Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pumpkin Trouble

I expected Pumpkin Trouble to be a happy story and was puzzled when my public librarian recommended it for books that aren't too scary.  The book is happy don't get me wrong, Jan Thomas is always a fun and a happy read.  It gets on the books that aren't too scary list because it's about a monster!  Duck is excited to get his jack-o-lantern and can't wait to show his friends pig and mouse.  This is the happy seasonal part but when Duck falls into his pumpkin head first and stands up he is now a pumpkin monster.  His friends are scared of him, they don't know it's duck inside.  As Duck hears their words, he follows them blindly running from a pumpkin monster.  Everyone is surprised to learn there really isn't a pumpkin monster and eager to cheer duck as the winner of the battle with the pumpkin monster.  I know my students will be eager to discuss how there wasn't a really a pumpkin monster battle and it was duck all the time.  Maybe monsters aren't what they really seem to be.

I hope everyone has a safe and fun Trick or Treat - Halloween.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Can YOU make a SCARY FACE?

Another book on my new list of books that aren't too scary and may not necessarily be listed as a holiday book but lend themselves to enhance the holiday spirit book list is, Can YOU make a SCARY FACE? by Jan Thomas.  That is a long title and/or explanation maybe I should shorten that book list to books that aren't too scary.  This book is one I'm missing in my collection in the classroom and one I must add.  Children get scared of things and with children dressing up this week in costumes they might see things that scare them.   This book can open a discussion about scary.  What are we scared of?  Can you be scary?  

Bug is direct and talks to the reader.  Bug tells the reader things to do which will foster instant engagement. When Bug says stand up, my students will stand up.  When Bug says to wiggle your nose and laugh my room will be filled with giggles.  Watching kindergartners truly interact without hesitation is a joy in my day.  We will have fun with this book.  Bug does all kind of movements with the reader and request the reader scare a character away only to let the reader know they were too scary.  I wonder if my students have ever considered that they could be scary.  I will soon find out.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I Want My Light On

I Want My Light On by Tony Ross is a book I learned about last night from our wonderful public librarian. He shared it with me last night when I realized I will be having a little fall harvest celebration with one of my two classes, today.  Things tend to creep up quickly juggling two classes.  He said he likes to read books that aren't too scary and may not necessarily be listed as a holiday book but lend themselves to enhance the holiday spirit.

I Want My Light On is a great book to be used for thinking about perspectives - point of view.  Little Princess is not afraid of the dark but panics when her lights are turned out at bedtime.  The reader learns quickly she is scared of ghosts.  Several people in the kingdom try to assure the princess there are no ghost and look throughout her room to reassure her.  Once Little Princess settles in, she hears a sound, leaps under her bed to find a ghost.  The ghost flees as fast as he can and returns to his mother to tell her she has seen a little girl.  The mother's reassurance I had to reread twice, "There are NO such things as little girls!"  I think my students will love the perspective of the ghost.  I imagine a great discussion about being scared and what could be scared of us will be rich and a bit loud.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Where Have You Been? - Phonics Lessons Teaching Resources CD-ROM

Phonics Lessons grade K by Gay Su Pinnell and Irene C Fountas has been a resource I've dabbled in for a decade.  Their lesson ideas and kid friendly language for the purpose of each lesson has guided many lessons over the years.  I absolutely love their picture cards for each activity.  A huge assortment for word study concepts.  The size of each is perfect for little hands.  The pictures are black and white, clearly drawn. However, copying then cutting and pasting to make all the activities has been a labor of word study love. Honestly, sometimes this has slowed down my ever growing list of to do and didn't happen.

This does not have to be the case any more thanks to my friend at the end of the hall.  Jennifer shared with me one day over a casual lunch we try to fit in once in a while, "You know there is a CD for that."  I think I almost fell off my chair as she explained how easy making materials was using the phonics lessons teaching resources CD-ROM.  She went and got her first grade version and let me play around with it during my planning period.  I wanted to sing from the top of my lungs.  I was so giddy and bouncy with excitement.  

