Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bright Ideas: Empowering Students through Art

Welcome to the August Bright Ideas Link up.   A huge shout out to Shelley Gray and all of the wonderful teachers that have come together this month for the new installment of Bright Ideas.

When I signed up for this event, I was right in the middle of several projects. My "bright ideas" seem to come to me when I am either eyeball deep in "stuff" or late at night when I am trying to go to sleep.   This month's idea came to me while I was driving down the road.  My mind was free of clutter, and I was reminiscing about a group of students that I worked with.  They were a pretty tough bunch initially.  They'd gone through several teachers and program leaders before I was transferred in. Their trust and confidence levels were about Defcon 4. They didn't trust anyone because those that came before me had let them down by leaving. Because of the behavioral issues, the homeroom teachers had referred them out.  There goes the self esteem! I used art, in many different forms to break through their barriers.  These were students that had been acting out in classes, having to be medicated for ADHD with weekly therapy sessions.  I had my work cut out for me.

"Empowering Students through Art!"   

First and foremost, students need to feel like they are important. They also need the security of knowing that somebody cares, and that they are good at something.  For many kids, the only encouragement they receive is at school.  

Art, in any form, can be a way for students to express themselves freely.  There are no right or wrong answers when creating art.  Helping students find their voice through creative (art) expression helps build their confidence.  Confidence is empowerment. 

Empowerment comes from giving students tools that they need to succeed.  Art, regardless of the medium or forum will provide your students with a foundation that they can take with them throughout their life.  

1.  Verbally praise student for their artwork.   Taking the time to acknowledge that the student created something can make the whole difference for that young person.  Whether the "masterpiece" was a drawing, or art project, genuine praise is good.  It can set the tone for the whole school year, and beyond.  

2.  Display student artwork.  When words aren't enough, having a classroom gallery is an excellent way to boost the confidence of your students. Everyone likes to have their moment in the spotlight.  If you have limited space, switch out artwork weekly or monthly. Special pieces that perhaps a student took a lot of time creating, save for conferences or reserve a special space for display.  

3.  Join in creating with your students.  You do not have to be an artist yourself to work with your students.
 I always carried around a backpack with art supplies in it.  I worked with students that had severe behavioral issues, as well as learning challenges.  One of my most memorable breakthroughs with students came after I began sitting down in the middle of my "kids," pulling out paper and pens and start drawing.   Pretty soon the kids were all joining in trying to see if they could draw too.  Starting out with shapes, and moving on to more geometric patterns, and so on. You might even whip up a batch of play dough the night before and hand each student a portion to see what they will create with it.

4. Encourage students to create an art journal:   Art journals can be created from composition notebooks, or 3 ring binders. It can be something that the students will want to share with you or not. They may start out not sharing it, but eventually will gravitate toward wanting to show off their creativity. Don't worry if the students don't want to show you their art journal.  If you aren't familiar with art journals, they are similar to sketch books and some can take the shape of a scrap book. There are other terms for them like smash book, slam books, etc.   {The large notebook in the photo is one of my own art journals.  I have several of them}  There are a numerous tutorials on Youtube on the subject of creating art journals. I generally start out by giving the students sheet protectors to preserve some of their best work, and then the students can add their own pages and whatever they want to their journal.

5. Free art time.    This can take place a few minutes of the day.  This type of activity can be really effective when the students are not really connecting with what is currently being taught. {I'm not referring to students that want to get out of their work.} For moments when there is nothing else really planned, and the students are restless.  Free art time is golden.  It can even be used as a reward or incentive for finishing work completely, or while waiting for the rest of the class to finish up an activity.   Free art time can take place either in a designated area or at their desk.  (Supplies will vary based on age group.)

The idea behind empowering students through art is to encourage creativity in all forms.  If you over think it, or stress over it, the purpose becomes lost in translation.  

The positive ending to my story of "my kids..."  I worked with them every day until the end of the school year.  Art was used in one way or another every day.  We started out at the ground floor and worked our way up building the student's confidences.  By the end of the year, the 3 students that were on medication were able to be taken off of their medications.  The toughest cookie graduated from his therapy sessions and didn't need to go back. All of the students had made enough positive progress to be able to move on to the next grade level for the following year.  I am not saying that it was always easy, it wasn't.  Art was the one thing that we could all have in common.  The students worked hard.  They became empowered.  That little bit of encouragement made the difference between them being held back and having their records filled with notations of behavioral issues, and being excited again about going to school and learning.   That's what it's all about!

