Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cardboard printmaking... a thing of the past

Today we had such an awesome art lesson that I have come home on a Friday afternoon to blog about it. Yes, it was that awesome. And simple. And easy. Let's not forget effective.

Craft foam prints were made this afternoon, and the over all effect is just stunning. The photos do not do the prints justice.

I purchased a packet of A4 craft foam from the local dollar shop. There were four sheets in the pack, two thick and two thin. I've put the thin pieces aside for another day, and we used the thickest available. This meant that our prints were lovely and clear and the foam did not rip. I cut each sheet into 4 (A6 size?) to make it go a little further.

The students used ball point pens to 'draw' their image onto the foam. It didn't matter if the pen didn't work... we just needed a good, clear indentation in the foam. Today the children had 'free choice' on what (school appropriate) pictures they wanted to draw. They went to town on it.

Next, we used the traditional inking rollers used in printmaking to spread the paint over the foam. I had the paint distributed around the classroom on plastic plates. This worked great- easy clean up and a nice, flat surface for the rollers. I think that you could also use sponges to apply the paint if no rollers are available.

At first I was worried that too much paint would result in a poor print. However, the children quickly proved that wrong. It takes a surprisingly large amount of paint to 'ruin' the print.

Our last step was to lay the foam template paint-side down on our sheet of paper and rub our palms evenly over the back. I had two pioneers ask for clean rollers to create the smoothest rolling possible. The children's excitement as they peeled the foam back was so gorgeous.

As you can see, the results were surprisingly effective for such a quick and easy art activity. I love how the children experimented with the layout of their prints over the paper.

Today's art was created by children 5-10 years old and was achievable for them all. Its a win. The inspiration for foam prints came from this website:

Monday, August 26, 2013

Kitting Out for Knitting

As mentioned in the post before, this term we have an Arts focus.

So I inquired of my students... what area/media would you like to focus on? 21 lovely littlies all put their hands up and said... knitting.

Now I love crochet, do knit some times and am an avid crafter. I must admit I was thrilled that they want to tackle knitting, and immediately began to plan the unit. I plan to integrate content on primary/ secondary colors, brights v.s. pastels, and how our color choices suit our purpose.

I hope that we will get to start off with making some small finger puppets as a learn to knit project. Teaching 21 six and seven year olds to knit is quite daunting, but i'm hoping that we will get to the dizzying heights of yarn-bombing before the term is through. Perhaps a little too ambitious.

I decided that inspiration was key, and so have set about yarn bombing our own classroom with hand-crocheted items.

 Rainbow bunting now hangs along our back wall. The wall is divided into four panels... one for spelling, one for our recent photography focus, one for knitting and the last bit (this is where the panels slide back so we can go next door) is dedicated to Maori. These panels are now festooned with bunting... and I am in love.

 The children love the bunting and our exploration table is now kitted out with baskets of wool, scissors and knitting needles. I love baskets in the classroom... affordable (op-shopped), natural looking and they suit every color scheme. The are also oh so very useful.

So a big thank you to Attic24 for the wonderful bunting pattern ( wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Stealing Art

This term we have an arts focus, and I am almost beside myself with excitement. I have such large ambition for our artwork, and so little time... we need to get started!

Last week we were lucky to begin our art unit with a trip to the local art gallery. This was a truly fantastic visit. We we guided around the gallery by the world's most amazing educator (I spent my time rhapsodising over her behaviour management and questioning skills), and then got to make our own artwork.

The gallery provided some lovely heavy-weight watercolour paper. We did a very quick and simple line drawing of a local mountain/ocean scene.

The painting was then completed with a lovely set of watercolours.... you know the kind that are a dry block on the palette and then you add water and it works? They came out just gorgeous. I love the way the watercolours have those swishes of colour through them... even the least artistic of us all had spectacular results! I mounted them on black paper and hung them over the wire strung across my classroom. The black makes the colours pop.

The paintings are A4 sized, so I used A2 sheets of black paper and folded them in half. One painting was stapled on one side, another painting on the other. The whole thing is then slipped over the wire. I find that this is the easiest, quickest and most effective way to mount artwork. Because the large paper is folded over the wire, it tends to stay put in a breeze. If it gets too windy, a quick staple in the bottom to close the paper together usually does the trick.

