Read-Along Story Time for Beginning Readers, 3/7/13
This story time is one of the most rewarding programs I do, but oh, does it have its challenges. After a very successful program last week, this one was chaotic and exasperating. To my credit, I remained calm and managed not to get angry at all the silliness, but I still felt like things were fairly out of control, at least during the actual read-along. There is a part of me that things it would be easier on me if we were to eliminate the read-along portion altogether, but I know it's what the kids love. And based on what I've observed, even when they don't sit in an orderly row and call out words as I wish they would, they do still get something out of it. I think I'm still nervous that to the casual observer it seems like all we do is laugh and make poop jokes, but I am trying to teach myself not to gauge program success based on the kids's behavior. I'm not a traditional classroom teacher, and this isn't school. I still have things to work out, and lessons to learn, but I still eagerly look forward to next week's session, so it can't be all bad.
I finally figured out how to use our easel, so I used it to prop up the welcome message. The only failure on my part was that I left it up as the kids came in and all of them had read it by the time we sat down to read it together. I think this part of the story time might not be serving me well as an opening activity. It doesn't get them to focus and it doesn't promote good listening. I wonder if they'd like it more if it were an animated powerpoint presentation on an iPad or something. I hate to use too much technology when these kids already have so much of it, but I wonder if something flashier would be more likely to grab their attention.
Making a List
In previous weeks, making lists has been great. This week, it was a disaster. I asked the kids to tell me what they like to do in the library. All of them said, "Be crazy!" and proceeded to demonstrate. I also have to remember not to use the stools with this group anymore. They flip them over and rock on them like see saws! I think a discussion where everyone participates is still such a valuable part of the story time, I just need to find better topics that actually elicit real answers. (Suggestions are welcome!)
Ling and Ting Not Exactly the Same is a sure-fire hit with this age group, and this wild bunch calmed right down and really seemed to enjoy it. I opened to the table of contents and was informed by one of the girls that her kindergarten teacher had just talked about tables of contents that day and they were able to tell me how to use it and what it was for.
Grace Lin's website has this handy printable guide which includes lots of activities related to Ling and Ting Not Exactly the Same. I printed out one page of the guide - shown in the photo above - and we all said the chant together. I used stick puppets to show how the "ing" ending looked with the different letters in front of it. The kids got very excited about it, and it was probably the part of the story time they liked best.
Write and Draw Activity
The last thing we did was fill in a handout I created. It was just a table with four boxes. Three of the boxes said "I like..." and one said "I don't like..." I encouraged the kids to write or draw in each box. Most of them did it, but one boy complained it was too much like school, and no one spent as long as they usually do on the activity. I might try putting together something for them to take home next time.
All in all, I think this is a story time I could use again, possibly with a school group of slightly older kids. It's more difficult when the reading levels are so disparate and different kids come each week. Next week, I'm planning to use another poem, but I have visuals to accompany it, and I'm just going to use poster board instead of making another elaborate flannel board. I plan to spend more time going over the words so that they won't be as lost, and hopefully, they will be calmer. (Though with the weather warming up, that seems so unlikely!) I am also looking for professional development resources that might make this program come to life even more. Check back next week for my next adventure!