Sunday, November 30, 2008

Not Too Late To Remember Great Turkey Moments from 2008

As Thanksgiving approached this year, Patti and I discussed creating some new materials. During our discussion and while listening to all of the great ideas that Patti had, I decided to let her run the show. I invited her to put together two different lessons that pertained to actual turkeys. When she had all of her materials prepared and had prepared a lesson plan I asked her to present the materials to me. I was very impressed. I promised to provide her the opportunity to present her materials to the class.

Patti's first lesson was on the different types of turkeys - there are eight. She made a wonderful set of matching cards. During her presentation she gave much information about the bird which was almost made the bird to represent the United States. Eagle vs Turkey. We all know which bird won (Eagle).

Her second presentation, given a few days later, was on turkey feathers and on different ways that they are used: in a headress, to write with and for Big Bird's yellow costume. Actually, we were all surprised to hear that it takes over 4,000 dyed turkey feathers to create one of Big Bird's costumes.

After Patti gave her lesson on feather usage, which she also made illustrated cards of for the children to view, she put out a tray of feathers and some paper and let the children create something themselves. Several feathered crowns were made and a few other works of art. See below:

Great job Patti. The children used the matching cards again and again. Although this holiday has past it will return again next year. Patti's materials will also return to the shelves. Her next big project is creating classification cards for the human heart to be used in February. Hmmm what holiday would those be for...

Monday, November 24, 2008

So I Had Planned This Lesson But A Child Ask to Present Her Lesson Instead and So I Just Sat Back and Took Photos

Not often, but every now and then, I get bumped in the que of lesson giving. Today, was one of those times. First, Patti gave a wonderful presentation on Turkeys. She asked the students to guess how many types of turkeys there are. The answer was eight. She made in advance a wonderful set of matching cards using images of the eight types of turkeys. She did a great job making the cards and presenting them to the children. They were immediately used after her lesson.

I had planned on presenting a lesson to the older children on making potholders using a metal frame, cloth loops and a small hook. When I placed the materials on the floor in front of me, Zoe, a kindergarten student, declared she was familiar with the materials but used them not for making potholders but to finger knit scarves and other items.

I told her that I had planned a lesson on making potholders and that when I was finished giving my lesson she could give one of her own on finger knitting. She answered stating, "Miss Dyer, you always present lessons first. Can't I go first this time." I immediately felt a calmness come over me as I knew what I had to do. "I invite you to present your lesson first, Zoe. I will do mine after." She grinned at me from ear to ear and began demonstrating and teaching the other children how to use the cloth loops to finger knit. Soon, Meaghan got the hang of it and before I knew it had the beginnings of a scarf stretched across her hand.

Zoe was patiently attempting to assist all of the children learn her lesson. She was so patient and so good at verbally describing which steps to do next. I heard her say, "Don'think about making a scarf today. Think about learning the steps, teaching your hand." Wow!

By the time the morning bell rang, all of the cloth loops were used.

The head of my school bought some more later on in the day. By tomorrow at least two children - Meaghan and Zoe, will leave my class with homemade scarves wrapped around them.

Today Patti and I saw a small, independent group of children share knowledge and abilites. It was a pretty impressive sight. My only question is whether or not Zoe or Meaghan will find time to teach me how to finger knit. "May I have a lesson, please."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Take a Moment to Rest, Relax, Contemplate, Meditate and then Return to the Work

I was recently asked if there was a place in my classroom that a child might rest. I walked through my classroom the other day and made a mental list which I am now going to note below.

Children may go to the library to read a book, hug a bear (Henry is a small, stuffed bear that stays in the library along with our pet fish, Audrey)

or look at one of the photographs hanging on the wall or sit quietly.


Children may put their name cards out on work they have been concentrating on to walk quietly on the line. After a few times around, the child simply returns to his work ready to have a second go at it.


Children may sit at the Peace Table and draw designs in the sand with the small rake provided or sit quietly.


Children may use markers or colored pencils to draw a picture of their choice (however the number of sheets of paper allowed for drawing is limited to two).

The above picture is titled, "Halloween Hairdos."


They may also have snack by themselves, if no one else is wanting to have snack, or with another child.

This simple snack of cereal and milk is one of the most popular.


Children may get out the yoga cards and meditation rug so as to either do some poses or to simply rest with a scented eye pillow placed carefully on their face. Children mediating may not be disturbed by other children. No food is offered and there are no observers. Over the years, several children have actually fallen asleep while doing this. It is most often used when the class is a little loud or busy, or just before a holiday.


Collectively, all of the children and the adults play the bell game often. Here the child tries not to ring the bell as they walk across the rug from their spot to the spot of another child. The other child is given the bell by the first so that they may carry it to the next child. This is one of the Silent Activities in my album. It is very calming and centering for both the children and the adults.


The children also have 45 minutes - 1 hour outdoor, playground time everyday - weather permitting.

That looks like a pretty good list. Patti and I have often noted a child who has taken a moment to stretch, read a book, have snack or do yoga returns to their work with a renewed sense of commitment and focus.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Using An Art Pallet To Mix Colors

The primary color mixing materials are in an almost constant state of use in my classroom. The three and four year olds seem to never tire of seeing blue and yellow make green, and yellow and red make orange, etc.

