Sunday, June 9, 2019

A Countdown of My Favorite Lessons (#1): Pretend Trips Around the World

I wanted to give them the world. I wanted to show them the rainforest animals and the Cirque du Soleil.  I wanted them to hear African drummers and folktales from the German Brothers Grimm. I wanted them to taste chocolate from Belgium and mostaccioli from Italy, and smell cardamom from Sweden and soy sauce from Japan.  I wanted them to run their fingers through salt like they could in the salt mines of Poland. I wanted them to know how it felt to walk in someone else's shoes.  

Before I ever taught even one day of kindergarten, I knew I wanted to teach my students about different places around the world.  Everyone knows that travel is SO educational, and I knew I could get kids excited about learning by pretending to travel with them.  And, for 14 years, from 1995-2009, this is what I did:  I took my students on pretend trips around the world.  

These were my Favorite Lessons as a kindergarten teacher.

Over the years, I was able to get other teachers interested in taking their own classrooms on pretend trips.  Several of my colleagues joined me in planning and teaching these lessons.  We even presented the idea and simulated a pretend trip at two kindergarten conferences in our state.  A number of attendees went back to their own schools, tried out the trips, and wrote me of their pleasure in this, the ultimate "pretend play."

So, what I'm going to do here in this post (my very last Good-bye Kindergarten blog post) is share with you the transcript of the presentation my colleague, Julie Ann, and I shared at one of these kindergarten conferences.  I'm going to change it a bit to reflect how I'd do things differently in these "digital times."  I will include photos and drawings where possible to help you visualize how to take pretend trips with your students.  In addition, this summer, I will upload a Pretend Trips product on my TpT store, Here Hugo, where everything is free all the time.  I am really hoping that you will want to include pretend trips in your kindergarten (or even preschool) classroom!
My TpT store where everything is free all the time.

The Geography Spot:
Pretend Trips Around the World
(a slightly modified transcript of our presentation to the
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development)

Me, wearing my pilot's hat: "Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome aboard Washington School Airlines, now boarding for Poland, the South Pole, Kenya, Hawaii, Holland, Brazil, Sweden, Quebec, Korea, Russia, Japan, Denmark, Colombia, Ecuador, Italy, India, Greece, Germany, Mexico, and beyond!

Me, hat off: "Hi, everybody.  My name is __ Hugo, otherwise known as Captain Hugo and this is Julie Ann.  I am a kindergarten teacher in M____ and Julie Ann is my teaching assistant.  In addition, we both have husbands and children with busy lives."

"For those of you who don't know anything about  M____, it is a suburb of (a major U.S. city.)  It is a very diverse community, almost 50% Hispanic, and we have growing numbers of Asian and African-American students, as well."

"Even before I began teaching kindergarten, I came up with the idea of pretend trips.  My vision was very different from the program as it is now.  I first imagined a centers-based kindergarten classroom with a "Geography Spot" being one of those centers.  I envisioned a really large box, maybe a refrigerator carton, painted and decorated with postcards and posters from all around the world, with a door cut into it.  I thought I could put a desk and a couple of chairs in there with some library books about another land and some paper...and partners would visit this center and create wonderful postcards of what they "saw" in the Geography Spot."

"That, of course, was before I had 27 children in my classroom, 25% of whom couldn't speak English, and 90% of whom couldn't draw much more than a house, tree, or person.  So, I quickly adapted my idea to a more structured method and that is what we're going to share with you today." 

"The curriculum that we are going to share with you is not just geography.  It's a very integrated program that covers skills and processes across the curriculum involving listening, speaking, literacy, math, time and space concepts, social studies, science, fine motor skills, art, socialization and multiculturalism.  It's a great way to encourage parental involvement and community support.  And the children never forget our pretend trips to other lands.  Students in the upper grades will often stop when they see me in the hallway dressed as I am today, they will stop me with comments like, 'Taking a trip today, Captain Hugo?'  'Where are you going today?'  and 'Need any flight attendants or tour guides today?' "(update:  Pretend trips were the most mentioned memory shared by former students at my retirement party !)

"So, how do pretend trips happen?  We thought that the best way to explain it is to experience it insofar as possible here at the Kindergarten Conference.  So, in just a moment, we are going to take seven lucky volunteers on one of our simulated flights.  Six of these brave souls will play the part of five-year old passengers.  One volunteer will be my co-pilot.  Julie Ann will play the part of one of our flight attendants.  The rest of you can sit back and observe all of the fun and learning that takes place.  So, now, which seven of you would love to fly the friendly skies of Washington School Airlines?!"

