Our Home Study in the Woodlands

By Wendy Leitner-Sieber

For the Fall Conference Week Bree and Rich’s group explored the woodlands here at school, specifically, we began the discussion of our central theme for the year – Homes. Through reading various books and completing several activities, we started to answer questions such as

What makes a home?

What is NEEDED in a home?

What might people WANT in a home?

How do animals’ homes help with their survival?

Each morning we maintained our regular classroom schedule and routines, which included our morning meeting, where we greet each other, several children share, we take attendance, we review the agenda for the day, create some movement, and read through our morning message laying out the plan for the day. We then went to tinkering time, which is always an enjoyable part of our day. Each morning period had a read aloud. Our morning read alouds included Over in the Forest, Come and Take a Peek by Marianne Berkes, to get us thinking about the woodlands; Spy Hops and Belly Flops by Lynda Graham-Barber, where we recreated some of the movements of our woodland animal friends; and The Great Paper Caper by Oliver Jeffers, where we solved a mystery about the forest.

The activities we worked on through the week included a variety of projects involving art, writing, math, and building. All of our activities were related to a story to add context to our work. One activity was working in pairs to make a list of things found in human and animal homes, and graphing the information on a Venn diagram. We read the book A House is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman to see different types of homes for humans and animals, and from what they might be made. Another activity included taking a hike through the lower areas of the Miquon campus near the bamboo forest. We read North Woods Girl by Aimee Bissonette. The children searched for and sketched possible animal homes they saw along the way.

Next, we read A Log’s Life by Wendy Pfeffer, which illustrates a close-up view of life on a fallen log. The children took frames, laid them on a log, or the ground, or held them up to get a view of a small part of the woodland. They sketched what they saw in their frame, then made a final drawing with water color back in the classroom. Later, we read the poems from the book A Whiff of Pine, a Hint of Skunk by Deborah Ruddell, and we wrote our own poetry to go along with our paintings.

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Then we met a new character, Leaf Man, when we read the story Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. We gathered leaves and twigs and created our own leaf person/creature. Later that same day, we read Adventures of Leaf Man by Rebecca Shelley, after which we thought about and listed some biographical information about our leaf person/creature. We also selected a leaf from our pile and thought of one word that we could use to describe our leaf, writing it on a card. Words such as smooth, banana-shaped, spotted, red, brown, and pointy emerged. We then set up a Venn Diagram, and selected two cards, one for each side. The children then selected which attribute, or both, would describe their leaf. This went on for several rounds, and the children enjoyed seeing how many attributes their leaves fit.

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On the last day of conference week, some woodland fairies made their way into our classroom, and were quickly discovered by the children. After reading the story Fairy Houses by Tracy Kane, we went outside and gathered some materials to build our own fairy houses. We chose the upper pathway that leads from the 5/6 building to the Art room, and found some wonderful building sites. The children enjoyed building their fairy houses, and we have visited, repaired, remodeled, and renovated the fairy houses several times since conference week ended. Our final read aloud for the week was Forest Bright, Forest Night by Jennifer Ward, which helped us to see the differences that exist in the forest between nighttime and daytime.

The children and teachers enjoyed the stories and activities we did during conference week very much.

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