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The Fabulous Fifties: A Hip Pre-K Theme For the Classroom

written by: Kathy Z Price • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 8/2/2012

Plan your preschool classroom activities with an inventive twist! Create a 1950s theme to explore educational concepts such as self discovery and reflection, dramatic play, and subject areas such as science, music, literacy, and art.

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    The Fifties: Fabulous, Fun, and Family-Oriented

    The 1950s produced family-oriented games and timeless songs educationally sound for preschoolers. We will focus on different elements of this popular decade in history as the educational tie-in to preschool room areas/centers, transitions and activities.

    Rationale: The objective of creating a 1950s theme for preschool is to foster creativity and imaginative play. Young students can experience old-fashioned American culture within an age-appropriate interactive environment.

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    Classroom Set-up

    Choose retro colors and accents to create the tone for the classroom. Aqua, salmon-red, and canary-yellow represent the primary colors of the time. Cut aqua-colored circles out of construction paper to make record-like albums (one per child). Draw an outline of a juke box on yellow butcher-block paper. Cut along the outline to create a juke box class-identity chart. Post the juke box in the center of a decorative bulletin wall. Place a picture of each child in the center of an aqua album to mount around the juke box. Give the classroom a name inspired by the 1950's. Posted in salmon-red block letters in the middle of the juke box could be, "The Rockin' Robin Classroom." or "The Rockin' Robins." Continue the alliterative language concept with each child's name. For example, use cheery for Charles, or add names like "Sunny Sue," or "Daring Dee" for the name chart.

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    Self Concept

    The '50s introduced "Romper Room," a live television show featuring a nursery school class. Romper Room produced imaginative ideas exploring the wonder of self. The "Magic Mirror," a Romper Room educational staple, was an ordinary oval mirror with a long handle. The mirror was removed leaving an empty space for the teacher to look at the children.

    Create an easy facsimile with sturdy stock paper or oak tag.You will also need colored cellophane. Cut an oval shape out of the oak tag. Proceed to cut the interior of the oval to create a frame. Cut another oval shape out of the cellophane. Staple the colored cellophane onto the frame. Cut a simple handle using a rectangular shape from the oak tag and staple to the "mirror." Use the "Magic Mirror" to welcome each child with "I see Susan." Invite the children to use the "Magic Mirror" and share what they see.

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    Science

    Geology

    Choose the title of Rock Around the Clock to present a geology and earth science center. Set out stones with unusual shapes, and textures, such as volcanic rock, fossils and crystals. Include beach shells, acorns, pine cones and other natural earth material sources. Place two or three child-sized plastic magnifying glasses in the center and invite children to bring in their own stones.

    Astronomy Through Art

    Use the title of Bill Haley and the Comets to create a solar system mural. Cut out large jagged yellow shapes that fit together to create a mural on a dark blue paper. Children can sprinkle glitter and color pre-cut stars, sun and moon shapes. Each child can paste a comet fragment, sun or moon shape to the mural. Distribute glow-in-the-dark stars for each child to post over the mural and turn off the lights. Add a small string of tiny blinking white lights to drape over the mural. Turn the tiny lights on for special times.

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    Dramatic Play

    Set-up

    Coordinate decade-appropriate colors to make a household and cooking area. Cut out silhouettes of cooking utensils from yellow butcher paper. Cut out shapes such as yellow teapots, bowls, salad knives and forks to post on the housekeep wall. Salmon-red table and chairs keep this retro color theme. Add an aqua area rug to complete the space and define the area.

    Show and Tell

    You Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog, the Elvis Presley classic, continues the Golden Oldies model with the dramatic play area. Invite children to bring stuffed animals as special guests. Extend the activity with show and tell time to share stories about the plush pets.

    Dress-Up

    Collect clean, used clothing from this era from a consignment shop or online in order to create a dress-up area. Use tactile materials such as satin sheath dresses and soft felt hats. Poodle skirts match this preschool theme as well.

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    Literacy

    Continue the hound dog theme and create animal stories and collages using animal magazines. Children can cut out pictures of dogs and dictate creative stories about them.

    Read a featured "Hound Dog Book of the Day." Integrate a call and response routine. For example, at the close of the story, in addition to saying, "The End", children could sing out, "You Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog." Border the book area with 1950s Disney Clifford the Big Red Dog characters, including the Sorcerer's Apprentice, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and Goofy the dog.

    Recommended books for the "Hound Dog Corner" may include:

    1. Clifford the Big Red Dog, by Norman Bridwell
    2. The Pokey Little Puppy, by Janette Sebring Lowrey
    3. Harry the Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion
    4. Go Dog Go, by P.D.Eastman
    5. Dog, by Mathew Fleet
    6. Where is Spot?, by Eric Hill
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    Movement and Music

    Songs

    Let's Go To The Hop or Shake, Rattle, and Roll can start off dance activities with hip music cues. Coordinate the lyrics with hopping and jumping song games. Dance to the Chubby Checkers song, The Twist, The Bunny Hop and the Hokey Pokey.

    Movement Games

    Adapt the sock-hop dance theme from the 50s with a sock-hop freeze dance. Adapt hula-hooping, a popular game from this period, by using smaller hoops appropriate for preschoolers. Children jump in and out of the hoops, twist them as the wheels of a car in motion with Woody Guthrie's hit, Take Me Riding In a Car.

    Musical Instruments

    Store musical instruments on the Shake, Rattle and Roll shelf. Make musical instruments that would fit in this category. Maracas made with juice boxes and grains of rice make a shaking movement with a rattle sound. Set out crayons and paper for the children to color. Cover the juice boxes with the decorated paper. Help the children pour in rice, beans or popcorn kernels in their juice boxes. Distribute differing amounts of ingredients in each child's box to vary the pitch.

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    Keep Thinking

    A 1950s theme for the preschool classroom can inspire curricular ideas for a month-long theme or even a full year. The culture-rich concepts of this particular decade include child-friendly activities as well as educational and teachable lessons along with the unique historical component.

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    References

    Shake, Rattle and Roll, http://www.preschoolerstoday.com/articles/activities/shake-rattle-and-roll-1485/4/

    Author's own classroom teaching experience