Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring Art and Writing in 4th Grade

I love combining art and writing. (The truth is I love having kids make art, but I have a hard time justifying it, unless I attach some academic bit.)

Here is the most recent project that my students did--cherry blossoms with spring writing!

This project started as all good projects do with inspiration--this time it was from Little Notebook. I heart this project of making cherry blossoms with the base of a 2 liter bottle.

Here were the steps:

1. Demo the project to avoid a big mess! This also lets students decide where to place the art and the writing as part of their layout.
2. Use black or brown crayons or markers to make the trunk and branches of a tree.
3. Use pink paint, empty liter containers, and unsharpened pencils to apply paint to the tree branches. (I demonstrated, but the techniques varied as much as my students do!) We had 3 paint stations set up at one big table. That was enough for 24 patient kids.
4. Lots of room is required for drying, unless you have a drying rack. We just place them around the perimeter of the classroom.
5. On another day we journaled about what we like about Spring. (This would be a great place to add some poetry, too!)
6. Students wrote their thoughts in a final copy of the pink paper.

This can be as free form or controlled as you want it to be. This project has gotten lots of positive feedback from other staff members and parents.

What Spring projects do you have brewing?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Students Select Display Work

Here is my best tip / trick about displaying student work:

I love displaying student work. I do not like choosing the work to be displayed. Each of my students have a little clothespin with a star on the end and their classroom number. The student chooses work to be displayed on the clip.

On many occasion the work displayed isn't perfect. Sometimes it's not "A" work. I love this. This is one little tip that let's everyone feel like they belong and have choice, but it also helps students to evaluate what their best work is.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Enchanting Friday

In addition to the daffodils that are out everywhere around here, here are some things that have been enchanting me over the past couple weeks:

Brene Brown's most recent Ted talk.--Wow!

The Circle of Courage philosophy--it's a whole way of doing education and life--and maybe even changing the world. I just took a whole class in this.

Brandy's Co-Connivers Guide To Saving The Universe--it's got me thinking and wondering--maybe even dreaming

And on a much lighter note, Peppa the Pig--super cute youtube videos that my 3 year old loves to watch with me. She has a super cool English accent!

What's enchanting you??

Sunday, March 18, 2012

I'm Back But Not Too Enchanting

I'm not feeling too brave, so this is for me. . .I've just been sooo crazy busy with all sorts of little and big obligations and responsibilities! Anyone else out there feeling that way?

I must admit that I'm not feeling too enchanting or enchanted--except for one amazing and freakish thing--the weather! It has been in the 70's in northern Ohio for about a week, and it's supposed to continue. We have daffodils and crocuses in our yard. The grass is turning green. I'm listening to my neighbor play the flute and the birds chirp because my windows are all open. This might not seem like a big deal, but here is a picture of Sam from last year at this time:

Crazy what a difference a year can make!

I've also been enchanted by the people in the class I just finished taking--Courage For The Discouraged. I think between that class and the weather I will make it through the next two weeks, get my paper written, and finish grading and get report cards done--without too much crazy making!

Can anyone send me a little inspiration? {Thanks, in advance!}

What's enchanting you these days?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Life Lessons and Delays

I have to admit it. . . I took on more than I can do with the resources I have. The Brave Teacher Adventure Kits are going to be available in a couple more weeks. I will so keep you updated!

The whole thing is a steep learning curve. I'm learning how to do so much--alter PDFs and make them more interactive, use e-junkie, market my wares with other websites. This all takes more time and energy then I want it to take. Over the weekend I was losing my joy for creating and sharing good stuff. I was overwhelmed by my self imposed deadlines. . . ahhh--this is such a good life lesson. I'm a little embarassed, but I want to be confident that everything I'm offering is the best that I can give--not just a rush to the finish line.

Isn't this a good life lesson? I think I've been battling unrealistic expectations of myself for about as long as I can remember. I would never hold my coworkers or students or friends to such levels. Why do expect that from myself?

Today I'm taking a few deep breathes. I'm going to stay present with my students today. I'm going to extend some grace to myself. I'm taking a step back so that I can move forward with so much more peace.

What life lessons are you learning today?

Monday, March 12, 2012


When a word makes its way onto my radar, and then keeps popping up, I usually sit up and take notice. The word that has been here for the past week or so is SAVOR.

It was in Jen Louden's talk at the Right Brained Business Summit.
I've read it on several blogs.
I just saw it over at Superhero.

I find this a bit ironic, because I can't even remember the last time I had time to savor anything--the smell of the almost spring air, a good wallow in bed, a little taste of a decadent treat, nail polish, or really anything else.

It's not bad enough that my time and life are way overcommitted right now, but I feel so guilty about it, too. I feel like I'm not living up to the hype as a mom or wife or friend or daughter or sister or teacher or student or business woman or artist or anything else. I have tears in my eyes as I type this. This is part of what makes life so complicated and difficult to balance. I can't even tell you the next time I can pencil in "time to savor," but I know that it's some time after Easter.

