Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Games for Early Number Sense

Games for Early Number Sense, A Yearlong Resource by Catherine Twomey Fosnot and Antonia Cameron is a collection of games to help children develop number sense and a valuable resource for primary teachers. I've already used the first game, Bear Tracks in class today and then used it as my family math game for the week. Bear Tracks helps young children think about the number as a quantity, the cardinal number. I have used games in my classroom since I began teaching and believe they are beneficial. I found myself reflecting and having some new learning while reading the overview for this book.

-Games are more than a tool to practice skills. If designed carefully they can be open-ended providing opportunities for strategies and rich conversations.

-"...young children often have little understanding of the role of chance in games and they experience losing as a personal failure. "

-"when competition is replaced with collaboration, the result is often an increase in conversation on the math involved."

-Sharing, after playing a game can be as simple as, "What did you notice?" and often leads to inquiries with important math ideas emerging.

-Allow different strategies.

I've learned I like to collect professional books and I know I enjoy reading them. However, lately with number of books I have been purchasing I'm trying to use something from them right away and with this book I did just that. This will become one of my favorites this year for kindergarten and I think one that easily extends to second and maybe third grade.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Name Jar

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi is a book I always used early in the year with my third graders to talk about names, community and relationships. I wasn't sure if it would work with younger learners and was thrilled it did! The text is quite a bit longer than that you would use for a shared reading with emergent readers but was a great read aloud and kept their attention for duration of the reading.

Unhei is staring a new school after moving with her family from Korea. While riding the bus to school, the children riding with her have a hard time pronouncing her name and make fun of it. The result of these first interactions with students from her new school lead her to tell her new classmates she is still choosing a name when the teacher tries to introduce her. Unhei explains to her mother she needs a new name because hers is too hard to pronounce. When she returns to school the next day her classmates present her with a glass jar filled with name suggestions Ralph suggests Wensdy because she came on a Wednesday. Some of the names suggested are precious coming from young children. She tries them out and nothing fits for her. The curly hair boy helps her on the first day find her classroom and then again help her discover her own name is just perfect. As he does this you learn more about her Korean name, friendship, and acceptance.

The children enjoyed discussing how we should treat others and the origins of their names.

Monday, December 14, 2009

More, Fewer, Less

More, Fewer, Less by Tana Hoban is just the book I needed the other day when I was talking about these concepts with my class. It was the perfect book to launch our discussion and math workshop. Tana Hoban is famous for her photo illustrations and wordless books and this book is at the top of my favorite list for mathematics. The photographs are full size and have many discussion points per page. The first page in the book is a photograph of some chickens inside and outside a coop. You could easily begin with are there more outside or inside? You could also ask are there fewer inside or outside and where are their more? On a two page spread you have a couple of options. You can compare and discuss these concepts within one photo or compare something from one page to another. You can also make the decision to talk about quantity of objects or the space of something. For example, about midway through the book there is a photograph of a building. One door is blue and the other is green but the green is extended along the brick wall.

The wordless text has been an extra bonus for my emergent readers.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

count and see

count and see is written by Tana Hoban and was just the book I needed to kick off talking about early numeracy with my students. The book is a photo essay for the numbers 1 - 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 100. The numbers are shown symbolically on the left page in written form, numerical form and then through the use of a dot arrangement to show the quantity. The photo on the right shows the quantity again with a full page black and white photo from the environment.

Children learn to recognize dot patterns found on die through the use of games they play. However, recognizing dot patterns in various arrangements instantly can develop relationships between numbers. If the quantities for numbers 1 - 10 can be named without counting then this can help children with counting on, combining sets, spatial relationships, and flexibility with problem solving. I found count and see a good introduction for dot patterns besides the arrangements found on a die.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Me First

Me First is written by Helen Lester and Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger. It's interesting how two classes of kindergartner's can be similar, different, and then within a day of each other need the same story to help foster community. Me First is a great book to read when your class needs to discuss being first for things, especially in a line to travel places.

Pinkerton is a pink, plump, and pushy pig who is first for anything. First to be mean to other pigs, first on slide, first in the lunch line, first to get on the bus, first off the bus, and more. His scout troop takes a trip on Saturday to the beach and his behaviors to be first are in full action. In the far off distance he hears a voice call, "Who would care for a sandwich?" His is interested and wants to be first for food. The author spends a full page describing the sandwich he is dreaming of as he dashes off to be first to get this sandwich. Of course as he is dashing, he is calling, "ME FIRST!" Only to discover a small creature, a sand witch! I wasn't sure my kindergarten students would get the play on words but they did right away with the great support by illustrator Lynn Munsinger.

The sand witch does a great job having Pinkerton be the first to care for her and the jobs he has to do are a bit funny and silly to think about, especially combing her toes! The ending has what every teacher needs, Pinkerton returning to his scout troop and bus willing to be last. It's important to show students at any age that when we travel places together with the same destination it doesn't matter who is first or last but that we all stay together and arrive prepared to do new learning.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Dick and Jane, Saved Us!

While I was out for an afternoon with A and B on Saturday, on our after the play performance traditional routine which leads us to The Book Loft in German Village, Ohio. B was on a mission in their children's section to find a book SHE could READ! B is in first grade and an emerging reader. She picked up a few books, sat on a stool and described how she looks at the cover to see if it would be a book she would like and then opened the book to see if she could read it. After several attempts, you could hear and see a bit of frustration coming. I thought Mom better start helping. Th Book Loft has 32 rooms of books and the children section is packed with books, a few front covers showing and a lot of spines showing, so I began to see what I could find.

I thought maybe a holiday book would be good for her with the holidays here but she wasn't too excited. The front cover didn't really make her jump with joy but when she opened, Dick and Jane A Christmas Story and began reading, there was a difference. She was doing her goal and stopped to announce, "Mom I can read it!" She was so happy and proud.

I knew what to look for to help her, but it wasn't easy to find a section of books that were good for emerging readers to feel independence. She needed repetition of text this book provided, she needed the use of basic sight words, she needed the characters to remain the same. Maybe she needed the same things I did back in first grade. I remember reading and reading Dick and Jane. In my basement, I still have homemade certificates for each book I read in first grade with the title and foil star sticker from my teacher. I think Dick and Jane is a frequent title on those certificates. Maybe my own reading life just came full circle.

Dick and Jane, Saved Us!

While I was out for an afternoon with A and B on Saturday, on our after the play performance traditional routine which leads us to The Book Loft in German Village, Ohio. B was on a mission in their children's section to find a book SHE could READ! B is in first grade and an emerging reader. She picked up a few books, sat on a stool and described how she looks at the cover to see if it would be a book she would like and then opened the book to see if she could read it. After several attempts, you could hear and see a bit of frustration coming. I thought Mom better start helping. Th Book Loft has 32 rooms of books and the children section is packed with books, a few front covers showing and a lot of spines showing, so I began to see what I could find.

