Friday, December 31, 2010

Creative Literacy's Noteworthy Posts for 2010

This morning I was flipping the channels between a couple morning news programs and enjoying their highlights from the year. It occurred to me that I could learn a bit about myself by looking back at the many blog posts I have shared this year.

So I started to reread my own year. I found when I looked at each month's post titles, there was a theme in my thinking during that time. June and July included posts about new books and new ideas as I was thinking for the upcoming school year. April and May were much about wondering as I immersed my students in writing, exploring and researching their wonders. And, Augustand September seemed to be about reflecting on my students and their needs as the school year began.

So, I was inspired to share my own Noteworthy Posts for the Year. Now, for me, the criteria for "noteworthy" depended on the amount of conversation about the post (comments) and my own feelings about the ideas in the posts. So hopefully you will find something that will be noteworthy or new for you. Here goes:

Winter 2010: Reading and Blogging
Looking back at the winter months, many posts included (surprise) books. But, the most loved video I shared during Right to Read Week was Gotta Keep Reading. The kids in the classroom danced and sung it for days. There was also a post I wrote in response to a student who wanted some advice on blogging. Click here for my 5 tips to Better Blogging.

Spring 2010: Wondering
Last Spring, I was busy preparing for a visit from Samantha Bennett, author of That Workshop Book. To prepare for her
coaching and observation, I plunged into a unit of wondering with my students. The kids painted and wrote about their own Heart Wonders and they filmed some wonders they had during our science study of living things. All of this work helped me to uncover some big ideas that I took away after a day with Sam Bennett including:

-Teaching is an incredibly complex endeavor. No one has nailed it. There are always ways to get better for students.
-Everyone does the best they can until they know better; then they do better.
-We are smarter together.

Summer 2010: Books and The Book Whisperer

This summer
I read Donalyn Miller's, The Book Whisperer. Posting about this fabulous book inspired teachers at my school to read it and begin book talks about what messages are most important to send to kids. There were many comments from bloggers too about grabbing this great read before the end of summer. I love this book and visit this post for the big ideas I took away from Donalyn's book.

Another big post this summer, Ten Picture Books Boys Can't Live Without, was a blogging event created by some blogging friends to invite a ton of sharing about our favorite picture books.

Fall 2010: Thinking and Reflecting on Tech

This fall I embarked on a year long learning journey with a community of learners in Powerful Learning Practice. This opportunity for embedded professional development had helped me extend my learning of web 2.0 tools but more importantly the importance of sharing my learning, developing my own PLN and creating authentic ways to incorporate tech integration in my own classroom. Here are some noteworthy reflections from the fall:

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Remembering Moments Instead of Stuff

Each morning I spend time reflecting to an inspirational quote written in response to a gospel reading for the day. It is a routine I have come to rely on that reminds me to keep life simple. Sometimes I am reminded to be thankful, to think of others instead of focusing so much on my needs, to take action when I feel passionate about something, to question, to not take my self so seriously, and very often to trust. Today, I read the words of Terri Mifek, a spiritual director for Franciscan Retreat and Spirituality Center that embraces all faiths in Prior Lake, Minnesota. She writes...
"Contrary to what the advertising world would have us believe, we don't need big houses, expensive cars and positions of power to enjoy life. We don't even need to be liked by everyone or receive accolades for our work. Watch any child occupied with making an imaginary meal or catching a butterfly and they will show you what it means to be fully alive."

Her words initiated my thoughts about all the happy moments that I had over the holidays like watching my son, Jack, win Risk when playing for the first time, feeling the excitement of hugging, talking and reconnecting with family from Georgia, and watching my husband entertain the boys by trying to balance a ketchup bottle on his head. I also thought about how working with 6-7 year olds is a blessing. Their natural curiosity and enjoyment of life in the purest of situations helps keep me grounded everyday. But, like 6-7 year olds I can forget. I forget about what really matters in the midst of stress. For today, I am glad that I was reminded to appreciate moments rather than stuff.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Out of Sight

I spent about an hour and half last night at the bookstore. My trip to Cover to Cover had been on my mind ever since holiday break started last Thursday. I love to have time to read and think about the books that I plan to buy. After reading through more than 38 books, I left the store with 9. I am very happy with my purchases. Today I want to share a book that reminded me immediately of Cathy's post titled: Oh No! Scissors in Writer's Workshop. This book is called Out of Sight.

Out of Sight is a large hardback (11x16) book that is filled with pop-ups. I know, you are probably thinking that pop-up books are a disaster because kids are prone to ruining them. That thought entered my mind when I first opened this book, but I quickly let it go once I started turning the pages. The book is filled with flaps creatively designed to make you think about the animal and non-fiction information revealed underneath. Just flipping through it had me anticipating the many opportunities for discussion and conversation about how the book is organized and why illustrators made the decisions they did for each flap.

I think this book will be a great mentor text for kids creating their own non-fiction books. Kids who love to use scissors will begin to turn their wheels with how to create flaps. And, couldn't the flaps work well as a bulletin board during a non-fiction study. There are endless possibilities for this book.

