Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Eli, no!

Eli, no! by Katie Kirk is a just right book for any classroom.  Emerging readers will love it for the patterned text and how easily they can join in for a shared reading.  Older readers will love the character Eli and find ideas for writing.  I think this is my new favorite dog book.

The opening line lets you know this book is going to full of adventure.  "Eli is a good dog, but sometimes he is bad."  The word sometimes lets the reader know there's more to come and possibly that more to come isn't so great for Eli.  The story is told in a serious of questions showing scenarios of when the narrator might be made at Eli, always with the same response - "Eli, no!"  What a great way to see our sight word no in print.  What a great way to use inflection as a reader and identify exclamation marks.  

I think this book tugs at  my heart a bit because Eli is a brown dog.  I have a brown dog.  My dog Annie has moments like Eli where she eats too much food, where she tries to jump on a bed, or makes a fuss.  In the end we always love our Annie and her adventures give us stories to talk about and tell.  Check this book out to see if Eli's family feels the same.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Book Whisperer - Reflection #4

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller is the focus for this year and the Literacy Connection group here in Central Ohio.  As I read Chapter 4 – titled "Reading Freedom,"  I continued to think a lot about my kindergarten classroom and my readers at home.  

I loved reading through the discussion Donalyn shared with her students about book choice.  She honors reality for readers.  The really good reasons we pick books; authors, series, genre, and recommendations.  She also honors real reasons for picking books; rereading a book, reading the ending first, easy books, one genre, and abandoning books.  The readers in my room are growing and fostering their reading lives.  We are learning about print and how it works together to tell a story.  My students have been picking books to read to take home for reading from early in the year.  We launched independent book boxes with choice books.  We talked about why we pick books. We pick books because we have a purpose, an interest, we understand, and we know the book.  These ideas do come from The Daily Five book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.  I think their guidance and explicit language works well for our youngest learners who are experiencing school for the first time.  I did adjust the meaning of their "Know - I know most of the words" to I have seen or heard the book, making it a known book not so much about the word reading right now.   It has been fun hearing my kindergarten students explain why they chose books with care and reflection.  They mention characters and authors.  They mention being an expert on a topic.  They are creating a reading life for themselves.  My students have "Mrs Robek"/guided reading books in their book box and two choice books.  We shop at the same time but I hope to move this to our morning explore and create flexibility for when the books are changed.  

Setting reading goals helps students catch the reading bug.  My students need to catch the reading bug and need to practice daily.  Donalyn mentions reading goals build independent reading habits.  My students do need to do this.  I love Donalyn's balance of guiding her students to read in different genres and allows room for a substantial amount of student choice.  I woke up one day right after the holidays and reading this book thinking about launching guided reading.  This is independent reading for my students.  We need and can accomplish a reading goal.  Our books are small and thin but that doesn't negate the work needed to navigate the text.  I want them to catch the reading bug now, too.  We are going to read 25 books a quarter!  That sounds like a lot I think for a kindergarten student but remember we are early and emerging readers.  My students attend school just 20 days a quarter and I'm sending home an independent read each day.  We have paper books we send home and keep home that highlight our word wall learning.  There are about 40 days in a quarter and that doesn't include weekends.  So, I'm not asking them to record a book for every day.  I want to help them set a goal, work towards that goal and feel accomplishment while catching the reading bug and growing their reading.  I'm going to keep this quote in mind from the text, "It is important to celebrate milestones with students and focus on their reading successes, not their failure to meet requirements, which only serves to discourage students."

On the home front, I found myself thinking about my two older daughters and how they have spent many summers especially rereading favorite series - Harry Potter and Hungry Games to be exact.  Donalyn shares a quote from her blog that really hit home on the home front for me.  "...Books are multi-layered; one reading is not enough and this is known only to those who truly read. - Joann on "The Book Whisperer."  When I read this, I thought my girls must truly read and maybe I don't.   Rereading a book doesn't seem to be something I do personally but I did while teaching third grade.  I found some titles just to be more enjoyable each time I reread it for various reasons.  I found myself thinking again about my two older readers with this quote, "Readers travel through both worlds, that of high art and that of popular culture."  They both have ventured into the vampire world of reading with a popular series and then my middle daughter has become fascinated with vampire books.  A topic I can't wrap my head around but I understand more now thanks to Donalyn.  Who knew Donalyn would help me professionally and as a parent!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Good Deed leads to Piggy Bunny

