During the last week of our Apple Unit, I sat down with the kiddos and asked them what they wanted our learning theme to be next. We’d gotten to know each other and the school routines well enough that I could start stepping back into the teacher-as-facilitator role and the kiddos could take a more active role in constructing their own interest-driven learning. We came up with a bunch of ideas: dinosaurs, princesses, cats, Batman. Then one of the kids suggested “Superheroes” and they all agreed that it sounded like a great idea. So, Superheroes it was!
Since my classroom approach is Reggio Emilia and Montessori inspired, I see my role, primarily, as a facilitator and environmental designer. Once supplied with the learning theme that was interesting and engaging to the students, I set about planning!
This was a novel way to bring a lacing activity into the classroom. Lacing is a wonderful fine motor activity that also supports visual perception skills. For this task, the students had to unlace the string. It was much more challenging for them than traditional lacing cards because the visual perception required was increased.
To make this activity, I simply found a few images of superheroes online (including Super Why and Word Girl), printed them, cut them out, laminated them, and went to town with the hole punch. I pre-laced them and put them in a basket.
During our Exploration Stations time, I took the activity to the table and started “freeing” a superhero. The kiddos came to see what I was up to and, within about 20 seconds, we were all at the table freeing as many superheroes as we could.
The week before we started the Superhero theme, I noticed the kiddos playing a catching game during recess and really struggling with getting the ball to go where they wanted it to. I decided to add this gross motor activity to our plan. I found a Dollar Tree hula hoop in my boss’s office, made a web with some masking tape, and put some pom poms in a bowl. We worked together to find the “sweet spot”, the best place to stand to get the good results. Once we figured that out, this activity gave the kids a great opportunity to practice taking turns and ordinal numbers.
This was a fun art activity that kept us pretending beyond the three-week unit. One of the kiddos has brought his cape and mask back to wear during recess a few times since this unit wrapped up. I raided Mr. Tinker’s closet for old t-shirts (and got a few pink ones by request from the Dollar Tree) and followed this super-simple no-sew tutorial. The kiddos put their letter on their cape using fabric glue and glitter foam (both from the Dollar Tree). I pre-cut the letters in Handwriting Without Tears style and cut whatever emblem they wanted (a few lightening bolts, a few kitties, a few Batmen, and one star). They glued on gems and added glitter glue. Hours of Superhero fun at recess ensued! We even had some Superhero learning going on in the classroom. This was one of the kids’ favorite activities of the unit.
Superhero Registration Cards
This was another activity that got us into Pretend Play Mode. The kids liked looking at what their friends’ registration cards looked like and then getting to secretly have the superpowers their alter-ego listed.
This letter recognition activity was a winner and we got loads of practice at ways to take turns and asking to share the more desirable superheroes (which I borrowed from The Tiny Human’s stash). The kiddos stamped letters into the playdough, named the letter, and then smashed it with their superhero. For the younger group, I provided the initial letters of their names and two letters we’d talked about before. For the older kiddos, I provided all the initial letters and five additional letters.
Web Shooter Math Game*
This was, by far, the favorite activity of the entire unit. It was so popular that the parents brought in more silly string because their kids wouldn’t stop talking about the game. I scavenged two clear plastic storage totes and taped numerals to the bottom (from the outside) using clear tape. For the younger crew of superheroes, I did numbers 1-5 and the cards in the bowl were simple matching of numerals with dot sets for counting. For the older superheroes, I did numerals 5-10 and their cards were only dot sets. The drew a card from the bowl, took their mark, and sprayed it with the corresponding numeral in the box with their web shooter. Everyone got one can of silly string and when theirs was gone, they were done with the game so no one went too overboard with things. The bins allowed us to keep things pretty well contained.
The kids decided to collect all of the used silly string and take it to the table on trays to continue playing with it. They turned it into a sensory experience first and then one of our superheroes decided to bring the basket of scissors over and it became a cutting activity.
Superhero vs. Supervillain Venn Diagram
After reading a few of our library books about superheroes, we made a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast heroes and villains. The kids had some great answers and this was a nice oral language activity that allowed me to introduce Venn Diagrams.
Superheroes in Action Class Book*
Here are some pages from our class book, Superheroes in Action! The students each made a movable superhero using this template. Then, they dictated an action that superheroes can do and we put their hero into the book. The book was then added to our bookshelf. It’s a predictable reader (“They can…”), so even the younger kids can read it.
We did this in honor of Iron Man and it was fun, but incredibly messy. I followed the directions and used the recommended materials with each group and neither batch really turned out as expected. This was certainly the activity that I was the most excited about going into the unit and the one that I was most disappointed by. I wonder what other people’s experiences are with this activity…
*After introducing these activities at Circle Time, they are put out on the shelf for students to use during Exploration Stations. I also pull them back out at the end of the day when we’re waiting for families since they’re easy to clean up. Using them at the end of the day also gives parents the opportunity to see what the kiddos have been doing and the students are always excited to show their family members what they’ve been working on.
Disclaimer: As you can see, not all of the activities listed on the planning map appear in the pictures. Our classroom is very child-centered and there are days when the kids get so wrapped up in creating things at the Creation Station, coloring pictures, or playing in the dramatic play area that I don’t put out a new activity. I let them explore the areas that they’ve chosen and really focus on the social development and play that is the most serious work of preschool.