After sharing it with some friends, I couldn't help observe one reader jump on her phone to look for an answer that was posed under one flap: Can you name all 8 species of bear? She and another friend started a 5 minute conversation about all they knew and could find out about species of bear. It was fascinating and powerful. I am anxious to see what happens when my students get their hands on it. Don't worry, I am already thinking about reminding them about how to handle pop-up books.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays!!

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Last post, I mentioned I was headed to Brazil to celebrate with my bother and his soon to be in-laws in beautiful South America.

My sisters and I opened the window curtains in our hotel bedroom to stare out at this amazing view. Isn't it breathtaking? It has been so interesting to look out the window each morning to something new... Sunday: a sea of umbrellas and people loving the beach, Monday a couple of cruise ships were making a stop inland, and each night the strip is lit and alive with the traffic of taxis.

On Monday, we ventured up Sugar Loaf Mountain and then took a train up to see Christ the Redeemer. The weather has been gorgeous (in the 80's) and the people have been wonderful. I feel like our time here is flying by and I am trying to enjoy moments and actually experience the trip (if that makes sense). I think I could have spent all day on Sugar Loaf.

Today we boarded a plane for Curitiba, Brazil where the wedding will take place this Friday. We landed in the rain but are hoping for some sun by the end of the week. Missing all my friends, students and of course family at home!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Are you playing today?

I am drawn to learning. I have almost this addiction to reading, connecting and finding out as much as I can about what I need to grow as a teacher. Because of this, I experiment with ideas that I hope will help my students grow in the classroom. Right now, there is buzz about the importance in collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking and creativity ( Framework for Learning in the 21st Century). I know, haven't these areas of learning been important all along? Yes, but often in the age of standardized testing, we can lose sight of these crucial pieces of authentic learning. Balance is important in so many areas of life and education.
This week, enjoy the pictures of kids observing, problem solving, thinking and creating while playing.

Aiden brought in some balls of sap that his sister found on a tree outside. The kids pulled out the magnifying glasses and had great talk about what the balls were made of, what color they were and what they felt like as they squeezed them between their fingers .

Lucy created a pattern book with the stencils we pull out to trace for play.

You'll also notice the beetle creation thoughtfully crafted by Ben using the straws and connectors.

These moments remind me of the importance of choice when kids have opportunities to create, talk, think and play. I am also amazed how the play has evolved for some students. Many kids are grabbing their writing tools to draw and write, some want to get on the blog and others are choosing to set up games ( like Candyland or Guess Who).

I hope you are enjoying some time today playing with something of your choosing. I am headed to Brazil this week to celebrate with my family as my brother and new sister-in-law are married in Curitiba. Looking forward to playing and experiencing to come!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kids Using Kidblog to Share Creations

I am just figuring out that I can share quicktime movies made by the kids here. Check out some of the stories kids have created about their past as we venture into understanding past and present in SS. I am not taking nearly enough time to reflect on how the kids have learned to create using software on our computer, export their creation as a movie and then upload it to the blog (yes, they were uploaded onto kidblog and shared with their classmates who commented on their creations). Two out of three of these kiddos have completely worked independently on this. I have been investing lots of time in using Pixie software with First Grade because it so easily allows them to create their own picture and text. They enjoy the time using the paint tools and they have felt empowered to try out lots of ideas using Pixie...not just these prompted stories about their past. They constantly surprise me with what they can accomplish when introduced to new tools for technology.


when I was little

when i was little

Writers And Their Tools

One of the most exciting aspects of a primary writing workshop is learning to use and play with the tools that writers need to help them compose, change and fix up their ideas. Different kids have different tools of choice. Some kids love the colored pencils, others always go for the crayons and still others grab the markers. We always have on hand an abundance of post- it tape, scissors, staples for the staplers and scotch tape.

Today, a writer learned to use the scotch tape with some help from me as I was conferencing. He was working on a story about his friend who had a bloody ear and was anxious to share it with the other kids. As he was planning his pictures for the next page in his story, he was stuck. Though his words about the story were new to the subsequent page they were an extension (detail) of a similar idea he had already drawn. He was baffled. "What should I draw?" I used the opportunity to help him realize his words really fit with what he had already drawn on the page before. I showed him how to use the scissors to cut his words off the picture-less page and tape them down to the page before. I was tempted to just do it for him as I knew I needed to conference with more kids but I stopped myself. He skipped to the cupboard to get the scissors and tape. I realized how tricky it was for him to even get the tape off of the small grooved blade. I gave him a few pointers and he practiced until he got it on his own. He was smiling and excited at his success. Then, I helped him line up the two pieces of paper.

This conference helped me remember that first I need to re-teach how to use the tape dispensers. I think I can assume too much sometimes at then beginning of the year when I only spend only a morning or two on supplies mini-lessons ( I assume partners will help each other out too). I need to come back to these so that kids who aren't as adept or bold with the tools have some reinforcement. Second, I think the value of taking this time to teach using the tool will payoff because much of the work the student and I were doing was revision work. While, I have introduced the notion of rereading and "fixing" up writing in the go and while publishing a book, the work of revision feels bigger and harder for younger writers to grasp. I know that I will be tackling this later in the year and this conference work will turn into a mini-lesson idea I can use for revision strategies.

