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.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Home-made Playdough - Claydough

In kindergarten we played with clay about once a year, on St. Patrick"s Day because it was green. It was available at the school for free. I used it because it was stiff and most kindrgartners need to strengthen their fine motor muscles. I only made this recipe for my own children and got it from my sister-in-law. I like it because it is easy and it is just like commercial Playdough.
I got tired of cleaning Playdough off the floor and out of the carpet so I usualy sent kids outside to play with it on a cookie sheet. Sculpting tools can be found around the house e.g. Rolling pin. kitchen utensils, toothpicks, objects to make impressions, etc.


Combine the following ingredients in a karge saucepan:
1 c. flour
1/2 c. salt
1 T. oil
1 1/2 tsp. cream of tarter
1 c. water
1 tsp. vanilla
Cook over low heat until all moisture disappears and mixture looks like playdough. Do not overcook.
Remove from heat, knead and knead in food coloring.

What I learned: Children like to make 3-D art but it can be done inexpensively with supplies found around the house.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Magic Mini Books

About 1/2 way through the year I made a mini book for each student.The book is quite easy to make. All you need is a sheet of white computer or typing paper. Fold it in half ("like a hotdog" from top to bottom ) and cut on the fold line. You will only need a half sheet of paper for one book. Take the half sheet of paper(about 4 1/4"x11") and fold in half lengthwise ( so folded paper is about 2 1/8 x 11 "). Fold paper in half again so folded paper is about 5 1/2" long fold again by bringing each end to the middle fold. Paper should then have one long fold along one edge and four squares marked with fold lines.
With scissors cut a very small sliver along the edge fold line from the second and third squares. Open each section and refold pages of book. Hold book by the back (spine) and you should have four double pages. This makes a small book a little smaller than 3 " square.
This is a true test of my descriptive ability. If you are confused or have any questions call me. I did not attempt to have five year olds make the book. I made the book ahead of time and had line drawings dittoed on each page for the students to color. In kindergarten we used the third verse to a song we had learned. For older people you can write lines to a short poem on each page or choose and illustrate your own story.

What I learned: Children like having their own small-sized book and are creative, not overwhelmed to write a story.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Tangrams were used in eastern Asia anciently. Their origin is not known but we used them in Kindergarten for a variety of objectives. I read a book to the students called Grandfather Tang. I think it is more fictional rather than historical but it introduces students to tangrams. It talks about a grandfather who tells a story to his granddaughter and uses tangrams to illustrate each animal in the story. Tangrams are a group of 7 shapes ( e.g. triangle,square and trapezoid.) when put together like a puzzle, form a square. I glued magnets to the back of a set of plastic tangrams and had my aide make each animal in the story so students could see how they could be manipulated.
Afterward I had students make tangram animal pictures from construction paper. First, they were given a set of plastic tangrams for practice. ( These can be purchased at a "teacher store" or other educational outlets.) I have a set of tangram animal outlines and each puzzle requires the creative use of all 7 tangram pieces to fill the animal outline. They are difficult and as I struggled when I modeled them, sometimes it would turn into a lesson on perseverance. An interesting thing that I learned, was that generally students who had an easy time with other "school" tasks, sometimes struggled with the tangram puzzles. Other students who had a different set of visual perception skills found the activity easier and were proud of their success. We don't often use these skills at this level in school. It helped me see who would get frustrated easily.

What I learned: There are lots of ways to find success. We just have to find what the student is good at.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Fruit Loop Necklaces

I have made these recently with 6 of the grandkids and they were a hit. Hailey helped me prepare the strings. To do so you just have to dip the ends of a length of yarn ( It needs to be long enough to slip over a child's head easily when the ends are tied together.) in wax about 2-4 in. (I melt old crayons in a rinsed out can set in a pie pan of water on the stove. Caution: Don't turn the heat up high to avoid fires. When wax is cooled on a paper towel, the melted wax makes a sort of needle suitable for threading through macaroni, rigatoni or similar material. (Hint: To dye dry pasta, place in large zip-lock bag with food coloring and a couple T. of alcohol. Close bag and shake. This results in brighter colors.) Dry pasta on paper towels.
This is a great activity to increase fine motor skills.
Two-year-old Jacob called it a caterpillar so you may have to change the name for boys. Because we did this for our 100's Celebration in kindergarten, we put 100 fruit loops on the necklace in groups of ten, changing the color every 10 fruit loops.
Children can eat the cereal off the necklace for a snack when desired. This makes a good snack for hiking on a trail.

