Valentine Card Holder

You can make this simple valentine card holder in just a few minutes.  All you need is the pattern (printed on one sheet of paper), crayons, scissors, and glue.

Click the picture below to view or print the pattern for this craft.

Valentine Card Holder Craft

 

Craft Materials: Box pattern, crayons, scissors, glue stick

Age: 3 and up (You can pre-cut the box for younger students.)

Time:  10 minutes to color, cut and paste; longer if you want to get real crafty.

 

It’s just the right size to hold classroom valentines!

Print the box pattern on colored paper.  Let your students cut hearts and stripes and other shapes out of the paper scraps to decorate the box.

 

Print the box pattern on card stock paper.  Let your students splatter paint the box with watercolor paints before cutting it out.

 

Print the box pattern on card stock paper.  Cut out the pattern.  Fold it, but don’t glue it yet.  Decorate with homemade puff paint.

THIS RECIPE FOR HOMEMADE PUFF PAINT IS ENOUGH TO DECORATE 1 BOX (Multiply ingredients by the number of boxes you plan to decorate.):  1 Tbsp flour,  1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1 Tbsp salt, 1 Tbsp water, dab of acrylic paint.

Mix all ingredients.  Your students can dip a water bottle lid into the puff paint and print circles on the heart box.  You can put the mixture in a cake icing tube so the kids can squeeze lines onto the heart box.  Place the decorated heart box pattern in the microwave for 10 seconds to harden or let dry overnight. 

Fold the box and glue to hold the tabs in place.

 

 

Snowflake Symmetry Craft

January is a great month to cut and assemble a bright white paper snowflake.

Click the photo below to view or print the pattern for this craft.

Snowflake Craft

Craft Materials:  Snowflake pattern, scissors, glue stick

Age: 8 and up

Time:  20 to 30 minutes

Math:  Geometry, Shapes, Symmetry

Art:  Louise Nevelson, Assemblage, Symmetry, Monochromatic

INSTRUCTIONS:

 

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty Craft

Click the image below to view or print the pattern and instructions for this craft.

Statue of Liberty Craft

REALISM AND IMPRESSIONISM

AMERICA DIVIDED – THE CIVIL WAR – THE WILD WEST

THE AGE OF INVENTION (1850 to 1900)

 

In fourth grade I was introduced to tall tales and legends of the Wild West.  Our teacher shared with us the stories of Pecos Bill and his girlfriend Slue-foot Sue.  She taught us a song about John Henry and his hammer.  And she read us the adventures of Paul Bunyan and his giant blue ox, Babe.   Hearing theses stories was like reading my favorite comic book, “The Fantastic Four.”  Paul could stretch out to great heights and lengths like Reed Richards.  John Henry was super strong like Ben.  And Pecos Bill and Sue were amazing like Johnny and Sue Storm.  I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to be in a classroom where this was a topic of study!

 

In fifth grade, our music teacher taught us the words to a song about a brave abolitionist named John Brown.  “John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave.  His soul is marching on.”  I did not know what abolitionist meant or who John Brown was or why he was molding in a grave.  I just remember we had to stop singing the song because it made the twin brother and sister in my class sob uncontrollably.  Their mother had passed away and any mention of death or graves was too much for them to bear.  I liked singing the song and felt annoyed by their crying.    It wasn’t until years later, when I learned the history of John Brown that the words to the song came flooding back into my brain along with the feeling of embarrassment for my lack of sensitivity to the twin’s immense sadness.

 

When she was a first grader, there was nothing my daughter wanted more than an American Girl doll, specifically, Samantha.  She wrote a long note to Santa requesting just one gift, the Victorian era doll with beautiful clothes, long dark hair, and brown eyes.   She cited good behavior and good grades as the reason she deserved such an expensive gift.  Santa agreed with her self-assessment.  She got the doll!  She also got an education about the Victorian era.  The doll came with a series of stories about her life in Victorian America.  It was a really clever (and expensive) way to introduce girls to history.

Wild West Town

 

 

America Divided - Civil War

TOP 10 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT  THE REALISM & IMPRESSIONISM PERIODS

#10 Realism & Impressionism are the art styles from this time period.  The realists wanted their art to look like real life.  They painted real people doing real life things.  Their paintings often represented the harsh reality of poverty.  In the past, only rich people appeared in paintings.  The impressionists used dabs of color to give an impression of what they saw.  They were more interested in the scene than the people they were painting.  Before the impressionist movement, the people were always centered in a painting.  The impressionists often painted the people off to the side.