I thought maybe a holiday book would be good for her with the holidays here but she wasn't too excited. The front cover didn't really make her jump with joy but when she opened, Dick and Jane A Christmas Story and began reading, there was a difference. She was doing her goal and stopped to announce, "Mom I can read it!" She was so happy and proud.

I knew what to look for to help her, but it wasn't easy to find a section of books that were good for emerging readers to feel independence. She needed repetition of text this book provided, she needed the use of basic sight words, she needed the characters to remain the same. Maybe she needed the same things I did back in first grade. I remember reading and reading Dick and Jane. In my basement, I still have homemade certificates for each book I read in first grade with the title and foil star sticker from my teacher. I think Dick and Jane is a frequent title on those certificates. Maybe my own reading life just came full circle.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

That is Nature

After our author visit with Jeanette Canyon or with any author I always hope the children come out of the experience inspired and interested in literacy. I had one student who went home and wrote an entire book, just like Jeanette Canyon. He didn't have polymer clay on hand but had some great playdough to use as his media. When he showed me his work, I just beamed inside and out, our work at school combined with the author visit had made an impact on a child's life. He was inspired and interested in literacy. His phrasing didn't resemble Jeanette Canyon's but I felt his written words was a collection of things we had read this school year.

The book was saved in a pdf. format and you can find it here at This is my first time attaching a pdf. format and using I would recommend selecting full screen and then view 3x3, you get to see the whole book at one time.


Heinemann Shopping

I discovered via Twitter, Heinemann is having a 30% off sale with free delivery and went shopping. Two books I learned about at the recent OCTM conference about early number sense development; Young Mathematicians at Work: Constructing Number Sense, Addition, and Subtraction and Games for Early Number Sense. Then when I taught kindergarten before I became a fan of Gretchen Owocki and discovered she wrote two more books, Comprehension: Strategic Instruction for K-3 Students and Time for Literacy Centers: How to Organize and Differentiate Instruction.

Then a new find was Playing with Poems and I was interested in this title because Gretchen Owocki wrote the forward. I have just added a few things for my reading stack, maybe a snow day will come my way.

You might enjoy shopping too!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christopher and Jeanette Canyon, local gems!

Christopher and Jeanette Canyon visited our school last month and what gems we have living right here in the Central Ohio area. They are a dynamic two person show. I don't know if I've seen so many smiles and happiness radiate off two presenters. They obviously enjoy what they are doing and spending time sharing their work.

Christopher's drawing table was purchased at a garage sale for ten dollars when he was in third grade! It travelled with him to college and he continues to use it now. I thought this was an important message for children, things they try and do now can become something of passion and purpose later in life. Christopher's work is done by drawing, painting, and music has been a big influence. He has had the opportunity to illustrate a few of John Denver's songs and through this opportunity has illustrated connections from his own life within his work. In "Take Me Home Country Roads", the barn and truck were like the ones his family used and his dad played a banjo. While talking about this piece of work, he told the audience he was constantly reminded of home and home is a special place. He also travelled to West Virginia and shared several photographs he took, guiding his work for his illustrations. Illustrators conduct research too and I think this was important for the children to think about. It's not always the written word that gets researched. Christopher plays his guitar and engages the whole school in singing along, it was quite moving to see and hear a school of 730 students united through song.

Jeanette works and creates with her hands with the media of polymer clay. Her presentation included video clips of her actually working with the clay in her studio showing different ways she created things for her books. Watching an artist, in their studio actually working, is inspiring. She had some important messages for the audience also. She doesn't always know she is going to make something and figures it out along the way. She loves to experiment and it's important. Her tools were interesting to learn about, kitchen gadgets. How simple is that? A pasta machine, food processor, and even a mesh bag from the grocery store. Another important thing for children to think about. The use of everyday objects in new ways. However, she did warn the children to not use their kitchen gadgets for food and polymer clay. I'm holding off buying a mini food processor just for polymer clay myself. She too researches her work and showed how she took pictures of the coral reef and then used these photos in her illustrations. She finds inspiration in everyday things she sees, for example sushi inspired a cane of clay.

Both Jeanette and Christopher keep sketch journals and this is where all their work begins. They have lots and lots of journals. "A journal is a place to explore ideas, test them out, and do whatever you want. You can sketch, doodle, collect, or write. Sketches are beginnings" These two dynamic individuals really gave our students inspiration to work like them in realistic ways. I would highly recommend a visit with them if you have the opportunity. You can find them at their newly designed website.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Christopher and Jeanette Canyon - fabulous!

I am going to have to post more about our school visit with Christopher and Jeanette Canyon but I wanted to share with you this great photo I received today from them. Life couldn't be much better than this. Illustrators excited to see the real work of children that have been inspired by their creativity. I have so many more thoughts of their visit to share but I will have to post those a bit later.

I'm busily preparing for Ohio Council Teachers of Mathematics state conference Nov. 12 - 14. If you are attending, maybe we'll see each other. I'm presenting bright and early Saturday morning, Family Math at Home.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Christopher and Jeanette Canyon Coming.

My students and I can't wait for our illustrator visit today! We have been getting ready this week learning about husband and wife illustrator team, Christopher and Jeanette Canyon. We worked with polymer clay as Jeanette does and even used a food processor to make very small "pebbles". We read she used a produce net bag to make lines in a clown fish and some of us did that too! Christopher Canyon's work is varied. We have really enjoyed his illustrations for the John Denver songs that have been published in picture book format. We recreated Grandma's Feather Bed, which is "9 feet high and 6 feet wide, soft as a downy chick." This is a fast pace song and I highly recommend finding the book with the music CD, there's nothing like John Denver and the fast pace banjo playing to
make this book a hit!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Progress reports are going home today with students and for me, I just completed 45 progress reports for kindergartners. Their first official progress report from a public school. As I worked on these all weekend, I wanted to be positive, encouraging, yet honest to facilitate growth. I just finished writing a newsletter to accompany the progress reports because I felt explanations were needed, especially for first time parents.

My school district asks me to rank children on this descriptor, Demonstrates confidence. I really wrestled with this because being a shy child does not mean you do not display confidence, nor does being a quiet child. This was my final thinking and explanation to parents. Sometimes you have to be honest in the best interest of children.

