HomeJean Marzollo, author of I SPY

The New Kindergarten

Chapter Five

Theme: Home and Community

  Home and Community  

A good month in which to explore the theme of home and community is October for several reasons: (1) Fire Prevention Week is during October and fire fighters, interesting community workers, are usually prepared for visits from children; (2) Halloween provides an opportunity to discuss costumes, dressing up like community workers, and fire safety; and (3) the study of home and community leads naturally from the study of the child. Traditionally, the sequence of topics in the kindergarten school year has gone from the child to the family to the home and to the community. However, in past years many people have come to feel that the topic of families is too private for classroom study. Home as a topic is better because it encompasses families and the kinds of places families live. The goal of a unit on home and community together is to instill children with a sense that they are cared for in special ways and by special people both in their homes and in their community.

Language Arts: Oral Language

Community Workers and Props for Dramatic Play

CONCEPTS: Community workers help people in a community. A community is where you live and the people who live there with you. You can pretend you are community workers.

Help children learn about community workers who are visible in your area. Try to visit workers at their place of work, or invite workers to visit your class. Prepare questions ahead of time on an experience chart. Encourage the children to ask why workers use particular clothes and equipment. Afterward, introduce appropriate props for dramatic play in the housekeeping corner.

Fire Fighter's Props: fire hat, raincoat, boots, toy fire trucks, walkie-talkie

Postal Worker's Props: envelopes, stickers, stamps and stamp pads, mailboxes, toy mail trucks

Nurse's and Doctor's Props: gauze, bandages, a real stethoscope, small plastic bottles, cotton balls

Teacher's Props: paper, pencils, crayons, experience chart, small blackboard, chalk

Storekeeper's Props: toy cash register, play money, large blank price tags, pretend food, empty food containers and boxes, toy shopping cart.

Cook's Props: pots, pans, bowls, cooking and eating utensils, plates, cups, play stove, sink, refrigerator

Police Officer's Props: police officer's cap, walkie-talkie, whistle, pad and pencil

Pumpkin Farmer's Props: overalls, straw hat, real pumpkins (Use the pumpkins for dramatic play for a day, then use them in the math center. Ask the children to predict how many seeds are in each pumpkin. Cut the pumpkins open and count to see who came closest.) More pumpkin activities: (1) roast the pumpkin seeds (see page 84); (2) draw pumpkin faces on orange paper; (3) carve (the teacher does this) a jack-o'-lantern to match it.

Language Arts: Listening


Ask the children, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Show them how to make paper-bag masks to express their ideas, drawing faces on the bags with markers and crayons. Provide patterns for caps that they can trace, cut out, and paste on their masks, if they like. Provide yarn for hair and beards and cloth for clothes. After the masks are finished, ask the children to put them on and tell about themselves as grown-ups. Encourage the children to listen carefully to each other.

To make masks comfortable for children to wear: (1) Tear foldlines partway so the mask fits on the child comfortably. (2) Teacher: cut eyeholes so the child can see. The cut eyeholes do not have to be where the drawn eyes are.

Language Arts: Writing

A Visit to the Fire Station

To help the children prepare for a visit to the fire station, ask them to brainstorm a list of things they expect to see at the fire station. Write the list on an experience chart, illustrating each item with a picture. Bring the pad and list with you to the fire station. Check off the things as you see them. Make a new list of other things you saw.

After your trip, write a class thank-you letter to the fire fighters. Write the letter the children dictate on an experience chart. Have the children sign their names in different colors, however they write them. Writing their names in different colors will help children find their names to read back afterward.

Language Arts: Reading

Stories About Families and Homes

Many people feel that it is an invasion of children's privacy to ask them to tell about their families in school, and indeed it may be trying for a particular child with family problems to talk about his or her family in school. Yet, families are important, as children well know. One way to talk about families in school is to talk about the families we meet through children's literature.

As you read books about families to children, elicit through class discussion the following concepts:
Families are the same in many ways. (Ask children to tell you how families in stories are the same.) Families are also different in many ways. (Ask children to tell you how families in stories are different.)
In class you might want the children to make up stories about imaginary families. Perhaps the children can act them out with puppets. Children who want to tell stories about their own real families are, of course, welcome to do so. Stories can be told aloud, through pictures, through words dictated to a grown-up or into a tape recorder, or through dramatic play, especially in the housekeeping corner.

Social Studies

Block Play

Blocks can be used to stimulate children's thinking in different ways. Children can use them to make homes, hospitals, bridges, tunnels, barns, castles, airports, and skyscrapers. Some of the structures children make in the block corner may be representations of buildings they are familiar with such as the school and local gas station. The children use the blocks to show what they already know about these places. With blocks they can map out places they have been.

