Category Archives: Read Alouds

April Showers bring May Flowers

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If you’re like me – you’re wrapping up your Spring Break.  Or maybe, you’re just about to begin.  Or, maybe, you’re like some of my Georgia friends and Spring Break was week ago – before Spring had even started.  No matter your finishing point on the break scale, you may be searching for new and fun ideas to keep your students engaged these last few weeks of the year.  Testing is about to begin for upper grades.  Class schedules will be altered.  Recess plans may have to move from outdoors to indoors because of noise.  I’ve been using Google, Pinterest, and blogs to find creative ways to enhance our last nine weeks of school.

SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS!

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http://www.education.com/activity/kindergarten/science/

I also blogged about other fun experiments a couple of years ago: https://withliteracyinmind.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/snippets-2/

If you have them – iPAD PROJECTS

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http://iteachwithipads.net/2015/03/31/building-early-literacy-skills-with-ipads/

https://withliteracyinmind.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/kindergarten-and-the-writing-process/

http://barrowmediacenter.com/tag/kindergarten/

SHOW and TELL

This one is pretty self explanatory – create a schedule and fill some time blocks with Show and Tell.  The kids have been sneaking toys to school anyway! (Well, mine have!)

GUEST READERS
(featured below, my hubby)

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Again, create a schedule for parents, community members, or even other teachers.  My kids love being read to and when someone else comes in – it is extra special. You can easily create a google doc that can be emailed out for sign up.

RECYCLED CRAFTS/ MAKER SPACE

I automatically save tissue boxes, shoe boxes, and toilet paper rolls.  Let’s put these items to great use!  The Pinterest board below has so many great ideas.

https://www.pinterest.com/susanmomof5/kids-crafts-recycled-materials/

Aren’t sure what a maker space is?

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http://kindergartenmakerspace.blogspot.com/

NATURE WALKS

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We have a green way near our school as well as plenty of trees.  If you have the beauty of nature around you – and the parental permission necessary – take your kiddos for a hike.  Document your walk with iPads or other hand-helds, pictures, or science journals.

GO NOODLE

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It’s FREE, engaging, and FUN!
https://www.gonoodle.com/

HAPPY SPRING!

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Filed under iPads, Literacy, Read Alouds, Science, Technology

Goal Setting and Picture Books

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As the return from winter break approaches, I am thinking of how I can continue to motivate some of my reluctant readers and writers.  Before we said goodbye for the holiday break, I had conversations with a few of my students to see where their minds were at.  We talk a lot about our interests in the classroom and I try to provide as many resources as possible to supplement these interests.  And yet – I still have a couple students who have the knowledge they need but seem less than motivated to use it.  They are still relying on teachers and others to help with unknown words.  They still need a little hand holding.

I tell parents that January starts our “crunch” time  – meaning we really put to use what we learned those first few months. With the application also comes to relinquishing of responsibility from teacher to students.  More and more independence becomes encouraged and required of our sweet kinders.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t drop them in to the deep end of a difficult assignment and yell “Swim!”.  But I do release their hands, little by little, until suddenly they find themselves accomplishing it alone.  For my littles who still aren’t ready, they stumble a bit.  They become frustrated and sometimes down right upset that “no one” will help.  Then….

The light bulb goes off.  The fire catches.  The connections are strengthened and extend beyond their wildest dreams.  They realize they are doing it – all by themselves.  And. It. Is. Amazing.

To help get us ready for the “CRUNCH”, I’m calling on a few of my favorite picture book friends:

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After reading and discussing what we would like to accomplish, each student will create a GOAL board.  I’m not sure of the format yet, but I’m sure Pinterest has tons of printables if I decide to go that route rather than using their iPads. Goals can be easily incorporated into data notebooks if those are a part of your classroom.

What’s your goal to make it through the CRUNCH?

Happy 2015!

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As the pages turn…

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Around this time last year, I posted about ending the year with a BOOK!

This year, I have found myself automatically gravitating toward books that leave the impact of making memories.  At first, it was completely subconscious – I chose a book I love and had not yet read aloud for one reason or the other.  And later that same day, I chose another book.  And the next day another… Looking at the selections – left on my easel for students to enjoy – I realized there was a theme.

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Thoughtlessly, I was plucking books from my shelf that captured my mood – nostalgic, retrospective, idealistic, hopeful, inspired, and that bittersweet feeling of finishing a chapter in life.  Our year is coming to a close – and while summer looms on the horizon filled with trips, family time, and a small moment to breathe – I’m not quite ready. My year has been challenging.  Challenging in all the ways you don’t appreciate at first.  Challenging in all the ways that exhaust you.  Challenging in all the ways that remind you why you love your job. When I’m left without words of my own, I turn to the words of others.

