Friday, January 5, 2018

Weekly Learning Theme: Christmas

Getting our Christmas activities in this year was hard with Carter's birthday right before Christmas and then being out of town for almost a full week visiting Ty's family. We didn't end up getting to everything I had planned but that was fine with me. Each year doing a Christmas learning theme is a bit of a stretch because we are doing so many holiday related things and it's hard to fit everything in. One year I planned a Christmas learning theme and we didn't even do it! So I'm calling this partially finished learning theme a win! We had fun and really enjoyed the season which is what it's all about! Read about past Christmas learning themes by clicking on the year: 2016, 2015, 2014 was the year I planned one and we didn't do it.

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:

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.
 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.
  • I wrote the word Christmas on a sentence strip. Carter looked at it and identified the beginning sound. Then he counted to see how many letters were in the word. I chunked the word into Christ and mas. Then I asked him to blend them together to determine the word.
  • I got a gingerbread man on sale after Christmas one year and the kids had fun decorating it. We talked about colors as they work and then I had Carter look at it and identify any patterns he saw.
  • I found a cute little notebooks at Dollar Tree with dogs wearing Santa hats. I got one for each of the kids and they loved writing in their special notebook. Elise mostly filled her pages with circles. Carter drew pictures and told me stories to go along with his pictures. He sometimes strung together letters and asked me what he'd written. He also likes to copy down words from books and ask me what they say. He's starting to be able to figure out what some of the easier to identify words say.
  • Carter got the opportunity wrap presents both at home and at school. He loved being given the freedom of doing it all on his own. I just handed him wrapping paper, scissors, and tape and let him do it himself. I did give him some hints to determine how much wrapping paper to get for his items. It was great practice using scissors. He loved that one of their centers at school was to wrap presents. 
  • We used our advent chains with what we are thankful for to count down to Christmas. The kids had to carefully rip off just one chain without breaking their whole chain. I was impressed with Elise. I showed her once how to find where the staple was and tear from there and she did it perfectly every time! I'd read to the kids what they were thankful for and every morning Elise would guess that hers said kitty! I guess she remembered saying that quite a few times over the month of November. They also got practice with counting to see how many chains were left/how many days until Christmas. The kids also had chocolate advent calendars from Oma and Opa which were great practice for Carter to identify the correct number so he could open the door for the day. He helped Elise find her door and even gave her hints, telling her what the number looked like. It was good fine motor practice for Elise to open her door. They both got so excited to see what shape the candy was in that day.
  • I found a cute early emergent printable book here called "My December Book". I printed it and the kids each colored their pages. With Elise I read her the words and we talked about how many items were in the picture and what color she was coloring with. I read the first couple of pages with Carter, having him fill in what was in the picture for what we saw. Then I had him read me the following pages. He was so proud to read all by himself!
  • I found some adorable Christmas alphabet cards here. As I was cutting them out I realized I could make some easy to sound of Christmas words for Carter. I spelled out the word elf and asked him to tell me the sounds in the word. Then he blended the sounds to figure out what words I had made. When he was finished I had him come up with words that rhyme with elf.
  • I also used the alphabet cards to practice letters with Carter. I showed him the cards shuffled up and out of order and asked him to identify the letter. Then we played a memory game to match the capital letter to the lowercase letter. 

  • We started working on a few preschool sight words during our birthday learning theme. I planned to just stick with the 3 words for a while but printed a page with 4 Christmas lights so I decided to add another one this week. I practiced the words we'd already done with Carter and then I introduced the new word by telling him the sounds and helping him blend them to determine the word. He wanted to color the word cards so he colored them later.

