  But it you search "turkey" on Amazon, you'll find a bunch of really popular ones that we weren't able to use.  We did get A Plump and Perky Turkey after the fact and the kids have enjoyed it.

Day 2:  Native Americans

I had a really hard time finding books at the library for today's topic.  There were plenty of books on specific Native American tribes, but they were far above preschool level.  I just wanted a basic, easy book that was an intro to Native Americans, but I couldn't find one.  So we were a little short on resources.  

We started by reading the intro to the book More Than Moccasins.

It was the shortest, kid-friendly description I could find in the books I had.  We talked about who the Native Americans are and where they came from, etc.

Then we read the book Giving Thanks.

This was the perfect book for talking about Native Americans and Thanksgiving.  It's a traditional Iroquois prayer of thanks, written and illustrated by Native Americans.  The pictures are beautiful.

Then we looked through More Than Moccasins and I let Alex pick a few crafts he wanted to make.  We decided on a headband, vest, and drum.  We used stuff we had around the house, and Alex colored and decorated to his heart's content.  The finished product:

I even put corn in the drum to make it a shaker drum.

Later for a snack we made Native American corn cakes.  We got the recipe from our preschool book.  They weren't sweet like corn bread, just corn meal, flour, egg, milk, etc.  We cooked them like pancakes and spread butter and jam on them.  Pretty tasty!

Day 3: Pilgrims and Thanksgiving

Again I had a hard time finding good preschool level books that talked about the Pilgrims and the Mayflower and all that.  We ended up slogging our way through The Thanksgiving Story.

This was way too much for a preschooler, but we had Ella with us, so we made it work.  When the book talked about where the Mayflower left from (England) and where they landed (Massachusetts) we moved over to the map and found the locations on there.  Then we stuck up a string leading from one to the other and a little picture of a boat that I drew so we could see on the map where they had gone.

Then we sang the song "For Health and Strength" in a round.  Alex wanted to listen to it over and over again.

Next the kids helped the Mayflower find its way to America in this maze.

Then to finish off we read the book Thanks For Thanksgiving.

After reading it we talked about things we are thankful for.  The kids have been really thankful for unicorns the last few days.  They're crazy.  :)

And that ends our Thanksgiving week.  Sorry I didn't get it up sooner so it could be of more use this year.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Preschool - Dinosaurs

Day 1:  Dinosaurs!

Today was kind of just an intro to dinosaurs.  We looked through the book My Big Dinosaur World.

This wasn't my first choice of dinosaur overview book, but it was all the library had.  We looked through it at the pictures and did our best to say all the crazy names.

Then we read a few of the poems from Dinothesaurus.  We're going to use it all week.
The poems are fun and teach facts at the same time.  Like, "Stegasaurus, Herbivorous, Dined on plants inside the forest."  And cute pictures too, like the T-rex listening to an iPod.

Then we read Dinosaur Roar, which is really similar to Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs (which is one of our favorites, but it's in storage).

We also read Danny and the Dinosaur.

I know we'll be reading this one again.  He really liked it.

Then it was art time!  I got a couple of how to draw dinosaur books and we drew our favorite dinosaurs!  I won't link to the books we had since they weren't the best, but libraries usually have a ton of them, though they are usually not at the preschool level.  Luckily I found an easier one.

He did pretty good!

Then we needed some movement, so we put on this YouTube video of Walk the Dinosaur and rocked out!  Again, he was a bit timid to dance and be crazy, but he loosened up.

Then to calm him down again I gave him this dinosaur maze.  The only problem with it is there is only one way through the maze with no options to go any other directions.  So if your kid isn't used to doing mazes, this is a good starter, I guess.  But Alex was less than impressed with it.  Oh well.

The last activity I was going to do was to cut out dinosaur footprint shapes and tie them to his feet and then have him step in water and make footprints outside on the ground.  But it's raining, so no footprints today!

Day 2:  Paleontologists and Fossils

Today we talked about how we know about dinosaurs and how people find them.  We read the books Digging Up Dinosaurs and Dinosaur Dig.

Then a couple more poems from Dinothesaraus.  And then we read Monster Bones.

That was a pretty fun, entertaining book.

Then it was time to make dino fossils!  We got some plaster of Paris from the craft store.  Then we found different items/toys that we wanted to make fossils out of and made little mounds of playdoh/clay to press them into.

Then we made a little paper wall on each one to pour the plaster of Paris into.

Make sure you mix the plaster in something you can throw away and don't wash it down the sink!  We used a plastic cup.

We let them sit for about and hour or so??  Then we peeled off the paper and pulled back the playdoh to reveal our fossils!  Just so you know, homemade playdoh peeled off much better than store bought.  There were still bits of playdoh stick in the fossils, so we gave Alex a toothpick to get them out.