Our last books of school:

Our Tree Named Steve

Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zwiebel and David Catrow

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The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster and Chris Raschka

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Someday by Eileen Spinelli and Rosie Winstead

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The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant and Stephen Gammel

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Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

For our end of year celebration:

(We read First Day Jitters on the first day)

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Last Day Blues by Julie Danneberg and Judy Love

And some I can’t help but read once again:

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Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell and David Catrow

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Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas

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Filed under Literacy, Mentor Text, Read Alouds, Uncategorized

What the Pigeon Wants

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In my opinion, the Pigeon series by Mo Willems is the literary equivalent of a Hollywood triple threat – he can act, dance, and sing.  He does all of these things to get what he wants – ahem, NEEDS! The Pigeon provides great examples of persuasion techniques (yes, more than one, just ask any fifth grader), creativity, economic principles (needs/wants), and powerful illustrations.

This year, my class has truly fallen in love with this author.  In the media center they did an author study and in our classroom we continue to revisit Willems’ stories when the mood strikes us.  The week leading to Spring Break put us in one of those moods.  We wanted to hear the Pigeon books again.  When I read these books, the Pigeon has the voice of a very stereotypical 1940’s gangster.  I try to pattern my voice after a media specialist friend (Sharon Mitchell), but hers is truly better than mine. Anyhow – the pigeon pleads, begs, and yes – stomps his feet with my attempt at a voice.  We have fun with these books.  Students respond back with NO! and other answers to his persuasive questions.  Even my fifth graders in past years would respond to the persistent guy.

The Pigeon helped us discuss needs and wants this go round.  We read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late, and The Pigeon Wants a Puppy. We discussed the difference between needs and wants and created a class T chart.  In the students’ schedule for the day, their word work option was to complete a Pic Collage using the words need and want.

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During her writing rotation, Emma chose to create her own version of The Pigeon Wants a Puppy, The Pigeon Wants a Kitten.  She used the books to model her drawings as well as the pattern of her sentences.  We talked extensively about using the books as models – not copying.  The words in the books belonged to who?  Mo Willems.  And the words on her paper belonged to who?  Emma.  She indeed did some creative editing and the end product was quite cute.

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So – when searching for a mentor text that is worth its weight, and in my case the cost of multiple copies – consider The Pigeon series.  He’ll be your best friend!

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Ideas span grade levels:

  • Persuasive techniques – does the Pigeon beg/whine/wear down, plead, negotiate, bargain, give an ultimatum to get his way? Also compare with techniques used in the Click, Clack, Moo et al series by Doreen Cronin , I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloffand Earrings by Judith Viorst.
  •  Use of illustrations and how Mo Willems shows feelings
  • How illustrators use the technique of hiding characters from other books ( a la Pixar/Disney) – Knuffle Bunny, Elephant, Piggie, Edwina, and Leonardo find their way into the Pigeon books.
  • Needs versus wants – also use The Pigeon Needs a Bath
  • Voice – characters shine through when saying few words

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

Über Books for Upper Grades 2

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For me, books have always been a trusted friend.  A friend that is just like me, the complete opposite of me, or me transformed in another world.  Books are mirrors or windows (I think I’ve said this before).  In books, we see ourselves or through to something else.

Reading realistic fiction with my students, picture or chapter books, has always provided opportunities for connections in my classroom. Honest questions are asked, discussions are had, and at times – tears are shed.  And if we are lucky, a student falls in love with a book.  Magic.

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about some of my favorite historical fiction books.  Today, I hope you add some of these realistic fiction books to your classroom.

9780142405444_p0_v1_s260x420 bird by Angela Johnson

A sensitive story of a girl trying to keep her family together.  Bird is thirteen and cannot accept the fact that her stepfather has left.  She follows him to Alabama to try and convince him to return to Cleveland to rejoin her family.  In searching for security, she becomes security for two young boys with problems of her own.

9780399239892_p0_v1_s260x420 feathers by Jaqueline Woodson

Two things led me to pick up this book at the bookstore – the author (one of my favorites) and the main character’s name (characters never have my name!).  Woodson is one of my favorites because she speaks to readers with honesty, compassion, and understanding.  Her books tackle difficult topics such as race, gender, and relationships.  In feathers, Frannie begins to view the world around her in new ways after hearing a quote from a poem at school – “Hope is the thing with feathers”.  A powerful read aloud or book club selection, Frannie helps readers realize the beauty of looking deeper.

9780689866968_p0_v1_s260x420 deaf child crossing by Marlee Matlin

This book is a window for most students.  The perspective of a deaf child is a rare one in children’s literature and Marlee Matlin does a beautiful job.  Megan and Cindy become fast friends when Cindy moves into the neighborhood.  They are inseparable.  As summer approaches, their friendship becomes tested when they go to camp together.  Matlin explores friendship and all its facets through the eyes of two young girls.

