Saturday, August 20, 2011

Lesson - The Moon

We followed up our Sun theme with a lesson on the moon.  One thing I love about preparing these lessons is that I always learn something new myself.  For example, I didn't realize that we were the only country to walk on the moon or that we hadn't been to the moon since 1972.  I researched some information on the moon on Wikipedia for this week's lesson.  My new printer arrived the day before the lesson and although I used it to print out some photos, we didn't do any activity sheets this week.

Welcome Song

Announce Date

Last week we talked about the sun.  Today we are going to talk about another bright object in the sky.  Can you guess what it is?  The Moon. 

I printed this photo from wikipedia and let the kids pass it around
The moon orbits the Earth.  Orbit means it goes around the Earth like this.  (Demonstrate with a globe and a golf ball or similar items.)  It takes the moon about 28 days to make a complete orbit around the Earth, or about one month.

Do you know what shape the moon is?  Although the moon looks different to us at different times, it is round like the sun.  But the moon doesn't have any light of its own.  The moon reflects the light of the sun.   Depending on where the moon is during the month, we can only see part of it lit up by the sun.  The rest is dark to us.  As the moon moves around the Earth, we see different amounts of it lit up by the moon.  At one point, the whole moon is lit up and it looks like a full circle.  This is called a full moon.  During a full moon, the moon and the sun are on opposite sides of the Earth.  When the moon is between the sun and the Earth, it is a new moon and we can barely see it because the side that the sun is lighting up is on the side we can't see.

From the navy's website
I printed out the photo above and referenced it while explaining the phases of the moon.

The way the moon looks different to us over time is called the phases of the moon. The first phase is called a new moon, where you can barely see the moon at all because the side that is lit up is facing away from us.  Then there is a waxing crescent moon.  At this point, the moon is crescent shaped and getting a little bigger every day.  That's what waxing means - getting bitter.  The next phase is the first quarter moon when half the moon is lit up.  After that, it is a waxing gibbous moon when it is more than half but not yet a full moon and growinb bigger every day.  When the moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun, it is a full moon and looks like a circle.  Then it starts to shrink and becomes a waning gibbous moon.  Just like the waxing gibbous moon, it is more than a 1/2 moon, but it is getting smaller every day.  Waning means getting smaller.  When it is back down to 1/2, it is a last quarter moon.  When it is smaller than 1/2, we say it is a waning crescent moon, which is crescent shaped and getting smaller, until it is back to new moon.

Using 3 volunteers, we performed the following activity:  One child was the sun and stretched her arms out in front of her to show she was shining in that direction.  Another child was the Earth.  A third child was the moon.  I placed them in a row with the moon in between.  I showed how the sun's rays lit up the back of the "moon" so that from the Earth, we couldn't see the lit part of the moon.  This is the new moon.  Then I had the "moon" stand on one side of the "Earth" and pointed out which side was lit up and how this looked like a half moon.  Then the "moon" stood on the far side of the "Earth" from the "sun" and I explained how this was a full moon.  Then I demonstrated the three quarter moon and back to new moon.  In between positions, I said whether the moon was waxing or waning crescent or gibbous.

I passed around this photo of Buzz Aldrin stepping on the moon

In 1969, Neil Armstrong, an American, was the first person to set foot on the moon.  He took a picture of Buzz Aldrin as he got off the lunar lander.   No one has walked on the moon since 1972.

Felt Board Activity 
Inspired by Jean Warren's suggestions on Moon activities, I cut out a moon and rocket shape out of felt.  I have this portable 3-in-1 easel that includes a felt board which is great for preschool lessons.

Taking turns, I had the children place the rocket in different locations relative to the moon, such as above, below, to the right or to the left.  We also did behind and in front.  If kids know clockwise or counter-clockwise, you can have them move the rocket around the moon in one of those directions.  They really enjoyed this exercise and wanted multiple turns.

Shape of the Day - Crescent
Pointing to a crescent moon on the phases photo, ask: Do you remember what shape this is?  A crescent.  We are going to read a story about shapes and I want you to watch for the crescent shapes.

Nova the Robot Builds a New Friend
by David Kirk

In this book, there are lots of shapes to look for and I had the kids take turns looking for the correct shape on each page, paying special attention to the pages that had crescent shapes

We had a snack break that included moon-shaped snacks: melon slices and vanilla wafers.  You can also do apple slices, banana slices, crescent rolls, orange slices.  Ideally something that is crescent shaped, but round or half -circles work, too.