Phonics lessons Teaching Resources CD ROM, is teacher's dream.  You can search lesson materials and find ideas for a concept you want to teach.  There is also a feature providing letters for home with suggestions for support.  The templates, materials, and games are easily accessible from the CD and can be printed right to a printer instead of going to the copier.  Hands down the best feature is the custom card maker.  You can design, create, and print your own materials to meet the needs of your classroom and different students.  I love to do picture sorts for word study.  With Phonics Lessons Teaching Resources CD ROM, I can create a two way or three way sort for beginning letter sounds.  Then I can select and make four different sets of 6 cards so my students sitting at the same table do not have the same pictures to sort. These will print out on two sheets of paper, which might be hard to visualize but I feel like I'm saving paper too.  

I don't know how I missed this professional resource all these years.  It truly is a must for any primary classroom and I need to eat lunch casually with Jennifer more often.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Slice of Life - 10 Things Right Now

I saw this idea today in my feedly feed and in a moment of trying to use Pinterest more I created a board for writing ideas.  I'm sure I've mentioned before, I'm using Pinterest right now personally and for my class with both going slowly.  I love this idea from Ali Edwards and hope to find more ideas to help this board grow. 

Using Ali as a mentor, here is my list of 10 Things Right Now.

1.  I'm getting materials ready to individualize sight word rings and learning for my students.  This involves copying cards, laminating, cutting the cards out, hole punch top right corner and yes parent volunteers have been helping from home and in the the room.  Why so much work to make the cards?  So, they can be reused next year.  I need to assess my students on reading sight words and further plan the how we will do this.

2.  I love watching my K students think about letter sounds and write them down to help tell their stories.

3.  I love my new boot socks that scrunch at the top and could be pulled over my knee but I prefer the Ruth Ayers fashion style and scrunch them down a bit.  Finished off with a pair of boots, skirt, sweater, and I'm all set to go.

4.  Our public librarian Mr. George came to visit both classes to invite us to his library for a family storytime and an opportunity to sign up for library cards.  Mr. George has studied audience engagement and is a master at storytelling.  After spending time with him, I always want to read books with more inflection and feel happy because I've had so much fun.

5.  First quarter ended last week and we have started the second quarter.

6.  Articulating learning goals and targets is important but not sure how useful they are posted in my K classroom for student use.  Even in kid friendly language I'm positive just one student could read them right now.  I know this is beneficial for students who are older and attend school full time.  

7.  Working on creating pictures to go with learning targets/I can statements mentored after Smarter Charts ideas.

8.  Had a student ask for a box of books about pizza.  I've never had this request and I love how he understands our books our organized by collections with a common theme.  If you have any titles, let me know in the comment section.

9.  Wonderopolis is coming and I want to make their visit meaningful with pre-visit work.

10.  I can't wait to publish our self portraits tomorrow using Pixie during our computer lab time.  The students have learned so many features of Pixie since school started and have gained lots of confidence.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for hosting.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Cake Walk {Poetry Friday}

sweet treat
to eat

find a number
music begins
I hope to win

fall festival

two tries
four tickets
I win!

 Copyright, Mandy Robek, 2013

I saw the Poetic app a while back and shared it with Mary Lee but never picked it up.  When I saw how she used it in her Flicker post from last week, I decided I need to pick the app up for myself.  When I got the app, I had no intentions of writing a poem.  I started playing around with the words and soon I was using the app Noteability to expand upon my Poetic photo phrase.   I wasn't sure I would like composing within an app.  I wasn't sure I would finish the poem.  I'm not sure why I was uncertain about drafting within an app.  I draft and compose on my laptop all the time.  It was so easy to work within Noteability.  I found myself revisiting my poem throughout the day this past Saturday.  Revising and editing along the way.  I really enjoyed the ease of typing and changing my word selection.  I don't know if it matters but I didn't save the drafts that led up to this one.  

Poetry Friday is hosted this week by, Laura at Writing the Word for Kids.  Thanks, Laura

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ike's Incredible Ink

Ike's Incredible Ink by Brianne Farley is the second book I am sharing and considering for the Teacher's Choice project with IRA.  I'm going to share my thinking carefully following the review guidelines from IRA.  As a writer and watching children become and be writers for twenty years this book tugged at my heart.  It's hard to get a piece of writing started.  It's sometimes way more fun to collect things to use for writing and have lots of tools than sitting down to act as a writer.  I think writers often want their writing to be perfect from the start.  I also think Ike's problem of writing to write big is common for writers too.

