Cause and Effect at McCall Elementary

May 4, 2010

By Hilary Rea, Arden Teaching Artist

Cause and effect. If I teach these kids about sentence structure they will have fun. But will they really have fun?

That is what was going through my mind as I approached McCall Elementary School for my very first If You Give a Mouse a Cookie Arden For All lesson with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classes.  I knew that the hour and fifteen minute lesson was going to be chock full of information about how to make simple, compound, and complex sentences and I was nervous for groans and eye rolls from the kids I was meeting for the first time. Aren’t you supposed to be the fun teacher? We wrote and acted out scripts for Peter Pan! Why do we have to do this?

Surprisingly I did not get any of the comments and complaints that I imagined above. Knowing the effect of Lesson One in the lessons to come also motivated me to teach what at first seemed more like an English lesson than a theater related one. They are learning to write complex sentences consequently they will end up writing their own children’s books by the last class.

Ms. Johnson’s 3rd grade class greeted me with excitement and was anxious to talk about the play they were going to see in just a few short weeks. By the middle of our warm-up, I knew these kids were going to be fantastic. We warmed up with a name game and each student came up with clever nicknames and a movement to go with them. Back at their desks they volunteered to identify the cause and the effect of every example sentence and then came up with terrific sentences of their own.

At the end of the class we brainstormed different ways that the Arden could turn a book that takes one minute and 30 seconds to read into a play that is one hour and 30 minutes in length. “Maybe it will take a long time to clean up the mess that the mouse makes?” one student suggested. “There might be more characters,” said another. “Lots of action!” was another thought. The fact that these kids were thinking like directors and actors, made me eager to return for next week’s lesson where they will have more a chance to be on their feet and creating pictures and silent scenes with their bodies. And just wait until they create their own children’s book!

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