Conversations

#mwisdthankful

freedom-from-fear-1943Our Superintendent challenged us to share reasons we are thankful for our school district, coworkers and community for seven days. I missed yesterday, so this post is for Thursday, November 9th.

I’m thankful for the great conversations my job allows me to have with my students. Thursday, our warm-up activity was to define the main idea behind an artwork. I chose Norman Rockwell’s famous Freedom from Fear, one of a four painting series that Rockwell did in 1943. I chose it because the next day was our Veteran’s Day Celebration and this painting illustrates how our armed forces keeps this nation free from fear.

What always surprises me is the children’s gut reaction to this tender scene of a mother and father tucking their children into bed at night. The room gets quiet as they take in the moment. Their responses were all connected to parents. “Maybe the children are sick and the mom is taking care of them.” Seeing the newspaper in the father’s hand, one student said, ” The Dad has been reading them a bedtime story.”  I wondered how many of my children have these moments in their homes. But they all sense somehow that is right that children should be safe. Rockwell is a master of visualizing what is good about people.

It was only after we dug deeper into the history and timing of the paintings that they understood the message of how our Armed Services defend our right to be free from fear. We talked about honoring those brave men and women on Veteran’s Day. A powerful message during these uncertain times.

So today I am thankful to be able to pass on the traditions and history of our great country in conversations with my students.

Image: By Goku iroshima – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16925982

 

 

Across the Line

 

four-square-1622867_1920Four square. A playground game that has been around since I was in elementary school.  I was supervising a group of
sixth-graders playing four-square at recess today and I blew it.

You know, it’s been a long time since I played the game and I forgot that the inside lines are out-of-bounds if the ball touches it and the outside lines are in-bounds if the ball touches it. Read that sentence a few times and it makes your eyes water.

I preferred a simpler solution. If the ball touches a line, you’re out.
Wrong old-teacher-lady. So wrong. The drama-llamas hit full bore whine-o-rama level when I started enforcing that rule. An eleven-year-old has a more finely developed sense of justice than a life-time supreme court justice.

After much gnashing of teeth during recess I did what any good teacher does, I googled four-square rules when I got back inside.

So tomorrow I must do a mea culpa and let the outside lines be in-bounds at all costs. For Pete’s sake, there must be SOME order in this world.

But there are still no cherry bombs.

The Eyes Have It!

#mwisdmatters

There are those great moments in teaching art that hit like lightning. They’re usually not on the lesson plan. They rush in like the tide and swamp everything else that you had planned with a sweet crash of excitement. God, I love those moments. They breathe life into your bones. I had one today.

We were drawing detailed eyes in 6th grade art. We had gone through feeling our face for eye sockets and glaring at irises and pupils. I had given each student a mirror. Oh, the hair primping and soulful staring at reflections. It is a riot to watch. We used blending stumps and erased highlights on watery eyes …we hacked our way through a forest of stick eyelashes and caterpillar eyebrows that wiggled over lazy eyelids. But my students were game. This was hard stuff and they were trying….and then….

One student propped his mirror over his drawing and noticed the reflection …he called me over excitedly. “Look at this Mrs. S!” I was blown away by what he had seen and called everyone over to look. It was like a current went through the room. They all ran back to their drawings to create the same optical illusion…”Look, look!” filled the room.

And there it was..the moment they saw their drawings like artists. They went into undiscovered territory. They were excited, they were engaged. I took pictures. What else could I do?  It was a moment worth saving.

 

Day 2

Love, love the first week of school. Everything’s new, kids are fresh and every day is an event.

Best new student comment: “Mrs. Strandberg I’m having a little trouble with finding everything and understanding what to do.”  I said “It’s ok, you’re new to Travis, you’ll get the hang of it and I help you.” He said “No you don’t understand, I’m from F-L-O-R-I-D-A.” You can’t make this stuff up. I told him it would be O-K.

Best Teacher Save of the Day: When I came in from recess which was 94 dgrees and 98% humidity I ALMOST wiped my face with a Clorox wipe instead of a face wipe. ALMOST.

Bubble Away

End-of-the-school-year sanity routines are vital.

In our elementary school we pack everything up in the classroom so that the maintenance crew can strip and wax the floors over the summer. That means the six-foot tables in my art room have to be stacked against the wall. I have seven of those tables in my room. A few years back I lucked into a end-of-year routine that keeps my sanity, is fun for the kids and guarantees I have clean table tops when I come back the following school year.

