Saturday, June 26, 2010

All About Faces

All About Faces by La Zoo translated to an English edition in 2009 is a great book to celebrate the face. It all begins by embracing the differences in faces and how the shape of our faces aren't the same. It celebrates the different things faces can show, emotions. There are different parts to a face. Sometimes faces change with makeup or too much sun. Faces change with moods or our own pretending. For our older readers there is a two pages spread talking about expressions that refer to our faces. Faces change with time. I'm not sure what media is used to create all of these faces but they are just delightful. Great mentors for any type of work you might do for a self portrait project. I'm so glad I picked this up on my recent trip to Cover to Cover.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Beautiful Stuff Learning with Found Materials

Beautiful Stuff Learning with Found Materials by Cathy Weisman Topal and Lella Gandini has been in my To Be Read stack for quite some time and I'm so glad I read it! This book was written to help teachers and parents create meaningful experiences between young children and materials. Materials you can recycle and reuse in a new way. I don't think these ideas need to stop with young children. I think children of all ages can represent knowledge and learning with found materials. This book is inspired by the work of teachers from Reggio Emilia, Italy and "The Hundred Languages of Children" exhibit.

It all begins with children bringing found materials from home. This helps foster a connection between home and school quite quickly. There is a sample letter and list of things that help promote this project. For example, yarn, buttons, juice lids, corks, fabric, marker caps, and much more. When the students bring in their brown paper bag, which is a great way to organize the amount and size of objects brought in the children begin a big project of sharing, sorting, classifying, cleaning, displaying, and keeping order. These are important life skills. The materials brought in foster exploration. Exploration for the objects properties and finding out what the object can do. I just loved these two lines, "exploring materials is an evocative experience. It stimulates the imagination."

In thinking about my own studio/art shelf space I realized these types of materials are too high and ones I've collected for them to use. They use to be eye level, I wonder when did I change this? Here is some thinking to benefit us all as we think about setting up our rooms next year. "The studio space is not an isolated place where artistic things happen. "It is a laboratory for thinking." It is a place to see that thinking can be expressed through materials. In order for this to happen, it is important to create a space where materials are visible and easy to reach so that there is the possibility for children to return to what they were doing and follow up on ideas. To have a special space where children can concentrate on their work with materials is conducive to learning and to children finding their own strengths."

As children use found materials to design they are able to demonstrate complex thinking and connections. The oral language used to describe their creations shows us complex thinking. We have to listen. After the children create using found materials they are often asked to "save a memory" by drawing. Drawing, takes their thinking and holds it in a new language often making their ideas clearer. This book is filled with colored photographs of children working which complement the text ideas for projects that follow. The projects aren't step by step directions but guidance for using found materials in another area of study. It can be overwhelming having so many materials to work with yet as a teacher I want to balance choice and open ended creativity. I loved the support suggested for children when doing this type of work, pick 8 objects to work with.

As I read through this book I could see a lot of connections with mathematics, reading, writing, and communicating. The book includes examples for displaying student's work for all to enjoy and celebrate. May you think about using found materials in your classrooms and enjoy.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Green Seeing Green All Around Us

Green Seeing Green All Around Us is created by the A+ book team for Capstone Publishing and a part of a series. In the series you will find titles for Black, Blue, Brown, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, White, and Yellow. I became interested in the White book when my friend Katie was blogging about it and used it during a lesson I watched back in the spring. I just got the entire series today. I thought they would be fun for us to use this summer at home and then open our minds in the classroom when the year starts.

Green is my favorite color so this book is right up my alley. The text is printed in shades of green. Nonfiction features you will discover right away are a Table of Contents, an Index, Words to Know, Read More, and Internet Sites. Each two page spread is set against a simple background with a large single item photograph of a common green object. Let me share my favorite food found in this book. The photograph is a larger than life size mint chocolate chip ice cream cone. The text says..."Green is fresh. Green is cool." You will also find a text box with a nonfiction fact related to the color and/or the object. "Other names for green are mint and forest. Green ice cream tastes fresh and minty." Each book ends with a color activity to try where colors are mixed but different medias are used each time.

