Thursday, March 16, 2017

Pigeon and Duckling Craft Patterns

When you're blessed with an awesome student teacher like I am, you might find yourself with a few extra minutes on your hands, just... watching.



... reflecting on your own memories of growing into an effective teacher.

And if your student teacher is as thoroughly capable as mine, you'll probably end up twiddling your thumbs, careful to not interfere with the rhythm of learning that's occurring in front of you.

I'm not a terribly good thumb-twiddler.  My hands have to stay busy, so I created a craft pattern, all within range and earshot of my student teacher and our Super Stars.

Our letter of the week after spring break will be "W," so of course we'll be enjoying lots of books by one of our favorite authors and illustrators, Mo Willems!

Hello, Pigeon and Duckling!

You can find the patterns for these fun characters at my TPT Store.  I suggest printing them onto cardstock which is thicker and easier to trace around.  They'd certainly be fun bulletin board decor, writing prompts, and author study crafts!

Do your students have a favorite Mo Willems book?


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Celebrating Seuss

Our painted truffula trees and construction paper cats-in-hats will greet our guest readers this week as we celebrate Dr. Seuss and our love of reading!

Click here for my blog post about our truffula trees, and click here for a cats-in-hats tutorial!


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Painting Truffula Trees

This week the Stars painted truffula trees so that our hallway bulletin boards will be decorated in time for our guest readers during Read Across America and our celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthay!

I preassembled the background and frame, using 9 X 12 sky blue construction paper, backed by 10 X 13 white and 11 X 14 black paper.

Students wrote their names in the lower right-hand corner and then chose their truffula tree color from orange, red, and yellow tempera paint.  They painted a circle onto the sky blue paper:

... and filled it in.  The brush strokes helped give the truffula tree top a fluffy, textural look:

Using a thin brush, students then added a black tree trunk, letting the brush move this way and that, stopping right before meeting the edge of the blue paper:

It looks like a balloon, doesn't it?

After letting the tree top and trunk dry...

... the Stars painted white stripes onto the trunk using a Sharpie paint marker:

... and dabbed some green grass at the base of the blue paper.

Once our bulletin board is finished, I'll share it here on the blog for you to see!


It's almost time for the annual wearing-of-the-Sneetch-shirt!  Click here to be taken to the tutorial.


Monday, January 16, 2017

In January, Why Not...

... add bubble wrap to a painting activity?

(Can you tell which story inspired this month's art?)

... recycle plastic milk bottles and caps to make frosty friends?

... and learn about the life, goals, and dreams of a very special American?

Happy January!

Monday, January 02, 2017

Ed. Resource Publishers, We're Navigating This Election Minefield Too

It was interesting finding an email waiting for me this morning from a curricular resource I love to use, addressing how they provide age-appropriate election information to my kindergarten students. I have never before received this type of explanatory communication either via email or included with the materials utilized at school. "We think long and hard about what is appropriate for young learners" was part of the sender's message, which also included the resource's learning goal that students be able to understand, identify and express: "1) that in our country, we elect a President, 2) the name of the current President, and 3) the many jobs of the President."  Definitely age appropriate, and illustrative of why I've been a long-term subscriber.

The content of the message was vaguely interesting in that it verified my assumption that two inauguration issues are prepped each election cycle, with only the correct issue printed and distributed once election results are finalized. The possible reason behind the email is what I find notable: curricularly, much about our President-Elect isn't appropriate content for inclusion in resources marketed to elementary schools and young children. The publisher, trying to ensure that teachers don't worry about the inauguration issue, or consider not renewing their subscription in the spring, is telling.

Veteran teachers are likely experienced enough to know how to teach kindergartners about the job and histories of the presidents of our country. Quite a bit of readily available age-appropriate presidential curriculum includes character traits of presidents such as Washington and Lincoln (honest and caring, fair and brave), stories to enjoy, and crafts we often do in February or in January of election years. My students have many opportunities to express their likes and dislikes, and vote for preferred learning activities, validating their right to feel the way they do and to express their tastes and opinions. They've been learning what fairness means, and are encouraged to be safe, kind, and helpful. Young children face and survive disappointments both big and small, building the resilience of which many adults often forget we're capable.

The President of the United States when I was in kindergarten was Richard Nixon of whom I knew nothing about, thanks to my age, my mother's discretion, a notable lack of media saturation, and the distinction between adults and children in society: kids were protected from and generally uninvolved (and uninterested, to be honest) with the political world. As I grew, I wondered why President Ford tripped and fell so often, and liked President Carter because he was a peanut farmer: I loved peanuts on my tin roof sundae from Farrell's Ice Cream Store. I was living in Barrow, Alaska when a man tried to kill President Reagan, and I remember how my sixth grade teacher cancelled our learning activities for the afternoon, having me and my classmates rest our heads on our desks while he listened to my mini-radio.

