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.