Yesterday I loaded up my supplies and visited six different classrooms to teach about The Year of the Monkey. In addition to my usual goodies, I added some pictures of wild monkeys that I'd taken when we were in Rachel's Chinese city. The idea of wild monkeys wandering the countryside was utterly fascinating to Kansas kids!
The kindergarten classes made simple monkey faces.
I tried painting with the first graders. In all the years I have taught Chinese New Year I have never repeated a craft project, mostly because it is so much fin to dream up new ones. I have never painted with the kids before, but I saw a very simple monkey drawing and thought they could make something similar. I took in small Chinese paintings from our house and showed them to the kids. I explained that Chinese paintings are often done in just black ink on white paper and that usually only part of the picture is painted and you fill in the rest with your imagination. Then we read a story about a little girl whose paintings come to life and we joked about what would happen if our monkey paintings jumped off the page and ran around the room! When it was time to paint, I showed the kids how Chinese painters hold their brushes (with thumb and all four fingers near the top of the brush handle). I used watercolors that come in blocks and explained that Chinese ink stones are similar. Then we painted step by step. The results were darling!
We even made our own version of a chop, the red inked name stamp that the Chinese use to sign artwork or important papers, I just used a wooden block with the end painted, stamped it on the paper, and wrote each child's name on it when it was dry.
The second graders were excited to see me. Most of them have done Chinese New Year with me before and they couldn't wait to see what we'd do this year. I love that even though Rachel is the only Asian child in the school, her classmates eagerly embrace this aspect of her birth culture. Rae likes having her mom come to her class, too, even though she's a bit embarrassed about the attention.
I made papercuts with the second graders a couple of years ago and they were so pretty that I wanted to try them again. This year we made monkeys and one set of cutting made two different pictures!
I had traced the design on folded paper, so the kids only cut out half a monkey. (Rae is such fun to watch cut. Since she can't hold on to the paper, she balances it on her knee and uses her little hand to turn it as needed. Works perfectly!)
Then the kids glued the cutouts to a background. Second graders still really, really like glue!
The monkeys looked so cool when they were finished.
It is such fun to have a little but of China in our little school in Kansas!