Monday, June 29, 2015

Teaching Children To Choose Kindness

 When I think of all the things children really need to learn to make it in this world, choosing kindness is at the top of my list.  I believe in it so much that I'm doing a mini series about it over on the website Brave Teachers.

The first step is letting children see us responding rather than reacting to them.  Read more about it here.

The second step is pointing out examples in ordinary daily life where we witness people choosing kindness. You can read more about it here.

I hope you will join us for more of the journey in teaching children to choose kindness!

What are you working on or thinking about today?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Art In Math: Picture Pie

So I'm still trying to use this blog as the place to share the real stuff I did in my real classroom with my real students.

Today's topic:  Art in Math:  Fractions

Several areas of math lend themselves well to art.  The first two that pop into my mind are geometry and fractions.

Now for the problem. . . when do you have the time to do this cool stuff?

My best response is that every single day I make decisions to shorten or sacrifice part of some sort of learning for some other sort of learning.  The pragmatist in me says, do it as a station on a day when you do a variety of different thematic activities.  I've done that a lot with Fridays with Everyday Math, and it's worked very well.  {A Practice Page, A Game, and Creative Activity}

Now for Picture Pie!  {I have used this very successfully with both 2nd grade and 4th grade.  The difference was 4th graders used compasses to construct their circles, and I had already punched out all the circles for 2nd grade.}

Picture Pie by Ed Emberley cuts circles into halves, quarters, and eighths to make all sorts of plants, animals, patterns, and scenes.  It is soooo COOL and totally worth a look!  {I think it could also be a fully integrated math, art, and writing activity if given the time.}

So here is what I did with 2nd graders:

1.  Everyone starts with one circle in their hands and scissors.  We fold and cut in 1/2.  Then we take one half and cut into fourths.  Then we take one fourth and cut into eighths.  We identify the math fractions terms, too.

2.  Then I give them a couple minutes to make anything using any parts of the circle they want.  It is surprising what kids are starting to see already!

3.  Then I reveal the book.  I'm walking around and enthusiastically pointing out how the butterfly is just 4 fourths and so on. { I'm a HUGE believer in teacher enthusiasm!}

4.  I pass out to each team a few idea pages and a load of different colored circles.  Each person has a small black or white piece of construction paper (4 1/2 x 6 inches)  I have plenty of extras because some people make lots of stuff and some just make a few.

5.  I let them work, and I only try to intervene when a child is doing nothing or appears frustrated/overwhelmed.  Below was a fairly standard amount of work a second grader could do in about 20-25 minutes.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Where Is Brave Art

People are inquiring more about Brave Art.  Where can it be seen and purchased are the two most commonly asked questions.  {Love these sort of questions!!}

At this very moment there are two place to view and/or purchase Brave Art:

1.  My Studio and the Gallery at ACoT

I LOVE my studio space.  I have about a dozen of the 4 x 4 Cutie Cubes that go for $20.  Here are a few pics of the most recent:

Love Wins

Secret Garden

Take Flight

I also have some of my favorite larger paintings here, too. . .

Some of my other faves are in the gallery here, too!  You can see/purchase them HERE.

The other place to see and purchase Brave Art is at Miss Mercedes in Lakeside, Ohio

I love the way I see my art scattered around the shop with so many other yummy bits!

I hope your will be able to enjoy some Brave Art this summer.  It makes a great gift for weddings, graduation, or just because.

P.S.  Can you keep a secret?  Soon Brave Art will be available online at Brave Teachers!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Less Mommy Guilt and More Ease

Summer photo fun selfie at the Akron Art Museum

There is nothing like a few days of summer to experience an ease in parenting that is so lacking during the school year.  Is there anyone out there with me?

I am just feeling so very grateful that I do have today to enjoy getting our haircut together and working in our yard {where fairy gardens will soon abound.}  During the school year I give so much to other people's kids that my son gets ripped off of time and energy. {and often he gets the crabby mood brought on my this state of affairs.}  I want him to be the kid who gets the best I have to offer.  I am simultaneously relieved and saddened.  We have already had very ordinary experiences that were amazing because of the ease I am experiencing.  Is there anyone out there with me?

