The Art Show

“It took me a lifetime to learn to draw like a child.” -Pablo Picasso-

When I brought the children to see the Art Show this week, the first words were from a child, Allie.  She said, “This is beautiful!”  She was right.

“There are flowers for those who want to see them.”  -Henri Matisse-

I was able to be with each child in front of their art masterpiece.  This was ‘the moment’, as if they were seeing their art in a museum.  Hard work and heart needs to be recognized, especially with young children.  After all, growing children is like growing flowers; planting a seed and nurturing.  Art was the seed, and teaching was the nurturing.  A little water (tools) and sunshine (words) made all the difference.

Aaryan chose to paint Large Blue Horses, by Franz Marc.  Avery chose to paint the Mona Lisa, and Parker was inspired by Wassily Kandinsky.  Rowan painted a Starry Night.  Nora and Lexi were vested in the real artist paints, carefully squeezing the colors from tubes onto palettes and returning to their work over and over again.  Kate and Max used real spaghetti dipped in paint, creating art much like Jackson Pollock.

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” -Vincent van Gogh-

Dear Vincent, I couldn’t have said it any better.  You took the words right out of my mouth.

Jennie

Posted in art, Early Education, Imagination, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , | 33 Comments

Children Giving To Their Sergeant Pen-Pal; A Life Lesson

Children are egocentric by nature.  Therefore, teaching the most important things in life, such as genuine thanks and caring, takes more than just words.  It takes doing.

After writing letters and drawing pictures for Sergeant Curran, our pen-pal stationed in Afghanistan, we hosted bake sales at school to raise money in order to buy him items that he might need.  As families arrived at school, children rang our bell, the kind used on a counter at a store to alert a clerk.  The bell is red- we love that bell!  Children were chanting, “Cookies for sale, muffins for sale”, in much the same way the peddler chants “Caps, caps for sale.  Fifty cents a cap” in the classic book Caps For Sale.  Perhaps the most fun was using a cash register to collect money and make the correct change.  We raised a little over $200.00.

Afterwards, the money in hand was a perfect tool for one of our best lessons in math.  Children gathered around the big, round table and watched as I opened the cash register.  I stacked all the one-dollar, five-dollar, and ten-dollar bills in separate piles.  We even had a few twenties.  I then taught the children that four quarters = one dollar, and ten dimes = one dollar.  We put the quarters in stacks of four and the dimes in stacks of ten.  Then we counted, from coins to twenty dollar bills, stopping along the way to learn that two fives = one ten.  What a great, hands-on math lesson.  Twenty minutes of engrossed children.

CVS is a short walk away, and we headed there to spend our $200.00 on what the children thought Sergeant Curran needed.  They made a list:

candy
pencil and pen (rainbow)
toothpaste (pink)
toothbrush
note paper
puzzle
Army guy book
snacks – Slim Jim
soap
sunscreen
shampoo
bracelet
drum


We had a blast!

Children picked out all the items on their list (except for the drum).  We had money to spare… now the children could follow their hearts, and not ‘a list’.  They were thrilled.  So they bought:

Nerf football
golden plastic eggs
Super Soaker
Paw Patrol mini basketball hoop and ball
crossword puzzle books
men’s magazines

I completely agreed with their choices.  Children suddenly went from what they felt Sergeant Curran needed to what he wanted.  The mind and the heart, working in unison, can be magic.

Back at school, we took time to spread out all the items for the children to see.

Looking at everything on the floor was… well, like walking into Fenway Park for the first time, or Christmas morning.  Children were overcome; the gifts staring at them right in the face, represented all that they had done, from the bake sale to CVS.  It felt good!  The children stared.  No words were needed.  This was a time to let it all soak in, what we did for Sergeant Curran.

Giving.  For young children this is not so easy, because in their world they come first.  They’re still learning about themselves, much less other people.  And that’s okay.  A real and meaningful giving experience has to be hands-on in order for children to grasp it’s importance.

That’s what we did, and children understood.  They stepped outside of their world and wanted to give.  And, it felt good.  Sergeant Curran will be on leave the end of May.  Can you imagine the shouts, hugs, tears, singing, stories… when he visits the children?

