Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Random Acts of Inspiration/In the Beginning...

It's the last week of school, so I'm trying to be reasonable about what I ask kids to do in class and what I'm willing to grade.   Last Friday, we reminded ourselves of Where the Wild Things Are before sketching ourselves as Wild Things, cutting out our mini-portraits and gluing them in a group to form a massive Rumpus.   We also wrote vignettes about our earlier Wild Thing selves.

It's my opinion that opportunities for art and kindness should be integrated into the curriculum whenever possible.   I never feel like I do enough of the latter, so I wanted to think of something small and cheap that could turn into something big and priceless.   And, yes, it would involve paint chips.

To replicate this activity you will need one paint chip per child, a single hole punch, ball point pens, yarn, scissors and patience.   To add a little drama, you will need some super awesome Facebook friends, a camera, stamps and envelopes.

Here come the baby steps.   Have kids get out a spare piece of paper for a rough draft.   They should imagine opening a fortune cookie and reading an uplifting message that makes them have a positive outlook on their lives.   What would that one sentence say?   Come up with four rough ideas.   Star one.   Craft it into perfection.

Once they think they've got it going on, they should show it to you for approval.   You may need to help and redirect them at this point.   Mark their sentence with a highlighter when it's a final draft.

When they get the official okay from you, they should pick out a paint chip, punch a hole, tie a piece of yarn and write their message.

Option A:   Allow students to take their own messages and hang them somewhere out in the world for someone else to find.

Option Awesomer:   After school, create a Facebook event.   Invite your friends.   People who choose to "attend" can send you their snail mail address and receive a paint chip in the mail.   They must agree to hang the inspirational message, post a photo on the event page with a brief message of the where and why to their location choice.   The next day, have kids write the return address on the envelope as well as a thank you message on the back of the envelope.   Kids then select a pre-approved tag and attach a sticky note, "This chip was handpicked for you by (student's first name)'".   Unsealed envelopes should be placed in a box.   After looking inside the envelopes to make sure that all is well, have a "responsible" student seal the envelopes and another one put the stamps in the corner.   Send yet another child to the school's mailbox.   Include them in as many ways as you can; they should feel like they are in control of something good.

Students know what I'm planning to do with their work, and they know that any extra chips will be delivered on my road trip to the Delta.   (And, no, they are absolutely not my Facebook friends until they graduate high school, friend me first and I know at least one of their parents.)

Here's what my friends and my students have in common.   They're all willing to give a potentially good idea a chance.   I never confuse the two groups, but I sure do appreciate their shared sense of daring.

Keep your eyes peeled.   My buddies have all summer long to get the job done.   Wanna play along?   The next time you are in Lowes, grab a stack of paint chips and commence with some guerrilla inspiration.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Deck the Room with Paint Chip Garlands

You know how much I love paint chips.   They are beautiful, inspiring, plentiful and free.   I've already told you about Paint Chip Poetry.   Let's make something festive for the classroom.   How about some mini all-about-me collages to string into garlands?

Swing by Lowes for the Valspar paint chips that come with three colors and three squares cut from the bottom edge.   Haul out your Magazine Mountain.   Get the scissors, glue and twine or ribbon.

Here's the tricky part.   Students will need to keep their chips color side up but with the three holes along the top of their collage.   This is where the twine will go to string the art.   Someone in each class will probably assemble his upside down.   It happens.

My preference is for the collage to contain words and images and not extend up to the top third of the chip.   I like to see a little bit of the colors they chose. and I need room to thread the collages.   Also, no ratty edges from magazine pictures extending over the side of the chip, please.   Names can go on the back, since it's easy to flip the chip and see what's what.

This is a great beginning or end of year activity.   It's also a relaxing respite from a week of state testing.   Teens need the opportunity to express themselves...and see themselves in their learning spaces.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Roasting Pan Poetry

Since we last spoke, most of my time has spent planning how to keep students busy during non-testing time before or after state tests.   This means three hour stretches with many students that I do not teach.   Thank goodness for the Jumble, Sudoku, Dover coloring books (4 for 3 on Amazon), crossword puzzles, Bananagrams, Apples to Apples, Find It, illustrated AR books, picture puzzles and Magnetic Poetry on my roasting pan.

