Communicate and Overflow

I’m reading All the Way to Heaven: The Selected Letters of Dorothy Day. Dorothy, founder of the Catholic Worker, was a writer in all senses of the word. She said:

The reason we write is to communicate ideas … We must overflow in writing about all the things we have been talking about and living … Writing is an act of community. It is a letter, it is comforting, consoling, helping, advising on our part, as well as asking it on yours. It is a part of our human association with each other. It is an expression of our love and concern for each other. *

Is that not fantabulous? It encourages me to, again, let my life overflow into my writing.

It’s been a week filled with emotion and anxiousness, but also prayer and blessings. Wednesday was my 12 year anniversary of being diagnosed with cancer.

It’s a beautiful anniversary, because without it, I would no longer be on the planet. But, it’s also a difficult anniversary. It was such an unexpected, glaring indication of my mortality. And, boy oh boy, a cancer diagnosis isn’t just dipping your toes into all of that. You are thrown into the deep end of the pool. The shock of hitting the water takes your breath away. You submerge. But then, face out of the water, you float, and slowly learn to swim.

This year I had a CAT scan scheduled for my anniversary. How’s that for good planning? (laughing) I didn’t choose the date, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have chosen it had I been the scheduler. Still, in many ways it turned out to be the perfect date for the test.

Dorothy quotes Catherine of Sienna, “All the way to Heaven is heaven, because He said ‘I am the Way.’ “ Then she offers her wish — may heaven be in your heart today. *

The CAT scan, on my anniversary, heightened my fear and worry about the unknown. Out of necessity, I worked harder, surrendered more deeply, and prayed with greater fervor for heaven to be in my heart as I went about my day.

I was patient with the receptionist who seemed to be struggling with her own tiredness. I smiled under my mask and chuckled at my goofy comment to her. I chose to be peaceful as I waited — eyes closed, breathing with purpose and prayer. Then Miriam called me and walked with me to the CAT scan room. Miriam is a funny, talented nurse/tech — who knew what my brown scapular was. She laughed, talked, listened, and brought a bit of heaven to me, and boy oh boy am I grateful! Now I wait with hope.

I came home and crawled into bed for a much needed nap. I awoke to snow. I love snow! It’s beautiful and altogether magical. I fell asleep later that night to the delicate pings of the snowy mix against my windows.

The next morning, I bundled up and headed out to shovel. I remain easily fatigued, and not feeling totally well, but, how could I not go out into that cold, bright, beautiful, snow-filled day? Shovel in hand, I considered ignoring my fatigue and overall feelings of malaise. Thankfully my wiser self prevailed. I did slow, steady work, capturing ridiculously tiny amounts of snow in my shovel. And, I rested — a lot.

My work and rest routine turned out to be a great gift! The white of the snow was a perfect foil to the texture, shapes, and color of the grasses, berries, seed pods, branches, and flowers that surrounded me as I rested against the end of shovel. The seed pods and flowers provided pockets and pedestals for the ice to take shape. My stillness in the quiet enabled my ears to the hear the sounds of the bird’s flapping wings and chirping songs.

I gleefully snapped shots during each of my rests — sometimes resting more just to photograph. I purposefully chose brilliantly white snow-filled backgrounds with little extraneous visual noise.

When I finished, I sipped hot cocoa and crafted a poem. Hoping to encourage the feeling of soft peaceful silence, I used only lowercase letters. It was funnily jarring to change the uppercase I to lowercase. But, on my second or third read, I settled into it, appreciating the sense it gave that I am very small in this magnificent expanse of life, and snow.