I have an inside Bubble Day. This requires a trip to Walmart to buy four giant containers of bubble liquid, hundreds of straws and plastic cups. My treat, because I love the effect it has on the kids. Both exciting and calming at the same time.

Rules are:

  • You must be sitting to blow bubbles.
  • Bubble stuff can go on the table, but not on the floor; too slippery.
  • Don’t blow bubbles directly into someone’s eyes. It stings.
  • If you bubble up all your bubbles, you are out. No refills.
  • End of the class all straws go in the trash, all cups go back on the counter, wipe down your table with paper towels at the end of class.

So here’s how it goes. The kids blow bubbles in the air for about two minutes until someone realizes that if you blow  into the cup it will bubble over the lip of the cup and onto the table. Sort of like when you blow bubbles into you milk glass when you are having milk and cookies. Viola! Instant clean tables. Children combine straws in a bubble to make the largest bubble. Shouts of “Look, Mrs. Strandberg, Look!” fill the room. They progress from blowing bubbles into swishing their hands around on the table top and writing letters in the bubbly film on the table. Fun stuff.

The art room smells like soap. Clean tables. Clean hands. Happy kids. Happy teacher.

 

 

 

My Favorite Meal

#mwisdmatters

My 4th grade art students always seem to have fewer barriers between their art and their imagination than my 5th and 6th graders. I’m not sure why that is, but is delightful to watch and listen to them as they open up to a project. I revisited an old classic recently when I asked my 4th grade artists to draw their favorite meal.

The set up for the project is a discussion about going on a picnic. Students get to pick their favorite foods to have at the picnic, which must include a main course, sides, drink and dessert. They must also include silverware and a napkin and a tablecloth under the plate.

I have three goals for this project.

  1. They must have their food shown from a bird’s-eye point of view, which involves a demonstration and discussion of how shapes change when they are shown from different perspectives.
  2. They must show a place setting, which involved a discussion and pictures of how you set a table. Social skills in art class. I wonder how many families sit down at a common table for dinner these days, so I hope I filled in a gap for some of my students who have not ever set a table.
  3. They must show a pattern of some kind on the tablecloth, which reinforces the definition of a pattern in art as a repeated shape or color series.

Students have a large sheet of paper as their format, 12 x 18 inches, and draw first in pencil, then outline in sharpie and color with crayon. I give them a paper plate to draw around to make sure we don’t have miniature plates.

And oh the stories about what food my students like the best!

And the extras! Ants on the tablecloth. Butterflies flying over the picnic.  Good memories about family. Great fun.

Why Do Art Teachers Need A Conference Time, Anyway?

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My elementary art student: Think of the best “valley girl”-accented voice saying, “Why do art teachers need a conference time anyway?”

I’m thinking, “You seriously did not just say that to me, right?” I smiled. Actually I think I bared my teeth and took a deep breath.

Me: (think Julia Sugarbaker accent). My answer:

“Ok, We’ll just examine that question, my friend.

Let’s just talk about materials and tools for a sec, ok?

It may have escaped your notice that on days like today when we paint, when you arrive for your thirty- minute art class (that is really just twenty-five minutes because we have no passing period) that these things are already ready for you on your table:

  • twenty-four large manila backer papers
  • a paper towel
  • a mixing plate
  • and a paint plate with red, yellow, blue, and white paint on it
  • the paint rack where you store your paintings is empty and ready for you with a clothespin on the front with your class number on the side you are supposed to use
  • twelve water cups are filled and ready for you to share with your partner
  • the paint brushes you used yesterday are clean and ready to pass out
  • soapy water is in a tub for your used brushes

Now, about those pesky ideas and goals for my lesson. (I did smile again, really.)

The painting formulas for mixing secondary colors and tints are already on the in-focus screen for you to refer to and your goal for the day is posted on the white board. Ah, vocabulary; like tint, primary, secondary, foreground, middle ground, background, and landscape. Did you think the Keebler Elves handed those to me on a notecard just before class or that I planned what I wanted you to learn?

How about when I carefully taught you procedures for taking out and putting up your artwork and materials by colored table or chair number, did you think that just happened spontaneously through a light sprinkling of fairy dust? No planning involved at all? And that I do all this for six classes a day?

Does that give you a hint of why I might need a planning period?”

The room had become eerily quiet. They were all looking at me like I had grown another head.

Student: “May I have some more yellow paint?”

Me: “Sure.”

Note to self: Switch to decaf tomorrow morning.

