Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Three Bears' Christmas

I don't usually read holiday books at school.  We read them all the time at home and I pull out seasonal/holiday books from our basement as we move through the year.  An easy homemade advent calendar thing I've done for years is to wrap 24 picture books in tissue paper and each time we unwrap one to read before bed.  The last book, The Night before Christmas that my mother read to me when I was little.  It's nice to have that tradition from my childhood and my time with her to share with my girls.  It always warms my heart. 

The other night B unwrapped The Three Bears' Christmas by Kathy Duval.  She had so much fun hearing this version it made me think about sharing it with my students.  We were just finishing reading several versions of the three bears.  We focused our learning heavily on The Three Bears by Byron Barton which I reviewed to learn about characters, setting, and retelling/sequencing.  My students loved it.  They were using many reading strategies, thinking, and talking about the story.  As one student declared, "We are using our picture clues!"  The three bears have gingerbread that is too hot.  They take a walk where Papa and Mama are redirecting Baby Bear's thoughts.  They return to find things not the same at the house and red items are left behind.  My students had a lot to say about the character replacing Goldilocks and why Goldilocks isn't in this version.

Happy Holidays to everyone.  Take the time to rest and enjoy the spirit of the season.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Holes! A Coloring Book by La Zoo is another book of interest for it's design.  The book opens to the reader with this description.  "This is a coloring book, but not an ordinary coloring book.  Instead of coloring inside the lines, you color inside the holes.  You'll find that what you've colored inside the holes changes into something else when you turn the page."  Isn't the premise of this book, lovely?  What a great idea.  Helping children think differently.  Helping children think outside the box.  The holes in this book come in different geometric shapes; circles, squares, and triangles.  I think it will help students see shapes within their environment.  I think this book will help children draw things using geometric objects.  On one page a triangle is a tent and when you turn the page the same triangle is added to a circle to make a fish.  I think to have students try and design their own book with shapes cut out could be difficult but maybe a one page flip project might work.  La Zoo definitely helps students think differently.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Squiggles! A Drawing Book by La Zoo is more than a drawing book.  I was drawn to it as a mentor text for writing.  I was drawn to it as a how to for drawing.  The book is set up with an example on the right for using scribble lines in an illustration and then the basis of the example page is on the right without the squiggles.  There is text to encourage the owner to do the same with squiggle lines as the author.  Here's a few examples;

Right page
"Round and round...This fish has a squiggly circle pattern." 
Left page
"Draw squiggles on this fish too!"

Squiggles are used to show lots of things;  a lion's mane, spaghetti on a plate, big dark clouds, giant waves, small waves, nest in a tree, burnt food and more.  I'm thinking that squiggles can show movement.  Squiggles can define environment.  Squiggles can provide detail.  Squiggles can enhance our illustrations and thoughts.  I can't wait to work with squiggles.  I think if you want to make the book more accessible in a classroom that the pages on the left could be reproduced (with source noted) for mini lesson work or choice time.  Now, I just have to fit in choice time!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Rabbit's Gift

Rabbit's Gift is based on a Chinese folktale and is retold by George Shannon.  The book opens with, "Rabbit twitched his nose int he cold, damp air.  Time to find food.  More snow was coming.  Coming soon."  If you live here in the Midwest you've spent the past 24 hours watching more and more snow come.  Our first snow fall for the season and I'm hoping it will make some students wonder about the animals that live in our neighborhood.  In this folktale Rabbit goes looking for food, finding two turnips.  When we gets home he realizes two turnips is a too much for him and thinks about donkey being alone and wondering if she has enough food to eat.  Rabbit takes the turnip to donkey and leaves it by the door because no one is home.  Donkey comes home with a potato and is worried how hungry goat might be so she takes the turnip to goat.  Goat isn't home so donkey lives the turnip at her door.  This continues with goat taking it to deer and deer taking it to rabbit.  I love how the animals realize they have enough for themselves and think about others.  The turnip does get eaten in the end but you've got to read the book to find out how and why.  An important message about being together, for a community. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Teaching with Intention - Reflection #2

Teaching with Intention by Debbie Miller is the focus for this year and the Literacy Connection group here in Central Ohio. My second reflection comes in response to reading Chapter 2, Defining Beliefs and Aligning Practices.  I don't know if there are too many professional writers who can be explicit, direct, and stimulating in such a concise way as Debbie Miller.  In this five page chapter Debbie makes one reflect and want to think further about the bigger picture, our own philosophy to help children and our teaching.  I love these two sentences that are in the opening paragraph.  "When teachers have a set of beliefs that guides our work, we know where we're going.  There may be twists and turns along the way, but we always know where we're headed."  Life is full of twists and turns.  Naturally our teaching is going to be full of twists and turns.  However, I feel Debbie is telling the reader if you are grounded in what you believe in those twists and turns are manageable. 

Debbie shares her own work and a little bit of the process she went through to create her own philosophy of teaching and learning.  It was in process for a year.  Isn't it comforting knowing this isn't a quick project.  This isn't something that's written once and set in stone?  She also admits it was the first time she actually thought about her own philosophy and not accepting someone elses.  Her encouraging words, "We're the ones in the unique and wonderful position to know where our kids have been, where they are now, and where it makes the most sense to take them next.  Real life isn't scripted.  Neither in real teaching."  I found these sentences quite comforting.  She shares more about her journey and reflecting on what was happening in her classroom and matching it to her philosophy.  She discovered in her journey she might have forgotten how to listen to what the children were saying and not listening for the thinking she had preconceived. 

