Monday, September 30, 2013

Henry's Map by David Elliot

Last week, when we visited the Dublin Library, Miss Val shared a stack of new books.  One that caught my eye was Henry's Map by David Elliot.

This is a great book. In the story, Henry is a great character:
"Henry was a very organized sort of pig. He liked knowing 
exactly where everything was in his tidy little sty."  

But once looks out his window and notices what a mess the farm is, he decides to make a map so that everyone would know what belongs where:-)

Henry goes onto make his map, walking around the farm and adding the animals on the map.  The animals are thrilled to be included on his map and the final hand-drawn map is a good one for kids who are just learning about maps.

I love lots about this book. I love Henry. He is a great character who makes me smile. I also love the illustrations as they bring the farm to life in a happy way.  Mostly, I love the humor--you will have to read the book to find out the amusing part in the book. It is sweet humor (nothing like the wicked humor or I Want My Hat Back or Carnivores!).

For primary kids learning about maps, this is a fun read.  I thought it would be great for my 3rd graders as an invitation to map writing in Writing Workshop. Creating a map to trigger stories from your life is one I learned from Ralph Fletcher and I love to share the map in the front of Marshfield Dreams. This will be another one to share in those minilessons.

This book is great fun and has lots of possibilities!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ling and Ting Share a Birthday by Grace Lin

I love all of Grace Lin's books and I especially loved the first Ling and Ting when it came out.  I was thrilled to see that the second book in the series, Ling & Ting Share a Birthday  was due out this month!  I love this series and I love these twins!

Sometimes I am disappointed by the second book in a new series. But not this time! I loved this one as much as I loved the first!  In this story, Ling and Ting have a birthday.  And they share it of course.  The book is divided into 6 chapters (and the Table of Contents is ADORABLE!).  Each chapter tells a little story about the birthday.  Each one is a great story and the stories connect a bit throughout the book.  The humor makes me smile:-)

I spent lots of the summer reading books that would be good for 3rd graders. But I am new to 3rd grade so I am still learning what 3rd graders enjoy. I know how a book might support them as readers but I am still figuring out what they find funny and the level of complexity that is right for this age.

Ling and Ting is a great book for those transitional readers in grades 1-3.  The book is a chapter book with lots of supports--short chapters that each tell their own story, 2 characters to get to know, chapter titles, and picture support. But most importantly, this is a good story that kids will enjoy. I'm excited to share this with students and I so hope that Grace Lin writes lots more about these twins! 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Slice of Life: A Visit to the Pet Store

We are now a family with 2 dogs.  Deciding to get a puppy for our 14 year old was a big decision but the timing seemed right.  We have not had a puppy for a VERY long time and we are EXHAUSTED! Arnie (the puppy) is adorable and we are having fun but he is a handful for sure!

I decided that Arnie needed some new chew toys as he has been chewing on the carpet, the windowsill, the woodwork and the kitchen chairs.  I thought maybe finding toys that had more interesting textures would keep the puppy off the other chewables in the house.  So, we made a trip to the Pet Store. We came home with a few toys that seem to be helping. But I must say, I have not been to a pet store to shop in years. Our older dog doesn't really play and hasn't played much in years. So the trip to the pet store was quite an experience.

Who knew that you could dress your dog as Big Bird for Halloween?

Who knew that they had Ugly Christmas Sweaters for dogs?

AND....Who knew they had Halloween Socks for dogs?

We restrained from the Halloween costume and the Christmas sweater but I could not resist the socks (that come in packs of 4, of course!). I was sure Arnie would be adorable in these socks. My husband, however, adamantly disagreed as he has said from the start that Arnie is a "cool dog" and he did not think these socks were cool enough for Arnie.

