Friday, September 29, 2017

Weekly Learning Theme: Dinosaurs

Since I'm a member of our Children's Museum I get e-mail updates pretty regularly from them. When I saw the exhibit hall was getting a dinosaur exhibit I knew we needed to do a learning theme on dinosaurs. I'd been keeping track of dinosaur books we read and liked for a possible learning theme for a while. Then Carter started asking me when we were going to see dinosaurs at the zoo again because the zoo had a dinosaur exhibit come through a few years ago. It seemed like perfect timing! Carter was really excited when I told him the dinosaurs were coming back to the Children's Museum. When we went to see them at the Children's Museum, he very proudly told the workers there that he had been learning about dinosaurs at home.

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 then yet.
  • I wrote the word dinosaurs on a sentence strip to introduce the learning theme. I had Carter identify the letters in the word and we talked about which letters were in the word more than once. Then we talked about the beginning sound and I had him isolate that sound when I said the word.
  • I discussed carnivores and herbivores with Carter. He preferred to refer to them as plant eaters and meat eaters. We talked about how meat eaters have sharp teeth and claws for killing and eating other animals while plant eaters usually have beaks for tearing up plants. He looked at his toy dinosaurs and used the information he knew to sort them into carnivores and herbivores. When he was done we counted to see how many of each we had.
  • I worked with Elise to help her sort the dinosaurs based on color. She still refers to every color as green if I ask her but when I handed her a dinosaur and asked her to place it with the other dinosaurs that were the same color, she was able to do it. She'll point out colors and tell me what they are but if I ask her, her answer is still typically "geen".
  • I have a big container of dinosaurs a friend of mine gave me when she moved out of her classroom. I used them in my classroom and then kept them out for Carter to play with when I packed up all my classroom stuff. The kids had a blast playing with the dinosaurs. As they played Carter tended to identify which dinosaurs were meat eaters and which ones were plant eaters and had them play out their roles in the food chain. It was fun to watch and listen to him play.
  • My parents got the kids some awesome reusable stickers that came with different backgrounds. I pulled out the dinosaur stickers and background for the kids to play with throughout the learning theme. There was a volcano to go along with the dinosaurs which sparked a conversation about why a volcano would be included. We also used the opportunity to talk about what the habitat for the dinosaurs most likely was.
  • I found a fun Dinosaur Roll and Graph game here. Carter played the game and recorded his rolls on a graphing page. It was interesting to see him try to roll certain dinosaurs so he could color in above a dinosaur he hadn't rolled yet. When he didn't feel like rolling anymore I had him look at his graph and tell me which dinosaur he rolled the most and which he rolled the least. Then we counted to see how many times he rolled each dinosaur and then we counted to see how many times he rolled all together.
  • I really wanted Carter to have the opportunity to dig for dinosaur bones in sand but I didn't want to buy any sand. Then we went to a literacy event where we were given a little bag of sand to use at home for writing practice. It was perfect! I cut up and taped straws down to look like a dinosaur skeleton. Then I gave Carter a paint brush to carefully remove the sand and discover the bones.
  • I put together a dinosaur sensory bin with beans as the base. Then I just threw in some toy trees and rocks along with a bunch of dinosaurs. I'm always amazed at the different ways the kids come up to play with the sensory bins. Elise liked feeding the beans to the dinosaurs as well as scooping up beans with rocks. Carter liked burying the dinosaurs and then working to dig them out. He even ended up adding some tools to the sensory bin so he could dig the dinosaurs out easier.
  • I have this awesome Scholastic News poster about dinosaur teeth that we looked at during our dentist theme. I pulled it out again and it was neat to see how Carter was so much more interested in it now that he had more background knowledge about dinosaurs. He was quick to point out that the Tyrannosaurus Rex's teeth were very sharp with sides that looked like a knife. Then I pointed out the teeth shown below and he identified both teeth there as herbivore teeth.
