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 place...you 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 www.bobshea.com, you will too be so happy did.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Four on Friday

Ok...it 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 Importance...you 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 house...pizza 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!