Monday, January 2, 2017

Weekly Learning Theme: Christmas

We did a Christmas learning theme the week before Christmas and had a blast with it. There are so many opportunities to take a fun activity and turn it into a learning experience! I'm just really late getting this post together because we have been busy with the holidays and I wanted to get all of Carter's birthday posts as well as our Christmas posts up before getting to this one.

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 have added working on his name as his teachers at school have asked us to work on it at home and I want to remember to include working on it in some form during each of our learning themes. 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). 
  8. Recognize the letters in name, arrange them to spell name, begin to write name.
Experiences Elise was exposed to during our theme this week are highlighted below:
  • Play make believe/Imitate the behaviors of others (adults and children).
  • Know the names of and be able to point out body parts.
  • Groups things together by size or color/matches like objects, understands hard and soft.
  • Names common objects and is able to point them out.
  • Begin to hold writing tools and scribble spontaneously. Can draw a line. Differentiates between a circle and square.
  • Follows simple instructions (focusing on words such as in, on, beside, under).
  • Others: counts to two, refers to self by name. These I want to start to expose her to, but she isn't quite ready to master them yet.
  • We started the learning theme out with the word Christmas written on a sentence strip. I set it down in front of Carter and he surprised me by chunking it into Christ and mas, then blending them to say the word Christmas. I had him do it again so I could record him but he only did it once whereas before he repeated Christ and mas multiple times before blending it together. I love that he is already mastering some of those early reading skills. Iwill be so excited when he starts reading in a year or so!
  • The kids helped me decorate the Christmas tree. As we worked we discussed the ornaments. We talked about how the ornaments were the same and how they were different. We also talked about what color they were and what shape they were. We talked a lot about color and shape for Elise. Carter and I talked more about their size and their designs. He liked hearing about where the ornaments came from and their significance.
  • An activity Carter did at school was a cute counting buttons sheet. He counted the buttons on the gingerbread men. Then he identified the numeral to represent the number of buttons and glued it under the gingerbread men. When he brought it home we used it to practice counting and pointing out the numbers across the bottom.
  • Oma and Opa gave each of the kids an advent calendar to count down until Christmas. Each morning we added the day to our calendar. We'd talk about the numbers that went together to make the number for the day, such as a 2 and a 3 make the number 23.Then the kids pulled a link off their chain and we read what we were thankful for. Lastly we would use the calendar number to help us find the corresponding number on our advent calendar, open the door on the advent calendar, and eat the chocolate.
  • Before Carter's birthday I had him make a joint Birthday/Christmas list. He started to write words and then decided to just draw on the paper. I was a little disappointed because I was hoping to see some of his inventive spelling come through on his list. The first time I asked him what he wanted for Christmas he said he wanted a fire truck for himself and he wanted a toy for Elise that he had accidentally broken by using it as a step stool. We went to his piggy bank and counted out enough money to pay for it. Then he ordered it for her off Amazon. It was so sweet. Each time he talked about what he wanted for Christmas he changed his mind. Elise also made a list. When I asked her what was on her list she yelled out random words.
  • Carter loves using those special dauber markers. At school he got to do an ornament letter page. Each letter had a different color and he daubed the letters on the tree with the appropriate color.
  • I used the gingerbread man Elise colored to play a game with the directional words we have been working on. I set the gingerbread man in different places and discussed where he was, telling Elise using the different words. The gingerbread man is in the locker, on the chair, etc. I've been focusing on the words in, on, under, and beside.
  • The kids had a blast using some old ornaments I used to use on my Christmas tree when I lived by myself to play. I also used them for some learning activities. We worked together to sort the ornaments based on color and counted them. Then I worked with Elise to sort them into bins for big and small. As we worked we talked about what color they were and discussed whether they were smooth or rough. We noticed the glittery ones tended to be rough.