I do not think or feel I can give your child a number for confidence. I believe if they have had the courage and strength, which lead to confidence to walk into our large school, spend a full day with a stranger and new friends then they are all confident daily. From what I have experienced, it takes confidence to transition to many things during a school day, it takes confidence to ask for help, it takes confidence to sit quietly and listen, it takes confidence to tell someone you may not like what they are doing, it takes confidence to cry, it takes confidence to sing and even sing while using the bathroom. It happens, believe me. Each child got a 4 in confidence.
Think carefully about your students and their souls.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Nonfiction Monday - Z is for a Zookeeper

This is my first time joining Nonfiction Monday and I share this book with some personal excitement. My youngest daughter, B gets to have an author visit today at her school with Roland Smith. How I wish I could be something small in her pocket today and go to school with her.

Z is for a Zookeeper, A Zoo Alphabet written by Marie and Roland Smith follows the format for author A to Z books by Sleeping Bear Press. The introduction is a wonderful explanation for the reasons we have zoo. It lets the reader know that the animals are not captured and placed on exhibit. It lets the reader know it's no longer safe for these animals for fear they will become extinct. For many of the species found in a zoo the wilderness is disappearing. The progress of zoos and purpose has really changed since they were conceived. Many help preserve the animals with breeding programs and rehabilitation, releasing them back into the wild when they can. If you are local, our Columbus Zoo is a great example of this work.

The book is definitely multi-leveled for any classroom. Each letter is featured with short poetic phrase with easily identifiable rhyme.

H is for Holding -
a cage out of sight.
Zookeepers use these
for animals at night.

The letters are represented with tools, animals, and responsibilities for a zookeeper. Then you will find a side bar for each letter with a much more detailed explanation of the zookeepers role. The information is written for children to easily understand and provides a behind the scene bio of a zoo. The reader really walks away with understanding the zoo is more than just animals on display and an appreciation for a zookeeper.

I hope my first grader comes home bubbling about her visit with Roland Smith so I can learn more about him. You can find a round up for Nonfiction Monday at books together.

I've joined Kidlitsophere Central!

I decided to take the plunge and become part of a larger group out here in the blogging world. I've joined Kidlitsophere Central, inspired by my friends of Central Ohio. I've joined to make connections with more people interested in children, children's literature and the world of teaching. Please see identification over on the right of my page and by pressing the button, you too can explore more within the Kidlitosphere World on the web.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Song - So Glad I'm Here

So Glad I'm Here is my new favorite song and the song I now play to transition from our book look time to our morning meetings. Elizabeth Mitchell is an artist I didn't know but just discovered and love her voice and beat to be used in the classroom. She is a bit of rock, a bit of folk, and a bit pop all rolled into one. This track is found on her album, You Are My Sunshine.

So Glad I'm Here has a fun beat and a tamborine which the kids like to clap along with. The refrains are repetitive and have three simple messages.

-I'll sing while I'm here.

-Love brought me here.

-Joy brought me here.

and who could resist starting their day thinking, So Glad I'm Here. I could easily seeing all grades enjoying this song at some point within their day. It's even good for adults to hear in our busy days.

Mary Had a Little Lamb

Mary Had a Little Lamb by Sarah Josepha Hale was just what I was looking for and I should of known photo-illustrator Bruce McMillan would be part of my answer. To help promote early literacy nursery rhymes are high recommended by several experts for children to learn and work with language. There is also a growing concern that are children are not being exposed to them as much as they once were before coming to school. So, I've been searching and wondering if there are nursery rhymes done as single picture books without much success. The collection books often found are hard for young children to navigate with their early literacy needs.

From what I am finding at the moment there is not a lot of single nursery rhymes in picture book format until now with Mary Had a Little Lamb by Sarah Josepha Hale. Bruce McMillan as he always does captures remarkable photographs to tell this story. In his afterward, you learn the colors in the book were chosen after the outfit for Mary was chosen, yellow overalls with bright pink and yellow striped shirt underneath. The Mary in this version wears glasses and Bruce McMillan felt it important for children to see more children wearing glasses so he worked his photography magic with filters and lighting to not have a reflective glare. I also liked how he used a male teacher. You also learn, to help with the coloring in the photos the sheep had a bath each morning in the farm house sink.

The afterward provides a history for the poem, Mary Had a Little Lamb. It was first published as Mary's Lamb. The verse has gone under some changes, it was published by William McGuffey without credit to Mrs. Hale. The history was interesting to read. If you know of any additional titles of nursery rhymes found as a single picture book I would love to have you share in the comments.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Blogs and Website Linked

I was playing around on my new laptop this weekend and found some new links to add that I thought were worth sharing. They are listed over on the right but I thought I would point them out more directly here.

All-en-a-Day's Work - thoughts about teaching, learning, and life. I love his sense of voice with experience.

The Write Brained Teacher - loved finding a blog focusing more on writing and loved the play on words for the title.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lily Brown's Paintings

Lily Brown's Paintings by Angela Johnson was a book I had placed on my book fair wish list last week and my wish was granted. It was granted by someone I would of never suspected, a former student now in fifth grade. She walked into my room one day last week, as she would of done as a third grader two years ago and gently handed me this book. I was so surprised and filled with joy.

The book begins with Lily Brown a little girl who loves her family and when she paints, "her world starts to change." Isn't that a great notion for children to think about? That painting can open doors and creativity can change how things are. Each page is a painting by Lily Brown with her own creative spin explained through the illustrations and the text. For example, when Lily walks to school the trees are wearing hats and drink tea on cool days, bowing to her. A few pages later, Lily paints a path in the park where antelopes are lounging and alligators are on the phone. I think this would be a great model for children to see and hear to encourage creativity within their work.

My favorite page goes like this,

"In Lily Brown's paintings
the colors of people,
places, and things
change with her heart.

People walk upside down,
and the buildings on streets dance
with airplanes flying above.
And it's another world.

Lily paints all that she sees and feels her own way.
She puts her world of color
and light on anything she can find.
It's magical."

The illustrations are done in watercolor with bright and subtle tones. A bonus with this book is a note from the illustrator. She tells the reader how her work has been influenced by trips with her father to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the artists that have inspired her. She incorporates her early experiences into her work.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I Read Signs

I Read Signs by Tana Hoban is perfect for early literacy and showing children they can read signs found in their everyday life. Recognizing and understanding words and signs is one way children work on acquisition of vocabulary. We are still familiarizing ourselves with our school and I read this book to set the stage for a sign walk and big book making later this week. I'm thinking of being Tana Hoban with my camera in hand and capturing all the signs we find around our school digitally. Our conversation was very interesting today and so many children were sucessful readers because they have seen or could make sense out of the signs in Hoban's book. Reading signs at school will help familiarize them with their school and then I think we can collect signs from home we can read.
Addition: Today as I walked out with my students, M got all excited to find an exit sign for our photography on Thursday and a no smoking sign. Yea!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ghoulish Goodies

Ghoulish Goodies by Sharon Bowers is a great little cooking book for this time of the year. A and I were at a local bookstore that has 32 rooms, if you are local hopefully you know about The Book Loft found in German Village. I think A just likes the fact she can wind through several rooms right to the children's section. We had just spent time during a doctor appointment flipping through my file on Halloween gathering ideas for crafts and treats at home.

