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Claude Monet, leader of the Impressionist movement, was a masterful gardener. Yes, that's right, gardener. I've been to Monet's garden in France. This artist's garden bursts to life in spring. Spectacular is a small word to describe the grounds. You can read about it in the delightful book, Linnea in Monet's Garden. But you can also experience it through his paintings.
So, on this first day of spring, why not plan a visit to Monet's garden via a "close reading and rendering" of one of his garden paintings? You can learn so much about the art of painting by copying the work of a master. Here is how we did it:
Here's how to paint this painting in two three-hour-sessions:
To begin, cover your canvas with a light hue from the painting. While the paint is still very wet, use a clean brush to draw the shapes you see. Let this stage dry completely before proceeding.
Next, mix up a a limited palette of colors in jars that can be sealed so the acrylic paint will not dry out. When mixing colors to match this painting, you will not only mix primary pigments to find the secondary and tertiary colors (red and blue make purple, yellow and blue make green, orange with a hint of red is red-orange and so on), but you will need to experiment with adding a dash of compliments to discover the subtle complexities of Monet's palette. When you add a touch of orange to its opposite, blue, you will discover a lovely iteration of blue. For Monet colors, once you have the hue, you will add white to each color to achieve the lovely pales familiar to this artist. When you have your palette, seal it up for Session 2.
Start with laying down the dark blue-green in the negative spaces. Then, while the background is drying, begin to add detail to the lily pads and blossoms with the medium values, loading your brush with different hues and unloading them onto the canvas. Rinse your brush in between color changes. When the background dries (and acrylic dries fairly fast), give it a second coat, allowing the subject of the painting to dry a bit. Continue painting in this manner, paining the light values last. You may need to step back from the paintings to discover missing details. Be careful not to mix colors on canvas while paint is wet or the lovely colors will turn to mud.
It's spring. Take a moment to smell the flowers blooming and be inspired by the fragrance. You never know what you might learn. "I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers," said Claude Monet.
Celebrate spring with your students! Blackbird and Company's Early Bird Spring Stories Thematic Unit will help do just that! You’ll have 5 weeks of great reading and writing and projects at your finger tips.
First book in the line up is, It’s Spring by Linda Glaser. The cut paper illustrations are so adorable! It’s quite a fun project to paint a wide selection of colorful papers with tempera paint then after they dry use them to cut out a spring scene. Think of all the colors of spring like blues and greens and browns for trees and animals. Use the illustrations in the book as inspiration for your collage. It is easy to learn how to make a collage these days.
Or, another idea from our very own archives, make some spring blossom cards.
Whatever you decide, be sure to celebrate the blossoming!
We are so pleased to announce the arrival of our Hatchling Discovery Guides! This integrated, multi-sensory approach encourages Kindergarten through 2nd Grade learners to discover the complex connections between reading and writing the fun way.
Our Hatchling unit is designed to be paced over the course of two years as a comprehensive language arts program that introduces all the skills necessary to read fluently and write fluidly. Over the course of 52 weeks (2 school years), your little ones will discover the joys of reading and writing, delighting in the process.
Each year the phonics of reading and writing is introduced in a logical progression from initial sounds to more complex patterns in three concise student journals. Our teacher guide is designed to help you mentor and inspire your students through their individual important work. There are no lessons to prepare, but rather time to come alongside.
Each week students will:
For second year students in 1st or 2nd grade, we've added an element that teaches the four types of sentences and offers an opportunity to practice the art of sentence crafting using the miniature objects. Mazes, too, are a fun addition at this level, further developing fine motor skills and logic.
And, in line with all our offerings, we've tied writing to great stories. What better to spark the child's imagination than an endearing tale?
All this, plus "just right" readers along the way, enables your students to practice phonics as it is being introduced.
We believe the best kind of learning is happy learning . Hatchlings will open the door to the wonder and potential of language, inspiring curiosity and independence along the way. Both Volume 1 and Volume 2 will be available for pre-order at blackbirdandcompany.com April 1st. Hatchlings will begin shipping early June to those who place early orders. Stay tuned for more details.
The next time your student gets tackled in the I CAN'T zone, share a story of your own.
Yesterday I was shopping at Trader Joes, contemplating an almond milk purchase when a good friend approached me and said quite simply: "Why don’t you make your own?”
This suggestion set off a cascading thought process in me that went way beyond the situation at hand. All in a millisecond I thought about the many times I had thought about making my own, the videos I had watched, and the numerous blog posts I had read. Still I had never “pulled the trigger” so to speak. Now, I’m smart enough to know we all have “stuck” areas in our lives. There are things we aspire to in life, but we often get overwhelmed OR SOMETHING and are stopped in our tracks. Who knows all the things that hold us back. I suspect the problem has myriad roots.
