Tuesday, December 13, 2011

ART(the visual kind)

I am not an art expert. In fact, the only training I have had is 1 class in college - Art( For Teachers. However, I think good art has a powerful influence in children's lives. The kind of art we have in our home influences lives.
A visit to the art museum can be important but let me list some ways we can have art become a way of every day life where children can feel it's influence apart from a "once in a lifetime" field trip.
When my children were young, we went regularly to the municipal library. Besides books, this library had a collection of quality art by well known artists mounted, framed and ready to hang that could be checked out for a month at a time. The walls of my home had works by Renoir, Homer, Cassat and others displayed. I don't know if it affected our kids but I was a different person because of its refining influence.
You can also order prints from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other places which you can have framed and mounted. Ralph got me a much loved painting for our home this way for my birthday. It is still a fixture in our home. Note: The art you choose will affect the feeling and tone of your home so choose wisely.
Children can produce their own art at a very young age. I have a daughter who hangs her children's art in her home, framed and mounted as part of the decor. Putting children's art under a magnet on the fridge has its place but framing a picture gives the creator a sense of self-esteem. She also had her children illustrate some cards so I could use them as Thank-you notes.
You need to have ample supplies easily avaiable so children can use them. As a first-time mother, I was not aware of many things. When my son drew every picure as big as the paper would allow I learned he needed glasses. Children can draw pictures before they can write words. Many of these pictures give a glimpse into the mind and soul of a child that you wouldn't have otherwise.
In kindergarten, one of our first projects was to make a book where each child drew all the pictures. I was always surprised at how many children melted into inactivity saying, "I don't know how to draw." After I showed them how to make the pictures with simple lines and circles, they were proud to show off what they had made. Often parents couldn't believe their child had done the drawings.
It is importent that children see and imitate good art. In fact, when I visited the Louvre in Paris, there were students who had set up their paints and easels in the museum so they could copy the masters. It is also important that a child be encouraged to do their own work even if it doesn't fit your mold of pre-conceived ideas.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Reading: What Parents can Do

I don't have the answer to perfect parenting but I can tell you about my personal experience with reading. As a very young child it was my father who read to the the children every night. It was a good memory. He was a carpentar and I still like the smell of sawdust and sweat that I remember as we snuggled in close to his flannel shirt every night. He read Aesop's Fables, Black Beauty, poems from the Childcraft book and many others. Even now, I recite in my mind, poetry from my childhood to help me sleep. As we got older he read Little Women and Little Men.
I read to my oldest at naptime and that is how I discovered he needed glasses. As the girls got older, they could each choose a book and I would read it to them in front of the fire every night. They chose "Little Women" ,"Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, the biography of Helen Keller and my youngest and her Dad read "Emily's Runaway Imagination". Every once in a while I would see my Junior High son peeking around the corner and listening. I think it helped the whole family.
When the children were young (preschool and early elementary) we went to the city library regularly. (I liked the paintings you could check out and hang great art in your home. Every month our family was exposed to a new artist.) When the family got older and had reading homework every night, I offered to do a childs chore assignment, the dishes, while they read to me. I can still remember reading to my mother in first grade. I thought she was enamored with "Dick and Jane".
It is important to let children read what they're interested in first. My son read encyclopedias and joke books. I would have never guessed what he liked or where his interests were. Later you can encourage other books and you can suggest your own ideas for reading.
Sometimes I read a book to the family when we rode in the car on long trips. One time we read a book when the kids were teen-agers. We had not quite finished the book by the time we arrived home. The power was out at home but everyone was so interested in the story that we sat around a candle at the kitchen table and finished the book before we unpacked. It was a family memory I will treasure.
Now, I write a story every year to give to the grandkids along with a new pair of pajamas. I don't know if the stories are good or if they even get read but I guess it is better than underwear.
I don't think we had the only good reading ideas but it is nice to see the grandkids love to read and have their own reading interests.

