Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Puzzling Problem with my lack of Practicality

Dear friends, I did it.

I created puzzles.

This may not seem like some sort of high fla-looting achievement but 16 puzzles later I am proud of my accomplishment. I don't know if you've ever tried to make puzzles from scratch but it certainly is no picnic.

A couple weeks ago, I had discovered an idea on the internet (the source of many of my kindergarten classroom ideas) to make SHAPE PUZZLES. The idea was to cut out different shapes from thick poster board to make a puzzle. Well, since I was teaching shapes this week, I ran with the idea. I found some thick poster board paper at the bookstore and took it home to get busy making puzzles. I decided to actually draw shapes and make puzzles with each one. Here are the steps to what turned into a massive puzzle undertaking!!!

1. Locate puzzle material - like I said I found mine at the local liberia (bookstore) for S/ 2.50 (about 79 cents for a big sheet) It's called carton prensada here and is a boxy color.

2. Draw as many shapes as you can on the carton (don't bother thinking about the work that lies ahead!).
I ended up with 4 triangles, 4 circles, 4 squares & 4 rectangles of various sizes.

3. Cut out each shape with your exacto knife and nifty metal ruler on the living room carpet (leaving a horrendous mess! sorry Marga!).

4. Paint each of the 16 shapes white with tempura paint and then paint each one the four colors your classes had learned the week before (red, blue, green & yellow). Thankfully your friend Uri is there to help and there's plenty of company in the living room since the NCCA basketball tournement is on the Mexican ESPN channel and fellow missionary Ron and two of his kids came to watch.

5. After the paint dries, write the names of the shapes in marker on top. Draw puzzle shapes on the backs of the shapes. You are not really quite sure how to do this. Some of the peices are huge and on some of the shapes, smaller but in the end all you can do is hope that it works.

6. Cut, cut, cut out all your peices. I tried it with an exacto knife to find that terribly frustrating. In the end I mostly used my scissors to cut the thick cardboardy like puzzles. My hands were pretty sore by Sunday night but it didn't matter because I had my 4 circle puzzles ready for Monday.

7. Try out the puzzles on the students. Monday we did circles and since I had cut the shapes pretty big they should have been pretty easy. The HARD thing was trying to get the kids to work in groups to do the puzzles. The peices were all over the place and unless you helped them they didn't finish it! It didn't work quite like I wanted but over all I was satisfied. Tuesday was triangles and we had problems with the peices slipping around. One child suggested that they needed a frame. Great idea!

8. Make frames for puzzles. I had to buy another peice of carton prensada to create my frames. I cut them out, painted them and covered them with clear tape to protect. (in fact I was doing that in the combi ride to the school this morning! I think that I'm going to become infamous for all the things that I do on combi rides and it's not really like you have lots of space! hee hee). I tape the frames to the tables and the kids do the puzzles inside of them which works much better.

9. Evaluate the whole experience. Okay so I was being a bit impractical in making 16 puzzles from shapes! Of course, I only see that in retrospect. Some of my puzzles turned out a little too hard for the kids because the peices got too small and too many but others at least worked. The good thing is that now if I ever need shape puzzles, I've got them. Not that the paint will last long. I really wish I had been able to fit my Modge Podge in my suitcase! It would work perfectly... :0)

10. Decide not to make anymore puzzles for a loooooooong time!

Tomorrow, we are going to review our shapes and every student will be able to do a puzzle if they would like. That's about the only nice thing about doing 16 puzzles! Yes, again I fall prey to my lack of practicality but what a PUZZLING lesson to learn!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Glad to Be Alive

Today Dawn and I went up to the center to look for material to recover our living room furniture. It's been an interesting 80s looking blue patterned material for a while. Since we are going to paint our apartment, we thought we might as well revamp the living room in general. We roamed the streets looking for fabric. Cusco center really is an interesting place to people watch. You'll find dredlocked hippies, the typical touristy looking person, colorfully costumed Andean peoples and then all the "regular" folk of Cusco. It really is a great mezcla (mix) of people...the poorest, the richest and the inbetween all congregating in the great plazas and stone paved streets.

