This guest post by Susan Bennett-Armistead, author of our My World informational texts, is part of an ongoing series in which she discusses informational text and its benefits and uses, and gives tips on teaching in a preschool and early elementary setting. Check back regularly to catch her next post—you can also read her earlier work here!
A Day in the Life of a Content-Rich Preschool Classroom
In recent posts I’ve talked about how to incorporate information and informational texts into your early childhood classroom. Some readers have asked me to talk about what that might look like in a daily lesson format. Here is a one day plan with a focus on learning about Plants.
Concepts of the Day
Some plants grow from seeds.
Each seed produces a different kind of plant.
Plants need soil, light, and water to grow.
Some plants are used for food.
Plants are composed of parts that include a stem and leaves. Some plants also have flowers.
Entry Activities (table activities as children come in)
Exploration of plant material such as bark, corn stalks, and flowers using magnifying glasses.
Book basket including books on plants.
Puzzles and table games.
Large-Group Activity - Language Experience
Brainstorming Plants: Make a list of plants that children know about. You’ll need to give them a definition of a plant and some examples to get the ball rolling. Feel free to add to the list throughout the day and the week. Post this list in the writing area.
Sensory Table: Field corn on the cob, loose corn, balance scale, scoops, the book Corn.
Book Corner: variety of books about plants.
Block Area: Blocks, blocks made from slices of trees, trucks, books on building houses and homes.
Art Area: Fruit and vegetable stamping—using cross sections of apples, potatoes, celery, oranges, green pepper, and onion, have the children dip the vegetables in thin paint to create prints of the vegetables. Talk about the parts of the vegetables and fruits you are working with: seeds, skin, veins, stalk, stem, etc. Talk about how the children made that print they made: “Which vegetable made this print? How about this one?”
Dress-up Area: Campout—tent, pretend fire, sleeping bags, backpacks, cooking pans, maps, posters of plants of your state, plant guidebooks, clipboard for documenting plants they find, pretend cameras, binoculars.
Science Corner: Have a display of various plants and seeds for the children to explore, magnifying glasses, and information books on plants and plant structures.
Thinking Area: Use puzzles, games, and a seed-sorting activity: a variety of seeds to be sorted from smallest to largest—make sure you have a coconut!
Writing Center: With paper, markers, pencils made from tree twigs, and booklets in the shape of trees, prompt children to write something about what they know about trees; take dictation as necessary)
Small-Group Work (small groups are called to work with the teacher during choice time)
Each group will read Lois Ehlert’s Growing Vegetable Soup. We’ll talk about what the seeds needed to grow and what we would need to do to create our own gardens.
We’ll then plant our own seeds using a procedural text spread out by stations at a table: 1) Get a cup. Write your name on it. 2) Put dirt in the cup. 3) Choose a seed to plant. [There will be a variety of seeds to choose from, each having been mentioned in our book.] 4) Water your seed. 5) Place your seed on the window sill.
Large Group Activity II
Song: Everything Grows by Raffi—chart it out for children to follow along.
K-W-L on plants: What do we think we know about plants? What do we wonder about plants? Save the "what have we learned" section for after you’ve studied about plants. Use the children’s wonderings to help plan the rest of the unit. Make sure you select texts that answer their questions.
Snack will be cucumber slices, crackers, and juice. We’ll talk about how some of our items came from plants and what parts of the plants were used.
—transition to outside time—
Book Basket: We bring out a book basket on the theme for outside reading each day. (If you live in a snowy climate, plastic bath books or the new “Indestructables” series work well for this.)
Nature Spot: Each child is given a string to create a circle around an area of the playground that they can stake out to observe what is going on in that spot across the year. With clipboards, children will document what is going on in their spots today and label the spot with their names. With today’s focus on plants, talk about what plants they can see in their nature spot.
Access to Climbers: Children may choose to play with outside equipment.
—dismiss from outside—
Make sure to post the focal words and concepts around the room so that adults incorporate the words and concepts into play with the children throughout the day. The richness of the language and interaction with text will assist children in making the concepts their own. You can extend the classroom experience by including information about the topic in your newsletter so your families can talk about the same concepts at home. Sending home book bags with books on plants will let families use read aloud to build concepts as well. Ultimately, wrapping your children in content will build their knowledge and their confidence in themselves as learners.
Susan Bennett-Armistead, PhD, is an associate professor of literacy education, the Correll Professor of Early Literacy, and the coordinator of literacy doctoral study at the University of Maine. Prior to doctoral study, Dr. Bennett-Armistead was a preschool teacher and administrator for 14 years in a variety of settings, including a brief but delightful stint in the Alaskan bush.
For more information on the My World series by this author, you can click here to visit the series page on our website or click the left image below to download an information sheet.