My daughter and I are having so much fun in Kindergarten!
After several months getting to know her teacher, I asked if I could come in and recreate “How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?” by Margaret McNamara and G. Brian Karas in which Mr. Tiffin asks his class to guess which of the small, medium and large pumpkins contains the most seeds. The class then makes estimations, counts by 2s, 5s and 10s and learns a lot about what’s “on the inside.” We had such a wonderful time, I’ve been going back once per month to do lessons with the class.
For each lesson, I include three things: 1) a storybook inspiration 2) an activity and 3) a snack that reinforces what we’ve learned. I just completed January’s lesson and it was a hit.
Each month, my lesson is inspired by the season and a story book. To be honest, I was stumped for January until browsing my local book store I came across “Snowflakes: A Pop-Up Book” beautifully written by Jennifer Preston Chushcoff and illustrated and engineered by Yevgeniya Yeretskaya. A Moonbeam Children’s Book Award recipient, this book is beautiful in its simple text and glittering snowflakes.
In addition to engaging pop-ups, this book has fold out tabs that reveal a wealth of information about snowflakes and the man to first investigate them – Wilson Bentley. More than 150 years ago, Bentley first tried to study snowflakes using a microscope, but couldn’t make drawings before they melted so he turned to photography. Using his photographs, he discovered that the majority of snowflakes have six sides (some have twelve) and no two are the same. This book served as the perfect inspiration to study hexagons, states of matter and the concept of “unique.”
My daughter’s class is full of amazing young children that, just like unique snowflakes, are all at different levels in the learning process. I knew they would love the pop-up book and simple text presented on the main pages. For the detailed information regarding Bentley and his work, I chose to create printouts to present after reading the book aloud to them. We discussed hexagons, what “unique” means and talked about Bentley’s difficulty using a microscope to study snowflakes. I printed “slides” to show them a microscope and what Bentley’s camera looked like. Many students had never seen either before. This served as our jumping off point to really engage in solids, liquids and gasses.
We talked about how snow melts from a flake into water and then goes away altogether. I explained that this was water in its three forms – solid, liquid and gas.
Each time I visit the classroom, the students and I act as scientists using our five senses to investigate and observe what is going on. After I leave, they then write and journal about what they’ve discovered. As such, I took in ice cubes and cups for them to just experience ice. This may seem obvious, but water makes different sounds in its solid, liquid and gas states. It can smell different in each state, etc.
I told a friend that I was going to study states of matter and she said she used “ice cube painting” to demonstrate melting with her students, but that it might work perfect for what I was doing. And it did! I gave each student a sheet of card stock on which I sprinkled red, yellow and blue powdered tempera paint. They then used a melting ice cube as a paint brush to turn the paint to liquid and move it around the page. I explained that the solid water ice cube was melting into liquid water to create the paint and evaporate into the air to leave a dry painting. This activity is the perfect demonstration for states of matter and the students were thrilled with their creations.
When doing this lesson, I recommend using card stock (not regular printer paper) and small ice cubes so that students won’t over-saturate their paper. (And remember that you need to make the ice cubes to take with you!)
To reinforce the concept of a hexagon and that all snowflakes are different, we made our own snowflakes. Using one of the many tutorials available online, I tried making snowflakes in advance of doing it in the classroom. I found out several things: 1) I would definitely need to prepare the paper folds for the students, 2) I needed to use larger 12X12 paper, and 3) I could not use scrapbook paper because, after all those folds, little hands and safety scissors would never be able to make the cuts. After these discoveries, I decided to use tissue paper and prepped enough for each student to make a white and colored snowflake. I also prepared several sample snowflakes to show them. In addition, I cut one in front of them to demonstrate how to use shapes they know (like triangles, squares, rectangles and semi-circles) to make the snowflakes interesting.
Tissue paper is thin and easy for Kindergarteners to cut; however, it presents its own challenges. To create 12X12 squares, it is best to stack them and slice with a craft knife. After the folds are made, the resulting triangles are fairly durable for small hands, but students need to make all their cuts before they unfold and reveal their snowflake. While it is possible to refold the tissue paper and make additional cuts, I found this was not an easy task for little hands.
After completing our activities, we looked at all the ice paintings and all the snowflakes and, indeed, no two were the same!
In order to reinforce the concept of water in its solid, liquid and gas state, I took in fruit snack with water in its various states. Because I did this lesson over the course of two days, I prepared two snacks using first grapes, then bananas. For the first day, I took grape popsicles (solid water), grapes (liquid water) and raisins (water evaporated into gas). The second day, I took homemade banana popsicles, bananas and banana chips. These further reinforced the lesson and, of course, the students were thrilled with all the eats.
Because I have toddler boy in tow, he enjoys these lessons as well. He has since requested that I make the banana popsicles for his preschool class.
To make the banana popsicles, I simply cut bananas into quarters and slipped a bamboo skewer into each one. (Popsicle sticks are too big and candy sticks from the craft store are much more expensive.) I put the “bananas on a stick” in the freezer while melting half a bag of semi-sweet chips in a bowl over boiling water. I spread a little chocolate over the end of each banana and added sprinkles just for fun. I then put the banana popsicles into the freezer until set.
Except while reading the book, I snapped photos of all the activities/snacks and put them on a disc for my daughter’s teacher. She is using the photos in the scrapbooks the students are creating of their first year of school and she has submitted many for use in the yearbook.
This lesson was a huge success, but you can recreate it for your student’s classroom using as much or as little as you like. Several things to remember when planning your own visit:
- ALWAYS get approval for the book and activity you would like to present.
- Find out what supplies the students already have. For this lesson, I confirmed that all students had a pair of scissors.
- If you are taking pictures of your child in the classroom, remember that you cannot publish any pictures that include another student’s face.
Spending time in my daughter’s classroom is hugely rewarding for many reasons. I find she is so excited to share things with me because I now know the characters involved in her stories. I also find that I can give better advice when she asks questions. I’ve learned some of the personalities and that helps to guide her with the non-academic issues she faces.
I hope this provides some inspiration for you to become a presence in your child’s classroom. But if you find you can’t use this lesson in January, I’ll be back with another in February.