#9  Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a series of newspaper stories about a slave named Tom.  The stories told of the horrors inflicted on enslaved African Americans.  Her articles became a book called “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”  It was read by many people and started an anti-slavery movement in the North and widespread anger in the South.

#8 The Underground Railroad was a passage to freedom for some slaves.  It was named “underground” because it was a secret, and “railroad” because it was a way to transport people.  The homes where slaves would hideout were called stations or depots.  The people who helped the slaves escape were called conductors.  Conductors provided temporary shelter and supplies.  The trip was dangerous.  Stations were 10 to 20 miles apart.  Slaves traveled on foot at night from one station to another.   Slaves or conductors who were caught would be severely punished or killed.

#7 The Civil War (The War Between the States) The southern states had grown wealthy from the use of slave labor on their plantations.  The northern states were using machine labor.  As American territory started expanding westward, people began to question whether or not slavery should be permitted in the new states.  The “Missouri Compromise” said each state should decide for themselves.  This created more problems.   In the 1857 Supreme Court Dred Scott decision, it was decided that a slave did not become free when taken to a free state.  The United States needed to be united in their thoughts about slavery.  The North and South went to war to fight for their side of the argument.   The Civil War cost more American lives than any other war in history.  The North won the war.  On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln issued the “Emancipation Proclamation” which freed all slaves.  On November 19th, he gave the “Gettysburg Address” in which he expressed hope that the nation would be freer and more united.

#6 The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments – The 13th Amendment to the constitution ended slavery.  The 14th amendment granted citizenship to all people born in the United States.  The 15th amendment gave African American men the right to vote.

#5  The Wild West was the untamed area west of the Mississippi River.  Outlaws, pioneers, Native Americans, cowboys, prospectors, and gunslingers  were the people of the Wild West.

#4 Tall Tales and Legends – As mentioned above, kids love hearing the exaggerated stories of the heroes of the Wild West.

#3 Immigrants – Ellis Island has welcomed many immigrants.  Unless you are a Native American, everyone has an immigrant ancestor.  Immigrants from European countries were coming to America on large crowded ships.  The voyage took a week or two.  Every ship carrying immigrants passed the Statue of Liberty as it arrived in New York Harbor.  Each ship was carefully inspected for disease before anyone could exit.  Wealthy passengers were the first to exit onto ferry boats.  The boats took them to Ellis Island where the passengers were given a medical exam.  If they passed, they were asked a series of 29 questions about their personal history and intentions in America.

#2 New Inventions –  Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.  Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone.  The Singer sewing machine was manufactured for home use.  Early versions of the typewriter, camera, and automobile were also invented.

#1 The Industrial Revolution took place when America became a country dominated by industry and machines.  Before this time, Americans were farmers and handcrafters.  Factories with machines that created goods brought jobs to the cities.  Railroads connected the U.S. from coast to coast.  Trains transported goods and people.

Many poor children (as young as 4)  worked full-time to help support their family.  The hours were long.  The work was dangerous and the pay was super low.   Some kids worked as Breaker Boys—breaking up coal, Matchgirls—dipping wooden sticks into dangerous chemicals to make matches, Chimney Sweeps—cleaning soot out of chimneys, and Newsies—selling newspapers on street corners.

 

THE STATUE OF LIBERTY is one of the most recognized symbols of America.  Click STATUE OF LIBERTY CRAFT to get the pattern and instructions for the craft.

 

Click the link to go to the REALISM / IMPRESSIONISM page of my website for FREE activities or to purchase the unit.

 

Saltbox House

 

Saltbox House Craft

Click the photo below to view or print the pattern and instructions for this craft.

Saltbox house craft

THE NEW WORLD (America)

THE BAROQUE AND ROCOCO PERIODS (In Europe)

THE AGE OF REASON (In Europe)

 

As a student teacher, I got to work with one of the most innovative teachers ever.  She worked hard to make every day an exciting learning experience for her students.  One of the best units she created was based on a book called, “If You Lived in Colonial Times.”  In the month of November, leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, this amazing teacher turned her classroom into a colonial schoolroom.  There were hornbooks and a fake fireplace and even a dunce cap.  The students looked forward to the final hour of the day when colonial school was in session and their wonderful sweet teacher became a somewhat cruel schoolmaster.  She was able to play the character with a lot of humor.  It wasn’t scary, it was fun.  The kids knew it was just theater.  Some of them even delighted in sitting in the corner and wearing the dunce cap.  She knew which kids would be on board with it and those were the ones she chose.  There was even a sign to hang around the neck of a nail biter or thumb sucker that said, “Bite Finger Baby.”  That was a little too cruel.  I never saw her use that one.  But I remember thinking, “What would it be like to live in a time when children got seriously hazed by their teacher?”   I’m sure not all teachers were cruel, but many were.  It was a time when people believed in, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.”  It seems crazy now.  We’ve come a long way!!!

