Today, I have two projects to show you. We love them both so much we tend to do them with each season change (we just switch up some of the materials, and the poem/words). Both of these activities are pretty versatile for different ages. I started making some of this material when O was 2 (over zealous, aren't I?) and she is still using the same pictures now, just in different ways.
I keep all my school items sorted by month, and am always pleased (and a little relieved) to pull out a folder that has fun things from previous years we can adapt to what we are learning this year.
First up: Poems
When I first heard about this idea on a blog I follow, I thought, 'that's so not going to work. My daughter will never be interested in poems.' Well, I was partially right. It depends on the poem, Mama's attitude, and if there are fun things to do with the poem.
I will be the first to admit that my skill level when it comes to drawing/artistic things is about 5th grade. Yes, you can sort of tell what I make most of the time, but it is not pretty. Thankfully 5 year olds don't care. Put it on foam or felt and they will get down right excited about the new material. Add glitter, or textured puffy paint and they may squeal.
The poem itself doesn't really matter, as long as your child finds in mildly interesting. This one is talking about seasons changing and includes a hedgehog. If you are over-zealous you can print it in a fun font, and throw some pictures of key words (like trees) on there. I try to not print unless absolutely required, because we go through ink like crazy.
I usually read the poem through once to O, using our handy dandy pointer. This inexpensive popsicle stick with googley eyes, and a marker mouth has made reading much more enjoyable. O loves using the pointer while I read. She will point to words she recognizes or the foam pieces.
I may ask her a few questions about the poem when we are finished reading. If there are words she doesn't know (like palette or migrate) I ask her what she thinks they mean, and I try to let her figure it out on her own (with helpful questions from me).
Next up, time to label. Last year, we just labeled the beginning letter of most things. Sometimes we would sort them by letter as well. This year we are using the whole word (I just jot the word down on an index card I cut in half). We start with just a few labels (2-3) and add as she learns the words.
Finally, after we have exhausted every idea this Mama has for poem work, we make up our own story using the pieces. O has quite the imagination and comes up with all sorts of stories using the pieces. If your child has mastered rhyming (or maybe to practice) you could make up a poem that rhymes using the words.
Next up, Mr. Scarecrow
I don't really have a good name for this, sorry my brain is foggy.
I made 6 parts to a scarecrow (in the Spring I use a rabbit, and in the winter I use a snowman).
If O hasn't watched me pull all the pieces out, I pull out the pieces one by one and ask her to guess what we are making. Next, we may talk about patterns (ok, I know his shirt isn't really plaid, but let's pretend I wove all those pieces, ok?). In the past we labeled him by colors, counted how many parts he had, talked about what scarecrows are used for, etc.
Now we put the scarecrow together. We mix up the cards, place them face down, and draw one at a time. We each take turns selecting the parts to correlate with the word.
When O was learning her numbers and not at all interested in letters we played the same game with a dice. I drew one piece for each number she would roll. She would have to tell me the number of dots, and then put the pieces out. When she was this little, I also had a template I traced, to make it easier for her to know where to place the pieces (this was especially helpful with rabbit ears and also the circles for the snowman).
Finally, reuse, reuse, reuse! If I am going to spend that much time making these little pieces we use them every way we can think of. Don't be afraid to mix the pieces a little as well. (Because I am crazy I have a color-coded sticker or label on the back of everything so I know what it goes to just in case it gets misplaced and I have no idea what that blue bird is for).
This year we put the scarecrow together from this activity and had corn from something else, and the hedgehog came along to much on the corn. Count the stripes and polka-dots. Have your child use letters that are placed in their room (like those foam mats with the letter cut-outs) and run back and forth from the living room to bedroom grabbing H for hat, and B for bird. My daughter laughs hysterically when she plays this game.
If you are really on top of everything, you may laminate all those pieces, but that takes away the fun texture of the shirt and hay. I used to laminate (or cover with clear contact paper) everything. I don't anymore, because I don't have a problem with O destroying the pieces.
I try to switch things up each month but Mr. Scarecrow might stick around through October if I can think of different ways to use him.
Do you use themes when teaching? How do you incorporate fun into learning?