We’re counting it down to Christmas- or at least til Christmas vacation! Would you believe that my district’s calendar has us working all the way up til the 23rd of December? For goodness sake, I don’t know how I am going to ever be ready for the big day! I am just grateful that I am not also in the middle of assessments and report cards right now, as so many of you are. I don’t know how I would focus, or how I would ever get those children to focus on all of those tests!
My class is now working on preparing our Gingerbread Man Musical Play, and we are SO excited! Today was our first day of practicing it on the stage, and that was of course quite a thrill. I know that all of the moms, dads, grandmothers and grandfathers will be happily snapping photos and will be “so proud” of their little ones! It is always a special evening, and a wonderful event. Now that I have the play all cast and there were no tears, I think that the hard part is over and I can relax and have some fun with it. Phew!
1. A Candy Cane Art Project Free Download!
This is a fun project, and a nice easy one, and I am including it as a free download this week! The only problem with it is that it does tend to make a great big mess with the left over scraps of white paper all over the floor. So I put on the Counting to 100 Song (from Jumpin’ Numbers Vol. 1 and/or Musical Math) and have the children all pretend to be vacuum cleaners while they clean up until the song ends!
To prepare the candy cane, I always have volunteers pre-trace the candy canes for the children ahead of time with two of them on one large piece of construction paper. They will just barely fit if one of them is right side up and the other is upside down. Once they are traced onto the construction paper, then the two canes can be cut apart so that each child gets just one apiece.
Also, each child will need about 10 strips of white paper, cut 3” x 1.5” each.
To make the candy cane, first show the children how to cut it out. Whenever I am demonstrating how to cut anything out, my students and I sing either the color word song that matches the color of the paper I am cutting, or my “Scissor” song that will be on my Classroom Management DVD. We sing a cappella, (without any CD to back us up), and very often it is the children that start the singing! I think it is a nice way to keep them focused and engaged while I am demonstrating how to do an art project and giving directions that they must follow.
Then they watch while I put some glue down across the candy cane and then lay a white strip of construction paper over it. The white paper will be too long for the candy cane, and this is done on purpose, since I tell the children to give the candy cane a “hair cut” when they are done gluing all of them down. That way, the white paper should match up very closely to the width of candy cane that each child cut. And of course, the children all sing my “Glue Song” while I demonstrate the gluing of the white strips down! And that song is also on my Classroom Management CD/DVD. This song is very simple, though it is not written to a familiar tune, I’m afraid! The words to this song are:
|Trim the candy cane by giving it a “hair cut!”|
Glue, glue, glue, glue!
Glue, glue, glue, glue!
Just a dot, not a lot!
Just a dot, not a lot!
Just a dot, not a lot!
Just a dot, not a lot!
The candy canes are relatively easy to make, and the children like them because I let them take them home rather than make them leave them up in my room for decorations. But my room is already well decorated with the elves and reindeer that we made last week! Check this blog entry for details on that.
2. “My Candy Cane Book”- a Free Download Printable!
I have used a similar version of this candy cane book for years, although I don’t remember where I got it the original. I just know that I modified the text to include the sight words that I wanted my kids to practice! Recently, though, I re-drew the artwork and reformatted the book so that I could give it away on my blog here for you today! It emphasizes practicing the words “here,” “can,” and “my,” plus the color words.
This book is a little bit different than the other books I have given away, though, because it is a repetitive book with blanks for the children to fill in. Each page says something like the following, although the colors do change on each page: “Here is my candy cane. It is red and white.”
|Our Candy Cane Book|
However, after the pattern of the text has been set, then there are blanks for the children to fill in the missing words. One page says, “_____ is my candy cane. It is green and yellow.” Then the children are supposed to fill in the word “Here” in the blank and color the candy cane on that page green and yellow.” The page after that might say, “Here ____ my candy cane. It is blue and orange.” In this case, the children would fill in the word “is” and then color the candy cane in the picture blue and orange.”
Of course, my top group had no trouble at all with this book, but then they never seem to struggle with anything! But I was surprised that my next highest group was really struggling with it, even though I had gone through the entire book and introduced it well (or so I thought!) with the document camera and had shown everyone exactly how to do it. But they were whining and complaining and stalling, and trying to find ways to get out of doing it, such as finding reasons to go to the bathroom and asking for bandaids. Okay, time for Plan B! I knew I had to do something or the next two groups were going to be H-E-Double-Toothpicks.
So after considering the problem during recess, I quickly came up with a plan for my next two groups: I put the words to the book in a desk top pocket chart and I practiced reading it with the next group several times. Then I asked them to “read it” with their eyes shut- and they did, LOL! THEN, I asked them to open their eyes, and see if they could guess what a word was if I flipped the word over backwards so that they couldn’t see it. Could they figure out what word was supposed to be there? We read the sentence and tried to remember what word went there, and they found that they could remember it! THEN…. I showed them their little Candy Cane books, and had them open to the first page that had a missing word. I pointed out that this was just the same things that they were seeing on the pocket chart, and the missing word was really quite easy to guess! BOOM! They were off- and in about five minutes they were done with the whole thing, minus the coloring. Of course, it helped a lot that the words that they were to fill into the book were right there on the little table top pocket chart, but they still had to figure out which word to fill in on their own. I told them to save the coloring for the end and do it last, rather than stop at each page and do it after filling in each missing word, too. There was absolutely no whining or stress, and these were my lowest kids! I couldn’t believe the difference!