 

  

 

 

 

The New World

TOP 10 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT  THE BAROQUE & ROCOCO PERIODS

#10  The Age of Reason or Enlightenment – When the superstitious and highly religious Middle Ages came to an end, men began to think about their role in the universe.  Remember, the printing press had been invented in the previous time period.  The printing press created lots of books.   Reading books got people to thinking and thinking brought all sorts of new ideas.  As Rene Descartes famously said, “I think, therefore I am.”

#9 Isaac Newton – one of the most important scientists of all time.  He came up with the theory of gravity, laws of motion, calculus, and the reflecting telescope.

#8 Baroque and Rococo Art – Baroque art was dramatic, full of movement, and very detailed.  The most famous Baroque artist was the Dutch painter, Rembrandt.  Rococo art was playful, pastel, and sometimes, witty.  The subjects were well-dressed upper-class people.  Franz Fragonard is a famous Rococo artist.

#7 Classic Fairy Tales – These fairy tales had been passed on for generations.  Finally, Charles Perrault decided to write them down so everyone could read and enjoy them.  He wrote versions of preexisting folk tales like:  Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Puss in Boots, and Sleeping Beauty.

#6 Pirates – These guys were fierce, frightening, and heavily armed.  They sailed out onto the seas in search of ships they could rob.  Piracy hit its peak between 1620 and 1720.  There were three types of pirates.  Privateers were lawful pirates who shared their riches with their government.  Buccaneers were pirates in the West Indies who attacked Spanish ships.  Corsairs were Christian and Muslim pirates in the Mediterranean.

#5 Native Americans – There were people living in the Americas long before the colonists arrived.  The people were native to America, so we refer to them as the Native Americans.  There were many different groups or tribes of Native Americans living all over the continents of North and South America.  Most historians agree, these tribes lived peacefully until the colonists arrived.  The colonists wouldn’t have survived without the farming and wildlife knowledge that the native people shared with them.

#4 Colonization – comes from a Latin word that means “to inhabit.”  When you colonize a land you take control over the land and its indigenous people.  Imagine a species from another universe landing on earth to colonize.

#3 Roanoke, North Carolina was the first English settlement in North America.  It was first colonized by 107 men in 1585.  The male settlers built a fort and fought with the natives.  They were not enjoying colonizing the land.  When a supply ship arrived from England, everyone chose to leave the island    Two years later, 115 men and women sailed to Roanoke for a second attempt at colonization.  Their captain, John White, sailed back to England for supplies.   When he returned 3 years later, everyone in the colony vanished, even his granddaughter, Virginia Dare, the first baby born in America.  No one really knows what happened to them.

#2 Jamestown, Virginia was the first permanent English settlement in North America.  144 men, most of whom were hoping to get rich by finding gold, sailed to the Virginia coast in 1607.  They named their settlement Jamestown, after King James.  Most of the settlers were upper-class and had no skills like hunting, fishing, and farming.  They struggled to build a settlement.  More than half of them died from disease, bad water, and starvation in the first year.  Captain John Smith took a leadership role and formed a relationship with the local natives, the Powhatan tribe.  With the help of the Powhatan, and the no-nonsense leadership of Smith, the settlement started to grow.  There were many setbacks, but, eventually, a settler named John Rolfe introduced tobacco crops (a product they could sell and trade) and the colony began to thrive.  Rolfe later married Pocahontas, the Powhatan chief’s daughter.

#1 Plymouth, Massachusetts –  In 1620 a group of 102 English Pilgrims crowded aboard a ship called the Mayflower and sailed to Plymouth, Massachusetts in search of a new life and religious freedom.  The miserable trip took 2 long months.  When they arrived in Plymouth, the Pilgrims wrote the Mayflower Compact; the rules of the settlement.  They chose John Carver to be their governor.  The first winter was rough; over half of the colonists died, including Governor Carver.  William Bradford was chosen as the new governor.  The Wampanoag were the native people in the area.  Their chief made contact with Bradford and a peace treaty was signed.  One Wampanoag man, Squanto, spoke English.  It was with his help that the colonists were able to survive.

 

Make the Saltbox House Craft.  Click the link to view or print the pattern and instructions for the craft.  We used crayons and watercolor paint to color the house.

