Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book Loving Nieces

My sister texted me this message with picture included:

"The girls turned our room into a classroom- sorted all their books by author or genre. Thought u would enjoy."

Doesn't put a smile on your face when a four and six year old adore reading and organizing books as much as we do?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Happy Ending

Tonight I had 45 minutes in between the time I dropped my first son off at soccer and the time I needed to pick another one up.  I hate driving all the way home because by the time I get there, it is time to get back into the car.  I thought about shopping but quickly decided I really don't be needing to spending money so I did what I should have thought of first:  stopped by my sister's house to hang with my family.

My sister and brother -in-law live particularly close to us and to one of the soccer practices. I love to visit my nieces and nephew when my own kids aren't around because they are stuck having to talk and play with me instead my boys whom they adore. I sat and helped little Jilly (6) on the computer, Brody (almost 2) and I made faces at one another giggling and sticking out our tongues and then Audrey (5) came and lounged on my lap watching her favorite cartoon on tv.  And, I caught up with my sister, trading gossip and complaining about life stress. I love how sisters are always there to listen.

It was a gift to be able to end my day with their company. It helped turn my stale mood into one of appreciation.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

2 Days into Opinion Writing

It has been two days of reading and talking about what opinions are and  how characters we know have opinions.  I have been trying to point out when we use opinions in the classroom and when I have an opinion about something.  Today, as we were voting about which play we enjoyed watching after another first grade in our building performed some fairy tale plays, one of my students shouted out, "We are telling our opinions!"  Yeah, I thought. This conversation about opinions is sticking.

So, the most natural thing happened after watching these plays.  I pulled out some larger (newer sized paper) pulled out the sharpies (for outlining their pictures and words) and let them write their thoughts about which fairy tale play they enjoyed.  With a quick conversation about how we could begin to tell Mrs. Wilkins' Class how we felt, we brainstormed some beginnings.  Then, I let them go to see what they could do.  All of their pieces are giving me ideas about what I need to teach next.  Some kids were excited to dive into this new genre while others wanted to finish writing they have in their folders.  About 1/2 were excited to share their opinions especially after they asked if we could share our writing with Mrs. Wilkins' performers.

I noticed that the kids who tried opinion writing were the risk takers today and have confidence for trying new things. The pieces that they attempted are pretty strong for a first try. I know that I can help build depth in their topic choices and details as our unit progresses for these kiddos.  I think the kids that tried today are also very auditory so talking and listening to each other then writing comes easier.  Some of my more visual learners will need the support of the mentors that come out of this first try at opinion writing as well as some other ideas that might interest them. They will also need the scaffold of shared/ interactive writing which I am sliding into my word study time. Today, we worked on a class letter in which we are writing our group opinion about our favorite play. Writing the beginning of this together was rich in conversation about everything: ideas for what to write, letter etiquette, accessing and adding high frequency words, punctuation, hearing then segmenting words and writing parts we are learning (hearing e sound in dear and identifying it as ea, cl as the blend in class, and the ed in loved).  But, the writing was lacking the discussion of the apostrophe used for ownership (whoops !). Save that for when we come back to this tomorrow.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Opinion Writing in First Grade

 The K and 1st teachers in my district have been spending quite a bit of time delving into understanding core standards this year.  We are beginning to practice some units that support these standards before we are officially responsible for implementing next year.  This week I am diving into a new writing standard for first grade based on opinion writing.  The standard for first grade states:

  •  Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or name the book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply a reason for the opinion, and provide some sense of closure.
 So, I feel like what my first graders first really need to understand about this standard at this point in the year is: what is an opinion and then later how can they support that.  We've explored a ton of text structures and noticed beginnings and endings in narratives and non-fiction texts so I am not as worried about them organizing their piece.  What I am needing them to be exposed to and understand is what opinions are, that it is ok to agree or disagree with someone's opinion and how to support their own opinion about ideas that are meaningful to them. 