We took a bus for the trip back and the driver was a little scary. He was driving quickly around corners and passing cars here and there. augh! Then he nearly hit a small taxi that was turning left. A guy had gotten on to play his pipes and shells for money was standing in the bus and when the bus driver slammed on the brakes the pipe playing man came flying towards the front of the bus. He ran into my leg and I'm sure I now have a huge bruise there. I don't think the poor piper guy made any money on that trip. Dawn and I were so glad to get off that bus alive! phew...

So besides being alive, I'm currently a little sick. I've managed to avoid my roommate's two week long cold until now. It perhaps was not her fault because several kids had the sniffles this week too. I'm just glad that I have a weekend to recover. I have my vitamin C, honey & lemon tea and PH in hand. PH stands for Papel Higenico (in the States: TP). Forget Luv extra soft 2-ply! PH is a very useful thing to have around when your nose is constantly dripping. I'm always taking it with me too in case I find myself in a paperless bathroom (a very possible reality here in Peru). Besides being useful for drippy noses and bathroom trips, it's also good for wiping kids mouths, napkins and (oh yes) decorating for weddings.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

School Days are Here Again!

Hello friends! Well, it's official: school has started and I'm now an English teacher for 4 and 5 yr olds. These past couple of weeks have been filled with preparations for the start of the school season and I feel somewhat consumed with it. We had a time of training and classroom prep last week. They were full days of learning about reading in Spanish, cutting, crafting & creating things for our classrooms and preparing our plans for the coming year. Guess what?! I don't really have a curriculum to work with! All I have is the experience, notes and craft ideas of my roommate Dawn (who taught the kindergartners last year), the information of what the Spanish kindergarten teacher was going to teach, a couple of kindergarten books that aren't totally applicable and the vast resources of the internet. In any case, my general plan of attack is worked out and I just need to keep filling in the details!

So whether I really felt ready for it or not, school started on Monday! Our first day in kindergarten we kept the 4 & 5 yr old classes together. We took a tour, danced around, had a long recess break and celebrated birthdays. Despite our plan to keep them together, we had to divide for a little bit and I did some stuff in my classroom that I had prepared for the next day (teaching them "hello" and coloring). We had several weeping children but they seemed content by the end of the day. I suppose that's to be expected in the life of kindergarteners. In all there are about 25 students in the kindergarten (inicial) classes with about 12 in each class.

Tuesday was my first time with the normal schedule. It was a hard morning because I had the 4 yr old first for a 1.5 hr class. Well, they didn't want to do anything that I had planned and I felt pretty pathetic as a teacher. Okay, so I was prepared for it to be hard but I think that was just a fuzzy concept in my head! Thankfully I have an aide who is excellent with the kids and is pretty good at being a policeforce. I was upset about that class but I know that I need to give myself grace to learn and grow in this whole teaching thing. In the afternoon I had the 5 yr olds for a 45 minute class which went so much better. They responded to the song I wanted to teach, they repeated after me and in general were much more responsive. The funny thing that happened is that they were supposed to have a music class after my English class but there was no teacher! I had to do an impromptu music class and I was eternally grateful for Music Together. We clapped our hands and danced around to several songs and did several rounds of Ring Around the Rosey. They all had so much fun but we still had 20 minutes until the end of the day! So, I did what comes naturally: I did a silly dance for them to one of the songs we had just danced together to. It was a blast mainly because I was entertaining them and not trying to get them to do something I wanted them to do!! I don't think they'll ever forget my silly dance. Then we played with puzzles and "read" books until it was time to go.

