HomeJean Marzollo, author of I SPY

The New Kindergarten

Chapter Seven

Theme: Sharing and Communication

A good month in which to explore this theme is December, a month of holiday celebrations. The goal of this unit is to help children learn to share and communicatein many different ways.

The importance of sharing and communicating is, of course, stressed all year long, but during December, when children may be overstimulated with holiday activities, a focus on sharing provides children with an opportunity to share their feelings and a focus on communication provides them with a broader way to look at the materialistic act of giving and receiving presents.

Language Arts: Oral Language

Storyteller Caps

CONCEPT: A story is a way to share your ideas and feelings with others. A story can be a gift.

Help the children make special storyteller hats from newspaper and tape. Decorate the hats with stickers. Ask the children to take turns putting on their storyteller hats and telling each other stories. Ask them to pretend that their hats are magic. When they put on their hats, their heads fill with stories to tell. Encourage the children to use interesting words, such as happy, bored, angry, bashful, to express feelings that the people in their stories might have. Encourage them to use these words to tell about their own feelings too.
VARIATIONS: When a child is running out of story ideas, he or she can give his or her cap to someone else to put on and finish the story.

Language Arts: Listening

Listening Game

To play, two children sit back to back so they can't see what each other is doing. Both children have similar sets of beads and laces. One child is the leader. The leader starts making a necklace, telling the other child the beads he or she is using. The other child listens carefully and copies the instructions. When the necklace is finished, the children turn to each other and compare. Are the necklaces the same? (They should be.) The children dump their necklaces and remake them, with the other child being the leader this time. Encourage the children to make patterned necklaces with their beads and to describe their patterns to each other.


message center

Language Arts: Writing

Writing Center

A rebus picture is a picture that stands for a word. In the writing center put a container of blank index cards and a container to hold finished rebus word cards. Make a rebus word card for each child with the child's photograph on it and the child's name on it. (The children can help make the cards.) Make other rebus word cards as the children want them. Encourage the children to send cards and messages to each other, using the rebus word cards if they want to spell something correctly. Tell them that they do not have to use the rebus word cards for every word; if they want to, they can spell words however they think best (invented spelling). As you study new units, introduce relevant rebus word cards to the writing center.

Message Center (or Post Office)

Set up a message center (or post office-call it what you like) where children can post messages to each other. The children can help make their own mailboxes as follows:

Staple half a paper plate to a whole one to make a message holder. Decorate with a photograph of the child and the child's name.

Language Arts: Reading

Rebus Cards

Some rebus cards you might want to add to the writing center:

Rebus Cards   Rebus Puzzle

Rebus Picture Puzzles

To make a rebus puzzle picture, make rebus pictures without words and see if someone else can read your message. Try these messages: I love you. Can you see a deer? Be a love. I can be a deer. You are a star.

Social Studies

Learning Your Address

Write the children's names and addresses on big envelopes. Have them decorate their envelopes, and help them say their addresses aloud. Make a class mailbox by cutting a slit in a big cardboard box. (If you like, take the children on a walk to see what a mailbox looks like. Back in the classroom, ask them to decorate the cardboard mailbox to look like a real one.) Frequently, at circle time give the children their envelopes. Help them say their addresses aloud, and ask them to mail them in the mailbox.

Envelope Creativity

Ask the children, "What is an envelope?" Provide paper and paste, and ask them to create envelopes for cards they have made. Encourage different solutions to the envelope question. Make a bulletin board display of interesting envelopes.

Learning Your Telephone Number

Ask the children to draw or paint pictures of telephones. Afterward, write the children's phone numbers on their pictures. Let them copy the numbers if they like. Encourage them to memorize their phone numbers.

Telephone Game

At circle time hold a toy telephone in your lap and name a child. Ask the child to tell his or her phone number. Pretend to dial as the child speaks, and then have a make-believe telephone conversation with each other.

Put a few toy or nonworking real telephones in the housekeeping corner to help the children learn to say and dial their own phone numbers.

Social Studies

Authors and Illustrators

Explain that authors and illustrators are good at sharing and communicating their ideas. Authors write books, and illustrators make the pictures in books. Ask the children to select favorite books to share with the class. Show them where the author's and illustrator's names are written on the cover. If possible, invite an author or illustrator to visit your class to read one of his or her books. Have the children make books of their own to show the visitor.

