Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Twas the Season..."

We made several holiday inspired arts and crafts projects before going on break. Also, I found an amazing single branch that served to hold wishes the children wrote with a single word. It was an elegant and simple statement of what it means to make a little wish. I loved it. So here is a review of what we did and a look at the beauty of a child creating a gift and, too, wrapping it with paper they decorated. Oh, the lovliness of it all...

I always put out a small fake Christmas tree for the children to individually decorate. They really enjoy this activity. One of my Jewish students was so excited when it came out again this year as she said that she enjoys the tradition of hanging ornaments although that is not a tradition she practices in her own home.

Another classroom favorite is to play the dreidel game. This also provides non-Jewish children the opportunity to use a dreidel. I love the counting and the math involved in playing the game - adding and subtracting. It was also very popular.

On a snowy day half way through the month, I ran out to our playground and nabbed this beautiful branch which I put in a vase which I had filled half with brown beans (for the earth - soil) and half with white beans (for snow). Patti cut a small pile of square cards for the children to use to write a single word wish. First they stamped the front of their card, then they wrote their word and finally they hung the card on the branch. It was so simple and so lovely.

Every year I scan numerous books and magazine for new Christmas craft ideas. The children make a small gift for their parents and take it home just before break. I was also looking for a new pattern for making a Christmas stocking and an ornament as I had signed up for swaps for both. I selected a craft that I could use for myself and with the children.

I brought to school a few yards of "fake" linen. I also brought pine needles, ferns, holly leaves (Cristina spent a long time on the cold playground finding leaves for the project). Thankfully a student brought in two large bundles of colorful flowers which were also used for the projects.

My afternoon class is much smaller and so I decided to have them attempt the project first and see how it work - I was amazed !!! They carefully placed the petals into patterns of their choice, laid the leaves with a steady hand and hammered away. Next they began stitching. Three of the students had learned to sew last year and had made pillows so they went full speed ahead. Their stitches were so even and so close together that it looked like a professional had done the sewing. A fourth student followed their lead and was soon displaying remarkable skill. Before long all of the students were busy.

After placing the petals and hammering, the student below used tweezers to pull the petals from the cloth. The second shot shows her decorated cloth ready to be made into a pillow.

The next day they continued their sewing and then stuffed their pillows.

Too, they stamped paper to make their own wrapping paper, (with the help of Cristina) wrapped their gifts and threaded baked oranges (gifts for the birds) to decorate their packages. The final picture is a shot of a few of the prepared gifts.

I finished my ornament by adding a few stithes and a couple of french knots. I sent the completed stocking off but kept a second (much different design) for me to complete and use next year.

The morning class made their own wrapping paper too and, instead of pillows, created a simple hanging using hammered cloth and embroidery hoops. We did this the last day before break turning the classroom into a holiday workshop. Ooooh the fun...and then it was done. I hope to see photos of oranges hanging in backyards and of pillows resting on couches or beds.

P.S. One day in the afternoon while most of the children were busy sewing their pillows, a child went to reach for one of the cards on our branch "tree" to read it and a small vase of water spilt. I turned and saw this little puddle of water and called Christina over to look at it. It looked just like a seahorse - she agreed and we showed the children and celebrated the tiny details of life. See for yourself -

For those of you interested in flower pounding this is the book I used:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Brief Pause in Posting

I am moving - I started moving two days after Thanksgiving. I am just moving to the next town over but I am exhausted. After a day of teaching and then packing and unpacking, I just can't find the time to post. And I can't find my camera - I am sure it is in one box or another. So hang in there - I have much to write about and will have a new post soon. I miss writing them - I really do...and reading your comments. Susan Dyer

Monday, December 1, 2008

Leaf Washing

Above: The youngest child in my classroom does leaf washing. He was so invested in his work that he even washed the rocks around the plant.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Not Too Late To Remember Great Turkey Moments from 2008

As Thanksgiving approached this year, Patti and I discussed creating some new materials. During our discussion and while listening to all of the great ideas that Patti had, I decided to let her run the show. I invited her to put together two different lessons that pertained to actual turkeys. When she had all of her materials prepared and had prepared a lesson plan I asked her to present the materials to me. I was very impressed. I promised to provide her the opportunity to present her materials to the class.

Patti's first lesson was on the different types of turkeys - there are eight. She made a wonderful set of matching cards. During her presentation she gave much information about the bird which was almost made the bird to represent the United States. Eagle vs Turkey. We all know which bird won (Eagle).