Anyway, back to Trader Jones, what happened this time is that my friend continued: “Just soak 1 cup nuts (any nuts) overnight in water and in the morning drain the nuts, add 3 cups of water in the blender, and blend to liquify."
There was something in that moment. I think it might be that the process was presented so simply to me that I thought: "Okay it’s time to do this. I have almonds. I have water. I CAN do this...!"
And so I did. I added a pinch of salt and a dash of vanilla too. And the result was delicious—you don’t even have to strain it if you don’t want too! There were no additives so MY almond milk tasted so good!
I think sometimes the moment becomes right to make a move into the stuck zone. It’s so easy to over complicate things in our minds, to Pinterest an idea to death! In the case of almond milk, you know, make it all pretty with mason jars and ribbon and chalkboard labels,etc,etc, etc. when the true beauty is in the MAKING (and consuming) of the scrumptious drink itself.
It felt SO good to FINALLY just do it! And the icing on the cake? This is going to save me a ton of money!
So back to education... What if I had failed? Would I have learned something? YES! and I would have had strengthened my tenacity to try in the process. I would have learned some right and wrong strategies. I would have been learning.
Thing is, a growth mindset is NOT always easy. Students are NOT always successful when they try, but they ALWAYS learn something that is useful. Something that will help them in the future when they are faced with something new to learn. So the next time your student shrinks into the "I CAN'T" zone, share a story of your own, hum Dory's song, and just keep swimming!
PS By the way, my friend said the roasted unsalted hazelnuts from Oregon at Trader Joes makes an incredibly good milk. No fixed mindset here... I'm making some!!
What I meant to say is, "Don't forget to stop and observe the seashells!"
And when you do, ask yourself, "What do I see?"
Notice the organic shape. Look for the complex colors. Do you see the orange and blue making each other sing?
And whenever you observe something, make note of it in your Observation Journal like Marlo does!
Do you see how she closely observes line and texture and and shape and color inherent to the Nuttalia obscurata ("purple varnish clam")?
Now you try.
Find an object from nature in your neck of the woods. Journal your observations using words and images.
And don't forget to smell the roses.
Cozy means quilts and hot cocoa.
Of course when I am wishing for cozy weather, my favorite quilt stories come to mind: The Keeping Quilt, by Patricia Polacco, Stitchen' and Pullin' by Patricia C. McKissack, Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson, Luka's Quilt by Gerogia Guback.
And when I think about picture books, I think of all the simple crafts I enjoyed with my little ones, crafts that helped them to delight in the potential of language. So read a book and quilt a Q with your little one and embark on a literary tradition.
Rickettsia is a Monera that is transmitted by Arthropods such as fleas, lice, and tics and can cause harmful diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. This. This particular class of Monera was as named after pathologist Howard Taylor Ricketts.
But what is Rickettsia? And why is it a Monera?
If you are working through our 8-week unit Taxonomy of Living Things: The Five Kingdoms, the week #4 lesson is all about Monera. In fact, during the last 5 weeks of the unit, students will explore the characteristics of each kingdom and then be set free to do some independent research of a representative species. Included in each week's research is the opportunity to practice close observation.
Close observation is not about developing art skills as much as it is about developing the concentrated skill of looking. The keys to close, scientific observations are to look purposefully, slow down, and keep going. Not everyone can draw like Leonardo, but everyone can draw.
To begin, the more materials at hand the better. Use a variety of pencils and pens, and always use more than one color. The more details the better. Think line, texture, value, shape, color and always notice the relationship between the five.
And if getting started is difficult, look to someone else and ask, "What did they do?" Take a few minutes to look at Marlo's Rickettsia. What do you notice? What types of lines do you see? And what is the quality of those lines (thick to think straight, curved, jagged, dotted)? How does she make use of color? Texture? Value? Shape? And so on. Make a list and incorporate those qualities in your drawing. Be sure to label all parts and make notes as necessary.
I hope, in the end, you are noticing all the questions involved in doing research. Science, after all, is an adventure that begins with a question and culminates in a quest.
When I saw this vegetable ate the market, I stopped to ogle. It was fun to learn that it is sometimes called Romanesco cauliflower, sometimes Romansch broccoli. Either way, I was not thinking of the thing as food, only sheer math!
Can you see it?
And then I thought to myself, "This is math my students can get behind." So I pulled out a book:
And later I stirred up some soup and called my family to dinner.
