Monday, March 29, 2010

what I learned from my grandma

I am really lucky because I had the two most amazing grandmothers who had long, interesting lives and left a legacy of creativity. On my mother's side, my grandmother was a quilter, a master of crochet, a story teller, maker of the culinary delight called chocolate fried pie, and keeper of the best button box in the world. The quilts that my granny made for me are some of my most prized possessions. They are warm and comforting and make me feel better than any pain medication or antibiotic ever can.

On my dad's side, my grandmother was an artist. Not only did she paint beautiful oils, and acrylics and watercolors, but she lived her art. Going to her house was always like opening a treasure box. A table with some sea glass and driftwood she found on the shore of Lake Michigan. A flower arrangement gathered from her amazing garden with some wild additions she picked up along the roadside. Little brain teaser games on the coffee table. My brother and I had free rein to pull out kitchen drawers and whip up imaginary delights. I was allowed to go in the closet and take down the box of Christmas ornaments to sort and play with even if it was the middle of August. Our friends were invited over to help us make a house out of sugar cubes glued together with confectioner's sugar and food color. We could climb under the tablecloth and put on a puppet show. We were given some wood and nails and encouraged to go into the woods to build a fort.

My grandmother was always seeing the "art" in everyday things. She'd pick up a rock and realize it looked exactly like an owl. Instead of throwing it on the ground, she'd bring it in and make a little stand for it and name it "Owl Friend". I can remember being so proud when my grandmother framed a painting that I did in kindergarten - in a real frame. I know that a lot of people do that now but in the 60's I didn't know any other kid with their own "real art work" framed and hanging!

Because my grandmother started showing signs of dementia when my daughter was about 7, Leslie didn't really get to know her as she was for most of her life. Somehow, though, through stories or genetics or my parenting (!) or a combination of all of these, Leslie seems to have a connection to her great grandma. She isn't just an artist because she draws and paints and writes. She is an artist because she really "sees". Just like my grandmother, Leslie sees the art that is laying next to the road (a discarded piece of plexiglass becomes something that she turns into a canvas), the art that is on the beach waiting to be turned into a necklace, the art that is in my closet or the thrift store that is waiting to be turned into a one of a kind outfit that I swear no other 15 year old would be brave enough to wear! A few weeks ago, I found this poem that Leslie wrote about my grandma. With her permission, I am reprinting it here:


Marge fades, she
Fades like a Polaroid in the sun

She has eternal life, living
In artwork

She is Mona Lisa, mysterious
Smile. Exploited?

We all know her
Million husbands

We have wandered
In her garden

She was not DaVinci
Was she better?

Left behind in sketchbooks
Captured moments

She is an all-seeing owl
She is a savior

Marge fades, she
Fades like the end of a symphony

Or does she simply
Live in paintings?

Today, Leslie paints at Grandma's old easel, using her brushes and perusing her old sketchbooks for inspiration. And I hope that Grandma is looking down and is happy for all that her life was and for all the good things she put in me that I have, in turn, put into Leslie. Thank you, Grandma. I miss you everyday.

A is for Alphabet Review!

We begin our alphabet review with something they are all familiar with - their names :)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

sticker art

We painted backgrounds with watercolors and when they were dry we added Easter stickers to create a picture. This was a huge hit with the littles. I have yet to meet a little that doesn't love stickers! (And I loved the fine motor practice it provided!)

5 reasons to love an easter party

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Honest Scrap

Thank you, Ayn, for including me with an awesome group of bloggers. I'm passing this award on to:

The rules for accepting the award are…

“You have to first list 10 honest things about yourself (and make them interesting), and second — present the award to seven other bloggers.”

Okay, so here goes.... (Not sure how interesting they are, but . . . )

1. One of my first teaching positions was in a multi-age elementary school teaching children between the ages of 5 and 10.

2. I first learned about Waldorf when my daughter was a toddler and we took a "hens and chicks" class together. It changed the way I thought about teaching forever . . .

3. I have always had a huge ironing pile that never seems to shrink. My husband irons his own clothes because he knows I will never get around to it. No surprise, I always try to buy things that don't need to be ironed.

4. When I was little I wanted to be a waitress when I grew up.

5. I had a minor in film history when I was an undergrad. I think I had illusions of becoming a film critic.

6. I love tea and don't know how I would get through the day without it. I can give up every other food and beverage - but not tea.

7. I've never broken any bones but for some reason I keep ending up in physical therapy for "frozen shoulder".

8. I got hooked on blogs last year when I read 'Enjoying the Small Things' after Kelle took my daughter's photo and I went to her blog to view the photos. I'm so happy that I've discovered this great community of bloggers that inspire me to be a better teacher.