Jennie

Posted in Early Education, Giving, Kindness, Math, military, patriotism, Peace, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , | 38 Comments

Milly and Our Peace Quilt

In the fall of 2015, the children in my classroom wrote a Peace Book; what they thought peace really was, through their eyes.  The book was genuine: my new baby sister, the ocean, reading a book, dinner with my family, and so much more.  It is a treasure.  I vividly remember Lucca’s entry, his beloved doll that had belonged to his mother.  Back in the day, his grandmother frantically tried to find a Cabbage Patch doll for her daughter and finally found one, a black one.  Of course Lucca’s mom loved the doll.  Better yet, Lucca adored that doll and named her Black Baby.  She is peace!

PEACE
Peace is my new baby sister,
Butterflies and stars,
And playing outside.

Peace looks like a heart,
A gingerbread house,
Falling leaves,
And dancing.

Peace is Black Baby and cookies,
The ocean and reading.

Peace looks like the beach, my dog,
Dinner with my family,
Playing with a good friend.

Peace is my brother and sister.
Peace is my family.
Peace is peaceful.

Children understand.  They know.  Peace through their eyes is true.

The Peace Book inspired us to turn the book and all the ideas into a quilt.  Milly the master quilter, once again, began working with the children to create this magnificent quilt.  Children picked the fabrics and decided where everything should go.  They made sure it was ‘just so’.

The quilt is remarkable!  Butterflies actually fly their wings.  The chains of the swings are real chains.  The leaves falling from the tree are puffy hearts.  All of the elements are subtle.  You have to look twice.  The main image is a family looking outside their window at peace, all the parts of the Peace Book.

Milly is a master quilter, yet she is so much more to the Aqua Roomers.  Ask a child in my class, “Who is Milly’s best friend?”  They know.  Gloria. Yes, Gloria.  Those two ignite more love and excitement.  Children see that, and it makes a big impression.  Watching Milly and children interact and play together is a joy, because she has a way.  Greeting Milly, or saying goodbye to Milly, is always met with hundreds of hugs, and shouts of “Milly!” and “I love you.”  She’s a gem!

 I am connecting generations in the classroom, and that is tremendously important for children.

The quilt will hang at the Boston, Massachusetts State House for six months.  We will have a presentation at the Grand Staircase in the State House.  The Governor will be in attendance.

Milly and my Aqua Room children have made quilts that hang at the National Liberty Museum in historic Philadelphia (across the street from Carpenter’s Hall), and at the Fisher House in Boston.  Each quilt has a big story.  If you want to know more about Milly and her quilts with my classroom, there is much more on my blog.

Jennie

Posted in art, Early Education, Imagination, Peace, quilting, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , | 50 Comments

Music Keeps Inspiring Art

Artists just… know.  So do children.  They both tell the world their passion through painting.  When music becomes part of creating art, magic happens.

“Art should make you feel, like music.”  -Wassily Kandinsky-

Kandinsky is a favorite artist with the children.  They like his colorful art, and they want to paint like him.  I read aloud the children’s book, The Noisy Paintbox: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art, by Barb Rosenstock.  When Kandinsky was a boy and first painted, he heard music as the paintbrush mixed the colors of paint.  The sounds of music were there throughout his life whenever he painted.  He named his pieces of art after the music he heard and loved.  Kandinsky understood that music and art are connected.  Children do, too!

Rowan wanted to paint Starry Night.  She used finger paints, and then asked for music. We had introduced Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Handel’s Water Music.  She knew right away that it was Water Music she needed to hear.  She was right.  Her masterpiece is incredible.

Music makes the difference.  The children know my words, “When you hear the music, it goes into your ears, then into your heart, and out your fingers.”  They feel empowered and they paint with abandon.

