Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chameleon's Colors

Chameleon's Colors is written by Chisato Tashiro from Japan and translated by Marianne Martens. This is the perfect book for building community. Chameleon doesn't like changing colors. His friends never see him because he always blends right in. They will walk right past or even step on him because chameleons change color with their surroundings. What a great way to introduce camouflage to our youngest learners. Chameleon's friend Hippo is tired of being one dull color and wishes he could change colors like Chameleon. Chameleon is creative and decides to mash up pink flowers and make Hippo pink, which makes Hippo very happy. That night, Chameleon is inspired to create a paint shop of sorts by filling coconut shells with lots of different colors and in the morning announces... "Chameleon's Colors! Bear or Flea - tell me what color you want to be!" All different kinds of animals come to see Chameleon and change their colors. The animals are happy being different and Chameleon is happy being so popular. Until, hunting for food becomes difficult for the jungle because the animals can't find their normal predators. They can't find the animals they normally eat and the animals can't hide for safety, jungle life gets confusing. The animals get angry with Chameleon and chase after him. The ending is perfect and sends a message about being yourself, for the entire jungle. I think this book is perfect for our youngest readers but also a quick powerful message for our oldest readers too. It would also make a great companion book with a nonfiction piece about chameleons. The illustrations are bright and colorful. The book doesn't indicated the medium used but I feel it was done using paint with some crayon or pastel resistance. Something our children would love to do.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Nonfiction Monday - Are you a Dragonfly?

Are you a Dragonfly? by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries is part of a Backyard Books series written for our youngest readers and writers. This book is packed with facts telling the reader all about dragonflies. It begins with a dragonfly's mother laying eggs and follows it through adulthood. The author writes to the reader, placing you as a dragonfly yourself. For example, "If you are, your mother laid her eggs in the stems of water plants." I can really see my young students connecting to the text and acting out growth as they become dragonflies. After learning all about dragonflies the author compares how you, don't look or act like a dragonfly, "you can't breathe underwater." Then the book concludes with one of my favorite nonfiction feature, a Did you Know section with four additional facts. The illustrations in this text should not go unnoticed. They are possibly done with colored pencils or watercolors, it is not noted but they have warm subtle shades with beautiful detailed.
You may find these insects with their own books as part of the series; ant, bee, butterfly, grasshopper, ladybug, snail and spider.

Nonfiction Monday is being held at 100 Scopes Notes, which encouraged bloggers to write their post in an unusual style than their own but I didn't see that suggestion until after I wrote this.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Welcome to Kindergarten

Tonight was the perfect night to sit out in the midwest sunshine watching A practicing softball and finish reading, Welcome to Kindergarten - A Month to Month Guide to Teaching and Learning by Bonnie Brown Walmsley and Debra Redlo Wing. I recently saw this title during the Heinemann sale and wondered how I had missed it a year ago when I made my transition to kindergarten. It's a little ironic to be reading this at the end of the year since I'm saying goodbye to my first year back in kindergarten. However, I was able to do a lot of reflection and think through my year with a lot of thinking about next year.

This book if packed with lots of practical and realistic thoughts from two experienced teachers. The book begins in August as we all prepare for the new year with schedules, room arrangements, and organization thoughts. Each month following is filled with curriculum ideas and how kindergartners develop. I loved their thoughts on project work, integrating the curriculum found throughout the book. They include valuable picture book titles to support their work with children. They are also huge on using music or singing supporting oral language and content learning while providing movement which young learners need. If you are ever needing to justify the use of blocks in your classroom to foster learning they provide a great explanation on page 59. I love how their students are creating projects by using artistic materials to extend and demonstrate learning. I found this book to be valuable in reminding me the importance of integration, students creating, and balance.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Oh, Theodore! {Poetry Friday}