  •  Last year after Christmas I bought Carter a foam nativity scene. I read Carter a couple of books about the birth of Jesus before we put it together. Since it was older the foam wasn't as sticky as it was supposed to be, but he still enjoyed putting it together. We talked about the figures who went with the nativity scene and the part they played in Jesus' birth. Then Carter retold the story of Jesus' birth for me as he moved the characters into the stable. He really enjoyed playing with it and did so multiple times throughout our learning theme. He'd say to me, "Let's go play with the manger and baby Cheesus!"
Playing with the nativity scene one morning.
  • We also got a felt gingerbread man on sale after Christmas last year. It came with stickers to attach the felt pieces but Carter decided he wanted to just place them on and take them off later so he could reuse the gingerbread man and decorate him many different ways. We talked about the pieces as he worked and I pointed out the colors and shapes to Elise. Carter liked making patterns and we counted the number of pieces he used as he worked. After he made his first gingerbread man looking at the picture on the box and copying it, his idea, he made one he called Elise and said you could tell it was a girl because it had a bow on it's head. I had to laugh at that because Elise refuses to wear a bow in her hair!
    Carter wanted to lay beside his gingerbread man when he was finished.
  • Our sensory bin for this theme was just a hodge podge because I knew the kids would enjoy playing with random Christmas deocrations I don't use anymore along with some leftover decorations from Carter's party. It wasn't so much a sensory bin as it was just a toy bin filled with themed stuff to play with. We also had a sensory bin with fake snow and penguins around the same time from Carter's party so I didn't feel the need to make an actual sensory bin with Christmas stuff.
  • I printed some adorable Play Doh Christmas mats here. They were small so I was able to put them inside some tiny Ziploc bags Ty's grandma gave us. We played with them when Hayden and Addison came to visit. It was cute to sit Carter sit and work hard to follow the directions on the card as Hayden did one and then quickly moved on to something else (I'd say the difference was that Carter has played with all of his Play Doh toys before and the cards were what was new whereas everything was new to Hayden so he was eager to try it all). Elise just ripped her baggie open and pulled out her papers. When Carter was done adding each part to the paper, we counted to see how many of each item he had added to his paper.
  • We had a special picnic lunch on the floor one day. I let the kids watch Rudolph the Red Nose reindeer while they ate lunch on our Christmas blanket. Elise didn't watch the show, she just ate and then snuck food off Carter's plate.
  • To practice body parts I had Elise point out different body parts on Santa. We used multiple different Santas but the only time I got a picture of her was with a Santa at Gma and Gpa's house. I had her point to different body parts as I named them and we discussed what clothing he was wearing on that body part as well as what color it was. Then she pointed at parts of Santa and told me what they were.
  • I found some really cute gingerbread men with mats to go with a song here. We sang the song and I had Carter count the gingerbread men as well as put the pages in order based on how many gingerbread men there were. Then we made up our own song. I then gave him the page with a blank tray and asked him to put certain numbers of gingerbread men on the tray.
  • To practice writing I had Carter plan out and write a story about Marco, his elf on the shelf. He dictated the story to me and I wrote it for him. He illustrated some of the pages and then lost interest so Elise worked on some and then he came back and finished the book's illustrations. He asked me to help him draw an elf so I drew one for him on the first page and he colored it in.

  • I interviewed Carter about Christmas. It was so cute to hear different things from his point of view. Read the interview here. 
  • Elise got some practice following directions as well as pointing out known objects when I'd ask her to point out different Christmas decorations like tree, ball, lights, present, and Santa. 
  • Oma and Opa sent the kids a box to help them get ready for Christmas. One of the things in the box was sun catchers for them to paint. Carter loved it and worked really hard on his snowman. Elise was a little young for it and ended up mixing her paints together and rubbing them on her tummy, thank goodness I took her shirt off before we started!
