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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Our Chihuly Masterpiece

Last summer when I traveled west to see my son (and a few of my favorite bloggers) in Canada, I spent a day in Seattle Washington.  One of the things I did was go to the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit that is right next to the Space Needle.  Dale Chihuly is an artist who makes amazing sculptures and huge glass installations from blown glass.
I actually first learned of Chihuly from Pinterest where I saw all sorts of art projects for kids using crazy straws.  The actual art is truly amazing.  I especially loved the way the beautiful pieces were lit.  The glass practically glowed.

I decided I wanted to add Chihuly to our Art Unit this year and chose to try making something inspired by this ceiling in Las Vegas:

I have melted plastic cups before and saw that Jeanette from Artchoo! had used them to emulate Chihuly's glass pieces.  I had each child color several plastic cups using permanent markers (bigger markers worked better).

I then put the cup in a toaster oven set to 350.  The artist came and stood next to me and told me when he or she thought I should take the cup out of the oven (it was less than a minute).  I then removed the cup with my bare hand.
It was interesting to see how differently each of the cups shrunk and melted.  We used several different types of cups that I found around my house and school. Originally, we used clear "soft" plastic glasses.  Some turned a little milky and some stayed clear. The Chinet "cut crystal" ones rolled up. When I still need more cups, I found a few blue and pink plastic cups (still transparent) and let the kids decorate those. Because they were too tall for the toaster oven I cut them down which worked  well.  I'm so glad that we ended up using  different types of cups because it added a lot of interest to our final project. I think that all of the cups had the recycle number 6 on the bottom. 

I wanted our Chiluly inspired work to be lit up like the ones I saw in Seattle.  Since one of my light covers was broken, I decided to tape it back together and then hot glue our art directly to the light cover.  It took a lot of cups to cover the entire area but the result is really cool!
Of course my iPhone doesn't begin to do justice to how cool this project looks.  

It makes me want to cover all of my fluorescent lights. Now that would be spectacular!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

OREO Words

         We LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Oreo Words in my class.  Oreo Words are 2 letter words that we memorize by spending 1-2 minutes a day with our Oreo Words book. I first heard about Oreo Words at a Dr. Jean conference and they are more effective than anything else I have seen at giving young kids a genuine excitement about their emerging ability to read.  When I taught Kindergarten, I introduced Oreo Words as soon as school started.  In Pre-K, we start learning Oreo Words in January.  Below is a page from our Oreo Word book.  We usually begin with 5 or 6 words (such as no, go, at, it, my) and add a few new words every week or two (the book has 24 words eventually!!!).
         Oreo Words can be read using real Oreos or just with our hands.  I usually introduce the words with real Oreos.  I give each child an Oreo (that I twist open as I hand it to the child).  The child opens the Oreo and holds a side in each hand.  We then say the first letter together as they lick the left inside of the Oreo.  We say the second letter as they lick the right side and then they put the Oreo together and say the word.  I might then say "Let's try that again" or I often use the word in a sentence "It is a beautiful day." or I ask a child to do it alone. When the children are really comfortable with a word such as "at" I will say "put a b in front of it" and they will say "bat."  They also think that is really cool.  After we have gone through all the words the kids eat the Oreos.

We only use real Oreos about once every couple weeks (often when we introduce new words).  On the other days, we practice with our hands (we don't lick our hands - we just wave them in front of our mouth!).
"i" "t"

       It is amazing how quickly the kids learn the words this way.  However, what makes Oreo Words SO cool is that the kids find them everywhere. They find them in our Morning Message and on bulletin boards and in books and on signs and .…They LOVE finding Oreo Words!  I make a big deal when they point out Oreo Words and the kids' parents naturally get excited when the kids point out Oreo Words.  It's hard not to be happy when your 4 or 5 year old child is so delighted to find "m-e, me" in ACME Market. 
      After we have been doing our Oreo Words for a few weeks (for just a minute or two a day) I bring out the Melissa and Doug hangman game.  
I introduce the game to the whole class and then put it out for free play.  I have the child who will be thinking of a word  move away from the kids they are playing with and write the Oreo Word they are thinking of on a small post-it that they put on the back of the board.  They then draw 2 lines on the bottom and  then the others guess letters.  The kids love playing this game and it is great because they are getting writing practice (writing the word on a post-it), fine motor skill practice (turning the letters and body parts), taking turns and following rules practice and great reasoning skills practice (some have already figured out which vowels are most likely to be used).  I love that all these complex skills can be practiced without adult supervision and that the kids get so much pleasure out of playing the game.
writing an Oreo Word on a post-it
           I love Oreo Words even thought I don't think that it is appropriate to push young children to read.  As I told our parents in a newsletter:

What I love about Oreo words is they give kids a great deal of confidence to explore text and words. Please congratulate your child when they notice Oreo words, either alone or in bigger words.  Of course, Oreo words, like all learning in Pre-K, should be fun so please let the kids introduce them to you.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Please Don't Bring Younger Siblings To The Class Party!

