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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Storm King Art Center, NY

This past weekend I got to spend a little time with some of my favorite boys- my hubby, son, and 6 year old nephew.  Being that the fall leaves were so gorgeous here in the NY/NJ area we decided to go for a little drive.  I have been wanting to check out the Storm King Art Center ( in NY and thought this might be a nice opportunity.  If you ever have a chance I highly recommend it.  It is a really fun sculpture museum with the added bonus that it provides your family a rare opportunity to interact with art in a unique way.  You can walk (or run as you can see below) amongst the art and feel part of the experience.  

Museums are not always a crowd-pleaser activity- especially one with abstract pieces.  Aside from getting little ones to appreciate the art, walking around quietly is usually an unattainable fantasy!  In comes Storm King! The Art Center has huge fields where you can get up close and personal with the "cool", "weird", and "awesome" structures.  I love the abstract sculptures because they provide families an opportunity to think about what they are looking at from their various perspectives- and the best thing about art is asserting that there are no "right" answers!  A great life lesson delivered in a natural way.  It was so fun to think about what the sculptures looked like and then read the title of the work.  So many times the title signaled that the artist had something completely different in mind than we had seen- but that is a strong lesson for our kids.  Helping our kids be risk takers in talking about their opinions provides important life long skills.  

My nephew and son had a blast running freely looking at the sculptures from all angles.  My husband and I each enjoyed looking at the art from our lens but also from the point of view of the kids.  I thought the sculpture below looked like the Phantom of the Opera Mask...until my nephew said it looked like a hanging pretzel.  It was kinda hard to argue with him. LOL  I can't wait to go back since we barely explored a third of the place!

Raise the FLF: I always like to find a way to tie in the experience at the end of a museum visit.  Otherwise there is a lot of walking around oohing and ahhing without really knowing what anyone was thinking other than "when can we go get lunch?!"  My husband and I have a tradition of sharing our favorite piece at the end of a visit and saying why.  Neither of us are art experts we just say what we liked and why.  No pressure but it is a nice check in.  When visiting with little ones in our family we like to share this idea. You can also turn it up a notch by getting inspired by the art you saw and taking an artistic turn of your own.  After Storm King Art Center you could draw your favorite sculpture or go home and use building blocks to make your own sculptures.  Don't forget to get the whole family involved and to take pictures.  You might also try what we did this particular afternoon.  After lunch, as the guys got a little fidgety I gave out some Crayola Model Magic and while we were unwinding we started to create our own structures based on what we saw.  I love using Model Magic because it is mess free and easily portable.  It is easy and entertaining for the kids AND adults! I really love us applying what we saw in a way that extends the days creativity, fun, and best of all lasting family memories. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Word About Wordless Books

As you know the other night I was fortunate to facilitate a parent’s literacy night.  I love these because parents and educators have so many great ideas to share.  I walked away with lots of new perspectives on the work I do as a teacher and also the role I play as a parent in promoting thinking and learning.  One concern that came up was a parent that was having difficulty engaging her child in talking about the books that they read together.  She felt like her son didn’t have much to say.  This is a typical dilemma I see as I work with a variety of children.  The tricky part is promoting rich discussion without overanalyzing a story to the point that the story gets weighed down and is boring! I shared one possible way to promote talking “through” a story- using a wordless book. 

I love wordless books because there are so many useful ways they can bring value to any reader.  In this parent’s case, I think it would be nice for her child to let the images drive her story telling but a wordless book also lends an opportunity for the adults to model using rich language to describe what is happening.  I shared the book Chalk by Bill Thomson because I think it appeals to readers of all ages and in particular is a magical story that inherently connects to one’s imagination.  I suggested to this parent that the first time she reads the book with her child they do so “quietly” meaning just let her child enjoy and drive the talk.  Her child will probably initiate the discussion because most readers can’t help but call out as they “discover” this magical tale.  Then maybe the second or third “read” she could try modeling spending time on some pages describing the “important action” but also noticing the rich details in the character’s expressions, setting, and tone.  I reminded her not to force her child into the talk but to nurture it by acknowledging her child’s thinking throughout the story.  

Our conversation of using the book Chalk  to promote rich talk actually prompted a larger discussion on the many exciting ways that wordless books can be used to nurture a love of books.  There were so many I compiled just some into a list that I thought you might find interesting.  Click on this link and feel free to explore the ideas as well as some of my favorite wordless books.  Do you have your own ideas or wordless favorites? I’d love you to please share!

Raise the FLF: Wordless books are great to use across age groups because it doesn’t hold one down to a particular level of text.  Therefore I think these provide a particular opportunity for families to learn together.  Wordless books can be great fun to bring a family together and story tell as a group.  Adults and kids alike can take turns telling the next pages and building on each others imagination to weave their own fantastical story.  Try it with a few wordless books; then take those new family skills and put them to the test.  Can you build your own story together?  One person can pick a character or characters, another a setting, and yet another a problem.  Then while having dinner or driving around running errands (or while waiting on reeeaaally long lines this holiday season) try taking turns telling a story.  Not only will this promote lots of great skills for your children (speaking and listening!) but it will also provide lots of great family fun.