Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Family Math Night Math Standards in Action

by Jennifer Taylor-Cox, Ph.D is an essential book for planning a family math night for your classroom or a school wide event! To quote Jennifer, "By participating in a Family Math Night, parents can serve as models of motivation, persistence, and competency to their children." She begins her book with organization tips, questions with answers parents may ask, and a great piece on why we should use mathematics. I have been planning Family Math Nights school wide for a few years and had never thought about color coding the direction sheets for primary, intermediate, and everyone. She then provides about a dozen activities for primary, intermediate, and everyone. The everyone section makes great sense because the activities are appropriate for all grade levels. An entire family can participate at the same time with varying ages. The activities are correlated to the five content standards including number and operations, algebra, geometry, measurement, and data analysis and probability. If you were to try and plan a Family Math Night for the first time either in a classroom or school wide section this would be my first choice as a resource.

I will be using this resource in my room all year for my Family Math homework component. Each week I send home an activity, usually a game format for my students to play with their family. They can actually play with anyone; a sibling, a parent, a caregiver, a relative, or a friend. I feel homework has to be relevant, meaningful, and engaging. The game is something we have done in the classroom and the children love going home as an expert for how to play. I send it home in a Family Math folder on Fridays with the expectation for it to return on Thursday. This way they have an entire week to play it multiple times and they can do it when it is best in their schedule. I think providing the weekend for working parents is helpful. I also provide a Family Comment sheet to help foster communication between home and school.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ohio Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conf.

If you live in Ohio or near Cincinnati, Ohio you may want to consider attending this conference, Mathematics: A Bridge to Your Future. This event is sponsored by the Ohio Council of Teachers of Mathematics and is taking place on November 12-14, 2009. In an effort to GO GREEN their program book will be available on their website prior to the conference and then handed out at the conference in paper form. I attended this conference last year for the first time and loved it. There were lots of sessions for every age group and a range of topics across the strands of mathematics. Some highlights from this year's conference will include Cathy Seely, former NCTM president and consultant to school districts, a comic musical review called "Calculus, the Musical", and a Games Extravaganza session. There are many opportunities to learn from people who are passionate about mathematics and enhance your teaching and personal knowledge of mathematics.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Jeremy Tankard Website

Jeremy Tankard has a fabulous website for his readers. You can find information about his books, a biography, his blog, a wonderful page about his illustrations and more. Enjoy getting to know this fabulous illustrator and author. Make sure you read the article I found at the LA Times about him.


I was so excited to pick up BOO HOO BIRD by Jeremy Tankard! I love the warm monochromatic colors he chooses to use in his illustrations and the use of black pen to outline a little for details and contrast. Jeremy Tankard writes about friendship and in this adventure Bird has an injury and needs help from his friends. What a natural response Rabbit offers, a hug. What a great response because we all know that sometimes children just need a hug to move on. Not bird though, Beaver has another fantastic option, a cookie! Well, Bird didn't like this option and I'm not sure why. Sheep isn't helpful but finds Fox's band-aide is a solution. Then his friends are sad for him and Bird has to show them he's OK. Jeremy Tankard understands children and the experiences they have.

I was surprised when B saw the front cover and her first comment was, "look at his band-aide, it's blue just like his skin. You can see it just a little bit." When I reflected about her comment I realized, that's what we do at home too. We use the skin colored band-aides, which gave her insight and a connection.

This is a sequel to Grumpy Bird written in 2007.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Dog House!

Another book we are in love with by Jan Thomas! The Dog House! begins on the inside jacket cover and continues with the title page as the reader sees Cow, Duck, Mouse and Pig playing with a red ball. There is no text which supported the use of reading the pictures. The text and the pictures show us on the first page the ball went into Dog's house. The second set of pages shows the reader you only need to sketch what is most important to go with the story. This page just shows the characters faces from the nose up with their big worried eyes. Mouse encourages his friends to go in and try to get the ball. B and I discussed the difference between wise and smart for the pig while giggling at the word choices Mouse uses most of the time. Unfortunately, each time Mouse's friends do not return and the ending was quite a surprise to us, the first time we read it. Jan Thomas' books have been the perfect way to start our summer reading!

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Birthday for Cow!

