Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Confessions of a School Visitor pt. 2

Phew, I better get this posted before it becomes completely irrelevant!

As I mentioned in my earlier post on school visits, I either spend 5 minutes per classroom, or do an assembly for k-5. I prefer doing the assemblies because I get to have more fun with the kids, but am happy to have the chance to visit either way.

Last year I flailed around for an embarrassingly long time trying to figure out how to address 100+ kids. Then I found my brain and remembered that I *LOVE* traditional storytelling. So I did a Gecko story and it was grand.  I also made a half-hearted attempt to dress up in a 'beach' costume because I thought that's what I had to do.

This year I knew I would tell a story, but COULD NOT decide on one that made me happy and nearly gave myself a stress aneurysm trying to figure out what to do. I wanted to share some string stories, and that came together great--I talked about different kinds of storytelling and wowed the kids with the showy, "Mosquito" and "Yam Thief" figures.  But those were only a few minutes, and I still needed a longer story to tell.  Finally, I settled on one I already knew from the book, "Head, Body, Legs: A Story from Liberia." by Won-Ldy Paye.  This story is great and funny, but I just wasn't excited about it for school visits.  The best thing about  the string stories was that I could share those in the class-to-class visits as well as the assemblies.

During assemblies, I ask for a couple of volunteers from 5th grade and have them 'assist' with the silly song I do for the group warm up.  Having the oldest kids there participate and have fun helps get everybody on board.  It works great!

Things that have made school visits easier this year:
  • I marked each school on a county/city map and included the school's address.  That way I can use GPS if available, but I have a backup if I lose connection.  I keep this map in my car during school visit time, and then file it away for next year's visits.
  • Skipped the costume pretense and made my own SLP tshirt.  I still bought one, but it was HUGE and I couldn't make myself wear it (I think I have some issues, lol) so I got creative and came up with a shirt that fit.
  • I did the printing ahead of time.  All the handouts were printed in batches according to number I needed per school, and then I had my student workers sort and paperclip them into piles.  If it was an assembly, they sorted into piles of 15.  If it was a class-to-class visit, I had them in batches of 20.  Then I could quickly distribute.
  • I let myself off the hook. I didn't do each visit the same--and I let the group response guide me.  Bored 5th graders? Short and sweet.  Assembly where the teachers are clearly enjoying it too?  Pull out all the stops.  And everything in between. Letting myself chill out was very helpful.
Plans for next year:
  • Learn Belly-Button Monster for group-telling (I've known I would tell this one for the night-themed CSLP for nearly two years now).
  • Dress however I want--Kids respond better when I'm dressed in my own style anyway (had a middle schooler come stand awkwardly close and introduce HERSELF the day I was wearing my neon pink tights).  I think they can smell authenticity.
  • Plan some lightning book talks--2-3 per class visit.  Total of 6-9 books (k/1, 2/3, 4/5 interest).
  • Not go insanely crazy with stress/dreading of the school visits.
Got any other ideas?  What works for you?

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