Like most classrooms we checked the weather every day, posted it on the calendar and graphed it. I usually set up a weather station in our dramatic play center during the month of March because in Michigan the weather usually varies a lot during March – we can see everything from ice storms to rainbows. Dramatic play was a big part of my classroom because I loved how the children used high levels of language and vocabulary through pretend play, and they loved it!
For the weather center I covered a large piece of plywood with a light color of felt. My husband (because I am geographically challenged) drew an outline of the United States on it. Then I cut out an assortment of suns, clouds, kites for wind, lightning bolts, raindrops and snowflakes out of scraps of felt. I covered a paper towel tube with foil leaving a ball of foil on the end for a microphone, and then I taped a toilet paper tube to a box and covered it with contact paper for a video camera. So I probably spent a couple of hours preparing the center – but I used it for about 15 years! I would leave a dramatic play center set up for a few weeks.
I think one of the most important parts of dramatic play is modeling not only your expectations for taking care of the materials, but also exposing children to the dialogue and actions you would expect them to be pretending about. You could show a video clip of a weather broadcast – or ask parents to watch the weather with their children at home. But I think it is important for the teacher to actually step into the play and model the activity. So I would choose a child to be the video cameraman and I would pick up the microphone and talk about the weather prediction while placing the felt pieces on the map. I would also talk about the map – Michigan’s mitten shape is very obvious, and Florida and California are usually easy for kids to remember too. You could put little pictures of states that are meaningful to your class – Mickey on Florida, etc.
Of course most children had already seen the weather on news programs and it was so fun to watch them talk. Research shows that children use a much higher level of vocabulary in dramatic play than in normal conversation. I would often hear them say things like “precipitation” or “slight chance.”
Along with this play we read many weather books, and created this very simple one to take home.
Inside the book I taped a small pocket. The children put their photograph on the weather forecaster’s face and kept it in the pocket. They would read this book in the “voice” of the forecaster.
The kids loved using the hole punch on the scraps from their clouds – and it is great for fine motor development. So is gluing on those little dots!
We made rain in the classroom – I put ice into a small pan, then I heated another pan of water on a small burner (of course safety was my first concern). I held the ice pan above the heated pan. The steam condensed on the bottom of the pan and raindrops fell. The best part of that was telling the children that I could make it rain inside the room – I loved their anticipation!
I’m so glad fiberfill comes in such a big bag – and it’s cheap! I wanted the children to notice and observe different kinds of clouds, we made a cloud book that I will also post to learn about 3 main kinds of clouds.
So it’s not a traditional snowflake shape – they still had fun. There were years I prefolded paper so they would cut little bits out and open it up to a six sided snowflake. I decided it wasn’t worth the effort! We also cut snowflakes out of coffee filters but they wouldn’t show up against the white page.
We did lots of wind activities too – wind socks with crepe paper streamers. I made a chart and gave the children an assortment of materials – a tissue, pebble, crayon, unifix cube, etc. Then I put a piece of colored tape on the table as a starting line. The children counted and graphed how many times they had to blow to get each item across the finish line. I adapted that at Halloween for a game – we blew on tissue ghosts, tiny skeletons and little plastic pumpkins – and we were the howling wind! Such fun!