Debbie encourages teachers to "begin a process of defining your beliefs and aligning your practices."  She encourages teachers to write 15 min. a day, three times a week about what they learned.  I think of this as a way of collecting data.  Looking for patterns and things you noticed then a teacher is ready to write short, clear statements to guide their work.  I was blessed to begin my career where this was done school wide.  What a wonderful opportunity to work in a building where every staff member had a voice and the time was spent to create a building wide philosophy.  Yea, we spent time wordsmithing.  Sometimes small groups reflected and revised by in the end we all had to agree.  I thought it was a bit corny when we were all presented with our heavily laminated 'The Ten Foundational Principles of the Informal Alternative Program'   cards.  Our principal, Dr. Fred Burton at the time, wanted our beliefs to be easily accessible so we could talk to people about them.  Til this day, 11 years after I switched school districts I still carry my card in my wallet.  I have relied heavily on those in my career.  I wonder if I would write as Debbie suggests I would tweak those beliefs.  Hopefully, I haven't lost those beliefs in a different district and changes in education with assessments and such.  As I created the link for the foundational principals above, I was relieved to know they are still the same at Wickliffe Progressive Community School. I do love Debbie's ending advice, "Take the high road.  Don't let them defeat you."  She encourages us to find our own beliefs and not embrace those of others.  Make sure we know how we feel about children and make our interactions count  matching our own philosophy.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Peace by Todd Parr is a great new find, thanks to Stella at My World-Mi Mundo in a recent article she wrote for Choice Literacy.  Stella urges teachers to find similarities and suggests peace as a common thread through cultures.  Peacy by Todd Parr is bright, bold, and colorful.  It's also a perfect mentor text for all ages, especially primary students.  The child like drawn illustrations help convey each example of peace.  I found the vast amount of peace definitions easy for young children to understand and make connections with.  Here a few examples from the book.

"Peace is making new friends.
Peace is planting a tree.
Peace is reading all different kinds of books."

Todd captures every day things that represent peace.  I found myself stopping and thinking how these every day things do show peace.  I think as an adult our thoughts of peace are quite grand and quite global.  However, peace begins with daily choices and decisions.  I love the idea of a common thread through cultures.  We have to learn and help our students to be more global.  We have to help them see beyond their immediate selves.  We need to embrace cultures, similarities, and differences beyond the typical holiday time in the United States.  We have so much to learn from others.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Teaching with Intention - Reflection #1

Teaching with Intention by Debbie Miller is the focus for this year and the Literacy Connection group here in Central Ohio.  As part of our reading, thinking, and college credit I've been asked to do eight reflections with blogging being an option.  I thought I could share my journey and thinking here. I also needed a plan for those eight reflections and I got very lucky when I opened the book, there are eight chapters!

Chapter 1
Debbie opens here book with this question for the reader.  "If I were to ask you to close your eyes and envision the perfect classroom scene, what would you see?  What would you hear and smell and feel?  Think big!  If everything were going just he way you'd like it to, what would be happening?  What would your kids be doing?  How about you?"

Wow, that is a lot to think about.  I immediately thought about physical space and have to admit, I love my physical space.  Debbie talks about room organization and I've got that down and know it works for the children.  She also mentions the walls of the classroom talk.  They show student learning through work and anchor charts.  I love blank walls and bulletin boards until our important work goes up to be displayed.  Recently, our fire marshall has made displaying student work a bit challenging so I keep thinking through  how to do this and be a little creative. 

Debbie shares an example of a third grade classroom and through her observations show "evidence of rigorous, joyful learning."   She also shows  how the students are very much in charge and working independently.  She does end the chapter wondering and thinking about how this teacher and classroom got things working so well.  She comments, it wasn't magical and it wasn't all the good kids placed in one room.  I think she's going to show us more and think about making a classroom "rigorous and joyful."

When I think about my picture perfect, beyond physical space I'm a little unsettled.  I'm being much more intentional year two, with my return to kindergarten, to help the students gain independence and knowing what real work looks like while I confer and work with small groups.   I am also unsettled with the rigor and joyful learning part.  It's easy to put blame on my every other day attendance schedule but that is out of my control.  I think part of the blame is still learning the state standards.  I think part of the blame is my need and belief to integrate learning, allowing for connections.  I don't do well teaching things in isolation.  I want that picture perfect scene to include student observations, inquiry, talk, discovery, sketching, choice, and children's decisions driving learning and instruction.  I hope my journey with Teaching with Intention guides and reduces some unsettling in my head.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A simple act of kindness

I just completed thirty seven parent teacher conferences, each twenty minutes, with two going to forty minutes.  If I wasn't so tired this would make a really great math problem.  Instead I want to share a story with you that brought tears to my eyes, in front of parents I barely know.

About midway through my conference schedule, G's parents came in holding a dowel rod.  They wondered if I really wanted this.  They shared with me G found a dowel rod in their garage.  They didn't even know it was out there.  He then got a permanent sharpie, which I could tell wasn't a normal writing tool at home, and colored four inches of the tip all the way around.  He told his parents my pointer had broken and I needed a new one.  He was RIGHT!  When I sit in my rocking chair and I read our alphabet linking chart I need a full length dowel.  My own daughters were playing school after school and my original one broke.  I hadn't gotten around to replacing it for about two weeks, I just had to get the black paint out.  I am still so touched that a student, a child of 5 or 6 saw a need I had and found a solution all on his own.  Our students can fix problems and be resourceful.  A simple gift that makes my life easier and warms my heart.  In the hustle and bustle of teaching, conferences, and maintaining life I hope you find a little surprise to make you stop, reflect and enjoy.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

for just ONE DAY

for just ONE DAY by Laura Leuck is another book I can use to help talk about predictions in a little bit different way.  This book follows a little girl as she pretends to dress up as many things.  The use of descriptive language combined with the illustrations allows the reader to predict each page what the girl will be. 

Here's an example that starts the book,
"For just one day, I'd like to be
a busy, buzzing bumble (turn the page)
The flowers would belong to me,
if I could be a bumblebee.

