Assign the children (or allow them to choose) different nocturnal animals. Then, help them create masks to wear during a play at the end of the unit. During the week, give the children information about each nocturnal animal. When it comes time to perform a play, have each child repeat a few short, informal lines describing the habits of their nocturnal animal. There is plenty of flexibility with this assignment, so allow the students to give their characters names and back-stories if they wish, but be sure the animal's nocturnal habits take center stage.
Preschool is an adventurous time for children, as they're just reaching the age where they discover a new-found sense of independence and self-reliance. This is also the age where social interaction becomes a critical component of children's development intellectually and emotionally. A dramatic play is an activity students will enjoy educationally and socially, and by giving the play a theme, children will have fun while learning about a specific topic.
The Solar System
In this play, students can run through a short depiction of the movement of the Earth and how it impacts daytime versus nighttime. For instance, demonstrate the Earth's rotation, and how that causes the Sun to disappear and the Moon to come out -- which gives us nighttime. Children can dress up like stars or planets if they'd like or draw pictures to hang on stage. This is a great introduction to science and the planets that the students will likely have never experienced before.
Reenact a Popular Story
Many children are familiar with popular books involving day and night, such as "Good Night, Gorilla" and "Goodnight Moon." Read the books to the children and have them perform a short play reenacting the story's main elements. Follow up with a question-and-answer period or a sharing unit, explaining, for instance, what activities they do before going to bed, and to whom they wish a goodnight. This is an opportunity for children to reflect on the transition between night and day and its importance for health and well-being.
Sounds of the Day and Night
This is an opportunity for children to be creative and expressionistic. Assign each an animal, some nocturnal and some diurnal. When they perform the play, they can only communicate using the sounds of their animal and the rest of the children must guess which animal is being enacted and what time of day it is active. Feel free to incorporate non-animal activities children can mime, such as brushing their teeth, and have the other children guess if these are nighttime or daytime activities (or both).
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