9. I am very nostalgic for people and places I've known.

10. I collect children's books (mostly from the 60's and 70's) and thought I'd won the lottery last summer when I found a perfect copy of Journey Cake Ho! by Ruth Sawyer.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Easter craft

Today we made table decorations for Easter. Each child painted (with watercolors) a wooden egg shape and a wooden flower shape last week and attached a craft stick with glue. ( I found the wooden shapes at Michael's but I saw them a few days ago at the dollar store in packages of 10.) After placing a little playdough in the bottom of a cup (the cups were from an Easter egg dying kit), the children stuck their flower and egg in and covered the playdough with Easter grass. They finished by tying a ribbon around the cup. I like how the watercolor looks on the wood . . . next time I may have them finish it off with a little beeswax to seal it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

chalk festival

Leslie is participating in the chalk festival this weekend. She's painting the queen from Alice in Wonderland using powdered paint mixed with water. I'm anxious to try this with the littles. It has amazing coverage and dries quickly. I think they will love the medium. This is Leslie's work in progress. It has been great for her to do it in front of an audience. She has grown so much as an artist in the past year. And I'm incredibly happy that she has already found something in life that she loves and that brings her joy.

Friday, March 19, 2010

a little contact paper, some confetti, a die-cut or two . . . and voila!

I cut frames from colored paper (thanks Jen!) and then cut contact paper to fit. This was a great tactile experience and the littles had fun exploring the sticky surface. When I did this with 2's and 3's they randomly threw confetti and die-cuts on - but my 4's were very deliberate in their placement. (I love this one where the little gave each chick a flower - some one to one correspondence going on).

I found the stickers on sale at Michael's. They are on a black velvet background and the littles colored them in with markers. They absolutely loved these.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Our Books

Every year, without fail, the most popular book basket in my classroom is the one that is full of books I've made with the littles or for the littles. They love to see photographs of themselves and their friends and they feel proud when their artwork is displayed in a book for friends and parents to read. Most of the books are just pocket folders with three prongs to hold page protectors. Larger books are in 3-ring binders (again, with page protectors). A few books are laminated and hole punched with book rings to hold them together. One of my favorites is from recycled grocery bags held together with twine. And one or two are from Snapfish of Shutterfly when they are having a special deal on photo books.

These are some of my favorites:

1. Our Big Book of Names - I begin by writing a letter of the alphabet on each page. Then each day, for many days, we go through the alphabet and write in our names. I write the featured letter in red and all of the rest of the letters in the name in black. Example: On Aa, Anna will be written with the A's in red and the n's in black. We do this for every letter in every child's name. And the children are fascinated by this book. They read it over and over, looking for their name and their friends' names.

2. Our Book of Birthdays - I buy an inexpensive month chart at the teacher store and cut out the months. Behind each month I put a page with a child's birthdate and name at the top. The child draws his/her birthday cake and puts on the number of candles that will be on the cake on his/her next birthday. Sometimes they dictate a sentence or two about what kind of cake they like to eat on their birthdays. I always do a page for myself as well.

3. Where is VPK? - Here in Florida, VPK is voluntary pre-k. This is a predictable book for all of those littles that come in wanting to learn to read! After I read this once, they are all able to read it on their own. The pattern is: Where is (child's name)? Here is (child's name)! For the where is page I place a photo of the child. For the here is page the child draws a self-portrait.

4. Our Centers - I write the name of a center at the top of the page and then attach photos of the children using the center.

5. Our Day - This book allows children to follow the rhythm of our day. It's great for the child that always wants to know "What comes next?" The pages in this book are: arrival, breakfast, outdoor play, circle, centers, etc.

6. Eleven Little Kittens Who Lost Their Mittens - When we do this rhyme I let each child dress up as a kitten and we play a lost/found game with mittens. As the children find their mittens I snap their photo and we make it into the book. "Kitten ______ found her mittens behind the blocks!"

7. The Little Ghosts - (I found this on a website several years ago. I don't remember where but if you know please tell me so I can provide a link!) "______'s little ghost was out in the fog, out in the fog at play. Along came a ___________ and frightened ____'s ghost away!" Children come up with an adjective and a noun to fill in the blank. Example: a flying bat, a hungry goblin, a wiggly monster, etc. Then I have them do a watercolor resist with white crayon and black watercolor to illustrate.

8. Hello Friends! - Another great "Read it yourself" book. I take a picture of each child waving and write Hello (child's name) above the photo.

9. Thank you, Johnny Appleseed! - I got this from Mailbox magazine. (Child's name) loves
(apple product), yes, indeed! Thank you, Johnny Appleseed!

10. Who Has Been Eating My Porridge? - When we read "The Three Bears", I serve oatmeal
(porridge) as a snack and snap a photo of each child eating it. Then I write what they say about it (Lauren tried the porridge and it was yummy! Sebastian tried the porridge and it was just right. Anna tried the porridge and it was yuck!)

11. All About ___________ - This is a series. When we finish a unit, we do an All About . . . book. Each child dictates something they learned and then illustrates the page. For example, we did All About Bats and one child wrote, "Bats come out at night."

12. Dilly Dilly Pickadilly, Tell Me Something Really Silly - We tell knock knock jokes and riddles during our circle. Towards the end of the year I record some of the jokes that the littles tell and let them illustrate them for a book.