          I have serious doubts about whether I should write this post.  I know that a lot of people will disagree with my thoughts (and in truth it is not a huge issue so why write something controversial?) Nonetheless, here goes …. I have a rule in my classroom -  younger siblings (other than infants) are NOT invited to our classroom holiday parties!  I know that this policy is hard for a lot of parents to understand so I'd like to explain my reasoning.
           I was a homeroom mom every year from the time my oldest was a kindergartener until my fourth  child was a fifth grader (that's 13 years straight) and I LOVED doing it.  My favorite part was, without question, planning and running the classroom parties.  It was generally accepted at the school my kids attended that homeroom parents "ran" the whole party and that siblings could come to the parties if their parents came to the party. On more than one occassion I was driven crazy when younger siblings "ruined" the party for the older sibling or sometimes the whole class.
          Here are a few problems that arise when younger siblings attend an older child's class party:

1. The party planners have not purchased enough craft supplies for extra children to make the planned craft. The result is crying siblings because they can't do the project or  upset older siblings because Mom makes them share the project with the younger sibling or sometimes not enough materials for the children in the class because younger children are doing the craft.

2. These same problems are even more in evidence with regard to food.  It is really hard (and unfair) to not share the party food with younger siblings who are present but its difficult to plan for an unknown number of younger siblings. Once again, older siblings share their goodies or the whole class shares  which is a problem if there are only 20 cupcakes and 30 kids (including siblings).

3. Games are are also interrupted or altered so the youngsters can join in.  A game that is appropriate for a 9 year old will probably not work for a 4 year old and yet I have often seen parents insist on letting the little one "have a turn."

4. One of the biggest problems is that parents who are helping to run the party need to attend to the young child instead of running a game, distributing snacks or supervising a craft.

5. Far worse than number 4 is the situation where parents who are helping to run the party (or are just present and catching up with friends) are NOT attending to the younger child and that child is putting his snotty fingers in every cupcake or knocking over the bowl of glitter or tearing a class book or…you get the idea.

             In truth, most younger siblings are adorable and most parents try to make sure that the little ones are not disrupting the party.  The problem is, I can't say only some siblings are invited.   And even if I could, I wouldn't -  the little ones will have a chance to attend and enjoy a "big kid party" when they are big kids!  As a parent, I never brought siblings to class parties (I was very lucky to have parents and neighbors who were willing to babysit for me). As a teacher, I get to make the rule that siblings don't come to classroom parties but I also make sure that there are lots of opportunities to include younger siblings in special events at school (such as our Christmas sing-a-long, our play, our Art Show and our End of Year Dance Party) because, in the right situation, kids love to have family at school.
            I know that many teachers don't want to discourage family participation and many parents don't have daytime babysitters available.  I guess I would just ask parents to be very aware of the issues that arise when younger siblings attend a party and focus on what is best for the older child when they choose whether to bring a little one along (and if they have to include the little ones - watch them!).

            What are your thoughts about younger siblings at class parties?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Simple (and Fast) Valentine Envelopes

Today we had lots of fun making simple envelopes that we will use next week when we deliver our valentines.  Each child laid out paper doilies and various hearts that we found around our class on a piece of white construction paper.
  Next, they sprayed the paper with liquid watercolors.  The kids then carefully removed the items and voila…wonderful heart prints.  

The kid's paintings were prettier than my sample because they used more paint (although too much sometimes went right through the doily)
I then simply folded the paper in half and used colorful duck tape to tape up the sides. I've done this type of painting before using blue contractor's tape or contact paper.  Unfortunately, I can't find where I recently saw the idea to use doilies and hearts (but it's so pretty and much faster than tape:)

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Crayon Box That Talked

     Since I started teaching, we have celebrated Martin Luther King's birthday on January 15th with a presentation of  The Crayon Box That Talked.    I introduce Martin Luther King by reading Martin's Big Words by Bryan Collier. This is a wonderful book for kindergarteners and pre-kers.

