Monday, April 28, 2008


Well, Megan Germano at Read, Read, Read dared and I jumped ! This idea of voicethreads took me awhile to get but it is addictive!! My voicethread is not all that creative (I do not have many pictures to upload), nor exciting but I did it!! I think I embedded too?

In the spirit of non-Fiction Monday...

I was out this weekend and found some new books that I adore. Though they do not fit onto the category of non-fiction, there is something very real about these picture books that I am hoping will grab my readers and writers. First up...
On the Farm by David Elliot
I was ecstatic to find poetry in a picture book format that is has short verses, big bright pictures and appeals to younger kids. David Elliot has written poems about the many animals on the farm from the "rooster (that) struts and crows" to the turtle who "lifts her fossil head and blinks one two three." The simple nature of this poetry is sure to be read by and serve as a mentor text for my first graders. I have been looking for new poetry all year and at last a new book to add to our collection!!!

Fine As We Are by Algy Craig Hall
I had to buy this book because my oldest son often complains about the followings and copycatting of his younger brothers. I noticed these same complaints have occurred in my classroom this year. One little gal has been "telling" that another little one wants to do everything the other does. I always try to explain that it is a compliment. "She wants to be just like you, isn't that great? You are a leader and she is learning so much from you!" Some times it works...sometimes it doesn't. Regardless, this book tackles the struggle little frog has after his family grows one spring. Little frog does step up to the challenge of being a big brother and has fun with it!

Night of the Veggie Monster by George McClements
This purchase was inspired by my middle son who is a picky eater...he doesn't do veggies (unless disguised in my turkey chili or eaten raw, just carrots and you can only eat so many carrots), he loves sugary junky food like fruit snacks and candy ( so we limit it) but does love milk and eggs (thank God). Anyway, the little boy in the story tells how awful Tuesday nights are because he is forced to eat..."PEAS! " The story is balanced with the parents perspective written in the word bubbles ("a whole three tonight"). I loved the pictures, it made me laugh and it hit home. I am hoping it will inspire ideas for writing and I know many kids will want to read it again independently.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What's out there...

I found some things tonight as I sat down to blog surf ( my awesome husband is making lunches and doing dishes so I can blog...thanks is all about teamwork here during the week and he is so good about thinking of me. I on the other hand am not so good am not so good at remembering to do nice things for him). I am very excited to order the book A Visitor For Bear by Bonnie Becker after reading Jen Robinson's excellent review. I am always looking for sweet picture books that deal with friendship themes. Also, after popping in to visit The Miss Rumphius Effect, (where I always find wonderful poetry suggestions) I am reserving the books she recommends for colorful poetry. I think my students will especially enjoy Flashy, Clashy and Oh-so Splashy poems. Lastly, I love to read about what other people give as gifts. Mary Lee at A Year of Reading writes about her new favorite baby shower gift, In a Blue Room, and this is perfect timing for me as I have three friends due in the next three months!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Learning from my own reading

Back in December I wrote about how I was inching my way through A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and I am embarrassed to admit that I haven't finished it. I am closer to the finish line but still enjoying bits of it when I have personal down-time to read for myself (instead of for professional reasons, to my kids, with my kids or any other reason I can't be specific with right now). As I have read this longer book over several months, I decided to post-it pages that I loved, pages I wanted to read again and come back to and pages that helped me understand the story and character. So here I go to share two... (1)the first words that drew me into this story were written in the foreword by Anna Quinland when she compared Francie Nolan to Jo March from Little Women and to Betsy Ray of the Betsy-Tacy books ( this was my favorite series as a young reader). I knew I would enjoy a book with a character similar to my childhood favorite!!! (2)On page 72 Betsy Smith (the author) writes that..."
"Francie Nolan was, all of the Rommelys and all of the Nolans. She had a violent weakness and passion for beauty of the shanty Nolans. She was a mosaic of her grandmother Rommely's mysticism, her tale-telling, her great belief in everything and her compassion for the weak ones. She had alot of her Grandfather Rommely's cruel will. She had some of her Aunt Evy's talent for mimicking, some of Ruthie Nolan's possessiveness. She had Aunt Sissy's love for life and her love for children..."
..."she was made up more, too. She was the books she read in the library. She was the flower in the brown bowl. Part of her life was made from the tree growing rankly in the yard. She was the bitter quarrels she had with her brother whom she loved dearly..."
"She was all of these things and of something more that did not come from the Rommely's nor the Nolan's, the reading, the observing, the living from day to day. It was something that had been born into her and her only-the something different from anyone else in the two families. It was God or whatever is His equivalent puts into each soul that is given life-the one different thing such as that which makes no two fingerprints on the face of the earth alike.
I couldn't help but want to read this again because to me it reminds me of how we are all the same but different... how parts of ourselves flow from the genes that connect family characteristics (nature... eyes, ears, arms and nurture...personalities) and yet there is some piece of ourselves that remains uniquely our own (fingerprints... soul). This same idea about understanding how uniquely different yet the same we are is touched upon each year in my classroom as we read Stellaluna, The Other Side and Big Al. Books, old and new, picture and chapter, simple and complex open our minds to multiple understandings. Can I think through how to use pieces of this in my own primary workshop...
readers are patient with challenging texts?
readers find pages they love in their books?
readers think about what books teach them?
readers connect to other texts?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A New Favorite Picture Book

This week marks our last school book fair for the year and I found gold!!!!

