Sunday, December 27, 2009

Differentiating at Disney

I just noticed that it has been a month since my last post. The month of December slipped away this year as my family and I spent time preparing for the holidays, gathering with friends and family and traveling to Disneyworld for a vacation we have anticipated for about a year.

As I look back, I will remember moments and feelings from different parts of our trip. From the slap-happy laughter of my sons howling at each other after the 20 hour drive to the magical happiness I felt walking down the Main Street in Magic Kingdom, I won't forget the joyous times. There were also many moments of excitement after rides when we couldn't stop talking about how much we loved the feeling of gliding over the US (like after riding Soarin) or how petrified we were experiencing the simulation of a ride to Mars on Mission Space. Of course there were the less memorable moments of exhaustion and frustration waiting in line and bickering about what to do next. But, I know I will most remember watching my sons and my nieces smile while running and dancing through the streets of Disney.

With all these happy memories, I started thinking about why this trip worked for us. What most impressed me about our experience at Disney was the park's ability to differentiate. I thought about how well everyone's needs seem to be easily met each day. I took mental notes as we walked throughout the parks. I couldn't help but begin to list (as I often like to do) some key ways that helped support a successful differentiated environment:

1. It was clear, from the minute you interacted with any Disney employee that the experience was about you enjoying yourself and feeling welcome. From the moment we purchased our parking pass and drove under the bright blue sign, we felt welcomed as the attendant (with sincerity) reminded us to "Have a Magical Day!"

2. Disney is SUPER clean ( which means they care about their customers)!!! The amount of effort put into caring for the park by the employees sends a message to the consumer (us) that there is a sense of pride and respect in the work they do. It also reminded us to care back for the park and meet the standard of respect and cleanliness.

3. Disney characters, employees and managers are constantly communicating and adjusting to the needs of people. I watched Goofy, Minnie and Mickey work a crowd for breakfast and adjust their demeanor for the ages and audiences each interacted with. Goofy hugged and playfully high-fived a younger fan wearing a goofy ball cap and then 4 minutes later gave the rock (knuckle- high five) to my 10 year old to ensure he felt part of the older kid crowd. He then carefully patted my niece's head as she smiled back with a nervous hello. He was awesome at reading and adjusting to people. Adjusting also happens in line. I watched the employees at the Haunted Mansion quickly break one long line up into 3 shorter lines which helped us all feel like we were moving faster. And what better way to adjust to long line waiting than the fast pass. We lived by these as the pass helped us prioritize and ride more in a day's visit.

4. Disney values individuals and collaboration. Whether age 2 (my niece) or 62 (my father-in law), each family member found something that he/she wanted to do. (The harder part for my kids was taking time to do what others wanted too.) From Minnie's House to Tom Sawyer's Island, girls and boys were able to find places and rides that appealed to their interests. My most pleasant surprise came when we spent the day at Epcot. I was very excited to explore the many countries around the center lake of the park but ( knowing visiting the countries appealed more to adults) a little worried my kids would fizzle out after walking through one or two. After visiting Canada and the UK, the Kim Possible Mission game came to our rescue and completely excited our journey through the rest of the lands. This game invited us (our family of five) on a mission to a particular country and then challenged us to complete a mission by using clues we watched and listened to on a cellular phone. It was completely interactive and had us working as a team for the day. So clever Disney!!!

5. Disney is innovative. It is a place to experience the newest technology in entertainment and creativity. It seems that since my childhood visit, they have created new ways to manage crowds (fast passes), keep ride goers happy with a variety of authentic experiences (Mission Earth, Test Track, Soarin ) and engage crowds with a variety of shows ( American Idol experience, Mickey 3-D, Beauty and the Beast on stage and many more). This park is dedicated to creating, rethinking and imagining what's next in entertainment.

So from all of this reflecting about how Disney differentiates, I have a renewed sense for how we as teachers can learn from Disney. We can keep these big ideas in mind as we head back to the classroom with our students ( they also reflect principles written by Carol Ann Tomlinson, author of the Differentiated Classroom) :

1. Welcome, appreciate and embrace individual needs.
2. Help establish a community of respect in the classroom so that differences are embraced.
3. Adjust our thinking, attitude and teaching for our students according to their needs.
4. Invite individuals to embrace collaboration.
5. Provide opportunities to think, create and explore in new ways in the classroom.

