Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Exploring More

Angela over at WNY Education Associates has invited everyone to join in professional conversations this year. I found her experiences and and links helpful as I have set goals for myself to keep learning what else is out there through the use of technology. I feel like I am always a step behind what is next and often when I am exploring a new tool it takes me sometime to wrap my brain around it. I have to figure out how these tools (twitter, wikis, ning and social bookmarks (delicious)) will help me share, search and organize information. Check it out!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Have you twittered?

You might be wondering what Twitter is all about. It was after friends of mine jumped on board to experiment with this new tool for exchanging, sharing or following information that I did as well. I have been on Twitter for about a month and found that I am checking in like I check email. The set up of twitter allows for picture icons which make checking in easy to do in seconds. Twitter also limits information shared to 140 characters so you have to limit your thoughts or responses. I have found that I am following many of the people I know more closely, sometimes linking to new information posted by people I want to learn from and in general learning a ton about technology. It has been a good thing. Today, this week even, I feel like I am at a stopping point. I am not sure how twitter will help me grow next. I am going to be patient and see what happens. Hope to see you on Twitter, my home page is katiedicesare.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Cat and Mouse

Today was the second time Cat and Mouse by Ian Schoenherr caught my eye. The first was at NCTE in the publishers booth and the second was today at the library. While I am patiently waiting for many of the books I reserved that could be Caldecott worthy, I decided to add Cat and Mouse (which had two votes for a mock Caldecott on good reads) to one of the read alouds I will introduce after holiday break.
As I read this story, I was immediately reminded of the antics of Tom and Jerry. These characters (cat and mouse) tease and provoke each other to the story lines of two familiar ryhmes (Hickory Dickory Dock and Eeny Meeny Miney Mo). Each time it seems the mouse has the upper hand. Though after chasing, creeping, sneaking and pouncing, these two seem to work it all out. Worst of enemies but best of friends at the end. The pictures are beautiful and I love the extra large font of the nursery rhyme text. The text in between the rhymes of course connects the story and is rhyming as well. I am anxious to hear what the kids will say and predict about this unpredictable friendship.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thinking books...

I have been behind on reviews of picture books and purchasing new books. Holiday break always gives me time to try to catch up. I was talking about Caldecott contenders with a Franki today and then did some of my own searching. She reminded me about the great list (of mock winners and contenders) posted at Fuse 8 and then I found a list at good reads. Both these lists helped me sort out the books I have already introduced and read aloud. I also have a working list of the books I want to read before the announcement of the Caldecott on Jan.26. I know I want to have some discussion and talk about the books we have already read that are we love and new talk about some that I will bring introduce after break. I know I might have to do some picture reading with some of the titles as some aren't as first grade friendly. Here are my lists:
We've Read:
Little Yellow Leaf
A Kitten Tale
Old Bear
On the Farm
The Wave
A River of Words (thanks to Mary of my favorites!!!)
A Couple of Boys Have the Best Weekend Ever
Fred Stays With Me

I am reserving at the library ( there is a waiting list for quite a few of these)
or will just buy if I love them:
The House in the Night
That Book Woman
Wabi Sabi
Abe's Honest Words
What to do about Alice
Tadpole Rex
Building Manhattan
In a Blue Room

I have to say I feel better with a list.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Observations from a mother

You are probably thinking, "What is this picture about?"

I couldn't help but run and grab my camera when I watched Mo's arm so gently moved across Larry's back as they share adventures at Club Penguin while playing on the laptop. My heart started to jump as I witnessed one of the greatest gifts I have in my boys and their love, friendship and I can't leave out their fights!!! This was just a moment I had to capture so I wouldn't forget it.

Now for the other observations about this picture...
my youngest, Curly is creating pictures as he sits up against the ottoman. Don't worry, what you can't see is the tv on in the background and the huge rip across the loved ottoman (12 years old and still counting) that is covered by the cream blanket. Can you see the blanket? Yea, now imagine a slice across the top of it and stuffing coming out. It is not pretty...but not yet one of my biggest priorities.

You also didn't hear the grouchy mouths and mopey bodies as I asked the boys to help me pick up the room about 2 hours ago. These other pieces are just realities I can't escape as a mom. I will hold on to the 3-4 minutes of love between brothers. Pictures can be so honest yet so deceiving.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Poetry Friday

Happy Friday!
A first grade original by a young poet in my room:

the World
When the world
gets to gethr
there is a
shot uv
gley for
what you see
is your poetry

Invented spelling translations:
shot uv (shout of )
gley (glee)

No one says it better than a 7 year old.
Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


