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21  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Completed Projects / Parts of speech puzzles on: July 28, 2009 08:15:56 AM
More preparations for the start of school: This is a little game to help the kids review their parts of speech. I started with some precut jigsaw puzzles and some markers, colored pencils, and an extra-fine-point Sharpie.

On the flat side of each puzzle, I used markers and colored pencils to write the name of a particular part of speech ("adverbs" or whatever). On the glossy side, I used the Sharpie to write an example of that part of speech on each individual puzzle piece.

Here we have prepositions, pronouns, and interjections. (Walter the kitten is not part of the lesson plan; he just doesn't trust me to do anything right without feline supervision.)

I found a set of cheap nesting boxes at the craft store a couple of months ago and bought them with a sense of blind faith that they would be useful for something. The biggest one accommodated my puzzle collection quite nicely. I labeled it so I wouldn't forget what was in it:

And your free grammar lesson for today: Remember when your fifth-grade teacher told you a preposition is "anywhere a cat can go"? Walter helpfully demonstrated that by jumping ONTO the coffee table, climbing INTO the box, walking IN FRONT OF the camera, wandering ACROSS the table, and stepping ON all the puzzles while I was trying to take the picture:

When the kids come in, all the pieces will be mixed up together in the box. I'll hand each student a few pieces, and then they'll have to work together to sort the pieces and solve the puzzles. (The colorful labels on the back are so they can match up the pieces and work the puzzles once they've sorted them.) The idea is just to get the kids up and moving around the classroom and thinking a little bit.

If any other teachers are interested, you can get the puzzles for 50 cents apiece at Hobby Lobby and Mardel. They have bigger ones with more pieces, too. I could see this same basic project being useful in a lot of different disciplines -- maybe verb conjugation in foreign language classes, geographic locations or names of historically significant figures in a social studies class, elements and their symbols in a chemistry class, algebra problems and solutions in a math class, etc.

I didn't get too fancy with the image on the back, because I didn't want to invest a lot of time in something with a lot of small pieces that are easily stolen or damaged, but if it goes over well and the kids don't mess it up, I might do a new set next year with Schoolhouse Rock characters on them.

22  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Grammar dominoes UPDATED on: July 22, 2009 03:01:47 PM
I wasn't sure where to put this, so I just stuck it under "Miscellaneous Topics." Feel free to move it to a more appropriate location if one exists. (Is there a classroom crafts category that I've missed somewhere?)

I teach sophomore English in an urban high school. If you've ever dealt with sophomores, you know that sitting still is not one of their strengths. It took me a while, but I finally caught on to the fact that my kids learn best through games ... so I'm spending my summer developing games that are keyed to our state-mandated objectives.

This particular game is a variation on dominoes. It's designed to teach subject-verb agreement, which confuses a lot of kids.

I started out with 3-by-6-inch ceramic bathroom tiles. After some unsuccessful trial and error involving paint markers, Sharpies, and polyurethane finish, I found a paint marker designed for use on ceramics and used it to write a pair of words on each tile:

I fired the tiles in the oven, let them cool, and then used clear urethane cement to glue a fun-foam rectangle to the bottom of each tile to keep them from getting scratched up during storage:

(Excuse the toes in the top left corner. My greyhound was sleeping on the floor while I was working and just couldn't be bothered to move his feet out of the frame.)

The paint is supposed to be very durable once it's fired. Most of the sophomores I've known could tear up a bowling ball, but we'll see....

UPDATE: The kids played this game yesterday. The first couple of classes didn't really get into it, because there was WAY too much down time while we were waiting for teams to make their moves. I finally scrapped the competitive aspect and just had my afternoon classes get up and gather around the center table, where it became kind of a free-for-all, with all the kids working together to try to use up all the tiles. It went much faster and was a lot more fun that way. The paint held up fairly well, although I noticed a few minor scratches by the end of the day. If I did this again, I would just make the tiles out of cardstock and laminate them.
23  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Kettle corn on: June 07, 2009 10:32:16 PM
Friends always act amazed when I mention the phrase "homemade kettle corn," so I thought I'd post a quick tute here.

