The month of December is filled with magic and wonder. It can also be a time in which children and grown ups alike become overwhelmed. Our challenge in the classroom is to embrace and extend the wonder, while offering safe routines and experiences that help to maintain a sense of stability during a very exciting time.
December Invitation to Play: Learning through Meaningful Holiday Experiences
Rather than focusing on adding more to our plates, this invitation offers the opportunity to look closely at the things we are doing during the holiday season, and reflect them in meaningful ways in our learning and teaching with children. This past week, the children in our class participated in an extended project around the simple act of wrapping a present. Here is a look into our experience.
1. Solid Shapes - As we began exploring cultures and holidays around the world during the month of December, the children noticed the common theme of gift giving as part of celebration. With this in mind, we began to look more closely at what we need to know about a gift in order to wrap it. First step, looking closely at the shape. I placed a variety of items in a large red sack, and the children played a guessing game by reaching in to pull out items and identify the shape. Children quickly connected with the attributes and names of the solid shapes within this context.
2. Descriptive Vocabulary - Next step was looking closely at the kinds of paper that are used to wrap a gift. Rich language and vocabulary development, along with expression through complete sentences, took on a whole new energy as children thought more deeply about these familiar concepts.
3. Creating a List - Lists offer children a safe way to begin to explore writing and experiment with developmental spelling. "Sharing the Pen" for this language experience chart gave us the opportunity to practice this idea together.
4. Sequencing Events - After playing oral language games to act out "First, Next, Last", we worked together as a class to determine all of the steps to wrapping a present. We used Google Slides to organize our ideas so that children would have a resource to which they could refer on their own.
5. Hands-On Life Skills - Children developed independence and fine motor skills as they wrapped empty boxes to add to our dramatic play area! They were so proud to engage in this "grown up" task that they are seeing out in the world at this time of year!
6. Time to Play - We added the gifts, along with other holiday props, for children to act out the process of gift giving and receiving! Along with the play experience came natural opportunities to explore action words and word endings.
The experiences embedded here are natural learning extensions that meaningfully connect to what the children are seeing in their world right now. As they continue to process their experiences, documentation is critical for reflection. To create and share this reflection, we worked together to make a holiday movie teaching everyone how to wrap a present! Each year, this becomes a child and family favorite, as they come together to reflect on meaningful learning. This also opens up opportunities for families to see children as capable contributors to the holiday experience, rather than just recipients. This movie was simple to create using my Free Animoto Educator Account.
Children and families have easy access to this video in Seesaw portfolios as well as Google Classroom. It became our digital newsletter for the week.
Feel free to use our video in your classroom as inspiration! If you have a special play-based holiday experience that helps to create meaningful connections for children, please document and share it using the hashtag #innovatingplay!
Heart, Soul, & Happy Holidays!