I have taken time to read some professional development resources regarding units that I could follow for primary opinion writing but I feel like I need to step back and keep it simple.  So, as I began cleaning out my classroom this weekend, I started to collect books that have characters who have opinions (and support their opinions).  

I found the book Red Is Best and immediately thought it would work. In this book, little Kelly plays her opinion against her mother's practical advice. Kelly loves red and her belongings that are red.  She wants to wear the red mittens because they make better snowballs, and the red boots because they take bigger steps and in the red cup, she tells her mother, juice tastes better.  I think that this book will help my kids begin to identify with their opinion about the simplest things like their favorite color.   

I Don't Want to Be a Pea! ( I blogged about yesterday but I read today) helped me begin teaching my kids that characters have opinions (and these two have great voices). Sidenote:{ I wish I would have read it aloud before talking about opinions  because I did quite a bit of rereading as this short picture book had some understanding to tackle together about the character's relationship, which character is who, and which character was speaking in the text.}  Hugo and Bella are best buds but they can't agree on what to dress up as for the fairy tale fancy dress party. They both explain why he or she should dress as a certain character disagreeing about what to dress up all along.  It ends with a sweet compromise.

The last book I came across is Duck! Rabbit!  Each of the voices in this book states an opinion about what they see in the pictures as the book progresses. Sometimes the offstage speakers just state their opinion like: "Are you kidding me? It's totally a duck."  and "It's for sure a rabbit." Later the voices are supported by what they see in the pictures like:  "Now the duck is wading through the swamp."  and "No, the rabbit is hiding in the grass." This book will be another way to read and demonstrate that we have opinions and we can disagree. 

 I am hoping these texts can begin to support my student understand how important it is to have opinions. I am hoping my student begin to notice characters with opinions in their own reading and add some more to our basket of opinionated characters.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

New Books

Tomorrow it is back to school and I am happy to be bringing back some new books for my students. Funny, I have an area for newest books I add to the classroom and a few days before break, a student, D,  called me out.
 "Mrs. DiCesare," he said.
"You know you have this sign and this place for new books but there haven't been any here. "
"I know," I said. And I left it at that.

I appreciate it when kids remind me about things that are important to them or I would just be on my way through the day thinking about what I think I need to get done instead of remembering that their quick conversations with me are often a reminder of how I can help them as learners.

D loves books, plain and simple he is always talking to me about what he thinks of some I help him find or ones he finds on his own.  He loved the Mouse and Mole Series, though he mostly picture read through it.  He is just learning to balance his strategies for reading words and thinking about what makes sense in the story.  He depends on meaning to make it through many challenging texts and his reading support teacher and are setting big goals for him to reread and work through words as he balances meaning.

His words about missing new books were just what I needed to remind me to step it up a bit these last nine weeks.  I hope he is excited when he walks in to see new books like I Don't Want to Be a Pea ( a friendship book about compromising), Amelia Bedelia's First Field Trip (I have quite a few kids who love this picture book series and will be excited to read this), Me Want Pet ( we love Bob Shea and he illustrated this one), and Up! Tall! and High! ( loved how this felt perfect for an emerging reader, has 3 very short stories in one and felt similar to Elephant Piggie set up with characters dialogue in work bubbles) to name a few.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

I'm Back Slicing

Well, I didn't anticipate it would be hard to stop and post each day on family vacation but it was tricky.  I am a bit disappointed in myself but thankful I found time to visit with my brother (who works 7am-7pm and balances caring for his 1 an 1/2 yr old as a single dad).  He allowed us to invade his home for the week.  The kids played with their little cousin Ryder, we played putt putt and swam at the beach. It was a needed break from the routine and (sometimes the stress) of school.

It is surprising how a little time away can help energize thinking and planning for the end of the year. I had lots of time in the car to plan for the last nine weeks of school.  I am anxious to be thinking with my kids about opinion writing in writer's workshop and reading many genres about a topic in reading workshop using some ideas I read in Lucy Calkin's Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop that dive deeper into core standards. This is a resource we explored in LA council and now that I have had time to wrap my brain around it, I can experiment with some of the ideas.

