Friday Two Cents: Beating The January Blahs


 

This past week was not the January Blahs but at times it sure felt like it. The students where their usually sweet selves, yet the days seemed to drag on. Yet I was able to introduce a concept to the students I hope/should carry them on in their lives. I introduced sentence structure to them. Yeah you are probably thinking big deal, but it is to a first grader.

The students were writing sentences for sometime, however I noticed that many would simply string words together when writing them. Their oral language is good and many read well for first graders but I thought it wise to help them get a foundation in writing. I began with introducing the different parts of the sentence in a language they would understand. I created a chart to help them. We did some practice writing to reinforce this “What Makes A Sentence”. I also introduced a writing success criteria chart to help them. It is set up like a checklist/success criteria; something very similar to one I created to remind them to take their things home at the end of the day. Then during the week I introduced new activities that would involve them writing a sentence, such as in social studies we wrote about their favourite place in their neighbourhood. This all came together on Friday when we made sentence puzzles.
The students would write a sentence using the success criteria to help them. They would cut the words out and then ask another student to try to put the sentence back together and read the sentence. This way they can use the success criteria to help guide their thinking when recreating the sentence. The capital is at the beginning, punctuation at the end. Below you can see some of their sentences and some of them are pretty funny.

In the end we all had a good laugh and I hope they learned something. In the end I guess that is a good way to beat the January Blahs.

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Friday Two Cents: Discovering More Through Play


This week and next I will be working in a kindergarten class where the teacher has asked me to present a lesson centred on math. Math has always been my favourite subject second only to art and when given the opportunity, I raised to the challenge.

It is the beginning if the year and I know that these students are new to counting, especially in French. So I decided to begin by seeing how much do they know when it comes to counting. I came up with several activities to help them and the teacher assess where the students are in their math skills.
I began with some activities with the students using 10 frames, rekenreks, printing the numbers and a bingo game with snap cubes. I noticed a few things that made me see that no matter where I go and with whom I work with, children learn a lot though play. Several of the activities are centred on a play base system. Yes they are doing their work by learning to count in French and they are printing the numbers but to get to those numbers they have to use a spinner like you would use in a game. And the more I and the teacher played / participated in the activity, the more the students, 1) appeared to enjoy it, 2) hopefully learn something from the experience and 3) we learned where each student is in their counting.  
Every time I enter a classroom I always have this quote from Plato in the back of my mind…

 

‘You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.’ Plato

 

These activities I did with the students are a clear indication that Plato’s words ring true.

 

 

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Friday Two Cents: The Power Of George


 

This week I was fortunate to some supply teach in a kindergarten class. It was a class full of junior kindergarten children. Many people would run in the other direction at the prospect of being in a classroom of 27 three to four-year olds, but not me. I adore kindergarten children, they are so open and honest; something we all lose, as we grow older. Mind you, it did not start off as a bed of roses.

Hi Everyone!!! My Name is George!!!

You have to remember that it is only the second week of school, a Monday to boot and many of these students have never been in any type of organized school setting. So to say that there were a few tears would be an understatement. It was more of a river, yet I did something that got their minds off their separation anxiety. I brought out my trusty friend, George. If you do not know who is George he is my purple monster/dragon that sounds like Goofy and helps me read stories, sing songs and introduce lessons to the students.  
Once I brought him out and introduced him as my little friend that helps me in the class, the students were mesmerized and many of the tears began to go away. I even had a couple of little girls, “shadows”, beside me for the rest of the day. At one point the art teacher came into the room and I had to leave to go to the washroom and do some work in the office, one of them didn’t want me to leave. I told her that I would be back but she wanted to come with me. I told here I had to go to the washroom but it was the big boys washroom and she kind of understood. She asked several times if I would be back and I reassured her that I would. At the end of the art lesson I returned and the little girls saw me and I said to them “I told you I would be back.” and one even smiled.
The rest of the day went well and George helped with a few songs and a couple of stories. As the day progressed everyone was engaged in the activities in the class and many of the students were wearing smiles when it was time to go home.  
It was an amazing day and George was a big part of it. I have had George for many years and I have brought him into countless classrooms and even after all that, I am astounded at the power of his presence with the students. The morning could have been a disaster but just bring out George helped to calm things down and I was able to connect with the students much quicker. I guess children are all the same, no matter where you go.