My writers and I have been taking this last week before school ends for holiday break to immerse ourselves in poetry during writers workshop. I haven't asked them or required them to write any (yet) . I know December needs to be about lots of choice as their excitement is heightened ( due to the season) and because we had just finished up a unit where I was specific about what their practice and final product needed. As the kids and began workshop, I talked with them about how poets read lots of poetry to become better writers. So we have been reading lots of poetry (and I just love to read it with them). We have read some of my favorites and some of their favorites (the girls in my room have been naturally drawn to a book of poetry called Nibble Nibble by Margaret Wise Brown). My favorite is April Rain Song by Langston Hughes.
As we read we notice and practice what we notice. Lucy Calkins in her Units of Study in Primary Writing features the poems by a young primary writer: Zoe. The poems Zoe has written seem to hit home with many of the writers in my class. Zoe's poem, The Pencil Sharpener, is a perfect place for us to begin noticing. After reading the poem aloud, the kids notice that they see something very different in their minds. We talk about the pictures that each one of us has in our minds and then record them on paper. Our first step to learning to becoming a poet is to imagine or make a picture in our mind. The kids begin a list of tools that will help us write like poets and this idea of imagining or envisioning is first. I take their pictures surrounding them around the text for Pencil Sharpener and we begin documenting how we are emerging as poets by posting our thoughts. During the week, we continue and document how poets think about things in new ways. Now, a few kids are trying poetry without being required to write it. Today we read a classmates poem about popcorn that used many sounds that helped us hear the poetry. I used her text with other mentor texts ( 3 short poems I read aloud that include invite the reader to hear what is happening )and it was powerful for that writer. The kids added that poets listen to things in new ways. One student began writing her own anthology today called My World. A few others have started to choose to write it. We will continue finding the poets inside of ourselves this week. It is a happy way to end December.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Posts About Gifts

There have been many posts about which books are best to buy for gifts this holiday season. Mother Reader has posted 21 Ways To Give a Book. HipWriterMama has posted book ideas for preteens and The Miss Rumphius Effect shares her purchases and ideas about what to buy the readers ad writers in your life. I have made purchases for my students, my kids, family and friends. I don't have time to share it all now but wanted to share what I bought for my students.
This book is called a sketch and tell book and I purchased it online at Dick Blick. I paid 1.59 per book for 22 kids and I know it will be worth every penny. (I am probably going to buy a cool pens or pencils to go with this.) I was inspired when my Kindergarten son came home with one after a visit to the bookstore (a gift from the grandparents). He wrote in it all day.
I also know this will work as a gift because one of my students brought in a Bare Book that his mom purchased for him. She noticed that he has taken a interest in writing and knew this book would inspire him. He has been writing at home and brought it in to share with the class. The kids were like drooling over his book. I am crossing my fingers that this idea is a hit!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Four on Friday

It has been a busy week...

1. My writers have been busy rereading, fixing and fancying up pieces of writing they have been working on during our unit on punctuation. We explored ways writers use punctuation and why it is important to writing. Some kids created question-answer books exploring the question mark, others wrote stories and practiced periods, exclamation marks and some even explored the quotation marks as they added some "talking" (not quite dialog) to their writing. One little writer tried the ellipsis. He wrote a Thanksgiving book using If you See a Kitten as a mentor text. John Butler writes if you see a kitten say...meow and if you see a pig say...pee-ew! The little writer in my room wrote: We played football...ouch ouch. We ate turkey...yum yum. There is more to this great book but I can't remember the rest. This mentor text was a recommendation in About the Author's by Katie Wood Ray. This picture book is so versatile and I love how kids can read and write like the text in this book. John Butler is the author and has other books that work in my room.

2. It is a cookie weekend. I have all the ingredients for sugar cookie cut outs, fudge, peanut butter kiss cookies and a layer bar with coconut. I want t0 make wedding balls too but need a good recipe. I will be baking many gifts this year!

3. Today we (as a family) received a random act of kindness. We don't know from who or why. There was a warm happy feeling in our hearts and we are going to talk about how we can do the same for another family.

4. I was looking through my professional books and came back to Brenda Parke's book Read It Again! It is an amazing resource for shared reading and how to approach it purposely within the classroom. Brenda helps you jump start ways to introduce and come back to texts that kids need practice with again and again!

Friday, November 28, 2008

I am still here...

Having been back from NCTE for days (maybe even weeks) now, I have had some time to think about what I took away from the fabulous three days of learning in beautiful San Antonio, Texas. I think the session I attended by Tim Tyson helped me see the ongoing need for incorporating technology into authentic learning. Tim was an amazing presenter. The two Katie W Ray sessions helped me just first love KWR even more (she is so real and funny) and remember how good mentor texts are crucial for writers. The Regie Routman session helped me remember teaching is about putting kids first. She was awesome.

I was swooning when I met Debbie Miller in my hotel lobby because she is one of my heroes ( I swooned really after she had gone...don't worry I didn't make a huge fool of myself) I felt blessed to have met with her and share a little technology learning that Mary Lee was graciously guiding Karen and I with in our hotel lobby.

I am keeping it short these days as life gets crazier in the midst of the holidays. I found a ton of books that will be out this winter and spring..favorite sequels to my favorites. I will share soon.
Happy back to school after Thanksgiving break!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A day away

Report cards are ready
Plans in their place
I'm almost ready to get outta this place!
A trip to the bank, the cleaners and store
are on my list before I walk out the door.
I am anxious to hear from authors I've read
Anderson, Wood-Ray, Routman, Tankard. ( not the closest rhyme but you get the idea)
Don't worry, I'll keep you posted on the sights that I see
during my very first trip to NCTE!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Do you love shopping for new shoes?