I know my students will enjoy predicting each page and identifying rhyming words.  I think a few pages will be a challenge due to the rhyme and what easily makes sense to my students.  For example, "a big banana tree" with the illustration makes sense to be a monkey but the rhyme makes it chimpanzee.  This could stretch some children.  After all the different things this little girl wants to be in just one day she discovers or shares she wants to be someone special, me.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Dinnertime! by Sue Williams is book with safe predictions and one big surprise!  The book starts with six fat rabbits romping near a scarecrow, not seeing the fox off in the distance.  The rabbits are encouraged to run and then dinnertime is announced.  The reader turns the page to discover five fat rabbits playing in the hay.  The fox and dinnertime announcement continues throughout the story down to one rabbit.  These will be easy safe predictions for my students to see.  As I turned the page after one fat rabbit my safe predictions were no longer appropriate and as a reader I was quite surprised with the ending.  I can't wait to share this book with my students.  The text is simple and repetitive.  As I explore predictions in kindergarten I have really tried to keep the text accessible to most of my students.  Making these books a great addition to our shared reading or buddy reading collection.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Amazing Faces {Poetry Friday}

It's been awhile since I joined Poetry Friday and I'm not sure why.  After meeting and learning about Chris Soentpiet's work, I knew I had to return with Amazing Faces.  This book is a collection of poetry gathered by the great Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by the skillfully talented Chris Soentpiet.  The book is filled with multicultural settings and characters.  The collection of poetry takes the reader on a journey to ponder about baby faces, a seamstress in chinatown, a sleeping child, a young girl, and many more.  The amazing faces found in this book and the collection of poetry is all based on normal everyday situations.  Chris Soentpiet took normal situations and has woven the poetry language into beautiful masterpieces.  Bringing the poems literally to life in his realistic work.  I was thrilled to learn Chris is working with Lee Bennett Hopkins again in creating, Amazing Places.  Another collection I'm sure that will be brilliant.

I was so happy to see one of my favorite poems conclude this book.

My People

The night is beautiful.
So the faces of my people.

The stars are beautiful.
So the eyes of my people.

Beautiful, also, is the sun.
Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people.

Langston Hughes.

Take the time to get to know the souls of those you are around,
I may have shared this poem before but one worth revisiting.

You can find the round up at Scrub a Tub Dub.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Suddenly! by Colin McNaughton is perfect for helping kindergarten students think about predicting.  The text is larger in size.  The illustrations are very supportive to the text and using our picture clues to understand the story is essential.  The text also has a pattern and would allow us as writers to think about the word suddenly and what happens following that word each time. 

Preston the pig is a forgetful pig.  Preston the pig changes his mind all the time.  Preston the pig is being chased by a large wolf and doesn't know it.  Being forgetful and changing his mind saves him each time when the large wolf is ready to grab or eat him!  When Preston arrives from home from his journey to the store with his purchases he tells his mother he feels like he's been followed.  The illustration here is clever.  In the background you see a shadow of Mom's back which looks like and the reader would predict the large wolf!  Maybe we predicted this based on our knowledge of the three pig stories, too.  However, the ears are really a bandana tied on Mom's head and the full color illustration on the next page generated a surprising, fast, and furious discussion when our prediction didn't match the text.  This is one of new to me favorites, enjoy!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Duck at the Door

Duck at the Door, by Jackie Urbanovic is another book I've used this week for helping my children think about predicting.  The animals and Irene hear a knock at the door during a winter storm.  They are surprised to find a Duck stuck in a snow bank.  Duck, aka Max loved spring and decided to stay and not leave with his flock, assuming he would like winter.  His plan didn't go so well and Irene was kind enough to take him in for the winter.  Max learns a lot about living in a house with gadgets.  Max's adventures with his new learning is quite funny.  Just as spring arrives, Irene and the animals need a break from Max and at the same time Max hears his flock returning and rushes off to join them.  Everyone misses Max.  When Fall comes there is a knock on the door and everyone is hoping for the same thing on the other side.  The ending has a delightful twist. 

Many of my students had already heard this story before so our discussion about predicting was a bit challenging.  Those who knew the story just wanted to share the ending and steps along the way.  It's hard for young students to wait or not share with excitement with thinking.  When I got to the point where I wanted to talk about making a prediction, I found it was hard for them to focus on the question and not the ending.  I then went on a search to find books for prediction that may not be so common.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Stephanie's Ponytail

Stephanie's Ponytail written by Robert Munsch was the perfect book to begin thinking about predictions with my students.  Stephanie wants to wear a ponytail in her hair.  It's a different hairstyle, no one in her school wears ponytails.  When she arrives at school her classmates make fun of her and put her down with this phrase, "Ugly, ugly, very ugly."  Stephanie is strong and independent.  She likes it and it's her ponytail.  The next day when she arrives at school her friends have all copied her by wearing ponytails off the back of their heads.  This bothers Stephanie, she doesn't like her friends copying her.  She continues to change her hairstyle and her friends continue to copy.  Stephanie announces ahead of time her next hairstyle and ends the copying when she doesn't follow through but her friends do.  This book had multiple places to stop and predict asking, "What do you think will happen next?"  My students found it very funny, they were engaged with the text and requested a reread today.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Chris Soentpiet's Visit

Chris Soentpiet holds an audience's attention.  Chris Soentpiet holds the attention of 160 kindergarten and first grade students with grace.  One of the first things I learned today was Chris Soentpiet was a kindergarten teacher before becoming an illustrator and fine art artist.  His favorite artist is Norman Rockwell and it all makes sense.  The way Chris is able to capture people, emotions and scenarios does have a Norman Rockwell feel, now that he shared that.  I wonder if he would say Norman Rockwell is his mentor?  Students are always looking for mentors, or we are as teachers to help our students.  Why wouldn't an artist need a mentor?