George, you have some power that makes people feel at ease. Not only the little kindergarteners, but me too, Thank you little buddy.

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Friday Two Cents: The Simplicity Of Play


 

This past week I return home after a wonderful time with friends up north in the Penetanguishene/Midland area. We did a lot of different activities in the area including swimming, sight-seeing and taking in some local festivities. One of the highlights of my time there was going to Discovery Harbour. It is a British naval base that traces it roots back to the War of 1812. The base was established around 1828 and was a presence to defend Canada until the 1850’s.

We were able to go twice to the site during this trip. Once for a Ghost Tour and the other for a Pirate Day. The Ghost Tour was very interesting and it did give me the shivers at times. I think I even saw a sign a ghost who did not want us in his cabin, spooky. The other time was a fun-filled day where pirates invaded the site. Pirate Day at Discovery Harbour was mostly geared towards the kids but I took the opportunity to have a little fun and live a little. I decided to bring up my pirate costume and walk around the site as Captain Jack Sparrow.
I dressed up and went to the site in full costume. To say I got a lot of looks is an understatement. When the kids saw me their eyes opened up and even their parents smiled. The staff was all dressed in pirate gear and they too smiled and encouraged me to play the pirate for the day. I walked around the site learning a few things about the history of Discovery Harbour, stopping once in a while to talk to people and some even asked if they could take a picture with me. I said sure and so I posed for pictures and I got to meet and talk to a lot of people. All in all it was fun to play pirate and learn some facts about the site. Yet I did notice something that made me pause for a moment or two.
While I was walking around as a pirate talking to people, I noticed some people giving me a few, what I would call; nasty looks. It was not as if I was being obnoxious or over selling the pirate theme, in contrast I was simply walking for one building to the next with my friends. Maybe, it was because I was an adult dressed as a pirate without kids. There were some other adults dressed up but they had kids with them. Perhaps they could not understand why a grown man would dress up and pretend or in essence play pirate.
I am not sure why but if that was the case all I can say is that I feel sorry for those people. I am very comfortable being myself and being very connected with my inner child. If those people cannot understand that we all need to play, then I all I can do is pity them and I’ll give them a couple of quotes / life lessons to help them. One from a famous philosopher, the other from a famous captain …

‘You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.’ Plato

‘The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play.’ Captain Kirk

Two life lessons I always take to heart. Maybe we all should too.

 

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Comic Strips: Mmmm Spaghetti


 

The latest installment of The Craziest Things has been sent out and with it an episode that actually happened at the school.

Sometimes I am amazed at the creativity and imagination of the students. Two senior girls wanted to create something. They asked for yarn and I asked why. They said they wanted to create food and I said, ‘ok I love to see it.’ So I helped them find yarn ands anything else they needed and then left them to create. Once they were done it looked real! I took a picture of it so you can see. After I heard them say they wanted to trick a few people, including teachers into trying to eat it. They almost got away with it too.

I had to recreate the scenario in the comic to immortalize their creativity and imagination. I hope you enjoy the latest installment of, The Craziest Things; Mmmm Spaghetti.

Spaghetti and meatballs created by two students using yarn.

 

Friday Two Cents: If Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade


 

This past week in Ontario many elementary and high schools were out for the annual March/spring break. In previous years I have always worked during this week at various afterschool programs, yet this year I had the need to take the week off. I didn’t want to go somewhere far-flung or exotic, I just wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and the students. Don’t get me wrong I adore the children but I was feeling a bit rundown and I needed sometime to be alone with my thoughts. To chill out, ironically speaking.

