This last school year I was thrilled to learn I would do a traditional story time with our pre-kindergarten students (3- to 4-year-olds). Puppets, felt board and dramatic play would be tied to awesome literature that was too early for the lower grades. But ’tis the curse of schools, there was not enough time in the day for the a full 45-minute story time (–which is, the minutes in a schedule school block). I was sandwiched between nap time and snack time.
In the end, I had a whopping 25 minutes with our JrK kids. This made for tight activities, such as a read-aloud and a quick song and dance. I am one to ask questions throughout the text, focusing on skills such as making predictions, so at least half the time was devoted to “reading” the text through discussion.
But! This summer I became the Kindergarten Kickoff lead teacher (the transition course between preK and kindergarten) and everything I do is literacy based. I am using activity plans from Creative Curriculum, which strongly incorporates literacy through play, songs, rhymes, riddles and exploratory centers. I have broadened and expanded on some of the activities in longer literacy-focused lessons to build on vocabulary within and around text (meaning words having to do with the text).
The first week of summer camp, with 22 kids, after reading Abiyoyo we acted it out. Students pretended to be Abiyoyo, the father, the son and townspeople. As suggested in Don’t Leave the Story in the Book by Mary Hynes-Berry, students were able choice whomever they wanted to be to act out. The first round we had at least seven Abiyoyos, a father and a couple sons. Those who were unsure ended up being townspeople. The second time around more students chose to the son. I think through acting out the story students began to understand that the son – the hero – is a critical component of the story. I read the story each time and the students came to better understand the text through listening, watching and acting out. This is a pretty amazing point to get to for four-year-olds.
Today I did a more of a traditional story time lesson with Diary of a Worm. Our question of the week is, “What food comes from trees?” Before the story we sang “Wiggle Your Fingers and Your Toes.” Then we talked about food that worms eat, and whether or not a worm can write in a diary. Because we had 34 kids in our camp this week and there is not a classroom in the school to accommodate that many, I held story time in the gym.
The gym is echoey and large so rather than scream so that students can maybe hear me, I put on Diary of a Worm on Sacramento Public Library’s BookFLIX subscription. After the animated book, we talked about gross things that worms eat and what happens to that gross stuff after the worms are done (even grosser!). We then used pool noodles to compare giant (longer) worms to tiny (shorter) worms. We even compared kindergartners’ height to the longest worm we could make from the noodles (eight kindergarteners is the same size as one giant worm, in case you were wondering).
We moved on to a paired non-fiction reading of It Could Still Be a Worm. Students were amazed and disgusted by the many types of worms found in this book. Before we left for our snack break (always time for a snack) we closed out story time with a round of “Wiggle Your Fingers.”
I am thrilled to be doing these kinds of extended activities with students as I think it pushes their boundaries and what they’re used to thinking about, emotionally and intellectually. If, during the school year, we can make a version of this happen in JrK, I think students will be even better prepared than they are now for kindergarten in August.