 

Click the link to go to the Baroque Period on my website for FREE activities or to purchase the unit.

 

Portable Puppet Theater

 

PORTABLE PUPPET THEATER CRAFT

Click the photo below to view or print the pattern and instructions for the puppet theater craft.

Gothic Period Puppet Theater

 

THE GOTHIC PERIOD

THE HIGH MIDDLE AGES

The Age of Merchants

When my son was in tenth grade, he took an AP World History class.  The textbook was huge.  It took up the majority of space in his over-sized backpack.  He’s not a big fan of textbook reading, so I challenged him to read 4 pages each night and we’d discuss it the following day.  This meant I had to read 4 pages each night.  It wasn’t an easy read, but I am so glad I forced myself to read it.  I learned so much!

 

I was fascinated by the amount of traveling and trading that took place throughout history.  From the beginning of time, people were curious to find out what was beyond their borders.   Travel in the High Middle Ages brought big changes to the way people perceived the world.  The Silk Road connected Europe, Africa, and Asia.  Travelers from those three continents would walk together, temporarily live together, and learn from one another.  There were also sea routes where massive trade ships sailed to other continents.  The voyages took weeks and the sailors would spend long periods of time in foreign lands.  There was plenty of time to share stories, try new foods, and learn another language.  Sharing information about one another’s religions created a variety of new religions and converts to existing religions.  New ideas, goods, and stories were brought back to the homeland.  The old feudal system was crumbling.  Some people who were once “just craftsmen” became wealthy merchants.  There was an opportunity to advance to a better social class.

 

 

 

The Gothic Period

TOP 10 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE HIGH MIDDLE AGES

#10 Gothic Cathedrals – Cities built tall cathedrals to show off their wealth.  The floor plan was usually designed in the shape of a cross.  The massive cathedrals stood at the center of the city surrounded by a marketplace.  The walls of the cathedrals were so high, they needed to be supported so they wouldn’t collapse.

#9 The Flying Buttress – (Kids love learning this term.) These were the supports invented to hold up the weight of the walls.

#8 Gargoyles – Ghoulish creatures called gargoyles were used as gutters on the tall cathedrals.  Rain water filled the hallow gargoyle body and sprayed out its mouth.  The word gargoyle comes from a French word that means “to gargle.”

#7 Stained Glass – Small colorful pieces of glass are cut and laid-out to create art.  Strips of lead are used to hold the pieces together.  The beautiful stained glass windows filled the cathedrals with colorful sunlight.

#6 Black Death – Also known as the bubonic plague.  The disease was carried by fleas.  The fleas lived on rats that stowed-away in the goods being transported from Asia by travelers on the Silk Road.  Large crowded cities were dirty and had a huge rat population.  The plague spread quickly.  At least a third of the European population died.

#5 The Magna Carta – This was a document that dealt with protecting the rights of people.  It basically said no one is above the law, not even the king.  The document was written by a group of rich barons who realized their king, King John (the villain in Robin Hood stories), was a cruel bad-tempered man who took advantage of his power.   The barons forced the king to sign the Magna Carta.

#4 Fashion – This is the time when fashion began.  Traders brought back new fabrics, like velvet and silk.  The spinning wheel made it easier to produce fabric.   Clothing styles for the rich were changing at a faster pace than ever before.  People wanted the latest fad.   The people of the High Middle Ages were crazy dressers!  Men wore tights with two different colored legs.  The women wore tall pointy cone hats (hennins), gloves, and carried purses.  Everyone wore long pointy-toed shoes.  The length of the toe showed a person’s social standing.  Some people’s shoes were so ridiculously long, the government had to make laws against dangerous shoes.  Clothes were sewn to fit the body.  Buttons were functional and no longer just for decoration.

#3 Guilds – Groups of craftsmen with similar skills got together to look out for one another.  Guilds were the unions of the Middle Ages.  Candle makers, shoemakers, bakers, weavers, and masons were some of the guilds of the Middle Ages.

#2 Rich Merchants – People got rich selling and trading stuff.

#1 The Silk Road and Ocean Trade Routes – The Silk Road was a trade route that connected Asia, Africa, and Europe.  Merchants traveled on horseback, in carriages, or on foot to trade with people from distant lands.  There were also ocean trade routes where massive ships traveled long distances to trade goods with people on other continents.  They traded food, silver, cloth, clothing, building supplies, home goods, spices, tea, and even slaves.  A young Italian boy named Marco Polo sailed to China on a merchant ship with his father and uncle. He met the great Emperor Kublai Khan and traveled the Silk Road on several business trips.  He returned to Venice with unbelievable stories of his adventures.

