Kindergarten is a magical grade in school- for the students and the teachers! Last week was a perfect example of that truth. I taught American symbols, songs, and sayings (part of our state standards, of course) to my class. Included in this topic were the American flag, the Statue of Liberty, the National Anthem, God Bless America, and the Pledge of Allegiance.
I don’t know how these symbols, songs, and sayings affect you, but they touch me deeply. I love my country and I treasure the men and women who fight for it. I appreciate freedom even when I think some folks abuse it. So when I am teaching about this wonderful country I call home, I try to convey my feelings to my students and I pray I can do justice to the significance of these symbols, songs, and sayings. However, explaining the significance of these things in a way that resonates with 5 year olds sometimes presents a communication challenge.
But this year, thanks to the internet and Youtube, I have found some excellent ways to create a love of country without many words from me. For example, instead of talking about the National Anthem, I played two clips of folks singing it. The first was Whitney Houston at the Superbowl. The second was a clip of a 7 year old girl with a POWERHOUSE of a voice belting it out in a recording studio. Both renditions gave me chills and I must say my students were in awe. They didn’t squirm, stretch, yawn… they were glued to the picture and the song. Of course, I played it loud- ‘cause that’s the way I love to hear it!
At the end of each performance the children reacted with oohs and aahs and wow’s that let me know that I had finally discovered a way to reach their hearts authentically. They were drawn into the song by the song- not by me trying to tell them why it is so wonderful and what the words mean and what they stand for. They felt it for themselves.
In addition to the wonder of our National Anthem, I also found a website that showed the progression of our American flag. We did several comparisons between our current flag and the flags of our country in its early years. The children picked up on the different number of stars and the varying patterns they formed over the years as states continued to join.
Of course, the internet and Youtube aren’t the only powerful teaching tools. I also took my students to the front of the school where our 5th grade students raise the flag every morning and lower it every afternoon. Seeing the honor and reverence with which our flag is treated, by folks that kindergartners admire – 5th graders-, again taught a lesson I cannot teach through words alone.
Using these experiences to teach appears simple on paper/computer screen, but I urge you to stop for a moment and reflect on your own practice. Are you using the technology and events YOU enjoy in your life to your advantage in the classroom? I realize there are lots of educational websites available to teachers. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I am encouraging you to look at the mediums you enjoy with an eye for sharing them with your students.
I enjoy accessing songs on Youtube. So I used Youtube to give my children experiences with our country’s songs. I enjoy watching the flag fly high; so I looked around school and saw an opportunity to use the daily routine of raising and lowering the flag to teach my students.
Using what I enjoy made teaching fun for me and learning authentic for my students. What more can a teacher ask for?