I was book shopping at the end of NCTE, looking for new books to take back to the classroom.  I was stalking the MacMillan booth.  Anticipating the the happy feeling of snatching some great new finds in three minutes.  Three minutes passed and I starting snatching books, quickly because there were other snatchers getting good deals.  I picked up Piggy Bunny by Rachel Vail because it was illustrated by Jeremy Tankard.  I've been waiting to see more work from Jeremy Tankard since falling in love with his boo hoo bird and crew characters.  Just as a picked it up a man came up asking nicely if he could have this book.  He needed to take something home to his daughter.   I've never felt this tug of war before I was here first, I waited around, you can't have the only copy and recent work of Jeremy Tankard.  He walked away, I felt a twinge bad but I really wanted to bring home this pink pig on the front cover home and talked myself into being strong.  He returned and explained his five year old daughter really loved pigs and wanted something from his trip that was a pig.  How could a parent and kindergarten teacher said no to a child's passion?  I gave him the book.  He had been scouting it out from his vendor booth for four days.  Then the nice woman, I wish I remembered her name thanked me for giving him the book.  She had said she would hold it and forgot and offered to send me a complimentary copy.  I gave her my address and just a couple of weeks ago had given up hope on receiving this book.  It came yesterday.  Jeremy Tankard's pink pig is mine!

Piggy Bunny is the story of a pig, Liam who has different dreams than growing up and being a pig.  He wants to be the Easter Bunny.  He practices hopping, trying to enjoy salad, and delivering eggs.  His family isn't very supportive and loves Liam the way he is.  When I read his parents encouraging words I was reminded of Chrysthanemum by Kevin Henkes.  So reassuring and soothing.  Everyone wants to stop trying being something he wasn't.  He is heartbroken.  As in real life, there is one person in Liam's life who supports him and helps encourage his passion.  

The illustrations by Jeremy Tankard are charming, funny and adorable.  A great mentor for showing kids how to illustrate movement.  A great mentor for kids to see how the background color choice can make pink pigs pop.  A great mentor for showing how a black outline defines an object or a character.  I'm not sure how to word this way to use Jeremy Tankard as a mentor but his drawings are detailed but simplistic.  They are not filled with fine lines and small details.  Kids draw big and kids need mentors like him to guide them.

A huge shout out to the nice lady at the ncte MacMillan booth for reminding me good deeds are important and paying it forward does come full circle.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Anything is possible, create and propose!

I feel this is my mantra right now, Anything is possible, create and propose!  Go!

Yesterday we had a meeting at TRECA, the group sponsoring this adventure with all participants and administrators for each building.  I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed.  Being encouraged to think outside of the box gives one a feeling of being in a box at times.  These were the things I heard from the organizers that are inspiring and bouncing around in my mind.

-we are wanting different, #of kids, time, personalized, curricular structures

-has to be sustainable

-does not have to include technology

-create a program to spread around the rest of building

-come up with the next greatest idea

-SAMR, wanting the projects to be modification or redefinition of tech

-transformation of a learning environment

-a true change has to be really thoughtful

-include PD, equipment, network, conferences, travel, time

-we are partnering to make something awesome

-not a grant model, we will help redraft and redraft
-what would a wonderful learning environment look like?

-products may not exist, idea and we will help get it designed

-focus and measure student growth, engagement, personalization

-think outside the box

What do these things make you think of in a primary, Kindergarten classroom?  I'd love to hear any suggestions or thoughts you might have.  Brainstorming is better in collaboration.

Monday, January 7, 2013

the surprise

the surprise by Sylvia van Ommen is a new wordless picture book I picked up this weekend at our local Cover to Cover shop.  I knew I was excited but didn't really understand how excited I would become.  I spend the afternoon in a Literacy Connection workshop with Franki Sibberson.  Franki was talking about mini lessons and books we could use to foster strategies,  literary elements, and genre.  One of her messages was how powerful wordless picture books are for getting students at all grade levels engaged with strategies, literary elements, and genres.  I couldn't recall the title and my description of the book didn't recall anything familiar for her.  If you have ever spent time with Franki then this is a huge accomplishment.  She knows books, she collects books, she talks fast about books and inspires all to do more with books. 

the surprise is about a fluffy sheep, a big fluffy sheep who rides a moped.  Yes, a big fluffy sheep riding a moped is a darling illustration you must see.  Sheep rides the moped to shop with lots of bottles in different colors.  Sheep rides home and pours the red paint/dye all over its' body.  I have never dyed my hair and found the steps sheep takes fascinating.  Sheep pours dye, watches a clock, rinses, uses a blow dryer, and then shaves it off!  Now sheep is naked and needs to wear a sweater.  Sheep takes the red fluff to Poodle who begins spinning it.  Sheep mopeds back home and begins to knit.  If you have ever knitted, knitting takes time.  What is sheep making is a natural question burning for any reader right now.  I just can't tell you because the ending is expected but unexpected and just too darling.  Please go out and find this book.  It just can't be missed!

Back to my time with Franki today.  She encouraged us to find books we could use in mini-lessons.  I would use this book to talk about characters and the relationship between Sheep and Poodle and ? (I can't let you know the ending).  I could also see this book being a fun book to spend time retelling to help understand plot.  I'm sure the theme of caring and/or friendship would easily come up too.