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.