Thursday, January 10, 2019

Learning for Littles: Penguins

This week was by far my favorite Learning for Little's lesson that we have done. We did this particular lesson with four of Jude's cousins, so our play session had an (almost) 7 year old, a 4 year old, twin 2 year olds, and Jude the 7 month old. It made for a lot of differentiated fun.

As always, we started with an invitation to play. For this session, I just used a large penguin that I was gifted during my pregnancy. It's a Melissa and Doug Penguin, and it's about 2 feet tall. I set it in living room and let the kids explore it for a while before we started anything structured. Jude had a conversation with it. The twins rolled around with it. Athena played doctor with it. Mr. Penguin got a clean bill of health. Giving them the penguin to explore and play with before we started our lesson gave each child the opportunity to make a connection to penguins based on the way that they deemed fit to play with it.

After they each had the opportunity to play with the penguin, we shifted our attention to puppets. Kelli, my sister-in-law, printed some penguins out to color and glue onto craft sticks. I wanted the younger littles to be able to do something artsy, so this was a last minute addition, and it ended up being a favorite. The kids were each excited to see their own creation being made into a puppet. Athena, with some back up from Linc, used all the puppets to put on a puppet show for the babies. Athena let her imagination run wild, and she came up with some pretty imaginative situations for the puppets. We will definitely be making more of these in the future because it gave the older children the chance to role play and the younger children the chance to see their creations come to life. It was a win-win.

While we colored the puppets, we started our discussion on penguins. We asked Google to tell us what the sound a penguin makes. I drilled the older kids to see what information they already knew about penguins and other birds to see if they could use their prior knowledge to connect to penguins. Pulling in that prior knowledge helped the older kids make connections that they made not have made if I had just given the information. I also had the two older children help me explain penguins to the little three. Having a kid teach information to a younger friend is a great way to help both parties learn!

The walkers of the group waddled into the other room with me, and we did The Penguin Dance by Pinkfong. The song asks you to move different parts of your body to ultimately waddle like a penguin. I moved Jude's body for him while the older kids moved themselves. We all waddled around like penguins and had a good laugh. I try to do songs like this as often as possible with Jude because it helps teach lefts and rights, as well being catchy and fun to listen to.

We moved to a sensory bin after. We had discussed earlier that many penguins live in cold temperatures, so we splashed a little penguin bath toy around in some ice while we continued our conversations about penguins. Jude chose to chew on some ice. The twins squabbled over the penguin. The older two and I discussed penguin habitat and diet. I am used to younger audience, so it was fun to try to challenge the older two while keeping the younger three engaged at the same time.

At that point, the three youngest went down for a nap, so we continued our playtime with just me, Athena, and Linc. Athena and Linc spent about 30 minutes just playing with the ice bucket pretending they were penguins. Athena used a little spike ball as an egg and would play in the ice and then sit on her egg until finally she hatched the baby penguin. This was a game that she came up with on her own, and it was a lot of fun for me to just watch them interact with the content. Occasionally, I would ask questions about penguins to refocus them, but for the overwhelming majority of this time, they just played together as penguins.

The final structured activity that we did was a symmetrical penguin painting. This activity was done with the two older children but had the younger three been awake, I feel like they could have accomplished something similar with an adult. I started by explaining what symmetry was. I showed them an example and a non example of symmetry and then I made a few and asked if they were symmetrical or not. Both Athena and Linc were able to identify if something was symmetrical or unsymmetrical using their new found vocabulary almost immediately. We then made our paintings. I got the idea from Artsy Momma (linked above). The basics of the project are that you fold the paper in half, blot a penguin on one half, shut the paper, and reveal your penguins. The kids loved making them, and honestly, the adults enjoyed doing it to. We made a big deal of the "big reveal" to show off our penguins. The kids ended up making almost ten of them because they were so fun to make. This project also gave me the opportunity to speak to the kids more about penguins and to talk about symmetry.

By integrating so much conversation about penguins throughout the day, all the kids were penguin professionals by the end! Specifically the older two were able to name a plethora of information about penguins, and the younger ones could make similar sounds and identify penguins! It's all about the scaffolding. What made this lesson so fun is that I could do this over again in a few years and the younger kids would be able to interact with the play session in a whole new way but with the prior knowledge of penguins that they got today!

A few days later, I took Jude to the aquarium to see the penguins we had talked so much about. I reenforced some of the bigger points (sound, diet, habitat) while he watched some penguins zip by. He loved watching them swim back and forth.

We had a great time exploring penguins! We hope you have fun learning about penguins with your little one. For step by step instructions and photographs on how to do these activities, please click here.

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