Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Holiday Happenings, Ornaments and Playful Learning

While we were having our Gingerbread Man adventures the you read about in the last post, we were also having some other holiday fun!

The kids drew and cut out an evergreen and decorated it with buttons. 

Some kindness elves visited us and encouraged us to spread kindness everywhere we went!

Story-telling and writing were encouraged in our block area. 

They created an observational drawing of these beautiful poinsettias. 

We also created gifts for our families. The kids used glass, white balls and colorful sharpie markers to create one-of-a-kind ornaments. Each one was beautiful and unique! 

They also decorated some glass jar rings with jewels, then added their picture to the middle. 

They created Christmas inspired art.

Not everything going on in our room was Holiday inspired! Below you will see many of the things that they explored and learning that took place during their play! 

They created art using rocks.

They explored how to make sound in different ways. 

They explored the qualities of two and three dimentional shapes using many different mediums. 

They explored the concept of addition as adding more to a group to create a larger number. 

They explored the concept of teens being a group of ten with some extra ones. 

They have also been working hard on writing their numbers from 1-20 and from 1-100!

The kids dragged out our scale and rulers with a renewed interest in measuring. 

They have been working on reading sight words quickly,

and matching pictures to the correct letters. 

Even the Engineering Area had some literacy going on!

Of coarse we also have small guided reading groups going on! They are becoming quite the readers! 

There are so many more learning moments that have happened but this post is already plenty long! I am so proud of all of these kids! They have learning moments happening all day long! Enjoy every moment of the last few days of this year everyone!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Our Gingerbread Man Adventure: How Christmas Magic Encouraged 21st Century Skills

Every year Our class gets a visit from the Gingerbread Man! First I read a couple versions of this favorite folk tale and then Gingy makes an appearance.  He is always instantly loved by all! The kids read to him and play with him whenever possible. These friends even made a balance beam/phone system for him at the Engineering table!

Some kids created friends for him and wrote notes. The one below says, "Hi friends. How are you? I am happy to see you." This was just the beginning of all the writing that would take place!

The kids enjoyed his company so much until one day he dissappeared!  This time we were surprised by a message on our promethium board that said, "Run, run as fast as you can! You can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread Man!" Immediately the kids start thinking of ways to catch him! Their first idea was to create missing posters. We looked on the Internet at "Lost pet" posters to get an idea of what they should look like and what they should say. We made a giant one together and then the kids each wrote their own LOST or MISSING poster and taped them all over the school! They worked because every class that passed us in the hallway let us know they were keeping their eyes open for Gingy! These posters spread the magic and excitement all over out school! I'm sure the other teachers loved me for that! 

The next day, the security cameras picked up this! 

We noticed he had a friend! Now they really wanted to catch them! We created a new poster and put it by the office. 

They worked together in teams to create traps to catch them! They needed to use higher level thinking skills to create traps that could actually work! I was very proud of how well they worked together to problem solve when their traps wouldn't work as planned. They were very persistent and refused to give up! Persistence is a quality that is needed in order to be successful in everything they do in their future so we try to provide many opportunities for children to create, test it out, fail, and try again. We want them to realize that failure isn't the end! It is only part of the process to succeed! (We encourage this attitude to cross over in areas of academics also. If a child doesn't know all of their letters yet, but they have persistence, they will not give up until they do! Especially if they have reading as a goal in their mind!) When all the traps were finished, we set them up and left for the day!

When we came back the next morning, the traps were all down with notes in each that said, " Ha ha hee hee you you can't catch catch me!" I loved listening to the kids trying to figure out what the notes said! True reading for a purpose! Not one even thought to bring it to me to ask what the notes said! The security cameras also caught them runnin through the downstairs hallways again!

One friend came up with another idea! Let's create a bakery with yummy things to lure him into our room! We got right to work! 

We brought in some mortars and pestles with whole spices for the kids to grind up in the bakery to create lovely smells in our room of cloves, cinnamon and anise! The kids really worked their finger and hand muscles as they ground them up! They thought the smell may lure our gingerbread men back! 

We checked our bakery multiple times and no gingerbread men were in sight! Finally, while we were working on a Christmas tree craft together, one friend went into the bakery to check and guess who was there! Both Gingy and his friend Mingy! The kids were so excited! I'll bet the whole school heard them shouting! They promised never to run away again and the kids enjoyed them until the last day before break. They knew Santa was picking up his little friends when he came to my house Christmas Eve. They each gave them both tight hugs and kisses before we left. 

We celebrated right before Winter Break by creating our own Gingerbread Men for us to eat! No cookie cutters were used! Only their imaginations and their hands! They turned out adorable! Of coarse they ran away but Mrs. Coberly was able to trick them back into the oven so that they finished cooking!

do this every year because I love their belief in all things magical. I love to celebrate this quality in children. I think even us adults need to just believe in magical moments and look at these moments through the eyes of children! 

Also, the authentic reading and writing that comes from this amazes me every year! I never have to tell the kids they have to write! They purposely write and create the missing posters, plus write their own little notes begging Gingy to come back and tape them all over the room and the hallways!  The signs below say "Gingy Why do you go?" "Trap for Gingy" and "Ha ha hee hee we CAN catch you!" 

They all want to retell  stories about the Gingerbread Man in which they create stories with a beginning, middle and ending, and  a problem and solution! They also have to think about the characters and the setting when they write these gingerbread stories.  Usually they write 3 page stories but most of these ended up being 6 pages or more!

I also love the natural way they start using 21st Century Skills when trying to figure out how to catch the missing Gingy! Problem solving, persistence, collaboration, critical thinking, creative thinking, and communication all were being used as they came up with plans to catch him and then carried the plans out! Even when kids are struggling with the academic side of kindergarten, if they learn these skills, the academic piece will follow! 

