Monday, September 22, 2014

First Grade CCD 2014-2015: Lesson 1: Jesus is My Friend (9/8/14)

CCD, if you're not familiar with the term, stands for Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, and it is usually an after school or Sunday morning class which children attend in order to learn the teachings of the Catholic faith. I am teaching a first grade class of two students on Monday nights this year. Since much of what I am doing in the classroom is inspired by my story time performance habits, and because I like keeping records of my plans, I will be sharing what I do in class here on the blog.

The first class of the year was on September 8th, and I started with the first chapter in our textbook. This lesson is called Jesus is My Friend. (Note: My lessons are planned around the textbook chapters, but I don't always use the actual textbook in class. I also didn't start posting right away, so I am about two weeks behind. I hope to catch up this week and then post about each lesson in the same week that I teach it.)

Gathering Activities

  • Name Tags
    Even though there are only two students- one boy, and one girl - I decided the easiest way to ease into our first class was to have them create name tags.  I and my aide could easily learn the names of two kids, but creating the name tags also gave me some insight into how well they could write, and how much they like art projects. Their approaches to this project turned out to be decent predictors of both their abilities and interests.
  • Decorating Crosses
    After they finished their name tags, I allowed the kids to start working on the art project for the day, which was to decorate a cross. Once it was 7:00 (fifteen minutes into class), we put aside our materials to begin our actual lesson. (There are lots of templates for crosses on Pinterest and Google Images.)


 Opening Prayer

  • Sign of the Cross
    The kids have four prayers they are meant to learn over the course of the year. The textbook starts with the Sign of the Cross, so I have decided to start there as well. We practiced using the correct hand and making the proper motions while saying the corresponding words. Once we had it, we said it all together.
  • Our Father
    The kids don't yet know this prayer (one knows part of it),  but it is the next one they will learn, so I wanted them to start hearing it every week. We will likely begin memorizing it a little piece at a time in a few weeks.



  • Questions
    In order to start the kids thinking about friendship, and to prepare them to hear how Jesus can be their friend, I asked them some discussion questions about their own experiences with friendship. 
    • How do you know when someone is a good friend? 
    • How do friends treat each other?
    • What do friends do together?


Bible Reading

  • Jesus and the Children
    I read the adaptation of Mark 10:13-16 which is provided in the teacher's manual of the textbook. After reading the story, I asked the kids questions (also from the manual)to help them interpret what they had heard. I concluded this segment of the class by pointing out that Jesus shows he is a friend to children by inviting them to come to him.



  • We Come to Jesus
    There were four sentences in the teacher's manual that explained how we come to Jesus. I turned these into a movement activity, similar to a story time action rhyme.

    We come to Jesus when we pray. (Hold hands in prayer position.)

    We come to Jesus when we learn about him. (Point to brains.)

    We come to Jesus when we go to church. (Make a steeple over head.)

    We come to Jesus when we care for others. (Hug self.)

    We went through this a few different times. Sometimes I did the motion and asked them to say the words. Other times, I provided the words and asked them to do the gesture. It really worked to reinforce what we were talking about and to get some of the wiggles out after sitting for a while. 


Silent Prayer

  • A Moment with Jesus
    We were asked during our training session to focus more heavily on prayer this year, so I have made sure to set aside thirty seconds of class time especially for praying silently. I doubt that the kids are praying continuously the whole time, but just practicing being silent will help them get there. To prompt their prayer, I used "A Moment with Jesus," which is a little blurb that appears in each of the textbook chapters. For this lesson, it asked the kids to think about the fact that Jesus is always with us and we can tell him anything.


Art Project

  • Decorating Crosses
    At this point in the class, we were way ahead of where I expected us to be. It was hard to budget my time accurately for this first lesson without knowing the kids. We used crayons and gem stickers to finish decorating the crosses we had started at the beginning of class. Thankfully, these kids both like art and they took their time and got really into it.


Chapter Review

  • Study Guide
    This section of the lesson was very impromptu. I had not planned to do any sort of review, but we still had 30 minutes to go, so I took the handout I was sending home with them (a chapter study guide provided by the textbook publisher) and went through it point by point, asking the kids if they learned what was on the sheet. (They pretty much had everything down, so that was great.)



  • Lift High the Cross
    I played this hymn on the ukulele and asked the kids to lift up their homemade crosses each time they heard the phrase "Lift high the cross."  They loved it. Then the parents stopped in and we had a moment to chat. Class ended just 10 minutes before our official stop time of 8:00 p.m.



  • Activities to Do at Home 
    To encourage the parents to review the lesson at home, I plan to send home a study guide and related activity each week. These are week one's take-home handouts:

Middle Grade Review: Greenglass House by Kate Milford (ARC)

Greenglass House
by Kate Milford
2014. Clarion Books
ISBN: 9780544052703
Milo, who was adopted from China as a baby, lives with his parents in a smugglers inn called Greenglass House. During his Christmas vacation, he and his family expect the inn to be vacant, so they are shocked when, one after another, guests keep arriving. Amidst the crowd, Milo links up with the cook's daughter, Meddy, who teaches him to play a roleplaying game that allows them to spy on the suspicious behavior of the guests, all of whom have ulterior motives.

