Character and Setting Dioramas

I am a huge fan of cross-curricular collaborations to make learning more meaningful. My second graders are reading The One and Only Ivan in class so I recently constructed a bulletin board to feature the book and share with the community what is happening in one of the classrooms. Check out the bulletin board post here. Needless to say, the bulletin board worked. Everyone loved it, faculty, students and visitors asked second graders about the book and were encouraged to read it themselves.

When I found out the second grade kiddos were studying character and setting, I knew it was the perfect opportunity for another collaborative project. I contacted our amazing art teacher and she showed me a 3-D diorama that her daughter created for a book and we knew it was perfect for this project. I created my example using a different book so the students could be free to create without a per-conceived piece of art in their mind:

I wish I could figure out the official name of this process, I know there are other educators out there doing this and I would love to give them credit. If you have seen this process done before, or if you’re doing it yourself, please contact me in the comments section.

The students received three pieces of thick card stock, each piece is slightly smaller than the one behind it. For example, the back piece of paper is 8.5″ x 11″, the middle sheet is 8.5″ x 10″ and the front sheet is 8.5″ x 9.” This makes it so the final product curves inward and makes the diorama stand up on its own.

I cut the papers down to size and cut the window out of the front paper prior to handing them out to students. The kiddos were instructed to thinking about the following:
  • The back page (the largest piece) is to show the setting. Where did Ivan live? What did his cage look like? What was on the walls?
  • The middle page (the medium-sized piece) is to show the character(s). What did Ivan look like? How large was Ivan compared to his cage? Were there other important characters in the story?
  • The front page (the smallest piece, already cut into a frame) is to tell others what book you’re sharing. What is the title of the book? Who is the author? Who created this diorama?
It’s important to note that I cut around the character(s) after the kiddos finished their art. The pieces that turned out the best were those that were connected to the frame on 3-4 sides (the head, the arms, the legs), this made the character stay upright when on display. You can see this in some of the examples below:
The art teacher stopped by to check in and remind students to pay close attention to their craftsmanship. What details can be included to make your art even more interesting? In beautiful paintings are the backgrounds blank or do they include colors and interesting features? These questions really helped students to create some amazing pieces.
These dioramas went on display in the foyer of the school and they were a bit hit. I love successful collaborations that work to serve our students and provide them with a wonderful learning experience!

The One and Only Ivan Bulletin Board

My second graders are currently reading The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate with their classroom teacher and I wanted to amp up excitement about the book.
Initially, I had intended to simply put up the cover of the book and add some interesting facts about the real Ivan. Wait, Ivan was real? He sure was. Check out the Katherine Applegate’s webite, she has a great deal of information about the real Ivan. She also has a new book coming out in October 2014 – Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla.
In true librarian form, the more research I did, the more excited I got about the One and Only Ivan bulletin board. I ended up with a slew of facts about not only the real Ivan, but about the gorilla population, as a whole. I also added an (almost) life-size cut out of a gorilla. The paper gorilla ended up being 5’4″ with an arm span of 8 feet.
I used an overhead projector to trace the gorilla and then free-hand cut his face out of a piece of gray construction paper. 
The board has been up for two days now and people have constantly been coming in to share their excitement! I love watching the kiddos stand there and reading all the interesting facts, it has been far more engaging than I ever anticipated. The facts include:
 
  • The average male gorilla stands between 5 and 7 feet.
  • The arm span of an average male gorilla is almost 9 feet!
  • The average male gorilla eats over 40 pounds of food per day, the average American person eats 5-6 pounds of food per day.
  • Gorillas are herbivores – they eat leaves, shoots, roots, vines and fruits.
  • The lifespan of an average male gorilla is 35 years. Ivan lived to be 50 years old.
  • There are 4 subspecies of gorillas: Eastern lowland, Mountain, Western lowland, Cross River.
  • Gorillas are an endangered species, there are less than 300 Cross River gorillas left in the world.
  • The One and Only Ivan is fictional, but was inspired by a true story.
  • Ivan was a male Western lowland gorilla.
  • Ivan was captured in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Ivan and (what is believed to be) his sister were captured as infants and brought to the United States. Ivan’s sister died shortly after arriving.
  • Ivan was raised in a home until he became too big and unmanageable. He was moved to the B&I Circus Store in Tacoma, Washington.
  • Ivan’s cage in Tacoma was only 40 feet by 40 feet!
  • Ivan spent 27 years alone in his cage without seeing another of his kind.
  • When the mall where Ivan lived went bankrupt (they didn’t have any money), he was moved to the Zoo Atlanta. Before his move to Atlanta, Georgia, Ivan spent a short time at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.
I did include a citation sheet on my bulletin board so I could model that behavior for students. I found my information on the following sites:
 

Richard Scarry’s Huckle Puppet

I posted my precious Lowly Worm plush a few days ago and today I finished up his good buddy, Huckle.