It has been a wet and gloomy day here in Dublin, Ohio. What better way to cheer up then to take a quick browse at the new releases in the children's section of the library. Today as I was returning an over due dvd, I did jut that. I was pleasantly surprised to find poetry! I am always on the look out for new poetry that primary kids will enjoy. Franki recently discovered a new find on my list called Bill Martin Jr.'s Big Book of Poetry. Check it out here!

I happened to discover a book by Marilyn Singer called Shoe Bop! Shoe Bop begins with the words...Today my sneaker died. These words share the page with a pair of torn up purple sneakers. The story in this text is driven by short poems that Marilyn has written to compliment the journey of a little girl picking out new shoes at the shoe store. Who doesn't love getting new shoes? I have boys and they love new shoes as much as I do.

As the actual short poems tell many of the detailed parts of the story, we are given larger titles in larger text that help us along the story like...the salesman thinks he's being helpful. After this title, we enjoy short poems that tell about the shoes he tries selling ...poems about Mary Janes, Loafers and saddle shoes. The voice of the little girl jumps back into the story when we read a title called...Maybe I should get party shoes instead. The author then has short poems about dress up shoes, fancy sandals and High Heels. I like this one.
High Heels
I like how it feels

to wear high heels,
platforms or wedges.

I can peek over hedges.

I can reach a tall shelf.

I am so proud of myself.
Mama says, "No,
wait till you grow."

But isn't it true
that's what heels
make you do?
Marilyn takes us through the rest of the shopping trip with poems about many other kinds of for exploring, shoes that are noisy, light-up shoes, shoes I used to wear, and shoes I've never worn at all. The ending is not surprising as the little girl finally chooses a pair of new is the style and color that leaves you smiling. These poems are short, sweet and readable for primary kids. I love the way this book is laid out and I love how I will be able to talk to kids about how poetry is storytelling.

You can visit Marilyn's site for quotes and notes about writing stories and poems. One that warmed me comes from writer, Walter Mayes. He says "A poem is a communication from one soul to another that makes one or both hearts sing." I can't wait to ask my own students what poetry means to them.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Finding time to post

Well, it has been yet another crazy week. I can't seem to find time to read and write what I would like to be thinking about. Since I have a few moments before jumping in the car for my son's hockey game, I thought I would list a few thoughts.

1. I am through 5, yes five full report cards including comments. Before getting this done, I had to go back to my assessments for refreshers on my kids. Math assessments, notes I make while kids read and running records for a few and the most abstract...writing. I have kept a growing portfolio for my writers, student reflection for Sept and Oct published pieces and a rubric I created for our Oct unit on story writing (small moment, personal narrative...whatever you like calling it). I am not sure if I liked jumping into story writing this early in the year for first graders but this group as a whole seemed ready and you know we will come back to it all year. It also is the biggie for first grade in terms of Ohio standards. Next week we will start a unit I found in Katie W Ray's About the Author's. It is a fun way to help kids understand and craft pieces using punctuation.

2. I just received my very first NCTE convention looks more like the NCTE bible for the convention being held in San Antonio, TX. I am a first timer at this convention and can't wait!! Any bloggers with tips...I will take them!

3. I read Punk Farm this week after buying it at Border's this week. Well I never expected it to be such a hit. I read it aloud and my students immediately wanted to hear it again. "Again, again!" they chanted. We read it again . I just went to search info about the book and realized there is a Punk Farm on Tour as well. I also found the web page Punk Farm Space. This page has a version of Old Mac Donald from the story. It is a riot. I am absolutely playing the song for the kids tomorrow especially after trying to imitate what it would sound like ourselves. Very fun...

4. I have been noticing that my kids feel that my husband and I are nagging to much (which we are ) and we think they are not listening and complaining too much (which they are). We sat down for a family talk about what to do about it and also laid down the law about respect. We all agreed to start helping one another. We'll see how it goes. I think the conversation is know just like in the classroom. We'll see how it goes.
Have a great week!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Taking a day

Yesterday, I had to take a day off from school. It was hard. I didn't allow myself to stress about all the things I should be doing or could be doing. When my mind would wander toward assessment work, plans, upcoming report cards or ideas for differentiating in math, I had to intentionally turn my direction of thinking. It was good...I think. Now it is Sunday and I am beginning to overload. I have to get to the grocery, hockey practice, the library and then to school before the day is over. I was up early and accomplished quite a bit but the day will feel like it is shorter with the time change. Is there ever enough time? I am taking deep breaths and am off to jot down some plans. 24 days until Thanksgiving break. Happy Sunday.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

