December 2015 archive

Happy Pajama Day and Happy Holidays!

Beaver Families –

What a fantastic send off before our holiday break!  The Beavers had a blast this morning in their pajamas – we had lots of fun, from creating “100 cereal” trail mix, to having an epic freeze-dance party in the Dance Studio.  Here are some pictures from our morning!

And of course, we all had to show off our fantastic pajamas:

We wish each and every one of you a restful, enjoyable holiday break full of good tidings, good times, and relaxing moments.  See you in the New Year!

 

Weekly Update 12.14.15

Our final week of the 2015 was a blast! We decided to go out with a bang! From the holiday party to an author/illustrator visit to our field trip to a pajama party to close us out… the week was filled with holiday cheer!

Thank you for joining us for the holiday party.  We were so happy to be able to spend the morning together celebrating the holiday season! What a spread you all put together! Thank you Jessica and Jennifer for helping with the breakfast and organizing the book exchange!  Thank you to all of the Beaver families for your generous gifts.  The Visa gift cards will be put to good use and the tea towels are adorable!

We had some special visitors this week!  Thank you Dawn for visiting and reading The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  The pie was a delicious treat and we loved having you here! Thank you to Victoria for sharing your holiday traditions with us.  We enjoyed listening to Christmas carols while learning her famous (or infamous 🙂  Mince Pie recipe.  The kids loved getting their hands dirty!

Our field trip to Puppetworks was a success!  The opportunity to see a real puppet show brought new depth to our discussions about how storytellers make stories come to life. After learning about the beautiful hand-crafted marionette puppets, we enjoyed a production of Beauty and the Beast. Throughout the week, we read several versions of this folktale. When watching the puppet show, the Beavers took note of similarities and differences in the story. The show was fantastic and offered us an opportunity to experience the thrills of the theater. We talked about how reading a story and then seeing a story come to life are very different experiences. Just as we had learned when we visited the Pratt Theater, the children noticed that because of the lights and sound, sometimes the live version of Beauty and the Beast felt much scarier – and more exciting – than when we read it in our classroom. Thank you to all of our parent volunteers for joining us for the trip and for helping to make the day a success!

We had an author and illustrator visit this week.   Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri the author and illustrator of Dragons Love Tacos and Secret Pizza Party, joined us to share their new book, Robo-Sauce.  The book is hilarious and the children loved it!  If anyone needs a last minute gift for the holidays, Robo-Sauce would be much-appreciated!

Happy Birthday to two more Beavers! We loved celebrating with you and your families!

Weekly Update 12.11.2015

It was yet another busy week in our classroom – full of new stories, visitors, and learning about some traditions that the families in our classroom community take part in during the holiday season.  Thank you to the Davis family and to the Candido family for coming in and spending time with us!

We were also hard at work sanding some natural wood for a top secret project – stay tuned!

We hope everyone has a restful weekend, and we will see you all on Monday!

Exploring Imaginary Creatures Through Storytelling

Children are natural storytellers.  They are drawn to the magic of stories and they almost always turn play into an opportunity to develop narrative. 

This week we have expanded upon their love of Greek Mythology and have begun an investigation of folklore, mythology and legends from around the world. Exposing children to a diverse range of literature allows them to learn about other cultures and traditions. Through this exposure, children develop respect for traditions different from their own and recognize commonalities between global communities.  As we learn about other cultures,  we build empathy and expand our perspectives. 

We noticed that in many cultures, stories often feature imaginary creatures. This served as a perfect entry point for our imaginary creature-obsessed Beavers!  We began the week by reading West African folklore, specifically stories associated with Anansi the Spider. Anansi is known as the “keeper of all the stories of the world.” Stories about Anansi are told throughout West Africa and the Caribbean, however orginate from Ghana and the Ashanti people.  Anansi is known as the “wise trickster.” We read Anansi the SpiderAnansi and the Talking Melon, and Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock.  The children loved these trickster tales and relished the humor. 

From Native American folklore, we learned about the Raven. The Raven is a mythological creature that is central to stories derived from the Haida and Tlingit, both first-nation tribes on the west coast of Canada.  The Raven is another character known to for his trickster ways, however unlike Anansi, the Raven uses his clever nature for good.   We read the legend associated with how daylight came to be.  After tricking the selfish Sky Chief who is hoarding all of the light for himself, the Raven captures back the light and spreads it around the world for all to enjoy.  We will continue to explore folklore, evaluating common themes and characters across stories. 

