Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lulu and the Brontosaurus

Do you remember reading Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? I do and I laughed out loud when enjoying this book years ago. Well, Judith Viorst and Lane Smith have teamed up to create a wonderful new early chapter book for transitional readers. It has chapters that are short and match the stamina of young readers. There are many pictures throughout the story and lots of repetition in the storyline that supports kids just getting into chapter type reads. I picked it up yesterday and loved it!

Lulu is the kid that gets everything and her parents (even after tantrums and screaming fits) end up giving into her demands. So, on her birthday, Lulu decides she wants a brontosaurus for a pet (I know and the author lets you know that brontosauruses are extinct) and her parents surprisingly say no. Lulu is determined to find one for herself and sets out on an adventure into the forest. She finds the brontosaurus but he is just as determined to have a pet of his own. Guess who he want as a pet.

Sample the first chapter here at Simon and Schuster Kids to see what you think. I have a little reader that devoured this in two days. Love this.

Back From Break with Books

There is nothing better than walking in the door after a long weekend or a break with new books to read aloud and share. This weekend I found a new picture book called Miss Lina's Ballerinas by Grace Maccarone. It is sure to be a hit with the girls who love to dance or are interested in ballerinas. I love the cover and the beautiful, vibrant drawings come to life with each page.

Miss Lina's Ballerinas is a story of friendship and problem solving as a group of dancers (and their teacher) figure out how to welcome a new dancer to the class. The story is told in rhyme similar to the tale of Betsy B. Little. After reading it, I was also reminded of Tacky the Penguin. The camaraderie he discovered with his tribe of friends is similar to the learning the ballerinas encounter when someone new joins the school. I think this notion of adjusting to "new" is a concept all kids need help embracing. Change can be good. Miss. Lina's Ballerina's gently reminds us of this.

Check out the trailer to see what you think.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thoughts from NCTE

I feel like the learning I am taking away this year from NCTE has been embedded in many of the conversations I have had with educators over the two days I spent collaborating, listening and learning. My mind is racing with new ideas and questions just by listening to the many wise words of others. Like...

How can I build in time for deeper discussion and reflection about what picture reading looks like ? How can kids read and replay books for others? (Kathy Collins)

The definition of "just right" book sometimes makes me uncomfortable because of each student's need, purpose and personal decisions for reading. How can I communicate this concept in the classroom without limiting my students? We know much of reading is about balance. (Cathy Mere)

How am I really inviting kids to grasp the notion of meaningful talk in the classroom? How can I step back and help them understand: why it is important to have it and how does it sound? What are some picture books that could support this? How can this trickle into our work on the blog: thoughtful commenting, reading posts by thoughtful kids? (Ann Marie Corgill)

"Comprehension is more than just teaching strategies. We have to be responsive and reactive to what kids know." (Sharon Taberski). How can I foster a balance for understanding with readers? Our work in the classroom comes from our students. (Laura Robb).

If we can get kids to know themselves in one aspect of learning, we can transition this self-reflective type thinking into other areas. Who are you as a reader?

"Shut up, listen and learn." (Don Graves quote used by Patrick Allen) How can I foster kids work as problem solvers within the classroom community?

Kids quoted " I think I am an independent reader when my teacher trusts me. " There is so much to be learned about TRUST in the classroom. Debbie Miller said: We need to trust ourselves as teachers.

So much to think about.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Picture Book Possibilities: NCTE 2010

Collaborating with Learners Using Picture Books

Yesterday was an exciting day collaborating and presenting with Cathy Mere, Ann Marie Corgill and Kathy Collins. I have been energized by the conversation, preparation and time with these amazing women. I feel like the learning I am taking away this year has been embedded in many of the conversations I have had with educators over the past two days. My mind is racing with new ideas just by listening to many wise words.

Cathy M and I worked through slide share together and it was yet another piece of new learning this weekend. You can see our presentation here and at Cathy's blog as well as Ann Marie's blog (soon).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Back to the Basics

There are weeks in the school year when I forget that my expectations for students exceed what they can give back. I was talking with my teacher friends and my mom who is a teacher and they all helped me remember to come back to the basics in the classroom. This week, we did just that. We needed to practice getting in line without shoving and pushing. We needed to remember what it felt like and looked like to read independently and with a partner. We needed to slow down. We needed time to play and reconnect with each other so that the routines in our classroom are stronger. Here is a video of a few girls creating during a morning play break. Their cooperation, excitement for creating and partnered conversation/explanation are helping each other learn through play.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Stuck in the Mud by Jane Clarke

Do you know the story of The Enormous Turnip? Stuck in the Mud reminds me of this tale but with a twist at the end.

Little Chick is stuck in the mud and the animals on the farm are flustered over his predicament. His mother begins to pull him out only to get stuck herself. Then, many of the other farm animals follow her lead. By the end of this rhyming adventure, you come to find out that tricky Little Chick was never stuck in the first place. He jumps out of the mud and walks away from the whole mess!

The students and I shared a great conversation while reading this book by predicting events, rhyming text and the ending along the way. I also think there are other characters like Little Chick out there we can compare him to. The kids started to think about the duck, pig and cow in Mrs. Wishy-Washy because all of these animals and Little Chick enjoy the mud. I'll be trying to find primary characters that like to get others attention like Bossy Bear or characters that aren't so honest at first like Ruthie in Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie to help us begin to think deeper about these stories. Maybe you are thinking of some too?

Sunday, November 7, 2010


(photo courtesy of Chelsea)

Last week as I was modeling how writers reread their writing ( I was demonstrating some editing I needed in my book that I wrote during our pattern book study) and notice when they need to fix punctuation. In my own book I purposely left out end punctuation, inserted an exclamation point in the middle of a sentence and drew a super large period at the end of a sentence all because this is what I am noticing kids doing in their writing. In the midst of kids noticing my crazy use of punctuation as they turned and talked to a neighbor, one student said in a louder voice than normal (I could see the light bulb turning on in her mind), "MISTAKES HELP YOU LEARN!!" Kids constantly surprise me. From this simple moment, this basic mini lesson, one little girl experienced a global idea. I am hoping she keeps taking risks and maybe I can find ways for her to connect this premise to other areas of her learning. Happy creating from your mistakes!

"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." Albert Einstein