_____________________

brilliant white snow
piercingly cold air
beautiful soft silence
broken only
by the birds’ wings
and sweet songs

shovel, rest, breathe

my breath deepens
my eyes
squinting in the light
see more
my ears
hear more

shovel, rest, breathe, look and listen

i notice a plethora of details
texture and structure
subtle changes in hue and tone
color where I thought there was none
always present
not always perceived

shovel, rest, breathe, look and listen, notice

i am in awe 
of the details
the beauty
and the gifts
of God and nature

shovel, rest, breathe, look and listen, notice, marvel

i try
to capture them 
with my
heart 
mind and 
camera

shovel, rest, breathe, look and listen, notice, marvel, photograph

i imagine and feel
sparkles of joy
with each gift
noticed with wonder
captured with gratitude

shovel, rest, breathe, look and listen, notice, marvel, photograph, be grateful

_____________________

It is incredibly important to fill my days with rest, breath, noticing, wonder, awe, and gratitude.

It is absolutely necessary to acknowledge my awesomeness and strength, as well as my tiredness.

It is essential to be kind and merciful to myself, and others.

As a human, sister, daughter, teacher, learner, writer, creative, artist, coach, and every other thing I am, and way I interact in this world, there is incredible value in silence, brilliant light, kindness, having heaven in my heart, and bringing it closer to others.

I join Dorothy in her wish for the world — May we all have heaven in our heart.

*Both quotes are from All the Way to Heaven: The Selected Letters of Dorothy Day by Robert Ellsberg

It’s a Good Day

I haven’t added anything to my inspirational art journal lately. For some reason I’ve been feeling uninspired, and frankly, unconfident. As I experienced this lack of inspiration and confidence, I thought of my Kindergarten girls and all I ask them to do. Sometimes they are uninspired and unconfident, too. I don’t let them stay in that uncomfortable spot, or use it as an excuse. So, I figured I wouldn’t let myself do that either.

I didn’t immediately make an entry, but at least I noticed what was what, and agreed to make one soon.

As I waited to make an entry, I distracted myself by sorting through my rather large collection of books. I found a few books I am ready to let go, a TON of books I want to read, and an old journal.

I flipped through the pages of the journal. This page stopped me mid-flip.

I’ve always admired people who are calligraphy stars, but haven’t yet found my groove with that. Hand-lettering is a different story. I enjoy it, and I’m pretty pleased with my ability.

I remember this hand-lettering adventure. Much like when my kindergartners learn handwriting, I worked to accurately replicate an already created font. It wasn’t simple. I needed to really look at the letters. I endeavored to notice shape, size, angles, relationships between the various components of the letter, and the general feel of the font. Then I took what I noticed, let it inspire me, and created my version of the font. I like it!

There’s a strong connection between my hand-lettering work, and the handwriting work my Kindergartners do. It’s important for me to acknowledge that, and even more important for me to share that with them.

I see at least two reasons to share it with them.

One is to encourage them to really look at the letters. I think sometimes the curiosity that might increase their learning, interest, and enjoyment, gets pushed aside for the rote “learn the steps” method.

The second reason I want to share this with them is to elevate their opinion and understanding of their own work. Rarely do our students see us struggle, practice, or learn new things. Perhaps even worse, the work we ask them to do — writing letters repeatedly — is often perceived as something only for children, or the less skilled. When we share the times our learning looks very much like theirs, we end up elevating their learning, work, and struggle. We normalize it as the way we all learn, become more proficient, and make things our own.

I think it would be amazing if we encouraged our students to create their own hand-lettering. It could be an extension of handwriting, and might even help them become more adept at forming the letters correctly.

Imagine the conversations you could have together about their created hand lettering. They could point out the things they noticed about the various letters, the things they kept the same, the things they emphasized or de-emphasized, what they were thinking, what was easy, what was hard, what they did to overcome various struggles, how they hoped to use the lettering they created, and much more. We could marvel at their noticing, thinking, and creativity. We could notice things about their lettering — how it resembles the handwriting letters, and how it doesn’t, how it makes us feel, and how it inspires us. We could even ask them to teach us how to make it. So much potential for amazing interactions, learning, and growth.

