Saturday, May 31, 2014

Finding God in Nature Art Project

Back in this post I shared the ideas for helping kids see God at work in their lives through reflective narrative writing.  My students wrote five narratives this year as part of that project, and also created a corresponding art project to illustrate their writing.  This is one of those five art projects, and it matched with this topic:
o   Finding God in His Creation: Write a story about a time you spent in nature and how you see God’s creative power in the world.

This art project required a little bit of home-to-school coordination, but you could adapt it if needed.  I requested that the kids bring in (or email) a picture of a nature scene from the experience that they wrote about in their essay.  This was a challenge for some of the kids (sometimes because they didn't have a picture from the particular location, or because it had a group of people in it) so we would just find an image online that was similar to the location in nature that they wrote about.

Next step, print the picture in black and white on a sheet of 8.5x11" paper.

Then have the kids color something in the black and white picture that they would like to highlight.  It could be the sunset, or one particular flower, or the river in the background.

Next, have them cut the picture into 8-10 vertical strips.  Have them think of a word that describes God based on how they see Him in nature.  Common words my kids used were Creator, Majestic, Awesome, etc.  Have them write one letter of the word on each strip of paper.

Finally, glue the strips down on a colored piece of construction paper, with a small amount of space in between each strip and a slight change in the "height" of the strip.  The effect is that the simple picture of an object in nature becomes almost an optical illusion.

Take these for example:

For more info and resources about our Write Your Story on My Heart project, click here:

Friday, May 30, 2014

Mixed Media Sacrament Art

Back in this post I shared the ideas for helping kids see God at work in their lives through reflective narrative writing.  My students wrote five narratives this year as part of that project, and also created a corresponding art project to illustrate their writing.  This is one of those five art projects, and it matched with this topic:
o   Seeing God in the Sacraments: Write about receiving a Sacrament or witnessing a Sacrament and how it helped you to see God.

We called this our "Mixed Media" Sacrament art project.  As a teacher, I also could call it the "Clean Out the Craft Closet" art project.  Same difference.

The challenge:  Create art representing the Sacrament highlighted in your essay using at least three different media.

Some materials that could be used:
  • construction paper
  • printed paper (like for scrapbooking)
  • tissue paper
  • foil (this was a hit)
  • markers
  • crayons
  • colored pencil
  • pen
  • paint
  • If you want to allow them to be even more creative, give them 3D objects like beads or pipe cleaners.  We didn't go that route, because this art would eventually be "published" in a student made book, requiring that it be flat.
 Here are a few ideas about how the students represented the Sacrament of the Eucharist:

The sky's the limit!  Lots of opportunity for creativity when you provide the materials, give them a challenge, and step back to watch.

For more info and resources about our Write Your Story on My Heart project, click here:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fulton Sheen Family Day

Live in the Peoria area?  Interested in Fulton Sheen?  Have kids?

You are not going to want to miss this:

For more updates, go to the Facebook Event Page here.

Friday, May 23, 2014

7QT: I have been...

I have been listening...
Audrey's back with a five song EP.  It is this week's daily commute jam.

I have been reading...

Highly recommend all three.

I have been laughing...

I have been wanting...
Sleep.  I just want to sleep in, or take a nap, or doze off while my students clean our classroom.  Late nights recently are catching up with me, but it is my own fault.  Give me a good book or a good conversation, and the next time I look at the clock it is 1:30 a.m.

I have been learning about...
The virtues.  My young adult Bible study is studying the seven virtues by tying them to the lives of great Saints and putting them into practice through challenges to evangelize.  It has been a phenomenal study.

I am longing...
 To have some time to craft.  I really have a craving to make some more stamped jewelry.  However, I don't know if my downstairs neighbor will be as excited about this loud endeavor.

I have been excited for...
 Going to Colorado in June!  Can't wait!

Go visit Jen at Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Using Video in the Classroom & Canonization Truths


With all the exciting energy surrounding the celebration of the Church's most recently named Saints, I have been finding even more resources to use in teaching about canonization and our universal call to sanctity. For example, my friend Sarah (thanks Sarah!) sent me this GREAT video:

Awesome high quality, concise but strong explanation, executed well with a small touch of humor.  Perfect for kids and adults alike.

"Great!" you might be thinking. "A video.  Kids love videos.  Pop that baby on and let the TV do the teaching."

Just kidding- only a little sarcasm about overusing videos in the classroom.  I'd like to offer some ideas on using videos well in you Religious Ed program:

1. Shorter is better no matter the audience.  Second graders and adults alike will remember more from a great three minute video rather than a great sixty minute video.  If you have a long video you would like to use, pick out your favorite scenes and show those specifically, including pauses for discussion.  Spread out the video and make it a tool instead of the main instructional source.  Don't be afraid to rewatch all or part of a video to review or emphasize important information.

