HomeJean Marzollo, author of I SPY

The New Kindergarten

Chapter Nine

Theme: Transportation

A good month in which to explore this theme is February, though it is a theme that lends itself to exploration at any time of the year. But in February teachers can use the theme of transportation to pull together a number of different kinds of February events, such as Presidents Day (discuss the kinds of transportation that Presidents Lincoln and Washington used long, long ago), Valentine's Day (discuss the kinds of transportation postal workers use), and snow (if it snows where you live, discuss the kinds of transportation used to remove snow from roads). Since February can be a month of inclement weather in many areas resulting in frequent cancellation of outdoor playtime, it lends itself to a theme that involves a lot of small and large motor activity. A special part of the unit on transportation can be a look at spaceships. The topic of space comes up again in chapter 11, Weather and Sky.

Language Arts: Oral Language

Poems for Recitation

Have the children draw pictures to go with these poems. Make photocopies of the poems for them to paste on their pictures. Encourage parents to memorize poems along with their children, explaining that memorizing and reciting poems helps children build oral language skills.

Engine, engine, Number Nine,
Running on Chicago Line,
If she's polished, how she'll shine,
Engine, engine, Number Nine.

- Anonymous

A peanut sat on a railroad track,
His heart was all a-flutter;
The five-fifteen came rushing by
Toot! Toot! Peanut butter.

- Anonymous

Old Woman, Old Woman

There was an old woman tossed up in a basket,
Seventeen times as high as the moon.
Where she was going I couldn't but ask it,
For under her arm she carried a broom.
"Old woman, old woman, old woman," said I.
"Where are you going to up so high?"
"To sweep the cobwebs out of the sky,
And I'll be with you by and by."

- Mother Goose

Language Arts: Listening

Word and Sentence Puppets

With markers, have the children draw faces on paper lunch bags to make puppets. On the bottom of each bag (now the top) print a simple word. Write the same words on an experience chart with pictures to illustrate them. Ask the children to put on their word puppets and call them by name. (Their names are their words.) Ask small groups of children to see if they can make sentences by standing together and putting their word puppets together. Help the children practice using the vocabulary words: first/next/then/last to describe the position of letters in words and words in sentences.

Language Arts: Writing

Five-Step Poems About Vehicles

Together write five-step poems on an experience chart. Each poem has five lines, and each line follows a format. As the children contribute lines, write their lines in different color markers to help them recognize and read back their lines later. The format for a five-step poem about a vehicle is:

TITLE: Name of Vehicle

LINE 1: size and shape of vehicle
LINE 2: color of vehicle
LINE 3: purpose of vehicle
LINE 4: where you'd like to be in the vehicle
LINE 5: name of worker who drives vehicle

Here are some examples of five-step poems about vehicles:

Race Car

Red and purple.
Goes fast and wins races.
On a race track.
Race car driver.


Long like a train.
Silver and blue.
Carries people.
Subway conductor

Back Hoe

Big with a scoop.
Moves dirt and rocks.
Construction site.
Back hoe operator.

Language Arts: Reading

Labels for Vehicles

Have the children bring you classroom vehicles to label. Use masking tape or pressure sensitive stickers for the labels. Ask the children to help you sound out the initial letters for each label, such as V for van. If you like, write the initial letters in different colors. If the children are able, help them sound out the rest of the letters in the labels. Encourage them to read the labels aloud as they play with the vehicles. Encourage them also to consult the labels on the vehicles if they want to write the words for the vehicles in their writing. Collect pictures of vehicles for a bulletin board display. Discuss the names written on them, helping the children to discover that they are often the names of the companies that own the vehicles.

Social Studies

Classifying Vehicles

Define three areas of the classroom as three special places: land, water, and sky. (The block corner might be the land, some tubs of water on a plastic cloth might be water, and an open space on the floor might be sky.) Divide the children into three groups: drivers of vehicles that go on land, drivers of vehicles that go in the water, and drivers of vehicles that fly in the sky. Ask them to find vehicles in the classroom that go in their areas and bring them to their areas. The children will discover that some vehicles can go in more than one area; for example, a plane can go in the sky and on land. Help the children decide for themselves what to do with a plane; they may decide to share it, or they may decide it goes mainly in the sky area, or they may come up with another solution. Encourage inventive solutions. Help the children decorate their areas to accommodate their vehicles. This can be a short half-hour project or a long project lasting days. Let the children visit each other's area with their vehicles, and encourage them to tell stories about their travels. Have them make imaginary vehicles that can go in all three areas.


Have a student or guest who uses a wheelchair demonstrate how he or she gets about in the wheelchair. Explain that some wheelchairs are motorized and don't need to be pushed. Show the children how ramps are provided instead of stairs in buildings so that people in wheelchairs can get up them. Show the children how some stalls in bathrooms have extra-wide doors to accommodate people in wheelchairs. If possible, show them how vans with hydraulic lifts can lift handicapped people into the van. Show the children pictures of the Special Olympics for handicapped people.

CONCEPT: There are many ways handicapped people can get about.


Sink or Float?

Ask the children to find in the classroom things they predict will sink and things they predict will float. Explain that a "prediction" is a thoughtful guess. Help them record their predictions on an experience chart with words and/or drawings. Then test each item in a tub of water. Does it sink or float? Record the results on another chart.


