Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Kindergarten ROCKS!

Today was a big day for our family.  My youngest niece, Abigail Grace, started Kindergarten today!  Now that might not seem like a big deal but let me tell is!  As a former Kindergarten teacher, I remember fondly all the 'first' days I have been able to be a part of ...watching parents following the school bus, the 'mob' in the front lobby, the tears, and of course so many pictures and videos!  I have been fortunate to be able to be there for all six of my nieces' and nephew's 'first' day...and am a little sad that today was the last one!

Kindergarten is such an important year in a child's school career.  Robert Fulghum was right...everything you really need to know you learn in Kindergarten!   So, in honor of Abigail's 'first' day...and everyone else celebrating a 'first', here are a  few of my favorite 'starting Kindergarten' books to get the year started!

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten (Miss Bindergarten Books)
Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate (illustrated by Ashley Wolff)   Perhaps "Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready For Kindergarten"'s greatest accomplishment is that it really is a love letter to teachers everywhere. It shows just how hard they work, how much effort and joy goes into their jobs, and how much they care. Kids rarely get to see the behind-the-scenes toil and sweat that goes into their schooldays. "Miss Bindergarten" gives them that chance.

Welcome to KindergartenWelcome to Kindergarten by Anne Rockwell  Rockwell has produced a quiet, reassuring look at kindergarten routines. A little boy and his mother attend an open house, and he discovers all of the fascinating classroom centers and the activities that he will be doing in each one when September arrives. After finding a new friend and sharing cookies, he goes home contentedly with his mother, thinking that the school building doesn't look too big at all anymore, but seems "-just the right size for me!"

The Kissing Hand

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn (illustrated by Ruth Harper and Nancy Leak)  Chester Raccoon doesn't want to go to school--he wants to stay home with his mother. She assures him that he'll love school--with its promise of new friends, new toys, and new books. Even better, she has a special secret that's been in the family for years--the Kissing Hand. This secret, she tells him, will make school seem as cozy as home.  Audrey Penn has written a sweet, endearing story to help little ones face those scary feelings on their first days of separation. 

The Ticky-Tacky DollThe Ticky Tacky Doll by Cynthia Rylant (illustrated by Harvey Stevenson) A little girl worries about going to school for the first time and leaving her ticky-tacky doll that Grandmama made behind. The child is unable to eat or pay attention and her teachers and family are concerned. Only her observant grandmother is able to figure out what is wrong, and she devises the perfect solution: she sews a miniature version of the doll that fits into the corner of the little girl's book bag.

A VERY proud Auntie with the Kindergartner!

Read about some of the other picture books I loved using in Kindergarten here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Family Time

I am taking some family time over the next two weeks before school gets going again so posts will be few and far between. Lots of fun things planned including visiting Amish Country, Hershey Park, and going to a National Motocross race.  I am so excited...we are taking my six year old niece and nine year old nephew with us...and I convinced my husband that we really needed to take them to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.  He asked "Is this like  when we had to take them to The Crayola Factory and I couldn't tell who was having more or them?"   He's a keeper...that's for sure!   The day after we get back I will be heading back to Virginia for my five year niece's first day of Kindergarten!  Such an exciting day...and I am blessed to be able to be there to photograph the big day!  When I told her I might cry she said "Well Auntie, could you do it quietly.  I don't want my teacher to get mad at me because of all the noise!" I didn't promise anything! ;) 

Just because I will be away doesn't mean the reading will stop.  We went to library today and stocked up on Eric Carle and Leo Lionni books and two books on CD to listen to while we drive.  Of course I have  several packed away for myself too!  And I got each of the kids a disposable camera so they can take their own photos.  We are going to create vacation books with them when we return!   Literacy experiences are just have to look for them!  

So I will see you in a few weeks...with lots of new book recommendations and a book giveaway!  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

August 10 for 10: A Picture Book Event (Part 2)

Hopefully you have been reading all of the AMAZING August 10 for 10 Picture Book lists that have been posted so far today.  As I mentioned in Part 1, I decided to "bend" the rules, as my friend Cathy so nicely put it and create two lists.  You can read more about my thinking around using picture books in the intermediate grades here but let me take this opportunity to reiterate again what an important role they play in teaching literacy at the intermediate level.  So here are 10 of my favorite picture books for working with 4th and 5th graders, again in no particular order.