If you have questions pertaining this post, please feel free to leave me a comment.  Below, you'll find a link up with over 100 wonderful teachers from all over the globe sharing their BRIGHT IDEAS!   Even if it takes you a few days to make it through, it's well worth it. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What's Under Your Cape? Book Study

If you haven't had the opportunity to read Barbara Gruener's book,  "What's Under Your Cape, Superheroes of the Character Kind" it's a MUST read!   

I first heard about Barbara's book in a teacher group that I am a member.  She had been understandably, very excited to share information about her book being finished.  The more I read about the book, the more I wanted to get my hands on a copy to read it!  I purchased it from Barbara's site which was cool because she wrote me a little note in the book just for me! {You can purchase her book from Amazon too, but it isn't as much fun because the Amazon people don't write sweet notes!}

As I began to read the book, many of the examples she provided rang true to me.  Having worked extensively with children with behavioral challenges (many of which were severe), often times they didn't have role models or any positives in their lives.

In this book,  S-U-P-E-R-H-E-R-O-E-S stands for....
Unconditional Love

 "It's all about giving someone approval, support, confidence, and hope."  Barbara Gruener

Encouragement is an area that a lot of students don't have a lot of outside of the classroom.  Many students come from a diverse home setting (foster care, single parent homes, etc) where the only consistency and possibly the only encouragement they receive is at school.  I am sure you've all experienced students in your classroom that had less than desirable behaviors.  Sometimes the smallest gesture of a word or phone call home can make all the difference in the world in the child's life.  

How do you encourage your students?

Barbara shares examples of encouraging students from making a phone call home to share with parents about a student's positive behavior, to "when a child gets out of the car with a greeting, a compliment, or a smile." One of the examples that I gravitate towards is that of the written word.  I'd like to share with you a little story about how the written word can change a life of a kindergartner.

This little girl had gone through a lot in her young life.  Along with their father, the young girl and her brother fled the state they had lived in after their Mother had been involved in a crime and was later incarcerated.  They had left a pretty awful situation, and came to a part of the country where they didn't know anyone.  When I met these 2 children, they were guarded, and demonstrated a lot of negative behaviors.  You could tell by some of their conversations and actions that they were acting out due to seeing and hearing way too much for their young age.  Even though the father tried hard, they often went to school in dirty or torn clothing, hair a mess. They also didn't always have balanced meals to eat at home. Their main meals were ate at school.  This also contributed to their behavior issues. They were always hungry and tired.  

Slowly,  the young girl began to let her guard down and enjoyed school. Each day, we would interact with these children, you could see subtle improvements in the behavior.  Every day that we interacted with the 2 kids,  we were consistent in how we encouraged them when they did something positive, and downplayed the not so positive behaviors.

Midway through the school year,  the little girl began smiling more. This is something that was a HUGE thing for us because she was always so sullen and her eyes looked sad. She began taking more of an interest in what she was wearing, that she was clean and neat, and her hair combed.  The key to unlocking this little girl was encouragement.  

By the end of the school year, she was excelling in her school work.  So much so that she was awarded "Most Improved Student" and was given this award in front of the whole school at the end of the year assembly.  She brought home her certificate.  By the end of the day it was a little wrinkled and, but she carried that piece of paper around showing it to anyone who would look at it.

I gave her a special binder (with a cover with her name on it) that I hand drew, and sheet protectors to put her awards in so that she could save them.  That small gesture was that little girl's whole world.  The SMILE on her face when I presented it to her, was priceless.  I don't think I have ever seen her eyes light up like that.  She giggled and hugged me and told me that I spelled her name right. :)   She has carried her binder around with her ALL SUMMER LONG.... she sleeps with it under her pillow.

Yesterday,  she sat down beside me with wiggles and grins like FIRST GRADERS do.. and told me how she can't wait to go to school.   I asked her what the best part of school is...   she smiled and she said.. "I LOVE MATH!     I want to count things." ;) 

From a little girl that didn't have much of an interest in anything to a SUPERHERO.... all because she was given encouragement!   That little positive nudge in the right direction has changed her life, and set her on the right path to LEARN!   