 

Make the PORTABLE PUPPET THEATER  Click the link to view or print the PDF.

In the High Middle Ages, puppeteers traveled from town to town with their puppet theaters on the back of a wagon.  They would perform puppet shows on city streets.  Your students can design the theater for “Saint George and the Dragon” or they can write their own puppet play and use the template to make their own design.

 

Click the link to go to the GOTHIC PERIOD on my website for FREE activities or to purchase the unit.

 

Little Lanterns

Paper Lantern Craft
Click to view or print the template for this craft.

The History of the Magical History Tour

 

Happy New Year!

 

Celebrations connect us.  They connect us to our friends and family.  They connect us to our past.  Many of our holiday rituals have been passed on for generations.  We eat certain foods, decorate in a particular way, and participate in various activities because it’s part of the celebration.   Many times we have no idea why it’s part of the holiday, it just is, so we do it.

 

When I was a college student, I took several history courses.  The first was an art history and humanities class.  It connected art, literature, architecture, and music to the events of history.  It was an amazing class!  I was constantly thinking, “Why have I never heard this information?”  When I was in high school, history classes were about war and famous men who had founded, invented, and discovered everything.  The only thing I really knew about history was – it was boring!  The humanities class changed my view.  Now, I couldn’t get enough history.

 

Around the time my daughter started kindergarten, I started writing curriculum for reading and language arts, but I had another passion – history.  I felt like history, the human experience from beginning to present, should be a course that began in elementary school, but I didn’t even know where to start with that idea.  I talked to my mom because she’s super smart and was constantly reading and researching.  She said she’d think about it.  About a week after our conversation, she invited me over to discuss an idea she was working on.  When I walked into her house I saw 15 sheets of poster board arranged in sequence on her living room floor.  On each sheet, she had written a title and a date.  She photocopied pictures from various books and pasted the pictures onto the poster board rectangles.  In just a few months, she had created a poster timeline that would be the basis for our elementary school history program.

 

All of the curriculum I’ve worked on over the years has had one theme in mind: build a foundation for future learning.  I still believe in that theme.  I’ve met so many kids while working in various schools who are struggling because they never absorbed basic information and don’t have a process to place new information in their brains.  With our history program,  you introduce 13 distinct time periods in sequence, thereby creating 13 “file folders” in your students’ brains.  Once the students are familiar with how people lived and dressed and who the key players are in each time period, they will have a place to file future historical information.

 

I often think back on the standardized test my first graders took at the end of the school year.  One of the questions was, “Which of these illustrations is of Christopher Columbus?”  The test page had four portraits:  A. Abraham Lincoln, B. George Washington, C. Christopher Columbus, and D. Julius Caesar.  The first time I gave the test, I noticed about a fourth of the class chose Caesar.  The following year, I made sure to make a big deal over Columbus’s tights, cloak, and triangular hat.  But even with that information, there were still a few kids who chose Caesar.    I remember thinking, these kids have no connection to ancient Rome.  If they did, they’d be able to eliminate Caesar as easily as they did Washington and Lincoln.  The following year, I included a unit on ancient Rome.  That spring, 100% of my students identified Columbus on the standardized test.

 

History is a collection of great stories; the stories of our past.  Like celebrations, history connects us.

Another year has come to an end.  Most of us celebrated with lights, candles, and fireworks.  Lighting the winter in anticipation of spring is something that is celebrated in almost every culture.  My final craftivity is called “LITTLE LANTERNS.”   Click the link to get the template.  Light up the new year!

 

My blogs in 2017 will focus on history.  In the coming months, I will post a cut and paste craft, fun facts, and important vocabulary for each historical period.  Also, I plan to connect each history page on my website to the best videos, projects, and information on the web.  Get ready for the Magical History Tour!

 

Fortune Face

Folded Fortune Teller
Click to view or print pattern and instructions.

 

The Fortune Teller

 

When Alyssa was in fourth grade, she asked if she could have a Halloween party.  My answer was, “YESSSSS!”  The last Halloween party I had hosted was years before, for my little sister, Meg, who was probably in fourth grade.  That party included homemade orange and black construction paper decorations, balloons, streamers, and games like, “Pin the Nose on the Pumpkin.”  It was a very traditional party.