Back to my lettering. I remembered the joy of creating it, so I decided to let that be my ticket back into my inspirational journal. I wrote just one word:

Then I added a few bits of advice for myself. God is love. Be love. Be loved. Beloved. It’s sitting next to my chair, reminding me of the importance and place of love in my life. One might think it’s hard to forget about love. But, I think, sometimes, it’s pretty easy to forget. I want to stop forgetting, and really live love and all its remarkable power.

I flipped a few more pages in my old journal, and noticed this:

and then this:

Have I mentioned lately that I LOVE writing in pencil? Especially a wonderful pencil like the one in the photo — a Faber Castell graphite grip pencil. It is sweet! And no, I don’t receive any free pencils from Faber Castell for recommending them — but boy that would be pretty fabulous!

Again, my thoughts go to my Kindergartners. I understand there are reasons we ask our students to write with particular pencils. But if I love writing more when I use particular pencils, and I know I like my handwriting better with certain pens, mightn’t my students as well? And if they might, shouldn’t I sometimes give them the opportunity to write with tools they love? Yes, I should.

These two pages reminded me of another practice I’d like to incorporate into my day with my students. I like making lists of words — words that inspire me, words that are things I love, words that are things I want to do, or be, or feel. I find joy as I combine the words into phrases – in this case simple two word phrases that are easy to remember and might become mantras. And it’s fun to experiment with various combinations, and imagine things to create with them. Mmm. So good. Fantabulous, even!

So, I’m back on track with my inspirational journal. I am excited to continue my hand lettering work. I’m reminding myself to love, allow myself to be loved, and remember I am the beloved of a God who is love. And, I have some great ideas I want to bring to my fantabulous, big-beautiful-brained Kindergartners!

It’s a good day.

Every Day Is A Beautiful Day!

My creativity, positivity, and art challenge this week is to use things found in some sort of print form — magazines, papers, letters, cards, coloring books, even junk mail is fair game — in my calendar journal posts.

Today I grabbed an old Bella Grace magazine for inspiration . As I flipped through the magazine I was drawn to two pages with images filled with words. I decided to do a riff on a black out poem.

I clipped words and phrases that meant something to me. I looked for words within words. I cut and rearranged the words to create new phrases and thoughts.

These are some of the words, I didn’t use. I didn’t see any connections that struck me so I stashed them in a bag for future use. Now, I see phrases that eluded me as I worked the first time. Here are two: Positivity is healthy, and Turn goals into friends.

I enjoy the black out poetry process, and see more possibility, when I cut the piece apart, rather than use the typical method. I think it’s the ability to see things together, and apart, as well as the increased opportunity to move the words around. Seeing the words from different angles — even upside down — increases my brain’s ability to concoct new phrases, see as yet unseen connections, and have aha moments.

It reminds me of Edward DeBono’s concept of lateral thinking. The easiest way to explain lateral thinking is to imagine looking at something from the side. When you do, you see a completely new item. For instance, a rectangular sheet of paper suddenly becomes a line. And, depending on which side you look at, it could be long line, a short line, or even a line with a point somewhere in the between the two ends. Oh, and if the paper doesn’t stay perfectly straight you can see all sorts of other shapes.

But, back to my cut out poem.

I arranged and rearranged the words in today’s space. I returned to the pile of cut papers and searched out other words. Every once in awhile, I spoke the words out loud to see if I liked the phrasing, meter, and emphasis.

I always kept in mind the vibe I hoped to create, and the story I wanted to tell. The general tone and direction remained the same, but the words themselves changed as I pondered and noticed new possibilities.

Finally pleasantly satisfied, I glued them to the page.

Other than some fab advice in my journal, what are my take aways? As the lead learner in my classroom what did I learn? What do I want to bring to my learners and incorporate into my teaching practice?

Remember, use, and teach about lateral thinking.
It’s good to be inspired by others.
If you take the ideas of others and make them your own it’s not copying, it’s not cheating. It’s collaborating, creating, and being inspired!
Look for things you know.
Look for things that are unique, unusual, or that surprise you.
Take time.
Play.
Breathe.
Enjoy.

