The Garden Unit


I like to begin the year with a nice calm thematic unit.  It contains many basic skills and introductory concepts.  It is also a great time to plant a garden and watch it grow throughout the year (garden can grow anytime of the year in Santa Monica...).


You will immediately notice that “symmetry” plays a rather large roll in this unit.  In my opinion, the children need to learn “symmetry” for many reasons that relate to art, math and spatial reasoning.


I will be introducing scissors and cutting in the next unit.


Decorating the classroom/props

Since it is the very beginning of the year and the unit does not really call for any decorations I do not do any decorating for this unit.

Garden Morning Work:

Objective:  Vocabulary recognition, copying

HOT TIP:  The morning work assignment is the least important thing the kids will do all day

Simply copy the vocabulary words on the lines below.  The kids do this assignment first thing in the morning while everyone is arriving.



Butterfly Symmetry/coloring

Objective:  Teaches symmetry, fine motor coloring

HOT TIP:  The kids should get this important concept very quickly.

This begins as a good fine motor coloring exercise but it will lead to the very important symmetry lessons.  After the students have had an opportunity to color the butterfly on their own teach them that butterfly wings are always symmetrical, the same on both sides.  Then demonstrate that if you color one portion of the left wing red you must then color the opposite wing’s portion red and so on.  For some reason most students will complete the unfinished side considerably smaller than the already drawn side.  Allow them to do this on their own the first time but remind them the second time they do this assignment that you want the new side to be as big as the old side.


Language Arts Centers

Garden Vocabulary sheet

Objective:  Vocabulary recognition, initial consonant, copying

HOT TIP:  Some students might require a little extra help with this assignment.  I usually find that if I write the first letter of the word for them they can do the rest.

I will usually introduce this work sheet by having the words written in the proper order on the white board in front of them.  Some of the children are able to pick out the words by the initial sound however I will also draw a little picture next to the word to help them identify each word.



ABC maze

Objective:  Letter recognition, fine motor

coloring, AB patterning

HOT TIP:  I will do this as an all class activity

 the first time we attempt it and then it

becomes an independent assignment for the kids.

The first time the students do this they

use one crayon to color in the boxes

(completely).  The next time they do it I

will have them alternate colors which both

slows them down and introduces them to




Color Bingo

Objective:  Vocabulary (colors) recognition, fine motor, color reinforcement

HOT TIP:  Start with the picture side then go to the word side.  Each side should not take more than 5-7 minutes.

I will laminate these bingo sheets (words on one side dots on the other).  When they are playing with the colored dot side the person running the station holds up flash cards with the names of the colors.  When they are playing with the color names side the person running the station holds up flash cards with the color dots.  Whenever I have the kids play bingo it is always BLACKOUT bingo (where the goal is to cover up every square, not just one row).  Since all the cards are the same or at least have the same squares just mixed up, all students should get bingo simultaneously.



 Letter Recognition with the Eggspert

Objective:  Letter recognition, taking turns, initial consonant phonics

HOT TIP:  The kids NEVER get sick of the Eggspert, you can use this all

year long!

The Eggspert is a game show like contraption that either allows the kids to “buzz in” when they know the answer but it also has another setting in which it randomly (or not randomly) calls upon

the kids to answer.  For this station an adult sit behind the Eggspert and holds up “Alphafriends” flash cards of letters for the kids to name.  Many of the flash cards have picture clues to

help the kids if they are having trouble.  I will play the first 7 minutes of the station with the kids hitting their buzzers and “buzzing in” when they know the answer (I do not let the kids

buzz in twice in a row).  If a child gets the flash card correct I give them the flash card to hold onto.  I tell each group “Let’s

see how fast we can name all the letters and beat the Eggspert!” in order to make it a team activity.




ABC Grid

Objective:  Letter writing, fine motor writing, beginning letter strokes

HOT TIP:  This early in the year I am not worried too much about letter strokes but I am very concerned with pencil grip.

I will have the students copy the letter in either the upper case or lower case ABC grid.  I am not too worried about letter strokes just yet.  I will sing the song “Where do we start our letters?  At the top” and if I see a student making their O’s counterclockwise I will correct them but at this point in the year I just want them to get used to writing and letter recognition.  I ask them not to do all the A’s first, I want them copying the letters from left to right so that they are going in ABC order.



