Sunday, April 29, 2018

Roz and Her Memories

I'm in the process of reading:

to my Kindergarten students. They LOVE it! I don't know if it's because this is the 2nd installment in the series and they have developed a relationship with the characters or if, like me, they just want to find out what happens in the end--but every day when we are getting ready for dismissal they chant "We want Roz!". 

Just to give you some background-Roz is a robot created to work. She gets stranded on an island and learns how to be a contributing member of that society. She adopts a goose as he son (Brightbill) and also becomes a mother. The robot ends up being discovered and returned to the factory. In this part II story, she ends up working on a farm-however she still remembers her past, even though for a while this is a secret she keeps.

One part of the story really struck me. She was thinking about the island and her son one day and realized that she could probably erase those memories from her computer brain and be relatively happier. So that is the question I asked my students to answer. Should Roz erase the memories of her past-it makes her sad to remember and to miss everyone or should she keep those memories.

Although my students really have only made about 2 years of memories in their little brains, I was impressed by the logic some of them used to answer the question. They also were pretty split in their answers-half keep/half erase.

Erase them-if she doesn't see her son again she will always feel sad.

Keep her memories of the island-just erase the memories of her son.

Keep because she's going to get in control.

Erase-because she might forget anyway.

Keep-to remember her cute little baby.

Erase because then she will be happy.

Keep because she will go back to the island again.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Our 1st Annual Comic-Con

I was having a conference with a parent a few years ago and she was concerned that her son only wanted to read graphic novels. My opinion is reading is reading and there are a number of graphic novel stories with rich, meaningful themes. And a lightbulb went off over my head. I was going to start an after school book club where we would study graphic novels.

The students stayed after school one day a week, every week. We read the stories, discussed the stories. We watched videos on how authors write the stories-how do they make the speech bubbles, how do they draw the illustrations? Then we sat down to write our own stories.

Their first drafts were about Superman an Pokemon. I asked them to dig deeper and invent a new character. Write a story they'd like to read. Did they want to write a dramatic story? A funny one? Then the juices began flowing! I was so impressed with all the different characters and themes that the students came up with,

I lost many from my group to tutorials-these are reluctant readers. They also are mostly from our bilingual classes. They lacked confidence writing and speaking in English-but they did it! The students worked week after week on their designs.

So today they presented their stories in what we called a Comic-Con. We invited parents and the other classes on campus to come through and see their work.

These are some of the examples:

I had one teacher tell me that one of her students now wants to read all the time (graphic novels) and has really progressed this year in his reading skills. Another time one of the students told me this was the only place he felt normal. Makes it all worth it, doesn't it?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Literature About Artists

I have several budding artists in my class this year. I wanted to tap into those interests, so we did a thematic unit last week about artists and I wanted to share some of my favorite literature on the topic.

I was a huge fan of Keith Haring in the 80's and I never knew this story about him. What a generous person. A true artist making art for the love of art and not the love of money.

Kandisky was one of the forerunners of the abstract art movement. In a world of portraits and paintings of bowls of fruit, he wanted to do something different. The colors spoke to him. I thought this was a really beautiful story.

Ehlert is an author/illustrator and she goes through her methods to get the images she has used in her famous stories.

Matisse made art even after bedridden in his old age.

A fun book with illustrations on transperancies that make the children gasp. :) It's a story that shows the basis of surrealism in a very kid-friendly way.

We painted abstract art with watercolors. It was very hard for them to not just make suns and rainbows but they did a great job!

These are their surreal paintings. I asked them to think of something weird and different-outside reality. We looked at some paintings by Dali as well as Magritte.

This one was Kafka-esque to me. Imagine waking up with a horn. :) 

Sunday, April 15, 2018


I hate to sound like an old person :) but kids today are definitely growing up in a completely different world than we did. When we were bored we played board games and did puzzles-many of my students have no experiences with things like this. When I was about 5, my little sister would combine all my puzzles together and make chicken soup. I had to put them all together to sort them out again. I got very good at puzzles. Now I am not a math-minded person, however, I think I trained my brain to learn the spatial reasoning needed to complete them. And I have an app on my phone where I try to complete at least one a day-research says it staves off dementia. 

So I don't really have an objective to justify it, but I put puzzles out with my math workstations. We start with the big piece versions-about 20 pieces. I watch my students just use trial and error to put the puzzle together. I try to guide them to look at the colors and look for the straight sides. Some students really take to this and try to put them together faster and faster.

When we've gotten good at those we try the 60 piece versions. I try to find ones with cute puppies or monster trucks-things they are interested in. At first, they shy away from the challenge-this is too hard. I can't do it. But the more they try, the better they get and I watch them with these proud smiles as they complete it.

This group has an affinity for puzzles. I actually just ordered some 100 piece ones for them to try. I think in addition to teaching them spatial reasoning that I am also teaching them grit. They prove to themselves that with hard work, it can be done.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Who Inspires Us?

More than anything I want my students to be inspired. I try to show them videos daily of people like the Olympians and Steve Jobs. I read them stories about historical figures-presidents, civil rights leaders. I also read stories about lesser known heroes like Tree Lady and Manfish (about Jacques Cousteau).

For our class book this month, I asked them to write about the person who inspires them. I was hoping to get more Rosa Parks and less unicorns-but they did a great job. 

Here's what they came up with:

Unicorns inspire me because they are beautiful.

My Dad inspires me because he is a good Dad.

This one broke my heart. He is one of my struggling readers. "Readers inspire me because they can read words good".

"A boxer inspires me because my Dad is teaching me how to box".

My sister inspires me because she is in 2nd Grade and I want to be in 2nd Grade.

DJ's inspire me because they make a lot of money.

Artists inspire me because I love to paint.

She is our music teacher. :) 

Baseball players inspire me because you play and catch.

Miss Trayers inspires me because she writes perfectly.

Pizza lady inspires me because she makes good pizza.

Eric Carle inspires me because his books make me happy.

Frida Kahlo inspires me because when she gets sad she paints it out.

Teachers inspire me because they make people smart.

Our art teacher.