9780064472074_p0_v1_s260x420 Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

I love a book that is told from several different perspectives.  Some readers find it difficult to follow, bouncing back and forth from character to character, but I enjoy getting the whole story from all those involved.  Seedfolks uses a vacant lot to connect neighbors, stories, and lives together in an inner city neighborhood.  Two years ago, a group in my fifth grade reading class chose to read this book together.  I had to make a judgement call.  I knew some of the content was heavy (pregnant teenager), but I also knew where my students were coming from.  I knew why Valerie connected to it after skimming through the pages (pregnant sister).  I knew Eric would idenifywith Kim’s optimism. I knew that Seedfolks was going to be a mirror and a window for my students. Just as the characters saw promise in the soil, I saw promise in this book.

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Chasing Vermeer, The Wright 3, and The Caulder Game:  A trifecta of awesomeness!  Although considered more mystery than realistic fiction, Blue Balliett’s series sends readers on journeys through art and architecture, friendship and hardship, trials and tribulations.  Secret messages and codes are woven into each story with pentominoes, riddles, mazes, and more.  Readers are exposed to the art of Vermeer, the architecture of Wright, and the sculpture of Caulder while following friends as they investigate mysteries throughout Chicago and England (Caulder Game).

Maybe you have already read some of these with your students, maybe you’ve never heard of them, but I hope you give them a chance.

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Filed under Literacy, Read Alouds, Reading Workshop, Upper Grades, Writing Workshop

Über Books for Upper Grades

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“Our Land is alive, Esperanza…This whole valley breathes and lives…He picked up a handful of earth and studied it. Did you know that when you lie down on the land, you can feel it breathe? That you can feel its heart beating.”
― Pam Muñoz Ryan, Esperanza Rising

If a stranger glanced at my book shelves at home, he or she would never know that I currently teach kindergarten.  An entire shelf plus a row of the next contain chapter books – Multiple copies of the Harry Potter series, Lois Lowry, Jerry Spinelli, and Christopher Paul Curtis wave to me each day.  They are old friends from previous teaching years who have the privilege of being on my shelves at home.  Their spines are worn, well loved, by children and by me.  Occasionally, one finds its way back into my hands to be read once again.  Even better, one is loaned out to a teacher friend to be shared with students once more.

When teaching fourth and fifth grades, I would often stray from the traditional guided reading approach and use literature circles.  With practice and support, these groups would become amazing environments for reading and learning.  They could function independently while I worked with other students or I could sit in and participate as a reader as well.  Being an active participant in the groups meant that at times, I could be reading 3-4 chapter books at once.  I found the juggling of multiple characters and story lines to be worth it in the end though.

As a student, I liked learning about history, but in a round about way.  I enjoyed documentaries, first person artifacts, journal entries, and – most of all – historical fiction.  My love for historical fiction carried over into my teaching.  If you have ever paid attention to the span of time upper elementary school teachers and students are expected to cover in one school year, you know it is absurd.  Yes – students will hear the material again in future years.  Yes – students will go more in depth in future years.  But the fact still remains that an expectation to cover 200+ years is there.  Exploring history through historical fiction proved to be a savior for me.  We could cover content material and students could (hopefully) identify with a character and enjoy themselves along the way.

Some of my favorite historical fiction titles:

Watsons1963Christopher Paul Curtis is, by far, one of my favorite authors of all time.    He has an amazing ability to connect readers with issues of long ago in a relatable, non frightening way.  In The Watson’s Go to Birmingham, 1963, we are transported into the Watson’s home and travel with them to Birmingham at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.  Many teachers I know, use this as a read aloud in order to edit some of the content and language (few curse words).  I made a judgement call, and used this for a literature circle group two years ago with fifth graders.  I’m so glad I did.

6702075-MWhen teaching about World War II, I find it important and beneficial to share as many experiences as possible.  Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes  tells the story of a young girl and the impact radiation from the bombing of Hiroshima has on her life.  She uses her knowledge of a Japanese legend to bring hope to herself and her country.  Without fail, each year I read this, we made paper cranes.  I discovered that origami is not really a strength of mine – but there is always a student who excels and helps others fold the cranes.

51zqk1y72TLJust add Laurie Halse Anderson to the list of authors I am obsessed with.  I love how she dives into history and creates strong, dynamic, female characters that are heroines any student can identify with and admire.  Yellow Fever does not usually get much attention in elementary history books.  However, it is a fascinating piece of our history.  I read Fever 1793 out loud to my students.  We then connected it with the nonfiction text The American Plague.  Through the eyes of Mattie, we learn about the spread of the fever and how no one (not even famous historical figures) could escape.  Anderson writes in such a way that keeps readers on the edge of their seats.  Fever 1793, is part of her historical fiction trilogy.  Other titles include Chains (amazing) and Forge (on my to read list).

weedflowerFollowing the attack of Pearl Harbor, the lives of Sumiko and her family are thrown into turmoil.  Once flower farmers, they are separated and sent to internment camps.  Sumiko is sent to a camp in Arizona on Mohave land.  Readers are able to gain perspective of two other groups during World War II through Weedflower.  Cynthia Kadohata writes with genuine emotion and addresses very complex issues while still leaving room for readers to make connections.

51YxIHMJa1LThe Great Depression affected all parts of this nation in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  In elementary history texts, attention is mainly placed on the stock market crash, Hoovervilles, and the New Deal.  In Esperanza Rising, Pam Munoz Ryan brings us a “riches to rags” story of a Mexican family forced to flee to California after a tragedy.  Once part of a wealthy family, Esperanza becomes a migrant worker.  Poetically told through the growing seasons, with Spanish intertwined, our heroine’s story takes us through different ethnicities and the organization of labor during the Great Depression.

UnknownThe spring after 9/11, I chose this book as a read aloud for a class I was student teaching in.  I was teaching in a rural area, where closed-mindedness still had a home.  Students were making comments about middle eastern people that they didn’t really understand.  My hope was to show students another view of a side of the world completely foreign to them.  The Breadwinner is one of three books by Deborah Ellis that tells of Parvana, a young girl living in Kabul.  After her father’s arrest, Parvana puts her life at risk to take care of her family.  Ellis spent several months with refugees researching young girls’ experiences in Afghanistan.  Parvana is a hopeful, strong, and determined heroine.  Her voice shows that even in oppressive climates, humanity can shine through.

al-capone-does-my-shirtsDiscussions of the 1930’s always led to students becoming intrigued by Alcatraz, Al Capone, and the original “gangsters” of that time.  Gennifer Choldenko created an entire series around Moose Flanagan and his family’s experience on Alcatraz Island.  The spirit of the era shines through Al Capone Does My Shirts and acts as an additional character.  The characters are well rounded, developed, and relatable.  Readers close the pages and immediately want to do research to learn more.

Stay tuned for more über picks – up next, realistic fiction!

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Filed under Literacy, Mentor Text, Read Alouds, Reading Workshop, Upper Grades

Food Scientists and #GRA13EC

Earlier, I mentioned the power of students having voice and choice in their learning.  My students’ voices led us to discovering maple syrup, where it comes from, and how it is made.  Being southerners, we do not know much about winter – let alone tapping trees for sap.  So, we went on a search for our own answers.  As we continued to explore fall, we learned about other trees and how they change with the seasons.

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One of our “go to” resources for questions we have is Brainpop Jr.  We absolutely LOVE Annie and Moby.  The videos are short, direct, and keep the students engaged.  My students already know that Annie and Moby can help us with most things.  We watched the video about seasons and then ordered changes that happen.

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Our exploration of seasons and trees ended with our “experiment” involving maple syrup and regular pancake syrup.  We watched how maple syrup is made – from tree to bottle.  We connected our Global Read Aloud author, Eric Carle, with our activity as well by reading Pancake, Pancake.  Finally, we started put on our scientists thinking caps and got down to business.

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Our experiment began with observations about the two kinds of syrup.  As the syrup was poured we noted the speed it flowed out of the bottle (fast or slow), the thickness of it (like water or glue), and the color (light brown or dark brown).  We poured the syrups into clear cups to make it easier to see.  Next was our taste test.  Each group of students had waffles to use as tools for tasting.  We made sure to only taste one kind at a time and we didn’t drink anything while tasting.  We tasted regular pancake syrup first.  Next, we tasted maple syrup.  Some of us were nervous, because we had never had it before.  Everyone was a brave scientist and tried a little! After tasting, we voted.

20131111-141110.jpgWe counted the votes and then compared the numbers.  In math we are talking about more/less and greater/fewer.  We knew that regular pancake syrup had the most votes because 11 is greater than 7.  Once the votes were counted, we finished our waffles.

All good scientists discuss their experiments when they are over.  Some questions we asked and answered were:

  • Why did you like regular pancake syrup better?
  • Why did you like maple syrup better?
  • Where did the maple syrup come from?
  • How was the maple syrup made?
  • Where do you think the regular pancake syrup came from?
  • How do you think the pancake syrup was made?

How can you be a scientist today?

 

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Filed under Global Read Aloud 2013, Literacy, math literacy, Read Alouds, Science