Monday, December 12, 2011

One Watermelon Seed

One Watermelon Seed by Celia Barker Lottridge is not a new book.  I was surprised to learn it was first published in 1986 and was released in 2008 again.  I picked it up at NCTE and assumed it was new and now I wonder what the first edition looked like.  The jacket flap shares this edition has a bold cover and brilliant interior art.  If you have the first edition I would love to know the difference.

One Watermelon Seed is a perfect book to use in helping students with two Common Core standards.  Those that count by ones and then kindergarten students can count by tens.  The characters Max and Josephine plant a garden.  Each page the number of seeds increase by one and the reader is encouraged to read along with this repetitive phrase, "and they grew."  I enjoyed the perspective visible via the illustration on each planting page done by Karen Patkau.  The reader only sees parts of Max and Josephine as they plant.  My favorite page is their bare feet in the garden.  The middle two page spread is bursting with vibrant colors as the garden is in full bloom.  The story continues by counting the harvest for each seed planted.  I think the pattern of 1 seed producing 10 vegetables or fruits leads to a problem solving situation.  The majority of the time each vegetable is organized in a group of ten.  At the end of the story, the reader is presented with a small creature search within the illustrations.  An Eye Spy within a picture book is bound to be a hit with readers.  I really appreciate the natural setting for counting and counting with a purpose.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


MOO HOO by Candance Ryan and illustrated by Mike Lowery is coming April 2012 and is a book you won't want to miss!  I was very fortunate to receive this ARC while at NCTE in Chicago from Walker and Company/Bloomsbury Kids

Cow and Owl are best friends.  They do lots of things together and have great fun as friends do.  As we know, friendships can be hard when new friends come and this isn't any different for Cow and Owl when Kangaroo comes.  My heart tugged when Kangaroo left because Cow and Owl ignored him.  Then Cow and Owl realize when Kangaroo is gone and things aren't quite exciting.  Kangaroo had some good qualities and seemed to do some fun things.  After this trio reunites they decide three is better than two.  Isn't that a great message for students?  We all know sometimes trios are hard for young children. 

What I find most fascinating as a reader is the rhyming conversation between Cow, Owl, and Roo.  Two word sentences convey a storyline.  My students always love the word boo and will easily pick up on all these rhyming words with boo making this a great shared reading which will lead to independent reading.  The monotone warm hues of color used to illustrate this text are soft and inviting.  I think the characters and warmth of this book will make it a fast circulating book in our classroom library when it comes out.

This is a companion book to Ribbit, Rabbit.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Listening to Read

I've been inspired and loved the posts Katie is doing titled, Wordless Wednesday.  I saw something in my room today and thought I could join Wordless Wednesday (with a few words).  I would like to give a huge shout out and thank you to Nicole from Nicole's Book Nook.  She came to visit and observe me one day last month when I was modeling how to use a tape cassette with four really, really, really BIG headphones.  The expression on her face made me realize how old this technology must look.  I think I said, I know there must be something more current to use.  She shared how she had ipod nanos in her room, loaded with books on CD and her students are independently using them.  She teaches K.  We could figure this out too!

I got on a small mission:  asked parents for any donations, received three ipod nanos that families weren't really using, taught myself how to use itunes and created an account, and now we have three loaded nanos for read to self.  It's fascinating to observe how my five and six year olds are figuring out the nanos.  Thanks for the nudge Nicole, this has been invigorating for all of us.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Welcome Speech Room News Blog!

I've been meaning to share my colleague's new blog - Speech Room News and now she is getting much more attention via Edublog Awards.  Jenna is being considered for The Best New Blog 2011 Award.  Please consider voting for her after you check out her website filled with wonderful ideas!  Jenna is our Speech Language Pathologist for preschool through fifth grade.  Her blog shows ideas for these various levels through photos, instructions for activities, free downloads, and diagrams.  I just scanned the last four post and thought I could use her thumball idea in my classroom.  I loved her integration from the classroom to her room with inferring and comics to foster language skills.  Jenna is in a closet and I'm amazed at all she can get done in a small space.  I love finding her working within a preschool room.  It's great having someone helpful and energetic right across the hallway, I am blessed. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

NCTE - Wow!

Flicker - ManicMandy

I've been sitting on this post for quite some time.  I wasn't quite sure where to begin.  I think it all begins with one little three letter word - WOW!  I didn't have any expectations for my first NCTE.  I didn't really know what to expect except I was hopping on a plane, rooming with my friend Karen, and had sessions a little bit planned.

I've been pondering my thoughts from this amazing experience when Tony had so many great things to say and I thought he was reading my mind.  Please make sure you catch his post and know I share his thinking. It was actually comforting to run into Tony during the course of the conference and have someone confirm the "Wow factor".  Everywhere I turned there were very smart people sharing and presenting well thought out, rich thinking.  Thirteen is usually considered an unlucky number not this trip.  I was blessed to attend 13 lucky sessions to provoke thinking, reflection, and excitement.  My whole body has been walking around with an internal sense of joy.  I needed this feeling.  I needed to feel excited again about the work I'm trying to do daily.  I needed to be surrounded by people who believe in the same thoughts, practices, and want to discuss theory a bit.  While this was a trip about teaching, my profession I think I walked away with a deeper sense of people and belonging.  One reason I went was to meet people.  This sense of belonging is filled with good richness.  I wish I could bottle it all and share it with everyone. 

My sense of belonging was cultivated by so many wonderful people.  I learned from and met so many mentors in person.  I can't begin to share it all here but in the spirit of belonging these moments got me there.

1.  I had the pleasure of meeting Brenda Power, the owner and creator of Choice Literacy.  Appreciating the good food and conversations with just lovely people this evening. 

2.  Yes, I did stop Donalyn Miller and ask her a question for a friend about middle school scheduling.  She was so gracious and kind to answer "our" questions with honesty, concern, and caring.