Be open to new ways.
Connections are important. Search for them, see them, and make them — especially ones that surprise or entertain you
See possibility
Wonder about the connections and possibility you noticed, as well as those you didn’t.
Embrace the importance of your story
Explore and enjoy the sound of words and phrasing
Search for the best but enjoy the rest
Iterate, iterate, iterate.
Remember there is always tomorrow rich with possibility and new opportunities to go again.

Find Your Writing People

There is power in writing and sharing our stories. Some of it comes in the simple and brave act of putting words on a page. The gift of word and story intensifies as we re-read, re-think, and revise. But the real magic happens when our words are shared, thought about, talked about, and even acted upon.

I share my writing with a community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories – Magic in A Blog. It’s been incredible to have this group of writers as writing companions. We post, read, and ruminate. It’s pretty great. If you’re up for it, give us a look. If you like what you see, check out a writing prompt and join us. If it doesn’t feel like your vibe, no worries. The opportunities to share words and stories are abundant!

Here are some of the places I’ve found my writing people this week.

Embrace the Pause – Power from an unidentified writing friend

This beauty leapt out at me from my collage treasure box. I was flipping through to find a piece to add to a book I’m making for a friend, and this stopped me mid flip. I’m not sure who wrote it, and I’m pretty sure I’ve had it for a very long time, but today, the magic was ripe and ready to be picked.

Embrace the pause. Yes!

I don’t know about you, but I’m not so good about pausing. Sometimes when I pause I actually feel guilty.

I’m on leave from work so I can crush cancer, and nourish my health. That’s a pause that sometimes feels like it was forced upon me. I love the more positive, and more true, TRUTH (can truth be be more true?) that I can embrace the pause. Embrace, not accept, or even live, but embrace that pause. We typically embrace what is good, helpful, sweet. We embrace what we love, and often come to love it more. So I yield to the power of this story — from someone I do not even know — and I embrace the pause in my life right now.

You Can Be at Peace – Power (unexpected) from Darling Magazine

Have you ever read Darling Magazine? It’s awesome. To be fair, I’ve only read one, but it was remarkably fabulous. I hoped they had another paper edition of the magazine waiting to mail me – I’m a fan of beautiful fantabulous print magazines. Alas, they did not, BUT, they had great products that used the power of words to bring magic to others so I bought a few.

Today, I noticed an envelope with beautiful handwriting addressed to me in my pile of mail. I didn’t recognize the handwriting or the city of origin. Inside was a handwritten notes (I love hand written notes) thanking me for my purchase, and offering their hope that it had brightened my day. It had!

And then there was the card. “You can be at peace. Take a deep breath, and remember: you are here for a purpose.”

Indeed, breathe in the power of word and story. Be at peace. Embrace the pause. I’m here for a purpose.

This – Power from me and a fab former fencer of mine

I am strong. Fear does not control me. I enjoy the fight. I will not be stopped. My determination is unbeatable. My war face is beautiful. What part of that do you not love?

I wrote those words several years ago for my fencing team. I made little cards so they could carry the words with them. I had no idea anyone might carry it with them for years, but I’m sure glad she did.

I’m sure I made one for myself too — but I don’t have it anymore. At least I don’t know where it is. But, in the powerful magic of sharing a story, here it is again! A fab former fencer of mine placed that photo on my facebook feed with these words.

“I keep this card stuck in a picture frame above my desk at home. I think of you and all the strength practicing fencing has given me every time I see it.”

How amazing is that? I told her I wanted to say “Get the heck out of here!!!” I still do, in some ways. But it’s the part of me that hasn’t fully embraced the incredible power of word and story. We lived a lot of life together on the fencing team. We worked hard, thought hard, became mentally and physically tough — and created lots of stories together. They were some powerful, awesome stories.

I’m glad I told that story of strength to my athletes. It was true then and now. They needed to hear it then. I needed to hear it now. So awesome to be reminded of the truth I spoke and wrote so many years ago that remains true for me, and my fencing alum. Rock on, Elan. Remarkably grateful to you for sharing this with me.

