Monday, April 24, 2017

Weekly Learning Theme: Easter

I always enjoy doing holiday learning themes. It's so much fun to find different holiday related activities and then tweak them so we can work on our objectives. Since April is National Poetry Month I have been making sure I either have a poem, poetry book (for bees we read UnBEElievables: Honeybee Paintings and Poems by Douglas Florian), or some sort of poetry activity during each learning theme and then the last week of the month our learning theme will be on poetry. That way the kids will have more exposure to poetry before we spend a week talking about it. I was excited to find some great ways to incorporate poetry in our Easter theme! Read about last year's Easter learning theme here and 2015's here.

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 first, middle, and last name. Arrange letters to spell full name, begin to write full 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 then yet.
  • To introduce our learning theme I wrote the word Easter on a sentence strip. I showed it to Carter and had him identify the letters in the words. I segmented out the sounds and then had him blend them together. I asked him if any letter was repeated in the word and we talked about the capital E and the lowercase e in the word Easter. I told him Easter has a capital letter at the beginning of it because it is the name of a holiday.
  • When we first got the Easter totes out of the attic, I pulled all our plastic eggs out along with egg accessories. Before doing any learning with the eggs I let the kids have lots of free play with Easter eggs. I put them in a large Easter bowl and then put the bunny tongs and some different egg cartons along with egg dying cups in an Easter basket beside the eggs so they could play with them. Carter liked picking the eggs up using the bunny tongs and moving them from one container to the next. I love that the bunny tongs give him extra practice on how to hold scissors without using as much finger strength as scissors do. Once the kids had plenty of time to just play with the eggs, we did some activities. I had Carter make patterns using the eggs and I'd make patterns for him to continue. With Elise we pointed out the colors of the eggs and I helped her sort like colors. When we had our eggs sorted, we'd count to see how many of each color we had.
  • I used Easter grass as the base of our sensory bin. Then I added in a bunch of different Easter toys. A favorite was a chick that poops out jelly beans. I was a little worried I would regret putting Easter grass out for the kids to play with but I was pleasantly surprised that they barely touched it. They were more interested in all the toys. I probably should've just thrown the toys in to a bucket by themselves! I got the Easter eggs out when we were still finishing up our learning theme on bees. The kids loved filling the Easter eggs with beans from the sensory bin and playing with them. I think they would have preferred a bean or rice base because it was so much fun filling the eggs with beans. I'll have to remember that for next year!
  • This week we practiced the letter Rr for rabbit. Carter loves practicing writing his letters on the dry erase notecards from my dad's reading curriculum. He was really excited to help me make the letters out of yarn this week. We talked about the shapes we would need to use to make the letters as we glued them down on the paper.
  • Both Carter and Elise had a blast playing with bunny ears throughout the week. One activity we did with them was to practice body parts. Elise was wearing them and I asked her where she had them and she said her head. Then I asked her to put them on different body parts and she'd move them to the correct place.
    Putting the ears on her arm.
    Putting the ears on her leg.
  • I found a really cute counting eggs page here. I'm not big on worksheets but when I find one that I think Carter will actually enjoy I'm quick to print it out. This one was great practice with recognizing numerals. He has 1-5 down, gets tricked up with 6 and 9, and knows 1, 8, and 10 so I like to practice with the numbers as much as we can. Carter put the numbers in order and then colored in the eggs when he was finished.
  • Carter needed to take 10 filled eggs to school so I had him help me fill the eggs when we got home from the store. I had him match the colors of the bunny to the color of the egg he put it inside. That way he not only got fine motor practice while opening and closing the eggs, he also got practice matching. When we were done I had him count to make sure we had 10 filled eggs. He was so excited to take his eggs to school!
  • To practice with capital and lowercase letters, I wrote capital letters on the bottom half of eggs and lowercase letters on the top of eggs. Then I pulled the eggs apart and had Carter match the capital letter to the lowercase letter and snap the egg together. To make it a little easier I put the capital and lowercase letters on the same color egg rather than mixing them all up. Carter really didn't use that to help him at all though. It is always interesting to see him start with the letters he is sure about and then move on to others. He usually starts with the letters where the capital and lowercase look exactly the same such as Xx, Cc, and Oo. Then he went on to letters we've practiced during our learning themes like Rr and Tt which made me proud! He matched all the letters correctly without any help!
