Friday, December 14, 2007

4:30 on a Friday afternoon...

Today I faced the program that I was dreading. I'd managed to get out of it all semester, but I knew it would be inevitable today... I would have to face my fear and go do an after-school storytime at a local enrichment program. Now, normally I would not be scared of a school-age storytime. Normally, I would be excited about such a prospect. But this group in particular has a reputation for being a tough crowd. I mean, it's 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. I totally can't blame them. At 4:30 on a Friday, I'm longing to go home, so I can imagine how they feel.

Today's program didn't go badly, though. It actually went pretty well. I hesitate to attribute that to my superior programming skills (ha!) and I'm sure it had more to do with the combination of kids that was there and the fact that the grownups actually sat and listened with them. But still, it went well and I need to record that fact so that next month when I'm dreading this program again, I can look back and remember that it's nothing to be scared of.

The group: It is a mix of kindergarteners through 4th or 5th grade. Today we had 13 kids, but that varies, too. The enrichment program meets after school at a local elementary school (actually 4 local schools and each of the full-time staff members in my department is assigned to a school). When I was in elementary school, I went to an after school program that was similar, I think. All I wanted to do was sit there and read until my mom picked me up.

The books:
Wolf! Wolf! by John Rocco
I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry
Wait! I Want to Tell You a Story! by Tom Willans
More True Lies by George Shannon

Now. Here's what I did with them. Wolf! Wolf! is a retelling of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. I just read that one. With ITBTITO and WIWTTYAS, I made short MadLibs versions. This went over pretty well. I took a short passage from each book (or made up a passage that was similar to what happened in the book). I wrote out the passage on a piece of paper, taking out words occasionally and leaving blanks. Then I took a piece of construction paper and used an X-acto knife to cut out boxes where the blanks were on the paper (it's not as hard as it sounds). The goal is that when you're done, you can lay the construction paper on top of the sheet and just see the blanks. I laminated the bottom sheet so it's reusable. I had the kids volunteer if they wanted to put a word in and gave everyone a chance to say one if they wanted. I wrote the words in with dry erase marker and then read the wacky story to them when they'd filled in all the blanks. (The best thing is that they're reusable, so we can use them with other groups...)

Of course, it's probably way easier to just buy a real MadLibs pad from your local bookstore. But this way, each MadLib had something to do with the story I was reading. The kids were remarkably good at thinking of funny words to put in the story and I think that they all got into it, though some were definitely more enthusiastic than others.

More True Lies was the most popular item, I believe. There are a bunch of books by this author that are all similar in nature. They are collections of short stories that have some kind of a riddle or a trick to them that you have to figure out. The answer is provided on the next page. I thought I would only read one or two of them, but I ended up reading all four that I had marked and then let two of the kids pick out two more and read them to the group. Other books by George Shannon include True Lies, Stories to Solve, and More Stories to Solve. I'm thinking Encyclopedia Brown books or something like Two Minute Mysteries (also by Donald J. Sobol) might be similarly popular. I'll try 'em out and let you know.

The kids wanted more stories to solve, so I'll definitely bring them back next time. They asked for something different than MadLibs, so I'll have to rack my brains to think of something entertaining...