I've done a wide variety of things while volunteering in the school, but I can honestly say I've never been given homework until this year. And I'm not talking about cutting out a special project supplies kind of homework. I'm talking about reading and doing an assignment. Like, actual homework! Let me explain. I volunteered to help out with "Book Club" in Lindsay's 4th grade class, and it's really cool! Basically, the class is divided into five groups and each group is led by an adult (four parents and the teacher). Each group is reading a different book(s) with the same main idea.
This book club the main subject is prejudice. Our book is "Steal Away to Freedom" by Jennifer Armstrong. It's a challenging book for the kids just because it switches between "present time" and "past/remembering" and some of the vocabulary is old fashioned and/or regional dialect. I'm enjoying the story quite a bit.
We split up the book into 5 sections and each time we meet as a group, we talk about the section we just read and share our "assignment." With each section of the book the kids (and group leader) get a different assignment. The assignments mainly assist in discussing the book, they are: discussion director (asks questions to encourage discussion and deeper thinking), summarizer (summarizes that section), word wizard (looks for important/special words) , connector (writes about schema for that section), illustrator (draws a picture of significance from that section), and highlighter (picks a couple passages to read a loud to group that are interesting, etc).
I think one of my favorite parts of being involved in this book club is that it's forced me to take time to read aloud with Lindsay. She's in my group and the first week she had a really hard time getting into the book, so I started to read some of it aloud to her. Now we make it a bit of a habit to read the section together, taking turns reading chapters aloud. She's such a good reader that I haven't actually read aloud to her for a long time and it's really nice to cuddle up with her on the couch/bed and read aloud for an hour. Then we talk a little about our job for that week and what we think we'll do for it.
So basically I'll have to do each job once, as will the kids. I think its a great way to explore the book and get the kids to do more than just talk about "what happened." Most of the assignments seemed pretty self-explanatory to me, though not necessarily easy. Most recently I got the job of "Connector", otherwise known as "schema". I like this definition of schema:
an underlying organizational pattern or structure;conceptual framework: A schema provides the basis by which someone relates to the events he or she experiences.
My "job description" was like this: Your job is to write about the schema you have for the story (the connections you make). It can be text-to-self, text-to-text (book or movie) or text-to-world. Be sure to tell which kinds of connections you made. Include what happened in the book and how that relates to your connection. Try to make at least 2 connections.
Lindsay was sort of teasing me about having one of the "hard" jobs, and I can see that it might be difficult for the kids just because it forces you to actually think about what you're reading. Honestly, I didn't think it would be difficult because I did a lot of that type of thinking/relating to books in college (being an English major and all). But then I remembered, I'd be sharing this with 4th graders, so any examples need to be relate-able to them. Suddenly it didn't seem so easy. I had all these ideas and then figured they weren't really fourth-grade appropriate. So I had to dig a bit. I did manage to come up with a couple...
1. Susannah smells hay and oats on her tour of the barn with Byron and it reminds her so much of home, she almost cries. There is a smell, most often in hospitals or veterinary offices, that brings up a memory of when my childhood dog got hit by a car and we had to take him to the vet. (text-to-self)
2. Neither Susannah or Bethlehem felt free, even though Susannah was legally free. in "The Help", the two main characters share a similar feeling of being trapped by skin color but also because they are women, although they are both legally free. (text-to-text).
I hope that the kids can relate to those ones, especially since they get to grade me! After each person shares their "job" the others can give input on whether they think that person did a good job or not. A little intimidating knowing a bunch of 9 and 10 year olds are "grading" me! :)
In all, I'm really enjoying this book club and getting more involved in Lindsay's class. I figure she'll soon enough be an age where the last place she'll want me is in her class/school, so I'm gonna milk it for as long as I can!
Do you volunteer in your kids' school? What's your favorite task?