Saturday, January 30, 2016

Character Court

Our yearly tradition now-Character Court! Years ago our school would have the 3rd-5th graders so a Wax Museum where the students would research a historical figure and then dress up as that person and give a little speech. Well, I asked why we couldn't have the little ones do a presentation too. And voila-Character Court was born.

We study fairy tales and then I assign parts to kids from those fairy tales. They write a little dialogue together (maybe 5-6 lines total) discussing an ethical issue from their story. For example, Tinkerbell asks Captain Hook why he's always trying to capture them, that it's wrong, they are just kids. Captain Hook replies-I'm not mean, I had a rough life. The kids paint a backdrop together for their setting and then stand in front of it in our gym and give their speeches. People walk through like a museum and listen to each pair. They did a really great job this year. Here are some of their backdrops:

The sky reminded me a little of Starry Starry Night! :)

Our Princess and the Frog pair

Little Red Riding Hood (I guess that's obvious).

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New Uses for Snow

One of my favorite creativity activities is to ask the students to come up with new uses for things. The first one we usually do is with a paper clip. Sure, paper clips can clip papers, but what else can they do? They can open soda cans, they can make cute earrings, they can help keep a skirt closed when your zipper breaks, etc. We do this activity periodically throughout the year with different objects. It's actually a good challenge for the kiddos to stretch their thinking-hard to come up with new ways sometimes.

Well, I know most of the country is really tired of the word "snow" right now, but we did new uses for snow. What, besides making snowballs and snowmen could we use snowflakes for? Here's what they came up with: cool hot dogs

for a bookmark (they are super into bookmarks right now for some reason)

to make a cake

a dress

to make a timer

to make rainbows

Sunday, January 24, 2016


This past week celebrated a National Mentor Day-who knew, right? I think mentors are very important. I think everyone should have someone who is there to support them and that they can look up to. My first year teaching I did not have what I'd call a good mentor. She made fun of me for using technology (they were old school with packets of worksheets). She did not help me prepare the kiddos (the way she prepared her own class) for our standardized testing. (My theory on that is she didn't want a first year teaching having a class to better than hers). I left that school after two years and did not look back.

At my new school I had a teacher on my team who I considered to be like a mentor to me. She shared ideas and resources. She was who I inspired to be. Now, I try to pass that on to new teachers as well. I think if we supported new teachers more we wouldn't have so many people leaving the profession.

Anyway, I facilitate for our Student Council. One of the things I really wanted to start this year was a Peer Mentor program. So the Student Council representatives could go into the classroom (they were willing to give up their recess time, so it didn't affect instruction or anything) and sit with, talk to, read with a younger student in need of a role model. I asked my colleagues to send me the names of students in their classes who could use a little encouragement, confidence, or maybe someone else to be accountable to. I got 2 replies. :( I asked our administration to send me names-they certainly know the kids they see in the office all the time. I got no replies. If you know me, you know I'm stubborn and do not give up that easily!

So I ask our Special Ed. teacher if we can use her students and she reluctantly agreed. She wasn't sure about all the interruptions and strangers in her room, but she acquiesced (I can be convincing. :) One of the 2nd Graders who was so gung-ho to start being a mentor, she went in on her own and began being a friend to a student who has about 12 different labels, including being autistic. The teacher said she was wonderful with him and it went much better than she had expected. He usually doesn't socialize at all but was talking up a storm with this little girl.

A little late in the year, but better late than never. The rest of the kids I've paired up with Kindergarteners-they can always use a good role model. I'm excited, the kids are excited and I just thought I'd share our idea with you guys.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Interpreting the Masters

I discovered my love of art in college. I was a Psychology major but had to choose several electives. I chose Art History and I just LOVED it! I was fascinated by the lives of the artists and what the "experts" would debate was the meaning behind certain works. If I had taken that class my freshman year instead of my junior year I may have changed my major. But most of all I just loved looking at the artwork. I have no artistic talents at all (besides maybe an eye for photography)-so I am in awe of the expressions, ideas, etc. that artists can capture in their works.

I also love using paintings in my classroom. Whether it's a storytelling exercise-look at this painting and tell me a story about it, or thinking about what the artist was trying to say or learning about certain techniques. Often times we will learn about an artist and look at their famous (and sometimes not-so-famous) paintings and try to recreate our own versions of them. In this case we took Starry, Starry Night and did attempt to recreate the painting using our own vision. There have been times I've asked them to re-interpret a classic like this and then paint for example, what Sunny, Sunny Day would look like by Van Gogh-using the same techniques.

Here is our interpretation of Starry, Starry Night!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Our New Chapter Read-Aloud

I love discovering new books that I know I will use year after year. This was one of them We are going our Fairy Tale Unit right now getting ready for our big performance expo. This book is written all in rhymes, has a good level of challenging vocabulary and is right up the alley of my fashionista divas! It's called:

The title alone made my kiddos giggle a little. It's about a plain jane princess who'd be perfectly content living in her pajamas reading on a big pile of pillows the rest of her life. But she was born into a family and a city, really that just adores fashion. It's cute, it's funny, it's challenging. I give it 2 very enthusiastic thumbs up! :)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Changing the Details in The Three Little Pigs

We all know the story of the three little pigs. And I enjoy that story. Certainly as a teacher, I believe that taking the easy way out is not always the most effective way, so there's a great lesson to be learned there. Over the years I have discovered new versions of old fairy tales and very much enjoy sharing those with my kiddos. This past week we read:

After reading the stories, discovering the patterns in them and comparing/contrasting the details. I asked the students to write their own version of a 3 Little ______ story. Who would be chasing the characters? What would they make their houses out of? They were really creative in their answers.

The 3 Little Princesses being chased by a witch. They built their houses out
 of jewels, crayons and glass.

The 3 Little Chicks-chased by a cow-they built their houses out of boots, 
hay and horseshoes.

The 3 Little Snowmen-chased by a bird. They built their houses out of
berries, glue and carrots.

The 3 Little Blueberries, chased by a kangaroo making their homes out of
grasslands, grapes and watermelons.

3 Little Rabbits being chased by a cat.

3 Little Noodles-made their homes out of pots, pans and spoons.

The 3 Little Cats chased by the Big Bad Dog

The 3 Little Mermaids-chased by a shark. They made their homes out of seaweed,
sand and a shipwreck.

The 3 Little Cookies being chased by a mouse.

We discovered that you can change the details, but the framework of the story can still remain intact. :)