Booth’s Class Reads The Mitten Tree by Candace Christiansen

As we moved through Advent at what seemed to be warp speed, I had the opportunity to be with Ashley’s class of Grade fours for a day.  The students were bright-eyed and receptive…an awesome little group.  Woven through the day seemed to be a theme of gift.  So, the story book that I had packed into my bag at home, seemed like it would work just perfectly.

The story I brought was The Mitten Tree by Candace Christiansen, illustrated by Elaine Greenstein.

I felt very peaceful.  Ashley’s class knows classroom routines and the learning environment feels ordered and safe. As we shared a discussion about gift, a story of my own came to mind.

I shared with the class my son’s most perfect gift to me…so many years ago, and I felt emotional, thinking about it.

In the afternoon, I pulled out my book and read it aloud to the students.  No matter the age, students, for the most part, fall silent at the reading of a picture book.  It was no different on that day.  While I’m not crazy about this particular delivery, I did find the story on Youtube.

I would consider the painting activity to be an Expression lesson.  I did not focus too much on skills related to depiction or composition, but focused on how to hold a brush and the idea of stroking paint instead of scrubbing paint.  I guess the interesting thing about asking the students to paint two mittens is the idea that the patterns would match…so they were exploring two things in duplicate.  At some point, I adjusted my own system of sharing buckets of coloured tempera, but quickly fell back to my fail safe routine when I observed the chaos in trading that can ensue.  I had intentionally limited the number of buckets I prepared on this day for the simple reason that I didn’t want a big clean up at end of day, so I prepared 14 buckets for 24 students.  Normally, I would prepare 18.  So, you can imagine that, at times, you would hear someone belt out, “Are you done with the white?”

Thank you, Dana, for your wonderful assist.

The paintings, in the end, were lovely. The Pinterest crowd will find a whole variety of projects based on this story book including fabric arts, oil pastel drawings and paper cut outs…lots that you can do around a story. Advent and Christmas art abounds at the moment, I thought that these paintings might bring the spirit of winter into the classroom, for a longer duration.  Thank you, Ashley.  Thank you, Grade four students. I had a beautiful day!

 

Organic Shapes: Grade Three

Yes!  Grade threes spoke to me about organic shapes.  Will they remember tomorrow?  I don’t know.  But, for today, they really did delve into the concept.

“Organic shapes are associated with things from the natural world, like plants and animals. The circles and squares that make up this sculpture are geometric shapes.”

There was paint left over from yesterday…black and white.  I grabbed bright red paper to use as a ground for today’s paintings.

Last evening, my son James came over to the house after work and created a huge bowl of Hummus, using my friend Carla’s recipe.  After we had our sit down dinner and the dishes were done, I headed out to drive James home.  While we journeyed I asked him what he thought would make a great subject for great three Halloween paintings…witches, cats or bats?  His suggestion was ghosts.  He rated, by difficulty, the four subjects and in the end, I agreed.  4. Witches 3. Cats 2. Bats 1. Ghosts  Ghosts would allow for creative interpretation, free flow, but would help me teach some basic design concepts and techniques.

I knew that I wanted to accomplish some successful design pieces in a very short time, so the focus could not be so much on Reflection and Depiction, but on Composition and Expression.

The class was so intensely involved in the art making that I had to stare in disbelief as it seemed I was in a bee hive.  Every student was geared up to accomplish wonderful things and the engagement was other-worldly.  It was silent.  I felt so happy.

I have a couple of suggestions if my readers were to, at any point, paint ghosts with kids.  First of all, have my readers ever had their mother dress them up in a bed sheet as a ghost at any point, for the purpose of trick-o’-treating?  Two eyes cut out.  No mouth…no nose. It’s tricky to get around!  I told the kids the story at the beginning of my lesson and they laughed an laughed.  I shared about how hot it was in the inside of the sheet as I breathed in and out, in and out. I told them about tripping as my feet stepped onto the front of the sheet.  I explained about the pillow case I was carrying, being difficult to access to collect candy at my neighbour’s doors.  I could tell by their faces that they could relate.

