Friday, April 23, 2010

Earth Day 2010

We celebrated Earth Day this past week which was"a pivotal opportunity for individuals and governments to join together and create a global green economy".

This was the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and it is no secret that we have been less than gracious to ever-giving Gaia.

Big changes may come if we refuse to make little changes now.

As a child I was always moved by that television commercial with the American Indian who rides his horse through the debris and pollution of our once beautiful landscape and sheds a quiet, helpless tear.

And that was quite a while ago; before we knew about global warming, the melting ice caps or the hole in the ozone layer. The poor guy would really be a mess nowadays.

Thankfully, there are folks out there making those little adjustments in their daily lives to help stave off a future too frightening to ponder.

Todd Parr, an author with a big heart (as evidenced by the fact that he personally sent me autographed copies of 5 of his wonderful books along with other goodies), writes of some ways children can make our world a place where we are all "happy and healthy!"

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cookie Monster Kisses

Hip, Hip, Hooray! and Bravo! to the talented moms and dads who take time out of their busy schedules to share their gifts with eager, energetic kindergarten children.

Todd, our most recent guest is an artist (painter, collagist, filmmaker) who taught the kids about collage art. Contrary to my (mis)conception there is more to creating a collage than cutting and gluing.

Each collage tells a story. In fact, many stories. It is the integration of these smaller stories into a larger message that the artist strives to convey.

Todd asked the students to find pictures and words that told their story. What they like or find interesting. One little boy, we discovered, quite likes the ladies.

Once they had a small collection they began the task of placing each item. The layout continued to change with each new addition according to the story the students wanted to tell.

And there were so many possibilities.

The finished piece (well, what we had when we needed to stop - is art ever really finished?) contains stories of hearts within hearts safely holding what we find precious, lots of animals (the winking owl a nod to our own O'Neal), New York and happiness.

The kids named it Cookie Monster Kisses.

As a follow-up each child was invited to create an individual collage to represent the many aspects of themselves. This fits nicely with the 'all about me' educational standard for kindergarten.

Thanks Todd!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spheres, Cubes and Pyramids

Children are brilliant!

If we provide them with rich experiences, tangible connections between aspects of our curriculum and seamless instruction they will consistently step-up to plate.

The brilliant part of all this is that even when instruction is less than stellar they still pull all of their experiences together and make sense of things.

In one of my doctoral classes we are reading this book. One passage reads:

"From a student's perspective, school work should ideally have a cohesive, cumulative quality in which specific activities and their goals can be seen to form part of a greater whole, as part of a purposeful educational journey" (p.114).

An aspect of our curriculum is, of course, adherence to the state & city standards. In mathematics a geometry strand involves shapes.

And I applaud the myriad ways this is supported by the fine educators at our school.

In art the students are exploring spheres using balloons, glue and yarn (see above). Next they will create cylinders out of clay while they continue to examine the difference between 2D and 3D shapes.

In Physical Education (not gym as our P.E. teacher likes to stress) the students are playing with spheres, cubes and pyramids.

I applaud these educators for allowing our students to use multiple intelligences to deepen their understanding and enjoy "a purposeful educational journey".

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pictures and Words

In addition to the exhibition Curious George Saves the Day: The Art of Margret and H. A. Rey, the Jewish Museum also offers a series of related lectures, workshops and tours.

I attended both a lecture given by author Louise Borden about the Rey's flight from Paris as well as an afternoon workshop for educators.

For the workshop I put on my best George attire - a Curious George tie depicting George "holding tight with both hands" to a bunch of balloons and my hand painted, one-of-a-kind, specially designed Curious George sneakers.

The ticket included a tour of the exhibition. However, the tour guide ended up checking her facts with me as we went along so that was disappointing (and kinda cool too).

The workshop portion focused on the seamless blending of pictures and words in children's books. Among the techniques employed by the best illustrators are subtle ways the art encourages the reader to turn the page.

Or the way the words are placed to mimic the action (as in the above picture).

In children's books the pictures and words support one another by telling the full story only when one considers both (as in Pretzel by the Rey's).

They appear in many different variations. Sometimes the words appear at either the top or bottom of the page and at others they are thoughtfully embedded into the art.

