With only three weeks left in the school year, this is a post geared toward teachers. Today I want to celebrate and share something that works really well in my classroom: my Star Student of the Week program. It has evolved over the years as the kindergarten curriculum has become much more rigorous and full, and I am very happy with the simplified version, which preserves the integrity of my original vision for Star of the Week as a character- and community-building program. It's a means for celebrating friendship and what's special about each child and carries a large writing component as well. The children really enjoy our Star of the Week activities, even when they're not the Star!
Here's how it works:
Each of my students is scheduled to be the Star Student for one week during the school year, beginning in January. If possible, I let children be the Star Student during their birthday week, but sometimes more than one child has a birthday during a given week, and in many cases birthdays fall outside of the Star of the Week portion of our school year. When I get my class list during the summer, I pencil in birthdays and each child's Star week.
In past years, I would do something different each day of the week to honor the Star Student. One day, the child would get to do a photo show-and-tell based mostly on an "All About Me" Block that I ask them to create and bring on the first day of school as our first family project of the year. Another day, the child could do a show-and-tell about something s/he created or was proud of (i.e. an award or some kind of recognition). On other days, the child would bring in or choose a book for me to read aloud to the class and choose a song for a movement/dance break. On Friday, we would create a book about what we like about the Star Student.
In my streamlined version of Star of the Week, I let go of everything except for the "All About Me" block show-and-tell and the class book. It works beautifully, and the children are so excited for their Star week. My goal for the Star of the Week program is for children to experience both what they have in common and how they are unique - and to appreciate their similarities and differences. We find something to celebrate about every child, which is especially important for children who have trouble with peer relationships and/or lack confidence. Some children have told me that being Star of the Week is their favorite kindergarten memory.
I put a Star of the Week schedule on my class website and send home a letter describing the program the first week in January. The week before each child's Star week, I send home a sheet for him/her to fill out with parents/caregivers.
During the child's Star week, s/he gets to sit in the teacher's chair and show-and-tell about the photos on his/her "All About Me" block. As this is going on, I create a T-chart on the SMART Board as a graphic organizer for writing about the Star of the Week. I write down things the child likes, as illustrated on his/her block.
Next, we play a "guessing game" based on the information recorded on the child's "Star of the Week" sheet. The Star Student, still in the teacher's chair, calls on classmates to try to guess his/her favorite color and food. If they have trouble, I offer clues, such as a category or what letter it begins with. This is a wonderful way to learn about the child and to allow the child to speak in front of an audience. Even shy children are excited to do this!
While the guessing game is going on, I continue to add words to the T-chart. I ask the class what they notice about the Star Student: What is s/he good at? What are some kind words that describe him/her? We see if the class can come up with words that match what was written on the "Star of the Week" sheet, but in the process generate other ideas, as well. The whole time, the Star Student usually sits beaming in the spotlight. Periodically, I'll ask classmates to raise their hand if they also like something the Star Student likes so they can appreciate what they have in common (and they often get quite excited to learn that they like similar things, places, etc.). But I don't allow other children to steal the Star Student's spotlight.
I print out the T-chart because it will be used to generate sentences for our class book about the Star Student.
Every classmate will contribute a page to the book and write a sentence about what the Star Student likes or can do, or a quality s/he appreciates about the Star Student.
In the beginning, the class book activity might be an exercise in printing, with the children copying what I write and paying attention to proper formation, size, and placement of the letters. Before long, the children "sound-spell" their sentences as independently as possible. Advanced learners might be encouraged to write more than one sentence. I try to do the class book pages as a small group literacy work station over the course of two days (meeting with two of my four "guided writing" groups each day). The Star Student creates the illustration for the cover of the book, and the other children illustrate their pages after they finish writing a sentence. The children may draw a picture of their favorite thing to do with the Star Student, a time they were together, or something they'd like to do together. This is where a lot of creativity comes out.
In past years, I also contributed a page; however, I haven't done that this year due to a shortage of time.
Instead, I make sure that the positive qualities I see in the Star Student are listed on the T-chart.
When each child's book page is completed, I collect them and write the "grownup" spelling of words that might be difficult to read. I staple the book together with the cover followed by each classmate's page, and the Star of the Week sheet and T-chart at the end. I put a strip of colored masking tape or duct tape along the spine to give it a more finished look.
On Friday, we read the class book, and each child has the opportunity to explain his/her illustration and the story it tells. Sometimes I label parts of pictures so the Star Student will remember what the picture is about when sharing the book with family and friends. The Star Student is very proud of his/her special book, and in some cases children have carried the book around the whole day. They get to bring home and keep their special book as a reminder, I hope, of what is special about them, and the relationships they formed in kindergarten.
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