The Past Two Weeks – School Then and Now, Part 2

In Part 1, I immediately addressed how much I miss the children.  They miss me, too.  We had started learning about France, with a big atlas and twenty wide-eyed children who were eager to ‘travel’ to a new country.  Getting sidetracked along the way is the best!  Children’s questions explode, and that often leads the way to deeper learning.  Emergent Curriculum.

March is one of our favorite months at school, as we begin to prepare for our annual Art Show.  We just began learning about famous French artists and paintings.  We began focusing on Impressionism. I had the pleasure of showing different works of art, stopping suddenly, and saying to a child, “You can do that!”  Seeing their faces react was priceless.  Children just need to feel their teacher believes in them.

And then, two days before school closed, children started to paint in earnest, creating their own masterpieces.  In order to inspire their creativity, I introduced classical music, Vivaldi to be exact, played on a real record player.  This was the coolest, ‘newest technology’ children had ever seen.  Did it inspire them to paint?  You bet it did.

Part 2
It is important to understand the magnitude of where children were in the learning process, before school shut down.  Moving forward needs a great deal of thought.  How do I pick up where I left off?  I’m not a rote teacher with worksheets.

Let me tell you about the Art Show in years past.  I think this will give you a better understanding of what we were starting to do, and the challenges ahead.  Here are a few stories you might enjoy:

Alex wasn’t a child who loved to draw or paint.  He was always busy with building and blocks.  He loved chapter reading and had a great curiosity for learning new things.  When I introduced famous works of art, he was mesmerized.  “The Scream” by Edvard Munch spoke to him.

It was a painting where we talked about the brush strokes, and how the artist painted it.  As an aside I told the children the painting had been stolen, and was finally found.  When Alex was ready to paint, he said he wanted to see “The Yeller Who Was Lost.”  What a perfect description as he grasped for the words.  I love his title!  It took me a minute to understand he wanted to see “The Scream.”

And so, Alex started to paint.  He hated his first painting and wanted to start over.  I reminded him that a masterpiece takes many, many days.  By the time he got to the second painting he was annoyed at all the noise and asked everyone to be quiet so he could concentrate.  We all tip-toed for the next few hours while Alex worked on his masterpiece.



Liam was far more interested in Legos than he was in art.  For the Art Show that year we studied Italy and the works of famous artists.  One day we had the children recreate Early Renaissance art.  Much of that art was painted on wood with gold paint.  That was something all the children wanted to do, except Liam.  He told me he didn’t need any gold paint, only blue and black.  He pointed to our “Starry Night” poster and said, “I want to paint that.”

Wow.  Never underestimate the mind of  a child.  I had no idea he was drawn to that painting.  And so, I gave him the paints.  And he painted a masterpiece.  The best is yet to come.  Liam asked for red paint.  Red?  He told me he needed it for the little red house on the bottom.  What little red house?  Yes, there is one.  I never noticed, but Liam did.

Look closely and you will see that tiny red house.  Children see and understand far more than we give them credit for.


Colin loved music.  When I introduced music with a record player, he was in his element.  After I played classical music I introduced children to showtunes.  Colin wanted to hear “Oklahoma” over and over again.

He loved art. That year we introduced the art of Kandinsky, and Colin was in his element.  Kandinsky’s art and colors were influenced by music.  That resonated with Colin.  And so, after looking at his art, he wanted to recreate one of Kandinsky’s masterpieces.  Well done, Colin.


One of children’s favorite pieces of art most years is “Large Blue Horses” by Franz Marc.  Perhaps it is the color, or the large brush strokes.  There is something about this painting that speaks to many children.

It spoke to Aaryan.  He worked on painting this for a week.  Five times he was  back at his painting to get it just the way he wanted it to be. His paper was so thick with paint, but that didn’t matter.  He was proud.

There are many stories every year of the Art Show.  Why?  I get children excited over art and then I step back and let them take over.  I make sure there is great music, played on my record player to inspire their painting.  One year Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” was so popular I only had to ask each day, “Do you want to hear spring, summer, autumn or winter?”  Another year it was the Beatles, and we had dance parties before we painted.

Music inspires art, and art inspires music.  The two are intertwined.  If I introduce children to both, creativity and imagination flows.  Math and science become a stronger interest as a result.  The Art Show seems to pull everything together.  It showcases the best of children in many ways.

