People often ask me, “How do you fit everything in?!?” I understand why. It is so very hard to fit everything you want to teach into your day. I am lucky to teach at a school where they encourage us to use hands-on, integrated lessons. In fact, the administration asks us to incorporate as many of these lessons into our day as possible. This is perfect for the way that I like to teach. In order to fit everything in, I would have to say it takes three things:
This summer I was given the task of aligning all of the Science and Social Studies units the pre-k, kinders, and first graders at my school study. After pouring over the TEKS (Texas standards), and collaborating with my peers, we came up with this year-at-a-glance. Our main goal was to introduce some of the BIG concepts in our preschool classes and build on the knowledge gained with each following year. We are carefully planning to make sure we are not overlapping our objectives and building on previous schema.
So, here is what each grade will study throughout the next year. The preschool classes have many weeks of “Teacher Choice” which really means that the teachers will follow the children in their class in their interests and passions. This is a working document so it has some of my notes still in it. As I am teaching kindergarten this year, in order to help me prep and plan, I wrote in the packets I have already created so that I know what I already have. As the year progresses I will continue to make packets to go with our units of study. I am looking forward to teaching new themes this year! As a teacher, I need to vary the activities that I teach each year in order to keep them fresh and exciting.
I’ve written a few blog posts on how I integrated Science and Social Studies into my days in first grade; however, I alter the way I teach a bit when I teach kindergarten. If you want to read how I integrate in a first grade classroom, you can read about that: HERE!
In kindergarten my ultimate goals are to integrate science, social studies, art, play, and discovery throughout my day, every day. I find that much of my teaching philosophy stems from Montessori, Reggio, Forest Schools, and STEAM theories and practices. One thing all of these models have in common is that they all believe that children learn by DOING. There is this great quote that I love:
It’s off of that principle that I structure my day. This upcoming year, my schedule will (probably… depending the administration doesn’t change our special’s time) be this:
If we walk through my day, it starts with my morning meeting. (You can read about that here.) During this time, I will often use our theme to inspire the poem, song, activity, message, that we use. This is an easy way to build interest in our new topic. For example, last year, during our worm unit, building worm hotels was one of our class activities during our morning meeting.
During our Phonics/Literacy lesson, we might play a game that uses our theme as well! This game (which then became a center) was during our “Fall Theme” last year. For this game we were working on identifying letters and sounds. I put up a tree with “leaf letters” and my students tried to find the letter that I or a friend told them to find.
During Guided Reading, Oftentimes I write books or find books that fit into our theme. This not only teaches my students about our theme but it also is the “hook” that some of my readers need to get interested in books! You know what they say, “No one hates to read; they just aren’t reading the right books!”
When students are rotating throughout their centers while I am meeting with my groups, their centers also revolve around our theme.
These are some centers my students used during our “Forest Theme.”
During Writing Workshop, I teach a lesson and then my students are allowed to write about anything. They often will write about our themes!
After writing workshop, we head into Guided Math. Again, I use our theme in our centers and activities to increase engagement.
During “Learning and Discovery” time, my students get to explore centers, puzzles, nature, and our theme in a more hands-on way. This is a completely open ended, student lead time. I bring in different tools and real life objects for my students to explore during this time. This is also a time where my students can be artistic and use different art mediums. Here is a glimpse of some of the things my students enjoyed this past year:
During this exploration time, students can choose what they are interested in. They can read, write, create, explore, build, and play.
As a teacher, I am truly dedicated to letting my students experience our lessons. Having “Discovery Time” at the end of the day allows my students to participate in science activities daily and it gives us the freedom to go outside and find things in nature and bring them back to our classroom!
If you are a new teacher, or are new to incorporating themes, you do not need all this “stuff” RIGHT NOW. I have accumulated so much over the years and so will you. If you are wanting to get started, choose a theme and be on the lookout for little things that you can pick up to bring the outside in to your classroom. When I walk my dog, I often will find leaves, branches, rocks, and other items that I bring back to my house to show my class. They love this!! I also watch Amazon to price drops in products that I am interested in purchasing. When I buy a product I normally ask myself three questions:
1. Does this product have multiple uses?
2. Does this product encourage my students to think deeply?
3. Is this product well made?
(This one might not apply to you) 4. Is the product made with natural materials?
(I prefer my students to use natural items as opposed to plastic items. Sometimes I can’t find everything I want in a natural material but for the most part, I try to.)
Some of you asked me how I store these items… but it’s not necessarily “pretty.”
As I mentioned in my last post, we can’t store much at our school so most of my materials come home with me. For that reason, this closet is dedicated to my teaching materials. You’ll notice that I have my themes separated into tubs. In each tub I store all of the centers and games that I have created and prepped and manipulatives that I have purchased or found. I also keep binders with lesson plans inside the tubs. This makes it really easy for me to get ready for each theme/month. I store my books in book bins and bring them to school when we are studying that unit. I then display those books in my classroom.
In case you were wondering, here are the themes I will be teaching during the first 10 weeks of school. These packets are all available in my TpT store.
I hope that this helped show you that you can bring your science and social studies themes into every aspect of your day! If you have any questions, please leave me a comment!