Tools can be so motivating. I am anxious to play with a tool called Wallwisher. I am learning how to play with it here and would love for you to PLAY TOO! A fellow blogger and twitterer, Aviva used it to help her 1 and 2nd graders reflect on their performance after their musical.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lulu and the Brontosaurus

Do you remember reading Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? I do and I laughed out loud when enjoying this book years ago. Well, Judith Viorst and Lane Smith have teamed up to create a wonderful new early chapter book for transitional readers. It has chapters that are short and match the stamina of young readers. There are many pictures throughout the story and lots of repetition in the storyline that supports kids just getting into chapter type reads. I picked it up yesterday and loved it!

Lulu is the kid that gets everything and her parents (even after tantrums and screaming fits) end up giving into her demands. So, on her birthday, Lulu decides she wants a brontosaurus for a pet (I know and the author lets you know that brontosauruses are extinct) and her parents surprisingly say no. Lulu is determined to find one for herself and sets out on an adventure into the forest. She finds the brontosaurus but he is just as determined to have a pet of his own. Guess who he want as a pet.

Sample the first chapter here at Simon and Schuster Kids to see what you think. I have a little reader that devoured this in two days. Love this.

Back From Break with Books

There is nothing better than walking in the door after a long weekend or a break with new books to read aloud and share. This weekend I found a new picture book called Miss Lina's Ballerinas by Grace Maccarone. It is sure to be a hit with the girls who love to dance or are interested in ballerinas. I love the cover and the beautiful, vibrant drawings come to life with each page.

Miss Lina's Ballerinas is a story of friendship and problem solving as a group of dancers (and their teacher) figure out how to welcome a new dancer to the class. The story is told in rhyme similar to the tale of Betsy B. Little. After reading it, I was also reminded of Tacky the Penguin. The camaraderie he discovered with his tribe of friends is similar to the learning the ballerinas encounter when someone new joins the school. I think this notion of adjusting to "new" is a concept all kids need help embracing. Change can be good. Miss. Lina's Ballerina's gently reminds us of this.

Check out the trailer to see what you think.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thoughts from NCTE

I feel like the learning I am taking away this year from NCTE has been embedded in many of the conversations I have had with educators over the two days I spent collaborating, listening and learning. My mind is racing with new ideas and questions just by listening to the many wise words of others. Like...

How can I build in time for deeper discussion and reflection about what picture reading looks like ? How can kids read and replay books for others? (Kathy Collins)

The definition of "just right" book sometimes makes me uncomfortable because of each student's need, purpose and personal decisions for reading. How can I communicate this concept in the classroom without limiting my students? We know much of reading is about balance. (Cathy Mere)

How am I really inviting kids to grasp the notion of meaningful talk in the classroom? How can I step back and help them understand: why it is important to have it and how does it sound? What are some picture books that could support this? How can this trickle into our work on the blog: thoughtful commenting, reading posts by thoughtful kids? (Ann Marie Corgill)

"Comprehension is more than just teaching strategies. We have to be responsive and reactive to what kids know." (Sharon Taberski). How can I foster a balance for understanding with readers? Our work in the classroom comes from our students. (Laura Robb).

If we can get kids to know themselves in one aspect of learning, we can transition this self-reflective type thinking into other areas. Who are you as a reader?

"Shut up, listen and learn." (Don Graves quote used by Patrick Allen) How can I foster kids work as problem solvers within the classroom community?

Kids quoted " I think I am an independent reader when my teacher trusts me. " There is so much to be learned about TRUST in the classroom. Debbie Miller said: We need to trust ourselves as teachers.

So much to think about.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Picture Book Possibilities: NCTE 2010

Collaborating with Learners Using Picture Books

Yesterday was an exciting day collaborating and presenting with Cathy Mere, Ann Marie Corgill and Kathy Collins. I have been energized by the conversation, preparation and time with these amazing women. I feel like the learning I am taking away this year has been embedded in many of the conversations I have had with educators over the past two days. My mind is racing with new ideas just by listening to many wise words.

Cathy M and I worked through slide share together and it was yet another piece of new learning this weekend. You can see our presentation here and at Cathy's blog as well as Ann Marie's blog (soon).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Back to the Basics

There are weeks in the school year when I forget that my expectations for students exceed what they can give back. I was talking with my teacher friends and my mom who is a teacher and they all helped me remember to come back to the basics in the classroom. This week, we did just that. We needed to practice getting in line without shoving and pushing. We needed to remember what it felt like and looked like to read independently and with a partner. We needed to slow down. We needed time to play and reconnect with each other so that the routines in our classroom are stronger. Here is a video of a few girls creating during a morning play break. Their cooperation, excitement for creating and partnered conversation/explanation are helping each other learn through play.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Stuck in the Mud by Jane Clarke

Do you know the story of The Enormous Turnip? Stuck in the Mud reminds me of this tale but with a twist at the end.

Little Chick is stuck in the mud and the animals on the farm are flustered over his predicament. His mother begins to pull him out only to get stuck herself. Then, many of the other farm animals follow her lead. By the end of this rhyming adventure, you come to find out that tricky Little Chick was never stuck in the first place. He jumps out of the mud and walks away from the whole mess!