You need:

Big saucepan or small stockpot with a lid
About 1/3 c. popcorn
About 1/4 c. sugar
Enough canola oil to coat the bottom of the pan about 1/8 inch deep

Pull the battery out of your smoke alarm and turn on the exhaust fan above your stove before you start, because you are probably going to screw up and burn this the first couple of times you do it. Like anything else, it gets easier with practice.

Cover the bottom of the pan with oil. Throw in three kernels of popcorn and heat until they all pop. Dump in popcorn and sugar, stir quickly, and cover. Remove from heat and shake vigorously every three seconds.

Once corn pops (which takes about five minutes), dump it into a large bowl, sprinkle lightly with salt, and enjoy.

I make this all the time. It's super easy, and if you let it cool down and then store it in a sealed container, it will stay fresh and crispy for several days.
24  HOME SWEET HOME / Exterior Decorating / Yard Art / Gardening: Completed Projects / UPDATED: You drive us wild, we'll drive you crazy.... on: June 07, 2009 09:40:27 PM
UPDATE: Thanks to a winter storm, I was off school, so today -- nearly eight months after starting this project -- I got out my paints and finished the rest of the band. I think the little guys turned out pretty cute:

I especially like the contrast between their cutesy-innocent accessories (dragonfly, sunflower, snail, mushrooms, etc.) and their rock-and-roll-all-night makeup. I couldn't resist making Peter's mushrooms look a little psychedelic....

Through a bizarre stream-of-consciousness intersection of pop culture icons, I came up with the most gloriously ludicrous idea I have ever had, and I was powerless to resist the urge to make it reality.

I'd been looking for lawn gnomes for several months, having had an inexplicable compulsion to paint a few to scatter around my garden. With that in mind, on the way back from visiting family in Illinois last month, I insisted that my husband stop at Sullivan Pottery on Route 66 in Missouri.

I hit the mother lode. I wound up buying five gnomes in two different sizes, all at bargain-basement prices (I think the cheapest was $5, and the most expensive was $10).

Surveying my little platoon of smiling concrete sprites, I found myself thinking, "That's like the lawn gnome version of the Something-Or-Other Army." The term I was trying to come up with was "Terra Cotta Army," but what kept popping into my head instead was "KISS Army."

You can guess what happened next:

I'm still working on his bandmates, but I couldn't resist posting the Paul Stanley Tribute Gnome. I don't really know why I started with Paul Stanley. I think I just like his makeup.

I thought about painting KISS-style clothing on the gnomes, but their little jackets and stuff are pretty well-defined, which makes it hard to get too cute with the paint job without it being really obvious. As I thought about it, I decided that the only thing more ridiculous than a KISS Army lawn gnome was a KISS Army lawn gnome who looked like a perfectly normal, garden-variety gnome in every aspect except his makeup and membership patch.

I'd originally chosen to ignore the imperfection in the concrete on his foot, but the more I thought about all the times I've stepped in poop while turning compost, the more I decided it made perfect sense for a garden gnome to have something on his shoe.

His pants are shiny and black because his little concrete butt was so carefully rendered that I decided he really deserved a pair of arseless chaps just to show it off, but once I started painting them, they didn't look quite right, so I just turned them into leather pants instead. (Actually, I'm not sure the goal was for them to look quite right. I think I would worry about myself -- a LOT -- if I saw a lawn gnome wearing arseless chaps and thought, "Yeah ... that looks about right." But they didn't look wrong in quite the right way, either.)

I'll update this post as I finish the other gnomes.

25  HOME SWEET HOME / Exterior Decorating / Yard Art / Gardening: Completed Projects / Green Man lawn gnome on: January 29, 2009 10:39:37 AM
This is how a bored English teacher spends her third consecutive snow day:

Plan A was to make a psychedelic lawn gnome (think Janis Joplins Porsche meets J.K. Rowling) inspired by some crazy earthy-hippie-celestial stationery I have but then I noticed that my little concrete companions beard and bangs had kind of a leafy texture and I adore the Green Man so of course I had to scrap my original plans and go for a more mythical look.

The metallic paint on his hat, legs and feet sort of overpowered his face, so I added just a little iridescent glitter paint to his beard and eyes after I finished. Now he looks like what youd get if RuPaul gave the Green Man a makeover. Not that theres anything wrong with that.

