Monday, August 30, 2010

Listening for what next

After a week with my students, I have learned so much about each one of them by simply making time to talk with them. I think the biggest chunk I have for real conversation that I can also tie to instruction is during writer's workshop. Today I had conversations with 4 boys sitting at a table sharing ideas.

One was illustrating a new story he shared during morning meeting about a party he went to at church. He was excited about the fact that his grandpa was in charge of the popcorn machine. His illustrations vividly depicted the details of the story he shared orally.

Another boy was balancing a pencil on his kness and I knew he was ready to have some help talking through some ideas. He sat a bit blank after I asked him if he had stories about his weekend in mind. So, we read through some stories in his folder from last week (a great strategy for triggering ideas, editing and revision without kids realizing it early on). He proudly pulled out a story he wrote by himself about how he went to the beach. He noticed he didn't have the word beach so, he stretched through the b-e and I taught him /ch/. After reading through his older stories, he sat a bit blank again. I tried to connect back to the book I had read before workshop about a little monster's day at school. I asked him if he wanted to write about a favorite part of school. And he said no. I sat and he sat. And then after a minute, he blurted out..."I did see a toad at the park!" But then he sat defeated, " I don't know how to draw a toad." I reminded him about the lesson I had taught last week about being brave with pictures (try your best and keep going). He seemed to pep up a bit. Then I walked him over to the non-fiction books and told him we have books with pictures of toads that might help. He found one and he was looking as a happy as he did when he thought about writing about the toad.
I knew I could leave him to begin another conversation. I asked him to share with everyone about what happened to him as a writer and we had great conversation about his struggles and bravery during share.

The third conversation was with a writer who had drawn an aquarium with two fish and a snail on his paper. I listened to the conversation he was having with the boy next to him and it wasn't so much about his illustration so I asked him about it. He told me a ton about his idea. From the big fish eating the other fish until 2 were left to how he drew his snail like the one (Gary) in Sponge Bob. I asked him to share his story with everyone during share. The kids loved hearing about his pets and their adventures!

The fourth conversation I had was with a boy who wrote about playing soccer. He had drawn many players on the field including himself. When I asked him about the story, briefly told me about kicking the ball and how another played bumped into him on the field. Then, He told me about how he used to do karate but isn't doing it anymore because he pushed someone. He told me about how he took swimming lessons and liked them. I listened to everything knowing that not only was I getting to know him as a writer but I was establishing trust and understanding.

From these 4 writers, and a little help from Lucy Calkins, I planned my lesson for tomorrow.
First to read Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillan. This book I think will be a great read for all of us as we remember the story of the aquarium from the day before. It also is told in a day to day diary sort of fashion by the goldfish himself. (secretly hoping just exposure to the text will invite kids play with this structure). I will likely read it before workshop.

Second to focus our mini-lesson on telling as much of a story as we can with illustrations. Knowing most of this group of kiddos isn't yet diving into text, I am feeling like I want to get as much as I can out of kid's work with illustrations. I am going to model how writers tell many details in the story by using the pictures. (I am going to tell my story about watching Brody). Bob Graham does this so well in one of my favorite books: How to Heal A Broken Wing. This is a great mentor for breaking a picture into scenes ( Thanks Katie W Ray from In Pictures and In Words). I'll attempt to do this with my story. I 'll also remember how to give kids time to talk through their stories with a partner so their ideas are heard.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sharing Stories

One of the most valuable moments of my day is when my students and I share stories. Sharing pieces of ourselves really helps us know one another, connect and understand each other. These moments in my classroom are also key for linking oral telling with ideas that kids can get onto paper.

This week to help model how writers find stories, I shared moments in my life that I thought they might connect with. I shared a story about the huge grasshopper that jumped onto my window screen while I was doing the dishes, when my son Joey fell off his bike on
our way back from a soccer game and the swarm of kids who meet at our house nightly to catch grasshoppers and crickets.

Today, I captured some moments after my Saturday exercise class that I will share with them next week. I walked into to find my nephew, Brody on the kitchen counter in his bumbo (never had bumbos when my kids were cool is this sitting device). When I saw him I couldn't stop smiling.
First he looked hysterical all propped up in this weird but clever green mold and second because I love babies (especially my nephew Brody and niece Vivian who are too cute for words). As he sat in the bumbo, he smiled at me, spit up a bit and then my son put a sock on his head and we all laughed. Then he lovingly took off the sock and gave him a kiss.

