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.