Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween & Thanksgiving

It is my favorite time of year - the season that lends itself to cozy sweaters, warm, sweet drinks, and craft projects galore!  I absolutely love October through December, even if the Texas weather does tend to disappoint me on the wardrobe front.  I had 3 great activities planned, but now it looks like I may not get to do one of them because I am sick.   This is the craft we did this past Wednesday.

Collage Jack O'Lanterns

You will need:
  • Magazines
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Construction Paper
Step one: I drew the outline of a pumpkin on my kid's papers because they're not so good at "free-form".  Show them how they will fill in the pumpkin with pictures of orange things.  They should use green or brown pictures for the stems.
Step two:  Turn the kids loose on the magazines.  I make sure to have more magazines than kids so if a kid can't find what they're looking for, they don't have to wait to switch with someone else.
Step three (optional): I don't know about 4th or 5th graders, but my 2nd & 3rdies didn't really understand trimming the picture edge so it fits inside the pumpkin I drew.  I had them cut the pumpkin out so everything had a nice curved edge, but if you go for something more abstract they can leave it as is.
Step four: Have the kids go back to the magazines and look for black pictures that they can use as eyes, nose, and mouth to turn their pumpkin into a Jack O'Lantern

When I say I'm sick, I mean 'prescribed-an-antibiotic-and-steroid, talk-of-taking-chest-xrays' sick.  Its bronchitis that they are afraid could turn into pneumonia.  As a child, I had frequent stomachaches and a sinus infection every time the weather changed, but I have never been this sick.  Instead of spending Friday through today cutting out paper squares approximating 1cm squared, I alternated between bed and coughing up a lung.  Fever's gone, but I think the steroids are giving my brain a strange feeling.  Compared to Friday, however, I've gone from feeling like a 2 to a 6 and that's a good start.  I just wish I'd have gotten the squares cut out so we could do Fraction Pumpkins on Wednesday.

Fraction Pumpkins

You will need:
  • A whole bunch (I mean a ton, start cutting a week in advance) of approx. 1cm squares in orange, with a slightly smaller number in green
  • Black marker
  • Glue
  • Construction paper
Step 1: If your kids haven't yet learned about mosaics, briefly intro the term and show how it is a picture made up of tiny squares.
Step 2: have your kids make a mosaic of a pumpkin.  It doesn't need to fill up the entire space of the construction paper if you don't want, but it should be at least as big as their hand
Step 3 (optional): If they would like, they can go back over some of their orange squares with the black marker to make a Jack O'Lantern face.  Tell them they need to fill in the whole square.
Step 4: Have the children count their squares.  Tell them to write their total squares with the black marker somewhere on the page.
Step 5: Have the children count just their orange squares.  Show them how to write it as a fraction of the whole.  Repeat with green and black squares.
Step 6 (optional): If your kids are old enough to have learned about reducing fractions, ask them to see if they can reduce any of their fractions to a smaller one.

It's ironic in a way, because I was sick a lot as a child and relished the idea of missing school.  I even faked it a lot just so I could get out of it.  Now, 4 days away from my kids and all I want to do is run back up there and hug them (but I won't, I don't want to infect them).  It made me realize how thankful I am for a job and kids that I love, which brings me to my Thanksgiving Craft:

Thankfulness Wreaths

You will need:
  • Leaf Stencils (I don't buy, I make my own using leftover file folders)
  • Construction paper - red, orange, yellow, brown
  • Sandwich/Lunch bags for each child
  • Paper plates
  • Glue
  • Yarn
  • Pencils
  • Pen/Thin black marker
  • Notebook Paper (optional)
The first and last days are the most "craft intensive"  The days in between are short, and just about writing one or two sentences a day.

Day 1:  Your students will need to cut out enough leaves to have one every weekday between the first day of November and the last day before Thanksgiving Break.  Every day, they will reflect upon something in their lives they are thankful for.  They should put all their leaves in a bag with their name on it.  If you want them to be spontaneous, they can think of something new everyday.  If you want them to plan ahead a little, they can make a list on notebook paper of things they are thankful for and fold it up and put it in the bag with their leaves.  They should start right away with their first leaf - name on the back and 1 to 2 sentences on the front.  I like "I am thankful for _________ because _________."  I want them to build the habit of explaining their answers.  They should write in pen or black marker so it's easier to read.

Days 2 through Last: Every day, have the students take out a leaf and write something.  Since November starts on a Thursday this year, Thanksgiving comes pretty early so they will only have 12 leaves.  If you'd like them to do more so the wreath will look more "filled", go ahead.

Last Day: They should each get a paper plate and cut a large hole in the middle.  The ring only needs be about an inch or so wide.  Invite the children to think about how they are going to arrange their leaves and then they may glue them on - name side down, thankful sentence up.  When they are finished gluing and the glue has had a little time to set, help them tie a piece of yarn where it won't show between 2 of the leaves (or glue on the back, but yarn is hard to glue) so they can hang it up on the wall.  Talk to them about how they aren't just thankful on Thanksgiving Day, but that they should be grateful for what they have every day of the year.

So far, I am thankful that getting sick fell at a time when I didn't need to cancel any substitute jobs, that I have a wonderful parent who will take care of my poor pathetic self and make me feel loved and comforted, that even though I don't have health insurance, I can afford a trip to the doctor, and that my fever went away.

Oh yeah, I'm also thankful that in 2 days I get to start listening to Christmas music!  (Yes, I am one of those people who start the music right after Halloween, but I don't decorate until after Thanksgiving.)

**UPDATE - It occurs to me that if we can't do Fraction Pumpkins, perhaps we can do Fraction Turkeys - we can use a pattern for the bodies and the squares can make up the tail feathers!**

Thursday, October 18, 2012


I have a child this year who is particularly difficult.  Like, the most difficult child I've ever dealt with, and that includes twin boys in a preschool who had to be restrained so they wouldn't use naptime as an excuse to throw toys at their sleeping classmates' heads.

The other day, he did something cruel to a younger child and I felt very angry.  This child had something he prized, and my student just took it from his hands and ruined it.  He didn't seem to feel remorse, which was what bothered me most of all.

I did not bring this child before God to ask for guidance.  I did not openly pray that God soften my heart towards this child (I thought it, or rather, I thought that I *should* do it.)  I complained about him to my roommates and fellow instructors who witnessed the behavior.  I allowed my emotions to stop me from seeing that this is a child of 8 years old and instead saw him as a hassle and a problem.  I didn't try to find the good in him.

Today, God showed me the circumstances in this boy's life.  He has things in his life that most of the kids in this school have never even thought about.  I am humbled beyond belief, and am rebuking myself for forgetting that children are not miniature adults.  This child is not a burden, he is a child.  I am one of several people in his life right now who will help shape him into the adult he will become.  I can't expect him to have total self-control, I have to help him learn it.