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Using Famous Artists to Create a Beautiful Mother's Day Painting

We do a fun activity a few times a year called "Special K." I am not really sure where this name came from, but we have been using it for many years! During our Special K days, our 3 kindergartens get together for a few hours on Friday and do fun projects or activities that we cannot fit into our regular daily curriculum. One of our favorites is "Famous Artists." Each of us takes an artist and the kids create a project that mimics in some way his/her style. Because we do this in the spring, we base our projects on flowers. Also, these projects make awesome Mothers' Day presents! They do not take much time, can be accomplished on a limited budget, and are super pretty when completed! I am not going to claim that these are my original ideas, but we have been doing them for so long, they seem like ours!

One of our famous artists is Vincent Van Gogh. We discuss his still life flowers in a vase. We look at his paintings and notice that many of his flower vases are painted on a table, but we usually cannot see the whole table. We look at the droop of the flowers and the different sizes of leaves. I actually place vases of flowers at the tables for the kids to look at, but tell them that they can draw flowers however they wish!

First they draw a table line and then they draw their vase. They must use their pencil  to sketch first. After they have completed their pencil drawing, they use black marker to trace over their pencil lines. Then they use colored chalk to color their pictures. I show them how to use their "finger tool" to smear the chalk. When the drawing is complete, we staple the corners onto black construction paper and spray with hairspray to set the chalk.

Our second famous artist is Claude Monet. Of course, we base this project upon his water lilies! The children use watercolors to create a watery background. Then they use watercolors to paint a water lily. The water lily is a coffee filter cut to resemble the petals of a flower. The flower is glued upon the water.

Our third project is based on Pablo Picasso's "Hand With Flowers." The children trace their hands onto skin colored construction paper and glue onto white paper. Then they make stems from green construction paper. They sponge paint their flowers above the stems.

One of my student's parents told me today that when her 3rd grade daughter was in kindergarten, she took these paintings and framed them! That is pretty cool!

African Jungle Animals

The theme for last week and this week has been "African Jungle Animals." We are looking at the continent of Africa and the habitats that make this very diverse land their home. We are mostly studying the rainforest and savannah, but have also discussed the river and desert areas. Presently the children are making a booklet about Africa, but we have not finished it yet. Yesterday and today, they created a mural depicting animal life in the African rainforest and savannah. Tomorrow, they will write about their favorite African animal. This will be the end of our African unit - hopefully!
The children had to make a plan with their group. (Each group consisted of 8-9 kids.)  Second, they sketched their plan. Third, they painted their sketch.

After the mural dried, the groups got together again and made another plan as to what animals they would be placing in their habitat. They had to create animals that lived in the rainforest which are different from the animals that live in the savannah. It was so much fun listening to them discuss which animals they could put on the mural and which animals belonged on the other mural.

The kids also made smaller, individual murals; again, their choice was either the rainforest or the savannah. The pictures are so cute! I'll post some of their stories later!

Wow! IPads in my classroom!

We had an in-service yesterday on how to use iPads in the classroom. Our school was able to purchase enough iPads for an entire class to use - wow! So today I thought I would give them a try. I used them in our small reading groups. I only checked out 2 tablets and had the kids pair up. They played a free app game called "Rocket Speller." This game has 4 levels and you can choose if you want to use capital or lower case letters. In Level 1, the kids are given the spelling of a word and they move the letters on the pad to match the ones given. My kids did not get to Level 4, but at this level, the kids are asked to spell words with no clues given. What a wonderful way to differentiate learning! What I noticed today was that it didn't matter if the kids were struggling readers or top readers, they all had a ball and didn't realize that what they were doing was learning to spell words! I also really liked pairing my kiddos up because it promoted cooperation and sharing because if they didn't share, they would not be allowed to use the iPad. They were awesome with sharing! I am so excited about this new learning tool! My plan right now is to use iPads once a week in reading groups. Then this summer, I am going to spend some time searching for apps and how  other teachers are using them in their classrooms! I have so many plans for this summer - whew!!!

Cloud Fun!

I have the wonderful opportunity to have students from the University of Illinois placed in my classroom. They are usually juniors doing their practicum and I love having them! This semester I have TWO Elementary Education majors with me. They are required to spend 30 hours in my classroom and teach 2 lessons. Katherine taught a really cute writing lesson on "Where the Wild Things Are". She used Deanna Jump's lesson and it worked in perfectly with our African Jungle Animal unit. I will edit this post tomorrow and add pictures of the kid's work.

Mallory did a science lesson on clouds. We found this activity on Pinterest and if you get a chance to try it, you should! If this is your idea, please let me know and I will credit you! It takes little preparation, but the kids are fascinated with what happens!

  First read Tomie dePaola's "The Cloud Book." Then give children this sheet (or click on the picture below) and cotton balls. They stretch the cotton balls to look like each type of cloud. The Nimbus cloud (thunder cloud) could be drawn with crayon or marker OR the cotton ball could be colored with black marker. We copied the worksheet onto blue paper.

Give each child a clear plastic cup filled with water. Squirt shaving cream on the top of the water. Dilute some blue food coloring in water and put into cups. We had 2 children share a cup of diluted blue water. Each child has their own cup of shaving cream and water, though,  and an eye dropper. Discuss how clouds hold in water until they get so heavy, the water has to fall.

The children put drops of water onto the shaving cream and watch and watch until finally it begins to rain!  How cool is that!

Butterfly Writing and Flower Gardens

This morning when I arrived at school, I looked at our pretty butterfly projects in the hall and they made me smile! So I thought I would share this project with you!
The first thing the children did was follow step-by-step illustrations for creating a flower garden. I put this in a literacy center because I am a firm believer that this type of activity reinforces sequencing! They were given 2 small paper butterfly outlines that they decorated in a mosaic form using tiny paper squares. When their picture was complete, they wrote about their butterfly garden. I love this time of year when everything that we have been doing comes together! Their stories are so fun to read and I am so proud of them!
Here is a link to a freebie in my TPT store that my students used to make their flowers. And here is the link to the Butterfly writing papers!

Butterflies and Caterpillar Fun!

This week we had fun with butterflies and caterpillars. There are so many wonderful units written about butterflies, but I wanted to do something a bit different with my kinders this week. We discussed scientists and how they use their observation skills to learn about the world around them. We talked about how scientists use special instruments like magnifying glasses to make little things look big. We observed that butterfly wings are made of tiny parts called scales. We used the big word metamorphosis and compared the changes that occur in a butterfly to the changes that occur in a frog. I told the children that when we are observing the world around us, we will often use a field guide. A field guide helps us to identify objects that we see in our world.
I projected pictures of butterflies and their caterpillars upon my Promethean board and we observed their shapes and colors. They then sketched their pictures in their field guide booklet. We used watercolors to create a butterfly using symmetry. (They make a pretty bulletin board, don't you think?) We aren't completely finished with our field guide. I think that I will put it in a literacy center rotation this week!

These pictures show examples of the activity the children did to show how butterfly wings are made of scales.

My daughter, the Art major, helped me draw the pictures that we used for observation of our caterpillars and butterflies. Here is an example of one of them!

We also discussed how caterpillars protect themselves and how butterflies use their wings. We labeled the parts of a butterfly and did a butterfly life cycle activity using pasta - I'm sure many of you have done this!

If you are interested in this unit, you can get it from my TPT store! In the next day or so, I have a couple of butterfly freebies to post, but it is getting late now and I need to get some sleep!