Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mozart's 'Requiem in D minor' on YouTube

The last piece that Mozart wrote, and the one that essentially killed him. Sure, it is a very dark piece, as you would expect a requiem to be. But it is so hauntingly beautiful at the same time.

Some may find the operatic singing to be more distracting in the classroom. However, some children may not be fazed by it at all. It can be background music or a teaching tool, however you see fit.

This video opens with a quote from Mozart and then focuses on his portrait for the rest of the piece. It is a live recording, so you will hear some applause. The heavy applause hits at the 52:00 mark and continues for quite some time.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Baskets, baskets, baskets

Today I have to haul all of those baskets to school. I didn't realize how many I had actually purchased this summer, until I put them all together. I had them at the top of my supply request list, but I never get them. So, I decided to find them on my own. I got pretty lucky, I think. These are my latest acquisitions...

A lady at the Public Market showed up for Saturdays through October. She sells larger baskets for about $1 apiece, and has a whole ginormous box of baskets of all sizes for 50 cents apiece.

My problem is that I don't like the baskets with handles. They do not neatly fit on my shelves. In fact, most of what I have left has handles, because they do not get used as frequently. I dug through this ginormous box and found several smaller ones with no handles. I am also in dire need of smaller baskets. Mine have actually held up pretty well over the years; I just want some more to better fit on the shelves and to be more visually appealing. I ended up with this box full for a mere $7. I want to go back some more.

And no, those wine bottles will not be going with me. Actually, I took this picture two weeks ago. They are already gone.

Earlier this summer, I was shopping at Savers. It is a similar concept to Goodwill in that you donate gently used items. They resell them and donate to a charity. I forget what they actually support. It has quickly become one of my favorite stores. ($7 Lands End slip-on shoes, but I digress.) On that trip, I got lucky with the baskets.

And then there was a trip to the local Goodwill...

And finally, I stopped in at Ben Franklin back home in Ohio. That store is deadly for Montessori teachers. They had all kinds of random baskets and trays and what-not from which to choose. I had to behave...

All of this for about $20. Not bad. This should give me a good head start when I go back. I could dream and hope that I have a whole slew of new baskets also waiting for me. I won't hold my breath....

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The last day of summer vacation

I have to admit that I am a little sad today. It's the last day of summer vacation. Yes, tomorrow I have to get up at the crack of dawn to go into school. Okay, so somewhere between 6 and 6:30. I am *NOT* a morning person. I have just spent the past 2 1/2 months blissfully sleeping in until 9ish and not having to hurry to get anywhere. I shall miss it. A lot.

Don't get me wrong. I am excited to see the kids. I know that this year's group is going to keep me on my toes. One of my Ks learned how to do the Division Board last year, by observing one lesson I did with an older child. He hadn't even yet done the Hundred Board. He will also probably be reading chapter books. I love these kinds of challenges, because I am forced to get creative with the materials and learning opportunities.

Then there are the younger kids. One of them isn't quite yet 3 and doesn't speak. I know him and his family quite well. It will be fun to try to coax the words out of him. I know they're in there.

As I have mentioned off and on through the summer, and more via the Facebook page than anything else, I have found a lot of fun things this summer. I need to remember to post more of those over the next few days. I will also try to share with you the setting up of the classroom this week.

So, how did I spend my last day of freedom? I woke up with a sinus migraine, thanks to allergies. Medication and a fabulous Greek breakfast with lots of coffee helped to make some of that go away. Then, I went to the grocery store. I am determined to be better this year about bringing my own lunch and making healthier choices. Yes, I say this every single year. I mean it this time. Honest. :-P

I was happy to see that Gladware was on sale. I stocked up on a wide variety of sizes and purchased a bunch of food for the week. The plan was to wash all of the dishes and start packing up some yummies within them. I have gotten some of that done. I just have to wait for them to finish drying.

Oh yeah, I also found some nifty baking supplies. This cake pop/donut hole maker and mini cupcake maker were both on clearance. I think they will be fun to use with the kids.

After that, I pretty much just worked on getting blogs ready and making sure some laundry is done. I have also been putting together the things I need to take in tomorrow. I don't know how I am going to maintain my book reviewing during the school year, but I am going to try!

I should have sat outside today. I just didn't have it in me with the high pollen counts and already irritated eyes from allergies. Maybe I will go for a walk tomorrow after working in the classroom. We shall see what the weather is like and how I am feeling after getting up at such an ungodly hour.

