What’s more fun for young children than acting like grown-ups? Teaching kindergarten students about community helpers is an important unit, and one all students will enjoy. So put on your fire hat, turn on the siren, and let’s go have some fun!
What Are Community Helpers?
When you hear the words ‘community helpers,’ you may think of police, nurses, and mail deliverers. But when teaching about community helpers in kindergarten, think more broadly. A community helper can be defined as any person who helps with our health and overall well-being.
Community helpers include dentists, doctors, construction workers, even grocery store workers! If you’re thinking this includes most jobs, you’re right! Many occupations do fall into this category.To narrow the field in your planning, look for a few qualifiers. What professions are your students interested in? What are the prominent jobs in your community? What resources are available to you? If you live in Alaska, it may not be a great idea to study lifeguards. Rather, snow removal workers would be a great choice. Or, if your school is located near a library and bank, these may be fantastic community helpers to explore. Whichever community helpers you choose for your focus, make sure these role models are available in some way to be part of your lesson. There’s nothing like the real thing to make learning authentic.
Teaching About Community Helpers
After choosing your focus, it’s time to make a plan. Going on field trips and inviting guests to visit your room offer a lot of fun opportunities, but the majority of time will be spent in the classroom. Let’s take a look at how you can teach about community helpers in both ways.In the Classroom
- Build a Center: Create a specific place to house and display materials related to your community helpers unit.
Place a table in this area as well as shelves and decorations to make it visually appealing. Label the area to make your classroom rich in print.
- Stock Up: Once you have a specific area dedicated to community helpers, stock it with books, puzzles, puppets, blocks, and any other materials you find with the theme.
- Dress Up: Kindergarteners love to dress up and pretend. Make sure they have access to costumes.
If your budget is limited, you can focus on inexpensive materials like an apron and notepad for a waitress or waiter, apron and white hat for a cook, or an over-the-shoulder bag and blue hat for a mail deliverer.
In the Field
- Hit the Road: The best way to study community helpers is to see them in action. Plan a field trip to several spots, like the library, grocery store, and bank. Reach out to local organizations and ask for a tour or short talk at each stop. Prepare for the trip by studying the specific helpers you’re going to visit, and make sure to include enough helpers to make the visits run smoothly.
For extra connectedness to your classroom lessons, prepare a simple map of the neighborhood or area detailing the places you’re going.
- Bring It Home: To strengthen your unit, invite several community helpers to come speak to your students about their jobs. Parents are a great resource for this.
You can plan to dedicate an afternoon to the event, or stagger your guest speakers out over a longer period of time. Review proper behavior expectations for your students beforehand, and model how to ask appropriate, thoughtful questions.
While going out to visit community helpers and having them visit you is a wonderful way to expose children to the theme, to be truly effective you need to integrate community helpers into your curriculum. Weaving it in is easy when you take it one subject at a time.
Integrating Community Helpers
Most kindergarten classrooms use work stations during literacy, which is a great time to offer activities to students centering on community helpers. Even if you don’t, you can do the following activities as a whole group during the specific subject times.Reading and Writing
- Read Aloud: There are countless books about community helpers in print. Check with your library for some great titles and read them often to your students. Place them in a basket and let them be available for the children to read on their own.
- Songs and Rhymes: Singing songs and chanting rhymes are linguistic skills young children need to know in order to read.
Build phonemic and phonological awareness skills (connecting speech to written and spoken word) by writing the words to the songs and rhymes on chart paper, then following along as you sing.
- Mail: Create a mail center where students read and write letters or sight words.
- Make a Book: Create a ‘Community Helpers in My Neighborhood’ book or journal for students to record their experiences, write their learning, and illustrate their thoughts.
- Compare and Contrast: Make a Venn diagram of two community helpers and fill in the spots comparing how they are the same and different.
- Counting: Study bakers as community helpers, and reinforce number sense by creating a cookie game. Cut out circles and draw chocolate chips on one side.
Write the number of chips on the other. Place the cookies on a tray chip side up and let the students count the chips. When they think they have the correct number, give them a spatula and use it to flip the cookie over and check.
- Graph: Study dentistry and math by having students create a graph showing how many teeth they lost.
- Patterns: Students can pretend to be chefs, and they can use pizza and toppings to create simple repetitive patterns. Have a model students need to copy, or allow them to create their own. Use construction paper or play dough.
No matter what activity you choose, make sure it’s fun to maintain student interest and extend learning.
Let’s review. Teaching kindergarten students about community helpers is a fun way to integrate young children into their environment. Choose community helpers to study based on the jobs that are predominate in your area. Remember, community helpers aren’t just the obvious folks, such as nurses and doctors. They can be anyone who helps make living better, like construction workers, librarians, and yes, even teachers!Take a field trip and bring helpers into your classroom so your students can get up close and personal with them. Finally, extend and impact learning by creating fun educational opportunities around your theme.
Incorporate community helpers into all subject areas with engaging games and activities. Don’t forget to ask parents to participate. With their help, your community helpers unit will be a smash.