Monday, August 25, 2008

First Day

Today was the day...I can't help but jump right back into thinking about what next for my students as I spent the evening planning tomorrow. I always do this deeper planning at the beginning of the year. I am trying to envision what to do next and build routines and community very simply. I have to say I had no fear jumping into writing workshop today. My kids enjoyed it and I counted 4 little mini lessons I poured into about 40 mins of workshop. Our big idea was writers write what they know. I shared a story about how I watched a fat frog jump across a busy road at dusk through my car headlights. I modeled how to think about what I know and then drew and wrote a bit about it. I sent them off to write about what they know and many kids were successful. Guiding them independently, I picked 3 kids to share their pieces and stretched out 3 other teaching points using the kids including...writers are brave (try words independently a lesson that I will build spelling strategy work into later), writers are never done and writers reread their writing.

On the reading side of things, I read Big Al (I like to talk about characters, like AL, that we can be like in the classroom) Not a Box, My dog, My Cat My Mama and Me (they totally picked up on the pattern in this book), The School Bus, Who Stole All the Cookie Dough? and The Recess Queen. I know there were 2 more but I am so tired now that I forget. Back to building my stamina too!!! I am off to bed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New Picture Book by Bob Shea

In previous posts, I mentioned Bob Shea's picture books (here). Bill at Literate Lives gives a wonderful review of one of these...Big Plans over here. As a primary teacher, I happen to love his other book New Socks. I think the voice it has just makes me giggle. Anyway, the exciting news is that Bob Shea will have a new picture book coming out this fall (Sept. 9 to be exact). Of course you can pre-order on Amazon and for only $10.95 (don't forget shipping but I always buy more so I get the free shipping deal). His newest book is called Dinosaur vs. Bedtime. Thanks to Sally at Cover to Cover I was able to look through the arc and let me tell you I loved it. It definitely will appeal to preschool and primary readers.
I love the dinosaur, he reminds me of the three dinosaur-like kiddos I have at home. Dinosaur (like my boys) is in constant competition with something (a pile of leaves, a big slide, a bowl of spaghetti, talking grown-ups, bath time and tooth brushing and finally bedtime). This book has very little text and lots of Roar! Roar! ROARING! Because of the repetition and minimal text, it would be great for shared reading at the beginning of the year. Dinosaur of course wins each of the challenges he faces until the end ...
Now Dinosaur must face his biggest challenge! Bedtime! ROAR! roar! roar! roaarr!roaaar! (now a very sleepy dinosaur) Bedtime wins. Snore. snore. snore. Good night, dinosaur.

I think this book will make your K-1 kids happy. I am looking forward to getting my claws on it!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Primary Poetry

Last spring I was thrilled to find a new book of poetry that was perfect for primary readers and writers. On the Farm, made me so happy!!! When I am looking for poetry that is a fit for primary kids I often want the poetry to be readable (I think about the words...many high freq mixed with some new words that invite the reader and help us think about new word meaning. I think about picture support...will the pictures help early readers with text). I also want to look at the writability (I made up this word) of the poem. Is there simple enough craft that kids can use the poems as mentor texts?

In honor of Poetry Friday and the beginning of the school year, I thought I would mention my top 5 Primary Poetry Favorites:

Here's a Little Poem: A collection of poetry that my transitional readers can sit with for ever...I had to tape the binding back on the cover of this book after owning it for only 2 years. It is a sturdy book but it has just been loved!!!

Nibble Nibble
: Who doesn't love Margaret Wise Brown? This poetry is soft and soothing and I love the repetition.

Shout: Little Poems that Roar
: This book of poetry is lively and playful. It rhymes and dances through a school day.

Go!Poetry in Motion: Motorcycles, bikes and even lawnmowers...anything goes in this book that highlights motion. I love the short text and how the writer looks at motion in new ways.

On the Farm: The pictures and language invite readers to experience the farm through words.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Trading Spaces

Inspired by Franki and Mary Lee's Trading Spaces idea, I thought I would take pictures of new "spaces" that I am trying to create for readers in my new space this year(yippee!!).

This first space created with the small round table and plant stand is a little nook where I like to display books. I know kids will see it and most likely visit the table to drop off mail for me or notes
in the morning.

The books I have displayed are my favorite books about books and reading. Many of them will help me introduce discussion about reader identity during reading workshop.

This next space is made up of two cube-like beanbags and the back of a shelf. I found the cubes at Big Lots and went back for more but they were gone. The cubes were only $10 and perfect for primary kiddos. I don't think my third grader would be comfortable on one of these.

Next to the cubes, I have a series area for my readers. Some baskets here are Fly Guy Books, Curious George, Froggy, Mercy Watson, Little Critter by Mercer Meyer and the little princess series by Tony Ross.