Friday, May 13, 2011

You never expect it

Young children always look at things in a way you would never expect. I was reminded of an example the other day.
In kindergarten we spent much of the first day going over classroom rules. Because 5 year olds usually can't read, I posted three pictures at the front of the class to remind students of the rules. We discussed each one so they would be perfectly clear.
The first showed a little girl raising her hand. The second was a child sitting properly on the floor, legs crossed and hands in their lap. The third picture showed a little boy with his finger held up to his lips as if to say,"Shhhhh", reminding kids to be quiet.
One day when I asked if anyone knew what that picture reminded us of, one student raised his hand and said, "Don't pick your nose."

What I learned: Never assume that a child understands things the way you see it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Science Projects

A couple weeks ago a grandaughter called Ralph with a request for an idea for a science project. He has had lots of experience with science fairs and scientific experiments so he gave her a good idea.
This has had me thinking about the science we used to do in kindergarten. Many people think of five year olds kind of like Special Ed. and underestimate what they can do. When I went to college we learned about Bloom's Taxonomy. Benjamin Bloom was an educational psychologist in the '50s who headed a group who classified intellectual behavior important in learning. It represented by a pyramid with words describing a hierarchy of learning. Words were changed in the 1990's to verbs from the nouns Bloom used.
In my experience with children, they are perfeectly capable of examining scientific principles starting at the bottom of the triangle and working their way up. In fact, the higher level thinking skills cannot be applied unless an individual has some experience at the lower level. As teachers and moms it is our responsibiliy to give children much experience at the level at which they currently are.
Starting at the bottom of the tianngle, the attributes Bloom lists are: Knowledge (define, duplicate, list, memorize, recall, repeat, reproduce, state), Comprehension (classify, describe, discuss, explain, identify, locate, recognize, report, select, translate, paraphrase), Application (choose,demonstrate, dramatize, employ, illustrate, interpret, operate, schedule, sketch, solve, use, write), Analysis (choose, demonstrate, dramatize, employ, illustrate, interpret, operate, schedule, sketch, solve, use, write), Analysis ( appraise, compare, contrast, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experiment, question, test) Synthesis (appraise, argue, defend, judge, select, support, value, evaluate), Evaluate (assemble,construct, create, design, develop, formulate, write ).
As you would expect, in kindergarten we spent most of our time in the first two levels. It was good preparation for later school years and hopefully, gave them confidence and curiosity to learn more.
Here are some of the activities we did: In the fall we studied plants. I dug up one of my Marigold plants. Students had to observe, identify and draw the five parts all plants have. (roots, stem, leaves, flowers, and seeds.) Marigold seeds are long and narrow and look like pieces of grass so we had to plant them to see if they would really grow.
I read them the book "A Tiny Seed" by Eric Carl about a tiny seed that blows in the wind and lands on good soil where it grows taller than a house. When I ask if they think a plant can grow taller than aa house I bring in one of my giant Sunflowers from my garden. It is so tall it almost touches the ceiling. We eat the seeds from the giant flower and again identify the five parts of a plant.
We talk about eating all five parts of certain plants. Some students don't think we eat all five parts. I bring in a variety of vegetables which I have students classify. ( leaves - lettuce, roots - carrots and radishes, stems - celery, flowers - broccoli and cauliflower, seeds - peas and corn) When students don't think corn kernals are seeds, I bring in an ear of corn from my garden. We put the corn, cob and attached kernals in a shallow pan of water and watch green sprouts grow from each kernal. We conclude this activity by making and eating a delicious salad with these and other vegetables we have classified.
In addition, we had a science table where students could bring plants from home for observation. I thoroughly enjoyed studying science with my kindergarten students and my own children. Whether it was designing a path for a marble,using all simple machines or making salt dough to put on a relief map of Idaho science can be interesting and fun no matter what level students are at.

What I learned: Children can study science and the world around them no matter what age they are.

Monday, November 15, 2010


I have been going through boxes of things that belong to my kids. (Instead of "A Book of Remembrance" I made a "Box of Remembrance"). Mostly I have saved school papers and artwork. I have thoroughly enjoyed going through the boxes, remembering things I had forgotten and learning some new things. I was looking at a paper from one of my daughters where she had to list her favorite book. I was surprised to discover it was a book that I didn't even know she had read and one that I didn't particularly love. Looking back on experiences at the time, I can see it was the perfect book for her.

