Sunday, April 20, 2014

If Not For Franki Celebration!!

What better way to celebrate this Easter Sunday than taking time to reflect on being thankful for such a good friend! Happy Birthday Franki! What would we do without you?!

 I feel like I could write forever about all the reasons this amazing friend has influenced my life as a mom, teacher and friend. It has been hard to keep it to just a few. Here goes...

If not for Franki (and Mary Lee)…I wouldn't be here on this blog!!  Their blog inspired me to find a place for my voice years ago when my children were young and at home! Now I am living in the car and focusing on a book so the posting isn't as consistent as years ago.  Blogging along with many, many conversations with her about life and teaching have constantly help me refine my own understanding of the world. She always plays devil's advocate and forces me to see the other side of any issue but she also listens when I am a mess…doesn't she?! I mean that really is what is so great about her.

If not for Franki…I wouldn't know half the people I know! She has this insane knack for bringing us all together, making sure all feel welcome and worrying about us if we don't. Thanks Franki!

If not for Franki…I wouldn't have a new found love of gambling. Who knew?! Yes, I will say I enjoy the poker slot machines and if not for her enthusiam for the casino, I would not have realized this about myself!! She is so good about bringing the fun to everything she does.

If not for Franki…I wouldn't have had the opportunity to work with Brenda at Choice Literacy and see myself as an author who could be possibly finishing a book this year (a shout out to Ruth too because I haven't been able to do it without you too)! Thank you for reading my texts when writing is hard and anwering my random questions. I think the world of you and appreciate your support:)

Franki, thank you for being you!  Looking forward to learning and laughing (and yes, we will be laughing) with you next next year in 3rd!!
 Enjoy your day:)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Good Ship Crocodile by J Patrick Lewis and Monique Felix

If you're looking for a new friendship book, this one may have to be it.  I picked it up last weekend and read it with my students on Friday.  It was the perfect book to begin with "What do you think this book will be about?"  One of my little kiddos used the picture right away to help her as I read the name of the title, saying...I think the crocodile is going to be like a ship and help the animals. Yay, I thought she is beginning to think!
We read about Snout and the animals that live in the river. These animals who are afraid of the rising water. We read about Sparkle and the fireflies that he helps find land. We read about the monkeys, the frogs and the families of insects and animals that Snout carefully helps across the river. One of my student begins to wonder if he will eat these animals. We all wonder what the tension will be as darkness falls we discover Snout is lost after working his way up the river.  How will he get home?
One student guesses that the fireflies will help him and then we read about Sparkle's light guiding his way home.

This book has a great message I will tap back into for partner work so we can talk about collaborating. I will use it for noticing facial expressions in our illustration study and because it has little text, maybe someone will grab it to read on their own.  It gave us lots to talk about this Friday.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Frustrated Friday

It was Friday, I was frustrated and a little tired. I was frustrated because Little B was having trouble all day focusing when it came to working independently. Each time he would start to settle into a spot, he would jet across the room to often interrupt other students who were focusing on a book or writing a story. Knowing we have had lots of conversations about what focus is, characters who think about focus and what it looks like,  I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt each time I noticed him. I often would slyly walk over to listen in on the conversation.  I kept crossing my fingers that is was about a book he was writing, sharing or any thought about ideas or even a story he was sharing about himself.  I realized it wasn't.  So, I  talked again with Little B helping him remember the lessons about focus and then I found a spot where he could focus during writing workshop. It is Friday, he is 6, I said to myself. But I was still frustrated that others weren't getting their work done.

I looked at my notebook to see which kids were on my list for conferring when I noticed Little B.  His
 page had nothing written on it. While other kids had 2 -3 quick check ins, I realized I had not spent time with him. I immediately felt that ah-ha at that moment.

 I sat alongside him joining the other kids at the table that were writing. He shared his book called Ben Where He Goes ( I smiled thinking how clever his title was) and he read all about the adventures he had this summer in New York, at an OSU game and with his family on vacation. The little girl next to us talked about how she was going to go to Slovenia when she was old enough to visit because her dad was born there. Little B piped up next about how he was going to visit Guatemala when he was old enough because that was where he was born.  He smiled and talked about how he was adopted. We all chatted for awhile after that.  While I had know Little B's background it wasn't until I slowed down to talk with him about his writing that he was able to open up. It wasn't until then that we had actually had our first connection. I know this day was important for both of us.

