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 kidblog.org) 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. Like...do 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.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Let the learning begin...

Do you have plans for learning this year? I know that often my students directly benefit from my professional development. Last year, Karen challenged me to share my bits of my own blogging experience with my second graders. Their journey into first, reading many kid blogs, then creating their individual voices (using kidblog), sharing ideas, problem solving to figure out the tool, connecting, questioning and complimenting each other through commenting within our classroom community was amazing. There are moments where I wish I could keep learning with them and further our blogging journey, but I am also happy to be back with first graders and excited to figure out how it will work. Franki at A Year Of Reading has set the bar with her plan for the year. She loves learning and often her commitment to her own learning is inspiring. So, I thought I would also share my plans for professional development. Here goes...

In October I will be learning with Christian Long who will be speaking about Designing a 21st Century Learning Environment for Elementary Learners. His session is hosted by Literacy Connection.

In November, I will be headed to Orlando for NCTE's Annual Convention for 2010: Teacher's and Students Together: Living Literate Lives. After reading In Pictures and In Words, I will be anxious to attend Katie W Ray's session: Writers and Readers Explore Art to Understand Meaning Making. I also am interested in listening to Mark Overmeyer and panel speak about formative assessment and feedback in the elementary writing workshop. I am sure there is more but I have just briefly searched online for sessions. Cathy M, Ann Marie, Kathy C. and I will be presenting on picture book possibilities.

In February, I will attend our district's annual literacy conference. I am very much looking forward to hearing author Amy Krouse Rosenthal and the many professional speakers who will be attending.

Lastly, I am anxious to be apart of the Dublin cohort for Powerful Learning Practice this year. I am hoping that working, talking and sharing with others in this community will help me begin to wrap my brain around ways I can strengthen 21st teaching and learning in my own classroom.

the Band book by Ilanit Oliver

Not sure if silly bands are all over the arms of your students but they been pretty popular here in Ohio. Lee Kolbert of Geekymomma's blog posted a response to her feelings about banning the bands here last spring. They don't bother me so much. I know kids like adults are interested in the latest trends and silly bands seem to be the new toy to chat about at recess, trade on the bus and wear everywhere. This weekend I found the Band book at Sam's Club and picked a couple up for the classroom. If they love wearing them, I figure they'll enjoy reading about them.

I shared the book with the siblings of the boys soccer team to see what kids thought of it. The 2nd and 3rd grade girls sat for half the game with it. This book is filled with 30 questions
about bands, like...What is the rarest band you have? What is your favorite band? If you had to
give up one of your bands, which one would it be? The actual book begins: It's time to get silly. Then, throughout the book the bands come to life all as they are embedded in photo-
graphs of school places and situations. For example, on one page the octopus and alligator band are hanging upside down on the monkey bars with a speech bubble from the alligator that reads, "Dude, I can totally feel the blood rushing to my head." The silly photos and expressions are typical of intermediate and middle school kids.
At the back of the book there are 10 pages of "band check off lists" where kids can check off the bands they have. If not for your classroom, this may make a great gift for the holidays!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Buzz Boy and Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold

I loved reading the ninth book in the Fly Guy series. I love that it is about (superheroes). I also love that Tedd introduces us to yet another side of Buzz: he likes to write and read!!!! What more could a teacher ask for than a book about a boy with imagination that writes his adventure ideas into a book! In Tedd Arnold's newest Fly Guy book, Buzz Boy and Fly Guy, Buzz excitedly reads a story he created to his friend Fly Guy. Buzz's story, The Amazing Adventures of Buzz Boy and Fly Guy, is comic-book like with three chapters that detail the superheroes plans to cleverly out wit pirates who have taken them to a dragon cave. With super-strength, superloudness, a superskeleton key and the ability to fly, the superheroes prevail. The story ends with Buzz asking Fly Guy if he wants to read it again ( love it)!!! Looking forward to reading it on Tuesday!