The students and I shared a great conversation while reading this book by predicting events, rhyming text and the ending along the way. I also think there are other characters like Little Chick out there we can compare him to. The kids started to think about the duck, pig and cow in Mrs. Wishy-Washy because all of these animals and Little Chick enjoy the mud. I'll be trying to find primary characters that like to get others attention like Bossy Bear or characters that aren't so honest at first like Ruthie in Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie to help us begin to think deeper about these stories. Maybe you are thinking of some too?

Sunday, November 7, 2010


(photo courtesy of Chelsea)

Last week as I was modeling how writers reread their writing ( I was demonstrating some editing I needed in my book that I wrote during our pattern book study) and notice when they need to fix punctuation. In my own book I purposely left out end punctuation, inserted an exclamation point in the middle of a sentence and drew a super large period at the end of a sentence all because this is what I am noticing kids doing in their writing. In the midst of kids noticing my crazy use of punctuation as they turned and talked to a neighbor, one student said in a louder voice than normal (I could see the light bulb turning on in her mind), "MISTAKES HELP YOU LEARN!!" Kids constantly surprise me. From this simple moment, this basic mini lesson, one little girl experienced a global idea. I am hoping she keeps taking risks and maybe I can find ways for her to connect this premise to other areas of her learning. Happy creating from your mistakes!

"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." Albert Einstein

Saturday, October 30, 2010

BLogging: How it Has Changed Me

Bill Gaskins of Creating a Path For Learning in the 21st Century has hosted a series of posts about the impact that blogging has had in the lives of educators. My post today is cross posted on his blog. Be sure to check it out the earlier reflections shared by librarians, consultants and teachers that were featured on his blog this week.

What has changed you as a learner? When reflecting back to my personal memories, there are a few times that stand out for me. Learning with my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Green (because she believed in me), placing as regional runner-up for the Optimist Club’s Oratorical Contest as an 8th grader (which boosted my self esteem) and my student teaching experience with Steve Shack (working alongside a strong model) are all memorable moments in my life that have altered what I know about myself and what I have learned about teaching.

When asked to think about how blogging has transformed me as a learner and a teacher, my first thought is that it has developed my identity. Blogging has helped me feel like and take risks as a writer. I know that I am not the most the most profound or intellectual writer but I have come to feel like a person who has a message to share. A message that others will in turn offer feedback and reactions to my thoughts. I was not this empowered as a student. Though interested in learning, I found my place at the back of the classroom, a student who was nervous about saying something “wrong.” Blogging has allowed me to express my thoughts on topics that I feel strongly about: teaching, children and creative ways to enhance learning. So, first and foremost, blogging has given me a voice. A Year of Reading, Liz in Ink and MotherReader were a few of the first blogs that helped me find my own voice.

As a beginning blogger, I learned about bravery. I wrote what was on my mind wondering, would anyone read this or think it was worthwhile. I questioned my posts. Were they “good” enough? Was what I saying of value or did invite connections in my readers? I learned to let go of these thoughts, taking risks even when I was unsure of myself.

With more blogging, I am learning the value of collaboration. Sir Ken Robinson speaks of importance of collaboration in his presentation on Changing Paradigms. He talks about how “great learning happens in groups and that collaboration is the stuff of growth.” As a blogger, I find myself reading about ideas in posts, connecting with those ideas and then linking to them in some of my own posts. The excitement of collaborative learning drives me. I am inspired to hear from other bloggers who write about topics that are meaningful to me, comment about my connections or ask questions when I want to know more. Blogging also motivates me when I am posting about a topic that I am excited to share and receive feedback from other bloggers. With blogging, I am realizing how others thoughts (Weblogg-ed and Be Playful), questions and wonderings are expanding my understandings of the world. Blogging invites unending possibilities for collaboration.

Another significant lesson I have embraced as a blogger is the power of reflection. Reflection, as defined by, is “a fixing of the thoughts on something; careful consideration.” By blogging, I have entered into a realm of reflection that is deeper and public. Often, I take a happening or moment from my day at home or in the classroom and I think further about it by writing a post. Just by the act of first reflecting, I have found myself then experiencing something else: questioning. My own experience is similar to the process that Scott Filkins, editor of NCTE inbox, refers to in his post: The Value of Questioning in Professional Growth. Scott writes about his process of discovering his need to formulate questions within classroom situations and acting on those questions. Blogging has been that first stepping stone in my personal learning journey. It initiates my thinking about an idea, which then leads me to question that idea, and later to act on it in the classroom. With this process, bloggers like Cathy, Ann Marie and Julie have strengthened my ability to reflect, question and act on my own teaching.

Learning is not about right or wrong, rather, it is discovering what you love, searching for more and creating with what you are learning along the way. Blogging has allowed me to discover my own voice, dabble in collaboration, reflect then make changes in my own practice and share my love of teaching and learning with others. Next: How can I begin this learning journey with my own students ?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Writing Workshop: Pattern Book Study

Stephanie Parsons has written a great resource for teachers called First Grade Writers. I especially love her unit of study on pattern books. This unit has helped my students begin to understand and feel successful noticing structures that authors and illustrators use to create a book. Studying different patterns connects so much of the thinkingwe are already doing as readers (noticing the repetition in text and the supports certain books have for early readers) and as mathematicians.

