Art Inspiration

Looking for ways to make art and creativity more a part of your daily schedule at home or in the classroom? Check out this book called The Art Box by Gail Gibbons. It is a nonfiction book that explains common art materials, colors and more.

My daughters love to do art at home, at the local children’s museum and at play group. This book has inspired us to think about what other materials and projects we can do together!

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

For Parents:

  • Put together an art box, if you don’t already have one at home. We’ve used old shoeboxes as ours, but you could buy fun and more fancy baskets or containers! To get more bang for your buck, check out your local dollar store or print coupons to use at national craft chain stores such as Jo Ann Fabrics or Hobby Lobby.
  • Talk about the art materials you are using as you and your child sit down to do some art together.
  • For inspiration, take a look at my favorite art blog hosted by an elementary school art teacher. Search by age, media or theme!

For Teachers:

  • Invite your art teacher into your classroom. Read the book aloud to your students together, then allow them to rotate through stations that explore different art materials as described in the book.
  • Ask students to share their experiences working with different types of media. Take a vote on which station was their favorite.
  • Use one of these free graphic organizers to integrate art with one of your core content areas. For younger students, complete a a class.
  • Choose one idea from this art teacher for reinforcing the color wheel as introduced in the book and try it out with your class!

Reader’s Theater for Early Readers

Reader’s Theater can be such a fun literacy activity for a traditional classroom or homeschooling co-op group!

In our weekly visit to the library, my children and I came across a picture book that would make for a wonderful reader’s theater activity: Where Are You Going? To See My Friend by friends and illustrators Eric Carle and Kazuo Iwamura. This is a bilingual book in English and Japanese that tells the story of a dog who invites animal friends one by one to join him in meeting his friend. It is written in a basic script for early readers to be able to read independently and has a solid pattern and rhythm that will help students to stay on track as they perform.

What makes it especially unique is that the first half of the book is in English, while the second half of the book is in Japanese (which is read from the last page to the middle), with the same text but different illustrations. Such a unique twist!

Where Are You Going? To See My Friend is a fun read aloud when you make a distinct voice for each new animal character who appears in the story. But for slightly older students, it would be very exciting to follow it up with a reader’s theater!

If you’ve never done a reader’s theater before, try it out: After reading the book aloud to your class, simply assign each child one animal and rehearse the lines in groups of 6. (You may need to facilitate the rehearsals more closely depending on the age and reading ability.) Then allow each group to present to the rest of the class!

Note: You may want to check out and utilize these Guidelines for Performing Reader’s Theater. Enjoy! 🙂

Best Ages: pre-k – kindergarten (read aloud), 1st – 2nd (reader’s theater)

 

Women in the Bible & the 19th Amendment

The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution provided women with the right to legally vote. It is an important part of our country’s history. Being a female US citizen, I am grateful for my ability to vote… And grateful that my daughters will someday be able to vote, too.

When I found the picture book Miss Paul and the President by Dean Robbins at the public library, I was thrilled to read it to my daughters. It provided another opportunity to teach my children about our country’s history, the courage of many women who have gone before us, and the truth that men and women are of equal value and worth.

Miss Paul and the President explains how Alice Paul and other suffragettes worked tirelessly to bring the issue of the women’s vote to national attention. She met with then-President Wilson, organized peaceful marches in Washington, D.C., and traveled the country as part of a dedicated effort to influence Congress to pass the 19th Amendment. And in the 1920 presidential election, she was among millions of other women who cast their ballots for the first time in American history.

In reading this book, I couldn’t help but think of to the numerous women in the Bible who worked with equal bravery and commitment: the Hebrew midwives who refused to kill babies as the Egyptian king commanded (Exodus 1); Abigail, who successfully negotiated with David and his soldiers in the wake of her husband’s foolish and reckless behavior (1 Samuel 25); Deborah’s distinguished service as judge over Israel (Judges 4); and Lydia, a prominent leader in the early Christian church who ran her own business (Acts 16).

My Christian faith has given me a firm belief in the value and dignity of both men and women in God’s eyes. Despite the fact that some people have historically misused the Bible to promote their own agendas regarding gender roles, the Bible stands out among any other writings of its time. The Bible asserts that men and women are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and that there is no distinction between the worth of men and women in God’s eyes (Galatians 3:28).