( I select one to be my co-pilot and six to be passengers, handing them each passports with boarding passes tucked inside.  Julie Ann takes each passenger through the security gate, checking their passports, and helping them find their numbered seats on the "plane.")

Me, hat off, turning to the audience: "Let's pretend that Japan is the destination of today's trip.  We take our first trip on a Friday late in September, after the students have been in school for a few weeks. I wouldn't suggest Japan as your first trip, however, since it is a longer, more complicated trip.  All of our trips are conducted on Fridays.  When we land in Japan, we will give you a sneak peak at the four "tourist" centers that you would actually visit if you were in our classroom.  As we simulate this experience, I will frequently turn to you, the audience, and explain why I'm doing something the way I'm doing it or where I obtained my materials."

Me, hat on, turning to the "kindergartners": "So, imagine now, if you will, that you are seated in a kindergarten classroom's group time place.  The little classroom chairs have been arranged in rows like seats on an airplane with a center aisle. The bell has just rung and our day...and our trip, as just begun."

Good morning, my friends.  And "O-hi-yo" my friends. (bowing)

Me, hat off, addressing the audience:  "Our volunteers made a good effort at that! It's just that our kindergartners will have had more practice than they have.  You see, we begin on a Monday by greeting them in the language of the country that we will pretend to visit. When I take attendance each day, I call on each child by name and wish him a good morning.  So, on the Monday of a "trip to Japan week" I would say, 'o-hi-yo, class" and the children, after looking puzzled or maybe after a prompt, pipe up with "o-hi-yo, Mrs. Hugo.'  I then say, "Hmm? 'o-hi-yo' is not how we say 'Good Morning' here in M ______.  'O-hi-yo" must be another language.  That must be how people say 'good morning' in another land.  Does anyone know where people say 'o-hi-yo' instead of 'good morning?"  Someone will very likely say, 'in Ohio!'...  But most of the time no one knows, although if someone comes from a Japanese-speaking home, she may speak up. And here is one of the reasons pretend trips are such a powerful learning experience: children take such pride in sharing their family's heritage!   You can probably imagine the beaming face of a child who recognizes something associated with home!  (update: at this point, nowadays, I would have Google Earth set to show the children where Japan is relative to us.) After naming the place, Japan, and showing it to them, I continue by saying, "Let's learn how to say 'good morning' in Japan so that we can pretend to take a trip there later this week. Won't you feel happy to be able to say "o-hi-yo" when we pretend to be in Japan? I proceed through the class list, with 'O-hi-yo, Alex,' 'O-hi-yo, Lauren,' etc, with each child responding as best as he/she can, 'O-hi-yo, Mrs. Hugo" and bowing. I also try to teach the students to count '1, 2, 3' in Japanese when I give classroom signals or when we line up for drinks at the water fountain. Instead of saying, "1,2,3 next person," I try to give these directions in Japanese, 'eechee, nee, san, soo-gee-no-heeto."  ( update: It's easy to find these words pronounced on Google Translate now.) 

Me, hat on, addressing the "kindergartners":  Very good!  You remembered how to say 'o-hi-yo."  That's how they say "good morning" in another land.  Raise your hand if you remember where they say 'o-hi-yo.' ... Yes, Japan, that's right.  Yes, today is the day we are taking our pretend trip to Japan. Our room looks pretty different today, doesn't it?  For example, we are not sitting on our mat spots, are we?  No, we're sitting on our chairs and they are arranged in an interesting way,  Does anyone know why the chairs are set up this way?...Yes, it's like a plane.  We are pretending to take a plane trip to Japan.

Me, hat off, addressing the audience: "Just a bit more about how we choose the destinations of our pretend trips.  We like to honor the heritage of our families. So, we make a point of finding out where our immigrant families are from and the ancestry of other families.  Over the years, we have visited countries in Africa, the South Pole, Brazil, Colombia, Canada, Denmark, Ecuador, England, France, Germany, Greece, Hawaii, Holland (or the Netherlands), India, Italy, Iraq, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Poland, the Philippines, Quebec, Russia, Sweden, the Ukraine, and Vietnam!  We don't visit all of these countries in any one year but we do try to take about 10 trips annually."

Me, hat on, addressing the "kindergartners":  Raise your hand if you have ever been on a real plane.  If you have, you know how the plane has rows of seats on it.  And this is the aisle where you walk up and down. If you are sitting by the aisle, you are sitting in an aisle seat.

Me, hat off, addressing the audience: "In our classroom, we place six seats in a row with an aisle down the middle, so we also talk about middle and window seats."