During snack I read another story to the kids:

Goodnight Moon
by Margaret Wise Brown
This is a classic children's story.  I had the kids look for the little mouse on each colored page.  It's one of my son's favorite things to do when we read this story.

Moon activity
After snack, I gave each child a ball of homemade, uncolored play doughThis idea was inspired by Jean Warren's moon craters activity.  For the recipe, I used one I found on that turned out fantastic.  The best homemade recipe I've found so far.  I made the recipe exactly as suggested and divided it into 6 balls for the 6 kids we had.  It was just the right amount for a moon for each child.  To make craters, we used fingers, the cap end of the glue sticks, and Duplos.  The kids really enjoyed playing with the dough.

This craft was my own idea.  I gave each child 5 phases of the moon: a full moon, two half-moons and two crescent moons.  I have a circle cutting device from my scrapbooking days that worked great for creating the pieces.  Then we glued them onto black, purple or blue construction paper.
My sample of the craft project
Their interpretation
Closing circle
I didn't know a moon themed song, so we ended preschool with another moon story.

Long Night Moon
by Cynthia Rylant
This book is beautifully illustrated and tells the names of the moons of each month, as named by Native Americans.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lesson - Sun

This week, my printer was broken so we couldn't do any activity sheets.  So I did things a little differently and we had a great lesson.  Instead of a letter and number of the day, we had a color and shape. 

Welcome Song

Announce Date

Ask: What do you know about the sun? Did you know that our sun is a star? It looks much bigger because we are much closer to the sun than we are to the other stars.

The sun warms the planet and provides us with light during the day. Plants need sun, along with nutrients in the soil and water, to live. People get Vitamin D from sunlight. But what happens if we get too much sun? That’s right, we get sunburned. Some people burn more easily than others. But even if you only tan, you can still get skin damage from the sun. So it’s important to wear sun screen when we are going to be in the sun for a long time. A hat can protect our head and face from the sun. Sunglasses protect our eyes from the sun.

Great Day for Up 
by Dr. Seuss
I chose this book because it starts with the sun getting up and then has the sun on nearly every page.  So I asked the kids to look for the sun as we read and on some pages had someone point to the sun.

Color of the Day - Yellow
Ask: What color is the sun in the book we just read?

(I read part of another book on Colors.  It is an out of print book we had, but any book on colors will do.  The reason I liked the one we read is that it first talks about Red, Yellow, and Blue and then talks about what colors you can make by mixing them.  So I read the part about mixing red with yellow to make orange, and then we stopped.  I read that part because our craft will involve swirling colors together, specifically yellow and red.)

I pulled out all of our yellow Duplos and got out a set of yellow Kapla planks for the kids to use to make suns and stars.  Here is a little of what they did:

Ask: Remember we said the sun is a star?  Do you know any songs about a star?  (I expected the kids to guess Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, but one boy actually made up his own song on the spot.)

Sing Twinkle Twinkle Little star and encourage the kids to use their "twinklers" (i.e. to do the hand motions) as you sing.
Shape of the Day - Circle
Ask: What shape is the sun?  (Some kids said round, some said circle)

See and Spy Shapes 
by Julie Aigner-Clark

We read this book and on each page I had a different child come point out the shapes on the page.

Our craft incorporates the theme, the shape and the color.  I gave each child a paper plate with a small hole punched out near the edge (for the hanger).  In the center of the plate, I poured yellow tempura paint, a drop of red and a drop of white.  Then they swirled it around and covered the plates.  While the paint was still wet, they applied small rectangles of yellow tissue paper that I had cut out.  I got the idea from SIZZLING SUN PICTURES on Jean Warren's preschool site.  We attached chenille stems for hangers after the plates dried.

My sample project. 
Take home project
Preschool didn't last long enough to do this one during our time together, so I gave the kids each a piece of black construction paper to take home and explained how to make sun prints (also on Jean Warren's website here.)  Here's one I did for Audrey:

The wind blew the letters and numbers around so I had to take it out of the sun sooner than I would have.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Lesson - Trees

Welcome Song

Announce Date

Ask: Who can name some trees?

Today we are going to read a book all about trees. [The book for this lesson teaches all about trees so I used the book in place of talking about the theme.  I admit that it is difficult to read this entire book to a group of preschool age children so I skipped some pages.  I also tried to engage the kids by asking questions and having them show me their branches and roots as we read about the parts of the tree.]