Looking together at a real newspaper, talk about reporters, photographers, and newspapers. Have the children dictate stories about classroom pets, projects, and plans for a class newspaper. Make and distribute your newspaper.


Ask the children to tell you about what a leader is. Elicit through discussion that a leader is someone others follow. A leader needs to be able to communicate his ideas so that others know what to follow.

Play Follow the Leader at circle time or in lines on the playground. If a leader's actions are unclear, stop and analyze how they could be better communicated.

The President of the United States is a leader. Post a picture of the President on the bulletin board. Look at other pictures of presidents in books, on paper money and coins. Make coin rubbings of presidents. Talk about qualities that make a good leader.


Light and Dark

Explain that in the summer the days are long because the sun shines a long time. In the winter the days are short because the sun shines for a shorter period of time. December is the darkest month of the year. For this reason, people.like to celebrate with lights. Ask the children to tell how lights are used to celebrate December holidays. Some of the lights they may mention are Christmas tree lights and Hanukkah candles. Bring in Christmas lights to decorate the classroom and a menorah (Hanukkah candleholder). Ask parents to visit class and tell how lights are used in their holiday celebrations. Remind children to stay away from lit candles and matches.

Hand Shadow Puppets

hand shadow puppetCONCEPT: Hand shadows can be like puppets. We can use hand shadow puppets to share ideas.

On a dark day turnoff the lights and lower the shades to darken the room further. Shine a bright light (from a bright flashlight or projector) onto a white wall or piece of white cardboard. Let the children take turns making hand shadows on the wall. Encourage them to act out holiday stories with their shadows.


Science Questions

What makes a shadow? (A shadow is made by something blocking the light.) Why can't you find your shadow on a cloudy day? (The sun isn't shining; there's no light to block.) When is your shadow longest on a sunny day? (In the morning or late afternoon.) When is it shortest? (At noon.) Try measuring your shadows on· the playground with chalk at different times on a sunny day.


Patterning and Paper Chains

Enliven the traditional holiday activity of making paper chains by asking the children to experiment with patterns in their chains. As the children work on their chains, ask them to tell what their patterns are going to be. Make a display by hanging all the patterned paper chains in one place and unpatterned paper chains in another. Explain that both kinds are pretty.

Measuring and Paper Chains

Ask each child to make a paper chain as long as he or she is tall. Have the children help each other hold their chains up to see if they are long enough or too long. Write names on the last link of each chain. Display the chains on the wall, each touching the floor to compare heights. Paper clip the chains together to see how long a chain all the lengths make when added together. Use the long chain to decorate the classroom. Just before vacation, take it apart so each child can take home his or her own section.

Poem for Writing Numbers

A line straight down is lots of fun,
That's the way to make a 1.

Around the railroad track and down ...
Tooot! Tooot!

Around the tree, around the tree,
That's the way to make a 3.

Down and across and down one more,
That's the way to make a 4.

Down and around; put a flag on top;
And see the 5 you've found.

A curve and a loop,
A 6 throws a hoop.

Across the sky and down from heaven,
That's the way to make a 7.

Make an S, but do not wait;
Climb back up to make an 8.

First a circle, then a line;
That's the way to make a 9.

Circle around to make a zero;
And you will be a great big hero!

- Author Unknown

Help the children make counting books for presents. Explain that written numbers communicate amounts. Have the children make number pictures with written numbers and pictures of that many things. These pictures can be compiled into books for holiday presents for parents. The above poem can be retyped, photocopied, and inserted into the books so parents can say it with their children.


Two Recipes for Ornaments

1. Mix and knead equal parts of white glue (pre-tinted with food coloring), flour, and cornstarch. Hand-form flat shapes. Embed large paper clips for hooks. Dry 2 days on waxed paper, turning several times.

2. Mix and knead 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup salt, and 3/4 cup water. Roll out and cut with cookie cutters. Embed large paper clips for hooks. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 10 to 15 minutes. Paint with acrylic or tempera paint. If you like, varnish the ornaments so they won't chip.

Holiday Pendants

Hang ornaments from long yarn loops to make simple necklaces the children can give their parents for presents.