Oh, and speaking of sharing the power of writing. My end of the year gift from the team that year was a bracelet engraved with these seven words — breathe, believe, courage, fight, finish, skilled, unstoppable. I wear it still.

So yeah. Find your band of brothers, your circle of sisters, your plethora of profound and positive people who write. Or, simply find your paper and pencil, and begin. The magic of your words will find a home in the hearts and minds of others, and when you need it most will come home to visit you again. Trust in it.

An Exercise in Mindfulness

There is a mindfulness practice one can use to counter anxiousness and worry. Become aware of what you see, what you hear, what you smell, what you feel. By doing this you gently remove yourself from the world of your fears. As you notice more and more, you are brought more deeply into the present moment.

I need to spend more time in the present moment, and less time in the future which is not yet here. So much can change between now and that future moment. Why do I fret so much about it? I want to begin to spend more time in the present, aware of its goodness and beauty. I took a moment to do that today. It rained yesterday removing much of the humidity from the air. Today is spectacular — breezy, clear, cool.

I was encouraged to do a bit of writing that uses some sort of stacked words — alliteration, repetition, whatever worked. It seems apropos to use the repetition of small phrases to encourage mindfulness and call myself back to the present moment and all that surrounds me there.

Breezes blow. Breezes blow softly, then vigorously.

Breezes blow.  Breezes blow, and soothe my soul. 

Breezes blow. Breezes blow, and my breath grows in depth and ease. 

My eyes.  My eyes gaze up from my computer screen, and soak in the verdant green that surrounds me.

My eyes. My eyes rise higher and admire the beautiful blue sky accentuated by clouds slowly moving by.

My eyes.  My eyes notice the birds who join me on the patio — as if we are friends. 

My ears. My ears hear the distant rumble of cars, and the sound of my vertebrae straightening as I lean back and stretch.

My ears. My ears delight in the sweet songs of my bird friends. 

My ears. My ears react to the soft worship music on my laptop, and mysteriously slow my breath.

My mouth. My mouth feels the smoothness of the coconut cream in my afternoon matcha.

My mouth. My mouth tastes the delicate sweetness. 

My mouth. My mouth enjoys the green goodness of this delightful drink.

I choose. I choose to embrace and encourage peace.

I choose. I choose to believe the best. 

I choose. I choose to live — as much as I can — from a place of trust, peace, and positivity.

I. I sit quietly and breathe deeply.

I. I pray.

I. I am. 

Label Your Build

Labeling is part of every build in our classroom. Sometimes my request for labeling is met with a bit of grumbling. “Labels? Do we have to label? Why do we have to label things, Miss James?”

I always respond the same way. “Yes, you have to label things. Everyone find at least three things to label.” and “Why label?!?!!! You have to label things because when you label them, everyone else gets to know and understand your great ideas and creations!” Once they get over the need to stop building in order to label, and any hesitancy they have in their ability to write things that others can read, the labels begin popping up all over the build site.

Here are a few from this year’s Thanksgiving build.

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(bed, home)

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(bed, pillow, home)

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(food place)

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(person, Lilly)

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(mountain)

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(person)

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(crib)

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(trap door)

There’s tons of value in each of their labels. I can assess their phonemic awareness, and their ability to encode the sounds they hear. I get a deeper understanding of their thinking and building. And, perhaps best of all, they get to share their thinking and work with everyone who visits the build.

My favorite thinking shared this year (and mind you, they are ALL fantabulous and bring me great joy) was this one.

IMG_9283

(For you, Mayflower. This corn is for you.)

We learn that the passengers of the Mayflower stole corn from the Native Americans. At first, the girls respond with outrage. “That wasn’t very nice! Why did they do that? That’s mean!” I acknowledge their observations and feelings, agreeing that it does sound mean, and not very nice. But then, I encourage them to think a bit about what the passengers of the Mayflower might have felt — and what we sometimes experience in our own lives.

“How do you think the Mayflower passengers felt when they arrived?” I ask. “They were on the boat for 66 days. The Mayflower wasn’t very big and there were a lot of passengers.” My students are silent, clearly trying to figure things out. They begin to share their recollections and thoughts — “There were storms. People died. A baby was born. Maybe they didn’t have enough food. They were probably cold. Maybe they were hungry.”

One asks “Why didn’t they just ask the Native Americans for some food?”

“Good question.” I respond. “Why didn’t they?”

At first they are silent again. Then I ask them. “Did the Native Americans and the passengers of the Mayflower looked alike? Did they dress the same? Do you think they spoke the same language?” They quietly and thoughtfully respond “No.”

Now I am silent. For a moment or two I let them sit with that information. Then I ask them “How do you think they felt?” With a greater of empathy they respond, “Maybe they were scared.” I shake my head, “Yeah, maybe they were scared.” Wanting to bring the two ideas together, I continue “It wasn’t nice what they did. They shouldn’t have stolen the corn, but it’s good for us to remember they might have been afraid, and hungry, and didn’t know what else to do.”

When the girl made those bags of corn, she showed them to me. “I decided to make these for the Mayflower. I’m going to leave them by the boat so they see them. Then they can just have this corn, and not steal ours.” I responded, “That’s a great idea. I bet they’ll be happy to find it.”

There is so much I love about her thoughts and work. Kindness. Empathy. Problem-solving. Offering without being asked. Leaving it with a note — therefore forgoing a thank you. Believing this will help them, and keep them from taking your things — without telling them not to take yours. Lastly, I love that the build, and the labeling, allowed this student to show the depth her understanding, empathy, kindness, and problem solving. May she keep it, grow it, and use it all her days!

Squish-squash books in Kindergarten

The other day I taught my kindergarteners how to make a squish-squash book (Special thanks to Dar Hosta for the cool name! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z88mmn_P1Gk).

We worked together (teachers and students) each step of the way. Fold the paper the long way – don’t forget to match the corners, hold the edge tight and make a nice, hard crease. Open the paper. Fold it the short way. Now fold the top paper down to the middle fold. Flip it over like a pancake. Fold the other side down. Now you have an M or a W – depending how you hold it. Hold it so it looks like a W. Now cut the center of the W down to the fold at the bottom of the W. Grasp the top fold on each side of the cut – squish, squash!

squish squash fold

LOL yes, yes, it sounds rather complicated when you just read the words. Perhaps you are wondering – “How on earth did those kindergarteners do that?” Well, let me tell you, with a bit of direction, some encouragement, and a whole lot of respect for them, and their abilities, they did fantabulously!!! (Yes, fantabulously – better than fantastic, better than fabulous … fantabulous! How’s that for creative manipulation of the English language?! My students love the word, by the way.)

The most amazing thing was the response of the students. They were making books and talking with anyone who would listen! They were excited, empowered … giddy even! Some filled each page with illustrations. Some filled the pages with words. Others made many different sized squish-squash books, and gleefully taped them together!

squish squash

Why was this such a powerful experience for the students?

Was it the power they felt as they made their own book-form? Was it the freedom to do what they wanted? (Write, draw, make more books.) Was it the respect of the teachers for the students? Was it the authenticity of the activity? Was it the joy the teachers shared with the students? Was it the fantabulousness of the students themselves?

To be honest, I’m not sure I can pinpoint one thing that made this activity great. I think it was a combination of all of the above – and more – coming together in a beautiful, synergistic dance. And wow, was it great to experience. Fingers are crossed we will experience it over and over again throughout the year!

Bubbles Art, Science, Math and Language Arts!

The wider the range of possibilities we offer children, the more intense will be their motivations and the richer their experiences. We must widen the range of topics and goals, the types of situations we offer and their degree of structure, the kinds and combinations of resources and materials, and the possible interactions with things, peers, and adults. ~Loris Malaguzzi, Hundred Languages of Children

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Bubbles are fascinating and afforded us several challenging and fun ways to explore and experience science, art, math, and language arts. There was a plethora of things to notice, marvel at, wonder about, investigate and enjoy!

… The variety of sizes. The delicate and yet strong nature of soap film walls. The colors and reflections that are captured in the bubbles. The many things that can be used as a bubble wand. Do heart-shaped wands make heart-shaped bubbles? The ways we feel when we blow bubbles. Should we blow slowly or quickly? Does that make a difference? Can we fill the room with bubbles if we use a window fan? The joy and sorrow felt as bubbles pop. The way the wind takes the bubbles as they leave the wand. The way the bubble solution feels, and sometimes tastes, as the bubbles pop close to our lips. Can we create bubbles from things other than store-bought bubble solution? How could we create bubbles in art? What colors are bubbles? Which words best describe bubbles and our experience? 

Prior to starting I told the girls we would be scientists, authors, readers and artists, and that the process would take us several days. We experienced bubbles through our eyes, our ears, our brains and our bodies!

  • We did several read alouds.
  • I blew bubbles and the girls experienced them only with their eyes. What did the bubbles look like? How did they move?
  • They blew bubbles. Again, as scientists they tried to observe things about the bubbles, the process and each other.
  • We all blew bubbles, and just experienced the joy of bubbles – much laughing, movement and even some screaming!
  • We created bubble wands using various materials: pipe cleaners, plastic plant mesh, plastic water bottles, straws and string. We tested and observed each – Was it easy to make bubbles with them? Did they make big bubbles? Small bubbles? What shape were the bubbles? Did the bubbles mirror the shape of the wand?
  • After each experience the girls shared words and feelings, which I scribed onto a large piece of chart paper.
  • We ended up with three lists of words. We observed the lists: How many are in each? Which list has the most words? Which the fewest? Why? (We noticed that the words increased as we engaged more fully in each experience and grew in comfort with the process.) We used math strategies to add the lists together and come up with the grand total. We marveled at our abilities to describe our experiences. We used these lists to create our list poems.

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I brainstormed many ways to create a frame for the list poems and finally decided (for ease and aesthetic reasons) to cut a frame to place over the girls paper as they stamped. The frame allowed them to stamp freely while maintaining a clear border for their list poem. I held the frame in place, as the girls used the cardboard tubes and ink pads to create their bubbles.

I was amazed and impressed with the thoughtfulness with which they approached their work. Each girl had her own particular process, but each was purposeful in her choice of tubes (various diameters) and placement of bubbles. My only instructions were to be sure to press straight down so as to get a good print (and not to fret if it was less than perfect, as that added to the uniqueness of each piece) to consider overlapping the bubbles at least a bit, and to not be afraid to overlap the frame.

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I brought in some artist quality pencils to share with the girls. I talked about why I liked the pencils – great colors, nice feel in my hand, beautiful movement across the paper – and why I chose to share them with the girls – they are artists too and I thought they would enjoy using them. I asked them to take care of the pencils as they were special to me. The girls were fantastic with the pencils! They carefully chose the colors, replaced them in rainbow order, only sharpened them as much as necessary, shared them with each other, and really seemed to empowered by using them. (We ended up using them in free choice as well as other projects.)

After the ink dried, the girls worked diligently to fill in each full shape (not the partial bubbles around the edges). We discovered that the ink, though dry, sometimes transferred around the paper, so we used a paper towel to minimize movement. Thankfully any transferred ink erased easily.

bubble words

Once finished with their art piece, the girls moved on to their list poems. The goal was to create a list poem and encircle the bubbles with the poem. (We read, observed and discussed poems from Falling Down the Page by Georgia Heard prior to this project, and emulated the freedom Georgia showed in placing words on the page.) Each girl began by choosing 12 words from the class lists and writing them in the frame of her paper. If needed, she chose more words.

When everyone was finished – and it took some girls many days to do so – we shared our poems and art pieces with each other. Finally, we displayed them on the hall bulletin board, with black and white photos of each of us blowing bubbles as the border.

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