Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tot School: Bears!

Tot School
~ Peeper is 42.5 months old ~

A Note To My Regular Readers: I may be repeating some photos or stories that I've already published, but I want to put all our learning activities in the one post that's part of the Tot School link-up.

Tot Schoolers: Welcome! If you enjoy this post, please feel free to stay for a while, and have a look around. I'll give you a fair warning that much of my blog is PG-13, but my Tot School link-up posts will always be G-Rated.

We decided to start off our unit studies with bears, and I suggested that we could read some "stories about bears that act like people" and "learn about real bears," and I told Peeper that we will check out books from the library, and Mama will find things on the Internet.

As luck would have it, the very next day was story time at the library, so when we arrived, I asked the children's librarians where to find the bear books, both fiction and non-fiction.

One of them took me to the non-fiction section to pick out a few, while the other one pulled pretty much every age-appropriate anthropomorphic bear book in their collection.

(She is the story time lady. We really like her, and she earned extra points in my book when she actually said, "Here are some stories about anthropomorphic bears.")

We checked out five of the non-fiction books, concentrating on the three North American bears - black bear, brown (or grizzly or Kodiak - same thing, who knew?) bear, and polar bear, as well as panda bears, of course, because we are panda people.

The non-fiction books that we checked out are:
And the fiction "bears that act like people" library book is Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?, by Nancy White Carlstrom.

I chose that one as soon as I saw it in the pile that the librarian had picked out, because last year, DoulaK told me about doing a Before Five in a Row study of it with her youngest daughter, when she was about Peeper's age. They made a lapbook, and she really enjoyed it, so I figured that was worth a try.

The book is very simple, but very sweet and Peeper loves it. I downloaded and printed the lapbook materials from Homeschool Share, as well as some other materials about real bears from KidZone, but I decided to put it all in a notebook, rather than a lapbook, so that it's easier to work with.

As luck would have it, Shrike recent brought home some discarded binders from work, complete with nice, sturdy dividers. Perfect!

She's very into Goldilocks and the Three Bears these days, so of course, we worked them in and we have also read some other bear books, both fiction and non-fiction, from Peeper's personal library.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, made from toilet paper rolls. This is the first printable of this kind that I've used from DLTK's Growing Together, but it certainly won't be the last! (We already have our eye on Rapunzel's paper towel roll tower!)

Peeper was very patient while I cut out all the pieces and glued them together. I had planned to do at least the cutting when she wasn't around, but she found them in the notebook and figured out who they were!

The whole cast.

This is their house.

All tucked in.

We've done a few activities from the notebook each day. Peeper colored the bear on our title page.

I drew pictures of Peeper's family and Jesse Bear's family, as directed by Peeper. She picked out all our clothing and dictated the captions.

I have two different activities in the notebook that are about Jesse Bear's lunch. In the first one, she's just supposed to glue the foods onto the plate, but I'd accidentally laminated the food page before I realized that, so I gave her one set of unlaminated foods to glue . . .

. . . and then a laminated set to match to them.

In the second activity, she has pictures of several foods and has to sort them into those that Jesse bear ate and those that he didn't.

At first, she was saying that he ate everything, but I went and got the book, so that we could refer to it. I reread that page for her a few times, and then she started checking it for herself, and telling me, "Um, I think he did," or "Um, I think he didn't" and she got them all right.

At that point, she was mostly wanting to play with the food cards, so I pulled out the "dress Jesse Bear" activity, and it was a huge hit.

The next morning, she told me that she wanted to something in the sunroom, so I sent her on in and told her I'd be there soon. When I got there, she'd abandoned her original plan and was dressing Jesse Bear again.

She asked me to help her find his white shirt, and when we did, she put them all together like this.

She needed a lot of help to understand what I was asking for in this complete-the-pattern activity, but I think she was starting to catch on.

But first, we went through a lot of "Pants, Jesse, pants, Jesse, paaants . . . ?"


She totally was not getting it with this visual discrimination activity. When she couldn't "find the one that's different" I tried covered up all but the "different" one and another and asking her how they were different, but that wasn't happening either.

Not so much with the tracing yet, either. I helped her with this first page, of easy ones. (I pretty much did that bottom one myself, holding her hand.)

She was on her own for this one.

Yeah, we'll be working on that skill.

One of the last activities we got to was this set of rhyming word cards. The idea, of course, was to match up the rhyming words / pictures from the book.

She really was not into this one. I don't know if it was a matter of not being able to figure out the rhymes, or just wanting to do her own thing with it.

As soon as I put the cards down, she stuck red below head and said, "I gonna dress him!" Then she added the pants (You can just barely see them here.) and some toes.

She also "dressed" this bear. He's wearing a black shirt and some black shorts. Can't you tell? 

The only sort-of-crafty thing we did was this Mother's Day card for Shrike.

I wasn't sure I was going to convince her to actually give it to her though, because she decided that he was her son. She got some honey out of the tree for him, and cooked it up for his breakfast. 

