Tag Archives: play

Dot Day Doings

Yesterday was International Dot Day, a day inspired by the creativity of Peter Reynolds and the power of each of us having the courage and confidence to “make our mark.” To celebrate dots and creativity and confidence, we began our week with the poem What is a Dot? by Laura Purdie Salas. The first graders in my class had an endless list of ideas of what a dot could be and eagerly illustrated the poem with their own “dotty” ideas. Of course, we also read and discussed The Dot by Peter Reynolds.

The week got dottier on Tuesday. We broke out the liquid watercolors and painted a page full of dots. These mostly 6-year-old artists knew that making the dots was just the start of this project. They would be transforming their dots into something else using a black sharpie marker the following day. They joyfully and freely painted dot after dot, experimenting with size and placement. They dripped one color onto another, while carrying on a constant narrative of alternative worlds, descriptive details about color, and oohs and aahs of their own discovery. We ended the day by reading Ish, yet another Peter Reynold’s book and talking about encouraging others and not judging our first attempts too harshly when we draw (or try other things too).

Wednesday was the day…International Dot Day! Students came to school dressed in dots and so did I. I l love their creativity in finding dots in their wardrobe. One child found a solar system shirt, each planet a dot. Another noticed the cat faces on her sweater were dots with more dots showing the natural coloring of the cat. There were polka-dotted masks (COVID makes us creative too), socks painted with dot markers, dotted bows in the hair, and I even found a pair of polka dotted earrings! With wardrobe dots in place, students were eager to get started transforming their watercolor dots from the previous day into beautiful pieces of art.

After a bit of modeling by showing what I might do with my own watercolor dots, I handed out the sharpie markers–a thicker one and a thinner one, and reminded students to start thinking about what story they might tell about the dot creation. I love the artistic freedom and courage of first graders. They uncap a permanent marker and confidently draw whatever is on their minds. Dots turned into chickens with space helmets, planets from unnamed galaxies, insects galore (bees, spiders, June bugs, ladybugs…), jellyfish, dragons, and of course, lots and lots of flowers. Along with the drawing was the buzz of conversation, telling the story of the things they were drawing. Clearly kids need to talk their ideas through as they draw.

Once the pens were capped and the drawings done, we took out our writer’s notebooks and set out to put down words to go along with the the art. We started with the simple frame, a dot can be… I showed how as a writer, instead of a sentence like A dot can be a bee, I could expand that sentence saying, A dot can be a pink bee buzzing from flower to flower leaving a trail of heart shaped pollen behind. (And they could see how that sentence also matched my drawing.) And with that short mini lesson, my students were off and writing.

Here’s a few examples:

A dot can be a bee.  And a monkey that is blue and yellow.  And a purple dragon and the purple dragon is swooping through the clouds. R

A dot can be a flower garden with a hot air balloon with a chicken and a bee and a sleeping cat.  The chicken is looking for food. C

The best part of the writing time was that every student, even those who are less confident writers, were engaged with their writing. I heard lots of sounding out to get the words on the page. And students began to stretch their ideas, adding details that bring writing to life. I hope as the year progresses that they become as fearless with their writing as they are with their artwork, knowing that small mistakes might just become a “beautiful oops” or the stepping stone to something magnificent. Risk taking is essential to learning, as is joy. We had a wonderful International Dot Day filled with playfulness, creativity, and lots and lots of learning.

What might you do with a dot? It’s never too late to make your mark!

Bubbles

With the school year coming to a close, I wanted to come up with an activity for students that felt like play–like a party–and still provide academic content to satisfy my ever-present need to make use of all available instructional minutes. (Yes, even in the last week of school)

So, when I came across a blog post about making giant bubbles and bubble art, I knew I could turn this into a meaningful day of learning and fun…all wrapped up in a soapy bubble! I’m pretty fascinated by bubbles. I’ve spent quite a bit of time photographing giant bubbles at the beach and I’ve written about the “bubble man” a time or two (or more). I know that the trick to great bubbles is the solution–so prior to having my students explore and experiment, my husband and I tried our hand at bubbles over the weekend.