I'm also recognizing that the mommy guilt just zaps the reserve of energy I do have during the school year.  Why do we let guilt and shame steal our joy?  I am also grateful for this self awareness.

I vote for less guilt and more ease EVERY single day!  Is there anyone out there with me?

P.S. Over at Brave Teachers I shared a little more about living with ease.  Check it out.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Keep Inspiration Close

You've probably heard, and maybe said, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."  I say forget all that--no matter what keep your inspiration close at hand.

Whatever you touch every single day should have something that inspires you.

Right now I touch my calendar ever single day, so on the front I have two post it notes where I quickly jotted down two tidbits of inspiration.

They aren't pretty or fancy, but I find myself reading them--even when I'm not intending to look at them!

"Create the thing you wish existed."

"Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself."  {Andre Gide}

My gaze passes over them, and I'm reading.  It's automatic.

I'm a big believer in training our mind to lead us.

So what's the take away for you?

I don't know!  I do have a couple suggestions:

1.  Fill your world with inspiration.  Start today.  Don't wait--post its with quotes and affirmations and religious text, photos, collages, natural elements, art, music.  Fill it with as much as you can and you will be filled in return.

2.  Sign up for Summer of Inspiration.  {Yes, I am shamelessly promoting my free summer emails.  The quotes speak to me and lead to the art--be it ever so humble!  You still have time to get some great stuff!  These might even be fun to share with your students or coworkers in the Fall!

3.  Plan now to fill your classroom with words that inspire your students.  You might even invite students to bring in quotes or ask adults what inspires them.  Do you see how this can lead many directions?  You might be surprised by how many teachable moments will be had over a quote by Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein or whomever you to choose to place in your classroom in the honored seat of inspiration.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Yoga Breath with Kids in the Classroom

Have you noticed how stressed and anxious kids are?  And how it usually isn't even about stuff they need to think about--let alone worry about?

One of the many "extras" that we need in our classrooms is self soothing and calming strategies.  One of the best I know is different types of yogic breathing.  {I don't usually call it this, but my students do--those little smarties!}  I usually say "Deep Breathing" or "Relaxing Breath" or "Calming Breath."
I talk about times and ways they can use this breath.  I also talk about my own experiences of feeling so nervous it feels like there is a rock in my stomach.  Or when I feel so worried I can't sleep.  Or when I'm so angry I feel like I'm shaking on the inside.  {Kids really get this!}  I also tell them that the breathing only works for me because I've practice it so much, that it is almost automatic in a really stressful situation.

I ask them if they want to practice with me.  We usually practice when we come in from recess before a restroom break for just a couple minutes.  Sometimes we practice before we take a test.  Sometimes if we're antsy we will practice, too!

Here are a few of my favorites:

Hint:  We always breathe in and out through our noses.  If kids use their mouth I don't make a big deal about it, unless they sound like they are gasping for air.

Big Balloon Belly Breath:  We fill our bellies full of air, so they puff out like a balloon.  We hold for a few seconds.  Then as we exhale we try to remove all the air like a deflating balloon.  It helps to imagine we are squeezing our belly button back toward our spine.  {Repeat several times}

Smell the Flower, Blow Out the Candle:  My son prefers smell the cookie, blow out the candle!  I've heard several variations on this.  Hold up the index finger that will act as both flower and candle.  Breathe in smelling the flower and breathe out through mouth as if blowing out a candle.  Kids love these and it really works.

Breathe at your Happy Place:  Child closes their eyes and think of a place they love to be--real or imagined.  I suggest grandma's house or their backyard or a place they have visited.  I tell them I'm on a sandy beach in a hammock in the shade.  I can see it, but I've never been there.  We just breathe.  It's crazy how fast my class will become completely still.

If You Can Hear My Voice:  If it's loud I will start in a quiet voice, "If you can hear my voice breathe in through your noise and out through your nose.  If you can hear my voice fill your belly like a balloon.  If you can hear my voice release all the air through your nose."  And so on.

Audible Sigh:  We will inhale and then vocalize our exhale as a sigh.

Should Lift with Breath:  We inhale our shoulders up by our ears, and as we exhale we slowly lower our shoulders.  This takes practice.

These are great for grown ups and for kids at home, too!  It's amazing how the more they are practiced the more students will request them.

Happy Breathing!