Activity sheet: In the Treetops (Hidden Pictures) (p.224 in Big Preschool Activity Workbook)

I Can Name 50 Trees Today! 
by Bonnie Worth

Tall as a tree, (reach way up high)
Wide as a house, (reach arms out to sides)
Thin as a pin, (arms down at sides)
Small as a mouse. (crouch down in a ball)

Spanish Vocabulary
árbol = tree
hojas = leaves
rama = branch
corteza de árbol = bark

Letter of the day - T
Tree starts with T.  What sound does T make?   Can you think of any fruit that grows on trees that starts with the letter T? (Tangerine, Tangelo)  Let’s make some T’s with Duplos.

Activity sheet: Circle pictures that start with the sound of the letter T (download here)

Number of the day - 0
Can you show me zero fingers? Zero means none.

Activity sheet: Circle the trees that have 0 apples (p.123 in Brainquest Workbook: Pre-K)

Glue bark, sticks and leaves onto construction paper to create a tree.  I collected up materials from our Eucalyptus trees which have bark that falls off in big pieces.

Sample I made to show the kids

Go for a walk outside and look at different trees.

Closing Song
This song is very repetitive and easy to learn.  I taught the kids the words and then had them act it out while we sang along with Rachel.  They started off kind of swaying their arms and then dropping them down to the ground along with the lyrics.  But by the end, there was just a lot of frenetic movement.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Free Phonics Online

I heard about Starfall from an educator.  It is a free online educational website for phonics.  For preschoolers, it teaches the ABCs including the sounds of all the letters.  For older kids, it has resources to help them learn to read.  Best of all, tt is free of commercial characters and ads and you do not need to register to use the site.  It's a great site to explore with your kids but they also have some printouts you can use for preschool lessons.  I especially like that they have notes to parents/educators on the material both on the site and on the printouts.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Preschool songs with Rachel Rambach

We didn't have a preschool lesson this week so I will post the next lesson next week.  In the meantime, I want to share this wonderful YouTube contributor with you.  My son attends a sing along with a wonderful woman named Elenah a few times a month.  Last week he was singing parts of the song in the video above to his sister.  He kept singing "The sun goes up, the sun goes down, the good green earth goes round and round" so I e-mailed Elenah for the rest of the lyrics.  So she told me about Rachel Rambach.  She has some wonderful songs for kids and I really like that she explains how she uses each song in the classroom to make them participatory for the children.  I will be using her videos as a resource for my lessons. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Activity Sheets

I think I will call worksheets "activity sheets" from now on.  They aren't meant to be "work".  They are simply to get the kids involved and to practice using a writing implement (we use crayons) and to practice circling things, tracing lines, or even practice writing letters or numbers.  Since I intend them as activities rather than "work", I'll refer to them as activity sheets from now on.

Sometimes Aaron gets stressed out about tracing letters or numbers and wants me to help him, which I do.  I don't want it to be stressful, but I also want him to try things even if he thinks he can't do them.  I try to pick pages that I think suit his level.  And I praise all his attempts and tell him he doesn't have to finish anything he doesn't want to.  But generally he wants to finish the page.  He enjoys the challenge. I worry that other kids won't feel the same way, but I try to pick activity sheets that incorporate various levels on one page.  For example, circling letters on the top and tracing them on the bottom.  Kids who are too young to trace letters can skip that part.

About the Format

So my lessons have a basic format that I follow, but I'm finding it's still in flux and once I figure out the best flow, I'll update the basic format I use for each lesson post.

We always start with a welcome song (which the kids love), the date and then the theme.  For the theme, I type up a kind of script, but I don't follow it exactly.  I usually start off with questions for the kids and then based on their responses and level of interest, I may have more questions or I may cut out parts of the lesson or embellish.  But I like to have my typed up script on hand because I tend to lose my train of thought and I reference my script frequently.

Once we do a workhseet on the theme, I find it's easier to just go on to the the letter and number worksheets while the kids are sitting at the coffee table and I end up doing Spanish afterwards followed by the story.  But I'm thinking about trying to incorporate the Spanish vocabulary into the theme part of the lesson so it feels more integrated into the lesson.  The craft is generally the last thing we do before a closing song or rhyme.

Any suggestions on format are welcome!