Wednesday, June 26, 2013



Math is all around us.  If we take the time to notice and wonder, we can see mathematics.  While walking today in German Village I noticed geometry, rectangles to be specific.  After viewing this picture here, I also see a discussion about angles and another about fractions.


There are stories within math.  We can take a picture of things and tell number stories about what we see.  In the simplest form of number sense the story at lunch today was we got 3 soft pretzel sticks.  I wish I had taken a picture of one half eaten because then the story would be more involved with a story about fractions.

I think it's easy to share and show children how important reading and writing are.  I think reading and writing is easier to talk about as adults.  Readers have a common language.  Writers use language to convey ideas.  How do we share math?  How do we show reasons for learning math?  How do we apply math outside the classroom?  Can we be math mentors and models to our students?  If you've read Math Exchanges by Kassia Omohundro Wedekind then the notion of sharing math in our world will not be new to you.  

I've decided to start collecting pictures for math in my world to share with my students this upcoming school year.  I've dabbled a bit in using instagram and just decided to make my account public.  One of my plans for instagram is to collect and house my math in my world photos.  I've created the hashtag #mathinmyworld in hopes I can pull those photos up within my collection and I'm hoping others will join in on the fun.  If you don't have an instagram account you can still join in on the fun via twitter with the same hashtag.  I plan on sharing my new pictures there too.  

Get your camera ready and join the #mathinmyworld fun!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Peepsqueak Wants a Friend!

Peepsqueak Wants a Friend! by Leslie Ann Clark has charming illustrations that have great kid appeal.  Pipsqueak is a chick that lives on the farm.  He is one of several chicks.  Pipsqueak has a problem.  All the chicks on the farm run around in pairs.  He is only one.  He can't find a friend on the farm and decides to go to the woods to follow some footprints that were left at the farm while everyone slept.  Pipsqueak travels and meets several friend on the way to the woods that are always together in a pair.  As I read further into the book, it began to have a fairytale feel with the repeating phrase, "But Peepsqueak said, "You are 2 but I am 1; my search for a friend has just begun."  His search continues and in the woods he does find a friend.  This friend is only 1 and they become 2.  While this final friend isn't a friendly kind of animal to become friends with, it does make 2 for Peepsqueak and becomes a friend to Peepsqueak.  As I read this book, I thought about skip counting, addition facts, multiplication facts, and a great story to show pairs.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Take Me Out to The Yakyu

When I read the title of  this book on the library shelf, I just had to bring it home to learn what Yakyu meant.  The front cover of Take Me Out to the Yakyu by Aaron Meshon gave me a few visual clues it might be about baseball and the title made me start singing the tune for "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."  As I read this book, my predictions were confirmed.  It is about baseball.  A little boy shares his journey to two ball games.  One game he goes to is in America and the other is in Japan.  Each two page spread compares the same event or idea in an American baseball game to a game in Japan.  The story compares,what they wear to the game, how they travel to the game, what they can buy at the game, how fast the pitches are thrown, and how at both games the little boy wants know if they are home yet.  My favorite part of the book was to learn while we might chant, "Win! Win! Win!" during the game and in Japan they chant, "Do Your Best!"  That sounds just right.  The book ends with a chart of baseball words and other fun words in English and Japanese.  There is also an author note filled with lots of baseball history for the game here in America and again comparisons to how it started and such in Japan.  A great summer book for any baseball fan you know.  I also think it would work nicely while comparing cultures and countries.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Rain! by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Christian Robinson is a great story for encouraging different thinking and sharing our thinking with others.  The day begins with two characters waking and noticing the day outside is rainy.  The old gentleman is grumpy and sad about the rain.  The little boy is jumping and happy to see a rainy day.  It's interesting to discover as a reader the left page is the old gentleman talking and the little boy side of the story is found on the right page.  I think this would be a great discussion point for a mini-lesson on text layout.  I also think as your follow the thinking of the old gentleman and little boy the students would love to cite examples of positive and negative thinking.  They key in using this book with a group of students or adults would be to show sharing your ideas can lead to positive changes.  We've had a couple of rainy days as we started our summer vacation and I tended to think like the little boy.  I found goodness in the rain. It helped my newly planted plants get established and it gave me the idea of laying in bed, listening to the rain, and reading.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

a funny little bird

a funny little bird by Jennifer Yerkes is a book that will require readers to use their picture clues.  Funny Little  Bird is hard to see, the bird is almost invisible because she or he is white and the background papers are all white.  Jennifer Yerkes has done a cleaver job illustrating Funny Little Bird and outlining it's body with the simple objects in the scene for each page.  This book has a couple of messages students will be able to discuss and connect with.  I think students will want to discuss how Funny Little Bird is made fun of, goes off on his own, is made fun of again and decides to not be sad.  I think students will love to talk about the beautiful things Funny Little Bird collects and how he is easier to see when he is holding his collection.  Funny Little Bird gets pretty excited to show off his collection and gets noticed by someone he doesn't want to get noticed by.  Little Funny Bird gets safe and realizes he is special for a reason and is able to help others.  This might be a great book to start the year with.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


HOW TO BE A CAT by Nikki McClure was calling my name at the public library this week.  I found the title interesting.  I'm not a cat person.  I've never owned a cat and I certainly have more dog books in my classroom library than cat books.  I think this is the first cat book, I am in love with!

