All right, so I said I wasn't going to volunteer for anything new this year and thus far--13 days into the new year--I have kept to my promise. But one volunteer opportunity that I've been working on since last fall is finally coming to fruition and I wanted to blog about it.
Feeling like my children needed more extension opportunities (that's teacher-talk for enriching and extra-curricular learning activities; usually teachers mean a gifted and talented program; I just mean something that will encourage my kids to actively think.) I talked my school into investigating the Junior Great Books program, which my oldest had really enjoyed doing at a previous school. They agreed to, so long as I was willing to run the program. I investigated the JGB program, but felt like the cost and required training were prohibitive. And, hey, I happen to have a Literature degree and what does it qualify me for if not to talk about books? I got together with a couple other moms and we put together our own 6 week curriculum--complete with integrated arts activities.
Last Tuesday we had our first meeting and it went great. I plan on posting the details for each week as we go through them. We ended up with around 70 kids (out of a school of around 300)enrolled. We split it up according to grade level. I'm running the group for the Kinders (I have 12 of them), another mom is doing the first graders (a group of 15), a third mom is running the group for second and third graders (she's got 23 kids), and a fourth mom is handling the fourth and fifth graders (there's about 19 of them).
For our opening discussion we had each child bring a favorite book and tell one or two sentences about it. Then we read a fabulous children's book by Ed Young, Seven Blind Mice. I read the book aloud, but only showed the abstract pictures to the children and had them try to guess what it was the seven blind mice had found. Before I got to the end I stopped and read the book again showing all the pictures--at which point it was obvious what the mice had found.
Our discussion question(s) for the week: How does not having all the information about something change the way you look at it? How can we avoid being "blind mice" when we read? The older groups also discussed the proverb at the end and talked about what a proverb is, suggesting their own. They also talked about how their ability to see changes the way they interact with the world.
Activity: For our hands-on activity, I brought a random selection of toys and some bandanas. Without showing the kids I hid the toys under the bandanas and had the kids feel them and try to guess what was under there. Then I put the kids in groups of two or three and had them sculpt stuff out of play doh (here's a great recipe for homemade play-doh; super easy and super cheap!) which they then hid under the bandanas and had the other kids try to guess what they were.
Five-year-olds aren't known for having long attention spans, and they moved through the discussion and activities pretty quick. As a backup plan I brought five or six of my favorite picture books and a bean bag. I had the kids sit in a circle and we passed the bean bag while singing "Reading a Book is Fun to Do". (This tune is a staple for Mormon kiddos, so my daughter was the only one who knew it; but the other kids picked it up after I sang it to them once.) When the song was done whoever was holding the bean bag got to pick a book for me to read. I then did a fairly dramatized reading of the book, encouraging the kids to act it out with me. They chose There's a Nightmare in my Closet by Mercer Mayer (who, BTW, looks a lot like his much-loved Little Critter character). The kids had a great time making scared faces, brave faces, and boo-hooing like the nightmare.
This was actually a ton of fun. Kids will always surprise you with their thoughts and the way the relate to/interpret the world around them.
So, tell me: what are your favorite books to read with your kid? What do you do to make reading fun?