Finding this book was just perfect and the table of contents was quite intriguing. There are six chapters with recipes organized in this manner; candy and goodies, cookies, cakes and cupcakes, party food, snacks, and drinks, halloween supper, and scary party food. This book is about 8 x 7 inches with fun fonts to help set the theme of halloween and beautiful full color photographs showing most recipes. The first recipe for Monster Eyeballs had A's eyes glistening with excitment and she hasn't realized it but they are very much like our OSU Buckeye treats we make. YUM!

I'm not sure how anyone could look at this book and not get in the mood for Halloween and making treats. I had an extra surprise with this book. All three of my girls want to use it. My girls are each three and a half years apart, with the youngest and oldest being seven years apart. Sometimes, finding things in common can be challenging. A and N flipped through the book right when we got home and made a shopping list. Then, N and B made Cup of Worm together on Saturday and it was so nice to see them interact together and having fun. I think the next two weeks will bring more fun in our kitchen.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Are you excited for kindergarten?

Yes, I am. Back on August 4, my friend Katied from Creative Literacy asked me this question in the comment section. It's taken me over two months to reply. Not because I was being rude or ignoring her, I just didn't know how to answer it. I felt a lot of uncertainty when she asked this question. Uncertainty about the set up of my room, rearranging my classroom library, gathering and organizing math manipulatives, organizing two classes and figuring out a daily schedule. The uncertainty is much smaller now. Now, it's related to things that come with change. As we all know, change is good and change is making me think about new things, in new ways and old things in a new way.

To answer Katied, yes I'm excited now that I'm in the trenches but more so after two small events last week. E and I were having a writing conference over a story he had written in his Drawing and Writing Notebook, at first I saw a group of stick figures gathered together and his name was written in a speech bubble. E says, "Look Mrs. Robek, that's you and you are reading Old MacDonald to us at the carpet." Yes, it was me. I was sitting in my rocking chair surrounded by E and his peers reading. E is a child who has been writing about things important to him since school started and I was included. I was just beaming inside and out at this moment.

On the same day, N was last in line as I took the children out to recess before lunch and he stopped before entering the playground area and called to me, "Mrs. Robek, I'll see you real soon, I'll see you when you come and get us from lunch. Right Mrs. Robek, real soon." I'm not sure what provoked N to tell me this, but maybe he knew I would stop and think. N is a confident student and has handled adjusting to kdg. I got to thinking how it takes time to connect with a new class and new students, each group is different. I walked away feeling connected to N and thrilled he looked forward to the time I would pick him up from lunch. My students are only on day 17 of school, but we've connected.

I think I couldn't be excited before school because I didn't have any connections. Everything was new. I've connected with my space and it feels like home but more importantly I've connected with 45 students and to me you've got to connect and have a relationship to learn. I hope you've found some connections.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Harriet's Halloween Candy

Is the perfect book for the month of October and for any math learning with sorting. Author Nancy Carlson uses the character Harriet the dog to tell a story of sharing after the event of trick or treating. Harriet doesn't really want to share her candy. She sorts her candy, counts, her candy, hides her candy, and eats her candy. After eating too much candy, which most children hope to do with their treats she decides she isn't feeling so well. She then thinks sharing with her baby brother Walt is a better feeling than a queasy stomach. What makes this book great for mathematics is just one page.

" When she got home, she laid it all out carefully on the floor. Then she organized it. First by color. Then by size. And finally by favorites."

Harriet reminds the reader sorting can be flexible and there is more than one way to sort objects for success.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


This is my favorite nonfiction book I used or had available during our first focus on sorting. The book is part of the series Math Counts and is published by Children's Press. The book has photographed objects to illustrate each page and to guide the reader while learning about sorting. I think this book is able to reach all levels found within a primary classroom. The book begins with a collection of small objects and the following four pages each show one of the objects collected as a group, identical objects. A fairly easy sort for kindergarten students. As the book progresses, connections are made for the reader when they think about their own houses. For example, one sort is the objects found in a bathroom. Another page focuses on shoes, socks, sneakers and boots. All things worn on your feet. To extend our student's vocabulary this book did a great job defining the word set, "when like things are sorted together." The book later reinforces, "things that make up a set have somthing in common." My students found the photographs of real objects interesting and I thought they provided a higher level of engagement and interaction with the book. It's also a great model or springboard for sorting activities within the classroom.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Baby's Catalogue

By Janet and Allan Ahlberg is an interesting book for children to look at and ponder. The book begins with five pictures of six babies, there is a set of twins. The following pictures follow these babies through a typical day. The next two page spread out is sorting the parents with photos. The Dads are on the left side of the page and the Moms are on the right. A good discussion for children to see how objects and people can look different but can be put together with the same characteristic. The shopping page is another favorite of mine for it sorts what they buy into these categories; fruit, cans, baby things, sausages, and boxes. Another page later on using the same format can be found for suppers. This book lends our youngest learners to think beyond the typical sorting by color, size, and shape attributes they are comfortable with. The text is also simple enough they won't be intimidated.

Monday, September 28, 2009

is it red? is it yellow? is it blue?

by Tana Hoban is a great book to use when talking about sorting with young children. I started the school year off with a mathematical unit on sorting and this week I'm highlighting my top five favorite books I used. Tana Hoban is a master in creating photo- concept books. She has been a personal favorite of mine since the girls were infants. This book encourages children to look at the world around and notice the colors they see. Each page is a photograph of real objects you could see in your life and underneath circles identify the colors within the photograph. My favorite pages are the ones with many objects the same in a variety of colors. This lends a discussion about what the sorting category is beyond a color rule. Identifying relationships between objects using color, size, and shape is key in understanding and using sorting in their lives.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Me Hungry!

How fun, there was a new book on my front stoop when I got home today. This summer I was introduced to Jeremy Tankard and just love his Bird character. After exploring his website I saw another book of his that was appealing because it was not about Bird. It was about a stone age boy and I was thinking I needed to add more titles that will interest boy readers. I still think this will be a goal of mine as my kdg. library grows and Me Hungry! is the perfect selection to start off my new additions!

