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A preschool thematic unit of communication should cover many different areas, including methods of written and spoken communication. Technology is so important in our society, and no unit on communication would be complete without a quick look on how technology has changed how we communicate. Asking for children to name all the different ways human beings communicate is always a good place to begin.
Communication is a very broad preschool thematic unit. Communication discussions should point out the differences in verbal and non-verbal communication. Once the children have a good grasp on the differences between the two, you can proceed with activities that highlight different types of communication.
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Large Group Activities
Write down all the ways the children can think of to communicate. Separate the ways by deciding which ways are verbal, and which are non-verbal. Be sure to include written communication as well. After collecting as many examples from the children as they can think of, ask the children to show you various ways to communicate non-verbally. If children have difficulty with this, model ways to say simple words like "yes", "no", "stop", and "come here" non-verbally. You can play a simple game of Red Light, Green Light using non-verbal communication. Have children stand on one end of the classroom while you stand on the other. Decide on a way to move across the room, such as skipping or hopping. Tell the children you will only use non-verbal communication and that they will have to watch your hands for directions. Use your hands to motion "Go" and "Stop" to play the game.
There are several read-aloud books that are appropriate for a unit on communication:
- Why Do Birds Sing? A Book On Animal Communication by Prezsler and June
- Dear Fred by Susanna Rodell
- Mice Squeak, We Speak by Tomie DePaolo
There are also several books available that tell the story through illustrations, which is another form of non-verbal communication. Some of these titles include:
- The Good Dog, Carl books by Alexandra Day
- Tuesday by David Wiesner
- Goodnight, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
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Small Group Activities
Explain that street signs are a special form of communication to help drivers know how to drive on certain roads. Create several street signs for your outdoor area and use them where the children ride tricycles and other ride on toys. Act as a traffic cop and make sure children are obeying the signs. Good ones to use with preschool children are One Way, Stop, and Yield signs.
You can find street signs for the block area in many educational toy stores and websites. Encourage the children to build roads in the block area and incorporate the signs into their play.
Turn your dramatic play area into a post office. Include paper, several different types of envelopes, and stamps in your post office. Create a classroom mailbox where children can drop letters for teachers and others. Have one or two children act as postal workers and deliver the mail at the end of the day.
Play telephone with a small group of children. Have children sit in a tight circle and deliver a message by whispering to the child on your left. Have each child whisper the message into the next child's ear until the message makes its way back to you. First, tell the children the original message, then tell them the last message you received.
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Field Trips for a Unit on Communication
Many post offices will allow children to visit and will show them how the mail is processed each day and put into trucks or mailbags for delivery. Call ahead and set up a time and date that is convenient for all.
The local telephone company may have a bucket truck available for children to explore. Often, a telephone worker can come and explain his equipment and how he uses it to reach telephone wires, keeping them in good working order.
Find a local sign language interpreter to visit your classroom. Explain that sign language is a special kind of communication for people who cannot hear through hand gestures and facial expressions. Teach the children some simple sign language words such as "more", "thank you", and "please" before the interpreter's visit.
A visit to an art museum can fit in with a thematic unit on communication. Artists create pictures to tell a story, and we can often look at artwork and know exactly what kind of story the artist was trying to tell.
The ways people stay in touch with one another is an important part of this preschool thematic unit. Communication is part of everyone's life and these activities help children learn in a fun manner.
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"Active Learning for Fours"; Debby Cryer; 1996
Author's personal teaching experience.