Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Painting Like Frida

I follow a lot of different teacher groups on Facebook. There are a lot of articles posted about how we are not teaching our students how to be creative; we are not allowing them to have experiences in the arts. And I know that may be the case in some classrooms, but not in mine. Even if I have to stretch my application of the objectives-for example, we will write about something we paint, I incorporate the arts daily. I truly believe that many kids have an innate creativity, but they can be taught to apply that-I consider it an important goal for my students in the 9 months I have them.

We are learning about the different artists and their works. I read the story:

We learned about Frida Kahlo's impact on the art world-incorporating not only her Mexican heritage but also she questioned facts of feminism and beauty. After looking at many of her different self-portraits, I challenged my students to make one of their own. I was so impressed by their creativity and willingness to take risks with what they were painting. I introduced vocabulary like: palette, primary colors, brushstrokes, canvas. My favorite part was overhearing their discoveries. They kept asking me-what color do you get if you mix.....? and my answer was--try it and see. "He made violet on his canvas!" and "I made the darkest color anyone has ever made." Love hearing them sharing in the discovery that is creating art! :)

This is my resident artist. I need a few that she can autograph so I can prove I knew her before she was famous.

This is one of my more challenging students. I LOVE his use of color and pattern here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Thinking About How Objects Feel

Multiple Perspectives is one of Kaplan's concepts of Depth and Complexity. I truly believe teaching students to think from the perspective of others helps build empathy. I stumbled across this poem years ago and right away thought about it's use for this concept. Now I would only use the first stanza-the 2nd one gets a little strange (it is Sylvia Plath after all). I read them the poem without the title to see if they can identify what she is describing. 

Mirror by Sylvia Plath

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful ‚
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

After we discuss the perspective of a mirror, I ask the students to choose an object and write from its perspective. I gave them the prompt of I am (describe the object-what shape? what color? what texture?) and I feel...... I was actually impressed with their creativity-they all came up with different objects to write about. With little ones especially they like to take your example or one student says I'm writing about a car and they all end up writing about that. I can really see their creativity skills growing!

Letters of the alphabet-I am big. I feel happy because they read me.

Treehouse-I am pink. I feel like sleeping all day.

River-I am awesome. I feel like I like fish.

Robot-I am yellow and graceful. I feel like I can do stuff.

Ice cream-I am eaten. I feel like I taste good.

School-I am brown and shaped like a square. I feel bad because kids are always running.

Stuffed animal-I feel soft and kids love you.

Boots- I am pink and glittery. I am on someone's feet. I feel frustrated and upset because it would be stinky.

Marble-I am shaped like a sphere. I am nervous because people put me in their mouth. (she has a new baby at home-I'm sure that's what she is thinking about. :) 

Dress-I am a triangle. I feel cold.

Robot-I am a toy. I feel hands pressing my buttons.

Diamond-I am little and glittery. I feel lonely because they are in the ground.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Ways to Teach Your Students About Grit

Angela Duckworth defines grit as "perseverance and passion for long-term goals". Many studies are now showing that grit is an important characteristic in determining success. Not giving up when it gets challenging and practice, practice, practice to develop the skills that will help us reach our goals. Especially in the beginning of the year, especially with little ones I can't tell you how often I hear them say "ït's too hard, I can't do it".  They need to learn that sometimes these skills do not come easily, that you have to work for it. That you can't just give up. Now I hear different comments, now they say "ït's hard but I'm going to try it".

I like using videos to demonstrate concepts like this-the following is one of my favorites to show grit:

I also like to model grit using literature:

A clumsy click beetle practices and practices to learn how to flip and click.

Alan lives to scare his friends until they find out he has false teeth. He has to work to find another purpose in life and he does.

The chickens are scared, but they build up their courage and do it anyway.

This penguin has the soul of an eagle and wants to learn how to fly.

 Some kids want to save the baby turtles on their beach. They knock on doors and word very hard to accomplish that task.

Lonnie Johnson had many doors slammed in his face, but he did not give up working toward his dreams. He ended up inventing one of the most popular kids' toy ever.

A little girl wants the bicycle in the window and works very hard to earn the money to get it.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Encouraging Empathy

Empathy has been a passion of mine for the past few years. If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that about 2 1/2 years ago I underwent treatment for breast cancer. I was truly surprised at the lack of empathy even people in the medical profession showed. I know that they see hundreds of patients every week but for example, after my first chemo treatment my oncologist asked me about the side effects I was dealing with. I told him that it was horrible, that I didn't think I could do that 7 more times-I had to sleep on the bathroom floor for a week. His response literally was "it's chemo-what did you expect?" I had a specialist who asked me about how I was doing and he responded "wow, I can't imagine what you are going through"-I wanted to burst into tears-that to me was a very empathetic response, something I had not heard very often.

I started noticing that a lot of people wait in conversations to bring the topic back to themselves. "How do you feel today?"-well, actually I'm pretty tired, I had a chemo treatment on Friday.  "Oh, I know exactly how you feel, I stayed up last night to watch the whole new season of Game of Thrones". Yeah, not the same thing. Even online, if you read comments to a post-rarely do you see someone say "that must be hard"-they respond with an experience of how that happened to them too and how it wasn't so bad. And I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that- just that if you are paying attention and trying to be more empathetic, that's a good place to start.

So I started reading up on it. And the more I read, the more I was convinced to take the time to consciously teach this to my students.What can we say if someone shares something sad with us? Don't you think the custodian has a hard job, what could we do to make that easier for her? They'd find a spider in the classroom-let's just let it be, maybe he's just trying to learn too-think about how he feels.

I read them stories where they can put themselves in someone else's shoes. Here are just a few titles I recommend:

We write from the perspective of a character, compare perspectives. Anything that can put my students in the shoes of others. We view webcams of animals-one of my favorite sites for this (although my district now blocks it) is: . They have web cams watching animals in zoos, service dogs being trained. I used to love to come back at lunch and just watch the kittens playing-very relaxing. But the kids get to think about what life is like for these animals.

I will leave you with my favorite video on empathy that was shared by Terri over at:

And this is one to share with your students: