There is something about working with children that allows you to see beyond the Realm of the Ordinary on a daily basis. That ruler is a lightsaber. That mango and those markers are perfect for an indoor game of bowling. That table is a house (below), train (above), or bunkbeds (top and bottom).
That cardbox box is not merely a cardboard box, it is a–well, see The Adventures of a Cardboard Box for ideas (have a tissue on hand for the end). I can’t compete with this one!
More to the point, educators search for creative ideas to increase student engagement in the subject matter, to get out of a rut, to stay motivated and passionate about teaching, and even to diffuse heated arguments amongst first graders. For example, this week two students were
discussing shouting back and forth about one of the plastic fruits in my room. “It’s a cantaloupe!” “No! It’s a kiwi!” “No, it’s a cantaloupe!” and so on.
They bustled over to me as six-year-old boys sometimes do, both clearly agitated. “What is this, maestra?” I was being consulted as the deciding factor, the Omniscient Adult. Oh, boy. Someone was not going to be happy with my answer. “It’s a cantaloupe. Kiwis are much smaller.” One of the boys bolted across the room in response, collapsed to the ground, and began sobbing hysterically. I looked at the other boy: “But what else could it be?” He thought for a moment. “I know!! HEY [so-and-so]!! It’s THE LARGEST KIWI IN THE WORLD!” The other boy liftted his head and started to giggle. I even started to giggle. “That’s brilliant!” Imagination had saved the day, once again.
You might be wondering now where this blog post is headed, and question my use of English in the Spanish classroom. The thing is, everything is a teachable moment–but not everything we teach is our subject matter. Character, kindness, grit–all of these things matter. Maybe our students won’t be fluent Spanish speakers as adults (*sad face*), but the skills they learned along the way in our classrooms will stick with them in different ways.
That said, I also try to use these moments as fruit for storytelling. If The Largest Kiwi in the World becomes A Thing in general conversation–if it is trending among six-year-olds–then let’s create a class story around it.
Accordingly, and as this kiwi incident just occurred, I am thinking that we might need to include it in our current story. Do I remember how the following story began? No. Honestly, not at all. Do students love it and does it have potential? A big YES! So let’s get down to the more interesting part of this post, The Plot.
NOTE: While I love TPRS, my first graders are not literate enough for this to be practical quite yet. Instead, I sort of combine PQA (Personalized Questions and Answers) with repetition and the AIM methodology of gesture-storytelling.
What does that mean? It simply means that each day, we add a new sentence to our class story, but we always tell it (with gestures for each word and phrase) from the very beginning. If there are interruptions, we have to start all over again. Some days, I tell a short anecdote from my travels to ingrain new vocabulary, such as the time when I was on a train in Spain, and overheard a man’s conversation that [I kid you not] lasted twenty full minutes and consisted of only one word, “Vale/ okay” [“BAH-lay”] inflected in myriad ways. Okay? Okay. Okay! OKAY!!!
La cebolla malvada, Cap. 1
Luces, cámara, acción [alguien apaga las luces].
Una noche, en un castillo en el bosque de España, una princesa está durmiendo–CUANDO (todos saltan) entra LA CEBOLLA MALVADA.
La cebolla malvada TOMA sus pantuflas y se escapa… a La ARGENTINA!!!!!!! (1-1) and al polo norte (1-2).
La princesa está enojada, muy enojada. Habla con su amiga. “¿Qué hago?” What do I do??? MIENTRAS…
La cebolla malvada recibe una llamada. “¡Rin rin!”
“Esta es tu madre. Devuelve las pantuflas.”
La cebolla malvada dice, “¡Pero no quiero!”
“¡¡¡AHORA MISMO!!!” dice su mamá.
“Vale,” dice la cebolla malvada.
Pero, ¡oh no! ¡Qué problema!
Las pantuflas empiezan a bailar.
Bailan mucho, mucho, mucho. “Para bailar la bamba” song.
La cebolla malvada llora.
The Evil Onion, Chapter 1
Lights, camera, action [someone has a job of turning off the lights].
One night [duh-duh-duuuuh!], in a castle in the forest of Spain, a princess is sleeping–WHEN (everyone jumps) THE EVIL ONION enters.
The evil onion TAKES her slippers and runs away… to ARGENTINA!!!!!!! (1-1) and to the North Pole (1-2).
The princess is angry, very angry. She talks to her friend. “What I do?” What do I do??? MEANWHILE…
The evil onion gets a call. “Ring ring!”
“This is your mother. Return the slippers.”
The evil onion says, “But I don’t want to!”
“RIGHT NOW!!!” says her mom.
“Okay,” says the evil onion.
But oh no! What a problem!
The slippers begin to dance.
They dance a lot, a lot, a lot. “Para bailar la bamba” song.
The evil onion cries [because the irony here is too delicious, ha!].
TO BE CONTINUED…
I know, I know. This is a photo of La Torre del Oro in Spain, while in the story, the Evil Onion escapes to Argentina/ the North Pole. Maybe this is where the LARGEST KIWI IN THE WORLD comes in. ???
On second thought, perhaps the slippers dance all the way to Spain!