And then I stop for a moment, and I remind myself, that part of savoring is just being present to this moment. . . and the moment yesterday when I shouted, "It's the first robin of spring!". . . or the moment yesterday when my son handed me the tiniest little flower that he found outside for me. . . or the moment when I got to play Chutes and Ladders for the first time ever with my son.

The triumph for this moment and day and week and month is savoring even if it's just a little moment. When my plate is so overflowing I can't keep it all together, but I just show up and stay present.

What moments are you savoring?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Teachers Taking Care of Teachers

I totally love a chance to model for kids what it means to be community--especially for people we don't even know. Over at Kreative in Kinder, Crystal has started an amazing Link Up. She is asking teachers to send materials and supplies to a teacher at your grade level whom had their life, school, and community devastated by tornadoes.

I had to get involved, and I bet you will want to get the details, and see if you can help out, too.
Check it out here.

And please pass the word through your learning community.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Spring Fling A Week Away and a Give Away

I'm so excited! I've been working for a couple months on 3 Amazing Adventure Kits. (Well, actually 4, but you can get The Grateful Teacher Adventure Kit FREE by joining my magnificent Brave News Community Here!) They are going to be released in just a week--March 15.

I'm still adding finishing touches, proofreading, and infusing them with inspiration just for you!

When I started creating I was thinking about what I really need at the end of winter to jumpstart me into spring. These Adventure Kits are what I decided would work for me. Then I decided to share them with you.

The Adventure Kits are a great way to invest in yourself. If your dragging a bit, any one of these Adventure Kits would make a great little retreat for yourself or a group of friends. They are packed with ideas, a little lesson, photographs, original artwork, suggestions for creating and writing your way to a more courageous and strong place. Stay tuned for a little sneak preview early next week.

If you would like to win the Adventure Kit of your choice follow these 2 easy steps:

1. Check out a preview of the 3 adventure kits HERE
2. Go HERE and let me know which one you most like and WHY is would be good for you.

Winners will be announced on March 15--as part of the release party!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

First Hair Cut

Sam had his first haircut this week. It's a milestone. I thought we would get here much earlier in his life. His hair grew slowly. It was fun to see him with wispy blond locks. And there was a part in each of his parents that wants him to stay little. I'm so glad we took him to Kelly. He still has a bit of curly locks!

It just makes me think about how parenting never turns out the way I expect. Parenting is an intuitive art. It takes staying actively involved and keeping an open mind. It requires fighting the tide of popular opinion. It's about a deeper and more constant love than believed possible.

What's been a highlight of your week?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Making Time For Class Meeting

I don't have time for one more thing! Isn't that just what we think when we are asked to do one more thing? But what if that one more thing actually gave us back some time? Wouldn't we do that?

That is the way it is with class meetings in my classroom. If "Class Meeting" is not on our schedule, someone always says, "Why aren't we having class meeting?" It's a big deal to the students--bigger than I realized because when we moved to our new room I was scurrying around, and there were lots of negative behaviors coming to the surface.

Here is how the meetings are structured in my room right now:
(This is determined by the types of students I work with and our schedule.)
  • Our meetings are usually 10 - 20 min.
  • We move our chairs into a circle--everything else is put away.
  • We greet each other--sometimes this is a different language or a smile--OR we greet the whole group by saying something like telling one thing about our weekend. Students can always pass and just say, "Hello."
  • I open up a topic or situation to look at--here are some topics we've covered in the past couple weeks--working with partners we don't particularly like, reading facial expressions, pushing ourselves to our best quality work, cheating, how to handle someone who won't leave you alone at recess, upcoming events we are anticipating, and so many more!)
How do I get the time back?

This dramatically reduces little squabbles that require teacher intervention--it's huge and I can't explain it.
Motivation to support and help each other and the teacher are way up.
There is more pride in doing quality work and having a neat learning environment.

Can you see how I get the time back? I probably have 10 - 20 minutes each day when I can do quick academic coaching for kids--show me how you did this math problem. Read your story to me. Here's what you missed yesterday.--this sort of thing is so much more what I like to do.

This does NOT solve all problems, but it reduces the time so that I can do more teaching tasks!

What do you do to build a positive climate in your classroom?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Enchantment #7

The one thing that is most enchanting me this week is The Right Brained Video Business Summit. It's going on right now! It's free! It's packed with some much goodness. Even if you're not interested in business, much of it applies to any sort of work.

I was so struck to my heart by what Mark Silver from The Heart of Business shared on the first day of the summit.

I'm also loving this mini vision board! Here's where you can get some inspiration to make your own.

I'm also being enchanted with my amazing students who are learning and growing and responding to instruction! They are little rock stars!

I'm also hoping to enchant others with The Grateful Teacher Adventure Kit. I just need to get a little time to shrink it down so that I can send it out! It's not too late to sign up to get this FREE resource!

What's enchanting you today?