Welcome!


Welcome to kindergarten! Join me as I share my experiences in the classroom, my professional learning and reflections and my love of teaching. Teaching is an exciting journey - come along as I share mine!


Monday, December 31, 2012

Time is a Speed Demon



 With a new year literally just hours away, I keep finding myself thinking about how my children are growing so quickly before my eyes.  When I was little, I used to think it was funny when people said how the year just seemed to fly past.  Now I understand.  As I watched my children open Christmas presents I realized both how young and how old they each are and how quickly it has happened! 

My 9-year-old was delighted to open his Kindle Fire...a gift we pondered over for a long time before deciding upon.  It is really hard for me to comprehend the fact that he is old enough to be responsible with it and yet young enough that when he opened the wrapping paper on his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure, he couldn't stop there.  He immediately tore the package open, popped out the turtle and started to play with it!  But oh, he is growing so fast!

Then my 7-year-old opened her tiny little box.  She couldn't even begin to guess what was inside...an iPod Shuffle awaited her!  She was so excited she jumped up and down and danced around the living room!  It was my idea to get it for her because she loves music so much and often asks to listen to my iPod.  I loved watching her face as she realized what it was and that it was her very own.  She's growing so fast!

My 4-year-old fell head over heals in love with her Pete the Cat stuffed animal!  She enjoyed her new Lego sets, her horse and stables set and had them assembled and spread over the kitchen table for hours of play on Christmas evening.  But...she also loved the video games she got and has spent much time playing them as well over the last few days.  She's growing so fast!

The 1-year-old little lady actually understood how to open presents this year!  It was a joy to watch her dig in to the wrapping paper, toss the gift aside and play with the boxes!  Last year she sat in her bouncy seat and watched.  She played with the shiny bows and chewed on her new toys...after someone else unwrapped and opened them.  Oh how times change...she's growing so fast!

I keep thinking about my students too.  Wondering how their Christmases were?  Did they get a special gift that they enjoyed as much as my children did?  Have they been able to relax at home and play with their new toys like my children have?  Do they miss school and the predictable routines?  My own children have enjoyed being at home and having free time but they are beginning to ask when they will get to see their friends, the babysitter, their teachers again because they love those things too.  While I love my time at home with them, and my own vacation, it makes my heart happy to hear them ask when they get to go back to school!  Somewhere along the line, they fell in love with school, just as I did as a child and just as I hope my students have.

Oh they grow so fast!  My wish for the new year is to be more aware of this "speeding of time" so that I can slow down and really enjoy what I have here and now. 

Goodbye 2012 and all the good times you brought (and the less than stellar times too, because they make us who we are).  Hello and Welcome 2013!  May the new year be filled with kindness and love.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Back to the River

I'm feeling some of life's torments today and reflecting on the evils and perils in our world.  I'm wondering how to raise good people in a world of poor models, horrible monsters and unexplainable events. It has been about 9 months since I wrote my first river poem.  It came to me one night, freely, almost faster than I could type and born out of frustration.  Once again, I find myself returning to the river...thoughts flowing like the water I imagine so clearly.  It makes me consider why water seems to be my metaphor.  I didn't reread the first poem until after I finished this one.  Interesting how similar and yet different they are.  Funny how the mind works.

The river rushes
it ebbs
and flows
it gushes
it slams
it builds
it tears down

The river flashes
it rages
and rocks
it pushes
it pulls
it ravages
it rearranges life

The river rolls
it sleeps
and quiets
it waits
it sneaks
it rests
it lies dormant

Until the next storm
puffs
it to life

again




Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Little Moments

Join Ruth and Stacey at their blog Two Writing Teachers and read more Slice of Life stories every Tuesday!



It's dinnertime again.  How do I know? No, it's not the growling tummy.  It's not the smell of spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove either.  It's not even the family all sitting together at the dinner table.

It's the crying that gave it away.  It's the "I don't like meat in my spaghetti" and the "Do I have to have salad?"  It's the crying about not wanting to sit in the highchair and the crying about not wanting to sit at the table either.  It's the "Can I have some..." and the "I don't want any..." that gives it away.

It's the "eating my dinner after it's already cold" that gives it away.

Sigh.

-----------------

I love bedtime.  I love to snuggle up with the sweet, fresh-from-the-bath, pj-clad baby girl.  I love the way she cuddles in with her bottle held tight.  I love the way she hands me her empty bottle and puts her head on my shoulder.  I love the smell of her clean hair and her lavender lotion.  I love the way she sighs in her sleep.  I love her.