I drew a symbol for an octopus on the white board.  We thought about how the shape of a ghost symbol would be different.  I had them try to picture the sheet over my head.  Could they tell where the head was?  How?  What shape would it be?  The shoulders?  and then….why would the bottom of the ghost be so organic?  We talked about Casper the friendly ghost and the fact that he had legs and arms like we do.

Other words for ghosts that came up…spirits and specter.

Parameters for the composition.  Include at least seven ghost-like organic shapes.  At least three of these need to go off of an edge.  Try to include three larger ghost-forms and the rest, smaller.

I demonstrated how to use a paper towel as a place mat…sliding it along to the place where paint would be applied to an edge.  I showed them the difference between painting over an edge and painting up to an edge.

Given a small piece of chalk, the students moved into their composing.  I really didn’t want to impose too many restrictions on how they handled their darkness, only saying that I would like to see repeating lines and that the black outline around each specter should not touch the white shrouds.  Off to the races!

For the purpose of painting with tempera paints, always have a box of white chalk handy.  It takes all of the ‘preciousness’ of drawing away and becomes very free-flowing, with opportunities to change minds several times.

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Starting with the dark if the artist finds that all of the buckets of white are gone…

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Second colour…

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After drying…those little ghost faces were added with sharpies.  No noses required.  I enjoyed the creative solutions to the dark.  A beautiful morning!  Deb, thank you for your class!

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Something amazing happened.  As I stepped into the staff room, at the end of the morning, I learned that employees of UPS were visiting the school and making rounds at other schools, serving special coffees and cupcakes, in order to let educators in the community know how much their work is appreciated.  A heart felt message was delivered during the lunch break that left teachers feeling affirmed and happy.  It was a lovely gesture and a great end to my morning guest teaching.  I had a white chocolate latte.  YUM!

Thank you, UPS!

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The Week in Review: Paint!

I was blessed to be asked to guest teach for the entire week in one school.  I was so happy to be able to paint with children.  It is a joy to mix colours in buckets and to share them with young people.  Watching them journey through a process such as this is so gratifying.  To pour paint colours straight out of the bottle would never be enough for me!  I like to create a palette that sings!

Colour mixing

Just a few photographs were collected this week, as most days I forgot my camera.

Grade Ones painted kites on the anniversary of my mother’s passing.  I could not help but think of Mom’s spirit…soaring. The children had painted once before with me, so they nailed their technique!

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Grade two paintings of hot air balloons…I added red and blue to Tuesday’s palette.

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Concentric lines around summer symbols.  “When I call SNOWBALL, trade your paint bucket and move to a different spot!”  Everything was wonderful until the wind picked our mural up like a kite and flipped it onto its face.   Oh well, there was just a half hour left so we headed to the field for some kickball. The red, yellow and white are right out of the bottle and all of the other colours are mixed.

Calm Can Be Found in Ashley’s Classroom

Monday morning, I wasn’t at my very best.  I knew I was coming down with something…head aching…throat, sore.  I hoped, from the onset, that I would have the energy to give these grade four children a lovely day and a bit of a painting experience.  I was already tickled to be welcomed by beautiful office and instructional staff.  These guys always rock!

I stepped into Ashley’s classroom and immediately felt a sense of calm.  I think that there has to be some sort of link between productivity, learning and an ordered space.  Is it possible to be creative when there is order?  I guess I’ll check out the psychology of that aesthetic as I think of Ashley’s work space.

Hmmm…the Psychology Behind Messy Rooms.

Tidy Desks and Messy Desks..

K…so I’ve wandered a little on the world wide web, sipping grapefruit juice as I go and what I can surmise is that our living and working environments need to be constructed/designed/maintained in a very individualized way, to suit our very personal way of functioning and creating.

On Monday, this ordered space was absolutely what I needed.  I have Ashley’s permission to welcome you into her space.