3.  I sat behind Lucy Calkins at the opening session and could of reached out and pinched her.  I had control and didn't.  I wanted to respect her personal space and found myself in wonder with the amount of notes she took during the session.  Here is a pioneer in our field taking notes to help her grow within her work, a mentor of mine to keep.

4.  Food always brings comfort and eating with various people always brought conversations about our work but also conversations about our personal lives, thus creating balance and belonging.  I had one meal with many, including Laura Komos who I had only connected with previously via twitter.  Thanks for the wonderful eats, Chicago!

5.  Starbucks and giftcards made the perfect breakfast destination.  One conversation with Mary Lee really got the importance of taking the unexpected, letting it work out, only to discover the pleasure and delight one would of missed otherwise.

6.  I read a lot so spending some time with Kathy Collins, Ruth Shagoury, and Andie Cunningham was just delightful.  I'm going to explore The Courage to Teach, something we all may need during these difficult times in education.  I actually got to do a small book shopping trip with Andie and felt so inspired by chatting with her about life in general.  Excitement feeds excitement. 

7.  I really need to thank Franki for getting me involved and connected with so many people.  If you have ever spent time with Franki she is like an infection - her ideas spread quickly.  She is a motivator and cheerleader!  I did get my photo with her, yea!

8.  I'm really not sure I would of gone if Karen hadn't been willing to be my roommate and travel companion.  I usually don't travel without four others.  It was amazing to pack one suitcase and a purse for four days.  Karen had so much great advice for navigating ncte, great conversations, and a Chicago tour guide.  She even got me to the American Girl Doll store and a bit of Christmas shopping done.

9.  I loved talking with Stella and knowing she too speaks fast with excitement made our conversation probably something to watch for others.  I loved walking fast in the city with Katie.  I loved Ann Marie's sincere smile and excitement to be sitting together at dinner.  These were times for stories and stories foster connections.

10.  At one point, I was overwhelmed.  I can't fib about that!  At this point, I might have a been a smidge homesick for my girls.  I mentioned to Cathy my pb10for10 partner I was going to stop blogging, writing, and take a break from it all.  Sometimes it's best to end on a high note and walk away.  Well Cathy, I'm not going anywhere.  I'm back.  I need this sense of belonging in my heart. 

So many links I could make but I want to enjoy the writing and my connections, I hope you do too.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NCTE Presenters are Rock Stars in my World!

Yesterday my program for the 101st Annual Convention for NCTE came in the mail and I did something I rarely do as a reader, I started on page one.  I almost always pick up any book and flip through it from the back to the front.  Lots of details, lots of presenters, and lots of text, oh my!  I began feeling a bit overwhelmed.  I wanted to start making a plan.  I wanted to see when some of my friends are presenting.  I started figuring out session codes and decided Early Childhood should be a focus of mine.   I thought I could put this down until the plane ride to Chicago but that wouldn't be any fun right now.  Being new I wondered if there was an index of presenters in the back and the answer is YES!  This is when I got even more bubbly inside and found so many of my favorite mentors listed!  I love to read professional books, my TBR pile is bigger than I would like and I get to spend time with so many of my favorite people who guide my work daily with students and help shape my thinking and philosophy.  Our culture loves music.  We idolize those who bring joy to our lives, making us sing and dance.  I may not sing and dance at NCTE 2011 but I know I will have joy in my life as I spend time with educators who help ground me, daily.  I can't wait!

If you are also new to NCTE and need a program planning starting point, go to the Index of presenters in the back and highlight those who guide you.  Maybe pack your camera too for any photo-ops.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Girls Need More Block Play!

While attending our state OCTM math conference last month, I attended a great session with Barbara and Diane from Bowling Green State University.  I have to apologize, I didn't save my program and I didn't write down their last names.  I walked away from their session and immediately made an instructional decision for our classroom.  Have blocks out daily!  Research is showing girls get less block play and this sets them up for a disadvantage mathematically with geometry.  Less block play is fostering a spatial deficit. 

I returned to my classroom and each day since blocks have been a morning choice.  I took an inventory of the blocks in my room and discovered there were lots.  I have a three dimensional block set in natural wood.  I have colored one inch cubes.  I have natural wood one inch cubes.  I have a colored set of building blocks that's perfect for a table top and I have the traditional larger wooden blocks great for building on the floor.  I think offering a variety of blocks provides choices and will create more spatial flexibility.  I'm only offering one set at a time right now so it's something different daily.  I was thrilled last week when three of my girls wanted to show me what they did with blocks.  We are defying research, we are building spatial knowledge, we can do geometry in kindergarten!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Little by Little

Little by Little by Amber Stewart and Layn Marlow was the perfect book to open a parent Literacy Night I had last week.  Otto the otter starts the book with an I CAN DO list and an I CAN'T DO list.  At first I  thought this book would be great for all of the I Can statements we are encourage to create for student ownership and assessment purposes.  Otto can do lots of things.  His CAN'T DO list is quite short.  He can't swim.  If you are using your background otter knowledge this presents a problem for OTTO.  As mothers often do, Otto's mother encouraged him and told him, "Little by little, you will learn to swim."  He tries.  He hops long the river bed.  He run along the bank.  He would sit and wish.  His sister has even more advice, "You have to start small."  Each day he did a little bit more, you just have to read the book to see his small steps.  After sharing his new I CAN DO item, Otto's sister gives this wise thought, "You see.  You started small...and finished big!"

My friend Cheryl introduced me to this book and listening to her read it to a group of eager kindergarten parents is delightful.  Cheryl's current role in education is that of Literacy Support.  My building lost her this past year and I truly miss her friendship, guidance, and feedback in my professional and personal life.  Cheryl offers kindergarten parents this wise advice. 