When thinking about the realism of the characters, I find Ike a bit unrealistic.  He is a black dot of ink that has been "humanized" with arms, head, and legs.  However, I think students will enjoy Ike.  I wonder if students will realize Ike is a splotch of ink.  I didn't find any slang or poor grammar and found the dialogue format to be realistic.  I don't think this story expands the curriculum but I think it will guide some children to have connections and feel as Ike does.  The artwork is pleasing and the illustrations fit the text.  The mediums used are ink and digital collage.  I was surprised to read collage was used because it didn't feel like collage to me.  Maybe I don't know enough about digital collage.  Collage is one of my favorite mediums and I often pick books up because I can see, feel, and enjoy the collage format.  I do think this book will help students think about their own writing life and how sometimes things have to be just right to write.  It can be a springboard for students to get to know themselves better.  I found myself wanting to know more when the story finished.  Ike makes a great ink to write with.  He starts to write and I want to know what Ike writes about.  

If I was reading this book with my everyday teaching and reading lens I would say it's a book to have in your books about writing collection.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Doing math in Morning Meeting

I've added another book to my collection to expand and enhance our morning meetings.  I enjoy teaching math and the opportunity to engage in mathematics while building community during a morning meeting sounds perfect.  It will engage students with numbers without having to focus on learning new content.  It will reinforce and use numbers in a fun and engaging way.  Doing math activities during morning meeting will reinforce concepts, provide practice, and extend students thinking.  Math activities during morning meeting will involve mental math, which we can never do enough in our classrooms.  

Doing math in Morning Meeting by Amy Dousis and Margaret Berry Wilson is filled with 150 activities. Each grade level has about 45 activities.  Each activity has a sidebar that outlines the NCTM Content Standard, NCTM Process Standard, Specific math content or skill, Materials Needed, Student Preparation tips, and Vocabulary.  A great consolidation to help you understand how and why you would want to use an activity. Activities are grouped together by grade level K-5.  At the end of the book you will find a list of math concepts and the activities that support the concept by grade level.  There is also a correlation to the Common Core following that by grade level.  Both of these resources will be helpful as we think about meeting the needs of our whole group but maybe we need to revisit something below our grade level of extend beyond.

I can't wait to use Dance with Me to work on counting, directions, and measurement.  I can already feel a little of the "Cha Cha Slide", now to find some music to use.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Slice of Life - Half Time

Half time isn't filled with a marching band and sports fans cheering on the sidelines.  Half time doesn't just happen on a Friday night or a Saturday.  Dressing for half time doesn't mean I'm wearing my scarlet and gray with my three favorite half time letters of the alphabet, OSU.  Half time is every day in my world.  Half time is the amount of time my students get to come to kindergarten.  It would be wonderful if my half time meant my students came half days every day of the week, but they don't.  As my editor for Choice Literacy coined my attendance schedule, my students come fifty percent.

Fifty percent can be seen as a positive when trying to reach a fundraiser goal and you are half way there. Fifty percent can be seen as a positive when I have been running for 15 minutes and I have another 15 minutes until I am done.  However, fifty percent also makes me think of half done.  That maybe I am not trying my best.  Maybe I am not working hard enough.  Maybe I need to teach more and faster and harder. I get to spend two or three days a week with my students.  They come two days and alternate a Wednesday in the middle of the week, it's not even fifty percent attendance within a week. 

Driving home the other day, I was talking to myself a bit. I was feeling a little bit worn down about fifty percent.  After making my list of what I can't fit in and why integrating the curriculum is hard and how technology with laptops twice a month isn't best practice, I stopped self talking.  I told myself if given fifty percent then it might be okay to teach fifty percent.  My curriculum is one hundred percent but if the legislators and decision makers don't recognize that then maybe I need to accept teaching fifty percent. There will be days everything doesn't get done.  There will be days we need to go slower.  There will be days where quality and relationships matter the most.  With fifty percent, they need to leave kindergarten liking and even loving school to want to come back for one hundred percent first grade.  I think I can do that, if I stay focused on my students.

