While our summer was filled with many opportunities to enjoy the nature of Minnesota, it was also a busy time of successfully completing my MA degree. Now we have time to share many more ideas with you!
On our second day back at school, my Grade One students found a giant grasshopper outside of our classroom. It was as big as a praying mantis. We took it into our classroom. What an exciting way to begin our new school year!
Children are fascinated with living creatures–especially insects and other mini-beasts. While some children may be a bit timid about holding certain insects, most seem to enjoy them.
Here are a couple of activities that you can easily do in your classroom.
1. Simple, Invented Songs
It’s easy to nurture creativity in young learners through music. Try “playing” with words.
Here’s a simple pattern to create a song or chant.
I like ladybugs. (longer word, 2-3 syllables)
I like ants. (shorter word, 1-2 syllables)
I like bumblebees. (longer word, 2-3 syllables)
I love bugs!
Students choose three insects for their song, usually one shorter word, and two longer words.
When young children sing, they often use so and mi in their invented songs. You can use so and mi for this song, too.
My students think it’s funny to sing the negative form of this. I don’t like ______. I hate bugs!
Another activity to help students play with words is to repeat the first consonant of a word, such as /b/ /b/ /b/ /b/ Bees! Bees!
I love using stories with my students–especially predictable ones. A predictable story uses repetition, similar to the way a song might have a chorus. It might have repeated words, phrases, sentences, and other patterns. New characters, new events, and other surprises keep the children guessing about what’s going to happen next.
Story: The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle
This story shows how a spider gradually spins a web. In my edition of this book, students can also feel the change in the web as it gets bigger. You can read the book to your students in a traditional manner, but you can use the pictures in the book like flash cards to help you tell the story.
A. Pre-read by looking at the pictures of the animals in the book. You can chant this pattern, or sing it to the melody of “The Farmer in the Dell.”
The horse says “Neigh!”
The horse says “Neigh!”
Let’s play together. “Neigh! Neigh! Neigh!”
Many animals visit the spider, but the spider continues to spin the web.
Repeat with the other animals from the story (cow, sheep, goat, pig, dog, duck, rooster).
The cow says “Moo!”
The cow says “Moo!”
Let’s play together. “Moo! Moo! Moo!”
The phrase for the rooster is longer than the rest.
“Cock-a-doodle-doo!” “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” Let’s play together. “Cock-a-doodle-doo!”
B. Now add the following chant pattern.
(But the spider said . . . )
Sorry. I’m busy. I’m spinning a web.
Busy, busy, busy. I’m spinning a web.
Add gestures to help children remember the language. Change your voice to express the sounds of the animals.
C. Now I “read” the story by showing the children the pictures of the animals and singing the animal songs. I show students the web in the book. With a small class, students can feel the texture of the web on the page. On subsequent readings, you can draw the web on a whiteboard as the story progresses by drawing a couple of lines at a time. If your students can sit in a circle, you can even create a yarn web by passing a ball of yarn from one student to one across on the other side.
D. At the very end, an owl comes and the spider is sleeping.
Whisper . . . .
The spider was busy, but she’s sleeping now.
Sh! Sh! Be quiet! She’s sleeping now.
*Another fun predictable story with insects and animals is Lily and the Moon by Mari Nakamura and Patricia Daly Oe.
3. Find It!
You can look for insects outside with your students. You can also find them in books! In Magic Time One, Unit One, Annie and Ted are outside playing. In addition to finding the target vocabulary, students can look for animals and insects on these pages too. They can find a dragonfly, grasshopper, rabbit, turtle, frog, squirrel, bird, butterfly, and caterpillar. We love to add little surprises for the students to discover.
Enjoy this season of insects and mini-beasts! Happy teaching!