"Celebrate the CAN Do list; a lot of learning takes place along the way that will support the big surprise.  Our best intentions can sometimes cause children to feel defeated.  Instruction give along the way and encouragement to keep trying, will provide a solid foundation for your child to become a great reader who loves to read because..."You see.  You started small...and finished big!"

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wonder Wednesday

I was inspired this summer after reading Maria's post, What Would Be in Your Wonder Jar? and then I had the opportunity to chat a bit on Twitter about wondering.  Lucky for me Wonderopolis was listening in and wanted to help promote wondering in my classroom.  I just love this label they sent me.  I was feeling pretty thrifty when I recycled a jumbo pretzel jar and washed it up.  The opening is just right to put objects in and out of it.  The size is just right for holding many things. 

My jar has been sitting for a bit.  The beginning of the year is overwhelming at times and I just wasn't sure how to launch this.  My students have had so much to process in our twenty days together.  I've decided wondering just comes naturally if you wait.  One day we were using glue sticks to put a mural together.  I started thinking out loud and mentioned when I was little we had no glue sticks.  I continued to wonder why did we just have glue to work with?  When were glue sticks invented?  Why?  The glue sticks we had to use that day were all purple.  I wonder why because I don't remember glue sticks being purple when I was  younger than I am now.  All good teaching starts with modeling.  Why not model about wondering.

This summer I read Literacy Beginnings by Fountas and Pinnell.  Chapter 3 was filled with important writing about inquiry.  I loved the lead quote, "Ask real questions, questions you yourself wonder about - what I call acts of inquiry. - Judith Wells Lindfors."  The chapter defines two types of inquiry.  The first one being information seeking and this often leads to solutions and products.  Fountas and Pinnell have captured wondering as this -

"Wondering, the other kind of inquiry, is more open.  We seek questions and examine alternative factors.  When you and a friend discuss a recently read book or a film you've seen, you often share your thougths about why a character acted as he did or why an actor played the character a certain way.  You might never know the "right" answer.  The goal is often the pleasure of the process itself - speculating, asking more questions, sharing insights that are only possibilities.  Using open ended questions is important with prekindergartens.  Using thoughtful language as we teach is crucial to helping stimulate children's thinking."

While Fountas and Pinnell directly site thinking about prekindergartens I think this could apply to everyone of all ages.  My thoughts are closer for using the jar in the classroom.  I've gathered some picture book resources, and am using Wonderopolis posts to help foster the launch.  Stay tuned.

Friday, October 14, 2011

OCTM 2011 - Building Number Sense

What a great two days of learning and boy is my mind thinking about early childhood mathematics.  Many of my sessions yesterday centered around number sense.  I would like to thank Carl Jones, Anne Reynolds and Barb Weidus for each providing thought provoking sessions. 

Carl Jones from Dark Co. and works with the IMPACT project said early on, "Early educators need more number sense lessons for the CCSS" (Common Core State Standards).  This is very true for primary grades, especially kindergarten.  He talked about students' sense of equality and the fact that they are not as good as this as teachers tend to think.  He provided some research and date for student responses for 8 + 4 = ____ + 5.  The findings showed as the students got older in elementary school the success for solving this problem decreased.  This is a bit alarming.  He also got us thinking about the English language and how it works against us in mathematics.  Our names for numbers are against us for understanding the meaning or values of numbers.  I think these two thoughts increase the urgency and need for number sense to be developed further than it has in the past with our emerging mathematicians.

Did you know when working with a number grid, there is a diagonal pattern from left to right where the number increases by the first single digit in the diagonal row?  Did you know if you took a four square section of the number grid and added the two numbers diagonally in each direction the sum is the same?  Would your students see these patterns?

Ann Reynolds from Kent State University started her session on number sense and said, "Counting to 100 doesn't mean anything, it's like singing the ABC."  We all know in literacy students can sing the ABC song and not recognize letters or begin reading.  I hadn't thought about this comparison from the alphabet to numbers before yesterday and think it will be helpful when having discussions with parents.  Ann also shared students and families aren't playing dice games as much anymore and the visual identification for numbers on a die is essential in building number sense.  She showed us several ways for students to visualize number collections organized with pennies on an overhead in a Quick Show format (a 3 second look).  It's the important discussions afterwards guided with this question, "Did someone see it differently?" that helps our students begin building number sense.  Students have to have a mental structure to see how numbers work and their relationship to ten.  Here's another interesting thought - "Sometimes students don't focus on the math unless we push them."  For example, she wished pattern blocks came in one color.  It's too easy for students to refer to them by color rather than an attribute, informal, or formal names. 

Barb Weidus, I believe is from Southern Ohio somewhere and does consulting through Curriculum Alignment Specialist provided participants with a plethora of ideas related to developing place value with a very heavy focus on building initial number sense.  You can't go forward unless understanding numbers and their relationships as concrete for children.  Barb too provided a reference to literacy.  "Phonemic Awareness is a prerequisite to phonics and developing number sense is a prerequisite in mathematics."  This comes from the work of David Sousa and his book, How the Brain Learns Mathematics.  She spent a great deal of time talking with us about Subitizing, which is the sudden recognition of dot patterns for numbers without counting.  One might want to use manipulatives but research as shown with manipulatives children tend to count the objects and not build the instant recognition.  Subitizing begins with dots plates, moves to 5 frames, then 10 frames and random arrangements that are not linear.  She provided language for classroom discussions with students, also - What did you see?  How did you see it?  The first question is looking for a number and the second is looking for an explanation. 

This post is getting long but I hope you have gotten an idea or something to pursue further in your own work with building number sense and working with children.

Photo via Flicker and shimmertje

Thursday, October 13, 2011

OCTM 2011 - My Presentation

Today I had the pleasure of presenting at OCTM 2011 - Prime Time in Toledo.  My presentation was Coin Identification, Values, and Other Standards, Oh My.  Grades K-2  Creative ways to learn coin identification and values through games and hands on activities that are tiered allowing differentiation.  Follow an experienced teacher's thinking through her journey helping students learn these state standards while revisiting other math standards. 

