Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Little Chick by Amy Hest illustrated by Anita Jeram

I opened up Little Chick at Cover to Cover today and loved it.  I loved the cover, the pictures inside and I noticed right away that it is a book of three stories in one. The three stories about Little Chick are so sweet. Each is about a small problem Little Chick is having and how her Big Auntie Hen gently guides her through solving the problems. Little Chick is curious yet patient as she waits for her carrot to grow, her kite to fly and to find a way to catch her favorite star. Big Auntie always compliments Little Chick and guides her to solve and understand her problems. I LOVE the way you can see the tenderness of their relationship and the uniqueness of their character through the pictures in the book.  It would make a wonderful Easter gift.

Find out more about author Amy Hest at her website. She has also written Remembering Mrs.Rossi and The Dog Who Belonged to No One. Anita Jermam has also illustrated Guess How Much I Love you and you can find out more about her here.      

A Place for Wonder by Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough

I am home for spring break and enjoying being home BUT I feel like I haven't stopped working (it is my own fault because I have a hard time sitting still when I know there are things that need to be done).  I've cleaned out cupboards, disinfected the bathrooms, hosted play dates for my kids and have tried to write and read a bit daily.  I really don't know how to rest. But, how can I when blessed with the opportunity to be coached by Samantha Bennett in four weeks.  I am trying to do quite a bit of thinking and planning for my own classroom and her visit.  On my very short list of what to read I have A Place of Wonder.  So I  decided to order a copy of A Place of Wonder:  Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades as I plan a wonder unit of my own. It has been just what I needed. 

The book provides three main sections for teachers who might be considering non-fiction writing and wondering in the classroom.  There is: Creating a Wonder World, Non-Fiction Writing from the Heart and Non Fiction Research Wonder Writing.  In each of these three sections, you can read short vignettes and mini lessons that explain ways to create wonder in the classroom.   I have found practical ideas for inviting wonder like reading and trying One Small Square by Donald Silver, a book and investigation that invites kids to look closely at the world around them with the use of a small square.

I love that A Place of Wonder takes the idea of a discovery table (which I have had over the years but didn't do a lot with) and builds on how we can show children how to have conversations that naturally lead to children writing about their wonders.  I  also love that this book embraces what all learners deserve in the classroom: time for conversation, thinking, asking questions, kids leading learning with their findings, creating with mentor texts and sharing with each other.

Chapter 3 authentically addresses how to engage kids in research where their ideas and (change of ideas) are validated.  They describe mini lessons for how readers/writers ask questions and make inferences using non-fiction, explore non-fiction beginnings when ready to write their own piece, explore features of non-fiction, layer and elaborate and many more.      

I have placed many books on reserve at the library after reading through the resource section and using this book to build my own wonder unit.  One of the pieces I will be using to invite my kids into photographing their wonders is a short film called 14 things i love that I first found on A Year of Reading at this post.

I do have some down time planed for Thursday...a facial and some shopping. Funny thing is, for me, blogging is downtime too.    

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Simplicities of Home (Take 2)

Ok, I am completely addicted to Animoto and have created 2 other movies with pics out of iphoto. I made a quick movie of some Disney pics and chose my favorite photo booth pics that the boys have taken of themselves being boys. This movie (below) is an updated version of the first I inadvertently deleting while trying to edit it.  The free video creating allows you only 30 seconds or about 12 frames per piece.  There is an educator option for Animoto and I applied for a membership. Tony over at Learn me sumthin had his fourth graders create landform shorts with animoto here.  Knowing how easy it is to upload photos from photobooth, I think that my second graders could easily take pics of themselves, their creations, what they're reading and endless more possibilities. I am crossing my fingers for a educator account!  

Create your own video slideshow at


Today is completely rainy and cold.  A good day to read!! My first grader and I have been reading online books (no audio) on reado. Today we clicked through the pages of Mighty Max. Reado is place  to meet for book chats, read online picture books and create your own shelves of favorite online reads. Readeo features online picture books by publishing companies including Candlewick Press (one of my fav), Blue Apple Books, Chronicle Books and Simon and Schuster.

I kept asking myself how this would grow and help readers.  At home, this site would be fabulous for reading in sync and online (same book) with distant family or friends.  At school, it would allow classrooms to share a book with pen pals (maybe they will come up with an educator option?) It would also be an option for logging in books on the nightly reading log.  I personally liked being able to read through new titles by the great publishers readeo is partnered with and know if I would like them in my own classroom.

