This unit can be used almost any time during the school year. The suggestions for the dramatic play area are related to a fire station, but the other center ideas and activities cover many types of transportation. One year after touring the neighborhood fire house, two students said to me, "Thank you for teaching us about trucks!" Based on that comment, one can guess how popular this unit is with the children!



Dramatic Play

Fire Station

General Props

  • Telephone
  • Fire hats and coats
  • Gloves
  • Refrigerator box painted red
  • Buckets
  • Hose

Props to Encourage Literacy

  • Telephone book
  • Map of area
  • Paper and pencils
  • Clipboards for fire reports
  • Books about firefighters
  • Pegboard with clipboard reading: Please write your fire report.

Sensory Table

  • Water, water pumps
  • Plastic boats

Art Center

  • Catalogs from local car dealers
  • Vehicle templates
  • Toothpicks, paper circles for creating vehicles
  • Geometric paper shapes

Listening Center

  • Theme-appropriate cassette tape and book: Who Sank the Boat?

Science Center

  • Assortment of unit blocks
  • Toy cars, trucks

Children can create inclines and experiment with degrees of speed.

Writing Center

  • Pencils with plastic cars glued to their tops
  • Blank books with vehicles on the covers
  • Sentence strip reading: I like to ride in a __.
  • Labeled picture cards of vehicles
  • Examples of street signs: stop sign, traffic light, etc.

Game Table

  • Two grids drawn on card stock (divide each paper into 12 squares)
  • Basket of plastic vehicles
  • Spinner or die

Children can invent their own games using these items.

Block Center

  • Variety of vehicles
  • Wooden traffic signs
  • Books about traffic signs: I Can Read Symbols
  • Blank cards, pencils, tape for creating traffic signs

These activities involve the whole class.

Flannel Board Story
Create felt pieces to retell Who Sank the Boat?

Oral Language Development

Interactive Charts

Hurry, Hurry
Hurry hurry __.
Hurry hurry __.
Hurry hurry __.
Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!

Create three sets of matching word cards for the blank spaces. Suggestions include: drive the firetruck, climb the ladder, squirt the water.

The Railroad Track
A __ was on a railroad track
Its heart was all a-flutter.
Along came a choo-choo train
Toot, toot, __.

Create word card pairs of food items that change form, such as: peanut/peanut butter, cracker/crumbs, tomato/catsup. Children fill in the blank spaces in the chart with the correct pairs in the correct order.


If I Had
If I had a __
Zoom, zoom, zoom.
I would go to Mexico
Wave my hands and off I'd go.
If I had a __
Zoom, zoom, zoom.

Children select vehicle names for blank spaces.

Here Is the Choo Choo
Here is the choo choo on the track.
Now it choo choos forward,
Now it choo choos back.
Now the bell is ringing,
Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.
Hurry up and take a seat
The train is about to go!

Motions can be added to dramatize the poem. Speed up the tempo with each repetition to simulate a train.

Literacy Development

  • Enclose a fireman's hat, gloves, and the book Fire, Fire in a box. Encourage the children to guess the contents by asking "Yes" or "No" questions.
  • Encourage children to dramatize each vehicle in the book To Town.
  • After reading To Town, cover the vehicle names. Encourage the children to contribute the initial, middle, and ending sounds of the covered word.
  • After reading I Can Read Symbols, children can create signs for the classroom and playground.
  • Read The Bus Ride. Write the initial consonant of a character on a sentence strip. Allow the children to guess the character based on the initial letter. Use these characters to dramatize the story.
  • Compare and contrast The Bus Ride and The Bus Stop. Record the similarities and differences.
  • With the children, create word cards for the poem, "If I Had" in this theme unit.
  • Write a thank-you letter to the fire station (see Field Trips).

These activities can be used as individual assignments.

  • Allow the children to dip the wheels of a toy car in paint and "drive" it on a dark colored piece of paper to create a design.
  • Reproduce and give each child the repetitive sentence from The Bus Ride: The __ got on the bus. Encourage children to add a person's name in the blank space and illustrate the sentence. Gather all illustrated sentences and create a class book.
  • Children create collages by cutting pictures of vehicles from magazines.


  • Read Changes, Changes. Children can work in pairs and create vehicles using blocks. Provide paper shapes so that children can recreate their block vehicles.
  • Graph the different ways the children get to school: bus, walk, car, etc.


  • Visit the local fire station.
  • Visit a local car dealership.


The Bus Ride by William Miller (Scott Foresman, 1976)

The Bus Stop by Nancy Hellen (Orchard Books, 1988)

Changes, Changes by Pat Hutchins (MacMillan, 1971)

Dan the Flying Man by Joy Cowley (The Wright Group, 1983)

Fire Engines by Anne Rockwell (The Trumpet Club, 1986)

Fire! Fire! by Gail Gibbons (Crowell, 1984)

I Read Signs by Tana Hoban (Greenwillow, 1971)

This Is the Way We Go to School by Edith Baer (Scholastic, 1990)

To Town by Joy Cowley (The Wright Group, 1983)

Wheels by Venice Shone (Scholastic, 1990)

The Wheels on the Bus by Raffi Songs to Read (Crown, 1988)

Who Sank the Boat? by Pamela Allen (Coward-McCann, 1982)