The warm, muted illustrated Jeremy uses continue to please the reading eye and provide a sense of warmth. The stone age boy is hungry and his parents are busy. He decides to take matters into his own hands and says, "Me hunt rabbits!" I personally was a bit scared to turn the next page because we have a pet bunny at our house and I thought please don't eat the rabbit. Luckily, the rabbit hides and saves himself. The stone age boy continues to hunt a few other animals with no luck and stumbles into a very large leg, which made me think an elephant. However, I wasn't thinking about setting and realizing a mammoth would be more appropriate. Together they solve the stone age boy's hunger issues and a message of friendship finds the reader.

I'm just thrilled to have this book and think my emerging readers will love it too. They are just noticing the word a within shared writing and this book will be perfect for us to read and notice the word me. The font size and use of punctuation would be great to help readers of all ages read with inflection. I could just see a group of third grade boys having a great time reading aloud this book.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I know a lot of things

by Ann and Paul Rand was the perfect book to talk about what children already know when they come to school. Children are gathering information and knowledge from the moment they are born and to assume they are coming to school to learn, is limiting in ways for our students. Andie Cunningham and Ruth Shagourgy talk about Discovering Expertise in their book Starting with Comprehension which I reviewed here. "In the five years on this planet, these children have all become experts in parts of their lives." Two of their goals in the beginning of the year is to uncover a child's personal strengths as well as discovering curriculum possibilities. As I read about this idea this summer, I knew I wanted to find a picture book to foster our work and painting of our expertise.

I know a lot of things, is written from the voice of a child who notices the world around them and values what they see. "I know a cat goes meow." "And even an ant could carry a load on his back big as a berry", this is my favorite illustration. One ant carrying a large berry upon it's back against a background of soft pink paper. The illustrations are muted tones and simplistic. The book was originally published in 1956, before the illustrators media was listed in the book information, but I would love to know exactly what they used. Throughout the book you can hear the voice of a child, "a book needs pages and a cake takes ages to bake." Check in with your students and find out what are they experts at, what do they know a lot about, it will help you understand them.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


by Barney Saltzberg is about a young pig getting ready for school. As you read the text of the story one would listen and think it's a typical conversation between a child and mother. The mother is asking various questions to guide the pig in getting ready for his day. "Are you up?, Did you make your bed?, Are your clothes on?" are a few examples. Cornelius P. Mud always replies, "YES!" The children were able to participate in a shared reading easily with this response.

However, as the reader reads the bright acrylic and pencil illustrations they discover Cornelius P. Mud is not quite getting ready for school in the traditional sense. When he is up, he is flying in his room because a bunch of balloons are tied to his feet. He made his bed but he made it to look like an elephant that he is riding. His clothes are on but they are on his fishbowl and not his body. My kindergarteners just giggled after a couple of readings when we could focus and discuss the illustrations with more depth. This was a perfect book for discussing the importance of reading the pictures to support our comprehension.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fancy Nancy Explorer Extraordinaire!

by Jane O Connor is a fun twist to the traditional picture book format for the character Fancy Nancy. B is the biggest Fancy Nancy fan I know and received this gift last spring for the birthday with an exploring kit just like Fancy Nancy. It included rain boots, a bug catcher, a tea set, a notebook, collecting box, and a big fancy bag.

While the Library of Congress lists this book as fiction you will find many nonfiction features. One page is filled with sketches and labels answering the question, What does an explorer extraordinaire need? If you are an explorer than most likely you will need and use the map of your territory. B loved looking at this because familiar characters homes are on the map. Fancy Nancy tells you a little bit of sugar will attract ants and included a diagram of an ant hill. As she talks about bugs she includes photographs looking like a Polaroid film with labels. There are lots of information about flowers, birds, and plants one might find while exploring always with Fancy Nancy's great tone and use of rich words.

This past weekend was great weather wise and B got out her book and went shopping to make Nancy's Extra-Fancy Lemonade. Of course, it is pink! I hope Jane O'Connor will continue to include the notion of exploring and learning with nonfiction features in her books with a strong and positive girl character.

Monday, September 14, 2009

WoW! ScHooL!

by Robert Neubecker is the perfect book to use in the beginning of the school year with kindergarten! Thank you to my friend Maureen for sharing it with me. The book's colorful illustrations capture the awe a classroom and school can have for a first time student. My students found WoW! TEACHER! to be such an intriguing page. The author/illustrator turned the page vertically and then created a two page layout which enhances the teacher's height in relationship to her students.

The word WoW! probably won't be found on any kindergarten sight word list but I'm thinking it could be a great word to hear a child's voice when writing if they choose to use it. I think the word WoW! is the perfect word to share what a palindrome is and see what young child latches on to little interesting tidbits of knowledge. I think the word WoW! is just a fun word to read.

The repetitive use of WoW! on each page has made this book a great shared reading in our class within just two days. It's a great book to support my readers early on in the school year and will be for yours too.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My Friend

by Beatrice Alemagna jumped right off the shelf while I was book shopping over the summer. I was intrigued instantly with the front cover. The illustration is done using fabric and stitching, in a collage format. You have to love the first line, "I am a most unusual animal" and you only see the belly and legs in the illustration. The animal meets a new person on each page and is accused of being a cat, a monkey, a rat, a pigeon, a lion, a dog, and more. Until something closely looking like a rabbit but with a spiny back says, "Hello. Do you want to play with me?" The original animal is hesitant and asks..."Don't you want to know what I am?" and the reply is, "I know what you are. You are my friend." Isn't that a lovely message to read for the beginning of the year. I learned how to sew when I was growing up and continue to sew projects every once in a while. I love collage illustrations and this book stands out with the use of fabric and stitching to create visuals.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Kindle 2 - Text to Speech

My friend Franki over at A Year of Reading, just did a great post sharing her experiences and thinking about her Kindle 2. You can find that here. I thought I would share my latest thinking and bring an update to my previous entries. While I was setting up my classroom library and working in complete silence for several hours, I was looking for some noise, some productive noise and realized I had my Kindle 2 in my purse. Earlier in the week, I was at a class and a friend recommended Gorgeously Green to me and I instantly bought it sitting in a high school auditorium using my Kindle 2. That was pretty cool! While working in my classroom I couldn't sit and read so I tried the Text-to-Speech feature for the first time and loved it. You can start, pause, and stop the reading. You can also adjust the rate with slower, default, and faster. The voice can be a male or female. I'm not sure Gorgeously Green was the right book for this feature, there were a lot of things I wanted to clip or take notes on so I think I will actually read this book still. However, I could see having a fun fiction book and using the text to speech option and enjoying it. I would recommend turning the wireless off to increase the life of your charge. I think this will be my books on tape of Cd from now on.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Beginnings {Poetry Friday}

I have spent the past two days doing the "First Day of Kindergarten", twice. It's been interesting with a lot of learning going on for me and the students. Slow and steady I keep reminding myself. I've been trying to provide opportunities for connections between students to foster relationships, wanting them to return the next day. It's been a crash course on how much they need modeled and guided with how school and our classroom will work. Baby steps are important with our youngest learners. A colleague shared this poem with me for the children to do as they line up and get ready to travel in the hallways. I think something like this will promote literacy and help us think about what we are going to do as we travel through the hallways.

