November 11, 2000
We got a lot done this week, despite having Friday off for Veteran's Day. We're busy with our November units, Scarecrow, Scarecrow and The Leaves Are Falling Down. And we're also reading Thanksgiving stories and doing related activities, including our Family Turkey Art Project -- take a look at the great pictures below.
This week we also started a TLC Make-A-Book project, called "The Thanksgiving Story." I'm including pictures of the pages we've completed so far. It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away! That means it's almost time to get started on my favorite holiday unit, G is For Gingerbread, especially since there are only eleven instructional days in December. Time goes so fast at this time of year, and the KinderKids are growing by leaps and bounds.
I'm sharing a lot of student art this week, as I believe art is an incredibly useful diagnostic tool in the classroom. I can tell so many things about my students by looking at their art projects, as you'll see from the discussions of individual activities below.
During this week's Parent Conferences, I spent time with each family looking at student work and explaining how art helps in the development of fine motor skills, perceptual and spatial relationships, listening and following directions skills, and more.
Having lots of student work on the walls makes our room look cheerful, fosters self-esteem in all students, and shows visitors the wide range of abilities and talents in our room. Our art projects are also very important in the development of oral and written language, and support and reinforce what we are learning in all areas of the curriculum.
It's finally Fall in Bakersfield!
Amber leaves in my front yard
What's New In The Pumpkin Patch
Last weekend, I sent home
the blackline master for my Family Turkey Project, which I believe is from
Teacher Created Materials. Here's what the blackline master looks
like, printed on cardstock:
Less than half my class returned their turkeys this week, but I'm sure we'll get more in the next few days, since those that were returned were on display during Parent Conferences. All of the children are excited about making "their" turkey extra special, and can't wait to see their project up on the wall.
Here are a few close-up pics so you can see some of the wonderful work and creativity this project inspires:
Crayon and marker feathers, dyed elbow macaroni body, paper wings.
The Pumpkin Patch is now VERY full of terrific student work!
Colored rice ... lots of great texture.
Dried beans, silk leaves, and lots of REAL chicken feathers.
Crayon and paint, with pictures cut out of the Sunday paper ads.
Crayon body, with cut up ribbons scattered like confetti on the wings.
having lots of fun with our Scarecrow, Scarecrow
unit, reading one or two scarecrow stories each day and working on scarecrow
Cut and Paste Scarecrow Big Book
Each month, I have the KinderKids do a thematic cut-and-paste picture that I laminate and turn into a Big Book. The kids enjoy seeing each other's work (and reading each other's names!), and I use the book to track each child's progress with coloring, cutting, and using glue. Flipping through the book also shows me who is good at following directions, who knows where-and-what to cut, who is having trouble with spatial relationships, etc. The picture on the far right (above) was pieced back together, after the student cut the hat into several pieces, some of which didn't make it onto the page.
For this month's Scarecrow cut-and-paste book, I demonstrated using unwrapped crayons to make a rubbing type background, and asked the children to make a background with colors and/or with Fall things included in their picture. I also discussed placement of the scarecrow on the page, since the head and body were separate pieces, stressing that it was important to place both pieces on the paper before gluing anything down, so that nothing would hang over the edges (this continues to be a difficult skill for this year's class to self-monitor).
Here are a few sample pages, so you can see the range of abilities:
The picture on the left -- which uses mainly one color -- is typical of children who are in a hurry to finish and move on to other activities. Many young children dislike coloring because their fine motor skills are still developing, and they find it difficult to do things like stay inside the lines, fill areas in completely, etc. I try to offer a variety of fine motor skill activities that will help my students become better artists and writers, as coloring is a skill that transfers directly to handwriting.
The picture on the right has some great background drawings, including flowers, a happy face, and several "suns" -- one yellow sun and four red ones. The scarecrow looks a little "scrunched," because the head was placed a bit low on the body.
This Week's TLC Art Project
The Thanksgiving Story
These are the three pages we completed this week for our big November TLC project called The Thanksgiving Story.
There are seven pages in all, including the cover. We'll be making a page a day next week, which will give me plenty of time to laminate all the pages and assemble them into completed books that the children can take home to share for Thanksgiving. After the holiday, they'll bring their books back to keep in their individual book boxes for the remainder of the year.
This was a step-by-step directed art project, using paper cutting techniques we've been practicing for the past two and a half months. As you can see from the cover samples above, there is a wide range of abilities in our classroom, and each child's picture is unique.
Though each child was given six colored rectangles -- paper clipped together -- to make feathers, only one of the turkeys above ended up with six tail feathers. One of the turkeys somehow got seven feathers, and the other two have five feathers each. Quite a few children had trouble keeping everything ON the page (i.e., nothing is supposed to hang over the edges), and most of my students are mildly challenged when gluing on titles or text, perhaps because they're feeling finished and ready to do something else.
It's important to note that I don't believe in giving any special assistance to the students when doing these projects: I want to see THEIR work, not work that was partially done by an adult or another student. Crooked titles and funny feathers are part of the uniqueness and charm, and reflect each child's current abilities. I'm much more interested in an authentic activity process than in picture-perfect results.