Chris shared a wonderful presentation.  Taking us on a journey of his work.  He retold stories as he shared the illustrations for each.  We learned a lot of "behind the scenes" of his published books.  He uses real life models.  He stressed how hard to could be being one of his models.  To be a model you have to be able to act, follow directions, and cooperate.  Cooperate was a huge message and he had photos of a session where I little girl couldn't cooperate.  My B came home talking a great deal about the message of cooperating and this little girl.  All Around Town is his first book and his favorite.  On the bus are the numbers 1370, which is his birthday.  His real life models are often people he knows, his family,  and then models he hires.  It's amazing how he can set the stage in a photograph, do a rough sketch, then a pencil sketch and always a practice painting no bigger than the length of a pair of scissors, with the final outcome of a watercolor painting.  To create one painting he works eight hours a day for two weeks.  While working, he plays no music, he doesn't talk, he just paints. 

I found myself returning to my classroom looking at his work searching through the illustrations.  I was looking for Chris, his wife Yin (who is also an author), his sister.  Many of his neighbors are in his illustrations.  He photographed toy cars from above to replicate a busy city street.  His biggest tip for using watercolors  was to work with just one color all over the page where it is needed and let it dry before you use another color.  This helps create the incredible detail we find in his work.  I could carry on with more tidbits I learned during our session but you will have to have your path cross his.  He left our children with this message, "Follow your dreams, believe in yourself."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chris Soentpiet is coming!

Tomorrow my school will be blessed with a visit from illustrator Chris Soentpiet and the girls packed up their books for an autograph.  A pulled her author signed copy of Saturdays and Teacakes by Lester L. Laminack.  As she flipped through the pages again she was in awe.  Especially the story pages done in the kitchen.  The use of light to make the red table shiny is fantastic.  B was looking over her should and had heard this story from our librarian.  She was telling us all about the little boy was someone from Lester's elementary school and Mammaw is his real mother.  I've heard Lester speak about his writing for this story and can't wait to meet the brilliant illustrator.  I just ordered B, More Than Anything which is on my list of books to read when
thinking about reading, dreams, and difficulties. 
It is a story about Booker T. Washington's life.  It was our bedtime read aloud and she loved it.  Chris Soentpiet is a master in detail and realistic life.  His use of watercolor paints is intriguing and beyond the typical eight color sets we buy for our children.  I can't wait to hear what he has to say to kdg. and first grade.  I hope to walk away inspired to try something myself.  I hope we will find tidbits of advice to help us with our own illustrating.  Welcome to Olentangy Local Schools, Chris.

Just found this on my school email from our librarian, my excitement just soared higher!  Chris Soentpiet will be fabulous!

"I just got home from eating dinner with Chris Soentpiet for the past 2 1/2 hours. He is really an amazing person and I hope everyone, including our students, can see this during his visit. He was discussing his work and how he chooses to illustrate books that have depth and character. He puts his heart into his work and the reader should be able to feel that connection. He wants children to see the sacrifices people have made for the freedom we have. He also wants to open kids eyes and enrich their lives through art. As you have shared his work, I hope that you have seen the passion that he puts into his books. I hope our students can see how important his images are and how they help tell the story tomorrow. He would like everyone to believe in themselves and follow their dreams. This is his big message."  Thanks C for sharing.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Planned a birthday party with...

A is turning 11 tomorrow, Monday and we celebrated Friday night with seven girlfriends in our kitchen.  She opened a Sweet Treat Shop for a one time event only this year.  We planned the whole evening with Ghoulish Goodies, which I reviewed a year ago and after making about 8 of the recipes I thought it deserved another shout out.  The recipes from punch to Pumpkins in a Haystack were easy to create.  The photographs are mouth watering and easy guides for creating.  With a little organization of materials and ingredients the girls were pretty self sufficient.  It was a great gathering and fun evening to spend with A and her friends.  Happy Birthday, sweetie!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

acorns everywhere!

It's the perfect time of year to read, acorns everywhere! by Kevin Sherry.  The simple text makes this book very accessible for our earliest readers.  The main character is a two tone orange squirrel with big white eyeballs.  The opening page is hysterical.  The big orange squirrel is holding larger than life size photographed acorns declaring, "i must hide them."  He follows a routine of gather, dig and bury.  As he conducts his routine he has to take acorns from other animals in his way.  He is feverishly burying them until he runs into a large brown bear.  The bear mistakes bury for berries.  What a wonderful play on words to discuss with our students.  The photographed acorns are now photographed blackberries.  As the squirrel diverts the brown bear from acorns to berries he himself forgets where he has buried his acorns.  What will he do?   You must read the ending to find out and carefully watch the mice in this story.

Monday, October 18, 2010

If You're a Monster and You Know It

If You're a Monster and You Know It is going to start our week off just right!  I can't wait to share this brand new book at morning meeting this morning.  Ed Emberely has teamed up with his daughter Rebecca Emberley for a twist to the song If You're Happy and You Know It and you get a slight feeling of the Hokey Pokey.  The reader will be snoring, growling, smacking, stomping, twitching, wiggling, and trying to put it together.  Students need to move and will love the participation this book encourages.  This book is also filled with vibrant illustrations in bold and bright hues, set against a black background.  I was actually drawn to this book immediately because I think we could easily replicate the illustrations.  There is a free download at Scholastic to help you sing along.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

OCTM 2010

I've spent the day at the annual Ohio Council Teachers of Mathematics.  It's a great state conference, affordable and full of smart math teachers to learn from. 