Thank You, Mr. FalkerThank You Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco (1998) Young Tricia wants desperately to read but when she starts school she finds that the words "wiggle" on the page. Teased by her classmates, she retreats into dreams and drawings. It's not until the family moves to California and Tricia has managed to reach the fifth grade that a new teacher finally recognizes her pain and distress. What's more, he does something about it.  Really what can I say about this book that hasn't already been said.  One of my first read alouds during the 4th grade year of my two year loop, this story of Patricia's struggle with learning to read opens up conversations about overcoming challenges, accepting differences, my role and commitment in helping students be successful. 

Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever Hardcover Book & Audio CD BundleCouple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee (2008)  When James and Eamon go to a week of Nature Camp and stay at Eamon's grandparents' house, it turns out that their free time spent staying inside, eating waffles, and playing video games is way more interesting than nature. But sometimes things work out best when they don't go exactly as planned.  Besides the obvious text to self connections this delightful story offers, it is perfect for using to teach perspective and using the pictures and words to fully understand the story. 

The Storm BookThe Storm Book by Charlotte Zolotow(1989)  It is a day in the country, and everything is hot and still.  Then the hazy sky begins to shift.  Something is astir, something soundless.  From the last moments of an oppressively hot day, to the moment a rainbow breaks out over the countryside, this Caldecott Honor book lyrically explores the impact of a storm.  I love using this book for teaching visualization or as I tell my students, creating a picture on your mental white board.  The format of the book is set up perfectly for this.  It opens with a page of text, rich in description, followed by a two page illustration of the previous page.  I will read a page, then have partners turn and talk about their mind's picture.

Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary DisasterMiss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster by Debra Fraiser (2000)  When fifth-grader Sage mistakenly hears the word mis cellaneous as Miss Alaineus and comes up with her own erroneous definition, she is mortified to hear the teacher and the entire class laugh. She manages to turn their amusement to her benefit, though, when she appears in the school wide vocabulary contest as Miss Alaineus and wins a gold trophy for "The Most Original Use of a Word in the Tenth Annual Vocabulary Parade."  This inventive picture book is a spelling book, a vocabulary book, a game book, and a costume book all rolled into one.  Great for focusing on synonymous words, I love how Ms. Fraiser included sentences around the boards of each page. 

Duck! Rabbit!
Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (2009)  Two unseen characters debate the identity of the creature at the center of this clever book—is it a duck or a rabbit? Readers will join in the discussion, because the creature could, in fact, be either. Just as each of the debaters begins to see the other's perspective, the duck/rabbit runs away and they see an anteater. Or is it a brachiosaurus?   Amy Krouse Rosenthal is of one of my new favorite authors.  In fact,  I don't even preview anything by her anymore...I just buy it because I know I'm going to like it!  This is fabulous for teaching perspective and makes a perfect Reader's Theater script for fluency work.

The True Story of the Three Little PigsThe True Story of the Three Pigs by Jon Scieszka (1996)  As Alexander T. Wolf explains it, the whole Big Bad Wolf thing was just a big misunderstanding. Al Wolf was minding his own business, making his granny a cake, when he realized he was out of a key ingredient. He innocently went from house to house to house (one made of straw, one of sticks, and one of bricks) asking to borrow a cup of sugar.  This is probably one of my all time favorite read alouds!  It's the first book I share as a part of a study of fractured fairy tales. 

WolfWolf! by Becky Bloom (1999)  A tired, hungry wold enters a little town populated by disgruntled people. He carries a hobo's kerchief on a stick, has ``only a little money that he kept for emergencies.'' He ventures out to a farm, planning to eat the animals, but finds them unfazed and engrossed in reading. In a fit of one-upmanship, he decides to learn to read too!  This is another story I love to use at the beginning of the year to get students talking about their experiences with learning to read.  This past year, several of my students also wrote a Reader's Theater script because they loved this one so much!

