Wednesday, February 26, 2014

LOOK AT THIS nonfiction series

Ifeoma Onyefulu has captured the culture and life of Mali, West Africa with stunning photographs.  In this LOOK AT THIS series, she has a book titled Home, Food, Clothes and Play.  These books are just gorgeous and capture life in a natural way for the reader.  Single photos are on each page. Sometimes the photo fills the page and sometimes it is a smaller rectangle with more white space around it. Ifeoma has photographed everyday objects found in a Mali home.  Some of these objects will be familiar to the reader and others will be new because they are specific to Mali.  The text  is a single word or two labeling the photograph.  If an object is unfamiliar to the reader there is often a simple label explanation.  

I love the introduction at the beginning of each book where Ifeoma explains things of interest to the reader to understand the culture and environment in Mali.  I think any age reader will benefit from reading these books and discussing similarities and differences between where the reader lives and Mali.  I discovered these books from a friend.  She shared with me an opportunity to work with our local Columbus Zoo and their Partners in Conservation Program which takes place in Rwanda.  This is very far from where we live.  The photos and stories told by zoo representatives were uplifting and encouraging.  This program is changing the lives of people, animals, and the environment.   I am excited to share a different culture with my students and help others that are truly helping themselves because of the PIC program.

Thank you Alyson for hosting Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday.  I've been stalking since the new year, sharing nonfiction on Wednesday, and thought I should link up becoming an active participant.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Slice of Life - It's better than I thought!

It's better than I thought!  As I began reading Maybe a Bear Ate It!, (reviewed yesterday) a student commented it was wordless. They were looking for the print and knew to focus on the pictures to help tell the story.  I was thrilled they used the word - wordless to describe the book format at the beginning.  I struggled with deciding what the character actually was.  Yesterday I refer to him/her as a fun looking creature but my students agreed and decided the character in the story is a cat.  They could justify their opinion and I value their thinking, a cat it is.  As I read the ending of the book, several students got very excited.  They noticed each animal the cat visioned taking his book were actually stuffed animals in the cat's bed!  When I read the book the night before and was planning, I wondered what made the cat think about each large creature but it was a passing thought.  I didn't look close enough for evidence.  When my students did, I learned something new.  I was so excited to see my emergent readers in action.  This was a joyful moment in our day, together.

Thanks to Tara at Two Writing Teachers for organizing Slice of Life each week.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Maybe a Bear Ate It!

Maybe a Bear Ate It! by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley is a mentor text for how I want my students to feel about reading and books.  A fun looking creature, dressed in pajamas climbs in bed to read.  As a reader, you can tell his bed is a special place, he has a blanket and several stuffed animals to cuddle with. The book begins wordless, which invites the reader to look for details and use their picture clues to generate a storyline.  The first two words are, "It's gone!"  The book is not there and this fun looking creature spends the next few pages becoming quite distraught.  Then his imagination takes over and he brainstorm different large creatures that could of done something with it.  Each large creature uses a fun action word I think my students will enjoy acting out.  I love how this fun loving creature takes action and decides to solve his own problems by going to look for the book on his own.  His book went missing in a natural space and I think this same scenario has happened in my own house over the years.  He begins reading his found book and happily falls asleep.  I just love the solid white background and the very focused illustrations for each page.  The text is just the right amount for a shared reading situation and then many students will want to reread and retell this book on their own.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

#nf10for10 - Around My House With Daughters

Good morning everyone.  The snow started melting yesterday, the sky was blue, the sun was out and smiles returned.  No matter what kind of weather you are dealing with today, I hope you find smiles within the awesome amount of nonfiction sharing there is bound to be today.  

While co-hosting #pb10for10 for a few years now, I always find it interesting when people can pull together collections with an interesting spin.  The other day I was pondering my #nf10for10 ideas.  I looked at my list from last year and said, yes those are still some of my favorites but maybe I need to do something different.  My readers can find those books from last year.  There is a lot of information and reading about getting guys to read.  I began to think about girl readers.  What do girl readers need?  What do girl readers gravitate towards?  I have three daughters and reading nonfiction has always been something I've tried to include in their reading diet.  However, as they have grown and read on their own and make their own reading choices, nonfiction is not on their plate.  I wandered around our house and picked 10 favorite nonfiction books we have loved and used over the years.  We all need nonfiction reading!