Jesus Himself demonstrated counter-cultural behavior during His time, astonishing even His closest friends and disciples at times. He spoke with women in public with respect and compassion, even if they did not share his same religious background or were viewed as moral people (John 4, Matthew 15, John 12). He healed women and young girls, as well as men, without discrimination (Luke 4, Luke 8).

Pretty amazing!

Whatever your personal faith and convictions, I am sure that you will find Miss Paul and the President to be an exceptional read in the classroom at home. Plus, there are extra notes and a bibliography included at the end of the book for your perusal!

To read another excellent book by this author, see my previous post on Friendship in Hard Times.

Best Ages: 1st grade – 4th grade

Check out this article to find out more about the 19th Amendment.

Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some of his most beautiful paintings at both the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Art Institute in Chicago. Although his work was not appreciated during his lifetime, Van Gogh’s art is well-known and world-renowned today!

The book Camille and the Sunflowers by Laurence Anholt touches on a brief time in Vincent’s life and career when he traveled to a small town and befriend the postman’s family. They helped Vincent settle into his home, visited him regularly and treated him kindly and respectfully despite the other townspeople’s distrust of an outsider.

My children liked reading this book and it provided an excellent opportunity to discuss biography, art history and friendship. The illustrations are nostalgic and include photographs of real Van Gogh paintings.

Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • Discuss how the townspeople treated Vincent and what was different about how the postman’s family chose to treat Vincent. How can we learn from them?
  • Vincent was a neighbor to the postman’s family and they welcomed him to their neighborhood with many kind gestures. Choose a neighbor (old or new) to show kindness to this week! Bring over a homemade treat, send a card in the mail or offer to shovel the sidewalk.

For Teachers:

  • Camille was sad when he took his painting to school and his classmates laughed at it. How should we treat our friends when they tell us about something that is important to them?
  • Find the country of the Netherlands (Holland) on a world map, as well as Belgium and France. Explain those were the 3 places where Vincent lived throughout his life.
  • If you’re feeling adventurous, complete this art activity based on Vincent Van Gogh’s painting style with your students. Coordinate with your art teacher if desired. Display completed paintings in your classroom, along with printed copies of his most famous work as seen in the book.

Travel with Board Books

Sometimes we can travel to a new place in a book, even with our little ones! Reading books about other countries or sites can help you introduce geography and culture to young children. Here are 3 travel board books that our family has enjoyed reading this winter:

Baby Yosemite by Katherine Brumage

My husband is from Southern California and we have visited Yosemite before – it is stunning! This book has lovely photographs of wildlife in their natural habitats as found in this popular and well-known national park. The text is straightforward for young readers.

W is for Wombat: My First Australian Word Book by Bronwyn Bancroft

Want to go down under? Your child will love the vibrant, bold paintings as you practice the alphabet and learn a bit about Australia. This book contains some unusual new animals and plant life to capture your interest, too.

London: A Book of Opposites by Ashley Evanson

Our whole family enjoyed reading this book together. Many popular tourist attractions are included with the added bonus of learning opposites such as sunny and rainy, old and new, under and over. Great starting point to practice opposites with toddlers or preschoolers.

Best Ages: 0-3 years

 

African American History Month

African American History month is a time to reflect on the contributions of African Americans and important events that have shaped our nation. Although African American history is should not only reflect the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-twentieth century, this is a period that deeply moves and inspires our family.

Our latest read to recommend is A Sweet Smell of Roses by Angela Johnson. It tells the story of two sisters who join others in their neighborhood to march peacefully for equal rights, and their experience listening to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The illustrations are incredible charcoal drawings that add to the greatness of the historic moments the book encompasses.

Please feel free to share a book that you are reading for African American History month!

 

Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade

*For further exploration and ideas on how to explore African American History this month, check out this website, with contributing work from the Library of Congress, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Institution and more. You can access easy links for audio and video archives and teacher ideas from the top left panel on the home page.

Check out my previous post to read more books featuring African American children.

 

Books Featuring African-American Children

February is African American History Month, so what better time than to intentionally seek out some books that feature African American children? Whatever your family or classroom’s racial and ethnic make-up, it’s always positive to show our children and students diverse people in the books we read with them.