  • A while back I found some dinosaur flash cards at Target in the dollar spot. I knew they'd be fun for a dinosaur learning theme so I bought them. Carter had so much fun with them and played with them multiple times throughout the learning theme. First he went through and picked out dinosaurs he thought looked cool and that he was interested in. He had me read the facts about the dinosaurs and tell me their names. Later we went through and he picked out dinosaurs that reminded him of animals alive today, one that looked like a sea turtle and some that he thought looked like giraffes. Then he went through and sorted them based on whether he thought they were herbivores or carnivores. He did a wonderful job with it, only misplacing 2 that were omnivores by putting them in the herbivore section. As he worked we talked about how dinosaurs look the same and how they look different. He was mostly looking at their mouths to determine whether they were herbivores or carnivores. If they had sharp teeth he classified them as carnivores and if they had beaks he classified them as herbivores.
  • Carter got some really neat dinosaur bath toys from his Gma and Gpa one year for Christmas which were perfect to get out and play with during this learning theme. We talked about dinosaur habitats by looking at the scenery pieces that came with the dinosaurs. I also used them to talk colors with Elise, pointing out the green, red, blue, and yellow dinosaurs.
  • To practice body parts with Elise I had her point to and identify different dinosaur body parts using a toy dinosaur. Then I had her show me that body part on her body. We talked about how our bodies are the same and how they are different.
    Elise showing me her neck after pointing to the dinosaur's neck.
  • To practice with drawing circles, I asked Elise to draw some dinosaur eggs. She did a great job with it and even drew some dots on the eggs to make them look more realistic. Carter saw what she was working on and wanted to make some dinosaur eggs too so he drew a nest with eggs in it and then added a dinosaur to the picture. I had him tell me a story about his picture and I wrote down what he said.
  • Of course we had to include our dinosaur puzzles in this learning theme. Carter was so proud of how quickly he can put together puzzles. When he was finished putting the puzzles together he told me what he knew about the dinosaurs and discussed the background of the puzzle, talking to me about where the dinosaurs may have lived.
  • Carter wanted to dig for dinosaur bones some more so we played with the beans when we put the sensory bin away. I put the beans back in the container I keep them in and hid some dinosaurs inside the container. Carter and Elise dug around in the beans looking for the dinosaurs. They had so much fun with it!
  • Carter and I played with the dinosaurs in the sensory bin, making up stories about them as we pulled them out to put them away.
  • Since Carter is interested in Spanish I taught him how to say dinosaur in Spanish.      
  • We made a footprint dinosaur using both our feet to create a carnivore with it's mouth open. Then we glued a googly eye to the head and drew teeth inside the mouth. When I was finished helping Elise with hers she wanted to draw on it. I wrote Eliseosaurus on her picture and helped Carter spell to write Carterosaurus on his to give him some practice with writing his name.
  • The kids each painted two paper plates to make into a dinosaur. Carter painted his bright colors and said his dinosaur was a bright color to trick other dinosaurs into thinking it tastes bad. I loved how he took information he knew from learning about butterflies and poison dart frogs and applied it to a totally different situation. Then we cut one of the plates up to make a head, tail, and legs which we stapled onto the body. Carter did his own cutting and I was very impressed with how well he did on his own. Elise wanted to cut too so I let her cut some scrap paper. Carter was excited he got to glue another googly eye to his dinosaur.
  • We also made handprint dinosaurs. We used their handprints for the body and legs and then I painted on the long neck and head. Carter drew on the picture to add the habitat where these dinosaurs likely lived. I had him think about what you would see around an apatasaurus before he started drawing and he immediately said you would see tall trees and lots of plants for them to eat.
