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.)

Raining Cats and Dogs

“One who works with their hands is a laborer.  One who works with their hands and heart is a craftsperson.  One who works with their hands, their head, and their heart is an artist.”  St. Francis of Assisi

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Heart-a-Day #16:  Raining Willie Bo’s & Bubbies

Another rainy day is approaching, but feel free to insert your own inclement weather here. When the weather shifts, I open my toolbox of techniques to keep the classroom consistent and calm. Flexibility comes first, since a weather change can cause even the best lesson plans to veer off course. So, I like to keep things simple, but with a few tweaks: As the students enter, I play soft classical music and dim the lights. This introduces a sense of calm. I also speak in softer tones, almost a whisper. I encourage the students to cozy up and sit closer to me than usual. I tell my story of a rainy night when I was five years old and how our babysitter put on a show for us. It made us forget all about the storm. The class will begin writing and illustrating a book about our favorite kinds of weather. At the end of the day, to maintain consistency, we’ll sing as many of our favorite songs as time permits. I like to think that everyone can find their silver lining in the cloud when I’m calm.

How do you keep things calm and consistent when the weather changes? Do you have a favorite song or story from your past that will relate to the day? Keeping things simple will help everyone weather the storm.

 

(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.)

Acting Silly

“Today was good.  Today was fun.  Tomorrow is another one.”  Dr. Seuss

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Heart-a-Day #15: Dr. Seuss’ Heart

I’ve already shared that flamingos are the symbol of Room 12. Have I told you that Freddy Flamingo is our class mascot? Each Wacky Wednesday, there’s mail from Freddy in our flamingo-shaped mailbox. Frida Flamingo, Freddy’s cousin (AKA the puppet on my hand), takes great pleasure in reading Freddy’s weekly rhyming message. Afterwards, we go back and find the rhyming words, snapping our fingers each time we hear a rhyme. Why? Rhyming words are cool! Silly? You betcha!

So, let’s talk seriously about silliness. Dr. Suess is my all-time inspiration for both rhyming and silliness. Being silly in the classroom keeps things light and bright (oops, that just slipped out). My students have memorized all my goofy sayings and like to repeat them back to me. I love hearing them tell me I’m being a silly-willy. One way I teach phonemic awareness is by using silly rhymes. Since each table group has a name, like the Green Elephant Table, I’ll tell the Reen Gelephant Fable to line up for lunch. Instead of asking the class to stand up on the floor, we band cup on the door. When the students correct my silly wordplay, I know they’re listening for beginning sounds in words. A little silliness goes a long way in your students’ learning. Seriously.

When was the last time you were silly with your students? Do you play with rhymes? Is there a silly song or poem your students can use to transition from one activity to another? Let yourself be silly and help the students join in. You’ll be proud and happy with your big win. I just can’t stop.
 

(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.)

White Space

“Creativity is the way I share my soul with the world.”  Brene Brown

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Heart-a-Day #14:  White Space

We began working on our rainbow collages today. “Make sure to fill in the white space,” I reminded them as they began with the red arch. What about white space in a daily lesson plan? I like to use those extra few minutes each day for spontaneous creativity. We can sing a song we love or dance from one place to another. Sometimes, we’ll do drawings about what’s going well at school that day or invent a song about who was particularly kind during lunch or recess. Grabbing the white space during the day is fun. Even better, it helps the students find ways to fill their own white space outside of school.

How can you creatively fill the white space in your schedule? Perhaps a call-response chant as you walk to lunch? An energizing dance after a lesson? When you fill the white space with creative activities, you fill your classroom with joy. You’ll love how the students love it.

 

(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.)

Lining Up

“Drawing is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence.”  Henri Matisse

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Heart-a-Day #13:  Zigging & Zagging

We may think outside the box, but we can teach within the lines. Teachers are always creating lines – from lining up the class to go outside to lining up desks in rows. Lines are found on the playground and in the lunch room. Lines are actually the architecture that forms a school. I like to use an art lesson about lines to teach academic math vocabulary. Line: 7 Elements of Art by Jane Castillo is a great resource to introduce the concept of lines. The book uses beautiful photographs to illustrate different kinds of lines in art and nature. As we read the book, we draw different kinds of lines in the air with our arms and hands. We practice drawing various lines on white boards, then we use those lines to draw a picture. On the playground, we follow lines painted on the pavement and discuss if they’re straight, curved, diagonal, horizontal or vertical. It’s logical that the language of line used in art parallels the language of line used in math, science and dance. Reinforce this concept daily. Your students will become adept in making linear designs with their bodies, in their art and through their use of language.

