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You know how the universe sometimes nudges you to do something, change something.

For the last few years I have been taking things out of my classroom. Making it more simple, fewer colors, less clutter.  I want the kids and their work to be the focal point, and the classroom "decor" to be the background.  A background that supports independence, curiosity, imagination and learning.


This summer, I knew it was time for my classroom alphabet line to change to something more organic, more simple, more natural.

In our kindergarten class, we don't have class rules.
We used to.

They were good rules.

1. I am responsible.
2. I am respectful.
3. I am caring.
4. I do my best.

We had fun actions for each rule. The kids understood the rules - and referred to them as part of our classroom life.

There was nothing wrong with the rules.

But they did not reflect my hope and goal for each of the learners in our class.

My hope for them is that they each make positive choices for themselves. My goal is to give them experiences and opportunities to make choices that are healthy, appropriate to the situation and respectful of others' needs and our shared space.

But anarchy is not fun. (I have read Lord of the Flies.)

And in kindergarten, the kids are 4, 5 and 6.  They each need a primary attachment figure at school. A school "mum". Someone to help them when they need it; who will keep them safe.

We have "guiding principles".

But that terminology is way too esoteric for most kindergarten kids.

So, we have "how we roll".

The answer to
-- is
safety first
and kindness.

Safety is non-negotiable.

That's were the "school mum" comes in. My responsibility is to keep the kids safe. As safe as necessary.  If the kids choose not to be safe, then I have to be in charge of them until they are able to make safe choices. Safe for them and safe for others.

We started our discussion about safety with How Do Dinosaurs Stay Safe.  Click on the cover to read reviews at Goodreads.


More books for kids about staying safe [here]. 

Kindness.


Kindness covers so many wonderful things. We can be kind to ourselves, kind to others, kind to animals, kind to the earth ...

We read What Does it Mean to be Kind to kickstart a year of kindness. Read the Goodreads reviews.


More kindness books [here] and [here].

We learn to be respectful, responsible and caring - and to do our best when we are kind.

Kindness gives us opportunities to do more than is necessary. We can do "extra". We aren't just responsible for our own mess at clean up time  - we are kind and help others with their mess too. Kindness gives us the opportunity to do things for others, without expecting anything in return.

Kindness makes each of us responsible to decide how we will play, work, take care of our belongings, take care of our classroom and take care of each other.

With kindness, we are accountable to ourselves and each other, not a set of rules.

That seems to work for us.




            
One of the Eric Carle books that just has to be read and enjoyed every year is The Very Grouchy Ladybug.

We love the art work, as a teacher I embrace the math concepts, and we enjoy all the animals.  But we wonder, why does that ladybug need to be so grouchy!


We sorted that conundrum by making not-so-grouchy ladybugs! Eric Carle style.

First we looked at how Eric Carle created his ladybugs - he cut painted paper.


We started by making painted paper.


Each child painted half a piece of heavier bond photocopier paper red with a sponge. I love how sponges cover a lot of paper quickly - and create wonderful lines and textures with the paint.


When the papers were all painted, I cut them to 5 1/2" x 6" rectangles (and saved the scraps for other projects).

The kids decided if they wanted a ladybug that was taller, or a ladybug that was wider.  Then they cut two "curvy corners" at the top of their paper.


Cutting curvy corners is a tricky skill. It seems much easier for the kids to draw and/or cut a concave curve than a convex one. We keep practicing ....

A black ladybug head. It starts a  2 1/2" black square of construction paper. Four curvy corners later, it is a ladybug head.

A ladybug is an insect, therefore it has six legs. A couple pieces of black construction paper -- 2.5 x 3"  are cut into three legs each.


A ladybug needs 2 antennae. We drew them on with a black crayon.


And spots. Time for some more math. We shook our handy dandy container that holds two dice, shook it, and added the numbers together.


That's how many dots the ladybug got. Not very scientific, but quite mathematical. 


The ladybugs needed faces. Grouchy faces  -  or not-grouchy faces.  

Each child had to decide what kind of ladybug they would like to be. We chatted about different emotions, and how our faces and bodies look when we are feeling them. 

I took photos of all the children, printed them, and the kids glued them onto the ladybug black head. 

The Grouchy Ladybug was very verbal. There was absolutely no doubt how she was feeling about the world.  Our not-so-grouchy ladybugs also needed to have a voice. 

So we gave them one. 

Click on the speech bubbles to get your own copy. 


Sometimes a smaller ladybug is the right size ladybug.

We have also made them with 3 1/2 x 4 1/2"  red paper, 2" square paper for the round head, and 2 pieces of 1 1/2 x 2" paper to cut to make the legs.  Click on the graphic below to print the speech bubbles.




We enjoy lots of Eric Carle activities in our classroom. Click on the photos to get the low down.

The Very Lonely Firefly

The Very Hungry Caterpillar



The Very Tiny Seed


            

Process art is a way for kids to explore art and their artistic selves. The action of creating is more important than the finished product. Fun-A-Day can tell you all about it.

It's a bonus round, when process art looks knock-your-socks-off, fantastic-amazing. 


Self portraits are a time honoured way to assess development and growth in kindergarten. 

They are also a wonderful tool to exercise observation skills, a vehicle of self expression, and way to develop the artist self.


They also transform a bulletin board into a gallery.

Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night has captured countless imaginations.

It captures ours.

We learn about Mr Van Gogh, his work, and how he painted with his feelings as well as his eyes,  in kindergarten.

James Mayhew's book Katie and the Starry Night helps introduce children to Starry Night, and some of Van Gogh's other work. We read it, and then picked up our paint q-tips.


Katie and the Starry Night
written and illustrated by James Mayhew
published by Orchard Books, 2012

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