  • Leina sent the kids a card with stickers for each of them. We used the stickers to create pictures. It's such great fine motor practice for Elise to pull the stickers off the page by herself and it works out great because she's in the "I do it, I self!" stage.
  • I printed a cute page for writing an acrostic poem here. I told Carter what an acrostic poem was and reminded him that April is national poetry month. Then I showed him the letters down the side of the page and asked him what word has to do with Easter and starts with that letter. He was so cute, really thinking it over and working hard to come up with words. He loves trying to think of words that start with certain letters so this was a great activity for him! He got tricked up thinking egg started with an Aa so we talked about how letters sometimes make different sounds when they are together with another letter, plus we talk with a bit of an accent.
    He said ate breakfast because you eat breakfast before the Easter bunny arrives.
  • I printed a visual discrimination page here. We used it for quite a few different activities. First I showed Carter each page individually and asked him to find the two pictures on the page that were the same. Then I had him tell me how they looked the same as each other and how they looked different from the other eggs. When we were finished with that I cut the pages apart to make little cards with only one egg. I sorted the eggs into 3 different piles and asked Carter to figure out what identifying characteristic I sorted by. This was something we hadn't done before and I was impressed with how quickly he picked it up. He looked at each set and was able to determine I sorted based on their design: dots, stripes, and flowers. Then I let him sort them using a different defining characteristic and he chose background color. When we were finished we played a game of memory with the cards.
    Picking out the two eggs that looked the same.
Figuring out how I sorted the cards.
Sorting the cards based on background color.
Playing memory.
  • I practiced circles with Elise by making a bunny out of circles. I talked about how we were using a shape called a circle and then talked about the difference in size of the circles, telling her one was big and one was small. I asked her to glue the big circle first and then handed it to her when she didn't pick it up, telling her it was the big circle. Next I asked her to glue the small circle right above the big circle and pointed out where it belonged. Then I showed her the ears and told her to glue them onto the head. I added a face to her bunny while she added some decorations to the picture. We've been talking about circles and squares really just to introduce the words to her and I was really excited the other day when we were playing outside and she pointed out some circles on the playground and told me they were circles!
  • I took 10 plastic eggs and drew dots on one half of the egg. I asked Carter to count the dots and then match the number of dots with the numeral that represents that number of dots. I had a carton with the numbers written on the bottom. Carter has gotten really good at looking at sets of 1, 2, or 3 and recognizing the number without counting and did a great job with that. Then he counted the rest of the dots to place the eggs.
  • I always love incorporating Play Doh into our learning themes because it's such a fun activity for all ages! I planned to play with Play Doh using Easter cookie cutters during this theme, but Carter took that idea and really ran with it. He wanted to pretend he was making cookies for the Easter bunny. He got out bowls and spatulas to make the dough and had such a blast. He even turned it into a birthday party for the Easter bunny, setting the cookies out and gathering his buddies around to sing Happy Birthday. It was so much fun! Elise loved putting the Play Doh into the mixing bowl and pretending to stir it up. I have a feeling she's going to want to do that each time we play with Play Doh.
    Making the cookie dough. Elise had taken her diaper off in the background to go potty and I cracked up when I saw this picture because I noticed she had hopped over into the screen as I was taking the picture.
  • Carter planned out a story about the Easter egg hunt we went to at the Botanic Garden. He dictated his story to me and then illustrated the first couple of pages before deciding he wanted to finish it later.
