Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summertime: Trying to Balance?

Balance (Feels like I am thinking about this all the time). Can we ever really achieve that feeling that we have shared ourselves: our time, our thoughts, ourselves as people with the people who we are passionate about growing with like family and friends? It is a daily juggle trying to find balance in my own life as a spouse, mother, teacher, volunteer, writer, reader, friend, and daughter (and there are probably more right?). Some days more of my time is spent as teacher, usually on school days when I am living in my classroom. In the summer, the balance shifts when I have more time to spend as a mom, cheering on the older boys on the baseball ball or soccer field, sharing a carpool to swim lessons for my youngest and rolling for a yatzee with all the boys (including my husband who I adore for his adventurous kid-like approach to life). Right now the balance is leaning toward mom and writer (I promised myself I would write each day so that I can accomplish a book that I am anxious to finish) but there are days everyday is tough when trying to write with 3 boys home during summer break (who I really don't want in front of video games all day). Yes, I have them in a few camps that they were interested in but I am not a fan of over scheduling (can get expensive and I would be in the car non-stop). I am one of those people who need to take it day by day to feel happy and am not looking for answers to the perfect schedule or routine because I know that if I have too much of a routine that I will only feel like I am working and then the writing won't be enjoyable. I have to feel relaxed to be motivated. Right now I am making my way through summer trying to balance my time with the time I know they need to socialize, play, read, etc ( I am also getting up early to write..well most days that is). When I do set the expectation that they need to think about something or use their creativity, they often want to grab the flip camera. It has been the best tool for them to play creatively at the same time allowing me down time.

My oldest has used the camera for documenting a game he and my middle guy created a game called Hand Ball. Their friend, who plays with imovie quite a bit, helped them create a video called How to Play Hand Ball posted on his youtube channel. You can view it here. There are other videos on his channel that he, his brother, and friends have created. I'll warn you that they are products of what 9-11 year olds are interesting and funny, silly,etc. Nothing inappropriate but borderline goofy.

My youngest (7 year old) grabbed the flip a few days ago when a friend and classmate of his was visiting with her mom. They both decided to create puppet shows. Mia, was very involved in creating the details in the puppets and telling a more involved story while my son enjoyed filming himself. I created a short movie of small clips that show steps he was taking to practice and then tell his story with the puppets. You will see him do a "test" for the camera, preview what is going to happen and then see two short clips he created on the go using his puppets. I am pretty sure last piece was inspired by the idea of a new character in the Mo Willems series, Elephant and Piggy.

Monday, June 21, 2010


My family and I are spending sometime in Hayesville, NC for a week of vacation. The boys are fishing this morning. The grandparents are fixing coffee. Aunts and uncles are out on the porch listening to the sounds of morning on Lake Chatuge. It doesn't get better than this! See you in a week...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Thinking First Grade: I Can Help by David Hyde Costello

Next year I am heading back to first grade. I love having the summer to find simple new picture books that I can read aloud once and know they will fit right into the hands of most first grade readers. I know the first month of reading workshop for first graders is planting seeds for loving reading, sharing books, helping kids learn how to find books, find a reading spot, and then modeling reading to self and with others for a short period of time. I really am not over-concerned with them choosing an appropriate "level" the first month of school(in fact, I do everything I can to avoid that). I want them to have a variety of books to choose from that they are interested in reading: song books, wordless picture books, series picture books, poetry, non-fiction, and repetitive picture books.

The newest book I am adding to my classroom library is I Can Help by David Hyde Costello.
It is a repetitive picture book. The story begins with a picture of a little duck happily walking through some reeds. His expression changes on the following page as you find out, he is lost. A curious monkey offers to help and duck the cycle of help and appreciation begins. Uh, Oh. I'm falling. (says the monkey...now can you guess who might be tall enough to catch a falling monkey..yep a giraffe) Thank You Giraffe! The alternation between helping and thanking continues through the story with other animals. The ending is circular as little duck needs some help again.

After reading I Can Help a few times, I thought about how it will help kids to think in many ways. The repetition will have them begin predicting text and events. There is some subtle inferring work I can pose with which character is speaking, problem-solution and picture inferencing. I know that it will help us as we study high frequency words like...can, thank, you, have. It will be a place for them to read these words and use the book as a reference to check words in their own writing. Finally, it will be a great mentor text for writers when we study pattern books early in the year. I love books that are versatile enough to meet literacy needs across the day!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Oh, Daddy! by Bob Shea

Just in time for Father's Day, a new Bob Shea book has hit the shelves!!! Bob is the author of Big Plans ( a favorite of Bill's) and has written and illustrated New Socks, Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime as well as Race You To Bed. I am a huge Bob Shea fan and can't wait to add his newest book, Oh Daddy, to the Bob Shea basket in my classroom library.

Oh, Daddy is the story of the silly teasing-type adventures that Daddy hippo has with his son. It is perfect fit for primary readers with predictable and repetitive text. Daddy hippo plays up silly scenarios... Is this how you get dressed? (with underwear on his head and a bucket for a shoe) Is this how you get into the car? and Is this how you eat carrots? Of course the little hippo says...Oh Daddy, and shows his dad how to get dressed, get into the car and eat carrots. The story and characters are lovable re-readable. I can't wait to see what the kids think next year!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems

This note has been taped to the desk- type area in our mud room. My 7 year old has been anticipating the newest Elephant Piggy Book that was due out June 8th. I watched him compose this reminder note about 2 weeks ago. He went to amazon, typed and searched the title (which he already knew somehow?) and then wrote : June 8th Can I Play To, Elephant and Piggy Book. I was fascinated at how easily he could independently find information about something he has been looking forward to reading. About a week later, he took the note down, searched amazon again and added the 8.99 at the top of the note to remind me of the price.

I have glanced at the note for weeks. You would have thought it would have motivated me to get on amazon and just order the book. In the back of my mind figured I could run to the book store with my son sometime this summer. But, the funniest thing happened on June 8th. I opened the mailbox to find the cardboard amazon box. To my surprise, I had pre- ordered it (way back in February...I totally forgot). It was an unexpected and happy surprise! And, after reading it, I think Can I Play Too is my new favorite in the series.

Mo Willems introduces us to a new friend who wants in on the playing action we are so used to with Elephant and Piggy. Elephant and Piggy graciously welcome this new friend into the action but they aren't sure he can play catch with a snake...no arms. No arms, no worries!!! The three figure it all out and keep you laughing along the way. I love the way Mo can so simply combine friendship, problem solving and humor into a story. Don't miss out on this for summer!