I have been the kindergarten specialist (aka. kindergarten specials/kindergarten prep teacher) at my school for several years now, and I love my job! I try to make my kindergarten activities hands-on and filled with new learning experiences. We had a great week working with plasticine! This mini unit includes, art, science and even some math activities broken into five 40-60 minute lessons – perfect for teachers who cover prep periods. I did these lessons with 4 classes of 25-30 kids ages 3-6.
Day 1 – Monday
I stared the unit by reading “The Party” by Barbara Reid. The book serves as a great introduction to the amazing things plasticine can create. All of the illustrations in the Barbara Reid books are done with plasticine. For most students, this was the first time that they had ever used this material.
To start, I gave every student a small cube (roughly 1″) to work with. I asked them to think about how it was different from playdough and other materials they are used to working with. Students happily explored the plasticine for the entire period. They were encouraged to roll, flatten, make into a ball, smoosh their fingers into it – anything they wanted. At the end of the period, everyone handed their plasicine back in to use on day 2.
Any time I introduce a new art medium to students, I always try to devote the first day to free play with the material. Having this time to play and explore increases their success and focus with the material for the next day.
Day 2 – Tuesday
We continued to explore the plasticine today with centres. I broke the class into small groups (4-5 kids) and set up 5 centres. Every child got a cube of plasticine and took it with them to each centre. Exploring the plasticine in various ways encouraged students to know how to use the material properly and learn about it’s properties. Each centre has a brief description below the picture.
I added in this science based centre after students wondered what would happen if they got their plasticine wet. I set out a small bowl of water with eye droppers and trays. Children used the eye droppers to drop water onto their plasticine and watch what happens. (The plasticine is ‘water proof’ and the water beads off of it.)
Students used tooth brushes and toothpicks to create designs and texture in their plasticine.
This centre was our mixing centre. Children picked a small piece of their red plasticine and mixed it with an equal amount of blue. They mixed and mixed until their plasticine turned purple!
Since my students are used to using playdough, I gave them the tools they use with playdough. They used the cookie cutters and rolling pins to cut and shape their plasticine; however, they noticed that the plasticine behaves differently.
I am lucky enough to always have an ECE (Early Childhood Educator) with me in the room. I would not have used these tools otherwise. They are great for creating texture and experimenting with the plasticine. However, they are sharp and could be very dangerous in young hands. The wonderful ECE in each classroom worked with a small group at this centre to ensure they were used safely.
(Another centre idea, if one of the above is not an option, could be a variety of Barbara Reid books for children to explore and get ideas from.)
Day 3 – Wednesday
This was a great structured activity and really successful! We have been studying shapes in math so I created this “Plasticine Smoosh” sheet. (Free printable here: plasticine-smoosh) I put some different coloured plasticine out for kids and they were each given the sheet. First, I modeled this technique by using one finger and smearing/dragging the plasticine to fill the shape. This activity is great for fine motor skills, math review and for tomorrow’s activity!
Day 4 – Thursday
A variety of colours of plasticine is ideal for this art project, but colour mixing is always an option. Students selected one picture that they liked from a variety of printed off pictures (clipart). They then used the smearing technique that we worked on yesterday to create their picture. We talked about doing the background first, but students were given freedom to create how they wanted. In older grades, you could focus on creating from the background to the foreground. Their pictures were beautiful! I was so happy with how well they turned out. Having the image underneath as a guide really helped them create a picture they were proud of.
I had a class that was working on a superhero inquiry in their classroom, so I offered lots of superhero pictures for students to choose from. This activity would also work well as a gift for students to take home for a special holiday (ie. a flower for Mother’s Day). Some student examples are below.
Day 5 – Friday
This activity could be done on an earlier day in the mini unit; however to be honest, it was not part of my initial plan. I had so many students fascinated by the plasticine and water that they all wanted to know if it floats. So, I decided to add a science experiment into our mini unit! To start, I had students predict if they thought the plasticine would float if I dropped it in water. Then, I dropped my cube into the water. It sunk. I handed out the plasticine cubes and asked students to create something that would float.
This was a great challenge for students. I stayed at a table with a large bucket of water and when students felt they had created something that would float, they came to the water and tested their ‘boat’. Many students created a completely flat boat. They noticed that it took longer to sink, but it still did not float. Some students tried to trap water inside the plasticine and make a ball. I loved this ideas because it showed that they understood that air would help something float. After much trial and error, students began to make bowl like creations, which floated.
To extend this activity further, many students wanted to test the strength of their boat. They rolled plasticine into balls and placed it onto their boat until it sunk. 7 balls was our winner!
I loved this hands-on unit and students learned so much! They also had a lot of fun working with this new art material. Each day ran smoothly and their final art pieces exceeded my expectations!
Each day this week, I had several Barbara Reid Books on hand. If an activity took shorter then I expected I had the books available to use as a read aloud. The books are perfect for kindergarten and always popular with kids.