New find: One Boy

Yesterday, I was wishing that author Laura Vaccaro Seeger would add another title to her Dog and Bear Series because it is such a good first grade read. There are so many things I like about it…it is funny, builds picture reading and comprehension work and it works as a series I can hand over for independent reading. My transitional readers are successful jumping into this and my early readers having heard it, pick it up for a challenge and then practice. It is an overall great series for the "dog and cat" book basket it sits in on the shelf in our room.
Today I was at Barnes and Nobles and happened to come upon some great finds. I spotted Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s name on a new book called One Boy ( I was bummed it wasn't a Dog and Bear title but I loved some other things about this book…keep reading). One Boy is a counting story about a boy who the reader is first introduced to sitting on a chair with a bag of paint brushes. The text on the opposite page reads…1 One Boy. As you turn the page, a square hole that has served as the frame for the picture of the boy allows you to see how the word “one” is inside the words on the following page. These words read all alone. The story continues with the use of the frame or square hole which allows the reader to see how words are inside of other words…like 3 Three Apes: Big escape. It is very clever and lends to great talk about words. I also like the fact that there is still a story that flows through the pictures that the reader has opportunity for discovery at the end. I can’t wait to read it tomorrow

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Four on Friday

It is Saturday but I am posting as if it were Friday because I began to post yesterday when life got in the way...

1. It is a big weekend for us with lots of family in town! We hosted about 25 guests last night and it was wonderful to see everyone. My brother from Florida prepared 15 lobsters he caught in the Keys...yumm! The best part was catching up with everyone. I did get in a little teacher talking with my aunt who also teaches first grade in South Carolina... we had many a hairy eyeball from some family who think we're a little crazy but we just had too share stories!!

2. Worst teaching moment this week: trying to teach a ten frame strategy using a worksheet that was too overwhelming for 6 year olds. Best Moment: Establishing trust with a student that is still trying to figure out school. Conversations and patience are paying off after all.

3. I read what I like to think of as "first grade series books" aloud to help hook a few more readers. Dog and Bear books were a favorite this week. The kids loved how each book has three short stories. Many wondered if the stories were connected. We speculated why the author hadn't connected the stories like chapters. Lots of smiles and laughs with these. Dear Laura Seeger, we need more in this series!!

4. Parent teacher conferences went well and are over. It was helpful and exciting to meet with all my parents but AAHHHHHHHH ( a big sigh of relief) that they are over. I of course had my assessments to share but also kept pad handy to write down any concerns and needs parents had. Many needs are easy to take care bathroom reminding ( I am horrible because kids go on their own ) and getting a buddy to help make sure kids finish a lunch.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Four On Friday

Happy Friday...

1. Today is a comp day for parent/teacher conferences and time to catch up at home. One son is at drama camp (an activity offered by our district). He was very nervous he would be the only boy at camp and was relieved to see other boys when we arrived. The other two little brothers ( Mo and Curly ) are helping me clean out drawers and cupboards in between video game breaks and playing outside.

2. My sister called and asked me to jump in and run the last six miles of the Columbus Marathon with her. I am excited and hopeful I can help her keep pace for the last leg. I have to admit that since I was sick a few weeks ago, I haven't pushed my self to run consistently. Looks like this is the perfect opportunity to get back into the groove.

3. I have this co-dependent issue with my own children. You know when they try something new and you know it is going to kick their my oldest who is trying to play hockey for the first time with kids who have been playing since they were 3. I have a sick to my stomach feeling often as I watch him on the ice. I feel every little up or down with him and sometimes want to take on his emotions. He has this huge desire to play and we are supporting him, encouraging him and loving him. He has taught me so much about courage. Even though he gets down, we build him back up and remind him that he is getting better each practice. We remind him of his natural strengths and that this experience is helping him grow. He is learning to let go of kids teasing him and trying to find friends on the team who support him. I want to cry some days as I see him frustrated and defeated. Then I remember that I am the cheerleader...this parenting stuff kicks my butt some days.

4. I took my class to Glacier Ridge Metro Park yesterday for a field trip where we learned about seasonal changes from two naturalists. This trip was AWESOME!!! My students were able to witness, talk and ask questions about the seasonal changes that occur here in Ohio. I took a ton of pictures I will use with the kids. I think we might gets our hands into oil pastels to do some work making a background for the pictures and use the pictures to reflect about what we learned. I am still thinking about how it will look as a final product...collage of some kind.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Guiding Transitional Readers

