Monday, March 29, 2010

Nonfiction Monday - Egg to Chicken and More

B and I recently ordered books through her classroom book order and I was not at all disappointed with this nonfiction collection we purchased. It's a series of books about Lifecycles written by Camilla de la Bedoyere, published by QEB Publishing Co, and sold through Scholastic.

This series includes these titles-Egg to Chick, Seed to Sunflower, Tadpole to Frog, Joey to Kangaroo, Pup to Shark, Caterpillar to Butterfly, and Joey to Kangaroo. The entire collection is filled with all of the nonfiction features you would want your children to be using. The photography is fabulous and bright. The Contents, Glossary, and Index have enough "white space" for reader to interact with. I loved this, across from the contents there is a chicken photograph with this caption, "Words in bold are explained in the glossary on page 22." I immediately wanted to go and see what the glossary looked like. The books are easily accessible to all readers. The page heading is large with an amount of text below it summarizing the rest so our youngest readers could read this small amount and understand the page without being overwhelmed with captions, labels, and more text. I can't wait to add these books dispersed among my nonfiction tubs in my classroom library, if B doesn't notice they are gone.
PS - My quick internet searching found each book quite expensive, sorry. Look for them through Scholastic book orders in paperback.
Nonfiction Monday is being rounded up at - The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Star in My Orange

The front cover of this book with it's subtle monotone orange hues grabbed my attention. The title A Star in My Orange, Looking for Nature's Shapes by Dana Meachen Rau is filled with photographs of nature. These photographs are showing the reader patterns and shapes found in nature if we are looking. Just looking at this book made me stop and look around my immediate environment to see what things I could find that were shapes or patterns. When we think of the word shape, I would bet many of us start thinking about proper geometry terms. This book doesn't do that. The shapes referred to within this text are more open, descriptive language to describe what is being seen with the photograph - star, swirly, curly, twirly, and spinning. Here's an example of the text...

"I see lots of little shapes in a turtle's shell,

and a bees honeycomb,

and a fallen pinecone."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Earth Book

Today we had a stay-cation spring break adventure to Franklin Park Conservatory here in Columbus, Ohio. There's something about having it rain outside while being surrounded by gorgeous plants from different habitats and watching butterflies flutter by. This is where I found another Todd Parr book, The EARTH Book. The first page cried, take me home...

"I take care of the earth because I know I can do little things every day to make a BIG difference." That's an important message for students, children. A message about doing little things, little things do make a difference. The book then follows with a pair of simple things that can easily be done by anyone and then an explanation of why we would do these things and the impact they would have on something in our environment. For example, "I take the school bus and ride my bike because I love the stars and I want the air to be clear so I can see them sparkle." The book even comes with your very own green poster that can be torn out. This is perfect for all ages with written text and picture clues.

The book is full of the vibrant illustrations you have come to expect from Todd Parr and I was glad to see the book was printed with recycled materials and used nontoxic soy inks. I'm going to add this, along with a previous post 10 Things I Can do to Help Save My World, to my Earth Day collection.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My Goldfish

Pets. Students love to write about pets. I've discovered over the years it doesn't matter how old the students are pets can be a popular topic. They are easy to love, fun, and often full of adventures. Right now, we are a house full of pets. An English chocolate lab, a guinea pig, a rabbit, and one fish. Then my middle daughter likes to stretch the pet list to include the classroom pets which are a turtle, a baby guinea pig, and one large goldfish. It makes her list so much grander. My dog loves food so there are many stories I could tell about a loaf of bread disappearing or a box of farm fresh eggs bouncing through the kitchen.

My Goldfish, by Barroux is a great mentor text for pet writers. The writing of this book describes the goldfish with personification. It really made me think differently about a goldfish.

"My goldfish

is the strongest goldfish

in the world."

"My goldfish

has a beautiful voice.

When he sings,

the whole world listens."

The illustrations also enhance the uniqueness of this book. In hues of orange and blue, the author/illustrator increases the reader's comprehension. For the strongest goldfish page, the goldfish is outside of his big bowl, holding it up in the air with it's mouth closed. For the beautiful goldfish page, there is another fish bowl next to it just filled with fish listening to the beautiful singing. If you want to raise your writer's thinking about pet writing, this book can do that.

Monday, March 15, 2010

That Workshop Book - Reflection #6

This post concludes my blogging requirements for The Literacy Connection course I am doing this year but doesn't conclude my thinking about That Workshop Book by Samantha Bennett. I am looking forward to watching Samantha Bennett is classroom at the end of April with my friends Katie and Karen. How lucky are they! What I then like about the organization of course work through The Literacy Connection our day of observation is followed by a Saturday of lecturing and further teacher learning with Samantha Bennett. I hope to gather more thoughts and ideas from her specifically about kindergarten and her thoughts on the structure of workshop on an every other day schedule.