And it is when pictures and words act as one unit that the power of both can be realized.

Our presenter then questioned us, elementary school teachers, as to why we ask our students to write words at the bottom of the page with the drawing above. If we don't explicitly do this we are not actively encouraging our students to try to integrate both.


We were then given 15-20 minutes to create a page that would do both. I am certainly no artist but I am a good student so I took to it with utter seriousness.

Notice if you will how the word "AHHHH!!" is incorporated into the illustration while the words "Perhaps not the best idea" encourage you to turn the page. No?

How about how the words and pictures must be taken as a unit in order to fully understand what is happening?

I don't think the presenter saw this either but his point was well stated and received. The best workshops give us something to take back to the classroom and this one certainly did.

Vive Le Monkey!

Update: Several weeks after publishing this post I came across this quote in the New Literacy Standards for writing in NYC. "The special thing about the picture book is that it's a combination of both words and pictures, and the two of them work together to tell a story. I write with the illustration and with the words as well and try to make the two of them dance together to tell the story. So they're both equally important to me when I'm putting one of my books together." - Steven Kellogg

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The True Escape of Curious George

This is George.
He lived in Africa.
He was a good little monkey
and always very curious.

These are the words that begin the adventures of Curious George in Margret and H. A. Rey's 1941 classic children's book.

The charming tale of this mischievous monkey has quite a history, both on and off the page.

George began life as Fifi in Rafi et les 9 singes (later renamed Cecily G. and the 9 Monkeys). In this early work Fifi, dubbed the 'clever' monkey, proved so irresistible that his creators decided to dedicate their talents to bring his story to life.

Meanwhile, in their own lives Margret and Hans Augusto were having their own adventures. Deeply in love, these German Jews settled in Paris, France to escape the rise of Nazism. In this idyllic landscape the couple enjoyed life in their Montmartre neighborhood and the French countryside. They worked on "The Adventures of Fifi" until the German army began to invade France.

The threat of Hitler's soldiers finally forced them to escape Paris via bicycle on the morning of June 12, 1940 with the manuscript for what would become the first Curious George book in a leather satchel.

Evidently on this journey, by bicycle and train, from Paris through Spain and Portugal the manuscript charmed border patrol officers and passport officials allowing the Rey's to continue their journey unfettered.

Eventually they made their way to America where they became United States citizens in 1946.

Their story is currently on exhibit at The Jewish Museum until August 1, 2010. The exhibit contains artifacts such as the original artwork for Curious George and personal records of the Rey's. A fascinating must-see for any Curious George fan.

You can also read more about it in Louise Borden's book The Journey That Saved Curious George.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sale at the Cakery

The bake sale was a sensational success!

An impressive team created of parents, family members, students and teachers brought about an event that surpassed our wildest expectations.

Thank you parents for donating and lovingly supplying the cakes, cookies, pies, muffins, donuts, cupcakes and bread.

Thank you students for unparalleled cooperation that was nothing less than spectacular.

Thank you to the customers (parents, students, staff, friends) who visited our classroom in a steady stream for two hours!

Thank you to our student teacher Sara (celebrating her last day in Kindergarten) for taking charge of collecting the money and ensuring that the kids actually - sometimes reluctantly - gave change to the aforementioned customers.

Together we raised over $100 dollars!

When we return from vacation we will decide what to do with this hard-earned money.

It looks as though we will donate the majority of it to a worthy cause (which one has yet to be determined and shall be chosen by class consensus) but a small portion will be put towards a class event (a trip to the zoo is a very popular notion).

Preparing for the bake sale spanned across academic areas over the week. We used multiple literacies to create ads (in American Sign Language and drawn/written), sort and classify goodies, arrange the layout of our display, create labels for our take-out bags and decide prices.

What a pleasure to see our kindergartens assuming their roles in this community based project; serving and handling food in their chef hats, aprons, gloves and mustaches, working together with jaw-dropping alacrity and moving with such purpose.

One visitor, impressed with what was taking place, said that this is the kind of experience that should have been taped for PBS. I agree Stephanie.

I am so proud of them!

Below is our Cakery ABC book (a work in progress...)


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