Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Good Ship Crocodile by J Patrick Lewis and Monique Felix

If you're looking for a new friendship book, this one may have to be it.  I picked it up last weekend and read it with my students on Friday.  It was the perfect book to begin with "What do you think this book will be about?"  One of my little kiddos used the picture right away to help her as I read the name of the title, saying...I think the crocodile is going to be like a ship and help the animals. Yay, I thought she is beginning to think!
We read about Snout and the animals that live in the river. These animals who are afraid of the rising water. We read about Sparkle and the fireflies that he helps find land. We read about the monkeys, the frogs and the families of insects and animals that Snout carefully helps across the river. One of my student begins to wonder if he will eat these animals. We all wonder what the tension will be as darkness falls we discover Snout is lost after working his way up the river.  How will he get home?
One student guesses that the fireflies will help him and then we read about Sparkle's light guiding his way home.

This book has a great message I will tap back into for partner work so we can talk about collaborating. I will use it for noticing facial expressions in our illustration study and because it has little text, maybe someone will grab it to read on their own.  It gave us lots to talk about this Friday.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Frustrated Friday

It was Friday, I was frustrated and a little tired. I was frustrated because Little B was having trouble all day focusing when it came to working independently. Each time he would start to settle into a spot, he would jet across the room to often interrupt other students who were focusing on a book or writing a story. Knowing we have had lots of conversations about what focus is, characters who think about focus and what it looks like,  I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt each time I noticed him. I often would slyly walk over to listen in on the conversation.  I kept crossing my fingers that is was about a book he was writing, sharing or any thought about ideas or even a story he was sharing about himself.  I realized it wasn't.  So, I  talked again with Little B helping him remember the lessons about focus and then I found a spot where he could focus during writing workshop. It is Friday, he is 6, I said to myself. But I was still frustrated that others weren't getting their work done.

I looked at my notebook to see which kids were on my list for conferring when I noticed Little B.  His
 page had nothing written on it. While other kids had 2 -3 quick check ins, I realized I had not spent time with him. I immediately felt that ah-ha at that moment.

 I sat alongside him joining the other kids at the table that were writing. He shared his book called Ben Where He Goes ( I smiled thinking how clever his title was) and he read all about the adventures he had this summer in New York, at an OSU game and with his family on vacation. The little girl next to us talked about how she was going to go to Slovenia when she was old enough to visit because her dad was born there. Little B piped up next about how he was going to visit Guatemala when he was old enough because that was where he was born.  He smiled and talked about how he was adopted. We all chatted for awhile after that.  While I had know Little B's background it wasn't until I slowed down to talk with him about his writing that he was able to open up. It wasn't until then that we had actually had our first connection. I know this day was important for both of us.

I was fortunate enough to hear Ruth Ayres speak this weekend about celebration.  She has this amazing perspective about how our teaching with writers is really all about celebrating.  She takes hard and tough situations and find the good in them. She has a true knack for making personal connections.  I left with so many new things to think about, one of them being the power of taking time to relate and connect with our students. Hearing Ruth in person was incredibly valuable for me. And sitting down with Little B was as well.  I am keeping her wisdom in mind this week and remembering to find lots of opportunities to keep talking and connecting with Little B.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Kids Engaging Kids

After 3 weeks of school, I feel like my students are beginning to get the hang of  some of the routines evolving in our room.  They are remembering (with less reminding) to put their folders away and to make a lunch choice. They are beginning to understand workshop and anticipate their time to write and read. And, they are showing more engagement in choosing books that they know, that look interesting or that I have read aloud as they settle into what we call Books in the Morning. I don't know if I love the name of this routine but it is simple enough to remind kids to grab a book.