-----------------

"Mom, I'm going to read on the way home today.  Then, I can write down 20 minutes on my reading calendar for today," M said.  "I'm on chapter 4 already in my book!"

E pipes up, "I think I will read on the way home, too, Mom.  I brought my new Junie B. Jones book today."

The drive home is so sweet when you look in the rear-view mirror and see two heads bent over books.  It makes my heart smile to see my children read for enjoyment.  Yes, they have to read for school and note it on a reading calendar, but they choose to read in the car and they choose to read before bedtime and they choose to read on Saturday.  It's those times that I know they are reading because they love it.  It's when they ask to hear or look at Pete the Cat for the 12,947th time that I know they love reading.  :)

----------------

These are just a few snippets from my life lately.  This time of year is filled with so much.  It's full of wrapping things up at school, finding time to shop for presents, baking the special cookies, kids who are tired and need a break and parents/teachers who are equally ready for the break.  I have to stop sometimes and just take a moment to take it all in.  I have to take a breath and enjoy the good, the bad and everything in between.  It's the little moments that make everything worth it.

I hope you take some time to enjoy your little moments today.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Writing Workshop in December


For more great Slice of Life stories, visit the Two Writing Teachers website, hosted by Ruth Ayers and Stacey Shubitz.

Yesterday I read Ruth's post about having much on your mind and no time to reflect.  The part that struck me was the reminder that you sometimes have to make space in your brain in order to reflect.  I have been monitoring my student's writing closely.  Having a student teacher has been great for reflection.  I've had to reflect on my teaching practices, beliefs and reasons for my beliefs in order to help best guide and coach her.  

It's challenging to give up the teaching of writing for me.  It was the last thing I gave over to my student teacher and it's the first thing that I will take back as she eases out.  I'm still very much a part of the writing workshop in my classroom but it is odd not being the one in charge during this time.  Of all the different parts of the day, this is the most difficult for me.  I have been frustrated at times with my students and how they are behaving.  They are a tough group and give my student teacher a run for her money most of the time; writing workshop is no exception. 

Out of my frustration came the need to really dive into their work and break it down for myself.  I have been monitoring all along.  I have been working to be sure I have conferenced with each student during the week, in addition to the work my student teacher is doing with them.  I've been watching and coaching her through her lessons.  However, I needed to lay out all the writing and see where we were as a whole.  

Here is what I found: student growth!  Let's take a look at B...

 This is B's writing in October.  If you look carefully, you can see a purple person with a whole lot of other "stuff" in the picture.  He didn't really know what he was drawing, but knew he needed to draw more.  There are no words or letters in this particular story.

 Here is B's writing in November.  The people are much more detailed but there is nothing to help tell the story in the illustration beyond the people.  There are no background details, no clues to help the reader.  He has begun to add writing to his stories...some of which we can even read!

 B's December writing shows even more progress!  He has included the people, some detail about what is happening (the cat that he was playing with) and a portion of the background has been added (the grass outside). B has begun to use initial sounds for his words ("I was watching" is the part you can see).

In just a short time this writer has changed quite a bit.   The other students are growing similarly - although there are varying levels.  Seeing the whole class together allowed me to reflect on how widely spread the skill levels are of the children in my classroom.

Here are a few more examples:

                        I gave mom a picture.                                    I bought groceries. (oral story)       
                                                     Me and my mom were going home.
                                                     It was my birthday.

I was both encouraged and discouraged as I looked through their writing.  I see glimmers of greatness in students.  I see students who have a long road ahead of them.  But I know we will get there.  We will continue to grow and learn together. 


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mackenzie Rose

Read more Slice of Life stories at the Two Writing Teachers blog with Ruth and Stacey.


Your baby blues are innocent, sweet
Your chubby fingers hold mine tight
Your smile is like sunshine

Your baby cheeks are pudgy-round
Your feet wear my shoes
Your giggles are contagious

You were here for such a short time
You brightened our days
You will hold our hearts forever

In Loving Memory
Mackenzie Rose
12/8/98 - 8/8/00


My niece was my little princess for almost two years before she and her babysitter were lost in a car accident.  She could make you smile and lighten your heart without effort. She was our little "Rosebud." 