For those of you who came to my session, thank you for joining me.  I appreciated your willingness to be active participants and I hope you all walked away with one new idea or an idea you could tweak and make your own.

I had so much fun putting together my PowerPoint and thinking about years of working with children identifying coins and knowing their values.  I have a lot I could say about this topic but I really think I should just share my PowerPoint and handouts.  I wanted to have things online for my participants to help save a tree and then I decided I would like to share and thank my PLN with these ideas.

You can find my presentation Coin Identification, Values, and Other Standards, Oh My via Google docs.  I have also shared Poetry for coin identification.  In my presentation I shared activities and games.  I scanned those pages to share with you.

At my session there was a question about Children's Literature and titles I like to use.  My presentation from 2010 started with quotes for using Children's Literature.  Here is my session from last year with a list of books I enjoy using for math instruction.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Public Librarian Visits Us!

I have had the pleasure of spending a half an hour over the past two days with Mr. George the Librarian and I've enjoyed every minute.  My students have enjoyed every minute.  Mr. George contacted our school and wanted to come visit our kindergarten students with an invitation for a pajama party at the library to sign up and get library cards!  What a brilliant idea.  He is the public library manager of our quaint little public library and also has several other positions within this title.  Mr. George came and read books to us but his style of reading is not like any other.  He is over the top with animation, sound effects, body language, and singing.  I don't think anything in technology can match what he does!  I found myself mesmerized and it all seemed so natural.  It was interesting to learn he has done a lot of reading and studying about children, behaviors, psychology and incorporated it into his work.  My students were so excited about new books, his library, and hearing more from him next week.  Reading and spending time with books should be exciting!  I'm so grateful to have begun this relationship with another professional who has children and books at the forefront of what he does.  Thank you for becoming a partner with us and extending our learning to your quaint little library.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Target and "Haiku-pons" {Poetry Friday}

a soft, cushy roll
is a cozy, happy joy
sweet squares of heaven

Author - Target

I got home last Friday to find a coupon flier from one of my favorite stores, Target.  On the inside page, they define a Haiku-pon as "Poetry and savings in one.  Haikus are three-line poems with 5,7,5 syllables.  Every coupon used makes a new haiku, so get clipping, creating and saving."  I wish I was teaching older students to use this as a mentor text with.  I'm wondering how I could take something so every day, so not very exciting and write a poem to celebrate and honor those things we probably take for granted and under appreciated. 

You can catch Poetry Friday this week at The Poem Farm, thanks Amy for hosting.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Literacy Beginnings

Literacy Beginnings by Gay Su Pinnell and Irene C. Fountas got a lot of attention this summer as Literacy Beginnings Blog Party was hosted by several bloggers.  I read several posts and thought I could gather some new information for myself and maybe some ideas to refine my current thinking.  I got both and am so glad I've read this text.  I think it's important to know where our children are coming from and this text includes many ideas relative to kindergarten.  I do think this text is must read for beginning teachers of young children.  It is packed with researched backed thinking and best practice. 

My favorite chapter was, Promoting Constructive Learning: Engaging Children in Inquiry.  I think I knew this but never thought about putting it in print.  There are two types of inquiry:  information seeking and wondering.  I think information seeking is easily understood.  I loved this writing about wondering, "You might never know the right answer.  The goal is often the pleasure of the process itself - speculating, asking more questions, sharing insights that are only possibilities."  I think the inquiry part of young children is often the best part if we take the time to embrace it within the mandates of education right now. 

I found this book full of new titles for me to use with my students for a variety of reasons.  I loved reading even with emerging readers, "Reading is thinking."  Often one we read and hear about this for transitional readers.  Often when I read a book, I'm looking for things I could implement or enhance my work with students.  I loved the alphabet linking chart in this book for a few reasons.  It's in color.  It had two picture clues for vowels, c, and g.  Each picture clue was also labeled with the word below the picture.  I ordered it for my classroom and another one to cut apart so my word wall headers. I'm also interested in using the concepts about print assessment described on page 224.  I also love the questions they provide to help the teacher assess a student's learning during a component of a reading/writing workshop.  There is a  collection of poems/chants to support literacy learning within the classroom.  This is just a small snapshot of this book.  I felt this text help ground my thinking about early literacy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Howard B Wigglebottom Learns to Listen

Howard B Wigglebottom Learns to Listen has a note from the author on the front inside jacket flap.  Howard Binkow writes, " I used to get into a lot of trouble because I didn't listen very well.  Since I learned how to really listen, I get into much less trouble and have a lot more fun.  I want to help as many children as I can to become better listeners."  The character, Howard B Wigglebottom is rabbit and we all know rabbits have big ears and one might think that makes them good listeners.  That isn't the case here.  Many scenarios happen where Howard's friends try to warn him something semi dangerous might happen but he doesn't listen and some unfortunate things happen.  After quite some time, the teacher asks Howard to take a time out and starts to feel sad.  He thinks about his actions and decides to start listening more.  The reader then follows Howard being a good listener with many positive things happening.  At the end of the story there is a great list of tips, How To Be a Better Listener and then a set of discussion questions for each page of the story.  I find listening is something I have to be very explicit about in kindergarten.  It's hard to be one in a larger classroom for the first time and this is a great mentor text to help us think about our own listening.  Young children love having a book character to connect with.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How Will I Get to School This Year?