One idea that I think my readers will be exited about is reading many different kinds of books about topics they enjoy.  I walked into my favorite (Northwest) local library and pulled books that match the interests of my students.  I grabbed My First Book of Sign for R who is very anxious to teach us all to sign being the only hearing member of her immediate family.  I collected  From the Doghouse, A Small  Brown Dog with a Wet Pink Nose (love this book after reading Franki's review awhile back) and Dogs for A who is very interested in having a dog.  I grabbed Feathers, All About Birds and Grumpy Bird for R who has been watching the birds outside of our classroom.  I have decided to bundle about 12 topics in large Hefty Bags and begin this study with some partner work.  I based many of my topics on my student's interests, topics I could build upon in my classroom library and topics that we have studied this year.  On Monday, we will spend time exploring what is in the contents of their partner bags and create an illustration and label for their bag. I know the kids will have lots to share about what they notice about their books and I can't wait to build upon their thinking. I 'll be back to share with you.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Slice 2012 16 of 31: Clouds

We are now officially 16 hours into the car ride and I feel grateful of the ease of the drive. Traffic has been light (even through Atlanta). The kids have been occupied and patient while stuck in the car for a day. And, the car top carrier that we borrowed hasn't flown off the roof (this is what I have been most nervous about ).
The peaceful ride has allowed us all to enjoy the view along the way. We have appreciated the blossoming dogwoods and the flowering bushes but mostly the clouds. They have been so crisp and distinct. They look like fluffy white figures of art created for us to interpret. I've imagined a duck, my husband's seen a clown and Matt swears he saw a unicorn, all disassembling before another could spot what the other had envisioned. The clouds have kept us company.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Slice2012 15 of 31: On the Road

It is crazy how much tech is happening here in the Honda minivan since leaving Dublin, Ohio. One son is hooked up his portable DVD player and is enjoying Racing Stripes. My two older boys have downloaded the NCAA app on my husband's xyboard and now are happily watching New Mexico and Long Beach State after figuring out how to enable the device to be a "hot spot." My husband has his droid propped up with the gps guiding us to Tennessee. And, I have downloaded the blogger app on my iPhone so I can post tonight. ( missing my computer but glad to learn something new).

I can remember driving to Florida with a book, a pillow and blanket. Now we are completely plugged in and connected. The car used to be a place to unplug. Now it mimics being at home with our devices. I appreciate being able to plug in but look forward to unplugging when we get to the beach. Battery low and have to go.
Crossing my fingers this post publishes decently with pic and all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Slice2012 14 of 31 Packing

We are almost packed.  The kids bags are packed in the extra storage on top of the van.   The Sam's club box of goldfish and the X-large bag of peanut m&m's are at arms reach of the kids. And the blankets and pillows are ready on each seat to keep us comfy for the 18 hour car ride we begin tomorrow afternoon.  We talked about what we all have planned to read, (Matt: Toys Go Out,  Jack: Wonder, Joey : The Battle of Jericho, Joe : 11/22/63 and Me: Wonder, The Alchemist, lots of online blog reading and maybe I'll finish Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet)  so books will be ready and of course the ipods and ipad will come in handy to keep the kids entertained with games and a movie or 2.

Whew.   Kids are ready, now it is time to finish laundry and pack myself ( so much to do and so little time).  I hate late packing nights but all worth it for VACATION!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Slice 2012 13 of 31 Little Helper

