Friday, October 27, 2017

Weekly Learning Theme: Fall

Fall has been a favorite learning theme of mine to do each year. Since starting learning themes with Carter I've done some variation of fall and pumpkins each year. It is so much fun. I love the excitement that comes with the changing of the weather and with watching the leaves change colors. As always, this year's fall learning theme was a lot of fun! Read last year's fall learning theme here, 2015's fall learning theme here, and 2014's learning theme here. Pumpkin learning themes can be found here (2015) and here (2014). Looking back at the pictures of Elise as a baby were just the sweetest!

Listed below are the objectives I am focusing on for the themed weeks.  I have revised our objectives once again to really hone in and focus on specific skills Carter will need to master before kindergarten. I used our the public school's website where I used to work to pull up their objectives for preschool and chose the ones I felt like Carter needed to work on and adapted them to fit his needs. I have also revised Elise's objectives since she was easily able to do everything I had listed in her objective section and was ready to move on to learning new things.

The highlighted objectives below are ones Carter received exposure to during our theme this week:

Writing Skills:
  • holds a pencil with 2 fingers and a thumb grasp.
  • draws a circle, plus sign, and square.
  • uses scissors to cut a 4 inch line. 
  • uses pictures to write a story.
  • writes name.
Reading Skills:
  • blends sounds to say word.
  • chunks words into syllables.
  • hears and identifies rhyming words.
  • recognizes and names uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • isolates and identifies beginning and ending sounds in spoken words.
  • practice the Dolch pre-kindergarten sight words.
 Math Skills:
  • counts to 20.
  • counts with one to one correspondence.
  • represents a number of objects with a written numeral (0-10).
  • compares objects in sets with more, less, or equal to.
  • creates and extends patterns.
  • identifies shapes and describes attributes. 
  • understands that addition means adding to.
  • understands that subtraction means taking from.                   
 Experiences Elise was exposed to during our theme this week are highlighted below:
  1. Continue to improve fine motor skills and drawing (specifically I'm looking for her to be able to copy a circle and a square as well as eventually draw a person with 2-4 body parts).
  2. Understand same and different.
  3. Accurately tell stories as well as retell the story from a book. 
  4. Use age appropriate scissors. 
  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 such as size, color, hard, soft).
  7. Count and understand what the numbers mean.
  • We started our learning theme as usual with our theme written on a sentence strip. I had Carter count to see how many letters were in the word fall. Then he identified the letters in the word. I had him tell me the letter sounds and then I said them for him a few times so he could blend the sounds together to determine the word. Then I had him isolate the beginning sound to tell me what sound the word started with.
  • We read a Scholastic News about leaves during fall and then we completed a graph on the back. The Scholastic News talked about different kinds of leaves and in order to fill in the graph Carter had to decide whether a leaf pictured was a simple or compound leaf. When he was finished with the graph I asked him which kind of leaf there were more of and which there were less of. Then he counted to see how many he had found of each kind.
  • We also read Scholastic News about how animals prepare for winter. Carter loves reading about animals and enjoyed talking about how squirrels gather nuts to get ready for the cold weather ahead. That made him think about animals who hibernate so he talked about that and reviewed what he learned about animals that hibernate during our learning theme last year.
  • I found some cute fall numbers here. We used them quite a bit throughout the learning theme. I used the numbers 1-10 to show Carter and ask him to identify the numeral. We also used them when counting items so he could use a number to identify the number of items in the set.