Traditionally in a book study,  a common question that is asked what did you like the best about the book? I can't say enough, everything about this book is the best part.  It is a book that any teacher can pick up and find something that they can do to implement.  "What's Under Your Cape,  Superheroes of the Character Kind"  is a book that you will refer back to often.  My copy already has post it notes, and book marks in it to refer back to.  

I have created this SUPERHERO freebie for you to download and write little messages
of encouragement when seeing them demonstrate positive behavior.  They are provided in blackline instead of color to save on ink!  *Note* The superhero graphics featured in this freebie were custom made for me by Mel from Graphics from the Pond!

Click either image to download file.  There are 2 sheets of 4 cards each as seen below.

Would you like to WIN a signed copy of 
 "What's Under Your Cape?   Superheroes of the Character Kind"?
Barbara Gruener has graciously agreed to give one of my wonderful fans a signed copy of her book. How cool is that?  Fill out the Rafflecopter below. A winner will be chosen on Sat., 8/9/14 at 12:00 am

The next stop in this book study journey.....

Runde's Room will be hosting the chapter on Self Discipline on August 7th.  Be sure to pop by and show her some Bloggy love. :)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Bright Ideas: Classroom Time Capsules

Thank you so much for stopping by!   I am happy to be joining some of my favorite blogging friends for the July Bright Ideas Link Up!   It's exciting to read through so many amazing ideas! 

Materials needed:
  • Metal/heavy plastic container that will seal completely with a lid.
  • Small ziplock baggies
  • Sharpie marker
  • Paper scraps
  • Miscellaneous bobbles such as small toys, buttons, scrap fabric,
  • Photo of pet and or family

This project is simple, and fun for kids (and adults) to put together and open up at the end of the school year or even years later. Back to School time is perfect to put together a small time capsule to bury in the backyard or put together with other student's time capsules at school. It's optional when you re-open it.

Time capsules are a fun way to preserve something about yourself.   Making time capsules can be a great addition to "All About Me" Units too!


  • Start out by finding a suitable container. In my example, I used a cute tin that I had in my studio. It has a hinged lid so it could remain closed tight. The best containers are those with a tight/secure lid, and the container itself will not mulch down. (Paper or cardboard containers could be used if wrapped in plastic or put inside a ziplock bag.)   You can choose to have your students bring their own container to school as part of an assignment, or you can provide them.
  • Have each student locate small items at home that will fit easily inside the container.  (As a class project, it may be a nice idea to send a note home to help them with their items.)

    For my example, I selected items that would represent me: A small goat figure (because I raise dairy goats), lipgloss (because who doesn't love lipgloss?), a small prism, buttons (favorite colors), a butterfly charm, crayons (I love crayons), a quarter, a toy car, a lollypop, a photo of some barn kitties, and 2 little cards I wrote on and put inside small ziplock baggies.

  • There aren't any rules for making the perfect time capsule. The more creative you are, the more fun it will be when you open it again.
  • For older students, you can add a special twist to have them write a letter to their future self. (Hint: Any items that are on paper or cardstock (and photos) should be put into the small ziplock baggies to protect them from the elements.)
  • After all of the items are gathered, notes written, place all of the items inside a ziplock bag and then place inside the container.
  • Seal the container lid edge with tape.
  • Put container in plastic bag or ziplock bag (optional) to protect it from getting wet where it's buried.

For other "Bright Ideas...." Click through the link up below!  Enjoy!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

5 Ways to Keep Kids Learning in the Summer!

Are you a parent or guardian that is looking for creative ways to keep kids learning during the summer month?   Summer time can be somewhat hectic with different routines, activities, and travel plans. To help kids avoid the summer slide (forgetting subjects and routines that they learned during the school year),  I've listed 5 ways to keep kids learning in the summer!  

1.   Visit Local Libraries for Story Time, Arts & Crafts activities, and Reading Programs.
Many libraries will host different events through the summer months.  They are generally lead by guests authors who have been asked to come, and staff from the libraries.  Each library will have different offerings. You'll want to check with your local library, and also libraries in other towns for a variety.  Libraries often host reading clubs through the summer to reward kids for reading books!  Reading practice is particularly important for the beginning readers.  

2.  Cooking with Kids:  
Cooking with kids can be educational as well as a lot of messy fun.  Cooking reinforces skills such as following directions, measurement, and math.  There are a lot of websites, and Pinterest boards that feature kid-friendly recipes and cooking activities.  I came across a cute series of short video clips featuring the children of Buddy Valastro, the Cake Boss. (Hosted on TLC).  What I liked about these videos is that the children are explaining how they make the food while demonstrating. I hope that they make more of these. You can find the videos here.  

