For the past several weeks, students in Tracy Watson’s kindergarten room at Hodgenville Elementary School have enjoyed book presentations by Debbie Taylor’s LaRue County High School class.
Topics have ranged from learning about whales and the oceans, penguins and Australia to celebrating May by experiencing the Maypole dance and Cinco de Mayo festivities.
“We take nine students to the reading experience, and all on different levels,” said Taylor. The first thing her students do is learn the vocabulary for the stories they’ll present.
“They learn to read the stories even though only one student will be reading at the actual presentation, and they learn about the theme of the story,” Taylor said.
Students who aren’t reading during the presentation sometimes hold a prop, or make a puppet for the experience.
Taylor said when her class prepared for the story about penguins, they discussed the various continents and where penguins live.
“The Derby was a really interesting unit for us, too,” Taylor added. “Our students downloaded coloring pages of horses and made a coloring book just for the kindergarten students, entitled, ‘Mrs. Watson’s Kindergarten Class Goes to the Derby.’”
Taylor said that while researching the Derby’s history, the students found information not commonly known.
“We learned that the founder of Churchill Downs was so depressed about the failure of the racetrack that he committed suicide,” she said.
Watson said the presentations are wonderful for her students.
“Mrs. Taylor’s students helped each one of my children make huge, stuffed whales that we displayed by hanging them in the hallway,” she said. “They helped my class assemble adorable penguin magnets, and for the Derby presentation, they made Derby hats for all of my kids.”
The students held their own in-school “Derby Parade,” showing off their hats. On May 7, they formed three groups, all in different costumes, in the HES gym. While one group danced to “Fur Elise” around the Maypole, another joined a Chinese Dragon (Jason Slack in costume) snaking along the floor in a Chinese New Year dance. A third group, attired in sombreros and holding maracas, sang and danced to “La Cucaracha.”
Watson’s 21 students seemed elated with the older pupils’ presentations.
One of them, Jenna Pearman, said, “They let us make stuff with them. We wouldn’t know how to make it without them.”
Another kindergartner, Tanner Williams, said, “They teach us good things; they’ve helped us learn about the Kentucky Derby and taught us a song called ‘Pingo.’”
“My kids are so excited when her class is here; they can’t wait to do the next thing with them,” said Watson. “Mrs. Taylor’s students are leaders when they come here. They are full of smiles because they know they are helping others. It’s wonderful!”