At the end of the year, I let each child select two books from our class books to take home as a remembrance. I always keep a few for myself, too. Love to look back at them and see all of the sweet faces of the littles I once knew and loved.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


We read The Shape of Things by Dayle Ann Dodds and Shape Space by Cathryn Falwell today. The art table had a supply of shapes cut from colored paper, large sheets of white paper, glue, and crayons. Some of the littles created scenes from one of the books (the ferris wheel) and some just made random shape collages. My only direction was to play with the shapes and move them around before using glue.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

the leprechauns are marching into town, hoorah! hoorah!

sharpie + watercolor = adorable leprechauns with lots of personality

We made up a leprechaun song today (well, elaborated on "The ants go marching"):
The leprechauns are marching into town, hoorah! hoorah!
The leprechauns are marching into town, hoorah! hoorah!
The leprechauns are marching into town
The little one stops to make a frown
And they all go marching down, into the ground. Boom! Boom! Boom!
verse 2- The middle one stops to put on a crown.
verse 3- The biggest one stops to admire her gown.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

collaborative rainbow

Last year my friend, Jen, and I had our classes work together to create a really gigantic rainbow. The littles loved the process and they were so proud of the finished result. I knew I had to try it again this year. So . . . I am slowly gathering materials. I searched through my archives and found the photos from last year's rainbow and thought I'd post them.

To begin, we drew a rainbow on bulletin board paper. Then, over several days, we let both classes color in the arches with crayons. Next, we assembled all of the collage materials we could get our hands on . . . balloons, old marker caps, milk bottle caps, shredded paper, stickers, foam shapes, scrapbook die-cuts, feathers, etc. The children sorted the materials into bins. Then we all assembled for a pasting fest. We used Yes! paste because it really holds and it doesn't take a long time to dry.

The results were great - but it was the process and the collaboration that made this project memorable. Miss you Jen :(

Saturday, March 6, 2010

parts of a flower

Our science center has been all about plants and growing. This week I added a craft project to the science center as we talked about the parts of a flower.

Materials: Large white drawing paper, straws to use as stems, leaves from the scrapbook area at Michael's, yarn to use for the roots, sunflower seeds, and petals from The Dollar Tree (in the party/wedding area). I also added some little bees and butterflies that I found in my scrapbook stash.

paper sculpture

I introduced paper sculpture at the art table this week. As we were discussing sculpture and looking at books with photos of sculptures, one of the littles said, "Oh, I know! A sculpture is what I-Carly's brother made on t.v.!!!" Thankfully, I have a teen in my house and I knew what she was talking about :)

Here's what we started with: pieces of cardboard to use as a base, strips of colored paper that some of the littles had cut a few weeks ago (just for the fun of it!), small pieces of colored paper in different sizes, markers, Scotch tape, and masking tape. I showed the littles how to fold the paper accordion style and how to make a paper chain and then I just moved away. I loved what I was observing. Cooperation. Perseverance (tape is hard to deal with!). Attention to detail.

I just saw a new blog this morning (new to me that is): Laugh, Paint, Create! She writes about hanging sculptures. I think the littles will LOVE this new twist. Can't wait to introduce the idea.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

garden sukkot

Last night, Leslie began building a garden sukkot in the woods near our house. Our family first became familiar with these little huts when Leslie was attending a small progressive school in Michigan. Leslie took classes with names like E I E I O (they visited a neighboring farm and cared for animals), Woods Walk (a nature walk which ended at 'the very viney tree' where they could draw and write in journals), and Swamping (just what it sounds like!). Garden Sukkot was another one of Leslie's classes. The children found sticks and twigs in the woods surrounding the school and went to work constructing a little hut complete with log seating.

Leslie may be a teenager now - but she still has a lot of that little girl in the woods left in her. She'll still catch the occasional lizard. She isn't afraid of bugs. And she is just as happy building a little fort in the woods as she was when she was 7. I love that about her. That she isn't afraid to be who she is and do the things she loves. Love. This. Girl.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

watercolor free for all

There is something about painting with watercolors on a stormy day . . . So, while the wind blew and the rain tried to come in under the door (!), some of the littles visited today's creation station which was set up with liquid watercolor, trays of cake watercolor, white crayons, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, salt, and sponges for doing wet on wet.

Even though we have tried crayon resist on several occasions, it never ceases to amaze the littles when the picture they draw with the white crayon magically appears when they apply watercolor on top of it!

Almost everyone got into the fun of throwing some salt on top of finished paintings. (We used Kosher salt because it was what I had in the pantry.) This was the first time we've tried this and the results were very pretty. Several children wanted to try laying plastic wrap over their artwork. They were impatient for things to dry, though, and wanted to see the results right away!

The wet on wet paintings were amazing. The littles love this technique: simply wet the watercolor paper with a sponge and then begin painting. The paint flows differently than it does on dry paper.

I'm happy that the sun is going to shine tomorrow - but every now and then I don't really mind a rainy day.


I generally don't do television with the littles. Actually, I never do television with the littles. But today was a stormy day and we needed a bit of exercise and namaste. We invited the 3 year olds to join us and we all had a great time bending and stretching to Yoga Kids. (Hey Jen, let's invest in yoga mats when we open our school!)

Monday, March 1, 2010

happy birthday dr. seuss!!!

A box of birthday candles + a new batch of playdough = smiles all around