3.  Interactive Journals:
Interactive journals are "in" this year.  The cool thing about interactive journals is that they can be made out of any kind of spiral bound notebook, composition book, or even folded and cut paper bags.  Interactive journals can be used all summer. Kids can create their own with minimal supervision, and collect post cards and other memorabilia on family vacations.  They can write about their adventures all summer!  It's an inexpensive and fun way to engage kids.  If they are having fun, they may not realize that they are continuing to learn! :)

4.  Travel Activity Boxes:   The cool thing about travel activity boxes is that you can involve your kids in creating them. By doing that, they are more apt to use them.  Printable activities are great for these because you can print off the pages you need/want, and it's less expensive than purchasing a lot of materials. {click the picture above to download  "Hula Bear Tracers" for free!   Examples of items you can put in your travel activities, printable learning centers, file folder games, word searches, coloring pages / pens, flashcards, card games, and more.   Remember, it's summer time and kids will want to have a little fun too.  Activities that are open ended and not all academic are best!   Have fun with it!

5.. Cardboard Box Creations:  Who doesn't love making forts, and playing in boxes? Making things with cardboard boxes builds confidence, helps kids learn team work skills, as well as how to think "outside the box"  (Yep, pun intended!)   Boxes are pretty easy to come by, can be in any shape, and can be RECYCLED!   Here are some inspiring creations that I have been cultivating on Pinterest HERE.

I hope that you enjoyed this post.  If you have questions or have suggestions for other ideas, please leave me a comment below!  Have a great weekend!

Monday, June 30, 2014

July Currently - 14

Welcome to July.

WOW.. I cannot believe how time flies. Thank you for stopping by, for the July Currently. Hosted by the one and only Farley from Oh boy 4th Grade,  Be sure to stop by her Blog and leave her some sweet comments!

Listening:  I am listening to a Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz movie.  It's somewhat funny, but I am cracking up at Cameron's Texas accent. :)

Loving:   I received the wedding invitation for my dear friend Missy's wedding.  (Aug. 9).  She is the daughter of one of my best friends.  I wish I could be there for her on her special day.  It'd be a real long trip and it's just not in the cards right now.  Her colors are purple, teal, and navy.  

Thinking:  About the classroom decor kits I am finishing up on.  My sweet friend, Mel (Graphics from the Pond) made me some exclusive clipart... I can't wait to show it to everyone.

Wanting:  A little motivation. The chocolate ice cream didn't help.  I have a lot of things I need to get done in a short time. I know I can do it.  It would just be nice to have someone here at home that I could share it all with.  

Needing:  Yep... I think I need a little time away.  I think in the Fall, I am going to work it out to leave for a few days.  I just need to DO IT and not talk about it. :)

4th Plans:  It probably won't sound all that interesting to others...  A friend of the family is going to start breeding some really nice Alpines. Her barn isn't done, so her goats that are coming in from VA, and Idaho are going to stay here for awhile.  So my parents are coming over this weekend to help put up a new buck area and barn.  It'll be nice when it's all done.

I hope you have a great month!

Be sure to check out my Custom Designs section.  I AM booking orders for Blog designs.... if you are thinking about a design or make-over on an existing one...  let me know. I'm happy to help.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Throwing away lunch....

This Blog post is going to be a little different than my usual posts. Even though for most of you, it's the end of the school year and probably want to focus on suntans and flip flops... There is a problem that I wanted to address.

School lunches.

There.  I said it.

I am not going to talk today about the quality of school lunches, as that is a topic for a much lengthier rant.  Today, I am going to talk about a growing trend among schools to penalize a student(s) for not having enough money on their account to pay for their lunch.

Yesterday,  an article was posted (here) about a student in Washington state that was .26 short to purchase his lunch.  Instead of the school spotting him the .26, the nitwit tossed the lunch.  I can't even begin to tell you on how many levels this was WRONG.

My first thought was, how much brain power did it take to realize that the cost of throwing out that lunch was most likely over $4.00 (cost of food, employee prep time, and sanitation) and the humiliation that the student had to endure.  You can' really put a price tag on that.