Me, hat on, addressing the 'kindergartners":  And did you each find your colorful booklet today?  Hold it up, will you?  Good. You remembered these are called passports.  Passports are important booklets that people must take with them whenever they fly across the ocean.  Do you think we are going to pretend to fly across an ocean today?...Yes, you're right.  That's why we have our passports...

The students write the name of the country we are going to visit earlier in the week.
They find their passport on the table near "security."

And what about the light blue rectangle inside the passport?  That's called your boarding pass.  The light blue rectangle has a letter and a number on top.  When Miss Julie Ann seated you on the plane, she matched the letter and number on your boarding pass with your seat's letter and number.  Take a minute and match the letters and numbers on your boarding pass and on your seat.  Now, let's put our passports and boarding passes under our chairs... 
These are the simple, laminated boarding passes.

Now, what about me, today?  Do I look a little bit different, too?...  Yes, I am dressed differently.  What am I dressed up to be?...Yes, I'm the pilot.  How do you know?

Me, hat off, addressing the audience: "Usually the children say things like you're wearing a hat, and maybe they'll mention the wings pin, and my shirt.  One of my student's mom's--actually, she was the mom of five of my students, triplets one year and twins a couple of years later--works for the airlines and gave me a couple of her old blouses.  But, you can certainly make do with a white shirt and dark pants and you can get an adult pilot's hat on Amazon for about $10."

Me, hat on, addressing the 'kindergartners":  And what about my helper, here.  Raise your hand if you know what we call a pilot's helper... A co-pilot, yes, a co-pilot.

Me, hat off, addressing the audience:  "Usually, they don't know the term 'co-pilot' so we teach it.  Over time, we teach a lot of other vocabulary involved in travel."

Me, hat on, addressing the "kindergartners":  And a couple of our moms or dads are here today.  They are sitting in the back of the plane.  They are going to serve us pretend lunch and dinner on this pretend plane.  Does anyone know what you call the people who serve you food and drinks on a plane?  Flight attendants.  Can you say it with me?  Flight attendants.  Let's all turn our heads and say "O-hi-yo to so-and-so's mom" and let's say "O-hi-yo" to Miss Julie Ann, too.  She's a flight attendant today, too!"

me, hat off, addressing the audience:  "At our Open House, I explain the pretend trips to parents.  I ask them to volunteer to come along as flight attendants and tour guides for the centers.  I've never had any trouble getting volunteers for trips!  Apparently, everyone likes to travel.  However, you can do the pretend trips by yourself.  You can even have a student or two act out the role of flight attendant."

Me, hat on, addressing the "kindergartners":  And what do we call the people who ride on the plane?....passengers.  That's right.  All right passengers, we'd better hurry up and get a few things done because "we've got a plane top catch!"  What does that mean?  Are we going to run outside and open our arms wide and catch a plane?  Nooo...that's right.  It means we are going to hurry up and get on the plane before it leaves for, first let's take attendance.  O-hi-yo,___" etc.

Me, hat off ,addressing the audience:  "Here is where you do anything routine that you must do each day and can't postpone until later in the day.  In a half-day program, I have to count the days of kindergarten, read the calendar, and discuss the weather.  I have to write the daily message. But what I do on pretend trip days is expedited, for sure.  For example, the daily message is already written. In a full-day program, you could probably postpone routine lessons until the afternoon.  Or, you could do the pretend trips in the afternoon.  If you are wondering how much time to devote to a pretend trip, we would recommend two hours. The airport and flight portion take about 30 minutes, visiting the four centers is another hour, and reviewing the trip plus sharing related literature is another 20 minutes. You can work around breaks for PE, Art or Music.  We have always had to do that. But I would highly recommend you do the entire trip in the morning or in the afternoon."

Me, hat on, addressing the "kindergartners": And now it is time for the Somewhere poem.  This is a beautiful poem. You'll really like it, I know.  And today, you'll just listen to it but next time, you'll remember some of the words and say them along with me.
You might reproduce this poem on chart paper and add some appropriate images,.

Me, hat on, addressing the "kindergartners":  Now, you have all been sitting so nicely. I think it's time we do something more active like maybe pretending to be an airplane.  (We line the 'kindergartners" up down the aisle and they follow me as I lead them in a loop around the room, arms spread out like an airplane.  We play an airplane song or quiet song.  Update:  You may be able to find a suitable song on YouTube that you'll want to play at this time.)