I decided to take a mini vacation to Niagara Falls and more importantly the Niagara Wine country. I live in the Toronto area and Niagara Falls is only a 1½-hour drive but I have never seen the falls in the winter. Besides I love visiting the wineries in the area for some wine tasting. It would also be a great opportunity to do some drawing and hopefully get inspired.
However Mother Nature had other plans this past week. I left for my vacation on Monday and of course that is the day when a winter storm just happens to blow into southern Ontario.   I am only few kilometers into the trip when the storm really picks up. With high winds and lake-effect snow traffic literally comes to a halt. I continue but the traffic is moving about 5 – 10 km/hr. The slowdown is mind numbing and it is all due to the weather. The truly amazing thing was that after I traveled past the city of Hamilton the weather clears up. It was eerie. On the east side of the highway, the lakeside, you can see the blowing snow and dark clouds yet on the west side of the highway the sun was setting and it was clear. It felt like I was driving through the eye of the storm or at least the edge of it. I arrived at the hotel safely yet the normally 1½-hour drive took 4½hrs!
I was stressed worst then before I left. So much for my relaxing vacation. However I was able to have a great meal at the casino and then soak in the hot tub after. I could feel the stress just melting away in the Jacuzzi. Especially since I could see that the storm had reached Niagara Falls and I was safe inside.
The next day the storm was in full force but that did not stop me. I was prepared with winter gear and I went for a walk to the Falls in the middle of the storm. I was able to get a few nice photos and I was able to talk to a few people who I met there. Yes just call me Mr. Sociable.  

Panoramic view of Niagara Falls during the Winter Storm.

Panoramic view of Niagara Falls after the Winter Storm.

Panoramic view of Niagara-on-the-lake after the Winter Storm.

I for one do not like the winter season. I do not like the cold or the lack of sunlight. Yet I made it a point to not let this winter storm ruin my vacation. The storm lasted about a day and a half but in that time I was able to do all that I wanted.   I was able to draw, read, write, explore and of course enjoy a couple of wine tastings. Call me Mr. Optimist but I simply adapted to the situation I still had a wonderful time. I would imagine that old saying is true…

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  

Art Inspiration: Québec Trip / Art Is Everywhere


 

 

ArtInspirationPaulGLogo

Québec_Trip

When I went to Québec I was fortunate to go with someone who grew up there. I told them that I was in their hands and that they were my guides. They are aware that I love the arts and they took me to places in the Old City of Québec that had many artists and artisans.

Along Saint Paul Street there are many galleries and artisans that would satisfy any art enthusiast. I could not take too many pictures of the artwork but it was a fabulous experience non-the less. Another place I went to was Le Petit Champlain, a small market area just down the hill from the Château Frontenac. There many artisans, artists, cafes, restaurants and merchants come together.   It is a beautiful place that has the feel of an old world market. There were many things to see but I was very impressed by a glass blower. I was able to take some photos for I was mesmerised by the skill and craftsmanship of the master.
Yet there are times when I did not just take in the traditional art but the artistic beauty of nature. Near my friends family home, there are a lot of wooded areas where the city has kept it as natural as possible. There I enjoyed the natural beauty and I even was able to eat a few wild black berries as I walked along the path.
From the natural surrounding to something equally as lovely, we went for a road trip outside Québec City to a place called le Domaine à l’Héritage near Saint-Séverin de Beauce. It is a pristine garden set in the middle of the country where people are welcome to enjoy nature and the garden as classical music is played throughout. There I saw many people bring out their dinners and enjoy a picnic, as did we. The place has many tables and reclining chairs for people to stay, relax and enjoy each other’s company.
The thing I found amazing is how easily everyone simply talked to one another. Strangers having conversations about anything that came up with other strangers. This is where I realized the whole ‘Joie de vivre’ that is so present in the Québec culture. It is everywhere, in everyone. The sad true is that something like this garden could never exist near Toronto because I could see people ruining it. There, the people made sure they cleaned up after themselves and they were respectful to everyone there and the environment.
Everywhere I went in Québec I found art. In the trees, the water, the air and the people. This is what life should be like, the joy of life, the joy of living. Of all the things I learned and brought back from Québec this ‘Joie de vivre’ is what I want to continue in my life. Perhaps not in Toronto but wherever I go I will strive for my own ‘Joie de vivre’.

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