That is where I was headed with children when school closed.  Now you have a broader picture and understanding.  Stay tuned for Part 3 and what I did.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in art, Early Education, Inspiration, music, preschool, self esteem, The Arts, The Beatles and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

83 Responses to The Past Two Weeks – School Then and Now, Part 2

  1. Cliff hanger! What an incredible challenge you’re facing. I can’t wait to see how you and the children meet it.

  2. Ritu says:

    Such amazing learning… I’m gutted it can’t continue in the same way…

  3. beetleypete says:

    No pressure, but I have every confidence you will make something work. And it will be great!
    Best wishes, Pete.

  4. Opher says:

    I wish I was in your art class Jennie! No wonder they are missing you!

  5. quiall says:

    My best teachers were those who allowed me to experience. They tweaked my imagination and helped me to fly. You are one of those teachers. Lucky kids.

    • Jennie says:

      If I can fill the shoes of your best teachers, that is huge. Thank you, Pam. Giving children wings is both simple and hard, and the best thing I do.

  6. Darlene says:

    I will be waiting in anticipation to see how you continue this without actually being there. I know it will be awesome.

  7. beth says:

    it sounds like you’re doing an excellent job in this arena, i’m working on finding this balance and figuring out how best to teach and stay connected to them, as you are, and i’m quite sure everything we (and the families) do or don’t do will be okay.

    • Jennie says:

      We are in sync, Beth. It’s a learning process. I posted a video (now two) with Gloria visiting and playing the games she likes to play. That familiarity has been really big. It’s balancing the learning with making connections. I think the young children need to make connections. Learning will happen. Let me know what you are doing. Tomorrow morning is our first Zoom. I just might cry happy tears.

      • beth says:

        Same here for the timing on our first class zoom meeting, I’m prepare to cry but will be so happy to see them all. We now know we won’t be coming back this year.

      • Jennie says:

        Really?? No school for the rest of the year? Gulp! Tell me again where you live, and if it was a state-wide decision or a local one. We are due to go back May 4th. Fingers crossed. I’ll be thinking of you Zooming tomorrow. ❤️

      • beth says:

        it was a state decision, i live in michigan, and we knew it was probably coming. good luck to you tomorrow, too –

      • Jennie says:

        My goodness. You must be torn. Same to you tomorrow, Beth!

  8. The way you encourage your kids creativity is inspiring Jennie. I know the circumstances aren’t ideal for teaching, but I have no doubt you’ll persevere!🤗

  9. emberbear says:

    Wonderful paintings. Wonderful children. Wonderful teacher.

  10. Dan Antion says:

    I’m sure you met this challenge head on, Jennie.

  11. Great stories, Jennie. Thanks for sharing.

  12. petespringerauthor says:

    The second act was fabulous! I remembered you telling us before about Liam spotting the Little Red House.

    • Jennie says:

      Yes! I am still amazed that he knew here was a red house. I tried to pick three good stories, and Liam’s is one of my favorites. Didn’t you love, “The yeller who was lost?” That made my day! Thank you, Pete.

  13. Thank you for sharing the story, Jennie. When my granddaughter was one year old, she could pick up tiny things as small as a grin of sesame seed. It’s amazing!

  14. Elizabeth says:

    I don’t know how scattered your kids are, but a local school had a parade of their teachers each in her own car drive through and wave to every kid in the area. I wonder if you might be able to do something like that. Loved the paintings.

    • Jennie says:

      Saturday is the birthday of a child in our class. We’re having a drive-by parade for her. I get to stand in the yard and take pictures. I’m so glad this is happening, because the children are from all over neighboring towns, and we couldn’t do a drive-by for everyone. I’ll post photos! 🙂 I’m glad you liked the paintings, Elizabeth. Thank you!

  15. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!

  16. Oh, the wonder of it all… 🙂 Can’t wait to find out what’s next! xoxoxo

  17. So heartbreaking 😨for the children to undergo. I pray that the loss will be revived with more gains and benefits! 🙏

  18. KathrinS says:

    Your students are so sweet, it’s very difficult for them. I feel for the ones who have a difficult home situation.
    I’m an after-school tutor and have been able to re-connect with some of my students through video lessons, which has been lovely.

  19. I can feel the warmth and passion you feel for your pupils, leaking out of every sentence. It’s a pleasure to read your blog because I have many similar feelings about my own class – though my thoughts are not art-dominated, I could feel that we were heading on to big things. It’s crushing not to see them every day, isn’t it! I look forward to reading part 3.