Me, hat off, addressing the audience: "Now, you may be wondering how I keep control of the children with all of this excitement.  Three things have just happened.  First, I've referred to our usual routine frequently (if quickly) to 'ground' the children a bit. Second, I've taken my hat off which is a signal that I'm being Mrs. Hugo not Captain Hugo and Mrs. Hugo expects good behavior! And, third, I've gotten the children up and moving with a quiet song about airplane flight."

Me, hat on, sitting down at the front of the airplane, addressing the "kindergartners," behind me: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking.

Me, hat off and turned around, addressing the "kindergartners": Who am I when my hat is on?..That's right, Captain Hugo, your pilot.

Me, hat on, sitting down at the front of the airplane, addressing the "kindergartners," behind me:  Welcome aboard Washington School Airlines.

Me, hat off and turned around, addressing the "kindergartners":
What is the name of our airlines?..That's right, Washington School Airlines.

Me, hat on, sitting down at the front of the airplane, addressing the "kindergartners," behind me:  Our flight to Japan will take about 13 hours.

Me, hat off and turned around, addressing the "kindergartners":  How many hours will our flight to Japan take?...That's right, 13 hours. That's a long time!

Me, hat on, sitting down at the front of the airplane, addressing the "kindergartners," behind me:  Flight attendants, check that seat belts are fastened.

Me, hat off and turned around, addressing the "kindergartners": Why are the flight attendants checking that seat belts are fastened?...That's right, we have to buckle seat belts on a plane just as we must in a car.

Me, hat on, sitting down at the front of the airplane, addressing the "kindergartners," behind me: We are ready for take-off.

Me, hat off and turned around, addressing the "kindergartners" : What does that mean, when a plane takes-off?...That's right, it means we are going up into the sky.  Can you show me with your hands how a plane goes up? It's different from how a rocket launches, right?

Me, hat on, sitting down at the front of the airplane, addressing the "kindergartners," behind me: We have now reached our cruising altitude of 30,000 feet.  

Me, hat off and turned around, addressing the "kindergartners": Cruising altitude means we are as high as we can be in a plane!

Me, hat on, sitting down at the front of the airplane, addressing the "kindergartners," behind me: Flight attendants will be serving lunch now. (pretend food and drink)

Me, hat off and turned around, addressing the "kindergartners": Please remember your good manners, my friends, and say 'thank you."

Me, hat on, sitting down at the front of the airplane, addressing the "kindergartners," behind me:Ladies and gentlemen, if you look out your window to the right, you will see the Rocky Mountains.  And if you look out your window to the left, you will see the Rocky Mountains.

Me, hat off and turned around, addressing the "kindergartners":Why do you see the Rocky Mountains out of both windows?..That's right, because they are very big!

Me, hat on, sitting down at the front of the airplane, addressing the "kindergartners," behind me:
Ladies and gentlemen, if you look out your window to the right, you will see the Pacific Ocean.  And if you look out your window to the left, you will see the Pacific Ocean.

Me, hat off and turned around, addressing the "kindergartners": Why do you see the Pacific Ocean out of both windows?..That's right, because it is so very big!

Me, hat on, sitting down at the front of the airplane, addressing the "kindergartners," behind me:  Flight attendants will be serving dinner now.  (pretend food and drink)

Me, hat off and turned around, addressing the "kindergartners": Why are we still on the plane and it's dinner time?!..that's right, 13 hours is a long time.  Japan is so far away.

Me, hat on, sitting down at the front of the airplane, addressing the "kindergartners," behind me:  Ladies and gentlemen, we will now be turning the lights out so that you may get some sleep.

Me, hat off and turned around, addressing the "kindergartners": Why do we need to get some sleep?...That's right, 13 hours is a long time!  We won't be in Japan until past your bedtime!  But when you sleep on a plane, you sleep sitting up in your seat.  So just close your eyes and pretend to sleep.

Me, hat on, sitting down at the front of the airplane, addressing the "kindergartners," behind me:  Ladies and gentleman, we will soon be landing in Japan.  Flight attendants, please check that seat belts are fastened.

Me, hat off and turned around, addressing the "kindergartners"
What is about to happen?  That's right, the plane is going to land or come down in Japan.

Me, hat off , standing, addressing the audience:  "And there are no bumpy landings on Washington School Airlines.  I land the plane, and welcome the passengers to Japan, probably saying, 'O-hi-yo, and welcome to Japan!'"  And then, I reveal what they might see out their window when they arrive in Japan."

Me, hat off , moving towards the table with the Window Box, addressing the "kindergartners": So we've landed in Japan.  Let's look out the window and see what you might see if you really landed in Japan.  Julie Ann, will you help me lift the curtain on the Window Box ....(waiting for 'oohs' and 'aahs')...