I think there are many possibilities for this series. The text is simple and relevant to the illustrations making them a great read aloud, shared reading, and independent read for many students. These books can help open our own observations about colors. Where we see color, what color can be and do. I can see students writing their own version for their favorite colors, using these as mentor texts. These books might even be a springboard for poetry. The activities at the end are simple, hands on, and an accessible procedural text for your classroom to try. My students come to school knowing their colors, I think this series will extend our thinking and observations, making us more aware of the world around us.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Again, book shopping with friends is a great idea. I may not have found HOPE IS AN OPEN HEART by Lauren Thompson if I wasn't shopping with Cathy Mere from Reflect and Refine. How would you describe or define hope? I think this could be hard for students and adults of all ages. According to, it is defined as the feeling that what is wanted can be had or the events will turn out for the best. Lauren Johnson has done a fantastic job collecting examples and thoughts of hope. Each thought is accompanied with a full page or two page spread breath taking photograph capturing the essence for each page of text. What a great book to discuss hope with students. What a great book to use a mentor text for your own thinking about hope or another feeling/emotion. Here are a few example of hope found in the book to help you see how perfect this text is for our thinking.

- Hope...Sometimes hope feels far away. But hope is always there.

- Hope is holding tight to your mother's hand.

- Hope is remembering that you are not alone. Many others feel just the way you do. Many others care.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I Can Help

I Can Help by David Hyde Costello was one that jumped in my bag at Cover to Cover and then I just discovered it was in my shopping cart at Amazon after I read Franki's post at A Year of Reading back in March. I couldn't agree more with her positive review of this book.

This book is perfect for our youngest readers. My first thought is to use this book at the beginning of the year with my kindergartners to guide us in a discussion about helping. What does that look like in a room of twenty friends? How do we show we are helping? The animals in this text are great role models and could easily get our thinking going. I don't think any classroom can survive if students and teachers aren't helping each other. The animals are also able to help due to something they are good at, a feature unique to them maybe. For example, the sunbird is able to use it's beak to remove a splinter from gorilla's thumb. We all have special talents that make us more helpful in different situations. This book would be a great revisit for when we are learning the sight word can. The repetitive phrase, I can help will help us see can over and over in print. Providing the repetition young readers in a quality text.
Katie over at Creative Literacy posted about this I Can Help earlier in the week, we were shopping together.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What is This?

What is This? by Antje Damm was another great find at Cover to Cover recently. Literacy wise this book is perfect to use for seeing three different sight words in text; what, is, and this. This book is perfect for introducing the concept of a question to our youngest learners and how an answer follows. The concept of a question is hard for young learners when their needs are egocentric and they LOVE to share all of their connections. I think my early readers can be very successful with reading this book, once they discover there is a pattern. However, the main reason I picked up this book was to introduce the concepts of collage and thinking differently. A collage is when we can take materials and use them to make something different. To do this, you have to think bigger than the intended use of your materials.

This book is about 6 x 6 inches with a patterned layout. On the left the question, What is This? is printed and an object is photographed on the right page. As you turn the page, the left side is blank with the right page showing you how the artist used the object to make a picture. For example, What is This? then you see a ball of white yarn. The next page is that ball of yarn with a sheep head, tail, and legs out of construction paper attached to it to make a sheep. Another page is the question, What is this? then you see a piece of Swiss cheese. The next page is that piece of Swiss cheese with more cheese added to it to make a cow. I think my students will be able to use different materials found in our art area to create their own pages. Maybe two flaps, resembling a door. The left with the question, the right with the object and then you can open the flaps to see what the student created as a collage using this object. I'm going to try it out this summer at home with my girls.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Noonie's masterpiece

Over a week ago, I joined my Columbus area blogging friends for breakfast and book shopping at Cover to Cover. Thanks to Sally and her hospitality many of us gathered some Advanced Release Copy, otherwise known as ARC for our reading and viewing. I took advantage and selected some books for my older girls and they have been pouring through these hot new titles. Noonie's masterpiece by Lisa Railsback was one I picked for A and she couldn't put it down. With how busy the end of school is, she spent most of that Sunday reading this book in her pajamas. I then picked it for my first summer read.