I took this photo yesterday before the scout's banquet and it just right to post tonight.
          I am not sure where his desire to help and work came from but my nine year never ceases to amaze me when it comes to getting jobs done.  Tonight as I was folding laundry and chatting with my husband about where to find the extension cord so that I could quick vacuum out the van, Matt (the nine year old) interrupted asking, "Can I help?" before I even said the word vacuum.  He is a doer, a helper and always wants to be involved in assisting anything that involves a car, electronic device or any type of  building or putting together of well, anything.  I chuckled a a bit after he interrupted, pleased to have some help after a long day. A help he was as he attended to the shop vac and extension cord.  He was two steps ahead of me at all times, pulling out the weather matts and shaking them out. Then hollering to me as I was cleaning trash out of the seat pockets, "Hey mom, there is a ton of stuff in the back of the van that we need to clean out." Next thing I know, the stuff was in a nice pile on the garage floor.  I sorted through hats and gloves that needed to be put back in the hall closet then threw some blankets in the laundry.  By the time I was done, he had practically finished the vacuuming.  I am still amazed by his stamina for working and completing the jobs we ask of him around the house but even more grateful for the times he jumps in when we don't ask him. ( I would love for this quality to rub off on his brothers.)  For today, I am thankful for him.
I love you Matt.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Slice 2012 12 of 31 Digital Reading

I was about to jump into bed when I remembered how much I wanted to keep my goal for writing each day.  I could go through my list of things that kept my husband and I in the car or at activities all night but you already know how that goes, we all get busy.  So, I thought I would just share something I listened to last week that helped me think about the importance of exposing our students to opportunities for digital reading.

Dr. Julie Cairo is a researcher at the University of Rhode Island and has studied online reading comprehension with  upper elementary and middle school learners learners.  She has found that with so many choices online that careful reading is lost.  She also mentions that offline readers aren't sure how to tackle multiple texts in different places.  Her big point in this pod cast is that we need to teach kids to stop think about cues, predict, infer and make meaningful choices.

  How can we help support students who are and will be online readers in their futures?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Slice2012 11 of 31 Welcome Baby Vinny

There is nothing like holding a brand new baby.
Carefully holding up his head in the crook of my arm, I welcomed my newest nephew today.
6 pounds and 11 ounces of beauty.
Baby Vinny came into this world greeted by his mom and dad and big sister (2 yr old) Vivian.
We oooed and awed over his smell and his warmth and his calm nature.
We imagined his cousins fighting over whose turn it will be too hold him.
 And then, we thought about how, too soon, he will be running to keep up with his busy sister.
We know how time rushes by
 But for today,
I hope the world slows down enough for all of us to enjoy every bit of how it feels
to love a brand new baby.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Slice 2012 10 of 31 First Grade Writing

 One of the best parts of being with first graders is watching them grow leaps and bounds over the course of a school year.  Many of them walk in the door with little courage when putting pencil to paper to draw and write. Bravery is a huge part of the whole year. When kids grasp this notion, they soar and that is just the case with a young man in my class this year and I couldn't get him off my mind today.

Little E wasn't sure about what to do when someone didn't tell him what to write about the first few weeks of school. The more he saw other kids sharing and listened to great mentors for writing, he gained the confidence he needed.   He started with wordless stories and had lots to say in his pictures after we studied  ways writers can think about pictures. Then he eventually started writing more text when we studied personal narratives.  He has now come alive now with our non-fiction study.  You'll notice we haven't ventured into the research piece that often goes right along with non-fiction. Instead, I decided to introduce some text structures first and have the kids practice teaching others in areas that we feel we have some expertise. I'll tie in research after spring break.  On Friday, he shared the start to his book Sea Creatures (something he feels he is an expert about) and talked about how the mentor Ten Things I Can Do To Help My World helped him think about adding tips to each page.  He is generating ideas, building stamina for writing longer and telling the reader more.  Thinking about his success makes me happy for him.  It would be so nice to have a comparable piece from the beginning of the year but I don't so  do your best to visualize.  Hopefully these beginning pages in his story are enough to put a smile on your face.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Slice2012 9 of 31 Daily Reflecting

Each morning on the way to school, my boys and I read a daily prayer and reflection from Living Faith Kids.  I am a praying kind of person (hopefully not offending anyone with sharing faith type moment in this post). So, by setting this routine (which we have had for 2 or 3 years now), I feel like it is one way I can show them the value of learning and reflecting about life.

