Thursday, September 14, 2017

Weekly Learning Theme: School

Last year I put together a learning theme about school for Carter, read it here. I really wanted to get him excited about starting school and introduce him to some of the routines and rules he would need to be familiar with at school. This year I wanted to do a school learning theme again so I would make sure to keep up with the fun little traditions I started last year which I would like to keep up year after year. I really didn't change much from last year's learning theme other than switching out the crafts we did.

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.
  • To introduce the learning theme I wrote the word school on a sentence strip. I showed the word to Carter and had him tell me what letters were in the word. Then I had him identify which letter was in the word more than once. Next I told him the sounds in the word and had him blend them together to say the word.
  • One of my favorite activities from last year was our 1st day of school countdown. It was great this year because when he asked me how long until his first day of school I could send him over to count his chains. He helped make the chains by decorating them with stickers and then cutting them apart. I asked him something he was looking forward to or something he enjoyed at school last year and wrote each thing down on a chain. Every day when he pulled off his chain, I'd read it to him and we'd talk about it. Elise loved it when he let her rip off a chain for him and she'd pretend to read it, it was so cute! Carter's favorite was on the first day of school when he got to pull a balloon down to celebrate and then one for Elise. They played with the balloons for a while.
  • I have a few Scholastic News with beginning of the school year themes. We read one about manners, one about magic words (please, thank you, sorry, excuse me), and one about school safety. We discussed each one while we read and then Carter completed the activities on the back of the news. He loved that a couple of them had maps on the back so he got some review with maps.
  • Continuing a tradition Ty started when we first lived in the same town, Carter got a new book on the first day of school. I wrapped it and he opened it before breakfast that morning. It was a book I got at Goodwill so it's more of just a fun thing than an expensive or gift thing. While Carter and Elise ate breakfast Carter requested I read them his new book so I did. Now that Carter is really into presents, I made sure to tell him it was a special book to celebrate his first day of school. As he gets older I'm sure he'll remember from year to year that his first day of school present is always a book.
  • We read the social story books I wrote Carter for school last year that dealt with behavior. After reading the books we discussed his job at school and how important it is to be a good friend. Then we role played with some scenarios that are likely to happen at school such as someone wanting the toy he's playing with.
  • Last year I had Carter practice writing his name at the beginning of the year and I wanted him to do it again this year for comparison sake. It was awesome to see how much he has grown in a year! My parents got him a special school keepsake book with a page for each year in school. I had him write his name on the preschool page. I told him it was a special book and he was writing with permanent marker so he needed to be careful and I was so proud of how seriously he took it!
  • After Carter's first day of school I had him draw a picture of his favorite thing he did at school and then asked him to tell me what he'd like me to write on the page. I was impressed by how much detail he put into his picture of the play kitchen from his classroom.
  • We have a few different school bus toys so I got them out to play with. One had little wooden pegs painted as people riding the bus and Elise figured out how to push down on them and then let go quickly so they'd pop out. I was cracking up that she was carrying it around shooting the people out at us.
  • This year since Carter is staying for a full day he needed a bigger backpack that would fit his lunch box and towel for rest time along with his change of clothes, extra jacket, and any other items from school. So we took him to the store and let him pick out a new backpack. There wasn't as much of a selection since back to school had come and gone for the public schools in the area weeks before Carter started but the upside was that the backpacks were half price! Carter picked a Paw Patrol backpack and Elise saw a girly Paw Patrol backpack and just had to have one too. We went ahead and bought her one too since they were half price. She was soooooo excited!
  • I had Carter draw a picture of himself on the first day of school. He did the same thing last year and I was excited to compare and see how much more detail he put into his picture. Instead of drawing just himself, he drew his school as a huge building and then himself standing by the school with decorations all around. At first I was disappointed because he hadn't really drawn himself with much detail at all since he wasn't the main focus of the picture. But I also liked his creativity and doing things a little differently than what I asked. I'm definitely not going to stifle that, so this year's drawing of himself is a little different and shows his personality more.
    He is way over to the left of the picture.
  • Continuing tradition I asked Carter some questions about himself for a beginning of the school year interview. You can read it here. 
  • Since Carter is interested in learning Spanish I taught him the word for school in Spanish is escuela and we used it throughout the week as we talked about school. 
  • I saw a cute idea for making back to school popsicle stick buses online and changed it up a little bit so we could use materials we already had. the kids painted and used a yellow bingo dabber on popsicle sticks. Then I glued them together to make the shape of the bus. When everything was dry I printed the kids' pictures and taped them into the windows of the bus. Elise loved it and kept giggling and pointing at her picture. It was so cute!
