Saturday, January 26, 2013

Meet Me at the Moon (or in the Speech Room)

On Thursday when I walked a group of kindergarten students to the speech room, one of them told me she had a baby sister on the way. In fact, she said, “Baby Lucy might come out today!” Her mom was in the hospital expecting at any time. Mariah looked excited one minute and apprehensive the next. Almost as soon as we got to the speech room, the excitement disappeared and apprehension took over. She burst into tears. I put aside the language activity I had planned and pulled out the book, Meet Me at the Moon written and illustrated by Gianna Marino. 

Mariah moved her chair close to mine as I read and the other students circled around. The all loved the soothing words,

“Beneath the shade of the baobab tree, Little One sang the calling song, and Mama came with a loving nuzzle.
‘The land is dry, Little One,” Mama said. ‘I must climb the highest mountain to ask the skies for rain.’”

The baby elephant did not want Mama to go but she assured Little One,

“. . . you will feel my love in everything around you.”
“What if I can’t hear you, Mama?”
“Listen for my sound on the wind, Little One. I will sing to you.”

By the end of the book, Mariah’s tears were gone. She related to the separation of mother and child in the story and she was absorbed in the beauty of the illustrations. All of the students were. They were especially intrigued by the drawings of the mother’s song so I asked them to draw their own pictures of songs carried on the wind.

Mariah drew children singing to a rainbow.

Ariel is at the beach singing ocean music.

Olivya drew the sounds a rainbow makes when it sings.

Zayd drew an ant singing. “He likes black music because he’s black. The Mommy ant is calling back to the baby ant. She’s trying to find the sun because the lake is too full.” He went on and created a whole story as he drew!

When I asked the kids how they liked the book, Brenden said, “There were sad bumps along the way but I liked it.”  The others agreed. I suppose a good story has this in common with life – the bumps make the resolution that much sweeter.

On Friday Mariah reported that her sister had arrived. She said, “She’s got my skin and she has my nose and she has my ears and we kissed her all day.” Mariah wanted to make another “song-on-the-wind” picture. I snapped a quick photo with my iPad before she headed out the door. It’s a bit shadowed but I can’t think of a better way to end this post than to share it. I wish you could have heard her singing as she created this work of art.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Inspired to Dream!

With Martin Luther King Jr. Day around the corner, I was looking for an appropriate story to share with my students and lucky for me, our librarian, Allison Brown, directed me to a new library book, I Have a Dream. 

This stunning picture book contains the last third of Dr. King’s famous speech with powerful illustrations by Kadir Nelson. The oil paintings captivated even my youngest students. The book begins with King’s words,

“I say to you today, my friends, that even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”

I’m sure you’re familiar with the rest of the speech but most of my young students were not. It was moving to read these words and see the kids respond. They were especially interested when we came to the illustration of Dr. King’s four children and they heard,
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

I read the book to several speech groups with ages ranging from five to seven. After hearing the repeated phrase, “I have a dream,” they were ready to talk of their own dreams for the future. Most had dreams you might expect from children of their age like a dream to have a real motorcycle or a dream that the world would turn into Candy Land. But some dreams surprised me.

Ariel dreams that everyone would take care of our planet and not dump garbage everywhere.

Landon dreams that there would be lots of food for lots of people.

Alex dreams that everyone would be nice to each other.

Esmeralda dreams that some day her name will be on the cover of a book (as the author) and I will go into the store and buy it and read it to other speech kids.  I must admit, I grew a little misty-eyed when she said that.

Avery picked up the cadence of the speech and was expansive. She has a dream that when she is older she will help kids and teach them to be smarter and smarter. She dreams that she’ll be able to teach them to be nice. She said, “If people were smarter and nicer, then the guy that died would be happier.”

She has a dream that some day we would keep the ocean clean and keep the earth clean and we would stop cutting down trees so animals would have enough food and a place to live.

She has a dream that people will some day read and read and read lots of books.

Avery was inspired by the speech and the illustrations. She may not grasp the issues of racism (after all she is only six) but she seems to understand that people can make a difference in the world. And words make a difference - whether they are stirring words of a famous speech, a word spoken in encouragement, or words written in a memorable book. Words can change lives.

We may not all have the personal power and charisma of Dr. King but each of us, parents, educators and writers, can use our words to build a better world.  As Avery said, that would make Martin Luther King Jr. happy. Avery has a dream, several of them actually, and her dreams give me hope for the future. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Beginning the Year with Balance

The New Year has arrived; the students are back in school; and I found a great book for the first school week of 2013 – Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution by Pat Miller, illustrated by Kathi Ember.

On the first day of January, while Squirrel is hanging her Nut-of-the-Month calendar, she hears the radio announcer say it’s a great day to make a resolution. She is not sure what that means and so she does what any resourceful squirrel might do, she heads to her local library and asks the librarian, Bear. “Do you know how to make a resolution? Is it like making a snack?”

Bear assures her it is more important than snacks and explains, “A resolution is a promise you make to yourself to be better or to help others.” By the end of the story, my students had a good understanding of resolutions and they decided to make a few of their own. Esmeralda wants to draw more pictures this year and share them with others. Maddie resolves to help people, like Squirrel in the story. Joden plans to teach people magic. Many of my second grade students actually chose to meet their speech goals for the year. I was all in favor of those resolutions and we wrote kid-friendly versions of their goals so they’d have their own copies.

Calob asked if I’d made any resolutions. I’m hesitant to make them since I become less resolved as the year goes on but I have made a New Year’s “Intention.” After my three-week vacation from blogging, tweeting, and reading blogs, I started thinking about finding a comfortable balance. So, my New Year’s Intention for the year is to strive for balance in my life. That’s a difficult concept for children to understand but they had no problem understanding the more concrete definition of the word when I showed them my balancing eagle.

The students were amazed to see the eagle stay firmly in place while they flew it around the room. We talked about other things that balance and Juan tried balancing on one foot. We even discussed balanced diets since that is a popular topic around our school.

One of my students raised his hand and told me he had a new resolution. He was going to have a balanced diet this year. He was going to balance a chocolate bar on his finger. I was about to explain in more detail what a “balanced diet” actually means when I noticed his mouth twitching into a smile. He understood perfectly.  He is only six, yet he is able to slip humor into conversations on a regular basis. Not a bad way to interact with the world – a dose of humor and a bar of chocolate – talk about balance! I might incorporate his example into my own goals for the year. 

With one week of school behind us, I think our New Year is off to a good start.