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A Valuable Chapter of My Life - Revisited

In the late 80s, I found a master's program that was a perfect match for me.
I found a master's program where I could get a degree in Creative Arts in Learning.  

As I've always been a big fan of the performing arts, I leaped at the chance, enrolled, and was accepted.

One of the very cool things about this program, is that it didn't take place at a college, but in a rustic seminar house in southern New Hampshire.  One weekend a month several teachers would get together to learn about connecting the arts to our classrooms. 

I have so many delightful memories of these 2 years.  Not only did my teaching become enhanced by all the wonderful things I was learning, I made some fabulous friendships.  It was a great chapter in my life, and I cherish the changes in me as a teacher and as a person I developed during those years. Years later, I still value what I learned during those two years and apply it in my teaching every day.

Yesterday I went back to visit because the man who ran the program and taught some of the classes was retiring, and there was an open house in his honor. 

I went back to Walnut Hill Seminar House for the first time in many years. (It was over 25 years ago that I got my Master's degree, and I think I visited once in the 90s.)  Magically, my mind went back to the late 80s and I was reliving all those times I'd driven up that driveway and walked into that rustic building that was my home one weekend a month for a two year period.  It was like coming home. I was filled with the warm feelings of friendship and camaraderie that I felt all those years ago.

Although I didn't see anyone else there from my day, there were many who went through the same program more recently, and clearly had the same sort of experiences I had so many years ago. We chatted, remembered, and smiled.  

The retiring teacher chose to have all his old teacher books up for grabs.  He has been involved in education for even longer than I have, and his collection spanned all the ages in between!

It was absolutely fascinating.  I saw books that were my manuals when I got my undergraduate degree in the 70s.  I looked through them, thinking I'd find outdated data, but what I saw in those books was good teaching practices that are still used today.  I wanted to bring several of the books home and re-read them this many years later, but I know I just don't have any room in my home for them. However, I couldn't resist this one:

I owned this book many years ago, and used it often back in the 70s and 80s.  I breezed through it and saw many activities that I would proudly use in my classroom today!  There were counting and patterning activities that are perfect for little ones learning about numbers.  They include movement and song.  

I've been studying brain based learning for the last few years, and I realize that many activities that integrate the arts are the same ones we did way back then, but now they have research to back them up. We always knew they were valuable activities that helped children learn!  

Teaching has changed in many, many ways during the 35+ years of my career, but some things just don't change.  Good teaching practices: Children still love playing games, singing songs, getting physically active, playing pretend, and using visual arts.

An  updated version of the Mathematics Their Way book is available at Amazon. (Just click the image above.)

Making Friends is an Art!

Making Friends is an Art - This delightful story by Julia cook helps children understand the value of friendship and everyone doing his part. This post comes with an Art related freebie!
Julia Cook has written a number of children's books dealing with sensitive issues. In her books, she has amazing ways of dealing with tough subjects in a child friendly, fun way!  Learn more about this author and her books at her website HERE.

I read Making Friends Is an Art!  to my class the other day, and I'm so glad I did! (Click image for affiliate link to Amazon.)

The story is about the brown pencil in a box of colored pencils.  It is jealous of the other colors because they get more use, and are well liked.  Red, especially, is so popular that it's been sharpened down to a stump!

Brown explores friendships with the other colors, and finds out that in order to have friends, one has to be a friend, and their first friend should be themselves!

As Brown explores himself, through the help of his color friends, he finds out he is the combination of all the other colors!

We stopped to chat several times throughout the book to discuss the different personality traits.  "Yellow always does what's right, do you know anyone like that?"  Yes, they did!  "Who do you know that's like Pink, and always listens?"  They had plenty of answers (including their teacher!)  The one that really made me smile was their response to Purple, who has hopes and dreams... they all said themselves!  (Don't you love kids?) My favorite part was that they included all the kids in the class in their comments, not just the "more popular" children.

After realizing that Brown was the combination of all the other colors, I simply had to give the kids some time to explore with paint so they could see for themselves!
Making Friends is an Art - This delightful story by Julia cook helps children understand the value of friendship and everyone doing his part. This post comes with an Art related freebie!

Making Friends is an Art - This delightful story by Julia cook helps children understand the value of friendship and everyone doing his part. This post comes with an Art related freebie!

Making Friends is an Art - This delightful story by Julia cook helps children understand the value of friendship and everyone doing his part. This post comes with an Art related freebie!

Don't you love kids and paint?  I did happen to notice that most of the children included some BROWN in their pictures!

In Making Friends is an Art! Julia Cook personifies colored pencils with human characteristics.  I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get children to think about the character traits of their classmates.

Going along with the ART theme, I've designed a Friendship Palette for the children to take the character traits that Julia Cook gives the colored pencils in the book, and find classroom friends with the same character traits.

It was a great opportunity to look for the best in their classmates!

I made two versions of the Friendship Palette, one in color, and one that's more "printer ink" friendly, where the children can color the individual backgrounds themselves.
Making Friends is an Art - This delightful story by Julia cook helps children understand the value of friendship and everyone doing his part. This post comes with an Art related freebie!

There are two options for sharing classmates:  The children can draw their classmates in the ovals, or the teacher can provide photographs.  I chose to use photographs, and I chose to go a little crazy in order to avoid popularity contests or children being left out.  Since I have 17 students, I made 17 different collections of photographs and rotated the faces so there were 11 per page, and each page was different.  (I'd show you, but I don't post my students' faces in public!)