 

Now, years later, my little sister and I would host a not-so-traditional Halloween party for my daughter.   Meg, probably the most creative person on the planet, was staying with us while attending a nearby college.  When I’d told her about Alyssa’s Halloween party, she couldn’t wait to get started.  The process of brainstorming party ideas lasted well into the night.  When Meg returned from her classes the next day, I had already made a lot of the props we had discussed the night before.  Meg grabbed a paintbrush and got right to work.

 

One of the first props we created was a paper-mâché head.  It was painted green and had ping-pong ball eyes and moss hair.  The head was attached to a turntable so it would spin.  It was so ridiculous, I’m still laughing thinking about it!  Meg made a poster-sized painting based on the “Adam’s Family” character, Gomez.  She poked two holes in Gomez’s eyes and placed light bulbs in them.  Totally cheesy!  Then we made a  sarcophagus out of an old shoebox and a masking tape cat mummy to go inside it.  A mad scientist’s lab was created using old containers and tubes.  We used florescent paints on all of the objects so we could display them under a black light in my super-small guest room.  We made information cards, so the kids could read about each object on display.  Finally, cobwebs were strung over everything; and spiders, bats, and skeletons were added to all of the empty spaces.  This was our, “Museum of Frights,” and every time we looked at it, we busted out laughing.  It was super corny.  Nothing could make it seem scary.

 

On the night of the party, Meg and I set up all of the activity areas.  Games, crafts, and food tables filled the house.  Meg was dressed like a gypsy.  She had planned to tell fortunes, but one of the parent volunteers took over that activity.  I looked at Meg like, ‘Is this okay?’  She nodded, smiled at me, and headed toward the “Museum of Frights.”

 

As soon as the majority of kids had arrived, I asked them to form groups of five or less.  I gave each group a list of the activity areas.  Each list had an activity circled to indicate the starting point for the group.   In no time at all, the house was noisy with giggles and talking and screaming.  The kids were enjoying all of the activities, but the thing they loved the most was the museum.  I had no clue what Meg, one of the all time great storytellers, was saying to the kids in that tiny guest room, but when they exited the room they’d say, “That was awesome!   So good!  So scary!  We have to do that one again!”

 

When the party was over, I walked into the “Museum,” looked around, and thought,  ‘It does look pretty cool all lit up, but not scary.’  Meg opened the door and walked in.  I asked, “How in the world did you manage to make this into Disney-level entertainment?”  Meg picked up a flashlight, shined it from Gomez, to the spinning head, to the cat mummy, then under her chin.  She spoke in a slow, deep voice, “These ancient artifacts have stories to tell, and through me, they speak.”  Then she fainted.  She opened one eye and looked at me.  And, once again, we busted out laughing!!!

 

The featured craft is called, “FORTUNE FACE.”  You can click the link to get the template and instructions.  This craft can be used as a paper fortune teller or a puppet who tells fortunes.  You can even flip it over and use it as a candy holder.

 

halloweenparty

 

V-POP CARD (Pop-up Art)

V-POP Pop-up card
Click to view or print pattern and instructions.

First First Grade Class

It was two weeks until the school year would begin.  I was just out of college.  In just two weeks, I would have a classroom filled with first graders. I carried a large box of homemade decorations from the main school building to the smaller elementary school building.  Chickens were on either side of the sidewalk, pecking at grassy grains.  I felt like Laura Ingalls Wilder at my “Little House on the Prairie” school.  But this was no prairie in the 1880s.  It was a little town near the beach in the 1980s.  The school was a family owned business.  Most of the family members lived on the school grounds.  Some of their children were students at the school.  This was my first teaching job.

My empty classroom had 16 student desks, one teacher desk, a mostly empty bookshelf, and a giant chalkboard.  As I taped, stapled, and strung decorations to the walls of the classroom, a friendly woman poked her head in the door.  She introduced herself  as the upper-elementary grades teacher, activities coordinator, and bus driver.  She’d been at the school for ten years; since she got out of college.  She liked my classroom decorations.

On the first day of school, I met my students in the main school building.   Together, we walked to our new classroom.  I had planned several “getting to know you” activities.  But the kids didn’t need to get to know one another, all but one had been students at the school’s kindergarten.  The first day went well.  The kids were adorable!

In the first week, I realized that this group of first graders was very different from the kids in my student teaching internship.  I was planning to teach them how to read.  They already knew how.  I had put together a math activity center for beginning math skills.  They were beyond most of the activities.  I had created a cool handwriting program.  They gladly played along, but most already had good penmanship.  The kindergarten teacher had taught them well.  I had to adjust my game plan.  It took some time to figure out activities to accompany their level of learning.  Even the textbooks and workbooks were easy for most of these kids.  But they were hard workers and good students.

