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.)

It’s Raining Again…

“Art has the power to transform, to illuminate, to educate, inspire and motivate.” Harvey Fierstein

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Heart-a-Day #7: Rainy Day in PS

Today’s heart is no coincidence. It’s raining and cold outside. Rain, students and creativity can be a daunting mix. When it rains, nothing is predictable inside (or outside) the classroom. Still, there’s a definite excitement in the air and the energy level is intensified. Capturing that energy is the best way to find creative opportunities to manage changes from inclement weather. So, we’ll look for a rainbow, draw pictures of it, then expand into a science lesson on the color spectrum. We’ll listen to the sounds of the rain and mimic the storm with our hands, feet and voices. We’ll begin softly, like the light patter of raindrops, then end with what sounds like crashing thunder. Of course, we’ll sing songs about weather, including the inevitable, “Rain, rain, go away; come again some other day!” If the opportunity presents itself – and I’ll do my best to make it happen – we’ll channel our inner Gene Kelly and do some singing and dancing in the rain…indoors.

How do you get ready for a change in weather? Is there a way to use it to your advantage? Can your students build rainy day forts with their desks, then write about fort construction? Can you create a class song, dance or rap about the rain. Don’t miss the opportunity. Like another Broadway song says, “The sun will come out tomorrow.”

 

(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.)

Like a 5 Year Old

“The urge to draw must be quite deep within us, because children love to do it”

David Hockney

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Heart-a-Day #8: Op Art Heart

Children’s artwork inspires me. It’s open, honest and free. It’s filled with emotion and vision of the future. Most importantly, it says, “This is me. Accept me as I am.” When we’re doing a classroom art activity, sometimes my inner adult wants to take over. It wants them to make their work look like my sample. It’s so important to remind myself that these children are five years old. They’re creating art for their age, not mine. Their art is perfect, just as it is. If a student gets frustrated with their work because it doesn’t look “right,” I remind them – and myself – that their work looks exactly as it should. In this moment, it’s perfect. When I can help a child realize this, their smile inspires me to create even more opportunities for creativity.

Are you able to put the inner adult aside when your students are working on an art activity? Can you let them make mistakes and grow as artists? Can you support them and let their art “just be?” Fill your day with opportunities for creativity and your students will inspire you!

 

(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.)

Going in Circles

“Be true to yourself. Make each day a masterpiece. Help others. Drink deeply from good books. Make friendship a fine art. Build a shelter against a rainy day.”  John Wooden

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Heart-a-Day #6:  Op Art Heart

I suppose there’s a certain comfort in repetition. Teaching the same lesson the same way each year is comfortable. But after 17 years of teaching, I’m less comfortable with repetition. Maybe I’m just getting antsy. When I feel like I’m going in circles – repeating a lesson because it’s comfortable – I know it’s time to shake things up. I need to make the lesson more relevant to both me and the students. Like this: last Friday, we had our annual “100 Days of Learning.” (In case you missed it, you count from the first day of school.) In the past, my students made the same 100-day headband with 100 stickers on it. Same old, same old. So, this year, we made head bands with ten strips of paper stapled on them, each strip marked with ten boxes. The students needed to fill each of the boxes with stickers, stamps, numbers, letters in their names, hole punches, dots or drawings. This was a much more meaningful lesson, since it integrated groups of ten. The students were gloriously engaged. OK, I’ll confess. I saw this on a social media site for teachers and I tweaked it a little. Still, I get some of my best ideas from other teachers. Whatever it takes to make me stop going in circles is just fine with me.

How can you change things up when you’re going in circles? Is there another teacher you admire who’ll serve as your sounding board? How about group brainstorming during lunch? Let go of the familiar and try something new. Get out of the circle and run free!

 

(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.)