Monday, August 21, 2017

Weekly Learning Theme: Maps

A while back I created a learning theme about maps because Carter was so interested in them. He kept requesting different learning themes so I didn't have a free week to do this theme. Then Carter came across a book of maps I had in the car and he was off on a tangent about maps again. I tweaked some of the activities I had already planned and added some others and we were off. We had so much fun with this learning theme! Maps was a concept we taught in 2nd grade so I was able to take what I knew Carter would need to know about maps in the future and introduce him to some of those key concepts. I made sure to talk a lot about the map key. We also explored different kinds of maps as well as cardinal directions. Carter really enjoyed talking about north, south, east, and west when we were out and about.

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.
  • We started off our learning theme with the word maps written on a sentence strip. I said the sounds in the word over and over, asking Carter to blend the sounds together to determine the word. I just did m-a-p and then once we'd determined the word was map I had him add the /s/ sound to the end.
  • When Carter found out our learning theme was on maps he immediately asked to play with his interactive map from Gigi and Papa. The thing I love about this map is that you can push on the different countries to hear facts about them as well as their name. Carter loves to tell me all about the countries as he listens to the facts.
  • I also pulled out an interactive map our neighbors gave us. We talked about how the two different interactive maps were the same and how they were different. I pointed out that the countries were the same shape on both maps and Carter noticed they were different colors on the different maps. That was something I really wanted him to notice because he would sometimes refer to the countries by their color on his interactive map rather than their name.
  • I put together a bin full of maps I've been saving. Anytime we went somewhere that had a map like the zoo, botanic garden, aquarium, etc. I saved the map. I put them all together in a bin along with a globe stress ball we have. Carter liked sitting down and looking through the maps. He observed them and pointed out features and pictures he noticed. He liked to look for the compass rose on the map a lot. I sat with him a few times and we discussed how the maps were the same and how they were different. I had a world map I threw in as well and we talked about how when maps show a smaller area of the world they display more specific information like paths and roads. I also kept some blank paper next to the bin so he could create his own maps to add to the bin.
  • On our way to my parents' house for the weekend I read quite a few books about maps with Carter. He was so excited to draw a map. I gave him materials in the car and he drew a map just like one he'd seen in a book. During the whole weekend he practiced his map making skills. One morning he got a big piece of paper and drew a map.
  • We looked at lots of different kinds of maps. Carter was excited to find out there were lots of different kinds of maps, not just world maps and road maps. His favorite kind of map we saw was a weather map. He was also very intrigued with a map that showed all the volcanoes in the world as well as where all the worst volcanic eruptions have occurred.
  • One day Carter and Elise were playing trains. I suggested we make a map of Carter's train track. I drew the tracks on the paper and then he determined what else needed to be added to our map. He drew different symbols to show the other objects near his tracks. Then we discussed map keys and what they are used for. After that I created a key to show what each shape symbolized.
    Adding trees to our train track map.
    Elise added some decorations to Carter's map.
  • I got out huge pieces of paper so we could draw some large maps to drive our cars on. While I was working on adding streets to my map I looked over and Carter was tracing around his foot. I wasn't sure what he was doing until he explained he was creating a footprint map to show people where to put their feet to dance. It was such a creative idea. He was so excited when he was done for me to follow his map to dance.
  • I used my piece of butcher paper to make a road map to play on. Carter told me what I needed to add to my map and suggested symbols I could use to represent those things. Then he helped me draw them on my map. When we were finished we played with toy cars, driving them on the roads.
  • I pulled out a Scholastic News map I had from school for Carter to look at the different continents. He pointed out the compass rose, the map key, and then counted the number of contintents on the map. Then I had him point to the water on the map.
  • I pulled out every Scholastic News magazine that had a map on the back of it. We went through, looking at each map, and compared them. Carter realized there were some that showed the entire United States of America and others that were road maps of specific places. We went through and sorted the maps based on whether they were a map of the country or whether they were a close up map of a smaller area. Then we counted to see how many of each kind of map we had. When we were finished Carter wanted to fill in the maps so I got him a dry erase marker and read him the directions. He enjoyed following them. We discussed what each map showed and he enjoyed seeing some other kids of maps.
  • We had a lot of fun playing with our globe ball toy. The first thing we did was discuss what the blue and green sections represented. Carter was proud to explain that to Elise. Carter's favorite game to play with it was doggies where I'd throw it for him and he'd fetch it.