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a lesson on the parts of a paintbrush and followed it immediately with a lesson on how to clean a paintbrush. (Next post) I also gave an introductory lesson on how to use an art pallet to combine primary colors. The word "pallet" sounds so good when three and four year olds say it. The results have been a complete success. I will add a fourth color after Thanksgiving. Here are some photos of the children at work:

Note the jar with soapy water. Earlier, the student put a few drops of dish soap in the jar. They next used the pitcher to pour water in to make suds. The heads of the dirty paintbrushes are placed in the sudsy water to soak before being cleaned.

The work above and below was done by second year, four year old students. The painting above has a blue river running across it. The door is purple, although hard to see in the photo. Also, the flowers are outlined in a shade of green. The picture below shows wonderful use of both the primary and secondary colors.


The work below was done by a first year, three year old. He looks so serious. He worked on his painting for more than half an hour. Wow!

Above: Note that the young painter limited the use of most of the paint to the paper and not to the table - well not much. It is really a masterpiece!

Super Easy Play-doh Recipe

I was taken with the play-doh recipe posted at Montessori by Hand last year. It has been a staple in my EPL area since last winter. Actually, it took up quite a bit of space. Last week, I attended a workshop titled "Beyond Maps and Magnets" and instantly decided to switch to their method of making play-doh. I'm can be fickle and this is my proof.

The next day, I removed most of the materials and simplified the means of completing the work. I cut the use of space for this singular work in half. The biggest change was removing the bowl. It is no longer needed.

The recipe for this play-doh is 2-1-1. What every you use to measure - an actual measuring cup, a small cup or an empty baby food jar, simply put 2 parts flour, 1 part salt and 1 part water (add more water as needed). I used a baby cup that had a handle - therefore I filled the cup once with flour, once with salt and once with water. Note: Do not add all the water at once. Pour in half and then add more gradually as needed. Add a drop or two of green food coloring or a color of your liking. After each ingredient was measured I poured it directly into a sealable plastic bag.

The next part is great for strenghtening the hands and fingers. The child seals the bag and then smushes and squeezes it with their hands until it is pretty much mixed together. Next, the child empties the contents of the plastic bag on to a slightly floured cutting board or sheet of plastic / placemat for use. When I presented the lesson I pointed out that it would not be possible to remove every bit of the play-doh from the baggie as a small amount will remain stuck to the inside of the bag. It was so simple to present and so easy for the children to make.

Above - the first few steps of making the play-doh

Above - I added the salt to the flour in the baggie and added a few drops of green food coloring. After sealing the bag, I squeezed and smashed the enclosed ingredients until I could feel the play-doh form.

Above - a little flour dusted on the cutting board the children use to work with the play-doh.

Above - The play-doh is ready to be made into a bowl, a snake or whatever one's hands crave to make.

When I presented the lesson one of the children immediately noted that I had not brought the bowl to the table. I told her that I had a surprise. I put all of the ingredients into the baggie. The same child suddenly blurted out, "The baggie is the bowl." I smiled and told her that she had figured out my secret. I love to hear the children laugh.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Finally Flowers

We have been going through a dry spell of flower donations for the classroom. That is until last Thursday. Our youngest student brought in a large bouquet of yellow carnations. As soon as I found the right moment, I presented /re-presented flower arranging to the class. As this has always been a favorite work, the children were anxious to fill small vases with cut carnations. I added one new element to the presentation. I demonstrated how to place small, smooth, glass stones into the vases so as to rest at the bottom. The children seemed to really enjoy using this new detail in their floral designs.

I am always captivated by a working child who remembers to do each step of the lesson. Yesterday, I watched as a child measured the stems, cut them in the water, re-measured them, filled a vase with flowers, used the small tongs to pick the cut stem pieces from the water, used the sponge to wipe the placemat and returned all of the materials correctly to the tray. Looking back at these pictures and seeing her measure the flowers up against the small vase before she cut them and after she cut them speaks volumes about children and their work. Watching a child so focused on the details is mesmerizing:

A Zen Moment

I have a very fond memory of flower arranging work from my first classroom. A young girl brought to school a lovely bundle of tulips. It was Spring and tulips were for sale everywhere. The flowers were beautiful. I had my assistant put them in the container used to hold flowers designated for arranging. Moments later, I heard a sharp cry. I looked over and saw the tulip heads scattered on the floor. We had another child in the class who was going through a period of random scissor cutting. She had decapitated the tulips.

The child who had brought them in was devastated. She stood there, tears running down her face, with her apron on ready to do the work. All seemed lost. I asked my assistant to remove the stems so the child would not be reminded of the tragedy.

The day passed. During which I became so busy that I forgot about the head-less tulips. After all of the children left for the day, something caught my eye. If I ever have had what is called a Zen moment...this would be it or at least one of them. Vases filled with a single, long tulip stem were placed throughout the room. She had done the work using the stems alone. It was so simple and so elegant that tears came to my eyes. I had never seen anything so beautiful done by a child. Remember this was my first year as a lead teacher.

My assistant returned from a task she had left the room to complete. I asked her about the tulip stems. She immediately apologized and said she had gotten so busy that she forgot to throw them out. I told her how grateful I was and pointed out the vases sitting on their crocheted doilies. She lifted her hand and covered her mouth. It was that emotionally moving. It reminds me now of that favorite saying,"Less is More."

I remember that night thinking about the work and how I had seen this child busy and that she had even smiled at me. I was giving the first presentation on the bank game and was pretty much glued to the same spot for most of the morning. I hold on to this story and so many more as they are my touchstones...