My first session with William Wever, from the University of Toledo was right up my alley.  His session centered around the notion of mathematics being more than counting.  In mathematics there's procedural knowledge and conceptual knowledge.  He strongly urged the audience to embrace conceptual knowledge.  Conceptual knowledge is about relationships, connecting pieces of information to other pieces, taking new information and making connections to prior information.  Conceptual knowledge can use a concept map as a pre and post assessment.  He examples of ways to develop and use structures to help the brain develop strong number concepts.

My next session was about writing in mathematics.  One idea I walked away with was to have students write a math autobiography.  This would be a great tool to get to know them and understand their past experiences with math.  They also suggested having the parents write one about their child.  Another idea I thought was interesting if I was teaching older students is a preassessment using a list of unit vocabulary.  Students put a check next to the word if they get it, a question mark if they aren't sure and an x if they have no clue.

I can't wait to use a clothesline to help teach mathematics and build number sense with digit cards.  Thanks Timothy McKeny from Ohio University for your great ideas!

Douglas Clements from University of Buffalo, near my old stomping grounds at Buffalo State, was promoting better mathematics.  He spoke a lot about his early education work and research was very informative.  He said several times, "drill without meaning doesn't work."  The students learn it short term and it doesn't stay with them, one reason fact fluency is repeated every year.  We have to know our learning trajectories and help foster continuous growth.  We can't spin our wheels doing something our students can already do or know how to do. 

I learned a lot about the new Common Core standards and yea the math curriculum is changing in kindergarten.  We will be focusing on counting and cardinality, going beyond our current expectations (with other things).  This has big ramifications and implications with curriculum and assessment.  It was suggested that kdg. embrace them next year so the third graders in 2014 are prepared when their assessments change.

It was a full day of learning.  A few sessions tomorrow and a presentation.  Sharing 50 picture books in 50 minutes, I better talk fast.  My hope is with that many books there will be something new to participants.  I'm sharing something old and something new, come have a look I've got a book for you!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Diner Cookbook

My fifth grade daughter, A has been reading Diner Cookbook.  Diner Cookbook is published by Publications International, Ltd. (2010) as her nonfiction reading choice during class.  This past weekend she brought it home to try a couple of recipes in it.  I have to be honest, I wasn't that excited based on the title.  I or should I say we don't eat fast food very much.  I like a diner atmosphere for breakfast and then I hope they have egg beaters on the menu but I survive if they don't.  I was pleasantly surprised by the content and recipes found in Diner Cookbook.  This morning for breakfast A made us all chocolate chip pancakes.  They were quite yummy!  The book is actually in a board book format with thick heavy pages.  Each recipe is on the left hand side of a two page spread with a full photo on the right hand side.  The photos are mouth watering.  The majority of the recipes are 6 - 8 no more than 10 ingredients.  The directions are not complicated and ones children can follow, with merely an average of 3 steps.  The index lets you  know where to find recipes for breakfast (all day, that would be diner style), soups, burgers and more, daily specials and pies/sweets.  The recipes had many I thought were worth trying and on the healthy side.  I might just borrow this book next to make Grilled Veggie Sandwiches or Roasted Chicken and Vegetables.  A has added strawberries and ice cream to my grocery list to make a Strawberry Shake.  She's already planning on doubling the recipe, it only makes two.  I'm so glad A was motivated to bring home her cookbook and follow through on making something for all of us.  She applied her reading well.

Please note the photo and link I found are for a soft cover spiral bound version, not the board book version.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Too Loud Lily

Too Loud Lily by Sofie Laguna is humorous.  Lily is a loud hippopotamus.   She's loud at home and school.  Even her friends get annoyed with her.  Miss Loopiola is a new teacher for music and drama.  She is the first person to encourage Lily to be loud.  She praised Lily for being loud.  She showed Lily the right time and place to be loud.  Her music class and school play were just right places for loudness.  As Lily is to go on stage for the big production she gets nervous and finds comfort from Miss Loopiola.  At the end of the play, when everyone was clapping for Lily she felt successful.  It helped us think about volume during our day and just right moments to be Too Loud Lily.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


You can't do anything with sidewalk chalk without reading and sharing Chalk by Bill Thomson!  I want to thank my friend Karen at Literate Lives for her post this summer.  This wordless picture book was another perfect first day read in kindergarten.  Students have to use picture clues to generate the story.  Students have to infer to create a story.  I was pleasantly surprised how well my brand new friends interacted with this story. 

Three children find a bag of chalk on a playground and begin drawing with it.  As they draw, what they are drawing comes to life.  Chalk drawn butterflies turn into monarch butterflies fluttering in the sky, on the next page.  The imagination and magic of this chalk was intriguing to my students.  When we were outside writing, a student began writing/drawing right away and when he got done I overheard this with a saddened sigh.  "This chalk is not magic, (heavy sigh)."  My own students tried so many things they saw in this book within their own sketching that day.  A great book to read for thinking, inspiration, and creativity.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Piece of Chalk

I stumbled upon A Piece of Chalk by Jennifer A. Ericsson on a trip to the library before school and thought it made a great first day read aloud.  A little girl builds a piece of art on her driveway using a brand new set of chalk.  A realistic setting many kindergarten students can connect with.  Each two page spread adds another element to the big picture on the driveway.  The text always starts with this phrase, "I take a piece of chalk."  My favorite line on each page is the second which is naming the color chosen to work with.  The author doesn't state the color with your normal one word label.  She adds richness to each with description and an association;  "A brick red one."  As the little girl adds gray clouds, it starts to rain and her colors turn into puddles.  The students and I held writing workshop outside on our first day with our own brand new tubs of chalk.  We were inspired from this read aloud and began building a community and a memory of time together.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

the OK book

Where have I been?  I'm excited about so many things since the start of the school year and so many great new to me books I have been using I just didn't know where to begin until I used the OK book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal last week.  My reason for choosing this book for my kindergarten students is all on the first two pages of text.

