Learning is....
Planting a seed in our brain... learning to water, nurture and grow it.... so we can live on the fruit of our learning and plant more seeds.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Teaching New Entrants: Focusing in on a letter

I usually have a lot of balls in the air when I am teaching my normal age range.  It's all part of keeping everyone engaged.

With new entrants, they do not have a terribly long attention span.  Some of our projects are things we complete in one session, and some, I am teaching them, you have to revisit.

Because I only have these students for nine short weeks, rather than doing Letter of the Week, we will make a letter last two to four days depending on the activities I come up with.  We have an Art Week coming up, so I am also using these activities as an opportunity to teach the children some skills:
  • how to spread glue to stick something down
  • how to use brush strokes for paint and dye
  • spatial awareness
  • critical viewing
  • observational drawing
  • colouring in within the lines
  • printing
And I find that you need to do these skills over a variety of different projects so the students get the opportunity to repeat the skill and apply it to different activities.

I've been collecting ideas for working with NEs for a while.  And after I secured this position, it went into overdrive.  So I have three Boards on Pinterest that most of my ideas are coming from:

The first letter we focused on was the letter B.  I decided we would start off by using coloured paper and glue to construct a bear head.  So I had a look on Google images for a bear head to use as inspiration.

Visit this website for this and more bear clipart:  http://clipart-library.com/free-bear-pictures.html 

I then cut out a head, ears, a muzzle, nose, eyes, pupils and patches for the ears.  We used PVA glue to glue the bears to coloured paper.  I wanted the children to use fingers to apply the PVA to teach them that brushes were not used for gluing - it wrecks brushes and makes them no good for painting.  When they were dry, I showed the children how to draw the mouth on to the muzzle.

We also went outside to blow bubbles as part of our B focus.  I took lots of photos and the children told me their stories to go with a photo of them.  These photos and stories are in our Letter Book.

This is our letter book.  We brainstorm the focus letter words and I type them up and add corresponding pictures.  We also have a poem (thanks Pinterest) that goes with the focus word.

Next we made the bees.  I cut out a bee body and the children glued on the stripes and eyes.  We let them dry.

When we came back to them we glued on the legs, antennae and proboscis, which took two goes and we weren't successful with PVA so had to use the hot glue guns.

Then I made a flower for our bees.  I cut the centre and petals out from scrapbooking paper.  I stuck them with blutack to the cupboard doors.

Sheryl, in the class next door, suggested using handprints to make the frilly bits of the flower.  So I mixed up some pink paint and painted each child's hand to make three prints each.  We did this one child at a time.  Of course, it also brought up some good oral language as we did this.  We talked about how the paint felt cold, the brush tickled and how to place the hand.

A parent cut out all the handprints for me and I was able to blutack the hands to the flow on the cupboard.  The children and I had also hot glued on the wings, made of golden cellophane, to the bees.  I then added the bees to the flower with blutack too.

And this is how the cupboard came up with our bees flying around the flower.  You can also see a copy of the letter B brainstorm we did.  There is a larger copy in our Letter Book.

And this is our B corner! I love how colourful it all is.

Next we did the letter A.  We had already learned about ambulances, thanks to Daniel the paramedic who taught the kids about how to call 111 in an emergency and what an ambulance and paramedics do.  So we had that nailed.

We brainstormed a whole lot of short A words and I typed them up and add pictures to go in our letter book.  We also have a poem (thank Pinterest) to go with it.  The kids are loving this.

I bought five different variety of apples.  We looked at the apples.  We discussed the apples.

We then drew the apples with pencil and coloured them in with crayons.

Then we made apples (thanks Pinterest) with coloured paper and PVA - yes, I prepared everything first.  I also do the activity with the students so they have a model to follow.

I've since mounted these artworks and put them on the wall.

Our next focus letter is the letter T.  Once again Pinterest provided some inspiration and we made turkeys.  I pre-cut out all the necessary parts and demonstrated how to make the turkeys.  As you can see, we had varying success or individuality.

I tweeted this picture out, and then someone tweeted back: taniwha, tui, tiki, tuatara!!!

Well we couldn't do all of them but we did do this:

I looked up taniwha images on Google and drew a taniwha on two pieced of A2 cartridge.  I then did the outlines in crayon.

The children then coloured in different sections of the taniwha each.

The next day we used blue dye to make it look like the taniwha was swimming in water.

With the tui, I again drew it and outlined it with crayon.  Then each child had the opportunity to colour in a section.  As you can see below, we then dyed the picture.

We also have been making tigers.  On the first day we painted a paper plate on one side orange.  The next day we painted the other side of the paper plate orange.

Then I prepared the things we would need for the tigers face.  I cut out orange paper for the ears.  I cut out green paper for the eyes and smaller black paper for the pupils.  I cut out lots of black strips of paper for the stripes.  I cut out pink noses.  I cut a lot of white wool for whiskers.  I also printed out a picture of a tiger's face.

Source:  http://fortune.com/2017/02/23/tiger-drone-hunt/ 
Naturally I demonstrated this.  We started off by putting some white crayon on the face for the white patches.  Then I demonstrated puting on the ears, the stripes, eyes and nose.

Full disclosure:  this is mine and the container of bits I prepared earlier.

Once again, you will notice amazing individuality and differences between each tiger.

We also went outside and looked at trees, discussed trees and drew trees.

Yes, this is mine.

Next we did the letter S and those activities (while finishing off our tigers).  I bought strawberries to observe, talk about, draw and eat.  I got cotton balls so we can make sheep.  We planted sunflower, pea, basil and coriander seeds into seed raising trays and some sweetcorn plants directly into the garden (which we also sketched).  And I envisaged letter S snakes.

