Sunday, December 02, 2012

12/2/12 Country Report

Whew! Another 3rd-grade "Country Report" completed! These are no mean feats!

For those who recall, Gabriel's "country report" was about Canada, and for the "project" he picked a cooking project of the 'Nanaimo Bar.' That led to his choosing Vancouver BC for our 10yo trip destination, and we went to the real Nanaimo, B.C in search of Nanaimo bars!

Julian, interestingly, picked Argentina -- mostly because he'd heard me play the musical "Evita." But what fun and fascinating country to study, with a rich and diverse history and cultures.

"Country Reports" are always very involved projects, requiring an essay, presentation, project, a flag rendition and preparation to talk about the flag. And this time, it was with Julian.

The hardest part with Julian is the essay -- it's hard with any kid, but words don't flow so easily for him. He likes to read and certainly picks things up from reading, but in his mind there's a huge chasm between reading something and putting it into a sentence. He has a hard time organizing his sentences too, like he'll make a reference to the tango without saying first it's a dance.

So I work with him in numerous ways, starting by having him just talk to me. For instance, one of the things Julian found most interesting about Argentina was the gauchos, or legendary cowboys. I ask him about them, I get him to describe the gauchos to me, we look stuff up together, read about them together -- in the case of tango, look at videos of it. Then when he has to write, it's more in his head and has an easier time making it to paper. Still, it takes a lot of time and creativity to get him to concentrate, to balance momentum and burn-out. We'd started on the content some time ago, but opportunity (catching him in a good moment) and continuity is a big challenge now.

I've also learned when Julian needs breaks and mind-shifts. Partly as incentive and partly as a moment-breaker, I'll take him for a walk to a nearby market to get bananas for his cooking project.

I also taught him a silly "tango," which we showed it to Bonne Maman and Papa Paul over Facetime (yayy!). I think they enjoyed our goofy demonstration!

It was a hard sell, but finally, finally, Julian finished his essay about Argentina late Saturday night. That should have been the easy part -- just a final draft copy -- but even for that, he has a very hard time copying from a marked-up draft. In the end, I ended up dictating the final paragraph so he could copy it.

But once he finished the essay, he'd tasted success and was on a rolllllll -- he copied his recipe, and worked on his flag (finishing the coloring, cutting it out and pasting it, and practicing talking about the flag's origins).

Mercifully, Julian chose a cooking project over a diorama or a cultural dance (though in retrospect a tango would have been fun to do together!!), as the "project" part of this report. I bought a book on Argentine recipes and we spent an afternoon poring over it, and he chose "banana empanadas" to do for his project for his class -- perfect.

Today, Julian and I made the second round of banana empanadas, partly to take photos for his "project board," a paper layout of with his hand-written recipe, and photos of the project, for this report. This meant making pastry again, plus the banana filling.

Julian has always liked one-on-one projects, so despite a rough start, we ended up having a nice time together this afternoon.

In spite of my quelled irritation at the school for having to do all this, in the end, as usual, it was OK to do together. We both learned a lot about Argentina, and the experience, tough as it was along the way, was a win.

Julian with his essay, flag, and recipe poster board....whew! His presentation is sometime this week, so there's still some practicing to do -- and we have yet more banana empanadas to make!

Now, will Julian decide that his 10yo trip should be to Buenos Aires?! ...... I wouldn't mind!


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