Saturday, February 27, 2010

Don't Lick the Dog: Making Friends with Dogs by Wendy Wahman

Do you know how to make friends with a dog? Well, the kids in my classroom and many other classrooms in our building are loving the opportunity to connect with some beautiful german shepherds rescued and now acting as therapy dogs.   The dogs arrived for their second monthly visit on Friday, but I knew some of the kids in my class were still unsure about how to befriend our guests.  I remembered the book, Don't Lick the Dog, Making friends with Dogs and knew it would help those just learning what to do around our new friends.

In this story, author Wendy Wahman tells you how to make friend with a dog using playful rhyming text.  On each new two page spread, she offers easy advice for how to get to know a new dog.  From holding still and slowing down to how to hold your hand like a plate if you get to offer a canine a treat, the book worked wonders for the kids reluctant around dogs and those over-excited to see them.  I can also see it could easily work as a how-to mentor text or reading.  It is worth a read for those needing help warming up to dogs!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Must See Video: Gotta Keep Reading

If you haven't seen the youtube video Gotta Keep Reading go here. It was created by Ocoee Middle School students.  Great way to start your weekend and Right to Read week (next week)!

Better Blogging

This week I was contacted by a student taking a web 2.0 class wanting to know if I could email her with some tips for blogging.  I thought and answered quickly (as it was during my planning period knowing I wouldn't remember to come back to the email if I didn't answer then and there). Here's what I came up with but I am sure you have more to share. I would love to hear your tips so leave a comment with what has helped you become a better blogger.

1. Reading other blogs. I often connect my thinking or find ideas when I read what others are thinking about.

2. Keep talking and learning with others. Just last weekend at the Dublin Lit Conference, two friends and I began chatting about using tools in the posting menu. In a short conversation, I walked away with info about something I didn't know about.

3. Be authentic and brave.  There were times when I was nervous about posting about an issue I had in the classroom or an opinion, but the posts I worried about were often the ones I have had the most comments and formed  discussion.

4. Find other bloggers who you enjoy and comment!! Take time to write what you are feeling when a post invokes a feeling. Keep coming back and visiting to help establish a blogging community.

5. Take breaks and keep coming back.  There are times when I am overloaded with family or professional commitments and I need a break from blogging but I know how much I learn and reflect when I come back to posting. Don't beat yourself up when you can't get to it all the time and set reasonable expectations for yourself (easier said than done). Most of all ENJOY! I know I do!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dublin Literacy Conference: Katie Van Sluys

Last weekend, I spent my Saturday listening to a number of inspiring speakers during our district's 21st Annual Dublin Literacy Conference. I am always interested in learning everything I possibly can about how to help myself and my students with writing. So, I quickly signed up for a session ( Becoming Writers: Decision and Visions) by author, researcher and consultant, Katie Van Sluys. Katie currently works as a professor at DePaul University in Chicago and has written, What if and why, literacy invitations for Multilingual Classrooms.

Katie's session was focused on the visions and decisions we make guiding writers. She challenged us to consider and reflect on our beliefs about writers, writing and writing instruction. Choice, writer's needs, love of writing, audience, purpose,  and routine came to mind as I sat and jotted down my quick write. Katie used our thoughts to guide our discussion. She also used NCTE's vision for writer's and writing to help anchor observations we had after watching  teachers and students in the midst of workshop.
Katie's session reminded me of the importance of the messages we as teachers send to our students on a daily basis about writing. The language we use when we confer, the physical features/ set up of the room, the way we use student work or thinking to guide mini lessons, and  the presence of choice all are ways we convey messages that let students know that they are valued as writers.   I left reminded that decisions and visions really depend on the writer; I am just a guide : listening, building on what they know, steering them and hopefully showing how to love writing.

Monday, February 15, 2010

smile! by Leigh Hodgkinson

Sunny has lost her smile. She is searching everywhere for it. Her dad says she she try to remember where she last saw it but she thinks that is just RIDICULOUS because if she knew that then it wouldn't be lost.   She looks under her bed but can't even find the floor. She suspects someone might have taken it but she doesn't think it was her fish Glittergills or her twin brothers (who, to note, have much bigger and much more annoying smiles).  Sunny's mother reminds her that most lost items in their house can be found in one of three places: the sofa, pockets or Mr. Honeycomb's (her dog) basket. She searches and then is sidetracked only to unexpectedly find her smile.

