Prepping the kids for Three Cups of Tea

Next week, I begin teaching the young readers’ edition of Three Cups of Tea to my sixth graders. It’s a fantastic story of one man trying to change the world by building schools and connections in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I wish the writing in the book was as inspirational as the story – I find the language wooden and choppy. So I will stick to the craft of the story more than the craft of the writing with this one (as opposed to reading such novels as Tuck Everlasting or True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle or Watsons Go to Birmingham, where the writing just soars).

I’ve been trying to find resources for pre-reading — things that will help situate my students to the story before we crack the book. I thought it would be easier, but I must be looking in all the wrong places. Luckily, a recent Time for Kids magazine article was centered all around building schools for girls in developing nations (the article focused on Africa but we extended the discussions to Pakistan and Afghanistan) that will segue nicely into Three Cups of Tea.

So, I turned to my classroom and realized that in terms of at least one facet of the story — climbing mountains – I had an expert right in front of me: my paraprofressional, John M.

Yesterday, John brought in a ton of climbing gear and gave presentations to all four of my classes about the art of climbing mountains, the science of it (thin air, types of mountains, air speed, elevation, etc.) and an overview of the dangerous beauty of the K2 Mountain that starts the book.

Although John had prepared a simple powerpoint, I encourage him to let me work with him on a Prezi version, and he agreed. He was very impressed with Prezi and it worked nicely on the Promethean interactive board I have in my room. He had kids climbing into sleeping bags, helping use ropes to navigate a “climber” through the treacherous terrain of the classroom and pretending to use special boots with massive spikes to go up a mountain of ice in winter. It was great experiential learning within the confines of the classroom.

We also showed the students a few videos of climbers up on K2 and yet again, YouTube has shown itself to be a valuable resource for us as teachers. Where else would you get such stunning footage of climbers reaching the summit of K2 and views of the Himalayan mountains.

Afterwards, we showed them this interview with Greg Mortenson and his daughter about the Three Cups of Tea book and the Pennies for Peace project (which our fifth grade class has been sponsoring, after they read the book earlier this year).

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So, I think we are ready to get on with the book itself.

Peace (in the mountains),

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  2. Great pre-reading activities Kevin! I love youtube too and I wish it weren’t blocked on the student computers. I think that hearing Greg and his daughter talk about the project is much more powerful than reading his writing cold, so perhaps this will excite the kids enough to establish the reading stamina needed for his book. Best of luck. This sure beats guided question worksheets. 🙂

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