  • I found some cute fall bingo dabber pages here. I knew Carter and Elise would enjoy using dabbers on the pages to make some fall pictures. I showed Elise how to put the dabber over the circle and then press it down to make the dot. She identified the circle by name and then decided to decorate her pages differently. Carter saw how Elise was doing her pages and decided to veer off the directions a little bit too. I also found some do a dot pumpkin pages here.
  • I put together a sensory bin using the acorns we collected a few years ago as the base. Then I put in some pumpkin and orange toys for the kids to play with in the acorns. Elise loved the sensory bin but Carter didn't play with it nearly as much as he had the past few years which surprised me. I guess he's getting to where he prefers the smaller objects which he can dump and pour easier.
  • Carter and I took turns making patterns with acorns. I'd make a pattern for him to identify and then extend. Once he was finished he'd make a pattern for me to identify and then extend. We did patterns based on size as well as with tops and bases of the nuts.
  • When I bought the pumpkin ice cube trays at Dollar Tree last year I realized they'd be perfect to use as 10 Frames. Carter was a little young to delve into addition last year but this year is starting to grapple with the concept a little. I used the ice cube tray along with acorns to practice different ways to make a sum of 10. I'd fill a few of the pumpkin spots with acorns and have him tell me how many pumpkins had an acorn and then how many didn't. Then I'd ask him how many pumpkin spots there were all together. I turned it into an addition word sentence for him, for example saying, "3 plus 7 equals 10." I also worded it different ways like, "3 and 7 makes 10." After a few different times Carter started to pick up on the fact that the total number was always going to be 10. I told him we were practicing different ways to make the number 10. I could have also had him identify whether there were more pumpkins spots with acorns than without but I didn't want to prolong this activity too much since he was working on something new.
  • Once we'd played with the ice cube trays as 10 Frames, Carter wanted to use them with Play Doh. I got out the Play Doh and he had a blast making pumpkins using the ice cube tray as a mold. When Elise woke up from her nap she had to get in on the action. I also got out some pumpkin cookie cutters for them to use as they played.
  • Since we started this learning theme right at the beginning of fall it was the perfect time to compare 2 different seasons: summer and fall. We talked about how they are alike and how they are different. I wrote Carter's ideas onto a chart and Elise wanted to add to them so I let her draw on the page.
  • I made the word fall out of magnetic letters and had Carter tell me what the beginning sound is in fall. Then he used the word fall to create words that rhyme with fall. I showed him how we could just change out the beginning sound to make a new word. He loved trying it out. I'd say the beginning sound and the root of the word for him to blend together to determine what word he had made. Then he'd tell me whether it was a real word or not. Some he picked out the beginning letter to make a word he knew for sure existed and rhymed with fall. Each time he came up with a word, I wrote it down to keep track of the words he made. When he was finished we counted to see how many words he found that rhyme with fall. Elise had fun picking out letters and handing them to Carter to try.
  • We read a Scholastic News about Leaves Changing Colors. It talked about chloroyphyll and and how leaves make color. It was interesting and Carter enjoyed it. Elise like pointing at the leaves and telling us what color they were.
  • Once we had collected some leaves from outside I helped Elise sort the leaves by color. She's not really one to follow directions for very long so I considered it a win when I sorted a couple leaves and then she followed suit to sort a couple more. We had red, green, brown, and yellow leaves.

  • Carter really enjoyed a Scholastic News page I have called Squirrel's Journal. It's like a mad lib page. I asked Carter to supply certain kinds of words and we used them to fill in the blanks in the journal. It was good practice for him to think of different kinds of words to add into the blanks.
  • I used the same squirrel Play Doh mat I made last year to practice numbers with Carter. I filled in the blank with one of our special fall numbers and then Carter made the correct number of acorns out of Play Doh to put on the mat. Last year I put the mat in a Ziplock bag. This summer I found plastic sleeves in the Dollar Spot at Target that were perfect for sliding in pages to put Play Doh on or to draw on with Expo markers. I used one of the sleeves this year and it was wonderful! I put the number on the page and had Carter identify it and make the correct number of acorns. Then I added a larger number and him identify the new number. I asked him how many more acorns he needed to add to his page to make the larger number. He did really well with it!

  • We read a Scholastic News called Inside a Pumpkin. The kids loved learning about the different parts of a pumpkin. As we read I had Carter and Elise compare parts of their body to a pumpkin. For example, what would the meat of the pumpkin be like in your body?
  • We also read a From Autumn to Winter Scholastic News. I love this one because it takes certain aspects like leaves on a tree and shows what they would be like in fall and then what they would be like in winter. Carter liked pointing out which was fall and which was winter and telling me how he knew.
  • On the back of our Scholastic News there was an acorn graph. I had Carter first look at the graph and tell me which set of acorns had the most and which one had the least. Then I had him count each set of acorns and place a number card by it to show how many there were. When he was done I had him compare different sets, telling me how many more there were in one set than the other. I showed him the trick of covering the acorns that matched up and seeing how many were left over in the set that had more.

  • I made different piles of acorns and asked Carter to tell me which set had more and which set had less. Then I put out two sets with the same amount and asked him and said they were the same so I told him we could say they were equal to each other. I also had him count sets of acorns and we practiced counting up to 20. He's getting to where he doesn't skip 15 every time like he used to.
  • We also used some pumpkin cut outs I have, using them to make patterns. We did different AB and AAB patterns. Carter loves figuring out the pattern and then extending it. He also likes to try to trick me when he makes a pattern.
  • I found some cute pumpkin shaped books at Target and gave Carter one so he could write a pumpkin story. He came up with a strange fictional story about a wolf stealing pumpkins. He did a great job planning out his story and then drawing pictures to show what happened. When he was done I added words to the pages as he dictated what it should say. Elise and Jake both drew as Carter wrote his story. Elise very proudly drew a round pumpkin.
Carter's finished story. I made the collage and then realized I can't save anymore unless I get an account so I just took a picture of the computer screen.
  • We made names out of glue and then used our leaves from our sensory bin to crumple and drop on the glue to make our names. Carter wrote his name on his paper but decided it was too small for him to make out of glue and asked me to write his name bigger on the paper for him. I wrote his name and he went over it with glue. I wrote and did the glue on Elise's. She just crumpled the leaves to make her name. I had Jake tell me what letters are in his name and then I wrote his name for him and he traced over the letters with glue. It was fun to have 3 kids all at different levels, completing the same activity according to their ability level.
  • We read the 5 Little Pumpkins different versions of The Five Little Pumpkins various different times. I had Carter retell the story and he decided to make up his own version. Then Jake retold the story using the book's words and Elise acted it out while I read it. That way they each again got to do the same activity but at different ability levels.