I'm giving myself a great big hug.
I'm standing straight and tall.
I'm looking right ahead of me.
I'm ready for the hall.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A small change...important

I was on the soccer field watching B practice this week and a new student of mine came running right up to me with a huge smile, "Hi, Mrs. Robek!" This little boy was so excited and I was started talking to him I realized after a few words I needed to bend down and be at his level, able to look right at his eyes while we visited. Then I thought about meeting all of them last week at our Kindergarten Welcome and realized I did a lot of bending down so I could be eye to eye with them. It felt right and comfortable. I want to be their partner in learning and respect every word they are saying. I think it's easier to do eye to eye, right at their level and not from an adult height that is towering over them.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Math Tub Labels

I posted on Twitter yesterday, knee deep in making book and math tub labels. I finished math tub labels last night and thought I would share my thinking with you. When I moved into my current kdg. classroom I grabbed a piece of furniture from the next room that holds twenty small tubs designed to hold math manipulatives and discovered my labels from eight years ago were still there. These were hand drawn and a bit faded. I knew I was going to reorganize our tools in general and quickly took off those labels as I washed each tub and soaked the manipulatives. This room is going to be squeaky clean for opening day!

I thought this time around I would use my digital camera and computer to make my labels. It didn't take much time at all to snap some fifty photos, my label craze had to carry over to our building and science tubs too. I resized my photos to ten percent, inserted them into a table, typed the label underneath using Century Gothic, and played around with white space. Right now Century Gothic is my favorite font for labeling. It's clear with a print lower case a and something I think the kids will easily pick up reading the labels.

I'm considering not only labels on the tubs but labels on the shelves so the tubs go back in the order they currently are. I've organized "like" items together. You'll see a photo soon of the labels in the room. I've been busy in the last week with our Kindergarten Welcome and I'm still putting finishing touches on the of my space soon, I promise KatieD.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Classroom Library Make Over

Spent a lot of time today thinking, organizing, reorganizing my classroom library. At the end of the school year, I had packed up all my chapter books and harder biographies. When I looked at my carpet today, I knew it was still too many books. Debbie Miller, Reading with Intention encourages teachers to have things spread out within a classroom, including books. I kept this in mind as I worked today. After looking at my math standards I tackled this grouping of books first. Packing more up to come home for my girls and created five tubs of picture books related to our math curriculum. These are located right with my tubs of manipulatives for the children to use. Next to my pet turtle and guinea pig there are tubs about each of the animals, both fiction and nonfiction. I have a great collection of poetry books but I think they are too difficult for kdg. students but I wanted them available to me so I put them on the top shelf of a five shelf with spines showing in alphabetical order. I then decided my song tub and ABC tub would good to stay as is. Then I wasn't sure where to start fiction or nonfiction and I chose nonfiction, the stack was smaller. Beyond Leveled Books by Sibberson, Szymusiak, and Koch has a wonderful addition in their second edition about setting up a classroom library for K - 1st grade. I also found More Than Guided Reading by Mere very helpful. I've read only the chapters applicable to organizing classroom libraries and implemented these ideas. I prefer clear plastic tubs to house all of my books in groups so the children can view the covers more easily. I grouped similar books together by author, topic, theme. I tried to pull out some animal books that I had several of for that topic to make an interest tub. I had a collection of easier biographies and I made a collection of people books. I'm labeling the books with titles I think five year olds will be able to read easier; for example bugs for insects, spiders for arachnid. Tomorrow I'm going to return to finish up the fiction tubs also and then I will be making lots of labels. I'm trying to decide how I will or if I should sticker these books in tubs in a way to help the children put them back where they go. Third graders easily put their books back, anticipating kdg. could be different.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

benchmarks,standards, What do I have to teach?

Yesterday, I spent a couple of ours with a good friend. We all know a good friend is someone who listens. This attribute is always something I appreciate when I visit with her. I also appreciate these other things about her; her willingness to help others in understanding Math Standards for the State of Ohio, her willingness to check my thinking as I align standards to benchmarks, and her knowledge about children and their mathematical learning. I am blessed to have her willing to still talk about these things since she is a retired math district coordinator who does her own consulting and a little bit of work for our state's department of education.

While I've worked through moving classrooms back in June and reorganizing life. I'm putting the finishing touches on my new environment and beginning to think about reorganizing my classroom library when I realized kdg. orientation is around the corner and besides seeing our classroom I have to have a grasp on the new curriculum I will be teaching.

To do that, I looked at the math Benchmarks for K-2 and then matched Content Standards to each one. I find math to be very concrete and the easiest content to begin looking at and working with for this type of work. I found several benchmarks do not have content standards in kdg. Therefore, I set those off in a pile I don't need to think about. The Benchmarks help us see the bigger picture, how standards work together, as blocks building and connecting our student's learning. These are some thoughts I had from this experience.

-Life will be very different mathematically from third grade.
-Building number sense is a big goal this year and such an important foundation to lay.
-Maybe we need to start an movement for "early mathematics" as we have for "early literacy"
-Several standards can be done and connect to other standards while working on one activity.
-I think there will be more connections
-I think the notion of math units won't be so defined and things will be mixed more
-Assessments are going to be shorter, hands on, observations
-Our community of learners should learn the standards and excel beyond

My friend offered guidance but no decision making. She really let me think about my teaching and integration of content as I did 13 years ago when I had her son for first and second grade. I'm going to begin with a unit in math I'll call, Objects Around Us. This will incorporate exploration of materials and kidwatching to see what the children know and can do. It will then move to more talk about sorting and classifying and while doing that we could use 3D blocks to sort which then touches on geometry standards. I think patterning will follow because I could see shapes being used to develop and finish patterning concepts. While all of these things blend and follow each other we will be counting and working on number sense activities. We brainstormed how my calendar could look and starting with the basics and adding one additional thing as we added it to our knowledge base each month. The calendar doesn't need to be overwhelming at first. I think my own next step so mathematics isn't overwhelming, is to create I can statements to use and help involve my students in their own learning. I find I Can statements help my own understanding and are a great tool for communicating with parents.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Formative Assessment with Dylan Wiliam

Today, I was presented with a great opportunity. Dylan Wiliam came to our school district to spend the day conducting professional development to an auditorium filled with teachers K - 12. Dylan Wiliam co-authored Working Inside the Black Box and Assessment for Learning, Putting into Practice. He began his session discussing and supporting the science behind achievement. We need to improve student achievement because it has been proven individuals will have an increase in their lifetime salary, improved health and a longer life. For our society, there would be an improved economy, lower health care cost and lower criminal justice costs. He spent a great deal of time talking about where the solution is and isn't. It's not smaller high schools or K-8 schools, this has been tried. It's not curriculum reform or textbook replacement. It's not charter schools or vouchers. It's not computers or interactive whiteboards, smartboards. Studies and research, which he shared is showing it's not even the school that increases achievement. It's the classroom for which you are in, it's the teacher.