This picture shows that the student is not perceiving the spatial relationships in the picture, and is having difficulty following the step-by-step directions -- which include watching me building the picture along with them, demonstrating each step prior to them doing it themselves.
I explain to parents that children develop and mature at different rates, and that every child is doing their personal best on each activity or project. Those who are having difficulty are NOT goofing around or not listening. My belief is that their perception of spatial relationships has not yet matured as much as some of the other children, which means that they either don't SEE the picture correctly, or that they can't yet COPY accurately. Both of these skills will develop over time, especially in a classroom where some children are not yet five years old and other children have already turned six.
As I compare student work from week-to-week, it becomes obvious that the same handful of children are having these difficulties on many or most of their projects. This information tells me that they need extra instruction and practice on spatial relationships tasks like simple puzzles, pattern blocks, and pegboard activities. Until their visual and spatial perception skills develop to a greater degree, they will most likely have difficulty reading and writing. Early detection of who needs additional help allows me to be sure each child is getting the instruction they need to help them develop in all areas.
This student is also having
perceptual difficulty, though it's not clear from this picture only.
This child rotated the background paper to a vertical position from a horizontal
one, which could simply indicate not listening or not watching me closely.
However, looking at the child's work over the past few weeks reveals a
trend of difficulty in duplicating the demonstrated projects, especially
in terms of how pieces fit together.
This is the Maple Leaf
pattern block from our November quilt, which was shown in last
week's pictures. In the photo below, the Maple Leaf blocks were
made by the two students discussed above, which helped me to identify thier
need for additional practice with spatial relationships skills. If
we weren't consistently doing projects of this type, I might not have identified
these students' additional needs until much later in the year, leaving
less time to give them the assistance and individualized instruction that
What do you see?
I see the Mayflower sailing
What do you see?
All of my students find tearing paper to be a challenging task, because it requires using fine motor skills with a LOT of control. The water and white cap waves have torn edges, and they took quite a bit of time and concentration. I adapted the instructions for making the boat, to make it simpler for my KinderKids.
As seen below, several students had minor to moderate difficulty making the three sails and two clouds in this picture, but all of their pictures look wonderful and unique.
For more information on
TLC -- Teaching Little Children -- projects and artwork, visit
the TLC website.
monthly vocabulary is on sentence strips in the Pocket Chart, with matching
text words the kids can take to their seats for copying and writing.
Only the copy that stays in the Pocket Chart has a picture. I write
the words in several seasonal colors, to help with matching and developing
visual discrimination skills.
For information on Victoria's
blackline homework calendar masters -- for kindergarten and first grade
-- write to Victoria at email@example.com
Favorite November Books
Clifford's First Autumn
Clifford the Small Red Puppy leaps into autumn when he experiences the changing of the seasons for the first time, and he joyfully sniffs the falling leaves and enjoys the wonderful colors. Under $3 Also available in a hardcover edition.
Clifford's Thanksgiving Visit
This is one of my students' very favorite Clifford books each and every year! Clifford goes to visit his mother on Thanksgiving, and on the way he gets caught up in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade ... the kids love the balloons! Under $3 Also available in a hardcover edition.
Gracias, The Thanksgiving Turkey
By Joy Cowley
In this warm holiday story, a young Puerto Rican boy saves the life of his pet turkey with help from his close-knit New York City family and neighborhood. Beginning Spanish vocabulary is woven into the text. From popular Wright Group author Joy Cowley, creator of Mrs. Wishy Washy, Huggles, and many other must-have stories for emergent readers. Under $6. Also available in hardcover and in Spanish as Gracias, El Pavo de Thanksgiving (paperback and hardcover editions).
Eve Bunting is one of my favorite children's authors, and she has a book for every occasion. This one is a charming story about a turkey invited to a Thanksgiving feast who's worried he'll end up ON the table instead of AT the table. Under $6. Also available in hardcover and on audio cassette.
Thanksgiving at the Tappletons
By Eileen Spinelli
I first heard about this
story when my oldest son was in kindergarten, 9 years ago, and he came
home with a charming turkey platter placemat he'd illustrated that contained
the simple blessing/grace in this fun story filled with everything that
could possibly go wrong with Thanksgiving dinner. We still enjoy
reading the book every year, despite my children's advanced ages, and my
kinderkids at school like it equally well. Under $6. Also available
hardcover for your personal library. Be sure to check out the
other titles by Eileen
Spinelli, she's a prolific author ... another favorite of mine is Coming
Through the Blizzard: A Christmas Story.
~ Don't Miss ~
My Favorite Holiday Unit
For more fun Fall, Farm, and Harvest activities, visit these units:
Down on the Farm
Welcome to the Pumpkin Patch
Leaves are Falling Down
Picture Pages Index
KinderKorner Home Page
Victoria's Thematic Units Index
by Victoria Smith, 2000
All Rights Reserved