Love is in the air…first of all, it’s February!  Gracie was my #1 assistant all day.  Thank goodness for her efforts.  She really took up the slack!

?????????? ?????????? I just really like the philosophy behind these seven habits…language that grade fours can understand…but, ideas that we might all put to good use.DSC_2258A sense of space and order as I entered the classroom…I think I actually vocalized…”Ahhhhh” as I breathed out.  The new buildings are so wonderful because the flooring allows for spills, building, exploration and easy tidy-up.DSC_2257Winter art was cheerfully displayed.  I think that mats, while very inexpensive, somehow emphasize the individuality and the special nature of each creation.  Once the display comes down, the other side can be used for the next piece of art…so reuse!

DSC_2256 Light…so wonderful and necessary for a peace-filled day.  I like the touch of personal objects that give the children a sense of home and community.  A place for those teacher’s gifts.

DSC_2255 Storage buckets with a sense of humour.  These make me smile just looking at them.

DSC_2254A nook for spirtual objects contributes to a sense of calm.

DSC_2253 Ideas for daily physical activity!  Good stuff!

DSC_2251 Students like to know how they’re doing.

DSC_2249 DSC_2248 DSC_2247 DSC_2246I liked how every thing had its place.  I felt in control, even in moments when I would typically be feeling anxiety.  The desks were in such an arrangement that it made very quick work to move them into pods of two students for easy access to the paint station.  The how-to of this lesson can be found here.   Here are just a few of the students’ creations.  Thank you, Ashley, for a day with your class.

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Other Classrooms…

Elisa’s Classroom

Carli’s Classroom

 

Eggs!

As Easter approaches and we anticipate the end of our Lenten journey; as we live in hope that snow will soon disappear and be replaced by green, my grade ones have been exploring eggs and new life.

Each morning, after attendance, I sign on to the Live Eagle Cam of Duke Farms and we see what the eaglets and their wonderful parents are up to.  It is most common for eagles to lay two eggs each season, but this year we got three.  I’ve been following Duke Farms for a few years now, simply because it is great entertainment to see the antics at the nest, the determination and the utter devotion.  Sometimes bad things happen.  Life is just like that.  But in the meantime, it is quite something to observe a live fish being dropped into a nest and the amazing care that is given to these fuzzy critters that seem clumsy and disproportioned!

Eagle 54This was a screen shot I took after the second egg came along.  A running commentary is located so that viewers can observe the scientific timeline of events.

Update 4/1/2014
The 3rd egg has hatched. The 3rd eaglet is smaller than the other 2 who hatched on the same day.

Update 3/31/2014
The 3rd egg appears to now have a pip (hole) in the shell. Hatch should occur today or tomorrow.

Update 3/29/2014
2 chicks have hatched in the nest. Parents are starting to leave food in the nest such as fish and waterfowl to give the nesting parent and young food. The 3rd egg has not hatched yet.

Update 2/24/2014
A 3rd egg was laid on 2/23/2014 in the afternoon. Thanks you viewers for your valuable observations throughout the nesting season.

Update 2/20/2014
A 2nd egg was laid the afternoon of 2/20/2014.

Update 2/18/2014
An egg was laid in the afternoon of 2/17/2014*. Snow in the nest should begin to dissipate as temps rise during the day over the next few days. The cam will remain zoomed close in on the nest bowl to aid in detection of additional eggs.

Each day, my grade one students are writing a sentence in their journal about the new thing that happened that day.  Their pictures are AMAZING and I will include those next week when I record our discoveries.

This morning, I took this screen shot.  Mrs. is sitting on a fish that she brought to the nest yesterday.  This is the sort of thing that the grade ones love!  They also enjoy when both adults spend time together with the eaglets.

Eagle April 12, 2014This past week, in art class, we painted eggs to represent new life…all with tints.  This was an exploration of straight lines, curvy lines and zig zag lines.

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Be Our Guest!

