Friday, September 17, 2010

King of All Wild Things

Doesn’t every one of us have a monster who sometimes terrifies us?  That may be especially true for children who live in a shelter for victims of domestic violence.  We spent last night’s read-aloud talking about monsters and strategies for taming them.
When I volunteered at a somewhat late hour to sub for my friend Kristin, we realized we needed a theme and an activity for this week’s read-aloud.  I just happened to have some really great crowns in a large envelope sent to me last year from my Blogger friend Gary, who is perhaps the world’s best kindergarten teacher, or at least the best in NYC.  My team members enthusiastically accepted my idea of “Monsters”.
Our last book of the evening was Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are,” the story of young Max who has been banished to his room with no dinner because he has misbehaved.  His room magically turns into a year-long journey as Max tames the Wild Things of the world and becomes their King.  But then he gets hungry and comes home to find his dinner waiting for him.  I always loved reading this book to my own children and still love the way every child learns to love Max and his monsters.  It makes punishment seem not so bad after all.
When I pulled out the crowns and said, “Let’s all become Max,” the children were immediately on board with decorating them.  I had bought a large container of foam stickers in various colors and shapes.  It was a new experience for them to use as many pieces as they wanted, sort of like being offered the entire birthday cake.  Some children made patterns.  Others put pieces together to make fancier flowers.  But they all loved wearing their finished crowns which were different enough that they could easily identify their own.
The last activity was “pin the tail on the monster,” with the wonderful monster poster being created by another volunteer’s 20-year-old daughter.  I had a hard time convincing them that it was the most fun not to cheat and to let the tail end up in odd places, like in the monster’s eye or on the top of its head.
I saw signs of good behavior that aren’t always there.  I even saw cooperation when a 5-year-old twin helped another 5-year-old decorate her crown.  All of our wild things had a great evening and proudly wore their crowns home to show their mothers.

(I'm sorry I couldn't show you the children's eyes, which immediately conveyed how much fun they were having!)


Blogger Gary said...

I am thrilled that you all had a fantastic time making friends with your monsters. It sounds like a wonderful lesson. Children always like being able to take something with them (adults do too for that matter). I love your idea of decorating the crowns to make them more personal and that monster poster looks fabulous! What other books did you read?

Thank you for the kind words. I appreciate it.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Gary -- We also read:

-- There Are Monsters Everywhere by Mercer Mayer
-- The Patterson Puppies and the Midnight Monster Party by Leslie Patricelli
-- There Was an Old Monster by Rebecca, Adrian, and Ed Emberley

The children especially like books with repeated phrases like the last one.

As for adults liking something to take away, the man in the first picture said he was planning to wear his crown to his law office today for "casual Friday."

11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, we all have monsters! Whoo-ee.

What a deep and fabulous set of activities you helped create for those kids, growing their hearts, minds, and spirits.


1:21 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

sometimes you talk here about what you consider faults, but I think any fault you may think you have is far outweighed by the kindness and hope you've shown these children. I am in awe of you.

7:49 AM  
Blogger e said...

What a fabulous time for those kids. Kudos to you!

5:25 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Barbara - Thank you so much for subbing for me; it looks like a FANTASTIC time was had by all. (I'm sorry I missed it.)

9:03 PM  

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