This month, I decided to use Stephanie's pattern study chart in my own classroom
with some of the books I thought would support writers. The kids have been creating books using the ideas from authors like Melanie Walsh's Do Lion's Live On Lily Pad's to create their own question answer books like Do Dogs Live in the Forest and Do dogs Live in the Park. Other students have created list books like 11 Uses for a Dog and 5 Uses for a Dad after studying 31 Uses For a Mom by Harriet Ziefiert. This study also allows all kids to enter the study. Students who are ready for more depth can use more sophisticated structures and other students who are beginning to understand patterns can create simple (that may just have repeating words and a clever ending) text and feel successful.

This week have started the practice of editing and revision while the kids have chosen one of these books to go back and fix up for publishing. I am so intrigued with how thorough this group
seems to this year. They are teaching me to slow down and really spend time with this study. I can't wait to feel the energyduring our family night when the kids will share their books witheach other and all of our families.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A New Primary Picture Book with Endless Possibilities

As, I used my 33% off coupon at Borders to day to buy, Back to Bed, Ed! the gentleman at the register (who told me was a former school librarian) commented about how much he loved the illustrations in this book. I couldn't help but feel the same way as when I first eyed the book a few weeks ago.

Being purposeful and opinionated about what books we like and dislike is so important to model for our students (as well as be able to support why or why not). I also love to make further connections to the work of authors and illustrators that I enjoy. I think it is important to model this when introducing first reads to students. So I searched for more to see what connections I could make to Sebastien Braun. I found out that Sebastien Braun has a wonderfully creative website that features his library (published work), his studio (his work in progress) and his loft (selections of his past work). He also has a 3-D link that features his pieces along with the mediums he used. I can't help but think about how kids could use website for art mentor ideas (I am thinking of my own sons who would love to create with recycled wood and acrylic paint).

Also, after perusing his site, I realized that I own another title he has written. So tomorrow I will also make known Meeow and the Big Box, which is in our cat book basket. I am happy to find out that Sebastien Braun wrote Meeow and the Big Box along with two other books in the" Meeow" series ( Meeow and the Little Chairs and Meeow and the Blue Table). So, I went right to the library to reserve them. The kids will not only find excitement in the one new book that I display but they will form connections with other books or ideas that we are thinking about. With these subtle connections, the excitement, learning and reading become heightened in the classroom.

Finally to why Back to Bed, Ed will be perfect for first graders:

First, Ed is young (preschool) like my students and often wants to sleep in his parents bed and many will likely have connections to this (go here for a quick synopsis of the story).

Second, the story will be a great independent read for some of my already transitional readers who need the thinking scaffolds that a picture book has to offer them.

Last, since this book has such a distinct character, I will put Ed's copied picture up on our rime wall. This word wall (really just an area on my cupboards) is delineated with the vowels. It helps me help kids build on many word concepts (we build words from common rimes, we talk about how versatile vowels are in our language (did you know the letter a makes like 31 sounds?), we learn the common "chunks" or rimes that are associated with the short and long vowels, I use it for guided writing to help make connections to sounds and rimes kids are learning with my help and kids use it during writing workshop to make connections to words they are writing independently). It is a very used wall of cupboards. This wall is in addition to our high frequency word wall that I have on the back of magnetic bookshelves. Ed will
help kids remember the "hard to remember" sound commonly known as short e (my own second grade son still struggles knowing what to write when he hears this sound).

Building connections in simple ways helps kids remember and understand. Why not use the authenticity of a picture book to help us teach everything about reading, writing and understanding words!

(here is part of our rime wall with Cat the Cat from Mo Willems' popular series and Jet (a little dog) from Joey and Jet by James Yang, another fun series my kids enjoy)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Labeling the Shelves

My classroom library is filled with baskets of books. Books about superheroes, friendship, songs, cats, dogs, sports, trucks, family, animals and people. There are non-fiction baskets by topic, baskets of rhyming books, pattern books, math books and books sorted by author. Baskets work as an organizational tool, an anchor for partner reading, a tool for extending and building reading stamina and much more. Each time I read aloud a book (about 4-5 books a day), I talk about which basket the book comes from. I may model how to put it away or ask kids to think about which basket the book could be placed in.

In past years, the baskets seemed to make it back to the shelf in their "usual" spots. The author baskets made their way back to a shelf we designated for author baskets and the poetry basket fit in a little spot on the floor that was just the perfect size for it. This year, the baskets are not making their way back to their "usual" spots so I decided to help my kids by taping a copy of the basket label onto a specific spot in the shelves. I don't think I am ever totally satisfied with how the library works in my classroom. There is always something I can tweak each year with different groups of kids. My students this year seem to be thoughtful and careful about which baskets they return books ( I think because I spent quite a bit of time modeling this and having kids think aloud about how to return to baskets). I am hoping the labels help the baskets find their way neatly to the shelf so kids can get their hands on what they need more efficiently.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Love that Kitty by Jeff Larka

I fell in love with the book Love that Puppy by Jeff Jarka last year. I love how it steps kids into books with a graphic novel feel. Last year my students loved reading it, enjoying the silly antics of a little boy (Peter) who decides to become a dog. This year, I found myself using it during our picture study in writing workshop. The students and I noticed the many expressions Jarka creates using the characters in the story. The kids also noticed how he tells us more on one page of the story by organizing his pictures in boxes.