Monday, June 7, 2010

1oo's Day

At kindergarten we would add a number to the number line every day. We would count to that number on a bead rack. (Kind of a very large abacus) If our kindergarten students couldn't count, it wasn't for lack of practice. When we reached 100, I carefully shut the classroom door and they could yell the number as loud as they wanted. The next day we had a 100's Day Celebration.
Students were to bring 100 things from home. We discussed how it needed to be something small like pieces of macaroni, dry beans or paper clips. We also discussed the problems we would have if anyone brought something big like 100 elephants. The idea was to get the students to understand the concept of 100 and have them practice counting.
The next day I had the room decorated like a party with crepe paper and balloons. They counted their 100 things from home, made a book with 100 pictures, (Rubber stamps, 10 to each of 10 pages.) and made a snack of 100 things to eat. (I will BLOG tomorrow with instructions.)
When I began teaching kindergarten I started a 100'z club for student's to be in. I had a mother of a "special needs" student say to me,"I wish you had an "Eight's Club". After practcing and practicing, this student made it to 10. I thought about this and changed it to a Counting Club. Each student received a paper ribbon for every 10 numbers they could count. Our goal was to count to 100 still but everyone was in the club. When students reached 100 I held their arms up like a champion and everyone in the class clapped for them. We put everything in groups of ten because counting to 10 was a reachable goal and it is good practice for our American base 10 system.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Butterfly Puppet

In the spring we would make butterfly puppets. Already we had studied the monarch butterfly and watched a caterpillar make a chrysallis and turn into a butterfly.
To make the puppet you need one piece of 8 1/2" by 11" piece of white typing paper or computer paper. Fold the paper from top to bottom in half. You akso need a pair scissors Along the fold side of the paper draw 1/2 of the butterfly body (like 1/2 a cigar shape). Draw the wing by drawing lines from the body to the upper corner and lower corner of the paper. Remember when you cut out the butterfly from the folded paper it wil make the full form of the of the butterfly. Turn it into a puppet by holding the butterfly closed at the fold line and with the scissors cut two slits about 1/2 inch long. Make one slit on each side of your finger or thumb holding the butterfly body in the middle. This will form a "harness" for your finger to make the flying motions.
Wings can be colored according to the individual. In kindergarten, this gave us the opportunity to talk about real butterfies and what they look like. We discussed symmetry the concept of equal and the only rule we made was that each side of the butterfly had to look exactly alike, exactly equal. We talked about camouflage and some butterflies have big round circles that look like eyes to fool predators into thinking the butterfly is bigger and scarier than he actually is. We looked at actual pictures to see the actual patterns of stripes and figures on real butterflies.
This was a popular activity. We made similar bat puppets out of black construction paper at Halloween.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Whole Wheat Muffins

Despite multiple computer problems, I am determined to post this BLOG. I am sure my ineptness exacerbates things but maybe someday I'll be computer-literate. This week Hailey and I made whole wheat mufins including grinding the wheat kernals into flour. I have never bought whole wheat flour at the store but I suppose it would work.
I like these muffins because even though they are made with whole wheat flour, they don't taste too "healthy".


1/2 c. butter or margarine
1 c. brown sugar
1 egg
2 c. whole wheat flour (often I use 1 c. whole wheat and 1 c. white flour)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. vanilla (I am generous with this amt.)
1 c. milk
1 c. chopped nuts if desired

Cream melted butter and brown sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Alternate adding dry ingredients and stir in nuts. Bake in greased muffin tins at 425 degrees for 12-15 min.
Makes 12 muffins.
Serve with an egg dish like scrambled eggs or with soup. Ralph likes them with honey but since they are already quite sweet, I like them with just butter.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Kindergarten Art

Hailey is a young married girl who lives in our basement apartment with her husband and 1 year old son. Ralph has hired her to help me with daily activities that I cannot do anymore. Besides being a great help, she has become a good friend too. Every Wednesday we cook something togethern, or I should say she cooks and I just lay on the couch nearby in case she needs any questions answered.
Hailey was an Art major in college before she got married. On Thursdays we do an Art project together. Since the bulk of my experience is in kindergarten, Hailey puts up with my simple projects but it is good to know what little children can do and how to help them. We have made snowflakes, Bubble prints and a 3-D mouse. (kind of like origami) This week I showed her how to make lettering for a sign or bulletin board. This was shown to me by an older teacher (who taught before die pressed letters were invented), not taught in any teacher training classes. Still it is a handy skill to have.

The letters are made out of construction paper. To start, fold and cut pieces of paper to make equal sized cards or pieces of paper,depending on the size you want your finished letters. This assures that all the letters are the same size and you can make them as small or as big as you want. I've made letters as big as 1/2 piece of 9"x12" contruction paper. You can fold the paper to mark equal sections then cut out equal sized pieces.
To make each letter, fold each way to mark the half-way points. I use my finger or thumb as a guide to keep the thickness of each letter line consistent. For example, to make letter A, using the lengthwise and crosswise folds as guidelines, cut out the outside slanted shape of the A by folding your paper lengthwise and cutting both outside lines. This assures that each side will be symmetrical. Open up the paper and cut the inside to make it look like an A instead of merely a triangle shape.
The crosswise fold mark can be used as a guideline to make the bar that goes across the middle of the A. The paper can be folded in half lengthwise again to cut out the triangle space above the bar. Hopefully by now you have made an A with abou 1/2 in. wide lines.
This probably sounds complicated but a little practice will help. Be sure to use the fold and finger guidelines to help you. Practice with each letter of the alphabet. One of the things I liked about it, besides having nice looking lettering at my disposal, was that I think it improved my visualization skills. Call me if you have questions or troubles.