Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Shy Ones

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.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Waiting for Approval

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.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Olive Garden

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.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Little Chairs

Friday Visit #1
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.

Working Out the Kinks

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.