Today was the day. No more writing, no more coloring, no more printing and binding. Today we feasted on the fruits of our efforts.
Instead of packing markers and lined paper, Lindsay and I toted around our new book- 22 copies in total. We shared the book with the lady at the front office, the teacher next door, and of course, the co-teacher of the class- all who gave excited, positive feedback.
When Lindsay and I walked into the classroom, there was a surprise waiting for us. Clipped to the white board were two giant green hearts, one for each of us, expressing thanks with the signatures of all the students. There were also a few "I love you" notes written on the giant hearts. To add to sentimental feeling, we were greeted with hugs when the class walked in.
After hearing that today was to be the day we would read the kids their book, the teachers arranged to have the preschoolers join in on the presentation. While we waited for the little, little ones to come, Lindsay and I sat in the front of the class while the children sang songs. There was a song about oceanic food chains and another about a pizza. Then there was the song "The Green Grass Grows All Around", a song from our own elementary school days so of course Lindsay and I joined in, adding hand motions as well, hand motions the kids quickly adopted.
Then the preschoolers arrived and the reading began. This is the first time the kids were presented with the story as a whole and were able to see the work of their fellow classmates. They delighted in guessing where the cat would travel next and discovering who drew the picture. All of which was followed by polite applause.
After the preschoolers had traveled back to their own classrooms, the kindergartners gathered around us for a group photo. And then came the announcement, we had copies for each of the students to take home! 8:40 was fast approaching so Lindsay and I left behind a copy of the book for all the kids to sign and eventually give to Mr. Ziebarth for making this whole experience possible.
As we left the school, Lindsay and I posed out front with our green thank-you hearts, thankful that we had the opportunity for such a splendid experience. But this was not our last visit to Demille. Our high school summer begins a week before theirs so we've been invited to come back during their last week of school to have some fun with our little authors.
Nothing will stop Lindsay and I from completing our project, not even a four hour long AP test Friday morning. When the test was over, Lindsay's mom picked us up and we headed along our usual route to Demille Elementary School. The only difference was now the sun was high in the sky, instead of yawning awake. And there was no time constraint rushing us back to make it for second period.
Selecting three students was easy, it was down to our last and final three. The group let their imaginations fly- a coconut tree jungle, traveling in a time machine to a basketball game, a bowling ball landing on the cat's head.
After our work was done at the school, Lindsay and I grabbed some lunch and headed to her house where the real work began. The kindergartners had taken care of the body pages, leaving the beginning and end up to us. Along with the deal came drawing pictures, kindergarten style. Maybe it was because we were comparing our artwork to that of six year olds, but I was impressed by what Lindsay and I could create with a couple packs of markers and a large tub of crayons.
That Friday I stayed at Lindsay's house until 11:00 P.M. With Spotify and YouTube cheering us on, we managed to type up all the pages and scan all the illustrations, and then match the two together. But the work had just begun.
I returned to what had begun to feel like my second home the next morning. We made some adjustments, printed out a few pages, and made more adjustments. After some experimentation, we figured out how to print the books continually and double sided and make the front and back cover on cardstock.
Just like Henry Ford managed back in the day, we formed an assembly line- printing, counting, hole-punching, binding, trimming. I must pay special tribute to the binding machine we borrowed from the elementary school. I would be a teacher just to use that lovely piece of machinery.
Assembling the first copy had a sentimental feeling. All nine kindergarten visits compiled into thirty colorful pages. It was a proud moment.
24 copies were made- one for each student, one for Mr. Ziebarth, and one for each of us to treasure.
Today my grandmother joined my family for a Mother's Day dinner of mashed potatoes and turkey burgers. We got on the subject of school projects and I remembered our book. I explained to my grandma our project and she read every page, amazed. This DIY project has brought me so many rich rewards, on so many levels.
Fridays at any school tend to be a little sporadic, but the first Friday of May at Demille was especially so. The class full of kindergartners was presented with a substitute teacher who was not on top of his game, to say the least. Thankfully Mrs. Chiang was on the scene to help sort things out.
