Monday, January 25, 2010

How to Make a Lego Car

My son Matt loves legos . He will be teaching his class about how to make a lego car this week. The car creation idea was his and wow did he think through how to explain his directions. I helped photograph and upload. His thinking work with this project was awesome and intense. He was dead tired after rehearsing and recording last night! Enjoy!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Posting Series: Reflections on That Workshop Book #1

This winter/spring I am learning from a course for professional development through a local group called the Literacy Connection. I have taken the yearly course over the past several years with the Literacy Connection and have been blessed to learn from educators and writers including Georgia Heard, Lester Laminack and Carl Anderson. This year the course focus is based on the work of Samantha Bennett, author of That Workshop Book. This book is already helping me to jump start my reading and writing workshops.

Samantha Bennett believes in the strength of teachers listening to students. She says, "In classrooms, students read, write and talk about content in order to learn how to read, write, talk and develop their dispositions as thinkers. Teachers listen all along the way to students' writing, their conversations, their stories and their questions. " All of this listening drives where we guide students the next school day. This habit of listening is assessing. It helps me know what my students understand or don't understand and then plan for what next.

In my own classroom, I have been stuck with "what next " for read aloud. My students love to think aloud about what is happening, what is going to happen, why events happen, characters and their connections to the story. I have used an anchor chart to record their thoughts as we have enjoyed read alouds throughout the year. I want to guide their conversations so they are thinking deeper and then later I want to see if they are ready to apply this to their own reading. To help me plan how to do this, I looked back at an old anchor chart I used to record the kids thinking for the read aloud Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins. I noticed that their thoughts were focused on character, inferences and connections (though I didn't record all of them on our large chart). I thought about how a few were noticing theme in chapters. I also noticed the kids were not in the habit of questioning or using the text to support some of their comments about characters. SO, by looking back at their thoughts, I was able to create a focus for reading workshop work. Knowing they are thinking about character, connections, and theme in chapters, I am thinking questioning may help them think about the whole story as well as allow me to guide them to use the text to support their thinking about the questions they ask. In my next reflection post, I will share how I am using the structure of reading workshop to think about questioning.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Color Picture Books

Colors are a fun topic to read and write about. Each of us has a color we like or even love. I often share a few color books that seem to help kids think about colors they love. Books like My Many Colored Days by Dr. Suess is filled with feelings, colors and animals. The language and pictures are captivating for young readers.

I also love the book, White by Michael Dahl. It is a mixture of poetry and non fiction that is simple enough for young writers yo use a mentor text. Each two page spread surprises you with new way to think about white. White can fill up your glass is written next to a large glass of milk. Next to it, a square details information about the number of glasses of milk a dairy cow produces in her lifetime. So much to think about in a short amount of text has intrigued the readers in my room.

Lastly, the newest book to my classroom library and the Newberry Honor book for this year: Red Sings From Treetops: year in colors is fantastic book for celebrating color! I knew the minute I read the first page last week that I would love this book. The colors bring to life the many objects of spring, summer, fall and winter. My favorite were the poems about fall like:
Orange ripens in
full, heavy moons,
thick pulp and seed.
Orange flickers,
all smoke and candles.
Orange eyes.
Orange cheeks.
Orange teeth.
Right now, I am looking forward to some white myself.
White that cradles my head,
relieves my stress
and encourages me to drift to places where I can let go of the day.

Monday, January 11, 2010

All of Me! A Book of Thanks by Molly Bang

Have you read The Day Leo Said I Hate You! (description about this book here at Molly Bang's site) or Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life? (review by Julie at Raising Readers and Writers here) They are two of my favorite books that have been written and/or illustrated by Molly Bang. Maybe you know the Caldecott honor book, When Sopie Gets Angry-Really, Really Angry... Maybe you are just being introduced to some of the picture books by Molly Bang in this post. Whichever the case, I think you will enjoy her newest book : All of Me! A Book of Thanks.