B and I are continuing our discovery of Jan Thomas books and we love them so much I just had to blog about them, incase they are new to you too. A Birthday for Cow! is the return of the characters Pig and Mouse who are preparing for Cow's birthday. Duck wants to add turnips to the cake with much objection from his friends. The decisions Jan Thomas made with the print makes this book so enjoyable. The bold print and use of punctuation marks has B and I reading with such inflection we both just giggle through the whole text. The use of speech bubbles is also key in connecting the characters with their responses as the story goes along. Today we are going to pick up a turnip at the grocery to see if we agree with Duck.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Diary of a Wombat

by Jackie French was another book I picked up on vacation several reasons. I was intrigued by the title and cover illustration. What is a wombat I kept asking B? Together we thought maybe a bear, maybe a rodent, and maybe something just made up. It made me think about other books with a diary type format and title. The book has great acrylic painted illustrations against a white background. The positions of the wombat throughout the books and expressions are a perfect match to the text and show the reader more about the wombat's personality. I thought the book would be a great role model for writing about what one does each day and discussing the passage of time.

B and I learned our predictions were right. A wombat is a little bit like a bear and lives underground as rodent might. It mostly comes out at night and sleeps during the day. It lives in Australia. In this story the wombat sleeps and eats a lot while waking to meet the new neighbors. The new neighbors and this wombat learn to coexist together but it's the journey they take getting to this coexistence that all readers will enjoy.

This book, Diary of a Wombat, was published in 2003, while I just discovered a new book How to Scratch a Wombat was released this year.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Recycle This Book

Recycle This Book, 100 Top Children's Book Authors Tell You How to Go Green, edited by Dan Gutman was a book I couldn't resist buying while on vacation. I actually left the store without the book because it didn't seem to be the just right book for kindergarten but returned because I was so intrigued by the title and bought it. Recently published in 2009, Dan Gutman has collected thoughts from 100 children's authors about being green. Authors share their thinking and their personal actions to improve our planet. I was amazed to read what Jane Yolen eats for breakfast, "compost casserole". She mixes her leftovers and tops them with corn bread batter, baking it until the corn bread is done. She doesn't believe in throwing food out. Ralph Fletcher got me really excited about the possibility of composting with red worms. He made it sound rather easy and his enjoyment was evident in his voice. David Adler talks about doing all of his writing, revising, editing, and submitting his books via the computer in hopes of saving a tree. These are just three examples but there are 97 more. I think this book would be great to accompany any author study, it provides insight into an author's life and provides thinking for actions children could take to improve our planet.

I'm always on the look out for a great bookstore and each trip to NH visit Innisfree Bookshop in Meredith. This is an independent store with a nice collection of books for all ages and a great collection of quality toys

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Organizational Tip

As I read professional books I underline.

I underline things that are new learning.
I underline things I want to remember.
I underline things to help me reflect.
I underline things to help me plan.

This past spring I participated in The Literacy Connections course work for the year with Carl Anderson and his book Assessing Writers. I had things I had underlined but also charts of information I wanted to easily locate. I decided to color code a post it note system to help me locate information. I was hoping to make using the book and returning to my initial thinking much easier. It did and my friends in the class really liked the idea so I thought I would share my latest adventure with organization.

As I've been reading my new professional books about early literacy and blogging about them I began thinking how can I connect these three books together to easily relocate information during the upcoming school year. On our long drive to NH, I decided to color code a post it note system again keeping it consistent between the three books.

Each category has it's own color and I'm finding the things I underline fall into five categories: Getting Started, Quotes, Planning, Conferencing, and Assessment. I think it could be a success.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Vacation and Reading

Yes, this was our view while on vacation in New Hampshire. We were on Lake Winnipesaukee for eight days. Eight days filled with friendship, food, rest, exercise, sun, water, rain, wildlife, and plenty of time to read. I saw my first porcupine, my husband took photos of a mother black bear and her cub from a kayak while they were on an island in the middle of the lake, and I kept hoping to see a moose near one of the moose crossing signs.

My reading. What joy I found in reading books of my adult reading preferences. I began planning my trip reading before school was out and reserved two titles I wanted to read from our local library. The first book I read was Cross Country by James Patterson. I really enjoy reading mysteries and Alex Cross is my favorite detective, I've now read them all. I was surprised how fast I read this book and was just so excited to be reading something for pure fun. When I started my second book The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks I knew I would be reading something realistic fiction but was surprised with my initial pace. This got me thinking about my own reading life and how it was just like the students I have worked with over the past few years.