Obviously, I have tried to Photoshop the Japanese scene in the Window Box
onto the Window Box from another trip.  But just look at the expressions!

Me, hat off , standing, addressing the audience:  "So, in the Window Box, you see a nicely painted backdrop of Mount Fuji and some other mountains in Japan.  You see a simple shoebox with the word "Toyota" written on it.  There are two doors cut into the short ends of the shoebox.  And there is a box of toy cars.  I explain to the children that they make really good cars in factories in Japan, Toyotas, and they will get to move the cars in and out of the Toyota factory in the Window Box. "

"Also at this center, on a nearby sensory table, there are plastic vases and plastic flowers.  I tell the children the Japanese have a rule about how many flowers can go in a vase: it's the odd number rule.  I have a sentence strip with the numbers 1-10 on it and the odd numbers are circled for their reference." 

"If you have parents who send in articles of clothing or items for the children to handle, they belong in this center. The Window Box table is for hands-on play."  (update:  if you don't want to make a window box, a table with these hands-on materials would work just as well.  You could cover it with a special tablecloth and reveal it at the end of each flight.)"

"After the children see the Window Box, I also show them the craft table, restaurant table, and postcard tables."  

"At the craft table, there is a simple craft or two for the children to complete.  On the Japan trip, I have the children follow step-by-step models to create an origami dog.  I also have them try to use a brush to paint their name vertically as they do in Japan. These make a lovely display."

"At the restaurant, I have a bowl of white rice, a serving spoon, and small paper plates and plastic spoons for each of the children.  I also have soy sauce for anyone who wants to taste it.  An adult needs to serve the food." 

"When finished, the children tally whether or not they like the rice in Japan.  Then they color a page of other foods eaten in Japan, reading the color words to color correctly. They put their coloring page in their suitcase"  (update:  If you can't serve food in your classroom due to district policy, you can still have the children smell the ingredients most associated with each country.  A "sniff test" and tally on soy sauce might be interesting!  And you could have the children cut and glue the foods on the coloring sheet to a paper plate to look like a plate of food from the Japanese restaurant!)"

I will be sharing a food AND a spice typical of each country
in my Pretend Trips product on TpT.
You'll be able to find "updated" versions of "Other Foods in ____"
for each country in my Pretend Trips product on TpT,

"At the postcard table, the students try to copy a simple picture I've drawn and displayed.  They also do their best to copy the short sentence I've written below the picture.  They put their postcard in their suitcase.  Early finishers may look at the books I've checked out for them from the public library as well as our school library."

Above: This would be the front of a postcard from Japan.
Below: And this would be on the back.
You'll be able to photocopy templates of my postcards
when Pretend Trips appears in my TpT Store.

"After a quick look at the centers, I then ask the kindergartners, row by row, to return chairs to the tables and put their passports and boarding passes in their paper suitcases.  I make these suitcases every summer before the school year starts and laminate them at the beginning of the year.  The children get to take them home at the end of the year."
For each student:
Cut 2 out of 12 x 18 brown construction paper.
Cut handles out of  cardboard for durability.
Cut and glue colorful labels without country names or students' names.
Laminate.  Staple together. When you've determined which countries to visit,
write them on with permanent marker.  Write student names, as well.

"I allot 12 minutes at each center. Use a bell or some other signal to let the children know it is time to move to the next center. If you have a teaching assistant and volunteers, by all means situate them at each center.  If not, serve the food at the restaurant and then circulate around the room, working with the children briefly at each center."

"At the conclusion of the rotation through the four centers, we regather to take a literally "up and down" trip back to the USA, we review the trip, take things out of our suitcases, and collect the suitcases, passports, and boarding passes."

"We end the lesson by enjoying a literature connection with the country.  In the case of Japan, I love to read Umbrella by Taro Yashima.  It's the story of Momo, who eagerly waits for a rainy day so she can use the red boots and umbrella she received on her third birthday. It's a wonderful conclusion to a great trip."
I will include a list of my literature connections for each of
the Pretend Trips in my TpT product.

"So there you have it ! We hope you find the idea of Pretend Trips an exciting one and that you'll join us in traveling the world soon!"

Remember, you will be able to download my free product, Pretend Trips Around the World,
from my Here Hugo store on TpT, later in the summer of 2019.  

It has been a great two years of blogging about my career as a kindergarten teacher.  
This is Mrs. Hugo, aka Captain Hugo, signing off...