This book is perfect for reminding young students to thank goodness for their parts. Thanks to our feet, arms, grand hands and mouth! Molly Bang details what we can do with our parts as she reminds us to be thankful. I was hopeful they would use the text to brainstorm ideas for writing or use the way she organizes the text as a guide for their own writing. But as I read this book to my second graders, they responded most to the last two pages of the book. These two pages are titled: Books are Fun to Make. Here you can read about how she made the book from a paper bag, cloth, crayons, paint and water. Molly Bang goes on to further explain her process for starting the book and explains her thumbnail sketches. She explains that she had been thinking about the book for many years and had the words written first. We had a great discussion about writer's process after reading these two pages.

I know I will come back to this book to talk about ideas, organization and especially process. I am sure reading it again will inspire more noticing and thinking.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Supersister by Beth Cadena

This month we will be helping my students think about how they can become stronger narrative writers. We will explore mentor texts and notice crafts that will help us add depth and invite other readers to want to read our pieces. I have so many different writers who are at varying places developmentally (don't we all). My biggest challenge is to differentiate conversations and text. I know I can pull small groups and meet with writers individually but often I am thinking hard about which texts to share that will lift the learning for everyone during whole group mini-lessons. I've been looking for mentor texts that have "do-able" craft, length,and contain ideas and a message that second graders can emulate. I like Supersister because of the way the author and illustrator work in a comic feel to the story. Some pages have panels while other pages are full pictures with short text.

Supersister (I am hoping) will be one book that we can notice as a mentor for narrative writing but also enjoy for the "superhero" factor (it will fit nicely in our superhero basket). Supersister is about a little girl who is on a mission to help out in any way she can. She braves the world trying things on her own: like waiting at the bus stop, pouring her own cereal and cleaning up the dishes. She seems too good to be true as she is SUPER- helpful all day. Before she falls asleep, she runs downstairs kiss her mom and then mom's belly. Yep she will be a big sister soon.

I did get a chance to read this on Monday during writers workshop and I have two students who added super sister and super brother to their little notepad for big ideas. Both have also started to writer about their adventures. I am anxious to see what super-sibling adventures they will share with us.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

My Heart is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall

I couldn't help pick up this first picture book by Michael Hall. I loved the bright and bold colorful animals made from hearts. If your students enjoy Audrey Wood's Quick As a Cricket, Michael Hall's, My Heart Is Like a Zoo will make them happy.

The book is filled with similes about animals and about one person's heart. Michael uses rhyme throughout the book which helps keeps the book moving. I introduced this book during Math but will coming back to it for Writing Workshop. The back of the book challenges you to count the hearts in the book. Michael uses more than 300 hearts in all.Take a look at the You Tube video highlighting the book.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Back to school with books to share

Tomorrow is our first day back to school after holiday break. I know the kids will be mixed with the excitement that comes with reuniting with friends to the ho-hum routine of school. I know I will feel the same way.

To make the day happier, I have loaded the room with many new ( and some old ) books for the kids to read as they walk in the door. They will walk in the door to find the baskets of poetry and rhymes neatly set out with favorite titles like Truckery Rhymes, Here's a Little Poem and Score. It is poetry Monday! ( Monday vs. Friday just works better for us in the classroom)

I also have set out some Caldecott contenders around the room. I know I will be talking about books like the Lion and the Mouse, Chicken Little, Otis, Jeremy Draws a Monster and All the World. See this link to view the finalists for the Cybils fiction picture books list. It has helped me narrow in on some of the best picture books of 2009.

Last, I have filled a shelf with the new titles I purchased over break that I knew my kids would enjoy. The newest fly guy book called Fly Guy Meets Fly Girl will be a hit. The Fly Guy series is perfect for second graders.
I also displayed on this same shelf a few picture books that Franki blogged about. A Small Brown Dog with a Wet Pink Nose and Waiting For Winter were two of my favorite books I picked up at Cover to Cover. Also, a couple My Weird School Daze #2 and #3 that I know a few kiddos will devour as well as four books in the Rainbow Magic series that a few girls love.

I think sharing about our break, seeing one another and getting our hands on new books will help make tomorrow happier.