When you think of hot summer days, you can’t help but think of refreshing cool treats! Watermelon is a favorite summertime snack. Here is a fun watermelon-themed unit for preschoolers and kindergarten students that incorporates several subjects and that can be expanded to meet your student’s needs. As an educator, I love themed units!
All young students learn best with hands-on activities, especially students who are blind or low vision. Start this lesson with hands-on experiences with real watermelons. Use a whole watermelon or a couple of whole watermelons so you can compare sizes. You will need both halves of a watermelon cut up and slices of watermelon. If using multiple watermelons, you can cut the additional watermelons ahead of time so that you have at least one uncut watermelon, one watermelon cut into two halves, and a third watermelon cut into slices. These activities will include curved watermelon slices (not cubes) and watermelon seeds, so be sure to purchase a watermelon with seeds.
With your student(s), talk about the whole watermelon and have your student feel the skin (outer layer) of the watermelon. Ask the student to describe the whole watermelon. What shape is the whole watermelon? Describe how the watermelon feels – is it hard, soft, squishy?
Cut the watermelon in half or use a watermelon already cut in half. Talk about whole watermelon and then two halves – hold the two halves together and then pull apart as you talk about this concept. Talk about the shape of each half and describe how the watermelon feels – be sure to use the terms “outside” and “inside” of the watermelon.
Next, identify and name the 4 parts of the watermelon: the skin, rind, flesh and the seeds. Which part is edible? Feel each part and describe it. Ask the student to find and dig out a seed. The flesh of the watermelon is sticky, so be prepared with wipes or paper towels!
Cut a slice or use a slice already cut. Ask your student to identify the four parts of the sliced watermelon. Be sure to lay the watermelon slice flat on the table with the curved side closest to the student – this will help the student to identify the tactile drawing of the watermelon in another activity. Find and dig out the seeds. Count the seeds. Who has the most seeds?
Download the watermelon and watermelon seeds images and run them through a tactile graphic machine, such as the PIAF or Swell machine to create raised line drawings. If you do not have a tactile graphic machine, print the images on a printer and then modify the images using glue, puff paint, foam or other tactile materials as desired. Ask the student to tactually explore the image and identify the parts based on what was taught using the real watermelon slice. Encourage the student to systematically explore the watermelon images using good tactile graphic skills!
There are four watermelon images available for download, two without seeds and two with numerous seeds. Each set of images has the option of the skin colored in with a black marker. The black lines and the colored skin will be raised when the image is run through the tactile graphic machine, making it is easier for young students to tactually distinguish the skin from the rind. Students with low vision using a print version of the watermelon slice also benefit from the colored in skin.
Use the watermelon image and tactile items to represent the seeds. You can use real watermelon seeds, black buttons, black pompoms, or other small items. Give the student a braille/print number or ask the student to place a specific number of “seeds” on the watermelon image (no seeds).
Use the watermelon with seeds image. With young children, I prefer to use a different textured line to point to the desired part of the watermelon. Washi Tape (thin, colorful masking tape) works very well!
Create four braille stick-on labels: Skin, rind, flesh and seeds. Ask the student to trace the Washi Tape line from the tactile watermelon part to the end of the line. The student can place the braille label at the end of the line (if space allows) or on top of the tape line (like a fill-in-the-blank answer).
Download the digital Watermelon Counting book. This book was created in Book Creator and works well when opened in the Book Creator app on the iPad. The book can also be opened in other applications.
If desired, read the book to the student the first time and then ask the student to ‘read’ the book to you. There are various options for accessing the digital book, including:
The Book Creator Watermelon Counting Book video demonstrates how to navigate the teacher-created Watermelon Counting book in the Book Creator app on an iPad running VoiceOver. Each page in the book has a watermelon slice image at the top of the page, large print text at the bottom and an audio button in the bottom right corner. The app has an arrow to turn to the next page halfway down the right edge of the screen and an arrow to turn back to the previous page halfway down the left edge of the screen.