 
As I mentioned in my original post, fellow blogger, Suzy Fairchild shared these 1977 Richard Scarry pattern pieces on i heart fabric:
Huckle actually ended up taking longer than Lowly because I lost interest. He just isn’t as cute. Granted, is there anything as cute as a 14″ felt worm wearing a bowler’s hat? I think not.
I veered from the original pattern a little because, while comparing the pattern to the modern pictures of Huckle, I couldn’t help but notice that he is a different color and always wearing the Oktoberfest-y suspenders:
Even though I’m not entirely in love with my Huckle, I am debating making matching Sally Cat and Goldbug puppets.
Goldbug would be particularly fun because I could hide him in different places around the library, you know, like Richard Scarry does on all the pages of his books? Ahhh, the things school librarians find entertaining.
 
Last, but not least, I need to get my hands on an adult-sized Richard Scarry shirt:
 

Sophie’s Squash and Friends

If you have yet to read the adorable Sophie’s Squash by first-time author, Pat Zietlow Miller, stop whatever you’re doing and go find a copy. I promise, you’ll swoon over the sweet story and Anne Wilsdorf‘s darling illustrations!

A heart-warming tale of friendship, this book is the perfect addition to any library storytime. I’d fallen in love with Sophie and her beloved squash, Bernice the moment I discovered it last year.
 
Imagine my delight when I came across stuffed versions of Sophie’s darling friend (the butternut squash, of course). And then try to imagine my horror when I realized those cute little props cost over $50 with shipping. It looked something like this:
Image from the talented, Monster Wrangler Mike on TPT
 
So, I did what any frugal Pinteresting, DIYing educator would do… I made it myself. And for a fraction of the cost, I might add.
 
I purchased one yard of butternut squash-y colored broadcloth (otherwise known as light tan) and one-fourth of a yard of stem-y colored broadcloth (otherwise known as dark tan). I walked out of the fabric store having spent a grand total of $3.87 (coupons and teacher discounts are a wonderful thing). Because I’m a frugal Pinteresting, DIYing educator, I already had plenty of thread, stuffing and paint. I was all set to start my squashes (or is it just squash? Like gooses versus geese).
I headed home and was excited to get started when it hit me… I had no idea, whatsoever, how to make fabric squash. And so I did what any normal person would do; I put the fabric in my craft closet and left it there for three weeks. And then when my art-student sister came to town, I asked how one might go about making fabric butternut squash. Fortunately, (I have no idea how) she knew:
 I folded the cloth over, make a tube shape that angled out towards the middle and left the top and the bottom open. I forgot to include a picture, but I hand-stiched a loose seam along the bottom of the squash so it could be cinched together (brilliant sister’s idea, of course).
 I flipped the squash tube inside out and stuffed it with batting. I was very impressed at how “squashy” it looked! And I loved the cinched bottom. As you can see, the neck of the squash was far too long so I just cut off the excess fabric.
 Time to add the stem. Easy-peasy. Sew, flip, stuff.
 I did a loose running stitch along the top neck of the squash, cinched it just a little, added my stem, and sewed it all together. Aside from jabbing myself with the needle several times, it worked brilliantly and feels super secure!
 Viola! I painted on the face with some black acrylic paint and sat back to admire the cutest squash I’ve ever seen. Or caressed.
 I then repeated the process three times for a total of two large squash and two baby squash.
 Aren’t they just the cutest things you’ve ever seen?
 One more step… In the book, Sophie’s squash starts to feel a little under the weather and develops some dark spots and squishy areas (ahhh, he’s rotting). So, I pulled out all the rotting squash colors I could find and gave him a little makeover.

Too cute. And for waaaaaay cheap. I can’t WAIT to debut these little munchkins at storytime!

Lois Ehlert’s “Color Zoo” Flannel Set

This project has been a long time coming. And, boy, I’m glad I finally did it. First, I love Lois Ehlert. Reading is Fundamental has a wonderful (very kid-friendly) interview with Ms. Ehlert, if you’re interested in doing an author study. She has so many amazing, classic books and many of them can be incorporated into a ton of units. Her books are particularly great for science themes: seasons, winter, summer, fall, spring, life cycles, animals, insects, plants, trees, fruits and vegetables.
 
If you are looking for project and activity ideas to use with Lois Ehlert’s books, check out the collection of possibilities The Educators’ Spin On It has compiled, it’s great!
 
Or, how about an author interview? Check out the Reading Rockets video.
 
And now, on to the fun stuff…
I made copies of the pages from Color Zoo and then used the pages as cutting patterns.
 Like the book, each panel turns into the next panel. The ox becomes the monkey, the monkey becomes the deer, ect.
 And last, but not least, this interview through BookPage is beautiful and a must read.