Oh, Theodore! Guinea Pig Poems by Susan Katz was a book I stumbled upon while searching for new nonfiction books about guinea pigs. I have a guinea pig in my classroom and B has one in her bedroom. B is also working on a nonfiction writing piece at school about guinea pigs and just finished writing poetry. Could this book any more perfect for B and her Mom?! The poem topics and the order they are placed in this book was done with intention and purpose. The poems actually take you on a journey, a journey of guinea pig ownership. Anyone who has brought home a new pet can relate. It all begins with a poem titled Pet Selection. Here are a few titles that follow Name, Danger, Not Hungry, Roommates, Spring Stroll, Search, Gone, Fur Piece, and Forever. There's a story right there with those few titles. The poems in this text take everyday events and thoughts to write poetry. I think this is the perfect book for showing students how to take an everyday event and share it through poetry. I think it's a great model for taking something you know a lot about and sharing about it through poetry. Here's one of my favorites.

New Home

Theodore loves

the grocery bag.

He travels inside it

across the floor,

a turtle with

a brown paper shell.
Poetry Friday is being held at Jama Raittigan's Alphabet Soup

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hands - On Standards Grades PreK - K

Hands - On Standards Grades PreK-K by Learning Resources has been one of my favorite math resources to use this year. Manipulatives are critical for our students to work with and every lesson in this book uses manipulatives. Each lesson begins with problem for the children to try and solve using the manipulatives. Students are working in pairs or small groups to collaborate on their work. There are points to help you talk about the problem the students tried today. There are more ideas suggested to help you teach the concept provided in the original problem. This is a great nonfiction teaching resources with side bars covering objectives, skills, and NCTM expectations. Another text feature that is very helpful for each lesson is a collection of three photographs of children working with the manipulatives related to the problem, showing the reader what you might see while your own children are working. The final piece I've loved about this resource is the standarized practice suggestion. This suggestion is essentially a formative assessment you can create to check in with each child using paper and pencil with just one simple problem. We have to remember it's more important for conceptual development to use manipulatives and create mathematics then complete a bunch of worksheets. This resource is written for all grade levels PreK - 5, check it out for your own planning.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Posy by Linda Newbery jumped into my hands the other weekend. I think it's a great mentor text for students own writing about their pets. Two word phrases guide the reader through the Posy's adventures for a day. Here's an example, "whisker wiper, crayon swiper." As I was reading, I kept thinking about the antics my English Chocolate Lab, Annie gets into and thought could I play around with them in just two word phrases. So here's a try from something she did last week - milkshake licker, trash picker. This might be a fun way to observe and write about a class pet. I know my kindergartners will love the rhyming aspect and want to share all the pairs they hear while we reread the text together. I loved the strokes used to create Posy the cat, they make her look very realistic. The cream background with various shades of brown make Posy delightful to follow through her day.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Black Magic

Black Magic written by Dinah Johnson is a beautiful book to help celebrate color, in art and within a community. Dinah Johnson describes the color black using emotions, senses - celebrating the sight, sound, taste, and speed for black. The book uses a poetic form to bring black alive. I think this book will provide new thinking for all ages. I think children could think of their own ways to express their feelings and thoughts about the color black. Especially, with a mentor phrase like this, "Black is scary and exciting like when you go far, far, far inside a tunnel or ...and Mama's voice is black and sweet as I fall asleep." The illustrations show cultural diversity which makes this a wonderful addition to any library.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Nonfiction Monday - A Rainbow of Animals

B had a book fair at her school last week and I was able to attend with just her. What a fun time we had shopping for books. She had already done a preview during school and had a shopping list for us to start with. A Rainbow of Animals by Melissa Stewart was on her original list and I fell in love with it instantly. The photography and use of color is rich, vibrant, and eye candy to any reader. The book begins with a short introduction stating animals come in all shapes and size. They also come in colors of the rainbow. Six colors of animals are explored in sections of this book; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Each section begins with the question, "Can you think of some (red) animals that live near you?" Some animal examples are provided and there is a pattern for the last few sentences. "(Red) animals live in other parts of the world, too. Let's take a look at some of them."

