Saturday, December 31, 2011

Snow! Snow! Snow!

Okay, the truth is that I teach in a very sunny city in California.  Having grown up here, I know that it snows once every ten years.  Of course, if you blink, you miss the snow.  However, most teachers here have a deep, down fascination with snow.  So each winter, we take time to create lots of art focusing on ... snow.  One year a teacher from _________ (an unnamed COLD state) told me that it made no sense to have our students make snowmen since it doesn't snow here.  (She didn't fall for the "it snows here every ten years, but don't blink" speech.)  I tried to explain that that is EXACTLY why we make snowmen and snowflakes and whatever else we can think of that is snow related.  But she didn't get it!  Hopefully you will!

I am posting PRIOR to making these projects with my class because otherwise I won't get around to telling you until the spring.  (Seriously, I have drafts of blog pages with pumpkin ideas and gingerbread ideas that I never quite finished and I would be WAY too embarrassed to post now so those blog pages will have to wait until the next school year to be posted.  Maybe I will post them in the summer and you all will be soooooo impressed with how organized I am!  Hah hah!)

Back to snow ...

1) Pattern Block Snowflakes:

Every year we make pattern block snowflakes.  This idea came from my teaching partner Marlene.  (THANKS Marlene!!!) To prep,  I use a pattern block template and copy all of the different pattern blocks onto white paper.  Then I get a helper (usually a middle school or high school student) to cut out the various pattern blocks.  For each child,  I cut a blue (either dark or light) 12" X 12" square and glue a white hexagon in the middle. (Last year I cut the blue paper into circles ahead of time because I had kinders and wanted to make their project different than the first grade project.)  Each student is to create a symmetrical snowflake using the white pattern blocks.  The hexagon in the middle gives them a base to build from.  These snowflakes always turn out beautiful (although a few are always .. well, interesting) and they make a great bulletin board display.  Plus this is really a math project!  I expect students to use the correct names of the shapes as they work.   Here is a link to the templates for the pattern blocks.

2) Quilt Square Snowflake:

I have a quilt square bulletin board in my classroom (see the picture above).  Each month, the children make a new quilt square. Last year we made snowflakes for January.   I get all of my quilt square ideas from TLC Art from The Quilt Book.  I gave my students the 8" X 8" dark blue square along with 3 light blue rectangles (about 7" X 1") and 5 white rectangles (about 1" X 2").  The children first glue on the light blue rectangles.  Then they cut all of the white rectangles in half and make squares.  Then they cut three of the squares in half to make triangles.  (Lots of geometry here!!!)  BUT you can have students create their own patterns for this also.

3)  Coffee Filter Snowflakes:

This is an idea from Pinterest.  Here is my sample.  To make this you fold a coffee filter into half, and then half again, and then half again.  If you have older students, you can fold even more.  Then the students cut triangles, half circles, etc on the folds.  I am going to tie math into this.  As we fold, we can talk about halves, fourths and eighths.  We can also talk about the shapes we are making .  "Hmmm ... I cut a triangle, but it turned into rhombus when I opened it, Why is that?"  (I heart math!!!!)

4)  Torn Paper Snowman: 

Years ago my sister gave me a card that had a flower made from torn paper.  It was so beautiful that I decided to have my students tear paper to create snowmen.  I love to do torn paper projects because it helps my perfectionists loosen up.  It is impossible for a torn paper project to be "perfect" so they learn to live with an imperfect project that is adorable.  I am a perfectionist with a capital P (What does that really mean?  "With a capital P"?  Well, it sounds impressive so I will use it.)  I sure wish I had teachers that nudged me to loosen up instead of asking for perfect pieces of art.  This is the only sample I could find - not a great sample, but you get the idea.  I have students begin by drawing three circles with a white crayon so they know where to glue their pieces.  (I think this child skipped that step!)

5)  Cutest Snowman EVER!!!!!
Here is my very favorite snowman ever - it is at the top left of my Pinterest board.  (With all of the controversy about clipart, I got nervous about posting anything that wasn't mine.)
Okay, this is an idea I haven't used yet, but because I think it is the cutest snowman ever so I plan to have my students create these snowmen.  We will start with dark blue paper and then use crayons to create them.  (Note to self: Find white crayons for the students to use.  Why don't ALL crayon boxes come with white crayons????)  This snowman is from Kathy Barbro's art blog, which I LOVE!  

Love to all,


Friday, December 30, 2011

Use Trash to Teach Inference

Now that  I have your attention, I want to tell you about a great professional book that I read.  (.. and I promise to tell you how to use trash to teach inference).