In this corner, I decided to hang my maps and I have started to add baskets (there is a map basket of books with an atlas or two, map books and some state books) that are social studies related. You will also notice the small couch ( originally red) that I asked my mother-in-law to help me recover after being worn down last year. She used a vinyl 99 cent table cloth. It meets fire code and doesn't it compliments the space?

The colored books bins on the left are part of my leveled library and the grey shelves on the right have non- fiction on the upper shelves. I have put some of the book bins for my students on the bottom of the shelf. I like to spread the bins out across the room so that kids can get them easily and are less apt to crash into one another as they get settled during reading workshop.

New spaces, new smiling faces...12 more days of summer.

Monday, August 11, 2008

5 books (new ones) Every Primary Library Should Have

I thought I would turn Franki's question and Sarah's inquiry (see comments section from previous post) into a post.

I have to begin with some explanation about the kinds of books I feel support primary readers. Since most kids are coming into first grade needing practice with rhyme, repetition and pattern in text, practice with reading and rereading high frequency words within text, practice reading with picture support and short text to begin building stamina during workshop, I am often looking for books that support these readers. When I find books that match these criteria I use them for everything but often introduce them as shared reading ( We read them again and again, noticing new features each read) and then kids often want to add these to their book bins for independent reading. I often pull them back out during writing workshop to notice their craft. For me these books are often WHOLE texts that kids can model. Again, for me, I often like simple craft (again, the criteria I mentioned above... repetition, pattern, pictures, etc.) that kids can model in an entire text. So here are new books (that I use for just about everything) I think every primary library should have are:

This is the Way by Charles Fuge This is my newest find for next year and I am hoping kids catch on to the rhyme, pattern and repetition. It is all about how animals move so we can of course move around and act a bit with this one. Maybe some of my writers will write their own version of the book.

What will Fat Cat Sit On? By Jan Thomas This is just pure reading fun and is full of questions. Kids notice questioning and play with it as a craft in their writing. Someone wrote "What will Fat Cat Eat?" last year and we talked about series writing. Readable and writable

Pigeon Wants a Puppy by Mo Willems
Ok, this is my favorite Pigeon book in the Mo Willems
series. It is very primary friendly and it contains many high
frequency words kids need practice reading in text. It also
asks readers to infer questions the reader poses as Pigeon answers.
This book worked as a mentor text for my stronger writers last year as
one student wrote her version...The Pigeon Wants a Walrus where she
experimented with inferencing (like Mo) in her own writing. This text also worked for another student who was practicing voice in his story...I Want a New Puppy.

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis
This book is another favorite with kids as Portis asks
us to infer using pictures what the rabbit is pretending to do with
the box. This book inspired books called Not a book and Not a Hat last
year. Don't forget to check out Not a Stick by Portis.

New Socks by Bob Shea
I just can't help but love the voice and pictures of this story.
I fell in love with the chick and the pride he has in his new socks.
He begins with "Notice anything different about me?" I love this beginning.
Check out other Bob Shea books...Big Plans and Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime.

Ok, I have a long list of others but these are a few of my favorites.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

New Picture Book by Kevin Henkes

This summer was was fortunate enough to pick up an arc of Kevin Henkes' newest book Old Bear (thanks to Sally at Cover to Cover). This book breathes beauty with Henkes' watercolor illustrations. The story is perfect primary read. It begins with Old Bear settling in for his winter nap and then beginning to dream of the seasons. Just like human dreams can be a bit far fetched, Bear's dreams take the same effect. He dreams that in spring the flowers are as big as the trees and that the summer clouds rain blueberries. After dreaming through the seasons, he wakes up with the feeling that no time has passed. Bear eventually walks into a beautiful spring day pausing to figure out if he is still dreaming.
This book I know will make a wonderful addition to my Kevin Henkes basket that I shelve in the my classroom library. I love that this basket (really Kevin's writing) is so versatile. Old Bear reminds me a bit of A Good Day in that it is a book that has little text on each page and a picture that supports it. It seems a good practice for emergent readers. While his Lily, Chester and Wemberly are longer and are invitations for my transitional readers. Of course, it also hits science curriculum and gives us to opportunities to talk about seasonal changes.
This book is available August 19th and you can pre-order at

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Considerations for primary learners

As the school year draws closer, I am already thinking about my assessment notebooks, curriculum packets, letters to kids and parents and all the good stuff that goes with the beginning of the year! As I was thinking, I jotted a quick list of factors that I am constantly trying to balance. Here goes...

1. Routine- Familiar, simple, visual.

2. Stamina- How much can they handle and for how long?

3. Scaffolding- The releasing of the kite string, patching and comforting...each learner needs a different amount of support.

4. Differentiating- How can I meet the needs of learners who are at different place and learn differently?

5. Inquiry- I think of it as the natural tool for turning learning into "fun." Guiding kids to explore, notice and take the lead in learning.

6. Identity as a understanding themselves as learners, learning how to learn.

7. Student Balance- Looking at the whole child---academically, socially, emotionally.

What am I missing? So much to think about...