Sunday, May 31, 2009

May Mosaic

This was a fun month for picture taking! Green is definitely the predominant hue, but there are bright splashes of color from Cinco de Mayo, blooming flowers and shrubs and the rug hanging on the wall in our new favorite Turkish restaurant. 

(Can you see the ant on the peony bloom?) 

The view from my classroom window this month was foggy. 

Yes, that's a man with a saddle on his head. He's on his way to the Reinersville, OH Trader Days and Flea Market. (We were not. We were stuck in traffic driving past.)

The cups are from our science experiment on the oxidization of pennies (a chemical reaction). The vinegar and water have evaporated (a physical reaction), allowing the salt to re-crystalize (another physical reaction).

These photos are part of Project 365 (my own version) on Flicker. My entire Flickr photostream is here. The rest of my mosaics are here.

Focusing on my own visual literacy is one way I'm thinking about 21st Century Literacies.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Poetry Friday -- Cecropia

The Mouthless Moth
by X.J. Kennedy

Who'd be a male
Cecropia moth?
Short-lived and frail,
He's got no mouth.
One hour till he flies---
No time to sup
Before Death cries,
"Your number's up!"

(the rest of the poem is here -- scroll down to the fourth poem)

The round up this week is at Live. Love. Explore!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Why Going to Overnight Camp With Urban Fourth Graders is Worth It

1. One group learned that it is more rewarding to watch a turtle make its way to the pond rather than poking it with a stick.

2. Many of them fished for the first time in their life, and some of them caught fish for the first time in their life. One of them even caught her arm with a fishhook (which was our first serious camping accident ever and WE learned that all the paperwork we require pays off when you have to take someone else's child to the hospital). 

3. A big group of early risers found out that messing around at the pond before breakfast is at least as much, and possibly more fun than heading straight for the couch and the TV cartoons.

4. All that worrying about the dance melted away as fast as the Popsicles we had afterwards when they saw that the Virginia Reel was no more than an organized game of tag set to music.

5. It's just as much fun to yell-sing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot in the gym at camp while dancing the Virginia Reel as it is to sing it beautifully on the risers in your good clothes in front of your parents for the fourth grade concert.

6. They get to play dodge ball in a big open field with soft balls that don't really hurt...with the parents and teachers. There should be far more opportunities for kids and adults to just play together.

7. On the second day, everybody either has bad hair or is wearing their hat (even at meals).

8. Simon Says. The guy at camp who runs the Simon Says games after meals is brilliant. Brilliant, I say. If we played Simon Says every day for a year, would my students' overall listening skills improve, or would they still only be able to focus that well for the game? I wonder...

9. My cabin of girls went outside and looked at the stars before we went to bed. We saw one of the dippers (who cares which one) and picked out the star we wanted to be the North Star and made up a few constellations of our own.

10. We teachers learned (yet again) to never make assumptions. One of our Muslim boys disappeared between dodge ball and the dance. (Where could he be? How dare he run off by himself?) He was found in short the boys' bath house, saying his evening prayers. Now we know that besides making accommodations and plans for food restrictions, medications, and health issues, we need to pay more attention to our students' religious needs. And probably not just at camp...

So why is going to overnight camp with urban fourth graders worth it? 


Monday, May 25, 2009


Even though I can never fully participate, I LOVE Mother Reader's 48 Hour Book Challenge. I love the whole idea of it and look forward to it every year.  48 hours dedicated to reading. I am always fascinated by how much people read when they have the time to do it! This has become quite the exciting annual event. And perfect timing too--a great time to kick off summer reading!

This year, I'll be able to participate a bit.  Our last day of school is Friday, June 5 so I think I'll probably start reading that night between graduation parties.  

Then on Saturday, the Columbus Kidlit bloggers plan to get together for breakfast and book shopping at Cover to Cover to kick of the event.  (Thanks to Karen at Literate Lives for organizing us.)  This, along with breakfast, has become a tradition for us whenever big blog events are happening.  It gives us a great excuse to meet and talk books and life in person--over great food and coffee.  It is our way to celebrate the Kidlitosphere together.