As I was flipping through the book again last night and pondering what did I want to reflect on I found myself wandering to third grade. Reader's Notebooks are a great tool for students and teachers to use to organize their thinking and learning during a year together. You can pay a chunk of money to have them pre-assembled for you or you can use a 3 or 5 subject notebook, sold cheap at a back to school sale and adjust it to your own needs. I always preferred the second choice and then had money to spend on Time for Kids or National Geographic for each student. Samantha Bennett stretches how we think about using a readers notebook in a section titled, The Reading Notebook Revamped (p.85).

So, often in education we have to prove students are learning and growing a year for a year. Unfortunately, school districts pay loads of money for standardized testing and formulas that are hidden in a little black box. I understand we have to make learning visible and I think we as educators need to think further how to make this learning visible in authentic and meaningful ways, beyond our classrooms. Samantha Bennett has a chart (p. 86) that is titled, Documentation of Conversation About Making the Invisible Visible. There are three columns with these headings - How a Readers Grow, Evidence Might Look Like?, and Implications for Planning, Instruction, and/or Assessment? The, How Readers Grow, column is essentially what we want readers to be able to do, our learning targets with a bigger picture in mind. A picture with them truly reading and functioning independently.

I think creating a chart like this would help any teacher think through the structures and tools used by the classroom community. As educators we need to show authentic growth and we need to make a Reader's Notebook work to it's fullest potential to benefit the students. This chart will help you get started on your way.

Friday, March 12, 2010

On The Other Side of the Door {Poetry Friday}

On the Other Side of the Door

On the other side of the door
I can be a different me,
As smart and as brave, as funny or strong
As a person could want to be.
There's nothing too hard for me to do,
There's no place I can't explore
Because everything can happen
On the other side of the door.

On the other side of the door
I don't have to go alone.
If you come, too, we can sail tall ships
And fly where the wind has flown.
And wherever we go, it is almost sure
We'll find what we are looking for
Because everything can happen
On the other side of the door.

-Jeff Moss

This poem hangs on the outside of my classroom door and has for a few years. I chose this poem years ago because I wanted parents and children to read this with hope for what could occur in our classroom while we are together. I have to admit, I had "forgotten" it was there, it just wasn't on my mind currently as I think through each day. When I was listening to Ann Marie Corgill at the Dublin Lit Conference she shared this poem hangs outside her door and I could say me too! I can't do what I do with children if they don't come to the other side of the door. I've always thought about the children sailing and flying. As I reflect now, maybe it's me who can't sail and fly without the children. The students are guiding my own growing and learning. They drive me to read, reflect, and rethink again what we are doing. They are showing me what young learners need and pushing me to start a list, What to do in kindergarten, year two.

Poetry Friday is hosted at Becky's Book Review.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Billy & Milly Short & Silly

We know about short stories. We know about collections of short stories. Billy & Milly Short & Silly by Eve B. Feldman is unlike any other short story collection I have ever seen. It's a collection of 13 short stories, very short stories. Stories written with just three or four words. What makes the choice of words used even more interesting and intriguing for readers young and old? Each story is written with rhyming words. Here are two examples -
Stoops Hoops Scoops Oops

Ape Cape Escape

Some of the stories are on a two page spread. However, a few of them carry over to a third page which I think will lead to more anticipation for the readers. I'm not familiar with Tuesday Morning as an illustrator but found these pages of mixed art media just delightful. They are monochromatic and the characters are drawn to match the words showing expression and humor. Kindergarteners love to identify rhyming words, we will have a lot of fun with this book!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

That Workshop Book - Reflection #5

I just finished walking my dog and walking her early in the morning is a nice quiet time where I do some of my best thinking. This morning my mind wandered to my work with the book, That Workshop Book by Samantha Bennett and I realized this workshop thinking she does, does not just apply to literacy. I've known this and use it during Math Workshop and Worktime, where we focus on our content learning. However, if I was picking up Samantha's book for the first time and reading through her examples they are focused on literacy and bigger questions related to content.

There are a lot of books on activities, manipulative work, children's literature to use, and math content. Marilyn Burns and the group Math Solutions probably come the closest to framing their work and their intentions with Samantha Bennett. One could easily take the first chapter Why Workshop? and think about mathematics.

Just yesterday, I used the "Workshop as a Cyclical Structure" (chart found on pg. 9) to organize our work and introduction with coin recognition. I set the purpose during a mini lesson telling the students we wanted to revisit our learning about sorting and talk about a collection of coins I had for each one. The students worked with a partner to talk and make meaning while I conferred with partners to see their understandings. I found many of them were thinking and working too hard, caught up in putting types of coins together and calling that a size sort. While that is a way to sort coins by the type of coin, referring it to size was working harder not smarter. As we debriefed, I had partners share how they sorted and I modeled these sorts quickly at the carpet. I wanted the children to see size and use sizing vocabulary, small and big creating a two category sort. Consider taking these ideas to other content areas outside literacy, and even to our special area teachers. It seems to fit best practice for all.
A side note, my collection of coins was made up of real, plastic, and paper which led to other sorting possibilities for the students. They also thought about color and the properties of shiny and dull.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

On The Farm

This book jumped right off the shelf at the library. It may not have jumped right off the shelf but I think it was calling my name. It didn't really call my name, but something led me to think about picking it up and realizing it fits perfectly with our learning this week. I'm wondering if it will inspire the children in some way, if it could be a mentor text for their own writing, will we use it to do a shared writing and make our own book. You see, we are preparing the beginning of this week for a visit to a local farm focusing on the relationship between plants and animals later in the week.