  • We walked to the library and to the park a few different times during this learning theme. As we walked I would discuss with Carter how the different trees we passed looked the same and how they looked different. He would point out varying degrees of leaf loss and different kinds of leaves as we observed the trees.     
  • Carter wanted to decorate for a fall party. I had planned to have the kids draw pumpkins to practice making ovals and circles. So the kids drew pumpkins and then decorated them and cut out. So they also got practice using scissors. Carter is getting to where he can actually cut out random shapes such as circles. Elise obviously needed some help. We talked about the difference between circles and ovals as we compared the pumpkins they had made.
  • Carter made an adorable leaf craft at school where they used leaves as a fox's face and then added eyes, ears, and a nose. It was so cute!
  • I wanted to make a fall tree craft with the kids where they could use Q Tips to add painted leaves to the tree and the ground. Holding the Q Tip would be great practice with fine motor skills as well as had to grip and hold a pencil. I printed an outline of a tree for the kids to color in and then showed them how to use the Q Tip to add painted leaves to their picture. Carter very carefully made dots for leaves on his branches as well as on the ground. Elise ended up using the Q Tip more as a paint brush, making stroked on the page. It was so cute to watch the difference in their approaches.
    Carter's finished tree.
    Elise's finished tree.
  • At the Children's Museum when we were visiting during this learning theme they had a lab set up where kids could make art out of objects from nature such as sticks, pine cones, and leaves. They also had an area set up to make leaf rubbings. Both kids made leaf rubbings and Carter tinkered with a pine cone while we were there.
  • Carter learned about the parts of a pumpkin at school and then made a craft to review.
  • Carter also made a cute acorn craft at school where he glued tissue paper down to decorate the acorn. I'm thinking they ripped some of the paper to use it which is also good practice with fine motor skills.
Special Snack:
  • One day for lunch I used a cookie cutter to make pumpkin shaped sandwiches for the kids. Elise was super excited about it and kept talking about her pumpkin sandwich. When I use cookie cutters to make food into shapes I always give the leftover section on the kids' plates because I hate wasting food and they are both really good about eating that section of the food too.
  • When we were at Wal-Mart I had Carter point out some of the seasonal items that we hadn't seen until fall came along. He was really excited when he saw caramel apples so we bought some with sprinkles instead of nuts and the kids loved them!
  • I always love a good excuse to make cookies. Carter wanted to set up a fall-themed party to surprise Ty when he got home from work. That's one of his favorite things is planning parties for when daddy gets home. Usually he makes or sets out a special snack, a craft, and some games. But his favorite part is decorating. So we decided to make pumpkin shaped sugar cookies for the party. Carter has gotten really good at cutting shapes out of dough with a cookie cutter and really enjoys that. Elise mostly eats the dough as she works, so I have to watch her! We reviewed mixing colors as we made the fall themed icing colors we wanted.
    Carter helping me make sugar cookies.
    Making pumpkins out of the cookies.
    Decorating our fall cookies.
  • Oma bought some pumpkin cupcake mix and decorations so the kids could make special cupcakes when we visited. The cupcakes were delicious and the kids had a lot of fun making and decorating them. Although Elise's face in the picture doesn't show that!
Make Believe:
  • We had so much fun pretending to be squirrels and chipmunks. Carter's favorite was to collect acorns from our sensory bin and leave them in a pile in his den or burrow. He also loved taking a blanket and setting up a burrow so we could pretend we were chipmunks preparing to hibernate in winter by collecting nuts and storing them in our burrow. He also liked for me or Ty to pretend to be a fox or wolf and attempt to get into the burrow to eat him and Elise. Elise was not as fond of that game.
  • I found a really cute fall song here. That I printed out and hung up next to our calendar. That way when we sang our song about October we could also sing about fall. I thought it would also be good for Carter to see that although our month songs will change our seasonal song won't because seasons are longer periods of time than months. He still refers to fall like it is a month.