"I like to try a lot of different things. 
I'm not great at all of them, but I enjoy them just the same."

I haven't been that great with blogging over the past three to four weeks, I miss it but know the start of a school year takes a lot of energy, spirit, and strength.  For me personally, more than other grades.  In kindergarten, I'm on an every other day schedule with two classes and two sets of parents.  So, technically we just finished our sixth day of school for each class.  It's a strange feeling, I feel like it's truly just six days of school but in reality I've been teaching 12 days.  In those 6 or 12 days we've done some great things and I hope to start sharing the titles I've been using to help your journey.

the OK book, is perfect for showing and discussing the differences between being great at something and being OK.  OK means we keep trying, we might need to keep learning, we keep practicing, and sometimes it goes well and sometimes it doesn't.  Some examples in the book are;  "I'm an OK marshmellow roaster, I'm an OK tightrope walker, and I'm an OK sledder."  When we finished our reading we began discussing things we are OK at and I loved how honest and sincere their response were.  We sketched our ideas with a sharpie and the illustrations are priceless.  The illustrations in the OK book are done by Tom Lichtenheld with simple black lines and smidge of color.  I love when students see things I don't.  So, when K shared the person is made out of the letters O and K, making the word OK I was thrilled and enlightened.  Thanks K!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Interrupting Chicken

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein is perfect to start any school year with, for our youngest learners and older students.  Little red chicken is a young and spunky chicken.  Little red chicken is full of energy at bedtime.  Little red chicken is a bit impulsive when he talks.  Papa is trying to put little red chicken to bed and thinks reading a bedtime story to him will be helpful.  Papa picks Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Chicken Little.  All three times, when trouble begins to happen little red chicken interrupts to quickly end the story.  Little red chicken can justify his interrupting.  It's easy to see Papa is getting a little frustrated and tired himself.  The ending is just charming and I can't give it away.  This book is perfect to help our students learn about being one of many, a larger community.  This book is funny and the dialogue encourages a lot of inflection.  I can't wait to share this book with my students on later this week and think it could be a fun read aloud at home for anyone having a hard time going to bed.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Place for Wonder

A Place for Wonder by Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough is delightful and provoking.  This text brings the essence of childhood and learning to the forefront again.  This book has a purpose to help foster life long learners, the ultimate goal of education.  This book will help guide engagement and enthusiasm in your classroom community.  Wondering is observing, questioning, inquiry, and thinking. 

The first chapter is a collection of ideas for setting up a wonder environment.  As I begin to start a new school year I am going to add observation journals to our four classroom pet areas in the room.  I am also considering asking for bird feeders and seed as donations to help foster an observation window for us to wonder about this school year.  One of the things I enjoyed reading in this book was the description of a wonder idea and then Jen's reflection of her work with her students.  The first chapter is a whole reflection of work done with kindergarteners.  I just love when you can find something directly related to my currently teaching position.  The second chapter is a reflection of the same teacher but with first grade students as they share nonfiction writing ideas to help write nonfiction from their heart.  Too many times, I think it's easy for teacher's to assign topics, outline the requirements, and mass produce similar products.  If you have this book, you will find ideas to promote individual thinking, student interest, and student ownership.  Writing nonfiction from the heart helps prevent copying facts from a source.  It allows students to be more comfortable with this genre.  Again there are several examples of ways/mini lessons to help students write nonfiction from the heart and this writing leads the reader into the last section of writing nonfiction research wonder projects.  Children's literature, material lists, and descriptions for each idea is perfect for any teacher to begin wondering in their classroom and guide their students to be more descriptive and observant.  May we all wonder more as we start a new school year.

Here's an interview A Year of Reading did with author Georgia Heard.
I first found out about this book from Creative Literacy.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

PB 10 for 10 Reflections

I wanted to say just one more time thank you to everyone for joining us and posting or stopping by to share or read our favorite must have picture books, our top ten lists.  Cathy and I have received and appreciate all the positive feedback and participation.  When Cathy asked me about my top 10, little did I know I would be co-hosting a kidlit blogging event and loved the excitement it generated.  I think it was a perfect time of year when most of us are gearing up for a new school year.  I know I found it helpful and reserved some new titles from my library to use this year.  I hope others did too. 

We had a request to repeat this again and I think we are planning on doing just that!  Yea!  When Cathy mentioned organizing a jog, I honestly froze a bit at figuring out something new in technology.  I thought, I'll let her figure it out and I can do what I'm comfortable with or had seen done with Poetry Friday or Nonfiction Mondays.   Both events I join every once in awhile and I didn't want to bite off more than I could chew, I was cohosting an event.  I think the jog is eye candy for the blogging world.  It is visually appealing and easy to navigate to quickly see the powerful thinking of many.  The number of hits the jog has received is overwhelming.  Which brings me to a realization I knew.  Technology is a powerful tool to connect people.  Technology is a powerful tool to share ideas.  Technology is a powerful tool to assist us in our planning and teaching.  Technology is something I need to continue my journey with. 