Many elements contribute to the overall strength of this book. Chief among these is the setting. Greenglass House is an old, intriguing place with its own history, secrets, and possible ghosts. It is described with such detail that the reader begins to wish she could be snowed in along with the characters. Also wonderfully interwoven into the plot are a series of folktales and stories, some of which Milo reads in a book, and others of which are told by guests of the inn. Each of these stories could be excerpted to stand alone, as most are presented in their entirety, but they also deepen the larger story by revealing characters' motivations, secrets, and connections to one another.

The author takes a real risk with this book by purposely failing to mention a key truth about one character until very late in the story. Though the reveal is a big surprise, it also makes a lot of sense and becomes very obvious once the truth is known. Depending on how much the reader likes genre-jumping surprises, this could be received with mixed reactions, but it does seem to work well within the context of the story and makes the climax of the book that much more exciting. Most mystery readers are accustomed to last-minute surprises anyway, so they will probably enjoy discovering a twist.

Greenglass House is a lovely contemporary read-alike for The Westing Game, but it is also very much its own creation, with unique characters and a distinct style. In the sea of largely mundane middle grade titles being published this year, this one is a surprising gem worthy of much praise. (Indeed it has already been placed on the long list for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature.) Recommended for mystery lovers and game lovers ages 9 to 14, particularly as a read-aloud.

I received a digital ARC of Greenglass House from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley.

For more about this book, visit Goodreads and Worldcat.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Old School Sunday: Betsy and the Great World by Maud Hart Lovelace (1952)

Betsy and the Great World
by Maud Hart Lovelace
1952. HarperTrophy.
ISBN: 9780064405454
Three years have passed since Betsy's high school graduation,and a case of appendicitis has put her a full year of college behind her Deep Valley friends. Realizing their daughter is not getting what she wants from her education, the Rays decide to give Betsy  the opportunity to travel abroad and gain some life experience to help with her writing. While in Europe, Betsy's small-town naivete is shaken as she meets a variety of new people and witnesses the first stirrings of World War I.

Of the entire series, I like this book the least, if only because it is so utterly different. Almost none of the story takes place in the familiar Ray family home, so the supporting characters who make the the series so warm and special only appear in occasional memories and letters from home. New characters abound as Betsy travels through Europe, but though they are charming - and even memorable - it's hard to love them as much as her long-time friends.

This book also concerns itself much more with specific historical events than earlier books, which gives it a bit of a different flavor. Though this is probably due to the fact that the story is semi-autobiographical, the references to events which the reader knows will lead to World War I contribute to the sense of Betsy's maturity as she becomes an adult. Only Betsy's abiding affection for Joe seems to remain from her younger days, but even her feelings for him are more mature as she travels than they are in any of the prior books.

Interestingly, Betsy and The Great World reminds me of Alice on Board, the second to last book of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Alice series. Both books take young adult characters beyond the high school years, on cruise ships, giving them new experiences beyond the home environment with which the readers are most familiar. Though Lovelace's treatment of Betsy's story is better written, it still feels as though both series should have just ended with high school graduation. Perhaps if Betsy and the Great World weren't a part of such an established series about which I already had specific expectations, I would have enjoyed it more, but as part of the series, it was a bit of a let-down.

I borrowed Betsy and the Great World and Betsy's Wedding in a single volume from my local public library. My review of Betsy's Wedding will appear next week. 

For more about this book, visit Goodreads and Worldcat.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Picture Book Review: Who Was Here? by Mia Posada (ARC)

Who Was Here?
by Mia Posada


Quick Booktalk

Animals leave their tracks in snow, sand, and mud, and the reader must guess: who was here?

About the Illustrations

Though the cover is forgettable, the inside of this book is very attractive and eye-catching, and it captures the feeling of being out in nature, following animal tracks through the woods. The repeated question of "Who was here?" always appears as part of the setting, rather than in the block of text, which contributes further to the earthy feeling of the entire work. The book is set up as a guessing game, so one page shows the tracks of an animal, and the next shows to whom the footprints belong. The animals are completely realistic and reminiscent of illustrations by Steve Jenkins.

Story Time Possibilities

I wish this book had been available two summers ago when I did my nature detectives program! It's just right for early elementary audiences, who tend to enjoying guessing games. This would make a great addition to class visits, and it could easily be paired with KizClub's flannel board for Quick as a Cricket for an animal-themed story time. It's also a less wordy alternative to How To Be a Nature Detective by Millicent Ellis Selsa, which is not the best read-aloud.

Readers Advisory

Readers who have enjoyed other science-themed guessing game books such as Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow?, Guess What I'll Be, and Birdsongs will like this one as well. It offers a good balance of fun rhyming text and more serious informational text, so it would be especially good for kindergarten and first grade classrooms.