1.  Lifetimes, The beautiful way to explain death to children by Bryan Ellonie and Robert Ingpen is a must have for everyone I know and don't know.  A beautiful picture book describing life with various things in nature from shells, to trees, to plants, to fish, to butterflies and yes to people.  If  were to tell you to buy just one nonfiction book this year, this is it!  Just read this very small excerpt.  "All around us, everywhere, beginnings and endings are going on all the time.  With living in between."

2.  Rabbits, Rabbits, and More Rabbits by Gail Gibbons is filled with information for when you might be pet shopping, convincing your parents, and anticipating your very own rabbit.  Gail Gibbons always does a nice job of illustrating her information and using nonfiction features to highlight information.  Warning, this book did bring home a Dutch Bunny that is 7 years old and still with us.

3.  Loons, Diving Birds of the North by Donna Love was the perfect book to pick up while vacationing on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.  Loons are fascinating creatures to watch and listen for.  They migrate to fresh water lakes and spend their winters on the ocean.

4.  Diggers and Dump Trucks is an Eye Openers book by Little Simon.  Yes, we had diggers and dump trucks to play with when the girls were little.  While we built our house, our oldest and only daughter at the time loved to roam the neighborhood and climb the machinery that was locked up for the night.  This book has just enough information about each piece of equipment with close ups of specific parts of the vehicle.

5.  Garden Birds by National Geographic is part of their my first pocket guide series.  We do own several within this series.  A small hand sized guide filled with information.  Each bird receives a two page spread where the reader uses a map to learn where to find the species, what to look for, and learn an interesting field note.

6.  Zoo in the Sky by Jacquelin Mitton has come on many trips with us to a cottage on the lake.  Beautiful illustrations of the actual creature is shown to the reader with foil stars at the exact location for what you would see at night if it were a constellation.  Each constellation shared also has a bit of a constellation story/history for the reader to enjoy.  This is a great book for discovering the mystery of stars and their organization.

7.  Click! by Gail Gibbons is the perfect book for anyone who enjoys using a camera.  It is filled with camera knowledge and how to use tips.  Now that the girls are a bit older and technology has changed greatly this might be a better history book about cameras.  It mentions film, negatives, and rewind lever.  I wonder if Gail has done a current camera book or would consider doing one.

8.  A Rainbow of Animals by Melissa Stewart is so fun because the reader learns about unique animals based on their color.  The book is organized the colors of the rainbow.  In my favorite color section, you learn about the Leaf-Mimic Katydid, Masked Puddle Frog, Yellow Crowned Parrot, Green Anole Lizard, Diamond Leatherjacket Fish, Brown Throated Three Toed Sloth, Mallard Duck, and Emerald Tree Boa.
Beautiful pictures with a tidbit of information to peak a girl's interest.

9.   Beachcombing, exploring the seashore by Jim Arnosky is a great book to pack and explore the beach environment with.  Diagrams, labels, and information help the reader learn more about shells, crabs, shark teeth and more.

10.  Dirt on Their Skirts by Doreen Rappaport and Lyndall Callan is a story about the young women who won the world championship.  The Rockford Peaches vs. Racine Belles for the first ever women's baseball league.  Yes, if you've seen the movie, A League of Their Own then this story will be familiar to you.  The characters are not real players from the game but the facts about the game are accurate.  This is a wonderful book to show girls they can do anything they set their mind and the power of being a female athlete.

Thank you for stopping by and joining our #nf10for10 fun.  I know it's busy time of year for everyone.  Remember, All posts will need to be linked at Write at the Edge.  Then Cathy and I will move them into a jog resource during the week of the event.  With school going on, this part of the project will take a bit of time.  Thanks for your patience in advance!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

In just 10 days - Nonfiction 10 for 10!

Today is the official start for the Nonfiction 10 for 10, blog-o-sphere sharing event countdown. In just 10 days we are hoping new and old friends will join us to share their favorite nonfiction picture books. February is the month of love and most teachers I know LOVE books.  After this freezing cold winter across the country, I'm thinking sharing a little book love could warm us all.

Cathy and I host the Picture book 10 for 10 in August which is always fun because we are fresh and excited for a new school year.  Last year, our new friend Julie suggested hosting a Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10 and boy were we glad she even offered to help us spread the news, organize, and share in our joy.  She asked just about mid year and it seemed like perfect timing with the winter, indoor recess, and the hope of spring on the horizon. It's a perfect time for a little pick me up.  

My list of ten from last year to help give you an idea of what a general favorite list could look like.  It's also fun to put a spin on your list with a theme or any unique reason you can think of to gather ten books.  Here is our twitter hashtag feed - #nf10for10, to stay up to date with those joining us and reminders.  Cathy has done a great job leading the way creating a jog to share participants links, here is our first Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10 collection from 2013.

