Celebrating the ARTS!

How do you celebrate the Arts? I'm excited to share how my school works to celebrate the arts.  In response to new program reviews and standards a few years ago, we began holding an Arts Showcase for our primary students each spring.  

After reviewing the standards we found that while we provided more than adequate opportunities for experiences with visual art, music, dance, and drama in a learning/classroom-type environment we failed to offer our students the opportunity to create, collaborate, perform, critique and explore the arts in their own unique ways.  
So, we encouraged students (and their families) to choose anything creative for which they felt they had special talent or aptitude, and plan a way to present that talent to their classmates.  Then each class held individual performances and voted on which talent/presentation/performance they would like to represent their class in a school wide Create Arts Day Showcase.  No emphasis is placed on winning and losing or who is better/worse.  Our showcase isn't a talent show and very few parents attend. It is simply a way for students to share a way in which they are creative.

What resulted was more than any of our teachers could have ever imagined...

Our young students, as an audience, were respectful, encouraging, and thoughtful. Within each classroom a special story unfolded.   In a second grade classroom an athletic boy puts together a basketball dribbling routine and sets it to music for which the crowd cheers. In one third grade classroom a friend with special needs sings a Michael Jackson song and is unanimously voted into the show where she receives a standing ovation. In another class, a quiet boy shares his amazing computerized robot for which he wrote the programming and is voted into the show over the Broadway show-tune belted out by the girl who regularly participates in local theater performances. In my Kindergarten classroom a typically outgoing and boisterous girl quietly shares a memoir she wrote about her lost pet goldfish and she is hugged by her friends, many of whom are brought to tears.  My own daughter, when she was in second grade, was begged by her class to sing "Let It Go" for the school showcase, encouraging her to overcome stage fright and perform for an audience for the first time in her life. I watched her blossom before my very eyes and was touched to see her classmates give her encouraging looks and a loud, supportive ovation as she finished the song. Many more students played instruments, performed dance routines, and paraded visual arts pieces across the gym.  Each time the crowd of primary students would cheer and clap as if they were at a Grammy-nominated performance.

We all learn a lot of valuable lessons during this week of the school year.

  • As teachers we are reminded that the "extra" stuff (about which we may grumble when it interrupts our comfortable school day routine) is worthy of our time.
  • As regular educators we are reminded that the arts programs are vital to our school and our students (and that the art, drama, music, and PE teachers have a hard job).
  • We learn to view many of our students in a new light... many of which are little diamonds in the rough or have secret talents about which we didn't know.
  • From our students we learn that a little bit of grace and humility can go a long way and that supporting each other by cheering wildly when someone else succeeds is just what friends should do.
  • Interested in starting your own Creative Arts Day?

We send parents a note one week prior saying all students are welcome to participate by preparing any creative presentation including, but certainly not limited to, any visual arts pieces, vocal/instrumental performances, creative writing, dance or other movement routine, anything involving creativity with technology, and dramatic performances or collaborations. Each teacher provides a little class time to discuss projects and ideas, and provides time for friends who may not ave time at home to prepare.  Each class plans a day for class performances and works together to choose one student to perform at the school wide assembly.  Administrators and arts teachers work together to make sure students have all they need and to set a schedule for the school showcase. Then on a Friday afternoon we all gather in the gym to simply celebrate creativity and the arts.

It's simple... after all, the best things in life always are.
Add the Arts to your Common Core instruction in grades K, 1st, and 2nd with this fun unit, "Talents," at 21st Century K on TpT.


Bust the BTS Blues with a New Bulletin Board!

I can't believe it's already BTS time! This summer has flown by and I'm ready to get the school year underway! So, I thought I would revive an old post about my Kindergarten classroom and share my classroom bulletin boards. Nothing snaps me out of that BTS-FUNK like a fresh bulletin board display!

