Friday, October 31, 2014

All Saints Day Art Project

Happy almost All Saints Day! In honor of this awesome Solemnity, my students made a neat art project that turned out better than I even expected.  Inspired by this piece of art that was floating around Pinterest, I wanted to reinforce to the concept that all the Saints that are named and unnamed are gathered around the throne of God.  I also wanted to remind them that we are all called to be saints.  We created a 3x3 panel of Saints, eight of which were favorites of the kids and one in the center that represented the artist.  Here are the steps that we followed:

1. Cut 4"x4" squares- one for each artist.

2. Draw the basic shape of a saint.  I only allowed the kids to draw a head, halo, and shoulders.  I wanted the simplicity of the shape to remind the kids of the universal call to holiness.  We didn't draw features for this same reason.  It lent to the anonymity and the idea that we all can be saints.

3. Turn the square over and use the side of the pencil to scribble over where the lines are on the other side.  This will allow the artist to create copies of the same saint over and over, similar to using carbon paper.
 4. Using a 12"x12" sheet of white paper, the kids split the paper into nine 4"x4" sections.
 5. They then traced the saint in each of the boxes.

***Update- want to skip that part? Here's a simplified version with four Saint outlines!

6.  Next, the kids had to decide on the eight Saints that they wanted to feature.  Many were able to come up with a list rather quickly, but for those that had trouble, I pulled out all of our Saint books.  This was also helpful for the next step, which was to choose one symbol to represent the Saint.

 Here is my list- it was a challenge to only choose eight and then to only choose one thing to represent them. 
7.  Then, using that list, the kids had to draw a single symbol and try and convey the identity of the saint through that.  In the middle square, they were to represent himself/herself with a symbol of something that they would like to be remembered for or something they would like to be the patron saint of.  We outlined this drawing with skinny black markers.
8.  And then we added color.  The kids were able to use color to continue the use of symbolism- blue for Mary, white for JPII, etc.
 Here are a few other examples:

I then hung them all together in the hallway, creating a gathering of saints, just like the myriads gathered around Christ's throne.

I added this title:
With all the Saints, we cry out...
Holy, Holy, Holy

Along with this Bible verse:
"And day and night they do not cease to say, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.'" ~Revelation 4:8

The kids were very creative, and it was fun to see them be able to pick out other Saints with so little information to go on. For example:

St. Juan Diego and his tilma with the image of Mary:

 St. Joan of Arc with her sword:

St. Joseph, with a house because he is the patron Saint of families and the Universal Church

St. Maximilian Kolbe's prison uniform and habit:

St. Patrick with his three-leaf clover:

Venerable Fulton Sheen, inside a TV :)

It was also interesting to see what the kids chose to represent themselves.  We had everything ranging from wanting to be remembered for generosity to being the patron saint of redheads.  It was a great activity all around, and a good way to learn, be creative, and celebrate All Saints Day.

Here are some more All Saints Day Activities you might like:

All Saints and All Souls Day Letters
Beatitudes and Modern Saints Card Game
All Saints Day Info Coloring Page

Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Tabbing: A Pacing Guide for Independent Reading

Pacing independent reading can get harder as students get older.  Longer books, more time, less adult guidance, more responsibilities and activities. etc.  I require my 5th graders to read outside of school and set goals with them about their independent reading that sometimes require deadlines.  Most students have no trouble finishing in the necessary amount of time, but my slower readers, my procrastinators, and my self proclaimed I-have-better-things-to-do kids need a little guidance.  Since I can't follow them home each night to check in on their reading, nor do I have time to conference with each student each day, book tabbing has been a life saver.
The idea is that we set a goal for how much a student should be reading a day.  Instead of seeing a chapter book and having no concept of how to finish it in two weeks, the book is broken down into smaller chunks that a kids can be responsible for.  The number of pages to read is determined by the goal or deadline and the number of pages in the book.  This is helpful because I have a surprising number of students who like to pace themselves according to chapter.  This could be ok, but it doesn't work if they have the idea that reading one chapter a day is sufficient, no matter the length or number of the chapters.  Pacing by pages splits things a little more evenly, and I always encourage the kids to read past their goal to get to the end of the chapter when they can.