What I have learned: Children sometimes know what is best for themselves.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Halloween is past and gone but I have been thinking about 2 Halloween projects. In kindergarten the stuudents would erupt with excitement the minute I turned the calendar to October 1. It has never been my favorite holiday but I felt I had better deal with it. When our children were young we started having Halloween parties so it would be an established tradition when our children were teen-agers and wanted to go out causing trouble on Halloween night. We had costume contests, pumpkin carving contests, as well as bobbing for apples and yummy refreshments. Mostly cousins and aunts and uncles came but it was a fun family time.
In kindergarten I decided to deal with the "spook" in Halloween. We had units on bats, studied the science of bats, made bat puppets and I told them of my real experiences with bats in Island Park Idaho.
I read stories about ghosts. One book explains that what looks like ghosts are just clothes on a clothesline, a bird flying through some smoke in the air, or cats howling in the alley.
I read "The Monster at the End of this Book" ( It is narrated by Grover on Seame Street. The monster turns out to be himself. - not scary at all.)
We also read fun books like "The Biggest Pumpkin Ever" and "The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything". Children could carry on their families' traditions Halloween night but Kindergarten was a little more calm.
Here are the two projects I have been thinking of:

I taught the students how to make different faces on pumpkins and ghosts. For pumpkins we just finger-painted pumpkins' faces using the shapes we had learned - circle, square, triangle, oval, rectangle, and diamond.
We made ghosts on a large sheet of white constuction paper (12 x 18). First, with a black crayon, we made a happy ghost face by making two ovals for eyes, no nose and a smiling mouth. Eyebrows were normal. Next we made a mad, scary ghost by making the eyebrows (two straight lines) come down in the middle like a separated V. The mouth was a rectangle with bared teeth inside. The third was a surprised or scared ghost. This time the eyebrows were two straight lines that were turned upside down like a teepee and separated at the top. The mouth was an oval. We practices making the three faces and took note of what happpened to the eyebrows.
Students could choose which face to make on their ghost. We also made bony looking hands by making two handprints from hands dipped in black paint. We then cut out the hands and attached them to the ghost.

The other project is a spider and spider web. We studied the science of spiders and made a large spider by cutting a circle out of a normal (9x12) size piece of black construction paper.
The legs were made from 8 strips of black construction paper about 1 in. wide and 9 in. long. the legs were folded accordian style and attached to the circle (body). Eyes were punched out of red paper with a paper punch and glued on. (Note: Spiders have more than two eyes.)
To make the spider web use a folded sheet of black crepe paper. With the paper still folded like it was when purchased, cut from one folded edge almost to the other side. Do not cut though the folds on the other side! Alternate sides making cuts about 1/2 to 1 in. wide. Unfold when finished and you should have a web-like grid that will cover a corner of the room. Spiders can be suspended with black thread. (This same technique can be used with blue crepe paper to make a giant fishing net. Seashells and paper fish can be attached.)

What I learned: Children's fears and anxieties can be controlled with education and a sense of control.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


When I began teaching I was sick to one degree or another from October until March. Getting flu shots and building kindergarten helped. I decided we had better have some health lessons in kindergarten. Josie, who was then in college to become an RN, came to my class to give a lesson on hand washing. Afterwards she had the students wash their hands with something I think was called "Orange-Glo". When a black-light was shone on their hands after washing, it would show all the places they had missed.
We also talked about covering a sneeze or cough. We followed this with an art project. Students drew a large head on a 9x12 piece of beige construction paper. It was almost as big as the paper. Over the mouth they glued a kleenex and over the kleenex they glued a construction paper hand they had made by outlining their own hand and cutting it out.
We also discussed the sound made at the beginning of a sneeze and learned that the short a sound is one of the sounds a makes. Eventually we learned the short sound for each of the vowels and that sometimes they make the sound of their own name. (Even though vowels sometimes have other sounds, two was enough for kindergartners.)
This page also became one of 26 that we collected into a book. Throughout the year we made a page for each letter of the alphabet. (I loved it when we got multiple learning mileage out of one project.)

What I learned: Children don't want to be dirty but must be taught how to be clean.