I immediately thought of taking pictures of these moments so that I can share these with my students and of course my family. I know the visuals will help my first graders see
my story and hopefully help them catch stories they want to tell. And, I also think by showing them the blog post, I will introduce them to the notion of the blogging and explain that they will soon have opportunities to share their stories in the same way!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Integrating Play

It has been back to school for me the last two days and what a great two days they have been. I feel like it is really hard to plan even a week out in these first few days. In fact, I really live day by day this first week. (I should probably be fine tuning my plans instead of posting but I have to walk away from it sometime).

This year I am trying to utilize the time kids have for working together, sharing,
communicating and problem solving in authentic situations. The kids have opportunities at recess and free choice play but I am often not available to guide them through problems that arise. When they need help it is often too late for me to ask kids to model for other kids how to use their words and take turns or to even help resolve situations. So this year I have integrating a structured play time in between reading and writing workshops. I have structured the play areas so that I initially decide what is played with, who plays where, and how many kids can play at certain area for the first few weeks. I explained to the kids that I want them to have a chance to play with different toys and different friends so that they feel comfortable with our stuff and each other.

Some of the ideas that I am using for play areas are toys the kids enjoyed in K (after consulting my friend Maureen), dramatic play items I have brought from home, letters/pictures and tangible word manipulatives that I will build learning with later and ideas that amazing teachers like Scott at Brick by Brick have inspired me to try. So far the kids have been loving it.

This week I introduced the play areas with Can I Play Too by Mo Willems? We talked
about how Elephant and Piggie are the type of friends who make sure everyone is included.
This set the tone for kids to play in small groups. Some of them played side by side on Monday, but today I saw
one group ( at the animals and blocks area) create a zoo and each person contributed to the building today.

Other kids were loving the straws and connectors. These toys (thanks Maureen) are a favorite. Kids created drums, fishing poles and buildings with these simple pieces.

I found some alphabet beads and bought some plastic line from United Art and Ed to create
an ABC play area. The line allowed each kid a place to house their letters and I gathered so much information about what kids knew about letter and words in a short period of play time. For example, one little girl started creating words she knew but many of the letters that she had to manipulate onto the line were placed backward. Other kids just wanted to string a bunch of letters and ask if they created a word. One little one asked for my picture and word cards so that she could copy words correctly. I gathered lots of informal data through play.

Tomorrow is our fourth day of school and I can't wait to see what they create next!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Swim! Swim! by Lerch (James Proimos)

I read Swim! Swim! at Cover to Cover earlier this summer. I was drawn to the animation-like pictures, the many comic-like panels on the pages and the voice of this determined fish (who tells the story completely in word bubbles...I was thinking great text to show in writing workshop) named Lurch. Lurch is in search of a friend. He is not afraid to ask anyone or anything in his bowl if they will be his friend. With no luck, he declares, "It's official. No one loves me." Then, a super surprising ending and help from a cat turns his loneliness into love!

I think Swim! Swim! will be a great book to read aloud the first week of school when kids are forming new friendships and feeling a little alone. It will be a simple text and message to share with young kids about the importance of helping each other.

Monday, August 9, 2010

10 Picture Books That Boys Can't Live Without

Thank Mandy and Cathy for creating this exciting blogging event: 10 for 10! Go here to read more about how their idea for sharing picture books began. I am excited to be a part of this and decided to share my favorite 10 picture books that boys seem to gravitate toward. So, here goes:

10 Picture Books That Boys Can't Live Without

1. First on the list is Superhero ABC by Bob McCleod. I think I buy a new copy of this each year because it is so loved by June that not even heavy packingtape can keep it together. Thepictures are fabulous
in this ABC text. In fact seeing the kids lovethis text motivated me to create a basket of superhero books ( BabyBrains and The adventures of Max and Pinky: Superheroes) that is loved by many of the boys inmy classroom.

2. Second on the list is Truckery Rhymes by Jon Scieszka. This book is filled with Nursery Rhymes with a truck twist. My son was just reciting his favorite from first grade in the car. The characters in the rhymes also are featured in other favorite truck books by Jon which include Smash!Crash! and Melvin Might.

3. I have had boys who love music and many who already were taking lessons with instruments like piano and even guitar. Punk Farm was a huge hit
for these boys. It features a rockin'rendition of Old McDonald Had A Farm and tells the story of some unsuspecting animals who form a band
and perform at night in the barn. You can listen to the song from the bo
ok here and read the next book in the series Punk Farm on Tour.

4. For the boys who are interested in playing sports, Sergio is often a character they relate to. Sergio is a penguin who likes many things but the three things he loves are soccer, fishies and water. In Sergio Makes a Splash,
he overcomes his fearof the water with the support of his classmates. In Sergio Savesthe Game, he learns how to be goalie and helps his team beat the Seagulls in the championship game.

is a book that features a boy character named Buzz, his pet fly and their funny friendship. There are 9 Fly Guy books in the series so the adventures and reading never seem to end!