6. Invite kids to lend a helping hand.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mo Willems Does It Again!!!

I have much to share about NCTE but I can't help but shift gears and tell you about a couple arcs I begged for at the Harper Collins booth last weekend. They are both new books that are expected to be available in February of 2010. I just added them to my pre-order list on amazon

Mo Willems introduces us to a new series perfect for our preschool, K and first grade readers. He has created a very likable Cat (simple enough for kids to draw) in his new book called Cat the Cat, Who Is That? In this book, Cat meets many new friends who in just a page, we get to know by the voice in the word bubble. You meet, Mouse the Mouse, Duck the Duck and Fish the Fish. Our favorite (so far) is Fish the Fish because after being greeted by Cat the Cat, he says "Hey Dude!" The kids laughed after hearing his voice and noticed that he like to blow bubbles. The text because it is focused on our youngest readers is repetitive and predictable yet engaging. The story ends as Cat the Cat meets an unexpected character (large alien-looking fellow) who she has no idea what to call. Don't worry, she jumps into playing and shouting "Blarggie, blarggie" with him. You might be thinking..."blarggie?" I was but my first grader told me this was his favorite part. The words "blarggie, blarggie" made him belly laugh.

In the other arc I received, Let's Say Hi to Friends that Fly, Cat the Cat is featured on the cover asking, "Are you ready?" The kids in my class were very ready and anxious to find out more from Cat the Cat. This story is a patterned text with the question, Can you fly (Bee)the (Bee)? followed by an answer from the character (watch me!) and then a page describing how the creature flies ( Cat the Cat also repeats words of encouragement to each friend throughout the story like...Go Bee the Bee! You can also see that the text rhymes. I love that Mo has weaved in so many features of early text that supports readers (high freq words, repeating words, picture support, predictable text, rhyme, brief pieces of dialogue that support fluency). Well, the story ends as Cat the Cat and her friends bump into Rhino the Rhino (who is sitting on a pigeon- looking coil spring rocker you would see in the ground at a park). Of course they are thinking...Can you fly Rhino the Rhino? My kids thought he might fly away on the Pigeon but that wasn't the case. I'll let you be pleasantly surprised in February!

Last, I found another in the series on amazon called What's Your Sound, Hound the Hound? I am sure it will be as wonderful for early readers as the others. Thanks Mo for creating books that kids love and want to read on their own!!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

NCTE: The learning begins

In about an hour, I am headed to my first session of the NCTE Annual Convention. I am anxious to hear Ralph Fletcher, Gresham Brown and Kate Morris speak about the Pleasures of Language. Next, we are off to the Elementary Section Get Together! Can't wait to fill you in on all my new discoveries.

It is a Happy Thursday !!!!!!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Here comes the big, mean dust bunny! by Jan Thomas

The sixth Jan Thomas book, Here comes the big, mean dust bunny, arrived in my mailbox Saturday! Tomorrow there will be excitement over her newest book in my classroom. This fall, we started the year with Jan's fifth book, Can you Make a Scary Face? This story completely won the kids over as they interacted with the ladybug telling the story. Last year, The Doghouse was our favorite. Jan has figured out how to make young kids laugh, read, write and read some more. I am very anxious to hear their thoughts on her newest book. I am thinking they will decide that it should be added to our list of series reads as much of the work we thought about this fall was noticing features of series books (we included picture book series titles in our study). I am also know they will be laughing and loving it!

Jan's newest book features characters from another book in her repertoire called Rhyming Dust Bunnies. Ed, Ned, Ted and Bob, the rhyming dust bunnies are back to adventure in rhyme but run into some trouble as the big mean dust bunny bullies his way into their play. Don't worry, he gets a taste of his own medicine when Fat Cat sits on him (SPLAT)! The loyal Ed, Ned, Ted and Bob are there to rescue the thug with a tug and then a HUG! Don't miss adding it to your Jan Thomas collection!!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCarty

I purchased Jeremy Draws a Monster on a whim. I found it online featured as a new release at amazon and thought it looked good. Sometimes I get lucky without previewing a book then purchasing and this was just the case with Peter McCarty's new book.

In this picture book, you meet a little boy named Jeremy, who longs to play with the kids outside but isn't quite confident to jump right in. So, Jeremy draws himself a blue monster (similar to Harold creating adventures with his crayon). Jeremy quickly realizes though, that his creation (the blue monster) is more of a pain than anything else. After the demanding monster drains him of all his energy, Jeremy draws the monster a bus and a bag and sees him on his way. He decides to give playing outside a try!

