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Monday, March 16, 2009

Our Adventure Unit Begins!

...And it's been a bit of a roller coaster already! (Har! Har! Har!) That's because we read Marla Frazee's Roller Coaster! Have you read it yet? It's a simple story. That's the brilliance of it, and the very thing that seemed to draw the students in. The simple title and subject of the story was extremely intriguing to them. Most preschoolers (actually, probably all preschoolers) have never been on a roller coaster before, except perhaps the tiny coasters that are often at the state fairs. So there was definitely mystery and curiosity surrounding this topic. They were eager to discuss roller coasters before I even began reading the story. And once the story began, they were captivated and eager to learn what a roller coaster is all about. Don't you love the magic of books? 

Before I even began reading the story, we talked about how we can go on any kind of adventure with the help of a good book and  our imaginations! They were all over this idea! It's amazing how quickly accepting of this idea they were. It was almost like they wanted to say to me, "Books can take you on adventures? Duh!!" And when they found out that the day's adventure was a roller coaster ride, they were beyond thrilled. 

Roller Coaster follows the experience of a young girl on her first roller coaster ride. But we don't only see her experience, we also see the experiences of various other people who are waiting in line for (or getting out of line), and then riding the roller coaster. The text is pretty short and simple with the illustrations focusing on the emotions of the roller coaster riders. 

It was entertaining to examine the illustrations with the students and hear their takes on how the passengers on the ride might be feeling in each illustration. I cannot tell you how much these kids crack me up. 

So after the story, it was time for them to muster up their courage and ride a roller coaster! Of course, I didn't force anybody to "ride" the roller coaster I had created in the classroom for them. In fact, I made reference to the page in the book where people were getting out of line because they were scared, and I asked the students a few times, as they waited in line, if they wanted to change their mind and not ride. None of them chickened out. They were greatly amused by me trying to make them nervous and suggesting that they might not be brave enough. What a bunch of true thrill seekers!
I did what I could to make the experience as authentic as I could. The students all received tickets on their way into class. This helped build anticipation, because nobody knew what the tickets were for. Everybody was asking me, and I just told them, "You'll see!" 

After I had them all lined up for the coaster, I measured them each as I took their tickets and allowed them onto the ride. I had to make sure the height requirement wasn't too tall. (Gosh, can you imagine if someone had been too short to ride?!) I think I went a little too far; the Smurfs could have ridden this roller coaster! Ah, well! It didn't bother the kids at all. It made them all feel like big kids!

"The Crazy Coaster" was what we rode that day! Look at those smiles! And even better, look at my one little student with her hands neatly folded in her lap, waiting for the ride to start. I made them all buckle their pretend seat belts and lower their imaginary harness bars. (The Crazy Coaster goes upside down, ya know.) Then I, as the ride operator, had to check to make sure everyone was properly fastened in. 

Before the ride started, I gave the official safety announcement. It made the kids giggle, and was not heeded by a few of the passengers who thought it would be funny to make themselves fall out of the roller coaster part way through the ride. 

Thanks to iTunes we even had some roller coaster sounds to make the ride even more authentic. We screamed and hollered as the roller coaster went upside down and all around. 
When it was over they all wanted to ride again. Look at them run to get on when I told them they could!
And you have to have a photo of yourself on your first roller coaster ride, right? Well, obviously, that wasn't possible in this situation, but this little project seemed like the next best thing. And it got them thinking about how they felt on the roller coaster... if they like it... etc.

As they left class they were asking me if I would bring the roller coaster next week. Oh boy, I better have something good up my sleeve for our next adventure, huh? Perhaps I should have saved Roller Coaster for the last lesson of this unit?

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