He still needs a coat of lacquer before he goes outside to keep an eye on the garden. Im also thinking of picking up some crazy-looking ceramic mushrooms from Garden Ridge for him to tend.
26  CLOTHING / Shoes: Completed Projects / Where the Wild Shoes Are on: December 29, 2008 11:24:55 PM
I felt a creative outburst coming on this evening, so I went to Payless and bought a pair of Chuck Taylor knockoffs. Using some leftover paint and a Sharpie, I dressed them up to match the mural in my office:

I'm not entirely happy with the shading on the Wild Thing -- which turned out a bit dark, especially after I applied a coat of clear nail polish as a sort of sealer over it -- but I think they'll be fun to wear to school. My sophomores love it when I wear something a little bit unusual, so I'm sure they'll find hand-painted shoes amusing.

P.S.: Here's the link to the mural, in case you're curious: https://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=177669.0.
27  HOME SWEET HOME / Crafty Housewares: Completed Projects: General / Theft-resistant sunflower pens on: October 14, 2008 11:33:34 PM
I recently landed myself a gig teaching sophomore English at a high school a mile and a half from my house. I love my kids, but their irresponsibility is about to drive me nuts: They can't seem to remember to bring ANYTHING to class. Their previous teacher spoiled them rotten by supplying them with pencils and paper every day. The problem is that they never remember to return the pencils when they're done using them, so keeping them supplied with writing instruments can get quite expensive.

Teaching is all about stealing good ideas, so I swiped one from the office, where one of the secretaries has attached all the pens to silk flowers and stashed them in a vase on the counter. I'm crazy about sunflowers and bees, so for about $10 worth of materials and some paint leftover from another project, I threw together this functional little decoration for my desk:

It's still possible that somebody will make off with a pen once in a while, but the large blossoms make it less likely.
28  PURSES, BAGS, WALLETS / Purses, Bags, Wallets: Completed Projects: General / Bees and bugs on: July 20, 2008 10:14:38 PM
I've been promising myself for a long time that I would sit down and figure out how to make a sling-type purse. I finally rummaged through my fabric stash tonight and came up with this:

It's reversible. Also, my rat terrier apparently thinks there's a cookie inside it:

Action shot (please overlook my disheveled appearance -- we spent an hour and a half working in the yard this evening, so the purse was kind of my present to myself for weeding my poor neglected garden):

It's not perfect, but I think it turned out pretty well, especially considering I just made up the pattern as I went along and was totally flying by the seat of my pants. I really like that bee fabric. In real life, it's more of a periwinkle blue, and the VW fabric is a lot darker/more vibrant. I hadn't originally planned to mix the patterns together like that -- I was just going to make one side bees and the other side Beetles -- but for some reason, I really liked how the colors looked next to each other.
29  Archive of Past Craftster Challenge Entries / CHALLENGE 26 ENTRIES / Tiki monkeys on: April 03, 2008 09:37:18 PM
What do you get when you cross two pairs of baby socks and a silk lei with a pair of flip-flops?

Tiki monkey shoes, of course!

Action shot:

And the ingredients:

My husband was along at the dollar store when I bought this stuff. He thought I was nuts when I explained what it was for. I spent $4 on materials ($1 for each pair of socks, $1 for the flip-flops, and $1 for the lei), not counting the needles, thread, a bit of fiberfill, and a scrap of black yarn, all of which I already had in my craft closet. I'm not sure how practical these will be or how well they'll hold up, but I think they make pretty good house slippers.

I wish the lei had been bright pink to match the monkeys, but they didn't have any in the right shade.

30  CRAFTING FOR GOOD AND NOT EVIL / Crafty Charitable/Social Causes / Jammies for GIs on: March 08, 2008 06:27:14 PM
I just found out about a neat project that somebody is doing to help soldiers in Iraq. Details are at http://gipajamaparty.blogspot.com/ (scroll down to the Feb. 14 entry for information) ... but the upshot is that a woman is collecting plain T-shirts and pajama bottoms with no writing (I assume prints are OK) to send to Iraq to save wounded soldiers from the indignity of wearing hospital gowns that leave their butts hanging out for the world to see.

She's trying to collect 5,000 pairs of pajama pants and T-shirts and ship them to Iraq by March 31.

As soon as I heard about it, I envisioned hundreds of Craftster junkies firing up their sewing machines and making fabulous pajama pants to send to the troops, so I thought I'd pass this along.
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