Friday, February 26, 2010

Poetry Friday- Things To Do Today

Today is Poetry Friday across the Children's Literature Blogging world so I thought I would join in.  This was a l-o-n-g  week back from our winter vacation and I didn't think Friday would ever get here!  The following poem could have been written after watching me 'coach' myself through  getting ready for the day. 

Things Do To Today
by Liz Rosenberg

Open eyes, check for sunlight.
Get feet somehow from bed to floor.
Brush teeth, spit. Greet
That girl in the mirror.  Stretch.
Pick a color for the day. Wear it.
Pick a flavor. Eat it.
Get from kitchen to front door,
Down
The
Steps. Hold on tight.

You can read the rest of this poem
in Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems edited by Georgia Heard. I fell in love with this book the first time I read it last year.  The original poems found in this collection are not only fun to read but offer wonderful models for writing poems with students.  I think it is a 'must have' for any classroom poetry collection.  Apparently a lot people agree with me since it was recently named to the the NCTE's 2010 Notable Children's Books in Language Arts list.  

Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Integral Tools

The rhythm and tones, the delight and humor, the imagery and beauty that can be found in children's books are just a few reasons why I have found picture books to be integral tools I can use to bring language alive for my students.  Whether teaching rhyming in Kindergarten or use of  metaphors to make a story more interesting  in 4th grade, I have found an abundance of quality children's literature out there to support my instruction.

Lately I have been working on organizing my book collection into lists....lots of lists...by themes, by genres, by strategies...you get the idea.  You might be thinking "Great idea!"  However, seeing that my 4th/5th grade library has over 1,500 books and my Kindergarten Library is packed away in 10...yes you read that number right...10 super-sized plastic containers, this isn't a task I will finish anytime soon.  Since I have slowly been plugging away on my "Tool Kits"  I thought I would take a break to share from a few of them (and I stress few) some my favorite titles.  After all, one of my reasons for starting this blog was to share titles that you might find useful, whether you are teacher, parent, closet reader of all things children's lit. or all three rolled into one!

Rhyming Text:
Silly Sally by Audrey Wood
The Magic Hat by Mem Fox
Jamberry by Bruce Degan
You Read to Me, I'll Read to You series by Mary Ann Hoberman

Cumulative/Repetetive Text:
The Napping House by Audrey Wood
Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams
I Took My Frog to the Library by Eric Kimmel

Lanugage Fun:
Chicken Cheeks by Michael Ian Black
The Big Elephant in the Room by Lane Smith
My Teacher Likes to Say by Denise Brennan-Nelson
There's a Frog in My Throat: 440 Animal Sayings a Little Bird Told Me by Loreen Leedy

Memorable Language:
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
Fireflies! by Julie Brinckloe
When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant
At One in a Place Called Maine by Lynn Plourde

Just for the FUN of the story:
Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (Actually any of her books could be listed here!)
Two Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee
Duck & Goose by Tad Hills
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka

I would love to hear what picture books you have found to be "must haves" in your "tool kits". 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Igniting the Fire

Reading books aloud is one of the easiest ways I have found to help connect students with books...and it doesn't matter the age. In Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever! author Mem Fox says that reading aloud is the spark that can light the fire of literacy in children.  I couldn't agree more!  There are so many reasons we should be reading aloud, at home and in our classrooms.  The most important reason is that, when done well, it is an enjoyable experience!  We need to show our readers that reading is meant to be fun!  For our youngest readers, reading aloud introduces them to the rhythm of our language while allowing them to hear what fluent reading sounds like.  For older readers the benefits continue.  Reading aloud can introduce readers to new titles, authors, illustrators, text structures, and genres.   I can't think of a better way to build a community of readers than by sharing books together...having extended, invested discussions.  And reading aloud should not end when children can read on their own!

Students in my 4th grade classroom hear me read aloud six times during the day...every day.  Our day starts with a picture book read aloud, usually a book I am going to use later in the day or week for instruction.  I love starting the day this way because it harnesses the energy in the room by having all our minds come together and focus.  About half way through our Reading Block we will share some music, usually song lyrics from the music my students listen to.  They think we are having fun...while really I have them practicing their fluency as we read the lyrics, then sing them.  Okay, the dancing part is fun too!...sshh...don't tell!   At the end of our Reading Block we come back together for Poetry Pause where we read poetry aloud.  During Writer's Workshop students will hear me read aloud again as I use a section of a picture book or chapter book we have already read to help students learn the craft of writing.  I like to read aloud from thoughtfully selected non-fiction books during  Science and Social Studies units.  I've even been known to bring the read aloud into Math class...but don't rat me out on that one either!   We end our day with a chapter book read aloud as a way to close our day together.  We are currently reading The Seven Wonders of Sassafrass Springs by Betty Birney.

