Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What about play?

This is a Tuesday Slice of Life for Two Writing Teachers
Check out their website for many more reflections on teaching.


In many ways, it was a release, a letting up of the brakes. 

A new gift from a family,
a bin of cloths,
large fabric pieces,
varied colors, textures, sizes.

Four boys wanted to dress up. Make me a hat! Can I have a cape? I need this part on my body! Can you tie this here? I am ninja! I am fast! I am superhero!

Let's forget that I am
one small part of  an elementary and middle school,
primed and ready for surprise observations from district officials and other supervisors, looking for rigor and visible learning,
providing family conferences about student progress, with families craving insight about pre-literacy, early mathematics, academic skills, their child's future success,
readying for the Learning Showcase evening event, documenting all the children's work for families and community, with children owning their work and detailing it for families, all work labelled with clear objectives, 
supporting a resident teacher, immersed in graduate school details of early reading, collecting data, leveled readers, guided reading, reading progress,
adhering to specific and separate times for art, music, Spanish, physical education, recess,
keeping unit plans updated, lesson plans current and detailed,
making sure I am following the posted schedule with impunity,
consumed by data tracking, writing trimester summaries and report cards

Let's forget the tension of
specify, specify, specify,
faster, faster, faster,
more, more, more

Four boys wanted to dress up.
And I began to play, too.
And then they began to run, 
in the classroom,
their excitement impossible to contain,
to which I led them outdoors,
to the field,
where we ran and ran and ran
on a rainy day.

I wonder
are we making time for make-believe?
are we preserving possibility for the unexpected?
are we remembering what it is to be a child?
are we along for their ride?
are we losing sight of the three year old?
the preschooler?
the child?
are we losing our minds or their minds?
what is really needed?

Children need play and its infinite possibilities,
surrounded by adults who nourish the fun.

And so,
we played.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What about those clouds?

This is a Tuesday Slice of Life for Two Writing Teachers
Check out their website for many more reflections on teaching.


I wrote recently about our neighborhood walks, noting how we have been observing the clouds in the sky. 

Truly, a "cloud study" is emerging in our class.

Behind our school is a large field, providing a large expanse from which to see the sky. This leads to some breathtaking views. We see storms forming, airplanes and helicopters crossing, winds blowing, rain pelting down, and bright sun shining.  Honestly, I've been surprised by how varied the sky can look. 

The clouds are captivating. I encourage the children to observe them more closely. 
The view is lovely from our classroom windows.  

"Look, Ms. Ingram, the clouds are moving!," one student called to me during centers the other day.

At least once a week, we head out the back door of our school to the field, to sit and draw the clouds in the sky. The children are honing their fine motor skills while becoming scientist - observers.

One day, we went out to draw the clouds but there was nothing but gorgeous blue sky, as far as the eye could see. I asked, Where are the clouds? and thoroughly enjoyed the children's responses:

"The clouds are in the sun." (H)

"Because my dad said 'if there is no clouds, you can play.' 
And if you see the clouds, you can draw the clouds." (D)

"Unless the sun take the clouds away." (B)

In the art corner, we have created clouds of our own, in several different ways. 

We created clouds with white, gray, and even black paint, using cotton balls and q-tips as tools to apply the paint. The children created these as a 'symmetry' lesson, putting the paint on one side of the paper only and then folding the paper over, resulting in a mirroring image on the other side of the paper.

We created a beautiful blue sky as a group project. The children delighted in working on their hands and knees, right on the floor of the classroom. 

Of course, once the sky was complete, we needed to add clouds. These we created with 'puffy paint,' which I always enjoy mixing with the children. Puffy white paint is easy - shaving cream mixed with glue (more or less equal parts of each) ... a delightfully sensory experience for painting clouds by hand:

Our fabulous art teacher Briana shared a blog with me by an artist and designer named Cristina Moreno, showcasing the most extraordinary cloud and sky work; I simply had to make a large cloud with the children!!

I wasn't totally certain how to create the cloud, but I thought - let's give it a try! Briana helped fashion a base/form for the cloud and even provided me four bags of cotton batting for the project. The children went to work on this large scale model of a cloud!

The children worked and worked on this, all morning long, pulling small pieces of cotton from the bag, stretching it to make it light and fluffy, and applying lots of glue. (I was astonished at how many bottles of glue we went through to create this exciting structure!)

The children were so engaged, with such great language streaming from their lips...the adjectives alone:


The children had so many great questions -

What are clouds made of?
How big are clouds?
Can we make a real cloud?
How long does it take to make a cloud?
What does it feel like to fall into a cloud?

It was such a thrill to stand on chairs as one worked!!