‘Back in the Day’, we were substitute teachers.  These days, we are guest teachers!  I have to say, after a day like today, I feel so blessed.  In my retirement I have opportunity to hold on to everything that is magical about teaching.  Today was one of those particularly special days out in the schools; but truly, every day, with whatever grade level or subject, I learn something very ‘cool’ about students…something very interesting about curriculum content, but most often, I learn things about myself.

This grade two class has a teacher-read novel going on that I have never read before.  After reading two chapters, The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo has me hooked!

From Wikipedia…this summary of the early events of Book I

Book I: A Mouse Is Born

Book one tells a story about a small, sickly mouse born in a castle named Despereaux. He was born a runt with large ears and eyes. Despereaux, unlike other mice, spends lots of time reading. He particularly enjoys a book about how a knight saves a princess and they live happily ever after. One day while reading he hears music. He follows the sound and is led to Princess Pea and King Philip. He falls in love with the princess and speaks to her, but the king led the mouse away because mice were related to rats, which are a danger to the kingdom. Furlough, his brother, sees this and tells his father, Lester Tilling. Lester calls the mouse council; Furlough goes to collect Despereaux . The mouse council orders Despereaux to be sent to the dungeon because talking to a human is forbidden. In the dungeon he meets Gregory, the jailer, who saves him because Despereaux tells Gregory a story.

As I discussed the preceding chapters with the students and then delved into issues around today’s chapters, I was in awe of the sensitivity of their responses.  In fact, as I reflect and type here, I smile for remembering.  We spoke a lot about happy endings.  One little boy said that he was going to go home and write a prayer for his Gramma who had passed.  One little girl said that when someone passes, we don’t just have that memory to hold on to, we need to remember all of the happy endings along the way. One pointed out that the entire board ledge was filled with stories with happy endings.  We thought about courage.  We thought about how hard it is sometimes to be brave.  We talked about wee Despereaux’s love for Princess Pea. We talked about ‘the rule’ for mice…about not letting yourself be known to humans.  What an awesome time for me.  I learned so much and so appreciate the goodness in these 22 little people.

The students were eager and knowledgeable about the rites and rituals of their entire day.  The class hummed along like a well-oiled machine…and I sort of followed along.  We deemed it Wacky Wednesday simply because everything I did with them would be ‘somehow’ different.  Soon after that, one wee boy, looked up from his desk and asked, “When is our teacher going to be back?”  Laughing about that right now.

Before library, we collected our books and placed them in stacks, then prepared the classroom for an art extravaganza.  Their chairs were decked out with individual and ‘named’ cubbies, and so, a simple solution was to push the chairs against the perimeter of the room and tackle the projects in standing position around the classroom tables.  Love was the focus.  Prior to the day’s beginning, I mixed up a great variety of reds and pinks…threw in some peach colour and white…and we were off to the races.  February, all wrapped up in a January afternoon!P1140650 P1140652 P1140651I set up the paint center and explained to the children how to use it efficiently and without accident.  Two hands wrapped around the buckets…two brushes always in each colour…In that last half hour before library, the grade twos had their hearts sketched out in chalk and practiced a variety of patterns.  They also watched my demonstration of how to stroke their brushes, rather than scrub them…and off they went for their book exchange and then lunch.

P1140645 P1140644 P1140643The afternoon opened up total possibility as they began by painting in their concentric hearts.

P1140653 P1140655 Once their hearts were painted in solidly, they went back to the dried colours and applied their various patterns.

P1140667 P1140668 P1140670 P1140671 P1140672 P1140673 P1140675The students busied themselves while waiting for certain areas to dry by cutting out their projects and wiping wee bits of paint from the table surface.  Because the hearts only met the edge of the paper at five points, this project is NOT one of those messy ones.  But watch the natural inclination for the tapping of the brushes on the bucket edge…teach your students to do a wipe to remove excess paint.

A wonderful day…I was blessed in so many ways!  Grades Kindergarten, one and two…BIG BRUSHES, LOTS OF LIQUID COLOUR, BIG PAPER and Pizzazz!

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