There was no arts program at the school.  I was the music teacher, art teacher, and P.E. coach.   In my classroom, music was mostly singing and dancing.  P.E. included exercise and competitive games.  I knew a lot about art and artists.  I often told an art related story before we did an art project.  These kids, like most kids, loved information.

I still remember some of the wild conversations that transpired in that classroom.  One of the most memorable was a discussion about a Weekly Reader story in which a young boy had been severely injured and needed a prosthetic device to replace his leg.  It sparked a lot of imaginative dialog.  One student posed a question,  “If I accidentally lost my head while riding on my dad’s motorcycle and was only able to say hello with my hands and not my missing mouth, could I get a prosthetic head?”   This prompted one of the girls to share a long winded tale about riding on a rollercoaster that derailed.  In the story, several people in her family lost limbs as the rollercoaster took a wild journey through town.  The next time her family went on a rollercoaster, they made sure it was correctly attached to the tracks.  I smiled and said, “Wow, what an unbelievable adventure.”  She frowned and replied, “It’s not unbelievable.  It’s actually, totally, really true.”

I thought about my first year students as I was working on this V-POP card.  The card was inspired by my love of Henri Matisse.  I remember telling my students about his “Portrait of Madame Matisse,” also known as “Green Stripe.”  I explained that the artist painted with bold, unusual colors.  He used two different skin tones and painted a green stripe down the middle of his wife’s face.  Back then, the art critics called the painting a monstrosity, and said it looked like it had been painted by a wild beast.  That story inspired some pretty creative portraits which hung on the walls of my first first grade classroom.

Click here to get the template and instructions for the “V-POP CARD.”  I hope you have fun making it with your creative crew.

 

Junk-bots

Junk-bots
Click to view or print pattern and instructions.

Journals

Journal entries from your first grader’s composition book are priceless collections of misspelled words and random thoughts that can lead to laughter for years to come.

As a first grader, Alyssa once wrote about our neighbor who had recently “dumped his perfictly nice feonsay for a dum Barbie doll girl.”  What prompted her to write this in her classroom journal?  The perfectly nice fiancée  was her substitute teacher that day.  Alyssa also wrote a passage about how much our family hates fat grams.  The following day’s entry was about how much our family loves bacon.

In a journal entry about her grandparents, my husband’s parents, Alyssa wrote about how much fun it was to visit them.  Then to prove to her readers that it was the “funnest” trip ever, she described walking to the corner store with Gramma to get scratch off lotto tickets and coming back to the condo to scratch the tickets with Grampa while he drank Old Style beer.   Grant’s mom read the story.  She looked at me and laughed, “My goodness, her grandparents sound like real winners.”  And it was pretty funny, because during our visit we went so many places and did so many things, but to Alyssa, just spending time alone with her grandparents was the journal-worthy part of the trip.

Jack’s first grade journal entries were pretty funny, too.  One of my favorites started with the line, “Once when me and Bobby were digging to China…”  In the story Jack and his friend, Bobby, discover a rare species, but when someone tells them it’s a common grub worm, Bobby screams and crushes it.  Another great entry was a story about butterflies.  In the story Jack asks the question, “Where do they go when they fly away?”  Then he answers the question, “No putty knows.”  And, naturally, that became a catch phrase in our house. “Where are my tennis shoes?”  “No putty knows!”

Jack also wrote stories about Grant’s parent’s.  In one story he brags that Grampa gave him ten “dollers” to buy whatever he wanted at the store.  Jack doesn’t tell his readers that he used the money to buy pipe cleaners and pompons or that Grampa thought the purchase was a bit odd.   But when they returned to his house, Grandpa was impressed with Jack’s ingenuity and imagination.  Jack bent, twisted, curved, and folded pipe cleaners around pompons to create an assortment of creatures and characters that he played with for hours on end.  Grampa said, “I tried to talk him into buying a toy, and he kind of did.”

Jack’s creative purchase turned into an activity center at our house.  We filled a tabletop with pipe cleaners, pompons, washers, hex nuts, googly eyes, sequins, feathers, fun foam beads, and beverage straws.  Jack’s and his friends would use the pieces to create action figures we called junk-bots.  I have modified the craft by including a head and body box.  If you plan to make the craft with a child younger than 9, you’ll need to make the boxes for them.  Click on “JUNK-BOTS” to get the template and instructions for this craftivity.  Maybe your child will write a journal entry about it.

 

Dragon-flier

Paper Airplane
Click to view or print pattern and instructions.