  • I found and printed some number matching cards here. I pulled out the cards with the number word and just used the dot and number cards. I had Carter match the number of dots to the number written on a card. He did a great job! Elise watched him work and tried to count along with him when he counted the dots.
  • I found and printed some Christmas pattern block templates here. Carter loves using pattern blocks and had a lot of fun completing the wreath, tree, and present pages which were the ones I printed. We talked about shapes and their attributes as he worked. He pointed out the colors of the shapes to Elise.
  • To discuss time of day a little with Elise we discussed when Santa comes. She said when we are sleeping we talked about where that's night or day. Then we talked about what signifies nighttime and what signifies daytime. We talked about how in the morning when we wake up it is day and then Santa has brought us presents. As we were talking about this Carter came up with a very interesting question, he asked me if Santa is nocturnal. I told him I'm not sure if Santa always stays up at night or if he just does that on Christmas Eve. 
  • I put together a sensory bin with some old ornaments we don't use anymore as the base and then other toys thrown in for fun. When Elise played with the sensory bin I had her identify the color names of the ornaments. Then I'd show her a color ornament and ask her to find another one that was the same color. I was really impressed that she was able to match ornaments of the same color but a different shade. When Carter played we sorted by size and then I asked him which pile had more and which had less. We played around adding and subtracting ornaments to our piles.
  • Carter used some Rudolph finger puppets I found at Target to retell the story of Rudolph for Elise. Elise liked to use our Rudolph book that came with little figurines of the character to match the character to the picture in the book as I talked about what was happening on that page. Carter's teachers gave him finger puppets of the main characters in the story of Jesus' birth. He loved using them to tell the story of Jesus' birthday. He especially enjoyed it after we went to see the movie "The Star."
  • I wrote the word tree down and had Carter come up with words that rhyme with tree. Sometimes he has a really hard time coming up with rhyming words because he wants to generate words that have the same beginning sound rather than the same ending sound. This was one of those, he kept coming up with words that started with the /tr/ sound. I helped him change out the beginning sound and then add the same ending sound to come up with a few. When we were done Elise colored the picture for us.
  • Once we had some presents under the tree we looked at them and compared them. I discussed with Carter which presents were bigger and which were smaller. Then we talked about the shapes and which ones had the same shape while others had a different shape. He made guesses about why the shapes were different. With Elise we compared wrapping paper and talked about how some were wrapped in the same paper and others were wrapped in different paper. As we compared we talked about the colors in the wrapping paper.
  • Carter made Christmas cards for our Meals on Wheels friends. We had the last Monday delivery before Christmas so we passed them out when we delivered. He drew pictures on some of the pages and decorated with stickers on others. I wanted to do smaller pages to make it easier to pass them out so I had Carter cut the pages in half for more scissor practice. Elise also helped decorate and everyone just adored their cards.

  • Carter decorated gift bags and told me what to write in cards for each of his teachers and for our local children's librarian who the kids love.
  • One of the first things Carter wanted to do when December rolled around was cut snowflakes out of coffee filters. He spent one morning working on his snowflakes and had so much fun with it. Elise just cut her coffee filters into a bunch of little pieces.
  • Carter got to make a bird feeder at school in the shape of a holiday cookie cutter. He was so excited to give it to the birds when we got home.
  • Carter painted a star ornament at school with special glitter paint. He was so proud of it and carried it ever so carefully to the car when I picked him up. His teachers did a wonderful job of doing lots of fun Christmas activities and he just loved that!
Carter's beautiful star on our tree.
  • Carter also made a stable ornament at school with sticky foam pieces he put together. It was so beautiful and he loved telling me all about how Jesus was born in a stable.
  • Carter also made a Jesus candy cane at school. He came home telling me all about how candy canes are shaped like a J for Jesus.
  • I found some Christmas dot pages here. The kids used Bingo dabbers to decorate the pages but I didn't get any pictures. Elise got so much ink on her page that it ripped.
  • Just like last year I gave each kid an ornament and a permanent marker to decorate it with. Carter wrote his name and then drew a family picture of us along with a picture of a dog and a cat. I got pictures of his but missed getting one of Elise because I was so worried about her drawing on something other than her ornament with the permanent marker.

  • I had Carter draw a circle and showed him how to make it into an ornament. Then I did the same with a square and making it into a box. I had Elise draw a circle and showed her how I made it into an ornament. Then I helped her draw a box which I made into a present.
    Making a circle ornament.
Special Snack:
  • We got to decorate gingerbread houses twice. Once at Oma and Opa's and then again right before Christmas when a friend dropped sets off at our house that her kids weren't able to use. They had a blast working on the houses and decorating them with candy. The second house we did came with really yummy candy which meant Elise ate more than she decorated.
  • For snack time at school Carter got to make Jesus in a stable. He came home telling me all about how they made pretzels into a shape for the stable and then put French fries down at the straw and Jesus was a hot dog wrapped in something on top of the straw. It was so cute. I guess some of the kids in his class went home telling their parents they ate Jesus at school but didn't explain it in depth like Carter did so their parents were confused.
  • Oma made gingerbread cookies with the kids one weekend we were visiting. Then the next time we came they got to use the cookies to make a star tree. I remember doing that with my mom as a kid so it was fun to see them do it with her!

  • Since we were out of town until the 23rd we were pressed for time to make Christmas cookies for Santa. We ended up making sugar cookies on Christmas Eve before dinner because that's really what Carter wanted to give Santa. I couldn't find my Christmas cookie cutters so we ended up with stars and hearts but the kids didn't mind.
Make Believe:
  • One of Carter's favorite games is to play Santa. We'd take turns pretending to be asleep and then waking up to toys from Santa. Carter also played this game at school with his friends and told me all about it when he got home. They had a center set up where you wrapped presents and a center where you decorated a Christmas tree. The kids decorating the tree would pretend to sleep when they were finished decorating. While they were sleeping the kids wrapping presents would hide presents under the tree. Then the decorators would wake up to presents under their tree. I thought that was so cute. 
  • Of course we sang and listened to Christmas carols all December long! I also played a 5 Little Gingerbread game with Elise while I sang a song to go with it.