In addition to the materials in the notebook, we also read her library books several times, and did lots of bear-related play.

Over the past several weeks, she's spent a lot of time pretending to be "Baby Bear" and talking about porridge, chairs and beds, but now she's also pretending to be a Mama Grizzly, hiding in her cave, birthing and nursing her babies, digging up roots to eat, and so on.

One evening, we were lying in bed nursing and reading our night-night story about baby grizzlies, when we saw a photo in which we couldn't tell whether one or both babies were nursing. We (okay, I) decided that we needed to know how many nipples mama grizzlies have, so I googled it on my phone, right then and there.

In order to uphold my pledge of keeping all my Tot School posts G-rated, I will not link to the full google results for "bear nipples" but here is very informative page that I found: Grizzy Bear Nursing.

For the record: They have six. Two pair on the upper chest, and one pair in the groin region. (That's where the second cub was, so I was confused.) They are not evenly distributed along her belly because any on her tummy would be hidden when she curls up in a ball to hibernate - which is when the cubs are born, and then they just hang out and nurse until spring.

Bonus fact: During hibernation Mama bear goes about six months without eating, peeing, pooping or exercising. She sleeps, gives birth (sometimes without waking up) and nurses.

(I have used this fact to my own benefit a few mornings lately. "Hey, why don't you just lay here and get 'goody' while Mama sleeps. Like a baby grizzly bear.")

How did I not know any of this until I taught it to a three year old? Oh, perhaps I should say, until I learned it with a three year old. I can't wait to see what she will teach me next!

As I mentioned before, my "plan" (such as it is) is to do unit studies in which we learn about specific topics, and use those topics to work on basic skills, but I also want to do some more structured, progressive work on basic skills.

Peeper has several workbooks that I've been collecting over the past year or so, waiting for her to be ready for them.

This week, I pulled some out and looked through them, thinking "Oh yeah, she can do that, no problem!" on the first few pages, and then "Well, I'm not sure she can do that one," and finally "Oh yeah. Not even close," as we go farther into the book. That sounds like exactly what we're looking for.

The ones that we're probably going to work with right now are:

I Can Color
Sesame Street Ready, Set, Preschool!
Sesame Street Math with Bert & Ernie
Same or Different
Does It Belong?
Following Directions
Beginning Sounds

Mid-week, I came up with what I hope will be an efficient way to organize and present her various workbooks. I took a small three-ring binder, and put in one plastic page protector per workbook (minus the one book that's already dry-erase). I put the first couple of pages of each book in the binder, and she can use dry erase markers (or not) to do the sheets.

Then I made this fun title graphic and slid it into the pocket on the front cover!

(Of course, it actually has her real name on it.)

We refer to it as her "Peeper School Notebook" and have made two or three passes at the worksheets inside. The only problem is that all of these worksheets ask the student to answer "in writing" by drawing lines between pictures or circling a picture or, in the case of "following directions" doing even more complicated things like underlines and even checkmarks.

As we saw above, there's no way she can do that yet.

Especially with these first few pages, I know she can answer the questions, but as soon as I put the marker in her hand, she just wants to scribble all over the page. So, I'm working on coming up with other fun ways that she can show me the answers, instead of writing.

This evening, she was playing with a small plastic bunny, so I had her make him hop from one blue train to the other blue train, rather than drawing a line to connect the trains. He also hopped around the page and found all the small toys and put them in the small toy box, then hopped to each of the big toys and hopped them to the big toy box. (Those were both from Math with Bert and Ernie.)

Then, we'll only use the markers for the activities that are actually working on prewriting skills.

As luck would have it, not long ago, Shrike brought home another great little book from the "giveaway table" at work. It's called Before I Print! (Wipe-Off Book) and is a dry-erase book with lots of very simple tracing activities, with straight line, circles, arcs - all the things you need to print letters and numbers. (That link goes to a different book in the series. We have one with a rooster on the cover.)

At first, she was just scribbling on this one, too, but this evening she told me, "I want to trace," and she did a great job with it. She was even willing to hold her markers correctly, which is new! I reminded her the first time, and then each time she switched colors (This happened a lot.), she started with a fist grip, I said, "Hold it right," and she switched it, saying "Oh, I forgot!" A couple of times she even self-corrected before I said anything!

Her lines are anything but straight, but at least she was making an attempt to follow the directions and make the sort of lines that I was asking for.

I'm not going to push her on this, but will gently encourage her to do the tracing exercises in this book, as well as the activities in I Can Color, and I will also add (reintroduce, remind her about, etc) some other fine motor skills activities. (Note to self: Google this.)

All in all, I think we've made a pretty good start, and I know we're both looking forward to learning all about gardening over the next couple of weeks!

Disclaimer: I've included Amazon Affiliate links for the books that I reference in this post. If you go to Amazon via one of those links and make a purchase, I will receive a percentage of price of your purchase. Nobody asked me to talk about any of these books, I just wanted to share the materials that we're using.

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