How Will I Get to School This Year? by Jerry Pallotta is new this year and begins with a child stating they are tired of riding the smelly school bus.  It's the night before school and little girl begins brainstorming lots of different ways to get to school.  They all involve a different animal.  For example, "I'll swim to class on a hammerhead shark.  But where will I park the shark?"  The illustrations done by David Biedrzycki are funny and I think my students will giggle their way through this book at the thought of the unrealistic ways to get to school.  A truly fictional piece to read while thinking exploring how we get to school.  I do love finding books you can easily see children enjoy.  I'm predicting this will be one of them.

Monday, September 12, 2011

This Is the Way We Go to School

This Is the Way We Go to School, A Book About Children Around the World by Edith Baker has been a favorite of mine to use with every age group I've worked with.  This book is a great springboard for children to think about and investigate this question, How did we get to school today?  I love this book because it helps children think globally beyond their own daily life.  When reading this book we learn some children travel by ferry, cable cars, horse and buggy, skis, Skidoo and more.  I've signed up to participate in K Around the World via twitter and am wondering how our partner class gets to school.  I'll have to remember to revisit this book as we learn from each other.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How Do You Wokka-Wokka?

Movement is essential when teaching young children.  I think it's even more essential at the beginning of the school year.  I was excited when I discovered How Do You Wokka-Wokka? by Elizabeth Bluemle at the beginning of the summer.  This book is about moving and dancing in all kinds of ways.  When I opened the book, I knew this was going to be just too fun to read aloud.  I actually have to concentrate quite a bit with the language as you can read from the first page.

"Say "HEY!" to your neighbors
up and down the blocka
Do your funky wokka,
get your dance on."

As the little boy travels through his neighborhood he asks several people how they wokka-wokka and their replies are fun and described with whimsical language.  Here are a few language examples -

rap-bap biddly-ap open-up-and-boppa

I just can't wait to see how my students are going to wokka-wokka.  I also think this book is worth using as a mentor text for writing ideas.  The author couldn't understand her nephew when he was two.  He actually started asking people, "How do you wokka-wokka?" and they all replied with various dance moves.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

30 Fun Ways to Learn About Counting

In looking at the Common Core for Mathematics, I am excited about the changes for kindergarten.  I love the idea of kindergarten being the only grade level with a Counting and Cardinality Strand and this focus for kindergarten is quite different than what Ohio expected for kindergarteners previously.  Therefore, I started searching for new resources and found 30 Fun Ways to Learn About Counting by Clare Beswick in my Internet shopping cart.

As the titles suggests, there are 30 activities to promote and engage counting with children.  Here's a progression of counting I was able to "pull" out of the book's introduction.

-students match, sort, group pictures and objects
-students then count groups and attaches number words to describe quantities
-students will count one to one
-students will glance at a group and identify quantity visually
-students guess and estimate visually quantity while then counting to confirm
-students are then able to use mathematical language for comparisons

The introduction of this book is filled with wonderful tips and reminders to promote counting.  Clare provides a list of items children should use for counting while also including a list of ways students can record their counting.  Counting is most often a verbal skill but so much of our mathematical work needs to be made visible for others, I just loved this list.  I found her list of Essential Attention Grabbing and Keeping Tips helpful.  It's a great list to remind us to vary our ways grasp our students attention.

Each activity is organized with a focus.  Followed by a list vocabulary, what you need, and what you do.  However, we all know in any given classroom we will probably need ideas to take the main idea of a lesson further for some students.  Clare provides us with ideas for taking an activity further.  She also guides us with a section guiding our teaching observations for things to look, listen and note.  Helping us grow as mathematical observers.  As if we needed more, there is even a section on more ideas to vary the original idea.  This is all within a two page spread.

This book is filled with so much valuable information.  The activities are very hands on with everyday objects.  They often require movement and motion which we all know young learners appreciate.  I also found myself wanting to share with title with my special area teachers.  They are often looking for ways to collaborate and I think letting them know about the new expectations with counting could help them become more of a partner in our mathematical learning this year.  I can't wait to try everything but these are a few I will definitely get to first;  Spotted Dogs, Beat that Drum, Hip Hop Bunny Hop, and S-t-r-e-t-c-h!  I think many of the activities could become part of our morning meeting.

Monday, August 29, 2011

My Pete the Cat shoes are a HIT!

Here they are, my PETE the CAT shoes.  A wonderful raspberry color and I found them on a great sale.  Why raspberry?  It was/is a fun summer color.  It's warm.  It reminded me of raspberry sherbet.  The price was right.  Also, they are comfy and looked darling with any dress.  Was it worth it?  Yes!  My kids love them.  I wore them the night we met and the first day of school so they could find me.  There was actually disappointment when I didn't wear them the second day of school. 

We've been singing and rereading both Pete the Cat and Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes.  You can hear students singing during math workshop while we explore our math manipulatives.  As I've been reading and rereading my mind started wondering about the writing of these two books.  Is it intentional for Pete to be wearing red shoes while he is rocking in his school?  His white shoes turned red first.  If so, will his next adventure happen while wearing blue shoes?  YES, I'm already requesting a new book about PETE.  I also think PETE and Eric Litwin need to join twitter, I would follow them!

I hope your year is off to a wonderful start, mine has and it's busy.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August 10 for 10: Reflection

I just wanted to thank everyone who has stopped by and enjoyed our August 10 for 10: Picture Book event.  If you shared a top ten list, they are just fabulous and a great resource for us to turn to.  I loved reading so many personal insights for the books chosen.  It was fun to see books appear on more than one list.  It was fun to read the different ways people collected their books.  It was fun to meet new people via technology.  With such a wealth of book suggestions I started out handwriting a list of books that were new to me.  I also said I wasn't going to buy any books but could use the public library.  Then I got excited about books and made a plan.  Amazon does a three for four deal on paperbacks and wham! I was over at the website in a flash.  My goal was just one three for four grouping, four new books and this was going to show control.  As I typed in titles many came up only in hard back and I passed right over those.  They made it to the library list.  I was really going to be able to keep to my three for four goal until, one hard cover book was a super deal.  I just couldn't pass it up.  A principal bought it for every teacher in her building, a picture book, a mentor text for student writing.  I had to buy it and if you search the JOG you too will find the one book I got.  I slightly fudged my plan.  A huge shout out to Cathy for helping make this event happen, I couldn't do it without her.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 10 for 10: Picture Book Event is Here