This year, Mother Readers has made a few changes/additions this year. One component caught my attention.   Mother Readers says:

"There are three changes to the challenge this year. The first I have already mentioned, and that is connecting your personal readathon to a Greater Good. I plan to donate $1 per hour to the fund for Bridget Zinn and welcome others to sponsor me. You can contribute to this cause as well, or to something else that moves you. You can base it on sponsors, comments, or something else entirely. You can also choose not to participate in this aspect of the 48 Hour Book Challenge, but I heard from lots of people last year who wanted this option and I like the concept."

Mary Lee already posted that she will not be able to attend this year's Blog Event due to her participation in a FISH-A-THON.  She will be raising money for a cause that is important to her--Casting for Recovery, a nonprofit organizaiton that offers no-cost retreats for breast cancer survivors.  

The bloggers thought it would be a great idea to support Mary Lee while participating in the new component of Mother Reader's Challenge. Mother Reader suggests a certain amount of money per hour read. Since I am not sure how much I will be reading,  I am going to donate $2 per book that I leave Cover to Cover with on June 6--this includes books I purchase as well as ARCs that I leave with, and books that I borrow from friends.  (For anyone who has seen the size bags I leave that store with, connecting my donation to shopping makes more sense than donating based on my reading..) I think many of the other local bloggers are joining in to support Mary Lee in this book-related way during the 48-Hour Read.  

So, I'll keep you posted on my reading.  I don't think I'll finish a ton, but I will definitely make time to read that weekend. That is what I love about the event--even if you can't participate in the challenge, you can participate in the reading as much as possible. A great way to begin the summer!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sign-Up Sunday

Registered for NCTE in Philly and got the hotel room locked in.

Tried and tried and TRIED to find a way to participate in Mother Reader's 48 Hour Book Challenge, but it's just not going to happen this year. June 5 is our (teachers') last day of school, June 6 I'm fishing in a charity fish-a-thon for Casting for Recovery (Ohio), and June 7 I'm going to be busting to get two PowerPoints ready for a conference in Michigan June 11-12. I'll do my best to get around and comment on your posts and cheer you on.

I've got the Kidlitosphere Conference on my calendar (October 16-18) and I'll sign up and get the hotel room as soon as more details become available.

Got IRA on my calendar for 2010. Looks like I'll miss one day of state testing. Hoping that won't be a problem...

Last I knew, IRA was going to be in LA in 2010. I was tickled pink to learn that it will be in Chicago instead. My savings account breathed a sigh of relief.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


I just received and watched my new DVD--GETTING TO KNOW MO WILLEMS! It is soooo good and it made me happy. I can't wait to share it with my kids next week. Here is what I am thinking--23 minutes of a DVD and then 22 minutes of reading and rereading all of our favorite Mo Willems books. Since next week is our last week of library and the kids are no longer checking out, I thought we would just continue our yearlong celebrations of Mo Willems' books.  It will be fun to revisit all of the characters and stories together.

Over the year, we have read several of Mo's books in the library. We created Pigeon hats during our Read Across America Celebration. George from the Dublin Library shared Elephant and Piggie books with us. We have great fun on the website Pigeon Presents. (If you visit this site, I would highly recommend the Elephant and Piggie Dance Game and Hot Dog Dress-Up!)  Our art teacher created a great project with 1st graders called "The Pigeon Goes on a Field Trip.   I even dressed up as the Pigeon for Halloween.  

I had a second grade boy come up to me last week and say, "Well, I finally like reading.  I never did before."  I smiled and asked him what changed his mind about it--how did he come to love reading.  He said, "The Pigeon."  That was all he needed to say. I imagine these characters do this for lots of kids.

The new DVD is a great one. I am always impressed with the work of Weston Woods but I was curious about this one--a type of documentary about Mo Willems. Would it be appealing to kids? Well, after watching it, I am sure the kids will love it.

The DVD includes several clips of Mo working with children--reading to them, talking to them, etc. It is nice to see the interactions he has with children and to see their responses to him. It is also fun to hear him read a few lines from some of his books.

Mo (I feel as if we are on a first name basis after watching the video...)  also gives us some insights into his books.  How they came to be, his work on them, etc.  

A special treat--the DVD includes a few words from the Pigeon. He is quite the character and has quite a bit to add to the DVD. Kids will totally love this part.

