Sunday, April 30, 2017

Repurposing Old Crayons

We have been discussing repurposing materials in the classroom all year long. Our students have become comfortable with the idea that materials can have many different purposes. Playing with materials that have been used for other things is the new "normal" in our classroom. Our tinkering bin is filled with corks, wooden spools, chop sticks, a variety of caps (from yogurt and fruit pouches) and packaging.

One item we have a lot of in the classroom is old crayons. Old crayons (broken and worn down) often go unused in bins. I have found a few great activities to repurpose old crayons. One of my favorites is to take old crayons and melt them into new crayons. The children unwrap (great for fine motor development) the paper from around the crayon. You can also soak them in water first to make for easier paper removal. Unwrap a lot of crayons in a variety of colors. Use a silicone tray to melt your crayons (I bought mine at Michael's). Break the crayons into small pieces and put a few random colors in each mold. 
Fill each mold halfway up with crayons. Melt your crayons in the oven at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until they melt and turn into liquid. Remove the crayons from the oven and either put them in the freezer or let them solidify at room temperature until they are hard again. That's it! The only hard part is watching the crayons while in the oven because they do melt quickly.

Our worktable 

Each mold is labeled with the child's initials
A picture is taken so it's easy to identify each child's crayon
We watched the crayons melt!

The crayons cool down and solidify 

Our new heart shaped crayons!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Mindset by Carol Dweck, Ph. D.

A few months ago my Preschool Director mentioned Carol Dweck's book Mindset during our monthly Leadership Team meeting. I quickly wrote down Dweck's name and made a mental note to myself to put Mindset on my reading list. 

Dweck's Mindset uses extensive research to explain why people succeed, and how to nurture success. I found Dweck's research fascinating and it has motivated me to continue striving as an early childhood educator and art teacher to fulfill my potential. 

One of my favorite quotes from the book is:

"You have to apply yourself each day to becoming a little better. By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better."

Monday, April 17, 2017

Self Portrait Bulletin Board

The children drew and collaged their self portraits. In addition, I asked each child to tell me about themselves and I wrote down their words.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Self Portraits

Early In the school year the children in my pre-k class draw a person using long and short lines, and big and small curves. The activity is guided by a teacher and pauses are taken before each part of the body is drawn. The end result tells us a great deal about our new students. 

How well do they use the space on the paper? 
Are they good listeners? 
Are their lines steady? 
Are their lines broken? 
Are they detail oriented? 
Is everything in proportion?

By the mid-year point the children are the subjects of their own representational drawings. I set up my materials at a small table where I can work one-on-one with students and we won't be disturbed. My materials include a standing mirror and a set of Pip-Squeak markers with a good range of colors that include skin tones. Before the children make their first mark I ask them "what do you see?" My goal is for each child to take a good look at themselves. I want them to draw what they see, not what they imagine a face should look like. I ask each child to choose a skin color. We look at a range of beige and brown colors. Then narrow down the choices to two skin tones. If necessary, I put the markers on top of their forearm if they need to see a comparison. Before they begin to draw I ask "what is the shape of your head? Is it a triangle? A square? " The children respond "it's a circle!" or, "It's an oval!" I continue asking what other shapes they see on their face. If they have any distinguishing features (a mole, etc.) I might ask them about those identifying marks as well. (The children may or may not continue to need verbal cues. )

As the self portrait develops they take on a life of their own. The child's personality comes through in their work. We also get a chance to assess each child's development through their work. Growth over time can be documented by comparing their self portrait to the representational drawing they did earlier in the school year. 

A great follow up activity is to
collage a self portrait using repurposed cardboard

Finding Inspiration at Target

I went shopping in a Target Super Store, and stumbled upon an arts and crafts line called Hand Made Modern. The line is nature inspired and includes materials that are perfect to use in my Reggio Emilia Pre-K classroom! Realistically, I couldn't buy everything they had on display. So, I carefully chose the framed 12" x 12" burlap framed squares and the Felt Library squares. I knew exactly what I was going to do with them. 


Recently, I introduced sewing to the children in my class. Sewing is a great activity to strengthen fine motor skills, eye hand coordination, problem solving skills and increase attention span. I use plastic canvas grids with plastic needles threaded with yarn. The children enjoy learning to sew on the plastic canvas grid. At the end of each activity time we undo the sewing so we can begin anew the next time. The plastic canvas grid is open ended and each time the children are able to create something new.

The burlap frames presented a new challenge. The openings on the burlap are smaller than the openings on the plastic canvas grids. The children were up for the challenge. They learned how to sew through the smaller openings. They also learned how to locate the needle at the back of the burlap frame in order to find a new hole to sew it through to the front of the burlap. Once the children got the hang of sewing on the burlap we put out metal nuts and wooden beads. A little girl, who did a majority of the sewing (shown in the picture), worked for an extended period of time in order to finish. The end result is spectacular.


The felt squares come in an assortment of 56 rainbow colors. The colors are very pleasing. My colleague gave me the idea of using corks and a clear plastic egg carton to hold the paint. Corks are a perfect size for little hands. I anticipated that the children would stamp with the corks. However, my students found a variety of ways to move the paint around the felt with the corks. Some children stamped, while others swirled the paint together or carefully created lines of color. After each square was dry I put them together to create a classroom quilt. The colors and designs somehow all work together beautifully.