Well, we got home and Ana tried to put the socks on Arnie. He doesn't growl often but he did growl and snarl once the first sock was placed on his foot.  I figured he would get used to it and tried again the next morning. The minute I tried to put on the sock, he grabbed it from my hand and ran away with it. Within seconds, nearly the entire sock was in his mouth and he ran far away.  We are pretty sure he would have swallowed it whole but we caught him and had a 2 minute battle to pull the sock out of his mouth.  He clearly hates the socks.  (My husband reiterated that the socks are totally uncool...)

How a sweet little baby puppy can hate these adorable Halloween socks is beyond me. Hoping he is not opposed to the ugly Christmas Sweater in a few months....

Monday, September 23, 2013

Picture Perfect Perfection by Deborah Diesen

I  have never been one to buy "holiday" books.  I would rather spend money on books that kids will enjoy all year round so the book has to be REALLY good to connect to a holiday.  But my love of Google Doodles is changing my attitude about that a bit. I love waking up in the morning and seeing a Google Doodle connected to the date. It is always a great way to start the day and to learn a bit and think a bit about it.

Picture Day Perfection by Deborah Diesen is going to be the perfect read aloud for our morning meeting time on Picture Day.  It is a great story of a boy working hard on a perfect school picture.  The book captures Picture Day perfectly--in the way that kids have to go through a regular school day yet still look perfect for the school photo, which could be at 3p.m.  It is a great story and a big selling point for me was that it is illustrated by Dan Santat, who has become one of my favorites. My kids loved CARNIVORES and this is the perfect book to add to what they know and love about Santat as an illustrator.

I bought this book because it seemed like a fun way to start the day on Picture Day this year. But it is also a great story with a great character. It will no doubt make a good read aloud.  The illustrations will engage readers immediately and it is a perfect picture book for independent reading time.

Here is a very fun book trailer (thanks to Colby Sharp for finding this one!)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Poetry Friday -- Ebb and Flow

Wikimedia Commons photo 

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveller hastens toward the town,
     And the tide rises, the tide falls.

Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
     And the tide rises, the tide falls.

The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveller to the shore,
     And the tide rises, the tide falls.

Tabatha has the Poetry Friday Roundup at The Opposite of Indifference. I won't be able to visit the round up this week -- see you next week!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I Survived #8: The Japanese Tsunami, 2011

I Survived #8: I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011
by Lauren Tarshis
illustrated by Scott Dawson
Scholastic, 2013
review copy provided by the publisher

A couple of weeks ago, this "Shocking New Video" of the 2011 Japanese tsunami was shared on FaceBook. I clicked over and watched all 25+minutes of it. It was one thing to have seen the quick clip that became iconic in the days after the tsunami -- the one of the monster wave crashing into the coast -- but to watch, with the person behind the camera, 25 minutes of gradual, and then terrifyingly sudden rising waters that completely obliterated the landscape, was quite another.

It was with those images in my mind that I read Lauren Tarshis' newest installment in the I Survived series. (I'm embarrassed to admit that this is the first book in this series that I've read. Somehow, this series escaped my radar until last year. I got several for my classroom library, and then they were never back on the shelves!)

Tarshis gives a kid reader just enough of the terrifying experience of the tsunami to understand the suddenness, feel the separation from loved ones, and know the shock of whole towns being leveled. But her character is an American child, visiting in Japan, so he gets to leave the destruction behind, in much the same way the world has. (There are no "Shocking New Video"s of the rebuilding efforts that are still, I'm sure, going on.) I do not mean this as a criticism. Tarshis writes, in the information following the story, about how hard it was for her to try to understand the enormity of the disaster. And she does show readers a Japanese character who chooses not to leave, and teaches us, in the information after the story, about gaman, a word in Japanese which means "to be strong and patient even when something terrible is happening."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Adventures in Cartooning: Characters in Action!