Often children use blocks to build imaginary structures, such as castles and elaborate tunnels. Often they proceed happily and busily without needing help from you, but you may be able to enhance their creativity with questions such as, "Where do the king and queen eat?" or "What kind of building could you make that would be different or the opposite from this building?"

Another way to inspire thoughtful block building in the classroom is to display photographs of real buildings and challenge the children, "Can you build a building like this? What would you need to do it? How would you go about doing it?" Record the children's answers on a tape recorder or an experience chart.

Halloween Safety Posters

Discuss Halloween safety rules with the children, asking them to tell you the rules and why they are important. Elicit a list of rules like the following. Try to state the rules in positive, not negative, ways. Ask the children to select rules and make paintings to illustrate them. Afterward, display the paintings and review the safety rules. If you like, write the rules on the paintings and send some to a local newspaper for possible publication at Halloween time.

Safety rules to discuss:

* Go trick-or-treating with a grown-up.
* Walk. Don't run.
* Wear bright clothes.
* Watch out for cars.
* Stay away from lit jack-o'-lanterns.
* If you wear a mask, make sure you can see well.
* Bring your trick-or-treat foods home; then only eat what your parents say you may eat.


Time Lines

The concept of time is difficult for young children for whom "long ago" seems like yesterday and "tomorrow" the far distant future. To help children with the idea of time, set up a display area with lines connecting pictures that show the progression of time. Encourage children to bring in or draw pictures that show how things change with time. Use the pictures to teach the vocabulary words long ago, now; before, after; first, next; then, finally.

Autumn Leaves

CONCEPT: We have different kinds of trees in our community.

Collect leaves on a nature walk in the school yard or park. Bring them back to class and ask, "How many ways can we sort these leaves?" Encourage the children to think of different, interesting ways to sort them, such as by color, by shape, by conditions (perfect specimens and imperfect ones), by favorites and nonfavorites. If autumn leaves change colors where you live, discuss the different colors.


kids with leaves

Glue, tape, or staple perfect leaf specimens to five-by-eight-inch index cards. Ask the children to think of imaginary names for the different leaves, such as "pointy leaf" and "blobby leaf." Print the names on the cards. Match the leaves with pictures of leaves in leaf identification books to find out their real names. Print these names on the cards too, in a different color. Display the name cards on the bulletin board. Invite volunteers to read the names. Press other leaves, vein side down, on sponges soaked with paint. Lift and press on more index cards to make leaf-print cards. Match the leaf-print cards with the name cards.


Playing Store

Together with the children think of how you could set up a play store in the classroom. Perhaps a desk set up as an adjunct to the housekeeping corner could be the store. Use a toy cash register and/or a plastic silverware tray for storing money. Make play money by tracing rectangular bill-size patterns on construction paper and cutting them out. Decorate the play money with numbers, pictures, and dollar signs. Number stamps and ink pads can be used to "print" money. Buttons, bottle caps, and counting chips can be used for coins. Egg cartons and muffin tins can be used for storing them. Removable pressure sensitive labels can be used to mark prices on items. Encourage the children to take turns being buyers and sellers or "clerks." Put some purses and wallets in the dress-up box in the housekeeping corner.


CONCEPT: Money is used to buy things. Money has pictures and numbers on it. The numbers tell how much the money is worth.

Set a money display in the math center. Have different activities for the children to carry out there, such as:

1. Make coin rubbings. Put a coin under a piece of paper. Rub the side of a peeled crayon over the paper over the coin. A coin picture should appear. What is the name of the coin?

2. Draw portraits on paper money. Provide photocopies of a big, color-in dollar. Ask the children to pretend they grew up to be a famous president. Have them draw their pictures as president on the dollar. Have them draw numbers on the dollar to show how much it is worth.

3. Weigh money. Set up a pan balance in the money center and ask children to count how many pennies it takes to balance a small toy of their choice. Ask them to record their answers by drawing the toy and the correct number of pennies next to it. (Better still, have them draw a prediction ahead of time to compare with the results.)


Designing and Printing Money and Stamps

CONCEPT: Money is printed. We can make play money by printing it in class in a pretend "printing" factory.

Dab coins lightly on sponges soaked with tempera paint. Press the coins, paint side down, on paper. Cut out the coins. If you want to use them for classroom play and hence to make them sturdier, cover them on both sides, after they dry but before you cut, with clear plastic adhesive paper.

Examine different kinds of paper money. Notice all the different kinds of pictures found on it. Collect classroom objects that can be used to print pictures on paper money. Some good ones are spools, cookie cutters, clothespins, autumn leaves, jar lids, number shapes, and alphabet blocks. Dab the objects on sponges soaked with paint. Press on index cards or other precut rectangular shapes.