This story unexpectedly worked as a text that helped us think deeper about character and connections. In fact, students began to think about other texts that this book reminded them of...books like Bossy Bear (the monster and Bossy are both very demanding and bossy) and Harold and the Purple Crayon (Harold and Jeremy both create their own problems and solutions) and Babushka's Doll by Patricia Polacco ( the young girl in Babushka's Doll and Jeremy learn from their experience of having to take care of an unexpected burden).

The conversations the students had with this short and sweet picture book were well worth the chance I took buying online. Many kids came back to it as an independent read in the morning and during workshop. I am not sure if I would recommend impulse buying online but once in awhile, it works!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

authentic writing by my 4th grader

My husband and I woke up this morning to this contract:

We were laughing at his keen sense of negotiating and his honesty. (He was falling asleep by nine last night!) I asked him where he came up with this idea and he mentioned that another boy in his class had tried it. You'll notice we haven't signed it yet but how could we refuse?!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Would you like to learn how to draw a dog?

I checked the date of my last post and realized that it has been awhile. I am still here (barely) treading water to stay afloat. I feel like I am trying to wrap my brain around too many things at one time. But tonight I had some extra time and I wanted to come back to the posts on Pixie ( you can click here, here and here to visit) so that I could share with you a slideshow turned into a movie that one of my students created. I have asked her parents permission to share her piece with you on my blog and I am excited to do so. Before I do, I want to list some of the practice that the kids have experienced taking a written piece and publishing with technology.

Students have learned to ...
Take their picture ( with the camera attached to the monitor) and manipulate the picture
Add a text box, type, use the shift key for uppercase lettering, change their font
Add stickers
Create with paint tools and shape tools
Add their voice to a slide
Undo something they wanted to change
Add multiple pages, manipulate and change the order of pages
View their slideshow and notice what is working and what needs changed
Save their work
Export their piece as a video

I am amazed at what they have created and I wish I could share them all with you. Please know they are completely kid created. It would be wonderful for them to look perfect (spelling, punctuation, etc.) but I had to be realistic with balancing time guiding them ( very little I have to say) and allowing them independence with their creation. Here is Grace's How To Draw a Dog. (After viewing online, I noticed the voice attached to the slide lags due to the buffering but I think you will get the idea...)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Manfish: The Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne

Last week, I shared a new purchase with my students and added a new book to our biography basket. It was a fabulous find for a biography. The pictures were inviting and the story sucked in the students and had them yearning to explore and create like Jacques Cousteau. The biography called Manfish: The Story of Jacques Cousteau encouraged them to find connections with Jacques and want to know more.

Jacques grew up a wonderer, a risk taker and a creator. In this story about his life, Jennifer Berne retells his life as a boy and later as an explorer with poetic storytelling. My students learned of Cousteau's development of scuba gear and underwater lungs. They learned about his interest in filmmaking that led to documenting his underwater adventures. And they learned about his passion for caring and protecting the underwater creatures of our world. This book has been one of my most favorite shares this year and I think my students would agree. Check it out. If you go to this link, you can see the first few pages in the Google preview at Powell's.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

LEGO Star Wars: A Visual Dictionary

Tonight I want to post about one of the most fought over and loved books I have ever added to my classroom: LEGO Star Wars: A Visual Dictionary.  After noticing that a majority of boys in my classroom had either Star Wars or LEGOS (or both ) on their heart maps, I gave in to buying this book I saw on Amazon's new release listing.  I say "gave in " because in the past, I have been skeptical of books with tv or movie characters and this felt like it fit in this category. I decided to take a chance and buy it because I knew how many kids had an interest in LEGOS. I related it to myself buying books about scrapbooking or cooking because they are hobbies of mine.  LEGOS are hobbies  for some kids in my class.
I am very glad I did for a couple reasons...

1. The book begins with a timeline that details the release of certain LEGO Star Wars Sets that have been available for purchase over the past 5 years.  The time line is easy to read and includes detailed pictures of each set and information about which episode the set is from.  I felt like this feature as well as the general organization of the book (4 chapters).  We spent sometime noticing this feature and I look forward to thinking about how we could come back to it for a mentor timeline.

2. It has created connections among (primarily) the boys in my classroom which in turn build community.  The boys are having conversations about what LEGOS they have, want and like to play with.  It also has reminded kids about the legos we have in our classroom for indoor recess and has encouraged pretend play with them.  ( The book also has a Luke Skywalker mini figure that we added to our classroom box of legos)

I have also run into some difficulties with the popularity of this book (having 14 of 22 student who are boys and adore legos).  