Love you forever, Baby girl

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Children Are A Choice

I am the mother of four children ages 9, 7, 4 and 1.  I chose to be a mom.  I chose to have four kids.  Is it busy?  Of course!  Are some days better than others?  Of course!  Some days I have lots of patience.  Some days I don't.  Some days my children are full of giggles.  Some days they are not.  I also teach kindergarten full time.  I chose to be a teacher.  Am I around children all day?  Yes.  Do I love it?  Yes.  Are there good days and bad?  Of course.  Am I exhausted at the end of the day?  Yes, but it's a good kind of exhausted.  It's the kind of exhausted that feels like I did something important that day.

I am continually surprised by the number of people that know I am a teacher and then find out that I have FOUR kids at home.  That's how they say it.  "You have FOUR kids at home?"  Yes.  Yes I do.  It's a choice that I made. 

Isn't having four kids hard?  Isn't it hard after spending all day with kindergarteners?

No.

Cancer is hard.

Children are a choice.

Death is hard.

Children are a choice.

Life is like a roller coaster.  You can shut your eyes and scream for your mommy OR you can throw your hands in the air and enjoy the ride.

I choose to teach full time and I choose to have four kids.  I choose to throw my hands up in the air and enjoy the ride.  I wouldn't trade it for the world. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Words Matter

For more Slice of Life stories head on over to the Two Writing Teachers blog hosted by Ruth & Stacey.


Yesterday I heard it.  That dreaded sound that all parents hate.  The sound that changes your life for a day, maybe more.  You know the one.  The sound of your child throwing up.  Yes, that's what I heard yesterday from my seven-year-old.  To make matters worse, I heard that sound in the van on the way to school in the morning.  Is there any worse time to hear it?  And, since my 9-7-4-1-year-olds (ok fine, I will excuse the one-year-old) don't seem to know when it is coming...well, I'll spare you the details.  Although, if anyone knows how to teach that skill to children, to know when they are going to get sick, PLEASE SHARE YOUR SECRET WITH ME!!!

Anyway, I'm getting off topic here.  "The incident," as I'm calling it, happened just around the corner from the babysitter's house.  Luckily, I was able to pull into her driveway.

Because my babysitter, B, is awesome, and by awesome I mean phenomenal, she rescued me.  She came out to the van carrying paper towels and wet wipes to clean up.  As we were cleaning, she asked me, "What does a teacher do in this situation?  I've always wondered."  

"I have no idea!" is how I actually replied.  "I guess I will be taking her home because I have no other option today."

At this point, B tells me that my daughter can stay at her house.  She can stay in her bedroom, sleep, watch a movie, color, etc. until I can take her home.  She can stay all day or part of the day or whatever I need.  (See, I told you she is awesome!)  And, here is where the real story begins.
 
B's mother-in-law just passed away last week.  She had been sick and B's family had been preparing for her move into their home so they could take care of her.  B and her husband had transformed their bedroom into a comfortable room for his mother.  They moved furniture and created a space that would work for her.  As part of the preparations, B urged her children to decorate the bedroom for their Grandma.  She bought special markers so they could write messages on the windows and mirrors for their Grandma.  She bought poster board and markers so they could write messages to hang on the walls and decorate the room.  Unfortunately, their Grandma passed away before she was able to see the bedroom and all the girl's hard work.  
 
When I walked into the bedroom to pick up my daughter yesterday, I stopped and stared.  I couldn't do anything else.  All I could see were the bible verses, prayers, uplifting messages, comforting words and pictures that were surrounding me in this room.  It is an ordinary bedroom that had been transformed with words.  Important words.  Words that uplifted my spirit.  Words that felt magical in this ordinary space.
 
I had a hard time carrying on my half of the conversation as I looked around the room. I couldn't speak around the lump that formed in my throat.  I could not tear my eyes away from the writing that was all around me.  It may have been someone else's words that the girls had written down but they had sought out and written down such perfect messages for their Grandmother that it touched my heart in a way that I can't shake.  Oh, the power of words!
 
I have found myself thinking about this hundreds of times ever since.  I can't shake the feeling I had in that room.  I can't shake the magic of their words.  The story they created for their Grandma.  B told me that the girls felt really bad that their Grandma didn't get the chance to see what they had done.  B's response?  "Maybe this was God's way of preparing you, not really for Grandma at all."  That is the response of a special lady. This is the woman who is caring for my children every day.