Adding to the chaos, the second graders were presenting a musical version of "The Three Little Pigs". After Lindsay and I helped the last kid of the day write and illustrate, we watched the tail end of the play. I admired the courage these young children had- singing in front of classmates, parents, and complete strangers- especially the wolf, who had fiercely belted out his solos.
But let's not skip over the excitement of our three kindergarteners of the day. One of the boys finally settled on writing about a doctor's office, but when it came to drawing, he had trouble. After rejecting my ideas of scales and stethoscopes, he took up his friend's suggestion of drawing a shot. This led him to draw blood as well. He drew only a drop but he and his friend lit up and exclaimed, "Blood! Blood! Blood!" There's a couple of six year old boys for you.
With one set of students left to go, Lindsay and I turn our thoughts to the book itself. The kids took care of the body pages, leaving the cover page and the beginning and ending of the story up to us. The idea of drawing a book cover does not excite either one of us, so we are hoping to take a picture of the class for the front instead. If okay with the teachers, the students will make either a cat or mouse headband to wear for the snapshot.
This upcoming Friday hosts the inevitable AP English Language test. Testing begins at 8:00 A.M., the time we are usually working at Demille. Because the test ends around noon and excuses us from the rest of school, there is a pending possibility of Lindsay and I making our weekly visit in the afternoon this week.
As May approaches, our project nears its end. When deciding which lucky three kindergartners to work with this time, we heard that it was one of the student's last day because he would be spending the rest of the school year it Vietnam. So of course we chose to work with him. As I was helping him write his page, I talked with him about his upcoming trip. Turns out, he's already been there! While he will be missing a lot of school, to travel to another country is most definitely a great learning experience. Learning a second language, especially at his young age, will only enhance his education.
There was another student who was in her final days at Demille. She was the sweet girl we had worked with a few weeks ago who had placed stickers on the hands of Lindsay and I before we left. When I was in first grade, I changed school towards the end of April too. Switching schools is though, but I find that the transition is easier for a kindergartener or a first grader than a middle school or high school student. Kids at that young, innocent age tend to be more open to making new friends. In elementary school, your best friend could be Danielle one week and Heather the next. In high school, students form groups, social cliques, some that are very cold to new members. I'm glad my family moved when they did, instead of waiting until now.
Also working with us this past Friday, was a girl who had a wild imagination, who fittingly wrote about a zoo, a zoo where the animals break loose when the guard falls asleep. Although she was limited in what she could write by the format Lindsay and I had set up, she let her ideas free on her picture.
It saddens me that our days at Demille are numbered; this was no doubt one of the best projects I've ever done. Each week Lindsay and I go, we are presented with a new set of personalities, learning abilities, and friends.
Thanks to our school's Baron Games assembly, all of our classes were shortened, giving us less time at Demille. To accommodate this change, we selected some faster workers for this past Friday. Coincidently we had chosen three of the biggest talkers as well.
In stark contrast to the shy group we had a few weeks ago, this Friday's students were able to bounce their ideas of one another. Instead of Lindsay and I feeding the kids ideas, the children gave each other suggestions. This made the jobs of Lindsay and I easier and more entertaining too.
One of the kindergartners has an obsession with Star Wars. He told me the names of all the battle ships and shared with me a multitude of movie facts. Everything he wrote and drew was influenced by Star Wars, which worked out because the place he chose to write about was Universal Studios.
The girl in the group picked the Discovery Science Center as the place to lead the cat. I was impressed with her picture which included chemical filled beakers.
It's interesting to think of what these different kids will be like when they go on to middle school and eventually high school. Who will they be? What will they do?
Last Friday Lindsay and I picked up where we left off, visiting Demille Elementary for the first time in a couple of weeks. Even though it has been over a month since we introduced the project to the class, one of the kids we worked with was a able to recite perfectly who the characters were and what the plot of the story was.
Since the kindergartners had just come back from Spring Break, it was easier for them to pick a place they wanted the cat to visit- places they had just been to themselves. One of the girls had spent one of her vacation days at Adventure City and was therefore able to draw a very detailed picture.