The first half hour of every day in my classroom is what we call "Beginning the day with Books." It is a very exploratory time when kids are reading books. We have made a list of what this time "looks like" so that kids have guidance about what choices they have in the room. Many kids are reading favorite books with friends, picture reading books, exploring new baskets, sequencing old poems written on sentence strips, or just about anything they can do to "play" with books in the morning.
This time is often the time I use for meeting with small groups. Years ago, I gathered all the books I choose to put into the hands of small groups of readers. Almost all of the groups were gathered as "leveled" groups for guided reading. I guided....gave them background knowledge, told them about the story they were about to read and loaded them with information that I thought they needed to be able to read a new book. I did so much of the work for many of my transitional readers that were actually ready to do this "guided work" on their own. This year I find myself having to really think about these kids who are 6 and 7 years old but score as transitional readers on the DRA. These kids do not need me picking out books and providing them with the intense guidance that some of my emergent readers often need. I have started to think about questions that I am finding I have about these readers. Questions like...
What kind of stamina do these readers have?
What do they like to read?
What do they know about choosing a book?
What easy texts do they have available for fluent practice?
These four questions are questions we have been tackling for the last two weeks. I am finding myself offering book choices within baskets ( series baskets, author baskets) that allow kids to practice a small group lesson whether we are talking about fluency, stamina or the thinking and noticing work we do as we choose a new book. It was interesting to hear a boy (on the latter end of transitional) say " I don't want to read Arthur's Pen Pal (it was in one of the choice baskets). Mrs. DiCesare, it has too many words on the pages." I immediately knew that this reader was beginning to think about his own stamina as reader. He choose from the Little Critter basket and new these books would be a better fit for him as he builds stamina with books. This kind of work feels like "guiding" readers to make choices and practice independently.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Student Family Night

Tonight was one of three "family nights" I decided to host in my classroom. When I first thought about these evenings, my purpose was plain and simple...invite kids and their families into the classroom to share student work. After a bit of reading this fall and some of my own goal setting, our first family night turned in to a family evening where parents and kids came to join in our first writing celebration. Imagine a warm, crowded room filled with parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters and of course first grade friends skipping to see one another, sharing oreos with juice boxes in hand all while reading and sharing their favorite pieces of writing. Thinking back to it already makes me smile. My smile comes from knowing that what I thought was a simple evening turned out to be bigger for many people who shared in the celebration.

Looking back, the evening helped some parents visualize what their son or daughter had been sharing at home. One mom explained that her son often answers "nothing" to the common question..."What did you do at school today?" She was delighted to be able to read his writing and talk with him about it.

This evening connected families and opened the doors to new friendships. Students like Katie had opportunities to introduce her parents to new friends she has made this year.

This evening answered questions. Many parents were able to ask a quick question or allow me to help them understand different procedures or routines.

This evening allowed me to share with many parents how much I am enjoying and learning from their kids. Doesn't every parent want to feel like their child is valued at school?

This evening allowed 6 and 7 year olds to have voice and share their thinking about what they are learning as writers with their parents. Kids came, shared and lead the way.

It was a good evening.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Quick Six on Saturday

It has been an overwhelming week. Like all of you I am trying to balance it all and I thought I would turn a 4 on Friday into a quick six on Saturday. Quick because it is late Saturday evening and I think I might actually have time to read for pleasure while the kids are in bed and my husband it out of town for the night.

1. This weekend is Educator's Weekend at Border's and I stopped by to get a 25% discount on some buys. I picked up a new and possible "Halloween" book recommended by Franki called I'm Looking for a Monster by Timothy Young. It is a pop up book about a boy in search of a monster to play with him and his other monster friends. It is a short book with little text on each page and it is just plain fun.

2. I also purchased 2 new books for my "cat and dog books" basket. I find that first graders (especially ones with pets ) love this basket. Just this week I had a little girl explore this basket in the morning and she found 2 new books she added to her books bin. Off the top of my head, some of the dog books include titles like...Unloveable, Bad Dog Marley, Harry the Dirty Dog, I love dogs, Bark George and a bunch more. Cat books include...I love cats, My cat copies me, The Cat Barked, Ginger and others I can't remember. Anyhow, I purchased two new books for this basket. The first is Be Gentle with the Dog,Dear! by Matthew J.Baek. Tag , the dog, is a gentle lap dog. He is loved by his family, especially little Elisa who squeezes him, pulls his tail and even tackles him. Tag begins to feel miserable about all this love and his owners intervene when baby Elisa is too rough. The book ends with Elisa and Tag learning to play and love each other. Elisa so sweetly falls asleep with Tag on the floor until she opens an eye and begins to notice the cat. The story is sweet and again very little print on each page with a mix of a few picture reading pages. It is perfect for first grade.
Boris and the Snoozebox by Leigh Hodgkinson is the other book I purchased. It is about a cat who decides a cardboard box is the perfect place for a nap until he is accidentally shipped in the mail to many unexpected recipients. As Boris begin to nap in the box..."suddenly stamp stamp scribble scribble...this box seems to be slightly less dull. Boris in-the-box blinks, baffled in the dark." He ends up with Grandma Flapjack who has always wanted a cat. The author/ illustrator plays with font, language and I love the mix of real photography with her art.

3. Remember how I was complaining about just passing my husband by last week? Well, I surprised him by asking a friend (thanks Lauren) to watch the boys on Friday night (hence no 4 on Friday). We had dinner and then looked at each other with exhaustion and started laughing about how we were ready to go home. We made ourselves stay out longer. I dragged him to the teacher store (how romantic) because I was in serious need of post it tape. We also picked out some wire shelving for one of our closets at Home Depot. We left at 5:30 and were home by 8:00. I have to say we were both pretty happy to have had time to ourselves and still be home on a Friday evening after working all week.