On Friday, as kids wrapped up their choices during this time, I noticed a little reader, Jack, had tried to read a book that I talked up the day before.  It was Hello! Hello! by Matthew Cordell. (Love Cordell and his books Trouble Gum and my boys love the Justin Case series)  Jack told me how much he loved electronics and how he just had to try this book.  I asked if he would share what he thought about the book with everyone.  But instead of just talking about the book,  he walked over to the document camera, slid the book underneath and began reading the book aloud to everyone. I'm not sure if he didn't pick up on my directions or if he had his own plan in mind but what I saw was complete engagement with the class. Kids were joining in the text as he read.  Eyes and ears were locked on Jack as he helped the character come alive, commented about his favorite page and stopped and reflected during the reading.  It was a great way to start our day.

Jack talked about how he loves electronics and that's why he loved the book.  Other students talked about how they felt like the story teaches them not to stay on electronics all day.  It definitely has a powerful message for young kids today.  Katie Wood Ray writes that kids just notice more than adults do, it's that simple.  After watching Jack, I will say... kids can engage each other more than adults do, it's that simple.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

10 for 10 Picture Books

Thanks to Cathy and Mandy for organizing this great event: 10 for 10 Picture Books!!!! I know I will be filling up my amazon basket all day as I read lots of posts about so many great books. I am afraid I may be sharing titles that aren't all true picture books but I think the titles still work for young readers.

One of the goals I set for myself this summer when thinking about my classroom library was to organize the books for my students who come into first grade as readers. You know those kiddos who can decode quite easily and read fluently who are just ready to begin seeing they can choose and think about books on their own.  I have noticed that these kiddos often jump to Junie B Jones, Magic Tree House or the Rainbow Magic Fairy series.  I know that introducing them to some shorter texts with fewer characters will allow them to have some deeper conversation and richer opportunities for comprehension.  It is my hope that introducing them to the pre-chapter books or early readers will scaffold them those longer texts that may have more character interaction or multiple setting changes.  There are classic  early chapter type titles that I have in my classroom like Mouse Soup, Frog and Toad or Danny the Dinosaur.  While these are loved, I am always trying to find new classic titles and series that will appeal to them. So if you know of some that may spark the interest of a young reader, please add to the comments:)
So my 10 for 10 will feature 10 early chapter books that all happen to be series books too:)

 I picked this series up this summer at Joseph Beth with Franki. I liked it right away and was not familiar with Boris. He is an adventurous warthog who encounters the unexpected. There are two others in this series: Boris Gets a Lizard,  Boris For the Win and Boris Sees the Light.  I am hoping these appeal to the boys.

                  I bought the little stuffed Penny for my classroom last year because so many girls adore her.  Penny is a little mouse who learns, patience, decision making and how find her voice. Other Penny books include Penny and Her Doll and My favorite: Penny and Her Marble.

Fly Guy is one of the most loved series for all the kids in first grade. I love how Buzz and Fly Guy take on the aquarium and learn together!  This book is a great fiction and non-fiction combination.  Fly Guy Presents Space is coming out Aug 27 and I just added Fly Guy and the Frankenfly to my basket of Fly Guy reads too.  This series never disappoints!                

Barbara Baker writes such sweet stories about Mama, Papa, Rose, Lily and Jack with each chapter devoted to each voice.  This book tells the story of the family's adventures one afternoon. Also check out One Saturday Morning and One Saturday Evening.

Cowgirl Kate is a great series.  I love the relationship between Kate and her horse Cocoa.  They both speak their mind, and have their quirks but are best of friends. My favorite is Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: Spring Babies. It is a great read before we head to the farm. See more in the series: Partners, School Days, Rain or Shine and Horse in the House.

                                         If you like completely off-the-wall, silly books,   you will love Dragon.  He is completely gullible and the kids love to laugh at his antics.  A friend for Dragon is the story of friendship. Friendship with an apple that is...lots to figure out and talk about when reading about Dragon. Others in the series: Dragon Gets By, Dragon's Fat Cat, Dragon's Halloween and Dragon's Merry Christmas.

I bumped into these two characters: Mr. and Mrs. Green  when I was teaching second grade and have found kids like these two alligators.  Keith Baker sets up the book with 3-4 short stories about their adventures instead of a whole story broken into chapters.  In this first book, this couple plan a camping trip, eat lots of pancakes and take a trip to the fair.  Others in the series: More Mr. and Mrs. Green, On the Go with Mr. and Mrs. Green and multiple "light" readers that feature just one story including: Cookies, The Talent Show and Fishing.