Here is the book:
Comprehension Connections Publisher: Heinemann
Comprehension Strategies

Here is why I LOVE this book:
This book ties in with the books Mosaic of Thought and Reading for Meaning.  The author (Tanny McGregor) gives a concrete way to teach each reading strategy.  For example, to teach "Determining Importance" Tanny brings in her purse (after censoring the contents a bit) and shows all of the items inside to the class.  She tells the class she is going jogging after school and can only carry a few items while she jogs so has to pick the most important.  Tanny has the students engage in conversations to determine which items she should carry with her and why.  Then in later determining importance lessons, the purse activity can be referred back to.  ("Remember when we decided which were the most important items in my purse?)  For each strategy, Tanny details several activities, not just one.  I love metaphors and this book is full of them!

I have used the beginning lessons in this book to reteach metacognition and plan to move on to schema in January.  My students LOVED the lessons on metacognition and each activity really seemed to build their understanding.  Parents even commented on what their children were coming home and telling them.  Hurrah!

This book has really made me think about my teaching.  It is so easy to teach concepts abtractly by just talking about them.  That is the quickest way to teach and the easiest way to plan.  But it doesn't lead to true understanding.  Reading this book has made me wonder how else I can use concrete activities to teach abstract concepts in EVERY subject.

For more ideas on bringing the concepts in this book to life, check out this website:
Reading Resource

Love to all,

P.S.  Using trash to teach inference:
Tanny brought in garbage that were supposedly from a new neighbor that she wanted to learn more about.  She gave each group a trash bag and asked them to tell her everything they could about her neighbors.  Students had to support each inference.  Can you imagine how fun this would be?!?!?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

11 in 11

Miss Kindergarten

Two of my favorite bloggers are having a party and we are all invited!  Thanks Kristin and Hadar for the invite!

I am a little nervous about this linky party because it may highlight to you all how dull and boring I am.  But I will gather up my courage and party anyway!

Camille's Eleven in 2011:

11. Favorite movie you watched:  
Hmmm ... I haven't seen any new movies (I told you I was boring!), but there is a Christmas movie that I watch every year because it has it all:  action, adventure, romance, Christmas music, humor plus it was my husband's favorite movie.  The movie (drumroll, please):  Die Hard.  Hey, since it takes place at Christmas, it qualifies as a Christmas movie, right?  Just don't let your children watch it!

10. Favorite TV series:
My all time favorite is Perry Mason.  In the summer it comes on at noon so I eat my lunch in front of the tv during the week.  (No Perry on weekends ... boo hoo!)  My new favorite is Drop Dead Diva.  I watched the first episode by accident and was hooked.  So, so, so funny plus so, so, so sweet.   I don't have cable so have to watch old episodes on Netflix.  

9. Favorite restaurant:
I love to eat and I love restaurants so there are many places I could name.  BUT of all the food in the world, I love Persian food the most.  So I would have to say the Persian restaurant two blocks from my house is my very favorite restaurant.  It is a small place with about four tables.  It is family run and the food is spectacular.  Plus it is located next to a tattoo parlor so my secret plan is when I am feeling wild and crazy, I can run next door and get my first tattoo.

8. Favorite new thing you tried:
Easy!!!!  My Smartboard!!!!!  I am in L.O.V.E.  We got them in just four days before vacation, but I started using it the moment it was installed.  I have so much to learn about using it, but know that it is going to be a powerful tool for teaching!  I already found a calendar and have it ready to go for next week.  (Oh,  my school got Smartboards because we won the Pepsi Challenge in the fall!  I thought it was such a longshot, but we came in first for the $25,000 grant.  Oh, yeah!!!!!)

7. Favorite gift you got:
An adorable living Christmas tree from the kinders in my class.  Too sweet!  They each made an ornament for the tree.  The parents told me that since the tree is living I would always have it to remember the kinders from this class.  How precious is that?!?

6. Favorite thing you pinned:
Well, it is not one item but how I finally got my Pinterest boards organized yesterday.  I originally had a board for each subject, but that wasn't working because my art board (and my math board and my science board and ...) was a disaster.  So I regrouped items into months.  That way I know I can find my items for Hundreds Day in February and my items for Thanksgiving in November.  Instead of having to look at each board every month to find appropriate pins, I only have to look at the board for that month.   (I still have some work to do on previous months, but I have the future months ready to go!)

5. Favorite blog post:
Kristin's Halloween post!!  It is a classic!  If academy awards were given for blog posts, this one would sweep every category!  If you haven't read it, you need to stop reading my drivel and RUN to her blog and read it.  Trust me! 

Now that you have read Kristen's Halloween post, I am supposed to name one of my own posts.  I am thinking it would be my Ocean in the Classroom post because it brings back great memories of the fun my class had studying the ocean last spring.  But it is not at all funny like Kristin's Halloween post.