I was fortunate enough to hear Ruth Ayres speak this weekend about celebration.  She has this amazing perspective about how our teaching with writers is really all about celebrating.  She takes hard and tough situations and find the good in them. She has a true knack for making personal connections.  I left with so many new things to think about, one of them being the power of taking time to relate and connect with our students. Hearing Ruth in person was incredibly valuable for me. And sitting down with Little B was as well.  I am keeping her wisdom in mind this week and remembering to find lots of opportunities to keep talking and connecting with Little B.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Kids Engaging Kids

After 3 weeks of school, I feel like my students are beginning to get the hang of  some of the routines evolving in our room.  They are remembering (with less reminding) to put their folders away and to make a lunch choice. They are beginning to understand workshop and anticipate their time to write and read. And, they are showing more engagement in choosing books that they know, that look interesting or that I have read aloud as they settle into what we call Books in the Morning. I don't know if I love the name of this routine but it is simple enough to remind kids to grab a book.

On Friday, as kids wrapped up their choices during this time, I noticed a little reader, Jack, had tried to read a book that I talked up the day before.  It was Hello! Hello! by Matthew Cordell. (Love Cordell and his books Trouble Gum and my boys love the Justin Case series)  Jack told me how much he loved electronics and how he just had to try this book.  I asked if he would share what he thought about the book with everyone.  But instead of just talking about the book,  he walked over to the document camera, slid the book underneath and began reading the book aloud to everyone. I'm not sure if he didn't pick up on my directions or if he had his own plan in mind but what I saw was complete engagement with the class. Kids were joining in the text as he read.  Eyes and ears were locked on Jack as he helped the character come alive, commented about his favorite page and stopped and reflected during the reading.  It was a great way to start our day.

Jack talked about how he loves electronics and that's why he loved the book.  Other students talked about how they felt like the story teaches them not to stay on electronics all day.  It definitely has a powerful message for young kids today.  Katie Wood Ray writes that kids just notice more than adults do, it's that simple.  After watching Jack, I will say... kids can engage each other more than adults do, it's that simple.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

10 for 10 Picture Books

Thanks to Cathy and Mandy for organizing this great event: 10 for 10 Picture Books!!!! I know I will be filling up my amazon basket all day as I read lots of posts about so many great books. I am afraid I may be sharing titles that aren't all true picture books but I think the titles still work for young readers.

One of the goals I set for myself this summer when thinking about my classroom library was to organize the books for my students who come into first grade as readers. You know those kiddos who can decode quite easily and read fluently who are just ready to begin seeing they can choose and think about books on their own.  I have noticed that these kiddos often jump to Junie B Jones, Magic Tree House or the Rainbow Magic Fairy series.  I know that introducing them to some shorter texts with fewer characters will allow them to have some deeper conversation and richer opportunities for comprehension.  It is my hope that introducing them to the pre-chapter books or early readers will scaffold them those longer texts that may have more character interaction or multiple setting changes.  There are classic  early chapter type titles that I have in my classroom like Mouse Soup, Frog and Toad or Danny the Dinosaur.  While these are loved, I am always trying to find new classic titles and series that will appeal to them. So if you know of some that may spark the interest of a young reader, please add to the comments:)
So my 10 for 10 will feature 10 early chapter books that all happen to be series books too:)

 I picked this series up this summer at Joseph Beth with Franki. I liked it right away and was not familiar with Boris. He is an adventurous warthog who encounters the unexpected. There are two others in this series: Boris Gets a Lizard,  Boris For the Win and Boris Sees the Light.  I am hoping these appeal to the boys.

                  I bought the little stuffed Penny for my classroom last year because so many girls adore her.  Penny is a little mouse who learns, patience, decision making and how find her voice. Other Penny books include Penny and Her Doll and My favorite: Penny and Her Marble.

Fly Guy is one of the most loved series for all the kids in first grade. I love how Buzz and Fly Guy take on the aquarium and learn together!  This book is a great fiction and non-fiction combination.  Fly Guy Presents Space is coming out Aug 27 and I just added Fly Guy and the Frankenfly to my basket of Fly Guy reads too.  This series never disappoints!                

Barbara Baker writes such sweet stories about Mama, Papa, Rose, Lily and Jack with each chapter devoted to each voice.  This book tells the story of the family's adventures one afternoon. Also check out One Saturday Morning and One Saturday Evening.

Cowgirl Kate is a great series.  I love the relationship between Kate and her horse Cocoa.  They both speak their mind, and have their quirks but are best of friends. My favorite is Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: Spring Babies. It is a great read before we head to the farm. See more in the series: Partners, School Days, Rain or Shine and Horse in the House.

