Wednesday, October 16, 2013

From The Director’s Chair: Lights! Camera! Prop Box Action

From The Director’s Chair: Lights! Camera! Prop Box Action
Julia @ Kids Matter
Prop box? What’s a prop box, you ask? Well, it is actually a very important tool used by teaching staff in a classroom. Its purpose is to promote creative thinking. A prop box is needed for every theme each week, per classroom. It is a small box or plastic tub containing homemade or inexpensive items or ‘props’ to aid in teaching the weekly theme.
Every month you should be putting together a teacher packet with the weekly themes. These packets should not only offer ideas of circle time subjects and daily activities, but it should also include at least two prop box lists and ideas. Each prop box should contain items for five areas of development: cognitive learning, language and speech, health and fitness, social/emotional behavior, and creative expression. It’s also a good idea to have several prop boxes in your office as examples of inspiration for the teachers. Below is an example of a weekly preschool theme which includes some prop box items.
Week: September 1-7
Theme: Apples
Cognitive Learning
Have several large cutouts of colorful apples numbered1-10. Make sure to laminate these apples! Then have small matching pompoms to represent small apples. Ask each child to count the number of apple cut outs. The number appearing on the apple should be representative of the number of miniature apples glued to the larger apple.

Plant apple seeds! Have a few Styrofoam cups with apple stickers in your box. Have the children plant the seeds and watch them grow with sunlight, water, and care. Have the children document daily on the ‘Apple Chart’ what is happening to the plant.

Language & Speech:
Read the story of Johnny Appleseed or any story of how apples are grown and used. You can build story visual aids, like puppets, to help while you read. These can be as simple as a paper bag puppet or a plastic apple. Keep these books in your prop box until after the week is over. Make an apple butter verses apple sauce Venn diagram! The Apple Venn Diagram (charts with overlapping circles that indicate how much different groups have in common) should be laminated and HUGE. Oversized laminates are a must for most ALL of your prop box themes! You can draw two giant apple shaped outlines that intersect one another, instead of the traditional circles. Have each child (allergies permitting) split a biscuit in half and taste apple butter on half and apple sauce on the other. Have them describe what is unique about each. Write all words and thoughts within the Venn diagram. Children LOVE Venn diagrams. (For those of you that are a little skeptical at the age appropriateness of this activity, they will beg you to do more of them!)

Health & Fitness:
Do apple bowling! Use a good sized plastic apple as a bowling ball. You can take a few paper towel rolls and color apples all over them, or maybe cover them with apple themed shelf paper! Create an ‘apple bowling alley’ center where the children can bowl.

This may be one of my favorites! Home Living/Kitchen Centers are the place to make apple pies! Your prop box should have a few tin pie plates, brown felt pie crust, rolling pin, oven mitt, felt apple slices in many colors, and spices.  Ask the kiddos to make you an apple pie using an apple pie recipe and teach them how to follow it step by step.

Creative Expression:
Apple shaped sponges as well as apples make for wonderful apple art! But the sponges will keep better in your prop box! Make sure you are stocked up on red coloring supplies. Have green pipe cleaners to be worms, and paper towel rolls to be tree trunks!

WHEW! What a week in the classroom that will be! Just think how much more fun the lessons will be when you build prop boxes! Let your imagination run wild. Most things can be made from regular supplies you have around the centers.
I can tell you this… my classes loved all of my prop boxes. From pigs to bunnies to rainbows or bugs, behavior is easily managed when minds are busy learning through play!
Until next time! Keep directing those teachers, children, and families toward their very best futures!

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