In addition to exploring story through books, we have started to think about different forms of storytelling. Specifically, we have been thinking about ways a story can be brought to life.   When asked to share their ideas, your children immediately started talking about plays, movies and favorite T.V shows. The Beavers identified that it is the actors who do a lot of the storytelling in plays, movies and television, but we were eager to find out more about how stories are told in a theater. To answer some of these questions, we set out on an in-school field trip to visit the Pratt Theater. While there, we had the opportunity to meet middle and upper school students who are part of this year’s production of Our Town. Packer students explained some of the things they do to bring depth to their storytelling. They discussed the importance of makeup, costumes, sets, lighting and sound. We were fascinated to  learn that actors need to wear a lot of make up because of the bright lights on stage. We loved seeing before and after photos of actors made to look older with “age makeup.” The students shared how they think about their voice and their body expressions when taking on the role of a new character.  We had the chance to try on masks and hats and practice changing our voices and movements to reflect our role. Throughout the conversation there was a big emphasis on the teamwork that goes into putting on a show. The actors talked about how plays would never be made possible if it weren’t for all of the people working behind the stage. We talked to the stage managers about set design who shared how props, sets, lighting and sound are integral to storytelling. The Beavers related the team work that goes into putting on a play to the team work that goes into forming our classroom community. After our student interviews, the Beavers were lucky enough to get to explore backstage. We visited the brightly lit dressing room, seeing hats, shoes, clothing and special props ready for their production of Our Town. As a plug, Our Town opened last night and has matinee and evening performances on Saturday and Sunday!  

Throughout the week, we used what we learned on our visit to the Pratt to inspire our storytelling. Back in our classroom we have begun acting out our personal imaginary creature stories.  Using their stories in their Writer’s Notebooks as the script, friends called on their peers to take on various parts in our dramatizations.  As the teacher narrated the story, the Beavers became the actors, using their voices and movements to express their character. Your children have loved bringing their stories to life and we’re excited to continue with dramatizations next week. We know our visit to Puppetworks next Thursday will be a highlight as we see a production of Beauty and the Beast, and observe how puppeteers bring a story to life. 

Here are some pictures of one of our dramatizations:

 

Weekly Update 12.4.2015

It was a busy week here in our classroom after returning from the long Thanksgiving weekend.  Here are some highlights from the week!

Drawing self portraits for a *top secret* project:

Working on creating our Imaginary Creature Mix Ups!

Attempting to solve the “Mystery of the Cockroach” (we found a cockroach in the locker area, and the mystery unfolded … but don’t worry, the Beaver Detective Agency is on the case!):

Mixing our own colors, to inspire our work at the easel:

Painting pine cones for a new class mobile:

Lastly, we celebrated a few Beaver birthdays!

Imaginary Creatures in an Imaginary World

Over the past weeks, we have watched our Imaginary Creatures Emergent Curriculum evolve beyond the point of questioning curiosities.  As teachers, we have observed your children in their play and engaged them in investigating their wonderings.

With a classroom library of both fictional stories and informational texts about imaginary creatures, your children have developed specific interests.  One source of great wonder is the book Mythological Creatures: A Classical Bestiary by Lynn Curlee.  This picture book shows illustrations of creatures from Greek mythology with short descriptions about their powers and the myth associated with them.  Although the text is rather lofty and at times, needs paraphrasing to ensure appropriateness, the Beavers have become fascinated with the illustrations and learning about the creatures.  Our exploration of Greek Mythology has brought up many conversations about good vs. evil, power vs. powerlessness, morality vs. immorality.  As we have pondered the creatures in many of these tales, some children have noticed distinctions between creatures, that some are interpreted as good and others as  scary.  While studying Medusa, some children mentioned she’s scary because “she has hair made of snakes,” and she is evil because, “she can turn people into rocks just by looking at them.”   In response to their curiosity, we have continued with these discussions.  Exploring ideas of fear in a safe space can empower children. Young children are often intrigued by themes of power, and need to explore them to further their social-emotional development. As children process and rationalize their fears, they often raise up ideas in play and in  conversation to allow them to make emotional sense of a concept.  While we have provided a space for exploration of these ideas, we have continuously reminded them of the distinction between fantasy and reality.  This video features a few friends sharing their knowledge about Greek Mythology.

Part 1:

Part 2:

 

The children noticed that many Greek Mythological creatures have mismatched body parts that belong to different animals.  For example the Chimera is part serpent, part goat and part lion.  The Centaur is part man and part horse. To deepen our understanding of the features of these characters, many children chose to draw their favorite mythological creature. Using tracing paper and color copies of the illustrations, the children worked hard to trace the lines of the creatures.  Unlike free drawing which provides space for creative expression and one’s own interpretation of an idea, tracing provides an intense fine motor exercise that focuses specifically on control and precision.  We loved watching the Beavers deep in concentration (many of them with tongues sticking out :), tracing images of their favorite mythological creatures.