RoxaboxenRoxaboxen by Alice McLerran (1997)  Marian called it Roxaboxen. (She always knew the name of everything.) There across the road, it looked like any rocky hill -- nothing but sand and rocks, some old wooden boxes, cactus and grease wood and thorny ocotillo -- but it was a special place: a sparkling world of jeweled homes, streets edged with the whitest stones, and two ice cream shops.  Imagination is such a powerfully creative thing that I often worry is getting lost in our technology driven society.  That's one reason I love sharing this story with students.  I use it as a mentor text for showing not telling and collecting seed ideas.

The Other Side The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson (2001)  Clover has always wondered why a fence separates the black side of town from the white side. But this summer when Annie, a white girl from the other side, begins to sit on the fence, Clover grows more curious about the reason why the fence is there and about the daring girl who sits on it, rain or shine. And one day, feeling very brave, Clover approaches Annie. After all, why should a fence stand in the way of friendship?  I use this book for teaching inferring.   It's also great for discussions about equality, accepting each other's difference, and friendship. 

A Circle of FriendsA Circle of Friends by Giora Carmi (2006)  When a young boy anonymously donates his snack to a homeless man, he begins a cycle of goodwill that reverberates and expands in a great circle of kindness.  I love using wordless picture books to help students really focus on the comprehension strategies they use while reading and this one is one of my favorites for thinking about inferring.  It also lends itself to discussions about showing kindness and the idea of paying it forward.

Thanks so much to Cathy Mere at Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community and Mandy Robek at Enjoy and Embrace Learning for hosting this fantastic event!  You can see all of the lists shared today at this really cool jog that Cathy put together. 

August 10 for 10: A Picture Book Event (Part 1)

About two weeks ago, I got an email from my friend Cathy Mere over at Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community inviting me to join her and many other bloggers in posting a list of 10 picture books I just couldn't live without in my classroom.  Kind of an "If you  were stranded on a a deserted island...." type of  list.  Now coming up with titles is definitely NOT a problem for me!  In fact, any of my teaching friends will tell you I have cost them a lot of money because of my book recommending! And let's not even mention my book buying husband may be reading.  However, trying to narrow it down to just 10 books was going to be quite a challenge. In fact, when I emailed Cathy to tell her I would love to participate I told her I would probably have to break the "rules", so to speak, and create 2 lists!  And is part one of my August 10 for 10...10 of the favorite pictures books I used when I taught pre-school and kindergarten (in no particular order).

Mommy Doesn't Know My NameMommy Doesn't Know My Name by Suzanne Williams (1996) is a story about a little girl who is convinced that her mother doesn't know her own daughter's name, since she seems to call her every possible pet name except Hannah. When Mommy wakes Hannah in the morning, she asks: "Is that my little chickadee?" Hannah, envisioning herself with a bird's beak, insists, "I'm not a chickadee. I'm Hannah." As the day progresses, Mommy employs an assortment of pet names, and each time as Hannah corrects her she also envisions herself as the pet name.
This was always one of my first read alouds at the beginning of the year.  The students would ask to hear it over and over...that's when you know you have keeper!  We would create an adapted class book version titled Mrs. Dee Doesn't Know My Name that quickly became a wonderful shared reading text. 

The Magic HatThe Magic Hat by Mem Fox (2002) One fine day, from out of town, and without any warning at all, there appeared a magic hat." So begins Mem Fox's marvelous picture book, filled with rhyming text that is includes energy, rhythm, and motion. As the magic hat floats through town it lands on the head so of towns people and the magic begins. Great for reading aloud, The Magic Hat lends itself perfectly for teaching predicting with kindergarten students.  Because of the repeating refrain, students naturally want to join in the reading and it's fantastic for working with phonological awareness skills.  So many uses for this delightful story!

Leonardo, the Terrible Monster (Ala Notable Children's Books. Younger Readers (Awards))Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems (2005) Leonardo is truly a terrible monster-terrible at being a monster that is. No matter how hard he tries, he can't seem to frighten anyone. Determined to succeed, Leonardo sets himself to training and research. Finally, he finds a nervous little boy, and scares the tuna salad out of him! But scaring people isn't quite as satisfying as he thought it would be. Leonardo realizes that he might be a terrible, awful monster-but he could be a really good friend.  Another story that my students would ask to hear read aloud over and over, I would use this story as a starting point for talking with students about qualities of a good friend.