1.  One student hid the book today. So, I have asked that the book stay on our display shelf so that kids can take turns with it.  It has not been allowed to live in one person's book bin.  

2. A few kids wanted to take the book home.  Usually, I allow all books in our classroom library to go home for the night but with the newness and excitement surrounding this book, I told the kids it needed to stay in the classroom just in case someone might forget it at home.  I know I will probably let kids begin to take it home in a week or two when the excitement subsides.

This book is perfect for the LEGO and Star Wars fans in your life!!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Heart Maps

This fall my students created their own heart maps. We were inspired by the heart map we investigated on the cover of Georgia Heard's book: Awakening the Heart. The heart maps were one way for kids to express what they are interested in and share these interests. I modeled how to create the hearts by beginning with pencil sketching, outlining details and words with fine point colored markers and adding colored pencil for background colors ( I am no artist but slowing them down to pay attention to detail paid off).
The hearts you see were works in progress but when finished, my students were dying to share them with each other. We spent some time doing this and found many connections and similarities in interests between students. Not only did these hearts help the students discover what they had in common but they were helpful for me. As I hung the hearts up for our first Family Night (an evening when families come to share in student learning by reading, playing a math game and sharing the student's published writing), I noted student interests and gathered some data about what my kids enjoy. This "data" has helped me choose new books for the classroom that I know kids will love. In the next few posts, I will share their interests and the books that I have either reserved or purchased that are helping to support their love for reading.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Benny and Penny: The Big No-No!

Last year, I added a number of "primary" graphic novels to my classroom library. Among them were a few that Mary Lee mentioned in her post about Graphic Novels for our Youngest Readers. This year, I am noticing how much the kids are enjoying the graphic novel basket. In fact, I have had requests from many of the kids to keep adding to our collection. One boy mentioned that I needed to buy the second book in the Benny and Penny series. (I had no idea that there was a second in the series.) He then shared how he found it at the public library with his mom. He suggested I get it for our room. So, I did!
Benny and Penny and the Big No-No! is the story of brother, Benny, and sister, Penny Mouse. In this adventure, Benny and Penny go searching for a lost pail. They find footprints and decide to search over the fence and in the new kid's yard. They find mud pies, more footprints and eventually a new friend named Melina. This short adventure is full of little kid silliness, teasing, apologies and laughter. Check it out!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Students on Pixie

Today was the second time my class has had a chance to explore Pixie this year. Knowing they have had a previous year's experience, I decided to ask them to practice two skills
(taking a picture with the camera feature and creating a text box with their name) and then give them time to experiment with tools of their choice as they created a label for their own book bin. I tried to begin our time with a mini lesson (using the camera button to take a photo, using the text box to type a name) then give independent time to experiment as they created their labels.

As they worked independently, I had one say "my computer is broken" when he was stuck. I chuckled to myself remembering feeling the same way back when I started understanding technology in college. Most kids asked each other questions (and me) when they were at a standstill but MANY of them naturally dove into trying buttons and features on their own. I was completely impressed with their problem solving.

At the end of workshop, we gathered to talk about new "tricks" they had learned. One boy showed the class how to use the paint brush to created 3-dimensional colors in the background. Another girl, showed us how to choose a shape around our face before taking a picture. The kids were dying to get up and share a new tool.

These labels (really, I just printed their creations as half- sheet) turned out to be such an expression of who the kids are. From the creative poses they used as they captured their images to the fonts they choose for their names, the kids were able to express themselves using technology.

I was surprised to hear one student ask if we would ever have a chance to just play when we visit the lab or pull out the laptops. In my mind, I thought I had given them time to play?? I answered "oh yes" but had to think about what didn't feel like play? Is he associating play with more competitive "video" games? Does he need to play with less boundaries on Pixie? His his question is really big for understanding how to balance learning and exploration. I need to ask him what he means (and I will tomorrow) For now, you'll have to imagine their expressive labels. I have attached mine but it is not nearly as creative as theirs.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Stop It!

Today I had one of those days. One of those days when you realize out of the blue that your kids are growing up way to fast.

My oldest son is becoming quite the comedian. He loves to laugh and try to make others laugh. He uses sarcasm with me often to lighten tension and sometimes when I am not wanting the tension lightened.

Today, I thought I would give him a taste of his own medicine. Except for that it kinda backfired. Well, I don't know if it backfired but the humor I had intended (without warning) turned into a more sentimental moment.

