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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.