Spelling Your Heart Out

the_beatles_rock_band_-_microphoneThis year’s school Spelling Bee is in the can, completed, finished, wrapped up. I was the pronouncer for our elementary school bee; a job you get basically because everyone else says “I’m not doing it.” Oddly enough I mostly love being a pronouncer, my mom had us reading dictionaries at an early age, but I have to tell you it is an exhausting job. Why? Because you have to watch each student, heart in their mouth, come up to the microphone and spell the word you give them. And when they miss, you can not react. My face has to stay deadpan as they labor through the word, looking straight at me. My heart is breaking for the student who just misspelled their word and whose eyes just filled with tears. I’m thinking, “Please don’t cry, because if you start to cry, I’ll going to cry and it’s going to get damp in here.” That’s the exhausting part, the tension. I say the word,  then they are supposed to repeat it, then ask me questions, then spell; which most never do. They’re nervous kids, they forget to ask for help.

By the way, just in case you don’t know this, the pronouncer does not pick the word; it is part of a prescribed, numbered list issued by Scripps each year and brother, I go in order. Anyway, my job is to help the kids. I can say the word again for them, give them the part of speech, origin of the word, a definition, use it in a sentence and give alternate pronunciations for the word, which is really hard for this southern girl. Who knew there were three different pronunciations for “equestrian”? And why? It takes me several weeks to get ready all 375 words and my donkeys all have an expanded vocabulary.

And while I’m at it, I have to say I have never met a fourth, fifth or sixth grader that has voluntarily used the word thaumaturge. Look it up. But now if I ever witness magic or a miracle, I’m ready.

Speaking of miracles, let’s invent a sound system that does not sprout gremlins the moment the Bee starts and begin issuing unearthly feedback when it did not do that yesterday when we practiced. Thanks again to a very nice parent who routed the feedback gremlins. Thaumaturgy! See I knew I’d use it.

But at the end of the day I am proud to be a part of the Spelling Bee and appreciative of all the hard work our students and teachers put into learning to spell. Spelling is a skill they will need their whole lives. Language is the accumulated knowledge of many people, many ages and it is an important thing to pass on.

And yes, I remember the word I missed in the Spelling Bee; it was “magazine”. Really.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3-D Snowflakes

#mwisdmatters

It has been unusually warm here in north Texas. I’m not complaining mind you but I’m craving a little Christmas weather.

The kind of weather where a pot of chili with cornbread takes the chill off your bones. The kind of weather that makes cider and hot chocolate taste good. Sweater weather. So time for a little snow artwork.

My good friend Billie Slater used to bring her Cadets into the building singing…”Pray for snow….pray for snow….” in their best Native American chant rhythm. Well I’m not quite up to that vocally, so we are making snowflakes. Big 3-D snowflakes. I found a very clear tutorial here on the wonderful blog, One Less Headache. Add good instructions plus a sprinkling of science and math and voila, 3-D snowflakes.

 

I have my winter board done too for a little extra snow mojo.

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Let’s get this straight…..not sleet…not ice..I want snow, the big fluffy kind you make snow ice cream with.

Every Once in A While

feet-716257_1280#mwisdmatters

This is the long haul in teaching. From the enthusiasm and excitement of the first day of school in late August until the Fall Break in November. More and more on weekends I turn to my husband,who is a retired teacher, and say, ” Listen.” He says, ” I know, no one is saying your name, asking a question, tugging on your  arm…it’s quiet.”  I smile. He understands.

But yesterday, something happened that shook me out of my ” Oh my gosh, what now…” mindset. A small quiet fifth-grader, a slender wisp of a boy, did something so grand…..

We were at recess playing a game called ” Steal the Bacon”. Two classes line up at either end of the gym and when their number is called two children from either side run up and try to grab the “Bacon” (a cloth bundled to look like a slab of bacon ) and run back to their side without being tagged.  All children are included in recess games, so several students that have special needs are in the line-ups.

Not once, but twice, this quiet young man was paired up against a special need’s child. Both times, he let the special need’s child win, in a moment that was not too obvious but full of understanding. Both classes in the game applauded, no complaining. It was one of those moments in teaching that happens every once in a while and takes your breath away with its compassion. And in this bitter election season it gives me hope for humanity.

I asked the quiet boy privately why he did what he did. He looked up at me and said,” My mom told me that if someone is like that, it is my job to take care of them, to let them win if they can and feel good.” Good job Mom. I told him I was proud of him and gave him a 200 club ticket, something we do to promote unsolicited acts of kindness. So in this long haul up to Thanksgiving I am thankful to teach a child like that, to experience those moments and learn from them.

Image Pixabay CC0 Public Domain