Before the holidays, I was struggling a little with my pre-k classes. I couldn’t switch my brain from the public library storytime format, where you have 45 minutes to an hour to sing, use bubbles, read stories, and do a craft. And the parents are there to help with any complicated gluing or cutting for the craft. My class periods are 30 minutes, and I realized after a while that with pre-k I really get more like 20-25 minutes. It takes them a while to do transitions, so they’re not at the library when the bell rings and need about 5 minutes to clean up and line up at the end of class. But by November I’d finally sort of caught on to planning units over a month’s time with them. Some weeks we just do stories, some weeks we play a game or do a craft, etc.
Over Christmas break my mother gave me a book called Preschool Favorites: 35 Storytimes Kids Love by Diane Briggs. It’s fantastic, and I’ve been using elements of the “Mitten Weather” chapter for my January winter lessons with all the pre-k classes.
And it’s been a lot of fun. For the first two weeks I let each of the kids pick a stuffed bear from our stuffed animal collection. They cuddled up with the bears while we read stories. The first week we just talked about what makes winter winter, and we read It’s Winter! by Linda Glaser and Polar Bear Night by Lauren Thompson (which is just gorgeous). I tried to do a song from the Briggs book, but I forgot the words and couldn’t carry the tune. That’s when I started with the finger puppets.
Week two we did a hibernation lesson, and I read Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, and Time to Sleep by Denise Fleming. Those books got finger puppet treatment. Then I finished with Stay Awake, Bear! by Gavin Bishop, which is a cute story about two bears who decide to stay up all winter long.
Week three we talked about snow and read Grandmother Winter written by Phyllis Root and illustrated by Beth Krommes, whose work just won the Caldecott for The House in the Night. It’s kind of a magical story about a grandmother who sews a winter quilt all through the year, and when winter comes she shakes it out and makes the snow fall. We also read Snowballs by Lois Ehlert, which was on the “Mitten Weather” booklist in Briggs’s book. The kids loved that one, we had a lot of fun guessing what all the snow family decorations were. Then we sang “Dancing Snowflakes” from the Briggs book, which is set to the tune for “Frere Jacques.” This was great to get them moving after sitting nicely through storytime, and I ended the classes with it. We learned the song first, and then we all got up and danced and pretended to be snowflakes. I asked the kids what kind of snowflakes they would be, and I got some great answers. A princess snowflake, a dinosaur snowflake. And they came up with little falling-to-the-ground dances to go with the song.
The last week of my winter unit, this past week, we did snowmen (building off of Snowballs). I made the snowman flannelboard from the pattern in the Briggs book. This was a huge hit, so I’ll be making some more flannelboards in the coming months (I just discovered that I had a board before the holidays).
I put all the felt snowman pieces I’d cut out on the board, and then we worked together to assemble the snowman. I read the poem “Hey, Mr. Snowman” from the Briggs book. It says things like, “I see an orange carrot. Put it on me!” And I point to silly things like the yellow boots and ask, “Is this an orange carrot?” and the kids roll on the floor laughing until I point to the right thing.
After we made our flannelboard, the kids made their own snowmen to take home. I pre-cut some snowman shapes for each of them and let them glue those onto some off-white paper. Then they decorated them however they wanted, and they did a phenomenal job. These were some of my favorites from the first class of the week.
If any classes still had time after they’d all made their snowmen, we read the classic The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. It’s wordless, so the kids help tell the story. It was a great unit, we really had fun with it.