                Benny and Penny is a graphic novel series that makes kids laugh! This brother and sister duo don't hold anything back as they play, fight, forgive and learn together.  That's what happens in this first book in the series.  Others in the series: Benny and Penny and the Big NoNo, Benny and Penny and the Toy Breaker and Benny and Penny Lights Out!  These books can also be read online here.

Melanie Watt has so much to offer transitional readers with her characters.  Scaredy Squirrel is one that kids love.  He completely grabs the attention of the reader and doesn't let go.  I love that there are many adventures that Scaredy encounters in his many books: Scaredy Squirrel at the beach, makes a friend, at night, has a birthday party and goes camping. It keeps kids reading.  Last year Scaredy Squirrel prepares for Christmas was released and just this month Scaredy Squirrel prepares for Halloween. 

Last but not least, Mouse and Mole! These two friends are definitely friends who leave the reader lots to predict, infer and keep thinking about throughout the story.  This series (read aloud) helps my students engage in
whole group talk about lots of comprehension work.  They are very lovable characters who are creative, considerate and ready to solve problems.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Be Present

I don't watch a bunch of television but there are days when it feels good to just surf. I tend to head to the networks that show movies. I am sucker for watching the Harry Potter marathons featured on ABC Family.

This summer I was surfing and came across the OWN network. I began watching Oprah's Master Class which happened to be featuring Cindy Crawford.  She was sharing her story and life mantras.  I was enamored as she shared about the loss of her brother, her everyday struggles as a mother and her message.  She ended with Be Present.

I started thinking about the importance of these two words and what they mean to me.  I thought about how to me being present really meant listening, wholeheartedly.

So this summer, I decided to practice presence.  I began to catch myself when I began drifting from it in  conversations with my sons, friends and husband.  I tried to stay focused to what another person was sharing, even if they need to talk longer than I would like to listen.  I practiced keeping my interest in what another was saying even if I felt uninterested.  It has been hard to stay focused without changing the subject right away or trying to relate everything back to me (I can over do this).  But I feel better, I feel patient and more present than I would have been.

Last night I talked at my husband for ten minutes about my classroom plans, my worries about the middle son's golf try out, my annoyance with the kids picking up after themselves, the list goes on...What I noticed was that he let me talk without interrupting for ten minutes.  I think he could tell I just needed to get it out. He didn't jump in and try to relate to something (like I always do) and he didn't stop and answer or even look down at his phone when he received a text (like I often do).  He helped me think even more about what I need to pay attention to to really be present.

With school starting, I am conscious about how this practice will translate in the classroom.  How will I become present for my students? How will I make time to be present for each of them? How will I put aside my own stress to really be there for them? How will I show them and give them time to practice presence for one another?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fluff and Billy by Nicola Killen

The first days of school are around the corner. I have slowly started to head back into the classroom.  The tables and bookshelves are put in place but the books haven't been completely sorted through.  As I am wiping out the baskets and reorganizing, I am also beginning to pull books that I know will communicate important messages to my students over the first few days/weeks of school.  I grabbed Fluff and Billy when I saw it laying on the shelf the other day. I knew I loved the characters and pictures so I decided to reread it again.  

Fluff and Billy are two little penguins that are the best of buds.   They play in tandem, Billy announcing,"I'm climbing up! and Fluff repeating right after "I'm climbing up!"  They are fearless friends until a snowball comes in between their play. After moments of quiet and sadness, they begin to laugh and forgive.  So much can be talked about in this short but important story.