This artist used a black pastel to outline her picture... amazing isn't it?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pattern Making

A while back we did a short unit on pattern making.

I was absolutely blown away by some of the patterns that the students made, and just had to share them with you here!

Color patterns with buttons (some children used them to make repeating patterns with size e.g. small/big/small/big)

Number patterns with dice.

Color patterns with Jovi's.

Creative patterns with classroom equipment.

Increasing patterns with unifix cubes.

Unfortunately I can't find a photo, but one student made number patterns using playing cards as well.

Love the affordability of these manipulatives!

Monster Mania

One of my Math groups is currently learning to join and separate sets. This has been a long and drawn out process for them, as it has been addressed in many formats over their schooling history.

My challenge was to find equipment that would capture their interest and imaginations. I wanted them to be enthusiastic about Math! To want to do Math in their spare time!

One student is a little girl who loves sparkly, fluffy things. You know the type, I bet you have one in your own class right now.

During a standard trip to the dollar shop I found some awesome plastic crystals. I think that they are used as decorative centerpieces, and in vases etc. I snapped up two packets (in green and blue, that way they can be used for pattern activities later). The crystals became 'diamonds' and are stored with some pictures of pirate treasure boxes, and my students LOVE them! Especially if I use a pirate voice when making the questions!

Since taking this photo, I found that these guys have difficulty manipulating materials. To keep their equipment all in one place I have glued the treasure boxes onto small paper side plates. It really helped!

My second 'win' has been paper plate monsters. I drew blank monster outlines onto more paper plates, and each student gets a monster. We then 'grow' (add) googly eyes to our monsters (your monster has 4 eyes. He grows 3 more eyes. How many does he have now?). We also 'shut' (subtract) eyes from our monsters (your monster has 7 eyes and she closes 3 eyes, how many does she have now?). This has been a hit with the group again, and I hope that it is a hit with your own class!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Skippy Snakes

We are hammering away at our skip counting sequences at the moment. So when my husband went fishing a couple of weekends ago, I found it the perfect opportunity to make a couple of skip counting activities for the classroom, using my favorite math manipulative- milk bottle tops!

To begin with, I took an A3 sheet of colored paper and traced around a bottle top multiple times, to create one long, windy snake. I filled it in with permanent marker and drew on a head and snaky tongue. I then wrote the skip counting in fives sequence that I wanted to re-inforce on each body segment. This took a surprisingly long time, so I was on the hunt for a quicker way.
So I cut some chux cloth and glue it onto the back of a milk bottle cap, creating a simple stamp. I then chose white paint to stamp my second snake, to create a skip counting sequence in twos.
 By the time I finished the second snake, I was totally sick of serpents. So my final game is a flowering vine, with petals stamped with my thumbprints to create a skip counting sequence in tens.
The objective is for the children to match the numbers on the bottle caps with the numbers on the game. They then need to recite the numbers forwards and backwards to re-enforce the sequence. I did it this way to ensure that the sequence the children were practicing was completed correctly before verbalizing the sequence- no point in re-enforcing something that is wrong!

This is a very simple activity that could be done independently or in pairs. An alternative would be to leave some spaces blank, for the children to fill in with bottle caps. I would provide an answer sheet so they could check they got the sequence right before continuing.

The boards have been bundled up into plastic baggies and added to our skip counting tub in our Math rotation/ tumble board.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Easter Goodies

I love celebrating Easter with my little darlings! Normally Easter heralds the beginning of the school holidays here in NZ, however this year we are starting with a 12 week term, so we qualify for an Easter break!

This year I am teaching year twos, so we did the usual routine on the Thursday before Easter.... Easter poems, Easter Math games (into their group boxes), Easter baskets and some Easter printables which were available as a fast finisher activity (dot to dots, spot the differences, find a word and an Easter themed boggle). Our boggle activity was vastly popular, as the prize offered up was some glittery eggs and little fluffy chicks (both available from Spotlight). I buy them after Easter each year, when then are marked down to ridiculously cheap prices and pop them in my cupboard for the following Easter.

