In my preschool classroom, I follow a thematic school calendar and while not every single lesson or free choice ( aka centers) activity follows that theme the majority of them do. I make room for favorite activities the students engage with and then, of course, there is always room old staples like blocks, kitchen play and play dough. Sometimes I add in fun extras for these staples, like the foam flowers for play dough. Our theme this month is Spring Garden and today’s post is a great snapshot of a lesson plan for preschool using a thematic unit. Need help figuring out how to plan it all? Scroll to the end and take a look at my easy planning process and get my free lesson plan template for preschool too.
Lola is one of my family’s favorite characters, and I was so excited to share her with my students. The whole Lola series by Anna McQuinn is calm, sweet, and models appropriate and loving behavior of a preschooler, with her friends and family. This story has examples of curiosity, patience, pretend play, storytelling… the list goes on. Lola plants a garden with her mama and then has to wait but waiting for it pays off! The length of the book is perfect for 2-5-year-olds.
The Circle Time Activity
Read the book.
Lead every action. Do not worry if a child is not 100% into it. Just by watching and listening they will be introduced to a plant lifecycle. Use your own wording, but of course, feel free to use my suggestions if you would like.
Ask your students what they think it must feel like to be one of the seeds Lola planted in the ground.
Start by crouching into a tiny ball saying ” We start as tiny seeds that Lola planted in the dirt in their garden.”
Say that with sun and water you are beginning to grow. Start wiggling saying ” We are starting to grow roots but no one can see us yet, we are still underground. Lola is waiting for us to sprout!”
Reach up one arm saying you are starting to sprout.
More sun and water makes you grow even taller. Reach your hands to the side saying ” We are growing leaves!”
“Oh no it’s very windy!” sway in the wind.
“The sun is back out, and our flowers are ready to bloom.” Stand tall and proud in the garden.
The Art Activity
I love celery prints because they are a fun way to make roses if a child is ready to make something product based but this art is open and simply getting to use something novel for painting is a fun experience and when it feels different in their hands and smells different and makes different prints they can see it is also a sensory experience.
After the growing as a seed pretend play let the children know that today you will be painting with celery and just like the flowers that Lola planted celery starts as a tiny seed. Ask the children if they would like to try a taste of celery before they go to the table for art. Remind them that these celery sticks are for eating, and the celery in the paint is not because today you will be using that celery as a tool, not food.
Some Center Ideas
Potato Washing and Scrubbing
This is the simplest activity, and while most students don’t spend a long time at this center, it is a fun way to look at scrubbing, working on hand strength and of course getting a little water play into your center or free choice time.
Vegetable Garden Sensory Tray
This has been a huge hit in my class, some of my older students like matching up the veggies ( there are two of each type) and others just like playing and planting their own garden. See how I made it with this full post here.
Fine Motor Flower Tray
This is an old staple, and every year my students enjoy arranging flowers and working on their fine motor and hand-eye coordination while doing it. See how I made it here.
Foam Flowers for Play Dough
Such an easy add on but it really boosts play as well as vocabulary at the play dough table. Words like petals, garden, leaves, stem and bouquet are often heard used when these get added to the table. See how I made them here.
Putting it all down in writing
I admit I do a lot of planning in my head and on the go now, but I encourage new teachers especially to write it all down especially with a new theme. Planning helps you see how balanced your day is, and you can come back and write what was and wasn’t engaging for your students to know what to repeat and what to modify. You can get this lesson planning template with or without the areas of learning and click the image below for a closer look at how I would plan my day. It’s not fancy, but it works. There is a mix of on theme activities and old staples.
Here is my actual lesson plan for this day. Simple right?
If you like these ideas you will love my ebook Little School – it is packed with playful learning and lessons just like this!