Reading books about real issues that will happen in the classroom and showing children how characters handle these issues gives us a place for discussion.  We can ask kids to think about the story and connect back to what we observe happening in partner work or at recess.  I want my kids to feel like they can be themselves: stumble through mistakes, forgive, laugh and move on.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Princesses and Pirates: Alphabet Favorites

When I first started reading Twenty-Six Princesses by Dave Horowitz to first graders, I noticed it inevitably ended up in a student's book bin afterwards.  It was one of those alphabet books that the kids (girls in this case) would come back to after read aloud and sit with to reread and soak in all the bright pictures and personalities of the princesses.  So when I spotted Twenty-Six Pirates An Alphabet Book, I had to have it.  I know the boys will love the pirate theme and it is as engaging as his princess book.  The frogs who are interact with the princesses in the first book are back playing with the pirates.  These rhyming and colorful texts are perfect for primary kiddos.  And, love that it is an alphabet book with a series feel. More to think about with my first graders.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Authors like Mo Willems

I am always trying to find authors who write funny, supportive and clever texts for our youngest readers.  Many times I find that what I am looking for are stories that mimic the work of Mo Willems. You know books with a couple characters that make you laugh about everyday happenings. Books with a dialogue between the two that even our youngest kiddos can read because the author uses speech bubbles. These types of texts really help our kids learn to read and LOVE to read.  This spring a came across a couple that I am adding to my classroom.

The first is called Max and Milo Go to Sleep! by Heather and Ethan Long.  Max and Milo are brothers headed to bed but while Max is exhausted, Milo will try everything to fall asleep.  While needing lots of help along the way, Milo thinks nothing of interrupting Max's ability to drift off easily.  And by the end, well, I am sure you can guess who needs help falling asleep. I checked and there is another in the series out in December called Max and Milo The Mixed Up Message.

The second is Frog and Fly Six Slurpy Stories by Jeff Mack. Check out the trailer to get a feel for this for just one of the funny stories in the book:

Jeff Mack also wrote a book called Good News Bad News that my students love. Looks like I may need a few more baskets in a few weeks when I start to set up for next year!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Blastoff to the Secret Side of the Moon! by Scott Nickel and Jess Bradley

Graphic novels are always a hit for kids in first grade because of all the picture support. This series by Comics Land was new to me and I picked up Blastoff to the Secret Side of the Moon a few days ago. Aaron is surprised when he sees a spaceship next door. He doesn't hesitate to jump in and then blasts off to the moon for top secret Area 52. His adventures lead him to new worlds and new friends.

I think it will be perfect for primary readers for a few reasons.  It is a very supportive text for early graphic novel fans.  You meet the characters on the cover of book so kids can begin wondering and thinking even before opening the first page.  The setting and timing changes are stated on the top of the pages where Aaron, the main character, travels or when the story moves. And there are fun features (how to draw page and find the alien hunt) at the back of the book to keep kids thinking.
It will be a great addition the the graphic novel basket this year.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck by Laura Murray

I was so happy when I saw The Gingerbread Man Loose in the Fire Truck at the bookstore!!! My kids loved the first book, The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School, and I know they will be anxious to know there is yet another book about this spicy little gingerbread man.

I think we all go through a little doubt when reading a second in a series...will it live up to the first? I felt like this one did and I think the kids will love it too.  After joining his class on a field trip to the fire station the little gingerbread man dodges the station dalmatian and ends up exploring the station and joins a rescue of which the fire men are appreciative.  This little guy is clever and bold!  I am happy to add it to my series basket of picture book characters that kids love.

You can visit Laura Murray's website to check out the book trailer to The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School.   I love Mike Lowery's illustrations and his work as well, I own another of his books: Ribbit Rabbit because of the vowel play within the text (I use for a reread in word study) and the real relationship between frog and rabbit.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Bella's Rules by Elissa Haden Guest

What are your family's rules? We have a few that I am adamant kinder than necessary, keep your room picked up and please no food in the family room (I hate stains on the carpet).  I think everyone has rules that are particularly important to each of us. And others that we let go of or get tired of reminding the family about because they just don't stick! Well, in this story you will meet Bella, who knows the family rules by heart but likes her own better!

