Thursday, December 3, 2015

Seasonal Realia - Upcycling

I am a big advocate of using all sorts of realia in the classroom and in our family engagement center. I am still new in the facilitator role and I keep having epiphanies on how I can incorporate more and more tangible and thematic materials to support the Title I community. Currently, I am exploring how small additions of seasonal objects (splashed throughout the learning environment) temporarily add to the December cultural ambiance, enrich vocabulary instruction for the ESL population, and promote inclusive relevance for all guests.  I have decorated the family engagement center with tangible and authentic objects I have had for over 10 years, otherwise known as upcycling. Although the design was completed with money that I spent more than a decade ago, I find that the timeless realia is still applicable to elementary student families today!

Two weeks before Thanksgiving break, I searched and searched for a "turkey" read aloud for the early childhood parent/child class I teach on Fridays.  I could not find it in the boxes of materials I saved.  I looked through my children's bookcases and in the garage full of Rubbermaid tubs.  I knew I had several "turkey" books somewhere, but I was forced to choose another Thanksgiving book because I simply could not find it.  I decided I needed to get organized.

By simply thematically organizing my garage of teaching items/books (based on the months of the year) and upcycling ornaments I was able to bring some eye candy to the center.

The silver garland, old holiday cards (from former students), the Scholastic News poster, and books from my 2nd grade classroom library, now have a new purpose.  They are living and breathing again for families in the center.  This display is designed to show parents seasonal books for December read alouds.  They can read the books in the center and check them out in the school library!  My assistant and I also incorporate the books in our workshops and daily instruction.  
I trimmed the top of the front dry erase board with more silver garland and the ornaments from my home.  The nutcrackers are an excellent conversation piece and realia for informational text.   All of the objects are safely out of reach of our youngest guests (ages 0-5).

I brought my family's ornaments to the center and tied string to have them suspended from the ledge of the window.  I found multi-colored garland in my "December file" of teaching supplies.

I heard students gasp and make pleasant comments as they walked past the center!  I am so happy that they could enjoy it too. It's eye-catching from across the room and most parents immediately notice the subtle change.  

I added a couple strings of lights around our most prominent bulletin board to shine a light
on our University of Family Learning opportunities.  

I also added a bit of silver garland and old holiday cards around the door.  One final reminder
that children can write and send cards for the winter holidays (as presented in one of the parent workshops).

I am certainly not an interior designer, but I am an educator that likes to add purposeful sparkle to each day. I enjoy the creative aspect and the resulting social interactions.  It's the small things that can brighten a parent's day and in tandem expand their vocabulary acquisition and family dynamic.  I hope that families will feel a bit more connected and welcome in our center as a result of upcycling the seasonal realia.

I welcome your feedback and how you upcycle realia!

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