Monday, April 30, 2012

Weather Watchers Series

After muddling this year with the Common Core and our new state curriculum for science and social studies, I decided I needed to purchase some books as I thought about content learning for next year.  Kindergarteners puzzle and amaze me at the same time.  I forget how things I think are simple to understand are not simple to understand when you are a young learner.  For example, as we make daily weather observations on a winter day with snow on the ground, I will hear many students share their thinking that the weather is snowing when there are no snowflakes in the air.  They often report snowing when the ground is covered in snow.

In Ohio, kinders have the topic of Daily and Seasonal Changes under the topic Earth and Space Science with the focus on observing, exploring, describing and comparing weather changes, patterns in the sky and changing seasons.  Exact bullets state - weather changes are long -term and short term and the moon, sun and stars, are visible at the different times of the day or night.  

Weather Watchers is a series brought to us by Heinemann that includes these titles; clouds, rain, snow, sunshine, thunder and lightening, and wind.  The format for each is very similiar and filled with just right information to understand weather concepts.  In the table of contents one can find some consistency between books;  What is weather?  What is sunshine?  Sunshine and the Seasons, and How does sunshine help us?  are a few examples.  I love their explanations for concepts that are challenging.  They clearly define different weather types.  Think about this comparison from in the book - "Sunshine is strong in the summer.  Summer days can be hot.  Sunshine is weak in the winter.  Winter days can be cold."  The photographs are beautifully captured and directly supportive to the text.  I love when the reader learns how the weather helps living things.  Mentioning living things here helps support life science learning.  I had to order the whole series and look forward to using them throughout the year to support our daily weather observations and discussions.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

Little Giant

Little Giant by Simone Lia was my last find last weekend.  The front cover alone grabbed my attention and I wanted to get to know the character more which meant I had to read the book.  The reader learns right away this little girl is too little for many things because she is the smallest in her family.  I'm thinking many students have feelings of being too little.  Sometimes we learn she can be as big as she wants to be, thanks to her imagination!  I just love this book for promoting and celebrating imagination.  I think my students will have lots of conversations about reality and pretending.  For example, the little girls is..."so huge that I cross the only three steps."  The illustrations which will require lots of picture looking show us the desert is really her sandbox.  I even bet they could draw and write about a time when they are really big while playing.  The end is very endearing and I just can't spoil that for you.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Something to Do

Something to Do by David Lucas was another bargain find this past weekend.  The story begins with a common phrase children say, "There's nothing to do."  The illustrations are drawn with a crayon or cray-pas feel and reminds me a lot of Harold and the Purple Crayon without the purple.  The colors here are barn red and navy blue on a cream background.  I think this enhances the warm feel to the simplistic illustrations.  Baby Bear is bouncing on a larger bear to wake him or her up only to declare there is nothing to do.  The bears begin a journey to find something to do.  After a long walk, there is nothing to do.  Then they find a stick and break it in half.  Two sticks let the two bears each have a stick and together they draw creating new adventures.  They decide they are hungry and return home to report in they found a little something to do to.  In reality, they found a lot to do.  The reader will have to use their eyes and think about the pictures to see the adventures that were created with the sticks.  I think it promotes using a tool or object in a new way to create fun.  The language has some repetitive parts to encourage shared reading.  This book has lots of little different tidbits and I'm anticipating it will be a favorite in our classroom.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Last week, Mary Lee wrote a post sharing the book Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger that immediately caught my attention.  In Mary Lee's title she gave a gush alert warning.  That was a huge clue Mary Lee was really taken by this book and her review supported the gush alert completely.  Here's my story and thinking about Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger.

Green is my favorite color!  After reading Mary Lee's post, I really wanted to see this book and found it while shopping this past Saturday at The Book Loft.  I think I actually gave a little squeal and my heart started racing.  I read the book, fell in love with the book and then cringed at paying full price.  So, thanks to my smartphone I checked out the price at the dangerous website and found the book a bit cheaper and ordered it right then.  Last night the book was waiting for me when I finally got home at 7:15pm.  

I love various shades of colors and can't wait to share this book with  my students.  It is a perfect addition to my collection of art books and a mentor text for using various shades within our own work.  I've always enjoyed using various shades and vocabulary words to describe the shades for any color.  There is more to life than a box of eight Crayola crayons!  This book is the perfect mentor for showing children various shades of green and the vocabulary used to describe green in a multitude of ways.  

B and I read this book at bedtime last night and she wasn't at all interested in reading a book about the color green, she is in third grade and had a chapter book on her agenda.  I let her read her chapter book for a bit and then we read my book.  She was so enthralled with the illustrations and the cut outs.  She kept flipping the pages and figuring out how one cut out fit in with the page before or after.  She was analyzing and discovering simultaneously.  

When looking at the individual pages, my favorite is wacky green.  It's a perfect example of seeing the world with new eyes and allowing for something different to be considered.  It's encouraging routine things to be unpredictable.  It fosters creativity and all of these ideas are essential for our students succeed.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

monster mess!

monster mess! by Margery Cuyler was another bargain deal this past weekend and I picked it up for the boys in my classroom and the language modeled.  Monster is ready to sleep and wanders upstairs to a boy's bedroom only to learn it is quite a mess.  Monster then cleans the bedroom so he is able to find space for a nap.  While Monster finds lots of little chores to do to clean up the boy's bedroom the author has carefully chosen words to describe the source of the sound or imitates the sound of the cleaning action.  For example, sweep, bang, and whishtt are examples of onomatopoeia.  I'm wondering if this little use of onomatopoeia might enhance my student's own writing.  I can see kindergarten students and first graders really enjoy discussing and generating onomatopoeia or maybe a bit more kid friendly language would be sound words.  

