I’m not really sure where they got the idea for this unit, but the kiddos picked it and I honored it…and, man, was it fun. We had such a good time making things and problem solving. This was a very S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) unit and our favorite book from Robots inspired our next unit, Outer Space! Planning this way is so much more organic and logical than following a script and the kids are about 1000 times more invested and engaged. Here is an overview of our Robot fun!
Nuts & Bolts*
I started this unit by stopping by the local hardware store and getting a bag full of nuts and bolts of different sizes. I got to school, put them in a pie pan, and set them out on the table. This was a fun fine motor activity that required some visual discrimination and critical thinking.
This was a low-cost, low-prep, high-impact activity that got the kids talking about making things and how things work. It gave me a great opportunity to sit back and listen to the oral language and vocabulary that each of them were bringing to the table about robots, but also about describing size and making comparisons.
Color Robot, Left, Right Robots, and The Really Silly Robot
We really got into our music for this unit, especially these two songs. We focused a lot on colors and learning left and right. The kids had red “R”s and green “L”s on the backs of their hands for most of the month and, if I forgot to put them on in the morning, they would remind me before we went downstairs since we walk on the right side of the steps.
(And now the Tiny Human has stolen my phone so that he can watch Color Robot…)
I found some small robot pictures online, printed and laminated them. Then we attached them to pipe cleaners. I set them out with a bowl of small nuts. Some kiddos simply matched the number of nuts that they put onto the pipe cleaner with the number of robots. The kiddos that were more advanced in their numeracy did some comparing of sets and combining of sets. The simple switch from pony beads to nuts made this somehow infinitely more exciting for them.
I had no idea that this would be such a popular activity. I almost didn’t introduce it because it seemed so…boring. But it wasn’t. It was, in fact, hilarious. I don’t have any pictures of the kiddos, but we used this during our meeting times. We talked about how robots don’t really have feelings because they’re machines, but people do and we often can tell how people feel by looking at their faces. I would show a robot card and they had to make a face to show that feeling. By the end of the unit, one kiddo would make a face and the other kiddos would try to guess what feeling they were showing. The one that they struggled with the most was “scared”. They all wanted to do “scary” faces. The cards are from Mr. Printables.
This was another low-prep, high-impact activity. We used the playdough that we made during the Superhero Unit and just added googly eyes, pipe cleaners, and a few other tidbits from our Creation Station. This was very open-ended play and the tidbits have stayed, even though we’ve changed out the playdough and our learning theme!
Bristle Bots & Bots in the Bin*
We followed this awesome Instructable on How to Make a Better BristleBot. It’s better than any of the other sets of instructions I’ve come across. And, seriously, get the Oral-B Pulsar. I’ve tried with a few different cheaper toothbrushes and they’re just not as easy to work with or as good for this application. If you keep an eye out, you can find the Pulsar two-packs on sale pretty regularly. Another tip: take the time to squish your bristles flatish under a shelf or stack of heavy books. It makes a huge difference. Once we’d made the Bristle Bots and played with those for a few days, we popped the motor packs off the bristles and started attaching them to other things. This was the beginning of Bots in the Bin. The kids put the motors, extra command strips, and other little things into a bin. They made plastic bugs move (we have a bug expert in our class), and the toy cars got hooked up, and things even came to visit the Bots from our Creation Station!
We also used the motors from our Bristle Bots to make Drawing Bots. We simply put them on top of our paper cups and taped on some markers and away we went! We experimented with plastic cups and with different drawing utensils and papers. Results indicated: paper cups and skinny markers on smooth paper worked best! We got to talk about friction. In preschool. It was awesome.
Build-A-Bot & Bot Buttons*
Our build-a-bot came fairly early in the unit. It was an exercise in listening, following directions, shapes, and position words. We added the Bot Buttons to our finished creations and then did the movements when we lined up. [I’ll add the links to the drawing directions and buttons later today!]
And there you have it! Our Robot Unit was a huge success and because of our favorite book, Three Little Aliens and The Big Bad Robot, our next unit was Outer Space. Here were some of the other books we read:
*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.