The basis of all bubbles is soap and water. But if you want the bubbles to be big and to have a bit of staying power, a bit of corn syrup and some glycerin need to be added to the mix. Using smoothie straws and yarn, I created a bubble wand that my students would be able to make on their own and started dipping and waving in my own attempt to create bubbles. This bubble thing is harder than it looks! I didn’t immediately get big beautiful bubbles flying from the wand. But with some patience, some tinkering, and some exploration of how to get a thin film filling with air onto my yarn…bubbles happened. At that point, with bubble solution pre-made, I was ready for a day of bubbles with third graders!

We started with a very interesting TED Talk titled, The Fascinating Science of Bubbles, from Soap to Champagne. We learned about surface tension, the geometry of bubbles and so much more. (If I were to do this in the future, I think I might devote an entire week rather than a whole day to bubbles!) Then we made our bubble wands and headed up to the field to make bubbles.

In spite of warning students that making these bubbles would take patience and experimentation, there was plenty of initial whining that “it’s not working!” I reminded them to keep trying. And then it happened…the first child experienced success! Like wildfire, bubbles emerged, filling the air with irridescent spheres.

The soap solution ran out before student interest waned, which is probably the best possible result! We headed back to the classroom with soapy hands, happy hearts and filled with visions and language about bubbles.

These young scientists are also prolific readers and writers, so after studying Valerie Worth’s short poem, Soap Bubbles, we created a list of bubble words and a list of potential bubble metaphors and then set the magic 7-minute writing timer and started writing. Like bubbles, colorful, delicate, evocative poems floated up, emerging from the points of students’ pencils.

Here’s a couple:

To complement the poetry and the elusive, temporary soap bubbles, we got out paper, pencils, water-based markers and some water and created bubbles…as art! Each artist created their own composition, tracing round shapes, adding a space where a light source reflected off each bubble. Then they added marker and finally, using just water and a paint brush, urged the marker to follow the water, creating beautiful dimensional bubbles on watercolor paper.

There is so much more we could have done with bubbles–including exploring the mathematics of spheres. Overall, it was an amazing day. Students could not believe that an entire school day had passed before they even realized it. Engagement was high, work quality was inspiring…it was an amazing last Monday of the school year! Based on this success, I know I will be working some bubble science into future teaching and learning!

Poetry Teller Part 2

We did it! I wrote last week about my experimentation with a poetry teller, a way for my students to go back through their own poetry and then play around with remixing their poetry with a classmate.

So this morning, students folded their way into their collaborative game. Some students were familiar with classic fortune tellers and were eager to put their fingers into the folds and start moving the teller around. And no one seemed to think it was one bit strange to make this into a poetry tool. They found colors, they located interesting nouns, and pinpointed some poetic phrases–all from their cache of poems written during April. In partners they played with their poetry tellers, collecting words and phrases that they knew they would use soon for some poetry writing.

I set the parameters: use the words you collected (it’s okay if there is a word you decide not to use), you can add extra words of your choice, make the poem make sense, and have fun! We used that magical 7 minute timer and students’ pencils flew across the page. When the chime sounded, hands shot up. They had poems to share!

Here’s a couple (these are third graders, 8 and 9 years old):

Words collected: blood orange, green, snow, lamp, the sun is cotton candy, the puddles of the ditch

Poem:

Unusual

The sky is blood orange

the lamp is green

the trees are snow

the sun is cotton candy

the puddles of the ditch are rainbow

there’s something fishy today

And another:

Words collected: ice, profusion, cats, frame, the sunlight bounces into my eyes, illumination, snowy caps, sister, hooves, the cloud is as soft and big, it covers the sky like a blanket

Poem:

Transition to Spring

Ice.

A very cold word

You see it a lot during brutal winters.

Hooves pounding on cold snow under our feet.

Cats.

Sinking their paws into the snow.

The snowy caps on mountain tops

are guarded by a forest.

There are many natural frames in the

tree tops.

Then the snow is illuminated by the sun.

I step outside and the sunlight bounces into my eyes.

My sister’s snowman melts away.

The clouds are so soft and big.

They cover the sky like a blanket.

It is spring now.