It took several days for the cloud to dry out.
Then, it was time to find an answer to another pressing question from the children:

How will it hang?

In our science corner, of course! Right in front of our window.

"If you want to have a cloud, you have to be a builder." (A)

We are getting our cloud work ready to share with the families for this Thursday's Learning Showcase. However, I'm not sure our cloud study is over - each day brings more curiosity and exploration.

Can't you hear Joni Mitchell singing?

I've looked at clouds from both sides now

From up and down and still somehow

It's cloud illusions I recall

I really don't know clouds at all

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What are their hopes and dreams?

This is a Tuesday Slice of Life for Two Writing Teachers
Check out their website for many more reflections on teaching.


This year we will spend Veteran's Day (tomorrow) doing family conferences. 
I am looking forward to conversing with families about their children, 
hearing their feedback about the school year to date and sharing their strengths and needs. 
With 23 preschoolers to share about, 
I know I will be exhausted by tomorrow evening, and 
I suspect my voice will be hoarse.

What are families often wondering about? 
Most importantly - do I love their child? 
Yes, yes, yes, I'm head over heels already, without exception; I'm excited to share why. 
Also, I predict they'll want to know more about their child's 
favorite activities, 
math and literacy skills, and, of course, 
eating, toileting, and napping. 
I love hearing what is same and different about a child's behavior at home versus school. 

Today's a good day to share the children's own "hopes and dreams," 
which I gathered the first week or so of school. 
Funny, they aren't focused on the same things that we adults are!

I love clouds! See the clouds? I love clouds. It’s rainy outside. I can make people and you will see a person when I am done. I learned how to. Look at the tree I made. It’s a blue tree. I like this stuff. I’m going to draw my Mom and my Dad and I love my grandma, so I’m going to make my Grandma. I like everyone in my family. Even my brother! He is part of my family.

I love Mummy and the park, the slide.

I love my Mommy and I like my baby and Daddy. Look at my picture! It’s a monster. Let me draw eyes like this!

I love “A” and “B” and “I”! My name! I went to the pool yesterday. Mommy doesn’t know how to swim. This is for Mommy’s birthday. And I love flowers. The flowers make me sneeze. Painting is my favorite! I have painting at home, too. I’m makin a toy and polkadots and a circle and a marshmallow snowman with a lot of chocolate. And I like sprinkles, too! And this is teeth and this is an umbrella.

I like my Mommy and my Daddy. I love my Grandpa. I love my Daddy and my Mommy.

I love black, black, black, and I love Mommy and my brother and my sister. And, I love painting. I make a circle.

I love orange and I love Daddy and Mommy

I like going camping with Daddy. The camping isn’t finished. I just wanted Daddy, not Benjamin. He’s too little. He’s with my grandparents and he is at their house. I like helping Mommy make muffins in the morning that I can eat. Dad took me to school and I made my bed, but my bed is too wrinkly. I made a lollipop that I like.

I love Pokemon and superheroes and Spiderman. Pokemon. I can draw Pokemon. Mommy and Daddy like this. I just draw Spiderman.

I made a tree fort! And I love my Poppa.

My Mommy and my Daddy and my Daddy and my brother and my dog. And these are stars. My Mom never let me use a permanent marker! I’m making a human with marshmallows.   

I love Momma and I love my Daddy, too. I’m drawing a picture of my Mommy and I make a rainbow and I drawed a sun, the sunshine! I’m making a river, I’m making a boat. That’s my side and that’s Daddy side. I didn’t know you had markers!

I draw me! It’s a wave. I like to go to the beach and play with the sand. And these are marshmallows.

I love Batman. Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na, Batmaaaaan! I watched in the Lego movie, there was a Batman in the Lego movie. I’m ddrawing a spiderman shooting out a web, all kinds of webs. My Dad knows all about Spiderman and he knows a lot about Batman.

I love rain and I love clouds. I am an artist. I love flowers.

I love a circle and a candle and another circle. I’m making a cake! I’m making one for Mommy, Daddy, and brother. I love my Mommy and my Daddy.

I love engines best. I only love engines. I do like cars and I also like monsters! I am not done with my engine. I love engines.

I love a flatbed truck and car carriers and a firetruck.

My Mommy and my Daddy. I am going to draw them soon. I am drawing their eyelids. This is Daddy. He is looking at the animals and the boats. And I made this boat. I made another boat in the water.

I love Spiderman and Sandman. He’s in his truck. And I love Mommy and I love TV.    

I love purple and I love Mommy.

I’m drawing sheeplah. Black lines. Look at the elephant! Bonk. Number 6. I’m drawing number 7.

I love this! I drawed this. My hands are pink. I love pink. I love everything.    

Our hopes and dreams display, outside my classroom door.