Nocturnal Animals and Ff
October 13, 2020
While nocturnal animals are around all year, we are focusing on them now because it seems natural to highlight owls, bats, and other nighttime woodland creatures in the Fall. Our Zoo Phonic friend this week is Francy Fish (too bad it couldn't be a fox!). While there are some wonderful resources out there to teach about fish, our friends at Zoo Phonics unfortunately do not have any more "Zoophonia and Safari Sid" videos for us, yet. When they're available, I will let you know. As for kindergarten-readiness skills, we are focusing on time-telling.
Time-telling is an abstract concept that many prechool-age children struggle with, but developmentally, this is normal. By teaching basic ideas relating to time, we can help develop the skills necessary for time management, following directions, sequencing, story-telling, reading, and math. It's recommended that children start with the concepts of before/after, first/last, and yesterday/today/tomorrow before the more complex ideas of day, week, month and reading clocks. Although you can create activities and games to reinforce these concepts, a lot of learning can happen during every-day activities and intentional conversations.
One of the first ways children learn about time is through routines. In preschool, we try to stick with the same schedule every day (especially at the beginning of the school year) and children quickly catch-on that activities happen in a certain order, and they find comforted in this. We can change the length of time for each activity, but it's important to keep the activities (ie: play time, snack time, project time...) in the same order. If we mix it up, students may get anxious that their grownup isn't coming to pick them up like they usually do. I'm sure your family has routines and some sort of schedule at home as well (ie: waking up, then going to the bathroom, then getting dressed, followed by eating breakfast, etc.). As they become accustomed to the routines, you can begin discussing what happens before and after. For example, "Before we brush our teeth, we put toothpaste on the toothbrush," or, "We are going to sleep after we read a story." Three and four-year-olds typically do well with before and after when they can relate it to specific events and their routines. Some children benefit from having a visual schedule to refer to so they can better understand what "time" it is. If you decide to make one, there are some cute free downloads, or others for sale online.
As your child gets older, you can introduce time-telling items for them to play with, like watches, and begin using the "language of time," but don't worry about your child being able to read a clock yet. It's important for them to know that we measure time with clocks and other devices, but time is still quite abstract at this point. By the age of five or six, children are better able to link time to events. Phrases like "today" and "tomorrow" are better understood. Eventually, you can add specific times to the various events of your daily schedule (ie: lunch is at 12:00). You may even chose to put pictures of clocks with the proper time next to the pictures on your visual schedule. A few other recommendations for helping your child understand time (from Ellen Booth Church, courtesy of Scholastic Inc.) include:
Whenever applicable, use the "language of time" to define activities you are doing. Emphasize words such as soon, later, early, yesterday, today, tomorrow, next week, morning, noon and evening. Point out a concrete experience to illustrate the word when you use it.
Create a weather calendar for marking the passage of days. Keep a weather graph of the number of sunny, cloudy, rainy, or snowy days each month. Children can observe the passage of seasons by observing the difference between the September weather graph and the February one.
Show children how to make a "time diary" or journal. Children can use plain paper plates to make the pages and decorate them like clock faces. Show the children how to draw the time on the clock and then ask them to draw, paste, or write about what they usually do at that time. Put the paper plate pages together with brass fasteners to make a book.
When reading books, you can also use this "language of time" as well, by discussing what happened before, after, and predicting what may happen in the future. I included below, a read-along of the book "When the Leaf Blew In," by Steve Metzger, which is not only timely given today's blustery weather but it lends itself well to this sort of discussion.
The Letter Ff, Francy Fish
Our Zoo Phonic animal friend this week is Francy Fish. Although we don't have the Zoo Phonic video about Francy to share, there are some other helpful resources online if you would like to learn about fish, or the letter F. If you are using our Zoo Phonic handout, you may want to point out how some letters have straight lines, and others have curves. Our suggested crafts below include both a fish and a fox made from the letter F, or you can decorate it with feathers or finger paints (we like finger painting with fudge pudding--nontoxic and delicious!). There are also some fun books about fish out there, including "The Rainbow Fish," a lovely story about friendship and sharing.
There are so many nocturnal critters out there, but we're focusing mainly on the woodland ones that live around the Pacific Northwest this week. Owls, bats, foxes, opossums, raccoons, coyotes, mice, frogs, cats, moths, spiders....they're all mostly nocturnal (meaning they are awake and active at night). You may want to discuss with your child which animals are nocturnal and which are not (making them diurnal). In fact, the song/book "My Woodland Wish" by Kate Endle and Caspar Babypants, may be a good starting point for this discussion (see video below).
There are some wonderful opportunities for scientific exploration when learning about nocturnal critters. If you have access to a wooded area, you could go on a scavenger hunt for sticks, leaves, grass, etc. and build an owl's nest. You could go on a spider web hunt, and take pictures, or make drawings of what you find. Where I live, every time I let my dog out at night, I can hear evidence of nocturnal animals as well (coyotes howling, bats squeaking, something rustling in the tall grass, an owl hooting). The videos below include a read-aloud of "Super Bat," by Matt Carr, which helps teach about the superpowers bats possess. There is a lot of imaginative play that can happen around this topic, in addition to the more structured play of games; there is a fun matching game idea below. The other craft and activity ideas make use of fine motor skills (ie: tearing paper, holding a paint brush, stamping...) and encourage individuality and creativity as well. Most of these projects take minimal supplies, many of which can be found around the house (paper plates, a fork, scraps of paper, crayons, bits of yarn, etc.).