“Color is a power that directly influences the soul.  Color is the keyboard.  The artist is the hand that plays.” -Wassily Kandinsy-

When I show children colorful art, indeed they feel, much like what Kandinsky and other artists understood.  A favorite painting is Large Blue Horses, by Franz Marc.  The bold brush strokes and the intense blues are stirring.  No wonder children want to paint that masterpiece.  Aaryan certainly did.  We were in the middle of cleaning up after snack, not the time we were painting.  But Aaryan needed to paint.  So, I set up the stand-up table for him, including a picture of Large Blue Horses.

A short while later he said, “Jennie, you forgot the music.”  Yes, I had forgotten.  Aaryan wasn’t sure what he wanted to hear, so I held up different album covers.  He chose The Supremes, perhaps because it, too, had a colorful cover.  The music certainly fit the moment, as he listened to the words in the song that said, “…love is like an itching in my heart…”  Then, Aaryan went to work in earnest.  Beautiful!

If I can fill the hearts of children with music and art, they have the foundation of goodness and also courage.  I like to think that a ‘sense of self’ is a great gift.  While they may not remember these preschool experiences, that mark has already penetrated, and will help shape who they become.

We mount and frame children’s art next week.  Children then get to name their masterpieces.  After all their hard work, each one deserves a title.  They will hang in our annual Art Show for the whole community to see and enjoy.  Stay tuned!

Jennie

Posted in art, Early Education, Imagination, music, Quotes, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , , | 55 Comments

Happiness Can Be Bought!

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What Music Does For Art

“Where Words Fail, Music Speaks” – Hans Christian Anderson-

Every year I am surprised when I bring to school my old record player, which looks much like a suitcase.  I simply but it down on the floor in front of the children and look at it.  Then, I wait for the wonder of what happens next.  As children predict what they think it might be, I open the lid and start to carefully touch the turntable and the arm… and then turn it on.

Just watching all the parts move and listening to the sound of the needle is thrilling.  I then pull out a record album, on this day Vivaldi’s Four Seasons- another ten minutes of focus and excitement.  “It’s a big CD!” said many of the children.  “Let’s listen to the music it makes,” said I.  And we did.  You could have heard a pin drop.  “Violins!”  said Allie.  Ah, yes.  We listened to a little of Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn.  It truly filled us all.  Deeply.

We were ready to paint.  We’re making masterpieces, art that uses real artists paints on palettes.  This is important work.  I said to the children:

“Do you know what happens when you hear wonderful music?  It goes into your ears, then into your heart, and out your fingers.  It helps you to paint a real masterpiece.”

Lexi was deep into her work.  Vivaldi was playing on the record player.  While I was busy with another child, Lexi started hollering, “Jennie!  Jennie!  The music stopped.  I’m not finished with my masterpiece!”  I quickly started the record again, and looked at her painting.  Oh, my!  Yes, music makes a difference.

I have introduced children to impressionism and Monet with different brush strokes, to van Gogh’s Sunflowers (they already adore Starry Night which hangs in the classroom), and to Franz Marc and his Large Blue Horses.  Parker liked the art of Kandinsky, and he wanted to look at a picture of that art while he painted.

Can there be anything more wonderful than watching a child fall in love with classical music and painting with focus and heart?

What if the music is not classical, and what if the art is not painting?  Here is what happened:  Last week Colin was on the playground and suddenly started singing, “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.”  What!  Thinking he must be singing something else, I asked him to sing again.  He did, every word and with perfect pitch.  I sang along with him, of course.  Then, I asked him if he knew “Oklahoma”.  No, he didn’t.  Well, since I have a record album of every Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, I promised him I’d bring the record in to school the next day.  I did.  He was so excited!

We sang and sang.  We sang loud.  We danced in the room.  I let the record play, and I went to be with other children.  Colin wanted to draw.  Twenty minutes later, with the music filling the room, I saw that he was still working at his drawing.  This was all freehand, and double-lined.  Wow.

Can there be any doubt that music makes a big difference?

Jennie

Posted in art, Early Education, music, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , | 65 Comments

Thank You, Dr. Charles French

I posted on my blog yesterday, “A Gift of Charlotte’s Web.”  As I scrolled down to print a hard copy (yes, I have a hard copy of every blog post- it’s wonderful), I looked at the three suggested readings of similar posts.  One was titled, “Death and Dying and Chapter Reading.”  What? I could not remember the post, as it was quite old.  Well, I read it again, and it was terrific.