Bella's parents help her understand why her rules don't work after she challenges her sitter. And later Bella begins to understand even more deeply the need for rules when she is gifted a new puppy. The ending helps us understand that rules are important but we all slip away from them sometime.

I can't wait to use this book in the classroom when we begin to talk about how we will take care of one another each day. It will allow us to have a real conversation about how we all mess up sometimes, then fix and forgive.  It will also give us an opportunity to talk deeper about why we have rules in place.

I love Abigail Halpin's illustrations. And, I realized that Elissa Haden Guest is the author of the Iris and Walter series (great for 1st and 2nd grade readers).  It is a great addition to picture books I am thinking about for the beginning of next year!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Picture Books for Predicting, Problem Solving and Persevering

I don't know about you but when I start administering spring assessments I realize that my students need to dig deeper into the predicting we have practiced all year long during picture book read alouds. It is in the spring that they are ready to think more about their process for making what we term...thoughtful predictions.  They have matured as thinkers after sharing and building on the talk and ideas that we have had as a community.  Today,  I had one student say (after making and confirming some predictions during Somebody and the Three Blairs), "Gee I am lucky with these predictions today."  I had to jump in and say, "You were thoughtful!" Then we back tracked to trace his process of thoughtfulness.  Did he use what you know about the original story of The Three Bears? YES.  Did he use what he know about pictures and words in text? YES. That resulted in not just luck but a series of meaningful thought.
When I realized we needed to dig deeper, I began by stepping back and finding text that would allow kids to predict using pictures in a simple (predictable ) text.  Hugs From Pearl and Perfectly Percy are two texts by Paul Schmid that helped us begin to rewind and identify our process as predictors.
 Hugs from Pearl is the story of a little porcupine who loves to hug but her quills get in the way.  She solves her problem on her own as she is thinking on her way home from school.
Percy is Pearl's brother and he loves balloons but can't seem to keep them around with his quills.  Percy asks for help but isn't satisfied with the ideas Pearl shares so he thinks and perseveres with his thoughts until he solves his own problem!

These two stories invited opportunities not only that allowed us to predict but also to learn about the importance of problem solving and persevering. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Michigan Visit

This Friday I spent a day in Michigan thinking with teachers about the possibilities for common core writing units K-2.  I want to thank all the teachers who came and for the chance to talk and meet  so many of you.

Please fee free to email if I can help answer any questions or link you with the presentation:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Digging Deeper with Noisy Bug Sing-Along

Just finding Noisy Bug Sing-Along was exciting because I LOVE John Himmelman!  I love Katie Loves the Kittens and found out there is a DVD available (yay!) as well as a another in the series: Katie and the Puppy Next Door coming out in a few weeks.  Then I started digging deeper into Noisy Bug Sing Along,  I also found a link that allows the kids to hear the actual insect sounds he teaches us about on each page. This idea of linking kids to extend their learning in a book is huge. I think when we show kids how to find more helps kids become aware how how they can be deeper readers. Talking about why digging deeper will help them uncover different types of texts and information and then how the information is different or the same has been our discussion during reading workshop the past 2 weeks. I think my kids are closer to making some realizations about why digging deeper benefits the as a reader but for now I am showing them my process.
Now, the book, at first glance I thought was it was a great mentor for young non-ficiton writers.  It has a thoughtful beginning, teaches kids about the sounds bugs make in one sentence, includes craft like descriptive language, bold fonts highlighting the name of the bug and sounds and a connected ending.  I feel like I need to thank him for creating a text that is simple enough for young minds to study but includes enough depth for stronger readers to learn more.  The last two pages in this book detail information about sound waves and what they really sound like.  He also gives us small photographs and paragraphs that teach us even more about each of the bugs featured in the book.