This also happened to be the same girl who rushes up to give Lindsay and I a hug every time we visit. It was a bit of a challenge to get her to focus on her illustration because all she seemed to want to do was chat with us older girls. We later learned that she and the other girl we worked with on Friday are cousins. I would have never guessed because the other one was on the quiet side of the spectrum.
The boy who wrote his page with us choose his setting to be New York and drew an impressive picture of the Statue of Liberty. Each kid adds his or her own unique style to their page; some using every color of the rainbow, others using details I would have never even thought of. I can't wait to see all their ideas bound together in the same book!
One of the only, if not the only, positive thing about Spring Break 2013 coming to a close is that Demille's Spring Break is also ending. In our project so far, Lindsay and I have made 4 visits to the elementary school and have worked with 7 students who have completed their page in the class book. With 15 kindergartners left and 2 months until DIY project presentations begin, our English assignment becomes a game of numbers.
We have exactly 8 Fridays left. (Where did the school year go??) Minus 1 Friday thanks to the 8:00AM AP English Test on May 10th. One of the Fridays in May we may have trouble with transportation, so minus another Friday. 6 Fridays multiplied by 3 kids per week; we have one week to spare.
If need be, presenting the book to the kindergarten class will be done the first week in June since this does not need to be accomplished before our project presentation. But it would be nice if we could have pictures of the class reading their very own book to show during our class presentation.
In order to fit in time to laminate and bind the book, we'll most likely start and finish this task the weekend after the kids finish writing.
As long as Lindsay or I aren't sick on a Friday, our project will be finished as scheduled.
This past Friday, Lindsay and I shook things up and worked with three students at a time instead of the usual two. By this time around we had a well-established, efficient system that allowed us to get the job done. But we had two hurdles in our path: it was picture day for Demille Elementary School and we had a group of three quiet kids.
We cleared the first hurdle easy enough, starting the kids early and bringing them back to class when their pictures had been shot. While Lindsay and I helped two of the kids write their page, the other started on his picture (a very nice one of a cruise ship). With our guidance, the kindergartners were able to finish as scheduled.
The other obstacle proved to be different sort of challenge. The brainstorming of this shy group consisted of nodding and shaking of heads when ideas were suggested to them. After relying heavily on our examples, the kids slowly opened up, just a tad. The group opened up slightly more as they drew their pictures.
After this experience, I began to wonder how I was as a kindergartner. Was I one of the shy ones or was I a social butterfly? I looked to my parents for the answers. To sum it up, as five/six year old I was friendly and sociable but I knew the difference between the time to talk and the time to listen. I'd like to think that this still holds true.
After making a video for our project pitch Wednesday night, Lindsay and I were all set to go to work with the kindergartners on Friday. This past Friday we assisted two students in writing and illustrating their own page in the class book. We chose to work with one advanced learner and one slower learner so that the students may learn from one another.
Although one student required more help than the other, both children were able to correctly sound out at least the beginning sounds of words and make decent guesses for the following. The child I worked with was shy but very sweet and well behaved. After he would write a letter or draw a few lines, he would stop and look up at me, waiting for a nod or a few words of approval before continuing.
If Lindsay and I continue at this pace of two kindergartners writing every Friday, we'll finish with the final two students the last week in May. This will give us minimal time to finalize, print, and bind the book. We'll need one additional Friday in order to distribute the book copies to the class and read to them what they've created. If possible, we hope to get a week ahead by working with 3 children on a couple Fridays because our class presentations begin June 3rd.
Visit number two and we've already got a couple of kids rushing up to give us hugs, shouting "Lindsay! Brenda!" Kindergartners are like sponges, soaking up everything they hear and see, retaining information.
This Friday we began to work with the students individually to help them write their own page of the book and illustrate a complimentary picture. Because it was the first try at this, the teachers selected two if the brightest minds for Lindsay and I to work with. We had a format for them to follow and helped them fill in the blanks with their own creative ideas.
After they finished writing, we had them draw a picture to match the setting. As the students worked, we asked them for ideas for the characters' names. We also asked what their favorite restaurant is (to be used later in the book). One of the kids had trouble thinking of a restaurant name so I asked him if he liked Olive Garden and he replied, "I don't go to Olive Garden. I'm Chinese." in complete seriousness.