The world is lucky to have people like this; people who can see an opportunity for words/writing/stories and know that stories matter.  My family is lucky to have B in our lives; a person who shares her love through words and actions both.
 
And, I can't help but think of Ruth Ayres' wise words. She says, "Words matter. Story matters."  Yes, it certainly does.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Game On

Read other Slice of Life stories at the Two Writing Teachers website.

Surviving parent-teacher conference week is a badge of honor, both as a parent and a teacher.  As a parent, I get to experience the joy and satisfaction of hearing about my children through the eyes of someone else.

I am pleased to say that my two oldest children are doing very well in school.  They enjoy school, they love their teachers and they are happy.  Even more satisfying is listening to their teachers and feeling the genuine care that they feel towards my children.  It does my heart good to know that when I'm not there, my kids each have another adult with them who looks out for them, encourages and nudges them to be their best selves and who honestly cares about them.  They are both in good hands.

My two younger children are also lucky like this.  They have a wonderful daycare - a place where they look forward to going each day, a place where they don't want to leave in the evening, a place where they feel at home.  They love their sitter and she loves them.  She is calm, kind and she knows my children as well as her own.  She searches out new foods for my one-year-old who doesn't make feeding time easy.  She cares for my four-year-old's food allergies as I do myself...carefully, vigilantly, but with respect.  She always makes sure that she has a yummy alternative if there is something she can't eat like everyone else and she has searched her cookbooks for things to make that are safe for my daughter.  Needless to say, we love her.

While reflecting on these important people in my own children's lives, I started thinking about my students and their families.   As a teacher, I have always enjoyed meeting the parents of my students.  I met families this week that are strong and resilient and supportive.  They have faced adversity and challenge and haven't given up.  Instead, they have pushed on and have repeatedly sought out the best help for their children that they could.  I also met parents who don't understand or don't want to understand that their children are struggling, no matter what they see and hear.  How will I reach them?  I met families who regularly see counselors in order to deal with and manage their daily lives.  I heard stories of adoption and stories of health problems.  I heard about little problems and big problems.  I heard about success stories - babies who weren't supposed to walk or talk but who are active kindergarten students today!  I met parents who are well established and stable.  I met parents who are so young they are still learning to take care of themselves, let alone their children, and everything in between.  How will I reach them?


I've been thinking of all of these families and how I am linked to them. I keep thinking about how lucky my own children are each day to share their days with amazing people and how I hope that my students and their families feel the same way about their kindergarten experience this year. 

I have some very difficult children in my classroom this year.  I have children that try my very last nerve each and every day.  I can't help but think that these are the same children who need my love, caring and kindness more than all the rest.  I need to find a way to get through to those kids.  I know that if I can win over those children, I can win the game.  It's time to huddle up and strategize and do this!  Game on!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It's All Good

I am finding it a bit ironic that while I'm working so hard to establish writing routines in my classroom, my own have completely fallen to the wayside.  I haven't written a new post since September 11.

 It reminds me of my own children.  Each time they were learning something new, an older skill began to lag.  My one-year-old is becoming very verbal.  She is jabbering almost constantly, learning new words every day (hi, bye, mine, yeah, huh-uh, mama, dada, boo) and now she is singing!  She sings Twinkle, Twinkle so well you can tell what she's trying to say!  This is all awesome stuff, but there is a trade off to be made.  She's putting all her concentration and growth into language skills and in turn, she has started waking up in the middle of the night again and wants a bottle...just when I was thinking 2 a.m. feedings were done and maybe we should be phasing out the bottle.  I know she will settle back into her normal sleep routine again.

It's had me thinking about my students.  School is a new "skill" for many of my kindergarten kiddos.  I wonder what is falling to the wayside right now while they are learning how to "do school" and do I know them well enough yet to figure it out?  Will I be patient enough while they even back out? 

In the meantime, I'm going to continue to teach my students writing routines and do my best to be patient with my baby girl when I find myself making a bottle in the middle of the night because I know that it means growth and learning are in progress.  I'm going to be patient with my students while they even out and get the school routines under their belts.  I'm also trying to be patient with myself...I will get myself back into my writing routine when I can and until then...it's all good.  (Pete says so!) 


Find more Slice of Life stories at Ruth and Stacey's Two Writing Teachers blog.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My New Cracked Pots


I'm in the midst of the second week of school and I'm already home with a sick child today.  The upside is that I am able to post my SOL before 10 pm.  I am also cautiously optimistic that my daughter is finally on the upswing...she's been playing with her Mickey Mouse Clubhouse toys for the last hour and is thoroughly enjoying having the house and mommy to herself today.