"Joey!" I yelled across the kitchen. "Come over here and stand in front of me." I said in a stern voice out of the blue. He walked over and stood long haired, taller than I remember and a bit taken back by my command. "You know you need to stop it!" He stood before me with a blank stare trying to figure out what he did. He couldn't even speak he was so confused. "You need to stop growing up." I started to say with a laugh that turned into a cry and started blubbering about how adorable he was as a baby and how fast he was growing and how good God has made him. And then he realized that I was trying to do. He smiled. I held his face and then hugged him. I didn't really want him to go.

Today I had one of those days. One of those days when my heart takes the wheel. I am so glad it did.

p.s. I also played more on pixie and created this family page. Too fun!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Playing on Pixie

One of the goals I shared with my parents during curriculum night earlier this month was my interest in learning and helping kids learn about Pixie. Tonight, I decided to get started. I dug through my resources about pixie and visited where I watched a few of many tutorials that would help me first explore it. I then (because I don't have the program on my personal laptop) downloaded a 30 day trial program. With some big ideas we have been reading about, discussing and creating (our class promise), I created this single page representing those ideas about leadership. I learned how to use the paint tools to create boxes on a page and then the paint can to fill the backgrounds of specific areas. I played with the text box tools and the font size. I figured out how to import pictures from iphoto and place stickers on the page. Last, I searched for a picture on the Internet, saved it to desktop (big al) and finally placed it on the page. Oh yea, then I learned how to save the slide as a jpg so that I could post it to my blog. Whew!!

You wouldn't believe how much more there is to learn about this software. I want to learn to add sound, add music to slides, create slide shows and use the many tools for colors, fonts and effects.

My students have played on Pixie once this year and a few times last year. The time that we spent was truly exploring. I want to make sure that this year, that we set up our time on the lab or with the laptops with a bit of a workshop approach. This week, I modeled using new tools for a mini lesson and sent the kids off independently but we didn't debrief to share and learn from one another. I want to also think about how knowing certain features of Pixie will allow us to create and share a piece with a message in mind. For now, we'll keep exploring!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dog and Bear are back!!!

Laura Seeger has made us laugh once again with her newest Dog and Bear book called: Dog and Bear Three to Get Ready! Laura Seeger has written many books that I love including One Boy and First the Egg. She has recently written the third in what I call "picture book series books." The Dog and Bear books are each written with three very short stories within one picture book. I read her newest aloud today and it was enjoyed by all!

The first story is called Uh-oh. Uh-oh because Bear's head is stuck in a bucket. Dog fearlessly and cleverly tries to help bear out of trouble but ends up with the bucket on top of his own head. When reading Ooops, the second short story out of the three, I noticed the most laughter. I think it was Dog's comments as he realized that bouncing on a bed felt like flying. Near the end of his bouncing adventures he yells, " I'm King of the World!" and then lands in a pillow pile created by his good friends bear. The final short story in three is called Alphabetical Order (boy, we had great conversation about what this is...). In this last story, Bear helps tidy up a messy room by boxing Dog's toys in containers by alphabetical order BUT not typical alphabetical order. Bear's creative organization inspired my kids to predict and figure out Bear's thinking behind the sorting.

The Dog and Bear books are loved in our room and we keep them in our dog and cat basket. Reading this newest title was yet another reminder of all our favorite dog books. I love how one new book can inspire lots of reading.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mentor Texts for Personal Narrative

I have been reading many stories aloud so that my kids are exposed to different types of personal narratives. It seemed like the most natural start for my writers during workshop as they have started back into the routine of workshop. Many of them are writing what they know and remembering stories from home. I have struggled with the personal narrative feeling so manufactured. Working from the angle of craft and noticing what other authors do has helped me feel like my kids have creative options.

I found that Night of the Veggie Monster has allowed my kids to notice how writers like George McClements use word bubbles, font and punctuation (the ellipses) to enhance or craft a personal story.

Every Friday by Dan Yaccarino worked well as kids noticed that brief dialogue, extra information (they called it) or details and using a memory can help when writing a personal narrative.

I also used When I was Little and When I was Five, both texts that helped us notice that repetition and patterning ( alternating past memories with present recollections) is a option for organizing a story.

We also found that poems are another option for telling a personal story. A poem called Bedtime in When Gorilla Goes Walking and Bouncing in Days Like This helped us see how writers focus in on a moment.