Making games out of writing definitely infuses playfulness into the process for kids. They loved manipulating their poetry tellers and would have played with them much longer than I had time for today. I count this as a win–and as a great way to have students remix poems. I’d love to hear what you would do with a tool/toy like this one. How would you modify it to support writers and learners?

Tag: NPM #12

Inspired by this blog post, I had my students write a slice of life poem this morning. They had plenty of fodder, coming off our spring break. And while they wrote, I wrote too. Here is my slice of life poem.

Tag

“You’re it Grandma”

they squeal and I chase them

“chase me” “and me too”

“you have to tag both of us!”

Spring green grass

tickles my toes

5-year-old giggles

fill my heart

I run

they run

We chase each other

until we collapse

in a pile of

hugs!

®Douillard

A Poetry Game: NPM20 Day 13

Spring Break is over (sigh) and we’re back at our distance learning.  It’s still National Poetry Month and we’re deep into the poem-a-day challenge in my classroom.  To change things up a bit, today we played a poetry game.

At school I have some different versions of poetry dice (or writing dice).  You know, those cubes with words printed on them.  To create a virtual version of rolling word dice, I found a cube template online, pulled together a poetry word list, made a video of myself explaining how to make poetry dice…and then what to do with them once they had their own versions of the dice in front of them.

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Using an old favorite, the poetry book I am Writing a Poem About…A Game of Poetry edited by Myra Cohn Livingston, I asked my students to roll their dice 3 times, collecting 3 words that they would craft into a poem.  (I used all nouns on the dice, trusting students would be able to come up with other words to create their poems…following the book’s lead.)

In the book, the 3-word version of the game uses the words: ring, drum, blanket.  I used the poem Grizzly by Madeleine Comora (from the book) as an example text.  Students could use the poem as a mentor poem or not.

 

I rolled the words purple, basket, and waves.  I was immediately drawn into my poem thinking about the song America the Beautiful…at first having purple waves of grain in my head.  After a bit of revision, I realized I had written an #USvsHate poem.

America

 

In this place we know

with purple mountains majesty

and amber waves of grain

 

there are some

who carry baskets

that are empty

 

let’s fill those spaces

with love and compassion

opportunity and freedom from oppression

 

when the gaps close

and all can thrive

that’s when

we’ll truly have

brotherhood

sisterhood

personhood

from sea to shining sea

#USvsHate

 

®Douillard

Here are a couple of early student examples:

E was excited to roll night, mountain and egret…he said it was the best combination ever.  (When I questioned the missing word mountain, he said that he thought volcano was a good substitution since mountains can be volcanos.)

 No Light On Dreadnaught Island

 

South West from Moon Island I’m told,

A haunted island lies.

No sailor roams there freely and bold,

No egrets fly in the skies,

From the volcanoes belching their lava out,

Evil creatures of magma come,

In one big lava spout.

With all their arrogance, they even defy the very Sun.

And ruling the island, throwing everything in sight, is the great Magma Golem,

He’s rude, impatient, and very solemn.

Here it always seems to be night,

And there’s not a thing that doesn’t bite.

R rolled cactus, stoplight, and rock

Desert

 

A desert

of thirsty

dry rocks

 goes tumbling 

down sand biomes.

The spiny cactus

as a bright 

stoplight reminding

the earth to stay still.

It’s your turn.  What can you do with 3 randomly rolled (or selected) words?  You’re welcome to borrow ours and try your hand at a poem or two!  We’d love to know what you come up with!

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SOLC Day 10: Leaving a Trail

Rain sang me to sleep last night. And I woke to a damp morning. As I headed out the door, overloaded as usual with this bag and that one too—along with my lunch and coffee—I nearly stumbled as I spied the tiniest snail crawling near the doorstep. I just had to stop, pull out my phone and photograph the snail and the damp trail behind it.

As I thought about that snail I found myself thinking about those trails I leave, will anyone notice that I have been here? I hope I leave trails for my students. Those that they can turn to even when I am not around. Can they locate a mentor text for themselves when they have something they want or need to write? Will they remember to start with what they know when faced with an unfamiliar math problem?

Maybe those songs we sing in the morning help. Perimeter Around the Area by the Bazillions is a fun way to keep area and perimeter from crossing paths. And who doesn’t love singing the FBI (fungus, bacteria, and invertebrates) by the Banana Slug Band to learn about decomposition?

Getting to know Naomi Shihab Nye through poems like Kindness or Famous or A Valentine for Ernest Mann helps us explore the power of language. Books like Love by Matt de la Pena and Wishtree by Katherine Applegate help us see our own experiences and those that are different from ours.

Making stuff…from art to slideshows to videos to bridges made of cardboard and construction paper allow schoolwork to slip into the realm of play. Playing together and laughing and those long deep conversations about important topics just might leave those trails I’m thinking about.

And I know for sure that my students leave trails of their own, for their classmates to follow, for younger brothers and sisters and most definitely those etched deeply on my heart. They remind me that the ordinary matters, that caring is more important than any test score or report card and that if we pay attention we can find the pathways that matter most.

More Poetry Play: NPM 2019 Day 23

Today we went for it…paint chip poetry, metaphor dice, and Haikubes!  Students picked what they wanted, rolled dice, and wrote.  Poetry is flowing–some silly, some serious, and some simply beautiful.

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There’s something precious about the misconceptions students have about some of the paint chip colors.  Wax seals frolic in waves, pearly gates are beautifully adorned entryways, wisdom teeth make you smart, and blizzards create the icebergs that sank the Titanic.  But I also love the way they make these words work for them, weaving them into their 8 and 9 year old views of the world.

Here’s a smattering of poems that emerged today.

This is Just to Say

This is just to say

I was eating grapefruit

on the way to the pearly gates

I saw so many sunflowers

across the way

This is just to say

that everything that I saw

inspired me today!

McKay

 

Outside

the dappled sunlight

is shining so bright

on the dandelions

in the grassland

Leah P.

 

As you stare at a chalkboard

you move slow

as you see a wax seal

you go closer

it is so detailed

as you start to hear a whale song

you love the slow, loud musical whale song

you keep hearing it

then you see a seal jumping in the waves

it looks like a wax seal.

Brooks

Last night I invited students to write Poetry Is poems.  Here is the one Alice wrote:

Poetry

Poetry is like

weaving

threading words

together

to create something

beautiful

When I listen

to poetry

sounds jumps out

sounds as loud as

a bear’s roar

or as soft as the

fluttering

of

a butterfly’s

wings,

all waiting be heard

Poetry can feel

as smooth

as silk

or as gravelly

as loose

cement

Poetry can taste

like sunshine

on a platter of gold

or like

melted stone

in a bowl

of rubber

Poetry can change

Alice

And my own, inspired by a few paint chips (and a cube I forgot to use!):

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Poetry is

the sweet pop

of purple joy

pulled from the blackberry bramble

key lime so tart

it puckers your mouth

and makes your saliva run

warm sticky honey

that reminds you

of summer days of youth

the blues

played low and slow

lamenting opportunities lost

hinting at possibilities

yet to come

©Douillard

 

Playing with 3 Words: NPM 2019 Day 15

Back in the classroom today it was time to play around a bit with poetry.  I asked my students for three words…and then read them some poems that featured three words from the book I am Writing a Poem About… by Myra Cohn Livingstone.  All of the poems in the section included the words blanket, ring, and drum.  They were unique in content and style and all used the words in completely different ways.

With those poems as inspiration, we took the three words I collected: candy, cat, and park and worked on our own poems.  The first attempt felt more like stories about cats and the park and candy…even my own was focused on a cat.

Royal Cat

She slinks, graceful

a cat with a calico coat

as shiny as hard candy

Parking herself on the

windowsill

in a pool of light

she oversees her kingdom

©Douillard

After our first try, we took some time to brainstorm ideas about candy and cat and park, thinking about ways to incorporate imagery using the words.  Then the challenge was on…write a poem using the three words that is NOT about cats or candy or parks.  This was much more difficult!  My second attempt was about recess.

Recess

The bell rings

and they rush out

like candy raining from

a busted piñata

a herd of cats

running this way and that

each following an invisible path

playful

fierce

full of energy.

