The first two weeks of the school year, out class’s learning theme was All About Me! It’s a go-to theme for early childhood education because it allows students and teachers opportunities to get to know one another and settle into the routines of school. I like to start with this theme because we all have a story and we’re all experts on this theme from the minute we walk through the door!
I start planning my thematic units with a blank template that I made. It’s a fairly simple planning map that has a box for each of the learning components I want to address.
For this unit, my completed planning map ended up looking like this:
I complete my planning maps by hand so that I’m not flipping back and forth between 5000 open windows on my computer. I start planning by going to Pinterest and looking at what other teachers have done and shared. I save the things that look interesting to a Secret Board and when I’m ready to finalize, I can just scroll down and write down the ones that I want to include in my plan.
As you’ll notice, some of the activities are mapped into one learning component, but in reality address more than just that area of learning. For example, the Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall activity was mapped under “Art Activities”, but also addressed language and practical life.
A few other things to mention:
- I generally OVER plan. I’d rather have more ideas than I need than not enough. Some things just don’t get done, but I make sure I use AT LEAST ONE activity from each learning component.
- I have a MWF class and a T/Th class, so I only have 2-3 days per class per week–not 5 instructional days. Our day is from 9:30am-12:30pm. If you are teaching in a full-day and/or full-time program, there may not be enough here to fill all of your time!
- Just by chance, my MWF class younger than my T/Th class. The MWF kiddos are 3 years old and the T/Th crew is late 4 and early 5 year olds. I change things up a bit to accommodate the developmental differences.
Alright, enough about me! Here are the activities I used for this unit:
Letter Name Matching
This activity is super simple to prepare! A few clothes pins, some wide Popsicle sticks, a marker, and your class list is all you need. I wrote the names on the Popsicle sticks and each letter on a clothes pin. For the younger kiddos, I put a green dot on the “squeezy end” of the clothes pin. In addition to name recognition and letter matching, this activity helped with fine motor skills. The kids loved it and I just heard from one of the moms that her daughter likes to play with this every day at home! (I sent this home at the end of the unit for continuing practice at home.)
We used washable stamp pads and a magnifying glass template for these easy, fun, and only-slightly messy fingerprints. The kids learned how to use an important science tool–the magnifying glass and, once they were done investigating their fingerprints, used them all over the room! As you can see, I put a label and description (including learning components and reading connections) on student work posted in the classroom. That way, anyone who walks in knows 1) what we did 2) why we did it and 3) how it’s connected to other learning.
Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall
I got this idea here. I changed it a little bit; the written portion at the bottom says, “Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall, _________ is the ____________ of them all.” This gave me an opportunity to see where each student was with writing their name (some were independent, some needed a model, some traced over highlighter, and some needed hand-over-hand guidance) and to ask each student what they thought their strengths were. I, apparently, have a lot of really fast and really hilarious kids in my class! 🙂
How Tall Are We?
We used string to measure our heights and then used the string to decorate our door. (The photo is an “In Process” picture since I had a few kiddos out sick.)
I didn’t get any pictures of these, but they were GREAT oral language opportunities! I learned so much about students’ interests and the kids were able to connect with one another on shared likes. I just printed out these labels, stapled one to a bag for each student and sent them home.
I’ve always waited until my students arrive to write the class rules. This year, I switched from “rules” to “agreements”. We talked about what each agreement looked like in different contexts (in the classroom, on the stairs, at play time, at circle time). The kids dictated their ideas to me and I wrote them on the student’s name card. We’ve been adding to their ideas as we figure things out!
All About Me Interviews
There are so many ways to capture these interviews! I chose to use pennants (there’s even a huge variety of those to choose from!) since it was consistent with some of our existing classroom decor. The parents especially loved reading what their children had said. (I apologize for the lighting in these photos! It was a sunny day in Western Washington, so we were soaking it up!)