I have loved Mo Willems' work since I first discovered his books. And I have never been disappointed with a book--he continues to amaze and amuse me.  Every book is pretty brilliant. But, hearing what he had to say about his characters made me really see that his understanding of kids goes far beyond just being able to write stories. On the DVD, he says that his only personal requirement when he creates a new character is that it needs to be a character that a typical 5 year old can draw. He believes strongly in the idea of kids creating new stories about characters they love and then creating their own characters.  He also said being able to draw a character builds empathy--you need to understand the character in order to draw it. I had never thought of that.  Makes so much sense.  Like I said, the guy is brilliant.

I am excited to share the DVD with the kids next week. The documentary is well done.  There is a good variety of fun, of information and of our favorite characters and books.  In the 23 minutes, there are lots of short segments so I am sure this will keep the kids engaged.  And it is one I can easily watch (happily) 12 times this week! 

Rhyming Stories

Billy & Milly Short & Silly
by Eve Feldman
illustrated by Tuesday Mourning
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2009
review copy provided by the publisher

There are 13 short stories in this picture book, and when I say short, I mean SHORT -- each is only 3-4 words long. Each story rhymes. And each story depends on the pictures. For example: "Bike Spike Hike". This is the story of Billy, setting off on a bike ride. He hits a spike, gets a flat tire, and winds up having to hike rather than bike.

In the story, "Dream Beam Scream!", Milly is walking along the back of the sofa, then along a balance beam. The story ends with her jumping for joy as she holds the first place trophy. My students pointed out that the end of the story would be totally different if, in the final picture, Milly had fallen off the beam and she was screaming with sadness at losing. The stories depend on the pictures!

Because of the rhymes, these are great stories for making predictions. I also think this would make a fabulous mentor text for students who want to play around with rhyme, but who have a hard time making rhyming poems that make sense. Maybe rhyming stories would be just the ticket!

Here's my favorite story. It's about a dragon that gets a little out of control, feels remorse, and allows Milly to ride on his back while he flies: "Flame Blame Shame Tame".

Friday, May 22, 2009

Poetry Friday

by Tracy Vaughn Zimmer

Everyone knows
the teacher's tasks:
creating bulletin-board displays
writing challenging tests
preparing perfect lessons
instructing, demonstrating, explaining.

But not everyone knows
the teacher's secret torments:
a lesson that knotted understanding
a bright kid who refuses to be inspired
flames of words thrown in frustration --

all heavier
to haul home
than the papers, projects, and lessons
bulging out of her bag.

I dedicate this poem to all the teachers who are finishing up the school year, completing final assessments, recording data, working on report cards, and going to camp (that would be me and my team yesterday and today). Thank you to Tracy Vaughn Zimmer who got our job right in her poem.

The Poetry Friday Round Up today is at Susan Writes.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

How Weird Is It?

How Weird Is It?
by Ben Hillman
Scholastic, 2009

Your students know and love Hillman's other three books (How Big Is It?, How Strong Is It?, and How Fast Is It?), right? Well, then, you're going to have to have this newest book in the series!

How else will you know about weirdnesses like Sleepy Bacteria, Odd Eats, Bird Magnets and Superdense Space Stuff?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Genghis Khan and Rumi

Genghis Khan
by Demi
Mashall Cavendish Classics, 2009
(first published as Chingis Khan in 1991 by Henry Holt and Co.)
review copy provided by the publisher

Rumi: Whirling Dervish
by Demi
Marshall Cavendish, 2009
review copy provided by the publisher

First of all, these two books are classic Demi -- beautiful rich colors, detailed pictures, plenty of gold.

The similarities pretty much end there. Genghis Khan is the story of "the greatest conqueror of all time," a military genius, a heavyweight thug. Rumi is the story of "the greatest mystical poet who ever lived," a simple man, a lover of learning who saw God in everyone and everything.

The stories of these two great men intersected in the early 1200's. Rumi's first home was in Afghanistan, but his family was forced to flee to Turkey when Genghis Khan and his Mongol army were conquering their homeland.

Rumi's story tells of his meeting with a great teacher, Shamsuddin, and the three years he spent learning from him. One day after Shams disappeared, Rumi began twirling around and he didn't stop for 36 hours. Those who perform this dance are now known as whirling dervishes.

Genghis Khan had an amazing childhood. Before he could walk, he was strapped onto a horse and taught to ride. When he was four, he practiced archery while riding horses at top speed. At 5, he was responsible for herding large numbers of camel and goats. When he was 6, he took part in the yearly hunt. At 9, his father died and he became the leader of the Yakka Mongols. He went on to become the "supreme master of the largest empire ever created in the lifetime of one man."