The next day we read The Crayon Box That Talked by Shane DeRolf.  The story is actually a simple poem about a box of crayons that doesn't get along.  After a little girl buys the crayons and colors a drawing, the crayons decide that they do like each other and that while "each one (is) unique, when (they) get together the picture is complete." We talk about how at the beginning of the book, the crayons didn't like the other colors.  At the end of the story, they realize that it is much better to have lots of different colors in a picture and that they do like and need each other.  The kids right away make the connection to people not liking each other because of the color of their skin.
This was the 7th year I have used the same costumes.  I simply took pieces of bulletin board  paper and folded them in thirds into large rectangles.  I then used another narrow piece of the bulletin board paper folded in half to make the piece that goes around the child's neck and holds the "crayon."  The hats are laminated pieces of construction paper made into a cone with a piece of elastic stapled on to it to hold the hat on.  Very simple, but very effective.  For the last few years, I have thought about making new costumes by simply cutting a piece of poster board in half (a few of my originals do have an awful lot of staple holes:).  Maybe next year…

      I start by making a list of all of the colored costumes I have.  I let each child pick the color they want. (I usually end up making one or two new ones each year so that everyone is happy:).  After everyone has a color, I put their names (and color if necessary) into the Crayon Box That Talked poem that I have typed up.
This is a page of the script.
 I uploaded a copy of the poem to dropbox here. I then line up the kids in the order they will speak in the poem.  Each child has one short line (depending on numbers, sometimes 2 kids speak together).  The kids can get in line correctly and remember their line after one or two practices.  It really is a perfect little play for young children.
The poem ends "We are a box of crayons  each one of us unique  but when we get together the picture is complete." The kids pick up this long picture they painted on the back of bulletin board paper when they say "complete."
       After the play, we recite the poem we learned about Martin Luther King:
I have a dream said Martin Luther King
We're going to make that dream come true.
Let freedom ring said Martin Luther King.
It's up to me and you!

It's not the color of your hair,
It's not the color of your skin,
It doesn't matter what you wear.
It's the character within.
I'm not sure where I first found this poem but I use it as another opportunity to talk about character.  I loved that this year, one of my kiddos said that the poem reminded him of Katalina Matalina.  Katalina Matalina is a Dr Jean song about a funny looking person with a heart of gold. Makes a teacher's heart happy to see the kids making these text to text connections. :)
        One last thing we always do is talk about the fact that Martin Luther King followed in his father's footsteps to become a leader and a preacher.  We talk about what kind of people we want to be like and each child draws a picture of someone they want to be like when they grow up.  These are always very sweet (and cute because I add the child's footprint to their drawing). 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Beautiful Snowflakes

 Colorful Snowflakes

I like this fun poem, "If snow came down in colors." I recently received an email from Patty Fotheringham letting me know that she had thought of this poem years ago (during an especially long winter).   Last year, we were inspired by the poem to make these colorful snowmen with liquid water colors and coffee filters.
This year we didn't have as much time so we just made colorful snowflakes.  First we used droppers to add liquid watercolors to a coffee filter. (I piled them up so they shared colors) .  After the filters dried, I showed small groups of kids how to fold the the circles in half again and again (until they looked like ice cream cones).  I then took a pencil and drew triangles on each of the 3 edges.  The kids then followed the lines and cut out the little triangles.  Perfectly beautiful snowflakes!
I love the concentration as he works
The folded filters were easy for the kids to cut.  I have found that kids are much more confident about cutting snowflakes if they have lines to follow.  Several of the kids drew their own lines on subsequent snowflakes.

Geometric Snowflakes

My photographs don't begin to do justice to these huge snowflakes that were designed by our kindergarteners.  The children used notched popsicle sticks and each designed a geometric snowflake. After their designs were complete, they used hot glue to carefully glue the pieces together.  They then painted the snowflakes and then added glitter so they sparkle in the sun.  Truly spectacular!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Post-a-Day Blog Challenge - Day 3

         Today's blog prompt from  Kinderchat's 2014 January Post-a-Day Blog Challenge is:
TGIF: The very best thing about 2013 was….

         Although there were lots of highlights in 2013 for me and my family, my trip to British Columbia defiantly stands out as especially wonderful.  I blogged here about my trip to see my son who was working on  a  bio-dynamic and therapeutic farm on Victoria Island. In addition to visiting Tad, I got to  explore an area of the world that I have never been to before and  I got to meet two of my favorite bloggers!  It was a wonderful experience!