*I hope you’re enjoying the layout of the new site.  A big “Thank You” to Brandon Sunday of Sunday Ventures for his help!  I think it would have taken two years to figure it all out on my own.  We’re still fine tuning, so if you notice anything that needs our attention, please let us know.  It looks like email subscribers still need to be transferred from the old, so don’t fret if you haven’t gotten your emails yet, they should be back on track by the time the next post goes out!

When I wrote about activities for a construction theme a while ago, I left you hanging on a few activities I promised to add.  Well, today’s the day!

Word Building

If you have budding readers, you may want to try out this word family activity.  Draw a crane and tall building with windows on poster board.  (I’m pretty sure you can make yours look better than mine!)  Laminate so that you can use dry-erase markers to change up the word families in the windows.  Poke a hole at the top of the crane and another a few inches away from the bottom of the poster.  Thread some embroidery floss through the holes so that the two ends are coming out the front side of your poster.  On the top of the string attach a paperclip that you untwist a bit to make a hook.  At the bottom, attach a button (I used the type with a loop on the back…it happened to be rattling around in a drawer.) 

Last of all, cut an index card into rectangles or squares about the same size as your windows.  Write consonants on the cards and punch a hole at the top.  Thread the hook through the hole and pull on the button to be lift the letters and create different words!  This activity is obviously great for readers beginning to learn about word families, but it can also be done with pre-readers, putting more of the focus on the phonemic awareness skill of  manipulating the beginning sound of a word (“What if /at/ had a /k/ sound at the beginning?”), rather than memorizing the word families.

Book Activities

Alphabet Under Construction by Denise Fleming

After reading this great alphabet book, give your children some sturdy paper and a pile of craft sticks.  Have them experiment with building letters.  How many letters can they think of that use only straight lines?  After experimenting with several letters, supply some craft glue and have your children each choose one letter to build and glue onto the paper.  This activity not only increases alphabet knowledge, but forming letters using objects is a great precursor to writing.

Jack’s House by Karen Magnuson Beil

This book takes a fun spin on the traditional House that Jack Built storyline.  After reading about the various steps to building a house, it might be fun to do a little cement work, similar to the page where the foundation was poured.  I actually used Fix-It-All (from my friends at the Depot) which mixes up and dries similar to cement, but is cheaper and easier to clean up.  Mix it up in a #10 can with a paint mixer or ruler.  Incorporate some motor skills and have the  children take turns mixing.  Talk about how the cement mixer has to keep turning the cement so it won’t dry up. 

Once the mixture is ready, pour the cement (just like the mixer pours out of the drum) right into some re-purposed plastic containers (whipped topping containers were the perfect size).  Let the children smooth the “cement” with a craft stick, similar to the way the workers smooth it with their tools.  Add some fun with glitter, beads, or feathers.  Fix-It-All should dry within about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

After this classic story, it’s great to do some experiments with steam and build some science knowledge.  (Obviously, use caution when using heat with children.)  Using an electric skillet or hot plate, heat up some ice cubes until they change from solid, to liquid, to gas.  Talk a bit about the transformation, pointing out that it’s always water but in a different form. 

When the steam emerges, talk about the steam in the steam shovel again.  Build vocabulary and comprehension by making sure that the children understand what steam is and how it is different from smoke.  Explain that when a lot of steam built up it pushed against the parts in Maryanne’s engine and made them move, which helped Maryanne dig.   (More on how steam engines work.)  At a safe distance, you could also have the children feel the heat coming from the steam and talk about how the townspeople used Maryanne to heat the new building.

You could also look at pictures of steam shovels (some great ones atWikipedia) as well as some of the construction machines used today and talk about their similarities and differences.

The Construction Alphabet Book  by Jerry Pallota, Construction Zone by Cheryl Willis Hudson, and one by the same name by Tana Hoban

These are great books for sparking whole language activities.  For a whole language activity following a book, I like to ask each child a question and dictate their answer as I verbalize some of the writing process (“Track hoe…./t/ /t/ /t/.  What letter would I use to start track hoe?”)  and even include them in part of it where they are able (“You could write the T right there.”).  I also leave plenty of room for the children to illustrate their statements.  Drawing is a great creative activity, but also a precursor to writing because it encourages the children to record their ideas in a symbolic form.

With The Construction Alphabet Book, I like to ask the children which construction machine they liked best and why.  After reading one of the Construction Zone books, I might ask the children to design a construction project and then write down some of what they say as they describe their projects.

Children really love to see their ideas recorded down on paper in both written and illustrative form.  It’s a great ego-booster, but also a big contributor to literacy.  Each whole language activity could be enjoyed separately or collected in a three ring binder to create a writing journal.

What construction-themed books do you love to share with the children you love and teach?



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