4. Best accomplishment:
Does survival count?  (See number 3 to understand why survival was HUGE for me.)

3. Favorite picture:
So this is going to be deep (at least for me) and it ties in with survival.  This photo is of the Valentine's Day party that I hosted in 2011.  I invited about 15 women to my house for dinner on Valentine's Day.  (I am not posting pictures of the women since I don't have their permission.  You are stuck with a picture of some of the food.  Everyone had to bring a red food.  Sounds yucky, but it was great!)  This was my first Valentine's Day without my husband (he died in a biking accident on Labor Day 2010) and I wasn't sure I would survive the day.  So I invited other women who were "dateless" for a variety of reasons ( recently widowed, divorced, breakup).  You know how you always hear that a good way to fight depression is to help others?  Well, in this case it turned out to be true.  I am the WORST hostess in the world, I HATE having people over.  But I took a deep breath and invited everyone that I thought might be having a hard time being single on Valentine's Day and everyone that I invited came!!!  There were smiles and laughs filling my house.  (I was mostly quiet, but bringing joy to others brought me joy.)

2. Favorite memory:
Having Thanksgiving dinner with my dad and sister Colleen in Oregon.  We had not planned to be together because Colleen and I live in California and didn't have much time off.  Then my dad had a stroke 10 days before Thanksgiving and it was unclear if he would survive.  (Side note:  He survived and is thriving!!!)  So the three of us ate Thanksgiving dinner at a care facility where my dad was staying while he underwent rehab for his stroke.  It was definitely not the Thanksgiving setting of anyone's dreams and yet it was so wonderful because we were together and my dad was improving!!
I am going to cheat and add a photo of our Thanksgiving.  We all are looking a little grubby, but the joy on our faces is obvious!  (I am the one in the striped shirt that makes me look like I need to loose even more than 15 pounds!!!)

1. Goals for 2012:
*** personal ... to eat healthier, work out and lose 15 pounds  (This may sound lofty, but my dad's stroke and  rehab really made me think about being healthy)
*** professional ... to put the children's best interests first even if it means I ruffle a few feathers of other staff members (I am a total people pleaser so this is actually a harder goal than the personal one)

Whew!  I feel like I just finished an hour of therapy!  Writing all of this was very therapeutic for me - hopefully it was interesting / engaging / insightful for you.

Love to you all!


Monday, December 26, 2011

... and the award goes to ...

As 2011 nears an end, Fern has asked us to look at our three most viewed posts.  Great time for reflecting!

Drumroll please!

Here are my top three:

Seriously?!?  Paper plate frisbees?  Too funny!!  I think the lesson learned (remember, I said it was a great time for reflection) is I linked my frisbee post to a very popular linky party.  Lesson learned!

I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and are having a wonderful day after Christmas!

Love to all!


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I would like to wish all of my dear bloggets a VERY Merry Christmas! May you all have a day filled with joy! Much love to you my friends.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

You Can Pin Me!

I just found out how to put a "Pin It" button at the bottom of each of my posts. Do you see it down there at the bottom? (I will pause my typing to give you a chance to look.) How cool is that? Of course, there is nothing to pin on my posts, which means I need to become Miss Super Blogger and start to add pictures to my posts. Great incentive!

Thank you to Mrs. Johnson (Hey- that's my name!) from Mrs. Johnson's First Grade (wait ... that's my grade, too!) for pointing me in the right direction to learn to add a "Pin It" button!

Thank you to the brilliant Julie Ann at Julie Ann Art for showing us step by step how to do this. THANK YOU!!

If you want to learn how to add a "Pin It" button, just click here.

Now I am off to add some things to my blog that are pinworthy!

Love to all,

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Moose on the Loose

After reading several blogs about the Elf on the Shelf, I went to Target to buy one. But I started to reconsider when I saw the price tag: $30!!!!!!! This was for a really cute elf and a book that introduces the elf. I didn't like the book so decided to change things up a bit. (I LOVE Santa and his elves, but the idea of an elf watching me to see if I am naughty or nice gives me the creeps. I think it has to do with the movie "Chucky". All about an evil, murderous doll. Note to self: No more horror movies!)

Anyway, I found an adorable stuffed moose for $5. The moose doesn't scare me at all! He is decorated in red and green so looks Christmasy. I am going to put him in a box in the freezer so that I can tell my students he came from the North Pole. Then each morning the moose will be found in a different place in the classroom. He will have a new note each day encouraging the children to be kind, patient, etc. I got the ideas for the notes from Kerri's sweet Magic Elf unit, which is all about the true meaning of Christmas. I changed up her notes so that they came from a moose.

I think my kiddos will love this! I have six of the same students this year so love doing things we didn't do last year.

Love to all,