The Teachers.Net Gazette is a collaborative project
published by the Teachers.Net community
Kathleen Alape Carpenter
Editor in Chief
Cover Story by LaVerne Hamlin
Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Contributors this month: Dr. Marvin Marshall; Cheryl Sigmon; Barbara & Sue Gruber; Marjan Glavac; Dr. Rob Reilly; Barb S. HS/MI; Ron Victoria; Brian Hill; Leah Davies; Hal Portner; Tim Newlin; Barb Gilman; James Wayne; P.R. Guruprasad; Todd Nelson; Addies Gaines; Pat Hensley; Alan Haskvitz; Joy Jones; and YENDOR.
First Grade Family Reading Night Meets Speed Dating
Leave it to teachers to be creative and put just about any idea to work to enhance learning for their students, as in this case where an adaptation of "speed dating" resulted in an engaging and successful first grade Family Reading Night.
by Addie Gaines
Regular contributor to the Gazette
March 1, 2008
What do first graders and speed dating have in common? At first glance, not much. Speed dating, a social phenomena that was originated in 1998 by Aish HaTorah (an international Jewish network) allows people to go to a restaurant and meet potential dates in a short time period, usually between 3 and 10 minutes. In this setting "people quickly introduce themselves and size each other up [and] then you pick and choose those you would like to get to know better." (Raman, M. From Bricks to Clicks and Back. July 2003).
Of course, leave it to teachers to be creative and put just about any idea to work to enhance learning for their students. In this case, first grade teachers Marilyn McNeal and Lara Ernsting approached me with this idea for the final First Grade Family Reading Night, a quarterly event that encourages parents to come to the school and spend some quality time with their student in a reading related event.
Marilyn said, "We have a great idea for the last reading night. Speed dating! It was Lara's idea." Lara began to quickly explain what speed dating was and, as I scraped my jaw off the floor, I commented that I knew what speed dating was (after all, I watch evening news magazines with the best of them).
Although I was skeptical of this notion, I said, "I'm still listening. Go on."
Marilyn added with a laugh that she couldn't wait to see my face when they suggested this!
Lara explained that for reading night, each student would prepare a project related to a book of their choice and do a short presentation about the book. They would set up in the cafeteria and parents would start with their own child's presentation and then, at the signal, would rotate and listen to the presentation of the next child. This process would continue until every parent had heard the presentation of every child.
Relieved that the evening's event had everything to do with speed and nothing to do with dating, I said that it sounded interesting and couldn't wait to see it. The project began with the students selecting and reading a book. Then each student chose how he/she would represent a summary of the story: a mobile, a shoebox theatre, or a triorama. The students carefully crafted their artifact.
The students also had to plan a verbal presentation to go with their visual. Since each presentation was less than a minute long, the students really had to work at keeping the presentation "short and sweet" and sticking to the important points of the story. The students also had to be prepared to answer questions about their book if there was spare time.
Each class practiced telling the summaries and showing their creations to members of the other class. This provided plenty of rehearsal so that the students were ready to deliver polished presentations to their parents during the evening event.
The teachers welcomed the parents to reading night and explained the procedures. The teachers actually used a timer and shut off the lights as a signal to move on.
One parent of a child who was present was unable to be there, so I stepped in to fill that void. As I rotated, listening to the children’s presentations, I was very impressed by their poise and confidence, and also by the information they shared about the stories. They were certainly demonstrating that they understood the concept of a summary. It was also interesting to hear them explain why they had chosen the book.
First grade parent, Angie O’Dell thought the event was a wonderful idea. She explained, “It gave the children a wonderful opportunity to show off their work as well as the opportunity to begin their public speaking career.” She shared that her daughter had a wonderful time and that the activity made her feel “important and smart.”
This activity afforded the children the opportunity to meet several state standards in the area of communications arts including, summarizing a story, retelling a story, and making an oral presentation. The latter is something that is often difficult to fit into the regular school day. This project allowed the students to prepare their presentation for a real audience.
Of course, as with all successful family events, refreshments were served following the activities and the parents were thanked for coming. Parents made many positive comments and truly enjoyed the opportunity to interact with all the first graders.
Addie Gaines has worked in the Kirbyville R-VI School District in Kirbyville, MO for 6 years as the elementary principal. Additionally she has district-level responsibilities as the federal programs coordinator, the curriculum director and the special education process coordinator. She has been in education for 19 years, including 11 years as a kindergarten teacher in Seneca, Mo. She is featured in the photo essay, Teachers: A Tribute to the Enlightened, the Exceptional, the Extraordinary, by John Yow and Gary Firstenberg, for a unique online collaboration project she designed and managed for 7 kindergarten classes around the country. She has published several articles about early childhood education and classroom management in several books and journals, as well as, online.