Today, I saw Love that Kitty at the library and checked out both copies (I always feel bad about taking two but I know these will be read). I noticed the plot of the story is very similar to that of Love that Puppy. For first grader readers, similar story events are a support for emerging readers so I know they will have some success diving into the second in the series with each other or on their own before I get a chance to read it aloud. Oh yeah, the ending of this books begs for a third.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

IKEA Table

This IKEA table is host to learning that we have going on in the classroom. During the first weeks of school, it held the plastic animals from animal bin. I also displayed the book Creature ABC ( which I love). It was a great place for many kids to play during student walk-through and begin to learn to cooperatively play with animals and blocks in the first few weeks of school.

I also used it to host our favorite books from home as kids brought in their favorites to share. It was fun to see what they love from home. Students had conversations and connections with many of the titles that were displayed and read from the table.

For a few weeks it held a sunflower just cut down from the side our our school building that our Kindergartners planted last year. The kids spent a week in their down time, exam-
ining it with the magnifying glasses and harvesting the seeds.

Now, the drying sunflower sits with many fall books and our learning posted on a small post-it chart about what happens in the fall.

I like this little table and can't wait to figure what we put on it next.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

We started blogging two days ago...

And, it completely amazes me that my students are already at home posting. I shouldn't be so struck because I know the thrill of blogging but it is incredible to witness their excitement as well as the community and connections already being formed in two, yes two short days.

Monday, I showed them my class blog (on from last year and a few of the mentor blogs I have collected in my delicious account. They excitedly logged in and we decided to try and "I like" kind of post (didn't hurt that like is one of our word wall words). Tell about yourself as a blogger. What do you like? Who are you? Students were off and completed a post about one or two things they like.

By Tuesday afternoon we were able to read a few of our own published posts. I asked if anyone tried commenting and 5 kids had tried it at home the night before ( I didn't even check to read their posts so I truly had no idea). We easily had 5 experts ready to go today if other students were stuck. Every kid today was able to choose a post and comment on it. Wow.

Some topics for posts already these past two days:
i love skoole
my wobbly tooth
about me

I am noticing after our unit on graphing in math and the thrill of receiving comments, kids are posting about what they like and then posing a question at the end for readers to answer. you like dogs , yes or no and do you like ice cream or candy?

I am anxious to see what happens next. My goal is to teach them how to upload their own pixie creations onto their own blog from the desktop so they can write about a visual piece. Can't wait to hear how it is going for anyone else giving blogging a try this year.

Knuffle Bunny Free by Mo Willems

The Knuffle Bunny Series has been loved by the students in my classroom so much so that I had to replace my original copy of Knuffle Bunny this summer. It had pages torn but taped and the spine has been giving away because of the love the book has received over the years. So, knowing how loved this book is in our classroom, I was very, very happy to open the mailbox to find the last in this loved Mo Willems' series.

I cried reading it. I am not sure if it is a combination of the stress in my life that is causing me to be emotional, the beautifully written ending or because it is the last in a series. Whatever the case, I loved this book. It speaks of bravery, compassion and the importance of relationships.

In short, Tixie travels to Holland to spend time with her grandparents Oma and Opa. She inadvertently leaves Knuffle Bunny on the plane. Of course, realizing this when she arrives at her grandparents' home. After a phone call to the airlines, she finds out Knuffle Bunny is headed to China. She struggles with not having her special friend and experiences the woes of accepting that as a bigger kids she doesn't really need Knuffle Bunny. After beginning to deal with her loss, she surprisingly discovers Knuffle Bunny on the way home in the seat pocket directly in front of her. She is ecstatic. Hearing the cries of a small one behind her, Trixie makes a grown-up decision to give her Knuffle Bunny away (surprising everyone). The ending I won't give away but will tell you that it is a flash forward in time that brought me to tears. I loved how Mo wrapped it up.
I am anxious to see how the kids feel about it tomorrow. Hope you get a chance to read it!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Studying Pictures

Writing workshop has been running happily each day with kids loving time to write their ideas. Katie W Ray inspired me to try studying pictures in these beginning weeks of school after reading her book, In Pictures and In Words. I know the noticing students are participating in will only help them throughout the year as we investigate and read more books by great authors and illustrators. These first few weeks, I used much of what I noticed kids needing and wondering about to decide which picture books to study in workshop. The books that made the list are :
Bob Graham's
How To Heal A Broken Wing and "Let's Get a Pup" Said Kate (two of my personal favorites) in which we noticed Bob's use of boxes to tell more of the story with pictures and his use of color to show feelings and distinguish from day and night.

Jan Johnson's
Wrapped in Love (I posted about here) We used to notice how illustrators can show more of what is happening in the picture by showing two places
by using a window (out and in). The kids also thought it was important because it allowed her to match the pictures to the words better.

Mo Willems
Many Elephant and Piggy Books, specifically, Are You Ready To Play Outside
We really noticed movement techniques, like the way Mo makes Piggy's legs bend and the movement lines he puts next to her. The kids also picked up on the notion of word bubbles and many are having fun trying their own.

Chris Haughton's
Kids were also intrigued by how Chris used dots to show the movement of the owl falling from
the tree.