In my youth, I was allowed to be a kid and build the necessary social, behavioral and academic schema that made it possible for me to become at the very least, a contributing member to our society.  As a teacher of young children, I purposely design my classroom to be a respite from the information overload, sensationalized, entertainment-as-news environment to which many of them are exposed, in an attempt to separate the curricular wheat from the chaff and meet their needs.  I did not/will not show my students news footage of 9-11.  I encouraged families to wait to listen to news reports after bedtime or when my students were at school with me after 9-11 and Sandy Hook.  After this blog post in 2009, I never thought I'd have to consider whether it would be appropriate to watch a presidential inauguration in real time with my students, but... here we are.  Unlike my own kindergarten experience all those years ago, it's quite possible that many of my five and six year old students already have a significant opinion of our President-Elect because of their exposure to content experienced away from school.  Much of that content is shared and delivered widely without regard to an audience that now includes a large proportion of children, and many students unnecessarily parrot and worry about both political facts and propaganda.

Education content publishers, we're navigating this election minefield too.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Kindergarten in December

Friday was our last day of kindergarten until 2017, and like many of you, December was such a busy month for me and my Super Stars that I'm only now able to share some photos.  I spent Saturday vegging out (my brain was able to do little else, really), and yesterday *finally* putting up our Christmas decor at home.

Needing to clean up my laptop, I came across photos of some of the December fun we enjoyed in kindergarten- take a peek!

End of the quarter assessments were completed little by little each day, but we very much wanted to decorate for Christmas!  Tearing red, white, and green paper to create candy canes was a fun fine motor activity during center time.

We reviewed plane shapes while creating classroom decor...

... and AB patterns with paper chains as we counted down the days to Christmas.

What would December be without one of our favorite story characters, or frankly, MANY Grinches, arranged into a Grinchmas tree?

Rudolph, with your nose so bright, won't you guide my sleigh tonight?  These crafts helped us to attend to, remember, and create as we followed directions in sequence.  We also strengthened our finger muscles by ripping paper for Santa's beard.

Graham cracker "gingerbread" house construction was a tasty STEM activity...

... and we made some snowy friends that will greet us when we return to school in January!


Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Best Wishes for a Joyous New Year!


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Repost: Children Can Emulate Native Americans Without Adults Screaming "RACISM." Here's Why...

This post was originally published last year and is worth sharing again as the debate regarding costumes and cultural appropriation make their annual appearance prior to many schools' Thanksgiving plays and feasts.


After reading through a debate regarding a parent's complaint about pre-k students making construction paper feather headbands in November, I came across this post at Education World, "Are You Teaching the 'Real' Story of the 'First Thanksgiving?'"  The article and debate made me realize how lucky I am to have been brought up the way I was as the child of  both native and non-native parents.
Born in Kentucky and raised for the first ten years of my life in Texas, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be immersed in Inupiat culture, and live for over two decades in a state where Native peoples' values, history, songs, beliefs, mythology, subsistence lifestyle, and art aren't merely on display for one month out of the year: Alaska.  I learned about the good, the bad, the historical cruelties suffered by, and remarkable achievements of Indigenous Peoples. I have been a witness to the prejudices that remain and feel pride in the accomplishments and contributions of my Native family and friends today. Endurance, strength, resilience, community, love for family, pride, skill and artistry are all traits worthy of being shared, respected, and celebrated, no matter a person's ethnic or cultural background. 
To develop empathy, children must be encouraged to walk a mile in another's shoes, to imagine how they might feel when meeting strangers for the first time, when deciding who and HOW to trust. Young children try on the clothing and garb of others every day, from their mom's high heels to their dad's Army cap, to sister's riding boots and brother's varsity jacket, developing their personal identity by trying on the markers of others.  They also emulate family members, friends, sports heroes, celebrated musicians, actors, historical figures, community helpers and those blessed with a special talent or gift.
Can children create feathered headbands without the kitsch or racist connotations that instantly pop into their parents' minds upon viewing? Absolutely, but it's up to the teacher to share culturally relevant and accurate information about the earning of feathers (or wearing of a blanket, mask, or story belt) with students AND families.  It's also a family's responsibility to try to understand the intentions behind a lesson or activity before rushing to judgment and labeling a teacher as racist or insensitive.  Do I find it offensive if children emulate respected chiefs, warriors, healers, or shamans, just as they do ballerinas, astronauts, painters, singers, veterinarians, or teachers?  No.  Just as teachers, family and society expose children to other professions and roles worthy of respect through literature, history lessons, field trips, guest speakers, arts and crafts, so too can we teach children about Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples.  Native AND non-Native teachers need quality non-fiction materials and resources, or know how and where to find them. It's also up to teachers and parents to be aware of what's not only culturally sensitive, but developmentally appropriate for young children. 
Three, four, five and six year olds do not need to be exposed to and master the vocabulary of genocide because of the gut reaction of the adults around them. Rather, children should be gently guided as they broaden the scope of their universe from their immediate selves and family to their neighborhood, community, state, nation, and world.