If you are interested in checking it out you can use the code "goreadeo" for a free month of services if you are interested in setting up an account.  

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Simplicities of Home

Check out the video I created  (click on link) while learning and playing on animoto!! It is so much fun!Simplicities of Home

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mathilda and the Orange Balloon by Randall de Seve

Do you dream big?  Mathilda does!

In this new picture book, Mathilda and the Orange Balloon, by Randall de Seve, you meet a small sheep living in a plain gray (everywhere) meadow.  A bright orange balloon flies by and Mathilda is captivated.  She is curious and begins to wonder about it and chase it.  The other older sheep are unimpressed and laugh when Mathilda dreams of being an orange balloon. She imagines herself as an orange balloon flying and happy. Her friends realize with imagination and dreams anything is possible.

Randall de Seve is also the author of Toy Boat and The Duchess of Whimsy.  Check out this kid's question answer interview at Powells to get to know Randall and illustrator (of Toy Boat) Loren Long.

Friday, March 19, 2010

My New Favorite Math Game Site

I am such a reading and writing nut that I often don't think about the benefits of technology in other subject areas.  I don't know if it is that I am right brained or left brained? Or maybe that has nothing to do with the fact that I think in one way or at least I think I do !?
After all the blogging we've been doing, I have noticed the motivation and excitement that technology can bring to anything!! So, I explored math games online. is my new favorite site for practicing  math online.  This week we finished up some practice with telling time.  After our minilesson (on telling time to 5 min interval), I invited them to try time games at this site where they could access games that met their needs. There were time games that allowed kids to practice telling time to hour, half hour, to 5 min intervals and games to the minute interval. It was awesome. I could easily go around and assess kids I needed to check in with and practice with while they were all engaged.  It made me and them so happy!

Today, after finishing a life timeline project (more thinking about calendar time...years, months, weeks days), I showed them addition games for free math choice. One game  called Jet Ski Addition allowed the  kids to begin their own private game by inviting them to create and then type  in a password they create for their 4 person addition race.  The problem solving they worked through to figure out how to set up the game was awesome!  Gameaquarium has been a new and exciting math choice.        

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Posting Series: Reflections on That Workshop Book #6- Mentor Texts for Wondering

At the end of April, I will be working with Samantha Bennett to reflect and refine workshop in my classroom. I have set some goals for kids to be blogging and writing a wonder post.  Wondering is seems to be do-able and understandable for second grade writers. I want to lay the ground work for what wondering is, what it feels like and examples of it.  I found two books that I will be reading to help my kids grasp the idea of wondering.

The Wonder Book  by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

This book has brought happiness to my classroom. I have read aloud my favorite poems, songs and wonderings ( Did Miss Mary Mack have friends who liked other colors?) which immediately sold this to my readers. It now is slowly passing from one book bin to the next.  M sat for 10 minutes one morning trying to master a tongue twister and T shared his learning about palindromes. Amy has sold us on her wonderings and I will be using this book to help my kids think about where wonders come from and where to go with them.  Amy K. Rosenthal shares some of her inspirations in this video.   Franki has also reviewed this book.

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers

I read this book at Cover to Cover this weekend and fell in love with it immediately!  I loved the beginning: Once there was a girl much like any other whose head was filled with all the curiosities of the world.  And I loved the pictures, the details in them give the reader so much more to think about and infer.  There is a sadness to this book but the small girl grows up to figure out her sadness and unlock the wonder she lost in her life.  I love wonders, lessons and I don't mind books that have some sadness that is resolved.  If you like these things too, read The Heart and the Bottle.      

I am very excited about Oliver Jeffers and visited his webpage. He has written six picture books and I am anxious to read them all. Maybe you know them...
The Incredible Book Eating Boy
The Great Paper Caper
Lost and Found

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Posting Series: Reflections on That Workshop Book #5- More Mentor Blogs

A few posts ago, I shared that I have introduced my kids to the world of blogging.  For this journey, I had found kid blogs that I shared with my students to help develop some understanding into how blogs work and how they focus on a topic.

