Special Helpers

One of the things my Kindergartners enjoyed the most was being the Special Helper.  Every month I sent home a calendar naming which child would be celebrated each day.  I always tried to match these special days to the children’s birthdays.  I almost always had more children in my class than there were school days in a month, so every child did not usually get a turn every month.

Special Helpers sat on a wooden stool that I painted and decorated with stars – then lots of coats of clear polyurethane finish.  The stool was right next to me at circle time.  Their jobs included coming up to our morning message and pointing out concepts of print, sight words, etc. – they practiced making “frames” with their hands to show one word, or two letters, or the word THE.  I gauged what I asked them to find based on what I knew about each child.  It gave me a great chance to do a little informal assessment, I kept a notebook close by to make notes because I never could remember later!  I tore off the letter I wrote to the class and folded it up for the child to take home.

They also used a pointer when we did the calendar routines and by mid year I asked them to tell me yesterday, today and tomorrow; as well as the whole date – all by themselves.  Early in the year we did all the calendar skills together.  Again, depending on the child I might ask them to count the calendar numbers by 2’s or to find a certain teen number, etc.

During their special day, each child was chosen first to line up, go to tables, pass out materials, etc.  I tried to give them a few special little privileges and a little feeling of power.  In my class each child was given a job to do for a week, the special helper would fill in for anyone who was absent that day.

On the monthly Special Helper calendar I also gave a specific activity that each child would do on his/her special day.  Of course these often had to overlap the next month until each child had a turn.

Here are some of the things I asked the Special Helpers to come prepared to do:

– bring one item in a closed bag for other children to guess (I encouraged souvenirs, photographs, etc. but we did get a lot of toys, which was fine.  These items were put away right after circle time and not passed around or played with.)  The Special Helper would choose 3 children to guess what he/she brought.  My goal for this activity was for the children to ask questions, using a full sentence – and the special helper would also answer with a full sentence.  Since I did this so early in the year it was also an opportunity to reinforce raising your hand and waiting to be called on.

– Bring in something that you made yourself outside of school.  Some children brought in preschool projects, or Sunday School projects, others created something like a Lego vehicle, drawing, painting, etc.  I used this as a time to practice giving compliments and saying Thank you and You’re welcome!

– Share a family tradition – I usually did this around the holidays, especially if I had children who celebrated different holidays.  My favorite was the little girl who explained that her parents (or Santa) completely covered the living room doorway by taping newspaper over it, and all 4 children in the family would rip through it to see what Santa had left!

– Bring something that represents your past, present, and future.  I brought in items myself to show the children what I had in mind, and sent a note of explanation to parents.  This was part of our Social Studies curriculum, and it gave me a chance to be sure each child really understood these terms.  For example, they might bring a rattle they played with as a baby, a soccer ball for the present, and a doctor kit stethoscope to show what they want to be when they grew up.  As they shared the things they brought I kept using the terms past, present and future.  After spending time reinforcing this every day I was confident the children understood the concept.

– Ask a question that can be answered YES or NO.  I encouraged the children to think of something that some children would answer yes and some would say no.  I asked the child to write the question on my easel paper – we wrote it interactively – I took the marker and added letters that he/she could not hear so it was spelled correctly.  They had a chance to practice writing question marks too!  Then I had the child go around the circle and ask each child – (gathering and charting information) while I tallied their answers on the board.  The child came back and counted the tallies – and shared what we learned about our class – i.e. most children in our class do not have a cat.  Then I tore off the paper and the child took it home.  We also graphed our answers to Yes, No questions as part of our daily routines, but when each child had a chance to think up the question they really got into it.  I made a small T-chart that I copied and put on small clipboards and during centers the children could choose to phonetically write their own questions, survey the class and practice tallying their answers.

-Prepare and present a simple report.  I asked the children to learn 2 new facts about anything they were interested in, and bring in a visual aid (stuffed animal, drawing, computer picture, etc.)

Here is the note I sent home to explain:
April reports

– share a talent.  I encouraged children to come in and perform in front of our class – sing a song, dance, tell a joke, do a magic trick, tell a poem, demonstrate a skill, etc.  I also allowed them to bring a photo of themselves demonstrating their talent – the important part was for the child to talk and explain.

– teach the class how to play a simple game.  It could even be something like tic, tac, toe or checkers –  I just wanted the children to think about breaking down how to play a game and explain it.  It was great to do around the same time we worked on writing “How to”  books.

– bring in a simple book that you made at home with your parents.  I explained this project in another post under my Homework section.  We made these books to share during March is Reading Month.

– bring in a map of your bedroom

What I really liked about having a Special Helper or child of the day was the opportunity to hear that child talk in front of the group, and for me to get a chance to compliment and encourage them individually.  Of course I tried to do that with my whole class every day – but with lots of children and busy days I wasn’t sure how often I individually noticed every child.  At the end of the year when we talked about our favorite part of Kindergarten many children named being special helper as what they liked best!

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