What kind of lines will you make with your students today? Referencing a map, can your students use their bodies to show horizontal and vertical lines? Can they walk in a zig-zag line to the cafeteria? Take a line walk around the campus. Let the students draw whatever lines they find. The more you use the vocabulary of line, the more your students will excel with academic language. The path is a straight line!

(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.)

Color My World

“Artist are just children who refuse to put down their crayons.” Al Hirschfeld

Heart-a-Day #12

When I began teaching, our then-superintendent of schools did not allow crayons in primary classrooms. It was painful! Fortunately, times (and our superintendent) have changed. We know that crayons are an essential tool for a child’s success in school. Any opportunity that a child has to scribble, color or draw will develop the essential fine motor skills needed for writing and keyboarding. Coloring draws a solid line to future writers. Daily access to crayons and coloring is important. However, staying inside the lines…unimportant.

Do your students have the opportunity to color or draw each day? Is there five minutes – after lunch or recess, perhaps – when your students can use their crayons? Give them a prompt or theme to which they can draw or color. The results will illustrate success.

 

(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.)

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

“An artist cannot fail, it is a success just to be one.” Charles Horton Cooley

Heart-a-Day #11: La La Land

I never miss an opportunity to add movement to a lesson. The Theory of Multiple Intelligence, developed by Howard Gardner, teaches us that children learn through many different modalities. Bodily-Kinesthetics is a theory of learning that incorporates the entire body. When we add movement to a song or story, student comprehension increases. When my class reads “Where the Wild Things Are,” by Maurice Sendak, we have a real rumpus. We sing and dance to the vintage rock song, “Wild Thing,” by the Troggs. By the end of the school year, my students know the Sendak story inside and out, carrying their learning from it to other lessons. I especially like having the students dance the Macarana to practice counting to twelve. Before you scoff, count out the movements. One of our classroom mantras is that we move when we’re singing so our brains get bigger – and we can learn even more.

When can you add movement to a lesson? How about adding dance to retell a story? Can you deepen a Social Studies lesson by incorporating a song with movement? Go ahead, put on your dancing shoes and start teaching.

 

(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.)

True Colors

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” Dr. Seuss

Heart-a-Day #10: Moonlight
Heart-a-Day #10:  Moonlight

Celebrating the uniqueness of each student is the core of my teaching philosophy. Recognizing what makes each student special and encouraging their self-expression is essential in making our classroom a safe space. Girls can work with blocks and build with Legos. Boys can dress up in the kitchen area and create masterpieces at the art station. Early in the year, we learn that there are no boy or girl colors. All colors are people colors. Each week, we celebrate “Wacky Wednesday.” Since our class mascot is a flamingo, that’s when I wear one of my many flamingo shirts and don a funny hat. When I pick up my class on the playground, they see that I’m comfortable accepting myself as I am. My students join in my celebration of self. Who cares if it makes the fifth graders cringe?

How do you celebrate the uniqueness of your students? How do you let them know they’re accepted in your classroom – just as they are? Share your individuality with your students. Let them demonstrate their own self-expression and celebrate the freedom it gives everyone.

(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.)

Shoot for the Moon

“You can’t use up creativity.  The more you use, the more you have.”  Maya Angelou

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Heart-a-Day #9:  Hidden Figures

“Dream big” is a recurring theme on our campus. It’s always resonated with me. I was seven years old when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. With that first step, a universal dream became a reality. My big dream was far from the celestial stars. I dreamed of being an artist, an actor or a singer. As a teacher, I’m all of those. I have achieved my big dream.

Working with children to help them find and realize their big dreams is what drew me to education. I treasure finding the first spark of a student’s dream. I watch them and listen to them as they maneuver through their day. When I find their strength, I encourage them to focus on it, treasure it. My hope is to fuel the student’s drive and determination towards their dream. I try to work with my students to transform challenges to successes. This is how dreams begin. Regardless of a child’s gender, ethnicity or socio-economic status, I’m determined to foster any dream, big or small. “Shoot for the moon,” Norman Vincent Peale said. “Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

How can you help your students to dream big? How can you encourage them to take chances with difficult tasks? How can you demonstrate the joy of seeing a project through to completion? Tell your students about your big dreams and how you’ve achieved them. You can make a difference, one dream at a time.

 

(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.)