Now further into our blogging journey and reflecting on the importance of using mentor texts and real- world models, I thought I would share some mentor posts that I have been and will be using for our unit.

 1.    Early this week, we used a student blog authored by a fourth grader called the Science Mouse to help us look at how bloggers introduce themselves to their reader.  We looked closely at her first post.  The kids were awesome at noticing what she did in her first post. I used the projector to pop it up on the screen so we could read and reread it together.  They noticed she welcomed readers, talked about herself, what she will write about and then ended her post.  We decided to use this format for our first post. After the students had a rough practice in their notebooks, I introduced them to a checklist and edit form to help them do some second grade rereading and fixing. Then, they were ready (and excited) to post!!!   

2.  By the end of the week, lots of writers were ready to begin thinking about how they could take their blog topic and begin writing about it in different ways.  I found Super Sarah's blog and discovered her acrostic poem post (Sarah had written about Father's Day) to show my students. Many of them were excited to think about writing an acrostic using their topic.     

3. Posting from your topic's point of view. One of my students thought about pretending she was a dog and writing from a dog's perspective.  There are many books that I could use as mentor texts like Dogs by Emily Gravett or Button Up by Alice Schertle.  I found a blog called My Humans written by a boy who writes entirely from the perspective of his dog, Luigi.  This post called Human Games and Exercise teaches the reader about different types of exercise humans need.    

4. Most of my students are excited to learn how to attach a picture to their post. Next week, I would like to show them how.  I found a screencast demo at  A Geekymomma's blog on how to correctly google search and image.   I think it taught me a ton about proper searching and posting images ( I used the proper etiquette for posting this image) !!      

Posting Series: Reflections on That Workshop Book #4- Conferring

Samantha Bennett suggests small steps for helping classrooms transform to purposeful workshops. Things like making time for students to read, write and talk.  Things like sharing reading lives, saving student work overtime, anchoring student thinking and making time to confer with students.  A few weeks ago, I shared an important conversation with one of my readers that has impacted how she previews and chooses books on her own.

I approached R for a conference after a mini lesson where we were talking about how questioning helps us understand the stories we are reading. After the shared practice we were doing with a book (in a series of  four) called  Upstairs Mouse and Downstairs Mole, she shared that most of the books she was reading were not stories that made her think, in fact she said "I already understand what I am reading."  Knowing that she was reading many of the Rainbow Magic books (and that I had tried many times to show her some other reading options), it was this small moment where she (on her own) realized that thinking was an important and euphoric part of reading.   This moment was a moment I could guide her to finding some stronger choices for reading so I met to confer.

Before I sat down with R (who I had talked to and shared ideas for other reading options), I thought about how this moment was big. How was I going to approach the conference differently than the last time? How (other than bringing new and different books) was I going to help her with where to go next?  I decided to pull together two other girls (A and G) who were having success independently finding books that basically made them think.  The conversation that unfolded when I asked them to share their strategies with R was brilliant. 

Girl A shared a few books that she was loving like the Franny K Stein series and then G shared books she had read that she loved like Toys Dance Party and Piper Reed.  R was resistant to their suggestions at first saying that the books didn't look like books she wanted to read. G said that she felt that way about some books too but she started to read the first page instead of  just the flap.  A jumped in and said she didn't think she would like Franny K Stein and it took her the whole first chapter before she loved it.  R started to listen. She sat digesting  how much A loved Franny K and hearing her obsession with the series as A explained the character and her adventures.    The rest is history.

Just Friday, I heard R sharing with another reader new to the the Franny K Stein series, what she loves about the books. You see R has read them all and has even decided that the next (#11) in the series should be called Attack of the 50 Foot Tall Santa. She has started a blog post of her ideas for how she would start the next book with her title.  I would dare to say she is loving something new and thinking!!

Dino-Baseball by Lisa Wheeler

I am very glad I read aloud this new book, Dino- Baseball, in Lisa Wheeler's picture books series about plant and meat eating dinosaurs playing their favorite sports. For any dino and sport loving classrooms, this book will be a sure fit.