Beth Cadena's
In this story, kids made connections to Bob Graham's work because of the way Beth also shows us more of the story through pictures. They also noticed how Beth shows each step of movement when sister runs down the steps.

And, because my kids have all gravitated to the Melanie Watt basket:
This book was great because I had introduced the idea of drawing and
writing lists the week before I read it aloud. Afterwards, we noticed that Melanie Watt pops lists into the middle of her stories.

All such fun with so many kids catching on to the notion of noticing. Here is one kiddo's picture using a movement idea like Beth Cadena used in Supersister. In this picture, one student shows himself diving off the board at the pool: you can experience each movement of his jump to the water!

Social Bookmarking: Why and When?

Do you social bookmark? I am definitely beginning to understand and see the possibilities of this web 2.0 tool. For me right now, the tool is most helpful for organizing and tagging information that I need to come back to for writing and research. This summer, Cathy M and Mary Lee both helped me begin to think about the possibilities of delicious and diigo. I began to organize my school bookmarks (places I wanted to share with my students in delicious and my personal "stuff" in diigo). I liked the highlighting and sticky note features on diigo so that on quick glance, I could find the point of the article or post so I decided to use it for my personal bookmarking. Delicious has been working for places I want to share with my students. Here's what social bookmarking looks like for me so far and what I want to try next:

The first way I used it in the classroom was to quite simply compile bookmarks of great mentor blogs for kids. This helped me comeback to blogs that I new would help my students understand and begin to generate ideas for writing on their own blogs. I was not savvy enough to have the kids access them last year Now, I am thinking other classes may want to see these mentor blogs as more classrooms are venturing into the world of blogging. I have yet to add friends to this account (but I think it is the next step to sharing) So here is the link to my bookmarks for mentor blogs for kids and maybe some action will begin.

Now that I am back in first grade, we enjoy quite a bit of shared reading time around repetitive texts and songs. Many of these songs are are you tube or kideo and I would love for the kids to have access to them in the classroom, so I am thinking about how to create a link on my web page so they can access these bookmarks. We have sung and enjoyed these songs as shared texts: The Good Green Earth (love James K), Pete the Cat, If You're Happy and You Know It, and Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes. Here are my song bookmarks.

I mentioned I use diigo for my personal findings and lately that has been school/professional development and my learning. I've bookmarked recipes because (Paula Deen's yummy recipes) I do use bookmarking for recipes when there is time to cook. Bookmarking will help as I head for Brazil this December for my brother's wedding and I organize sites I am using to plan for the trip. Just started to search tags for hotels in Rio. Off to learn more...

Reflections on Google Reader

When I started blogging, I remember reading and reading blog posts until the wee hours of the night. I would find blogs I liked and explore their blogrolls. I have to admit, that until I began my pregame work for PLP, I really hadn't started to understand how rss works. I would connect to those in my blogroll (who were also in my google reader), connect to commenters on other posts, read posts that I was interested in from the tweets I perused in twitter and read around just bookmarking along the way. Bookmarking was only allowing me to keep the address of the blog tucked away. When would I remember to come back to read those blogs (even other bookmarks for that matter but that may be another post)?

I am learning and enjoying the power of rss in my reader. It has helped me organize the blogs and read the new news from those I am most interested in reading. I have sorted through my old bookmarked blogs and added their rss feed in my reader subscriptions. I found blogs like Tara at TLC, Christian Long's blog: Be Playful, and PS22 Chorus(it makes me happy listening to these kids that are amazing) that I have added (and love being updated automatically) in my reader.

Using google reader before my pre-game activity, I felt like I was in that in-between place similar to an emergent reader trying to read a new book guessing the words that seem right but aren't quite. The readers you know you need to conference with and model a specific strategy to help them understand how bravely attempting new words works. I am a bit embarrassed that I needed the one- on one demonstration video on rss feed to get how it works and embarrassed that I didn't go and try to figure it out on my own earlier but now can I tell you how happy I am to understand. Looking forward to more understanding with PLP in this year long journey.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pete the Cat is Wearing Our Shoes!!

Don't know if you've enjoyed Pete the Cat but we have been totally loving him. The Kinders at our school made these awesome pictures of Pete in their favorite color shoes (shoot, forgot to take a picture) their illustrations are hanging outside our library for all to smile at and enjoy. My friend Maureen helped me with the idea that kids could create Pete in their own shoes. So, I am making a book about our names to have fun with Pete at the same time. Here are a couple pics before I put the book together. I decided to call it Pete's Wearing Our Shoes to keep it somewhat simple. The introductory page will say: "Pete the Cat is trying some new shoes. Is he wearing yours? " Each page will have repetitive text...Pete loves Mandy's shoes. Pete loves Jack's shoes, etc. Melanie has created a retelling kit and podcast using Pete the Cat. Have you shared some Pete fun? Share please!

Friday, September 17, 2010


In a few weeks, I begin one of my journeys in learning this year. I am excited be part of the Dublin cohort for Powerful Learning Practice (an opportunity for job embedded professional development). In fact, the learning has already begun with what Sheryl Nussbaum Beach describes as pre-game activities before our face to face kick off in October. Part of these pre-game activities is to share some of the expectations I have for my own learning this year and pose any questions that I am thinking about. So after completing some of the pre-game tasks I have been thinking...