3. A Science Center: Exploring Shadows with Gingerbread Man Stick Puppets and Blocks
As part of my ongoing quest to keep a science center up and running all year long, my science center last week was a shadow exploration center! As I tried to create this center, I discovered that the desk lamp that I used to warm my baby chicks last spring didn’t shine a bright enough light to cast good shadows, so I had to see what else was available. I started out looking for an old filmstrip projector, but found a slide projector instead! The only bad thing about using a slide projector is that the children quickly discovered that if you push the red button on top, the register comes sliding out and then back in again! (This is to change from one slide to another, and I told them not to push it, and even covered it with tape, but to no avail!) So I finally got out a plastic Easter Egg and taped half of it over the button so that it would be IMPOSSIBLE to push, LOL! Finally after spoiling all of their button pushing fun, I did manage to redirect their attention back to the shadows, thank goodness!
|This is how the center was set up.|
Since my class is working on putting on the “Gingerbread Man” play, I decided to use our school die cut machine to punch out some Gingerbread Men and some other characters from the play and hot glue them to popsicle sticks to make stick puppets out of them. As I was fiddling around with these things and trying to make some first shadows and take some photos for this blog, I was wishing for a way to make the stick puppets stay up by themselves, and it occurred to me that some modeling clay would hold those sticks right up! In fact, the clay also allowed me to attach some of the puppets to the easel that I was projecting onto, as well! Then I got out some blocks of different shapes and sizes and tried to make them all stand up in different heights to get a good pictures. I realized that in trying to create an interesting photo, I had just created a pretty great activity for the kids, too! So I took a few pictures, shut off the light, and left everything exactly as it was for the morning.
It turned out that the children were just as fascinated with it as I was! They really liked making shadows with both their hands and with the puppets. And when they got tired of that, they played and experimented with the modeling clay. The children were so excited about our new Shadow Center that two children actually got in a fist fight over it and had to miss some of their recess!
4. Writing About the Elf on the Shelf
My kids have been really fascinated with the Elf on the Shelf story, and I have certainly been using it to my advantage! Every night before I leave, I hide that little elf in a new location, and they have been eagerly looking for it when they come in the room in the morning! Then I have a conversation with the elf. I say things to the elf, as I pretend that he is whispering in my ear, “What? You told Santa that So-and-So had to go to time out yesterday? WHAT DID HE SAY???” We did quite a bit of brainstorming about elves, and writing about them last week, and to do this, I introduced some new songs for sight words that I knew they would need.
Besides being on our list of required sight words anyway, I really like using the “Here” song in December, because it is written to the tune of “Jingle Bells” and has a wonderful holiday sound to it. I also have some sets of jingle bells that I keep in my classroom, and I like to pass them out to a few kids, and let them stand up front and shake them while we sing the song. I think that last year, my class must have sung that song 50 times in December! It gets a bit tiresome, because of course EVERYONE wants to do it EVERY DAY! This year, I started throwing in a few more songs that I decided would also be good for December themes, and although they don’t have any bells in them, I think that the kids could shake bells while we sing them anyway! Luckily, except for the “Here” song, they are all on the very same CD/DVD, so that makes it easy! The new ones we have been singing are the “Help” song, because we spent a week writing about elves, and one thing that elves do is help Santa. We also included the “Make” song and the “House” song because elves make toys, and live in Santa’s house at the North Pole. And since the word “Look” comes right before the “Make” song on that same Spelling Vol. 3 Cd/DVD, we have been reviewing that one, too, because it is pretty easy to write, “Look at my elf!” or “Look at Santa!” The kids have been LOVING all of this, as long as I keep referencing elves and/or Santa. I’m willing to do it, as long as it works!
The Sounds Fun Poster has really been a great thing to have, and I still can’t believe how well the children have internalized the sounds, considering how little time we have spent on the cards and the music! I really like having the poster mounted on a trifold presentation foam board, because I can set it on any table or floor, and use it anywhere at all. The children can reference it any time, and I don’t have to dig out the cards. They also don’t have to be able to see a certain card on the wall to know how a sound is spelled, too, because we can move the poster up close wherever we need it. Yesterday we spent some time reading one of our completed Singable Books, The Farm Book, and the kids found gobs of the sound spelling patterns just from looking at the words in that book! So I just went with it, pulled the poster over and gave an impromptu phonics lesson on finding as many sound spelling patterns as we could find in that book. I didn’t think that the slower learners would be able to find them, and they didn’t find as many- but they still found quite a few! Mostly, they remembered seeing and hearing them in the DVD, I think, and then enjoyed finding them again on the poster. They seemed to be thrilled to be “the first” to find the sound spelling patterns on the page, calling out, “I found it first! I found it first!”
So anyway, we made a bubble chart about what elves can do or look like, and then the next day we tried to “stretch out” and then write some of those words as they sound as I told you in last week’s blog. Finally we were ready to write some sentences about elves and Santa! So I had the whole thing ready to go, and all of the background work was in place, and…. and…. and…. neither one of my volunteers showed up to help, and the children got stuck working all by themselves at that table because otherwise there would have been a paint disaster at the art table, and that was already all set up and ready to go. DARN! I didn’t get a chance to work with them on it at all! Now my high group did great! But the majority of the rest of the class gave it half an effort and then gave up. The lower kids mostly copied a few words off of the word wall and left it at that. I guess it just goes to show you that THAT’s where they are really at. Oh well, there’s always next week, LOL!
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