Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Reader's Circle

Today we had a nice vibe going at Handwork time, with everyone happily sitting quietly on the floor in a circle knitting or at a nearby table with the Classroom Sewing Kit, finishing their Gingerbread Man ornaments, and I had a wonderful idea occur to me. A few weeks ago I overheard my daughter, Leah, say that she didn't want to read her chapter book Stormy, Misty's Foalbecause she didn't want to have to do a book report at the end. That had never occurred to me! I personally love to stand up in front of the class and talk (that's the teacher bit in me, but I was like that even as a child) and so I never realized that some people might not enjoy being in the spotlight and giving a presentation. So I have been racking my brain to figure out an alternative, more low-pressure way, to get kids to share what they are reading and to get that interest from peers that encourages them to read more.

I thought of "Reader's Circle."

Reader's Circle is when everyone sits in a circle and knits (or sews) and we all go around the room and people share what they are reading, what is happening in the book, and whether they like it and would recommend it. Friends are allowed to share questions or comments and no one is skipped over or left out, even if they are reading simple CVC readers instead of big fancy chapter books. I started it off by sharing my impressions of one of this year's Newbery Honor books, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, which I read over the Thanksgiving holiday.

After I modeled how to share about a book, we went all around the circle, and finished with my aide who shared a book about learning and the brain which she was reading. We had just finished learning all the Brain Gym exercises so friends were eager to share with her what we knew about the brain (we also had an animal anatomy teacher from the University of MD bring in some preserved brains for us to look at up close). It was a very invigorating discussion. The children then immediately segued into wanting to share what they are reading at home (we had only mentioned what we were reading in school) personally, what books their parents were reading for fun, and what they were getting as a chapter book at bedtime. We talked about books for an hour. An hour-long discussion about books!!! Loved it. It was very relaxing and fun and every child shared and felt like a reader. We will definitely make Reader's Circle a regular event.

By the way, it occurred to me also today that since all my students are gaining a good comfort level with knitting that I should get myself a knitting project to do during Reader's Circle and to give my learning knitters some ideas about the projects they could graduate to for the future. I already have one child who is ready to start a lamb (which requires increasing and decreasing in a row of stitches). I packed a project to begin tomorrow: the Pull-Up (scarf and hat all in one one) on page 79 of The Children's Year: Seasonal Crafts and Clothes

As this project is done entirely in a simple K2P2 rib I hope to get some students interested in the texture and in learning to purl. I myself always remember purling by thinking of Pippi in the South Seasby Astrid Lindgren (which a child coincidentally gave a review of today) and the part where Pippi grabs the shark by the neck and throws him far away... so I mentioned as a part of the discussion that there was another stitch in knitting that I would be happy to show to people who wanted to learn it... and it is therefore good timing for me to have a demonstration available.

Baked Jelly Donuts for Hanukkah

As part of our Baking unit (and learning about Winter holidays), we are celebrating Hanukkah with Baked Jelly Donuts. Today and tomorrow I'm giving lessons on Temperature, in Fahrenheit and Celsius, and then on Thursday we will make this recipe and talk about the Hanukkah story.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wrapped Advent Calendar

I read a wonderful parenting idea some years ago -- maybe it was in Family Fun magazine -- and my girls are now old enough to really enjoy it, I think. The idea was to create your own Advent calendar. We already have a simple 24 pocket linen Advent calendar which holds the 24 ornaments that fit nicely on our tree (a five tier Smith & Hawken hand forged iron tree) and each day we take an ornament out and hang it on the tree to decorate it. This takes the pressure off a mega tree-decorating session and is a nice way to count down the days. The idea I want to try in addition to this one is 24 wrapped picture books. Most of the suggestions I've found online talk about labeling each one with a tag that tells which day you are supposed to read it (presumably so you can end up with The Night Before Christmasas the final book) but I think it would be more fun for the children to simply choose a book from the basket.

My plan is to wrap 24 Christmas/Winter books and place them in a basket and, beginning on December 1st, the children can take turns choosing a book from the basket and we will unwrap and read it at bedtime. By that time we should be finished with Ballet Shoes, our current read-aloud.

I looked through my Christmas books and at first I thought I would have to pad it with books like All Year Roundand Festivals Family and Foodand the "Winter" volume of the Wynstones Press series but, as it turned out, I had plenty of stories. Here are the ones I am wrapping tonight:

The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Christmas Carolillustrated by Sheilah Beckett

Hans Christian Andersen's The Fir Treeillustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert

The Way Down: Christmas Poems for Children of All Agesby Isabel Wyatt

Poetry of Earthselected and illustrated by Adrienne Adams
("Velvet Shoes" by Elinor Wylie)

Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella: A Provencal Carolillustrated by Adrienne Adams