Thank you Stacey and Team TWT for hosting Slice of Life weekly challenge.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

99 Activities and Greetings

99 Activities and Greetings by Melissa Correa-Connolly is a collection of ideas to support and extend a morning meeting routine.  It compliments The Morning Meeting book by Roxann Kriete, which is a great book to read giving you a basic understanding and ideas to get started with morning meetings.  A morning meeting has four components; Greeting, Sharing, Activity and Morning Message.  A morning meeting is begins the day thinking and working on social and academic skills.  Even more importantly, a morning meeting builds community.  While building community students are taking risks, making choices, problem solving, using self control, participating actively, and cooperation.  Both of these books are written for primary, intermediate, and middle school students.  

The greeting component does just as the name says, it greets each child and sets a positive tone for the day.  Starting each day with a greeting helps community members learn names.  Calling a new friend by name provides a sense of belonging and builds relationships.  A greeting routine also helps provide an opportunity to practice manners.  A group activity component is short and a bit lively.  It often gets student's moving and active.  The activities often suggested for this part of the morning meeting allow for each student to participate at their own level.  It's a fun way to be engaged and work on social skills.  Melissa Correa-Connolly has been collecting different greetings and activities for several years and compiled them in to a resource for anyone looking to extend or start a morning routine in their class.  There are a lot of ideas to try and keep the structure of a morning routine fresh and alive with 99 Activities and Greetings.  I can't wait to try Chicka Boom for a greeting and Just Like Me as our activity for the week.

Responsive Classroom at has a wealth resources.  I love their by-line, "A practical approach to creating safe, challenging, and joyful elementary classrooms and schools."

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Rain! by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Christian Robinson is the first book I am sharing and considering for the Teacher's Choice project with IRA.  I'm going to share my thinking carefully following the review guidelines from IRA.  The characters are very realistic; an old man and a young boy.  As I think about stereotypes, one might find the old man being grumpy a stereotype. However, I find that essential to the story line and necessary for the relationship that builds between the characters.  It's actually necessary for the different points of view about rain.  I think this text would expand the curriculum for writers considering point of view and how to layout those point of views for the reader.  I love how the story is laid out.  Each character has one page of a two page spread.  Then their story is told in three horizontal illustrations with text.  The artwork combines two of my favorite mediums; paint and collage with digital editing.  I'd love to more about digital editing. 

Not many peoples like rainy days.  The grumpy old man I can see myself in and I don't consider myself grumpy or old.  The young boy who jumps in puddles and acts like a frog can probably make every student remember and/or relate to.  Older readers will love the play with words with the Rain or Shine Cafe which is where the two characters happen to be.  The old man leaves something behind and the young boy return this it to him.  Their simple conversation with each other causes a change of view about the rain.  I love the message that good cheer can spread.  I love the message that the young can make changes.

Side note - as I went to add the image for this book, I found it already existed in my files which led me to search my own blog and before I was reading this with a Teacher's Choice lens this is what I thought.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Slice of Life - Story

I am missing lots of stories.  I am living the story or stories daily but not holding on to them in a tangible way to go back and reflect, cry, laugh, smile, and remember.    I have tried on and off, I love when I find something written down because I don't remember.  I want to feel that little tug at my heart when I reread a story, more often.  I wish I did remember things from long ago to reflect upon now, that I am older and in a different place.  Habits, routines, tools, and methods are great to think about but the ACT is what I need.  I need to capture now and capture the recent past before it comes a distant past that is so much harder to retrieve.

While spending time with Ruth Ayers at The Literacy Connection this past Saturday, she had each of us do a five minute write.  We spent the day celebrating writing, reflecting, and looking ahead as we begin a year long study of her new book, Celebrating Writers - From Possibilities to Publication.  Thank you Ruth, for a few moments to capture my thoughts.  Thank you Stacey for hosting and giving us an opportunity to make our writing public-ation.  You can find everyone who is slicing today at Two Writing Teachers.