  • I have a handful of pumpkin songs and poems from school that I do with the kids each year. My favorite song is "I'm a Little Pumpkin" to the tune of "I'm a Little Teapot". Carter did a great job learning the actions this year and remembered the song from the past few years.
  • We also sang a couple songs I know from my Girl Scout days as well as a Furry Squirrel song with actions I came across in a book I read about toddler activities when Carter was little. The "I'm a Nut" song was a huge hit with the kids and Elise is still signing it weeks after we finished this learning theme. I'm impressed she can make the clicking sound with her mouth. Elise just sings "I'm a nut," over and over while doing the tongue click where it belongs. The song goes like this:
I'm an acorn golden brown,
lying on the cold, cold grown.
Everybody steps on me,
that is why I'm cracked, you see.
I'm a nut (click, click).
I'm a nut (click, click).
I'm a nut, I'm a nut, I'm a nut (click, click).
 Field Trip/Interactive Experience:
  • We went on a leaf hunt after reading Wearing Going on a Leaf Hunt. Carter decided he and Elise each needed their own bags to carry on our leaf hunt. It was fun to watch and see which leaves the kids decided to pick up and take home. Elise didn't discriminate too much, she grabbed any kind of leaf she found, even the really brittle brown ones. Carter picked only the prettiest leaves and looked mostly for red and yellow leaves. He left green and brown ones on the ground. We talked about how the leaves looked alike and how they looked different as we walked. I had the kids guess whether some leaves fell off the same tree or not and also asked them to guess which tree the leaf they picked up may have fallen from.
  • We went to a special fall storytime at our botanic garden. They read the book Leaf Man and then had materials out for kids to create their own leaf man or any art project of their choice out of leaves. Carter really worked hard to make his look like a man. Elise just randomly glued pretty leaves and baby leaves down on her paper.
    Carter and his friend, Brylee, with their creations. Elise wasn't interested in taking a picture.
  • A favorite fall activity for us is visiting the pumpkin patch. This year we visited the pumpkin patch in my hometown when we were back for a birthday party and then also visited a nearby pumpkin patch for a playdate with friends. The kids love playing in the corn and the corn mazes are always a hit too.
Enjoying our first pumpkin patch trip.


  • Enjoying our 2nd pumpkin patch trip.
  • Elise was so tired, she fell asleep on the way home.
  • Fall Leaves by Erika L. Shores
  • Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson
  • Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin by Tad Hills
  • That Pup by Lindsay Barrett George
  • Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert
  • Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
  • Tap the Magic Tree by Christine Matheson
  • Sneeze, Big Bear, Sneeze! by Maureen Wright
  • Animals in Fall by Martha E. H. Rustad
  • In November by Cynthia Rylant
  • My Leaf Book by Monica Wellington
  • Penguin and Pumpkin by Salina Yoon
  • Fall Leaves by Liesbet Slegers
  • What Do Animals Do in Fall? by Rebecca Felix
  • I Notice Animals in Fall by Mari C. Schuh
  • Perfect Pumpkins by Jeff Bauer
  • Fall Leaves Change Color by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld
  • Pete the Cat: Five Little Pumpkins by James Dean
  • Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper
  • It's Pumpkin Time! by Zoe Hall
  • Fall, Leaves, Fall! by Zoe Hall
  • Ten Orange Pumpkins by Stephen Savage
  • Let It Fall by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
  • Sixteen Runaway Pumpkins by Diane Ochiltree
  • The Runaway Pumpkin by Kevin Lewis
  • Clifford's First Autumn by Norman Bridwell
  • Five Little Pumpkins by Dan Yaccarino
  • The Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Steven Kroll
  • We're Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger
  • I Like Pumpkins by Jerry Smath
  • Spookley the Square Pumpkin by Joe Troiano
  • Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch by Mary Peterson and Jennifer Rofe   
  • Nuts to You! by Lois Ehlert
  • In the Middle of Fall by Kevin Henkes
  • One Leaf, Two Leaves, Count with Me! by John Micklos Jr.
  • Wonderfall by Michael Hall
  • Because of an Acorn by Lola M. Schaefer
  • Splat the Cat and the Pumpkin-Picking Plan by Rob Scotton 
  • When the Leaf Blew In by Steve Metzger


  1. The stories Carter wrote with his stamps in the little book were about pumpkins. He'd have a page with however many pumpkins he wanted stamped on the page and then a ghost, spider or witch would take however many, so there would be the culprit and the pumpkins that were taken stamped on the next page, then however many were left on the third page. Now I see why. :)

    1. Sounds similar to his story he wrote about pumpkins, haha!