Alex Cross is a series of books I have read written by James Patterson. Reading the same character over and over builds fluency and comprehension. I'm very familiar with the writing style for these books, I can do a little predicting about the story elements and couldn't wait to read what Nana, the grandmother in the story would have to say to Alex. I like the twist and turns these books take while Alex is trying to solve awful crimes. I even noticed these books have shorter chapters, I could read one while cooking dinner. What was more interesting was the ease in reading this book with more white space between the lines.

As I switched to The Lucky One, by Nicholas Sparks the chapters were longer, the lines of text were closer together and I was finding myself concentrating a bit more. For a brief moment I thought about abandoning it and then realized I could work through these text-writing changes to enjoy a great book. I can always count on Nicholas Sparks for a good realistic fiction, taking place in North Carolina, a love story with a twist or two. I have now read all of his books and feel I have accomplished something. I think this is how my students felt when they were on a mission to read all the Geronimo Stilton books in the classroom and beyond.

Then I read the Element, How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson, Ph. D. I bought this book because fellow bloggers had reviewed it and thought it was great. You can find one by Franki, here. This book is a must read for everyone. I felt this book was thought provoking personally, professionally, and as a parent. This book made me think about creativity, balance, learning styles, connections with others and curriculum. I was thankful while reading this book to have begun blogging and connecting with a "tribe" of people who share the same thinking and passion for teaching.

This type of thinking about my three books I read would be a conversation I would modify and share with a group of transitional readers. We all need mentors and this would help them learn and think about their own reading lives.

Another note about reading. I so enjoyed hearing my oldest N share a book she was reading with her Dad and offering this advice. "As you read this, you will need to pay attention as the chapters change because two people are telling the story." Thanks Sally Oddi for the book which was an ARC from my trip to Cover to Cover.

Photo - compliments of my husband.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Blogging Vacation

I'll be gone for bit with a family vacation to beautiful Lake Winnipesaukee, NH. A week of no techonology but lots of reading, games, hiking, loons, good friends, and peace. Be back in a bit.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Introduced to Jan Thomas

As I mentioned earlier part of my 48 Hour Challenge was spent shopping at Cover to Cover with the Central Ohio Kidlitosphere Bloggers. We need the support of our colleagues for teaching but also for shopping. To be honest, I was a bit overwhelmed making the transition from shopping for transtional readers to emergent readers. So, when Katie and Franki both told me I needed to get to know the author Jan Thomas I listened and am now thrilled.

Her books are fantastic for kindergarten readers! What Will Fat Cat Sit On? is a story about a group of animals; a cow, a mouse, a pig, a chicken, and a dog who are worried about the cat and where he might sit. The mouse comes up with a great idea that spares the animals from being sat upon. Jan Thomas' illustrations support the text and allows the reader to partcipate from the initial reading. The repetitive nature of the text also encourages our youngest readers to partcipate in the reading.

When thinking about how to use this book with children, I can see discussing word familes, recognizing sight words, and reading the pictures all things that will come in a classroom discussion. This books also lends itself to thinking about punctuation and inflection while reading. I am so glad to have been introduced to Jan Thomas.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

engaging young writers

is written by Matt Glover and a well written sequel to Already Ready which I previously read and blogged. Matt Glover listens to young children and by listening is able to nudge children's writing development through book making. Listening is so important when nurturing our younger students. Their written expression will be at various stages and by listening, adults (being teachers and parents) are able to see the thinking, the details, and the thought our children put on paper which might appear simplistic at times.

This book focuses on what Matt refers to as entry points. To quote Matt, "Entry points are simply the angles from which we engage children in writing early on in their writing lives." He then dedicates a chapter to each type of entry point where he defines, provides narrative examples, and student work for the reader. There are three essential entry points; meaning, choice, and purpose. Essential entry points are fostered with deep engagement, emotional connections, time, ownership, and caring. When I think about my own best work or the work I enjoy, I am involved with some essential entry points and I can enjoy what I am doing. He follows with these types of entry points; invitational, story entry, experience, and interest.

While this book includes vingettes from preschool classrooms I found many more examples and text ideas to use in kindergarten and first grade. One unit he suggests to help foster meaning with kindergarten students is a focus on drawing to convey meaning. It makes so much sense, drawing will probably be how messages are conveyed in the beginning. He suggests mini lessons to help the children communicate better through drawing, which in turn helps them think and plan their writing. I am going to explore this thinking more.

