Sunday, November 25, 2012

Preparing for Advent

One thing that has always remained constant in our homeschooling is one way of learning that my daughters learn best. I've found that girls are very visual tactile learners. They love to create an have something to look at. So in our homeschooling endeavors I try to be as creative as I can be because the one thing I've learned is that these simple activities stick.  The crafts we create are not meant to be busy work but something that has meaning and will help them to remember important facts.   I know that it works because I've had my 14 yr old daughter say " Mom, do you remember when we did (fill in the blank) when I was five?  That was so much fun and it helped me to remember ( fill in important fact)." Whether we create crafts, make lapbooks , or do notebooking, these are visual reminders for my daughters and I know there are many children out there that are just like this.  I use this method in my Religious Ed (CCD) class because I know, even if my words fall on deaf ears, the art they create will always be remembered.

With this said we are preparing for the first day of Advent ( Dec 2) and I can't wait to do this craft with my K/1st graders. Granted I have the toughest class. I say this because once a week , for an hour and a half I have to keep the attention of seven 5 and 6 yr olds for an hour and a half. Not an easy task since only one (Maggie) reads at a 2nd grade level, another one has a fantastic memory, and the others can neither read or write, and  I believe have never really heard a Bible story, and I have one child that can't even match pictures.  So I have a wide spectrum in my class that's for sure. Not to mention you have to pick your games carefully , and can't really get into a deeper level of thinking like you can with older children.  The worst thing in the world you can possibly have is a class of 5 and 6 yr old children that are bored for an hour and a half. That equals chaos in my book.

 So at the beginning of the year I created a predictable schedule for them ( something that does not work with older children by the way) with starting our day asking them how they are, if they did anything fun or exciting that week. Then we get down to business with singing (we usually end with something like Father Abraham to get the wigglies out) ,  sit down to listen to a Bible story, and then the Catechesis.  After they've spent time listening , answering simple questions, then its time to get down to the hands on stuff.  I always try to have some type of craft when I'm teaching ( if I'm not able to I always make sure there is some kind of coloring sheet, or extremely simple craft for a substitute teacher) to solidify what I've taught. I like to try and split up our crafts with one class a craft about a Bible story we've learned, and the next with a craft that goes along with the catechesis.

With all of that said there has been so many great craft projects out there being created by Catholic Religious Ed teachers, and Catholic families.  Pinterest is my addiction to finding what I need on any given subject, and sometimes I find myself relying to much on Pinterest and not on my creative juices that I once had. None-the-less I find my brain pretty scattered anyways these days , so much to think about and do right now that I actually am happy Pinterest exists at the moment.

This craft I created isn't exactly original by any sense of the matter, but it is easy, and simple and fits into the short time frame one has on a Sunday morning before Mass. So without further ado,,, here is our very first Advent project. The Advent Calendar.

 Our supplies :
Two different colored felt , obviously read or green for this activity, you could also use white or even pink or purple (advent colors) if you wish too.
Printable Advent Calendar
Here are two links you can use for your Advent Calendar :
The first link is a big chunky picture of Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus (great for children in Prek-1st grade)  The second link is the Manger scene you see in my photo ( definitely would work with children grades 2 and up)
colored yarn ( I chose white to offset the colors)
and wooden dowels ( found them really cheap at Walmart)
and a package of star stickers

 I made sure that the dowels were glued onto the felt, the pictures cut down to size to fit on the felt and I use tacky glue to glue on the back of the paper as this leaves the paper nice and flat without those glue bubbles that you normally see with regular glue.  I also used a craft stick to spread it evenly because tacky glue is thick. Once the children are done coloring their advent calendars, glue them on the felt with tacky glue , then I will have them tie on the string ( little ones may need help with this) onto the dowel. I found string that is already cut to 21 1/4 inch long to be the perfect length for this project.
 After doing all of that I took a paper clip and clipped on the sheet of star stickers ( make sure you have 25 stars at least on a sheet) onto the side of the calendar and they are ready to take home.

Easy to make and ready to hang when they get home. Since we'll be doing them on the first day of Advent the kids will be able to start with the very first sticker and they can finish the countdown at home with their families.

So there you go. A simple Advent calendar that is a little more dressed up. Originally I was going to have the kids just color the page , give them some stickers and send it home. After looking and looking at it I felt we could do just a little more to spiff it up a bit and make it more fun than just a coloring project. Granted, its not reusable but it will make for a wonderful keepsake. Actually now that I look at it some more I think I may cut out some small numbers and put 2012 on the side. See how scattered my brain is? Ha, ha.  Not to shabby for my first year teaching K and 1st graders ( last year I taught 2nd grade).

Do you have a fun and amazing Advent calendar you do with your family or RE (CCD) students?  If you do, post a link in my comments and share. The more ideas, the better!

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