2. Lead up is key.  The prep that you give before the video even begins will often determine if the video is worthwhile or not.  Do the kids have the right background knowledge before you push play?  It is hard to interrupt the flow of a video to explain something.  Breaking from the momentum to explain a new word or a concept is distracting and sometimes defeats the purpose of using the video.  Give them what they need to understand the big picture before, and let the video reinforce and enrich what they already know.

3.  Go for quality.  Kids are seeking authentic truth, and they can smell fake a mile away.  Take the time to find good videos if you choose to use them.  Well made, relevant, age appropriate, engaging...look for those things as you preview possible options.  A bad video is worse than no video at all.  (Note that I didn't say new as a requirement.  Original School House Rock and 1950's Fulton Sheen make frequent showings in my classroom.)

4. Think outside of the box.  Use clips from popular movies or TV shows to start a discussion about morality.  Show a local news segment to talk about social justice.  Play the music video instead of a song to promote a different kind of reflection & prayer.  Pick a chunk of a longer movie to illustrate the most important point of a large idea. 

5. Give them a purpose for watching.  You don't necessarily have to assign them a worksheet to fill out as they watch, but let them know the reason the video is going to be a part of the class.  Give them something to listen for.  Ask them to be ready to connect the video to current topics.  Prepare them to complete a task after discussing the video.  For example, I like the use the "exit ticket" idea sometimes when we watch videos.

The exit ticket idea is simple- learners must give their teacher a short written statement about what they have learned that class before they can "leave" for the next part of their day.  Mine very often take the form of post it notes.  I also have made this handy dandy poster for them to share/organize their post its.  It makes grading easier for me and automatically turns into a resource for sharing ideas for the entire class.

I started with a piece of posterboard and divided the bottom part into 4"x4" sections.  I then wrote a large number (1-30) inside each square.  You can just barely see that toward the bottom of this picture where there are no post its.  Each student in my class has a number according to alphabetic order, so this way I can tell at a glance whose exit ticket is still missing, and the kids know exactly where to place their work.

Then I attached a plastic page protector sideways at the top of the posterboard.  That allows me to create a quick title on a sheet of paper, slide it in, and give the poster a focus.  This method allows me to reuse this poster over and over.  It is on year two right now, and has held up pretty well despite being used for tons of different topics.

This topic is also able to be reused for many different ideas- Which Two Are True?  For this exit ticket assignment, the kids had to write three "facts" about the Canonization video above after watching it.  The trick is that only two of them could be true.  One of them had to be incorrect but related.  On this occasion, I had them write the incorrect fact in red and the others in black, but if I hadn't this very easily could have turned into an interactive student assignment where their peers would have to try to find the two that were true and the one that was wrong.
For example, here is one student's take after watching the Canonization video:
1. We still use the same process as we did in the first centuries. (wrong!)
2. Miracle has to happen after death. (true!)
3. The feast day can be on a different day than the day the saint died. (true!)

Here are a couple more examples at what the students walked away with:

This video has added a lot to our already interesting Sainthood and Canonization study.  I hope that some of these ideas inspire you to find the best way to incorporate videos into your classroom.  
On that note, do you have any favorite videos that you love to use in your Religious Ed curriculum?  And do you have any great ways to teach with them beyond pushing play?  
I'd love to hear your ideas in the comment box :)

(If you are interested in the JP2 and John XXIII info seen here, click on the image below.  I also have a couple posts about how to appeal to visual and auditory learners and incorporate technology into your classroom that you might like to check out.)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

7QT- Seven Signs It Is Time For School To Be Out

School is almost out for the summer.  Teachers try to hold together "normal" for as long as possible with the kids to prevent anarchy mutiny rebellion detrimental changes in routine.  However, that semblance of normal routine is breaking down in me more and more each day.  Here are a few examples of how I can tell it is time to ship the kids off for a restful summer break:

Sign number one that it is time for school to be out for the summer: 
 I was searching for the surface of my desk grading papers today and a pile of student work accidentally slid into the garbage.  
The garbage.  
I sat still and slowly peered over the corner of my desk. 
And I seriously considered leaving them there.
Don't worry.  I called on responsible Katie and she did the right thing.  Meh.  Grading.

I find myself growing more attached to the kids now that they are leaving.  I do love them, but in the throes of February, that kid that cannot for the life of him ever find any of his belongings or the one that interrupts as she breathes and the other that seems to "always" not hear my directions...well let's just say the patience runs thin.  But now, a couple short weeks from sending them on their way, affection fills my heart for their little quirks and personalities and contributions to our classroom.  We will enjoy these last days together, and I will be sad to see them go off during the long summer months.

I was told today by a student that I "had no swag."
No swag, you say?!?

Well, I must be all out of swag for the school year.
Time for you to go.