What a great book for transitional readers and beyond. The book opens with, "I am Noonie Norton, and I am a brilliant artist. The only problem is that I haven't been discovered yet. See, most brilliant artist aren't actually discovered until they're dead, so I thought I should explain my art while I am still alive." Right now Noonie is ten, so is A. Noonie began her artist career with a blue period. She created everything in blue, blue showed just how sad she was when her mother died. Then, her father was very sad, leaving Noonie with her aunt and uncle while he traveled far places for work. Then when she turns ten she decides to start her purple period of art, life was just going to be different.

Through out the book, Noonie is struggling with relationships. She struggles with having her Dad traveling, writing to him about a weird illness or two in hopes he will rush home. She struggles with accepting her peers for their differences and friendships, Reno and Sue Ellen. She struggles with seeing her family as one that is non traditional and learns to accept while embracing her aunt, uncle and cousin. The one relationship she doesn't struggle with is that with her art teacher, Ms. Lilly. Ms. Lilly is guiding and understands her need to create, be different, and her struggles in life. Art is successful for Noonie, school is not always. We have students in our room that need art to express their learning and themselves. We have Noonie's each year.

Ms. Lilly belongs on A Year of Reading's 100 Cool Teachers in Children's Literature. Ms. Lilly is insightful and wise. I love these two bits of advice she gives Noonie; "artist have the power to change the world" and "sometimes artist block is a good thing." Ms. Lilly is also instrumental in showing Noonie it's okay to carry around a mentor text, the Masterpiece, it's a collection of different artist Noonie refers to constantly while she thinks about her own art. Ms. Lilly guides Noonie at the end showing her how to accept her journey and life. My ARC copy illustrations are done in shades of black and white but I believe the published version, was due to be out in April is done in full color. The illustrations are doodle like and often made me chuckle because they brought the text to life. A great new find, if you ask me.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Last Day Reflections

Tomorrow is my last day with students, round one. Tuesday is my last day with students round two. I've often found myself thinking I was living through the movie Groundhog Day. My kindergarten schedule is every other day, rotating Fridays. So, within two weeks my students come to school for five days. They have a two day week and then a three day week. That alone has presented many challenges.

I just wrote my my last newsletter to forty seven families. The last day of school is often a great day for teachers. We are hugged, thanked, blessed, and hugged some more. I can't wait! With all this positive feedback I do find there to be sadness. I have to let go and say goodbye to my friends. My friends I have planned for, worked with, guided, modeled, and watched. I've watch them all blossom. I remember thinking that first day back in August, what did I get myself into again. I ran home to google a circle song, we didn't know how to make a circle so we could talk and see each other. There were so many things we didn't know how to do because school life was unfamiliar to us, including myself. It's very different in kindergarten.

It's not unfamiliar now. They can navigate our building with confidence. They know an entire staff because they watch us in awe, sending a silent blessing I'm sure. We've learned how to work in small groups, individually and be one in a group of 23 or 24. We've learned how to share and use our words to communicate our needs, wants, and learning. We've learned how to clean up after painting. We've learned how to clean up our own messes. We've learned how to be organized with our own things. Yes, we've learned literacy skills, math skills, and content skills. My final hope for each child is to continue to think and question. By thinking and questioning, I hope they will explore alternative solutions, be creative, strive for understanding and not just memorization.

When I think of our learning, I have to use we. My students have taught me a great deal this year. They've taught me and reminded me what it's all about. It's about being vocal, it's about inquiry, it's about doing things differently, being creative and creating. They are the happiest doing all of these things. I'm not sure you learn everything you need to know in kindergarten, but we covered a lot.