Exhausted,

I park myself on the step and watch.

©Douillard

Painted in Waterlogue

Wyatt (who had seen a bear over his spring break) tried his hand at a guessing poem…about what else?  A bear.

I sometimes eat things as sweet as candy

but I can be bitter and scary.

People leave treasures in the car,

I take that as an opportunity

to leave the car scarred.

Cats are no match for me.

I live in a place something like a park,

vast,

and you see the same things

over and over again.

I can see that we all need to play around more with the idea of layers of meaning…I think that will be tomorrow’s lesson.

Finding Faces: Day 28

Some days I make games out of my photography.  To avoid taking the same photos over and over again, I challenge myself to look for letters of the alphabet, a particular color or item…and faces.  Today a face grabbed my attention…and got me thinking about today’s poem.

Finding Faces

 

Take a look around

and find

a smile

grinning up from a patch of grass

Look at the sliding door

and find a face staring back

The cliff suddenly comes to life

watching you walk along the shore

unblinking eyes

look over the pier, the surfers, the seagulls

They’re all around

reflecting our expressions

mirroring our emotions

evoking

surprise

disgust

elation

look closely

and

you’ll find

faces

 

Douillard 2018

Today’s student poem is by Siena…a poem of apology inspired by William Carlos Williams.

Runaway Dog

 

Dear Jake,

I’m sorry for leaving the gate open and letting you escape to our neighbor’s house

I was so excited to go

But l just got carried away

Forgive me, l thought l lost you

But then

We found you

 

By Siena

What kind of poem will you play around with today?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Play

When things get busy…like during this time of the year…I forget to do really important things, like play!  But playing is the very thing I need when I am feeling over-the-top with all the demands of work and responsibility and the holidays (I always forget how much cleaning and organizing comes with decorating).

Maybe that’s why we scheduled a field trip in the first week of December (what were we thinking?) to the Children’s Museum.  We planned our trip around the idea that play and experience would inspire writing for our students.  I brought my camera with me…and I both played with my camera and with my students.  I loved the way that play was physical…like climbing these ropes suspended like a web.

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On hands and knees I crawled around dark corners in tight spaces until it opened up into a room with hundreds and hundreds of spoons suspended from the ceiling, creating a visual and aural experience.  The low light meant the photo images were about play too, as reflected light bounced off the gently swaying metal as my camera attempted to freeze time.

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Writing became part of the play as well.  “Taking 5” meant time to be inspired and play with words.  Our students also found interesting places to perch themselves for this writing, playing with the physical act of writing too.  (I played around with Prisma to disguise my student, but still let you see the writing perch he found!)

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And when the walls are filled with quotes and images, my mind wants to play with those too.  I found myself fascinated with the ways the light was coming in the windows, illuminating bits and pieces.  I love that Ask Great Questions is highlighted here…knowing that curiosity is the key to learning.

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I was still playing later in the week when I noticed the heavy fluff of the dew-laden dandelions in the front yard.  I can only imagine what the neighbors were thinking when they saw me kneeling in the wet grass as I headed out for work trying to capture that heaviness.  I decided to pull this iPhone image in close and make it black and white to emphasize the beauty of the simplicity.

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I feel like the moon has been playing chase and tag with me all week.  I’ve been noticing the waxing moon in the late afternoon all week.  After I got my phone repaired this week (I had one of those defective 6s batteries!), I noticed the moon working hard to be a decoration on the local mall Christmas tree and I played with angles using my newly repaired phone to capture the moment.

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And in spite of that heaviness of exhaustion, after school yesterday I made a spur of the moment decision to find the street entrance of a beach I have only previously seen from the sand level.  I was not disappointed–in fact, I felt energized.  The tide was getting high and as I walked over mounds of rocks I looked back at the cliffs and noticed the moon following me in a playful game of follow the leader–with me leading this time!

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So, let’s focus on play this week.  How will you capture play in your photos…or play with your images?  How will you push pass the demands of each day and discover moments for playfulness in your busy routine?

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #play for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

Get out and play around!  Be sure to share your play with the rest of us!