A few of my favorite picture book read alouds when I taught Kindergarten were Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendack, The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood and The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.  Recent favorites in our 4th grade classroom include The Big Elephant in the Room by Lane Smith, Waiting for Winter by Sebastian Meschenmoser, and Lousy Rotten Stinkin' Grapes by Margie Palatini.


Children's author Katherine Paterson once said "The best way to cultivate their tastes is to read to them, starting at birth and keeping on and on.  'Let me hear you read' is a test, 'Let me read to you' is a gift."  Using read alouds can feed readers' imaginations, taking them away in the current of a good story.  It can ignite the fire...and create life-long readers!  Are you ready to strike the match?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Reading Role Models

I have been doing a lot of professional reading over the past week.  Most of the books have been re-reads in preparation for a graduate course I am teaching this semester.  One of the re-reads that is really resonating with me right now  is Donalyn Miller's book, The Book Whisperer: Awaking the Inner Reader in Every Child. Every time I read it, I come away with a new nugget of truth I just have to share with someone...or I will burst!  Tonight as I was reading her chapter, Walking the Walk, I rediscovered one of those nuggets...and now I have a place to share...so hang on...this could get preachy!

Walk into a majority of faculty meetings today and you will likely hear discussions about test scores, adequate yearly progress, and Response to Intervention.  Conversations about why children aren't meeting standards in reading permeate the school hallways.  Administrators are working feverishly with teachers to find interventions, usually in the form of canned programs, they can use to help 'catch students up'.  What you are less likely to hear are conversations about what students and more importantly teachers are actually reading.   In light of what I personally believe about teaching reading and what Mrs. Miller writes so honestly about in her book, I started to wonder; what would happen if teachers started reflecting on questions like "What does reading mean to me?" or "What type of reader am I?"  When it comes to showing students that reading is meant to be an enjoyable experience, an experience they can have for the rest of their lives, shouldn't teachers lead the way through their example?  Teachers need to be readers  in order to create readers!

It's not hard to do...and the benefits on a classroom can be tremendous.  Set aside some time everyday to read...for pleasure...even if it's only 10 or 15 minutes.  If you aren't sure where to begin, start by reading books you read as a child. Some of my favorites when I was younger were Frog and Toad are Friends, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, and Corduroy.  As I got older I could be found under the covers with a flashlight reading The Secret of the Old Clock (okay really any Nancy Drew book) or Are You There God? It's Me Margaret.  Ask your students what books they would recommend...and then read them!  And then after you have read something...talk about it with your students.  Share what you liked or didn't like...have conversations!  I know you will begin to see an increased interest from your students! And who knows...you may actually re-awaken your own 'inner reader'!

I love this quote from Mrs. Miller's book,  "When my students think about me in the future, I want them to remember me as a reader with a book in my hand and a recommendation on my lips." (p.106)  That is exactly how I feel...and I hope I am accomplishing exactly that everyday in my classroom.

Friday, February 19, 2010

And so the journey begins....

I have been toying with this idea of blogging for some time now. It took some gentle nudging from a former student, who felt that the passion I have for teaching and literacy was worth sharing with a larger audience, to finally get me to take the leap! So many questions are running through my mind. Do I have anything to say that others will want to hear? Where do I even begin? Will I be the only reading?

You may be wondering what you will find here. I am not quite sure yet but I have some ideas. I want to share my love of teaching...the privilege I have every day of making a difference in the lives of my students. I am particularly passionate about helping children become life-long readers. I want to help them become members of that often elusive 'Literacy Club' that Frank Smith speaks so eloquently about.

Isn't connecting children with books they actually want to read a key ingredient? To make that happen, teachers have to not only know their students but they have to also know about the books and authors their students are reading. They have to be readers of those books...and that is exactly what I strive to do everyday. And so here I will share what I am reading and how I am helping connect students with books! I will share not only children's books I am reading, but also professional books pertaining specifically to literacy as well.

Who knows where this blogging journey will take me...I just hope I don't find myself journeying alone!