I love the pictures and I love Sunny. She is spunky and relatable and real. Sunny is full of questions and wonders like many of the students in my class. I envision using this book to help my writers with ideas for stories...when have you lost your smile? Go here to browse the book for yourself at Harper Collins.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Less is More

I have been trying to read more online. As a working parent with three young kids, it is often hard to find time to just kick back and read.  Today, I made it through my blog roll and after visiting readerbuzz, I learned a quick few tips for more effective blogging.  One tip Alvin mentions, after visiting a tech conference last week, was blog less text use more pictures or video.  I know that I am sometimes at fault for writing too much probably because when I get time to say something I have a hard time narrowing to one idea and end up going on about all the points, books or thoughts I want to make.  I see this happen in the classroom with my young writers as well.  After talking with a friend about planing power point presentations, she made some of the same suggestions: pictures, little text. I have been trying o practice this idea of less is more.  I found this short video with the same title: Less is More.  It is reminding to take comfort in simplicity whether in the classroom, at work or at home.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dogs By Emily Gravett

Today, my friend Maureen shared with me some of the new books she found book shopping.  Her stack was a gold mine! She had two books that I just have to add to the beloved "Dog and Cat" basket.  One of them is by a favorite author of mine, Emily Gravett.  Gravett's book, is a perfectly written primary book with gorgeous pictures, simple, repetitive text and a bit of a surprise ending. This book fits right into the hands of K-1 readers and will make an excellent mentor text.  You will enjoy every minute of Dogs!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Posting Series: Reflections on That Workshop Book #2

In my first post about Samantha Bennett's That Workshop Book, I thought through how kids thinking was helping me plan for what next with workshop. After listening and recording how my students were responding to read aloud, I determined they were ready to start practicing questioning.

My plan:
Reminded of Bennett's wise words: "Learning is not about one great lesson or one great activity teachers design for students to do. It is about the little things teachers ask students to do every day like, read, write, and talk that add up to the big things like meaning from text and adding meaning and purpose to life," I began to use the routine, ritual and structure of workshop to plan a study where I could model questioning and then scaffold the work over time where students were practicing independently.

In the first days of the study, we discussed the importance of getting to know a new book. I asked them strategies they already use to preview. Then modeled some of their ideas like how to use the pictures and words on the cover, how to read the back or the flap and how to read the first page. I used the picture book Baby Brains Superstar by Simon James. This book is the third in a series of picture books about a baby born brilliant at birth. My students were already sold to the series having read the first two books, Baby Brains and Baby Brains and Robomom.

What Happened:
After previewing, I repeated previewing asking my students to think about any questions they had as I read aloud. When some students had ideas, I charted the questions. I wrote them on an anchor chart and left them up as I proceeded to read the entire story. Afterwards, they were anticipating finding answers. So, students thought about the answers. Many times they would infer using the text, pictures or background knowledge. I wrote their thoughts next to their questions and this work felt successful for the first day of questioning. I felt like the few kids who had questions, had showed others how to generate a thought about something they wondered about. They were off to read independently and invited to begin thinking about questions that happen in their own texts (knowing that not all of them were going to be successful questioners on their own). We ended workshop with a student who shared questioning in her own reading.

On this day, the structure of the mini lesson was longer than usual but the conversation we had was essential for all to hear. It was truly led by the students and guided by me. I allowed myself to be flexible with the structure of workshop: it isn't always a clean 15-45-15 (mini-independent-share). I also knew the time in mini lesson was kids doing thinking work.
What next?
What next though? How would I build on questioning? How would I use questioning to help them understand the entire story? How would I make sure to hear from more than the kids who always participate?

In my next post in this series, I will share ways I tried to answer my own questions.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

New Blog: Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community

This morning I realized that my friend Cathy, has started a blog!!! Yeah!!! I was so very happy to now have a small window into her thinking and her reflecting. I am anxious to learn from her and her experiences in her primary classroom. Her blog, Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community, will be a place we can all grow. Welcome Cathy!

p.s. You'll lover her subtitle: It's not what we know, it's what we're willing to learn.

Friday, February 5, 2010

I Want A Dog by Helga Bansch

One of the most loved baskets of books in my classroom library is the basket of Dog and Cat Books. My students love to sit and read about two of their favorite pets. As a result, I am often looking for great stories to add to this basket. Yesterday, I found the book, I Want a Dog by Helga Bansch and loved it.

First, the cover invites you in to read. I love the different dogs (easy to draw: a little girl in my room decided to make a poster for 100 day using the dog illustrations on the cover to guide her). The story begins with a little girl named Lisa, who like many children, ask "twenty-one times a day" if she can have a dog. Her parents insist that there is no room in their apartment; it is just too small. Lisa tries being very good and then tries to be naughty and then finally creatively advertises that she is interested in borrowing a dog. Her wish comes true when Rollo waddles into her life.

This book easily won the hearts of my students, especially the little ones who are longing for a dog of their own!