He didn't finish them all, but he definitely had fun doing this!  Here's the final fossils:

A few race cars, a dinosaur, a fireman, and a dolphin.  This was lots of fun!

Day 3:  Dinosaurs are Different

We started today by looking through My Big Dinosaur World from day one.  We talked about the difference between meat-eating dinosaurs and plant-eating dinosaurs.  To demonstrate how the plant eaters' teeth worked, we got a baggie and put some small rocks and leaves in it then rubbed it between our hands.  This broke up the leaves the same way the dino teeth would have.

We talked about their different sizes and different body features, like claws, clubs, scales, plates, spikes, etc., and what they are all used for.

Then we read Dinosaurs are Different.

This was WAY over his head, and kind of over mine too.  Way too technical and way too many impossible to pronounce classes of dinosaurs.  Oh well.

Then we hopped on the computer and played the dinosaur hunter game found here.  It's a puzzle putting together dino bones.  There are three different levels.  Alex started with level one and ended up doing all three levels.  He would have played on the website longer, but I made him get off so we could finish school.

We read How Big Were The Dinosaurs.

Alex really liked this one too.  It was a good visual of how big all the different dinos were.

At the back of the book it has a list of all the different dinosaurs and how long they were, so we grabbed a tape measure and some chalk and headed outside.  We picked a point on the sidewalk and measured from there for a few different kinds of dinosaurs.  We marked their length with chalk and wrote their names.  It was surprising how small some were, like stegasaurus, and how big others were, like seismasaurus.  Alex really liked doing this too.

And that ends our dino week!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Preschool - Safety

Day 1: Safety At Home

I started out our theme by reading the book I Can Be Safe.
It was a pretty good overview of all things safety, and we talked about how we need to be safe at home and when we're away from home.

To focus in on safety at home we followed that with reading Watch Out At Home.

This book talks about safety with sharp things, hot things, electricity, fire, chemicals, medicine, and emergencies.  We stopped after each section and talked about what the characters were doing wrong in each picture.

I had printed out page 47 of this book on poisonous substances with the idea of going on a danger symbol scavenger hunt (it's a picture with different symbols for poison, corrosive, explosive, and flammable).  Well, we went on the scavenger hunt, but we couldn't find a single dangerous chemical bottle in our house with a single warning symbol on them.  They all said DANGER or something like that in words, but no symbols.  I was pretty disappointed, especially the one that had the warning, "May be fatal if swallowed."  Nice.

So back to the books instead.  We read No Dragons For Tea.
It's a book about fire safety, and it was pretty good, but I felt that the fire safety elements were sometimes subverted in favor of the rhyme of the story.  But we discussed it afterwards in order to bring out the fire safety tips.

Then we role played a fire in the house.  We pretended that the smoke detector went off.  Then on the way out, the door was too hot, so we crawled along the floor to find a window.  But the Alex's clothes caught on fire and he had to stop, drop, and roll.  Then we pretended to crawl out the window and meet by the mailbox.  (Though we had a pretty heated discussion about needing to meet by a tree since that's what they did in the book, but my superior adult logic prevailed when pointing out that there were no trees to meet by and the mailbox was a much better option.)  We had talked about all this stuff just a week or two ago when Ella did fire safety week at her school, so a lot of this we were just reviewing instead of learning from scratch.

Then we finished off the day by playing the fire safety games over at the Fire Safety website.

Day 2: Safety Around Town

We started out by reading Watch Out Around Town.

It's similar to Day 1's book Around the House.  It covers what to do if you get lost, what adults are safe to ask for help, stay away from dogs you don't know, that you need to know your name, address, and phone number, don't talk to strangers, don't play in dangerous places, and so on.  Lots of good info I would never have thought to bring up.  We discussed all of it one topic at a time.

Then I wrote down our address and phone number and had Alex say them three times each.  I've also been quizzing him on them all day long.

Then we read The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers.

It goes into more detail about strangers, and how though not everyone would want to hurt you, there's always a bad apple so we have to be careful of everyone.  It does a really good job of making a somewhat scary topic much easier to explain.  I would be more like papa bear who scares the kids by showing them all the newspaper articles about missing kids and such.  Thank goodness for authors who can explain it better than me!

Then we headed to the computer and watched all the catchy little safety videos found here. They're all about how to safely cross the street and such.  There's a bunch of other fun stuff on that website too.

Then we finished off with a street sign quiz found here.  I didn't expect him to know all of them, but he did pretty good.  We briefly talked about wearing seat belts in the car and helmets on bikes, and that was it!

Day 3: Emergencies

We started today by talking about what an emergency is.  I gave examples like getting a cut on your finger, the house being on fire, mommy falling down and not talking after.  They (Ella was with us today) had to say whether it was a real emergency or not.

Then we read Impatient Pamela Calls 9-1-1.

