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It Takes a Whole Art Colony to Raise a Child

A confident kinderflowerA confident kinderflowerThe quality of the work created by artists in this building is amazing. Evergreen is a special place in several ways but one of the coolest is the different ways my colleagues nurture and grow artistic expression by our students. I see examples all the time, and sometimes I'm bright enough to capture them on camera.

Our dual language school uses a powerful teaching/learning strategy called A lesson in picture and textA lesson in picture and textGLAD. The letters stand for Guided Language Acquisition Design. A visit to a GLAD classroom offers up a rich visual smorgasbord of charts, drawings, maps, posters, and other highly visible written language - in both languages - that supports lessons. Using this much variety to allow learners to access knowledge is part of essential scaffolding that good teachers use all the time. GLAD takes classic scaffolding techniques, adds lots of oral language support, and uses a wide variety of graphic organizers that kidsFlorFlor and teachers employ to share new knowledge. Artistic talent is visible all over the place. One of the techniques that's used employs making drawings of vocabulary words. Another has teachers draw a nearly transparent pencil drawing of a topic of study - say, a flowering plant - on a large sheet of butcher paper. After it's laminated, a dry erase marker or washable pen can be used to "draw" the parts of the plant as children discuss them. Here's looking at you!  (Sorry - couldn't resist...)Here's looking at you! (Sorry - couldn't resist...) Labels in the target language are added and used repeatedly during the unit for reference, to practice the words, or to check spelling during writing assignments. Nobody makes a big deal about relative skill in drawing, but it's clear that lots of practice yields up comfort with lots of public drawing. Teachers model drawing, kids use it extensively, and the art teacher smiles all the time.

A well-loved story with lots of dramaA well-loved story with lots of drama




Art is visible throughout our building and it's not always generated in the Evergreen Studios. A bulletin board close to the kindergarten rooms broke out in pumpkins recently, and the effect is glorious. Pumpkin Town!Pumpkin Town! We see clear evidence of wise teachers who choose projects that extend their children's learning rather than narrowing it into "class set" types of projects. One of the fascinating aspects of this quality of learning is the deep understanding a teacher gains about children during their work. Find the face?Find the face?The child who painted this picture really, REALLY wanted to do a Jack-O-Lantern, even though the story that was being shared was about whole pumpkins. His teacher quietly observed how he painted characteristic triangle eyes and jagged mouth, then used that darker paint to blend and shade the pumpkin. While she noted the beautifully controlled blending, he just smiled.Glorious, celebratory pumpkinsGlorious, celebratory pumpkins
The story line and requisite vines meandered across the bulletin board - beautiful...The story line and requisite vines meandered across the bulletin board - beautiful...

One Hundred Reasons I Love My Job: #1-#6

It's all in your point of view!It's all in your point of view!If you're one of the lucky souls who can't tell the difference between playing and working, you'll know exactly what this post is talking about. If you're not, stop by for a visit. I'll share some of the short people that make this place such a hoot.

1) Kinderpeople have the coolest hats.

It's not just that they're cute and five (or six) and wearing something endearingly kid-like. It's that they are still brave enough to know that a silly hat is a GOOD thing and, if they've made it themselves, a badge of doublecoolness that simply doesn't require any explanation. A celebratory hat with a smile to matchA celebratory hat with a smile to match(Note: if written in "kid" doublecoolness would be replaced by "awesome!!!" Yes. Three exclamation marks ARE required and yes - it's an all- purpose term in serious vogue right now and is to be used for general cool stuff, store-bought school lunches, Spiderman logo anythings, and reviews of any current kid movies.)This isn't a kinderhat, but is a fine example of its creator's creativity.This isn't a kinderhat, but is a fine example of its creator's creativity.

2) People notice when you're gone.

I am rarely sick, due to the cumulative accumulation of antibodies that living in close proximity to 500 of one's closest friends affords me. This week was a (thankfully) rare exception as I spent last weekend and most of the week home being a poor patient. When I came back, little people and big ones alike made me feel really welcome.

3) My kids know the difference!

I had the world's best sub this week - one of those saints of our profession who, by her very presence creates little ripples of beautifully behaved children in her wake. Kids stand a little taller for her, form into gently polite lines, and simply beam in the glow of her steady love. She retired last year and subs for us "just to keep busy." This sweet tornado swept into my room, looked at my plans and chose Full blown clay giggleFull blown clay giggle"Plan B. - in lieu of the nutty intensity of TAB Central, you're welcome to let the students draw a topic of their choice or to use your favorite art lesson." When I heaped praise on their heads (because of the flood of post-it notes she left insisting I do so) they smiled and said, "Yes, we were good, but we're glad you're back. We did coloring sheets yesterday and marched and sang cool songs but today we want to do ART!"

4) If there's anything sillier than fifth graders early in the morning, I'd like to know about it.

We meet for art club on Thursday mornings at 0'dark-thirty. The number of kids varies between just a few to a table full and they're responsible for getting themselves there on their own. A few have a sweet parent who drops them off on their way to work but several of them walk. They come for the long span of unfettered art time, for the conversation with kids from other classes, and for the giggles. Appropriate giggleIn between giggles, it's important to give voice to the alien you've created...In between giggles, it's important to give voice to the alien you've created... topics are legion: silly parent tricks, video games I'm good at, alien clay trophies (think mighty hunter den,) Hannah Montana (soooo last year,) NFL teams that want me, my new fashion statement (catch the tie outside the t-shirt outside the white dress shirt) do you like my (insert description of artwork here)?, NBA teams that want me, my new fashion statement (neat color statement, huh?) head banging puppets (this one bears a classmate's name) my gigglegiggle clay gigglegiggle! Fashion-savvy puppet makerFashion-savvy puppet maker

5) The wisdom of the artists in this studio humbles me.

Today's best example came in response to my explanation to a first grade class about why subs do other things when the art teacher is absent. I'd just finished the part about the noble art teacher coming in early to get things ready for class every day when a fully indignant (see his arms folded defiantly across his chest?) first grader pipes up, "But Ms. J. We do our OWN set up and clean up. Didn't you tell her?" I love it. He owns the independent artist thing! (And I won't bother him with any drudgy old details about what art teachers do to set the stage for that independence. Shhhhh.)Fifth grade sculptorsFifth grade sculptors

6) Visitors.

We have a university student who's absorbing the art of teaching from the fifth grade team. Eva is energetic, curious, and loves playing with art and kids. She comes by to talk teaching, lichens, nudibranchs (google them - you'll love the images) and school. It's refreshing to see my profession through her eyes and I love the way she interacts with the kids.

To be continued...
Here is the aforementioned head banging puppet, quiet for the moment.Here is the aforementioned head banging puppet, quiet for the moment.

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