Read-Along Story Time for Beginning Readers, 2/21/13
This story time is such a rollercoaster. Some weeks it's just perfect, and I can't believe how wonderful it is. Other weeks - like this past one - it is just a disaster. Here's what happened this week.
I got an idea about what kind of session this was going to be when I finished reading the message and a five-year-old girl told me, "You're not my friend." Rather than engage the comment as unfriendly or obnoxious or whatever she was trying to be, I used it as an opportunity to explain that there are lots of ways to close letters. Then I moved on to what I thought was going to be the most exciting part of story time.
I really wanted to use I Like Stars by Margaret Wise Brown, but we don't have enough copies in our system for every child to hold one in his or her hand. So I used our overhead projector to show the pages from the book on the wall. I really thought the kids would love this concept, and I expected it to combat the problem we normally have of kids reading ahead of me during the read-along. But in all my predictions about how things would go, I did not expect the kids to change the word "stars" to "farts." Early elementary school is my favorite age to work with, but I don't like the toilet humor. Furthermore, I don't think the parents like it when their kids come to story time and talk about farts the entire time. I did my best to remain calm. I said things like, "Oh, you're picking up on the "AR" sound. Are there other words that have that sound, too?" But they didn't care to indulge me and kept right on making poop jokes. I eventually just read the rest of the book to them quickly, then shut off the projector and took out my picture book.
Picture Book Read-Aloud
I was excited to read Stars, which is one of my favorite picture books, and I thought this group was old enough to actually understand it. Sadly, they were too silly to sit and listen to more than a page at a time. I try not to turn this into a highly academic environment, but I did eventually have to say that if we didn't stop talking about bathroom things, we'd have to go sit with our grown-ups out in the library instead of finishing story time. Thankfully, the next activity was interactive and we were able to get back on track - mostly.
Making a List
I asked the kids to think of what they would wish for if they could wish upon a star. This is their list. (Answers related to poop were ignored, and they stopped making those comments eventually.)
I think making lists and word clouds is going to work really well with this story time going forward. They seem to focus the best when there is a discussion going on, and not as well when we're sitting and reading. I also had three more kids come in during this activity who were much more engaged and ready to participate than the kids who sat through the stories at the beginning. Perhaps it would be a better idea to do this brainstorming and chatting at the start of story time, and then read to them later when they've settled down. Typically, I start story times right away with a book because the kids' attention spans are short, but this group might need a different approach.
I had the kids write their names on construction paper, then gave them some stars to turn their names into constellations. We had several kids try to write "poopy" as their name, but they got over it when I didn't react. Some of the kids spent more than 30 minutes on their projects. The only issue was that parents kept asking me if their kids could leave. They didn't understand that story time was over, and when the kids weren't done with their crafts and didn't want to leave, the parents were asking me to close the room so they could get their kids to leave willingly. I'll have to work on setting better limits on exactly when we will be "finished."
I love this story time so much, and I look forward to it as the highlight of each week. It's been a great challenge for me so far, and it's giving me opportunities to stretch my story time muscles beyond the usual, mostly predictable crowds that attend the other ones. It keeps me on my toes if nothing else, and I can only imagine it will get better the more I do it. Now it's time to head back to the drawing board and figure out what this coming week's will look like!