Currently, the Book Creator app does not include all the standard screen reader features. Typically, a 3-finger swipe right will turn to the next page. The 3-finger swipe right/left does not work in Book Creator. To turn the page, you must find and double tap on the right or left arrow on the screen. The standard 1-finger swipe right should move sequentially through the items on the screen; however, in the Book Creator app, the items on the screen are not navigated sequentially. Meaning if the VoiceOver focus is on the sentence at the bottom of the screen, a swipe right will move (as expected) to the audio button. However, another swipe right does not move to the right arrow button. Instead, the student would have to swipe LEFT multiple times, moving backwards thru the items on the screen until finally landing on the right arrow needed to turn the page. Due to these limitations, the quickest way to navigate the digital book is to simply use spatial memory and tap at the bottom of the page to move the VoiceOver focus to the sentence and to tap halfway down the right edge to move the focus to the right arrow button.
Book Creator Watermelon Counting Book with VoiceOver video:
When creating a simple digital book for a preschooler or young child who is blind or low vision, use a consistent layout. Most emerging reader books have the image at the top and the text below. When creating digital books for emerging readers who are blind or low vision, this consistent layout is critical for the student to be able to successfully and efficiently navigate the book. Students who rely on a screen reader need to understand the spatial layout of the touchscreen – in this case, that the text is at the bottom of the screen, the audio button is in the bottom right and the arrows to turn the page are halfway down the right or left edges of the screen.
Since the goal of this book is to support counting skills, the image does not have alt text, but the information from the image is given through the audio clip. The audio clip includes the actual counting plus the equivalent number of “squeak” sounds that represent the number being counted.
Note: The Watermelon Counting book can be downloaded from Book Creator as a movie; however, the movie version does not read aloud the text. Only the auditory clips on each page are included. If a movie version of a Book Creator book is desired, then add an auditory button with the recorded text.
The digital version of the book does have a read aloud option.
Create watermelon number puzzles. Cut braille paper or thicker stock paper in the shape of a watermelon slice, then cut the slice in half. You can use the watermelon image as an outline or create a smaller watermelon. On one piece of the watermelon paper, braille the number. On the other half, place the corresponding number of tactile pieces. (Foam stickers work well, but use whatever you have on hand – small buttons, pompoms, real seeds, etc.) Creating matching puzzle pieces for numbers 1-10. If your student is a print reader, use large print numbers instead of braille numbers.
Use the black and white watermelon image (no seeds) from above if creating a PIAF watermelon puzzle. Or, use the colorful watermelon image and simply add braille numbers and tactile seeds.
Collaborate with your student’s O&M and/or parent. Can the student have an O&M lesson that focuses on watermelons at the grocery store or farmers market? Is there a local garden with a watermelon where the student can explore the watermelon vine, growing watermelons, etc.? Does a family member or friend have a garden with a watermelon? Can the family grow a watermelon?
Create a paper fan out of a white paper plate. Use a white paper plate that has ridges along the edge. Flip the paper plate over. Paint the center of the plate red/pink and the outer edge (ridges) green, leaving a white edge between the two colors. Or, provide a red tactile circle the size of the center of the plate and have the student glue/adhere it to the center. (A circle cut from a sticky-backed red foam sheet works well!) The ridged edge of the plate is already tactile and can be left as is. If desired, the student can use a crayon and color the ridged edge green.
The seeds can be created using a cotton swab dipped in black paint or tactile seeds can be made from small sticky-backed pieces of black foam. (Make your own seeds using a paper punch and a sheet of sticky-backed pieces of foam. Punch out holes – the holes can be used as seeds.)
Once everything is dried, fold the paper plate in half. Open the paper plate and attach a large craft stick for the handle of the fan. An adult can use a stapler to staple around the edge of the plate to seal the edges of the plate shut.
Here is my favorite watermelon-related story book, perfect for story time! The Watermelon Seed book by Greg Pizzoli
The Watermelon Seed YouTube read aloud video:
End the unit with a watermelon snack!
by Diane Brauner
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