  • Something else in the box from Oma and Opa was a little gingerbread person for each of the kids to color. Carter worked really hard on his to color the entire thing green. He asked me to help him decorate it so I drew some wiggly lines on the arms and colored them in. Then he asked me to help him color in the head and couldn't find another green that matched his so he said I could color with turquoise. Elise scribbled on hers and then put the marker in her mouth. She loved carrying it around and it kept going missing. I'd find it in random places where she'd carry it off and set it down. She loved it!
  • Last year Carter really wanted to draw on an ornament so I let him use one of my old ones and then I wrote his name and the year on the bottom. This year I gave him one to decorate and then had him write his name on it while I added the year. It was hard for him to write on something round but he did a really good job and it will be so neat to look back at this year's ornament, the first year he could write his name on his own!
  • At one of our playdates my friend printed out Christmas trees and left out daubers for the kids to decorate their tree. Carter absolutely loved it and created at least 5 of them over the course of our 2 hour playdate. Elise also got involved and made a cute one of her own. I definitely need to get some of these markers for them to use at home!
  • I found some wooden ornaments on an end cap while grocery shopping and just had to get a couple for the kids to color. I loved watching them color their ornaments and am excited to hang them on the tree year after year. Carter was very careful to color inside the lines and was upset when he accidentally colored Santa's nose red. He said he was thinking of Rudolph. I told him a lot of times pictures show Santa with a red nose because he gets so cold at the North Pole. Elise scribbled on hers and it was adorable!
  • Carter made us a Christmas card and present at school. I loved the Christmas card because they wrote Merry Christmas on the inside for him and had him trace over the letters. He was so proud to show me that he had written the words "Merry Christmas"!
  • I put out red and green paint for the kids to make paintings. Then I cut the papers into quarters to use for writing thank you notes for Christmas presents. Both kids mostly mixed the colors together and ended up with a brownish picture along with some red and green sections. Elise has gotten to where she really enjoys using paint brushes when she paints. It is so cute!
  • I drew a square present and circle ornament for Elise. I pointed out which one was a circle and had her repeat the word circle. I did the same for square. Then I talked about how they looked different and counted out the straight sides of each shape for her. When we were done discussing the shapes she colored them.
  • Once again we made a special handprint ornament for the tree. I did Elise's handprint with green paint to make a Christmas tree. When I used regular green paint it initially looked like it wasn't going to show up very well so I switched to lime green which looked better. When they dried the lime green looked really faded and the regular green looked nice. I was bummed and had a really difficult time getting Elise's handprint this year because she kept rubbing her hand all over the ornament instead of leaving it flat for me. Instead of doing one handprint for each ornament we'd had to re-do them over and over. So rather than wash them off and start over, I just kept the one that looked nice and didn't give any out to granparents this year. I had realized none of them put up trees anymore anyway so I wasn't too worried about it. On the other side of the ornament I drew the strings for lights and Carter used his thumprint to make the lights on the string. Elise's thumbprint in brown was the trunk of the Christmas tree but you couldn't really see it. Once everything was dry I added a string with silver dots as lights on the tree and a yellow star sticker on the top.
  • I had seen a picture of a Santa's sleigh craft at some point after Christmas last year and loved it so much I saved it on my phone all year so I'd remember to do it with the kids this year. Carter is getting so big that his foot took up enough room I could only fit one reindeer on the page. Rather than attempt to draw Santa and most likely ruin the picture, I just cut the bottom half of a sticker off and used it to make it look like Santa sitting in the sleigh. I love how it turned out!
  • At school Carter made an adorable finger print tree along with a poem. I was surprised they chose the construction paper tree to frame over the finger print tree as I thought it was much cuter! But then I love anything with hand, finger, or footprints of my babies!
  • Last year Carter told his Uncie Taco he would make him a star for his Christmas tree just like the one we have on our tree. We never did it so we did it this year. I used a cookie cutter to trace a star on card stock and then the kids each painted 2 of them with red and green fingerpaint. When they were finished I let Thomas pick the one he wanted and I hot glued a clothespin to the back so it will attach to the top of the tree. I saved one of Elise's so we can switch out one made by Carter (that he made when he was 2) and one Elise made.
