Every child is unique. They learn differently and express themselves differently. Their abilities for activities differ. Some are good at school work, others are better at sports. Some are better at expressing themselves through music and drama, other children are better at using words.
While working on the theme “All about me”, this idea of uniqueness was front and centre in my head space. I wanted to find a different way to discover this theme for primary school students (elementary), without always focusing on writing things down. For some students, writing isn’t always easy. Maybe their weaker fine-motor skills makes it more difficult to write. For some, organising their thoughts and getting them out into words is difficult. Difficulty with spelling can also block the flow of writing for some. For whatever reason, not every child loves to write.
In preschool, we use playdough to encourage fine-motor development. It also encourages creativity and is a form of self expression for the children. Playdough is learning and fun all at the same time. So why don’t we use playdough in the higher grades more often?
With all this running through my mind, an idea came which I am quite excited about. Playdough cards and mats that are designed for students in Grade 1, 2 and 3 and even Grade 4 children. Teachers, parents, counsellors and therapists can all make use of these differentiated cards. Use them as a whole class activity, an activity to do once learners have completed their work, in a therapy session or even at home on a rainy day.
How do you use them?
To put it simply. The children have to read the information on the card or the mat. They then need to answer questions and create the answers to these questions by using playdough. Once they have completed their creation they need to explain what they have created to a teacher, parent, therapist, counsellor or a friend.
The playdough mats have simple instructions that the children need to read. They respond to the instruction by creating the answer out of playdough. Once they have completed their creation I suggest encouraging the children to talk about their creation. On each mat is a checklist to remind children of the simple steps they need to take to complete the activity.
READ, CREATE, SHARE
Below is an example of a mat
The playdough cards are a more difficult and require students to read and remember more. There is an “A” card and a “B” card.
The “A” card has some information on it that the children need to read and instructions that they need to follow. Here too they need to respond by creating something with playdough.
Here is an example of an “A” Card
Here is a response. A delicious pizza slice.
The “B” card is more difficult and children have to remember what they read on Card “A” and show understanding by making creations out of playdough. Some of the “B” Cards also have extra challenge blocks. As with the playdough mats, children are encouraged to share their creations.
Here is an example of a “B” card
For both the mats and the cards, you could set it up as a whole class activity or an individual activity.
As a whole class the children can all get the same mat and present their creations to the whole class. This could be a great ice-breaker to start off the theme “All about me”. If you hand out a variety of mats/cards, the children can swap with a friend once they are done. I also like to leave the mats and playdough out for when children have some free time. E.g. they have completed an activity earlier than the other children. In today’s digital world keeping evidence for assessment and progress reports is easy. Simply take photographs of the children’s creations to show at parent meetings or to put into their assessment files.
For learners who are unable to read yet, you can still use this activity by reading the mats to the children and they then have to follow the instruction. Here they are practicing their listening and processing skills.
These mats and cards are a great way to get to know your students better. These mats are also helpful for therapists and counsellors as well.
Some topics covered include in these mats and cards are
- What do you look like?
- What can you do well?
- My family
- My Pets
- My favorite food
- My favorite thing to do at school
- My favorite book
- My hobbies
- What do you want to be when you grow up?
- My favorite place to go on holiday/ vacation
- My favorite color, number, shape
So what are the children gaining from this activity you might ask?
- Reading and comprehension skills are being practiced.
- Building vocabulary centred around the “All about me” theme
- Developing memory skills.
- Fine-motor development is being promoted.
- Children are having to follow instructions.
- Creativity and self-expression is encouraged.
- Speaking skills are practiced as they tell others what they have created.
- Playing with playdough has a calming effect. It is a great tool to assist with sensory issues and it helps to release tension and extra energy as well. Even as an adult I love playing with a playdough!
- It is a great way to encourage communication with children. It can be a gateway to getting children to talk about how they are feeling or what they are experiencing in their lives. This is good for teachers, therapists, counsellors and parents.
- It is fun and children are learning by playing.
Some utensil ideas to put out with the playdough
I always put out different utensils to go with the playdough. Ideas include
- cutting tools
- playdough scissors
- match sticks
- ice-cream / lolly sticks
- Googly eyes
- Coloured pebbles
- Playdough syringes
- Shape cookie cutters
- Plastic plates, bowls, knives, forks etc.
Thank you for reading this post. If you feel inspired and would like to make use of these cards or mats you can find them in my TPT store: All About Me playdough mats and cards