Each animal has two page spread. On the left you will find a text box with a small paragraph telling you information about each animal and within this text the reader will learn why this animal is the color they are. At the end of each color section, you will find this question, "Where do these (red) animals live?" For each animal, a map of the world and the area they live in is highlighted. The photography on each two page spread is dynamic, up close, shows details, and matches the text perfectly. This book is accessible to our youngest readers and one I think our older students could spend a great deal of time with.

Melissa Stewart is a new author to me but has authored more than 100 books for young readers. She was trained as a scientist and a journalist, which explains how she knew just what to do for this book.
Nonfiction Monday is being held at Picture Book of the Day, thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Grocery Gardening

This is from my current reading stack and one of my new favorites. Grocery Gardening is all about planting, preparing and preserving fresh food. It was done as a collaborative effort by Jean Ann Van Krevelen with Amanda Thomsen, Robin Ripley, and Teresa O'Connor. An interesting side note, the authors never met in person and connected on the internet, writing this book in just sixty days.

The book begins with valuable gardening tips to get you started, one suggestion is to rotate where you plants things from year to year. Something my husband had been telling me for a couple of years but I like to see things in print first. There's a chapter on disease and pest management where I learned to not water my plants after dark. The water can stay on the plants and cause damage. The chapter on quality produce is valuable for any grocery shopper and provides lots of ideas to improve the quality of our produce, shopping, and eating. The next three chapters are a lot of fun. One chapter on herbs, fruits, and vegetables. You will find lots of species listed for each covering everything needed to be a successful gardener. Tips for planting and growing, varieties, produce selection and harvest, and preserving. With all this growing information and inspiration, I was thrilled to find recipes for each species I might plant that look and sound delicious! We had two raised beds for several years but during my surgery recovery my husband created two more beds. Hoping our temperatures warm soon to plant and bring grocery gardening to our daily lives. This would also be a great gift for any gardener or want to be gardener.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Samantha Bennett - YES!

Samantha Bennett brought clarity to my thinking. (I didn't take a photo with her, so her handwriting is in purple.) She did this intentionally with well thought out delivery and engagement for all participants. She presents her thoughts with solid research and knowledge of her field with many examples from first hand observations all around the country. She really understands what works for students and teachers. She is a BIG thinker and thinks globally making connections for students and adults.

To understand her work, she organized our two days as she expects teachers to do for their students. We were engaged in workshop. We had learning targets, in easily accessible I Can statements with assessments we would be doing linked to each one. She shared and clearly understands her own Foundational Beliefs/Big Ideas. If we understand our own foundational beliefs then we are able to make sound decisions and hold true to ourselves in the daily work we do. Her workshops are organized in this cycle and so was our time together. Workshop begins with an opening, a mini lesson, worktime, a catch and release during the worktime, and a debrief.
Samantha is positive, bouncy, energetic and radiated the entire room with her smile. We all need a Samantha Bennett in our room. She coaches teachers and listens to kids. She tried to figure out how the magic happens. I just love this quote from her, "learning equals good teaching." She encouraged us to think of our rooms as a science laboratory. She says a high school chemistry class all the way down to kindergarten can use this same framework!

More thoughts include: children need to be working fifty percent of the time, students always need a purpose and an audience, we have to get smarter together, no matter how good you are you can get better, we need to be thoughtful of the little things, ownership is a vehicle for choice, and allow choice that is manageable for you. Most of our second day together was spent thinking about planning and how you can't do workshop without planning very well. Samantha really empowered people to plan ahead asking us to think about what will the children be doing in workshop and not what am I doing. She brought in backwards design and formative assessment, all essential to help our students gain a year.

I'm thrilled to have spent these two days thinking and reflecting around the workshop format. I'm going to hold two things at the front of my future thinking. The first, is children need to create. The second is having children hold their thinking each workshop. They can do this by creating. If you create to hold thinking then you are actively engaged more with the process of learning. I'm glad it happened now and will help guide my thinking immediately but more so for next year. My friends Katie and Karen have or will be sharing more about their experience being coached by Samantha. Not only was I inspired mentally by Samantha but I hope to find a little of her cute fashion sense as I shop for spring, she is just so cute.