Adventures in Cartooning: Characters in Action
by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost (from The Center for Cartoon Studies)
First Second, on shelves October 8, 2013
review copy provided by the publisher

They're back! The same crew of cartoonists whose first book, Adventures in Cartooning: How to Turn Your Doodles Into Comics (one of the NCTE 2010 Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts) taught readers how to make a cartoon are now moving into the realm of "how to draw simple characters, pose them, and put an expression on their faces that communicate emotions to the reader." And all of this gets wrapped into a story about an evil movie director, a missing king, and our heroes, the Knight (there's a surprise about her in the first book...oops...I just gave it away...), the knight's steed, Edward, and the Magic Cartooning Elf.

For all those buddying graphic novelists in your classroom, this book is a must-read!

(See also last year's Adventures in Cartooning: Christmas Special)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Slice of Life: Starbucks!

If you are a student in my classroom, you know that every so often, I will yell out, “Has anyone seen my tea?”  My students are used to seeing me carry my Venti sized Starbucks cup around the classroom as I work.  And they become very skilled at finding it for me when I seem to have placed it on a bookshelf, a table or the floor next to my stool.  They know that my mornings begin at Starbucks.

Can you find my Starbucks cup?

There are lots of things I love about living in Dublin, Ohio.  One of them is that, in my opinion, we have the best Starbucks in the world. I find a Starbucks in every city I visit and I have yet to find one that compares to the downtown Dublin Starbucks.   It is the place I stop on my way into school every morning.  The Starbucks is in the middle of town and there is no drive through.  No matter the weather, everyone goes in to get their morning caffeine.  This 5-minute stop on my way to school, has become a favorite way to start my days and my students come to learn this about me pretty quickly.

Many mornings I walk into Starbucks to find my Venti Awake Hot Tea already ready before I even order at the counter. The cup has been marked with my name—the staff often notices when I enter.  And every so often a little drawing decorates my cup.  A fun treat at random times. A staff member may ask questions about the school year. I might ask one of the girls behind the counter how her new baby is doing.  They know me from our quick morning conversations and we’ve come to share quick stories every morning. 

Everyone is on a first name basis at "my" Starbucks.  I realized after weeks of thinking that the Starbucks employees loved me most, that everyone gets the same treatment in the morning. Everyone gets the one-one-one personal hello that I do. I call it my “3-minute Cheers experience”. 

Last winter, a man in front of me, in town for a business meeting said, “When you get up there, will they already know what you want?” He had been watching for a few minutes and picked up the feel of this particular Starbucks.  He was amazed at the relationships that the crew had with nearly every person who ordered a drink.  It doesn’t take long for visitors to realize that this place has a lot of positive energy.  They can't help but smile as they watch.

This is the perfect morning stop for me on the way to school. My family and friends continue to be amazed that I will get out of the car in thunderstorms and ice in order to get my Starbucks fix.  But my morning stop is about more than the tea.  Every day,  my day starts off in a positive way.  And, I am reminded of how important those first minutes of the morning are and of how important a positive transition to each day can be.  I’ve learned that a quick hello and acknowledgement can set my day off right. 

I carry my Starbucks cup around all morning.  I love hot tea but my Starbucks cup has come to be a reminder of my morning and the life lessons I've learned from my morning stops into Starbucks over the past 5 years.  My Starbucks cup reminds me how you can really get to know someone in just a minute or two each day and that those conversations add up.  It reminds me that those first few minutes in the morning matter. They set the stage for the day.  Taking 30 seconds out to really say hello to each child who walks into the classroom—before the busy-ness of the day takes over, can set the tone for the day. It is easy to get caught up in “getting ready for the day” instead of really focusing on each child as they walk through the doorway.  

In a Facebook post last week, my brilliant friend Jen Ochoa reminded me of a Maya Angelou quote I heard years ago, "You must remember, the very first thing a child sees, the first thing they notice when they see you, is you seeing them. They look carefully to see what your face looks like as you lay eyes upon their face. When you see a child, no matter what, remember to fix your face." 

