Monday, September 12, 2016

Weekly Learning Theme: School

To get Carter excited about starting school, I thought it would be fun to do a school learning theme. It would give us the chance to talk a lot about what school would be like, practice, and prepare for school. It also helped keep me upbeat and positive about my first baby going off to school. We did it the week before he started school and finished up with it the week that school started. We had a lot of fun with this theme.

Listed below are the objectives I am focusing on for the themed weeks.  I have revised our objectives to really hone in and focus on specific skills Carter will need to master before kindergarten and are appropriate to his age and development right now. I plan to continue to implement activities to practice and reinforce our previous objectives while putting more emphasis on our new objectives.  Some of them won't necessarily be targeted with specific activities during our weeks, but I wanted to list them to help me remember to practice them continually.  I'm also adding in a section for Elise now that she is a year old. I don't considers her bullet points objectives, they are experiences I want to make sure to expose her to frequently. Her experiences are listed below Carter as bullet points rather than numbers. 

The highlighted objectives below are ones Carter received exposure to during our theme this week:
  1. Begin to organize and focus on writing. (Dictate stories, plan out a story, draw pictures and scribbles to create a book).
  2. Understand same and different.
  3. Accurately tell stories as well as retell the story from a book. 
  4. Use age appropriate scissors.  (I'm moving on to looking for a thumb and forefinger grasp with writing tools and holding scissors appropriately)
  5. Develop a better understanding of time (for example, be able to describe when things happen using morning, afternoon, night)
  6. Group objects based on a category (sort by defining feature).
  7. Count with one-to-one correspondence, begin to identify numerals, being to use ordinal numbers (first, second, last).
Experiences Elise was exposed to during our theme this week are highlighted below:
  • Pretend play/Imitate the behaviors of others.
  • Begin to identify and point at body parts. (Right now I just want to say body parts aloud to her frequently and point them out on myself)
  • Group based on simple characteristics. (This is something I will do while talking aloud and allowing her to feel objects)
  • Fill and empty containers.
  • Begin to hold writing tools and scribble spontaneously.
  • Identify sounds around her. (Point out sounds and ask her what is making the sound).
  • I wrote the word school on a sentence strip. I had Carter look at it and identify the letters he knew as well as the letter sounds. Then I segmented the word into it's sounds and blended them together to show Carter how I figure out words when I'm reading. I used the sentence strip on our art wall to hang our work and to remind Carter what we were learning about.
  • I created a sensory bin with a bean base for this learning theme. I threw in some unsharpened pencils, different school bus toys we had, numbers, letters, and a chalkboard with a couple pieces of chalk. I randomly threw the chalkboard in at the last minute and was surprised that it ended up being Carter's favorite part of the sensory bin. It is always so much fun to see how he plays compared to what I had pictured he would do. I thought he'd enjoy driving the buses through the beans but he actually preferred opening the bus that has an inside and filling it with beans and then dumping it out. When I was putting the different things inside the bin, I looked over to find Elise had climbed onto the table and was playing with it while I was in search of the school buses to add! She is so funny and LOVES our sensory bins!
    Carter filling the bus with beans.
    Drawing on the chalkboard in the sensory bin.
    I love it when they play together.
  • We read a Scholastic News about using manners at school. We used it to discuss being polite and how to talk to other students and teachers. On the back of the magazine there was a map with some directions on what to do. I had him find the different numbers and point to them as I read the question. I was impressed that Carter was able to draw a route to school and then was able to identify a different route that could be taken and draw a new way to go. He absolutely loves the Scholastic News magazines. I'm so glad I kept them down where I could get to them for us to read. He gets so excited each time he sees I've pulled some for a learning theme.
    Pointing to the number 1.
    Drawing a route to school.
    Drawing a different route to school.
  • We made a countdown to the first day of school. Carter helped me cut strips out of construction paper. Then I asked him what he was excited to do at school and I wrote what he said down on the strips along with what I'm excited for him to do. That led to him being super upset when he found out he would not be riding the bus to school. He also let me know he wants to eat lunch at school like he saw in most of our books we read. I told him we'd try out just going half-day at first and if he still wanted to eat lunch at school he could start doing that. Each day we pulled a link off the chain and read what we were excited about with school. On the first day of school when he pulled off the last chain, we pulled down the balloons to play with. Carter got to pick which color he wanted and then Elise got the other color to play with. The balloons ended up in some of our first day of school photos.
Carter removing the last chain from his countdown.
Carter and Elise playing with their balloons.