Next, we used our research of Greek Mythological Characters to inspire us in the creation of our own imaginary creatures.  Inspired by our noticings, we created creatures that had a bottom half that did not match the top half.   We called this activity “Creature Mix-Up.” We worked in partners to draw the outline for our creature. They started by secretly drawing the head of their creature and then switching with a partner who next drew the bottom half of the same creature.  When they both had completed their drawing they unfolded their paper to reveal their mixed up creatures!  We used watercolor to complete them.  We then began to think about different elements that go into character development.  We asked them to think about who their character is, what makes their creature unique and where they imagine them to live.  They drew pictures of their creature’s habitat or setting to further develop their ideas about their creatures.  Over the next couple of weeks, we will use these creatures to tell stories and make them come to life.

The first step in this process was to prompt the Beavers to provide descriptions of their mixed-up creatures.  We scaffolded each “bio” with the same guiding questions: What is your creature’s name?  How old is it?  Is it afraid of anything?  Does it have any special powers?  Below, you can see their creatures, as well as the accompanying bios:

Arjun 
Name: Chimera
Age: Infinity, a million
What are the special powers of your creature? 
Fire lasers electric and magic.  It has a lion, snake, goat-head. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No, it kills people. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
The Chimera is bad. 
Asher
Name: Booey
Age: 4 years old, just like me
What are the special powers of your creature? 
Fire because the fire power that Booey has burns people. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No. He’s strong.
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
They can’t tell because that fire power deads people and it burns.
Ava
Name: Popcorn Horse
Age: 9
What are the special powers of your creature? 
She can only freeze water and freeze boats. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
Popcorn Horse acts very nice but sometimes she acts mean around people because she doesn’t like people doing mean things to her friends.
Carmen
Name: Unicornia
Age: Eighteen Twenty-Four
What are the special powers of your creature? 
A horn that is really powerful that can kill animals.  My creature can fly every places without getting tired.  If it gets tired it can drink water from anyplace he wants to get it.  And if he wants to fly over, over the river, he can also get anything he wants from the grass. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No.
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
Nice when he drinks water the nice and mean when he drinks it the mean way. 
Cate
Name: Mermaid
Age: 11
What are the special powers of your creature? 
Ice powers that she can breathe people. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
She’s thoughtful.
Charlie
Name: Paintbrush
Age: 2
What are the special powers of your creature? 
He can give markers to you that are invisible but everyone that gets a marker can see them.  
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No.
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
He’s silly. 
Elfie
Name: Ghosty
Age: 15
What are the special powers of your creature? 
Water, ice, diamonds and crystals and ice.
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No, he’s nice. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
He’s as nice as me. She lives in a cave in the jungle.  
Emerson
Name: Wompa E-walk
Age: Ten Hundred
What are the special powers of your creature? 
He can blow up anybody in midair.  His other special powers is that he can turn anyone into a blaster in midair. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
He’s scared of Darth Vader. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
One side is good and the other side is bad.  The good side is the E-Walk.  The bad side is the Wompa.  And his real, real name is Princess Lea.  His symbol is half good, half bad.  He likes to eat purple markers and he likes to eat Luke Skywalker.  The rebel alliance is trying to get the Wompa E-Walk but the E-walk is so upset because he was good and the Wompa was bad so he was so scared that people would get him.  
Ezra
Name: Agent
Age: 4
What are the special powers of your creature? 
Agent has fire breath and he has powers.  His powers are scissors and markers and fires and ice and cards and paper and drawing.  
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No.
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
Agent is really helpful and if someone says bad to him, he’ll tell his teachers.  He has school like me.  
Harper
Name: Catta
Age: 4.5 because I am 4.5
What are the special powers of your creature? 
Cat powers like she can be a boy if she wants and she can change back to a girl.  She has magic powers that can let her do anything. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
She is not.
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
She’s nice. 
Harry
Name: Sunset because he lives in the sunset and that’s where the sunset goes. 
Age: 5
What are the special powers of your creature? 
Whatever the sun is setting Sunset can fly over there and fly around it.  Whenever there is a sunset he sees the sunset. It’s a frog that lives in the sunset.
Is your creature scared of anything? 
He is not scared of anything. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
Sunset is like yellow and red all over the place.  Sunset goes around the whole world once the sun sets.  He’s super fast. 
Jake
Name: Chimera
Age: 100
What are the special powers of your creature? 
