Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bendy and Rigid

Bendy and Rigid is one book in the My World of Science series by Heinemann.  I discovered this series while gathering books for our physical science unit.  The format of this book follows your typical nonfiction format. There is a table of contents, glossary, index, and vibrant photography. The book begins with four questions.  What is bendy? How much does it bend? What is rigid?  How rigid it it? These are two great vocabulary words for young scientist to use while describing materials using their sense of touch. The book looks at various materials found in the readers every day life discussing further bendy and rigid. 

Other books in the series I am using are - 

Soft and Hard
Hot and Cold
Heavy and Light
Shiny and Dull
Smooth and Rough

These would be a nice addition to any primary classroom studying physical properties or discussing observations and vocabulary.

Monday, January 27, 2014


 AH HA! by Jeff Mack is a perfect new book for readers who love to giggle while reading.  This fun book also provides some anticipation which will lead to predicting.  Frog loves to relax and declares his first relaxing moment with one word, AAHH!  The story begins with frog relaxing on a rock in the pond until a child scoops him up in a glass jar and the child's pet dog states, AH HA!  Frog escapes and dives back into the pond water declaring relaxation again and/or joy from escaping.  However, his relaxation doesn't last long when his landing spot is really the back of a turtle.  Frog continues to find new resting spots that aren't what they really seem to be.  The ending makes this book a circular tale.  When I began teaching circular tales were a book format/story structure we often talked about with primary learners.  Emergent readers get really excited discovering a story ends where it begins and quickly grasp the story could start all over again. It's a nice format for retelling.

I enjoy when authors are clever with their word choice and structure.  The whole story is told with just four letters; a, h, h, a.  Speech bubbles hold these four letters in a format of ah ha, aahh, or ha ha!  My students will be excited to revisit this book often.  While the text seems simple, it will require thinking about the story and understand how the letters are arranged for each page.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Celebrating Writers - Reflection #1

I'm so excited to share I just read Celebrating Writers, From Possibilities Through Publication by Ruth Ayers with Christi Overman and it is the focus for the Literacy Connection group here in Central Ohio. I feel very fortunate to have a local professional group that believes in spending time studying a text together.  The time we spend helps foster conversation, thinking, time to try and apply ideas, and time to reflect.  I have to share I had a little sneak peak of this book while at a writing retreat with Ruth, in the summer of 2012.  I remember she shared a small section and we were each suppose to respond to her writing, in a small group.  However, I can't remember what part of this brilliant book that was.  I remember reading it and thinking this is such smart thinking I can't wait to read it.  I also remember I spent the entire writing retreat trying to focus on writing and watching her out of the corner of my eye.  All the while pinching myself because we chose to write on the same cabin porch for a bit.  If you have every had the opportunity to meet Ruth she is genuine, adorable, sweet and thoughtful about helping writers of all ages.  This book represents Ruth well and I have to admit, I'm a bit jealous of Christi Overman who co-authored this book with Ruth.

Chapter one is about expanding writing celebrations and right away I felt this book was a comfortable read. Classroom stories guide the content and message for the teacher.  Classroom stories show the ideas presented by the authors in action.  The classroom stories are all scenarios we have probably experienced at one time or another.   This book is about stretching what we do and ways to embrace writers.  

I love these two statements that both start with sometimes.  "Sometimes the things left unsaid are more powerful than ten teaching points put together." Also a little bit later, "Sometimes space, although difficult to give, is best." These are good life lessons for us to think about in our classrooms and out of our classrooms.  In a hurried and rushed school day with lots of students it's easy to forget not everyone likes to be engaged with others all the time and it's okay to be a bit quieter to process and think.  Essential thinking is established and grounds the reader in the first chapter.  

Publication and celebration are not the same. Publication is making the writing public and celebration is about the success writers have on their journey towards publication.  You must read the second paragraph on pg. 5.  It has more thinking about publication vs. celebration.  Ruth and Christi conclude this paragraph with, "Celebration is essential to the livelihood of young writers."  

