Most children have already shared their "All About Me" bags. Their "homework" was to collect five items that told us a little about themselves - their favorite books or authors, hobbies and collections, wishes for the future, and so on. In this way, we learn that other children may have similar interests and desires, or perhaps inspire us to learn about something new. It also allows me, as their teacher, to perhaps discover a topic that we all can explore - for instance, several children love rocks - that can certainly be part of our curriculum this year! One child wants to be an astronaut - well, that fits in with our "explorers" theme very well, so I will fit learning about some important astronauts into our studies. When children have deep interests that are acknowledged and honored, their learning becomes so much more engaged. Even reading aloud one of their favorite picture books, and dancing to one of their favorite CDs (as we did yesterday) was a way for them to say, "Hey! Our interests are important!"
Just as important, children are getting real life experience doing two extremely important things - listening and speaking. We had to listen carefully ("with ears, eyes, and most importantly, hearts") and to speak so others can hear us. Some students take to this naturally, as if they've been doing oral presentations for years. Others are shy, and need a bit of gentle coaxing. As the year progresses, we will all get more comfortable.