AAAHHH! Ants are INVADING our picnic!
Ok, not really, but it’s a fun way to get kids excited about practicing “ah” for the letter sound, “a,” and it is a great summer alternative to our Apple Unit, which is great for Fall.
I’ll be totally honest here, I was not at all prepared for this unit! I had planned a few activities for the week for a Fire Awareness Unit, along with our normal work, but I thought we’d be having a lot of outdoor time… but it rained for four days in a row!
Sooo, the wonderful upside to this is that all of these activities can be done with mostly common household finds. I would have loved to have purchased an Ant Farm* (or even gathered the supplies to attempt a DIY ant farm), but I’m happy with how this unit turned out.
To introduce the letter sound, we learned “The Ants Go Marching,” which is a great counting OR skip counting song, depending on the version that you’re doing; I emphasized the “aaahh” in ants as we sang and the kids really enjoyed the “launch” into each new verse. I introduced the “a” sandpaper letter (by running my index and middle finger over the shape while emphasizing the “ah” sound), and then went over some 3 part cards (from Carrots are Orange) with the children before leaving them to explore independently. I also put out a copy of The Life and Times of the Ant*, which is a great resource that fits well within a Montessori environment as it is engaging and fact-based. I would have loved to have purchased some of these ant figures* and made a fun sensory bin with an “ants at a picnic” theme.
We eventually took our knowledge from the cards and made our own ants out of paper and foam (I let the children choose their materials), and discussed the names of it’s body parts; with older children, I would have encouraged labeling of the body parts. Ella also discovered that the circles and strips that we used to make the “ant body” could alternatively be used to make a letter “a.” We counted to make sure we had enough circles (5) and “sticks” (6) on our ants.
I set out a finger painting invitation of black paint and green construction paper without any direction, thinking they might be encouraged to make “ant fingerprints.” There were a few, but for the most part there was just a lot of this:
After the paint dried, I asked if they wanted to turn some of the prints into ants using black markers. The kids never seemed to get tired of exclaiming, “AH! An ant!” whenever they finished off an ant in their painting. It was a great opportunity to give them a multimedia project that involved two steps: they finger painted with intention, waited for it to dry, and then came back and added legs with markers.
For snack time, we prepared ants on a log: cut celery with crinkle cutter, spread with peanut butter, and top with raisins. For peanut allergies, apple butter (or even sunflower seed butter) would make a great substitution.
For older children, it would be fun to do a lifting game (as ants can lift up to 50x their own body weight) or play a trivia game of “ant vs aunt” — having them logically guess whether what you’re telling them could be applied to an “ant” or an “aunt.” If doing the lifting activity, I would try to get them to exclaim “ah” as they lift. (For some great facts and resources on ants, check out Powerful Mother’s A is for Ant Garden Exploration.)
I really loved the idea of using bottle caps to make an ant (or a caterpillar) from Teach Preschool; or making an egg carton ant at No Time for Flashcards (this links to her “ant archive” which I found while searching for this craft — Allison actually has a whole slew of ant activities which I only discovered AFTER having done this unit, but hopefully you can take advantage of the book recommendations, etc.)
Will you use ants to explore the letter sound “a” (“ah”)? Or does the idea of spending a whole day (or couple of days) exploring ants give you the heebie jeebies?