Monday, October 22, 2012

Christmas Trees (Dynamic Dioramas)

 Once the holidays are here--they're here! Time to think about Christmas too. My last post talked about Halloween trees from tomato stems. Why not consider a Christmas tree from grape stems! One of the fun things is you get to eat some yummy grapes before you do this craft. (In fact, the eating needs to be done a few days earlier.) This craft is a great way to show kids how things dehydrate. Enjoy some grapes with your kids, save the stems, and put them on the window sill to dry out. Let the kids check out the dehydration process each day to see how the moisture leaves the stem. When the stem is dry, take it outside and spray paint it white, silver, gold, etc. (Remember, the adult needs to do the spraying.) Once the paint is dry, cover your work area with newspaper. Hold the bottom of the stem and apply small amounts of non-toxic white glue with a paint brush to the areas you want sparkly. Before the glue dries, place the stem in a clear baggie, and shake glitter onto the stem. Or hold the stem, close the baggie with the stem in the "zipper" and softly shake the glitter onto the glued areas. Prepare a small white paper plate with a clump of pliable, inexpensive clay. (I like to also add a little spray painting to the plate ahead of time.) Push the bottom of the stem into the clay and tighten the clay around it. Hide the clay by applying pulled cotton balls to the base of the tree. (Sprinkle a little glitter on the cotton balls too, if desired.) Maybe you'd also like to add sticker stars or something to the tree. Make it fun! Make it your own.

Enjoy some grapes. Let the stems dry out.
This is how to hold the stem in the baggie.
This idea was in my book Little Hands-Create!

The finished product! 

Halloween Spooky Trees (Dynamic Dioramas)

Halloween is almost here. If, like me, you've been nibbling on the fine harvest of small, on-the-vine tomatoes available this time of year you also have been taking them off the vine and noticing what intricate stems they have. Not only are the tomatoes delicious, but the stems, when left to dry and get gnarly, make for great miniature diorama-type trees.

Simply allow the stem to dry on a window sill for a few days. Once it seems dry and looks kind of gnarled, paint the stem black (preferably outdoors) using your favorite brand of spray paint. (Note: Spray painting is an adult activity. Children should not use spray paint.) Hang a bat or sit a black cat or witch on a branch. (I used the bat from the Snipper Critters book I mentioned in my last post, but any free, hand-cut bat or animal cut from construction paper would do.) Push the stem bottom into a wad of clay that you've placed in the center of a small paper plate. Then, cut a black piece of construction paper to fit over the clay leaving a hole big enough to go around the stem piece. Decorate around it any way you choose. 
Use it in a Halloween centerpiece or diorama.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Florida Reading Association News

I just returned from doing a workshop session at FRA. Yes, it went well and the attendees were great, but as always, I failed to get in everything I wanted to in the hour allotted. There are so many ideas to share! My worst "no-no" was failing to send around an 'email gathering list' so I could alert the attendees to when, Happy Birthday, Florida! Celebrating Poetry that Fits in Your Pocket, my new book of poetry, comes out next month. I had a list made up and attached the proposed cover, but somehow it stayed near my podium until someone-after the workshop-asked me to email her when the book came out. I think an hour workshop just doesn't work for me. I need more time to "get it all in."
Still, all in all, my session went well. Meeting the new young teachers and "soon-to-be" teachers is always one of the most rewarding experiences of these FRA events. Stephanie, Tara, Jessica, Jennifer, Hangie, and so many others made me smile and know that the education of the next generation is in good hands. Thank you teachers!

The general craft.
 I try to do "open-ended" crafts at the workshops. I present an idea and a craft adaptable to many uses. This way, no matter if a teacher has K, middle-school/HS or any grade in between, there will be a way to use the craft for their specific need. One craft we did represented a kind of "Webbing" where students
Book of 80+ animals, 40+ activities
and teacher "help section 
are able to visualize connections. This craft is accomplished by having one paper plate in the center and four (or more or less) connected to the center plate with yarn. The center plate becomes the "main idea" or the "topic" and the outer plates break the main idea or topic down into smaller pieces. In the example I give, I have the workshop participants cut out a critter from my Snipper Critters book (Maupin House Publishing). Then, we place the critter on the center plate. The outer plates hold the content the students discover about the critter. In this case, I chose kinds of, traits, habitat, and future, but a teacher might want to add more plates or connect even smaller plates to one, or more, of the secondary plates.

A teacher may wish to not use a critter and instead put, KINDS OF SENTENCES on the middle plate and then declarative, interrogative, imperative and exclamatory on the secondary plates. Or, ANGLES on the middle plate and examples of angles on the secondary plates. HS and middle-school students, just like younger students,  benefit from unusual visuals that stay up in a classroom and reinforce what is being taught.

Open-ended is just that. YOU use it how you want to use it.