Finally, Letter to the Lake, a beautiful story of a little girl's memory of her summer days by the lake, allowed us to experience that personal stories can be letters written to someone or something (not even human! ). This book also helped us think about how narratives can have different points of view as we listened to the little girl address the lake throughout the story.

I have been encouraging my students to use all of these noticings (that we have charted on paper) and try using a new craft in their narratives. My hope is that the over written personal narrative will come alive. Knowing that there are choices and options for writing a piece, I think excites writers. Having 14 boys in my class I also know that choice and humor are big right now. I am trying angle my instruction so that I am working from their interests. I am also noticing quite a few student also mentoring graphic novels in parts of their narratives. Next, how to make our share/celebration purposeful and unique?!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Katie Loves the Kittens by John Himmelman

I read this book briefly last year ( not really remembering it) and it wasn't until a student and a friend suggested I read it aloud. Wow! This adorable story is about a dog, Katie, who is anxious to get to know three new kittens her owner Sara Ann brings home. Katie welcomes the kittens with her usual "AROOOO," thinking her way of saying "hello" might welcome them. She realizes later realize that her howling and loving enthusiasm for the kittens has only frightened them. Katie falls asleep and then wakes up to the kittens sleeping upon her back. This time she remembers to be patient and the kittens stay.

I love this book for primary readers and writers because it is an enjoyable read aloud ( you were right Franki)! It easily fits into the hands of many readers who will have independent success with it in my room. It is a great mentor text for kids writing a personal narrative. I know I will use this text to think about the importance of layering ideas. The pictures are adorable (especially the last page...try to find the white kitten) and it provided us with an easy text for practicing that readers think as they read. A student today shared a prediction. Another made a connection between Katie and Big Al ( by Andrew Clements) comparing their eagerness to make friends and their patience with discovering how. This book has so many possibilities!!
I hope you love Katie as much as we did!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Trying something new

My 8 year old son decided about a month ago that he would enter a golf tournament at a public course after being encouraged by a kiddo he golfed alongside one day this summer. It was my son's second time playing through the course with his grandparents (Pa Jim and Grandma). I was at first taken back by his longing to play in this one day 9 hole tournament. He, quite frankly, is not much of a risk taker and has little experience on the golf course. Knowing this though, I excitedly encouraged him and supported him in his decision to give the tournament a try ( hoping he would grow from it).

The actual tournament was this past Saturday. I was anxious that he might back out or change his mind but he didn't. He showered and dressed, packed his golf bag and set off with my husband for the golf course. We also had our youngest playing his first soccer game and I was not going to be able to watch the golf tournament. As I was leaving for soccer, I heard him yell, "MOM!" with a tear in his eye and needing a hug before his big day. I ran back to comfort him and tell him I would be texting Daddy and praying that he would have fun. He calmed down and was off.

Of course, I was a wreck texting and waiting for replies all afternoon. Turns out he had a ball. He played great (6th place in his age group) and learned how it feels to try something brand new! He was proud and so were we.

What does this teach me, my students, you? Be brave, there is much to gain by trying something new. Peer encouragement is huge (I attribute his desire to try this to another 8 year telling him he was should)! Thank goodness for texting!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Books and Messages for the First Week of School

At the end of the day and often end of the school week I am often thinking about what worked and how I can take what worked and find the next connector for my readers and writers. Thinking back to the first two weeks of school, I found myself making sure to send the message that readers find books that they love.

Jan Thomas' books were a huge success for shared reading!! Titles like, The Doghouse, Rhyming Dust Bunnies and her newest: Can You Make a Scary Face? were all big hits. Her latest book is completely interactive and invites kids to verbally, mentally and physically participate by standing up, sitting down and even performing the chicken dance. It was by far the favorite this week.

Other baskets of books that were popular (where I know all my readers would be successful choosing something they could read independently) were baskets like Elephant and Piggie Books, Song Books, Rhyming Books and some of our Fairy Tales.

This week we plan to think about how our book bins can help us plan, keep track and organize our reading. Hope you have a great week!

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Goblin and the Empty Chair by Mem Fox: Wow!

Listen to Mem Fox read her newest book here. I can't stop playing it over and over. I am addicted to hearing this new "fairy story" as she refers to it (I am assuming fairytale). It has elicited so many emotions for me, so many questions, inferences and I just need to talk to someone about it!!! What do you think?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What do you notice about our room?