I bought that speckled enamelware roasting pan at Macy's and got a screaming good deal...Martha Stewart on clearance.   When I got home, I noticed that it was chipped.   Back into my truck it went.   Thank goodness I never got around to returning it.   So many whiteboards are not magnetic these days.   Why not keep a roasting pan handy?   If kids create magnetic poetry on the insides of the roasting pan and the outside of the lid, you can tip the lid upside down to make it fit better into a bag for traveling to your next gig without losing a magnet.

Ridiculous?   Yes.   But when you're in a pinch, any option is a good one.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Story Starter Notecards

If I knew how to rotate this picture, I would.  

Here's a simple way to build up your reserves of ready-to-go writing activities.   You will need glue sticks, scissors and your magazine mountain. Each child will also need one 3 x 5 note card.  

Students should choose 10 items to paste on their note cards.   The selections should be familiar objects, nothing too obscure.   Please encourage them to consider placing their items together in a visually appealing manner; backgrounds are nice.   On the lined side of the card, they should list their choices just in case they are difficult to discern.   They should also put their initials in the corner.   This will allow you to give them a smallish grade for assembly.

Review all submissions and choose some of the best offerings to use the next day...and keep them for next year's students.  

For a creative writing exercise, students randomly select another child's card.   The challenge is to tell a story using at least 5 of the 10 objects depicted.   For added difficulty, they may try to include more.   I also require a lead that is either action or dialogue to set the wheels of the plot in motion right away.   Don't let the creative nature of this prompt get bogged down with too much straight narrative backstory.   Yeah.   None of this bland, "Hi!   My name is..." prose either.  

Students love responding to art created by their peers, and because it's a simple assembly of magazine pictures, everyone's open to sharing his/her work.   Of course, if a child ever wants to keep art or writing between the two of you, you should honor that wish...unless it's something that makes you think the kid's in danger.   In that case, contact guidance for, well, guidance.

Mediocre Housekeeping

Shed a little light.
I'm not saying that I can't sew.   I am saying that I don't have the required patience and natural affinity for straight lines.  

Here's the related dilemma.   I love the sun.  If it were up to me, I'd teach in a glass box.   When I'm reading or writing, the world sometimes goes missing for a bit.   This is not the case for all of my students.

I started off the year teaching with the blinds open all the way, but I found that I needed some cafe curtains to help keep the easily distracted students on task.   I still raise the blinds, but here you can see my no-sew solution for obscuring the view.

For each modular classroom window you will need a tension rod, approximately 3 dish/tea towels, a fistfull of metal shower curtain rings and another of bulldog clips.   T.J. Maxx and Tuesday Morning are great resources for inexpensive linens, but I ordered mine from Amazon.  

If you would like to raise and lower the window for some fresh air without breaking your fingers, you may also want to invest in some inexpensive gardening gloves.   But if it's my cool MLK Jr. poster you're after, it's for sale on Amazon too.

Come closer.


So there's a blog of 1,000 Awesome Things that has now been turned into an Awesome book.   What a great idea.   What would your eighth grade self identify as awesome enough to celebrate in writing?

I have to admit that I gave out homework over a weekend, but it was merely for students to ponder on the awesomeness of their world.

Together we examined Neil Pasricha's  Picking the Perfect Nacho Off Someone Else's Plate, Old, Dangerous Playground Equipment and The First Scoop Out of a Jar of Peanut Butter.   I also rattled off a few of the other topics featured in the blog that would be accessible to teens.

We focused on tone, voice, point of view, sensory imagery and audience.   Keep your tone positive and your voice conversational and upbeat.   Use second person point of view to pull your reader in.   Rely on sensory imagery to recreate the awesomeness of your chosen topic to your reader.   And your choice should have broad appeal.   When the majority of people read your entry, they should be able to connect with your topic.

Yes.   Some folks got right down to it when it was time to write.  

And some people sat and sat and sat and sat.   If you are in the latter group of writers, I expect you to have paper on your desk and a pen/cil in your hand.   If after a reasonable amount of time you are still in the latter group of writers, I want you to list the five senses and start brainstorming some favorites.   Usually this does the trick.   Usually.

In giving feedback on the first draft I found that writers needed the most help with crossing over into second point of view and creating a meaty snapshot of their experience.   This is the first year I've tried this activity, so I'll be able to add in more supports for next year.   We had so much fun.   This lesson is a keeper.  

It's also something that I had willing students submit for immediate publication.   I mean, who doesn't want a Wall of Awesome in their classroom?   And that's the thing about trailers's pushpin heaven.