Monday, 7 April 2014

Creepy Crawly Coloured Caterpillar - platefuls of fun!

Cover of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar"
Cover of The Very Hungry Caterpillar
I have very fond memories of reading "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" (in Japanese!) from a young age, and I have been looking for a way to incorporate and share one of my childhood memories with my students in a functional and constructive way. Unfortunately I do not have a copy of the book so I had to come up with an alternative method. After having a little think and brainstorming some ideas I settled on something that I thought would capture the interest of my students as well as providing a bit of variety in the classroom. So I would like to present to you my most recent classroom project: the "Coloured Caterpillar"!

Our new classroom friend
The idea revolves around making a caterpillar using either coloured card or painted paper plates which are in turn used to make up the different segments of the caterpillar. You then cut out an assortment of shapes, numbers, letters or whatever else you think would suit the activity, from coloured card which the students have to sort into the corresponding coloured segments of your "Coloured Caterpillar". You can stick the caterpillar to a table or even on the wall or your whiteboard/blackboard! If you are planning to stick your caterpillar to the wall/board you're also going to need a way for sticking your shapes/numbers/letters too.

Fun with paints!
You may be thinking that making the caterpillar is going to be a major investment of time and effort, but this is where your students come to the rescue. Rather than make the caterpillar myself, I decided that for this activity to become a success the more hands on approach the students had the better. I also didn't fancy spending an evening painting paper plates on my own. So I roped them into caterpillar making duty. What better way to engage the students by using resources that they have helped make themselves!

In the "zone"
I have to admit thought that I was a little hesitant before launching into this project, especially as I had planned for my youngest students to shoulder the responsibility of painting the paper plates. I had a bad feeling the students would become more preoccupied in painting anything but the paper plates! However, when I broke out the paint and paintbrushes my fears were laid to rest. The students took to the activity like a charm, they were the most focused and well behaved I had ever seen them. It was like magic. Unfortunately due to paint needing to dry, we weren't able to put out caterpillar to use immediately so the students had to wait patiently for their next lesson before they had a chance to admire their work.

Showing off
A job well done

Shapes to sort
So one week came and went and it was time for the big reveal. The long wait was over and the students were finally able to see their painted paper plates come to life in the form of a colourful caterpillar. As you could imagine the students were terribly excited, and once we had stuck down our caterpillar they dived into the tray of cut out shapes and started sorting at break neck speeds! The first time we used our "Coloured Caterpillar" we used shapes cut out from coloured card, and we have since moved onto using numbers and letters as well. I have used the
Diving in
"Coloured Caterpillar in several of my other younger classes too, one of them even making the connection to "Harapeko Aomushi" ("The Very Hungry Caterpillar" in Japanese) which I was delighted by! By using the "Coloured Caterpillar" my students have become more adept at recognising shapes, numbers and letters and can sort by each category. I think it's safe to say this project was a success!

If you decide to create your own "Coloured Caterpillar" for your classroom please share your pictures and any feedback you have! 

Damian Gowland
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