  • This is the one thing I forgot to do during this learning theme. The kids didn't miss out though because they got tablets for Christmas which were fully loaded with apps. They got to play on them a lot the first few days they had them.
 Field Trip/Interactive Experience:
  • We went to a special lights on event at the park. Carter talked to Santa but Elise wasn't interested. There was a 2 mile fun run and Carter ran about 1.5 miles before deciding to walk the rest of the way. They provided free pizza for everyone and had drawings. I won a pair of socks. We also got a free professional family photo taken by the tree once the lights were on.
  • A few nights when it was still warm we went on Christmas lights walks through the neighborhood to see all the Christmas lights. The kids' favorite was the night we walked to see Uncie J's lights and then he walked us back home with his dogs. I put Christmas music on my phone and set it in the wagon. One night Elise picked it up and took 1,000s of pictures of my back as I walked without me knowing.
  • We also took our annual visit to see Santa at Bass Pro. It's the only time we go to Bass Pro so Carter thinks Bass Pro is where Santa is. The kids had fun playing with the toys they had out and seeing the fish. Elise was not a fan of sitting on Santa's lap but was fine when I picked her back up. We used the coupons for free kids meals they gave us to eat lunch at the restaurant there. 
  • We went to see the amazing Christmas lights a local church puts up every year. It was so much fun to see the kids' reactions this year. Elise was blown away by the light tunnel and said, "WOW!" as we went through. I loved it. We also talked a lot about colors and I asked Elise to identify the colors of different light displays while also pointing out different colors.
  • On Christmas Eve we went to see the lights on the hill. We also went to church on Christmas Eve and were visited by Santa on Christmas morning.
  • One Starry Night by Lauren Thompson
  • Stick Man by Julia Donaldson
  • Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! by Doreen Cronin
  • Bear's First Christmas by Robert Kinerk
  • Curious George Curious About Christmas by Anjali Pala
  • Get Ready Santa by Paul and Alice Sharp 
  • The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition by Carol V. Aebersold and Chandra A. Bell
  • Curious George Christmas Carols by H.A. Rey
  • Ho, Ho, Ho, Tucker! by Leslie McGuirk
  • Carl's Christmas by Alexandra Day
  • Little Blue Truck's Christmas by Alice Schertle
  • I Spy Little Christmas by Jean Marzollo
  • Arthur Decks the Hall by Marc Brown
  • Christmas Surprise by Priddy Books
  • The Very Snowy Christmas by Diana Hendry
  • Llama Llama Jingle Bells by Anna Dewdney
  • Angelina's Christmas by Katharine Holabird
  • The First Night by B.G. Hennessy
  • I Spy Christmas by Jean Marzollo
  • Garfield's Night Before Christmas by Jim Davis
  • There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell by Lucille Colandro
  • Toot and Puddle: Let It Snow by Holly Hobbie
  • Suzy Goose and the Christmas Star by Petr Horacek
  • Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by Eric Litwin
  • Puppy's First Christmas by Harriet ZiefertSteve Smallman and Alison Edgson
  • The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Schulz
  • Merry Christmas Mr. Mouse by Caralyn and Mark Buehner
  • The Christmas Song: Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire by Mel Torme and Robert Wells
  • Mooseltoe by Margie Palatini
  • Max's Christmas by Rosemary Wells
  • Merry Christmas, Splat by Rob Scotton
  • Ten Gingerbread Men by Ruth Galloway
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
  • The Polar Express by Chris van Allsburg
  • Olive, the Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seifold
  • Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear! by Don and Audrey Wood
  • Christmas Parade by Sandra Boynton
  • The Poky Little Puppy's First Christmas by Justine Korman
  • Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney
  • Santa's Noisy Night by Rosemary Julie Sykes
  • Arthur's Chirstmas by Marc Brown
  • When Santa Lost His Ho! Ho! Ho! by Laura Rader
  • Merry Christmas Mom and Dad by Mercer Mayer
  • Bear Stays Up For Christmas by Karma Wilson
  • The Little Drummer Mouse by Mercer Mayer
  • The Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear by Stan and Jan Berenstain
  • My Christmas Counting Book by Lee Hansen
  • Jingle All the Way by Tom Shay-Zapien
  • Christmas Tree by David Martin
  • Happy Christmas, Honey! by Laura Godwin 
  • Little Bunny Finds Christmas by Pirkko Vainio 
  • The Christmas Story by Ruth J. Morehead