Sunday, December 14, 2014

Reflecting before a Holiday Break

Sunday Storytime.  I received the ornament pictured from my friend Maddy last year.  She is one of my oldest daughter's best friends and we have spent a lot of time together over the years.  When she gave me this gift a year ago, I honestly burst into tears.  Maddy was a senior in high school.  I was feeling a little down about teaching kindergarten because I just felt like I wasn't making a difference with two classes and their limited attendance.  This photo is of Maddy and I when she was in kindergarten.  I did/do make a difference and my heart knew that from this thoughtful gift.  I couldn't bring myself to placing the ornament on the tree this year where it might get lost or blend in with everything else.  Instead it sits on my windowsill and reminds me throughout my day, the work we do matters and is remembered.  We have to hold on to these small moments and nuggets in our lives.  It's the kids that count and bring us joy.  We need to slow down to look and feel that joy in the communities we have created.  That's my plan for this pre-winter break holiday week.  

I want to wish everyone a Happy Holiday season.  I have so many ideas swirling in my head about blogging, four more days of school, and report cards that I find myself excited and truly enjoying second grade.  I also have so many ideas about the holidays, projects at home, my own reading, my own writing, and getting crafty that I find myself bursting at the seams to just be home.  I also can't wait to pick up my oldest tomorrow night and have all three of my girls here for a month!  I know readers this sounds like a lot but I'm positive you all have things you are excited about right now and bursting at the seams to have time to do.  We all have busy lives in one way or another.  In an attempt to find balance and find the time to just be; my blogging break is going to start tonight.

Happy Holidays, Safe Travels, and Enjoy!  I'll see you in 2015!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Trying Haiku {Poetry Friday}

oh my, fleece lined tights
thicker, heavier, warmer
delightful winter!

I'd like to thank my friend Mary Lee for inspiring me to try some Haiku poetry writing.  You might want to get your own inspiration while she is writing 
Haiku - a - day at Poetrepository.

Thank you to Paul at These 4 Corners for hosting Poetry Friday this week.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Familiar Authors Different Story - The Chicken Squad

I've been excited to find authors I know from a series or just a single book and discover they have other titles and stories to share with readers.  The Chicken Squad is by Doreen Cronin who I know as a picture book author.  Doreen Cronin makes me laugh.  She makes my students laugh and this laughter makes all of us enjoy reading.  The Chicken Squad brought many smiles and much laughter as I read it aloud to my seconders this past month.  

I love how the four chicken characters are introduced!  Each character has their own self portrait and information on a page.  The reader learns their nickname, reads a short physical description of each and then learns their real name.  Each character has speciality which is important within the story.  This support was wonderful in helping my readers keep track of several characters. 

The quick version of this story is squirrel has been scared by something in the yard and the four chickens are great at figuring out mysteries.  I love the sequence of questions they use to gather information.  I enjoyed how precise they are in describing colors.  I enjoyed math vocabulary was used in figuring out what was scaring squirrel in the yard.  

Here are three lines I love from this story and hope you find, if you pick this book up.

"Big is not a shape," sighed Sugar.

"Brave squirrels are not afraid of diamonds!"

"Don't get your feathers in a bunch, Poppy," said Sugar.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Slice of Life - It's dead, but wait...!

It's dead.  It sat in the corner for months, dead.  It probably died about the time school started and I just let it sit there.  I love the container it's in so I would celebrate the container and ignore the dead.  Lucky for me, the dead didn't stink.  It just turned brown and brittle.  I did slightly morn the brown and brittle dead only because when I received the beautiful green plant with orange blossoms it was unique and special.  It was an end of the year gift from a student.  However, I know if you neglect a plant and it doesn't get it's basic necessities it will die.  

I've been decorating the house for the holidays and yes both sets of parents are coming so perking things up becomes fun and a priority.  Perking things up really means get rid of the dead plant.  I decided I wanted to save the container I love.  To save the container I began to remove the brown and brittle plant.  I couldn't believe what I saw, there was green shoots just peeping through the soil?  They looked like daffodils or tulips in the spring.  

I reread the information tag and the plant is a perennial which means it will return year after year but it's a house plant so I didn't expect it to completely die.  I really think the plant has a bulb structure which means it would die off completely and return.  I like having plants and truth be told my classroom plants seem to do better than my home plants.  My students help water them and having plant support might be what keeps things alive or bring them back from a wilt-y state.

