an early education learning space ~ where play equals learning

March 3, 2015
by countryfun

Learning Without a Lesson

I’ve always believed that learning occurs from whatever activity you are involved in. I believe that for young children especially the best learning occurs naturally whenever they are engaged. I also believe it’s about the process, not the product.

I have always made materials to use for lessons and activities here. I have also often let the children help in the making of the material. Why I do this is for that “learning without a lesson”. There are important lessons that can not be taught in what we think of as school lessons or play.

While observing a visiting specialist’s lesson an idea was triggered and I went on the hunt for CVC cards which I would be able to use to work with both beginning and ending sounds and word families. I could make myself, but I figured I could probably find some online and save time. I did just that. On TPT, I found CVC Phoneme Segment cards by Lavinia Pop – 76 cards to download for $3.

I decided to print the cards off this morning the children were playing. I wondered if it would draw any attention. If so I intended to get the children talking about the pictures that were printing off. What image? What was beginning sound? What letter makes that sound? Could they figure out the last letter by it’s sound?

The 1 Pre-K here today came right over and our conversation started. Other children came and went. I also decided to write in the letters for each image, as I thought would provide more ability to adapted the material for later usage. “R” handed me the printed sheets and named each letter as I silently wrote them out. Not only did this provide reinforcement of letter recognition, but she saw we engaged in writing out words composed of letters – reinforcing that concept.

Once done it was time to cut apart and laminate. “R” got out the laminator and sheets, but waited for me to plug in. Allowing to help in this way supports independence, self-esteem, and also safety practices. Next “R” asked where else she could help.

I showed her how to place the cut cards, telling her only 4 to a sheet and she proceeded to problem solve that – 2 rows of 2. DSC06314DSC06312 She also put the sheets through the laminator.

M4H06315 from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

I had to reshow her how to push in until the rollers grab. We talked about why it worked that way and what a laminator does. Learning here includes following directions, expanding language, fine motor, math, science, value of tools, following through with project start to finish. Working with an adult.

Again others were in and out, but “R” was completely engaged.

DSC06316Last part was sorting out some bulk letter tiles I have. We worked together to sort into uppercase/lowercase. To start, we will be using the lowercase to play with the cards as I wrote the CVC words out in lowercase.

With the help of one willing learner our game material is completed and waiting for use for other lessons to be learned.

January 10, 2014
by countryfun

Have You Ever Wondered About Snowmen at Night?

In exposing children to books so that their world expands it is important as part of that to help them understand the parts of a book.  Title pages, author, illustrator, beginning, middle and ending are all easy to develop an understanding of. In many of the picture books used for infants through preschool there are no “dust jackets”, especially with an introduction (found on the inside lap – I always thought of as the fly) or opening question to get you excited about what you will find once you start reading. So when I find one you can be sure I use it.

Our library copy of Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner had a great one and it was nice to be able to start this reading and extension project off from there.

“Have you ever wondered about the secret life of a snowman? Maybe one morning his grin is a little crooked, or his tree-branch arms have drooped, and you’ve thought…. what do snowmen do at night?”

How much more fun to peak the interest in a story, than to just start right in reading? Some interesting answers to this opening.

As a follow up activity we took black paper – a little different for a snowman picture – and some unusual painting tools to make a snowy night time background for our snowman.

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December 24, 2013
by countryfun

What Have We Learned About Reindeer?

In answer to the question “What have you learned about Reindeer?”  The group started telling me facts they had learned. From these we agreed on key words. (Can you find the spelling error? We did after the tag cloud processed.)


Lots of learning about our larger world, comparing a common animal native to our area with a larger family member. Comparing habitats.

What we learned:

  • Reindeer are mammals.
  • Male and female reindeer both have antlers.
  • Reindeer are called Caribou in North America.
  • Reindeer are good swimmers.
  • Reindeer are always moving to find food.
  • Reindeer use their antlers for protection.
  • Wolves kill reindeer for food.
  • A male reindeer is a bull, a female is a cow and a baby is a calf.
  • Reindeer can grow to 7 (seven) feet in length.
  • Reindeer migrate together in really large groups.
  • Reindeer eat plants: moss, grass, small bushes.
  • Cow reindeer are very protective of their calf.
  • Reindeer live in the Artic.
  • Reindeer have special hooves that they use to dig through the snow with to find food.