Today as we began our second year together, I asked my students to notice something changed or new about our classroom. Noticing is such an essential skill for learners as kids use observation across the curriculum. It is also fun and something that most kids can do. So, after asking them to jot down their observation we quickly grouped similar observations. Here is the data ( I was so interested by their observations):

6 kids noticed right away that we had 1 new computer
3 kids noticed something about our round table (it has a new scale on it) (one post-it was modeled by me)
4 kids noticed the new chairs and bean bags
3 kids noticed many new books
4 kids noticed other things (new chart on wall, new partner to share coat hook with...)

This time helped me find out what is important to kids about space and learning. I can tell they enjoy and value technology. They enjoy little nooks and places to sit and get comfortable as they learn as 7 out of 20 kids noticed pieces of the room that really had to do with furniture.

The noticing set many other questions in motion that helped me to begin to explain routines and management of supplies and folders. It was so much fun, I think we are going to do it tomorrow as we notice the school hallways!

Monday, August 24, 2009

First Day!!

Tomorrow is it!!
Good-bye summer.
Hello school!

Lots of reading aloud
Talking and sharing

Learning will happen as the
students lead the way.

Looking forward to being caught up in their natural
thirst for wanting to know more.

Can't wait to giggle, wonder, learn to get lunch, take turns, make new friends and then feel the exhaustion of the day.
Then I'll remember what it feels like to start the school year.

Happy First Day, First Week or First Month...whatever it is for you now!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Up to my ears in work

Today at work, a friend of mine said she couldn't wrap her brain around one thing. I feel like this at the beginning of the school year too when there is so much to do and think about that it is often difficult to find a focus. I have caught myself running around the classroom trying to tackle three tasks at once but never really finishing any of them. I hate the feeling of being up to my ears in work.

This weekend (before the actual school bell rings) I am going to try to be up my ears (literally, like the boys) in family. I need to slow it down and enjoy before (what feels like) the race begins. Tonight we started off having dinner at our favorite pizza place in town. Tomorrow, a soccer game and then who knows what next!

You can see that we are up to our ears in ears of corn here in Ohio!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

New Find: Ameila Bedelia's First Day of School

I was thrilled to see Herman Parish (Peggy’s son) create a stair step for our readers who often dive right into Amelia Bedelia books. In this new story of the young Amelia Bedelia, teachers will have read aloud opportunities to think about the word play that often overtakes the series books that kids just pick up off the shelf. I see myself using this picture book as a scaffold for readers who might not understand the literalness of Amelia on their own. This book offers us picture support and plays with familiar homonyms and expressions of which kids have background for. It will be a read that I know I can use at the start of the year and the start of a series study.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Poetry on Display

Today I went through my poetry basket to remind myself of the newer books I have added this past spring and summer. I want to remember what worked for my students as well as place out some new finds. The first book I wanted to set on my display shelf is Button Up! by Alice Schertle. I fell in love with this book after read the first few poems. Each poem is written from the perspective of a piece of clothing. I happen to have a student in my class who used this book as mentor text as he wrote poetry for the second half of the year. By reading poetry aloud, I will be reminding my students of all the strong mentor texts we have in our room as writing workshop begins again! A favorite in our room last year, Jack's Soccer Jersey, begins like this:
When Jack plays soccer we get our kicks
I'm Jack's jersey.
I'm number 6.

I show the number for me and Jack
6 in front
and 6 in back.

Another poetry book I will be displaying is SCORE! 50 Poems to Motivate and Inspire by Charles Ghigna. When I first saw this last spring, I knew I needed it. It was when Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning reminded me of it again. Here is her review. I flipped through and found a poem that I will post in my second grade classroom and we will read together for a number of reasons. I love to have short pieces that we all read and think about as I think second graders will still benefit from the practice of shared reading. Also, we will not only explore the meaning for each of us but I will use this text to notice words and features of words that will guide word study. The poem is called DREAMS ALLOWED. I am anxious to hear what dreams my second graders have for this school year.

The third book of poetry that I have set out to highlight is Falling Down the Pages A book of list edited by Georgia Heard. I grabbed the advanced copy of this at NCTE last fall and was fortunate enough to have Georgia sign my copy. There are many school poems that seem appropriate for the beginning of the year. Poems like: Ways to Greet a Friend, On the Menu for School Today, In My Desk and Booktime. One of my favorites is "Things To Do If You Are A Pencil" written by Elaine Magliaro of Wild Rose Reader. This book of poetry is unique yet simple and I am hoping my kids will want to slip this in their reading bins.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Summer Recommendations from Beth Muncy

I was ready to reserve some titles online tonight at my local library when I found a link and video of what sounds like 3 great books. I saw the share link and copied the video to share. I am thinking I need Stanza by Jill Esbaum!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Voice Thread: Bike Ride (click ok then play)

Today we took a bike ride and documented the ride by taking pictures. The kids and I shared the photography work. My middle son (who had already played with voice thread) jumped into retelling our ride. I couldn't stop thinking about all the planning/prewriting he was doing as he would practice storytelling with each slide. He would often stop and delete his comment after hearing himself. He would hear what he wanted to change after his voice was played back to him automatically after the initial recording. It was great practice for him and fun.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What is this?