What a fabulous pair of books to compare and contrast two of the greatest men of the 11th Century! They just about couldn't be more different, and yet both live on in the stories of their lives.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bird, Butterfly, Eel

Bird, Butterfly, Eel
story and illustrations by James Prosek
Simon and Schuster, 2009

I knew that birds and butterflies migrated, but I had no idea, until I read this book, that eels do, too.

The story begins in the summer, when bird is raising a nest of babies and butterflies eggs are turning to caterpillars, cocoons and new butterflies. The eel has been in the pond for many years and is eating and storing energy for her upcoming journey.

The bird flies to Argentina for the winter, the butterfly flies to Mexico, and the eel swims out of the pond into the creek and then the ocean and eventually to the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda. The barn cat, who is in all the pictures at the beginning of the book when the animals are being introduced in their habitats near the farm (pond, meadow and barn), lays at the window watching it snow.

Spring comes, and bird, butterfly and eel's babies return to the farm.

One of the best things about this book are the illustrations. For most of the book, when Prosek is telling about their differences, each animal gets its own page. But three times during the book (fall, winter and spring), when the animals are similar in their readiness to migrate, in their winter homes, and upon return to the farm, the page is split horizontally into three sections and the animals are shown together. The only illustration I would quibble with is the map that shows where each animal goes for the winter. Instead of doing separate illustrations of the continents (main idea) and the location of the pond (detail), Prosek stretched the northeastern United States, shrank South America, and made it one illustration. Artistic license, I guess. The rest of the book is so beautiful that it can be forgiven.

This is a book that could be included in a study of migrating animals, habitats, Colonial America (didn't they eat lots of eels? didn't you ever wonder about the life cycle of the eel?), similarities and differences, nonfiction with a circular text structure, or just because it's beautiful!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Twitter Mosaic Mug

My good friend Karen ( popped over the other day with the best gift!  Check this out--my very own personalized Twitter Mosaic mug.  As you can see, it has my name and then the photos/avatars of all of the people I follow.  I LOVE THIS!  So many faces of people I learn from and think with. What a great thing.  I am so excited about this gift. If you have a Twitter friend who you need to buy a gift for, I am sure this one would be a hit!  Actually, if you visit this twittermosaic site and type in your user name, you will find LOTS OF fun things you can buy!  A pretty fun gift idea, I think.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Vision for School Libraries

I followed a conversation this week about libraries.  Two people who really have me thinking about literacy these days and about libraries. In a post this week, Doug Johnson shared his thinking on the roles of libraries with the changes in the ways we get information. In his post, he says:

The question our team was to help answer was supposed to be: How can the MS/HS library program and facilities be improved to support student learning and achieve the ISB Vision for Learning?

But somehow it changed in a meeting with school officials this afternoon to: Does a school need a library when information can be accessed from the classroom using Internet connected laptops?

The new question is uncomfortable, messy, and incredibly important and not restricted by any means to one particular school. It is one to which all library people need a clear and compelling answer.

As a school librarian, this is an uncomfortable question. But it is one worth thinking about.  What is the new vision for libraries with things changing so quickly.  And he didn't give us an answer--instead he asked for others' thoughts.

In response to Doug Johnson's question about libraries, David Warlick responded on his blog.  Such a smart answer.  Warlick gives us a lot to think about.  But the one part I keep coming back to is his ending:

...if the library might come to be seen more as a workshop where information isn’t so much a product, as it is a raw material (a “Kinko's for kids,” if you will), then it may remain not only viable, but an essential institution.

In my classroom, I always tried for a coffee-shop feel. I believed that the feel of people gathering to chat about books with people they liked, to have smart discussions and to learn with friends was what I was going for.  It helped me create the environment that I wanted.  I have a similar vision for the library. But now, I have this new vision of a "Kinko's for Kids" to add to my coffee shop vision. I love Kinko's--like a playground of fun tools to help you create what you have in mind.   And I love the idea of it even more than a coffee shop vision by itself.  Can you imagine a Kinko's and a coffee shop coming together? A coffee-shop feel. But with all the tools you need right at your fingertips. A great place to get together with friends to think, talk, learn and create.  I guess I always had creation in my vision but this "Kinko's for kids" idea gives me a better vision for what it is we might be trying to create.

