Float, Fly, Drive

In this lesson, children will sort, classify, count and compare different types of transportation.

Content Area:

Beginning Skills and Processes

Learning Goals:

This lesson will help toddlers and preschoolers meet the following educational standards:

  • Develop beginning skills in the use of science and engineering practices, such as observing, asking questions, solving problems and drawing conclusions

Learning Targets:

After this lesson, toddlers and preschoolers should be more proficient at:

  • Expressing wonder and curiosity about their world by asking questions, solving problems and designing things
  • Collecting, describing, comparing and recording information from observations and investigations
  • Making meaning from experience and information by describing, talking and thinking about what happened during an investigation
toddler planting

Float, Fly, Drive

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • Mini-motors (Choose sets of eleven mini-motors, including three different types of transportation. If you do not have mini-motors, you can use pictures of various forms of transportation.)
  • Small paper bags to hold the mini-motors—one for each child and one for the teacher
  • A large paper chart with columns to chart ways that the children might take a trip (Use pictures or drawings to divide various types of transportation into three categories: FLOAT, FLY and DRIVE.)
  • Index cards or another type of card or paper object—one for each child, with the child’s name written on it, to be used for charting transportation preferences
  • Paper for each child to create his or her own chart

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.

Step 2: Introduce activity.

  1. Gather the children in a circle or around a table.
  2. Ask: “Have you or your family ever taken a trip? How did you get there?” Let the children share transportation memories of all types, such as trips to their grandparents’ houses, a city, a farm, a zoo, a park, a museum, etc. Talk about the various modes of transportation, such as walking, stroller, bus, train, car, airplane, etc.
  3. Look at the chart together to illustrate the ways that people travel.
  4. Say: “I wonder how many different ways that we might travel from one place to another? Who can think of vehicles that we might use to drive somewhere? Float somewhere? Fly somewhere?”
  5. Ask the children for their ideas. Add pictures or words to the chart to match the category for each child’s suggestion. For example, if a child suggests a helicopter, then either draw or post a picture of a helicopter under the “FLY” heading on the chart.
  6. Ask: “If you were taking a trip, would it be more fun to float, fly or drive?” Ask the children to predict which mode of transportation that most of the children would be likely to pick. All of the children will have a chance to answer the question and then come to the chart and place their name cards in the categories that they choose.
  7. Ask questions that the children can answer using the completed chart, such as “Which category of transportation was chosen the most? Which category was chosen the least? Was our prediction correct about which category would be picked the most?”

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. Shake one paper bag and empty it onto the center of the table or into the center of the circle.
  2. Say: “Let’s look carefully. What kinds of transportation do you see?” Children can list the different types of transportation.
  3. Ask: “How are they the same? How are they different? Do any have wheels? Do any fly? Do any float?”
  4. Choose one vehicle and ask: “How does this vehicle travel? Are there other vehicles that travel this way? Let’s put them together.”
  5. Sort the vehicles into like categories—FLOAT, FLY, DRIVE—and then count the number of each type of vehicle in each category with the children.
  6. Bring out a plain sheet of paper and show the children how to create their own mini-chart for the motors. Draw lines to make three columns. Write FLOAT, FLY or DRIVE headings at the top of the chart. Then place the actual motors in the columns in which they belong. Finish by asking questions about the chart. “Which column has more motors? Which column has the least motors?”
  7. Encourage the children to suggest other ways to sort the vehicles—by color, number of wheels, etc.—and then sort them and count the number in each category.
  8. Give the children their own bags full of mini-motors.
  9. Say: “Now you are going to get your own bag and choose how you want to sort and label your own mini-motors.”
  10.  Monitor the children as they empty their bags, prompting them by asking each child: “How do you plan on sorting your motors?”
  11.  Give each child a piece of paper as the children complete their sorting and allow them to create their own charts to share with others. Once the charts are completed, ask individual children questions such as: “What categories did you use? Which category had the most motors? Which had the least motors?”

Step 4: Vocabulary.

  • Predict—To guess what might happen next
  • Observe—To watch and document an item to gather information
  • Conclude—To make statements of what was learned after an observation or experiment

Early Science Glossary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Want to play with the motors instead of sorting them
  • Not be able to chart on their own
  • May be able to sort, but not provide labels for the groupings
  • May not be able to count using one-to-one correspondence
Child care providers may:
  • Allow time for play before or after the lesson
  • Leave the charting steps out of the lesson or assist the children with their charting
  • Make suggestions for grouping labels to see which one the child believes is correct
  • Provide categories for children to sort by
  • Put fewer motors in the bag
  • Assist the children in counting the motors in each group
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Want to play with the motors instead of sort them
  • Need assistance in creating columns and writing labels for their own charts
  • Need more of a challenge for sorting or charting
Child care providers may:
  • Allow time for play after the lesson
  • Suggest that children combine their motors to create a larger number for sorting and charting
  • Provide a larger number of motors in each bag
  • Assist children in writing the labels for the columns on their charts

Suggested Books

  • The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
  • Freight Train by Donald Crews
  • See How They Go: Cars (DK Publishing)
  • See How They Go: Airplanes (DK Publishing)
  • See How They Go: Boats (DK Publishing)

Music and Movement

  • Play the thinking game, We’re Taking a Trip and I’m Packing a _____________. One at a time, the children echo the refrain, adding their items and repeating the previous items in order. Continue until all of the children have “packed” an item.
  • Flying like an airplane, floating like a boat and riding on a train are all movement activities that you can do with the children in the classroom.
  • We All Go Traveling ByA group of songs for movement and singing activities. Hop aboard the yellow school bus as it makes its way through town. Different modes of transportation are each paired with a color in this entertaining and educational selection.

Outdoor Connections

  1. Transportation Observation: Look for school buses, trucks and cars on your block or passing by. Say: “Do you think we will see more red cars, yellow buses or trucks?”
  2. Car Observation: Tally the number of red, blue or black cars parked on your block or in front of your house.  
  3. Truck Observation: Count the number of red, white or black trucks that pass by the house in a few minutes.
  4. City Bus Observation: Count the number of buses that you see on your way to the park.

Web Resources

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