Author Study Brainstorming

After passing my very last math exam needed for licensing (yaaaaay!) today, I am now thinking I better get started on planning for the year. Now, one might ask why I feel the need to do curriculum planning at 11:30 at night on the 23 of July? Ummm, well… Your guess is as good as mine. Like I said to a teacher friend the other day, “And to think, people say we have summers ‘off.’ Ha!”

In my late night crazy brain, I have decided to organize my primary lessons a little differently this year. Last year I tried to plan my lessons thematically, based on what was happening in the school, as a whole, and what was being taught in the classroom. While I still plan to continue on that path, I would also like to attempt to incorporate regular author studies into my kindergarten, first and second grade library lessons. There are various authors and illustrators that I think all young readers should be exposed to and I thought this would be a great opportunity to create that exposure. But, therein lies my conundrum… There are too, too, too many to choose from.

This is only after one session of brainstorming:

Ezra Jack Keats
Audrey & Don Wood
Mercer Mayer
Mo Willems
Lois Ehlert
Jan Thomas
Tedd Arnold
Frank Asch
Marc Brown
Don Freeman
Tomie dePaola
Helen Lester
Rosemary Wells
Maurice Sendak
Margaret Wise Brown
Jonathan London
Laura Numeroff
Cynthia Rylant
Eric Hill
Jan & Stan Berenstain
Jan Brett
Joanna Cole
Barbara Cooney

Leo Lionni
Arnold Lobel
James Marshall
Robert McCloskey
Dr. Seuss
Chris Van Allsburg
Vera B. Williams
Jane Yolen
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Jack Prelutsky
Jon Scieszka
William Steig
Sandra Boynton
Kevin Henkes
Beatrix Potter
Shel Silverstein
Alan Katz
Robert Munsch
E.B. White
Eric Carle
Mary Pope Osborne
Barbara Park
Steven Kellogg

Sigh. Too many books, too little time.

And just because they’re too wonderful not to share:

 
 

Preschool Storytime: I Broke My Trunk

The time of year has come when I have to officially decide what storytime themes will make the cut and which ones will have to remain a Pinterest dream until the next school year rolls around. Well, the year just couldn’t come to an end until the brilliance that is Mo Willems made an appearance.

As soon as I found Lisa’s I Broke My Trunk project at Thrive After Three, I knew I had to try it. I printed Lisa’s template for Elephant on white cardstock and then filled him in with colored pencils, laminated him and used tongue depressors to make him into a puppet. For the other puppets, I just printed them on letter-size pink and blue paper. Easy peasy.
I was sure to make a “before” Piggie and an “after” Piggie, if you look closely, you can see a bandaid on the left Piggie’s little snout. That was a big hit! If you want to try it, I just took a normal bandaid and cut it down to size, it was perfect and so easy.
Super-Library Assistant-Extrodanaire, Stella sat next to me and while I read the story, she “acted it out” with the puppets. The kids were rolling laughing when they saw Gerald’s truck wrapped in gauze. It was so much fun!
When we reached the end of the story, I unveiled his “trunk” and they squealed with delight when I blew on the party favor. I even snuck a little science in as we talked about how the air was inflating the party favor.
I used white cardstock for the kids’ Elephants, as well. They colored them, cut them out and then the adults punched a hole for the trunk. I didn’t print the Piggies or the animals Gerald balances on his trunk, they wouldn’t have had them time to cut all of them out. Maybe next time…
 
 
Per Lisa’s advice, I purchased the blowout party favors from Oriental Trading because they are essentially noiseless, hurray! (The teachers loved me!) They worked perfect, but did take a bit of time to be shipped, so if you’re planning to do this, give yourself a couple weeks.
 
Just in case you missed it above, here is the template.
 
This was so much fun, I can’t wait to do Mo Willems again. Next time… Don’t Let the Pigeon. Oh, the possibilities!
 

Preschool Storytime: Go Away, Big Green Monster

Who doesn’t love adorably cute but supposedly scary monsters? This girl sure does! And the classic Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley does not disappoint. If you’re not familiar, well… You should be. You might remember me talking about Ed Emberley in my Choo! Choo! storytime post, he is the guru of fingerprint art and he inspired our thumbprint trains. Check out some of his other (incredibly cool) books.

 
 I read the original version of the story while using a felt manipulative
I created. All of the pieces are removable so as the monster is appearing and disappearing, the little felt monster can follow along.
Next, we read Nighty Night, Little Green Monster, how cute is he!!! The kids love the contrast between the scary monster and the cute baby monster.
For our project, I was so in love with Ms. Jessi’s “squash painting” monsters, that I knew I had to try and re-create them. We used white card stock and then squeezed a small amount of each color on one side, “squashed” it closed, “smooshed” it around and when we opened it back up, we had monsters! I ended up adding the eyes, nose, mouth and teeth with construction paper after they dried. I would have loved to have the kids do this, but there just simply wasn’t enough time.
These are a few of my favorites… check out the chins on those guys!
 
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