I have been a bit absent from my writing world for the last month or so.  I've been able to sneak in a couple things but with the start of school for myself and three of my four children...well, it's been busy.  I've missed it!

I have been watching my new crop of kindergarten students closely during our time together.  I am optimistic about the year ahead with them.  I have an interesting mix of students this year that should keep me challenged, laughing and learning. ( For a little extra challenge, I also have a student teacher on board for the first semester who is awesome!)  My mix of kiddos includes everything from immature four-year-olds to mature six-year-olds and everything in between.  I have children with ADHD and those I suspect have it, children with speech and language issues, a child with a significant hearing loss, children who like to talk (with loud voices!), children who hardly talk when asked a question in a one-to-one setting, a child who struggles not to cry in the morning, a child who thinks she can walk home whenever she feels like it (and doesn't bother to let anyone know before leaving), children with severe food allergies, children who know all of the alphabet letters, children who barely know their names, children who live with two adults in a stable home, children who don't know from day to day how they are getting home, children who can count to 100 and recognize numbers and children who think numbers and letters are all the same thing.  I have a pretty typical class.  I have a class that likes to play and have fun...and they have no idea that they are learning at the same time!

I have been watching their interactions with each other.  I have been watching their smiles.  I have been watching to learn their interests.  I have been telling stories with them.  I have been reading with them.  I have been helping them make new friends and giving them the time to do it.  We had a good first week and have approached the second week with a good attitudes.

As I was reading my email recently, I came upon an email from my sister about the "Cracked Pot."  Initially, I read it as a sentiment from one sibling to another.  Then I read it as something I wanted to share with teaching friends at the beginning of a new school year.  Finally, I read it as a teacher who is getting to know her new students.  I look forward to learning more about my new "cracked pots" each day and I am trying very hard to be positive as I look for the unique flaw in the children that are harder to connect with; that unique thing that I can use as a tool to build connections. 

I tried to find an author for the story of the "Cracked Pot" but only could find that it was an anonymous source.  If anyone knows a name for the author, please let me know so I can give proper credit.  I had to share it anyway.  Enjoy and have a great school year!

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. 

But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream. 'I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.' The old woman smiled, 'Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side?' 'That's because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them.' For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.'

Each of us has our own unique flaw. But it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding.
You've just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What a Wonderful World

I'm going to be very honest and say that the all-day early childhood professional development day planned for today, though it is something I feel very strongly about, wasn't high on my list of want-to-do's for today.  School hasn't started yet but the last two weeks have been a whirlwind of getting the classroom prepared, teaching a summer program for incoming kindergarten students and ending today with this pd opportunity.  Next week starts district pd days and open houses and preparing my own children for returning to school.  Like I said, it wasn't high on my list of wants today.  But, I went anyway like a good little soldier and I was very happy to listen to an excellent presentation.  

Linda Jordan's presentation, Neuroscience and the Preschool Child, didn't grab my attention from the title, but as soon as she opened her mouth, I was hooked.  She is a dynamic speaker, knows her material and is able to share it in a way that made me want more, more, more.

Here are just a few snippets that tickled my ears today:

  • The muscles in our bodies have more memory capacity than our brains.
  • As a child, I learned things in order to do things.  Today's young children do things to learn.
  • Vocabulary should be taught by handling and seeing the actual objects, not by talking about them.  Not a new concept, but a good reminder.  She said she believes that each book should have a box of objects that accompany it in the classroom. 
  • Teachers are brain sculptors.  We impact our students' brain growth (dendrite growth) by teaching them and then providing at least 20 minutes of actually doing/working with the skill to commit it to memory.  We are responsible for providing a safe environment so that students can learn and grow dendrites, not shut down.
  • You can only talk to/teach a child for 6 minutes maximum before they need to move and you need to move, they need to talk about what they are hearing.  After that, you can begin another 6 minutes of teaching.  This includes read alouds!  Begin a story on one side of the meeting area, stop to talk and process thoughts, then continue reading on the other side of the meeting area.  Have students turn their bodies around to face you again to promote physically being in a different position and looking at different surroundings...good for the brain!