It was totally worth the extra effort for me, as the children had no trouble fitting their 10 random classmates into all the spaces on the friendship palette.  Of course, their own picture went into the center for brown!
The children had fun, and spent time thinking about their friends and character traits!
Plus, I'm really glad I chose this book!  It was just perfect for my class!
Click the image or click HERE for your freebie!

Can you believe how many great books she has?  
You can buy this book and several others at her website HERE!

5 Patriotic Options for Veterans Day or Any Patriotic Holiday

We spent a lot of time the last couple of days talking about what a veteran is, and why it's important to honor them. (I always like my kids to know WHY we get a day off!) True, they're due for a break (as well as the teachers! We survived a marathon day of teaching and parent teacher conferences this week, we deserve a day off to recover!)

Five Patriotic Options for Veterans Day (or any Patriotic Holiday): Books, videos, music, and other resources to help students learn about Veterans Day!

1.  First of all, there are books! I absolutely love to introduce concepts to the children through quality literature! I admit. The Wall gets me choked up every time I read it. As I read it yesterday, the children were totally silent. (My group is NEVER totally silent!)  It affected them deeply.


All these books will click to a direct link to Amazon to learn more about the book! I already own most of them, but the story Night Catch really caught my eye.  It might just be my next purchase!

2.  Next, I like to show some videos. I try to time it so we watch a video on Thursday during snack time, since Thursday is popcorn day in our school. It just seems appropriate! Here is a patriotic video that is great, and the kids really take to it!

3.  I play music frequently through the school day. I make sure I have music playing in the morning as the children arrive, but I also make sure they hear music at different times of the day. Sometimes it's soft background music, and sometimes it's lively, fun music. Both kinds of music have their place. Here are a couple that I love!


Click each image for a link to Amazon to find out more.
Yes, I really do Karaoke with my students!

4.  I did this Veterans True or False activity with my students on Thursday, and it was awesome! Interestingly, our assistant principal came in while we were playing the game, and told the students he was a veteran. My students broke out into applause!  (I was so proud!) Of course, most of my little boys went nuts when they found out he drove a tank! Click the image or click HERE for the link!


Got active students? After the kiddos have read this text, they can have a blast moving around to answer the questions to Reading Comprehension for Active Learners: Freedom isn't Free!


5.  Here's a freebie that I did with my students on Friday.  They wrote thank you letters to Veterans! Their notes were heartwarming and proud to me they really understood how lucky we are to be Americans, and have these wonderful people risking their lives for our freedom!


Don't forget the brain breaks! Here's a freebie that might come in handy! Patriotic Brain Breaks

Five Patriotic Options for Veterans Day (or any Patriotic Holiday): Books, videos, music, and other resources to help students learn about Veterans Day!

Five Patriotic Options for Veterans Day (or any Patriotic Holiday): Books, videos, music, and other resources to help students learn about Veterans Day!

Five for the Team

Sometimes I write blog posts because I have teaching ideas I want to share.

Sometimes I just have something on my mind that's bursting to get out. I did one of these posts the other day with my Forever Friends post. This was definitely a sad reason.

Today I have happy feelings that are bursting inside me that I need to get out!

Boston had a tough year. After April 15th, Boston has been rebuilding its strength and feelings of security.

Although I haven't lived in the Boston area since the 70's, I'm still only an hour away.  What's more, my daughter lives there. As a college student in Boston, she was very close to the events of April.  She had actually thought of going down to Boylston Street to watch the marathoners cross the finish line.  Luckily, she had so much homework, she chose to stay in her apartment on her day off to catch up. (Thank you, college professors for giving her homework that long weekend!)

A few nights later, she was walking home, not far from MIT, when the MIT security officer was shot.  The next day, when all of Boston was in lockdown, I have to admit I was constantly checking my computer during class for word of the incident.  I rushed out of school that day ( not my usual 6:00 - 7:00 quitting time) to go home to watch the news.  I was glued to the TV, as well as Facebook, where I typically hear news before the network.  When the culprit was apprehended, there were tears of joy and relief from everyone I knew. Boston was safe.

The next time the Red Sox played at Fenway, there was much celebration (including a cuss word from David Ortiz that somehow made it past the censors!)  Boston was rebuilding.

Flash forward to the end of October.

After a surprisingly successful season, the Red Sox beat a powerful Cardinals team and won the 2013 World Series.
As Bostonians are passionate about their sports teams, the celebration culminated today in true Boston Style: A Parade through Boston with the Red Sox players in the Duck Boats, ending up in the Charles River. See Duck Boats for more information about how unique Duck Boats are... a definite thing to do if you visit Boston!
There are a couple of pictures I want to share, but they're copyrighted. I'll have to send you to the websites. First of all, Steve Horgan, Red Sox bullpen cop became famous for THIS photo. I've seen this photoshopped many times in a number of places, my favorite being on Slash Mountain. This was taken when David Ortiz hit a grand slam against the Detroit Tigers to help win the American League title, bringing the Red Sox to the World Series.

My other favorite photos were taken today, at the finish line of the Boston Marathon during the Duck Boat tour. David Ortiz got out and ran the last leg of the marathon route, then several of the players stopped at the marathon finish line (still painted yellow and blue) They put the World Series trophy and "Boston Strong" Red Sox shirts right on the finish line. Then the crowd sang God Bless America. Naturally, I shed more than a few tears. Those feelings run deep from that day back in April.

You can read more HERE.

I find myself wondering if the team would have done so well if that horrible incident hadn't given Boston an inner strength. Yes, they had some great players and great coaching, but I think these guys had something more. What do you think?
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