I see triangles so often in nature.
This is a mystery to me..
I wonder why?
Where do you see triangles?
Write a "triangle" poem. Your poem will begin with an idea in sentence form. Transforming it to a line-break poem is fun and easy. Here's how:
Write a sentence:
Green plums frolic from their box onto the stage swinging their stems in rhythm to a juicy tune.
Break your sentence into “snapshots”
Green plums frolic OR Green plums
from their box frolic
onto the stage from the box
swinging their stems onto the stage
in rhythm swinging
to a juicy tune. their Stems
to a juicy tune
-Sara & Kim
Our Earlybird Winter Discovery Guide finishes up during week #5 with a delightful story called, Snow by Uri Shulevitz that captures the magical effect of falling snow (something we long for on the central coast of California).
Why not write a snowy haiku?
Begin by learning about snow.
And check in here to learn how to haiku!
Ben's family birth certificate says that he was born on January 6, 1706, but when the Colonies switched to a different calendar to keep pace with the seasons, his new birthday became January 17!
One of five men who crafted the Declaration of Independence.
Once, the Postmaster General.
Founded the idea of the public hospital and library.
Organized the first volunteer fire department which led to his concept of fire insurance.
The architect of Poor Richard's Almanac.
Inventor of the glass armonica, bifocals, swim fins, Franklin Stove, and, of course the lightning rod.
Honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale, University of St. Andrews, University of Oxford, and University of Edinburgh.
Spent 27 years of his life living abroad, crossing the Atlantic 8 times!
Earned his place on the $100 dollar bill.
All this more than 311 years ago!
Celebrate this life well spent one of two ways:
Ever wonder where inventors get their ideas? As it turns out, the great inventor Benjamin Franklin got his best ideas from a mouse named Amos (not really, but make for an adventurous historical fiction)! Consider this from historian David McCullah who read the book as a child:David McCullogh says "I can never be in Old Christ Church without wondering if perhaps some of Amos's line are still there, back behind the paneling." Pick up a bundle today. Who knows, you might cultivate a historian!
Early to bed and early to rise… you know the rest (I hope).
Benjamin Franklin was the youngest of seventeen children. He was the inventor whose thirst for knowledge led him to constantly seek to improve the lives of his fellow men. Follow his life as a leader in the American Revolution and ambassador to both Britain and France and learn why the French hailed him as the man who "tore the lightening from the sky and the scepter from tyrants." Explore this an so much more in the D'Aulaire recounting of the life of Ben Franklin. And over the course of 5 weeks you student will not only be guided through the crafting of an original essay, but will discover just how valuable a life can be.
It all begins with the sheep.
Our Earlybird Winter Discovery Guide’s fourth book, A New coat for Anna by Harriet Ziefert is a sweet story that helps readers learn just where a wool coat actually comes from.
Where I live there are NEVER snow days (sad face).
But there is ALWAYS white paint!
For this icy, project I decided to introduce the art of Jasper Johns to inspire my apprentice artists. I'm hoping to inspire yours too. We mad a really large, collaborative piece, but this would translate well into an individual work quite nicely. To begin, have your students gather a dozen or more really wonderful, extravagant words—a lexicon for winter.
You will need to gather the following supplies before you begin:
One large sheet of Cardboard (this one is 2' x 3').
A basket of assorted wood, cardboard, or sticker letters, many sizes and many different fonts.
One good pair of sharp scissors (we also used a heavy-duty paper cutter).
One hot glue gun with a large supply of glue.
A large quantity of white acrylic paint and a large paint brush.
Begin with the background, Create geometry using a random, collage technique, layering shapes on top of each other and glueing them to the background using the hot glue gun. When you are satisfied with the background, begin glueing down the words but it is a good idea to lay them all out before glueing to make sure you are satisfied with the placement. Mix and match type-faces, try placing words sideways and upside down. When the cardboard collaging is complete, the fun begins. Slather on a first layer of white paint. Let the coat dry completely then layer on a second coat, and a third! The trick to a really fun end result is to be courageously spontaneous while layering. When you think your done, keep going! Keep layering until the work of art feels snowed in. The you will know its winter.
Want to know what it means to spin-a-yarn?
Read Extra Yarn by Mac Bennett and illustrated by Jon Klassen and you'll soon see. Winner of the Caldecott, this contemporary fairy tale is bound to become a classic. Annabelle reminds that curiosity, determination, and generosity are three ways to thwart a villainous archduke!
PS Watch the story too. It's delightfully animated!