Having a goal of pages to read each day is much more appealing and manageable when  let the kids use these cute little tabs.  They act as a book mark and a visible goal for their daily reading. I use the little post-its that you can get in multi packs (the cheap off brand ones work just as well- they are tucked inside a book page, so they stick just fine).  You could cut regular post-its in strips, but that is more time consuming and expensive.  The kids love the colors, love that they are post-its (who doesn't love post-its?), and love reaching a tangible goal each day.

There are two groups of students that use Book Tabbing in my classroom:
1. Students who  are behind in their independent reading, have a history of procrastinating, or chose a book longer than they normally read: these students are required by me to tab their books.
2. Type A kids that like to be organized or just really like post-its: I am totally fine with these students tabbing their books when they want to.

All of the kids are capable of tabbing their own books, but I have to do a little instruction to help them with that- otherwise they just stick a random amount of tabs in a book.  In a designated place in our classroom, I keep a bag with the needed supplies: a set of instruction cards (printable below), easy to use calculators (though they can do the math by hand), and little post-it tabs.

Here are the step by step instructions for the students:

 Here's a shot of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe tabbed to be read in ten days:
You also can make it even more specific (and easier to check on) by writing the dates that a section needs to be completed on each tab. The students know that they can always read past a tab or even read to more than one tab, which they will sometimes do in preparation of a busy day or two that they know they have coming up.  Time management and thinking ahead are nice skill to see in a 5th grader!

These tabs make it very easy for me to quickly check in on students who need some guidance and accountability.  I can ask if they read to their tab the previous day (or visually check) and ask them a few quick questions about that section, as well as what their plan is for finishing today's tab.  Book tabbing is also helpful to me as a teacher because it allows me teach my students to set appropriate goals and to pace themselves when working on a big project, not just rely on adults to tell them where and when to complete a task.   It has been a great (and easy to implement!) tool in my classroom.

Click here for printable Book Tabbing cards to use with your students:

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Finding Truth in Halloween: Repost

It's October, so that means it's time for a repost of one of my most popular activities on this blog.  Looking to teach your kids about the truth behind Halloween?  The history of All Hallows Eve and the Connection to All Souls Day and All Saints Day?  The deal with relics, zombies, and praying for the dead?  Well, here you go!  Plenty of information packed into a booklet or several coloring/info pages, ready for you to use in your classroom or home.  Enjoy!

It's almost Halloween.
Will you be decorating with skulls or cornstalks?
Dressing your kid as a zombie or St. Francis?
Teaching about death and salvation or pretending that the holiday isn't really happening?

I have to admit, all of the "camps" of opinions about Halloween can be confusing.  Redeem the holiday.  Ignore the holiday.  Revive the "holy day" in the holiday. Reject the dark, embrace the harvest. Focus on the Saints, forget about the evil...

There is great truth in the traditions and rituals of Halloween, and I think that instead of forgetting about them entirely, we can use this holiday (which the culture has abused) to teach kids about topics that can be easy to skip over, like death, purgatory, praying for the dead, relics, and good & evil.

My friend Bonnie at A Knotted Life is tackling her parish's All Saints Day party, and has set a goal for bringing in as much symbolic truth into the celebration as she can.  You can read about her ideas here, which includes great plans for snacks, games, structure, and decorations.  She also has a Pinterest board with all kinds of fabulous ideas.

Per her request, I put together some coloring pages with explanations, prayers, and Scripture to explain some of the "holy" found in All Hallow's Eve.  I was more than happy to comply, because after talking about many of these things in my classroom last year, the idea of a teaching tool like this was something that I knew I would be able to use.

Click here for an 8 page mini book about All Hallow's Eve, including its origins and traditions, All Saints Day, relics, praying for the dead, Jack-O-Lanterns, Saints and souls, good and evil, etc.
I also turned some of the pictures and information into single sheet coloring pages, better for little hands or shorter lessons.

Click here for one with info on a few of the traditions of All Hallow's Eve:

 Here is one about All Saints Day: 
(You might also like these All Saints & All Souls Day Letters.)

 Here is a connection between Jack-O-Lanterns and the Morning Offering:

 And one about praying for the dead:

Here is one about zombies and the resurrection of the dead:
And one on relics:

Do you have any ideas on incorporating truth into Halloween and All Saints Day?  I'd love to hear them here, or you can join the conversation at A Knotted Life.