We learned about what a ruler is and how we could figure out how large a reindeer is. We compared our height, width of antlers and length of a newborn calf.


We finished this short unit making our version of  kiertoidea’s reindeer . Just need to gather some sticks from bushes around the yard, recycled toilet paper tubes, hole punch and the hot glue stick. These were a hit.



November 18, 2013
by countryfun

Finishing Up with Pumpkins

We have finally finished up our lessons with pumpkins. Over the years I have found that pumpkins are great for learning about a plants life cycle and pant parts. There are so many uses for pumpkin and lessons can go in many directions. It all depends on interest and taking hold of opportunities.

This year there has been a lot of prior discussions on recycling, composting, and rotting. Now I know what a wonderful mess a Jack-O-Lantern turns into, but most children do not see theirs once Halloween is done. Our garden pumpkins were not great this year, but definitely good enough to do a bit of exploring with.

To top our lessons off I found this new book while on my lesson search. It was a perfect fit with it’s wonderful real photos and scientific information. For me this book was a non-fiction find, even though it’s story is told in 15 voices. These voices added to our discussions and knowledge gained.

Here’s the cover of this new book. Can you see why I knew it would catch the children’s attention from the start?


Here’s a quick look at our pumpkin observations over the last few weeks.

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September 10, 2013
by countryfun
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Old MacDonald Had a Farm

Who could do a farm unit without including this old favorite – Old MacDonald Had a Farm?

Not me, especially when there are so many materials available for extension activities.[material links and lesson details] I went with stick puppet printables from Making Learning Fun and a fun YouTube video from Kids Fun Online.


April 24, 2013
by countryfun

Name That Letter

For years I have used individual printed sheets of letters randomly placed and sized for children to practice letter recognition.

Sometimes they were upper and lower case. Sometimes just letters learning, ie A…….H. Sometimes letters and number mixed together.

I’ve used pages from the newspaper or magazines for Letter Hunts – find and circle the letter called out or pulled on a flashcard.

I recently saw an idea on Little Miss Glamour Goes To Kindergarten for a way to practice sight words.

Now we are not practicing sight words, but the idea was so similar to those sheets of random letters that a light bulb went on (so to speak).

Why couldn’t I do this using letters?

It was the use of a large sheet of paper and doing as a group that was new to me.


As you can see we had fun! We used our social skills, letter recognition skills and fine motor skills, even with the youngest ones joining in. What would a few scribbles hurt? And they felt part of the group.

March 1, 2013
by countryfun

A Dr. Seuss Day

It’s that time of year when it seems almost everyone who works with kids is covering the same material – all in celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Some are doing a week of books and activities. This year we are just spending the last day of class time before his birthday (3/2) reading, playing with and crafting around  a couple of our favorite Dr. Seuss books:

The Cat in the Hat needs to be heard by every child at least once.

Every teacher of young children needs to enjoy a good tongue workout with Fox in Socks.

and in trying to find one that is more uncommon I have settled on What was I Scared of?

Our Cat in the Hat project is adapted from one seen at Just 4 Teachers: Sharing Across Borders. I found a free template online, drew in the 5 sections of the hat then enlarged it to a size that worked for my group to paint using their fingertips. This worked on patterns (hat), basic following directions, and color, but still left room for individualizing.

All you need is 2 colors of paint, the copied cat in the hat and 1 finger tip.

Before reading Fox in Socks we matched and counted sock pairs. (Problem solving, fine motor, language, team work/support, visual discrimination all from playing at matching socks.) Then had a race to see who could get the unmatched socks on quicker – me or the kids.   They won each time. Wonder if it was because they were putting a much too large sock on?

What was I Scared of? was read as part of story time. We did some predicting as read.


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