Then I busted out a cell phone that we don't use and I had them both practice how to dial 9-1-1.  It has been shown that if you don't practice dialing it before an emergency you could freeze up and not be able to dial it when you really need to.  I showed them how to dial and then push the green button, or if they messed up, to push the red button then start over.  I also showed them how to do it on my parents' land line.

Then it was role play time!  I pretended to fall down and get hurt and the kids had to get my phone from my pocket and call 9-1-1.  I pretended to be the operator.  They had fun with this.  We also pretended like I was having to help one of the kids and couldn't call 9-1-1 and the other one had to call them.  Good fun!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Preschool - Halloween

Day 1: What is Halloween?

We started out our day by reading Halloween.

I think that's the one we read.  I already returned it to the library and you wouldn't believe how hard it is to find one book out of the hundreds called "Halloween"!  But regardless of which one it was, I liked the simple text and photographs.  I also had Halloween Is...

and we ended up reading this one too.  They both covered the same information, but one with photos, which are always good, and one with a little more detail.  So you might not need both.  Either one by itself would be fine.

Then we read the books Scary, Scary Halloween and In The Haunted House.

Both Halloween themed without the scary part.

Them we put on the song Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens and did our best scary Halloween dancing.  Alex was a little reluctant at first, but the crazier I got the more comfortable he felt and we had fun in the end.

Then we cut Halloween shapes out of construction paper and decorated them to hang in the window.

Pumpkin and cat by Alex, ghost and bat by me.

Day 2:  Pumpkins

We had a special sick visitor today who couldn't go to school thanks to a nasty sinus infection, so twice the fun!

We started our day with pumpkin toad-in-the-hole!

This was not planned.  We just decided to have this for breakfast and ended up finding a pumpkin cookie cutter in the drawer.  They didn't look anything like pumpkins when they finished cooking, but they were tasty!

We started our official school day with the book Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie.

This was a great book with photos and easy to understand text that talks all about how pumpkins grow and what they're used for.  I was just going to read this book and leave it at that, but the kids saw that I also had From Seed to Pumpkin and insisted I read it too.

The reason I chose the first one is From Seed to Pumpkin had just a bit too much info and the pictures felt too fiction story to me and I wanted the kids to get that what I was reading to them was fact, not story.  But they ended up with a double dose and all was well.

We were going to read Big Pumpkin, but the copy we got from the library had double pages of the second half of the book and no first half!  So we skipped that one and moved on to Pumpkin Soup and The Biggest Pumpkin Ever.

Both fun stories.

Then it was time for pumpkin science!  We made a pumpkin report.  Each kid got a piece of construction paper folded into a book.  We labeled the front and they drew a picture of their pumpkin.  We measured the circumference of a mini pumpkin with a string and glued the string on the inside and labeled it "My pumpkin is this fat."  We measured the height of the pumpkin with a strip of paper and glued that down and labeled it "My pumpkin is this tall."  Then we pulled out the balance and found out our pumpkin weighed 107 pennies and 114 Bananagram tiles.  Alex used the pennies and Ella the letter tiles.

Then we glued that down and labeled it "My pumpkin weighs this much."  And that completed the report.

And then we had to take a pumpkin field trip!  But we're cheap.  We didn't head to a quaint pumpkin patch.  Nope.  We headed off to the grocery store.  But where else can you buy 70 pounds of pumpkin for $5.50?  Alex was very particular about his pumpkin.  He took twice as long to find one as the rest of us.

Because we ran out of time we continued our activities the next day by making pumpkin whoopie pies.  These are dangerous.  If you make them, be warned, you will eat more than one, and possibly more than two, and just maybe you will eat them for breakfast claiming that they are made from pumpkin so they can't be that bad.  Just saying.

There are no longer this many in the container.  There may be significantly less than one. :(

Day 3:  Carving Pumpkins!

I didn't plan anything for this day so we'd have time to carve our pumpkins before daddy had to go to work.  Last year we swore we wouldn't buy four pumpkins to carve until the kids were old enough to carve theirs themselves.  Somehow we forgot about that and got four pumpkins again this year.

So after I had scraped out three pumpkins and helped Ella carve hers, I was pooped.

I had a super cool pumpkin too, and it ended up with the lamest face ever.

But the kids made cute ones.  They designed them themselves.  A washable marker is perfect for letting your kids draw on the face they want, and then once you're done cutting you just wipe off any marker that's left.  Here they are in all their glory:

(Grandma's, Alex's, Mine)

(Cowgirl Ella, Ella's witch, Anton's, skeleton Alex)

Trick-or-Treating was Saturday and was tons of fun.  The kids filled their buckets to the top.  Though it was marred with a trip to the urgent care for what appears to be the second case of pink eye in a week.  Sigh.  Such is life!

 Happy Halloween!