I am interested in learning how I can better use my own learning time with technology. With all the responsibilities I have at home and in the classroom, I want to understand pieces of web 2.0 tools that will allow me to be efficient when I am online. I am also curious about I can better embed emerging technologies in my own classroom. Here are some specific areas that I am interested in knowing more about:

How does tagging work (I have not yet jumped into the tagging realm with blogging) and how will it help me become a more efficient blogger?

How can I better organize the subscriptions I have on google reader?

How can I be purposeful with the use of a wiki in the classroom? I feel like I have a bit of a grasp on how to help kids understand community, sharing and feedback after using kidblog with my second graders last year but am interested in figuring out how to help (my first graders) use and understand a wiki? Will it start with reading other classroom wiki's as our journey with blogging did last year? If so, what are some good wiki's to view as mentors before I head in that direction. I would love to be connected with other classrooms that blog and use wikis. How can I do that safely under the parameters set by my district for kids sharing information over the internet?

I have noticed the impact that a larger audience has for my own son who is motivated by comments from friends and fellow you-tubers who also document and express themselves online. I also know how much learning and fun kids have with a flip camera in their hands. How can I facilitate this documentation and sharing for an even younger set of learners this year?

How can I better use the bookmarks I have saved in diigo (I use for my own learning after advice from ML) and delicious (sites I want to share with my kids)? How can I use this tool in purposeful ways within the classroom?

I have a page on Facebook but I don't use it very often or effectively. When I do use it efficiently, it is nice to be able to connect with my family on FB but I feel like it is too noisy for me on a daily basis. With my twitter account, I have found educators that I am interested in following so I often feel like it is a better use of my time. I know that I am not using twitter often enough as I would like. I want to figure out often is enough to have a voice.

These questions and wonderings are just the beginning to what I am excited to learn about this year under the guidance of PLP. Looking forward to wondering some more...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What next with Pete the Cat?

There is no doubt that kids in our school love the book, Pete the Cat. When I blogged about it last spring, I had no idea that this book was going be such a sensation. Kindergarten kids began painting Pete as their fourth grade buddies sang and painted along. First graders were begging for the book to be read again and again. This book caught everyones attention. I know that part of excitement of Pete the Cat is that not only is it a book, but it is a catchy song with a free download at Harper Collins. And, the live re-telling is must. This book has multiple ways for kids ( and teachers) to access the enjoyment.

I wanted to use the kids excitement to fuel further learning with Pete the Cat in the classroom. So, I posted the three repetitive lines for shared reading on our sentence chart (smart board users I am sure there some more techy/interactive way you could extend this idea but I don't have a smartboard). I use shared reading to build in review of some print concepts (one to one match, right to left progression, difference between letter and word, etc), reading strategies and often highlight
high frequency words. Last week (with the downloaded song in the background) we sang and pointed to the repetitive words up on our sentence chart. I cut up the words, threw them in an envelope and modeled how to put together the Pete the Cat Puzzle during morning meeting. The puzzle has been loved during morning reading and play time this week. I caught these partners singing along enjoying their song. It was probably one of the happiest moments of the day. Tomorrow, I am creating a book with a photo of each student's shoes (they were very excited to pose) and I will be asking kids to help me generate some repetitive text for our own book about shoes. I want to add student names into this book so they practice reading and learning class names. Who knew Pete would allow us to be so productive and happy? (My apologies for the poor camera work, but I think you will get the idea.)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Kids and Tech : New Sites to Check Out

Today, I was flipping through Family Fun magazine and found some new cool websites for kids. I am always looking for fun new ways to explore with technology. This week at school, my kids learned to log onto the computers with their username and password. We learned how to get on the internet using Safari and search for a site (Starfall this week because I know the site was new to many of them and playing with letters, sounds and listening to rhymes and stories is just what they need at the beginning of the year). I also re-introduced them to a software program we have on our computers for creating, Pixie2. Last year kids made how-to creations with Pixie. This year I am anxious to figure out how I can embed first grade pixie creations on their blogs so kids can independently view, comment and enjoy their work with each other. In the meantime, I will be adding some of the following new sites to my webpage ( it's a work in progress) so that kids can access these new sites easily from home! Here is what I found:

Kideos is an online kid video site safe for kids (basically youtube for kids). I love this! It was very easy to use and I showed it my second grader who could have searched videos all night.
You can choose videos by age group, by channel or play around for awhile like I did. I loved the classic Three Little Pigs, Word World Videos, the many how-to videos like how to tie your shoes (kids could make videos like these), book characters (The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Little Critter, The Old Lady Who swallowed a Fly and many more), crazy animal videos and much more.

Activity Tv is a site filled with how-to videos featuring activities kids love: magic, science experiments, origami, cooking and more. The videos are also categorized by beginner, intermediate and advanced.

The Toymaker is a site in which kids can choose paper toys to print and assemble. This site has printable animals, fairies and magic, math and learning toys, moving toys and boxes. For kids who love to build and wonder these print outs will keep them thinking. My 7 year old will be busy when I show him the wind boats and aeroplane. These print outs would also be great thinking during free choice or indoor recess.