This book was a the focus for reading, writing and word learning yesterday.  I am anxious to share how this book is working for the kids in my class. Just yesterday, a little girl creating a How to Ice Skate book added sound words (SHH) to her picture of an ice skate stoping on the ice  and mentioned she is trying to write like John Himmelman. Again, thank you John!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Follow Follow: A Book of Reversible Poems by Marilyn Singer

If you are familiar with Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer, you will be glad to know she has a companion book out this month called Follow Follow, again filled with her amazing reversible poems.  Though the first book has more of the classic reverso fairy tale poems, I have to say, I think my first graders will be very familiar with many of the new poems featured in this second book.  I love the introduction poem called fairy tales as well as many of the others based on The Three Little Pigs, The Little Mermaid, The Tortoise and the Hare and The Princess and the Pea. This book will also be a great way to extend some of my stronger readers who have loved fairy tales like The Princess and the Peas and Carrots by Harriet Ziefert and Yummy by Lucy Cousins. Looking forward to hearing what the kids think of it today!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Non-Fiction Top Ten

Thanks to Cathy and Mandy for hosting today's Top Ten Non-Fiction Picture Books!  I will be honest and say that I was scrambling after school today trying to figure out which books kids have been loving and sometimes hoarding in their book bins. I came up with a simple list of animal favorites.

 I love, love, love this book : My First Day by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. I don't think you can go wrong with Steve Jenkins!! This sweet book tells about the first movements and experiences of animals just entering the world.   I think my favorite page is about Darwin's frog and reads: On my first day I hopped out of my father's mouth. The kids just oo and ah and want to know more about the special pouch the frog has in his throat to keep his tadpoles safe. 
What Happens Next?: I bought this book because I love pattern books and flap books and  young kids often have success with these.  I also love Nicola Davies and her non-fiction books are some of my favorites.  I will tell you this book was in the preschool section but I think it serves primary readers well and also gives them a structure to mimic if they were to try writing similar book on their own.  

My students this year seem to be obsessed with sharks.  The boys especially have collected just about every shark book and have created their own basket of non-fiction books they are using for writing their own books or posting on the blog.  Here are two that they are loving to read and learn from...
Amazing Sharks and Animal Lives: Sharks.

If You Were A Penguin: This book seems to be one of the most versatile non-fiction texts because it has pattern, descriptive language and non-fiction information embedded in it.  I use it during our pattern book study to help kids see how and why authors use repetitive language and then later in in our non-fiction study to see how an author can teach the reader information poetically. 

Farm: This series by scholastic has been a big hit in my classroom and I feature this book about the farm because it becomes a favorite as we go and visit a local farm in the spring.  I can preview some of the things they will explore at Stratford and also help them notice features of non-fiction that a more traditional non-fiction text uses.  

Who's Looking At You: This book is lots of fun because each of the flaps inside the book is a close up of an animal's eye. When the flap is lifted, there is information that you can read and another picture of the entire animal. It is playful and informative and always in someone's book bin.
The Life Size Series is VERY popular with the kids. Life Size Zoo just invites kids to love non-fiction. They love to read the small cartoons that feature more information about the animal.  They also love to read about each animal's name. It seems to bring them closer to understanding and appreciating the type of animal they are learning about.

Each year I have kids who fall in love with Zoo Borns. They love the animals names and to find out which zoo is home to each sweet small animal. The animals narrate each page and you feel like you know them. This year I picked up ABC ZooBorns to add to our room. There is also a website we visit for videos.

So the last picture book is the exception to the top ten non-fiction books about animals. But, See A Heart Share a Heart is about how Eric Telchin is finding a little love around his world.  I checked this book out from the library because I loved the cover and Eric's story. He quite simply finds hearts in his everyday life and photographs what he sees. Eric has a blog featuring his heart sightings. 
  I shared it on Valentine's Day with my kids. If we could all be focused on finding and seeing the best in others wouldn't our days be filled with more love than hate and jealousy. It seems like such a simple yet complicated quest as humans. This book brought me closer to helping young kids begin to think about it.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Primary Digital Creating and Reflecting

Last week after listening to a webinar presented by Franki on Tech Savvy Teaching, I set a goal to use some of the tools she shared in a new way.  As she spoke about digital reading and how digital reading can be a place for kids to deepen their learning, I thought about creating some places that my students could learn more about owls after our  local Metro Park Naturalist shared a ton of cool information and games with our first graders.  
So I set up a symbaloo on our class website with links to owl learning sites I thought would engage them. Here is what I came up with:

I found a page about how to draw an owl (knowing they would enjoy creating digitally on pixie), I found a site featuring virtual owl pellets that the kids could take apart and them puzzle back together the bones of what was inside.  I also found a video at National Geographic Kids the students could listen and learn from and an owl cam we have been checking of some live owl boxes in Colorado. I decided to just let the kids go for 2 days exploring and later ask them to create digitally about what they learned.  Most kids chose to create in pixie and I taught them how to upload these into the blog so we could see everyones creations.

I think the most powerful part of their reading, creating and sharing was the reflection of what they can do as digital creators. As we finished up on the second day (we often go upstairs to our computer lab...though I am really wanting to have more tech in my room for more just everyday creating alongside of traditional work we are doing). They came back thinking about their learning as digital creators and we compiled this list.
I only had about half the class ready to respond with what they were learning but the range of their abilities were fascinating.  Ruby feels stronger using the little camera that comes up when taking a screen shot. Thanish has a better understanding for how to put a picture in kidblog and Jude realized that he can see whatever he publishes on kidblog anytime. The kids have been blogging since November but need time to practice, digest and understand the capability they have as digital creators.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Finishing Up Opinion Study

After spending time immersing kids in figuring just what opinions are and how kids can voice them, we have some pieces that have evolved over the past month here in first grade. To look back, I think the following ideas helped kids find their choice and voice for their pieces along the way...
 -Students jotted down some ideas for opinion topics that they care about like toys, family, friends, sports and reading. 
-We decided to investigate toy reviews a bit more deeply as a class.  Then, we used interactive writing as a place to make a list of toys students love afterwards choosing a toy to write a review about (Anna's Princess Cadence (my little pony) was the topic for review) together. 
-Later, in workshop, we studied how writers begin and end pieces to help get kids thinking about the choices they have as authors. 
Here we are after time and choice with some pieces that students have accomplished:

What I take away this year :

1. Time again is so huge. Some kids found their idea and created a meaningful piece two weeks into our study while another student had her piece created day one. 
2. Studying what other kids do as writers was the best mentor for opinion writing. Here's the thing, there are not any perfect mentors for first grade writers because each of them needs something different. When the kids in the room next door to us wrote toy reviews, we studied their endings because 3 of them had such natural ways to end their pieces. My kids weren't there yet. Studying other pieces from writers at the same developmental level was most helpful.
3. Using technology alongside opinion writing opens up audience as a choice for writers. This year we voted on who the kids would like to share their pieces with.  Next year, I want to help them think about how audience can be a choice as it a piece you want the world, our blogging community or just our class to read?  I think it will impact their choice of topic and motivation for creating a meaningful piece.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Ten Things I Love About You by Daniel Kirk

Over break, I found a new book by Daniel Kirk.  You may know him from the Library Mouse series or   his Elf Realm series.  I love his characters and illustrations. In his newest book, Ten Things I Love About You, I found some opinion possibilities for young writers. I introduced this text in writing workshop as we were thinking about writing reasons to support opinion.  I found my kids engaged in the back and forth between these two good friends: Pig and Rabbit.

Rabbit stops by to see Pig, sharing his idea to write a list of the 10 things he loves about him.  While he is filled with ideas just being with his friend, Pig is a bit bothered by Rabbit as he is also trying to begin his own list for his friend. When Pig says, "I'm starting to lose my patience," Rabbit adds to his list: I love Pig because he is not afraid to show his feelings. The kids caught on the the humor in the back and forth and we had some laughs with this funny-sweet book.  I also loved the map in the beginning pages of the book that shows Rabbit and Pig's homes. And, the story ends with a thorough list of what each character loved about the other...filled with opinion and reasons for each.

