Thursday, April 29, 2010


We all know it's important for our kids to be creative. I went to a workshop recently that talked about the benefits to brain development when arts are incorporated into a daily curriculum. Musicians' brains actually look different than brains of people who have never played an instrument. Art can be used to cross that divide for ESL students or help the focus of those with ADHD.

I used the book Duke Ellington, which uses rich vocabulary and amazing pictures to illustrate the sounds of music. I asked the kids to use their adjectives to describe different colors, then paint a picture of an instrument and the music spouting from it. Some of them really had to stretch their thinking to come up with words to describe a color, but I think they did an awesome job!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New Uses for Everyday Things

Another activity I like to do for critical thinking can involve something as ordinary as a paper clip. Most students don't enter school being able to really think creatively (many adults actually have difficulty with that sometimes). I want them to think of new uses for the item. We talk about the normal ways we can use it, then brainstorm new ways. Any old object will do; I've used pencils, frying pans and my all-time favorite is the paper clip. It amazes me the way their little minds work. I did this with my class yesterday and the idea that really made me chuckle: one student opened theirs up to make a hanger for ant clothes! :) How cool!

Ant hanger for clothes.

To make a letter "I".

For measuring.

Back scratcher.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tapping Into Their Interests

So on my favorite teacher forum I discovered the site: . A man named Carlos in California put a "Barn Box" in his barn and there's a live feed documenting an owl named Molly who had 5 eggs and now has 3 babies.

My kids have been so inspired by her to learn everything they can about owls! I truly believe that your lessons should be flexible enough to go where your little sponges want to go. So we've done many lessons on the life cycle of owls.  Yesterday they made a replica of Molly using a pinecone wrapped in cotton. Then they wrote about what they learned from her.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Poet But You Didn't Know It

I love using poetry in the classroom. I think the succint language a poet uses is just ripe for vocabulary instruction. Every week I post a new poem in a pocket chart; and we read it chorally each morning which also helps with reading skills. The children have to listen carefully because there are no illustrations to fall back on to reference meaning. On Fridays they cut and paste a copy of the text into their poetry journals and then write about their own evaluation of the words. Did they like it? Why or why not? What is it about? Did it make you feel, hear, taste, see, smell something?

Well, since April is National Poetry Month, we tried our hand at writing our own poems. I held my breath and crossed my fingers to see what understanding came out of their chubby little pencils. I was actually very impressed. Some used techniques like using spicy adjectives and sound words, others wrote "Oh, little bee"-just like some of the poems we've read. We did "Shape Poems" where they wrote the words, I typed out their poems and they cut the words out gluing them into the shape of their idea.

We're going to have a little celebration this month where the students can read their poems for their parents and I can't wait to see their expressions as they watch their little poets. Never doubt the osmosis that occurs when you model something for kids-they pick up more than you would expect!