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.)

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.)