Here are the official details to participate and it's really easy, we hope to see you there.
  • What:  10 nonfiction books you can't live without!
  • Hashtag:  #nf10for10
  • Who:  Anyone interested --- educators, media specialists, librarians, parents, etc.  
  • When:  Wednesday, February 19th 
  • Where:  All posts will need to be linked at Write at the Edge.  Then Cathy and I will move them into a jog resource during the week of the event.  With school going on, this part of the project will take a bit of time.  Thanks for your patience in advance!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Celebrating Writers - Reflection #2

I'm so excited to share I am participating in a book study of Celebrating Writers, From Possibilities Through Publication by Ruth Ayers with Christi Overman with the Literacy Connection group here in Central Ohio.  Chapter one introduced us to the notion celebrations need response, reflection, and rejoice.  I was happy to discover chapter two would explain and discuss these three ideas further.

"Response is noticing and naming the things a writer is doing and then sharing how we are affected as readers."  As teachers we naturally respond to student writing while we are conducting conferences and are modeling a response format for our students.  I think it's challenging for our emergent writers to think of thoughtful responses when we celebrate writing at the conclusion of our writing workshop.  I'm thinking a chart is needed.  On page 17 Ruth and Christi share a chart titled, Talking Writer to Writer.  I'm thinking I need to play with this a bit for my kindergarten classroom.  I find my students want to share connections when a student shares a piece and can easily sway away from the piece of writing.  I usually start a whole class piece by stating what I notice this writer doing.  I think after the modeling I have done I should pose the question, What do we notice? to the whole group of students.

"Reflection is thinking about what you do and how you feel about it."  Many writing standards ask students to take writing through the writing process.  To edit and revise students need to reflect.  Ruth and Christi suggest we open or close partner conversations by telling how their writing is going and how they feel about it.  I think my students could reflect with modeling with the support of anchor phrases to help the conversation.  Another chart with visuals might be on my horizon to help guide my student's reflections.

"Rejoicing is bigger than cupcakes and punch, rejoicing is about infusing joy in the daily grind of writing workshop."  Often we think about rejoicing as a party but Ruth and Christi strongly share it's about daily things we do as writers and teachers.  My own thinking led me to think about the daily grind of writing workshop Ruth and Christi mention as a time or reason to rejoice.  Ruth and Christi share what rejoicing looks like; quiet, a head nod, writing space, a wink or glance across the classroom or a pat on the back of the shoulder.  I think I need to offer more rejoicing from these examples without a verbal cue. Verbal cues can open a conversation and take us down a path away from celebrating our writing.

I'm looking forward to thinking about response, reflection, and rejoice with my students.  

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Properties of Materials Series

Shiny or Dull is another series from Heinemann Library written for the emergent reader under the Acorn umbrella.  The reader first learns about shiny and then learns about dull.  The text for these two sections mirror each other with simplistic sentences to help the reader be an independent reader.  The next sections compares shiny and dull.  What I really like about this section is other vocabulary a scientist would use to describe materials in our every day life.  Vocabulary words like hard, rough, smooth, and soft.  At the end of each book there is a "quiz", which would be a really great idea to do as a hands on physical sort with real objects that are in the photographs.  It could be a quick summative assessment.  

Other titles found in this series, I am using are;
Hard or Soft
Heavy or Light
Hot or Cold
Smooth or Rough
Stiff or Bendable

Another great collection for a kindergarten or first grade classroom.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Toodles...Slice of Life

I was dashing in to heat up my lunch today and passed my hallway neighbor as she said toodles.  I stopped. "Did you just say toodles?" We exchanged a few words and I can't recall them now because at the time my mind was flooded with memories.  I shared them with her.

My grandpa always said toodle-loo when I went to leave him.  My grandparents lived in a ranch, they built and from the garage there was a narrow long hallway with their bedroom, laundry room, bathroom, stairs to the cellar before you got to the kitchen that opened to the family room.  This hallway always seemed longer than it was coming and going. Coming I was always excited to see them no matter how old I got. Leaving it was long but always shortened when Grandpa called toodle-loo, about half way down the hallway.

Then I had to share with her my grandpa had his ritual for goodbye in person but on the phone he never said goodbye.  He would say his last word and probably listen for mine and then click.  That was it.  He was gone.  My grandpa was very vivid in my mind as I told these two snippets about him today. 