I heard about this book from Carl Anderson when he was visiting here in Columbus, Ohio through The Literacy Connection's work. He highly recommended this book for understanding and fostering early writing and I couldn't agree more. I am confident I will refer to this during the upcoming school year.

Friday, June 5, 2009

48 hour challenge begins soon...

I'm gearing up to start the 48 hour challenge.

I'm thinking I might just get started and B will come home from a tball game with her Dad. N, my oldest has 10 girlfriends over to celebrate her 13th birthday. After walking for pizza and humoring her mother with a jeopardy game of, How well do you know N?, they are watching a movie with snacks. A, the middle one stayed back from the tball game and has a cozy spot on the couch with the big girls watching the movie and hoping N doesn't realize.

I'm wondering if I will continue reading my professional book of the moment or read the third in a series, with the first one being my favorite and the second one being okay.

Already Ready

Nurturing Writers in Preschool and Kindergarten by Katie Wood Ray and Matt Glover. I wanted to read this book next in my professional journey to kindergarten, it's essentially a sequel to About the Authors. This book is the outcome of Matt Glover trying ideas from About the Authors and sharing his thinking with Katie Wood Ray. I wanted to read this book because it included thoughts about kindergarten but I also believe it's important to understand where the children are coming from in their learning, this made it important to read about preschool writers, too. As we all know, children enter our room at different stages and knowing a little bit about before kindergarten and a little bit about first grade will help facilitate my instruction and understandings.

This book is based on the students writing picture books. They have the most experience with picture books and can refer to mentor text to help guide their work. These are the reasons Katie and Matt use picture books to guide the writing of their students.

-Picture books are familiar and lead themselves to meaning making
-Making picture books, having multiple sheets of paper ecourages more writing
-Making picture books, help children read like writers
-Making picture books, builds stamina for writers
-Children like it.

We can't forget, children like it. This book also talks about the importance of share time, conferencing and teaching with the children - side by side, nudging vs. pushing, and it's also important to use read aloud as a vehicle for instruction.

The biggest thinking I had while reading this book was the notion of NOT "under" writing on the students work. I kept thinking, How can I remember everything they are writing with two classes? The authors encourage the reader to honor students words by listening, saying them back to the students, remembering them and sharing them. I'm thinking I will need to record oral language on a conference sheet for a record of their thinking. Sometimes teachers record a students language to accompany their sketches to help reduce fatigue. Fatigue shouldn't happen if the teacher lets the students initiate writing and accepts them as the writer they are. Dictation isn't necessary if teachers send the message for students to know they are writing like a 4 or 5 year old. Some feel dictation helps others read the writing but Wood and Glover suggest if the student is present to share the book, using their oral language, then the text is read as it was intended to be read. These are just a few thoughts about NOT "under" writing with students that has given me new thinking and understandings. This text is filled with many more ideas teachers of younger students will want to explore.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

End of the Year

My school year ended with students on Tuesday of this week. My third graders didn't really seem to want to go home for the summer. You know you've done your job when a community of learners come together and want to stay together. The end of the year is so busy and I feel like it just sneaks right up on all of us before we know it. Again this year, I woke up on the last day reflecting about our year and it was inevitable I was teary eyed before I walked out the door. I seem to forget how attached I get to each one of my students.

The last day is often filled with such kind words and thoughts from many people. As you might imagine the tears can continue to surface. This year my students worked with a parent in my room to video goodbye thoughts to me. These things were mentioned a lot. They liked not having assigned seats, bluebird monitoring, studying mealworms, and all the books in our classroom. In thinking about working with kindergarteners next year, I will continue not having assigned seats, study things very hands on, and make a great classroom library.

I was lucky to work with our new gifted teacher this year and we worked with the students together in my classroom, daily. I was blessed to have this colleague become my friend. She wrote me a note to end our year working together with a gift of a small notebook. I thought her words were very insightful but a wonderful reflection for all educators to think of.

"I decided on a small notebook that you can carry everywhere to record ideas for your blog, your lessons, your life. It is also a bit symbolic. You see each child as a fresh, new notebook, ready for filling with memories and lessons on life and love."

May we all strive for this, after we rejuvenate this summer.