Today went much better altogether! I had the 5s first for an 1.5 hour and we learned the words: table, chair, floor and door. This learning involved a puppet skit (with my sock turn into parrot puppet), a game with touching and saying the objects in the room, a coloring sheet with coloring each object (with the fives I could actually ask them "Donde esta la chair?" -where is the chair? and most of them could locate it on the picture we were coloring...the fours needed a bit more obvious coaching), and sticking peices of paper with the word and a picture to the objects. With the four year old class it was more a case of getting them to answer by raising their hands and staying in their seats (which I think was even more important than even learning the English words). By the end of the day, I felt like we actually accomplished something! I don't know if they will remember all the words tomorrow but it's okay because I'll be using those words in the classroom all the time anyway.

Thus begins my new "career"! I have lots to learn for sure but it's good to be a place where God will grow me and even give me the strength to do something that I can't do in my own strength, talent or experience. I've been reading a little book by Mel & Henry Blackaby entitled "What's so spiritual about your gifts?" where they talk about how God gifts those He calls and that the important thing is to be obedient. Just think about how God's Spirit worked through a rough group of fishermen! It's amazing because it's about what God's spirit can do through a person and not about their particular abilities or talents. God has given me talents and abilities and He has used them but it's always been a struggle with pride for me and thinking I can do things on my own! (ugh!) It's good to be in a place where I need to depend on Him to help me instead of depending on myself. My prayer most of all it's too be a spiritual influence in these kids lives! I accepted Christ when I was four and it was a very vivid time in my life! I praise God for my parents and teachers who were examples and pointed me to Christ and I pray that God will work through me in such a way to touch these young lives.

Here's some pics of our prep week:
my classroom

Wendy, the Spanish kindergartner teacher

My room now!

The View Around the School
(No comment about how I feel about the design of this sign)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Adventures in High Altitude Cooking

Part One: Ye Ole English Muffins

I did it! This weekend I satisfied my cooking urge!

Since I've been here in Peru, I have had most of my meals prepared for me. Considering that I like to cook, it has been a little bit of an adjustment. I cook because I like to experiment and I cook because it's therapeutic in a way. Having someone cook for you is nice I must admit and I believe that I will actually start to get a little spoiled.

But this weekend the adventurous cooking urge arose and I decided to try to make English muffins. There really is no such thing as an English Muffin here. There are lots of types of yummy fresh bread but I have yet to discover a muffin of the english variety! Well, I learned some interesting things in my muffin making. Here are the steps to making English muffins in Peru:

1. Locate yeast and cornmeal at the local grocery store, Dino's. They have something that is a little more powdery than normal cornmeal but you decide to take the chance.

2. Boil milk and add salt, sugar, an egg and a butter substitute (a very yellow margarine which is really the only thing available here!) on your gas stove. Add the yeast and mix in the flour.

3. Knead the flour to a good consistency and let it rise in a warm place (there really isn't a warm place but thankfully I had made pizza so the oven was still hot).

4. After an hour, roll out the dough and cut out circles with some plastic thing that you find in the cupboard. The recipe said to use a tuna can but we didn't have an available tuna can. We really don't have too many canned things come to think of it. That reminds me of a comment that my housekeeper's daughter Anna said. She said that her teacher said that the reason so many North Americans get sick is because they eat too many things out of cans!!

5. Place the muffins on a cookie tray sprinkled with cornmeal and sprinkle more cornmeal on top. Let them rise for another hour!!

6. Here's the interesting part: Heat a griddle and cook the muffins for 8-10 minutes per side. (I always assumed that English muffins were baked!!) Guess the temperature and amount of oil for the pan and make sure you don't forget and get them too brown!

7. Enjoy! Believe it or not, this actually worked and my results are delicious. I especially enjoyed eating a grilled (we don't have a toaster) muffin egg sandwich!!

mmmmm... maybe next time I'll try making bagels! I hear that you have to boil them.

It won't be for a long time, though. Yesterday I made apple pancakes, pizza and English muffins. I'm tired of dough and I've satisfied my cooking urge for a while.

Join me next time for another ADVENTURE IN HIGH ALTITUDE COOKING!!!!!