Friday, October 20, 2006

You want fries with that?

Considering the gosh-awful week I've had with my Kinders, I am considering a change of profession. I have until June to practice asking patrons if they would like fries with that. What do you think?


Concerned: "Would you REALLY like fries with that? Or are you eating AT something?"

Annoyed: "Don't tell me... you want FRIES with that."

Incredulous: "You want FRIES with THAT?"

Sweet: "Okay, hon.. you want some fries to go with that?"

Motherly: "Honey, you may want some fries to go with that."

Grandmotherly: "Look dear... some fries would go nicely with that."

Bitter and Motherly: "You don't REALLY want fries with that, right?"

Righteous: "Um.. you don't NEED fries with that."

Prissy: "Fries? French fries? With THAT?"

Condescending: "I suppose that you want Fatty Old Fries with that?"

Terse: "Fries?"

Overbearing: "Okay, you want some fries to go with that. And a shake. And one of those lovely salads. And you need extra napkins. And some wipes for your hands because heaven knows you need wipes for those hands and here is an extra lid in case you lose the first one and DON'T forget to get a straw. Here. Here's a straw."

Surprised: "You WANT fries with that? REALLY?"

Elated: "Stupendous! You DO want fries with that! Wonderful! I am so very pleased! Fries it will be. With that."

Analytical: "Okay. I am thinking that you might like some fries to go with that. Am I right? Have you examined WHY you want fries to go with that? I mean, really THOUGHT about it?"

Bossy: "Fries with that."

Victimly: "Yeah, YOU could have fries with that. ME, I could never, ever, get fries with that."

Militarily: "You're gettin' fries with that."


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Why Be Redundant?

Every year the kids and I create The Tactile Alphabet Book. This is a book created by gluing something touchable to the page and accompanying it with a sentence strip that is framed like this: "___ is for ____." For example, 'Gg is for grass'. We generally complete one page a day.

So, you have to picture it. Each day the kids make their way to my table during our Group Time. We have already reviewed the letter of the day, sang UP to the letter of the day, and acted out the sentence with word cards. We've counted the words in the sentence, looked for letters we know, and practiced the sound that is spelled by the letter. We do this almost every day. This means I cut up almost 20 sentences per day and repeat the process 26 times, not including the cover title.

So last week one of our letters was Qq. It was a big hit, since Dominique, the Class Queen, has a 'q' in her lovely and long name. The kids cut out photocopies of quarters and glued them down to the page, then carefully placed the cut up sentence at the bottom: Q q is for quarters. We discussed how using one quarter would change the word to 'quarter.'

As luck would have it, 5 kids were seated at the table and all 5 happened to finish at the same time. Each day the kids have to read the sentence back to me before setting it on the floor to try. This means I listen to and watch 20 kids read aloud 20 sentences to me each day for 26 pages.

"Okay, Ethan. Read it back to me."
As expected, Ethan dutifully touched once under each word and recited, "Q q is for quarters."

"Alex? Read it back to me."
"Q q is for quarters."

"Q q is for quarters."

"Q q is for quarters."

"Genevieve?" (No response. Her head is in her hand. She looks put-upon, which is interesting since I am the one engaging in the repetitive behavior.)

"Gena? Genevieve? What does yours say?"
Gena dramatically shrugs her shoulders. Then she responds in her most put-upon of voices,

"The same as theirs!"


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dominique and the Sweater

We were having a very productive "big book" session this morning - the kids were extremely involved and 'reading' with me with much enthusiasm. I was pleased with this on-task behavior and visible interest of the children.

Except for Dominique, who was enamored with her lovely lavendar sweater - worn for picture day but much too hot, as she loudly complained, to actually WEAR. So, I asked her to hang it up. She did. Slowly. The first time.

But somehow, the sweater ended up in Dominique's possession again - and she was twisting it, turning it, manipulating it, swinging it, and just generally ENJOYING the sweater WAY too much. I have learned to NOT ask her to go hang anything back up once she is on the rug. The chances are real good I won't see her again for a long, long time. The drinking fountain, the bathroom, the scented soap, the paper towels, the cubbies - temptation is far too great.

"Dominique. Hold the sweater on your lap," I instructed. She did. For 8 seconds.

We proceeded to read about the adventures of Mrs. Wishy-Washy and her constantly dirty animals that needed to be washed. While the kids read with much enthusiasm about the dirty pig, cow, and duck, Dominique proceeded to 'wear' the lavendar sweater so that the sleeve was covering her eyes like a blindfold. Then she began bobbing her head around, in a perfect Stevie Wonder imitation.

I had a choice: Interrupt the flow of the dirty animals and their daily scrub, or deal with Dominique. Snapping my fingers at her did no good. Hissing "DOMINIQUE!" only caused her head to bob in my general direction. So, we kept reading. It was a pragmatic decision.

We finished the book and the kids begged for another one. I chose this transition time to hiss again at Dominique, "DOMINIQUE! Give me that sweater!"

Then several of the children began pawing the cover of the book to enthusiastically point out the letters they know - and Dominique resumed her Ray Charles routine with the sleeve of her sweater draped dashingly across her eyes.

Throughout the next book the kids were engaged and pretty much ignored Dominique's head-bobbing with the sweater. At times she was up on her knees - the climax of her performance.

When the book was finished I put my head in my hands and quietly said to Dominique, the child I am constantly redirecting, "Dominique. What do you think I am going to say to you now?"

She bobbed her head in my general direction and then loudly replied, "I don't know! I can't SEE!"

Monday, October 02, 2006

Following Directions

Following directions is always a huge issue for young children. Listening skills take a long time to develop and kindergarten teachers really need the patience of saints.

Today I found that the children DO listen, at least some of the time. Maybe the problem isn't so much the directions as the GIVING of the directions. This was obvious today.

The children are working on an autobiography. Our page today listed their favorite color. I passed out the clipboards and crayons and asked the children to look at the nice black outline of a crayon - so artfully placed on the page. At the top of the page is the sentence frame, "My favorite color is ________________."

After reminding them several times NOT to tap, bang, or snap their clipboards, I asked the kids to look into the crayon box and pull out their favorite color. "Don't TELL me," I said, "Show me!"

They did. I had them wave it around while I checked for complete compliance. Then I directed the children to color in the oversized black crayon outline.

Since it is the beginning of the year, I can't really expect them to write the color word in the sentence frame. But hey - I have high expectations and why not give it a try? Why not allow them to exceed their grasp, go for the gold, and really shine as STAR learners? Why not give them the opportunity to be successful - and copy the color word onto the sentence frame?

I set out huge color word cards. We had reviewed them before the activity started. I got a bunch of blank looks. Understanding just wasn't there.

Then I hit upon this marvelous idea.

"You know," I said in a conspiratorial tone, "the name of your favorite color is RIGHT THERE on the crayon."

I showed them on about a half dozen crayons where the color word could be found. A collective "ooh" and "ahh" went up from the rug and I was pleased. The busily began printing.

They put their finished papers on my table, as directed, and got ready to go home. After taking them to the bus, I returned to the classroom to see how well this little endeavor turned out.

Creatively printed in areas IN and AROUND the sentence frame on almost all my students' papers was one word: