Monday, December 24, 2012

Handprint Calendar

When I saw the post about a homemade handprint calendar on The Sharpened Pencil blog, I knew I had to do it for my students' parents as a holiday gift.  It looked simple enough...boy was I wrong! It was s huge undertaking! It required lots of planning, time, and resources. In the end I couldn't be happier with the result, and the tearful words of thanks made me glad that I did it. With all that has happened in the world lately, this was a meaningful and precious gift that the students (and my TA and I) could give to the parents!  Would I do it again? Maybe...but I would make some changes to the way I handled a few aspects of the project.  Here are pictures of each month along with my tips for success with this project.  It's not too late to whip up one for your parents as a sweet New Year's gift!


1.  Add water to your paint bottle to thin the paint.  Thinner paint is easier to stamp and much easier to wash off. The paint also dries quickly and the paper flattens more easily as well.

2.  Always make two handprints at a time so students wash two hands  at a time and speed up the process. 

3.  Use the same color on hands to make multiple prints (the shamrock and Christmas tree can be made from the same hand and then the other hand can be used to create another single hand design, creating three months in one round!)

4.  Assign a student as the "soaper" and another as the paper towel helper. This eliminates the mess and makes the process into a clockwork like system. The water stays on and kids move through the line quickly! I had another student that was the "paper transporter" moving painted papers to a shelf space for drying.

5.  Do all of the "extra" painting while you are creating the handprints. (When students make their September tree, have them wash their hands and add the fall leaves. When students make their American flag, have them add the white dots for the stars after washing.). I dried the paper and then had students add details creating twice the drying time and twice the work. 

6. Assemble the calendars and allow students to use a box of sharpies to decorate each page on their own. Show them examples of  how to embellish each page and then let them get to work. I worked with groups of 4 to 6 and walked them through each page. I could have just as easily put out a big bag of sharpies and let the kids work at the same time, taking turns with the different colors and working on different pages. It would have taken the whole class about 20-30 minutes to embellish their calendars all at one time.

7.  The last step is to add computer label poems. I should have printed all the poems on a single sheet per student and let them match each poem with the correct month.  I printed the poems by month and it was a labeling nightmare. If each child had their own sheet of stickers to work with the task could have been accomplished in a few minutes. The kids new which poem went with each month and didn't actually need my guidance with this. If only I had done all 12 months on a single sheet.  Feel free to download the full set of poems that I adapted from the cute poems on The Sharpened Pencil blog.  I wanted my poems to fit on a smaller labels (to save on cost) so I made the poems each just four lines long.  

8.  When a set of month papers are dried, stack them under a pile of dictionaries to flatten.  It will help them to bind more easily.

9.  Paint hands as students come in during arrival. You have tons of energy to power through the process while making it enjoyable and meaningful for each  student... and they'll be dry for you to stack on your lunch break.

10.  The different color papers for each month were cute, but make it easier and more cost effective by simply purchasing a ream of off-white/tan/cream card stock. It will save you time on planning and eliminate counting out sets for each month's specific color.

Here's a great order that I will use next year when/if I create these adorable handprint calendars again.

Day 1 - green and red paint: March shamrock with palm print, May caterpillar body with palm print, and December Christmas tree with palm and fingers (no thumb), red palm print for caterpillar head (use other hand), and half of the February heart (be sure to note which hand you are using and then begin with red on the other hand tomorrow).

Day 2 - white and red paint: February heart (be sure to paint the correct hand for the remaining side of the heart), January snowmen with palm prints, and March rabbit with palm and fingers (no thumb)

Day 3 - light and dark purple paint: June butterfly with light purple, and calendar cover with dark purple (paint over students light purple hands swirling the colors to make the darker shade consistent)

Day 4 - black paint: October spider with palm and fingers

Day 5 - brown, red, orange, yellow, and green paint:  September tree with one hand, November turkey with brown on palm and thumb, and other colors on each finger for turkey feathers

Day 6 - red, blue, and orange paint - July flag with palm blue and fingers red, and August fish with orange handprint (you could also begin with a red palm print and make an August apple instead of a fish...)