My personal favorite thought of the day: Our brains are not wired to read.  According to Jordan, reading is the single most difficult thing that our brains learn to do.  It is so difficult because we aren't wired to read. Our brains are instead wired to tell stories.  I couldn't help but connect this idea to Ruth Ayres.  I had the opportunity to see Ruth this summer at the All Write Institute and she presented about the importance of story.  Our story.  Sharing our stories with others.  Turns out, it isn't just something we think is important.  Now there is scientific proof!  Sharing our stories is good for our brains.  

Even the children who come from the worst situations at home can be positively impacted by us.  We can provide a safe environment and help them make connections in their brains while they are at school with us.  You may think that one teacher can't make enough of a difference to that child, but think about the impact of having good teachers who do this year after year in school.  That impact alone could be enough to get that child out of a bad situation.  If we teach children to think and problem solve, they will have the capability to make the kinds of choices that would remove themselves from the negative situations in their lives.

Linda ended her presentation with a photo slide presentation of kid-drawn pictures set to the song "What a Wonderful World."  Indeed it is and thank goodness we have people to teach us and remind us about what we can do for the children in our world.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Broken



I tried a new app called Poetry Magnets to create this poem! It's a cool app that lets you choose from a stream of words in various categories to create poetry.  I didn't set out to create a sad poem, but those were the words that jumped out at me as I scrolled through the stream of choices.  Interesting!

Sweet Maddie


Sweet Maddie

I can't believe how you have grown
When just last night 
As I tucked you in 
you were a small baby

I kissed your fuzzy head
I nuzzled your neck
You babbled sweet nothings
pudgy fingers on my cheek

But look at you now
Growing so fast
Preschool starts tomorrow
Your bag is all packed

No longer my baby
Now a young girl
Out into the world
To share your heart of gold



My third child starts preschool in two weeks.  It's no easier this time around either!  It's exciting and scary to send my baby out into the world!  Here we go!



Sharing your heart of gold

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ten for Ten!



Today is the day for Ten for Ten!  I've given my book list a lot of thought.  I thought, at first, that it would be easy but the more I thought about it, the longer my list of contenders became!  Even though there were several newer titles on my long list, I noticed that I kept returning to the older titles more often.  That is how I narrowed my list.  Every time I thought to myself "but what about..." I would know that it was an important one to keep on the list.  Eventually, I had a list of ten (in no particular order).

1. Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney.  I had a hard time with this one because I love all of the Llama Llama books.  I use them often with my kindergarten writers because Dewdney's illustrations show such great facial expressions on Llama and his Mama.  It shows how important illustrations can be to a story.  And, let's face it, what mom can't relate to Llama Llama Mad at Mama?  I love little Llama's dramatic breakdowns in each story! It's funny when you aren't the Mama in the situation! 

2.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.  This story is just a classic, great story.  I remember reading it the first time and just getting caught up in the pictures.  I loved the bright colors, the way they were created, the layers of depth in each one, I could go on and on!  My students love it as well.  We always read it at the beginning of the school year and then again in the spring and usually several times in between because it is highly requested each year.  There are so many teaching points in the story as well: the life cycle of the butterfly, collage, instant gratification vs. waiting to find just the right thing, days of the week, word choice, etc.


3. Read To Tiger by T.S. Fore.  I stumbled upon this book because my daughter received it in the mail as part of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program.  To be honest, it sat on the bookshelf for a while before we read it.  She wasn't all that interested in it at first, but then we read it and we both really enjoyed it.  It has so many onomatopoeia words that it is just a fun book to read.  Again, many great teaching points can be found in this story as well but most of all, any child that I've read it to has loved it.  That says a lot.

4. Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge and I Went Walking by Mem Fox.  This was just one pair of books that I just couldn't narrow down.  I love them both for different reasons.  Wilfred is a sweet story about relationships that so many can related to in some way that old and young both enjoy it.  Walking is a story that is fun to read with young children.  It reminds me of Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr. in that it has repetitive lines, colors and animals.  Each year my students enjoy this story and we typically make our first class book using this story as our model.

5. The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and The Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood.  Again, this is an author that I had a hard time narrowing down the choices.  Wood has so many great books that I use every year in my classroom and that my own children have enjoyed at home.  This story is a favorite because of the illustrations.  I love that you can read the words and enjoy the story but you can also read just the illustrations and enjoy the story.  When you combine them both, it's amazing!

