Farm themes are big fun for young students, and very versatile. You can use this theme to look at the distinction between urban and rural life, how people’s lives and work have changed over time, where our food comes from, plants and animals, and many more basic content issues in science and social studies.
Use Scholastic’s Down On The Farm Bulletin Board or D. J. Inker’s Farm Friends Bulletin Board Set, add barns and farm animals cut outs to use for centers and classroom management, and you’ll have your room in the mood.
Gather some farm books:
- On the Farm by David Elliot has wonderful illustrations and poems that bring farm animals to life.
- The Year At Maple Hill Farm is terrific for studying seasons, too.
- Our Animal Friends At Maple Hill Farm offers another visit to the beloved Maple Hill Farm, this time with a focus on animals.
- A Busy Day at the Farm by Doreen Cronin
- Growing Vegetable Soup has Lois Ehlert’s characteristic bright graphics and minimal text. Go through the tools and work all the way to a recipe for soup.
- Color Farm, also by Ehlert, brings in both colors and farm animals.
- The Pig in the Pond by Martin Waddell is a simple story about farm animals (and the farmer) getting cool on a hot day, but the wit of the illustrations and the simple text elevate this book above the typical concept picture book. The central two-page spread with “Splash!” as the pig jumps into the puddle will become a favorite classroom moment.
- Farmer Duck, also by Waddell, works as a simple picture book about a duck who has taken on all the farm work on the property where he lives. “How goes the work?” the lazy farmer asks repeatedly, and the duck answers, “Quack!” — providing an excellent opportunity for the kids to help read during story time. But you might also like to read this book to older students as an introduction to studies of labor and economic systems.
- The Milk Makers is another great nonfiction book by Gail Gibbons. Gibbons always makes lots of data accessible to young readers, and this book about cows is no exception.
- Babe: The Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith is a wonderful chapter book, filled with detail. The movie didn’t do it justice.
- Charlotte’s Web is another classic read aloud with a farm setting.
- While you’re thinking about pigs, check out our Three Little Pigs lesson plans. Other farm animal tales include The Bremen Town Musicians and the Three Billy Goats Gruff. You’ll find lots of resources at those links.
Now you’re ready to study farms.
Start by asking students who has visited the county fair, been to pick apples, or shopped at the farmers market. In a rural area, ask who lives on a farm and what chores they do. In an urban area, ask who has ever been to a farm or a petting zoo with farm animals.
Once you’ve established the degree of experience your students have with farms, choose some activities from these online resources:
- K-2 farm theme unit uses Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown. The link takes you to the big book, which is what you’ll need for the lesson.
- Welcome to Old MacDonald’s Farm has lots of practical ideas for K-12 farm units.
- Brighthub also has a farm theme unit.
- Farm animal coloring pages can be a good back up for fast finishers.
- Another farm animals coloring page
- All About Farm Animals offers basic info about all your favorite farm animals.
- Barnyard Palace starts with an interactive aerial photograph of the Teaching Animal Unit at the NCSU Veterinary Medicine College. You can click on different parts of the farm and see more information about the animals that live there.
Teachers often like to use a farm theme for families. We’re not wild about this, simply because farm animals don’t normally live in family units. It can be good for vocabulary, though. Here are some farm animal mother/baby pairs:
- mare/foal (or colt)
Write the words on word cards for your pocket chart and let students match them.
You can also make or buy farm animal cards and use them for sorting and sight word practice. Use Friendly Farm Animal Counters for your math manipulatives and you can easily do all your counting, early math, and sorting activities with a farm theme. Add farm words to your word wall as you come upon them in your books and discussions.
You can sort plants, too. Fruits and vegetables, crops that grow above the ground and crops that grow below, and even plants your students have eaten and ones that they haven’t. Here’s a song that discusses quite a few examples of produce. We won’t be surprised if many of your students have never eaten cauliflower, gooseberries, or rhubarb; try listing all the fruits and vegetables you hear and graphing the ones the class has tried.
The song is “Paintbox,” a common song in the U.K. but not well known in the U.S. Sing Up has resources, including white board ready lyrics and a performance track if you don’t want to sing along with our video. We did change the words just a little for American English.
We like farm themes for “then and now” stories. After you’ve read a few of the picture books, almost all of which show traditional farms, brainstorm the ways farms are different now from how they were in the old days (get more specific about dates if your students are old enough). Have students fold a sheet of paper in half and draw a scene from an old style farm on the front of their folded page. Open the page and draw a “now” picture to contrast with the “then” picture. If your students are ready to write, have them add captions or paragraphs to their pictures. Some possibilities:
- Then, farmers used horses to plow. Now, farmers use tractors.
- Then, American farms usually just had cows, pigs, horses, and chickens. Now, farms may have emus, llamas, or buffalo.
- Then, farmers milked cows by hand. Now, dairy farms usually have milking machines.
Make a bulletin board or a big book with your “then and now” stories.
You’ve read some stories. You’ve done your counting, sorting, alphabet, and sight words. You’ve begun to think about the past and how it differs from the present, and you’ve had opportunities to look at some basic social studies and science issues.
Now it’s time to play!
Here are some farm theme games we like:
- The Farmer in the Dell is a singing game, probably familiar to many of your students, and good for taking turns.
- Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow is a slightly more complex singing game that might be less familiar.
- Earlyears Baby Farm Friends Bowling is good for hand-eye coordination and whole body movement.
- The Farming Game Board Game makes a good center for older classes.