This was such a special gift to so many of my families this year!  I hope your students and their families will enjoy it as much as mine did!  Happy holidays and happy handprinting!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

ID Badge Verse - Ecclesiastes 3:1

My verse this week, Ecclesiastes 3:1, says that "For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven."  This makes me reflect on the Christmas season.  Many of us are filled with joy as the spirit of the holiday is all around us.  I was reminded in church this morning to prayerfully consider those that may be experiencing added sorrow during the holiday season.   

gwhizteacher, Broken Hearted Christmas by Harriet Williams, ID Badge Verse, Ecclesiastes 3:1

As most of us experience added joy during the holiday season, some experience heightened sorrow due to the loss or absence of a loved one.  I can't imagine how difficult it must be for so many families to embrace the joy of Christmas without their most precious blessing present to share in the joy. I heard a song that beautifully captured the feelings of many teachers and parents this ChristmasBroken Hearted Christmas was written by Harriet Williams for families and teachers experiencing sorrow due to the recent tragic loss of students and teachersAs a first grade teacher it, touched my heart and offered the specific words of comfort I needed to hear.  The chorus is an especially beautiful reminder that we can share our burden with the Heavenly Father because he knows exactly how we feel...and can offer His perfect loving understanding and support as we journey forward.

If you have a broken heart this Christmas,
Give it to God, He knows just what to do.
If you can't find joy and peace this Christmas
Tell the Heavenly Father - He knows the pain
Of losing a child for someone else's sin.
He can make you heart whole again.

Many teachers, even ones that weren't directly effected by the tragic and senseless loss, can identify with feelings of fear and questioning.  I spoke with my night custodian this past week and he expressed his intense emotional realization that "evil must really exist.So many of us have heavy hearts mixed with joy at the same time.  It's difficult to sort out and understand.  I hope that this Christmas offers rest, relaxation, peace, joy, and comfort to all of my teacher friends this season.  Blessings, friends!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Math Games

Christmas is right around the corner and I am so excited to share my holiday themed game boards with you!  I posted the set to TpT last nightThere are 12 game sheets (one game has two parts to it).

The games include many first grade skills in addition, subtraction, counting, and tens and ones.  I use these games to teach and then review basic operations concepts in my 1st grade classroom.  The games can be used in 2nd grade as independent practice or review. 

Games titles include:
*Candy Count (skip counting by 2s, 5s, 10s)
* Elf Doubles (doubles of 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, & 10)
* Reindeer Race (add two dice and tell if odd/even)
* Naughty or Nice? (add three dice and tell if < or > 10)
* Plus Five (add five to 10, 25, 40, 65, 75, 90)
* Subtraction Stars (subtract ten from a two digit number)
*Trim the Tree (spin a tens number and cover the tens number that makes 100)
*Stockings and Candy Canes (chutes and ladders – adding ten to a two digit number)
*Ornament Roll (roll a die and subtract that number from ten)
*Shop ‘til you drop (spin for pennies and dimes and find/cover the total)
*Fact family fun (add or subtract to make a fact family equation)

My favorite part of designing these math games is using them with my students.  They always have such fun with the creative approach to practicing skills.  Today I used the Candy Count game and the Reindeer Race game.  The students loved trying to make their way to the gingerbread house and trying to "harness" all of their reindeer for Santa's sleigh.  

It blesses my heart when students say "thanks for making this for us" and when they ask to play the games again.  The rule in my classroom during math game rotations, is that you must never have the same partner.  Students look forward to switching partners with each rotation and have learned how to work with ALL children in the classroom.  I love how they recognize that different students have different strengths and favored strategies.  I appreciate how they will try new strategies with their partner and feel comfortable working toward the "win" as a team.

I wanted to give you a fun freebie, Naughty or Nice, from my game pack to try in your classroom.  Hopefully you can use this to keep your little ones engaged right up to the last day.  If you like it, please stop by my TpT store and pick up the whole pack for $4.

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Sunday, December 2, 2012

ID Badge - Proverbs 13:10

I always strive to be a reflective teacher.  I want to look at my lessons and approaches to teaching and learning with an open mind.  My hope is that I won't get "stuck in my ways" in the classroom and that I will always seek to improve my pedagogy.  With the new Common Core State Standards pushing today's educators to strive for precise and purposeful teaching I sometimes find myself overwhelmed and wanting to fall back on something tried and true.  It's fun and easy to teach what is already familiar.  Conversely it is scary to try new approaches without your tool belt of tricks ready by your side.  The 21st century approaches to teaching and educating in today's classroom can indeed be scary, but can also provide a fresh lens in which to view your impact on the learners in your classroom.

gwhizteacher, proverbs 13:10, id badge verse

The verse this week reminds me that it's wise to take advice and seek constructive feedback from others in my profession.  I hope to improve myself for the benefit of my students and can only do that by approaching feedback, and sometimes criticism, with a positive attitude and a thankful spiritDownload this week's verse, Proverbs 13:10, and avoid pride to be wise!