Wednesday, November 28, 2007!

I was thinking about how my 4-year old has been interested in words. He asks me to sit down at night and help him write words in his notebook (just a spiral that we picked up for cents). He spells and writes his name (sometimes with the letters stacked upon one another...then the teacher in me has to jump in with a directionality lesson). I am also talking to him about family names...pop, nana, mom, dad. These words are perfect for him to remember because they are patterned. He remembers these names and can write them. We take time to go back and read them. I was thinking about how he knows he can spell some words independently and that one of my goals for word study is for my first grade students to know and be aware of themselves as spellers. I want them to spell familiar names, high frequency words and learn word patterns that will help them spell bigger words. What I feel stuck on is how to assess the knowledge of high frequency words in the context of student you have a system set up for this? I have assessed the spelling of these words in isolation but I am wondering how other classrooms/ schools handle the issue of high frequency words in authentic writing. Any thoughts would help...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Are you thinking about giving books this holiday? Well, my local paper The Columbus Dispatch featured an article today called The top 20 of 'o7 which details favorite picture books including poetry, graphic novels, y-a novels, realistic fiction, biographies and new holiday releases.

My first question was who did decide on these picks(I was a little skeptical)? A panel of 24 teachers, librarians, authors, scholars and booksellers decided on the winners (I felt better after this but am still curious about who exactly the panel members were). I found a few of these best picks I am using in my classroom. I know the kids would agree with picks like I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity by one of their favorite authors...Mo Willems. I also found my son was ecstatic to find Judy Moody and Stink and the Holly Joliday on the Target bookshelves. A 3/4 multiage classroom in my building read aloud The Invention of Hugo Cabret and loved 17 Things I'm not allowed to do anymore. So I began thinking... I love that there is excitement for these newest and most loved books. I know bloggers, teachers, friends who I can talk to about these books but I also think it is important to share this excitement in the classroom. I love to share new books but tomorrow I think I am going to share this article. I am interested to hear the students reactions. Will they make connections to some of the books in our room? Will they realize writers write about books? What kind of conversations and questions will surface after just discussing the article? I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

When all else fails...poetry

We were having one of those days. It was a struggle for the kids to even sit next to one another. Hurt feelings, arguments, fidgeting bodies, kids playing with staples stuck in the carpet...I knew it was time for a break. They didn't need more lecturing or more conversation about working through problems, just a break from one another. So, why not escape everything through poetry. I pulled out a new book of poetry called When Gorilla Goes Walking I purchased a week ago. The kids were glued to the pictures and began thinking, processing and envisioning the antics of this curious cat named Gorilla . What a riot...a cat named Gorilla. We spent time thinking about her name, her moves, and her relationship with Cecilia (the little girl who owns her). I know when all else fails...poetry is often the answer in my room.

Monday, November 5, 2007


Isn't sharing what it is all about? The awesome people I work with everyday have been meeting one evening a month after school to think, share and discuss ideas surrounding reading and writing workshop. Sharing was the topic for our monthly get together this evening. I am amazed at the ideas and questions that come from just gabbing with other teachers on staff. The basis for our conversation came from an excerpt from a book called Don't Forget To Share by Leah Mermelstein. I briefly read through this book before school began this year and I am sooo glad I did. Before reading the book, I felt like my share portion of the workshop was semi-productive. A couple students shared aloud, comments were made and then kids would turn and read their writing to a partner. After reading about kinds of share (process, content, progress and craft) and management techniques Leah uses, I began experimenting with some of her ideas. Now I feel like I am more aware and purposeful with share time. Last year, I really noticed I invited kids to share about craft. This year, I am trying to balance kids sharing content, process and progress. I feel a difference in what kids are noticing in each others writing. My next step is to figure out how to lift the level of the comments and questions they have for one another. This week I am thinking about a mini lesson on questions we can use to help each other as writers.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Grumpy Bird

As I was shopping at the local bookstore last weekend, a helpful associate noticed how much I enjoyed Bossy Bear ( I was commenting on how I was purchasing my second copy). She too is a fan and excitedly suggested a new picture book written by Jeremy Tankard called Grumpy Bird.
I grabbed it and loved it! Grumpy Bird is perfect for first graders. My students loved has great pictures, characters (animals) they can relate to (we all have grumpy days), repetition and not too many words on a page.

Grumpy Bird starts his day in a bad mood. He is so grumpy he doesn't even want to fly. He is walking and his friends ask to join him along his grouchy stroll.
"What are you doing?" his animal friends each ask happily.
Grouchy bird hardly has a kind response. My favorite is when he answers, "Let me give you a do it by placing one foot in front of the other ."
His bad mood doesn't last very long once he realizes the fun he is having as the center of attention.

Grumpy Bird is a must have and a great break from the smaller leveled books. Just today I had a boy pick it up to read independently. For all you teachers out there who think levels. My buddy J (who is reading around a Fountas and Pinnell G/ RR 11-12 ) picked up this book to enjoy independently. I understand the need for levels but don't live by them. Enjoying good books is something I feel each student has a right to experience without being forced to read at a certain level each time they pick up a book.