So, during your upcoming year whether you are in a classroom, a library, or with your own children at home...look for those top ten favorites.  I think these lists could change.  I think I will find old titles that I revisit or are new to me during my coming year that could make a top ten.  I know there will be some great new books published this year to look for.  It was so nice to see the twist people put on a top ten list, making this project personalized for them.  Isn't that the best way to take ownership for something, adding your own ideas?   I think it's a powerful tool to try and have our children do.  A top ten list doesn't have to stay the same, that's why we need about 365 days to study picture books.  We hope to have you join us next year, you guessed it, on August 10, 2011.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

August 10 for 10: Picture Book Event Round Up

I'm done jammin' (making peach jam that is) and ready to jog (with Cathy) and blog with you.  There's a great amount of sharing going on today in the kidlit blogging world.  We are so glad to have so many join us as we begin thinking and starting a new school year.  I'm here to share with you a list of blogs that have participated and am grateful to everyone for participating in what started as a simple question/wondering. has created her list while she thought about story elements.
has embraced the task with two top ten list, kdg. and 4/5 grades, each with their own focus. created quite the criteria list books had to meet before making the cut. raises three boys and chose to focus her list on the best pb for boys! is compiled by Mary Lee and to make her list she's loved the pb for 10 yrs, classic. introduction is hysterical and puts a spin to ours, calling it My Must Rescue Books. is complied by Franki, admiting she could never narrow down her list to 10 she gives us her 10 for recently discovered.  Once again, Mary Lee and Franki make a great pair, something old and something new.  (nothing personal intended here, girls.)  gives us her top ten taking us through ten months of school with runner ups for each month, yes she was tricky getting the number 10 in there and beyond. shares books she uses multiple times in her intermediate classroom.  She narrowed it to 25 and kept working until she got 10!, we welcome this blogger back.  Today she shares her list of titles and each day will share a post explaining why.  You must keep going back. confesses she is a pb addict and rose to the challenge of picking just 10! here we find a top ten list for young children from a stay at home dad.  He knows books.  brings reality to our event admitting this is today's list and could easily change.  has shared some gems with important messages for the beginning of school. shares with us books that teach lessons she would want to teach if stranded on that island Cathy posed. shares the list of books for her bag while on the island. here's a little gem.  A list from a mother of books her kids are enjoying right now! and she has the eyes of a writer, she knows books. if you follow Bill, then you know he reads the same book K-5 in the library for a week.  He's complied his top 10 reads from THE PIT.  He loves loud books.  here you will find great list of pb with an African American focus.  this is an interesting list of pb for 4th and 5th graders, some books to help with content areas. this list has a little bit of everything, I'm sure something for you. a collection of middle grade novels for a different twist. this dynamic blogging duo share building their top ten list, good ideas to start schol with. welcome back another blogger from a little vacation, her top 10 is thoughtful. this is a list written by a reading teacher who teaches at home now, to her two boys. here you will find some books to use for conversation starters. notices how her educational beliefs showed up in her selection of 10.  We are grateful she got to 10 from 100. a reading tutor shares 10 books her reading buddies have enjoyed.  is a site you will want to check out to help with your own thinking about American Indians. glad to have joined this great party hop and so are we.  shares with us her list with tidbits of thoughts about herself. this list did get done in time while summer league was ending and the first week of school went on.  Yea!  Books to survive second grade.  craftly creates a list of 10 but if you look closely it's 12.  Some different titles than I knew from well loved authors.  never too late to join the event and glad you joined us during your first week of blogging.  just love this public librarian joined us to share some great picks. join this blogger to see some great picks, justifying sharing a few more than 10, it's like the express check out line at the grocery store., it's never too late to join in the fun stop by Christie's page to see a collection of great books.

WOW, 40 post with a whole lot of thoughtful sharing, Thank you!

August 10 for 10: Picture Book Event is Here

Welcome and thanks for stopping by to see my list of 10 must have picture books!  Before I begin, I would like to thank my friend Cathy at Reflect and Refine:  Building a Learning Community for wondering what my list of 10 picture books would be to have and use with students.  As soon as I started thinking about books for "my" list, I realized I have way more than 10 I could choose but  narrowing it down to 10 has made me think, reflect, justify, enjoy, and remember.  This list reflects memories in and out of the classroom.  This list reflects time spent with children doing what I've wanted to do since I was in high school.  This list reflects positive thoughts and that is a great way to start any school year!

My list is not in a ranking order, I've just numbered them to make sure I stop at 10!

1.(a)  Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Eric Carle changed my life in college!  I was sitting in my reading methods course at SUNY College at Buffalo when Dr. Phelps read this book in class.  I was introduced to a predictable pattern, shared reading, Eric Carle, collage hand made papers, turning the page slightly ahead of the text to encourage student participation and I'm sure much more.  I remember thinking this was much more fun and engaging than the basal readers and reading groups I grew up with.  I've never had a group of students who didn't fall in love with this book.

   (b)  From Head to Toe, by Eric Carle.   If you need a book for a shared reading and book for movement than this is it, hands down!  The illustrations are Eric Carle's delightful style.  The text is engaging and I've found my students like to read it in a question and response format.  I read the question and they respond.  Each time I reread this book this year I found joy in watching my students act out the text just like the animals.  I think a couple of times we read it because I enjoyed watching the students move.

2.  Rosie's Walk by Pat Hutchins is book I used this year for mathematics, when we were working on directional words.  The students enjoyed it so much we retold it through painting the different places Rosie goes.  We were building a map and created labels through interactive writing.  When we mounted our mural for a retelling, we used Velcro for Rosie and she could move along the mural as she does in the story.

3.  Me Hungry! by Jeremy Tankard is a complete delight to read and use with students.  I reviewed Me Hungry earlier this year and it was a hit in our room right away.  I instantly thought this book would be great for my boys and found out boys and girls would both enjoy it.  I actually looked for my copy tonight in my room and it has disappeared.  I may be ordering my own copy from this post.

4.  Big Mama's by Donald Crews is one of my favorite mentor text for writing.  He writes about things from his own life and turns it into a story for others.  Visiting Big Mama is a pretty normal thing to do and our children need to see writing about everyday things can be just right.

5.  Which brings me to The Three Bears by Byron Barton.  I just ENJOY reading this book to students.  The text is simple and repetitive and for whatever reason my inflection is top notch.  (if I say so myself)  I think the simple collage technique is an easy one for students to see and replicate.  I love to help children figure out there's one color for each character that gets repeated in clothing and objects.