Dog and Bear: Two Friends Three Stories
jumped out at me as I noticed it on the top shelf of the rolling carts. I picked it up and was happy to read about these likable characters. The book has three short stories which include: Bear in a Chair, Play with me! Play with me! and Dog Changes his Name. Each story (each included in the one picture book) is 5-6 pages with a few words on each page, some repetition and an adorable twist to each story that leaves the reader wanting to read more about their relationship antics. This book is perfect for first graders as they build stamina with books that have more than one story about the same characters. It feels like a George and Martha for K-1 and is a step before Frog and Toad. Dog and Bear will make someone happy. I also found Dog and Bear: Two's Company after searching for this title at Powell's. Can't wait to check it out too. Yet another reason to love this is part of a series!!!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Book Bins

Book bins: Here are the bins I purchased from Calloway House for my kids this year. They are actually file caddies in the catalog but I liked the size ( wide enough for picture books) and the holes on either side have made them easy to carry. They are definitely just making it right now as I am taping up the sides of some. I have to consider the wear and tear of my kids carrying, sometimes kicking, pushing their bins on a daily basis. I may try the book boxes from this company next year because they look stronger...of course they are a bit more expensive but I am hoping worth the few extra dollars.

Book Bins: Talking Through Book Choices
This week I sat down with one of my trickier kids to talk about the book choices that he keeps in his book bin. The book bins in our room serve as a home to the books my kids love to read, books that I am helping them find and books that I am asking them to read. I wanted to get a feel for what books D was choosing (other than the books that the reading recovery teacher or I am choosing for him i.e.guided reading books). I wanted to make sure he (D) had easy books he could read again and again as well as books that he just loves no matter what the level of difficulty. He explained his choices very well and we worked through some things.

We made a pile for different kinds of books:
His easy books : Shark in a Shack (easy leveled book) (he had two copies so he could read with a friend)
Brown Bear, Brown Bear ( I know this one)
F book
M book (both just smaller alphabet type books with pics and labels)
Days Like This (book of poetry) The poem "Bounce" is what is easy for me.
Bounce is the poem my kids loved coming back to again and again this year.

D wanted to put in The Lady with the Alligator Purse but after reading it, I helped him noticed that he had to stop and use tools for reading words in this book. He didn't fly through this like the rest of his easy books. He did notice it felt different.

We decided to put it in the just right pile with some of the other leveled books picked for him.

He came to 2 Froggy books and said, " You know I can read the FROGGY! part of these books and I picture read the rest. We decided to put them into a picture reading pile (instead of a too hard or hard pile). I know he loves this character and that he will find that in time he can find and read more words and then pages that he knows. I want him to know that he will read this book someday and the baby steps of reading one word brings him one step closer to accomplishing this.

He also likes the series by Tony Ross about the little princess. He had Wash Your Hands and I Want My Tooth in his bin and he told me right away they were for picture reading.

The work that we did with his book bin was powerful and we shared it with the class during reading workshop. Many readers went off to organize and think through their own collections. I will be coming back to this weekly as the year comes to an end. To me, my kids need constant conversations about what feels right to them as they grow and change as readers daily.

Friday, April 4, 2008

48 Hour Book Challenge

Mother Reader is hosting the 3rd annual book challenge and I am bound and determined to give it a try this year. The challenge is this June 6-8 (which happens to be just perfect for me because it is my first weekend of summer break). It is also do-able because I have planted the seed with my husband that I will need him to help entertain the kids and I may even line up a sitter for Friday.
Knowing and reading primarily picture books on a daily basis, I have some adult books I am looking forward to reading and some ya books lined up (Barbara O'Connor series) but would love to hear some of your recent and favorite reads.
I am looking forward to this challenge and feeling like it will be a perfect way to treat myself to a bit of me time!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Readers think about lessons books teach them

As a way to begin thinking about our favorite books and ways we understand them, my first graders and I have started to write and share what we are learning from the read alouds we have come back to again and again this year. The theme of friendship and the actions that are associated with friendship like helping, caring, trusting, forgiving and respecting each other have been "hot topics" for my learners this year. We have loved reading favorites like Big Al, Big Al and Shrimpy, Ruthie and the Teeny Tiny Lie, Amazing Grace, That's What Friends Are For. I just recently purchased this book called Help! A Story of Friendship by Holly Keller .

In this straightforward story, Hedgehog discovers mouse is hiding from their friend snake after hearing that snakes eat mice and are dangerous. Hedgehog tries to get mouse to brush off the gossip as they begin walking in the forest. Mouse falls into a hole and can't get out. Squirrel, Rabbit and of course Hedgehog (with his pointy back) are all unable to help mouse out of the hole. Snake comes by and wonders what is going on...he soon learns mouse is stuck but afraid of his help. Snake creatively rescues mouse without frightening him. Mouse is very embarrassed but very grateful.
I think the fact that the characters are animals is what first appealed to the kids. They like the pictures and they also like books about friendship (but that might be because they are so used to me forcing books with life lessons on them) so they wanted to hear this story. Today someone asked me to read it again and I jumped at the chance to see what they were taking away from the book. We have been talking quite a bit about how stories can teach us lessons about our own life ( a way of connecting) so I asked them to write about what the book taught them about being a friend. Most were off to jot a thought down on a post it while I sat with a few who needed a little more help along the way.
Leo wrote about how the book teaches her to take action and help a friend like snake helped mouse out of the hole.
JJ jotted down a list that read 1. caring
2. help
3. take action ( we have done quite a bit of talk about how heroes take action)

A few of my kids wrote about how they learned snakes eat mice and a few were stuck...I helped one student think about how he is like snake because he helps friends when they are afraid and he said..."oh yea like when I give hugs to Jimmy!" He got it but needed a bit of help along the way. We definitely needed a second read to be ready for this big thinking. This story works for friendship units and I will be adding it to books about good citizens basket we began at the beginning of the year.