  • The long anticipated dying of Easter eggs happened toward the end of the week. Carter saw the egg dying kits early on and asked about dying eggs pretty much daily but we hadn't boiled the eggs yet. He informed me it would be fine to dye regular eggs. Sorry, buddy, that's a definite no! He understood when I explained it to him. I was never impressed with the egg inside a whisk trick but this year it actually worked decently well for Elise. She preferred to stick her hand down in the dye anyway. Carter loved using the bunny tongs and did a great job with them. Not sure why this was the first year I thought to put the dye containers on top of a towel but it was a wonderful idea. Elise knocked one of the containers over and I picked it up fast enough that all the spillage was soaked into the towel, score! In true Elise style she dyed one egg and then wanted to eat it so she took a break during our dying session to eat an egg.
  • Since Carter has gotten so good at writing his first name I decided it was time to move on to his last name. I told him the letters in his last name and helped him write an x.  He had a hard time writing an x because he kept wanting to write a t. I pulled out our Xx handwriting card to practice with but he didn't want to so I put it aside for later. I figured we'd work on making x's and writing his last name for about a week and then add in his middle name. The next morning he came to me while I was making breakfast and showed me he had written his last name all by himself! I guess there is a benefit of having only 3 letters in your last name, especially when one of those letters is also in your first name! So on to his middle name we went. I knew this one would be even easier because it is only 2 letters and he had been practicing the letter T during our sea turtle and St. Patrick's Day learning themes. He picked that up in one sitting and now writes his full name on any paper he draws or colors on! I wrote out the letters in his first, middle, and last name on egg cut outs. I kept the letters separated for each name and had him do one name at a time. We talked about how we write left to write and we start with our first name. He glued the letters down in order to spell his first and last name. For Elise I put the letters of her name on eggs. Then I wrote the letters on her paper. I handed her each letter one at a time, telling her it's name and pointing to the matching letter on her sheet so she could glue her letter where it belonged. She did a great job but then when she was decorating her paper, she ripped all the eggs off!
    Carter practiced writing his last name all on his own.
    Carter was so proud to show me his full name. He always writes his first name first and then writes his middle name above it with his last name above that. Our next step will be talking about how to write them in order from left to write (although he won't be able to write small enough to fit it on one line).
    Gluing down the letters in her name.
Decorating her eggs.

Carter spelling out his name.
  • I pulled out the Tangram bunny I made last year and helped Carter to make it again this year. This time we used our bigger tangram pieces and I showed him how we could look at the paper and figure out how to orient the shapes beside it by looking at the shapes on the page. At first he was frustrated he couldn't build the bunny on top of the paper like he had last year since the tangrams were too big but once I started helping him, he was able to do it.
  • On Easter the kids enjoyed a special Easter bath. I threw some plastic eggs in the bath and they each got to pick out a couple of the special grow capsules that were inside their Easter eggs to put in the bath with them.
  • For practice pointing out objects, I had Elise point out bunnies and rabbits throughout the house. I also asked her to bring me eggs at different times.
  • I let each of the kids pick out an Easter ceramic at the Dollar Tree. Carter picked an egg and Elise picked a chick but then they decided to trade. They painted their ceramics with the paints that came with them. We used it as an opportunity to talk about mixing colors since the paints were primary colors. Carter really liked mixing red and yellow to make orange. Elise started off painting her ceramic and then moved on to finger painting her chest. I was so glad I had her take all of her clothes off to paint. I almost just had her take her shirt off like I did Carter. I got a piece of paper out for her after that and asked her to only paint on her ceramic or the paper.
  • I cut construction paper into the shape of an egg. Then the kids decorated their egg with dabbers. I let them pick what color paper they wanted and Carter wanted orange (it is now his official favorite color, he was saying purple for a while and then he was saying all the colors). They always love activities that involve the dabber markers. Carter ended up making 3 eggs. Elise decorated one and then proceeded to rip it apart. I stopped her before she tore it all up because I wanted to use it as a decoration.
  • It's so cute to see Carter become really interested in certain aspects of our learning themes. It always comes out in his drawings. When we were learning about bees he was always drawing bees. During this learning theme he kept drawing eggs and decorating them. We talked about how eggs are shaped like an oval and he decided he's really good at drawing ovals.