We read the short excerpt from Matthew 21:42 which begins The stone that the builders rejected has become the corner stone... Then proceeded to read the short story connecting it to how we can build the kingdom of God in our own lives by helping others and caring for others.

My fifth grader has become very willing to read these and share his favorite line from the reflection even somedays what he learned. It isn't every day that he is willing but at least 65% of the time.  My third grader has just been brave enough to read it aloud. Some days the excerpt and reflection are above what he can comprehend but we talk him through it.

Today he asked "How is this prayer?"

And without thinking too long about it said, "Well, prayer is talking and listening to God right?"

"Yea," he said.

"So these are kind of like short pieces from the bible with stories that help us think about the piece and a few words to lead us in what to say to God.  It really helps us reflect so that later on when God talks to us through things in our life or people in our life, we are ready to listen and change or just know what to do."

"Oh, ok." was his answer.

I am not sure if this confused him more or helped him but I know he is beginning to think, maybe even beyond how to read the words on the page.  We'll keep reading.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Slice 2012 8 of 31: Slowing Down

The first words out of my 12 year old today were, "I can taste spring break."

I know that he is as anxious as the rest of my family to relax and slow down.  Slowing down has been the lesson I took away from a day of great reflection surrounding common core.  Our fearless leader, Jill, always seems to help me discover something that I should be thinking about to improve my time with children.  So, when she reminded a roomful of K-1 teachers to step back and listen to kids while embracing workshop, I heard her loud and clear.

I have been so busy worrying about getting what I think I "have" to get done that somedays I feel like I gently shoo off kids that would otherwise need to be heard.  It is somedays hard to find a balance with 25 eager little eyes and ears who are dying to tell you about something, waiting for you to listen to their every word.

I have had to remind myself to remember to bring my students back with a song instead of yelling or clapping at them angrily. They are only 6 and do what 6 year olds do.  I have high expectations but I need to remember to keep them reasonable.

I have had to remind myself to whisper gently to kids who need help listening or move them kindly towards me instead of calling them out.  It keeps their dignity and keeps it calm.

I have to remember to keep digging deep with what my kids are learning in math, reading, writing and help them create thoughtfully and authentically instead of rushing through a set of skills.

I have to remember that I can get to all the things I think I "have" to do at home.  There is always time. I just need to trust.

I am very much looking forward to the upcoming break.  We are headed to stay with my brother in Florida where we can slow down, feel the warm air, read what we want to read, walk on the sand and just be. I will be eating it all up!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Slice 2101 7 of 31: Thinking Back on a Busy Day

It's the end of a non-stop day. As my husband and I sat across from one another at dinner (Wendy's at 7:30pm because we were too tired to make anything and have to clean up the dishes at home), I said, "It feels good to sit down."  He answered, "I know."

As I thought back about my day and the busyness, I was surprisingly thankful.

I was thankful for my friend who so kindly picked up my elementary kids and brought them home while I was off at meeting today. She is always there if I need her. Thank you Lauren.

I was thankful for my son for helping grab the bikes of the ceiling hooks before I left for work.  It always makes me nervous to handle those  clunky things on my own.

I was thankful for my grade level team and the conversations we had today reflecting on core standards and resources.

I was thankful for the friends who participated in our district Tech Talk. I learn so much from these friends and don't know what I would do without them.

I was thankful sharing in my school's Art It Up evening, where kids performed songs, dances, modeled clothes they had created in art and shared all the pieces they created with our school community.

I am thankful when busy days like today come to an end and I can look forward to changing into pajamas and sliding into bed.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Slice2012 6 of 31: What to write about...

 I'll be honest and tell you that I was having a hard time thinking about what I wanted to write about today. My mind has wandered from topics like the stress relief that comes from getting my hair colored to posting about a newer book by Kevin Henkes,  Penny and Her Song (which Cathy posted about here) to the frustration I am having raising a soon to be teenager.  But I didn't feel passionate enough or want to think through my ideas further with these topics.  So, I am not posting about these.