I strive to run an organized and efficient Kindergarten classroom. (With room for play and fun, of course!)  This summer I added a few things to my management system that have made a big difference!
1. My whiteboard is the hub of communication and information in my classroom (aside from the Smart Board). My "CHAMP" icons and schedule cards are on magnets so that I can easily adjust them each day or each learning block.  My Daily 5 posters are kinder-friendly and easy to understand.  (Grab them for free here!)  I also have a set of mini posters just for me, "The 7 C's of Teaching," to remind me of my responsibilities to these 21st Century kiddos!  (Grab them for free here.)  The small red pocket chart is used to spotlight our learning targets as they change throughout the day.
2. I also have a bulletin board that runs the length of the room.  The largest section is for learning targets.  Small pocket charts hold the target/standard cards for the week (or unit) so that I can readily access and display them as we transition throughout the day.  Beyond the word wall and birthday displays is the job chart.  I have 24 students and 24 jobs.  (Sounds crazy, I know!)  Students have one job per week and we rotate throughout the year.  Giving each student a job has had such an impact on our classroom community!  Some jobs are small and others are more popular, but when all students have ownership over the way the classroom runs they learn to work together and take responsibility for the good of the group!
  3. My favorite bulletin board is the one next to my desk!  I created this tree a couple of years ago and have added to it each year.  It serves as a place to post important information, student gifts and drawings, and words of inspiration about education. 
Plus, it's super cute (if I do say so myself)!

Missing anything?
Wondering where my calendar board is?
When I realized my Kinders weren't engaging like I had hoped and my day was starting off BLAH instead of WOW, I knew I needed to make a change. I tossed my traditional calendar and created monthly interactive calendars for the SMART Board! Read more about that here!
Check them out at TpT!

Don't teach Kinders?
Then check out these first everyday calendars for any primary grade!

Not ready to invest?
Then download this FREE version... test it with your SMART system and try it with your students... I PROMISE THEY WILL LOVE IT!
(And you will, too!)


My Favorite Ways to Teach Primary Students About Careers

Teaching our youngest students about careers is important! "College and Career Ready" begins as early as Kindergarten. It's part of our job to expose students to the wide variety of paths their future might take so that they may have the chance to explore and begin to recognize their own preferences and aspirations. Most importantly, we need to instill in students that they can be ANYTHING they want to be when they grow up!

SO, I've rounded 7 up my favorite ways to incorporate the theme of careers and community helpers into the Kindergarten curriculum.

#1 Read, Read, Read! "The Measured Mom" has compiled a comprehensive list of over 100 read alouds and picture books all about community helpers. Be sure to check it out!

#2 Make Memorable Moments! Take photos of your students dressed up as their favorite career and/or holding signs and compile to make a class photo collage!

#3 Play and Explore! Provide lots of time to play and explore various careers with hands-on activities including dress up, toys, games, and roll-playing. I LOVE this idea from Meri Cherry for creating a community model with students out of recycled materials... would make a great on-going project for any career or community helper unit!

#4 College Roll-Call! Everyone wears a t-shirt from their Alma Mater. Students can join in the fun wearing t-shirts from their favorite university. Create a graph of staff members showing who attended where.

#5 Senior Portraits! Display pictures of teachers and staff in their caps and gowns... students love to look through the photos and guess who they are.  Everyone also gets a kick out of checking out old hair styles and fashion. LOL!

#6 Senior Walk! Each year the high school seniors walk the halls of our elementary (and middle) school in their caps and gowns. The young students cheer and high five the seniors as they line the halls. The seniors bring their K-12 journey full circle as they revisited their first school and hand out honorary diplomas to teachers and staff members who influenced them along the way. Every year it leaves me misty-eyed and proud of my once-babies who are all grown up.

#7 Turn to Technology! Bring the wide world of careers alive for your students by turning to the Internet! Search for virtual field trips, send emails to professionals around the world, watch videos about various careers, FaceTime workers for real-time contact. Better yet, create your own digital content with student-made presentations, photos, and videos! Check out this playlist of fun animated songs about professions from Storybots on YouTube!

Then head over to my Pinterest board dedicated to Career and Community Helper teaching ideas!

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