This year I made my class an Easter themed bean bag throw activity for Math. It began with 10 circular bean bags, decorated to look like bunnies (inspired by this blog One Saturday was spent cutting, sewing and filling the bean bags. A few tips for those intrepid enough to give it a go:
  • One kilogram of rice will be enough filling to make around 20 smallish bean bags
  • Its way easier to fill the bean bags with a funnel- I cut the top from a 600ml coke bottle and used that
  • Go for felt as your material. Its durable and way easier to sew.
  • Supply yourself with chocolate. Its surprisingly time consuming but satisfying!
 I then made some mats for the children to use as targets. I cut a plastic table cloth into 8 pieces (yes, I have some extra leftovers). With a permanent marker and a meter ruler I then drew lines to divide each mat into four. I then wrote a number in each square. Some tips for making your mats:
  • Plastic table cloths are quite flimsy. Buy a better quality one than I did.
  • I cleared my bench at home and used that as a base. I was able to sellotape the mats to the bench to make them easier to draw on.
Two bunnies were then packed into a plastic zip lock with a mat. In pairs, the children take turns to throw the two beanbags and add the result together. The person with the highest answer wins!

Surprisingly, The children are really sensible with the bean bags. They are well and truely hooked into this activity, and love doing it as part of their math rotation tasks. It gets them up and moving, while re-inforcing their basic facts skills. I will definitely be making more bean bags to use in class!

My intention is to swap the bunny bean bags out before they get too ratty and store them away for next year. Next year I will be making felt puppets from this blog for my class to play with- my goal is to slowly add more larger projects to my resource pool!

Monday, March 18, 2013

St Patricks Day Goodies

Although this post is has "St Patricks Day" in the title, the content is totally adaptable to any themed holiday or occasion- as you will soon see!

In NZ, Valentines Day occurs fairly quick into the school year. I usually take the opportunity to pop some Valentines themed board games into the Math group boxes for the children to play as part of their rotation tasks.

Last year I made up a set of 'tic tac toe' for each group box. The sets had a coloured game board (glued onto card) and 6 felt hearts of one colour, 6 of another colour. I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I forgot about the games, and they were in the group boxes for the entire year. However, am excited that every set survived! I credit it to the fact that each heart was a double layer of felt blanket stitched together- very durable.
However, this year I was less organised and just cut out single layered felt hearts. My plan is to stitch them together before next Valentines Day. No doubt it will linger in my 'to do' basket until a week before next Valentines.
This year I hope to keep the games new and exciting by changing the theme of the tic tac toe as each theme day arrives. We recently celebrated St Patricks Day, so I crocheted four leaf clovers in two shades of green for each board. Just do a quick You Tube search if you want the instructions. If you are not a crocheter, try cutting them out of felt in shades of green.
Our next event is Easter, and I plan to make some felt Easter eggs as game pieces this time. As you can see, it is easy to adapt the game to suit most themes. The game boards stay the same, and while the game pieces are a bit of work initially, I am hoping to store them for use next year too. The boards are easy to organise, and each group has a different coloured board so its easy to see who left their set out!

I am stoked with the progress so far. The children are loving the revival of one of their favourite games. They are practising their skills in logic and reasoning, co-operation and score keeping. Plus its a great way to get a new game into the group boxes without going through the rigmarole of introducing a new set of rules.

I usually introduce one or two other themed games at the same time. This St Patricks Day we had a roll and cover game available for free from here and a 'make 10' basic facts game from TeachersPayTeachers. This helps to ensure that we are getting new games fed into our group boxes and that we are re-inforcing key knowledge areas.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Pointing in the right direction...

My class absolutely LOVES raiding my big pointers. Unfortunately sometimes they can be a little hard on them, especially the more fragile fairy wands etc.
 So I have made a bunch of mini pointers for the children to use when reading. They went wild for them! This set is inexpensive, quick to make and an easy craft activity. You could even have your students make their own!
 The wands are simply large popsicle sticks with a decoration hot glued to one end. I am hoping that the decoration focusses the eye, helps the children with their tracking and makes their reading just a little bit special and exciting.

