Monday, February 21, 2011

What have you been reading and writing?

It has been awhile since I have had time to breathe and more importantly, blog. February is a great month but always busy with quite a few family b-days, snow days and our annual Dublin Lit Conference. I have to admit that I get a little down because of the cold weather here in Ohio that often lingers through March. To help myself stay out of the dumps, I decided to join Franki's e-reader challenge and have a good book to look forward to as well as think about the pros and cons of reading digitally. I have Across the Universe on my iPad and I am LOVING IT. Today I just joined the e book club on good reads.

To keep upbeat in the classroom, my students and I have been studying authors as mentors this month and I choose someone this year that I love: Bob Shea. I was a little leary of picking a picture book author who has mainly published fiction because I think fiction is hard to teach young kids to write but I let go of those fears knowing my purpose for this study was for kids to really look at Bob's craft as a writer. I was happily surprised as my kids noticed so many interesting crafts like repetitive language that we also studied in our pattern book study at the beginning of the year and new observations like how Bob uses different colors for different character talk in Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime. Thinking about the decisions Bob makes in his books and naming these has helped my own students think purposefully about the decisions they are making in their own stories. I showed my students Bob Shea as he shares who and why he wrote Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime in this youtube video. This video had many kids thinking about why they were writing their stories and who they were writing them for.

During the last days of the study, we studied Race You to Bed for the purposes of thinking about (what I call "wow" words) precise language or words that help he reader experience the story and the writer share exactly what he feels. My students and I have been talking all year about how we learn new words in conversations, listening to stories, reading together and reading on our own. We have a nice list of words that we have caught during these times throughout the year (like when Ava helped us think about the word blended as she shared a story about how her dog Buckeye blended into the darkness of her bedroom). We also have words that students have tried in their own writing that have "wowed" us. Long story short, after kids noticed words like zip, splash and how sometimes words like "scratch an itchy rash to bed" really work together to make us feel the story, I invited kids to try writing "wow" words in their own pieces. Just noticing words helped their own awareness and begin to understand how they can strengthen their writing.

Now that it is the end of the month, I am honestly, still feeling too busy and unsettled. But, I have a book to look forward to along with satisfaction and peace that blogging brings to me when I can. I miss writing and sharing when I can't. I think that is a good thing.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Characters Outside of Our Classroom

Who are your favorite characters?

My first graders have been reading books about their favorites and last week I promised we would paint our most loved friends. It wasn't surprising that Elephant and Piggie made it up to the bulletin board. It is one of the baskets of books that is always empty because kids always want these in their own book bins. I am very excited for the newest in this series, I Broke My Trunk, out next week !
Bossy Bear is another favorite of many of the boys. He is an overly bossy character who demands things his way but is challenged to change after making a friend, turtle. Turtle tells Bossy Bear that he is bossy but he doesn't have to be!

You may be able to make out Fancy Nancy at the end of the bulletin board. She is loved by some of my girls. They enjoy hearing the picture books in her series and often check out the little paperback (I can read) readers from our library.

Also featured under Nancy, is the Gingerbread Girl. Before a small group of students performed the Gingerbread Man play for the class, we read just about every version we could find ( The Gingerbread Boy, Gingerbread Baby, Gingerbread Friends as well as watched the movie on Speakaboos. The kids have become very familiar with the characters in these stories and many of the girls have loved the spunky phrase repeated by the Gingerbread Girl:" Run, run with a leap and a twirl, you can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Girl!"

Amelia Bedelia's picture book stories have been the favorite of one of my transitional readers. She often will sit and read aloud to a small group of kids (pretending to be teacher) at recess or free choice time. I have yet to read one of these as a read aloud because I know at the beginning of the year, many of my kids would need some scaffolding and talking through some of Bedelia's confusions. Ameila Bedelia's First Valentine will likely be read next week as the holiday approaches and we begin to know more about other student's favorite characters.

The last character that has made it up to our bulletin board thus far is Mouse from I Miss You Mouse by Greg Foley. Mouse is a kind friend and character in Foley's picture book series. This series is another perfect for first graders. It is a small amount of text with pictures and flaps that grab the reader. Once read aloud, these books also live in kid hands.

These are not all of our favorites but are certainly a strong representation. What characters are your kids loving?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cat Secrets by Jeff Czekaj

It seems like sometime since I have posted about a new favorite book that has grabbed my readers and my writers. So today I want to tell you about a book that Franki told me about. This book is called Cat Secrets by Jeff Czekaj.

When I purchased it, I noticed that Jeff Czekaj had written another book I blogged about last year called Hip and Hop Don't Stop, another fun book about friendship. Check out his website and blog!

Cat Secrets is a fun and interactive book ONLY for cats. So, you can imagine the laughter that erupts after reading aloud "Stop! Stop reading right now. This book is for CATS only!" And then you can imagine the meows as you read, "Okay, if you are really a cat, let's hear you meow." Hopefully you are beginning to understand how this book hooks readers. I noticed too, after reading it during a writing workshop lesson, that it inspired lots of writers with ideas for their own book of secrets. We have many versions of Dog Secrets in process. Don't leave without checking out the trailer for the book. I can't wait to show it to my kids tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Happy 100th Day!

Yesterday, we celebrated the 100th day of school. This is such a an exciting day for us because we have shared 100 days together as learners.

It is a day for reading about characters like Jake from Jake's 100th Day of School who learns about and receives compassion from his principal when he leaves his 100th day collection at home.

It is a day when we can ask kids to think about 100 and how to build, count and create 100.

It is a day that each of us has special ways we like to join with our students in sharing in the excitement of learning.

This year, we decided to read to 100 people for the 100th day of school. It seemed like perfect timing as we had recently finished publishing stories in writer's workshop and needed to have a share celebration. Just asking my students about how as a class we could read to 100 people was great thinking. After discussing (and physically counting 5 bears for each of the 20 students in our class) how to read to 100 people, we were off to read with third grade, second grade and K classes in the building. Some students were nervous to read (and just talk) with someone new, so we talked through their fears. Afterwards, I heard one student say, "Mrs. DiCesare, I am not shy anymore!" I was amazed at how different children took away different learning in this simple act of sharing a story.

Hoping you'll share some 100th day favorites and that you have an exciting 100th when your day comes!