SMARTBOARDS in the Reading/Writing Workshop-Thoughts and Questions

So, I have been thinking a lot about Smartboards/Interactive Whiteboards. They seem to be all the talk these days and I am loving learning about all of the new tools available. We have a Promethean Board at our school and I used it in the library for a week a while ago.  It was very fun and I loved lots about it.  The kids were totally engaged, of course! I could see so many possibilities after playing with it for a bit. I would love to have one for my classroom and for my family room--it is quite impressive. A little addicting, actually.  I can see why it is all the talk these days.

The thing is, I have spent lots of time online searching for great uses of the Interactive Whiteboard.  I think there are pretty amazing things that can be done with it to support literacy, especially in Reading/Writing Workshops.  I can also see huge possibilities for early literacy in general.  There must be people out there doing lots with interactive writing, shared reading, revision, etc.   But most of the samples and things that I am finding are pretty traditional things--a more interactive whole-class chalkboard, I guess.

So many literacy teachers have been looking for the same types of things--clips of Interactive Whiteboards being used in ways to support the way we know kids use reading and writing.
I visited a friend's classroom who did some great things with book previewing (She should  start her own blog so she can write about what she is doing with the board--hint, hint..).  Several teachers in our school are using it in very smart ways.  But the examples I find that really match what I understand about literacy development are not that easy to find.

When we visited our daughter's orthodontist a few weeks ago, I noticed that he has a very cool (small)  Smartboard in his office. He used it to show us our daughter's x-ray, to jot things down and play with the x-ray a bit.  It was very fun to see it being used. But I left there thinking hard about the size of the boards that I am seeing in schools. 

I loved the size of the Smartboard in the office--it was about the size of a 40 inch TV.  I started thinking about all that I could do with a board THAT size in class. I could use it as I do the easel--for minilessons, in small group work, kids could use it in booktalks, etc.  After seeing that small board in the orthodontist's office, I started to think of so many possibilities. I know that they are also possible with the larger board but a different size invites different work, I think.  The possibilities I imagined with the large interactive board focused more on whole group things and limited a bit of the way I thought about its uses.

So, here is what I am wondering--
Why aren't more of the Reading/Writing Workshop people out there writing about ways they use the boards to support literacy development?  How can we somehow collect great clips and posts of great uses of this tool in Reading/Writing Workshops?  I imagine it is out there but, why can't I find these samples easily? Am I looking in the wrong places?

Are Interactive Whiteboards for schools only available in the larger size? Has anyone invented a SMARTEASEL yet?  If so, where can I get one and how much are they? I have seen the tables but would love to find a SMARTEASEL.  Is there one out there?  

Does the size of the Interactive Whiteboard that I am seeing in most classrooms invite more whole class teaching because of the size? Or are lots of people using it with small groups, book talks, etc. I can see huge implications for student-led booktalks and am hoping to do more with that next year.

If anyone knows of sites or blogs that focus on Interactive Whiteboards in Reading/Writing Workshop or have answers to any (or all) of my questions, please let me know. I am fascinated with this tool and see huge possibilities. It seems that for people using this tool well, it is just embedded in all that they do, so they don't mention it much.  It is just an invisible part of their teaching just as all of the tools are.  But I am one who learns and thinks from seeing good teaching and I would love to find more clips/posts that show these possibilities in the Reading-Writing Workshop. I would love to find a place where Reading/Writing workshop teachers can go to see the ways in which people are using these.  (I know the National Writing Project is doing some great things with tech in general in lots of places.)  
Please share!

Poetry Friday -- In Translation

After the rain
A colorful slide is
made by sunlight


* * * * * * *

Rain falls
7 colors

* * * * * * *

River of 7 colors
Appear after rain.
In the blue sky it
Never ends.
Before it fades,
On the 7 colors let's take a
Walk in the beautiful sight.

* * * * * * *


After rain
the bridge with
7 colors
is coming

* * * * * * *

Colorful half-circle
Is in front of me.
Can I
Climb on it?