What do you do before school starts?

Worry Stones

Have you ever used worry stones in your peace corner? I have seen them in a variety of shapes and sizes, with various messages on them. I keep picking them up. Yes, part of that is my OCD kicking in, wanting to have every variation of something that I can find. At the same time, how am I supposed to know which worry stones will speak to which child? Everyone is different. That's why so many different kinds exist.

When my other half and I went hiking in Watkins Glen, NY a few weeks ago, we stopped in at an ice cream shop after dinner. The woman also had a variety of pottery for sale in an adjoining room. He is the one who found the worry stones first, and thought I may be interested in them.

They are quite simple - just little balls of clay flattened and etched with a bit of glaze. We could probably easily make them in the classroom. Oooh - project idea!

These are small enough that they can easily fit into a pocket. That is the point of them. Put them in your pocket and rub them when you are feeling the need for more of whatever message is inscribed upon them. I chose "peace" and "love" in two different colors, because I am sharing them with my friend. They will probably go into someone's pocket at some point this year. For a dollar apiece, though, I'm not too worried about it. Now, I just need to figure out a basket or something to put them in for the peace shelf.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mozart's 'Symphony No. 40' on YouTube

Mozart is probably my favorite classical composer. We listened to him a lot when I was a child. My parents went on a rare date to see Amadeus in the theatres when we were kids. They had it on videotape because it was so good. We watched it over and over again. Even as adults, my sister and I still love to watch the movie on DVD.

While perusing YouTube for some longer length pieces, I came across "Symphony No. 40." It lasts about a half hour and would be another god addition to play in the background while kids are working. Or, you could set it up in a smaller station in the corner of a room.

What I like about this video is that it features a portrait of Mozart, which is a good teaching tool for the kids. What I do not like is the number of ads that you have to x-out in order to see his face. Most of them are links to other pieces, but nevertheless annoying. Still, it takes less than a minute to carefully remove all of them and then Mozart is visible.

What is your favorite Mozart to play in the classroom?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons' on YouTube

I was in a classical music mood today. Instead of relying on my mp3 player, which only has snippets of longer pieces, I decided to venture into the scary world of YouTube. I found some real gems and enjoyed listening to them.

One in particular was Vivaldi's "Four Seasons." I have always loved listening to this piece. What I like about this particular clip on YouTube, is that all four of the seasons are represented. All 42 minutes of music are present. The poster has included the times where each movement begins, should you want to focus on a particular season. Pictures from each season are in the background as its part is performed. You could easily leave this playing in the background. I am considering it on my laptop for the kids to listen to and view. Or, it could even go on that evil SmartBoard that is in my room. I would be okay with using it for that.

You could use this as a springboard for classroom discussions about the seasons, focusing on one at a time or all four. Have the kids listen to each part and draw pictures. Get creative.

Check out the video here:

How would you use it in your clasroom?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Lose the Training Wheels Day 1

Today was my first day at Lose the Training Wheels. This program is being sponsored locally by Upstate New York Families for Effective Autism Treatment (UNYFEAT). It is a method that teaches children with autism and developmental delays how to independently ride a bike. Instead of a back wheel, there is a roller that provides more balance. As they master riding with that roller, they are called in for a "pit stop" to take a break and get a drink of water. The roller is then moved to the next one, which is more tapered on the ends. There is also a handle that is waist-high for volunteers to use to help keep the child on balance should they really start to tip. It also serves as a brake for those who can't slow down on their own. There are no brakes on these bikes.

80% of children who participate in this program are on their own two-wheeler by the end of the week. It is an amazing program. I went one day last year for "Family Day," to help my friend. She has two boys on opposite ends of the spectrum and they were both participating. You might know her from the blog "From the Mom Cave." I was absolutely amazed at what I saw and was bursting with pride that both of my buddies lost their training wheels. They were also ecstatic, as was their mother. I wondered if it would be possible to help some other kids at some point.

This past spring, I saw a post in my news feed from UNYFEAT, asking for volunteers for this year's program. I eagerly printed off the form and faxed it in. I checked off every possibility for helping: assisting kids, helping admin, you name it. I also checked off every possible session, because I would make sure I had nothing else going on this week.