As I got home tonight and was reflecting on my day, I couldn't shake the feeling of how powerful one word was for me today.  How one word took me back in time.  How one word brought back memories that were all mine.  How it's been many years since I heard my grandpa say toodle-loo but it took just a quick second out of the blue to resurface and warm my heart.  While my heart warmed, my heart also tugged to hear toodle-loo one more time.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life each week.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Duck, Duck, Moose!

Duck, Duck, Moose! by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen makes my mind wander to a childhood favorite game of duck, duck, goose.  In the first four pages, the reader learns a lot about Duck.  Duck is organized. Duck likes to clean.  Duck prepares a nice table of food.  Moose comes to visit and it feels just like the game duck, duck, goose when the running portion of tag gets a bit fast paced and there is a feeling of anxiousness. Moose makes a mess.  The story continues in this format with the duck or ducks preparing something that will be wonderful and when Moose arrives it goes wrong very fast.  The reader will enjoy paying attention to the details to understand how Moose or Duck is feeling throughout the story.  Moose stops coming for visits, which should be a happy moment but it isn't.  The ending is a celebration of friendship and how friends do things for each other to lift their spirits.  Another fun story told in just two words.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Online Calamity Lesson Plan Advice

It's been an extremely cold winter here in Central Ohio and more snow than usual.  I live in a school district that covers a lot of land mass, once a farming community turned suburban with farms scattered throughout.  Our county and townships do not have enough man power or vehicles to get the roads cleared sometimes.  We have had 6 snow days, one too many.  

A few years back the state of Ohio came up with an idea to help districts out if they  missed more than the allotted five calamity days.  The idea was to post lessons online for families to do.  What a great idea everyone thought!  Who really wants to take a day or more away from spring break or extend the school year?  We were asked to post lessons online for the students to complete.  This was awkward at the time.  How would we know where our teaching would be?  How could we make these assignments meaningful?  How could we guarantee they would have materials at home needed to complete the assignments?  How could we guarantee the student would do the work and it wouldn't become a family event?  We all followed directions and posted assignments.

And this brings us to today.  This message is posted on our district's website for families.

"State law permits districts to use five calamity days per school year before requiring any missed day(s) to be made up. Wednesday’s closure makes for Day 6. Rather than readjust the school calendar for spring recess or add days to the end of the school year, we’re providing online assignments to serve as make-up for the loss of instructional time."

Let me share with you how this played out in reality.  The district worked really hard to post calamity day assignments.  Not all assignments were viewable and it appeared the site crashed with so many people using it or things not being loaded correctly.  Parents are being asked to print at home work sheets and articles.  As a parent for one student I had to print 11 sheets of paper.  Assumptions are made homes have computers and printers.  This does not include my two older students who are in charge of their own calamity day work.  My one daughter said 3 subjects are not view-able still and it's been 5 days since they were posted.  The Governor of Ohio is asking and it looks like extending calamity days by adding 3 more days.  My district put out a statement these assignments are still required and are being taken for a grade.  My three daughters returned to school.  They were welcomed back with nightly homework and reminders about the full day of learning they are now to make up.  The two older daughters are very smart and have identified their calamity day assignments as out of context and busy work. Sometimes it's really hard to be a parent and have your profession be education.  

I want to share some advice with my readers in case you too extend your calamity day allowance, since many of us are having a harsher winter than usual.

1. If you have previously created calamity day assignments go back and update them.
2.  If you teach one subject area remember you are one of several teachers for that student.
3.  Remember, anything they produce or fill out for you is going to need to be graded by you.
4.  If you must have them print something try to make it in black and white or tell them to print it in black and white.  Color printing is more expensive.
4. The assignments don't have to equal the amount of time the student spends with you.
5.  Make the assignment engaging.
6. Since the work is to be done at home, foster conversations between the student and parents.
7.  Create a simple check off sheet for parents to return.

Here is my calamity day 6, revision.  I hope you might find it helpful and I hope you don't have to create online assignments also known as blizzard bags of work.  Our students will be fine.  I'm hoping all of this just takes an hour.

Replay a Family Math Game
Practice counting to 100.

Read a picture book you have at home and identify the characters.
Spend 15 minutes on Raz Kids (each child has a subscription)

Practice spelling your word wall words.
Word Study
Practice reading your word wall words.
    Look for things in your home you could describe as smooth or rough.  Make     a collection of things and share with your parents.

Social Studies
-       Discuss your responsibilities at home with your family.