Saturday, March 31, 2012

Celebrating Our Solar System

What kinds of songs do planets sing?


What did Saturn say to Jupiter?

"Don't call, I'll give you a ring."

This was how I had hoped to start our writing celebration on Friday but somehow I forgot to open with the jokes and got right down to business.

Too bad because we had quite a stellar audience!

Moms, dads, aunts, brothers, sisters and friends showed up to support my enthusiastic writers as they shared their nonfiction books.

We did open with a short presentation detailing the writing process and the steps we followed to arrive at this point.

It was standing room only as folks orbited around the planet books to listen to my young authors read and answer questions. This little band of first graders amassed an impressive store of knowledge on the topic.

It all started with one student whose passion for space proved contagious. The next thing we knew, we all found ourselves taking a field trip to the moon!

It was a great adventure and I congratulate each student for creating a one-of-a-kind book.  And a suntacular beam of thanks to the parents for the delicious space-themed goodies!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

When I Grow Up...

I asked the children...

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

This question was rooted in our social studies unit investigating the past, present and future.

Our big question revolves on the central point that things change over time (we are looking at this in terms of communication, transportation and tradition while exploring family history).

We discussed the fact that when I was younger I wanted to become a teacher.  I told them that I always loved the smell of books, enjoyed playing school and sharing what I was learning with others.  And said I was curious about their dreams.

Here are their replies...

When I grow up I will be a teacher.

A Vet
A (rocket) Scientist
A picture of me dreaming about being a pet walker.  A picture of me dreaming about being a ballerina and a pet walker.
There was also a train conductor, quite a few computer workers and game developers in addition to more of the above.  Who knew there were so many future astronauts?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

I love this picture!

It incorporates the divergent aspects of our curriculum in one simple tableau.

There is the deadly "skeleton with spear" from the movie Jason and the Argonauts representing our study of Greek Mythology.

There is the "moon rock" a little girl found at the playground last week and brought to school to share because we have been conducting an in-depth study of the Solar System (and the kids are AMAZINGLY brilliant!)

And finally there are the Three Little Pigs.  What respectable first grade class would be complete without a bit of "Once Upon a Time" and "Happily Ever After"?

But perhaps the reason I love this picture most is because of the attention the students give to rearranging these objects throughout the day.  I'll find them grabbing a minute or two here and there to make the pigs run away in different directions or have them attacking the skeleton or lying dead beneath the spear.

It's the little things...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Keeping Art Alive

I have written several posts over the years about our school partnership with the Children's Museum of the Arts.

This fruitful collaboration has had a tremendous impact on broadening student perspective and providing opportunities for self-expression.  The dedicated artists in residence have taught the basics of color and line while introducing our children to artists such as Kara Walker, Joan Miro, David Hockney, Wassily Kandinsky, Alexander Calder, Gustav Klimt and so many others.

We have explored art through paint, clay, fabric and a plethora of reusable objects (nothing gets thrown away when you work with young children) to create paintings, models, containers and mobiles. Our in-class discussions about Greek Mythology, children's book authors, self-esteem, respect, individuality, cooperation and the environment have all been incorporated into the art lessons.

This partnership has been a magnificent addition to our curriculum and one that I am extremely proud to acknowledge.

However, recent budget cuts have brought about the end of this outstanding program. At least for now.

So, it is time for us to get creative. To put on our thinking caps and discover a solution to the budget issue so that our students can once again find themselves covered in paint.

We have not figured it out yet, but everyone involved is committed to finding a way to keep art alive.

The video below, which was created by the Children's Museum of the Arts, highlights some of the work we have done together.

We remain hopeful that it will continue.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tips From My Mom #15

Life can be tough!

No, that isn't the tip.  The tip has to do with how we roll with the punches when they come left, right and below the belt.

It is in the difficult times that we are most vulnerable and open to making destructive choices that will dull the pain.  And eventually those actions cause added distress and guilt.

My mom taught me to avoid that nonsense by staring down the demons life presents with a fierce determination and belief that things always get better. We may not have control over life's ups and downs but it is within our power to decide how we choose to respond (at least to a certain extent).

On the flip side of grief, worry and doubt is joy, peace and blessed assurance.

Mom also taught me humble appreciation for when life is the proverbial bowl of cherries.

And this week was one for giving thanks. And for showing appreciation. Along with the good news from The International Reading Association I was handed a bunch of notes by my first grade students.  One read "We are good kids and our teacher is COOL!"  Another, "Gary, you are the best!"

Most were of this ilk but one--written on the front and back of a strip of paper--stood out...

No, this student did not repeat a grade.  I looped with her class from kindergarten to first grade. 

Here's to moments of peaceful appreciation within the temptations and distractions that life throws up around us and discovering "the immovable center within".


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