私の前 にあります。

One of my fourth graders used SIDE BY SIDE (a 2009 Notable Children's Book in the Language Arts that features poetry -- in the original language and translated into English -- inspired by art from around the world) as her mentor text for her poetry collection. She wrote some of her poems in Japanese and translated them to English, and she wrote some in English and translated them to Japanese. She struggled with the fact that her English acrostic was no longer an acrostic in Japanese, and her Japanese haiku was no longer a haiku in English. But she learned that such is the nature of translation. The online translator that I used to get the Japanese for her poems was also problematic. The three I've included aren't exactly as she wrote them, and the two I didn't include simply didn't mean the same thing as her poems.

Kelly Polark has the round up this week.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Higher! Higher! by Leslie Patricelli

I am always looking for books that support new readers.  HIGHER! HIGHER! by Leslie Patricelli is a new one that I found that does just that. In this colorful picture book, is having a great time on a swing. As many kids do, she asks to be pushed "Higher! Higher!"  On several pages of the book, the words "Higher! Higher!" are the only two words that accompany the illustration.  With each push, the little girl goes higher and higher--past trees, buildings and more.  Near the end of the book, the words on each page change just a bit.  There are still only 2 very predictable words on each page (thanks to the pictures) but they are a bit different from the rest of the book. 

This is the perfect book for new readers. The pictures tell a great story on their own. They are bright colored and cheerful. This is a story that lots of kids can relate to and the simple text is perfect for new readers. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The 2nd International Cookbook for Kids

I cannot seem to keep good cookbooks in the library at our school. Kids love them. I shouldn't be surprised. My 9 year old is a huge fan of any cooking show she can find on TV. She is also one who checks out cookbooks often. Even though she doesn't make much from the cookbooks yet, she spends lots of time reading about how to make different dishes.

I was thrilled to get a copy of THE 2nd INTERNATIONAL COOKBOOK FOR KIDS from Marshall Cavendish a while back.  My 9 year old got her hands on it and I just found it in her room again! She had trouble giving this one up.  

I can see why she loves this cookbook. The first International Cookbook for Kids by Matthew Locricchio focused on cooking from China, France, Italy, and Mexico. This 2nd book focuses on cooking of Grece, India, Thailand and Brazil.

This is a well-done cookbook and one that I could see using myself.  The recipes are not easy--they are pretty complicated dishes that don't look like they would necessarily show up in a kids' cookbook.  But the author makes the recipes very accessible to kids who are serious about cooking.  The information is very detailed with instructions on how to cut things embedded right into the recipe. Most recipes have a large photo showing the final dish.   Several categories are included--appetizers, salads, noodles, vegetables, potatoes, main dishes, desserts, etc. There are also sections on safety, cooking terms and utensils. 

For children who are serious about cooking or who are interested in foods from these countries, this is a great book with a huge amount of information along with lots of great recipes.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Fiesta Dress: A Quinceanera Tale

I just received a review copy of THE FIESTA DRESS: A QUINCEANERA TALE by Caren McNelly McCormack and published by Marshall Cavendish.  I love this book and am excited to add a copy to our school library.

THE FIESTA DRESS is the story about Lola, the baby of the family who gets lots of attention. But on the day of her older sister's quinceanera, no one seems to notice her.  Everyone is too busy getting ready for the big event.  But when Lola accidentally lets out the family dog, who then steals the sash from the quinceanera dress, everyone notices her. Lola ends up saving the day and it is a great fiesta!

There is lots to like about this book. Although it is about the preparations for a quinceanera, all kids can relate to the story of a girl who is just not getting enough attention on a sibling's big day.   There are Spanish words embedded throughout the text with a glossary at the end that defines them. The author weaves in some of the traditions of this celebration throughout the story.

A great new picture book! This is just one of the great new picture books that Marshall Cavendish has out this spring.

Monday, May 11, 2009

READ IT, DON'T EAT IT! by Ian Schoenherr

I am not usually a big fan of books that obviously teach a lesson. But I really like this new book READ IT, DON'T EAT IT by Ian Schoenher that teaches young children how to take care of a book. Even though the lesson is a bit obvious, it is very well done and it is a great, supportive book for new readers.

In this book, animal characters teach us the ways to take care of the books we borrow from classrooms and libraries. Each page, gives us a tip on taking care of books such as "Find someplace else to sneeze."  and "Be careful with it at the pool." Each rule is accompanied by a colorful picture of an animal demonstrating the tip.  The text is large and simple and there is much rhyme and rhythm to the book. 

