When Dads Come to Play by Hallie Cirino

“Working Parents Day” is a fun Saturday morning at CHT Preschool when parents, who don’t usually have the opportunity to come and see the school, spend a few hours working and playing with their children. Typically, in our school community, this tends to be mostly dads, who gravitate toward blocks and Legos. This year, however, our class ended up having only dads. We noticed that most of them gravitated toward PAINTING.

Esme and Dad Dad's choose to paint Jack and Dad paint Luke and Dad

Some dads collaborated on a single painting with their child, while others painted side by side. It was wonderful to see!

At the start of Working Parents Day, we asked a “Question of the Day”: Where would you like to play today? Dramatic Play, Art Center, or both?

SmartBoard dad's day

We also had a father-daughter pair who created costumes in art center, in order to facilitate dramatic play:

Harleaux and dad Harleaux and dad in costumes

Of course, dads found additional ways to connect with their children as well:

Cassie and DadWilliam with dad

The whole day was fabulous, and we loved the spirit with which the dads participated!

The benefits of the YCBA Summer Teaching Institute and the journey

About four years ago this month I heard about the Summer Teacher Institute: Expanding Literacies, Extending Classrooms at the Yale Center for British Art. .  After reading about the workshop I said to a colleague, this sounds really interesting. At the same time I was in discussions with my supervisor about switching courses. I wanted teach our standard level 9th grade instead of teaching AP Literature for Seniors. I was curious about the smart phone cultural effect on students not in an honors tract.

After one day at the conference I realized the emphasis on visual literacy, the power of embodied visual experience, the role of seeing and knowing, and the mindfulness practices were all areas I had been slowly incorporating into my classes.  Yet, I had not thought of placing these various domains together, in a daily way, in the classroom. I left the conference with more questions and quite inspired.  I spoke to my then supervisor about a pilot program where I would take the students to the museum giving them an opportunity to practice what I had practiced myself.  I had no idea where this journey would take me.

After four days of sheer intense encouragement I knew that I had reasons for incorporating visual literacy practices, skills and theories into the classroom.  The following year each student had a journal (without lines) and we visited the museum several times.  Now, four years later, 33% of those students, now seniors are taking our most advanced courses in the department.  Regardless if these students changed tracts, the work they produced that first year still gives me pause. The skills they developed are remarkable. During the first quarter, I asked the students to draw a map of their reading experience.

Version 2

I am indebted to the YCBA Department of Education and all those who lead workshops and gave lectures for having the vision of the Summer Teacher Institute . I would encourage you to sign up and join us in June.  You can register here.

–James Shivers



Author Analysis by Hallie Cirino

Our class recently completed a study of Ezra Jack Keats’ work. In summation, we decided to have each child find their favorite book. Once this was done, the children then found their favorite illustration in their favorite book. The children carefully studied the artwork and discussed what media they thought Keats had used. After analyzing, the children worked very hard on recreating the art on 8″ x 10″ canvasses, which pretty much replicated the page sizes in the books. All of the children painted the background of their canvasses first, just like Keats. What struck me the most was the incredible focus that the children had, and the artistic decisions that they made as they worked. All worked a minimum of two sessions on their canvasses.

William chose to paint this scene from Louie’s Search:

William painting He then explained in writing, “I like the part when Louie gets chased.” William’s choice of quick brushstrokes made his painting even more “threatening” than the original.

Levi chose to paint this page from Dreams:

Levi paintingLevi said, “I chose Dreams because I like when he looked out of the window.” Levi further verbally explained that the character, Roberto, “was watching his toy mouse make shadows when he fell,” thereby affirming his comprehension of the story.

Esme collaged and then painted this scene from The Trip:

Esme The TripShe surprised me by writing that she chose this page because “it has really pretty windows.” She spent a full hour snipping tiny windows and painting them different colors before carefully affixing them to her canvas.

Harleaux selected Pet Show and did this abstract, painted rendition, which she first sketched in pencil:

Harleaux Pet ShowShe wrote that she chose this page “because I like the animals in it.” Harleaux painted some wee details that most eyes would likely miss!

Jack used chalk pastels to recreate the windows in Dreams:

Jack Dreams He wrote, “I chose Dreams because I like the windows.” Jack revised his work at least five times, carefully brushing away the chalk, before finally being satisfied with the result.

Dutch chose to paint one of my personal favorites from Louie, wherein the main character dreams of feeding a puppet from a huge ice cream cone:

Louie Ice Cream He surprised me by writing, “I chose Louie because it was the easiest one.” He further explained that it really wasn’t easy, at all. “Just painting the ice cream cone was easy.”

Luke selected this scene from Goggles before painting AND drawing elements with chalk:

Luke Goggles Luke wrote, “I chose Goggles because it is hard and I like to do hard things.” And did he ever work hard, over three days, on this piece.

Cassie painted a different scene from Goggles:

Cassie painting Cassie wrote, “I chose Goggles because Peter talks through a tube.” Cassie spent about 45 minutes painting and repainting and remixing paints on her background. Her finished canvas was so heavy, I wasn’t sure it would hang!

Not only were the children’s artistic choices fascinating, but so were their reasons for selecting which works to recreate. Some children focused on story elements while others looked at the actual art to aide in their decision-making processes. My co-teacher, Maria, and I were very impressed, indeed.