The Curve

“Be drawn to the visual arts for it can expand your imagination.” Barbara Januszkiewicz

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Heart-a-Day #23

It’s pretty much a given that I’ll get a “curve” thrown at me each day.  One day, it’s too many students absent so we can’t finish a project we started the day before.  Another day, it’s a dispute between two students who’ve always gotten along fine.  Sometimes, my carefully planned lesson just… fails.  These curves can upset the balance of the classroom OR they can be an opportunity for creativity.  So, if there aren’t enough students to finish the project, maybe I’ll just put it aside.  Or we’ll start a similar project that doesn’t need as many hands.  If that scuffle occurs, it’s a chance to teach a song or tell a story about handling conflicts.  And with that lesson that flops, the best bet is to acknowledge it with the students, figure out what didn’t click and find the humor in the situation to turn it around.  When I approach the curve with creativity, things have a way of ultimately succeeding.

Is there a way to meet your curve creatively?  How can you turn that problem into an opportunity?  Step, back take a breath and stare down the curve.  Then trust your creativity.

 

(Access to these photographs does not constitute a transfer of copyright or a license for commercial use.  The images are for personal use only.  No portion of the images can be used without the expressed written permission of Michael B. Stanley, Jr.)

 

Art and Science

“The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin even, or even different parts of the same continuum, but rather, they are manifestations of the same thing. The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity.” Mae Jemison

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Heart-a-Day #22: Picaso at the Lapine Agile

Part of our science curriculum includes learning about trees – how they grow, their parts and the products that come from them. We’ll take a walk to see the different kinds of trees on our campus. Often, we’ll draw pictures of the trees during these walks. We’ll even put harmless labels on some of the trees to identify their parts. We’ll use these same labels for our drawings. I’ll change the words to the song “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” to “Leaves, Branches, Trunk and Roots.” As we sing, we’ll act it out. Back in the classroom, we’ll read the A-B-C story “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” (written by Bill Marten, Jr. and John Archambault, illustrated by Louis Ehlert). Next time we’re outside, we’ll place letters of the alphabet on the trunk of a nearby palm tree. As the year and seasons progress, we’ll draw and display trees that represent each season. For example, in Winter, we’ll show a birch tree with no leaves. In Spring, we’ll use a cherry tree full of blossoms. When I combine science with creativity, the students are engaged and their learning grows.

How can you use creativity to deepen your students’ learning in science? Perhaps they could draw a picture to hypothesize the results of an experiment. After the experiment, could they draw a picture of the results, then compare their two drawings? Is there a relevant song to introduce a science topic? Using the arts to augment your science lessons will give your students solid roots.

 

(Access to these photographs does not constitute a transfer of copyright or a license for commercial use.  The images are for personal use only.  No portion of the images can be used without the expressed written permission of Michael B. Stanley, Jr.)

 

Story of Love

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” Scott Adams

Heart-a-Day #21: NPH Story of Love

One of my passions is musical theatre. I love it all: the songs, the stories, the choreography, the costumes and the sets. I love the creativity. I take every possibility to bring my love of musical theatre to my students. First thing in the morning, when we’re listening to “elevator music” to get ready for our day, I sing along with every musical theater melody I recognize. The students cheer (which is my version of a curtain call). In the fall, we read several versions of “The Gingerbread Man.” The finale of our study is our production of “Gingerbread Man – The Musical!” I’ve changed the lyrics of several familiar and simple tunes to re-tell the story. The students gain a deeper understanding of the story and we all love performing the songs. When I teach through my passion, my students become passionate about learning.

What are your passions and how can you share them with your students? Can you take your students on a virtual trip to a favorite vacation spot? Is there a game or sport you love that can be incorporated into a lesson? Your students will learn more when you add your passions to your lessons.

 

(Access to these photographs does not constitute a transfer of copyright or a license for commercial use.  The images are for personal use only.  No portion of the images can be used without the expressed written permission of Michael B. Stanley, Jr.)

Fresh Air

“A picture book is a small door to the enormous world of the visual arts, and they’re often the first art a young person sees.” Tomie dePaola

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Heart-a-Day #20: Reverse Bubbles

Our Scholastic book orders arrived today. This time, I ordered two fiction books about narwhales and their resemblance to unicorns. You see, unicorns are my latest spirit animal (and will probably soon be joined by narwhales). As an aside, even though you probably already know this, a narwhale is a small Arctic whale. The males have a long forward-pointing spirally twisted tusk growing from one of its teeth. Now, back to the subject: Getting new books is like fresh air in the classroom. I love figuring out how I can incorporate them into our curriculum. When I show excitement about books, the students become excited. With the narwhales, I remember that I have another book about a horse that wants to be a unicorn. Good pairing. This goes beyond a reading lesson. Perhaps we’ll write our own story about narwhales and unicorns. Maybe we’ll create math problems around different kinds of whales. What if we design and build a life size model of a narwhale out of recycled materials? Of course, we’ll draw and decorate our own versions of fantasy unicorn narwhales. I love breathing this fresh air.

