Friday, August 30, 2013

The Helpful Puppy & Helpful Kids

The Helpful Puppy, by Kim Zarins and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully, was most helpful indeed! He helped soothe the frazzled nerves of a few new kindergarten students who came to my room for their first day of speech therapy. He entertained the more confident first graders who bounded into the room for their first day of speech after summer vacation. And he inspired wonderful conversations about animals and farm life when my second graders noticed the book sitting on the shelf near our worktable. I hadn’t planned to read it to the older kids, but they didn’t want to miss out so I grabbed the book and they gathered around to hear the story. Later in the year, I imagine, they’ll be too sophisticated for this one, but not yet.

The Helpful Puppy

In this charming tale, the puppy travels around the farm, looking for ways to help. He’s too small to pull a cart like the ox or carry riders like the horse. He’s not fast enough to catch a mouse like the farm cat and he couldn’t even give a wake-up call like the rooster. But my students could. They all joined in when I read the rooster’s crow, “COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO”, even the newly minted second graders.

The illustrations prompted lots of stories about the kids’ own animals, like Jayman’s chickens, Joel’s cows, and Olivya’s new Rottweiler puppy, Roxy. In the middle of her description of this energetic addition to their family, a worried grimace crept over her face and Olivya said, “I forgot to brush my teeth!” I wondered where that came from – she is usually good about staying on topic. Before I had a chance to ask, she added, “I brushed Roxy’s teeth but I forgot mine!” (I hope Roxy has her own toothbrush.)

What a helpful child. That brought us back to our conversation about the book and how the animals each did their part to help the farm run smoothly, and how we all do our part to make our school run smoothly. When I asked the kids how they could be helpful around the campus, they had great ideas: pick up garbage from the playground, be nice to other people, if someone gets hurt, help them go to the nurse. Several students quoted our school rules: be kind, be safe, be responsible. Hailey told us she helps by reminding her big brother to follow those school rules, “But he doesn’t listen AT ALL!”

I enjoyed the conversation prompted by this story and we decided we’d all like to be helpful in hopes we’d make the world a better place, whether on a farm, at home or around our school.

My students gave The Helpful Puppy a big thumbs-up.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Back to School!

Our students returned to school this week and it won’t be long before my speech groups start again. Around the campus I saw many new faces. A few had startled-wide eyes and slippery smiles that turned up one moment and quivered into a frown the next. Several parents mirrored the look. I held trembling hands when helping a few five-year-olds find their classrooms for the first time. Apprehension passed over older student faces too, but they were quick to break into a smile when they saw a friend or teacher they’d missed over the summer.

Unlike a classroom teacher, my program doesn’t start on the first day of school so I’m free to help in other ways – like shepherding lost children to their rooms and supervising the early arrivers on the playground. On Tuesday, I was doing just that, and listening to the kids tell about their summer vacations, when we all noticed the sky. It was absolutely stunning. The sun pyramided down through a break in the clouds and lit the rest of the expanse with a silver-yellow glow.  I wish I’d had a camera with me, but since I didn’t I’ll share a photo I took last year on my first day back to school. The formations were similar but it was a little earlier in the day when I took this photo.

I asked the kids what they thought the sky looked like and one child said it looked like mountains. Another agreed, “Yes, mountains.” But Maddie pointed toward one long ray of light and said, “That looks like a key.” Those words ignited lively chatter and brought a glitter to the kids’ eyes as we talked of what that key might open and where a door through the clouds might lead. The bell rang before I’d heard enough, but I think I’ll learn more about that magic key in the future. Maddie is a speech student and she loves to create stories.

Now that school is in session, my blog-vacation has ended and I’m happy to be back. I had a productive summer working on other writing projects and scouting out new books to share with my students this year. You’ll be hearing about them in the months to come along with the kids’ reactions. And you might even hear some of their own stories. After all, Maddie found the key to a rich imaginary world and I know she’ll be willing to share it with others.