I like baseball and watch it but I am by no means an expert. My kids (knowing most of them wouldn't be experts either) and I read the inside flap to help us build some background and asked some questions as we pre- read about the heated match up. The Green Sox and Rib-Eye- Reds are playing at Jurassic Park ( a few kids were eager to share their understanding for the many understandings they have for Jurassic)  and start the game with the rituals of warm up and anthem.  The players dinosaur names are used throughout the rhyming text and bolded in color to help the reader understand what may be unfamiliar names. Trodon taunts the pitcher when up first, then swings with grace hustling to second base.  Galli's swing's not up to par-her hit doesn't go that far.  The teams spend 4 four innings in a pitcher's duel, neither scoring.  Stego swings the ball with a crack but not enough to slide in safe and the Green Sox manager is irate.   The excitement builds with Green Sox RBI's and Rib Eye runs that tie.   Which team wins? You will have to read to find out.

This book definitely had us thinking and trying to understand new baseball terms.  Kids were noticing the rhyme, the detailed pictures, and the way the author played with font color. Kids were asking what is an RBI, a pitchers duel and what does it mean to be irate? Lots of conversation on their part and lots of kids anticipating of the next book--Dino Basketball as we read the last page.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Trouble Gum by Matthew Cordell

Matthew Cordell, author of Trouble Gum, has written and illustrated a great story about the adventures of little Ruben and his fascination with bubble gum. It is hilarious!  Ruben Figg (a small pig) is bored watching the rain outside his window.  He tries to find things to play...trucks and cars, superpig but is most excited about the day when his Grammy hands him some gum. "You know the rules," Mom said. "Don't swallow your gum. Don't play with your gum. And don't blow big sticky bubbles with your gum. Be careful."  Well, you can imagine what happens when Ruben chews his gum in full-tilt fast motion, and he and Julius (his brother) stretch his gum as far as they possibly can, and when he blew a bubble as big as Great Uncle Stu.  Rueben's trouble with gum ends with a POP!  It is a fun read and so relatable for young kids who are curious about chewing and playing with gum.  ( I am pretty sure that is why my first grader slipped it in our library tub...glad he did!)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

New book: Hip & Hop, Don't Stop! by Jef Czekaj

Found a new book today, and I was hooked as a read the first page...

How To Read This Book!
Whenever you see this rabbit rapping        
and the words are green, read as
fastfastfast as you can.
If this turtle is rapping
you see red words, read as
s l o o o o o o o o  o o o w ly   
as you can.

This page immediately had me wanting to play inside this book. I'm in I thought. I can't wait to read on. And I did. I met Hip, a turtle, and Hop, a bunny, who both love rhyme.  Hip writes slow ryhmes while Hop 's rhymes are quicker than lightning.  These rappers live on opposite ends of Oldskool County and  are instant friends when they meet on their way home from school as they notice a rapping contest posted on a tree.  The story is a new take on the fable the tortoise and the hare.  It also is a story of how an unlikely friendship brings together a forest of friends. It is a read aloud mixed with funny short raps,  comic like features and bright, colorful pictures.   Hip and Hop are winners at the end and I am hoping it is a winner in the classroom.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Posting Series: Reflections on That Workshop Book #3- Mentor Blogs for Kids

I have introduced my students to blogging!  I have taken the plunge (but not fully as our blog is open only to kids in my class, their parents and other teachers in the building that I have invited as readers) into helping kids understand what it feels like to share their work with a larger audience and receive feedback from their peers and parents.  It has been so exciting to hear their conversations about ideas they want to write about, questions about how to get to the blog, how to find a post and  how to get a picture on their post. With one short week of exploring, there are kids who are already experts. Students are helping each other maneuver their way through the blog.  Some kids have tried posting at home on the blog and one student posted a couple times while in Vancouver at the Olympics with his family ( his dad played hockey for Sweden). He was barely missed as we were able to read about his adventures and see a photo of him.  Blogging is helping second graders feel connected even when a friend is far away.

Samantha Bennett, author of That Workshop Book,  reminds us of the importance of mentor texts and real-world models that put a vision of high quality work in the heads of students.  I knew that I would need some quality blogs that were created by kids to guide our posting. So today I shared a few kid blogs I found after searching last night. I discovered a homeschool blog site where found kid bloggers. This site also offers tips for kids and parents when setting up blogs.  Today I used these blogs:
 Science Mouse
Araya and Avery: Horse Blog
Lego Maniac
Wind Rider

to help my students find a focus for their posts. I know I will continue to come back to them as we dive deeper into blogging.  Check them out!!