I can see this as a great book to start the year with for K-1 students next year in the library. It will be a fun way to start a conversation about library books and the library.  I can also see this as a great book for K-1 classrooms.  The text is predictable enough for new readers to be able to read on their own--the picture supports are great.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

21st Century Thinking-My Blog Visits

The end of the year always seems crazy and  I haven't had much time lately to read, visit blogs, and reflect on my teaching.  As the year starts to wind down, things are slowing down a bit and I find myself thinking ahead to the next school year. Where do I want my thinking to go and what do I want to be thinking about over the summer?  This is my newest list of things that have me thinking in terms of 21st Century learning. So many smart people out there doing amazing things. So happy that they are all willing to share so much. 

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about the way that new tools are changing the Writing Workshop. What does it mean to be a writer today?  Kim at Always Learning has a great post where she shares their work in Reading/Writing Workshop.  How do we best meet the needs of today's students? She describes a unit focused on digital literacy. Such a smart way to expand our thinking about workshop.

As I continue to think about what it means to be a writer these days, I continue to search for great mentors for students.  Pieces to read, listen to and watch so that we can talk a bit about craft and creation in our minilessons. If you have not had a chance to visit the Parkway Digital Film Festival video page, it is filled with amazing projects by students of all ages.  The variety and quality are amazing.  I love the whole idea of a film festival as a way to get a community sharing student projects.  But even if you aren't interested in the idea of a film festival, the site is a great resource of pieces by students.  The other video that I LOVE from Parkway is one called "Behind the Scenes" which takes us behind the scenes of students getting ready for the film festival-creating the films that they will enter. This is such a great film about 21st Century Learning and the idea that it is all so much more than technology integration. A great piece that shares the process of the kids' work.

The Longfellow Ten is also a great resource that shares examples of stopmotion film--mostly related to literary terms and science concepts.  Great examples for students.

Another new favorite site for students is East K-8 Book Reporters. On this site, students do a great job of booktalking a variety of books on video. A great way to preview books and a great format for student creation. 

I need to spend lots more time with this great compilation of ways to use your pocket video cameras in the classroom called THIRTY-NINE INTERESTING WAYS TO USE YOUR POCKET VIDEO CAMERA IN THE CLASSROOM. With these small cameras being so reasonably priced, I am loving the ideas of all of the different ways to use them.  This slide show of ideas will keep me from getting in a rut--so many great ideas!

As always, Kim Cofino at Always Learning  gives us something to think about in her recent post, "It's Not Just a Tool:  Technology as Environment".  In this post, she invites us to think with her about the difference between tool and environment and how that might be different for our students.  A smart post worth thinking about.

"Eight Habits of Highly Effective 21st Century Teachers" by Andrew Churches was a good one to read.  An interesting list to look at and to use as a guide for reflection.  A great article sharing IDEO's Ten Tips for Creating a 21st Century Classroom Experience
includes tips like creating from relevance, creating an environment that raises lots of questions by students and more. 10 tips worth reflecting on.

I was fascinated by Jenny at Elementary, My Dear, or Far From It description of their new report cards and the inclusion of Patterns of Thinking as they think about student progress.  I think progress reports are always difficult as it is so hard to share all that we know about our students. But this seems like an exciting way to move forward in our communication with parents.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


What I Love About Procrastination (at Indexed)

My Favorite Combination of Truth and Snarkiness (It's Not All Flowers and Sausages)

Rhubarb Cobbler *swoon* (from Smitten Kitchen)

A belated Cinco de Mayo greeting (at LOLdogs)

Friday, May 08, 2009

Poetry Friday -- Speaking of Contraries

by Robert Frost

'Speaking of contraries, see how the brook
In that white wave runs counter to itself.
It is from that in water we were from
Long, long before we were from any creature.
Here we, in our impatience of the steps,
Get back to the beginning of beginnings,
The stream of everything that runs away.
Some say existence like a Pirouot
And Pirouette, forever in one place,
Stands still and dances, but it runs away,
It seriously, sadly, runs away
To fill the abyss' void with emptiness.
It flows beside us in this water brook,
But it flows over us. It flows between us
To separate us for a panic moment.
It flows between us, over us, and with us.
And it is time, strength, tone, light, life and love-
And even substance lapsing unsubstantial;
The universal cataract of death
That spends to nothingness -- and unresisted,
Save by some strange resistance in itself,
Not just a swerving, but a throwing back,
As if regret were in it and were sacred.
It has this throwing backward on itself
So that the fall of most of it is always
Raising a little, sending up a little.
Our life runs down in sending up the clock.
The brook runs down in sending up our life.
The sun runs down in sending up the brook.
And there is something sending up the sun.
It is this backward motion toward the source,
Against the stream, that most we see ourselves in,
The tribute of the current to the source.
It is from this in nature we are from.
It is most us.'