  • Carter made a gingerbread house at school. It was so cute. They cut out a gingerbread shape and then let him decorate it was a dauber, stickers, and a gingerbread man cutout which he drew a face on.
Special Snack:
  • The morning Marco, our elf, arrived he brought some doughnuts and hot chocolate for the kids so they could have a special breakfast. I had to throw some grapes into the mix to make it a smidge healthier. Carter loved the doughnuts and didn't drink much of his hot chocolate. Elise downed her hot chocolate, took a couple bites of doughnut, and then threw her other doughnut on the floor. Carter loved the breakfast so much he kept turning to Marco and saying, "Thank you so much for the special breakfast!" It was adorable!
  • We started a fun tradition of watching the Grinch Who Stole Christmas and drinking hot chocolate each year during the Christmas season a couple years ago. It was Carter's first movie so I thought it was fitting for it to also be Elise's first movie. She only watched about 10 minutes but snuggled me when she did it, climbing over Carter to sit on my lap which was the best. She spilled her hot chocolate all over me and Carter at one point so thankfully the kids drink hot chocolate made with tap water because they think anything warmer is "too hot!"
  • On Christmas Eve we made and decorated cookies for Santa and our neighbors. Carter was so proud to roll the dough, press the cookie cutter, and place the cookie on the tray all by himself. He didn't even want me setting the cookies I had cut out onto the tray with his, it needed to be a tray of just his cookies. He was so anxious to decorate the cookies that he could hardly wait and asked over and over if they were cooled off yet. His favorite was using sprinkles and he loved that his Uncie Taco got into decorating with him.
Make Believe:
  • We had so much fun pretending to be Santa Claus. We would take turns playing the roll of Santa. The other person would be the child and would pretend to be asleep while Santa brought presents and dropped them off in the room. Carter absolutely loved playing the game and insisted the lights be off and I lay in my bed. He would bring me the most hilarious gifts and typically wrapped them up in a blanket. I loved when he brought me some new clothes which were actually Ty's and a balloon!
  • We  had so much fun singing different Christmas carols and songs. Carter's favorite is Jingle Bells and he also really likes one about candy canes that he learned at school. We also listened to Christmas music pretty much from December 1st until Christmas using Pandora and my Christmas cds. Our radio station didn't start playing Christmas music until about halfway through December. I'd say we still got our fix though!

  • Carter got to perform in his school music program. He loved singing the songs and was so serious doing all the actions along with the songs. To see videos of his performance, check out my post all about the program here.
  • Carter played this game on Starfall where he got to dress a gingerbread person. I liked that the game focused on shapes and colors. As always it was great with encouraging reading!
  • He also played this Starfall game where he dressed a snowman. I liked how the game emphasized the /ow/ sound and he liked pushing on the words to get the computer to read them. It is slow going because the game segments and blends each of the words since it is intended as practice for a beginning reader, but I loved that it gave Carter a chance to listen to and process how that is done.
  • Carter also enjoyed this game on ABCYa where he got to decorate a Christmas tree. There were a few other PK Christmas-themed games but this was the only one we played.
 Field Trip/Interactive Experience:
  • Unlike last year, we just visited Santa twice this year. Our first visit was at Bass Pro. You can't beat the free picture! Their North Pole area has a place for kids to write a letter to Santa. They can then put it in his mailbox. Elise was not into Santa and screamed when I set her down. Carter liked writing his letter and "mailing" it to Santa. Our second trip was a spur of the moment one when we were visiting my parents. My mom thought it would be fun to see Santa at their mall. That Santa had a little couch to sit on so I was able to sit next to him and hold Elise in my lap which went over much better even though she still wasn't interested in Santa himself.