My daily visits to Starbucks are about so much more than caffeine:-)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Conversations About Community in 3rd Grade

A big theme in our Social Studies curriculum is Community.  I kicked off the study this week, I introduced the idea of community and the idea of learning community as an introduction to this yearlong study.  I wanted to have these conversations and this thinking started before we move into the content of local government, community resources, etc.  When we started our conversation, kids shared all they knew about community. I want them to understand the citizenship part of community--that everyone does his/her part and everyone works toward community goals while individuals still have more personal goals.  At the beginning of the conversation, kids seemed to know the content stuff of community (neighborhoods, parks, people, rules and laws) at a basic level which gave us a great start to our conversation.  Then we moved on.

I shared two pieces with the students that first day.  I wanted them to reframe their thinking a bit to think about what made a community work.  I told them I was going to share two pieces as part of our discussion about community and then we'd talk about how those tied in. I wanted them to use these as ways to add to their understanding of what makes a community.  These two pieces provided an amazing conversation about community and what it means to be part of a community.

Following this video conversation, I read the picture book The Little Hummingbird (Ann Marie) by Michael Nicoll Yahgulhanaas.  (Thanks Ann Marie Corgill for this recommendation!) This is a powerful story about a little hummingbird doing his part in the community.

These two pieces provided just the right stories for a great beginning conversation to add new thinking about their understandings of community.

The next day, we read What If Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick. This was a quick read that reminds us why we have rules by taking readers into different settings, thinking about not following a rule, and asking, "What if everybody did that?"  We then talked about all of the communities we are a part of and how each had their own goals, rules, etc. Kids mentioned school, sports teams, churches, neighborhoods, our city, etc.

On Day 3 of our conversation, I paired 2 other videos to share with students. I wanted to really focus on the idea of a Learning Community and how members of a community support one another.  This conversation also included goal setting.

We watched this amazing video from Pernille Ripp's 5th grade classroom: My Students' Classroom Vision. At the end of the clip, one of my students said, "I loved that video. It was the best." It was very powerful for them. We followed up with a conversation about being brave, being part of a learning community, individual goals, and community goals. I shared my own experiences--about how it was easy for me to meet a reading goal, as it was easy for me and I loved to read. But it was brave of me to set a running goal and to put myself out there when running was something I had to work hard at.  How the book I am writing is something that has been hard for me lately and it takes some brave to not just quit.  How when we know each others' goals (as in any community) it is easier to help each other meet them.   It was all very informal but thoughtful.  

I followed up with a clip of Kristin Chenoweth which I loved (I used the one with Kellee instead but like this one better.)

We talked about how Kristen Chenoweth was so good and how she celebrated this guest who was amazing. She cheered for her and was so happy that she was so amazing. How that says a lot about Kristen--she loves seeing others do well. Kids immediately talked about ways they support others and cheer them on when they are successful. They were as interested in Kristen as they were in the friends who must have been filming and wooohoooing throughout.

Finally, on Thursday I shared The Butterfly Video.  Thanks to Steve Peterson who shared this clip with me in a blog comment last week! It is brilliant and it fit in perfectly with the week's conversations.  Again, kids were glued.

Austin's Butterfly: Building Excellence in Student Work - Models, Critique, and Descriptive Feedback from Expeditionary Learning on Vimeo.

My favorite part of the follow-up conversation was the mention that, "Mrs. Christine, our art teacher would love this clip. Has she seen it?  I wonder if she has to do more than one draft? Does she get things right on the first try?"  We decided to email her the link to the video and our question right then. Of course she emailed back to let us know that, yes, she does many drafts for lots of things, even as an art teacher:-)

This week's conversations around community were really important for many reasons. I think the kids will understand the bigger communities of city, state, world, etc. because they have thought so much about their own communities. They understand that people make up a community and that our classroom is a community, a learning community.  They have a role to play in the community--for themselves and for the good of the group.