Picture Books

When I Am Old With You by Angela Johnson

A grandson spends the day with his grandfather. As they do various activities together, he imagines that he will be able to do all of those things with his grandpa each day when he is grown up. Such a sweet read with beautiful illustrations!

Grandma Lena’s Big Ol’ Turnip by Denia Lewis Hester

Adapted from a Russian folktale, Grandma Lena discovers an enormous turnip growing in her garden… And calls on the whole family to help pull it up out of the ground! The ending is a fun celebration with the whole community.

Lola in the Library by Anna McQuinn

One of our favorite books to read as a family! Bold, heart-warming illustrations make this an eye-catching book for children. And the story of Lola’s regular trips to the library resonate with many families who also enjoy spending time together.

Is It My Turn Now? by Catherine Lukas

Part of a series of Little Bill, this book is one that our family often reads. It shows a tight-knit family that  pulls together to help each other out in the children’s various activities, ranging from chess to basketball to a school play.

Board Books

In the Wind by Elizabeth Spurr

A great book as spring is around the corner, this is the story of a little girl who plays with her kite on a windy day. Just when she thinks it may have blown away and lost forever, she gets a lovely surprise!

Good Night Baby by Cheryl Willis Hudson

A slightly older board book that has a timeless quality about it. The whole family is pictured in the book as they get Baby read for bedtime.

Whose Knees Are These? by Jabari Asim

Loving and playful text from a parent’s point of view. My children loved this book as babies and toddlers, and they giggled every time we read it!

Kia Tanisha Drives Her Car by Eloise Greenfield

A girl plays outside and visits her friend down the street while trying out some newfound freedom in a play car. Very short text that would be great for a child with a shorter attention span.

 

 

 

Snowflakes and Science

Happy February! Is it snowing where you live? If so, you may enjoy reading Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin.

As a child growing up in Vermont in the 19th century, Willie Bentley was extremely curious about the world around him. That curiosity was heightened when he looked at snowflakes under a microscope and discovered that no two snowflakes were alike. When he was 17 years old, Willie’s parents parents decided to use their life savings to purchase him a state-of-the-art microscopic camera. From that point on, Willie Bentley dedicated his life to exploring nature and sharing his discoveries with the world.

Willie Bentley’s biography provides an outstanding example to children today of creativity, dedication and perseverance. The book also features wonderful sidebar notes for adults, teachers or older students to read to themselves for further information on Willie Bentley’s scientific work.  A black-and-white photograph of Mr. Bentley is featured at the end of the book, along with 3 breathtaking samples of the photographs he took of snowflake crystals.

On top of all that, the book won the the Caldecott Medal in 1999 for its incredible illustrations.

Snowflake Bentley is an excellent choice for a read-aloud or to incorporate in a unit on biographies, weather or science.

Note: As a biography, the book does explain that Willie died at the age of 66 years old of pneumonia. If you are uncomfortable discussing the subject of death with your children or students, you can skip the last 2 pages.

Best Ages: 1st grade – 4th grade

For Parents:

  • After reading the book together, explain the character trait of “perseverance.”  How did Willie Bentley show perseverance? Is there a time in your life when you displayed perseverance that you can share with your child?
  • For younger children, make snowflakes out of folded coffee filters. Hang them up with clear fishing line in your child’s bedroom.

For Teachers:

  • After reading the book together, discuss the word “perseverance.”  How did Willie Bentley show perseverance? How can you?
  • For 1st and 2nd graders, make snowflakes out of folded coffee filters. Display on a bulletin board and point out to students that each one is different.
  • For 3rd and 4th graders, post questions about the book around classroom. Number each question. Instruct students to number a page in their notebooks and walk around to look at each question – doesn’t have to be in order – and write down the answers. (If you’ve never tried this kind of movement in a review, divide your students into groups and set a time for 1 minute. Call out when it’s time to rotate.) Review answers to the questions as a class.
  • For 3rd and 4th graders, create a timeline of Willie’s life.  You may want students to refer to this Smithsonian webpage. Then ask students to illustrate the part of his life or scientific work they found most interesting.
  • Show this PBS video on The Science of Snowflakes.