Good Morning Everyone, it's going to be a great day!  It's August 10th, 2011 and that means Cathy at Reflect and Refine Learning Building a Learning Community and I are here to host our second annual 10 for 10 Picture Books blog sharing event.  I've been thinking a lot about top 10 list.  In the music industry it changes weekly.  I'm not that flexible or fickle.  I like routine, I like what feels good, I like what I know but I am willing to change and seek new ideas.  When I first looked at my list from last year a few days ago I gave a big UGH and closed the screen.  Last year it was interesting to follow other's thinking and read the personal spin they took to a top ten list.  I went shopping to IKEA with Cathy and she mentioned she had a focus for her 10 for 10 but never led on to what that was.  I instantly thought, I don't know if I'm ready for a focus.  To be honest, I don't know if I can change my 10 for 10.  Let's see what happens.

My list is not in a ranking order, I've just numbered them to make sure I stop at 10!

1.  Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Eric Carle changed my life in college and has to STAY!  I was sitting in my reading methods course at SUNY College at Buffalo when Dr. Phelps read this book in class.  I was introduced to a predictable pattern, shared reading, Eric Carle, collage hand made papers, turning the page slightly ahead of the text to encourage student participation and I'm sure much more.  I remember thinking this was much more fun and engaging than the basal readers and reading groups I grew up with.  I've never had a group of students who didn't fall in love with this book.  It has to stay because reading this book is one of my fondest memories to each of my three daughters who are now bigger and I'm sure took turns reading it to each other at some point in our journey together.

2.  Suddenly, is a book I found last fall and knew the minute I finished reading it with my students it would be a NEW additon to my list.  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.  The rest of this post was written November 10, 2011.

3.  Me Hungry! by Jeremy Tankard is a complete delight to read and use with students and has to STAY.  I reviewed Me Hungry earlier last year and it was a hit in our room right away.  I instantly thought this book would be great for my boys and found out boys and girls would both enjoy it.  I find it's easy for me to pick books in general for the entire audience and easy for me to pick books for girls in mind.  My three daughters make that easy.  However, this is probably the first picture book that wasn't nonfiction I thought my boys would like.

4.  The Three Bears by Byron Barton has to STAY.  I just enjoy reading this book to students.  The text is simple and repetitive and for whatever reason my inflection  I think the simple collage technique is an easy one for students to see and replicate.  I love to help children figure out there's one color for each character that gets repeated in clothing and objects.  My two classes shared creating retelling murals this year using Byron Barton has a mentor and then we interactively wrote our text.   These were beautiful pieces of collaboration and fostered so much literacy learning. 

5.  I feel a bit risky putting a NEW book on my list I've  never read to students but I have that much faith in this book to say it's going to be a top 10.  I've been to New Hampshire five times and each time I hope, wish, and actively look to see a moose in the wild.  I've seen moose crossing signs and my hopes get higher.  Each time to be slightly disappointed when I realize another trip has gone by and I haven't spotted a moose.  So, imagine my excitement and overwhelming joy when I found this just right book I could highly connect with!

Looking for a MOOSE by Phyllis Root is hysterical to someone in my situation.  After reading the first two pages, I bought this book to share with my students and my family, without reading more.  You can read the rest of this original post from July 9, 2011.

6.  Cornelius P Mud, Are You Ready for School?  by Barney Saltzberg has to STAY.  As we reread this book together we really notice humor within the illustrations and have to infer.  We can do so much thinking within what appears a simple emerging reader text.  Cornelius is a great character for young students, they can connect with him.  He has three books, a little series for young readers. Which opens doors for more books for my readers.

7.  NEW!  Pigs to the Rescue by John Himmelman is funny and had my young readers laughing.  This laughter was a sign of comprehension and enjoyment.  What a great combination to achieve together.  Farmer Greenstalk and his family are having all kinds of problems on their farm.  Each day of the week presents a new problem for the farmer, his wife, and their son.  When each problem happens a group pigs come to the rescue with creative solutions.  For example, one day Mrs. Greenstalk found a leak in her garden hose.  When the reader turns the page they discover pigs in bathing suits carrying buckets of water and a swimming pool above their head filled with water.  My students loved the repetition on every other page, "Pigs to the rescue!"  The pigs continue to get funnier as the story progresses.  The Greenstalks run out of milk for their last problem and they freeze hoping the pigs don't come to the rescue.  The pigs don't come but someone else from the farm does.  I'm excited to share there is a Chickens to the Rescue and soon to be released, Cows to the Rescue

8.  Big Mama's by Donald Crews is one of my favorite mentor text for writing and gets to STAY.  He writes about things from his own life and turns it into a story for others.  Visiting Big Mama is a pretty normal thing to do and our children need to see writing about everyday things can be just right.  It's also a great book that easily fosters conversations for students.

9.  Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox is about older people, it's about spending time with them, it's about memories.  I want it to STAY.  Memories give us ideas for writing.  As in this story, memories help us remember.   I think we need to work harder and bridge the gap between our young and old.   I think we need to work harder as a profession helping students make writing easier by writing about memories and what is known. 

10.  Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin was on my list last year and has been slightly moved over by this NEW Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes!  (Both titles link you to my original posts for these books.)   I honestly had a dream two nights ago I went to school and the room was filled with parents and students.  The room was set up but I had no handouts, no sign up sheets and really no introduction to kindergarten speech planned.  It bordered a nightmare and as I conclude this list I know just like Pete the Cat says, "because it's all good." the next couple of weeks will all work out, it always does. 