The teacher quality includes advanced content knowledge, pedogogical content knowledge, and further teaching qualifications, degrees earned. This makes up and explains about 25% and the rest is unknown. His argument and researched shared today led us to understand raising student achievement can be achieved by improving teacher effectiveness. Improving teacher effectiveness isn't going to happen over night, small improvements throughout our lives need to occur.

After laying the ground work for improving student achievement he talked about formative assessment, with the focus on short cycles of assessments. The day to day things we do to know if students are understanding and using this information to guide our plans for the next day. This can be done by teachers knowing where their students are in their learning, knowing the learning destination, carefully planning, beginning the journey, making regular checks along the way and adjustments based on the regular checks knowledge. He shared many examples for checking along the way to guide adjustments. Mini white boards are great to use because each student is engaged and you can see all their responses with a quick glance around the room. To help foster more engagement and making it more random he really likes using sticks with students names on them and pulling them out after the question has been asked for students to respond to. Another great tool to use to foster engagement is to have more than one children share their responses and then to have a child summarize what a previous child has said. Engagement increases achievement. Engagement is also increased when students are interacting with a teacher or students discussing their thinking behind choosing an answer. He also promoted students assessing their own learning through the use of colored cups or laminated colored circles. Red indicates, I need help. Yellow indicates your are in the middle a bit more discussion could help and green means you are understand.

This is just a small snippet of his presentation today. I am going to participate in a course this fall where we read this book and do lots of discussion with our peers, trying things out to improve our effectiveness and our students achievement. Some of the things I saw today were a bit challenging for kdg. students but there were lots of ideas I want to explore. Young children can reflect and think about what they are learning. I believe they will be able to do continuous small assessment throughout our learning.

He then touched on teacher learning and what I loved about this part of the day he was encouraging and guiding us to think about choice and flexibility as part of teachers changing to be more effective. He really supported teachers as individuals and what might work for one teacher might not work for another. Teacher's number one responsibility is to promote learning in our students, let's begin.

Young MacDonald

by David Milgrim is funny, entertaining, and uses technology! In this book, Young MacDonald has a farm. Just what we would except when we think of Old MacDonald, but Young MacDonald makes an invention, a cross between a computer and something used in space to transport individuals, with the flip of a switch and poof they are gone. Young MacDonald's animals don't disappear but they do change. First, he creates a HIG! As you continue to read the traditional phrasing the words are changed to this to help you figure out just what a HIG is.

"with an Oink-Neigh here,

And an Oink-Neigh there,

Here an Oink, there an Neigh,

Everywhere an Oink-Neigh.

Young McDonald had a farm,


If that didn't help you figure out what a HIG is the comical illustrations would when you saw a horse with a pig head and tail. Young MacDonald goes on to create a Deese, a Shicken, a Mucks, a Cowl, until the animals take a turn at the invention and do their own creating. Luckily, Old MacDonald and Mrs. MacDonald return home before things get too out of hand and everything returns to normal with pizza. I think this book will be a great addition to a song box of books I plan on having in my room. I also could see the children and I having fun creating our own version of the story as our word knowledge increases. I easily see someone thinking of a rabird.

A creature part rabbit and bird.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Odd Egg

by Emily Gravett was an easy book to pick up when I was shopping, I didn't even read it. This is where I began to get to know Emily as an author and discovered I love her books! Yesterday B and I read it for afternoon book time and thoroughly enjoyed it. The warm, soft illustrations are very inviting and the front cover poses questions right away for the reader. As we were reading along, we were quite impressed when we found pages staggered as stairs and as you turn the page the shorter page fits exactly to the longest page on the left with the illustration partially changing to fit the story.

The begins with all the birds having laid an egg except, Duck. Duck finds one but it is a bit unusual. It's quite large with green polka dots. As you read the stair step pages, the other bird's eggs each hatch. B and I felt anticipation because we knew the pages were leading up to Duck's egg hatching. What a surprise we got when we turned the page, truly! The ending is quite charming. I asked B if it was possible and she said yes, Duck cared for it. I think there is a message here...caring for different things is enjoyable, rewarding, and love.

She has a great website about her new books coming, games, activities, and a bio. Something of interest for all ages. Also, notice the librarian is a sketch of Emily Gravett, herself.

Monday, August 3, 2009

At the Zoo

by Douglas Florian isn't new but is new to me. I was shopping at The Half Price Book store this week, looking for some deals to help my kdg. library grow and found this little gem. I am fortunate enough to teach and live right down the road from the Columbus Zoo. My own children have grown up going weekly for short visits and I know many children in my classroom will have done the same and have connections. Two things grabbed my attention when I picked up this book. First, was the simple two to three words per page. I thought what a great mentor text for emerging writers. Secondly, the illustrations are ones children will feel at home with. The animals are drawn with a pen outline and filled in with colored pencils. I look forward in using this text for several purposes this coming school year.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


by Florence Parry Heide caught my attention when my friend Franki reviewed it here. I was intrigued with her description of the character and the picture book format with four short stories within. I know one of the things I will miss terribly about teaching third grade is reading aloud a chapter book and the interactions a class can have together. However, after checking this book out for myself with B I think there is potential to use THE ONE AND ONLY MARIGOLD as a chapter book with kindergartners, later in the year.

It took us a bit of time to read it in one sitting because we had to have discussion along the way. As I read Marigold's New Coat I thought all kids could relate to wearing the same piece of clothing day in and day out even when it's too small. I think all kids have pieces of outfits they wear all the time at some point in their life. B made a connection and felt Marigold was Purplicious. Marigold's New Hobby begins with her sharing her hobbies by writing lists. What a great little model for our young writers. Marigold's New Dress is a great little story about friendship.

