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 http://www.etsy.com/, 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


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.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pam Allyn - Ning - Storytelling

I'm sure you have experienced being on your computer and you end up places and discover new things. Yesterday I was traveling along and found this great video clip about storytelling in kindergarten done by Pam Allyn. It's a short clip and a must see for teachers of young children and thinking about the importance of storytelling as a beginning stage of writing. I loved these words she says in her video, marinate and heart of writing. When I watched the video I was instantly recalling my reading of Talking, Drawing, and Writing which I shared here. I'm really thinking my school year will start with a unit on storytelling. I'm going to ponder having parents come and share stories with us.

I will be learning and exploring more about Ning. This is where I found the video clip and my first visit to a Ning site.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Kindle 2 - first update

I am really enjoying my Kindle2. I decided to download and read a fun book first, My Sister's Keeper is what I chose. With the movie coming out this summer a few friends said it was a great read and I hadn't read the author Jodi Picoult before. I did this on purpose because I wanted to be able to just start reading and with a professional book I would want to take time to highlight and underline, tools available to use while you are reading.

As I am reading, I am equally engaged with the story, surprised at different points, connecting with the characters and questioning. I really like the design and format. It's easy to hold. The screen is easy to read off of, you can adjust the print size. The layout and use of buttons is easy to use while maneuvering through a book. I am trying to read the User's Guide a bit every day so I can fully learn to use the Kindle 2 to it's potential. I have found when searching the User Guide my questions are answered fairly quickly.

I found myself wondering how far I had to go in the book and that felt awkward at first. At the bottom of each "page" you are reading there is a bar indicating the percentage of the book read. This is interesting to follow. On your Home page there are a row of dots indicating the length of your book and the part you have read are in bold. I like this feature and feel like I'm learning to sense where I am in my reading.

I'm currently semi-struggling with a cover purchase. I feel one is needed to protect it. I like just holding the Kindle2 to read so I don't know if I need the whole binder cover which seems to be most common. I found some homemade covers through http://www.etsy.com/ adorable and would be more like slipping it into a bag. Here's the shop I found where they make some cover bags, Borsa Bella. Still thinking about this decision and didn't think it would be so involved.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Kindle 2!

Today, my husband gave me a Kindle2 as an early anniversary present. Our 18th anniversary is in two weeks but he wanted me to have more time to play with it. I am still completely surprised. We had lots going on today but I am planning on buying a fun book as my first read tonight and trying it out. These are some thoughts I've had today as I think about owning and using this technology. I'm generally slow to warm with new technology and it's nice to have S around to giving me some needed nudges.

-The print and screen look great, while I read the welcome letter!
-Will this change how I use the public library?
-Will I carry it in my purse or bag all the time?
-I think I need a cover.
-I need to go cover shopping.
-Will I purchase professional books?
-Are there books for hobbies out there to get?
-My girls are very interested...will I let them use it?
-This had great potential for trees and our environment.
-I need to explore and read about using it.
-How will this change my reading life?

Off to have some fun!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Lucy Rose...a favorite new character!


I'm not sure how I ever missed the character, Lucy Rose. She debuted in 2004 in Here's the Thing About Me, by Katy Kelly. A and I read her this past spring together. Lucy Rose would be a great book for anyone living with divorced parents. This first book is about her transition from living in Ann Arbor, Michigan to Washington, DC. She and her mother move just down the street from her grandparents. This move brings about much uncertainty as she makes new friends, learns about a new city, creates a new home, and visits with her dad occasionally. An additional bonus is reading about family support and relationships on a daily basis for Lucy. Lucy's grandmother is an expert on children and a writer. She writes for a newspaper and people send her letters asking for advice. Lucy herself does this along the way, without her grandmother knowing it's her (wink, wink) and gets responses to help guide her. Lucy herself becomes a writer and tells her story through a journal type format, with a great voice of self. I also loved the subtle role of her teacher, Mr. Welsh. He has a gentle presence and keeps checking in to see if each month is getting better. Mr. Welsh learns early on that Lucy Rose has a way with palindromes, words that are spelled the same forward and backwards and this play with words continues throughout the book. A and I had a lot of fun checking out all the palindromes used and began to think of some on our own. Lucy Rose and her Dad write emails to each other using palindromes often. Lucy Rose is a spunky, smart, girl character with a very realistic story that transitional readers will easily connect with.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Starting with Comprehension


by Andie Cunningham and Ruth Shagoury. The full title of this book is what really caught my attention when I was looking for resources to read for teaching kindergarten, Starting with Comprehension Reading Strategies for the Youngest Learners. I've been working with reading strategies with transitional readers for five years and began to wonder how would I adapt my thinking for my new friends.

This book was just perfect not only because it talks about each reading strategy but it spent more time sharing examples and vignettes from a kindergarten classroom. The language they shared as they discuss reading strategies with our youngest learners made perfect sense. It's not simplified because they are little kids, it's using language they can relate to. Here are a few examples from the text...

-"If you were in my brain, you would hear me thinking about..."

-"Schema is the stuff already in your head..."

-"Determining importance, the special ideas that are hidden."

Each chapter is filled with anchor charts and a progression for how to develop the reading strategy in a kindergarten classroom. The authors share children's literature they have used to build strategy learning with which is also helpful. When I finished this book I felt it would be one I will refer to as the year progresses and our learning together grows.