                                         If you like completely off-the-wall, silly books,   you will love Dragon.  He is completely gullible and the kids love to laugh at his antics.  A friend for Dragon is the story of friendship. Friendship with an apple that is...lots to figure out and talk about when reading about Dragon. Others in the series: Dragon Gets By, Dragon's Fat Cat, Dragon's Halloween and Dragon's Merry Christmas.

I bumped into these two characters: Mr. and Mrs. Green  when I was teaching second grade and have found kids like these two alligators.  Keith Baker sets up the book with 3-4 short stories about their adventures instead of a whole story broken into chapters.  In this first book, this couple plan a camping trip, eat lots of pancakes and take a trip to the fair.  Others in the series: More Mr. and Mrs. Green, On the Go with Mr. and Mrs. Green and multiple "light" readers that feature just one story including: Cookies, The Talent Show and Fishing.


                Benny and Penny is a graphic novel series that makes kids laugh! This brother and sister duo don't hold anything back as they play, fight, forgive and learn together.  That's what happens in this first book in the series.  Others in the series: Benny and Penny and the Big NoNo, Benny and Penny and the Toy Breaker and Benny and Penny Lights Out!  These books can also be read online here.

Melanie Watt has so much to offer transitional readers with her characters.  Scaredy Squirrel is one that kids love.  He completely grabs the attention of the reader and doesn't let go.  I love that there are many adventures that Scaredy encounters in his many books: Scaredy Squirrel at the beach, makes a friend, at night, has a birthday party and goes camping. It keeps kids reading.  Last year Scaredy Squirrel prepares for Christmas was released and just this month Scaredy Squirrel prepares for Halloween. 

Last but not least, Mouse and Mole! These two friends are definitely friends who leave the reader lots to predict, infer and keep thinking about throughout the story.  This series (read aloud) helps my students engage in
whole group talk about lots of comprehension work.  They are very lovable characters who are creative, considerate and ready to solve problems.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Be Present

I don't watch a bunch of television but there are days when it feels good to just surf. I tend to head to the networks that show movies. I am sucker for watching the Harry Potter marathons featured on ABC Family.

This summer I was surfing and came across the OWN network. I began watching Oprah's Master Class which happened to be featuring Cindy Crawford.  She was sharing her story and life mantras.  I was enamored as she shared about the loss of her brother, her everyday struggles as a mother and her message.  She ended with Be Present.

I started thinking about the importance of these two words and what they mean to me.  I thought about how to me being present really meant listening, wholeheartedly.

So this summer, I decided to practice presence.  I began to catch myself when I began drifting from it in  conversations with my sons, friends and husband.  I tried to stay focused to what another person was sharing, even if they need to talk longer than I would like to listen.  I practiced keeping my interest in what another was saying even if I felt uninterested.  It has been hard to stay focused without changing the subject right away or trying to relate everything back to me (I can over do this).  But I feel better, I feel patient and more present than I would have been.

Last night I talked at my husband for ten minutes about my classroom plans, my worries about the middle son's golf try out, my annoyance with the kids picking up after themselves, the list goes on...What I noticed was that he let me talk without interrupting for ten minutes.  I think he could tell I just needed to get it out. He didn't jump in and try to relate to something (like I always do) and he didn't stop and answer or even look down at his phone when he received a text (like I often do).  He helped me think even more about what I need to pay attention to to really be present.

With school starting, I am conscious about how this practice will translate in the classroom.  How will I become present for my students? How will I make time to be present for each of them? How will I put aside my own stress to really be there for them? How will I show them and give them time to practice presence for one another?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fluff and Billy by Nicola Killen

The first days of school are around the corner. I have slowly started to head back into the classroom.  The tables and bookshelves are put in place but the books haven't been completely sorted through.  As I am wiping out the baskets and reorganizing, I am also beginning to pull books that I know will communicate important messages to my students over the first few days/weeks of school.  I grabbed Fluff and Billy when I saw it laying on the shelf the other day. I knew I loved the characters and pictures so I decided to reread it again.  

Fluff and Billy are two little penguins that are the best of buds.   They play in tandem, Billy announcing,"I'm climbing up! and Fluff repeating right after "I'm climbing up!"  They are fearless friends until a snowball comes in between their play. After moments of quiet and sadness, they begin to laugh and forgive.  So much can be talked about in this short but important story.

Reading books about real issues that will happen in the classroom and showing children how characters handle these issues gives us a place for discussion.  We can ask kids to think about the story and connect back to what we observe happening in partner work or at recess.  I want my kids to feel like they can be themselves: stumble through mistakes, forgive, laugh and move on.