I used a range of decorations- googly eyes, wooden shapes, felt shapes, sparkly decorations, Christmas decals, foam shapes, pom poms, ribbon flowers, fabric flowers. The craft aisle of the dollar shop or your local emporium should provide plenty materials to work with.
 They are stored in a condensed milk tin. I used PVA glue to cover it with yellow paper and used some ABC stickers for the label.
The children are loving using their new pointers!

Monday, March 4, 2013

10 Alternatives to Plastic Counters

Shifting classrooms always requires a scramble to inventory current equipment and to replace those old regulars that you use a lot. I know that almost every classroom must need counters at some point in time! Having a range of alternatives can often pique children's interest, but can be a budgetary stretch at the same time. Here are 10 alternatives that I have rustled up with a minimum cost.

1. Smooth stones come ready made and freely available from your local beach or stony river. Small pebbles are perfect as game tokens, or collected for use in Math lessons. They look great with stickers and glitter glued on and are REALLY durable. However, they can be heavy when stored en masse.

2. Wooden shapes are available in packs of 12-20 from your local dollar shop. These are particularly awesome to use for number stories (i.e. 6 bumble bees were sitting on a flower and 3 flew back to the hive, how many were left?). They are more durable than paper cut outs, intriguing and reasonably affordable for small group or whole class work.
 3. Milk bottle caps have to be a favourite of mine. They make great counters for large format board games! There will always be families in your class that are willing to help you collect milk bottle caps and so will your friends and family. A variety of colours are available (flavoured milks/ types of milk/ cream/ juice caps) or you can collect sets of the same colour. They are great for little hands too- often easier to pick up and control than fiddly counters. And milk bottle caps are free!
 4. Glass pebbles are available in mesh bags from your local dollar store (try the hardware or candle section if they aren't in the crafts area). They are awesome for use as 'gems' or 'treasure' themed Math games or activities. Available in a couple of different colours and quite affordable. Be prepared for them to gradually go missing over time though! They can be personalised by gluing small stickers or circles of wrapping paper on the back (like the sight word gems featured on Fairy Dust Teaching
 5. Matchsticks are available in bulk bags from your local dollar store too. Perfect for patterning activities, counting, sorting etc. Relatively inexpensive, they come ready made (always a bonus) but can break quite easily.
 6. I keep these sparkly little lovelies for testing. Although they tend to be feminine, these little jewels are also loved by the boys who enjoy the 'specialness' that they bring to one on one testing situations. Using them is a privilege and my students beg to get to use them. Available in the craft section from dollar shops, there is a huge variety of sparkly gems available.
 7. These large circle magnets are perfect for whole class demonstrations. They are magnetised, so they stick to your whiteboard etc and are easy to grasp and manipulate. I have a range of laminated resources to use with them ('lolly' bags, 'biscuit packets', blank lady bird shapes) which add context to the number stories that we create with them. They also work great with enlarged tens frames. I bought this packet of 8 for $2, however I have been able to pick them up in clear containers of 10-12 from good dollar shops.
 8. Ring pull tabs from soft drink cans are lightweight and freely available. There will always be families in your class who drink from cans (i.e. dad drinking beer), and someone willing to collect them for you. VERY affordable, they make a good alternative to regular counters. But they can take a long time to collect.
 9. Beer bottle caps are another free, recyclable material that can be useful in your Math corner. This set has been washed and spray painted silver. They are easy to spray paint a variety of colours and easy to collect. Try adding stickers before clear coating to create cute game counters. Unbranded beer bottle caps are available where beer brewing supplies are available.
10. Painted pegs. Perfect for counting and clipping onto 'washing lines' (curtain wire strung across a window at a child-friendly height). Alternatively, try sorting by colour or pattern? Or use plain pegs and write numbers on them for a number ordering activity. Try dying plain pegs (there are plenty of tutorials online) if you are looking for value for money. Your local Bunnings will have an affordable array of plain pegs, and painted pegs are often available in the craft section of dollar shops.

So there you have it. 10 tried and true child friendly manipulative's and alternatives for counters in your Math corners. They are all relatively inexpensive, intriguing and provide different contexts for learning. Remember, the cheaper the materials (i.e. free), often the greater the work involved in setting them up (washing, spray painting, gluing, clear coating etc). I have by no means exhausted my possibilities, so check back again another day for 10 more cheap and cheerful ideas!