During our time there, the school's principal made a visit to see how things were going. I think it's safe to say that she liked what she saw.
Lindsay and I stayed at the school for 40 minutes, working with one child each. It was a great experience to see how a five or six year old mind works. They seem to want to please you but also are not afraid of being wrong, a form of confidence that I think students loose as they get older.
After the success of last Friday, I look ahead to the coming weeks eagerly.
I miss the kindergarten days. Enjoying a recess, caring for class pets, sitting at a table stocked with crayons of every color. While waiting for the school bell to signal the arrival of the little learners, Lindsay and I explored the classroom. An array of art work covered the walls and projects hung from the ceilings. We pointed at the familiar behavioral charts and laughed as we sat in the tiny chairs.
With the 22 students seated on the rainbow carpet, Lindsay and I introduced ourselves and our project. After asking if they would help us, we received instant enthusiasm. To ease them into the topic of writing, we read them the Christmas version of the childhood classic "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie." Since the two teachers had asked us to help them understand the concept of cause and effect, reading this book served as a guiding example of the book the class is going to write together.
Our book follows a pattern; a cat is searching for a mouse and clues lead him from place to place. The clue, the cause, will lead him to a place, the effect.
With the remainder of our time, the class brainstormed a list of places along with clues that might lead the cat to look there.
In the the short half an hour we had, I learned quite a few things about kindergartners. For thing one, it's a challenge for them to switch gears from one subject to the next. After we had been brainstorming for a bit, one of the teachers asked the class "If we need one place for every student and we have 22 students, how many places do we need?" Kids repeatedly raised their hands and answered with, "A hotel!", "A park!", or "The zoo!"
Working with kindergartners was a blast. I look forward to next week when we begin working with the kids one on one to help them grasp the concept of cause and effect and write their own page of the book.
After a bit of thinking, discussing, and communicating all of our problems have been solved, for the time being.
Since every Friday in first period we will be working on our projects and because the directions urged us to work outside the classroom, Lindsay and I chose that day of the week to work with the kindergartners. With permission from Mr. Ziebarth and the school, instead of spending first period at Fountain Valley High School in our English class, Lindsay and I will be teaching at Demille Elementary School in Westminster. Because the class is co-taught, Lindsay's mom, Mrs. Chiang, has the day off and has gracioulsy volunteered to drive us to and from the elementary school.
So every Friday morning we will meet in front of the school at 7:30 A.M. and arrive back at school around 8:45 in order to check in with Mr. Ziebarth at the end of the period. This gives us a good half an hour to work with the students each week.
In the quest of finding an affordable binding method for the finished product, we discovered that most elementary schools are equipped with a machine to provide such a service. Fortunately Demille is one of these schools.
With things looking right on track, our excitement increases as this project becomes more and more of a reality.
"Create something. Something sustainable. And worth a lot of points.
Ready? Set. Go!"
I had heard this set of vague directions before. I'm starting to think Mr. Theriault and Mr. Zeibarth spend too many of their Sunday afternoons together. Déjà vu of Mr. T's 150-point project of sophomore year.
With projects like these often the most difficult part of it all is figuring out what to do. I felt like the 13 colonies after breaking from Great Britain; unsure how to form a government and run a nation, without the process of trial and error being an option. With the two weeks counting down that I had until I had to pitch my great idea to the class, I turned to Lindsay to brainstorm.
We tossed around ideas like working with and supplementing the soup kitchen at Lindsay's church. Benefiting the community seemed to be our inclination (we both were/are Girl Scouts), but working with grown men wasn't the most appealing option. (No offense to any of you out there, I'm sure you are a lovely individual.)
Lindsay's mother co-teaches a kindergarten class with Mr. T's wife. Working with a class full of adorable five and six year old sweeties? Perfect! Guiding the class to help them write their very own book? We were instantly stuck on the idea.
While both Lindsay and I were excited to get to work, a few problems came to light. The kindergartners start their day at 8:00 A.M., just like us high school students. The price of sending our book to lulu.com to be bound and copied for every child in the class came out to be over $450. Where would we find the time? Where would we find the money?