    • Jennie says:

      I know exactly how you feel, and I echo all your words. My thoughts are usually reading related, picture books and chapter books. Lots of that in Part 3. Thank you for your lovely comments. What grade do you teach? How long will your school be closed?

      • I teach Year 1 in the UK, so they’re age 5 and 6. I don’t know when we’re reopening, we closed 20th March “indefinitely” 😔

      • Jennie says:

        It is a very unsettling time for everyone. I know how you feel, and I think of the children and how hard this is for them – much harder than it is for for us. The word “indefinitely” can be fear of the unknown.

  20. Thank you for the fantastic introduction into your famous working style. What a wonderful art gallery. With Munch’s artwork you are teaching on a very high level, but with great success. Al the children i saw on your images had in smile on the faces. This says all. Now, i understand your actual lonlyness much more. Hope you are staying well and save! Have a lovely weekend! Michael

    • Jennie says:

      Children love art. Introducing them to art that looks like something they may be able to do themselves is an added bonus. Can’t you see a child looking at “The Scream” and thinking s/he can paint it, too? It’s all about introducing great art, and empowering children. Thank you so much, Michael. Your comments are so appreciated.

      • This is really a great way, teaching them what they will never forget, in their life. Its sharpening their skills, too. You are unbelievable, Jennie! But you know this! 😉 Best wishes, Michael

  21. I love this so much! I always think back on my one teacher who believed I was capable in art and reading, and how she taught us too with music and reading stories to us that would inspire us, and how we were given cartoons and other pictures to inspire us to paint. It was so wonderful. This was in high school, but no matter what grade, I think any teacher who goes above and beyond “the criteria” as you always do (luckily for all the children) is something that may last us a lifetime as it sure did for me. It went so beyond my ability to write and edit papers. It gave me a reason to live, something I had not had before. For the first time in my life, someone actually believed in me.

    • Jennie says:

      Those are the stories teachers live to hear and dream for. How wonderful that you had such a teacher. With love and passion, anything is possible. Thank you, Anne. ❤️

  22. shoes says:

    Such a beautiful way to inspire artistic expression and then step back and let them work their magic. Remote learning will be quite the shift.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, shoes. Letting children work their own magic is the key. I wish all teachers could do this. I’m still adjusting to remote learning. It is a huge shift for teachers. So far it has been terrific.

      • shoes says:

        I am a third grade teacher adjusting to remote learning. I am using Google Classroom as our main platform. I create weekly virtual field trips for students to partake in (The Met, the ISS, The Great Lakes, The San Diego Zoo, etc.) and then share out their learning. The kids really seem to like it.

      • Jennie says:

        Wonderful, Shoes. Do you do any Zoom or YouTube so you can be face-to-face with the kids? That’s what they miss.

      • shoes says:

        I haven’t yet. I do record a video of myself that I post each day. It is a greeting and a review of our daily learning opportunities. I am working on putting together a Google Hangout with my class. What about you?

      • Jennie says:

        I started a YouTube channel where I read aloud every day. My co teachers do mindfulness and yoga. I do music, simple math and science activities, that sort of thing. We Zoom every Friday. What is Google Hangout?

      • shoes says:

        I will have to set up a YouTube channel too, as we were in the middle of a great chapter book they I read aloud to the kiddos everyday. Hangout is like Zoom, a video conferencing platform. I think I found a way to end the call and have the hangout link inactivated. Learning curve! I provide brain breaks with mindfulness movements and breathing as well.

      • Jennie says:

        YouTube channel will be perfect for your chapter reading. Today I started “Little House on the Prairie.” Which do you like the best, Zoom or Hangout?

      • shoes says:

        I have only used Hangout, which I like with the Google extension of grid (gives a grid view which is handy when you have a lot of people on the call). We are in the middle of “The Twenty-One Balloons”.

      • Jennie says:

        I get it! 🙂

  23. dgkaye says:

    We shall look forward to what you come up with next! ❤

  24. dolphinwrite says:

    As one who taught for over two decades, in a few arenas, and among many ages, I know how much I enjoyed the profession. Sometimes working with three grades, sometimes with different ages, and utilizing all the resources to bring understanding so they will have the best opportunities they choose. I also saw the opportunity to educate the parents, whom I realized as the years past, some were young enough to be my children, so my class could have been grandchildren. Even working with higher grades sometimes, I would still play with the younger kids at recess, when the time availed, which was rare. And saying goodbye at the end of the day. **But, from the beginning, after working in other venues, realizing how “easy” it was to teach, of course requiring a lot of work (which we enjoyed), I saw year after year how things were changing. And not for the better. With the students out, my hopes are they take this time to realize how much they can learn on their own. As I’ve said before, I saw my job to teach the kids so they don’t need me anymore. The better I do, the better they do, the more they learn to realize and think for themselves, let their curiosity and responsibility lead the way, the more they find their own ways in life. And this, I hope for them.