Which books are you excited to share with your students? How do these books inspire you and your class? New books and creative applications are everyone’s fresh air. Take a breath…and teach!

 

(Access to these photographs does not constitute a transfer of copyright or a license for commercial use.  The images are for personal use only.  No portion of the images can be used without the expressed written permission of Michael B. Stanley, Jr.)

Trusting My Gut

“Thoughts create a new heaven, a new firmament, a new source of energy, from which new arts flow.”  Paracelsus

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Heart-a-Day #19: Bubbles

I accept that I’m a skilled and experienced professional educator. I know what’s best for my students and for my classroom environment. Still, there are times when the prescribed curriculum just isn’t flowing. At that moment, it may not match my personality or teaching style. It may not be working for my students, either. Their vibe tells me they aren’t getting it. These are the times I trust my gut and try something new, something different. When I was a student teacher, my master teacher said I should always be ready to use the “F-word.” That’s “flexibility.” (Don’t go anywhere else!) Being prepared to change the lesson at a moment’s notice is one of the best teaching tools. If the book I’m reading aloud isn’t connecting with the students, we can take a movement break. Or, I can put the book down and we’ll go back to it tomorrow. If the math lesson isn’t going as planned, I can stop and return to the previous lesson, ensuring the students are clearly grasping the concept. Trusting my gut gives me the flexibility to ensure my lessons are successful.

When should you stop and trust your gut? Your well-honed teacher’s intuition will tell you when a change of pace is necessary. A lesson that feels forced or sluggish offers the opportunity to use the F-word. Remember, that’s “flexibility.” Give yourself permission to be flexible. It will have a positive impact on your students and help you to grow as an educator.

 

(Access to these photographs does not constitute a transfer of copyright or a license for commercial use.  The images are for personal use only.  No portion of the images can be used without the expressed written permission of Michael B. Stanley, Jr.)

Being Zen

“Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun.” Pablo Picasso

Heart-a-Day #18: Tangled Heart II

There are times during the day that just… flow. This happens when the pacing is right, everyone is engaged and there’s a gentle buzz of excitement in the room. This is when students might spontaneously burst into a familiar song. Soon, everyone is singing along. These are the moments when I’m most at peace as a teacher. Sometimes they occur when we’re involved in a creative task. Or when we’re working together to solve a tricky math problem. Or using our scientific minds to create a rainbow. These moments might happen when we’re writing stories about a recent field trip or crafting a play based on a favorite book. My goal is to create lots of these moments each day. This feeling of “Classroom Zen” brings joy to everyone.

When do your students experience these moments of peaceful flow? Can you create situations to foster them? Perhaps they’ll happen when your students are writing and illustrating a poem about something important to them. They could be triggered by something as simple as counting how many books of different genres you have in your library. When students are engaged with a creative purpose, Classroom Zen just… happens.

 

(Access to these photographs does not constitute a transfer of copyright or a license for commercial use.  The images are for personal use only.  No portion of the images can be used without the expressed written permission of Michael B. Stanley, Jr.)

Doodles

“More and more, I think about the role of the arts, and as an artist, I think that it’s important that I share the love and peace.” Yayoi Kusama

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Heart-a-Day #17: Tangled Heart

When creating a piece of art, the artwork consumes me. I feel focused and determined, yet relaxed. I’m tuned-in to challenges and solutions. By giving your students time to draw and doodle, you can give them this same “consumed in art” experience. I use a doodling exercise to teach geometry and shapes. Here’s how it works: When we’re learning about different kinds of triangles, we start by drawing one large triangle on our paper. Then we draw five or six randomly placed triangles inside the big triangle. We continue drawing triangular shapes around the small triangles until our original large triangle is filled with a symphony of triangles and lines. The students can even add color and shading. Once they’ve mastered this exercise, they can “shape doodle” when their other work is complete and time permits. I love seeing how focused and tuned-in they become while simply doodling.

When can you give your students time to doodle? Perhaps when you read a favorite story aloud? What about using different kinds of music and observing how this changes their use of line and color? Offer your students time to doodle. Everyone will be energized by their focus and determination. Yet everyone will be relaxed.

 
(Access to these photographs does not constitute a transfer of copyright or a license for commercial use.  The images are for personal use only.  No portion of the images can be used without the expressed written permission of Michael B. Stanley, Jr.)