We discussed the parts of the strawberry.  We noted the green hat on top.  That's where we went out to the gardens to look at the strawberry plants and see the flowers and the strawberries growing in the garden.  We went back inside to look at the strawberries again and noted the stalk, the seeds and the colour and shape.  We then sketched in pencil and used different crayons of reds, white and greens to colour in the strawberry.  I made the paper A5 size and asked them to draw big.

For the S snakes, I drew the S on an A3 piece of cartridge, and then demonstrated making a pattern after drawing "a fence to colour inside of" (I did an outline).  Each child choose their colour to outline their S and I did the outline and they then did their patterns inside.  This is still a work in progress.

For the sheep, I drew a white "cloud" outline with a crayon on each piece of blue paper.  We sat down together and I demonstrated drawing the head and ears and colouring it in.  Then I showed them how to do the legs.  Afterwards we had several different greens to do grass.

Then I demonstrated using my finger to put glue on the paper.  I demonstrated putting a cottonball on the sheep's body.  I asked them to go all around the outside first and then fill in the middle.  We ran out of cottonballs.

The second day I showed them how to put a face on the sheep and then we glued on the cottonballs until we ran out again.  So yes, a third session with cottonballs will be required.

I have a lot of spare seed raising trays and pots, so I pulled out enough for one each.  I demonstrated putting the seed raising mix into the trays and pots.  As we planted each seed we looked at it and discussed its size, shape and appearance.  We talked about what a seed needs to grow.

We have just started learning about the letter D, so I see dabbing dots on a 'd', dragons and dogs in the coming days.  And maybe donuts or dragonfruit.... anyone know where to buy dragonfruit in Hamilton?

Monday, 30 October 2017

Cats! Cats!! Cats!!!

Anyone who follows me on Twitter or Instagram may be aware that I have a colony of cats out in the shed.  It is a great ice breaker as a relief teacher because it is a lot of cats.  But I also have a few books about cats and my favourite book is The Diabolical Mr Tiddles, which I have blogged about previously.  Below is the cover and back of the book.

But I always have photos of my cats on hand.  Here are some photos of some of my cats.  These ones are all brothers with the same mother cat, but they come from three different litters.

Rocket Cat - the chosen cat who actually gets to live in the house.

Crunchie Cat - he is the colour of the inside of a Crunchie Bar!

Marmite Cat - a cheeky little sod who should never be left alone with toilet paper!

I had a four day block booked with a Year 2/3 class during Term Two and this gave me  the opportunity to do writing that could be revisited and art to a high standard with this class.

To start, we read the book about Mr Tiddles and then we went and planned the writing of our stories.  Some children had their own cats to write about.  Some wrote about their grandmother's cat or their friend's cat.  Some pictured the cat they would really like to have.  We brainstormed the stories using this brainstorm sheet below which we had co-constructed the day before.

It is not often I get the chance to follow a piece of writing through from brainstorm to drafting, editing and then publishing, so I relished this opportunity and took the time to type up each child's story on completion.  I then emailed the stories to a teacher aide who was able to print them out for me.

Each day we worked on drawing cats as well.  I demonstrated how to do it on the board and the children followed me through step by step.  I demonstrated fluffy cat and short-haired cats.  I demonstrated sitting up proudly cats and lying down cats and walking cats.  I demonstrated stripy cats and cats with white chests and cats with a collamoration (is this a word?) of colours.

This is how I teach the children to draw the sitting up proudly cats.

Step 1.  Draw a triangle for the nose with curved corners.

Step 2.  Draw the 'cheeks' and mouth from the top corners.

Step 3.  Draw the eyes.  Make sure they have points at either end and the black iris in the middle.

Step 4.  I draw the ears.  They need to be above the eyes but far apart.

Step 5.  Draw the sides of the cat's face.  In this example I have done the fluffly cat.  If I was doing a short-haired cat it would have a rounded face.

Step 6.  Draw the top of the head between the ears.

Step 7. Draw in any facial features your cat may have for patterns.

Step 8.  Draw on the whiskers.

Step 9.  For the fluffy cat, draw a fluffy chest.  For short-haired cats with a white chest I draw it it.  Skip this step for a one coloured cat.

Step 10.  Draw the front legs.  Show the toes and put on the sharp claws.

Step 11.  Draw the back legs.  Remember the toes and claws.  Also draw in the body between the head and the back legs.

Step 12.  Draw the tail.  I drew a fluffy tail.  I would make smooth edges for a not fluffy cat.

Step 13.  Finally, between the front legs, put the bottom of the cat in.  After this they can put on any patterning on the body, legs and tail the children deem necessary.

After we practiced drawing cats, at least three times, I gave the students the flash cartridge paper and they drew their cats.  I asked them to draw the cat taking up most of the paper.  I did this for several reasons:

  • I don't want to have to use binoculars to see the cats when they are mounted.
  • They were colouring in with crayons, so I wanted them to be able to have big details rather than tiny details to colour.
  • Bigger is easier to cut out.
  • In the words of the big dude who used to do the advertising for Mitre 10 Mega, "Big is good!"
As you can see below, each cat is individual and each child's own work.  I think they look fabulous and they all have attention to detail when it comes to whiskers and toes and claws... and fashion accessories.

As you can see I cut out each child's story and each child's cat.  I ran out of time to glue them onto coloured paper, but when Paula came back to school, she sorted it all out and it was a pleasure to come into the class a week or so later to see the pictures and stories mounted and hanging up in the class.  The children had worked so hard.

Reading through the stories, I love how the funny little things about each cat are reflected.  The children certainly took pieces of the brainstorm to focus on for them to create a word picture of their cat.

This was a fun week and it was a pleasure to have Paula's class to do some fabulous writing and art.