My Little Sister Ate One Hare (Dragonfly Books)My Little Sister Ate One Hare by Bill Grossman (1998)  "My little sister ate 3 ants. She even ate their underpants.  She ate 2 snakes. She ate 1 hare.  We thought she'd throw up then and there. But she didn't." Four shrews (plus their "smelly socks and shoes"), five bats, six mice, seven polliwogs, eight worms and nine lizards don't interfere a whit with the insatiable child's digestive system... until she makes the mistake of eating 10 peas and everything comes back up, alive and well.  Any book that uses the word 'underpants' and includes throw up is guaranteed to be a hit with Kindergarten students.  This cumulative story is one of many I used for story retelling, creating a class story map of the events. 

The Ticky-Tacky DollThe Ticky Tacky Doll by Cynthia Rylant (2002) A little girl worries about going to school for the first time and leaving her ticky-tacky doll that Grandmama made behind. The child is unable to eat or pay attention and her teachers and family are concerned. Only her observant grandmother is able to figure out what is wrong, and she devises the perfect solution: she sews a miniature version of the doll that fits into the corner of the little girl's book bag.  Another one of my first day read alouds that offered opportunity to begin planting the seed of text to self connections. 

Duck and GooseDuck and Goose by Tad Hills (2006) Duck and Goose have to work at getting along. You see, Duck doesn’t much care for Goose at first–and Goose isn’t fond of Duck–but both want the 'egg' that each claims to be his. As the two tend to their egg, and make plans for the future, they come to appreciate one another’s strengths. This adorable story is a wonderful story to read aloud to students of all ages.  I also used it to explore themes of cooperating, accepting differences, and friendship.

Little PeaLittle Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal ~ Little Pea is happy. There are many things he likes to do, such as roll down hills and hang out with his friends. There is one thing, though, that he does not like, and that is to eat candy as the main course every night for dinner. He struggles through, reluctantly swallowing not just one piece but five, in order to have his favorite dessert.  What child can't identify with Little Pea's dilemma of having to eat something they didn't really want to eat so they could have dessert?  Great text to use for comparing and contrasting Little Pea to self.

Harold and the Purple Crayon 50th Anniversary Edition (Purple Crayon Books)Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (1981) One night when Harold decides to go for a walk he takes his purple crayon and begins his journey...drawing landmarks to ensure he won't get lost; sketching a boat when he finds himself in deep water; and creating a purple pie picnic when he feels the first pangs of hunger. I just loved students reactions when they hear this classic story for the first time.  I would use it for having students predict and revise their thinking as well as for encouraging writing.

Mary Engelbreit's Mother Goose: One Hundred Best-Loved VersesMary Engelbreit's Mother Goose: One Hundred Best-Loved Verses ~ An illustrated collection of nearly one hundred nursery rhymes, including "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and other familiar poems, as well as "Mary had a Pretty Bird" and other less familiar ones.   Alright...I realize this is an anthology!  However, nursery rhymes were the starting point for developing common reading experiences for my students. From phonological awareness activities to shared reading to Poetry Folders to student created books I got a lot of "bang for my buck" with nursery rhymes.  This anthology became one of my favorites. 

The Snowy DayThe Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats  A small boy wakes up to discover that snow has fallen during the night.  The little boy celebrates the snow-draped city with a day of humble adventures--experimenting with footprints, knocking snow from a tree, creating snow angels, and trying to save a snowball for the next day.  I read this story aloud on the day of our first snow each year.  I had a special bag (decorated with sparkly snowflakes) that had this book, pictures of snowstorms, and special snowmen pointers (for later reading) that sat up on a special shelf.  On the day of our first snowfall I would bring down the bag with much fanfare!  After our read aloud, we would go outside to celebrate our first snowfall.  I would take pictures of the students playing in the snow and then have students write a story to go with their photograph.

So there you have August 10 for 10!  What books would be on your August 10 for 10 list?  I would love to hear from you.  You can find more August 10 for 10 lists over at Enjoy and Embrace Learning and Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community! And don't forget to check back later today for part 2 of my August 10 for 10~ picture books I am using with 4th and 5th graders.