Math Centers


Pattern Blocks

Objective:  Fine motor placements, spatial reasoning, shape reinforcment

HOT TIP:  Note the progression of this center from placing on top to copying in front to copying from someone holding the pattern up in front of them.

Pattern block pattern sheets are readily available to buy.  Many of them are garden theme patterns.  I will give the students a pattern card for them to lay the pattern blocks on top of the first time they do it.  After they have completed all the sheets by laying the blocks on top of the sheet I will give them the sheet and have them copy the pattern just under the sheet on the table.  After that I will have the person hold up the sheet and have them copy it.


Garden/Bug Floor Puzzle

Objective:  Teaches teamwork, puzzle solving

HOT TIP:  I have some floor puzzles that are 10 years old.

I have the students work as a team to complete these

floor puzzles.  It is a great way to get the student

interact and solve a problem collectively.  These

puzzles are easily purchased at:  The foam puzzles are almost indestructible and should last a very long time while the cardboard puzzles are not easy to damage but can be damaged by stepping on them or bending them.



Hungry Caterpillar Game

Objective:  Taking turns, counting

This is a very cute game to play since you are reading the book

however you might want to alter the rules a little to better suit

a classroom setting.



Objective:  Taking turns, playing by rules, letter and color recognition

HOT TIP:  Don’t let the kids win.  This isn’t family game night, feel free

 to beat them because very soon you won’t be able to beat them anymore!

I love to have the kids play games during rotation and UNO is perfect for the beginning of the year as it reinforces number recognition and color identification.  It also teaches kids about waiting their turn, paying attention, following rules and conflict resolution because conflicts will arise.  I will usually have an adult at this station the first time the kids play UNO (you will probably have at least a few kids who have played before) and then once they all understand the rules I will make this an afternoon station with no adult at the table.




Ants in the Pants

Objective:  Fine motor, counting, keeping score

HOT TIP:  Paint on the table like in the picture

below.  That paint job is great for both UNO and

Ants in the Pants.  Painting on the table really

helps you manage the table from a distance.

This is a great fine motor activity for the

kids to play.  I tell the kids that it is not

an individual competition but rather a team

effort.  The team wins when all the ants

are launched into the pants.  It is up to you

whether you have the kids take turns

launching ants or if you let them all go at

once.  I let them all go at once.  This is

most effective on a small circular table.




Don’t Spill the Beans

Objective:  Fine motor, counting,

keeping score, balance

This is a great fine motor activity

for the kids to play.  I tell the kids

that it is not an individual competition

but rather a team effort.  The team

wins when all beans are on the pot.  

The kids have to take turns and if

someone does spill the beans they

simply start all over.  This is most

effective on a small round table.




Easel Painting

Objective:  Fine motor, art, paint brush skills

Easel painting is so good for the kids.  

When working at an easel the kids use

muscles in their backs, arms and hands

that they do not use while seated.  I

have them paint plants and butterflies.








Because we have not studied computers yet, the computer are completely inaccessible to the kids during this unit.  I will turn them on and introduce the computers during the next thematic unit.




I plant my class garden during this unit.  I find that yellow squash grows the fastest and the best during the Fall.




Celery Science

Objective:  Teaches water through plants and the concept of a “control”

HOT TIP:  This experiment is a Kindergarten classic!

Placing celery into colored water and watching the leaves turn that color is a classic Kindergarten experiment.  The important part of this experiment that many teachers leave out is that of the “Control”.  The control is the stalk of celery that you leave in normal





Peg Board, Nail Board Symmetry

Objective:  Teaches symmetry, fine motor

Using colored rubber bands have the children make different patterns on their pegboards.  Then chose one child's pattern and have the other students at the table copy it.  Then explain to the students that you want their patterns to be symmetrical.


Garden Counting:

Objective:  Counting, number formation

For these exercises the children have to count garden objects and write the number in next to the correct picture.


Garden Mazes:

Objective:   Fine motor, puzzle solving

HOT TIP:  Mazes are incredible fine motor activities.

The students should already be familiar with mazes.  I have the students color the correct way through the maze one color and then the wrong ways different colors in order to fill the 15 minutes and get them more coloring practice.



Garden Dot-to-dots:

Objective:  Letter and number recognition, fine motor coloring

The students may already be familiar with dot-to-dots but it is always helpful to demonstrate this on the white board before you have them do it.  The students start at A and go to Z then start at 1 and go to 10.   I have included a number and letter line at the bottom for them to follow.





























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