I'm so glad you stopped by.  If you are joining us this year please let us know.  You can let us know by leaving a comment on our blogs.  You can let us know via twitter @cathymere or @mandyrobek.  We will then connect all of our list via a Jog.  Make sure you settle in with a large class of water to stay dehydrated, I think the Jog will be a long one with lots of interesting things to view. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Pooh filled with Poetry {Poetry Friday}

What shall we do about
poor little Tigger?
If he never eats nothing he'll
never get bigger.
He doesn't like honey and haycorns
and thistles
Because of the taste and because of
the bristles.
and all the good things which an
animal likes
Have the wrong sort of swallow or
too many spikes

I am so excited for the upcoming school year for my B.  She is going into third grade and is definitely a transitional reader.  She found the book, The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne at the library and wanted to read it before going to see the new Pooh movie.  We have previously read Pooh stories organized as individual picture books or early readers when she was younger but not in this true chapter book format.   I was surprised she was interested in Pooh but not really when I see the organization of this book and have had conversations with her.  It's not an easy text and the characters are really fun to talk about.  It's filled with poetry via songs Pooh creates and B loves to write her own songs and sings to anything on the radio.  She also began walking around the house saying, "I feel like Pooh."  Which lets others know she is feeling a little bit hungry, Pooh is always hungry for honey. 

I also found some poetry writing advice from Pooh I'm going to save to share with students.  "It's the best way to write poetry, letting things come."  That is a little writing gem from A.A. Milne.  Thanks for letting me discover it with you B.

Thank you to Libby for hosting at A Year of Literacy Coaching.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes

I just can't withhold my excitement!  Today in the mail Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes by Eric Litwin arrived at our door.  Tonight for bedtime we downloaded the song, listened, read, and were rocking to the beat.  Eric Litwin has done it again.  He has created a jazzy tune about a blue cat that captures the hearts of readers.  I didn't think anything could be better than the original Pete the Cat, until now. 

I instantly knew I've found THE book to read to my students the first time we meet on August 18th in the evening.  My students will come with their parents to see the room, do a scavenger hunt, and listen to Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes.  Then I do a little orientation with parents.

In this new adventure, Pete the Cat is rocking at his school.  Pete the Cat rides the Cat City Bus with his orange backpack and green lunchbox.  Two important things needed for that first day.  I think children will find comfort in this book.  Pete has never been to the library.  Pete has to eat lunch in a loud big room.  Lots of kids are on the playground running.  Pete does a few other things our students will do in school.  On his journey the reader wonders, "Does Pete worry?  Goodness, no!"  

At the end of the story we get to meet Pete's Mom and I love how she comes into the story, like all moms do at the end of the day.  I have my black dress already picked out for this evening but now I have to shop and get my own Pete shoe's for school.  I borrowed gray shoes from my daughter last year but this is going to need something a bit splashier.   We will be rocking in our school shoes this year.  My head is already thinking about collaboration with our music staff and literacy extensions. 

I was a little bummed I missed the release date for this book but am grateful to my friend Franki.  I also thought her post, PETE THE CAT:  ROCKING IN MY NEW SHOES was so well done I didn't need to do one but my excitement won out.

Monday, August 1, 2011


RRRALPH by Lois Ehlert was a great book I picked up the weekend before school got out and one I found kindergartners really enjoy.  It was a great book for me, since we had just rescued our second dog, C.  Lois Ehlert is an author I'm always drawn to with her collage illustrations.  She is a mentor for children with her written work and illustrations.  She uses paper but also other objects often thrown away for details.  Have you ever thought about crumpling paper and then flattening it out for texture?  Have you ever thought about tearing paper for a torn edge look?  Have you ever thought about getting a tool that corrugates your paper, there is one at your local craft store.  Have you ever thought about using a pop can tab as the nose of a dog?  RRALPH will give you these ideas and more.

RRRALPH is the story of a talking dog.  The narrator shares different things they do for Ralph or Ralph does.  Each time a question is asked and Ralph answers in typical dog sounds.  My students LOVED figuring out how the question matched each typical dog voice, making this a great book for readers to play with words and language.  Here's a one example -

I think Ralph needs a long walk in the woods.

How's the path feel on your pays, Ralph?


Friday, July 29, 2011

NOW {Poetry Friday}

by Regie Routman

What do you love to do?
Make time for it.
Work will be there
Always constant
Love is fleeting
So is a sunrise
The bloom of an iris
A walk in the park
A child's laughter
Time with a friend

What do you love to do?
Go do it, savor it

How many times do you read a professional book and the last chapter is titled, Live a Full Life?  Earlier this week I reviewed Teaching Essentials by Regie Routman where you can find this last chapter and this poem.  I always look forward to vacations from school because I find time or make the time to enjoy and make my life fuller.  But, why do I wait for these breaks?  Regie has much wisdom on life in this small chapter.  I need to remember, "I am a more interesting person if I have stories to tell that are not just about school."  I hope to revisit this poem when I need nudging away from school to be a better person.

You can find Poetry Friday at Book Aunt, thanks Kate for hosting.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pencil and Paper Games for kids

Pencil and Paper Games for kids by Jane Kemp and Clare Walters was a great little discount find on vacation.  This collection of games is geared for children 3-11.  I picked it up to find things to use in my classroom for my Family Math activities but found many more things I could use in the classroom.  Our earliest writers might benefit from Chapter One, drawing activities.  Our early readers through transitional readers might benefit from Alphabet and letter games or Word games.  I'm thinking these might be one way to have parent volunteers spend time with students.  There is a chapter with Number games.   I think older students will enjoy the Tricks, jokes and illusions intriguing.  Even our social studies experts can find games that use maps, mazes and codes. 