Something I've changed this year during our writing workshop is a mid-workshop teaching point, which is more often than not a celebration of something I have seen while conferring.  Ruth and Christi share the objective of celebrations is to encourage and fuel the writer.  I have seen that in my room.  After each celebration, the room seems to return to a hush with writers focused on the important work they are creating.  I hadn't really thought about celebrations as a way to work through the hard parts of writing.  I am also thinking about the message celebrations send to my emergent writers after reading the five celebration messages Ruth and Christi share in the book.  

I tweeted Ruth when I finished reading Chapter 1, asking or seeking confirmation with their word choice for the three factors needed to make celebrations genuine.  Of course her reply was the word choice was very intentional. Celebrations need response, reflection, and rejoice.  The first chapter also clearly sends the message that celebrations are small and by being small big growth can/will happen.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Exploring Materials, A new nonfiction series!

Metal is a brand new book this year and is part of an Exploring Materials series by Heinemann Library.  The book is under the Acorn series from Heinemann which is always a great indication it is written for early readers to build content knowledge.  Each tidbit of information presented begins with a question.  I love a question, answer format for early readers.  It's an easy format to foster engagement.  Readers like to find out answers to questions.  The book defines metal as a material and shows the reader so many different examples of metal.  Simple examples show where metal can be found in it's natural form.  Attributes of metal area shown with great describing vocabulary.  The book ends with examples of materials found in our every day lives.  Doesn't this front cover entice you to look further?  I think it does a nice job enticing a young scientist and reader to find out more.  It looks fun.

Other titles in this series I am using are;

These books are great for any kindergarten or first grade classroom.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Why I Create. - Slice of Life

The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul.    
- Elder Uchtdorf

Today I was sewing and reflecting on why I like to create things.  It's something I've always done.  I think it's easy for children to create.  I remember turning my bed into a camper and making up stories with my sister about adventures.  I still have my Lincoln Logs and loved how they rested and alternated a pattern as I created buildings.  I have my first 4H sewing project; a matching pot holder and apron in a purple gingham.  

I grew up with family that created.  My mother was a master seamstress and knitted.  Her mother also sewed and enjoyed doing woodworking projects.  My other grandmother also knitted and made homemade Christmas ornaments each year.  Both grandmothers created with their gardens and yards.  My father could build things.  He created building structures and staircases as an iron worker and did a lot of the work building our second family home.  

Growing up creating was a means to show someone you cared.  
Growing up creating was a means to save money.  
Growing up creating was a way to pass the time and keep busy.  

Creating is one of the ways I learn new things.  It also takes my mind of worries in life.  I've been taking a sewing class once a month since school started this year.  I'm learning new things with each project; shortcuts and techniques.  Today as I was sewing a fabric flower for my swing tote bag, I realized when I create I am applying knowledge from various domains.   I was reading directions, a piece of information writing in a how to format with diagrams. I had to reread it several times for clarity.  I had to measure my fabric and use two measuring tools to help.  I adjusted my stitch width, applying my mathematical knowledge for a second time and then a third as a measure my gathered strip of fabric and a fourth time, as I created a circle shape.  I used a simple machine today, a seam ripper when I removed a few stitches.  I used quite a bit of background knowledge as a I created.  Sewing is just one way I create and make things.

I've come to realize in my classroom I am most happy and my students are most happy when they are creating.  Creating is often an easier way for students to show what they understand.  Creating fosters engagement.  I believe creating fosters a purpose.  I am so excited to use my new bag and when I was done I ran around showing it off to my girls.  Creating naturally fosters sharing.  I have been struggling with creating in my classroom to be honest with time and the long list of things to learn or try and figure out.  However, today reminds me creating allows a student to learn new things, make mistakes, apply what they know, and explain what they did through sharing.  Essential components for learning.

Thank you to Betsy from Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life today.