The whole poem is here. The round up this week is at Picture Book of the Day.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Pain and the Great One Chapter Books

Friend or Fiend? with the Pain & the Great One
by Judy Blume
illustrated by James Stevenson
Random House, May 12, 2009
review copy received at IRA-Phoenix
best for grades 2-4

How did I miss this new(er) series by Judy Blume? This is the fourth one!

There's lots to love about this book. It starts with a one paragraph introduction of each of the characters (The Pain -- Jake the first grade brother, and The Great One -- Abigail the third grade sister). 

Each chapter can stand alone as a short story -- great for guided reading groups, literature circles, or mentor texts. But some of the chapters are linked in fun ways, like the ones in this book that featured Fluzzy the cat in some way. (There's even a chapter from the point of view of Fluzzy!)

The chapters are sometimes told from the point of view of The Pain, and sometimes from the point of view of The Great One. You can tell by the picture at the beginning of the chapter. 

Problems and solutions are very clear in these short chapter-stories. There is sibling rivalry, mean cousins who make siblings grateful, conflicts between friends, the embarrassment of mistakes made in public (at school), mean neighborhood children who bring the best out in The Great One, and a chocolate ice cream cone that winds up smushed on The Pain's forehead that actually solves more problems than it causes!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Teacher Appreciation Day

Teacher Appreciation Day is when the high schooler whose youngest brother is in fourth grade comes back and chats with me during bus duty, breathlessly telling me that he is going to be a photojournalist, that he has "grown a brain" since I had him in fourth and fifth grades, that he only shaves for dances and other special occasions.

Teacher Appreciation Day is sitting down in the teachers' lounge with a first grade teacher who was in my fourth grade class.

Teacher Appreciation Day is seeing a student make her idea come to being: a play she wrote based on the book HACHIKO WAITS being practiced on the stage in preparation for performance for the whole grade level.

Teacher Appreciation Day is an email from a former parent who still checks my (pathetically maintained) classroom website to see what's going on in fourth grade and who writes with periodic book chat and recommendations.

Teacher Appreciation is a Minnie Mouse watch in the mail from a family whose children I had 19 and 13 years ago. They long ago moved many states away, but we have continued to exchange Christmas cards all these years. The watch was a "gift of time" in recognition of my 10 year celebration.

Teacher Appreciation is hearing from our school librarian about her daughter, who was in my 5th grade class, now a voracious reader that had to be teased and tickled along back then, who is graduating from college and entering the Peace Corps this fall.

Teacher Appreciation doesn't just happen on a certain designated day in May. It's all the little things that let me know that what I have done with my life for the past 20+ years has made a difference -- small differences in the moment, and lasting differences that have changed lives.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

April Mosaic

I'm 120 days into the Project 365 challenge on Flickr, and I'm still having fun! 

In June, when I'm halfway through the year, I think it will be fun to pull together some of the small themes that have emerged: the cat, blooms, pictures out my classroom window, food pics.

Carrying my camera with me at all times has continued to change the way I look at and interact with the world. We stopped and watched the geese with their nest in the median of a shopping center parking lot, and I took pictures until Papa Goose came at me with his neck out, hissing. I didn't get a shot of Lynn's wine glass at our book club dinner because the waiter brought our food and the moment was gone, but I lost myself in the red of the wine and the way it was sparkling in the afternoon sun.

It may or may not be related to this photo project, but I'm starting to use my writer's notebook again -- capturing "snapshots" in words -- and it's good to get back to that.


Friday, May 01, 2009

Poetry Friday -- 21st Century Thinking

by Bill Holm

Earbud--a tiny marble sheathed in foam
to wear like an interior earring so you
can enjoy private noises wherever you go,
protected from any sudden silence.

(the rest of the poem is here)

This poem got me thinking about all of the 21st Century gadgets we can't live without, but which create barriers that separate us from other real, live human beings.

The round up this week is at Allegro.

(Photo credit: "Earbud love 2" by Dano)