4. We are preparing for our "Family Night" this Wednesday where parents , brothers, sisters and students will be celebrating our first published pieces from Writing Workshop. One of my writers said on Friday, "Can we have two writing workshops a day Mrs. DiCesare?"

5. I finally finished Breaking Dawn (the Twilight series) today after saving 50 pages because I didn't want the book to end. I was happy with all four books. I have my favorite and least favorites but that is for another post. I can't wait for the movie this fall!

6. This was so not a quick six...I'm off to read.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Thanks Bob!!

Yesterday was a good day. I walked through the day trying to live and teach in the moment. I enjoyed a gorgeous evening walk with a friend who I haven't seen in awhile. My husband and I talked and talked about our worries and blessings. But the best part of my day was strolling up to the mailbox to receive my autographed copy of DINOSAUR VS. BEDTIME by Bob Shea!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ( I have mentioned him and his awesome new book here.)
I can tell you that I was on a bit of a high last evening!! Not only did the book just make me happy but it came just in time! Just in time for what you're asking...well just in time for my fabulous first graders to get their hands on it. You see, I already read them the arc and they loved it!!! But the arc wasn't bound and after reading it, I did not take the time to bind it. So, the wonderful pages did not stay in know it gets busy with 21 first graders. Most of the time we discuss where to put the books I read aloud so that kids can access them on their own. In the craziness of that day it did not happen. BUT, it did not stop my kids from finding the book in the bottom bin of my chart stand. They were not to be stopped from getting their hands on this exciting read. The next morning during reading workshop the arc pages were spread across the floor (having been truly enjoyed but now kids were not really able to read from front to back). One little boy carried the mixed up pages and put them in our clear bin of "books that need fixed."
"Mrs. DiCesare, can you please put Dinosaur vs. Bedtime back together?"
Can't you just picture a 6 year old boy kindly requesting help with something he would love to read? This story ends sadly because I have yet to get to putting ( Dinosaur vs. Bedtime and Heckedy Peg ) together our books that need fixed.
Tomorrow (because I have been home with my own sick children today..oh yeah that was the only bad part of yesterday) I can put this book in their hands. The hands it deserves to be in because it makes kids happy, invites picture readers and word readers alike!! Bob, I am thinking that we can also think about it for a mentor text with all the pattern and repetition. Thank you Bob in more ways than one!!! (can't wait to put on the Dinosaur tattoos too)
Check out Bob, dinosaur and bird (from NEW SOCKS) at his website at, you will too be so happy did.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Four on Friday has obviously been a busy week when I notice my last post was a week ago.

1. Writing workshop: One of my goals this year was to publish more with my kids as we are in the midst of workshop this year. I set dates before school started for 3 evenings that I am naming "Family Night" and I have invited families to come spend time with their kids in the classroom. The first night is approaching and the kids and I decided we would have our first writing celebration this evening. Just this in itself has helped me begin to meet my goals for publishing. I am exploring what is do-able for first graders as they begin to publish independently. They are really "doing" 4 things as they publish early on in the year. 1. They are choosing something important or special they want to share. 2. I am having the kids create a cover/title (this idea inspired by Ann Marie Corgill's new book Of Primary can view online at Stenhouse). 3. I am also having them reflect on their purpose (this being a discussion my kids and I have repeatedly on as we think about writing what we know) and 4. I am asking them to reread their writing. Some kids are ready to notice and fix words, punctuation or add things to help their stories make sense (rereading writing is one of the most important and repetitive lessons I teach all year). I am also remembering that my kids are very much in the process of understanding these 4 publishing ideas. Even if it is not perfect, they are practicing publishing. I can't help but anticipate what the publishing process will look like at the end of the year! I'll let you know how it goes.

2. I hate, I mean hate colds!!! Last year was probably one of the first years in a long, long while that I can't remember being sick. This year it is September and I already have the itchy, scratchy throat with the drainage that happens before you go to bed stuff. AHHH! Thank God for Nyquil and cough drops.

3. Reading Workshop: I introduced the Melanie Watt basket this week and what a hit. Who doesn't love Chester? I also had kids share new baskets they explored...Laura Numeroff was a new find for some. Mo Willems has the kids hooked. I did a back flip when I saw one of my kids who is just discovering text read a few pages from the Elephant and Piggie book...My New Toy. He has heard it enough aloud that he is able to practice strategies he is learning in reading recovery (matching one to one) to fun books he want to read during workshop!!

4. It was one of those week where my husband and I barely exchange glances. We pass each other as one walks out of the door to a meeting or to drive the car pool. It is not going to get better this weekend as I venture to Cinci to help my little sis find the wedding dress of her dreams. He was gone golfing last weekend. I am gone this weekend. Don't get me wrong we are an awesome team when it comes to the kids but never seem to make time for just us. I am feeling the need for a sitter and date night. Duty calls the Kindergartener is asking me to read to him. I am posting early as I will be away for the weekend.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Four On Friday

This short week ( because of the power outages) felt long.  Here's what is going on...