David and Dakota

Student teaching was my final college course.  I was fortunate not only to work with an excellent teacher, but to be involved in a pilot reading program.  There were 30 first graders in the class.  None of them had any prior reading experience.  (It was the 1980s, a time before helicopter parents were hovering.)  The “new” reading program looked like it came from Colonial times.  It was maybe 180 pages of black and white text, no illustrations.  The first page had 5 letters and 3 sight words.  The students had to memorize the words and the sounds of the letters, as well.   Pages 2, 3, and 4 looked very similar, but had a different arrangement of the letter sounds and sight words.  We introduced one page each day.  The students would say the sounds and read the sight words with us.  Then they would break off into pairs and read them to their partner.  Lesson 5 started the same, but added new words that were made of the letter sounds.  The teacher showed the kids how to blend the sounds together to read these new phonetic words.  By page 8 the students were reading sentences made up of both the sight words and the phonetic words.  They read with us, then in pairs.  They were reading!  As a kid who struggled to learn to read, I was very impressed!  Every other week, a new chapter was introduced with new letter sounds and sight words.  By the end of the semester, the majority of the students were good readers.  I loved this reading program!  Unfortunately, the teachers hated it.  They had to work really hard to come up with all of the extra materials needed to fill an hour of reading time.  The pilot program failed.  I was so disappointed!  In the back of my 20 year old mind, I decided I would one day create a reading program that worked like this one, but had all of the content needed to fill an hour of reading time.

When my daughter, Alyssa, was  about 2 1/2 she knew all of the letters of the alphabet, both capital and lowercase.  I decided to teach her a few letter sounds and a few sight words.  She memorized them fairly quickly.  I taught her to sound out words made up of the letter sounds.  That was easy for her, too.  So I made sentences using the letter sounds and sight words.  She could read them!  I kept adding sounds and words in a manner similar to the pilot reading program.  By the time she was 3 1/2, Alyssa could read almost any beginning reader book.

When Alyssa started kindergarten, her teacher was impressed by how well she read.  That was the motivation I needed to start working on my idea for a reading program that was less Colonial times and more Sesame Street.   It was a huge undertaking.  I researched the most common sight words.  I created a cast of characters who spoke in letter sounds.  I divided all of the letter sounds and sight words into categories from most used to least used and easiest to most difficult.  I wrote sentences and stories for each grouping of sight words and phonetic words.  All I needed were students who wanted to learn to read.

Dakota was a 5 year old who lived across the street from me.  When I told his mom about the reading program I was inventing, she immediately volunteered her son.  Dakota came over 5 times a week for 30 minute reading lessons.  He was an excellent student.  He learned to read very quickly.  I thought my reading program was a winner.  Then I met David.

David’s mom knocked on my door, introduced herself, and told me she was a friend of Dakota’s mom.  Her son had been to preschool and kindergarten and was rapidly falling behind.  She asked if I could teach him how to read.

I noticed right away that David was easily distracted.  He changed the subject whenever possible.  He took bathroom breaks that sometimes lasted for most of our reading session.   Once he even cleaned my bathroom while he was taking a break.  This kid did not want to learn to read, but I was determined to motivate him.  I wrote special stories with David as the main character and used themes that were of interest to him.  I made games and flashcards for him to take home.   After a year of reading lessons, David was reading on a really low level.  His mom was happy with that.   I wanted better results.

It wasn’t until my son Jack was about 4 that I saw in him some of the same reluctance to learn that I had seen in David.  It occurred to me that Jack (and David) might have a learning disability.  After a lot of research I found a number of articles on Visual Processing Disorder.  It seemed to match what I had observed in David and was now seeing in Jack.  I knew I had to make changes to the reading program.  If Jack liked the work we were doing, I figured it might work for other reluctant learners or kids with learning disabilities.  And that is how I proceeded.

There is a big difference in creating a lesson that will work for a David verses a Dakota.  Color-coding, letter spacing, and page organization are all important when working with kids who struggle with reading.  Over the years, I have consistently worked to improve my reading program with betters stories, activities, and illustrations.  “Readerville” is finally the friendly, easy-to-use reading program I’d imagined so long ago.  I wish I could go back in time and re-teach David.  I’m optimistic he’d take less bathroom breaks.

This craftivity is called “DRAGON-FLIER.”  (Click the blue words to get the template and instructions for the craft.)  Take it outside and have some fun after your study session is done.  Or use it in your reading lesson:  Set sentence strips on the floor about 12 inches apart.  Have your child fly the dragon-flier onto a sentence, read it, and remove it.  Keep playing until all the sentences have been read.