Depending on whom you talk to, there are between 189 and 196 countries in the world, and the number keeps changing. That is a lot for preschoolers to learn, but you have to start somewhere. Young children can learn about each other, the globe and beginning letter sounds as they participate in icebreaker activities that increase their awareness of countries around the world. Preschoolers are just beginning to be aware of the world outside their own homes, schools and neighborhoods. Start your year teaching children about other countries and cultures as they meet and get to know each other.
On one of the first days of class, have students stand in a circle. Hold up a flashcard with a large capital letter on it. Tell students this letter is the first letter of the name of a country and demonstrate the sound that the letter makes. For example, you might hold up the letter “S,” tell them the sound /s/ and that “S” is the first letter in the country “Switzerland” or “Swaziland.”
Show students where they live on a map and where each country is located on a map or globe. Then have students whose name starts with that letter sit down. Continue the activity until all of the students are sitting down.
Choose a country and one fact that would be interesting to preschoolers, such as the number of children under five years of age who live in the country. Play telephone, where you tell the child sitting next to you in a circle a short message about the country. For example, you might say, “Komodo dragons live in Indonesia.” The fun comes when the last student tries to repeat the original message without any distortions.
Follow up on a statement like this with a picture and a discussion about Komodo dragons.
Write a short poem about different countries, and set it to a tune your students already know. For example, you might use “Are You Sleeping?” as the tune for a quick song about the capitals of various countries or the continents on which the countries are located. As with the telephone example, follow up the activity with a lesson on the content of the song to make the meaning clearer to the children. You could use the song as a morning greeting song.
Make a list of countries, one for each child. Create a card with the name of the country, a map and a picture from it. The picture should be of an interesting fact/ landmark relating to the country. Have each child randomly pick their card from a container and tell him the name and information about the picture. Then have children find three others with whom to share their information.
Children then switch roles, and the first who spoke listens. Back in circle, children share one thing they learned about a country other than the one on their cards