Today was the first day of my Tangram Tales Residency at Strehle Elementary, a public school in Louisiana. This is my second year at this school and I just love the teachers, staff and students here. The school has changed drastically since last year, a result of re-districting as well as renovations. Many of the classes are stuffed to the gills and nearly every grade has added a class full of students. In spite of all the population challenges, the principal, librarian, and teachers are committed to excellence and giving their students the best education possible.
Today was also my first day back at “work,” at least work in the “real world” since my big surgery on December 8, 2008. I tried to sit down as much as possible but it was a tiring albeit fulfilling day. I began my day with a slight scheduling mix-up, which was fixed right away. I started out in Ms. Runge’s Pre-K 4 class. I began by telling a Tangram Tale (“The Old Woman and Her Pig”). Then the students moved to their desks and began manipulating Tangrams. When you work with Pre-K, the object of the lesson is definitely the process and not the product. 🙂 The students did so well working with the Tangrams.
I started the day with three Pre-K classes back-to-back. I love their inate curiosity and wish I had their unbridled energy! Besides, they get “rest time.” Can I sleep on a mat in the middle of the day too? LOL I saw some genuine creativity, with students breaking boundaries and inventing their own Tangrams. Look at the work of this Pre-K girl… Wow!
My class just before lunch was delightful Ms. Till’s class. Her class last year performed an awesome heel-stompin’, hip-hoppin’ rendition of “Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby” for the 2008 Louisiana Story Fest residency. The Brer Rabbit story has become one of my favorite tellable tales – I was so inspired by Ms. Till’s class. So naturally, I was excited to be in her class this year. The students were attentive and excited to participate in the Tangram Tales. I love to watch their little faces light up with “Wow!” when they see ordinary geometric shapes magically transform into fantastic pictures. After telling them a short Tangram Tale, they proceeded to work with Tangrams, turning the math manipulatives into pictures.
They worked very well with the Tangrams, moving from one puzzle to another with relative ease.
Afterwards, we began work on our Tangram Tales Story Theater script. Ms. Till’s class is performing “The Cat and the Rooster,” a tale from the Ukraine about the power of friendship. I assigned parts to storytellers, Tangram Artists, and the chorus. So far, it looks like the class is going to do a phenomenal job!
While walking down the hall, one of the teachers stopped me and said, “Dianne de Las Casas! You were the best thing to happen to this school last year!” She went on to tell me that her class listens to my CDs at least twice a week. It gave me chills to think that my 2 week visit could have that kind of lasting impact. In fact, so many of the students recognized me as I walked down the halls, giving me hugs and waving frantically. It’s such a fantastic feeling. That is the power of connecting kids and literacy through the arts.
After lunch, I had the pleasure of visiting two first grade classrooms (Ms. Quaintance & Ms. Hervey) and ending my day in Ms. Lankard’s 2nd grade classroom. In fact, Ms. Lankard loved my books so much that she bought Tangram Tales and The Cajun Cornbread Boy for her classroom. Thank you, lovely Ms. Lankard!
Ms. Hervey was so enthusiastic about the Tangrams that she had made other reproducibles for her class. We both agreed that the combination of math and language arts gave the students a more tangible way of grasping the geometric concepts of Tangrams. I love working with teachers who are so committed and see the value of another viewpoint. Thank you, Ms. Hervey, for your enthusiasm. It’s teachers like you who plant seeds of greatness in our children.
I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings! Thank you Strehle Elementary, for welcoming me back with open arms!
Until next time…