Monday, January 20, 2014


STICK! by Andy Pritchett is a fun book for any dog lover, puppy owner, and/or emergent learner. Puppy loves sticks.  He also wants a friend to play stick with.  He goes on a journey to find a friend to play with. The first friend he encounters is a cow who wants to play with grass.  This doesn't make much sense. Would a cow play with grass?  Then he wants to play with a bird but the bird wants to play with a worm. I think these new friends are confused.  It appears the cow, bird and others Puppy tries to play with don't understand he wants to play and not eat.  Until, he encounters a friend who does know how to play and together they show animals that wouldn't play with a stick, how to play with a stick.

I love the solid background and clear illustrations done in pencil and digital coloring.  The text is one word per page in a speech bubble and punctuation makes this book exciting.  The text makes this an easily accessible book for any beginning reader and offers older readers perspective on point of view.  I love the note within the dedication.  "For my mum.  You always told me "to keep on trying."  At least, that's what I thought you said..."

Monday, January 13, 2014

I Missed The Reading Boat

This post is also posted at The Nerdy Book Club website, today.

Miss the boat, is an idom with two meanings.  It means to miss out and to have made an error.  I've done both in my reading life.  I did not read the Harry Potter series!  I don't like to read fantasy.  I had three girls under the age of 7 when the series started.  Life was busy.  I also worked full time.  My reading life was minimal and often based on nonfiction text either for teaching or about parenting.  Each book in  the series got longer and longer in length and I felt intimidated.   I remember thinking at one point, I'll give it a try and then I can catch up.  I never did.  The girls started watching the movies and I watched along with them.  I've watched the movies several times and enjoyed them but I couldn't join conversations comparing the text with the movie.  There were times I didn't understand parts of the movie.

My two oldest are avid Harry Potter readers.  I would wonder and ponder how many times could they reread Harry Potter!  Each summer my oldest has reread the entire series.  My middle daughter would finish a book and reread it again.  She doesn't have the yearly summer voyage with Harry Potter but revisits them often.  I remember pleading with her fifth grade teacher, a friend of mine to help her find other books to read.  Of course, my smart friend is a fan of The Book Whisper and could quote multiple reasons rereading is valued with older readers.  Even watching them be avid Harry Potter readers, I was content with the movies.  Until, the seventh and final Harry Potter was coming out.  This was the first time I found myself wishing I was part of the Harry Potter reading club.  I felt left out.  I had nothing to predict. I couldn't join conversations with my daughter or my friends who were all excited.  I didn't understand some of the things written in the media about the upcoming book and then felt the same when the seventh movie was coming out.

I was on the verge of having a similar situation with the Hunger Games series.  Another fantasy collection of stories that would not be my first choice for reading.  I ignored the phenomena.  Then my husband read the Hunger Games series and I hadn't seen him read books in a very long time.  Now, I had three family members in a reading club anticipating the upcoming movie and I couldn't join in.   I realized I still had time to join.  So I did and before the first movie came out, I read The Hunger Games.  I understood and appreciated the movie so much more having the book to compare it to.  I enjoyed the conversations we had as a family after viewing the movie together.  The first book ended with a happy ending and I was content as a reader.  My family was amazed I didn't have to read Catching Fire right away.  What they didn't know was I had a reading plan.  I would read the book right before viewing the movie so I could be part of the reading club with fresh eyes, ears, and thinking.  I wasn't quite finished with Catching Fire when it came out so they went and saw it together and a couple of weeks later I went with my middle daughter to see the movie.  We then had conversations together and I was thankful again for joining the reading club.

I've learned a few reading life lessons through both of these experiences.  
1. Sometimes it's worth reading something out of your genre comfort level to be part of a reading club.
2. Reading books with other family members fosters conversations.
3. Talking about books and movies with teenagers is a safe topic and easy for them.
4. Reading the book before seeing the movie is always better.  ( I knew this but needed a reminder.)
5. Life remains busy but I can navigate reading time to be part of a reading club and it's okay to do it a bit different than others as long as it happens.