Use a stopwatch to time how long it takes for things to sink to the bottom of a tub. Make a graph that records the amounts in seconds. Use the graph to compare which things take the longest and shortest times to sink.


Provide the children with a variety of materials with which to make boats, and ask them to create boats that float. Test the boats they make, and make a collection of the boats that actually float. Some boats to try:



Road Signs

Make a bulletin board display of pictures of road signs that contain numbers. If possible, take some photographs of road signs with numbers on a class walk around the neighborhood. Perhaps a parent could be the class photographer on the walk. Discuss the different signs in the classroom, helping the children read the numbers and learn what they are for. Have the children paint road signs with numbers to decorate the block corner.

Transportation Graph

Ask the children how they got to school that day. Have the walkers, car riders, bus riders, bicycle riders, and so forth line up in different lines. Make a graph that has a column for each line. Illustrate the columns with little pictures (walker, car, bus, etc.). Give each child a sticker to paste in the right column. Discuss and compare the numbers of children in each category.

Ask the children to tell stories about coming to school. Help them review safety rules for walking and riding to school. Perhaps you can make safety murals emphasizing transportation. Invite a bus driver and crossing guard to visit the classroom and tell about their jobs.


Make a Class Train

Use a picture book about trains for reference as you and the children plan to build a freight train in class. Talk about the materials you'll need, asking children to bring in from home adult-size and child-size shoeboxes and round oatmeal and cornmeal containers. Glue boxes to lids as necessary to form the cars you want. Punch holes in the boxes with a pencil (the teacher should do this), and connect them with pieces of shoelaces knotted with big knots. Lay the train on newspaper on the floor so the children can paint it. When it is dry, paint the names on the cars for the children to read. You might want to add a passenger car to your freight train, and follow that up with a class trip on a real train. A good trip is to ride one stop, change trains, and ride back home again. Plan ahead of time with the railroad so that the engineer and conductors know you're coming. They may let the children visit the front of the train to see where the engineer drives the train. Back in class, let the children act out being train conductors. Make a page of cut-apart tickets with numbers on them. Photocopy the page, and have the children cut apart the tickets to make a ticket collection to play with. Give them paper punches to punch the tickets. This is a good activity for practicing number recognition as the children say, "Five dollars, please," and punch the number 5. Have the children tell and write stories about imaginary trips they could take on their class train.

Paper Airplanes and Helicopters

Show the children how to decorate paper with markers and then fold it to make paper airplanes and helicopters as follows. If they want to, encourage them to create new designs and see how they work. Measure how long airplanes glide by marking with chalk where they land. Time helicopters with a stopwatch to see how many seconds it takes them to fall. Record the times on a graph.

Imaginary Vehicles

Provide the children with an assortment of junk materials, such as Styrofoam, wood, fabric, toy wheels, feather, beads, paper, containers, paint, glitter, and glue. Ask them to invent. imaginary vehicles that can go on land, water, and in the air. Have them build their vehicles inside box lids so that they can carry them home. Help the children label the vehicles with imaginary names. Have them tell and write stories about trips they took to Fairyland in their magic vehicles.



Musical Balloons

This game is played like Musical Chairs. You will need as many balloons as there are children minus one. Have the children help you figure out how many that is (a good activity for practicing one-to-one correspondence). Perhaps you can have parents or older children visit the class to help you blow up the balloons. This game needs to be played outside on a windless day Or inside in an area where there is sufficient space in which to move around. Play music (on a radio, record player, or tape recorder). As the music plays, the children bat the balloons around. If a balloon drops, that's okay. Just pick it up and continue to bat it around. When the music stops, each child catches and holds onto a balloon. Whoever is without a balloon becomes your helper. This person gets to pop a balloon with a pin so that there is one less balloon for the next round. Continue until the last child catches the last balloon and becomes the winner. An alternative and less competitive way to play (and one that saves balloons) is to not pop a balloon each time, but rather to identify the child left standing without a balloon with a good, friendly laugh, and then to continue the game, letting that child play again. No one ever leaves the game, and you play it for as long as you and the children like.

Transportation Songs

Make a tape recording of the children singing transportation songs. Play the tape as the children are playing with class vehicles in the block corner. Let them take turns borrowing the tape to bring home and share with their families. If you like, make a transportation songbook to go along with the tape. The songbook can consist of photocopies of the words to the songs illustrated by the children. Some songs to include are:

"Down by the Station" "The Bus Song"
"Row, Row, Row Your Boat"
"I've Been Working on the Railroad"
"She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain"
"Yankee Doodle"

For a song about fire engines, sing to the tune of "Down by the Station":

Down by the fire station early in the morning,
See all the fire trucks standing in a row.
See all the fire fighters putting on their helmets,
(Imitate a fire truck siren here) Off they go!

Physical Education

obstacle course train

Jack Be Nimble

Have the children try different ways of jumping, for example, jumping with feet together, jumping on one foot, jumping without a running start, and jumping with a running start. Set up a starting line for jumps with tape on the floor or with rope on a playground. Measure how far the children jump with rope, tape, or chalk, whatever best suits your situation. Each time the children jump, you can chant:

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick,
Jack jump over the candlestick.
(The children can imagine the candlestick. Show them what one is ahead of time.)

When you chant the rhyme in class before a child jumps, substitute the child's name for Jack, for example:

Mary be nimble, Mary be quick,
Mary jump over the candlestick.


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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