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Garden of Opposites

This past Saturday, the girls and I had a day in downtown Columbus, Ohio.  We took in a couple of plays and in between the two we had time to spend in German Village.  Our German Village time included shopping at a store where seniors make crafts to sell, Golden Hobby Shop, a trip to Starbucks for something warm while it rained all day, a stop to one of our favorite book stores The Book Loft, and dinner at the first Max and Erma's.  I was in the mood for bargains and found some to share with you this week.  

I picked up A Garden of Opposites by Nancy Davis for a few reasons.  First, I thought my emerging readers would love the one word labels on each page while reading.  Once the reader knows and understands opposites I think the illustrations will be very supportive for early readers.  They are simple, colorful, and focused on just one word labeling the illustration.  The Common Core asks K students to clarify the meaning of unknown words and I can easily see my K students asking for clarification for the words dull and alike.  Young students love opposites and I think while reading this they will instantly engage them with guess/reading the second word in the pair of opposites.  Opposites are antonyms and this book is a great way to introduce this to any elementary classroom.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Books Turn Brains Blog

My friend sent an email request tonight asking for help.  Her daughter has been blogging for two years about young adult literature.  You can learn more about Chelsea and how her blog Books Turn Brains and while you are there please consider voting her work for the Independent Book Blogger Awards.  I really think Chelsea has done nice job with the format of her blog.  I loved some of Chelsea's wisdom.  Her rating system has a motto, "Try it before you dislike it."  Within one review I found these great words from a college student, "you are allowed to believe what you believe, just don't force it on me."   Thank you for taking the time to check out Books Turn Brains.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Meet Renee Dinnerstein

When I was at NCTE this past fall in Chicago, I had the pleasure to attend a session Renee Dinnerstein was presenting in.  The title of her session with Kathy Collins and Matt Glover was Using Inquiry Projects to Nurture Thoughtful and Confident Learners.  Renee is a retired teacher from New York City.  Renee spoke about project work and how it begins with teachers making an anticipatory web.  She justified anticipatory webs because teachers are prepared as they think ahead about possibilities.  She also cautioned the room by reminding us not everything in an anticipatory web has to be done.  

Project work has three phases.  The first being gathering prior knowledge as the teacher plants seeds for student thinking.  She encouraged creating the web as a living document that continues to grow as the project grows.  Post it notes allow movement in growth in written form as categories are organized.  Why hadn't I thought of that before?  I don't know how many charts or versions I have made over the years as projects, learning, and thinking have changed.  The charting in this phase is extended  by asking what the class is wondering and Renee suggests organizing their wonderings into the same categories from the gathering of prior knowledge.  

Phase two involves getting answers and more information.  This can be obtained by visiting places or people, observing, and interviewing an expert.  By doing these three things drawing and writing become more sophisticated.  Phase three is a culmination of what the students now know.  This would be gathering, assessing, and showing new learning.  It would involve students sharing what they have done and learned.

I have continued to learn from Renee.  She is the author of the blog - Investigating Choice Time:  Inquiry, Exploration, and Play.  When I read Renee's posts I am inspired, motivated and reflecting all within a matter of minutes.  I use to work in a building where her examples of project work were the center of learning.  I miss those days and often wonder how do I get back to that.  I think this is a question many of us are wondering as education continues to change and we reach out to find like minded people to foster our own learning and the work we do with students.  Please stop by Renee's blog no matter what grade you are teaching.  I know you will be inspired and find something to stretch your own educational journey.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Riki's Birdhouse

Riki's Birdhouse by Monica Wellington is the first children's book I have found about bluebirds and if you were following me this past month one of my slices was about bluebird monitoring with my kindergarten students.  Riki is a bird-watcher and has a new pair of birds visit his yard.  Riki makes a plan for keeping this new pair of birds in his yard.  Several pages show plans and construction for a bluebird house.  When winter comes, Riki spends time preparing food for the birds.  When spring comes, Riki sets out supplies to help birds make their nests.  During the summer the sunflowers grow and seeds can be harvested for birdseed for the following winter.  This book is a great resource to introduce young children to bluebird monitoring.  It gave me some ideas for growing sunflowers seeds to help fill our bird feeders, setting out string and fabric for nest building, and for making winter food treats for birds.  For anyone interested in bluebird monitoring on their own there are directions on how to make a feeder, install a feeder, resources and reasons for bluebird monitoring on the last two pages.  There are also directions for Bird Food Cupcakes.  I think this will be a book we will visit all year long as we observe Ohio birds.  Within the gouache painted illustrations the reader will notice a bird journal with small notes Riki is keeping as the story progresses.  We started our own bluebird journals yesterday and today.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Slice of Life Tuesday - Run Girl Run

Yesterday I found myself thinking about the Slice of Life monthly challenge I just completed.  I thought I could keep going in a writer's notebook.  Then I thought, I could keep it going by joining Slice of Life Tuesdays each week and make it a feature from my classroom since my blog is about teaching.  So, I had an idea from my room that isn't making it here today because after school life got exciting.  

Half the track ahead.  Down in the block.  200 meters ahead.  Starting in the fourth position.  Bang.  Passing number three, passing number two, passing number one.  Go, Girl, Go - She's in the lead and YEA!  She did it, N won her heat.  

Truly a slice.  A slice of seconds of my day today but it felt much longer watching her run half the track and sprinting ahead.  Cheering from the stands and so proud of her efforts.  There's something to be said for teamwork and she's done that a lot with soccer over the years.  So proud to see her be a part of a team that also promotes individuals improving their own numbers.  A really positive event for her to partake in.  She also did the 100 and that was a closer heat but we think she won that and was asked to go to the invitational this weekend for long jump.  Go, girl, Go!