This is the 3rd article I have read in the last week of this sort of thing happening.  Blah blah blah students should be responsible,  schools can't afford to feed all students, etc.  I've heard it all.  What I haven't heard is a solution to the problem.

NO CHILD should ever go hungry.  Period.   If the schools are so tight on costs, then they need to get out a #2 pencil and start going over the budget.  What I don't understand is why schools are making this a student issue?   Why not pick up the phone and call a parent or guardian?   Why not send a note home with the student ?   Heck, why doesn't the school provide a lunch program?  They do fund raisers for sports teams and other activities, why not do a fundraiser to create a fund for student lunches?

Here are some facts:

According to the Federal Education Budget Program,  in 2013 - 62% of student lunches were Federally funded (free lunch program), 8% were reduced, and 30% were paid.   This means that the families, of over half of the student population across the country is BELOW 130% of the annual income poverty level guideline.  (The income level that they look at is $23,850 for a family of 4.)

For the 2012-2013 school year, 30,700 million students in 98,433 schools and daycares were served lunch each day.  Out of that number 21.7 million students received free or reduced lunch.  (Data from the National School Lunch Program)

I spent some time doing a little research to find out how much food the school lunch programs throws away each day.  The numbers that I found were for food that students have thrown away, rather than food that the food services discard either due to preparing too much, or tossing because it wasn't purchased.

If we can have policies for what the students have in their lunch, there should be a cohesive plan to make sure that no student goes hungry. This isn't an issue that is just going to go away.  It most likely is going to get worse as the income levels go down, and it becomes harder for families to make it paycheck to paycheck.

If a school is going to throw food out, they should make sure that ALL students (whether they can afford to pay or not) can get something to eat.  How can they be expected to sit in class and learn without proper nutrition?

I'd love to hear from you to know what happens at your school.  Feel free to email me or leave me a comment below.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

June Currently....2014

Isn't it amazing how time flies?   I have this great Blog, wonderful fans and followers, and the best of intentions to write more often but I find myself becoming side tracked and here it is "Currently" time again. :)   This month's Currently is sponsored by 4Mulafun which is owned by the wonderfully talented Jennifer Smith Sloane.  Be sure to show both Farley and Jennifer some Bloggy love today.....

As I type this,  I am listening to 48 Hours (I love crime shows) and the whir and hum of the AC.  It's about 90 degrees out.  We've had some rain this week, which has made the barn entry way look like a huge mosh pit. -rolls eyes-

I am feeling  MUCH better than I was last week.  I have a tendency to worry about things and I guess all that worrying got the better of me.  I was having some ticker malfunctions and felt like I had no mojo left at all.  Not good.  Thanks to a good friend, and my Mom letting me hang out at their place I think I am doing much better.  I plan on spending more time goofing off this summer (not working all the time) and getting out and doing fun things instead of working.    I also need to stop worrying about the things I cannot change and roll with the flow a little better.   

I do want to dive back into creating, but nothing that is going to make me feel claustrophobic. I was thinking of doing some more DIY projects.  That's creative, right?   Maybe do some water color painting out on the deck.  A few weeks ago I got rid of some furniture and miscellaneous other c.r.a.p. that was on my deck.  Now it's like a bright new canvas.  I was thinking tiki bar... with maybe some colorful lights? :)

I have been wanting to do some remodel to the big goat barn.  Because of the winter and spring storms it's now moving up the to-do-list.  I need to get the end pulled off the barn, gutted, with fresh shavings.  I may be having a 2nd kidding season from July on so I have to be a bit more ready. :)

Who has time to clean their house?  lol  I love my house to be neat and tidy, but dang......... My kitchen right now looks like something exploded in there.  I'm thinking about working on that this week.  We'll see how that goes. ROFL!!!   

My Summer Bucket List consists of reading a good book (or two...), taking a little drive over to Jonesboro which is where all the good shops are (hour and a half drive) and then taking time off to sleep late and do as little as possible.  I kept my list to 3 so that I have a better chance of actually accomplishing it.

Does anyone need a Blog designed?   The summer is a good time to get a blog face lift!!!   Hint hint!    I do have some time in my lax schedule to do some more design work.  Believe it or not it relaxes me.  :)

Thank you to everyone who popped around to read this.  I love hearing from you.... I do read all of the comments!  (Even the spammy ones that wind up posting... ;)   

Have a great day!!!