1. I was without cable (including my Internet and phone) for about 4 days.  I was fortunate to have power.  Wow, did I miss being able to jump online whenever I wanted to check mail or needed something.  My husband teases me about the time I am on the computer but I usually laugh it off. This week I realized all the "online" routines and habits I have.  It is funny how I was  able to recognize them when I couldn't get connected.  For example, when the kids go down, in between chores I, and right before bed and a quick check in the morning.  I found myself gravitating to the computer but then realizing I wasn't connected.  I am such a creature of habit and I am addicted to checking mail, blogs, and reading when and what I want online.  Isn't the Internet GREAT!

2.  Many writing workshop stories to share with you.  I won't go into a ton of detail but I have to share a couple of titles of pieces kids started this week...The Olympics (many of my boys are fascinated with the different flags and countries so I checked out an atlas and they have been creating pattern books about flags they're interested in).   The Grown-Up Book...I  had a writer (who has written about a vacation, trip to the zoo and his family) decided today he wanted to write a grown-up book (you know a book with lots of words).  He began writing strings of letters and more letters.    Though this writer can generate and write a message and picture in his own writing, he is still developing an understanding that print and pictures work together to carry the message.  I have so much thinking to do about this...

3.  My kids have ben addicted to the Wii that my youngest brother (he's 25 and still lovin' video games) brought over to share.  He left it at our house and I am ready for him to come back and pick it up.

4. I am spouse-less and out one son for the weekend.  It will be nice having some one on one time with my youngest sons.  Soccer game tomorrow and we get to plan the rest as we go!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Halloween Find

Sunday's wind storms have created a bit of a problem for most of Columbus. I have been fortunate to have power (no cable though yet ...thank goodness for bookstores and restaurants that offer Internet access) but many neighbors are still without electricity and our district has been closed for the second day in a row. After a day of hosting family, today we ventured out to the bookstore. I liked number of books but ended up with three in my hands at the end of the shopping trip. Today I have time to share one as my boys are patiently waiting for me to blog as they browse books at Borders.

Five Pesky Pumpkins was one of my first choices as I like to look for new Halloween books. This one is perfect for the beginning of the year. It is a counting book with flaps, pop-up and colorful pictures and it rhymes. It is just a little book like the size of a board book but will fit perfectly in first grade hands. I don't worry too much about about kids ripping or breaking it. We will talk about caring for it and sharing it (I know it will be popular) and then I will trust my kids. If there are problems along the way, we'll learn to tape and fix it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Four on Friday

It has been the first 5 day week at school. I am ready for the weekend.

1. I LOVE Fridays (who doesn't). It is the end of a work week and time for a little down time. I most look forward to catching up with my family at dinner. We have a Friday night tradition at our at Iacono's. I love not making dinner and cleaning up dishes. I most love hanging out and talking through dinner. (lots of talk about OSU vs. USC tomorrow)

2. For any of you who aren't familiar with choice literacy( a website for literacy teachers/coaches and resources), Debbie Miller's conversation with Brenda Power was powerful. Debbie reminds readers to re-think beginning small groups work too early. She reminds us that it is important to take our time and get to know kids individually. Check it out.

3. I love it when kids create things at choice time that I can use and teach with during the course of the day. One of my kids created a Red Riding Hood Puppet during choice time. We went and looked through the fairy tale basket to find different versions of The Three Bears. Byron Barton has written the most simplified version. We also have versions by Paul Galdone and James Marshall. We read the James Marshall version and talked about other characters we could make at next choice time. I heard many kids talking about their plans to make the wolf and the grandmother. Other kids talked about making scenery or the setting. Can't wait to see what happens next.

4. I had two great conversations with my brothers today. I don't talk with them enough but today after school both of them were on my mind so I called. One is in Florida and one here in Ohio. I am so glad I listened to myself.

Monday, September 8, 2008


I have been thinking a bunch about how much of the classroom is about time. Kids need time to speak, time to listen, time for a break, time to write, time to read, time to explore and mostly me (the teacher) to give them the benefit of time when they are thinking or stuck. They also need time to process and then follow directions. I think I try to be aware of this with my own students because I need time to process too. In thinking about time to process, I began to think about the idea of what Paula Denton calls "knowing when to be silent. " My principal again, put a wonderful article in our boxes by Paula called The Power of Words. Did you know that researchers have found that when teachers wait three to five seconds, more students respond, and those responses show high level thinking? Also, "when we allow students to speak uninterrupted and unhurried, we help them learn because speaking is an important means of consolidating knowledge." Really, it is just about (me) making time to listen.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Smart Scholastic Ideas

With three of my own kids in elementary school, I think I receive just about every Scholastic book order possible. As Martha Stewart would say...this is a good thing. As I look through the book orders, I am always looking for the best deals on good picture books (often ones that I don't have that complete a series or one I missed or just to buy an extra copy favorites). I was talking with a teacher in my building who said she suggested titles during curriculum night. I loved that she was reminding parents about good books while they have an order form in their hands. So many times I talk to parents about good books or write about them in my newsletter but telling them and showing them with a Scholastic form in hand was so smart!!! I am thinking about sending a quick note about books we've read in class that are in the form. This might kids and parents have a quick conversation about what their child likes. Here are some finds for the fall...
In the Just Right Books for Back to School Issue:
-two Pigeon books (hardcover) for $7
-Alphabet Animals (hardcover) pictures slide in and out of pockets $13 ( I am buying!!)
- Kevin Henkes 4 pack $11