  • Part of what I love about poetry is the mental images or visualizations it allows us to create with the colorful language. I found the poem Rabbit by Mary Ann Hoberman when I was looking for Easter poetry and loved it. I read the poem and asked Carter to close his eyes and make a picture in his head as he listened to the poem. Then I read the poem again and asked him to draw the picture that he created in his head. He was a little upset because he didn't think he could draw a rabbit but I thought he did a great job, although he did draw his bunny upside-down!
  • I thought it was a great idea that at school Carter decorated a brown paper bag for his Easter egg hunt. He also made a very cute cross necklace. I was disappointed when he told me one of his friends made fun of him and told him he made the necklace wrong because he used too much pink. Carter said he told the boy, "I like pink. It is pretty. I'll use as many pinks as I want!" I love my fierce, little boy and how he isn't afraid to be different and will stand up for himself!
Special Snack:
  • Carter asked me to make bunny pancakes one morning when I was making banana pancakes. I tried my special squirter that I use to make shapes but the chunks of banana kept getting stuck. Instead I just made a regular circle pancake and cut up another pancake to make ears and whiskers. I used raisins and a marshmallow to make the face. He asked me to do it again on a day when we were in a hurry so I grabbed a cookie cutter to make it faster. I was shocked by my stupidity when I realized I'd grabbed a plastic cookie cutter and the bottom portion of it melted! Not sure what I was thinking, but then I realized I had been in a hurry and really hadn't thought about it and just grabbed it! It was a pretty silly mistake though!
  • Carter's favorite Easter themed activity each year is putting snacks in eggs. He absolutely loves it! This year we did Easter egg hunts every time I put his snack inside eggs because he had so much fun with them! He's gotten really good at opening the plastic eggs. Elise still has a hard time and occasionally opens them with too much force, spilling the snack out all over.
  • I couldn't help myself when I was at the store and saw that Peeps were only $1! I let Carter pick some out and he chose blue chicks. Both the kids loved them and had 2 peeps that first night. They are low in calories, although not low in sugar, so I let them have more than one.
  • We did a jelly bean sort again this year. I gave Carter the warm colors to sort and Elise the cool colors. I used it as an opportunity to talk about warm and cool colors. Then the kids sorted their jelly beans into bowls of the corresponding color. Elise needed lots of help and I was happy to help her. When we were done we counted to see which color we had the most of. Carter was eagerly awaiting the moment when he could fill our chick with jelly beans so it could poop them out. He did it over and over and over, laughing every time!
Make Believe:
  • Another favorite of Carter's is doing egg hunts. I can't tell you how many times we hid eggs and hunted for them! When Carter hid eggs for me, he always put on bunny ears and pretended to be the Easter bunny which I thought was cute. Before we hid eggs, we'd always count to see how many there were so whoever was finding them could make sure they collected them all. Carter would have me go lay down in bed and then he'd run in telling me the Easter bunny had come. Sometimes he'd have toys for me in an Easter basket along with hidden eggs. Other times he'd just hide the eggs. He also loved playing hot/cold when I'd see an egg that he didn't or when he saw an egg I didn't. Elise loved pretending to be a bunny and started hopping around even more than usual!
  • We had a lot of fun doing the Easter Bunny Hokey Pokey. We substituted arms for baskets and pretended we were holding baskets, we said ears for head, and tail for backside. Instead of saying "You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around," we said, "You do the Bunny Pokey and you hop all around." Carter loved hopping in circles.
  • We also sang 10 Little Easter Eggs while we put 10 eggs into a basket.
1 little, 2 little, 3 little Easter eggs
4 little, 5 little, 6 little Easter eggs
7 little, 8 little, 9 little Easter eggs 
10 little Easter eggs in the basket.
Sang as we dropped eggs in a basket one at a time.
  • Carter made up a version of 5 Little Bunnies but I didn't get the chance to write the lyrics down and I don't remember. It was something along the lines of:
5 little bunnies hopped off one day,
to hide eggs far away.
Easter bunny said, hop back!
But only 4 little bunnies hopped back.
Continues on just like 5 Little Ducks
  • Carter loved a game I found here where he got to decorate an Easter egg. When he was finished decorating his egg, he got to hide it and then find it again later. He could decorate multiple eggs and hide them all and find them at the end. He liked having me close my eyes while he hid the egg and then having me find the egg when he was done.
