Saturday, September 7, 2013

Insects and Arachnids and Arthropods, Oh My!

When I look back on bug week, even though it is my least favorite subject (talk about gross!), I have to admit that so far it has been my best in terms of planning preparedness. I had bugs, sensory dirt, spider experiments, and all kinds of good, fun learning.

As anyone in childcare knows, you are not only teaching your students, but also your parents. I find that when parents talk to me I have to justify everything I do. Even though I know that my kids are learning every time they play, parents don't. This week happened to be a bit easier to justify. Who doesn't count legs on bugs to determine which type they are?

While it may not seem academic, continuous practice counting is essential in developing later math skills in children. Studies have found that children who don't understand early on that numbers represent a quantity (and aren't just a list of words you say in order) struggle in math later on. So, in my class, we take every opportunity to count that we can. Counting friends in line, counting spiders in a bucket, counting goldfish in our cup...and so on. Even outside I challenge my kids to count and sort, and they are delighted to do it.

Over the course of bug week, we worked on many various art projects and science experiments. For instance; did you know that the reason spiders don't stick to their own webs is because they have oil on their legs? I didn't either, but when we taped contact paper sticky-side-up over a web and walked our insect fingers across it, then dipped them in oil and tried again with spider fingers, we discovered for ourselves exactly how. See, I'm learning new things every day too!

We of course sang bug songs, such as the Ants Go Marching (I don't actually know all the rhymes, so I found myself making some up on the kids helped!), I'm Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee, and the Itsy Bitsy Spider (my kids love this one...we sing itsy bitsy, big fat spider in a deep voice, teeny weeny spider in a squeaky voice, and silent spider with no voice and just hand motions). Another favorite is the beehive fingerplay, which goes like this:

Here is the beehive, (fists together)
But where are the bees? (hands out in question)
They're hidden away where nobody sees! (dance fingers back into fists)
Soon they'll come creeping out of the hive (I stick one finger out for every syllable)
So let's all count them...(Hold out hand and point to fingers)
1, 2, 3, 4, 5! (let kids count)

And here is the part they love the best...sometimes I go around and "sting" them. Unfortunately, it results in screaming in class, so I had to limit this particular one to an outside fingerplay (though it gets them to pay attention in line)

One day, one of my students brought in a dead bumblebee she found in the driveway with her dad, which was like a lesson plan just waiting for me. We examined the bee (from a touching!) and described it, counted its legs, and told stories about bees we've either heard or experienced. Telling stories is important to help kids learn to be better readers, so I always listen with interest when they try to tell me something, even if I don't understand. Asking leading questions and prompting are also important. We also drew our bees and wrote commentary on them.

Another art project that I'd actually planned ahead of time was to take coffee cans, paper circles, and marbles coated in paint, and create "spider web art". The kids shook the coffee cans around (motor skills AND art, who knew?) to get the paint to make webs, and then we covered them in glitter. Mine looked something like this:

And then I put them up on my cupboard walls in a display that looks like this:

You can't really see it, but there's a bit of white yarn coming from the spider. I think I'll probably save him for Halloween! The kids are really fascinated by spiders, for whatever reason. I'm less of a fan.

As usual, I found several of these ideas on Pinterest. Another great resource for me has been, or a few of the pre-K websites. The internet is a great tool, and you can bet I make full use of it!

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