In the See Saw September Issue:
First Day Jitters is adorable and only $1
Duck for President $7
Knuffle Bunny Too $5
Skippy Jon Jones Fans- 3 pack for $8
Eric Carle 4pack
Mark Teague 4 pack

In the Fire Fly Issue:
Llama Llama Mad at Mama (I love this one!!) $3
First the Egg (love this too and a caldecott winner) hardcover $10
If you need to add a Froggy book to your Froggy basket...17 pack
Cookie's Week ( a classic) $2
Freight Train (hardcover)$7
Ruthie and the ( Not So ) Teeny Tiny Lie (one of my favorites) $3

In Classroom Favorites Fall 2008 Issue:
Library Mouse (great book) $3 I am buying b/c I don't have it yet!!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Four on Friday

I happen to read a Five on Friday over at HipWriterMama and thought I would give a "Four on Friday" a try.

1. I am loving my time in the classroom this year. I have enjoyed beginning to really think about how my first graders are choosing books. These first two weeks have been about what kids want to read and like to read. This week I had kids sharing about why they choose books here are some of their thoughts...they like books with cool pictures, they like the books that have flaps, they like books that are about something they like (Jay picked The Wheels on the Race Car because he loves cars), and they like books that make them feel something (M liked Heckedy Peg because it is scary).

2. I received an excellent article this week from my principal from the journal of Educational Leadership called JOY:Joyful learning can flourish in school if you give it a chance by Steven Wolk. This article spoke to me in a number of ways. Steven says..."what happens inside schools has a deep and lasting effect on the mind-sets that children develop toward lifelong learning." I want my students to love to learn as much as I do. I love to read and write and find it easy to share but other areas do not come as natural. After reading the article, I was inspired to catch a toad I watched hop around my garden and bring it in for the kids to see. We had fun watching the little guy hop and jump in the large bucket. He was great conversation for science and writing but mostly, it was just plain old fun. I want kids to know that learning is catching frogs, reading favorite books and writing about what you love.

3. Debbie Miller's new book, Teaching with Intention, is fabulous and I will say that I love it. I have only made it through the first 3 chapters but I am saying YES! to everything I read.

4. Too tired to think anymore. Fridays are heaven.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hug a Bug by Eileen Spinelli

Eileen Spinelli has written more than forty books for children. Maybe you have a favorite...Heat Wave, When You are Happy, Sophie's Masterpiece, Somebody Loves You Mr. Hatch or one of her others you can find here at her website. One of her newest books is titled The Best Story Ever and was one of my summer buys. It is a great read about a young writer trying to figure out just what a good story needs. Franki reviews it here.
I am really looking forward to her book coming out December 23 called Hug a Bug. This book ( of which I had a sneak peek) is another great find for primary readers and classrooms. Eileen nearly begins each page with Hug...hug who you ask? She invites readers to Hug your pillow. Hug your pet. Hug the mailman-don't forget. The story is repetitive, rhymes and has a happy, sweet message. Even if you aren't completely comfortable with unexpected hugging, you'll love the way Eileen is tapping into one of the most simple ways to express care, thanks, concern or love..a hug. I love the last page...Hug a neighbor passing by. Hug the whole wide world...or try.

Monday, September 1, 2008

New Doreen Cronin Book: Duck is back!

Each year I like to sift out baskets of books kids are not so interested in and add a basket or two I am anticipating they will enjoy. This year one new basket I added was an author basket that features the books of Doreen Cronin. Doreen has written the books you know and love including Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type, Dooby Dooby Moo, Giggle, Giggle Quack and Duck for President. These books all feature her loveable farmyard characters including duck, the cows, pigs and chickens. Why didn't I feature them in a basket before this year?
Another favorite series of books written by Doreen include the Diary of a Fly, Diary of a Spider and Diary of a Worm books. These just make my students and I giggle and think. They are clever and fun. I know you've seen them or read them.
Doreen also has two books with one word titles called Wiggle and Bounce. As a primary teacher, these books make me soo happy because they have short amounts of text embedded in a picture that includes part of a real photograph. My students love to read these books and pick out the "real" part of the picture. I love that I can talk with them about how writers take risks to write in different ways. You can see Doreen has a number of great books and I am so glad I finally decided to add her basket to our classroom library.
The best news is that I just picked up her latest book this holiday weekend. Thump, Quack, Moo is just in time for fall as Farmer Brown decides to make a corn maze for the Corn Maze Festival. Farmer Brown needs help and convinces the unwilling animals to help. Farmer Brown sketches, measures, counts and cuts each day to prepare his Statue of Liberty corn maze. Duck sneaks out each night with his sketch to measure, count and cut too. Isn't this sooo Duck! You know Farmer Brown is in for a surprise!

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