Monday, October 19, 2009

Manfish: The Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne

Last week, I shared a new purchase with my students and added a new book to our biography basket. It was a fabulous find for a biography. The pictures were inviting and the story sucked in the students and had them yearning to explore and create like Jacques Cousteau. The biography called Manfish: The Story of Jacques Cousteau encouraged them to find connections with Jacques and want to know more.

Jacques grew up a wonderer, a risk taker and a creator. In this story about his life, Jennifer Berne retells his life as a boy and later as an explorer with poetic storytelling. My students learned of Cousteau's development of scuba gear and underwater lungs. They learned about his interest in filmmaking that led to documenting his underwater adventures. And they learned about his passion for caring and protecting the underwater creatures of our world. This book has been one of my most favorite shares this year and I think my students would agree. Check it out. If you go to this link, you can see the first few pages in the Google preview at Powell's.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

LEGO Star Wars: A Visual Dictionary

Tonight I want to post about one of the most fought over and loved books I have ever added to my classroom: LEGO Star Wars: A Visual Dictionary.  After noticing that a majority of boys in my classroom had either Star Wars or LEGOS (or both ) on their heart maps, I gave in to buying this book I saw on Amazon's new release listing.  I say "gave in " because in the past, I have been skeptical of books with tv or movie characters and this felt like it fit in this category. I decided to take a chance and buy it because I knew how many kids had an interest in LEGOS. I related it to myself buying books about scrapbooking or cooking because they are hobbies of mine.  LEGOS are hobbies  for some kids in my class.
I am very glad I did for a couple reasons...

1. The book begins with a timeline that details the release of certain LEGO Star Wars Sets that have been available for purchase over the past 5 years.  The time line is easy to read and includes detailed pictures of each set and information about which episode the set is from.  I felt like this feature as well as the general organization of the book (4 chapters).  We spent sometime noticing this feature and I look forward to thinking about how we could come back to it for a mentor timeline.

2. It has created connections among (primarily) the boys in my classroom which in turn build community.  The boys are having conversations about what LEGOS they have, want and like to play with.  It also has reminded kids about the legos we have in our classroom for indoor recess and has encouraged pretend play with them.  ( The book also has a Luke Skywalker mini figure that we added to our classroom box of legos)

I have also run into some difficulties with the popularity of this book (having 14 of 22 student who are boys and adore legos).  

1.  One student hid the book today. So, I have asked that the book stay on our display shelf so that kids can take turns with it.  It has not been allowed to live in one person's book bin.  

2. A few kids wanted to take the book home.  Usually, I allow all books in our classroom library to go home for the night but with the newness and excitement surrounding this book, I told the kids it needed to stay in the classroom just in case someone might forget it at home.  I know I will probably let kids begin to take it home in a week or two when the excitement subsides.

This book is perfect for the LEGO and Star Wars fans in your life!!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Heart Maps

This fall my students created their own heart maps. We were inspired by the heart map we investigated on the cover of Georgia Heard's book: Awakening the Heart. The heart maps were one way for kids to express what they are interested in and share these interests. I modeled how to create the hearts by beginning with pencil sketching, outlining details and words with fine point colored markers and adding colored pencil for background colors ( I am no artist but slowing them down to pay attention to detail paid off).
The hearts you see were works in progress but when finished, my students were dying to share them with each other. We spent some time doing this and found many connections and similarities in interests between students. Not only did these hearts help the students discover what they had in common but they were helpful for me. As I hung the hearts up for our first Family Night (an evening when families come to share in student learning by reading, playing a math game and sharing the student's published writing), I noted student interests and gathered some data about what my kids enjoy. This "data" has helped me choose new books for the classroom that I know kids will love. In the next few posts, I will share their interests and the books that I have either reserved or purchased that are helping to support their love for reading.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Benny and Penny: The Big No-No!

Last year, I added a number of "primary" graphic novels to my classroom library. Among them were a few that Mary Lee mentioned in her post about Graphic Novels for our Youngest Readers. This year, I am noticing how much the kids are enjoying the graphic novel basket. In fact, I have had requests from many of the kids to keep adding to our collection. One boy mentioned that I needed to buy the second book in the Benny and Penny series. (I had no idea that there was a second in the series.) He then shared how he found it at the public library with his mom. He suggested I get it for our room. So, I did!
Benny and Penny and the Big No-No! is the story of brother, Benny, and sister, Penny Mouse. In this adventure, Benny and Penny go searching for a lost pail. They find footprints and decide to search over the fence and in the new kid's yard. They find mud pies, more footprints and eventually a new friend named Melina. This short adventure is full of little kid silliness, teasing, apologies and laughter. Check it out!