Tag Archives: writing workshop

What the Pigeon Wants



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.


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.


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!


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

Onomato-what? A snippet


Sometimes, I just want to share a quick idea or activity from our class.  This is one of those times.  Here is a snippet for you!

In Kindergarten, we brush upon many subjects that are above grade level.  Rather than toss those to the side by saying, that’s for — grade, we embrace these topics.  During our pond unit, we discussed all aspects of pond life.  One of those aspects is the sounds heard around the pond.


After spending a few days adding to our Pond chart, we focused on the sound column.  All week, we had been using the term “sound words”.  What gets their attention for a new vocabulary word?  I make it sound super secret, and let them know they are going to hear a third grade word (or fourth, fifth, etc).   This group is very excited when they learn something they think they aren’t “supposed” to yet.  We connected “sound words” to the literary term onomatopoeia.


I said it, they tried it, we laughed, and tried again.  Fifth time’s the charm – they were able to say that mouthful.

Our writing activity for that day was to create pop up sounds at the pond. The pop up is created by cutting a slit in an index card folded in half.  My model was displayed and they created their own during the writing rotation for the day.

My model


Some of their work


Our class display


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Connecting with Global Read Aloud 2013


This week we started connecting globally with other kindergarten classes through the global read aloud.  We tweet everyday and read posts from other kindergarten classes, but this project really hit home with them.  I explained that so many kindergarten classes would be reading the same book at the same time.  They were mesmerized.  They were excited.  They wanted to know what it would look like.  Being a part of the global read aloud means that my students are part of a bigger community and I am also a part of a larger network.

For primary grades, the global read aloud is focusing on Eric Carle for six weeks.  This week was week one:  The Hungry Caterpillar (one of my all time favorites).  We were already studying farm animals and it seemed to tie right in.  Using my edmodo group, I was linked to a great puppet show of the story.  Many of my students were already familiar with it.  We watched the puppet show on the smartboard and then we moved on to the read aloud.  I always love to hear what the students think Eric Carle uses to make his pictures.  Several students thought crayons.  One budding artisit thought he uses crayons with “water paint” on top.  We visited the Eric Carle website to learn about his collage technique.  Needless to say, the students loved it.

Our next step was to respond to the story.  We discussed our favorite parts.  I modeled using the Hello Crayon app on the iPad to create a picture of my favorite part.


My favorite part was Saturday – the day he ate just about everything.

From that point – they were on their own to create freely.  We started this during our writing time and worked diligently, productively, almost silently straight through our afternoon rotations.  They explored the app and its finishes with the colors.






The creations are beautiful.  I loved hearing why they chose to illustrate what they did and why they made the drawings look a certain way.






I then uploaded their creations into the Showbie app (more on Showbie from my mentor here and here).  This app gives us the opportunity to curate class projects and digital portfolios with the iPad.  I am still in the process of compiling all student illustrations to complete our class book.  I will share once it is complete! (Technology is a wonderful, albeit fickle at times, tool).

For more information on Global Read Aloud 2013 – Please visit: http://globalreadaloud.wikispaces.com/


Filed under Global Read Aloud 2013, iPads, Literacy, Mentor Text, Read Alouds, Technology, Writing Workshop

Anchor their learning!

I’ve been sitting on a blog post for a week — all about end of year assessments.  How these assessments can make us feel like we need to take steps backward or how much time they are taking away from our instruction.  It was turning out to be quite preachy and my soap box was so high I was having difficulty coming down.  So I decided to scratch that idea and focus on something that doesn’t get me so worked up.


Anchor charts!  I’ve used anchor charts in every grade that I have taught.  I will say, I’ve never seen my kids use them as much as this class has this year.  We start the year working on 1- 2 letter sounds a week.  We listen to songs, talk about the sound, and then create a list of words that begin with that letter.  The students are then able to use these anchor charts in their writing.  I draw “amazing” (to a 5 year old) illustrations for each word to make them easier to locate.  I have found that this makes writing time feel more successful for my students and they feel in control of their learning.  If they need to know how to spell a word, they will just ask – “Can I go look at the zoo words paper?” Or, “Is iguana on our i words paper?”

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We have anchor charts for every letter of the alphabet, several word families, shapes, rhyming words, action words, adjectives, and now long vowel sounds.  Many of our current charts do not have pictures to accompany the words.  With the long vowel charts, they are picking up on the patterns that make these vowel sounds long.  They are taking pride in their ability to read words without using pictures to help.

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At first I was slightly hesitant about the students relying on these charts so heavily and even considered taking some of them down after Christmas.  As you can imagine, they take up every inch of space I can find.  But I just couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t take away this tool.  And – I’ve come to see, that my students are still sounding out words.  They don’t always go look on the charts.  They are weening themselves from the anchor charts.  This makes my heart swell with pride.

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Filed under Literacy, Writing Workshop

My name is Skippy-Skippito (clap clap)

I am always looking for a great read aloud to use as a mentor text. One of the strongest visuals for beginning writers is a finished product that uses the writing technique you hope they will use.

In kindergarten, it can feel like pulling to teeth to get them to extend their thought process and put their ideas on paper. We see a lot of “I like my mom” or “I love my mom” or “I like pizza”. We have put “I like” and “I love” to rest. We are working beyond that in our classroom.

A privilege my students have is to go read their writing to the principal. The principal loves to hear their creative stories and see the progress in writing. Most of what they write is independent. That independence takes A LOT of front loading during writing workshop mini lessons. We work together to figure out how to stretch out words, put our thought on paper, and make those ideas more interesting. The students know how to rate their writing on a 1-4 scale (more on that in another post). They also know the principal loves to see writing that ranks at a 3 or 4.

As part of my mini lessons on extending ideas, I turned to my tried and true old friend Skippyjon Jones. I love him for many reasons – he is a Siamese cat with identity issues (thinks he is a Chihuahua), his imagination is out of this world, and the books are fun to read! I pulled out Skippyjon Jones Lost in Spice because we were studying space during our unit time. The children thoroughly enjoyed the story of the kitty boy venturing to Mars and rolling around in spice (the cayenne pepper he used to turn his bed into the big red planet).


After reading we talked about what the story would be like if the author just wrote that Skippy went into his closet – and that was it. What if we never learned about his chimichangos? Or if we never found out he saw an alien? Would the story still be as interesting? The answer was a resounding NO! We then discussed our favorite parts. I modeled adding to a simple 2 sentence story by asking the students what I could add or what questions they had.

As students wrote independently, I did have a few strugglers who just couldn’t get past one sentence. I would simply say – what would Skippy do? They would giggle and buckle down to try another sentence.

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I found this to be an amazingly rewarding experience. I know that whenever we find ourselves in a writing rut – we can count on Skippy to “bounce-ity, bounce-ity, bounce” us out.

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Filed under Lower Grades, Mentor Text, Writing Workshop