How will puppetry tie into my unit? The art of ventriloquism has been in my teaching repertoire for several years. For example, most popular of all is Willie Sunday, who is an encouragement to all and is compelling in bringing the best out in most of us. His main trait in the classroom is his expertise in phonics, or lack of it, as he misses letters and letter sounds to the delight of the children. He also takes our class on a delightful journey through the historical times of Pocahontas, describing how her people lived, and their interaction with early settlers of Jamestown. Then there is Tuesday's Cup of Sugar who always does her little act in helping to present our writing for reading curriculum in class. Wednesday Delight plays a very important role in helping children develop their own puppet characters and voice variations, and bringing various pieces of poetry to our class on a weekly basis. Did I forget Blue Monday? How could I? He has played a very important role in helping the children gather information based on Jewish holiday traditions. He certainly cannot be missed with his indigo face and hot pink hair! Each of these characters has played an important role in facilitating one of my previous Institute units.
With all of these characters in mind, I will pull out Wednesday Delight and give her the opportunity to assist the children in gathering information about the values and traditions found in the Chinese family. Certainly with Wednesday's expertise in making puppets and creating character voices, the children will have no trouble in making their own colorful puppets. (The puppets will be made in the After School program, first term.) Wednesday will also give opportunities for writing our own poetry, modeled after a Chinese poem. All of the newly created puppets will recite the children's original poetry for a video taped session.
Literacy will play a very important role in every facet of my unit. Parents and older classmates will assist the children in reading our books about China. In addition to the parents who come into my classroom to assist the children in reading, third graders from our proposed team will be paired with first graders in reading the stories. Those teams of children will be asked to perform a short skit from a favorite part of their story. Of course, Wednesday's friends, the stories and books, contain many exciting activities for the children. Every child will be given the opportunity to explore the art of eating with chopsticks. In fact, we will visit a local Chinese restaurant and enjoy a Chinese meal. Wednesday plans to visit China in person. She will send post cards and artifacts from her visit for us to enjoy. When does she come home? She arrives while we are at the Chinese restaurant, just in time for dinner.
Story mapping will also be used as the children describe the setting, characters, problems, and solutions of the stories. Story mapping is a standard form where the children fill in information from a story under headings such as: characters; setting/time; main ideas from the story that may involve a problem from the story such as "the wolf in the story wanted to eat the three little pigs"; and solution, which is actually the ending to the story.
A visit from a Chinese family will be a special treat whereby we hear first hand about the Chinese culture. We will have many questions to ask; however, I am sure that the answers that we may anticipate will vary because of the vastness of China and the varying traditions found in different parts of the country.
Art activities will also be included in the lessons. One example will be drawing and coloring a scene from a story using panels for the illustration and then washing it with water colors. We will also try our hand at writing a few Chinese characters.
The children's own family traditions will be integrated into the unit. Amy Tan reminisces about a grandmother's childhood memory. How much fiction is woven into the story? One can only surmise and draw their own conclusions. The children will interview their mothers or grandmothers and write a story based on a childhood memory. That piece of work will be read in our spring production, a school-wide assembly program, given by a group of teachers who will integrate their work from this seminar.
Another culminating activity will be a drama production based on the story Two of Everything by Lily Toy Hong. Rehearsals will take place in our After School program (i.e. second term), and the production will also be included in our spring production. These sessions will be open to first, second, and third grade students.
Culminating activities will be part of a team effort in which four teachers from L. W. Beecher School will help students become knowledgeable about families of different cultures through children's literature written by women authors. Not only will collaborative efforts involve first graders reading with third graders, but second and third graders will assist first graders in gathering information from our school's media center. There our Media Specialist will contribute resource information regarding our unit of study. Students, teachers and parents will all work together creating, reading, writing, painting, listening, but most important, uniting in stimulating the mind.