Thank you Nerdy Book Club community for fostering my reading life reflections and for providing a platform for members to share our thinking to promote reading as something to enjoy.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Slice of Life...I put myself in a timeout.

I was trying to work downstairs in the kitchen to plan some content learning around the properties of materials.  I was trying to reserve books from the public library after seeing my Amazon cart was over one hundred dollars in paperback books that would great for teaching this unit.  My environment included a scientist trying to make her own homemade bubble solution in one jar and a crazy concoction of spices with bubble solution in another jar.  A budding pretzel chef.  One husband in the dining room who was also off for the day because it was too cold to build cars in the plant., trying to make a work phone call.  A returning from a breakfast date daughter, that well lasted a couple of hours through the lunch crowd, reporting in on all the news about water line breaks and areas without power.  They were just sitting by the fireplace at Panera and just talked to each other and lost track of time.  

I still wanted to be part of the family and still be on vacation.  I needed to get some planning and thinking done for school and thought it would go very quickly and had grand plans for getting back to vacation business. Obviously, I wasn't getting much done and put myself in a timeout in my bedroom.  As I sat up there working, things quieted downstairs.  I went down for a cup of tea to discover my three girls settled in with a computer game, the oldest played a lot.  I went back to work and settled back in to my quiet setting.  All of a sudden I heard the song, Brown Eyed Girl being sung by a choir at the top of their lungs and giggles galore.  My oldest is our only brown eyed girl and she loves to sing this song.  I sat in my quiet setting and thought, sometimes I have to step out of the picture to allow them to embrace sisterhood.  

Thank you Betsy at Two Writing Teachers for hosting this week.

Monday, January 6, 2014

One Little Word 2014

Happy New Year 2014, better late than never and I wanted to share with you my One Little Word for 2014.  Instead of creating a New Years Resolution and always wanting to have many I've chosen to participate in the One Little Word project and ideas from scrapbooker/storyteller Ali Edwards.  If you haven't read anything by Ali, I highly recommend you stop by her blog.  The past six years I have chosen enjoy, aware, nuture, discover, change, and create.  Create was a lot of fun because I really focused on making things again and different ways I could create.  I could create with my sewing machine, my technology tools, my bicycle and running, I could create thinking with my reading, and various other things.  I really think I thought longer with more intention about my word last year.  

As I began thinking about 2014 and what the year ahead holds for me there is a list of known things.  I know my oldest is going to graduate from high school and leave in August for college.  I know my middle daughter is leaving middle school and going to high school.  I know my youngest is leaving elementary school, the building I teach in and going to middle school. I know things will change in our home.  I know I have a new Honda mini van coming with some upgrades, thank you honey.  I know our seven year old rabbit is getting old.  I know next August my own coming and leaving work will feel very different without any of the girls with me.  

I know I want to write more via my blog, my Choice Literacy work, and my own personal family writing.  I know I want to read more professionally and books my daughters are reading to help stay connected and foster conversations.  I know I want to continue taking a sewing class here and there in hopes to offer more help when fair projects roll around.  I ran my first and only 5k last year, I know I want to repeat that or more this year.  I know teaching is going to throw some curve balls and demands that might make my arm hair stand straight up and give me the chills.  I know going down from third grade to kindergarten was quite a curve ball and a game changer.  I know I'm ready to straighten out that pitch and make some necessary changes in what I do and how I think so my heart is happier.  

I am welcoming the word - EMBRACE for 2014.  I just created this "logo" with a photo I took earlier this week.  I love the  message of embrace.  A beautiful blue sky on a cold crisp day with paths of white leading somewhere.  The trees are bare ready to embrace the current weather and the daily, seasonal changes ahead.  It's interesting how embrace is within my blog title but didn't surface to any of my thinking when making this word decision.  I can't wait to share my journey with you.