Unplugged Books in the Imperfect Classroom  

Monday, April 7, 2008

Well, with talk of storytellers and unplugged books, it seems like a good time to share some of the fun of the Imperfect Classroom, and some of the many book related activities we do. I thought maybe there would be some other book project ideas someone might be interested in. I read a LOT at school. I try to read all different kinds of things. This year is my first year working for a public school, and I have students in two different grades. I've been trying to read some of the books that they are reading at each grade level, but I also read books more at Paige's level, as some of my students are developmentally younger than her. I try to mix it up as much as I can and expose them to as much as possible. For instance, April is National Poetry Month, so I've been reading poems by Shel Silvestein (a childhood favorite) and Jack Prelutsky every day.

One new thing I tried this year that everyone seems to be enjoying is the idea of the "Author of the Month." A friend of mine teaches kindergarten, and she said that every Wednesday she would do an author study. She'd do one author each month, and they would spotlight a different book by that author each week. As my students need a lot more repetition, I decided to make this the overall theme for my class this year. Each month I pick a different author, and we talk a little about the author and read stories by that person all month. We started with Eric Carle in September, and we discussed how he's both an author and an illustrator. We learned a little about collage and how he makes his pictures. Then each month we've taken on a different author. It has been fun to have the nurses in my room suggest authors that they like too, and it gets them interested in what we are doing too. So far we have done Eric Carle, Laura Numeroff, Doreen Cronin, Jan Brett, Bill Martin Jr., David Shannon, Dr. Seuss, and this month's author is Patrica Polocco.

Patricia Polocco was a suggestion by one of the nurses in my room. I didn't know much about her prior to this, but I have really been enjoying her books. I came across a video interview with her here and it was interesting to discover that most of her stories are ones passed down from her grandmother and are based on her family. It seemed to be perfect timing to go along with our tap dancer the other day, who told a story about his grandmother, and suggested the kids go search out the stories from their grandparents.

I often work a craft, recipe, or other activity in during the month to go with the books we are reading. Last week we read John Philip Duck, a book about a boy who works in a hotel and brings his duck to work, and eventually trains him and others to walk down to the hotel fountain and swim in it to the delight of the guests to a John Philip Sousa march. I'd never read the book but it was really cute and we all enjoyed it. To go along with the duck theme, I we made Touch and Feel Ducks.

The crafts the students make always look pretty good as they are done "hand-over-hand," meaning that an adult does the majority of the work, but tries to do the project with the student as much as possible, usually by helping him to feel the different textures, and ask for choices, "do you want this or this?" etc. Then the adult would help to move the student's hands to glue, etc.

I decided this project looked like something Paige would enjoy, and brought the materials home for her to try one too. Well, Paige doesn't need me to help her physically, so hers looks quite different. It took all I had not to tell her she wasn't doing it right. (I mean come on, what duck has it's eyes under the bill??) I keep telling myself that if I tell her what to do and tell her it isn't right, I'll take away the enjoyment of activities like this for her. So, she's my little Picasso in training, apparently.

I also took a John Philip Sousa CD out of the library to play for the kids in my class, so they'd have an idea of what I'm talking about in the story. I try to supplement my stories with props as much as I can, because my kids don't have the same opportunities to experience things that other students do. When we read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, for example, I realized that they might not even know what a coconut was, so I brought one in for them to feel and experience first hand.

I've been thinking it might be fun for me to try to do some Unplugged Theme projects in the classroom too. I thought it might give me some different inspiration for activities with Paige and with my students. Books are an easy place to start since I love them and always incorporate them into everything I do.

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