Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Construction Trucks Concepts

If you are a fellow homeschooler with a varitety of ages/grades in your home, you know that it can be a challenge at times to keep everyone either focused on their subjects or occupied (little ones) with something both creative and entertaining.  

Teaching a household of boys has motivated me to learn more about the Montesorri Methods of educating, because boys in particular seem to thrive in a hands-on learning enviornment.  There are so many great ideas for teaching that can be found online, through various blogs and especially on Pinterest. One idea I found suggested the use of beans and rice as a type of indoor substitution for a sandpile. I thought this was a great suggestion, and that it could easily be incorporated into our classroom.
So, last winter, when the weather was too cold to be outdoors, I took a cue from Henry and his love for construction trucks, and came up with a simple lesson to teach: 
the difference between left and right and the recognition of the two
* the relationship between up, down, top, bottom as an introduction to opposites
* number identification and counting

Now that the temperatures are heating up outdoors, we've brought out the activity again for those afternoons when the heat is unbearable.  Another bonus to this activity is that Henry can set it up and put it away on his own. Yay! 

Here is an example of the concepts I used to teach (the lessons were VERY short, because four-year old boys just want to play!)
* I used an old baking tray (you can see it is well-seasoned!) to help contain the beans and rice, but you could use a dry erase board, or any other platform of choice. A roll of butcher paper taped to the floor would also work well.
*I wrote on the tray with a dry erase marker, but it still took a little effort to get the marks scrubbed off, so be aware of that before you get started.
*Large bag of beans, rice or other small dry food works well, and can be reused. We swept up the beans when we were finished and stored them in a plastic bag.
*We used Henry's set of mini-construction trucks, purchased at Tractor Supply.

(Hint: Be sure to talk a little bit about the activity BEFORE you dump the beans onto the tray, otherwise you might lose your teaching moment!)
1.  Have your child place their left hand on the "L", right hand on the "R."  Then, aks them to place a vehicle on the "L" and drive it over to the "R."  You can repeat this several times, moving vehicles back and forth until they begin the recognize the difference between left and right.

2.  Now, it's time to break out the beans!  Dump a pile on the Left side of the tree and ask your child to move all of the beans from the Left side of the tray to the Right side.  Henry selected the bulldozer for this task.
3.  We used the same method for the up/top, down/bottom tray. Point to the top, point to the bottom, park the construction equipment at the top, then at the bottom etc.  Now, use the beans, moving them to the distinct areas of the tray.
4.  The methods are basically the same for the numbered quadrants, except I had Henry place one load of beans from the dump truck on the 1, two piles on the 2, etc.  Of course, you can teach any numbers that you like. This was his favorite lesson of the three.
For further enrichment, you could pair the activity with a related picture book. Here are a few that we like:

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