VARIATION: Design and print pretend stamps for mailing letters in a classroom post office.

Junk Sculptures

CONCEPT: Instead of throwing things away, we can think of other ways to use them.

Encourage the children and parents to contribute Styrofoam peanuts, shirt cardboards, toilet paper rolls, margarine tubs, string, bottle caps, boxes, catalogs, and other throwaways to a class "junk sculpture box." Keep a supply of junk materials in the art center, along with plenty of white glue, so that children can make constructions. Teach them to use box lids or shirt cardboards for a base and to clean up after themselves. Sometimes, ask the children to build imaginary constructions to go with themes you are studying, such as an imaginary vehicle that can go anywhere (for a transportation theme) or an imaginary place for animals to live (for an animal theme).


The Mulberry Bush

Here we go 'round the mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush, the mulberry bush,
Here we go 'round the mulberry bush,
So early in the morning.

This is the way we wash our clothes,
Wash our clothes, wash our clothes,
This is the way we wash our clothes,
So early in the morning.

Help the children invent and act out new verses that describe what they do at home, in school, or in the community at large. For example:

This is the way we pick up our toys
This is the way we brush our teeth
This is the way we put away blocks
This is the way we walk in line
This is the way we cross the street
This is the way we wave good-bye

Peter Hammers
(Pretend you're construction workers.)

CONCEPT: Both men and women can be construction workers. Substitute different children's names for "Peter" each time you sing the concept. Make up other verses that tell what workers eat for breakfast, how they get to work, and so forth.

(Hammer one fist in the air)

Peter hammers with one hammer,
One hammer, one hammer;
Peter hammers with one hammer
All day long.

(Hammer two fists in the air)

Peter hammers with two hammers,
Two hammers, two hammers;
Peter hammers with two hammers
All day long.

(Hammer two fists and one foot)

Verse 3: substitute "three hammers"

(Hammer two fists and two feet)

Verse 4: substitute "four hammers"

(Hammer two fists, two feet, and shake head)

Verse 5: substitute "five hammers"

(Sing slowly and sway back and forth slowly)

Peter's very tired now,
Tired now, tired now;
Peter's very tired now,
All day long.

(Sing more slowly in a whisper and pretend to sleep)

Peter's going to bed now,
Bed now, bed now;
Peter's going to bed now,
All day long.

(Sing quickly, pretending to wake up)

Peter's wide awake now,
Awake now, awake now;
Peter's wide awake now,
All day long.

Physical Education

Red Light, Green Light

CONCEPT: Red light means stop; green light means go.

In a gym or outside, establish a start and finish line. IT stands at the finish line. The other players spread out across the start line. IT yells, "Green light," turns away from the players, and counts out loud from one to ten, during which time the players run toward the finish line. When IT reaches ten, IT yells, "Red light," and turns back to the players. At the sound of the words red light, the players stop running and freeze. IT sends anyone still moving back to the start line. IT turns and yells "Green light," and the game continues. Eventually someone reaches the finish line and touches it. That person is the next IT.

VARIATION 1: Instead of yelling out the light colors, show green or red pictures.

VARIATION 2: Instead of yelling out the light colors, show signs with the words green or red printed on them, perhaps in green or red paint.

London Bridge

London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.

Build it up with iron bars, etc.
Iron bars will bend and break, etc.
Build it up with pins and needles, etc.
Pins and needles rust and bend, etc.*
Build it up with gravel and stone, etc.
Gravel and stone will wash away, etc.

To play, two children, one representing gold and one representing silver **, make a bridge with their hands.
The other children march under the bridge in a line. On "My fair lady" the bridge makers drop their arms to capture the child underneath. The captured child has to choose gold or silver and then line up behind the bridge maker of that color. When all the children have been caught, the two lines have a tug of war.
Display pictures of bridges in the block center. Ask children to build bridges of blocks that look like the pictures.

* In the science center place some iron objects and plastic objects in a shallow pan with water in the bottom. Leave for several days. Observe which objects rust. Do the experiment again with new objects the children choose to test. Have them predict whether the objects will rust or not and then compare their predictions with the experiment's outcomes.

** To signify the two bridge makers, make crowns for them out of cardboard covered with gold and silver foil.
Or have them wear necklaces, one of imitation gold and the other of imitation silver.



Based on the book THE NEW KINDERGARTEN: Full Day, Child Centered, Academic
A book for teachers, administrators, practice teachers, teacher's aides, and parents
Text © Jean Marzollo, Illustrations © Irene Trivas

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