  • Carter had a Christmas program at school where he sang 3 songs. Elise and I got to go watch him and Ty met us there. It was so adorable and Carter seemed to somewhat enjoy being on stage and really enjoyed seeing us after he was finished singing. Elise loved watching him and pointed him out the moment he walked up on stage. The school provided cookies and coffee for the parents following the program which I thought was quite nice.
  • We had a fun holiday-themed playdate with our play group. Each kid brought a wrapped book and we did a little book exchange. The hostess provided doughnuts and materials to make salt dough ornaments. I dressed both the kids in Christmas outfits and I wore my grandma's sweater. It was a lot of fun!
    Dressed in our Christmas attire, read for the playdate!
    Preparing for the book exchange.
    Most of the kids with their books.
    Carter and Elise sat looking at the books for quite a while.
  • We once again went to our favorite place to look at Christmas lights. There is an amazing walk through display that the kids and I just love. Ty isn't too into it but goes because he knows how much we love it. Elise was enthralled yelling out "lellow, blue, light!" most of the time we walked around. Carter's favorite part was "skating" on a patch of ice on the sidewalk, go figure! We also went through a drive through lights display one night and went to our friend's neighborhood where he neighbor had a light display set to music. That one was a huge hit with both kids laughing and clapping throughout the show!
  • Curious George Curious About Christmas by Anjali Pala
  • Get Ready Santa by Paul and Alice Sharp 
  • The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition by Carol V. Aebersold and Chandra A. Bell
  • Curious George Christmas Carols by H.A. Rey
  • Ho, Ho, Ho, Tucker! by Leslie McGuirk
  • Carl's Christmas by Alexandra Day
  • Little Blue Truck's Christmas by Alice Schertle
  • I Spy Little Christmas by Jean Marzollo
  • Arthur Decks the Hall by Marc Brown
  • Christmas Surprise by Priddy Books
  • The Very Snowy Christmas by Diana Hendry
  • Llama Llama Jingle Bells by Anna Dewdney
  • Angelina's Christmas by Katharine Holabird
  • The First Night by B.G. Hennessy
  • I Spy Christmas by Jean Marzollo
  • Garfield's Night Before Christmas by Jim Davis
  • There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell by Lucille Colandro
  • Toot and Puddle: Let It Snow by Holly Hobbie
  • Suzy Goose and the Christmas Star by Petr Horacek
  • Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by Eric Litwin
  • Puppy's First Christmas by Harriet ZiefertSteve Smallman and Alison Edgson
  • The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Schulz
  • Merry Christmas Mr. Mouse by Caralyn and Mark Buehner
  • The Christmas Song: Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire by Mel Torme and Robert Wells
  • Mooseltoe by Margie Palatini
  • Max's Christmas by Rosemary Wells
  • Merry Christmas, Splat by Rob Scotton
  • Ten Gingerbread Men by Ruth Galloway
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
  • The Polar Express by Chris van Allsburg
  • Olive, the Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seifold
  • Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear! by Don and Audrey Wood
  • Christmas Parade by Sandra Boynton
  • The Poky Little Puppy's First Christmas by Justine Korman
  • Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney
  • Santa's Noisy Night by Rosemary Julie Sykes
  • Arthur's Chirstmas by Marc Brown
  • When Santa Lost His Ho! Ho! Ho! by Laura Rader
  • Merry Christmas Mom and Dad by Mercer Mayer
  • Bear Stays Up For Christmas by Karma Wilson
  • The Little Drummer Mouse by Mercer Mayer
  • The Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear by Stan and Jan Berenstain
  • My Christmas Counting Book by Lee Hansen
  • Jingle All the Way by Tom Shay-Zapien
  • Christmas Tree by David Martin
  • Happy Christmas, Honey! by Laura Godwin
  • The Raffi Christmas Treasury: Fourteen Illustrated Songs and Musical Arrangements illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott 
  • Little Bunny Finds Christmas by Pirkko Vainio 
  • Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! by Doreen Cronin 
  • The Christmas Story by Ruth J. Morehead

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