Her second presentation, given a few days later, was on turkey feathers and on different ways that they are used: in a headress, to write with and for Big Bird's yellow costume. Actually, we were all surprised to hear that it takes over 4,000 dyed turkey feathers to create one of Big Bird's costumes.

After Patti gave her lesson on feather usage, which she also made illustrated cards of for the children to view, she put out a tray of feathers and some paper and let the children create something themselves. Several feathered crowns were made and a few other works of art. See below:

Great job Patti. The children used the matching cards again and again. Although this holiday has past it will return again next year. Patti's materials will also return to the shelves. Her next big project is creating classification cards for the human heart to be used in February. Hmmm what holiday would those be for...

Monday, November 24, 2008

So I Had Planned This Lesson But A Child Ask to Present Her Lesson Instead and So I Just Sat Back and Took Photos

Not often, but every now and then, I get bumped in the que of lesson giving. Today, was one of those times. First, Patti gave a wonderful presentation on Turkeys. She asked the students to guess how many types of turkeys there are. The answer was eight. She made in advance a wonderful set of matching cards using images of the eight types of turkeys. She did a great job making the cards and presenting them to the children. They were immediately used after her lesson.

I had planned on presenting a lesson to the older children on making potholders using a metal frame, cloth loops and a small hook. When I placed the materials on the floor in front of me, Zoe, a kindergarten student, declared she was familiar with the materials but used them not for making potholders but to finger knit scarves and other items.

I told her that I had planned a lesson on making potholders and that when I was finished giving my lesson she could give one of her own on finger knitting. She answered stating, "Miss Dyer, you always present lessons first. Can't I go first this time." I immediately felt a calmness come over me as I knew what I had to do. "I invite you to present your lesson first, Zoe. I will do mine after." She grinned at me from ear to ear and began demonstrating and teaching the other children how to use the cloth loops to finger knit. Soon, Meaghan got the hang of it and before I knew it had the beginnings of a scarf stretched across her hand.

Zoe was patiently attempting to assist all of the children learn her lesson. She was so patient and so good at verbally describing which steps to do next. I heard her say, "Don'think about making a scarf today. Think about learning the steps, teaching your hand." Wow!

By the time the morning bell rang, all of the cloth loops were used.

The head of my school bought some more later on in the day. By tomorrow at least two children - Meaghan and Zoe, will leave my class with homemade scarves wrapped around them.

Today Patti and I saw a small, independent group of children share knowledge and abilites. It was a pretty impressive sight. My only question is whether or not Zoe or Meaghan will find time to teach me how to finger knit. "May I have a lesson, please."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Take a Moment to Rest, Relax, Contemplate, Meditate and then Return to the Work

I was recently asked if there was a place in my classroom that a child might rest. I walked through my classroom the other day and made a mental list which I am now going to note below.

Children may go to the library to read a book, hug a bear (Henry is a small, stuffed bear that stays in the library along with our pet fish, Audrey)

or look at one of the photographs hanging on the wall or sit quietly.


Children may put their name cards out on work they have been concentrating on to walk quietly on the line. After a few times around, the child simply returns to his work ready to have a second go at it.


Children may sit at the Peace Table and draw designs in the sand with the small rake provided or sit quietly.


Children may use markers or colored pencils to draw a picture of their choice (however the number of sheets of paper allowed for drawing is limited to two).

The above picture is titled, "Halloween Hairdos."


They may also have snack by themselves, if no one else is wanting to have snack, or with another child.

This simple snack of cereal and milk is one of the most popular.


Children may get out the yoga cards and meditation rug so as to either do some poses or to simply rest with a scented eye pillow placed carefully on their face. Children mediating may not be disturbed by other children. No food is offered and there are no observers. Over the years, several children have actually fallen asleep while doing this. It is most often used when the class is a little loud or busy, or just before a holiday.


Collectively, all of the children and the adults play the bell game often. Here the child tries not to ring the bell as they walk across the rug from their spot to the spot of another child. The other child is given the bell by the first so that they may carry it to the next child. This is one of the Silent Activities in my album. It is very calming and centering for both the children and the adults.


The children also have 45 minutes - 1 hour outdoor, playground time everyday - weather permitting.

That looks like a pretty good list. Patti and I have often noted a child who has taken a moment to stretch, read a book, have snack or do yoga returns to their work with a renewed sense of commitment and focus.