This is not my usual kind of post but I am proud of the tree I made for my year one classroom in September. I also know that this is the time of year that teachers start to think about next year and how they can make the learning environment attractive and stimulating for the children. So… here is my first ever ‘crafty’ post for teachers!
First, I need to let you know that- like all good teachers- this idea was borrowed from another teacher. I saw the tree standing in my daughter’s classroom and immediately grabbed the teacher for an explanation on how it was made. Our school has a behaviour policy for infants that involves time under the ‘thinking tree’ for reflection. My daughter’s teacher used the tree as an ‘ambition tree’ linked to PSHE. She hung fairy lights from the branches and she asked the children to write down the things they want to achieve by the end of year two. These were rolled into cylinders and hung from the branches too, to be opened at the end of the year. The point is that there are so many uses for the tree!
This is what you need:
1 large carpet inner tube (if you have a carpet warehouse nearby, they usually sell these for about 10p, or give them away if you explain you are a teacher!): this needs to be sturdy and thick as this is going to be the tree trunk
lots of newspaper, shredded
wallpaper paste/PVA glue
branches and twigs (make sure there are no sharp ends and clean all twigs before you use them)
paper/ card for leaves if you want to add them
What to do:
1. Find a base to stick your carpet tube into. This helps to keep it still while you add the papier mache. i used a big plant pot filled with sand and did one end at a time.
This first step takes a long time, especially if you are doing it in between lessons or at home. What you need to do is cover the tube in glue and spread strips of newspaper over it in layers. I made sure I also screwed some pieces of the newspaper up and stuck them on in a ball so that it gave the trunk some texture. Keep going until you are happy that the trunk is thick enough and gnarly enough! Don’t forget to make it thicker at the bottom and this will help to keep it stable when standing up too.
2. Allow to dry.
3. Paint over the newspaper with brown paint, making sure it’s covered all over. When it’s dry, you can use a black pen or black paint to draw rings etc on the bumpy bits to make it look authentic.
4. ‘Plant’ your tree in a the pot with sand to weigh it down and fill the bottom of the tube with sand too so that it remains stable.
5. How you finish your tree is up to you. I used soft green, leafy branches from a tree in my garden. I sprayed them with hairspray and watered down glue to preserve them. They are still green today, almost one year later!
Alternatively, you could use branches or even go for a more contemporary look with plastic branch decorations (Dunelm Mill, etc) or anything else you think would work.
I bunched up my branches so that the stems were thicker than the top of the tube and this helped them to stay in place.
6. Make your leaves, or whatever you want to hang from the branches. Laminate them (as all teachers know the worth of laminating!) so that they last well.
You can use your finished tree in so many ways. As previously mentioned, mine was a ‘thinking tree’ which I incorporated into a PSHE lesson. I showed the children six golden leaves and we came up with six golden rules to write on them. This helped the children to think about the reasons why they might be asked to sit under the tree and also helped them to remember the things they were supposed to reflect upon whilst they were there.
Other ideas for the tree include:
Numeracy: use the leaves to write on and wipe off simple sums or problems; make different shaped leaves to practice shape names; counting leaves
Literacy: make lots of leaves and write phonemes on them; use the leaves to write on and wipe off high frequency words or spellings; write different story starters on the leaves for children to pick and use; write words on the leaves for children to use in poetry; write letters to the children and hang them from the tree
Role play: use in the role play area for the park, gardens/garden centre, fantasy land…
Science: use as a starting point for talking about habitats, how plants grow or natural materials, caring for the environment and recycling
If you can think of other ways to use the tree, please leave me a comment as I would love to hear them.
My thinking tree was instantly admired by everyone who came into my classroom and I hope yours is too!