We had a bunch of talked about how a list might be a way to organize a piece about your opinion in a different and clever way. While the "love" part was sappy for some, we talked briefly but a bit further about how Kirk's structure could serve in a piece about something one of us cared about.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mentors for Opinion Writing

This week we started to look at some mentors for opinion writing.  It helped my kids most to be reminded of what exactly it means to have an opinion and to have opportunities to write their opinion.
On Monday we read What Makes You Smile, a book I read last year to provide kids an opportunity to just share an opinion on an easy topic.

Tuesday, I read Red is Best by Kathy Stinson.  Like last year, this book helps kids see that characters can have different opinions and explains the reason for the opinion.  I also shared a few of the books last year's group made: Emma is Best by Alyssa about all the reasons her little cousin is her friend. White is best by Sumendha about all the reasons she loves white.  After all these titles were shared, I had a few kids begin books about their opinions.  Molly began writing Me a book about her favorites and why (she starts off with great voice and a beginning that will be a great mentor for us later too.)

Wednesday I showed the students a toy review online for the Straws and Connectors they love to play with in the classroom.  Before going to the site, I asked them to think with a neighbor about why they like playing with this toy.  I showed them how their same ideas were written in a review.  I used an amazon reviewer and showed the kids the pop up box that happens when you click the reviewers thoughts on the screen.  Enlarged on our whiteboard, I pointed and read what a couple reviewers wrote. I knew they were just beginning to digest the what a toy review even was. This idea for the toy review came from Katie W Ray at the AllWrite conference last summer.  Though I did not have a chance to hear her, I heard about this idea and decided to go for it. What kid doesn't have an opinion about their toy?! 

Thursday, I shared with my class a blogpost an old student of mine wrote about her favorite character Bossy Bear and her opinion about the book:
 After this class, I had many kids hop on the blog to write.


You'll notice that Anna H wrote about a toy she was excited about. Not quite with an opinion but with ideas that have been laid out during the week so that she can build her opinion. Revision and editing here we come!  And, 4 comments to fuel her excitement for the topic.

On Friday, I wanted to help some of my young passionate kids to realize how an opinion about something can help change the world. I showed them this video of Katie.  Afterwards, I asked the kids to help retell and explain what they watched. Many of my students began to figure out that this little third grader donated her cabbage plant to a local food pantry (Jack deemed a free food store) and decided to plant more and donate more because helping others was important to her.  Lots of conversation began as a few students started thinking about what what our class could do to help change the world.  Feeding the animals, planting trees, and a few other ideas surfaced.  One student is writing a book about how to Help the World.

Using the idea of the toy review, I have built in practice for brainstorming a list (during interactive writing) of toys kids would like to review. We started this Friday, not only thinking about sounds and patterns in words as we composed but also visiting sites featuring toys like blingles and skylanders after kids shared their opinions about their favorite toys.  The excitement is building!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolf

My kids loved Z is Moose though the book trailer went over a few heads, one of my students who is pretty knowledgeable about plays picked up on the idea of Zebra directing the stage production. All in all they enjoyed the humor of Moose.
 After reading Baby Bear Sees Blue, one of my students said near the end, "Now this is a good book!" I love the repetition of Baby Bear Sees Blue and the simple description is lovely.  It is a perfect book for reading aloud to primary kids. In this story, baby bear learns about the smells and sights of nature with his mother. The pictures are remarkable.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Z is for Moose

Today it is back to school after a great 2 week break. I can't remember the last time I let myself sleep in past 7am for 4 consecutive days. I really needed the time to relax and do a bunch of nothing.  I watched 8 movies, some at the theatre and some rental. I didn't read as much for myself as I like but started Cutting for Stone that I am loving.

I did hit Cover to Cover and found lots of books I can't wait to share with my kids. Today, I am going to read: Z is for Moose and show them the Harper Kids trailer.  I know they will love it!  It is funny and will make them think! Moose reminds me of Chester because of their strong desire to be noticed and understood. Z is for Moose has a cast of characters ready to showcase the alphabet mixing with a little friendship at the end.  I'll let you know what my kids think.  Happy Monday!