The day the confirmation emails came in, I got five of them, confirming that I was helping in all five sessions. I got nervous. I have a hamstring injury from April that never quite healed properly. I knew it would be a lot of movement. Five sessions also means a really long day, longer than I am even in my classroom, making a really long week. I whittled it down by eliminating the first session, because they had enough volunteers.

To prepare for my first day, I made sure I took a few long walks during the past week, to exercise my legs. I packed a lunch with as many allergen-free foods as I could find, because I didn't want someone to get sick from something I ate. I also made sure I had plenty of protein, nutrient-packed energy foods, and bananas for sore muscles. When I showered, I used the shampoo and soap with the least amount of odor, as these kids tend to be sensitive to smells.

I arrived and was paired up with another Andrea to assist our new friend whom I will dub "Jacob." Jacob is 8 years old and loves Batman. He is very verbal, but tends to script from his favorite shows. He likes to have a schedule and may possibly need a reward system to keep him going. He grabbed my hand as soon as we were called over to the middle for a quick meeting and held onto it for a while. He also stood close to me while we were waiting our turn to get our bike. I felt an immediate connection and sense of trust between us, which was awesome.

He was nervous about riding the bike, but did quite well. He kept us at a nice, steady walking pace. Someone told me that four laps in the given space was the equivalent of a mile, so that kid actually rode close to six miles in his 75-minute session. He often took breaks after about four laps, which was fine. Breaks are supposed to be limited to about two minutes. He had no problem getting back on his bike when it was time. Our biggest issue was he is very sensitive to touch and I had a hard time unhooking his helmet at one point. I accidentally pinched him a little bit, but apparently that happens a lot. He also liked to take his hands off of the handlebars, to be like the big kids in his neighborhood. We would simply stop him with the handle in back if he didn't put them back on with prompting. He did an awesome job.

For the second session, I was paired up with a kid named Kevin. (Okay, kid is a relative term. He may have been in college or may have been in high school. I can't tell anymore.) We were with a girl whom I will call "Elizabeth." She is almost 13 years old and immediately informed us that she was being forced to do this and was not happy about it. I distracted her by asking her a lot of questions and quickly found out that she loves to ride horses. Even though you are supposed to have the kids focus on their riding, we found that she was more at ease when she was talking about animals. She quickly went through three roller changes and was riding pretty confidently by the end. I got a kick out of her tween attitude. We were fast friends.

For that second session, I started alternating with Kevin every other lap. Part of it was I was starting to get tired. The other part was Elizabeth was insisting that she could do it all by herself. That is not permitted, so one person at a time was a great compromise for her.

One of my favorite kids to watch was a boy I will call "Matthew." He had Down's Syndrome and got the biggest kick over running over every single one of the little cones around which they were supposed to ride. His laughter and glee was infectious. He wasn't quite following the rules, but he was actually riding. 

We had an hour off for lunch. I ate and tried to read. I stretched a little bit and massaged my sore feet and legs. I don't own running shoes, so I am doing this in my most comfortable hiking boots.

I was really hoping that I would get another slow kid after lunch. By this point, I was closing in on 8 miles around that track. I got a little girl I will call "Jenny." My partner was one of the dads, named Doug. She tried to tell us that she was scared to ride the bike and couldn't do it. She took off like a bat out of you-know-where and was content to keep on riding without a break, while Doug and I sweat like crazy trying to walk with her. Unfortunately, everyone working knows Jenny, so they kept encouraging her to make us run! She would speed up near the spectators and then slow back down. She also quickly went through roller changes. By the end, I could no longer keep up with her fast bursts. First, I do not run. Second, my hamstring was starting to pop and tighten up. I wasn't stretching enough. I am in big trouble later this week!

They were kind enough to let me leave after that, instead of trying to do a fourth session. I knew there was no way to do it. I have been nursing myself all evening, in anticipation of having to do it again tomorrow and for the next few days.

Despite being exhausted and sore, though, I am content. I helped three kids today change their "I can't" attitude into "I can." The week is just beginning. A new chapter in their lives is opening up. I get to be a part of that. It gives me a warm and fuzzy like nothing else. I can't wait to find out what else I get to learn this week.

Check out Amy's posts from last year's Lose the Training Wheels:

Lose the Training Wheels!!!

Riding into Day Two of Lose the Training Wheels

Riding past Day Three of Lose the Training Wheels

Soaring high above Day Four of Lose the Training Wheels

Celebrating Losing the Training Wheels


A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Thanks