Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Weekly Learning Theme: Sea Turtles

I am super behind on posting about our learning themes. We did a St. Patrick's Day learning theme the week of St. Patrick's Day and a Birthday learning theme the week of Elise's birthday. I thought about skipping over this one and doing the other two so they could be posted closer to the actual holidays, but figured they were being posted after the fact anyway so why would it matter if it was another week.

We did our beach/ocean learning theme before our trip to Florida. While we were in Florida the new sea turtle exhibit at our aquarium opened up. We were super excited about it as the aquarium has had the sea turtles behind the scenes in holding tanks for years and they have been working on the exhibit for a long time now. I decided it would be perfect to segue into sea turtles right after our learning theme about beaches and the ocean. It worked out great because we'd already been playing in sand and the kids had seen beaches just like ones where sea turtles lay their eggs. We have since been to the sea turtle exhibit 3 more times and it's the kids' favorite exhibit at the aquarium. They usually spend about half of our trip there. It's so neat to hear Carter, the resident expert (as I jokingly call him because he's always sharing random facts with people we see there), rattle off information about the sea turtles as we observe them. My favorite is that an adult sea turtle can hold it's breath for hours at a time while it is sleeping underwater. Typically when we go one of the turtles is active and the other is sleeping. 

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.
  • To start off our theme I wrote the words sea turtle on a sentence strip. I showed Carter the sentence strip and had him point out how many capital letters were on it and then count them. Then we counted to see how many lower case letters there were. When he was finished he pointed out the letters' names. I segmented the sounds in one word at a time and then asked him to blend them together. I also had him point out any letters that were on the sentence strip more than once. I pointed out the capital T and lowercase t because he didn't notice them since they looked different.
  • During our last visit to the aquarium before our Florida trip, I picked out a sea turtle life cycle figurine set to use during our sea turtle learning theme. We had read multiple books about sea turtles before doing the activity. I showed Carter the different pieces and asked him to put them in order to show a sea turtle's life cycle. When he was finished we counted the number of stages in a sea turtle's life. Elise helped us count. Carter loved pointing to the pieces and explaining them to me.
  • When we were finished with the life cycle toys I put them in a sensory bin. The base was made up of beans to look like sand. I added a couple of shovels. Carter loved burying the eggs and then pulling up a hatchling out of the beans and pretending the egg had hatched. Later I added some cotton balls and a clothespin to the bin. I would show Carter a number and have him count out that number of eggs (cotton balls) to put in a container. He used the clothespin to put the eggs into the container as a little fine motor skill practice. Elise also liked using the clothespin although every time she uses one, she ends up breaking it. So many things about her remind me of my struggles as a child!
  • When we played with our sea turtle life cycle toys we also discussed when sea turtles lay their eggs and when the eggs hatch. We talked about time of day and I asked Carter why they choose that time of day. When we were reading books I had him point out how he could tell it was nighttime in the pictures. 
  • I found a sea turtle outline here. I printed the original size for the kids to decorate. Then shrunk it down and printed a bunch on one page for the kids to spell out their names using sea turtles. I colored the sea turtles green and then wrote the letters of their names on the turtles. I set the project out on the table to do later in the day and when I came back into the room Carter had already arranged and glued the turtles down by himself! I guess he knows the drill. I wrote Elise's name on a piece of paper and tried a couple times to get her to sit with me and match the letters on the turtles to the letters on the page and glue them down, but she refused. The second time I tried she actually threw the turtles all over the floor, so I didn't try again.
  • I used the same sea turtle outline pattern which I found here for the kids to decorate a sea turtle. I was really impressed that Carter actually drew scutes for the turtle's shell and attempted to make his look like a real sea turtle. Elise also worked really hard decorating hers.
  • We found a page in one of our books that showed the seven different species of sea turtles. We looked at their pictures and compared the different kinds of sea turtles. I asked Carter to describe how all the sea turtles looked the same, they all had flippers and shells. Then I asked him how they looked different and he pointed out their colors and sizes.
  • I had a Scholastic News that talked about trash and discussed sea turtles and how they mistake plastic bags floating in the ocean for jellyfish. Carter was quite fascinated by it. We put a plastic bag in water to see what it looked like and could understand how a sea turtle could mistake it for a jellyfish.
  • My aunt got Carter a subscription to Ranger Rick magazine. One of his more recent magazines had a very good article about Ridley Sea Turtles in it. First Carter looked through the article and we discussed the pictures. Then we went through and read more about sea turtles.
  •  I planned to have Carter draw a sea turtle's life cycle but when he saw Elise make a sea turtle out of circles he really wanted to make a sea turtle like hers. I told him he would do the same thing Elise did, but I would make it a little more complicated since he is older than her. I cut out a white circle for an egg, one of our extra copies of the small sea turtle cut out, a small sea turtle cut out with half a circle to glue on to make a hatchling, and then the pieces to make a large sea turtle. I asked him to arrange the pieces to create the sea turtle's life cycle. He was really proud that he started drawing the arrows without me because he remembered how we put arrows on the page when we did our life cycle learning theme. I showed him how the arrows needed to point to the next stage in the animal's life. He decided it was hard enough work to draw one arrow and he asked me to draw the rest.