Special Snack:
  • I wanted to do a fun activity with the kids where they could press dinosaur feet and bodies into something to make fossils. At first I was thinking we could do salt dough but I didn't want to have all those laying around the house after the fact so I kept thinking. I contemplated Play Doh but then came up with the idea of doing it in sugar cookie dough. I was so excited that I came up with a way to not only avoid extra stuff laying around the house but also an excuse to make cookies! Then I was able to extend the learning. We reviewed the different kinds of fossils and then talked about how when a dinosaur died its bones were left on the ground and then as rock formed above it, it pressed it down and then grass started to grow on top. So when the cookies were done baking and cooling we iced them with green icing to show the grass on top. Carter was disappointed and said he could no longer see the fossils. I told him that's exactly how it is when we find real fossils, they are buried under the ground and that's why we have to dig for him. I told him he could be a paleontologist with his cookie and dig for the fossils. He was really excited when he licked the frosting off and found the dinosaur fossil down below!
Make Believe:
  • We pretended to be dinosaurs and even made up a song we sang as we played. We sang, "I stomp and roar because I am a dinosaur." I guess it's more of a chant than a song.
  • The kids enjoyed doing the movements to go along with "Dinosaur, Dinosaur".
  • Carter really enjoyed the Caillou Paleontologist game which I found here. He got to dig for dinosaur bones and then arrange them to make a dinosaur skeleton.
  • Carter also played "Dinosaur Train" games on the PBS Kids website as well as the app on my phone.
 Field Trip/Interactive Experience:
  • We went to the Children's Museum for their Member's Only event the evening before the dinosaur exhibit opened to the public. The kids had a blast checking out the dinosaurs, digging for dinosaurs, and participating in the special events. They had paleontologists visiting to talk with kids about dinosaurs and fossils. Each kid also got a dinosaur egg to work on cracking open. They were given chisels and hammers to crack it open and get their dinosaur toy out.
  • It was really awesome that the week we were learning about dinosaurs our librarian also did a special dinosaur-themed storytime. She read books about dinosaurs, had an activity for the kids to draw what different dinosaurs might eat, and had a couple songs to go along with it. Carter was thrilled and told her that we were learning about dinosaurs at home too.
  • One Hundred Bones by Yuval Zommer
  • Dinosaur Farm by Frann Preston-Gannon
  • Dinosaur Pirates by Penny Dale
  • If a T. Rex Crashes your Birthday Party by Jill Esbaum
  • Dinosaur vs. the Potty by Bob Shea
  • Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She was Extinct by Mo Willems
  • Dinosaurumpus by Tony Mitton
  • Good Night Dinosaurs by Mark Jasper
  • Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs by Byron Barton
  • I'm Big! by Jim and Kate McMullan
  • Good Night Dinosaurs by Judy Sierra
  • I Explore: Digging Dinosaur Bones by Dr. Mike Goldsmith
  • Groovy Joe Ice Cream and Dinosaurs by Eric Litwin
  • I Am a Tyrannosaurus by Anna Grossnickle Hines
  • How Do Dinosaurs Eat Cookies? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
  • How Do Dinosaurs Go to School? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
  • How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
  • Curious George Dinosaur Discovery by Margaret and H.A. Rey
  • The Dinosaur Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta
  • Long-Neck: The Adventure of Apatosaurus by Michael Dahl
  • Dinosaur Bones by Bob Barner
  • Let's Talk About Dinosaurs by Britta Teckentrup
  • Alphasaurus by Sharon Werner
  • Dinosaur Tracks by Susan H. Gray
  • Dinosaur Dig! by Susan H. Gray
  • Dinosaur Teeth by Susan H. Gray
  • Dinosaurs Roar, Butterflies Soar! by Bob Barner
  • Bones, Bones, Dinosaur Bones by Byron Barton
  • I'm Sure I Saw a Dinosaur by Jeanne Willis
  • Brontorina by James Howe
  • Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems 
  • If I Had a Triceratops by George O'Connor 
  • How Big Were Dinosaurs? by Lita Judge 
  • Dinosaur Mountain: Digging Into the Jurassic Age by Deborah Kogan Ray 


  1. I was amazed at how good he was a sorting his meat eating, plant eating dinos. And their Dinosaur, Dinosaur actions to the poem were so cute. The picture of Ty helping Elise open her egg is adorable, and Carter has his tongue out to work on his. :)