Slice 19 of 31: Play, Bill Harley and the CCSS


Yesterday I spent an hour with Kindergarteners. I love going into Kindergarten classrooms. The energy and enthusiasm of 5 and 6 year olds is contagious. Our celebration of kindness continued with a lesson built around storyteller/singer/songwriter/ Bill Harley’s “Sitting Down to Eat.” A variation of the folktale, “The Mitten,” the narrator is continually interrupted as he’s trying to eat, yet he always manages to find room for one more.

ImageI love using non-print resources to help kids learn important comprehension strategies. Taking away the print removes a layer of difficulty for struggling readers, but also allows developing readers to engage with material they aren’t ready to read but are certainly ready to comprehend. We do this all the time with read-alouds.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that some kids don’t automatically visualize, given the amount of time they spend in front of screens. Poetry and songs are a perfect choice for developing this critical comprehension skill. I always begin this kind of lesson by demonstrating how to visualize. I have a few tried-and-true favorites, but any brief, descriptive poem will work. Then I tell them I’m going to play a song. Their job is to close their eyes and listen for words in the song they can use to make a picture in their head. Most of the kids are very serious and tightly scrunch their eyes; others are skeptical and leave their eyes half open. When the song is over, I have the students share what they were visualizing with a partner.  Usually, we listen to the song at least two more times as students create an illustration to match their visualization.

Harley’s song is made for movement. So after listening once, the kids were on their feet, dancing and gesturing knocking on the door. They all joined in on the chorus and had great fun acting out the ending. By the time they were sitting down on the rug again, they were able to work together to put pictures of the animals in the order they knocked on the door, match the names of the animals to the correct picture, and talk about the importance of sharing. Each child also created a page for a class book about who they like to share with.

This lesson strives to incorporate the CCSS (Kindergarten RL standards 1, 2 & 3) in a way that preserves “play, imagination and discovery” which, as Deborah Kenny in a recent Washington Post op-ed states, “are how kindergarteners learn.”

For more of Bill Harley’s brilliance, watch his TEDx talk:

Thank you to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting this Slice of Life Challenge!

3 thoughts on “Slice 19 of 31: Play, Bill Harley and the CCSS

  1. Much discussion this week on the Burkins and Yaris blog about read-alouds as intervention. You do such a lovely job of describing how that happens and why it is important. Text IS just one layer of many when we talk about reading. This is such an important understanding. Removing text doesn’t necessarily mean we’re removing reading. Such an interesting thing to think long and hard about. Wow.


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