  • Elise glued circles to paper to create a sea turtle. I really talked about the word circle and asked her to repeat it after me as we worked. I pointed out that one of the circles was small and the other one was large. Then I drew flippers and a face to complete her turtle.
  • I had saved the back page of a magazine we had that had a picture of a sea turtle on it. I showed the sea turtle to Carter and had him tell me it's body parts. We glued the turtle down to paper, then we labeled the sea turtle's body parts. Carter wanted to write so I spelled out the word for him to write. Then I showed him how we draw a line to show what we are naming so it labels the part. He still wanted to write but was having a hard time so I wrote the words and then he traced them. He really loves to write and works hard to make letters!
  • We found a few different videos on Youtube showing sea turtles hatching and heading toward the ocean. Carter loved watching them and a few times was concerned about why the babies would be crawling out of the sand during the day when the sun was up. He was worried predators would eat them!  
  • I found a cute printable for making a sea turtle puppet here. Both the kids colored their turtles and then we glued the pieces onto a paper bag for them to use as puppets. Carter colored the scutes on the sea turtle's shell different colors which I thought was cool. When they were finished with their puppets we played with them. Elise eventually ripped her bag out of frustration one of the times she was trying to put it on and couldn't quite get it on her hand the way she wanted.
  • Carter made an adorable paper plate turtle at school which could easily be made into a sea turtle as well. I thought it was wild he made this craft at school during our sea turtle learning theme. They were talking about life cycles at school and must have covered a turtle's life cycle during their learning.
  • I saw a picture of an adorable sea turtle handprint craft on pinterest. I would link to a page but it was an etsy page without the picture. I had the kids do their handprints and then I drew a face on their thumbs and added some details to make their handprints look like turtles. Once I glued the handprints down onto the blue paper I felt like they looked like they were flying in the sky rather than floating in the ocean so I added some seaweed at the bottom of the page to hopefully make it look more like the ocean. I've found it works best to do our handprints on white paper and then glue them down to whatever color construction paper I want for the background. That way the paint color stands out on the white and if one of the handprints doesn't work out, it doesn't ruin our picture.
Special Snack:
  • I made the kids a sea turtle snack using kiwi and grapes. I cut the kiwi and used it for the shells. Then I cut the grapes to look like heads and flippers. The green grapes we got were really long and oval rather than circular which worked great for the flippers but not the heads so I just cut the tips off for the head. Then I used seeds from the kiwi to make their eyes.
Make Believe:
  • We had so much fun pretending to be sea turtles. We used white balls from our ball pit as eggs and pretended to lay eggs in the sand (our carpet). We then carefully covered the eggs up using sand (a blanket). Carter's favorite part was pretending to be a sea turtle hatchling. He would crawl out from under the blanket and I would hold a flashlight, shining it at him. He would then crawl as fast as he could to the flashlight which we were pretending was the moon. He would pretend Elise and Harper were predators and tried to crawl as fast as he could to avoid them. He played it over and over until he got tired of crawling.
  • I made up a 5 Little Sea Turtles song to the tune of 5 Little Ducks. I used the small sea turtle cut outs to act out the song as I sang it. I randomly made it up as we were playing and didn't like my version very much. Mine started out with 5 sea turtle hatchlings and described the different ways they were snatched up by predators, not making it to the sea. Then that night in bed Carter started singing a 5 Little Sea Turtles song that he made up and it was so much better than my version, I loved it! So we used that one instead. It goes like this:
5 little eggs laying in the sand. 
One turtle hatched and crawled to the sea.
He switched it up from sea and beach. He kept going until all the eggs had hatched and made it to the sea.
  • I made up a Sea Turtle Hokey Pokey. We talked about our body parts and which parts of our body are similar to turtle body parts. I had Elise point out different body parts on herself and then we played along. We put in our front flippers (arms folded), back flippers (legs), shell (back), heads, and tails (bottoms).
  • I found a Tuga the Sea Turtle game here. Your job was to make it though the sea and to eat jellyfish, not trash. Toward the end more trash popped up and it was harder to eat jellyfish without accidentally eating trash which was a good talking point for us and Carter was able to connect back to the Scholastic News we read about sea turtles eating plastic bags on accident. Carter really enjoyed the game. He was able to use the touchscreen to play which is always easier for him. We talked about what color the jellyfish were when they popped up and we counted to see how many jellyfish he ate as he went.
 Field Trip/Interactive Experience:
  • The highlight of this learning theme was heading to the aquarium to see the sea turtle exhibit for the first time. They have an awesome little pod you can get inside of that is under the water so you can see the fish swim by. We found the sea turtles and counted to find there were 2 sea turtles in the exhibit. We talked about what we had learned about sea turtles while we observed them.
  • Follow the Moon Home by Philippe Cousteau
  • Turtle Tide: The Ways of Sea Turtles by Stephen Swinburne
  • One Tiny Turtle by Nicola Davies
  • Turtle in the Sea by Jim Arnosky
  • Guess What: Flying Flippers by Felicia Macheske
  • Sea Turtles by Melissa Gish (this one was long but we ended up reading the whole thing because Carter was so interested)
  • Sea Turtles by Gail Gibbons
  • Sea Turtles by Mary Jo Rhodes and David Hall
  • A Day in the Life: Sea Turtles by Louise Spilsbury
  • Deep Deep Sea by Fran Preston-Gannon
  • Toby by Stacy A. Nyikos
  • Sea Turtles by Ann Herriges
  • Saving Turtles: A Kid's Guide to Helping Endangered Creatures by Sue Carstairs
  • Sea Turtles by Kari Schuetz
  • Baby Animals in the Sea by Kingfisher Books