  • We talked about directions and I drew a compass rose on a piece of paper. I talked to Carter about the different directions: north, south, east, and west. Then we added a compass rose to one of our maps we had already made. I told him the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. He was very interested in that and liked to look at where the sun was in the sky and talked about that a lot throughout our learning theme. It was a perfect way to slowly move from learning about maps to learning about the sun which was our next learning theme. After talking about directions for a while, I pulled out a compass I had and Carter played with that. I pointed out the letters on the compass and he told me their names. Then we talked about their sounds and figured out what direction the letters symbolized. Carter liked walking around and watching the compass move.
    Looking at the compass rose and comparing it to his toy compass.
  • We read "We're Going on a Bear Hunt". I had drew the different places they went through in the book ahead of time. I had Carter retell the story by gluing the pieces down on the paper in order to create a bear hunt map. Carter had so much fun with it retelling the story that he wanted to act it out, taking turns being the bear. His favorite was having me be the bear and chase him all the way back to his house where he'd slide chairs in front of me to "close the door".
    Carter's bear hunt map.
  • A while back Ty found a map of America puzzle at a garage sale. It was perfect to get out and play with during this learning theme. Carter liked pointing out the different pictures on the map and having me explain why they were on there and what they symbolized. He was also excited to find his home state as well as Kansas and Florida, where his loved ones live!
  • It worked out great that the kids got a letter from their Great Grandma Shupe with a couple of McDonald's placemats in it. On one side of the placemat was a map with activities to go along with it. I helped Carter fill in the different sections of the map and we talked about the special sites that were listed on the map.
  • At the end of the unit we used all the different maps I'd collected from places near us to create a collage. I cut the letters of Carter and Elise's names out of the map. I showed Elise each letter and then helped her glue them down in the correct order to spell her name. I gave Carter the letters and he put them in order to spell out his name. Then Elise tore the maps and glued pieces down while Carter cut out different strips and shapes to glue to his picture. Elise also practiced with scissors a little bit during this activity.
Special Snack:
  • I'd say Carter's favorite activity during this learning theme was when I made a treat map for him. I hid a treat in his room and drew an "x" on the map to show where the candy was hidden. I added a map key to show what each shape represented, including the "x". I was impressed how quickly Carter oriented himself when he got in his room. He figured out where his bed was on the map and used that to help him figure out where the treats were. There was one hidden for him and one for Elise. I thought it was so sweet that Carter gave Elise the first treat he found. Carter enjoyed this activity so much that he drew a map for me to find a treat and then did it again for Ty when he got home.
    The map Carter drew for me.
Make Believe:
  • We read about some different famous explorers and then we pretended to be explorers. We read about Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, and Lewis and Clark. I would have liked to include more of a variety but I didn't want to spend too much time talking about explorers. I knew Carter wouldn't be as interested in them. We talked about what tools they used to travel and how they created maps to show the areas they explored. We went on a walk with our wagon as a boat. Carter took his compass and some paper to draw maps of the area as we went. I also taught Carter how to play Marco Polo but he didn't like it and wanted to quit after one round.
    My little explorers in their boat.
  • We listened to a few songs about maps and cardinal directions on Youtube.
  • Carter played The Cat in the Hat Can Map This and That game here. I played it beforehand to check it out like I always do and wasn't super impressed. I wasn't sure if he would like the game but he really enjoyed it and made quite a few different maps using it.
 Field Trip/Interactive Experience:
  • We visited the zoo and used a map to find different areas. The zoo was a great place to do this because they have pictures of the animals on their maps, making it really easy for kids to navigate. When we first arrived I had Carter find where we were on the map and then had him look at the map to decide what animal he wanted to see first and figure out how to get there. Throughout our trip Carter used the map to help us figure out how to get where we wanted to go.
  • Thank You, World by Alice B. McGinty
  • Toot and Puddle by Holly Hobbie
  • Toot and Puddle Top of the World by Holly Hobbie
  • Map Work by Bobby and June George
  • How Iguana Says "I Love You!" by Abigail Samoun
  • North, South, East, West by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Along a Long Road by Frank Viva
  • Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney
  • Follow that Map by Scot Ritchie
  • Mapping Penny's World by Loreen Leedy
  • Henry's Map by David Elliot
  • Treasure Map by Stuart J. Murphy
  • How Monkey Says "My Name Is" by Abigail Samoun
  • How Penguin Says "Please" by Abigail Samoun
  • How Hippo Says "Hello" by Abigail Samoun
  • How Gator Says "Good-bye" by Abigail Samoun
  • Buried Treasure: All About Using a Map by Kristen Hall
  • Beginner's United States Atlas by National Geographic Society
  • Our World: A Child's First Picture Atlas by National Geographic
  • Map Keys by Rebecca Aberg
  • Puzzle Island by Paul Adshead
  • Children Around the World by Donata Montanari
  • Lewis and Clark by Lisa Wade McCormick
  • Marco Polo by Demi
  • Around the World by Craig Shuttlewood
  • Through the Town by Craig Shuttlewood
  • Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen


  1. I saw Elise decided to draw on her legs while Carter was drawing on the butcher paper. haha It looks like a fun theme.

    1. Always! I look away for a second and she's drawing on herself.