    • Jennie says:

      Hear, hear! I have seen many changes as well. Children do not change, but unfortunately our expectations and school demands have changed. I like your comment about the better I do the better they do, and how giving them the skills to think independently and fostering creativity. Thank you!

  25. srbottch says:

    Oklahoma! Colin has good taste. The wall displaying their art is a piece of art. Itself.

    • Jennie says:

      Yes! And how can I ever forget you belting out the song at your corner? Those wall displays, the Art Show, is a museum for the children. The whole community visits over six weeks when it is on display. I dearly miss it this year.

  26. dolphinwrite says:

    I think the danger I see is when people think they “have the way.” I suppose, I fall into that category as well, though I’m aware of it. Which is also why I like it when I meet other teachers who are quite good at what they do, in fact, some are amazing and I can’t do what they do. But, then, that’s the beauty of different talents. But I will share this. With my classes, I do explain the import of learning, more so in preparation for real life, and to have trainings from various teachers. But I also encourage them to think for themselves. As such, sometimes I explain I will take the position I don’t agree with to see if they’re thinking. But when they have a position, to support with citing and/or personal experiences and understanding. And sometimes, I will explain, I don’t agree with their position, but that doesn’t mean they’re not right. You see, I believe in a world that people think for themselves, and in discussions, answers are gained through debates and such. Which of course, makes for an interesting career. **But by and large, I’ve discovered, when the students know how “hard” I can be on demanding work, but also know I “like” them, appreciate their individuality, appreciate their challenges, they actually calm down and respect/like me in return. But I’m not a fuzzy teddy bear. So, a students challenges. We talk in the class. Later outside if more is to be shared. Then, I say, okay, back to work.

    • Jennie says:

      You are giving children the gift of critical, divergent thinking. That in itself is the greatest gift of all. Ask questions, challenge them, give an opposing position. In this day and age of too much testing where rote memorization is often the norm, you are what children need. You don’t have to be a warm fuzzy teddy bear, just help them to think. They will remember you, like I remember my English teacher, Miss Mitchell. Children need more teachers like you. Really.

  27. dolphinwrite says:

    Yeah. We do what we can. With twelve years of school, they have many teachers. This way, they can learn a multitude of subjects from points of views. But not propaganda. Of course, even in this, they can learn to differentiate, but it’s harder for younger people as many are looking for guidance. My goal has always to guide them back to themselves.

  28. This is a brilliant post, it reminds me of times working (as in a residency, not as a permanent teacher) in one particular primary school in Sunderland with children who were amazing artists. They knew what they wanted to do, and if they did three versions they always picked the one that, in my opinion, was aesthetically the best – this was the one they wanted to take home. I was producing a very large one-off book with these very young children (5 and 6 year olds) and it took me a while to persuade them to allow me to paste their best work into the book. The one thing I did, because I had a generous grant for materials, was to buy some really beautiful coloured Fabriano paper, and some neocolour crayons, which shine out light against dark if you want that. It took the children a time to get away from the contant use of felt tips (which are fine, but I wanted something different as well). They produced things that were really beautiful. Only thing was I wouldn’t let them get near scissors and glue, that was my department, I cloud-cut everything and then asked them where they wanted their work stuck on the page. There was another table where they could do gluing and cutting. The school, a primary school in a difficult area, was a stunning place, the teachers were wonderful, I think the children were truly happy there. This was a long time ago, I often wonder what happened to all those amazing small artists (and writers, they were pre-literate, really, but one little girl came up and said “I will tell you a poem” and I wrote it down. It ended up “the lady who died opened the door” and was a small masterpiece; and I reckon she probably couldn’t even remember inventing it. A poet, who was working at a different school within the same project, said: “What was she on when she wrote that!”

    • Jennie says:

      What a wonderful story and memories of your teaching. See, you just know when something excites children, and how to expand on that for the child. I bet those children carried their love for art and poetry far into their lives. You were there to fan their fire. That in itself is a wonderful thing. Thank you so much, Cara!

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