Salt Beads

Make salt bead necklaces for presents from 4 cups flour, 2 cups water, and 1 cup salt. Mix, knead, and form dough into beads. Pierce with a straw and dry overnight on wax paper. Bake for 1 hour at 300 degrees F. on an ungreased cookie sheet. Cool. Paint with tempera or acrylic paints. Dry thoroughly and string.

Wrapping Paper

Press cookie cutters lightly on sponges soaked with tempera paint, and stamp designs on tissue paper to make wrapping paper. Encourage children who want to make patterned designs to tell about their patterns.


Help the children write "to --" and "from --" on index cards and then stamp a cookie cutter shape on the card to make a gift tag. Show them how to punch a hole in the tag.

Mexican Pinatas

CONCEPT: People have different ways to celebrate holidays.

To make a papier-mache pinata, have the children dip precut newspaper strips two by six inches into flour and water mixed to the consistency of heavy cream. Lay the strips on inflated, round balloons. Leave room for a hole. Dry, paint, and decorate with strips of paper.

To make a paper-bag pinata, put several strong grocery bags inside one another. Fill with wrapped candy, small bags of peanuts, small boxes of raisins, and sticks of gum. Tie tightly and knot securely. Decorate with crayons, markers, and strips of paper pasted on the bag.

Suspend the pinata from a tree, ceiling, or broomstick held high in the air. Have the children take turns being blindfolded and trying to hit the pinata with a wooden spoon. When the pinata finally breaks, help the children divide the treats so that they can be shared equally. Teach the children ahead of time that equal means "the same number of."


Pattern Dance

Have the children stand in a big circle. Give them crepe paper streamers, alternating red, green, red, green, and so forth. Play music. Stand in the center, holding both a red and green streamer. (You are the conductor.) Wave your arms up and down to the beat, having the children move up and down to the music. When you raise your red streamer, the "reds" rise up; when you lower your green streamer, the "greens" crouch down.
Let the children take turns being conductor. Also, vary the patterns in the circle with different arrangements (such as red, red, green, red, red, green, and so forth) and different-colored streamers.

Musical Instruments

Make tambourines. Decorate the backs of two sturdy paper plates with markers. Then put dry beans on one plate. Lay the other plate over it. Staple the plates together, making sure the decorated sides face out.

Make Mexican maracas (shakers) by filling plastic bottles with rice, paper clips, stones, or bells.

Make drums from coffee cans, pots, and salad bowls turned upside down.

Use the homemade instruments to accompany traditional classroom holiday songs.

Physical Education

May I, Please?

Play the traditional Giant Steps (May I) Game, emphasizing manners. To play, establish a start and finish line. The leader stands behind the finish line. The children spread out across the start line. The leader gives the first command, such as "Keith, you may take five baby steps." Keith then must ask, "May I, please?" If he doesn't say this, his turn is over. If he does, the leader can say, "Yes, you may," in which case Keith must say, "Thank you," and then take five baby steps toward the finish line. If he doesn't say "Thank you," his turn is over. To the question, "May I, please?" the leader can change her mind and say, "No, you may not. You may take three giant steps." Again, Keith must ask, "May I, please?" If the leader says, "Yes, you may," Keith must say, "Thank you," before taking the five giant steps. The first child to reach the finish line wins. As teacher, you can be the leader and manipulate the game that everyone wins once. Various steps are baby steps, giant steps, hops, jumps, twirl steps, backward steps, and leaps. Encourage the children to invent and name new ones.

Opposites Game

This game is a variation of the familiar game Duck, Duck, Goose. To play Duck, Duck, Goose the children sit in a circle. It walks around the outside of the circle tapping each child on the head lightly, saying "Duck" with each tap until It finally taps a player and says "Goose!" The Goose then jumps up and chases It around the outside of the circle, trying to tag him or her before It reaches the empty space. If It gets there first, the Goose becomes the next It. If Goose catches It, the same child is It again.

As you teach the children opposite words in the classroom, review them in this game. Instead of saying, "Duck, Duck, Goose," for example, have the children say, "Hot, Hot, Cold." Let the children think of opposites to substitute. Some good ones are up/down, in/out, big/little, over/under, near/far, short/long, high/low, empty/full, and dark/light. You and the children will be able to think of many more.


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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