I can already tell that these videos and books have made an impact.  They keep coming up in conversation and I imagine they will continue to. Just like Caine's arcade, I imagine a few will become anchors for the year. Glad we began our conversation like this and am looking forward to the way the conversation evolves over the next eight months.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Home Math Learning Boxes

I love this idea and wanted to share it. My good friend who is also a brilliant teacher, Patty Carpenter, shared this idea with me. Since she does not have a blog, I figured I should share it with the world so that others could see how smart it is.  Patty is a first grade teacher and each year, her students get a Math Learning Box for home. She includes all the things kids will need to play math games, etc. at home. She starts the box with a few tools and sends new additional tools home as they need them during the year.   We took the idea and changed it a bit for 3rd grade.  Last week, we sent home these boxes with students.  This is the beginning of it and we will add things as the year progresses.  Along with this box, we are sending home a folder of the 4 math games we have played so far.  We'll also add to the folder.

I've always struggled with math homework as I tend to think playing a math game gives kids more practice, is more fun, and starts great family conversations. But kids don't always have the supplies needed at all times. This box guarantees that the things kids need to play the math games and teach them to their families are always handy. And it seems like it will be a great piece of family communication as parents learn some of the games we play at school.

The kids are as excited about these boxes as I am. They helped put them together and couldn't wait to take them home. Parents have also been very positive about the idea of this type of homework.  And knowing that kids have these things at home, I imagine they'll do more math than they've done in the past.

It is a brilliant idea and the cost of putting it together was pretty minimal.  (I kept my eye out for things like dice and decks of cards at the dollar store and on amazon over the summer.)  As we learn new things, we'll add necessary supplies to the box--it will grow as the year goes on.

One side is a Hundred Chart. The other side is a Multiplication Chart.

3 regular dice and 2 ten-sided dice (0-9)

These go home with these items as well as a few sets of game cards that students have made and stored in Ziploc bags.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Poetry Friday -- Seeds

The tomato squirts in my mouth.
"You can't have seeds 
without a flower."

The clock ticks incessantly.
Time happens 
because the earth spins.

The students arrive in a burst of chatter.
I feel the earth move
as I watch them bloom.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2013

I am trying desperately to hold onto my writing habits and not let school work take over my every waking minute. This is a draft. It doesn't feel quite complete, but I'm just happy at this point that I wrote at least one morning this week.

Things are starting to settle down a bit...maybe. Okay, who'm I kidding? I'm going to PRETEND like things are settling down a bit, and reclaim my morning habits of walking and writing!

Happy Poetry Friday! Let's meet Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts for the roundup this week!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Moving Beyond "Interesting Facts"

I have noticed over the past few years that one of the most popular books in our nonfiction library is Weird but True! 5: 300 Outrageous Facts by National Geographic kids.  It is a book filled with 300 weird facts and kids become totally immersed, wanting to share lots of things they discover. I can see the fascination with these books and I love that they get kids reading nonfiction, but I have noticed that more and more nonfiction books for kids are merely lists of disconnected facts with accompanying photos.  Kids who are drawn to books like this are also drawn to books like Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Books which invite skimming and scanning for interesting facts.  After spending 4 years as an elementary librarian, I saw the impact of being stuck in this kind of reading as students skimmed and scanned and often had misinterpretations because they were merely looking for "cool facts". These books might be a great starting point but if our kids stick with reading only these kinds of nonfiction books, they probably won't grow as nonfiction readers.

I know that the jump from WEIRD BUT TRUE to The Snake Scientist (Scientists in the Field Series) isn't going to happen without some transition. I also know that our young readers don't have as much experience with nonfiction as they do with fiction. So, it's our job to put quality nonfiction--booksbthat move them as readers--in our classrooms.   I have a great collection of nonfiction but as I watched my students over the last few weeks, I realized I don't have much that will help my WEIRD BUT TRUE readers transition to more complex books. The jump from WEIRD BUT TRUE to other nonfiction books in the classroom seems to be a bit too big.