Then, I looked at the bottom of the post.  There was only one ‘like’.  One!  That ‘like’ was Charles French.  He has been a follower and supporter of my blog since way-back-when.

I learned everything I needed and wanted to know by following his blog.  I learned how to thank people, how to follow people, and how to reblog.  I learned, and Charles French kept reading and liking my blog posts.  His blog has become a favorite and a gold standard for those who are passionate about books, literature, and education.  If you like Shakespeare, the classics, quotes, education, great books, and even dining with authors, please visit his blog at charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com

Charles French, thank you!  My only wish is that I could be a student in your class one day.  Here is the post that you liked:

***********************************************************************

Death and Dying, and Chapter Reading

I finished reading our first chapter book of the school year, Charlotte’s Web.  Children were engrossed in this book because it is a story about the heart, and my most important job is educating the heart.  As such, they began to understand the depth of true feelings.  Charlotte the spider died.  That opened the door for questions, and some of those questions were in the form of silence.  That’s when I put down the book and talked with the children, and listened.

Death isn’t an easy topic with children.  Addressing death and dying with young children, and with their families, is typically not part of a teacher’s curriculum, or even part of the books and stories they read.  When Charlotte died this week, here is what I wrote home to the children’s families:

Yesterday we finished our first chapter book of the year, Charlotte’s Web. It is a wonderful story, and your children loved it. Chapter reading is one of the favorite times of the day because children are captivated by words alone. Those words make the pictures in their heads, and those words make their minds think and their hearts feel. That is the power of reading aloud.

“Can’t you just read more?” is what children ask when we stop reading. That means they are listening and comprehending. Chapter reading is a bridge from understanding a book to feeling a book. That’s a big step for children. In Charlotte’s Web, Wilbur the pig makes his best friend with Charlotte the spider, yet he suffers through sadness and loneliness. Charlotte the spider dies at the end, as all spiders do. These facts are part of the story, yet are vastly overshadowed by the storyline itself. That is why a good book imparts a tremendous opportunity for learning.

Death and dying happens, and when it can be introduced to children in this way, it can better give them tools of understanding. It can also be a soft step to real events in a child’s life. When a grandparent dies, or even when a classroom pet dies, perhaps Charlotte’s Web gave a child understanding and compassion. Did we talk about Charlotte when we read the book? Of course we did; not only her death, but her children (all five hundred and fourteen), and the words she wrote in her web. And, we will continue to talk. Often children bring up questions months later, and we listen and answer.

Sarah and I have a wonderful dialogue when we finish a book. I become very sad and a little teary. Sarah asks, “What’s the matter, Jennie?” I reply, “The book is over. I don’t like that! It was so good. I’m really very sad.” Sarah perks up and says, “But we get to read another new chapter book.” I reply, “Really? When?” Sarah says in a big voice, “Tomorrow!”

That’s our circle of chapter reading, much like the circle of life.

When I first started teaching, our school’s director always stressed the importance of teaching families.  She understood that in order to educate the child you also need to guide parents and families.  She was emphatic about sending newsletters home, and adding one paragraph that would teach something to families.  She was right.  She also felt that educating children and families about death and dying was important.  Gulp!  For many teachers that was an uncomfortable topic to address.

A few years later our beloved classroom guinea pig, Elliott, died unexpectedly.  I was devastated.  First I knew I had to tell the children, then I knew I had to tell their families.  That was my diving board, and I put my fingers to the keyboard and wrote.  I talked about letting children ask questions and giving them an opportunity to say goodbye.  I talked about being honest.  I talked about how perhaps experiencing the death of a pet can help make the death of a loved one down the road a little easier.  The words flowed.

Over the years there have been many classroom pets who have died, and many stories and books about death.  I listen.  I ask questions.  Children always have a voice.  Chapter reading really is much like the circle of life.  I am educating the heart.

Jennie

Posted in chapter reading, reading, reading aloud, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , | 44 Comments