Sometimes when shopping for books, I change my mind about whether I like the book or not once I have read it a few times or have talked to someone about it. I think this happens for many of us and often in the classroom. A book that didn't sound good or look good at first is later picked up by a reader and then enjoyed. This happened to me with the repetitive book called What is this? by Antje Damm. I picked this book up first liking the cover and then later put it back because the words changed so much ( from cursive to print to all sorts of creative stuff...the words are created with string, leaves, glue and such) I discredited it thinking it would be too much for my readers. But, after looking through the book a few more times and loving the cover, I couldn't leave the store without buying it. It is a small book 6 1/2 by 6 1/2 inches. I like small because it is different and fits in kid hands. The cover gives the reader a small clue about the guessing you'll do throughout the book. The only words you read are "What is this" on the left of the two page spread and then you see a picture of something on the right side of that spread ( most often an ordinary household object placed meaningfully on the page) . The subsequent page shows a picture of what the photographer/author created using the object. I have to say I thought about Not a Box and Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis as I flipped through this book. Not as easy to imagine and guess but the same fun. I think that is essentially why I bought this book. It is fun. I think it will remind kids that reading is fun. I did for me.

Antje has another book called Ask Me that was reviewed by 4 people on amazon and all loved it. It seems to be a great book for starting conversations and includes funky pictures to laugh and talk about. I 'll be checking this out next!!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Words Are Like Faces by Edith Baer

I am always looking for books about words. Last year we started a basket in our classroom library that we put books that helped us think about patterns, meanings and spellings of words. This summer I found, Words Are Like Faces, a book that speaks of the strength of words. I will be using it to kick off our discussion of word study in the classroom.

Edith Baer rhymes the text as she writes and explains the beauty of words. She writes of the many characteristics of words: spoken, written and mailed. She writes of the loveliness of words and the ugliness of words. She makes many comparisons throughout the book giving it a poetic feel. I like...words can be plain like a loaf of fresh bread, comforting words like your very own bed. She ends the book encouraging the reader to: use words to get off your chest what your trying to hide--words tell what people feel deep inside. I just love this last line. For me writing words is one of the best therapies for expressing excitement, frustration and stress. It it healing. Here's hoping Edith's words about words inspire some thinking from my second grader's.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Sylvie by Jennifer Sattler

Sylvie is a pink flamingo who wonders and questions. She wants to know why she is pink. After a straight-forward answer from her mother (you are what you eat), Sylvie curiously begins to explore new foods and things that change her appearance and leave her feeling a bit unsettled. Sylvie discovers that to feel like herself again, she goes back to what she knows.
I am hoping this hits home with my curious learners. Sylvie is an example of a bold and imaginative character who learns as she explores. I am thinking she will help set the tone for taking risks and learning in my own classroom. Can't wait to read this aloud this fall!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mosaic Meme

Karen at Talkworthy has tagged me in a Mosaic Meme!! I am finally responding.

After joining Twitter and Facebook, I am finding the ups and downs of social networking. With Twitter, I feel a simplicity and professional connectedness to educators, thinkers and writers. I try to use the information on Twitter to change and grow. I am trying to balance tweeting useful information with receiving it. I think I will get there and I am allowing myself to be a taker rather than a giver on this social network.

I am also still trying to find time to explore Twitter. TIME is a big piece I feel for social networking and it is easy to get lost spending time on my laptop. I struggle with this as I have three children at home and their activities, domestic responsibilities ( I like my house to be somewhat picked up but am not over the top with cleaning), teaching and just having a life. There are many days I would like to close off the world and just sit with my laptop and explore but in reality it doesn't happen.

After talking with some of my friends yesterday, I heard Mary Lee explain her goals for beginning the school year. She reminded me that it all comes back to balance (which I have posted about before). This fall I will be thinking about how to balance Twitter into my personal internet time and maybe even find a balance for tweeting and RTing.

Here is my mosaic: