Monthly Archives: August 2013

What’s in a Name?

Chrysanthemum page

This week, I welcomed 21 excited five year olds to kindergarten.  It all started with Parent Orientation and Meet the Teacher nights.  At “Meet the Teacher” I can quickly gage where a child may be coming from when entering my room.  I simply ask the child if he/she can find his/her name in the classroom.  Some can, some have parent help, some locate a name with the same first letter.  I, sadly, push through some parents’ obvious discomfort with my name (Ms. Gay).  It is unfortunate how many times I repeat it, they repeat it back in a questioning tone, and I say yes.  I’ve had name discussions with students before – even to the point of explaining why my name is what it is.  I take this feeling into consideration when I look at student names and desperately want to pronounce them correctly.  I do not ever want a child to feel embarrassed by a name.  But I digress…

Many of my little ones (and their parents) weren’t sure what to expect — they have never been to any kind of school before.  There are a lot of questions and a lot of things to adjust to.  Even in our hectic practices of rituals and routines, we find plenty of time for stories – lots of them.

On the very first day, we read Chrysanthemum (one of my all time favorites).  I find it to be an excellent spring board for all sorts of discussions about friendship, school, and being brave.  We talk about our names and how we love them.  We talk about how many letters we think we have in our name and who has the longest.  We talk about the teachers and the students in the story and how they treat each other.  Kevin Henkes does amazing things!  I read and reread and reread his books throughout the year.  We will be rereading Chrysanthemum this week and exploring our names through different activities.  I encourage you to try some in your own class – no matter what the grade level.  I found that my fifth graders loved Chrysanthemum too!



Recognizing and working with names is an important activity to use with students in regards to literacy.  In many cases, their names are students’ first associations with letters/sounds/meaning.  Some children can spell their names, but cannot identify letters in isolation.  I am a huge supporter of Fountas and Pinnel (not just because that’s what I use at my school).  I turn to them for advice on all things literary.  In their book Literacy Beginnings, they discuss names and the important connection children are able to make.

“Once children learn that their names are words and that they are made with the same letters in the same order each time, they begin to understand the concept of a word” (Ch. 20, p 194).

I’m not the only who agrees with their philosophy.  Read more:

Never devalue the importance of a name.


Filed under Literacy, Mentor Text, Read Alouds, Writing Workshop

Destroying the Love of Reading

Love this post!

Pernille Ripp

Yesterday as I eagerly browsed through the new Scholastic catalogue, my eyes caught this

photo (4)

And my heart sank

And then I got angry

And then I knew I had to blog about it

Whatever happened to the notion that reading expands your mind?  That reading helps you see the world through a new set of eyes?  That reading, whether fiction or nonfiction, makes you a well-rounded human being?  It seems to have disappeared, swallowed by Common Core, test prep, and scores that determine the fate of every child.  Now reading is to cram as much as knowledge into your head only so you can regurgitate it onto a test.  Shove it all in there by memorization, who cares about deeper connections or questions to ponder?  Just read, read, read, read and please make it nonfiction so that it is all facts, more knowledge, more things to know so that we…

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Filed under Uncategorized

Teach Me Seymour!



I sat in professional development today – county mandated professional development – to “learn” how to “use” our newly adopted math series.  We’ve all been there… in a cold room listening to a publishing rep tell you all about the great new series your system has adopted.  It is a “one size fits all” type of thing — this one was not even personalized to my grade level.  As a learner, I was yearning to be taught something new and innovative to take back to my classroom.  Even if the presenter (bless her heart) was going to tell me something of value – I probably wouldn’t have known because I checked out within the first thirty minutes.

This frustration led me to think of my little ones starting school with me next week… How do I keep them from doing the same thing? How do I keep them engaged and prevent them from checking out?

I can only hope that my efforts to give them voice/choice/ownership in our classroom pay off.  I can only hope that our building of a strong community of learners will keep them invested.  How can I do this successfully?  Here is what I’m thinking…



I have never really liked the idea that students are sponges – just soaking up everything we teach and tell them.  Where is their role in that?  I prefer to think of them as gatherers… gathering ideas into their buckets (brains) to formulate their own learning.  My vision is that I create opportunities for my students to fill their “literacy buckets” while in kindergarten.

bucketsWe need to gather things to help us with all of our literacies.

Math – numeracy, methods/procedures/patterns, spatial awareness, application/connections
Science – environment, responsibility, exploration, experimentation
Reading – visual, informational, functional
Social Studies – global, connections between people and nations, roles in society
Play/Social – cultural, manners, relationships
Digital/Media – iPads, internet, digital citizenship

Whew!  That’s a lot!  Teach me!



Filed under Literacy, math literacy, Technology

Be a Champion = Be Brave


I’m new to #kinderchat and #kinderblog13 – but the last two topics have resonated with me – “dream” and “fear”.

When I think about what I want to accomplish professionally, my dreams, they all somehow tie into being an amazing teacher.  A champion for my students.  Brave enough to counteract despicable policy changes that threaten to tarnish what I work so hard to protect.  I dream of writing children’s books.  I dream of seeing my former students grow into being the best they can be.  I dream of sitting in my rocking chair, in my classroom, with kindergarteners, well past retirement age.  This is a dream I have had since I was very young- playing school with my stuffed animals.

My fear ties in to my dream.  I fear my dreams won’t come to fruition.  I fear that I will fall short of being a champion – that there may be students I just can’t reach.  That I will fall short of the bravery needed to stand up for my students 200% of the time.  That I will fall short of making it way past retirement, because I let policy scare me away.

Luckily – I don’t give much credit to my fears.  I am an optimist – to a fault some would say.  Notorious for wearing rose colored glasses even after they have been shattered to smithereens.  My love for my job and for my students is a driving force not to be reckoned with.

I will continue to dream – despite my fears.

I will continue to be brave – despite my fears.

I will be a champion.


Filed under Kinderblog13

I Dare to be Brave


I’ve been doing a lot of reading the past few days.  Reading is good – I love it – I model loving it in my classroom.  My life would not be the same without reading. Why do I love it so much? Aside from the entertainment aspect?  Reading causes you to think. Reading causes you to consider something from another stand point.  Reading can strengthen your beliefs – or cause a “come to Jesus” moment with them.

As I am preparing to start a new school year, I am reflecting on last year.  What would I like to do the same?  What would I like to change?  I’ve made some organizational and arrangement changes already to create a more open, collaborative working environment for my students.  And I’m having my own “come to Jesus” moments about homework and behavior management (Bye bye stop light system).  The two links below are still reeling in my brain.

“Behavior Management”: not systems, but relationships

Be Brave: The Only Rule in My Kindergarten Class

I’ve blogged before about my journey into Personalized Learning in my classroom.  Now more than ever – I’m seeking value in everything I do in my classroom.  I want to continue creating a strong community of learners and thinkers.  One aspect of Personalized Learning is a Code of Cooperation.  The class works together to create expectations – not rules – for the year.  Being the book worm I am – I’m compiling a list of read alouds to help in our process.  I hope to read different books throughout our first week together, discuss the books, and then create our code.


Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes is, and always will be, a first day of school read aloud – no matter what grade I teach.  It allows for discussions of friendship, self esteem, and courage.


The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill is second on the “must read” list for every year.  Students love the rhythm of the words – and gives a jump off point for talking about bullies, equity, and friendship.

The following are options for discussing fairness in the classroom and the idea that fair does not always mean the same.


Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Kahn (link to read online!)


Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats


When Sophie Gets Angry – Really Really Angry… by Molly Bang


One Fine Day by Nonny Hogrogrian

To tie in empathy, I turn back to Kevin Henkes (love him!)



And for safety, I like to have Gloria’s help


Officer Buckle and Gloria

My #kinderchat tweeps have been discussing #brave as our theme for this year.  Do you dare?


Filed under Literacy, Read Alouds