 I am out of attention-getting-mechanisms and creative seating arrangements and strategic lesson plans.  My students just want to talk. To anyone. All day.  Cue Mr. Feeny.

My biggest internal end-of-the-year sign is that I am in pitch and organize mode.  I have to resist the impulse to dump every shelf, empty every tote, sort, throw, clean, organize, color code, file, and rearrange every stinkin' thing in both my classroom and my DRE office. Right now.  Everything that has been functioning well suddenly seems to be in disarray, but it is just going to have to wait until the kids walk out the door and I have more space and less hands to "help" with the sorting.
Amen, Ryan.

Another reason school needs to be out for the summer? Supplies are coveted.
I swear every kid's pencil (singular) looks like this.  

My last sign is that I am tired of looking longingly at the books on my bookshelf/coffee table/floor  that are begging to be read.  I cannot wait to spend my first day in the sun, reading a book (not one written for a 5th grader) from cover to cover.  Maybe it will be this one?  I am looking forward to reading Jen's new book!

Click on the image to get it for yourself, and go visit Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Celebrating Our Lady: A Fashion Show, Of Sorts

In honor of Mary during this month of May, my students have been working a little bit at a time on a special project (the Pop Up Marian Shrine posted below).  Today, they were working on coloring the "statue" of Mary that is central to the project, and I gave them the option to decorate it in a manner of their choosing or to model it after once of the popular Marian devotions.

So out came these books for inspiration:
(These books are all either from St. Joseph Picture Books or TAN Coloring Books)

And I hung these Mary Paper Doll outfits on the board:
(You can find a link to those Marian Paper Dolls in this post.)

To which one of my boys said, 
"Well, look at that.  It's like a Mary fashion show." 
and went back to coloring.

Another student then immediately made up a little tune that went something like, "Na, Na, Na, Mary Fashion Show!"

Goodness gracious, these kids are entertaining.  All I can picture now is Mary (gracefully and modestly) strutting her stuff down a runway while music (Na, Na, Na) plays in the background, and an announcer (maybe Gabriel?) tells the crowd, "And this, ladies and gentlemen, is from the Guadalupe collection."  

Forgive me, Blessed Mother.

In another kind of "fashion show," here is a line up of Marian activities from previous posts on this blog.  If you are looking for something centering on Our Lady to teach your kids this May, how about one of these?

I do not recommend a Mary Fashion Show, however.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

7QT- Would you survive the Oregon Trail?

These Seven Quick Takes are brought to you by the 1985 Apple 2 Version of The Oregon Trail!

Our 5th Grade Social Studies curriculum centers around America History.  My goal is to get them just up to the Civil War so that they will be able to pick up in junior high with the "rest" of the story.

What's the plan for the last few weeks of school?  Westward expansion.  I am more excited about this than I probably should be.  I read all of the Little House books before 3rd grade and routinely played "covered wagon," in my tree house, wearing prairie skirts, cooking over an outdoor (pretend) fire, and dragging my sisters (playing the brother (Steph) and the baby (Emily)) across the continent.

And of course, what was my favorite game to play at school on our ancient box-like donated computers?  Oregon Trail, of course.

So as I was preparing the lessons and planning the activities for this unit, I set out to find some version of Oregon Trail that the kids could play.   I know that there is a Wii version and an app that you can download, but I was looking for something online that the kids could play on school computers as well as at home.  And I found the 1985 Apple 2 Version of The Oregon Trail, the one that was already outdated when I played it.  The graphics are awful and the music is worse, but it is the same game my generation (or weird kids like me) loved.  Go here and play it yourself!

However, be aware of the river crossings.  They never seem to go well.

There is also the danger of wagon fires.  
 Watch out.

Also, if you name your traveling companions after someone you know (family or friend) don't get to attached.  Take my sister Steph for example:

Sorry, Steph.  Then there was Emily:

So, I decided to introduce my student to the game, knowing that they would either think I am the lamest dinosaur on the planet, or they would love it.

They loved it.  I think that the ancient graphics and low tech keyboard input made it more appealing.  And they were learning.  Funny how that happens sometimes.

Funny also how if you let your students try a role playing game, they are going to make you a character.  And they are going to think it is hysterical that you are part of the story.

For example, they thought this was funny, and I thought that it was accurate:
And then they thought this was great/horrifying/awesome.
 And as a bonus, I got to see what my students would have as their epitaphs if they were able to choose:
 Whether I should be proud or embarrassed, I am not sure.

But this game is going to be the incentive to get us through the last month of school, I am thinking.

So go enjoy some recreation this Sunday afternoon, and see if you would survive the Oregon Trail!

Visit Conversion Diary for more Seven Quick Takes!

Aaaaannnnnddddd, speaking of Conversion Diary, you should go buy Jennifer's new book, just released this week.  I am looking forward to reading it and joining in with some lovely ladies for a Book Club next month.  That sounds like real recreation.