As I uncovered my fresh new green sprouts, I reflected on a few things.  If you look below the surface, you can find and/or see growth.  Plants are forgiving and students are too.   Green sprouts bring hope and looking for the small signs in my classroom can and will bring hope for each student and what they need.  I just need to look below the surface and notice closely to discover green sprouts to nurture.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for fostering and encouraging this writing community.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

New to Me - Celebrate! by Jan Reynolds

My second grade-reading journey is very exciting because I am continuously discovering new books to me. Celebrate! Connections Among Cultures by Jan Reynolds is the perfect book to begin a discussion or unit of study about celebrations and cultures.  The book focuses on the components of a celebration; gathering together, food and drinks, decorating ourselves, music, dance, and the use of fire.  

This photographic essay is beautiful and rich with information about each component in different cultures.  I especially enjoyed the pattern of learning about four or five cultures and having each section end with an example from the United States.  A few of the cultures shared in this book were familiar to me but most of them were not familiar to me.  

The book ends with a summary around the notion there are many ways to celebrate the human spirit.  It helped me think about many things and the reasons cultures celebrate.  We celebrate to show we are thankful, to celebrate changes in our lives, celebrate people and important events.  After reading the book left to right and top to bottom I realized I wish I had read it differently.  I wish I had read the headings for each section first to discover components of celebrations and let my students ponder these thoughts.  Then reread the book with the text descriptions for the different cultures shared.  This would allow us to focus the idea of different cultures and different celebrations exist in our world. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - I Am Amelia Earhart

I am in love with my new discovery, I am Amelia Earhart by Brad Meltzer.  I remember reading biographies and reading about Amelia Bedelia when I was a child and the biographies I read didn't look  like this.  I am Amelia Earhart by Brad Meltzer is filled with warm illustrations that are interesting, insightful, and supportive to the text.  The book starts with Amelia Earhart as a child and right away the reader learns about her strong will to be different and wish to do things differently.  She didn't like the idea of wearing dresses, playing with dolls, and wanted to have adventures.  The reader learns about Amelia's childhood.  She built a roller coaster in her back yard with ramps and was able to get airborne for a bit.  I think having kids connect to moments in a person from history is brilliant.  Their accomplishments are important but having kids realize successful people from the past were just like them is creating connections that will drive the reader to find out more.  As the story continues, the illustrated young Amelia continues and tells the story of the Amelia as she grows up.  I love that the point of view is from the first person.  The reader also learns Amelia had to work very hard, she had stamina and perserverence.  Qualities we talk about needing in our own learning and classroom community.  What a role model for students of all ages.

Thank you Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for organizing and fostering nonfiction reading in our classrooms and homes.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Slice of Life - rethinking a family tradition

An unexpected response came my way when I asked my youngest, "Do you want to do our holiday book a day tradition?"  She replied with certainty, "Yes!"  I was a bit caught off guard because I remember last year her interest seemed to diminish a bit as the twenty four days were passing.  I wanted to be realistic and realize my girls are growing up, things change, and it's okay if we have one less thing to do.  She is the youngest of three girls.  She is in middle school now as a sixth grader.  She warmed my heart she wanted to be my reading partner each night for twenty four days.

We've been doing a holiday book as an advent calendar since she was born.  When her oldest sister was little I didn't want an advent calendar with chocolate.  Candy was very limited in our house.  I didn't want an advent calendar with trinket toys resembling a fast food drive in kids meal treat.  Those types of meals never happened in our house.   Then one day I read about wrapping twenty four holiday books and opening one a night, perfect!

I didn't question her answer but began thinking about how could I keep her interest from diminishing this year.  I had to assess our current collection.  Our collection of holiday books is far more than just twenty four.  Our holiday book collection has fun stories and stories that retell the Christmas story.  We have simple rhyming stories and some stories that more involved picture book stories.  We have heard these stories many times over the years.  As I reflected about keeping her interest, I thought about my classroom library.  I concluded I wanted to include some favorites.  I wanted to get some new titles.  I wanted to include various genres; poetry, nonfiction, fantasy, realistic fiction, and biography-ish titles.  I also wanted to include titles with bigger messages and explanations for different traditions.  I'm really excited to have a reading partner for the next twenty two days.  

Since I wrapped the titles before writing this post I hope you will follow our reading journey via twitter @mandyrobek and consider joining me using the hashtag #holidaybookaday.  I specifically chose this hashtag so anyone, celebrating any holiday could share their reading lives.  This could be a neat way to expand our reading lives and global thinking.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for fostering this writing community.