Sunday, October 21, 2018

School Visitation Day

I had the privilege of visiting four different schools last week.  It was grand.  I grabbed my coffee and headed out.  I saw delightful classrooms, got a few new ideas, visited friends, bought two sub sandwiches, and was very much inspired.  At every stop I discussed curriculum and teaching methods with other teachers.  

What struck me the most was that the other teachers I spoke to -- some in bigger high schools, some in K-12 schools, and some in a little two-room Old Order school house -- all love teaching and are as passionate about it as I am.  That was invigorating!  

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Rats, Snakes, Brains, and Kite Spiders

Once a week my students enjoy Encyclopedia Day for their journal entries.  They pick something they find in an encyclopedia, sketch, and color it in about three minutes.  Usually, they choose something from history or science, and they are required to write a sentence which includes a fact about whatever they draw.  They learn and get to be creative at the same time.  That's a good thing.  

And this student creatively combined Encyclopedia Day with an idea from a Creative Art Journaling Day and tore the edge of the paper to make her journal entry.  

Saturday, October 6, 2018

7th and 8th Grade Indigo Dye Project

We had just finished four chapters in American history, and after the test I was ready to do something hands-on and creative.  But what?  Indigo dye, of course.  The Southern colonies made lots of money by growing indigo, which was then shipped to England and used to dye cloth.  
 Historians believe that the first flag of the colony of South Carolina was blue because of the indigo grown there, and the succeeding flags were also an indigo blue.  (The reason why the palmetto tree was added is also a fascinating history story.)
So, I told the students that they could bring in something white to dye, and that if they didn't, I would bring each of them a swatch of muslin to use.  After the test, we dyed it all an indigo blue.  It was way more fun than I thought it would be, and the results were beautiful.

This had been a very white t-shirt. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Sit Right Back and Hear a Tale, a Tale of Creative Art Journaling Day

For our Friday Creative Art Journaling entry last week, the students got to design their own islands complete with seas, oceans, lakes, mountain ranges, and cities.  What a fun exploration trip this would be! 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Explorers: Head of the Cow, MacJello, and Balboa's Belly Button

We had so much fun learning about the explorers of the New World that I considered making a video of it so that we could share it with other classes.  Until we get that done, this post will do.  

I really wanted to give my students ways to remember the explorers' names and the areas they explored.  So, I made up a few little mnemonic tricks, and then the students began adding their own.  Not only did we laugh a lot, but their grades were very good.  And I think they will remember these things long-term.  At least I hope they will anyway.  Here is how we did it.  
(All of the art on these maps and tests was done by students, by the way.)
DeVaca explored the Southwest, including much of what is now Texas.  The V for Vaca fits  nicely down inside that lower part of Texas, and Cabeza de Vaca literally means "the head of the cow."  One of the guys' groups decided to make that a cheeseburger to go along with the pizza.  
Pizarro conquered the Incas in South America.  Since South America is almost in the shape of a slice of pizza, and the word pizza is similar to Pizarro, that was an easy one.  Also, the second letter in Pizarro is an I to help us remember that Pizarro conquered the Incas.
Balboa was the first to cross through the area which is now Panama and "discover" the Pacific Ocean.  He then claimed the entire ocean (almost half of the world) and everything that touched it (all of Asia) for Spain.  The little piece of land which connects South America to North America looks a little like an umbilical cord, so we named that one "Balboa's Belly Button."  

Cabot explored the area which is now Canada and found basketfuls of codfish.  

Magellan we call MacJello because his crew sailed all around the world, like a big cup of jello, and the O is in a circle just like the globe.  
*Coronado explored the area which is now Colorado and "discovered" the Grand Canyon. (Coronado Colorado Canyon)
*Helpless Henry Hudson explored the Hudson Bay area and was then left in a lifeboat as the ship sailed back to England when his crew mutinied.  
*La Salle sailed all the way down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico (La Salle sailed) 
*Marquette (and Joliet) marked the Mississippi 
*Cartier carted quartz (and fool's gold) back to England thinking they were gold and diamonds
*Frobisher found Fool's Gold 
*Sir Francis Drake was a sea dog (Sir sea) 
*Ponce de Leon "pounced" on Florida

       And here are a some pictures of a few of my students' tests to prove that it worked.  And they didn't have multiple choice or a word bank--they were just given a map with numbers and arrows. They came up with the explorers' names all on their own.  (And just in case you spelling teachers are noticing a few errors, I do encourage my students to learn the correct spelling of the names, but since there are so many of them, and since many are Spanish and French, I don't count off for that.)  


Friday, September 21, 2018

Chocolates and a Chocolate Story for the Students

I just couldn't resist.  Every year when we read the story "The Kiskis", I begin craving chocolate.  The story is precious.  It's about a teacher (yay!) who has three immigrant students from Europe in her class.  Their family is poor, and they don't have butter on their bread or shoes on their feet -- even in the middle of winter.  Their parents make them wear burlap sacks tied over their feet, and they are extremely shy and very aware of their awkward social position in the little one-room schoolhouse.  

By the last day of school, their father's crops have been harvested, they have butter on their bread, and shoes on their feet.  And they have a little extra money to buy the teacher something most extravagant -- a box of chocolates.  The wise teacher figures out that there are enough chocolates for everyone in the class to have one, and she lets the shyest Kiski pass them out.  The previously looked-down-upon Kiskis are then admired by the whole class.  They begin playing games with the other students, and all is well in the little town where they live. 

That's when I love to pull out the hand-packed box of chocolates I purchased from the candy counter at the Shady Maple gift shop.  I even go to Good's Store and buy a pink ribbon to put around the box just like the one in the story.  

Gingerly I untie the ribbon, and the whole class smiles.  I tell them what the different shapes and colors are -- dark chocolate raspberry jellies, oval maple creams, double dipped mints.  They pass the box around, and we all bask in the glory of having that one yummy chocolate melting in our mouths for a minute or two. 

Last night I dreamed of opening up a chocolate shop. 
I think I'll keep on just being a teacher though.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

An Amazing Book. Students Get Into Teams. Grades Go Up 9.25 Points.

I recently finished an amazing book.  Part of it was about how boys function in school settings, and one of the many points was that boys work better in teams.  So, as we were studying for our last history test (to which I always add an essay question and map), I put all the students in teams, and each team got some time up at the board to study the map.  They were also diligently quizzing each other to see if their team could bring up their test average from the last test more than all the other teams.  These guys brought their grade average up 9.25 points.  A team of girls tied them, also bringing their score up 9.25 points.  No matter how I divided it, I couldn't get a remainder, so it was a tie.  I'll take that!   

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

My Students Surprised Me with These Journal Entries

Assignment: Tear the edge of a page of your journal and decorate it.
Every year my students get more creative with this Friday "Creative Art Journaling" assignment.  They are having fun and being creative; and their brains, their math, their writing, and their school work in general, benefit.  

This student actually tore two pages and then colored a third page for a really neat effect.  I showed these to all the students so that next Friday they will be even more motivated to "think outside the box."

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