6.  Cornelius P Mud, Are You Ready for School?  by Barney Saltzberg was a review I did about a year ago.  As we reread this book we really noticed humor within the illustrations and had to infer.  Cornelius is a great character for young students, they can connect with him.  He has three books, a little series for young readers. Which opens doors for more books for my readers.

7.  Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox is about older people, it's about spending time with them, it's about memories.  Memories give us ideas for writing.  I think we need to work harder and bridge the gap between our young and old.   

8.  Mouse Views, What the Class Pet Saw by Bruce McMillan is a great photo essay about perspective.  It's also a question/answer format.  It's a great mentor text to create your own from a tour in your classroom or the library.  I shared this book with my librarian years ago and he made his own version of our library to introduce the students to different things in our library.

9.  Ish by Peter Reynolds is a must have for any classroom to embrace the arts and the differences between artist capabilities.  It encourages the reader to look at things in a different way, with a different lens. 

10.  Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin is on my list of ten but as a prediction!  Yes, I love this book that much that I am willing to make a prediction with it.  You have to hear the tune and your own feet won't stop movin and groovin.  I just recently reviewed Pete the Cat this summer and have yet to buy my Pete the Cat tshirt but it's in my plans for the school year.  I bet you will want one too!

Thanks for stopping by.  If you created your own list of ten please leave me a comment so I can add it to our round up.  I will do a round up in a list format here as the day goes on.  Cathy is doing a jog, don't worry you won't need running shoes to participate.  My round up will start to come mid afternoon after I make some batches of peach jam.  I have to use up the bushel I picked on Sunday.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Choice Words

This book has been in my To Be Read pile for quite some time and shouldn't have been.  I found, Choice Words  How Our Language Affects Children's Learning by Peter Johnston to be uplifting, reaffirming, and guiding.  I immediately used what I was learning when A came off the softball field this summer and I said to her, "I bet you're proud of yourself."  Peter suggests turning the who's proud of who to the child for these reasons.  "Inviting a child to attend to internal feelings of pride builds upon the sense of agency and at the same time attaches an internal motivation to the activity."  The entire book is based on talk, the words we use with and to children through our teaching.  However, I think this could be a book parents should read also. 

"The teacher has to make something of what children say and do.  She makes sense for herself, and offers a meaning for her students.  She imputes intentions and offers possible worlds, positions, and identities."  The book is about our interactions with students and how we can improve them.  Peter has carefully studied "teacher talk" and categorized it into groups with key phrases that are the most effective.  Noticing and Naming is based on recognition.  It celebrates and shows growth promoting future learning.  Identity is a category of phrases that can be used to help foster children's identities as they grow and change, often trying out new things.  Agency and Becoming Strategic is essentially things we can say to help promote thinking and verbal articulation.  Peter cautions teachers to not only share what students do well but to push for what is next in their thinking.  Flexibility and Transfer could also be referred to as Generalizing and is essential for growth and understanding.  Another category is Knowing.  This refers to the teacher pushing the student to make sure the teacher understands/knows what the student is saying.  The last category provides phrases and focuses on building Community. 

As I was reading this book I found myself saying, I can't carry this around with me each day but I have to internalize these phrases.  I do use a few of them but I need something in my hands.  I'm going to type these up and place them in my stack of papers on my clipboard I carry around.  There are times when I get overwhelmed, I think I could quickly look at my set of phrases to refocus.  Our interactions whether through verbal means or body language is very important with our students.  This book is a great resource to help my interactions to be more intentional putting the students first.  I also think this book should be a required reading for anyone working through formative assessment, I Can statements, and giving ownership over to our students.  I'm going to add this to my list of resources for parents too.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Choosing Picture Books

I went home to Upstate New York for a few days to visit my parents, family, and friends who enjoy beautiful Keuka Lake all year long.  I had a lot of driving time.  I didn't take my laptop or any picture books.  I didn't get far on picking my 10 for August 10th but I did start thinking about reasons I would choose books for.  When I returned I read my co-host Cathy at Reflect and Refine:  Building a Learning Community was doing the same sort of thinking with an entry titled, Choosing Picture Books.  I agree with all of her thoughts.  Her thinking is written with clarity, make sure you stop by to read her thinking. 

In thinking about how I would choose my 10 for 10 Picture Books, I realized I needed to have a reason to support my selection.  Why would a book be on my top 10 list?  How could I decide from the many wonderful new and old texts I've worked with over the years?  What books did I become passionate about during the year? 

Here's my thinking that will guide my selections for 10 for 10 Picture Books.
Engagement - I found such joy in watching and listening to my students rereading a book with me, shared reading shows growth for students.  I loved watching their facial reactions while reading a story, this shows thinking.  I loved watching them pick up the same book we used as a whole group to read individually and/or with a buddy.  These are all examples of engagement.

Interactive  - We had the most fun with books that encouraged us to move.  I learned quickly movement is necessary and positive for younger students.  I knew this but reminders are always good in life.

Illustrations - If I can find something unique about a book's illustrations I will most likely bring it home.  I love collage, I love when different medias are used together, and I love texture in general. 

Personal - We have to value personal connections.  I have found if I am excited about a text and/or can share how or what this book means to me, others will get excited too for a text.  I have bought many books based on others sharing them with me and the more I feel or see my friend connected to the text, the higher it goes on my want to use list.  Kids do the same thing.

Series/Author - With picture books, I really think of characters in a few stories as a series.  If my students connect with a character in one book  they get excited to see them again in a new book.  They also read more books by the same author once they find one they like. 

Content Connections - Our time in the classroom is limited and busy.  If I can use a book in one area of learning and use it again to further our thinking and possibly shift our thinking, then it is a keeper.

I think I have 4 books selected, but that could change leading up to August 10th.  I hope you will join us for some sharing.