how to hold the attention of 38 kindergarteners

Today, I stared down three-dozen-and-two five and six-year-olds, and survived.

It was “Creativity Week” at my children’s school, and I had been asked to come in and speak to the kindergarteners (and the second graders) about how I use creativity in my work. One of the teachers took this photo this morning, and I thought I was pretty calm throughout my presentation, but pictures don’t lie: I am clasping my hands together tightly enough to make diamonds. My knock-knees also suggest a certain unease. What you cannot see in this picture is my flop sweat. I tend to sweat a lot whenever I perform (or audition, unfortunately), and I guess today’s presentation was a similar adrenaline-raiser, because I seriously had stains halfway down to my waist on both sides afterwards. I was supersized-spinning-class sweaty.

Thanks to all of you, though, and your excellent suggestions last week, I think I did pretty well. I went to the kindergarten first, and talked about what happens when authors were stuck for ideas. Some of them were apparently a little let down that I wasn’t talking about life in Hollywood, because when I opened up the floor for questions, this was what I got:

-when people are eating in a movie, are they really eating?
-when people fight with swords in a movie, are they really swords?
-when people wear crowns in a movie, are they really metal?

The answers, in case you’re wondering, are yes, sort of, and only if it’s funded by a major studio.

Then we moved on to a “brainstorm” art project, one of but many excellent suggestions from my awesome readers. This one came from Lynnelle, an elementary school literacy teacher (hope I’m getting that right Lynnelle) who blogs at Bohemian Teacher. Lynnelle’s blog is full of amazing ideas for teachers– and moms with bored kids– but the one I used was the “hand brainstorm,” which Lynnelle attributes to Donald Graves’ book “My Quick Writes: For Inside Writing.” 

All you do is trace your hand, then brainstorm all the things your hand has touched, or felt, or done. I loved this idea for kindergarteners because they could either write or draw their ideas, based on where they are at in their literacy journey. Here’s the hand brainstorm I showed them:

It lists playing the piano (I used to), water skiing (once in high school), and my less successful visit to their class last month to make gingerbread cookies, among my other notable achievements. After a few hiccups with children in tears that they couldn’t trace their hands prettily enough, and me gritting my teeth a little that that was not really the point of the exercise, everyone made their “hand brainstorms,” and then those who felt so moved shared with the entire group. 

I suggested they follow up with one of these ideas for their next “journal entry,” which happens every week or so.  Their teachers seemed pleased by that idea. Then I was on to second grade, and this post is already long enough, so I won’t go into detail– except to say that my 8-year-old gave me a big hug in front of his whole class afterward, which thrilled me, since I wasn’t sure he’d even acknowledge my presence. So I figure that MUST have gone well.

Have any of you been “guest speakers” in your children’s classrooms recently? How did it go? 

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Meredith L. January 26, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Since I don't have a school-age child yet, I have to ask: is "creativity week" what public schools are doing now instead of regular art and music classes? I only watch just enough of the news to be scared, but not enough to be informed.


Buckeye Mom January 26, 2011 at 6:51 pm

It sounds like your school visit was a success! When "Junior Achievement" was still being funded in our area, I used to teach those units in my kids' classes. They loved having me in there and I could tell they were proud it was their Mom teaching them. I got so much satisfaction from it. Then again, I should have become a teacher.


Lynnelle January 27, 2011 at 12:33 am

So glad it went well!! I was so surprised when I saw my website on your blog…I felt alot like the lady last night when Pres. Obama mentioned her, she turned to her neighbor as said, "That's me!" 🙂


Amy January 27, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Meredith, thankfully my kids' school is so into the art and music that I can't believe it. So this was an enhancement rather than a substitution. They'll all have to choose an instrument by 4th grade, and their art projects so far exceed all the Jesus-by-numbers worksheets we used to do in my day that I am constantly amazed.

Buckeye Mom, it *is* fun isn't it? But I was so done after half an hour each in two classes. Newfound depths of respect for the teachers who do it all day, every day.

Lynnelle, it really did go so well! I'm going to forward your blog to my son's second grade teacher… she's a big fan!


Kristin January 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm

i am a reporter at a radio station and every year i give tours to the three third grade classes from one of the local elementary schools…we also talk about the different jobs at the radio station, etc…it's really fun because most of them have never seen a radio station in person…but i am always seriously nervous doing it!


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