It makes for a crazy and loud couple of weeks, but the magic and authentic use of skills make all of the craziness worth it! I hope you all have a happy holiday season!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

From Trash To Chihuly: Building 21st Century Skills Through Art In The Classroom

It all started with a field trip to the local trash dump and recycling center.  The kids saw so much trash and recyclables in the dumping area. The workers were letting us know that we needed to help by reducing, reusing and recycling. They let us know that we were the solution the our worlds trash problem! When we got back to school, we discussed how we could help here in our classroom. We recycle paper and decided we needed to be diligent in continuing that.  They became very intrigued by the thought of reusing or repurposing "clean" trash such as boxes and bottles, etc.  I asked them what they thought they could make out of trash. They thought art and instruments would be fun! That didn't surprise me as I have a large group that is very much into abstract art. 

We started out by using paper tubes to create individual art pieces. They created art by dipping the tubes in white paint and then coloring them in with pastels. 

I layed out a provocation of paper tubes, glue and scissors to see what art they could create collaboratively out of this trash! They built up fine motor muscles by cutting the thick cardboard! 

After they filled it up we spray painted it together. 

Of coarse, they asked if they could add glitter since glitter makes everything more beautiful!

They truly did create beauty out of trash! What a beautiful piece of collaborative art! 

At one point, one of my little friends asked about an art piece created by a past class of mine that is hanging in our room. 

He asked if that was made out of trash. I told him it was made out of plastic cups and was inspired by an artist named Chihuly. I asked if he wanted to see a picture of the inspiration. Here it is. 

Of course, other kids started coming to look at it so I put it on the promethium board. They saw other pictures of his art on google images and soon one yelled out, "We could make those! Could we make those out of trash?" Absolutely we can...and our Chihuly Inquiry was born. That very first experience already started inspiring some of my little friends to create! 

First we had to learn about Chihuly and how he creates his art. 

To investigate and dig deeper, we watched some videos to learn more about Chihuly. They were so fascinated they would not let me fast forward through any parts! 

They learned that he melts sand into a thick liquid and picks it up with a metal pipe, blows into it and spins it to create beautiful glass sculptures. Some are individuals such these macchias,

and some he connects together to create larger sculptures like these. 

We collected trash to create with since that was our initial focus.  We needed water bottles since we couldn't safely blow glass (though they wanted to try) and something for the macchias. I had some filters that had water color spilled on part of them so they had a pink blob on the side. We had read a story earlier called "Beautiful Oops." We felt that instead of throwing them away we could use the blob as a "beautiful oops" and work around it to create something beautiful such as Chihuly inspired macchias! 
The kids were able to be creative as they created designs on the filters with water based crayola markers. 

We layed them over a cup and sprayed them with starch. 

These macchias turned out so beautiful! I don't know if I will ever be able to send them home! 

The kids were also painting water bottles with acrylic paint to create our large scale collaborative art project. We needed a lot of bottles so this took a lot of time and patience on all of our parts! 

I cut the spirals in the bottles for them and they wired the bottles to embroidery hoops. We used a very strong floral wire so they had a really good workout to help develop their fine motor muscles. 

After attaching the hoops together it started to grow...

and grow...

and grow! Here is our finished Chihuly inspired chandelier. This was inspired by his Fireworks Chandelier hanging at the Indianappolis Children's Museum. I recommend going to see it! It is his largest chandelier sculpture with over 3000 glass pieces. They also have a glass Macchia ceiling the kids (and you) would love to see! 

Some kids brought in some bottles that were too stiff to cut so I showed them this sculpture and asked it they wanted to create something similar. The balls are made out of crumpled up old scholastic order forms wrapped in masking tape to keep with our "Creating Beauty Out Of Trash" theme. The bowl was getting ready to go to Good Will but we thought it would work well for this sculpture. Can you see the similarities? 

Mrs. Garrabrant had a beautiful book all about Chihuly and his art. After reading it, we found out that after he injured his eye, he started painting! This was a whole new inspiration for them! His art was very abstract and process oriented. He threw and squirted paint, he experienced all mediums such as pencil, charcoal, oil pastel and then fell in love with liquid acrylics. The kids were fascinated and it made me realize they really have a love for abstract art! Here are some of Chihulies paintings.

We couldn't throw paint or squirt it in our room like Chihuly so I gave them dish brushes and crumpled paper so that they had new ways to enjoy the process of creating and make some textured background for their paintings. 

I have some photos of their finished paintings hanging in our hallway below. 

Many of the kids also started creating coffee table books of Chihuly's Art after looking at the one Mrs. Garrabrant let us borrow. Here is an example of one book showing the cover and pictures on each page. 

The kids also wrote about Chiluly. The one below is showing Chihuly holding the blowing pipe with melted glass at the end of it. It looks like he is making a Macchia!

I loved the pictures of Chihuly they drew with this writing assignment. 

They even brought Chihuly into their play!

The kids used the computer to pick their favorite piece of art created by Chihuly. They wrote their opinion on why they felt the art piece they chose was the most beautiful piece he created. They were not allowed to just say "because it's pretty." They had to think deeper and use their critical thinking skills and write WHY they thought it was pretty. 

We displayed documentation of our inquiry, showing our journey and the projects we created. 

This was such a fun inquiry! I had never done such an in depth artist study with Kindergartners before! I loved listening to the vocabulary they developed and used as they discussed Chihuly and his art with each other! I loved listening as they grabbed kids from other classes as they walked by and showed them our cChihuly gallery and told them about it. I loved when one grabbed a teacher and showed her their opinion pieces and then asked her, "So what is your favorite Chihuly piece?" It's hard to believe all of this beauty, vocabulary, and creativity all began with a trip to the dump...