  • For fun I wrote the first letter of the kids' names on a piece of paper. Then they used bingo dabbers to trace their letter. Elise always just dabs all over the page and doesn't follow her letter but I always show it to her, tell her the letter, tell her it is the first letter in her name, and then run my fingers over it to trace the letter with my finger so she can see how to form the letter.
  • I wanted to do another handprint or footprint craft for back to school. I thought about doing the foot school bus and the hand apple again but then decided I wanted to do something different. I saw a really cute idea for making a box of crayons with a kid's hands and loved it so that's what we did. The kids thought it was pretty awesome! They turned out so cute, I'm tempted to do them with my students when I go back to teaching but I know that would be super involved!
Special Snack:
  • I got up extra early on the first day of school so I could get my run in and shower before Carter woke up. That way I'd be able to make him a special first day of school breakfast without being rushed. But Carter ended up waking up right when I got home so I pushed back my shower to make him breakfast. He requested special shaped pancakes so I nixed my idea for banana pancakes since the chunks of banana make it harder to squeeze the batter through my bottle I use for making shapes. I pulled up a buttermilk pancake recipe on pinterest that the kids both liked. Carter was so excited to see his name spelled out in pancakes! My mom sent some Reese's spread with us one of the times we visited this summer so I used that on his pancakes as well and he was quite pleased. I also made a school house and a bus before switching over to regular pancakes. There were enough leftover that the kids ate them pretty much the entire rest of the week.
  • Last year Ty was able to take a long lunch so he could come out to eat for lunch on Carter's first day but he couldn't this year so we did a special dinner for his first day. He picked "Mcmalister's" also known as McAlister's which I was quite pleased with since it meant 99 cent kids meals! We've never let him get one of their big cookies they have out at the counter but we splurged for his first day and let him pick one out. He was so thrilled!
Make Believe:
  • When Carter got home from school he wanted to play school with me. He was the teacher and I was the "little kid". He had me sit on the carpet for read aloud and then he took me in a different room where he had set up centers for me to play in. It was so cute that he set up centers just like what he'd have in class. He even told me which center to go to first. Elise wanted to play too and mimicked Carter, pretending she was a teacher. He went with it since he has 2 teachers in his class.
    I was sent to the tractor center.
    Elise went to the block center.
  • We sang "Wheels on the Bus" but changed the lyrics to make up our own version of "Wheels on the School Bus" substituting in school-themed things to the song.
  • I have a letter writing app on my phone that Carter loves and he played that to practice his letters. I downloaded the number writing version of the same game this year and he enjoyed playing that as well.
 Field Trip/Interactive Experience:
  • Carter was so excited about his school open house. He loved his classroom and didn't want to leave. He got right to work playing and even sat down and did a page they had out without even needing to have the instructions read. They had some activity booklets out along with dry erase markers and he sat doing those for a long time. Of course, he also made his way to the classroom library for some reading!
  • I took pictures of Carter on his first day of school. He was so cute and very willing to pose for me. Elise didn't want to pose with him this year so I ended up with only a couple pictures she was in. He had a wonderful first day of school and definitely had less jitters than last year. I feel like he's already a pro at the whole switching teachers/getting new classmates situation!
  • Ming Goes to School by Deirdre Sullivan
  • My First Day by Leilani Sparrow
  • Mom School by Rebecca Van Slyke
  • Clifford Goes to School by Norman Bridwell
  • Daniel Goes to School by Becky Freidman
  • Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes by Eric Litwin
  • Spot Loves School by Eric Hill
  • Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
  • Skippyjon Jones Class Action by Judy Schachner
  • Lalaloopsy School Day! by Jenne Simon
  • I Spy School by Jean Marzollo
  • The Wheels on the Bus by Maryann Kovalski
  • School Bus by Donald Crews
  • Biscuit Goes to School by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
  • Running the Road to ABC by Denize Lauture
  • The Wheels on the Bus by Kate Toms
  • The Kissing Hand by Aubrey Penn
  • Curious George's First Day of School by Margaret and H.A. Rey
  • Clifford Goes to Kindergarten by Norman Bridwell
  • If You Take a Mouse to School by Laura Numeroff
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.
  • Rain School by James Rumford
  • Bo and Flo by Rebecca Ashdown
  • Have You Seen My Lunch Box? by Steve Light
  • Chicken In School by Adam Lehrhaupt
  • It's Time for Preschool! by Esme Raji Codell
  • I'm not Ready! by Jonathan Allen 
  • How Do Dinosaurs Go to School? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
  • My School in the Rain Forest: How Children Attend School Around the World by Margriet Ruurs  
  • Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems 
  • One World, One Day by Barbara Kerley 
  • Is your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? by Audrey Vernick
  • Here Comes Teacher Cat by Deborah Underwood  


  1. You could tell Elise was thrilled with her backpack. And how sweet of Carter to let her be a teacher, too.

    1. It was so cute, she want up to sit by him and started reading her book to me too. Carter said,"It's okay, she can be a teacher too. I have 2 teachers in my class."