  • We read a Scholastic News about safety at school. We then discussed that it is very important to listen to teachers and follow rules to keep us safe. The back of the Scholastic News had a map. We looked at the map, picked out things shown on it, and then chose a path for them to walk to school.
  • We read another Scholastic News about manners at school, practicing raising our hands to speak. Then on the back we got to do a search to find different school related objects. Carter did a great job identifying and finding the objects. As always, he enjoyed getting to draw on the laminated Scholastic News with a marker.
  • On the first day of school after Carter had posed for some pictures for me, he got to open a special book we got him as a first day of school present. When I was teaching Ty always surprised me with a new book for my classroom library on the first day of school. I wanted to continue the tradition with our children. We got him a Daniel Tiger book about school and he enjoyed reading it before we left for school.
  • I had thrown some different pencils into our sensory bin. We pulled them out and I added a few more for us to sort. I asked Carter some different ways he could sort the pencils. He chose to sort them by color and then we sorted them based on whether they had been sharpened (were pointy) or not. Once we had the pencils sorted, we counted to see how many pencils were in each group. Then we put the numeral next to the pile to show how many there were.
    Sorting pencils by color.
  • We wrote a book to help Carter know what a day would look like at school. We talked about what we would do in the morning, afternoon, and evening. In the morning Carter would go to school, in the afternoon he would come home, and in the evening he would go to bed. He illustrated his pages. My favorite was his picture of himself sleeping because he drew Harper sleeping with him.
  • To get Carter excited about school I had him "interview" his friends who go to school. He asked them what their favorite thing about school is. When he was playing with a friend who goes to school he asked them in person, but for the most part I recorded him asking his question and texted it to his friends' parents. It was so cute to hear their answers and watch their responses. Most of them said playing either with certain toys or on the playground. His buddy Hayden said riding the bus. Walter was adorable, saying he liked eating lunch, sleeping, going to gym, and music class. Carter's cousin Madeline said she likes making projects and she actually had her first day of kindergarten on the same day Carter had his first day of preschool.
  • I had planned to have Carter put stickers on the letter C to practice with the letter that his name starts with. At his preschool open house they had each child's letter for their name out on a table and some dot markers for the kids to use to make dots on their letter. So Carter got to do it there. He loved getting to use the dot marker.
  • Right now Elise loves scribbling with markers and crayons. Since she enjoys it so much I like to incorporate her drawing into lots of activities we do. To go with the book we got Carter for his first day of school I had Elise draw on a piece of paper that I turned into a card and we all signed for him.
  • Throughout the week I had Carter practice writing his name. At first I would write his name on a different piece of paper, one letter at a time so he could copy me. The great thing about having taught first grade is I still remember all the sayings for how to write letters, so I'd say what I was doing as I wrote. By the end of the week Carter needed a little bit of help remembering how to make the letter "r" and that was about it. I had him write his name on the first day of school so I could save it in his scrapbook so, of course, that was the time he drew a big square through his name when he was done, making it hard to read. I was really disappointed, but that's just him!
  • Carter got to choose which of his two backpacks he wanted to use for school. After he picked and we filled his backpack with items he needed for school, I let Elise play with the other backpack. She loved filling it with toys and then dumping it out to fill it up again. She has already figured out how to open zippers too so she got good practice with fine motor skills as she pulled the zipper open.
  • We read Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes and then we used our Pete the Cat puppet to retell the story. Carter told me each place Pete went and then we talked about what he saw and whether he got upset or not, goodness no! Partway through Carter got distracted by the fact that Pete's button on his shirt was velcroed on so you could pull it off and started retelling Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons. Either way worked since we were practicing retelling.
  • When Carter woke up from his nap after his first day of school I had him write about his favorite thing at school. What he liked the best was playing on the playground and he drew a picture of himself going down the fast slide.
  • During the week I had Carter practice writing with a pencil a little bit. Switching from a fat marker to a thin pencil made a lot more difference than I expected. Carter would start out holding his pencil just like when he used a marker but he would get tired and switch his grip to more like he did when he first started using writing tools. He also didn't like it as much and asked for a marker after a while. He's just not quite ready for a pencil yet. I was impressed with how many letters we started writing when I asked him to write in a card to his friend. He did a great job!
    How he'd revert to holding his pencil once his hand got tired.
  • I interviewed Carter before his first day of school. I didn't want his interview to be too much like the one I do with him on his birthday so I looked online at some first day of school interviews and picked some questions from different ones as well as added things I wanted to put on it. You can read his interview here.  
