Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Strega Nona

My class is in the thick of our study of one of my favorite authors, Tomie Depaola! Although Tomie has written so many great books, in my opinion he is most well known for his Strega Nona stories.

For those of you who don't know the story (shame on you!), it is based upon another folktale called The Magic Porridge Pot. Tomie was inspired by this folktale, and reworked it with an Italian twist! The first thing we did as a class was read both stories. Then we created venn diagrams to compare the two stories.

In Strega Nona, we are introduced to the goofy, clumsy Big Anthony, who comes to help Strega Nona take care of her house. When Big Anthony sees Strega Nona cast a spell over the pasta pot, he cannot wait for her to leave so he can try to use it himself! In the story Strega Nona's Magic Lessons, Big Anthony gets himself into even MORE trouble because of his actions. I thought that this story would be a perfect way to reintroduce understanding cause and effect. I had the students complete a graphic organizer to highlight what the effects of Big Anthony's decisions are in the story.

The third Strega Nona story I read to the class was Strega Nona: Her Story. This story is the prequel to Strega Nona. The kids loved seeing Strega Nona as a little girl and learning how she grew up to be the Strega Nona that they know from the original story. In this particular story, Tomie uses a lot of Italian words and phrases. I decided this would be the perfect opportunity for a foreign language lesson! 

We first created a list of the words we heard in the story:

Then, the kids got a mini-dictionary that they had to fill out. The students had a lot of fun combining the different words to create fun Italian phrases!

Since there is molto pasta in Strega Nona, I wanted to incorporate that somehow into a fun activity. I decided to try "pasta punctuation". I wrote out sentences from the story without any punctuation. With pieces of pasta (penne, macaroni, and shells), students had to place the pasta where there should be punctuation:

When they finished adding the pasta, they had to write down the sentence with punctuation on a sheet of paper:

This was a great way for students to think about quotations, apostrophes, and commas. Many students struggled with where to put the punctuation at the end of a quote. We talked about how if the character is saying STOP with excitement, the excitement is contained in the quote, so the end quotation marks should be after the exclamation point! 

To celebrate the end of this portion of the author study, our class put on a wonderful reader's theater of the original Strega Nona for our school's Friday assembly.  We worked hard creating fabulous sets and props for the show!

And of course, we needed the magic pasta pot:

The audience loved it, and the kids were so proud of themselves!

We will next be traveling from Italy (Tomie's father's side) to Ireland (Tomie's mother's side). Tomie has written some hilarious Irish folktales that I cannot wait to share! Slainte!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cupcake Course

Okay, enough with this darn snow!

We now have to add on THREE days because we have gone over our snow day limit :(

We were supposed have Monday and Tuesday of President's Weekend off, but now we have to come in on Tuesday. I know I am going to be exhausted, because I am coming back late Monday night from what should be a GREAT hiking/spa trip to Utah with my mom and sister for their February birthdays.

We also lost a day at the end of our Spring break. Since I am coming back again late from another awesome trip to Austin for my BACHELORETTE PARTY (Yee-haw!!!) the night before we need to be back at school, I decided I needed to take a personal day the next day :)

We are off again today, no thanks to this stinky nor'easter, so they are taking away a professional development day in April that the kids originally had off.

The wind outside my window is CRAZY SCARY! But at least I get to watch Olympic figure skating live! I even made myself a delicious pancake breakfast!

Photo: #snowday #breakfast #pancakes

 Speaking of cake, I have had the best time teaching my "Cupcake Mini Course"! At my school, students can sign up for mini-courses. Mini-courses are teacher-led classes that meet every Friday for an 8 week session. We have three mini-courses a year. It is a great way for kids from different grade levels to mix together and learn something they find interesting (some other mini-courses that teachers are leading include card games, cartooning, soccer, Italian, and sewing). I decided to introduce my love for baking/cake decorating in my mini-course!

The first thing I did was teach the kids how to use frosting bags/tips:


 I bake the cupcakes beforehand, so the kids have plenty of time to decorate! We also practiced rolling out fondant and making shapes.

Since I am from the DC area originally, I had to pay homage to Georgetown Cupcakes in my mini-course. When I first graduated from college in 2008, I worked in a small bakery during the start of the "Cupcake Craze". That was the same summer that the ladies from Georgetown Cupcake opened their first small shop on a side street in Georgetown. I remember stopping by the shop one stifling summer day after a coworker and I made a cake delivery in the neighborhood. We wanted to be so sneaky "checking out the competition", but we kind of blew our cover because we forgot to take off our chef's coats that had our bakery logo on it! Still, everyone in the store was super nice to us. Obviously, these ladies of GC really knew their stuff, with shops all over the country and lines lines lines galore! And of course, a reality show on TLC. I played an episode for the kids in my mini course to get inspired to create a cupcake scene. The "decorators" sketched out a few ideas and voted on their favorite.

Not surprising, a character from a popular cartoon movie was the winner:

Can you guess who this is? If you are not familiar, this is a minion, from the hilarious movie Dispicable Me, starring Steve Carell, who plays Gru, a super-villian turned loving dad :)

The kids learned how to mix colors and plan out which cupcake needed what color in order to make the minion.

We only have a few sessions left, so we are going to vote on an "original flavor" to bake together, and then decorate it on the last session! I am sad to end this mini-course, but excited for the next session, where I will be teaching TAP DANCING!!!

With that, I am going to get packing for my trip out west! I am ready to leave this cold, snowy east coast for a warmer, drier climate!

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