After our participation in the Chicago Wildlife Watch project, I decided to use woodland animals as our nonfiction topic for my story times at our homeschool co-op this week! We began with some great books (both fiction and nonfiction) and then jumped in to forest animals activities in science stations!
Woodland Animals Reading Lists
I always start with picture books, since these classes are primarily story times. Besides, learning through books, fiction and nonfiction, is one of the most memorable ways to learn.
Preschool Fictional Books
The first hour that I teach at co-op is for young preschoolers, so I focused on fictional stories about forest animals. Some of the most amusing ones kept the kids entertained. It helps that the preschoolers have story time during a snack time!
- A Squirrel’s Tale by Richard Fowler. This tale is a squirrel searching for his supply of nuts. The fun part is the squirrel is a 3d little guy that can go in and out of the pages. Order this book from my Usborne Books & More shop.
- Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson. Bear is hibernating during winter, but other forest friends come to warm up in his den.
- The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson. Mouse takes a walk through the woods and scares off animals with his tale of a wild animal called the Gruffalo, which he believes is imaginary. In the end, he meets a Gruffalo!
- Annie and the Wild Animals by Jan Brett. Annie wants a new pet when her cat goes missing so she leaves corn cakes, only to meet a plethora of wild animals.
- The Mitten by Jan Brett. In this story, a child loses a glove, and wild animals move in, stretching it out.
- Farewell to Shady Glade by Bill Peet. In this story, some forest animals must move from their idyllic glade when people move in to the neighborhood. After fleeing on a passing train, they finally find a new forest to settle in, almost like home.
Early Elementary Reading List
For the kindergarten and first graders’ story time, I decided to start out with nonfiction books. The kids were very engrossed in the shine-a-light books.
- What If There Were No Gray Wolves? by Susanne Slade.
- Secrets of the Apple Tree by Carron Brown.
- Secrets of Winter by Carron Brown.
- Food Chains in a Forest Habitat by Isaac Nadeau.
- Forest Explorer by Greg Pyers
- The Woodland Book by Emily Bone and Alice James
Forest Animals Activities
Some of these activities are better for younger kids and some were much better for older kids! It’s always difficult in a homeschooling co-op setting when we have such a variety of ages.
Rainbow Bears Color Sort
For the youngest kids, I brought in my rainbow bears to color match. My classroom assistant said, “Oh, I loved playing with those bears when I was a kid!” They are a lot of fun to play with, not just sort. My oldest daughter was happy to play “family” with them, even though they are all the same size. My project for the kids was simply to sort the bears into the correct “caves.” Some of the kids did not want to do so, which is fine, but for those who did, they got color-matching experience. Get the printables from the VIP Resource Library.
Searching for the Forest Animals
By far the most popular activity was my animal search. I hid pictures of various forest animals around the room. In the younger kids hour, they were all in plain sight, but I hid them a little bit better (under chairs, for example) for the older kids. Even a two-year-old delighted in finding the animals taped on the walls! Some of the kids marked off which ones they had found on a checklist.
Forest Animals Pattern Cards
We can identify the animals as we practice putting them together with my forest animals pattern blocks. The preschoolers needed assistance to figure out how to place the pattern blocks. Some of them were too young, but they did like playing with the blocks!
My students in the older class were able to count the number of blocks used. In fact, I watched my 1st grader have an “Ah Ha!” moment.
“If I just ADD the numbers together, I don’t have to count them one-by-one!” she declared after she finished one of the cards. She had struggled the count the card because there were so many blocks (i.e., more than 10). By writing the totals at the bottom of the card, she was able to add it much quicker than counting, even though there were more than 4 numbers to add together.
I brought out the measuring animal tracks again as well. The animals left their “prints” around the room and we had to measure them and record the length on our recording sheets. Some kids were not familiar with fractions, so finding the half-way point between numbers as we measured was great practice for them. It also helped us put the animals’ sizes in to perspective! That goose has large feet!
Identifying Animal Tracks
Finally, for the last center in the room for the older kids, I brought out the animal tracks identification clip cards. Before they began, we reviewed the variety of animals’ prints. I asked questions about the animals and the prints, such as these:
- How are the crow, goose and turkey prints similar?
- How are the fox, coyote, dog, and cat’s prints similar?
- How do they differ from the others?
- What other prints look similar?
- How are the animals that own similar prints similar to one another?
As a result, the kids decided that animal print identification was “so easy” because they recognized the common patterns.
Success all around! I felt like our story time was the right length for our older kids. Then, the centers kept them busy moving around the room. We have a full hour, so it has been difficult to remain busy the whole time. Today we succeeded in having a lot of fun while learning, practicing, and recording for the remainder of the time!
If you want to have a similar activity day, check out these activities from my store. You can also get these on TeachersPayTeachers.