A Space to Inspire: Elisa’s Classroom

Are grade twos always wonderful?  I’m beginning to think so!  I only had an afternoon with these students and, again, I felt as though the children could run the show.  Things felt so zen-like and orderly that the space created a sense of calm.  Attendance…the trading of home reading books and the exchange of book cards…and then, reading from the collection of ‘winter books’.  I was asked if I would read a book aloud and so I did.  The Snow Child: A Russian Folktale by Freya Littledale. 

Snow Child

I’ll tell you what…if I had ever read this beautiful folk tale before, I would have made art based on the invention of snow children…but, as it was, I ended up slightly revising an earlier cardinals in winter trees activity that I have previously posted, but on half sheets of blue paper.  The students in Elisa’s class work in table pods and so sometimes art lessons have to be modified.

Since I’m featuring Elisa’s class here, I wanted to show you some beautiful ideas for organizing…and it feels as though there is a real focus on numeracy and literacy in this space.  I love that the children have access to lots and lots of books.

??????????Winter theme…lots of amazing stories!  Personally, I LOVE Owl Moon!  Read it!
DSC_1843Word walls…first dictionaries! DSC_1842 Teacher’s books saved up for each theme…love the amount of shelving in these newish classrooms, don’t you?DSC_1841 Math manipulatives of every sort…when I took on a contract with a grade one class, I fell in love with linking toys for the sake of practicing grouping.DSC_1840I like the caddies on the backs of the chairs…they keep things in order.  I’ve seen these in several Division I classrooms (that would be grades one, two and three for my international readers.  lol)DSC_1839 DSC_1838 ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ??????????
A great space…and then we created our own particular magic!  We got the chalk drawings and white painting done prior to music class and in the remaining twenty five minutes before home-time, we tackled the cardinals…this, after having practice sketching in sketchbooks. Didn’t get those archives as I was on the run.  lol Cardinals are whimsical and based on Charlie Harper’s illustrations.  See the lesson, in detail, here.
?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? DSC_1851Thanks to Elisa Rapisarda, for sharing your space and your students with me.  It was a wonderful afternoon!

Have you ever seen a red bird?

That’s a question I asked Grade Two this morning and there were only three students who had seen Cardinals and they were delighted to tell their stories; two of the three had seen Cardinals on television.  The most interesting story was the one told by a wee boy about going on a trip to see Grampa and in the wilderness (his word) they saw four red birds.  I told the story of seeing Cardinals in Belleville, Ontario when I went there to visit my father.  Someone talked about those kind of birds having Mohawks on the top of their heads.  And then this guy came up.

Angry BirdsI’m going to tell you the truth…I found today’s idea on Pinterest.  YIPPEE!  Inspired by illustrator, Charlie Harper, many variations of this same activity can be found and managed, with, I hope, a focus on unique interpretations of the theme.  Here in Calgary, these children would not be as familiar with Cardinals as they would be with Northern Flickers and Magpies.  I think these activities could be suited for local birds as well. But today, I was into the red.

I wanted to manipulate the compositions to teach EMPHASIS and so the red was a pop of colour in an otherwise muted background.

Materials: Blue 18 x 24 construction paper with tooth.  White chalk for foggy fuzzy edges of background trees, White tempera, large bristle brushes, flat, two sheets of red poster board cut into small squares….two sheets enough for 23 students.

First, the students had depiction time.  I talked to them about how the Cardinals that we created were going to be like cartoons of birds.  Every single bird would look different depending on a lot of factors.  To begin with, we would practice drawing shapes…the body being a raindrop shape with the Cardinal’s Mohawk feathers on the top.  “Try big wide raindrop shapes and thin ones.  Try big and small.”  This little sketch was borrowed from one variation of this art lesson, found at Art On My Hand.

Angry Bird DepictionsThe eyes will be oogie boogie eyes that pop out past the bird’s body.  The legs…”Try long, short and bent. How can you make the bird look like it’s flying? How can we show wings? The beak is like a diamond shape and then just draw a line through the middle.”

Our drawing practice looked like this.

DSC_1459 DSC_1458 DSC_1457After sketching for a while and exploring all sorts of possibilities, out came the large blue paper.  I demonstrated how to press chalk and make dark lines and then showed how to move it and press on it to create light marks.  I touched the top of my paper and the bottom, on a vertical, to show how large the background trees needed to be.  I asked if any of the students had been outdoors recently when we had wind and snow and fog.  Lots of stories there! :0)  “What did the trees look like?”

“Our foreground tree…the one the closest to us…is more detailed.  We see more when something is close to us.  I can see your noses right now, but….when you are out on the playground, I can’t. We will paint the tree that’s close to us. What do we call a tree’s body? (trunk) What about its arms? Where are its legs? (limbs, branches? and their legs are underground) What about its fingers? toes? (It’s fingers are twigs. branches?) Expression and Composition time…with one short pause to remind the class not to SCRUB, but to STROKE. Here is what their trees looked like.  Off you go!  Recess!  PUT ON YOUR SNOW PANTS!

DSC_1447 DSC_1448Ti DSC_1449After recess, not much had to be said…a factory of Cardinal makers nested at their desks and the room was an industrious hush.  Absolutely amazing stuff as they created, invented, problem solved.  We all agreed that the tools we needed from the bins were scissors, glue sticks and thin black markers.  The fat ones were just too tricky.

This is what they created.

DSC_1463 ?????????? ?????????? DSC_1473 ?????????? DSC_1470 DSC_1469 DSC_1468 DSC_1467 DSC_1466 DSC_1465 DSC_1464


?????????? ?????????? ?????????? DSC_1479 ?????????? DSC_1481 ?????????? ??????????Thank you, Grade Two, for an amazing day at Our Lady Of the Evergreens School


One Voice

Trying to Find My Bird Movie 129I spent four weeks tracking a warbler every morning and afternoon…trying to get close enough to identify the little guy.  And for all of that time, he rarely stopped singing.  When I return home, I will publish the song archive that I collected and perhaps one of you will help me to identify him. For all of those days, this small bird distracted me from a sad heart and filled the empty space once filled with my mother’s laughter, with a song.

Because I was so intent to listen to this single bird voice, I could hear the voices of others; chickadees, cardinals, blue jays and black birds, voices woven through the old Belleville trees. The transforming landscape, full bloom of maple, elm and willow, caused the red flash of cardinal to stand out against countless shades of green.  But more magnificent for me, each morning when the dew was still wet on the grass, was the little bird perched on the highest single finger of a blue spruce tree, seeking a mate…no answer to its determined voice.