Children learn visually through classroom themes that encourage exploration. If you're preparing for a unit on animals, a farm theme is an excellent way to invite children to explore pastoral animals and the environments in which they live. A farm theme is often used at the beginning of the school year to usher in the autumn season. However, farms operate year round, so design a theme a speaks to all seasons for a realistic depiction.
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Encourage student participation with classroom manipulatives such as small plastic pigs, chickens, cows and roosters that can stand alone. Make a cardboard barn and a pasture made from plastic green patio grass commonly found in home improvement centres. Feature a large calendar with farm animal die-cuts that stick to the days of the week with Velcro fasteners. Laminate farm animal cut-outs for durability and place Velcro in the middle of the calendar days for easy attachment. Allow each of your students to have an opportunity to choose a farm animal and place it on the correct day of the week. This simple lesson makes keeping track of the days of the week fun for younger students.
Turn your classroom door into a barn door with brown paper. Turn students desks into "stalls" with large appliance boxes donated by home improvement centres. Cut out one side of each box and place it around student desks. Allow your students to decorate their stalls and pretend to be a different farm animals such as horses, cows or donkeys each day of the week. Display hay bales or wooden crates in the classroom and arrange several in a circle for students to sit on during story time. Use egg cartons and plastic eggs for a display on egg hatching. Bring a milking cow into the theme by using a sawhorse to make a classroom "cow"; make udders from balloons or non-latex medical gloves filled with water.
Display toy farm equipment such as toy trucks, harvesters and hay bailers for hands-on learning. Play CDs or DVDs featuring farm animal sounds and activities. Create a large barn front from cardboard and make double doors that open to feature a different farm animal on Friday of each week. Study several farm animals from Monday through Thursday and have students guess which farm animal might be hiding in the barn on Fridays. Bring several pairs of overalls and work boots to class to allow younger students to play dress-up as farmers and farm hands. Second-hand stores often carry an abundance of overalls and old work boots.
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