Out of the Way! Out of the Way! Mini-Unit

The Mini-Unit Designer

Jean Flegenheimer, Special Needs Preschool Teacher 

Northampton Public Schools, Western Massachusetts

Mini-Unit plan created: July 14, 2015

Introducing the Mini-Unit

I teach an integrated preschool class in Northampton, MA.  Half of the children have special needs.  Many of the “typical” students are recent immigrants, and English Language Learners.  We have children from India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, China, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Puerto Rico in my class this year.  Our students are three and four year olds from very mixed economic, cultural, and educational backgrounds.

Student goals: My learning goals for my students are to help guide them to their next steps individually in their learning journeys, and to help them to become caring citizens of the classroom and larger community.  We work on “same and different” a lot.  My students become a very supportive group for each other.  I work hard to include our particular students’ realities in all aspects of the classroom environment and curriculum.

Preschoolers’ world view is close to home and school.  It is what they see, feel, hear and touch.  The MA social studies framework goal for preschoolers is to “describe the location and features of places in the immediate neighborhood of the student’s home or school.”  My students come from all over the world but their frame of reference is close to them rather than a country as from where Ishika and Aryna’s family comes.  Is it warm or cold there?  Is it far away?  Can you drive or do you need to get there by plane?  What animals and birds do they see and hear there?  Is that the same or different from what you see and hear near your home?  Preschoolers understand the world by making connections to their own concrete experiences.

Learning Experience Design #1

Learning Experiences:

Our children access stories of other places by relating them to what they know, and then can go deeper into describing what they know and see by thinking deeper about it through these connections.

·      What is different and what is the same for the character in the book, and for their own daily paths?

·      What can you notice from the pictures?

·      What is the climate?

·      What are they wearing?

·      What animals and birds are in the story?

·      Are they the same or different than what is near them?

·      What modes of transportation appear in the story?

·      Is that the same or different than what they would see and hear near their home?

Learning opportunities from the text: The boy in the story grows as he goes here and there on his daily path. We see and hear what he sees and hears. This is an easy to relate to example of daily routine, but in a different place.

·      What is the same?

·      What is different?

·      How can we deepen our thinking about our own daily paths through thinking about his?

·      How specific and descriptive can we be?

·      Can we deepen our ability to visualize what we would see and hear in a particular place, and can we describe that and represent it through drawing?

Critical engagement with the text: The tree becomes a meeting place in the story.

·      Can we think about what might be a meeting place near our home or school?

·      Is it a tree or something different?

·      Who meets there?

Connections with other picture books: We will read The Listening Walk by Paul Showers (1961), illustrated by Aliki, to first think about a listening walk, and what we would see or hear near our home or school. That will be our first learning experience for this book.  The Listening Walk features a white middle class child in a rural or suburban environment going here to there and back again by walking. It is what the child sees and hears on this well-travelled daily path.

Next we will read Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena (2015), illustrated by Christian Robinson, to get a sense of a different path here to there and back again in a different environment.  Last Stop on Market Street is about a poor child of color in an urban environment who gets from here to there and back again by bus with his grandmother in a world rich with sound and experience.

Our children locally live in both of these environments.

·      How are they the same and different?

·      How do they help us understand our own worlds?

Lastly we would read Out of the Way! Out of the Way! which takes place farther away in a different country with different animals but in many ways is still the same. Deepening our thinking about traveling daily paths each child will think about what they would hear and see on their daily path.

·      How would they be travelling? By bus? By foot? Some other way?

·      What would they see and hear?

Students would dictate the words to an adult, and then the children would draw a picture of their travels and would be encouraged to put as much detail into the drawing as possible.  We would have already had multiple group lessons on this visualizing and deepening their understanding of paying attention to the sounds and sights of their daily travels.  We would have shared examples in group discussions, and they would be being prompted to think about what people, what animals, what weather, what trees or buildings, what sights and sounds would they be experiencing? Pushed to vividly see and express the details in their words and drawings. The page would have a place for the child’s name, and the words “On my way from here to there and back again, I see and hear ___________.”

The majority of the page would be for the child’s drawing. Words would fill in the blank on the bottom dictated by the child. These pages would then be combined into a classroom book of our different daily travels from here to there and back again. Hopefully it will reflect the rich diversity of the lives of the students in our classroom!

Family, Community and Current Event/People Connections: We could copy the book, so that each child could bring it home and “read it” to their families.  We would keep a copy in our classroom reading area for all our children to read, and to see the book that they helped to create.  Each child’s story would be different because it would reflect his/her own piece of the world, and together it will tell a story of same and different.

Multimodal Opportunities: In preschool we like to experience things directly with our senses as much as possible. Since our culminating book takes place in India we would look at photographs of some of the birds and animals from the story. We might make cardamom play dough to smell some of the smells of India.

We might listen to some Indian music, and move to it. Here is a nursery rhyme song (Nani mari Aankh) about body parts for children in Gujarati the language that our particular student’s from India speak (see reference list below.)

There are many different languages spoken in India including Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Urdu, Gujarati, Punjabi, Assamese and Odia

Summative Learning Experience: Our summative learning experience will be the creation of our class book on what we hear and see on our particular daily paths.


MA Curriculum Frameworks Preschool Students:

Reading Standards MA.9: With prompting and support, make connections between a story or poem and one’s own experiences.

Writing Standards MA.3: Use a combination of dictating and drawing to tell a real or imagined story.

Speaking and Listening MA.5: Create representations of experiences or stories (e.g. drawings, constructions with block or other materials, clay models) and explain them to others.

Social Studies PreK-K.4: Describe the location and features of places in the immediate neighborhood of the student’s home or school.