I think it's important for students to play games with others for interactions with people.  I think it helps with thinking, often strategically.  I think it's important to show students paper and pencil can be a lot of fun.  You will find some classic games you may have forgotten, Word within words.  There's a new name for the game, Boxes - Lion and Tiger.  Something that is nice for the reader is each activity starts with the age range, number of players, and what you will need.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Teaching Essentials

Teaching Essentials by Regie Routman had been in my to be read pile for quite some time.  When I was packing for our vacation two days after school got out, I was purposefully going to pack non teaching books.  I was trying to convince myself it's good to walk away.  However, when I was gathering my books Regie Routman called my name.  She's a thinker, she's global and she's always confirmed my thinking about teaching while stimulating my thinking.  I'm so glad I made Teaching Essentials a vacation read.

I found these quotes helpful as I was recovering from the end of the year "crash" and actually got me excited about the following year. 

-"Every child has strengths; we just need to see them and begin our teaching there."

-"Once children enter the doors of our schools and classrooms, we have an obligation to ensure they reach their fullest potential.  We need to see each child as capable right from the start."

-"Once we tap into a child's interests and provide the necessary demonstrations and support to help him write, success can come quickly."

-"I believe that effective teaching is about hearing all the voices-making sure that every student is valued, hear, and respected and knows that his or her voice can make a difference."

-"We need to do everything we can to show students what is possible, through the stories we tell, read, and write with them and through the literature we use to teach reading and other core subjects."

Regie encourages teachers to become smarter.  She encourages teachers to get involved with professional conversations, align our beliefs with our practices, and repeatedly encourages our work to be meaningful, engaging, and important.  If we can achieve this, we can conserve time and energy.  Regie encourages us to  teach whole-part-whole and guides us through this thinking with her optimal teaching model.  My favorite section is Start with the Student, Not the Standard.  This text also covers assessment within our teaching and suggestions for analyzing student work while providing feedback.   Another reason to look at this text is the guidance from Regie for creating independent, self-directed learners.   This book should not have sat in my to be read pile this long.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Let's Make Rabbits

Let's Make Rabbits was a to me book created by Leo Lionni.  I was intrigued by the front cover when one rabbit is created with collage and another one is outlined in pencil.  The book begins with a pair of scissors and a pencil asking each other what they should do today.  The reader will notice a collection of warm subtle tones of various papers on the right side of the page.  The pencil drew a rabbit.  The scissors create a rabbit.  This makes a great mentor text for collage.  In a one page illustration the reader can see the various parts that were cut out to make a rabbit.  The two rabbits are best friends and get hungry.  The pencil and scissors each create a carrot.  The rabbits rest.  I do enjoy the various positions the rabbits are in to give students more ideas for their own creating.  Naturally the rabbits are hungry again.  They discover a real carrot and know it's real because it has a shadow.  They eat it.  Can you predict what happens next?

I love creating in different medias.  I love to show students how to create.  I think it's important for us to try and offer various materials to show and demonstrate learning.   

Monday, July 25, 2011

Little One Step - Join Us

I hope you have seen Cathy's post - Let's Chat About Conferring with Patrick Allen.  I'm really looking forward to chatting with him and other participants and anyone who wants to join about conferring to conclude our Book Blog Chat.  It feels like we've come full circle via Twitter to communicate beyond reading a book alone.  We've all been inspired by Patrick and  his gentle, soothing writing.  He had this tweet over the weekend,  "#cyberpd Humbled.  All your blogs have inpsired me!  An honor to be a colleague among great thinkers!"  I think we will have some great conversations tonight all within 140 characters per post!

Little One Step is a picture book Patrick recommends for introducing the gradual release model to students.  In a very quick summary the Duck family gets lost in the woods.  Little One just doesn't think he can take another step.  His legs are just too wobbly.  With guidance and encouragement from his brothers he continues throught the woods, one step at a time.  In kindergarten we really need to take one step at a time.  I have found using a mentor text for many things to be very helpful in our journey of school life and learning.  I can't wait to share this (new to me) book with my new friends! 

Patrick writes this - "Little One Step can lead to a group discussion of the gradual release model.  It is a perfect jumping -off point for a discussion of the model we use for our learning throughout the year.  It is the perfect opportunity to talk about the talk that occurred between Little One Step and his brothers;  the perfect juxtapostion (thank you Kindle for an easy definition) for the important role conferring plays in reader's workshop."

While reading this book and thinking about gradual release I found myself thinking about Conferring:  The Keystone to Reader's Workshop and how this text has been a form of gradual release for my own learning.  I'm glad I have Little One Step to remind me I can take things one step at a time this year.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Grandmother a Poet {Poetry Friday}

A tribute
to a knight in silver armor

Who rode away
on a white charge
to a land of no pain

He left a void
where I will stumble along

Until we meet
at another time and place

Author - Geraldine G Lane

Knight in shining armor by kristymama3
thank you flicker via kristymama3

I remember my grandmother having this poem read at my Grandfather's burial six years ago and realizing she was quite the poet, author, daily writer and I could learn from her.  My grandparents had been married for maybe over 60 years.  My grandparents were the boy and girl next door.  My grandparents are wonderful.

My grandmother kept a diary all her life.  It was part of her daily routine.  She would sit at her desk each evening before bed and scribble - her handwriting was so small cliff notes about her day.  She could pack a lot of thoughts into five or six lines of text.  She traveled to my Ohio home twice once six years ago and then again three years ago for my birthday and she kept that routine.  My aunt said in her care facility she spent at time she would take notes/drafts during the day and do a final copy into her favorite notebook at night.  I love how she found writing daily in her life and this inspires me.  My family is finding lots of writing and I have a collection to look through she left me to learn more about this amazing woman and writer.  My grandmother passed away at the beginning of this summer, my heart has been heavy but her own words/writing let me know things are ok. 

Thank you for taking the time to stop by and letting me "publish" my grandmother's writing.