  • For some practice cutting with scissors I drew lines on paper for Carter to cut on. I've been impressed lately with how well he can cut straight lines as well as different shaped lines. While he was working with scissors I turned to clean Elise off and he cut his shirt in the few seconds I was turned away from him, go figure! I was pretty upset with him and he had consequences, but I was still proud of how well he did cutting on his lines.
  • We did lots of role playing to prepare for working with classmates. Whenever we are out on playdates and Carter has a problem, we stop and talk about what happened and possible ways he could respond. We did the same thing during this week and linked it back to how he would need to behave at school with his classmates. We also talked about possible problems that might come up at school and how he could be a problem solver and deal with them nicely.
  • Carter drew a picture of himself to show how well he could draw when he started school. I'm excited to see how his drawing of himself will be different at the end of the school year. It has been amazing to see him grow and develop as an artist. I love that he now draws arms, fingers, legs, eyes, noses, and mouths on the body of his person.
  • Naturally part of our learning theme included a photo shoot on Carter's first day of school. I searched online for free printables for the first and last day of school and then ultimately decided to go back to our chalkboard. I initially hadn't wanted to use it because I was worried Carter would erase the writing. I can also be such a darn perfectionist that writing on the chalkboard can be a headache for me because I second guess every little thing. Thankfully I decided to do it the night before to save time and Ty was around to quickly make decisions for me and shut me down when I started second guessing myself, he is so good at that! Of course the first thing Carter did was reach down and smudge my writing even though I had really prepped him about how the writing would rub off and it was really special for me to get a good picture of him so I needed him to not touch it. I had to re-do it, but at least I knew what I wanted it to look like. Maybe he wouldn't have touched it had I not made such a big deal out of it, but whatever we survived taking pictures!
  • Using Carter's footprint for a school bus and Elise's handprint for an apple, we made a cute Back to School craft that we can use as a decoration during the start of the school year for years to come. I loved how it turned out, I just wish the yellow paint would show up a little bit better.
  • When Carter saw the apple Elise made, he wanted to make one too. I let him make one on a different sheet of paper to show his hand size when he started 3 year-old preschool.
  • We read the book The Kissing Hand multiple times. I had planned on a special kissing hand cookie to make to go along with the book, but as I was reading through the book for the first time I got an idea for a craft we could make together. After we read the book we made special kissing hands for each other. Carter picked out what color he wanted his hand to be and then I helped him trace his hand on paper. I also traced my hand on a piece of paper. I cut both hands out and then Carter put a heart sticker on each hand. I told him the kissing hands are a reminder that we love each other no matter where we are. We put my hand I made for Carter in his backpack he would take to school and Carter put his hand he made for me in my diaper bag backpack I also use as a purse. When we were finished he wanted to make a kissing hand for daddy, Elise, Harper, and Skippy so they would all know he loves them no matter where he is. It was so cute. On the first day of school when I dropped him off, as I was walking away I saw him open his backpack and look at his kissing hand.
    Putting the hand he made for me in my backpack.
    Making kissing hands for daddy, Elise, and Harper.
Special Snack:
  • Monday night before Carter's first day of school we re-read The Kissing Hand. We talked a little bit about the handprints we made for each other and where we were keeping them as well as what they mean. Then I told Carter we were going to make special kissing hand cookies. We made the recipe for my mom's peanut butter blossom cookies and then instead of shaping the dough in round balls we used a hand cookie cutter to make them into the shape of a hand. Once they were out of the oven we put kisses in the middle of the hand. I told Carter the candy is called a kiss. We talked about how the mom kissed the boy's hand in the story and that made the kissing hand. I was impressed with Carter because I gave him the job of unwrapping the kisses. I told him he could eat one. He set his one kiss aside and patiently waited until he was done unwrapping all of the candies I had given him before opening and eating his kiss.
    Helping me make the cookie dough.
    Using the cookie cutter to make a hand.
    Unwrapping the kisses very carefully.
    We made hands for Carter, Elise, Ty, and me and then made the rest into balls.
    Carter loved eating his special cookie that we made together.
  • I wanted to make a special breakfast for Carter on his first day because I thought it would be a fun tradition to do each year. I made waffles and we topped them with Nutella and fruit. Carter had never had Nutella before and called it "the special peanut butter". The whole time he ate his breakfast he talked about how special it was and how he was going to tell his teacher he got to eat special breakfast. It was so cute. Just on his waffle I added sprinkles and he loved that!