See, this always happens. My husband doesn't quite understand. But, no matter how many books I begin the year with, there are gaps. There are kids who need different books than those I have. So again, I am on the lookout to fill those gaps. Right now, I am on the lookout for books that might be an easy transition to get these readers reading a bit more than isolated facts.  I know they are not going to go for a book with too much text so I have to be purposeful in the books I suggest. This week I found two at Cover to Cover that I am hopeful will engage a few of these fact readers.

101 Animal Babies by Melvin and Gilda is not a book I'd normally pick up because it looks similar to WEIRD BUT TRUE. It is a Scholastic book that looks like lots that are out there. But when I opened this one, it looked perfect for a few reasons.  Each page features a baby animal with 2 photos of the animal.  Accompanying each set of photos is a 9-10 line paragraph about the animal. The font is big and fun enough so as not to be alarming and the text is not so long that it will intimidate readers.  Kids will find very cool facts within the text but the facts are embedded in a paragraph. And the paragraphs are all related in that they are all about animal babies. So lots of natural comparing/contrasting of facts will happen.  This book does not need to be read cover to cover which is another plus for kids transitioning to longer, more complex nonfiction.  I also thought this would be a great intro to the ZOOBORNS blog and might invite some online reading as well.

The other book I picked up (thanks to Beth at Cover to Cover) was Bone Collection: Animals by Rob Colson. The cover of this book will invite readers in as lots of cool skeletons sit on an old journal-type cover.  Each  two-page spread in this book focuses on an animal but the pages work together in that one page focuses on a skeleton and the next page shows a similar animal (not in skeleton form) and how other similar species compare to the featured skeleton.  Each page is filled with short paragraphs of text. Some pages also include photos, notes, labels, etc.  A table of contents and index allow kids to jump in where they want so they don't need to read this book cover to cover. However, the introduction lets the reader know that the book is set up to see similarities and differences between animals and then moves us to the human skeleton where we can see how much we have in common with other animals.  So this book has lots of ways for readers to enter--they can look for cool facts by reading the short pieces on a page or they can put info together by reading a few consecutive pages. Lots of opportunities to push a little further as nonfiction readers.

I'll continue to share more of these transitional nonfiction books as I find them! I'd love to hear about titles that I can add to my collection so let me know if you know of any.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Something Big

Something Big
by Sylivie Neeman
illustrated by Ingrid Godon
Enchanted Lion Books, 2013
Review copy provided by the publisher

Little One wants to do something big. But he's not sure what that big thing might be, and Big One is having a hard time helping him figure it out. They go for a walk by the ocean for inspiration. It's hard to do something big when you're still small. But at the end of the walk, Little One does something small that actually turns out to be a big thing.

I used this book to start our conversations about what we could do to promote peace for the International Day of Peace on September 21. We watched the video of the international music group, Playing for Change, singing together from all around the world. (It's on the public blog on my class' website. You can watch it here.) We talked about how small things can often be big. Each musician is doing a small thing, but together, what they are doing is big. Huge, even. We brainstormed topics like helping others, caring for the environment, anti-bullying. And we talked about our own personal experience with peace -- when and where we feel it and how it feels.

Today, as we continue our work, we will talk about the situation in Syria, about the president's speech, and about the Russians' peaceful proposal. We'll talk a bit about 9/11 and think about those who responded to that crisis with no other thoughts in their hearts but to help. I'll read aloud Gandhi: A March to the Sea, which I mentioned in my 10-for-10 post.

Between now and Friday, September 20, my students will be composing short narratives on the theme of peace. These narratives might eventually become poetry, fables, narrative nonfiction, songs, comics, digital presentations, posters, and more. The assignment is a narrative with peace at its heart. We'll decide the container for the narrative after the writing is well on its way. And we'll find a way to share them with the world.

What will you do for the International Day of Peace?