He has hard jewels that have powers that kill people who don’t exist.  He has hard claws so he can break a glass and the snake slithers and when the lion’s tail is down,  it acts really powerful. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No, he is scared of nothing.  Since he is really powerful he can win fighting everything. He can fight anything. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
It saves people but kills people that don’t exist that are bad.  If it sees a picture that it doesn’t like it smashes it with his claws.  
Jalen
Name: Giant Snake
Age: 90
What are the special powers of your creature? 
Giant Snake can move and say psssst.  He can read and he also has hands.  The snake is a boy, not a girl. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No.
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
He is not gonna scare people or kids.  He is a nice Giant Snake.  The snake can wake up people when they’re sleeping by the Beavers.  
Lucia
Name: Diamond
Age: 8
What are the special powers of your creature? 
It has magic powers.  It can fly to museums. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No.
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
Diamond is so happy.  
Milo
Name: Mr. Smarty Pants
Age: Sixty Hundred Years Old
What are the special powers of your creature? 
He disguises his name because he wants to disguise his power so everyone doesn’t know it.  His power is laser beams because he lived in the Ancient Egypt World and we don’t know about it now but I just would think about it and I probably made it up or not but he lived in there.  He disguised name because anybody that has Pants in the name has laser powers.  He only uses it if he has to.  
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No. He friends with all of the Ancient Egypt gods and all of the Greeek ones. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
He is very evil but he just really just tries to be nice because he wants to pretend he is nice but he disguises his name.  And if he doesn’t they won’t know what to do with him.  But they figure it out.  He just kept saying the pretend name and they firgured it out from the pretend name because it was a hard name to say.  They figured it out and one day he actually he said his real name by accident and one time they knew what to do.  He had a chicken leg, only one, and they bited it and they ate him and his leg.  The human part still stayed alive and his tooth fell out and theat you can see in the picture.  
Pearl
Name: Squiggle Wiggle
Age: 100
What are the special powers of your creature? 
It can turn mud into balls by just making the mud.  He just shoots the mud and it goes into a ball.  So fast.   Also, bubbles.  If anybody is bad he can make a giant bubble and make it inside.  
Is your creature scared of anything?  
Cats are scared of Squiggle Wiggle, but he is not scared of anything. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
Squiggle Wiggle is nice.  
Ruby
Name: Cous Cous
Age: 118
What are the special powers of your creature? 
She likes to jump and has a Pegasus named Ruby, like me.  She can flip like backwards under her legs. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
She is scared of Minatours that like to eat crazy mermaids. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
She just walks around and that’s all.  She has a crazy name because it’s Cous Cous so she is crazy too! 
Steelo
Name: Acqua
Age: 500
What are the special powers of your creature? 
Acqua can be under water.  He can make a big giant splash even bigger than anyone’s splash in the world. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
No.
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
Acqua is nice and he always goes into a deep water cave that no one can go into because there is a hole in it and it is really cool.  But in the deep water cave it is only filled with a wire because he digged it out.   He is royal. 
Téa
Name: Sparkle Crystal Diamond
Age: She’s 21
What are the special powers of your creature? 
She has no hands so she only has powers from her crown and those powers are crystals that are black crystals that shoot up.  They never go away until they are nice.  Also when there are nice people, she gives them crowns also and makes them princesses.
Is your creature scared of anything? 
She is scared of monsters.
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
She is very nice and she never is mean to anyone.  Sparkle Crystal Diamond is so nice and she can fly.  She has wings and a horn. 
Alex
Name: Ella the Ghost
Age: 5
What are the special powers of your creature? 
She has magical powers to keep butterflies away.  One day her powers went away and a butterfly went away and she went, “Huh!” And then the butterfly went away.  But the butterfly was nice and the ghost didn’t know. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
Butterflies. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
Ella the Ghost is spooky
Vivian
Name:  Snake Man
Age: 6
What are the special powers of your creature? 
Snake man is a people.  He is a princess too. 
Is your creature scared of anything? 
Yes.  He is scared of crickets. 
How would someone describe your creature? How do they act? 
Snake man is spooky.  

When evaluating their imaginary creatures, we noticed some common themes.  Themes such as immortality vs. mortality, power vs. powerlessness, fear vs. courage and good vs. evil were common throughout.  As children grapple with their role in the world, they often explore these themes in an effort to make emotional sense of them.

Over the next few weeks, we intend to dive deeper into the transition from “real” to “imaginary,” through storytelling and dramatizations.  Drawing upon their fascination with Greek Mythology, we will begin to expose them to folklore of a diverse range of cultures.  Just today, we began a learning about Chinese Mythology, reading  Demi’s Dragons and Fantastical Creatures.  Their investment in this imaginative world is rich and we look forward to expanding upon their expressed interests.