  • Ty had fond memories of going out for either a special lunch or dinner on his first day of school as a kid and he wanted to do that for Carter so Carter really lucked out with a special breakfast and a special lunch! Ty took a long lunch break so he could come out to lunch with us. We let Carter choose and he picked Tropical Smoothie. That worked out great because they have a special deal on Tuesdays! Carter was so excited to see Ty and it helped me when Carter was getting upset about me leaving that I was able to tell him I would be back to pick him up so we could eat a special lunch with daddy.
Make Believe:
  • We played pretend school where Carter was the teacher and I was the student. We played it after his first day of school and it was so cute to hear him say things I'm sure his teacher had said. He was Mr. Carter and he wanted me to talk like a little kid. He took me into his room which was his classroom and had me sit down and listen while he read me 2 books. After the books it was time to sing a song and he had me sing the alphabet with him. Then it was time for center play in our play classroom. He took me into the living room and showed me toys to play with. Next he said it was time to go outside to play on the playground. The whole time he was reassuring me that my mommy was going to come back to get me and that she'd arrive soon. While we were playing outside he told me, "Look out the window. I see your mommy coming. Your mommy is here to pick you up!" Then he took me inside and school was over.
    Mr. Carter choosing a book to read to me.
  • We sang multiple different versions of "The Wheels on the Bus". We also changed the words and added in unique things to be on the bus making noise. Carter liked adding different animals on the bus and having them make animal noises. We also turned the song into a game. At Carter's open house we were given the schedule for the month and they listed the letters, numbers, color, and shape of the month. I wrote each one on a piece of paper and attached it to a chair. Then I arranged the chairs like they were a bus. Carter and I would each choose a chair to sit in and we'd look to see what was taped to our chair. Then we would sing the Wheels on the Bus adding in what we had identified on our chairs. When it was a letter we'd say the letter sound for what the letter said. When it was a number we'd count up to that number for what the number said. For circle we sang, "The circle on the bus says, I am round, I am round, I am round." For the color yellow we segmented out the sounds in the word for what it said.
    Carter sitting on the bus.
  • I downloaded an awesome app that Carter could use to trace letters in order to practice writing them. I loved that the app actually showed him how to form the letters by making arrows move down and around the shape, showing him where to trace. He liked that after he had completed letters correctly it would play a song for him. The app was called Letter Quiz and he loved it!
 Field Trip/Interactive Experience:
  • The Thursday before Carter's first day of school his school held an open house. He got to meet his teachers, see his classroom, play with some toys, and meet some of the other kids in his class. He really enjoyed it and didn't want to leave. It was wonderful because it really helped with his nerves and made him excited for school. After we left he kept talking about going back and playing with the toys some more.
    Family picture after Carter's open house.
  • Carter's first day of school was on Tuesday, September 6th. He had a blast and was such a big boy staying with his class and not crying at all. I was so proud of him!
  • Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
  • Twas the Night Before Preschool by Natasha Wing
  • The Little School Bus by Margery Cuyler
  • Love Waves by Rosemary Wells
  • I Am So Brave! by Stephen Krensky
  • Rufus Goes to School by Kim T. Griswell
  • Goose Goes to School by Laura Wall
  • Oliver and His Alligator by Paul Schmid
  • First Day at Zoo School by Sarah Dillard
  • Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
  • It's Time For Preschool by Esme Raji Codell
  • What to Expect at Preschool by Heidi Murkoff
  • Rosie Goes to Preschool by Karen Katz
  • Maisy Goes to Preschool by Lucy Cousins
  • School Days Around the World by Margariet Ruurs
  • My First Day of Nursery School by Becky Edwards
  • Daniel Goes to School by Becky Friedman
  • School Day (Lalaloopsy) by Jenne Simon
  • Froggy Goes to School by Jonathan London
  • I am Too Absolutely Small for School by Lauren Child
  • Spot Loves School by Eric Hill
  • The Wheels on the Bus by Kate Toms
  • School Bus by Donald Crews
  • Clifford Goes to School by Norman Bridwell
  • Clifford Goes to Kindergarten by Norman Bridwell
  • Curious George's First Day of School by Margaret and H.A. Rey
  • Skippyjon Jones Class Action by Judy Schachner
  • If You Take a Mouse to School by Laura Numeroff
  • The Kissing Hand by Aubrey Penn
  • Chica Chica Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.
  • The Wheels on the Bus by Maryann Kovalski
  • Biscuit Goes to School by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
  • I Spy School by Jean Marzollo
  • Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes by Eric Litwin 
  • I Love School! by Hans Wilhelm
  • Don't Eat the Teacher by Nick Ward
  • Jack's Talent by Maryann Cocca-Leffler

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