Thursday, April 05, 2007

Mice and Things

The one thing I always HAVE to do, when I taught preschool and now kindergarten for the second year in a row, is to have a Leo Lionni theme. There is just something about that collage style of illustration, and vocab-rich writing of the dearly departed Lionni that just makes me feel all school-y.

So this week, instead of the Reading Group Gulag, we've been kicking back with an assortment of Leo Lionni titles, and doing some fun projects to go along with them. Yesterday, we read Frederick. This classic fable is of a little mouse who doesn't help gather food for the winter, but has other gifts for his mice friends when the winter days are long, cold, and dark.

I wanted my kids to hear a few messages from this story. One was that words are important! Lately, some of my kids have inexplicably returned to whining. Whining is at the very top of my list of things I will not tolerate, no way, no how. You can certainly chatter nonsense to me all day long, you can forget to raise your hand to speak a billion times a day, but whining will absolutely turn me into the Wicked Witch of the MidWest. I also wanted them to hear the "everyone has a special gift" message, and I wanted them to see an example of a habitat.

So, some things they noticed about the book, right away:

H2O- "That mouse over there, (gesturing) he's glaring at those ants."

Very Young Boy- "I read this book. He's not glaring at the ants. He's just tired."

H2O- (glaring) "He's glaring, see? Right there. You're not looking at the right mouse."

I started reading the book, stopping at a few enticing vocabulary words and letting them guess what they mean. I'll have to look at the book to jog my memory, but it's always fun to see what they think a word means. After talking about the stone wall where the mice lived, I stopped and said, "I see a mouse habitat! Did anyone else hear it?"

Confused Girl: "Mouse! It's a mouse!"

Me: "CG, my question was- where is the mouse's habitat? Where do they-"

Confused Girl: "Berry! Ant! Habitat! I know, Mrs. Clarateaches, Habitat- it's their habitat."

We finished the story, and my kids were still a bit confused. They didn't understand why Frederick didn't go ahead and help gather the food if he was going to eat it. H2O was very worried about their drink situation. Serious Girl and Very Young Boy both seemed to understand, but the rest of the kids were more concerned about the prospects of real mice somewhere out in the snow starving.

On a serious note- there really is something to pulling books and expressing an interest in them. When I brought out the five Lionni titles on Monday and set them up along the front wall of the room, I explained that they are very special books to me, and I wanted to share them. I once read a literacy theorist's quote that teachers simply by reading a book can "bless" a book for a child, and spark a desire to explore for themselves. This entire week I have had the books out on display during the day, and the majority of the kids have made a beeline for the books as soon as they have some time to kill. The most popular ones to be snapped up are the books we have already read (and therefore, blessed).

Read to your children. There, my PSA for the day.

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