  • We also played an egg hunt game here. Eggs were hidden in the picture and you had to find them all before time ran out.
 Field Trip/Interactive Experience:
  • We did a special event at the Botanic Garden the weekend before Easter. They had an egg hunt as well as a bunny hunt. The egg hunt was a typical egg hunt. The bunny hunt was an on your own time activity. They had put different garden bunnies as well as wooden bunnies they had painted in the garden and we got to search for them to see how many we could find. We have a membership so we got a discount but it was $5 for each of the kids. I wavered on whether to do it or a different one that was free. I decided on the Bunny Hunt event because it sounded like a lot of fun and because there were special prizes like a membership to the gardens. Carter surprised us by finding the one egg out of around 300 during his hunt that had a membership inside it so we won a membership to the gardens for next year! Elise picked up one egg and wanted me to open it for her. She then spent the rest of the hunt eating her candy and only picked up that one egg! Lucky for her she has a sweet brother who shared his eggs with her! 
    A cool bee egg that had a bee finger puppet inside it.
  • We went to a special egg themed storytime at the library the Wednesday before Easter. Our children's librarian surprised us by setting up an egg hunt inside the children's area of the library. I was shocked that Elise actually participated, picking up quite a few eggs. Later when I was telling Ty about it he pointed out that it was most likely because the eggs were empty. I'm guessing that was pretty accurate. We also read books about eggs and sang a couple songs about eggs. Then she pulled out eggs with different animal figurines inside and gave clues so the kids could guess what was inside before she opened it.
  • The Little Rabbit by Judy Dunn
  • The Little Rabbit Who Liked to Say Moo by Jonathan Allen
  • Little Chick by Lauren Thompson
  • Little Chick by Amy Hest
  • Peep! Peep! by Charles Reasoner
  • Hank Finds An Egg by Rebecca Dudley
  • Lamb's Easter Surprise by Christine Taylor Butler
  • 5 Busy Ducklings by Rookie Toddler
  • Hatch by Katie Cox
  • That's Not My Bunny by Melanie Watt
  • The Bunny Rabbit Show by Sandra Boynton
  • Bunny My Honey by Anita Jeram 
  • Hatch, Little Egg by Edouard Manceau
  • The Easter Ribbit by Bernice Chardiet
  • Bunny Trouble by Hans Wilhelm
  • Easter Eggs Everywhere by Steve Metzger
  • Easter Egg Hunt by Abby Klein
  • Olivia and the Easter Egg Hunt by Cordelia Evans
  • The Night Before Easter by Natasha Wing
  • Happy Easter, Little Critter by Mercer Mayer
  • Easter Bunny's On His Way! by Brian James
  • How Spider Saved Easter by Robert Kraus
  • The Best Easter Prize by Kristina Evans
  • The Littlest Rabbit by Robert Kraus
  • Last One Is a Rotten Egg by Diane de Groat
  • The Easter Bunny Is Missing by Steve Metzger
  • The Cow That Laid an Egg by Andy Cutbill
  • Pig's Egg by Katherine Sully
  • The Berenstain Bears' Baby Easter Bunny by Jan & Mike Berenstain
  • Peter Cottontail's Easter Egg Hunt by Joseph R. Ritchie 
  • The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
  • I Hatched! by Jill Esbaum 
  • Llama Llama Easter Egg by Anna Dewdney
  • Spot's Easter Surprise by Eric Hill 
  • Easter Egg by Jan Brett 
  • Paw Patrol: The Pups Save the Bunnies by Ursula Ziegler Sullivan 
  • Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt
  • White Rabbit's Color Book by Alan Baker
  • Brown Rabbit's Shape Book by Alan Baker
  • Brown Rabbit's Day by Alan Baker
  • Black and White Rabbit's ABC by Alan Baker
  • Gray Rabbit's 1, 2, 3 by Alan Baker
  • Puppies and Piggies by Cynthia Rylant 
  • Marshmallow by Clare Turlay Newberry