I really just wanted to post something fast and be done.  And then I realized how kids have days where they feel the same.  They are distracted by something happening in their lives, by an event that is imminent, or they just don't feel it for the day.  I noticed this happening to one of my own students today.  This student has made 2 How-To-Books (how to draw a tree and how to draw something else but I can't remember right now) and was challenging himself use a mentor (If you were a Penguin) that we have been studying to help him write about something he knows about and loves: his Cat.  He shared his idea with me last week and had two pages written but today was stuck with what he wanted to say next.  I was meeting with 3 other writers so we didn't talk.  I did notice he went back to his old books and added background and then added detailed pictures to the ideas he started in his "If you were a cat book." He didn't write words today.  He made about decisions for his pictures and created a beautiful scene for his page "If you were a cat, you could sit outside and feel the breeze." I've tried to teach my students to honor their pictures and be thoughtful with how they create them to match their text. He did just that today. Other observers might think he just colored but I know that he was thinking and writing.

I asked him to share what he had been working on and the other students immediately wanted to give him feedback about his illustrations.  Someone asked about what he was thinking he might write next and he said he didn't know.  So, we all turned into a cat for a moment helped him think.  He called on some students to hear what they could do if they were a cat. He began to smile.  "My cat does that!" And I know he would be filled with some ideas for tomorrow.  Hopefully, so will I.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Slice 2012 5 of 31: Wonder Posts

 It was a busy day today at school, as always. As we slowed down to reflect about what went well one little girl said library went well because she found a new Biscuit book she hadn't read (Biscuit and the Baby).  One student said writing workshop because she finished her book about the planets. But many of my students spoke about their experiences in the computer lab. Today was exciting because my students learned to access pictures online at Pics4learning. It was complete happiness as they found pictures that matched a wonder post they had worked on last week in kidblog.  They loved looking at the options they had and deciding which picture best matched their post. One student kept repeating how anxious she was for everyone to see the cute dog picture she found to match her post. They needed me quite a bit even after modeling but I also found some experts at maneuvering through the site and back into kidblog. I knew it would require patience on my part for the 30 mins it was new. The pay off though will be worth it. I know the more they practice and we talk about their decisions, the more creative and engaging their posts will be. Here are a few pics of their wonder posts:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Digital Learning

On Wednesday after school,  I'll be sharing my thoughts about enhancing student learning with digital reading, writing and creating. I convinced Tony to volunteer his time and share about how his 4th graders have been impacted by digital storytelling as well.  I have been thinking about this topic for the last few years and I have too much to say. I only need to speck for 15 minutes but I could share for more like and hour.  It has been hard today to figure out how to condense my thoughts and narrow my focus.  

I feel like what I am really trying to share is how we need to be the leaders in guiding kids towards digital learning. We have to pursue interesting and purposeful digital learning places where they have opportunities to read, write and connect.  We need to  also lean on what we already know about good teaching (models of instruction, big ideas and messages) and embed digital opportunities along side traditional reading and writing.  There are digital pieces that allow us to illustrate points in mini lessons that take students into knowing learners ( authors, scientists and mathematicians) deeply.  There is an unending amount of material in cyberspace for learners to access. For example, video clips that show author's purpose and help kids identify with a writer (Bob Shea). There are sites that connect us to real scientists and help us think about their authentic work (Beyond Polar Bears).  And there are math games that can introduce kids to mathematical behaviors (like estimating and rethinking after estimating (hiding ladybug)) so we can illustrate a point in a lesson digitally before asking them to practice independently.  Digital opportunities like blogging naturally lends itself towards independence and sharing in writing and reading (both parts of our workshop structure).  I am sure you could add to the ideas and examples that would support digital learning because you value it as a blog reader yourself.  This may be too much to share in 15 minutes but I am going to try.