On the Farm, written by David Elliott recalls the busy life of a family farm. Each two page spread tells the reader about an animal found on the farm. Often describing what they look like or things they do around the farm. The reader will encounter simplistic shorter bits of text and rhymes. The watercolor illustrations and black pen are big and vibrant focusing on the text while being warm and complimentary to the text. The illustrator Holly Meade found a nice balance. I am interested to see what we learn at the farm and if we could build a page like this for an animals we see. Here's a sample from page one

The Rooster

Crows and struts.

He's got feathers!

He's got guts!

Oh, the rooster

struts and crows.

What's he thinking?

No one knows.

Ann Marie Corgill is blogging

Please welcome Ann Marie Corgill to our blogging community, sharing via technology. She has a varied background with grade levels and is currently teaching middle school, sixth grade for the first time. In case you haven't read previous post of mine recently, Ann Marie is the author Of Primary Importance and I'm eager to see her reflections about these ideas with middle schoolers. I also think she will share and it will stretch my thinking with our youngest learners.

You can find her here at AM Literacy Learning Log, I've add a link for it on the right.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pink Me Up

Pink Me Up, just recently written and illustrated by Charise Mericle Harper is the perfect girl book with an important message for daddies - being pink is really fun! My youngest B, loves the color pink so she couldn't resist this book while we were shopping yesterday. Acrylics were used for the illustrations and the color choice of gray for the bunnies completely compliments all the pink in this book.

Violet is the only girl bunny in her family of nine except for her mama and her cat. The book begins with Mama and Violet's plans for a special day together. They are to attend the 3rd annual Pink Girls Pink-nic. I love the play on words with pink and picnic! Violet is bounding through the pages with speech bubbles filled with the word pink, showing great excitement only to find out when she is getting Mama up Mama has pink dots. She is sick and they have to find someone fun to go instead. You guessed it, Daddy is up for the challenge and after searching thoroughly through his closet discovers one pink tie. However, this isn't enough pink and Violet begins altering his outfit. I love another message in this book. As Violet and Daddy go to the Pink-nic she holds his hand and lets him know, "Don't worry, Daddy. Being pink will be fun."

Daddy is quite the hit at the Pink-nic and all the other girls have plans to "pink" their fathers. Violet has further plans to pink up everything, living "pinklishly" ever after.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

That Workshop Book - Reflection #4

I appreciate coursework that includes meaningful thinking. This is part of my series of reflections for my course through The Literacy Connection in preparation for our upcoming visit with Samantha Bennett. She is the author of That Workshop Book.

Today as I was teaching, especially during writing workshop I wish I had a crystal ball. What I have found sometimes the most challenging about my switch to teaching kindergarten is not for seeing and predicting what the students will do with what we are doing. I was trying to be more explicit through a mini lesson about our books with many ideas. We discussed having a title and our names on the front, as the author. Then we were looking at one written in black crayon and one written in pencil on blue paper. We realized the print in black was much easier to see so we agreed we should use black and I suggested either a black crayon or sharpie would be best. This is where the crystal ball would of come in handy. You see, once the sharpie was in hand it went to writing the text on the inside and went to the inside for the illustrations. I don't mind them using a sharpie but it bleeds through the paper and they were trying to color with it which isn't the best use for a sharpie. I quickly brought all of us together to think through our sharpie self extensions and set some further parameters.

I was driving home from school today, a bit rushed to get my youngest off the bus and realized something that happened today in our writing workshop, was a catch and release. Samantha talks about, "the rhythm of a fly fisherman. During the minilesson, the teacher (or fisherman) has the students "out of the water." The trick is to throw them back into the river before they stop breathing and die....that is why the word mini before lesson is important." She discusses further how students stamina can sway and as a teacher you can pull them together to help rebuild the stamina. Today I did that with a "how to" of working during writing workshop. I do think without a crystal ball I am learning more about teaching this year and staying on my toes.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Nonfiction Monday - My Goose Betsy

My Goose Betsy by Trudi Braun is technically listed as a fiction text but I believe is a great way to introduce young students to the genre of nonfiction. I think you will see why with this first page.

"My goose Betsy has smooth soft feathers to keep her warm and dry, wide webby feet to swim with, and along strong beak for tearing at grass or pecking up corn." Right there I understand the function of three body parts and could see a diagram being created. The reader continues to learn about Betsy's walk, talk, nest building, egg laying and nurturing. The book concludes with the reader following the eggs through goslings hatching and Betsy becoming a mother goose.

After the "fictional" story the reader comes to a two page spread titled, A few more Goose facts with subheadings and text. The book concludes with an index. This book is part of a Read and Wonder collection created by Candlewick. I hope to find more for my young readers to enjoy and learn with.