However, what I absolutely loved about this book goes beyond strategy learning. It was how these two teachers look at the whole child and each child is looked at for strengths and weaknesses as an individual. They stress the importance for setting up a community and figuring out what each child is already an expert of. The students come already filled with knowledge and passion for things. This book urges us to find out this information and use it to help guide student growth. The other idea that went beyond strategy learning was the idea of using different languages to demonstrate learning; whether it be clay, models, paint, drawing, and movement. Much of the student work was done with drawing which ties in to some previous reading I have been doing. Children are not cookie cutters and this makes perfect sense, " We support our community when we use a variety of tools for expression throughout our work together. It's important that I find a medium to give all students a means to express their unique voices and their understanding of our comprehension strategy work."

Friday, July 3, 2009

Rainbow Magic Series

There's an old saying, you can't judge a book by it's cover and that is very true and a lesson I am reminded of with my daughter, A.

A year ago spring break, I took A shopping at Cover to Cover and she was having a hard time finding books for herself. She loved being read to but reading on her own was missing something. She picked up a book with a fairy on it, I didn't know the author, it looked about her independent reading level but I wasn't thrilled because it was about a fairy and I didn't know the author's name Daisy Meadows. I tried to discourage her from this book and ended up giving in because it was a chapter book, the first in a series and she wanted it.

Daisy Meadows and the Rainbow Magic Series changed my daughter's life. I'm not joking! She so enjoyed the story we had to get more. Soon we exhausted the public library supply. She had never done this before with a series and was ending second grade. She wasn't a fan of series books, I don't think she was a fan of reading. She had to start ordering them, only to learn they are released in the UK and take awhile to make it to the US. She got to the point where she'd read all of them available in the US. I was thrilled, she was reading on her own and loving it.

During the winter we were in German Village at the Book Loft and she discovered a new series by Daisy Meadows and we had to buy all seven. It's a great short series for kids. Jack Frost is always causing mischief and the fairies figure it out. Just last week we were in NH and she found a new series and brought all seven over to me to purchase. Again, I kind of frowned about the purchase this time justifying it with these are easy books (she just finished Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) and couldn't we get them from the library. I couldn't even really justify the purchase with teaching kindergarteners. Our book shopping went all wrong from that point and she walked out with nothing. I returned to buy them and now I know why.

Tonight she just ran down here to tell me about two characters who ran into a new girl and "Mom, guess what her name is?" It's A. Guess how they spell it? A s h l e i g h!" Her face lit up like the sun and her smile was beautiful. Her name is pretty common but the spelling is not.

Thank you Daisy Meadows for really changing a reader's life and making a difference.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

More Family Math Resources

If you are interested in more activities to involve families you might want to check out these three resources from the Lawerence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley. These three books provide activities that engage children with their families using very common objects. The activities cover all mathematical strands and promote problem solving and thinking strategically. One thing I really like about these books is the ability to use the same activity across grade levels or as extensions for some students. Each activity has a picture key to indicate if it's good for early, middle and later grades.

Family Math
Family Math II
Family Math for Young Children

Family Math The Middle School Years

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Talking, Drawing, Writing


Talking, Drawing, Writing by Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe answered some very important questions for me as a teacher of writing. As I was reading Ray, Cleveland, and Glover, I kept asking myself about the writing that happens before any formation of letters. I know from teaching kindergarten and first grade for many years that drawing is children's first form of written communication. Matt Glover touches on drawing as a unit of study to convey meaning and led me to this book.

What a fabulous resource for kindergarten teachers and those interested in valuing the language of drawing further. As Horn and Giacobbe write, "drawing is not rehearsal for writing: drawing is writing." To help foster the drawing Horn and Giacobbe encourage teachers and guide them to think about storytelling.

Here are four reasons storytelling is an important component to a writing workshop.
-storytelling is a natural part of a child's life and it "honors them for who they are"
-storytelling builds community
-"telling stories acknowledges talk as having an essential place at the core of writing"
-students can learn about writing/craft with support before writing it down on paper

Students begin the year recording their stories in a Drawing and Writing book. One of the big reasons they begin with a bound book with blank drawing pages is often the students stories are recorded in one drawing. Younger students need to learn how to extend a story over time and space, which leads them to writing their own picture books later in the year. Horn and Giacobbe realized as they were working with students that they valued drawing but not in the same way as writing. They weren't ever spending time fostering and guiding the drawing. Over time, they began to do mini lessons on drawing. The purpose of the mini lessons were to help the children learn to draw respresentationally, drawings that looked real. Since their stories are real, we know illustrators match their illustrations to the text.

They share with us these four important reasons for drawing with young students. These are taken right from the book...
1. drawing is one primal way that beginning writers represent and understand meaning.
2. drawing is a way for children to be heard.
3. drawing is a medium through which children develop language.
4. drawing allows children to go deeper into their stories.

I'm really looking forward to doing mini lessons on drawing in a sketch book with the students to help foster their writing this coming year. One thing I need to acquire is multicultural drawing tools to help the representational drawing be more accurate.

This book is a resource filled with mini lessons to help guide my teaching this coming school year. It will require me to observe closely at the students needs and record my observations which their chapter on assessment gave me some forms to consider using and things to look for in student writing. Horn and Giacobbe are masters at looking student work and identifying what students know about craft and conventions. Then based on these observations they are able to decide what students need to learn and what the teacher needs to teach.

This book guides you through a school year and also discusses students writing booklets, their own picture books about mid-year. After booklets are introduced the mini lessons focus more on the craft of writing. The authors caution the reader and let us know this book is and was not written as a curriculum for teachers. The lessons are not organized in a concrete manner to follow day to day. It's organized with thought and the need for each classroom teacher to observe and recognize what individual and group needs are for their writers.

I feel this book combined with the other three books I have read has prepared me to teach emergent writers again and I can't wait to see their progression during the school.