Tag Archives: school

A Lesson to Last the Whole Year Long

2 Mar

Returning to school each fall was always exciting for me. Exciting, but also caused me some stress, because I felt that my “first day of school” lesson plans were lacking. In the past, I’d done your typical “Decorate your portfolio with your name” lesson, or the “Make a name tag for your desk” lesson. Nothing new and exciting, I didn’t think, and I wanted a way to mix it up. Finally, I found something that pushed my students to put a part of themselves into their work. Literally.

Most of my students had never heard of a time capsule, but when I explained what it was they were into it. The capsule itself was nothing fancy, (toilet paper tubes!) but what went into the tube set the tone for our whole year. I asked the students to fill out half of a questionnaire, entitled “Today is the First Day of School”. It asked them to record some basic information about themselves, but also asked some deeper questions: “What is something you want to accomplish by the end of the school year?” and “What do you want your future self to remember about you now?” The bottom half of the questionnaire, entitled “Today is the Last Day of School” prompted the kids to re-answer the questions, nine months later. Obviously, lot changes in a year, and it was a lot of fun to watch the kids when they read what they had previously written. Getting to that moment, however, wasn’t my only goal. By presenting this project on the first day, I let the kids know what I expected of them. This wasn’t the kind of art class where we did a project and brought it home and never thought about it again. We were going to be putting a little bit of ourselves into all of our work. Who we were was going to grow and change, and therefore our artwork and our thought processes were going to grow and change too. By hanging our capsules from the ceiling for the year, we were always reminded of our past; one upward glance let us know that no matter how our day was going, we had already come a long way from that very first day in September.
Get the Full Lesson Plan Here
Elementary Questionnaire


Warm Fuzzies

27 Feb

How do you get your class to interact in a positive way?

Warm Fuzzies is a great idea that i took from the children’s cancer camp that I volunteer at every summer. When the kids first get to camp, they decorate a brown lunch bag with their name, stickers, and whatever else they want. The bags get hung up on a wall in the mess hall, and all throughout the week it acts as a sort of mail box for the campers. They write “warm and fuzzy” messages to other campers: “Thank you for helping me get back in the canoe when I fell out” or “You look so pretty without your wig on!” and “Thanks for going to the bathroom with me in the middle of the night when I was scared to go myself!” The kids are always so great about looking out for one another, and they always make sure that every single person is getting messages in their bags.

I decided that this was a good lesson to teach to my kids at school; a sort of extension on “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I asked all the kids to design a bag, and we hung them up. Most of the teachers participated, too. I explained the system, and emphasized that I had the right to check the bags any time I wanted to make sure they were used appropriately. If a kid got caught writing something negative, their bag would come down, end of discussion.

I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did I not have to remove any bags from the wall, the kids did a really nice job of finding ways to complement each other. It took a little bit of prompting at first by myself and the other teachers, (“Great job in English class today!! I loved your essay on ‘The Catcher in the Rye’!”) but they soon got the hang of it and wrote each other notes. Some of them would use it just to say hello, but they were still interacting in a positive way, taking the time to show others that they cared…a huge step for some of my kids.

A Fresh Coat of Paint

26 Feb

When I started at my school, this was my classroom. Interesting space for an art room huh? First, lets talk about the carpet on the floor. I don’t think I need to explain how that presents a problem. Second, notice there’s no door? I know that “Great rooms” and “Open architecture” are all the rage, but when it comes to teaching in an SED school, doors are kind of important. Luckily, with about a month left to go of my first year, I was going to get to move! A room had opened up, and it was a much more appropriate space. Tile floors, two sinks, a door that actually closed, and lots of wall space for displaying artwork! My classes were all very excited. They helped me haul boxes of supplies down the hall, and excitedly helped set everything up. I decided to harness their enthusiasm, and took the opportunity to get them even more involved. Immediately I went to Home Depot and came back with two different colors of paint, a ton of rollers and brushes, and dropcloths to cover everything. I put them to work. We listened to music and made small talk while we transformed a dirty white room into a colorful, peaceful space. They even stayed after to help me put up curtains. I was so proud of them, and it made me realize how much they wanted to feel a part of something. Check out the pictures below of how the room looks now. We had made ourselves a home in that art room, a feeling that was passed on to each new student who decided they wanted a home there, too.