I agree with Franki, I hope there is more of Marigold to come. As I searched the Internet for more information on Florence Parry Heide the author, I discovered it was published in 2008 when she was 89 years old. That is something to celebrate.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Very Smart Pea and the Princess-To-Be

by Mini Grey was a great new book I discovered at the public library this week. The Very Smart Pea and the Princess-To-Be uses the traditional story of the princess and a pea with a twist. It's told from the pea's point of view. Who would of thought of the story beginning with the pea being born in the Palace Garden? Who would of thought of the pea having brothers and sisters? Who would of thought of the pea being saved from a bowl of peas for dinner, for the queen?

Well, Mimi Grey did and with such personification for the pea. Of course the prince is getting older and the queen feels he needs to find a wife. She uses her saved pea amongst twenty mattresses to help find a proper princess. Many come and sleep very peacefully through the night and wake with manners and only kind words. Until, the pea recognizes the sleeping soul one night and decides to take action. After three hours of whispering in the sleeping souls ear, "there is something large and round and very uncomfortable in the bed under you" a suitable princess is discovered the next morning. You'll have to just read this story to find out who the sleeping soul was, the person was perfect and a great twist to the traditional tale we all know.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Experienced readers still need guidance

Experienced readers still need guidance, was something I was reminded of last week when N and I took a trip to our favorite public library. I have been blessed to have a child of my own who enjoys reading. I have been blessed that my friends are reading great books and I can reserve them for her at the library to read. However, we had a list of books on reserve that had a wait list so in the mean time I took her to the library to find books in the teen area for our weekend trip to my parent's home. Since I have been reserving books reviewed by friends and some titles and authors she discovered in school this year, actually going in the library and looking on her own was something she hasn't done in quite some time. I was caught off guard when she wouldn't go back there on her own while I went to the children's area. She was very hesitant. She stayed with me and then we went back and I showed her the new releases. I started browsing on my own and she did too, selecting several titles.

As I thought about working with experienced readers, if they haven't read this summer or used a library they will need some gentle guidance as the school starts to help grow their reading identities and get back on track.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Kindle 2 Cover

Julie asked me in the comment section if I missed holding a book. The answer is, No! and this decision was key in my cover purchase. I decided as I was reading my first book, I really liked just holding the Kindle2 as it is. It's lightweight, I can hold it in one hand, and I didn't want to add a cover that would make it bulky. However, I needed something to protect it when I wasn't using it and for when I want to carry it around with me. After searching for quite a while I found this great store via, Borsa Bella. I went with the Top Zip Naked Kindle Sleeve Bag, here is the write up from Borsa Bella and I just love it!

"NEW SMALLER SIZE...fits the Kindle 1 and 2 without a cover, and top zips for easy access from your larger bag or purse. Each Bag is handmade one at a time by me! The Naked Kindle Sleeve Bag by BORSA BELLA contains 3 BREATHABLE, mildew resistant padded layers. I use 2 layers of high quality thick fleece and a layer of soft quilted fabric to insure extra protection for your Kindle. Because I use expensive fleece and quilted fabric, you will be able to MACHINE WASH the Kindle Bag. Which is a great, since you will be handling it so much."

If you don't see a bag in the fabric you would like you can contact Borsa Bella and she will make your bag personally with another fabric she has. She did this for me and I still had the bag in 3 days from the day I ordered it. I also felt the price for something made personally for me was very reasonable. There are other bag styles in case you do like your Kindle2 with a cover.

Back to Julie's question, my first Kindle2 read was a fictional adult chapter book. I'm wondering if my answer will change with professional reading and I'm wondering about nonfiction reading I will do. Just today in a gardening book, I appreciated and enjoyed the color photos while I was looking up the care for amaryllis bulbs.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tally Marks, where?

One day a few weeks ago, my daughter B was helping me unload the dishwasher and she was working on the silverware. As I glanced out of the corner of my eye, I could tell she was sorting. I didn't notice her organization until she said, "Look, Mommy - tally marks!" I had to quick grab the camera and take a photo. This is a perfect example of a quick little mathematical experience this summer in our kitchen. I often tell parents the small conversations, connected to something within the moment or something of value and meaning to a student is exactly what is needed to help students use what they know and to grow further.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gobble It Up!

A Fun Song About Eating! by Jim Arnosky. I had the pleasure to have Jim Arnosky come to my school a few years ago as an author visit. He is an author, illustrator, musician, and storyteller. What impressed me the most about his visit was how he talked with the children about his observations and how these observations of nature and life become his written work. I was thrilled to see this book in a box of new things I collected in June for my new kdg. classroom.

B and I read it yesterday for quiet time and these are her thoughts, she wanted to help me, this morning.

-"I liked it when they had panda bears in the book, my friend came from China and she knows about panda bears."

-"I liked this story because it came with a song on a CD."

-"And I loved your book."

The book does come with a music CD and we had great fun listening to the upbeat tune song by Jim Arnosky, as we enjoyed the text. The story tells you about various animal's hunting behavior and their eating habits. It begins with a raccoon and the reader learns they hunt for crawdads, eating them "shells and all." I was surprised she wasn't bothered by the crocodile gobbling up the ducklings. The book/song has an easy refrain that is repeated to allow the children to engage and read/sing along pretty quickly.

"Yes, you would. Yes, you would. You'd gobble them up and they'd taste good."

The book ends with a panda eating rare bamboo and I thought it was great for him to include an animal that doesn't eat other animals to survive. I was surprised to read he worked with acrylic paint because they instantly gives you the soothing effect of watercolors. I think songs and literature will become a big part of our literacy learning in my kdg. classroom.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Score! 50 Poems to Motivate and Inspire {Poetry Friday}

by Charles Ghingna stirs my thinking. The messages and metaphors in each poem are great little pieces to stop and reflect about. These would be great for talking about reading as thinking and what that can look like for each individual. The book is visually appealing. The illustrator Julia Gorton did a wonderful job visualizing the message using bright colors for her illustrations. The font is an integral part of each layout. The font is adjusted to help the reader connect and think about the words being used.

I was reorganizing our playroom which includes a small library, more on that later, and was reading some poems from Score! As I was flipping through the pages I stopped on "Goal Tending" and did some reflecting. This page jumped out at me first because the illustration is a big soccer net and a goalie coming out of the box to stop the ball, hence the name of the poem. (Soccer is the most played sport in our house.) However, as I reflected more I realized the poem had a meaning on and off the field. We just hosted N's soccer team party last night to celebrate their growth and love of the game for the past year. I used "Goal Tending" on the awards I made for each player...hoping to inspire the group of thirteen year olds to think about goals related to the game and those outside the world of soccer.

Goal Tending

To reach your greatest dream in life.

First set a worthy goal;

Choose one you can embrace each day

With all your heart and soul.

Embracing a goal each day sounds wonderful...I'm going to ponder that.