Our students will be living in the digital world far more than we do now. I want my students to be learning how to find places for learning instead of just playing ( club penguin, minecraft, tv show websites). I want them to understand how to communicate and connect digitally as they learn instead of just connecting socially.   Our students and parents need us to show them where safe and purposeful learning can take place digitally.  If we don't guide them , who will?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Happy Napping

It's Saturday and I have been spending much of the day deep in report cards. Knowing that my brain is tired of thinking,  I thought I would post a quick image appropriate for Saturday napping. Though I am not napping at the moment, I only hope to gently close my eyes and lay down on the opposite side of the couch ready to turn off my brain for 10 minutes. Sadly, I know this probably won't happen for me.  I try too hard when it comes to napping.  My mind often disagrees with me when I want a nap especially during the school year. Summer napping is a breeze because I am not clouded with a list of must-do's by Monday.
So, I  figure I will just continue to look over and envy the boys (including my husband as a boy) who can so easily turn things off. I wish I could do the same!
Happy Saturday and happy napping if you're the napping type:)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Be Happy: Be LuLu

One of the best parts of teaching primary students is their inherent love of song and pattern. They easily pick up simple poems wanting to act them out and continually recite them. Using quick repetitive and memorable excerpts from text and poetry can easily tame an otherwise rambunctious group when one needs to refocus their attention.  Watching their wide eyes turn and smile while chanting and listening to their energetic voices become captivated by a familiar line or song, makes me happy.

This afternoon, before packing up, my students finished listening to LuLu and the Brontosaurus  (the first chaptery book read aloud this year).  Their was much excitement as we finished the last few chapters by Judith Viorst (in which she gives her readers 3 ending choices).  I  had always loved her voice in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day so I was thrilled a few years back when I found this fantastic easy- to-understand read aloud for first grade.

Throughout the story LuLu (a spunky little girl who is determined to get a brontosaurus for a pet) repeats the phrase:
I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, wanna get.
A bronto, bronto, bronto, brontosaurus for a pet.

As Lu Lu's character changes and the events in the story unfold, the phrase also changes but just slightly so the students can join in and be LuLu as they participate in the reading if the book.

Today we finished the day with:

I didn't, I didn't, I didn't didn't get.
A bronto, bronto, bronto, brontosaurus for a pet.

We sang it when we read it in the last few chapters, we sang it as we stacked our chairs and we sang it as we walked out the door into the weekend.  Kids were smiling at the ending, at each other and there was a happiness because of the simple words and message Judith so gently taught us through a book.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Be Happy

Today begins the Slice of Life Challenge!  I have finally been in the mood for setting realistic goals that will help me get back into writing and Slice of Life is one of these goals.  I've been surprised by how much stress can influence how I feel about myself as a writer and a reader. I decided in January that I needed an attitude change.  I  have gradually started to take care of myself again by rereading books that remind me why I decided to be an educator (like Educating for Human Greatness). I've started to write  articles and most recently spent the day at the Dublin Literacy Conference. I even have a date set to meet a writing partner! These little steps are re-energizing me and reminding me how much I love to read, write and learn.

To help me embrace my own teaching this month, I quite simply introduced my students to blogging.  I had reservations all year about jumping in with my group, but I shouldn't have.  The outlet of blogging has helped the writers who already love to write, write more! It has also allowed me to see kids (who I was worried about) build stamina and explode with ideas as well as comments on the blog. Blogging has created more happiness in the classroom and I think each day kids need something to think about, read about or write about that makes them happy.   So I've been asking them throughout the day, what book put a smile on your face today?  What are you writing about that makes you happy?  I think tomorrow I am going to ask what would they be happy learning about (since I had a student ask me on our way in from recess, "When are we going to perform another experiment?")?  Their answers will help me with integrating science, find non-fiction titles and prepare baskets of books as we study non-fiction writing.

 I realized I need to get back to bringing a slice of happiness back to the classroom each day.  This month I look forward to sharing some of the slices of happiness that occur in my life and classroom.  Here's to catching happy moments!