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LOVING LITERACY with Ann-Maree Thompson: Ann-Maree has taught in elementary schools for over 17 years, many of which have been spent teaching grades 1 and 2 in both urban and rural locations. Her...
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Connecting with Students – A World of Stories

I recently saw a photograph (on Facebook) of a large trash can/bin stuffed full to overflowing and the caption read, “This is our school curriculum!” I laughed and thought – I can relate to that! I think an overstuffed curriculum makes for a stressed teacher, and sometimes we forget to have fun and make connections with our students.

Why did you become a teacher? To teach the curriculum? I would guess, no! To design assessments with appropriate criteria? I would guess no! To create individual behavioral plans? No!

To make a difference?

To connect with children?

In my early days of teaching I took my class to an outback cattle station/ranch. We climbed into the back of a cattle truck and drove off on an adventure…which involved branding cattle, fishing, caving and lunching outdoors. Towards the end of the day a student eagerly asked; “What will we do next Miss Thompson?” And I said, “Well… we have to go home”.  We were dirty, and worn out, yet happy. I have to say it was the best school day I can remember, for my students, and for myself.  Learning was incidental and I myself, learnt how to cast a fishing line and I was so excited! Having that shared experience with the kids was special, and that connection was then taken back into the classroom.

If field trips to cattle farms are a bit out of your reach, another way to connect with students is through stories. Reading a gorgeous picture book to a child and then having a conversation about how it relates to them (and you) provides a great way for teacher and student to bond and grow in learning together. Picture books are one of my all time favorite things! They are works of art so carefully sculpted, so carefully composed for the eyes and ears……but that is a whole other blog!

Picture books can provide a connection between teacher and student and in turn, a connection with literature and life itself.  Here are some beautiful picture books to share with your class and or student/s and a ‘conversation starter’ for each one. Of course, these conversation starters are about my life – you will change them to talk about your experiences. And as you will discover, the ‘conversations’ you have with students based on the picture books will be much more effective and entertaining than a set of comprehension questions. Once you offer some information about your own experiences, students usually want to share with you. If there is no response, a gentle prompting question may be all they need to start talking.

  1. Where the wild things are.  Story and Pictures by Maurice Sendak

A few years ago, my class and I visited a cattle ranch. We sat in the back of a truck to drive around the ranch and got covered in dirt! We watched cattle being mustered and went fishing along the river. The best part was exploring some caves.

Have you been on an adventure?

  1. Giraffes can’t dance.  Giles Andreae, GuyParker-Rees

When I was a little girl people thought I was weird because I didn’t talk a lot. Then a new girl came to school and she wanted to be my friend no matter what. This made me so happy, I started to do lots of talking!

Have you ever felt different to everyone else?

  1. Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  Judith Viorst, Ray Cruz

I will tell you about my bad day. Firstly, my alarm didn’t go off, so I was late for school! Then I forgot that we had to go to assembly, so my class was late! When it was lunchtime my tummy was rumbling so loudly and that’s when I realized… I’d forgotten my lunch!

Have you ever had a very bad day?

  1. The Day the Crayons Quit - Drew Daywalt, Oliver Jeffers

Do you know what I’ve been learning to do? Weave.

Weaving is quite hard. One of my weavings was so wonky I threw it in the bin and decided to give up weaving.

Do you know what I did the next day?

I started weaving again!

Have you ever wanted to quit anything?

  1. Miss Nelson is Missing - Harry Allard, James Marshall

My first teacher had lovely, curly blonde hair and big blue eyes. One day she stamped five stars on my hand because I was the only one in the class who could read the sentence written on the blackboard.

Can you remember your first teacher?

Suddenly your reluctant reader picks up that book and wants to read it!

Suddenly your reluctant writer has things to tell you (of which you make a note – to help them write later!)

Suddenly the student has a connection with the teacher and a connection with literature.

No comprehension questions involved! What a relief!

Now, back to the curriculum.

One World -Many Stories

Check out more Teacher Resources by Ann-Maree