The illustrations are crisp and clean.  Nikki McClure cut black paper and set it against a white background.  Each page has one word describing what the cats are doing, in a perfect shade of periwinkle blue.  This story follows Small Kitten as she learns from Big Cat.  Small Kitten learns how to act like a cat, how to be brave, how to play, how to take care of himself, and how to hunt.  I love the ending page, Small Kitten learns how to dream.  I think Big Cat carefully teaches and guides Small Kitten.  I know the text will be perfect for my emerging readers to feel successful as readers.  I will have to add this to our classroom collection and you might want to too.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Joy of Planning

I read this new little gem, The Joy of Planning by Franki Sibberson back in November.  It has been in the back of my mind all school year and is going to guide some of my summer reading.  The majority of teachers are having to rethink our planning, curriculum, and teaching as we know it.  If you are looking for advice on being thoughtful, intentional, ahead of the game and thinking about your students then you will want to read this book!  Franki's written this book for grades 3 - 6 but I found gems of goodness as a kindergarten teacher.

I love reading Franki's writing.  I feel like she is talking to me and I get to know her better as a person, friend, and colleague.  She opens her book by sharing what she believes in about minilessons.  Ten ideas I think you will easily agree with and understand why you can share in her thinking.  This list is a gem to help guide our own understanding for the importance of minilessons.  Summer is here and this line is going to guide some of my summer reading, "I think it is time we put the same amount of time and energy into planning for instruction as we do into analyzing data."  I'm going to take some time this summer to tackle my to be read professional pile with a focus on planning and look at reading a book for each content area.  

When Franki talks about planning a cycle of lessons, she reminds us we have to know our curriculum AND we have to know our students.  This gem is something we all know in our hearts.  I wonder if we have lost sight of this when we have a lot on our plates to think about as educators.  One of the questions in her planning steps is, "How will I provide for students to enter at their own level?"  This is so key for growth, engagement, and personalization.  Franki's 5 steps in her lesson planning cycle could easily work for grades K - 6, another gem not listed in the reviews.  Each chapter is filled with planning advice and then she guides the readers with minilesson examples to show the reader how to tackle standards, picking the right books, and rethinking our current lessons.  In each minilesson, Franki shares questions she might ask to foster conversation between her students and with her students.  It's so important we think ahead about engaging our students in talk as they learn.  I found myself noting a few ideas or titles of books I could use in my own classroom.  Franki loves to use picture books for her minilessons and those can be accessible to all readers in a read aloud setting.  I'm really looking forward to reading and planning this summer with Franki's thoughts guiding the way.  

I would like to thank Choice Literacy for my review copy of this book.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Saying Goodbye

Katherine at Read, Write, and Reflect has been inspirational as her school year ended a smidge before mine.  She has been reflecting and sharing her end of the year thoughts.  I found her writing to make me stop and think about my own school year ending.  Ending the year in kindergarten with two classes is a bit different for me than when I had one set of students.  I find myself wondering if I am as attached to two sets of children.  I find myself feeling their summer excitement overrides reflection.  I know they are very kind and super willing to give nonstop hugs all day long for a good week before the last day.  This can add to my end of the year exhaustion.  With Katherine's inspiration, I found myself staying up late last night to retype my final edition of my newsletter and thought I would share it with you.

Dear Parents,

I attended a middle school choir concert last week and found myself thinking about each of you.  The choir was singing the song, For Good from one of my favorite shows, Wicked and I found my mind thinking about all of you.  Please stop reading this if you can, and go to Youtube and search for Kristin Chenoweth “For Good”.  In case you can’t use Google or Youtube right now, these are some of the lyrics that led to think about you –

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…

And, later on in the song there is this –

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made from what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend…

I remember meeting your child for the first time and they were quiet and uncertain.  Within a short amount of time they were able to call Tyler Run their school. 

Coming to kindergarten was a big step for your child and your family.  Thank you for letting me join you on this journey and becoming a part of my life.  I’ve learned from them and have been reminded to slow down.  I’ve been reminded to ask questions and wonder.  I’ve been reminded that sometimes being together is enough.

As I got to know your child and we became a community of learners, our environment encouraged friendships, risk takers, and thinkers.  I watched each one embrace school and change for the better.  They learned how to become one within a large group.  They learned people and places of our school community.  They’ve learned to work with partners and alone.  They’ve learned to listen, think, and share.  They’ve learned to think, ask questions, be creative, and follow the rules.  These things will carry them far in life along with the academic growth they have each made.

My hope would be for your child to think and question things after leaving kindergarten.  By thinking and questioning, I hope they will explore alternative solutions, be creative, strive for understanding and not just memorization.  They have an exciting journey ahead of them with their learning.

I also wanted to thank you.  Your support has been wonderful and made your child’s kindergarten year a success.  Whether you came in the classroom, helped at home, came to evening events, read to your child, called me, or just visited once in a while -you made a difference. 

I do enjoy living in the district and seeing the children within the community.  Life is busy raising a family but you can always count on a wave, or a hug and a huge hello when our paths cross.  The last day always brings such kind words from parents.  I thank all of you for your kindness; it makes the hard work all worthwhile.  May you take advantage of summer and spend some extra time with your child.  They are all pretty awesome!

It has been a pleasure to be a part of your child’s life and yours.  Take care and be safe.

Mandy Robek