6. Can You make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas is priceless. It is interactive, humorous and completely entertaining. Boy or girl, this book rocks!

7. Not A Box by Antoinette Portis keeps the reader guessing and taps into those boys who love to imagine. The main
character, a rabbit, begins to play in a cardboard box and the reader (with a few picture clues) gets to guess what the rabbit is pretending to be(mountain, robot, rocket ship). Kids also love Not A Stick.

8. I can't not include Elephant and Piggy Books in this list of books that appeal to boys. Gerald and Piggy are funnyand keep readers feeling like they are playing as they read. The newest in the series is Can I play too? The next in the series is out in September and is called We Are in A Book!

9. Chester by Melanie Watt
Melanie Watt has influenced many of the boy readers and writers in my classroom. Her character, Chester has allowed them laugh, think and connect to the dueling between author and character. I have noticed many boys experiment with the idea of dueling in their own writing. There are two more in this series: Chester's Back and Chester's Masterpiece.

10. Non- fiction. I don't want to forget mention that boys love to read non-fiction but of
course different boys have different interests. I have noticed that many of the young boys I've taught often choose animal picture books with photographs and pictures that take up most of the room on a page with text that surrounds the picture in some way with captions, labels, comparisons, word bubbles, etc. Some non-fiction books that boys have loved in first and second grade are: Sharks and Other Dangers of the Deep, Life Size Zoo, My First Book of Ocean Life and Dinosaurs?!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Creak! Said the Bed by Phillis Root

Today my mom and I spent time in my classroom sorting through my classroom library baskets as she gathered some ideas for her own library (she works with K-3 students as a reading support teacher). We spent some time in the basket that I will be reading from often at the beginning of the year: Books with Repeating Words. Books like, Hello Day by Anita Lobel, Hurry! Hurry! by Eve Bunting, Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox are a few titles that live in this basket. This summer I found I Can Help as well as Creak! Said the Bed that I will also read aloud again and again and add to this basket.

Creak! Said the Bed is the story of a family sleeping cozily through the night each in their own beds, until...Evie gets scared, Ivy gets cold, Mo says his room is spooky and Fred the dog comes runnning after the thunder begins. Each time one of the kids comes knocking, Poppa said, Snore, and Momma said, Sure! There's plenty of room for you in the bed." So Ivy plopped in. CREAK, said the bed. With all those kids in the bed, the creak turns into CRACK as Fred jumps into bed. Don't worry, they sleep right through it.
I loved the pictures in this story. It is fun to see how the illustrator finds a place for each new character that enters the bed...Evie is tucked under Poppa's head like a pillow, Ivy sleeps curled up in a ball on top of Momma's head, Mo flops over Poppa's head and Fred finds the only spot left at the end of the bed. I am also thinking kids will connect to times they have jumped into bed with their parent (s). I am anxious to see if this book is loved as much as some others in this basket. (I have to say seeing if kids choose this to read during books in the morning and workshop is half the fun of finding and reading a new book!)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It's Not Fair! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld

My oldest son read through It's Not Fair after I purchased it today. Afterwards, he opened to the page where a mother is frowning at her young son who broke a window during some pick up baseball in the backyard. The boy questions his mom (Why don't you yell at her?) as his sister hides behind her mother. My own son pointed out the picture said this is how I feel when I get in trouble all the time and my brothers don't. It is hard to be the oldest. And yes, he does get more than his fair share of talking to's and yelling at's. ( He also just happens to react instead of respond to them as any 11 year old is learning to do.) But his connection to this book made me very glad I was adding it to my classroom library.

This book is filled with rhyme, repetition and questions commonly posed to parents about issues that are often unfair. Like, Why'd I get the smaller half? Why'd he get the bigger laugh? Why does she get brand new shoes? Why does my team always have to lose? It's not fair! I like this book for a number of reasons. I love Amy Krouse Rosenthal (who also happens to be coming to our annual Dublin Literacy Conference...yeah!). She knows kids and how to inspire people. I also like that I can use this book for writing workshop as we study question -answer books and punctuation. It may also help kids think and write about about times when they have felt that life was unfair. It also fits into our classroom library in the book basket filled with texts that have repeating words. So, I know kids can go back to it during reading workshop after I have read it aloud.

Life is filled with unfair but our journey is to figure how to cope, accept and let go when that unfair feeling takes over. I'll end with questions from my own kids about unfair issues they have today.

Why do my brothers always get the computers?
Why can't I not get in trouble for what my brothers do?
Why can't I play two sports at a time?
Why doesn't anyone play what I want to play?

It's not fair!