6. Pete the Cat, I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin.  Honestly, I love all three Pete books, but my favorite is this one.  I love the rhythm of the story, the colors, the illustrations, Pete's attitude and of course, the moral of the story.  I have the song downloaded and on the desktop of my computer because my own children and my students request it so often.  We enjoyed this story so much last year in the classroom that I wrote my own version of the story/song when I got a new pair of plaid shoes!

7. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.  Is there anyone that doesn't love this book?  I use it in my classroom all year long.  I have a chicka chicka boom boom tree in my classroom.  We do art projects surrounding this story.  We sing the song version of the story.  We use the small chicka tree and velcro letters to act out the story.  We make our own chicka books that go into our book boxes.  I love it!




8. No, David! by David Shannon.  David is one of my very favorite story characters.  Kids relate easily to him and all of the troubles that find him.  My students this past year really enjoyed the fact that David Shannon wrote this story about himself as a child and they were very motivated to learn that Shannon wrote his first version of the story as a young child.  It's a great mentor text to use in the classroom!

9.  Tulip Sees America by Cynthia Rylant.  Again, it was a tough debate between this book and Rylant's When I Was Young in the Mountains.  Both are fantastic but the illustrations in Tulip Sees America are what tipped the scale for me.  I love that there are pictures that are close ups, some are scenic illustrations and some are drawn in a way that so clearly shows the vastness of some places in America.  The page that always gets to me is the one with the stormy sky in one of the plains states where you can only see fields for miles and it feels so lonely and isolated that I can't help the catch in my breath each time I read it/see it.

10. Mo Willems might just be my favorite children's author.  He is a master in this arena! His characters are hilarious and so easy to relate to.  I love Elephant, Piggy, Trixie and Pigeon!  His illustrations are geared toward the artistic abilities of children. He has said that he tries to draw his characters in such a way that children can try to duplicate them.  In fact, he has published a step-by-step instruction sheet showing how to draw Pigeon.  You can't help but smile when you read a Mo story!



Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Birthday Slice

Well, today is the day!  It is the day each year when I get a little older.  It's the day I think to myself, hmmm, I don't feel that old!  Yep, it's my birthday!

My morning started at 7 a.m. on the dot, as usual.  My 51-week-old alarm clock/daughter (I have a hard time believing she's going to be ONE on Monday!) woke up right on time.  We started the day with a bottle and a snuggle...always a peaceful way to ease into wakefullness!

My co-workers (yes, we did curriculum work today) provided me with a yummy baked potato and salad lunch, followed by equally yummy brownies and ice cream!  It made working today much easier.

After work, my hubby took me out for dinner and we enjoyed a meal together where we didn't have to get up to refill anyone's glass, didn't have to tell anyone to sit up in his/her chair and we didn't have to negotiate how many more bites anyone had to have of dinner.  That's right, it was a dinner for grown-ups only!

I guess I don't mind getting older when it means I get to have a nice day like today!




For more Slice of Life stories, head to the Two Writing Teachers blog, hosted by Ruth Ayres and Stacey Shubitz.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Chalk! Do You Chalk?

It is chalk time again!
Since I forgot to restock my chalk supply, I had to be a little creative in my chalking this month!

I pulled out the trusty iPad and started searching for a chalk board app.  Guess what?  I found one!  It's very simple but fun.  My kids and I have both enjoyed playing with it today.  I have school ideas swirling too!  I'm thinking this would be a fun way to practice sight words in the classroom!  A new word work tool!  I just wish I had more iPads for the classroom!  

Take a look at what came out of my "chalk" today!

 I didn't have a poem ready for chalking today and when I sat down to write, I wasn't very inspired.  Instead, I started drawing and playing around.  Here is my first product...a play on Betsy's Chalk-A-Bration button!  That white thing down at the bottom?  My attempt at a mustache, of course!


Of course, my brain kept leaning toward school.  It keeps doing that now that July is almost at a close.  Sad but true. Here is my next drawing...I think I will call it a "picture-list" poem.  It's a  little of each, I think.



 During the summer, for me, thoughts of returning to school always turn into thoughts of wanting more vacation time.  So...this is where I want to be...


Last, but not least, my almost one-year-old decided that the iPad looked like fun.  Here is her very first chalk drawing.  Okay, fine, I might have helped her change chalk colors, but the art work is all hers!


It may not be a traditional sidewalk chalk set of drawings, but it was fun anyway.  To check out more chalk work, head to Betsy's blog Teaching Young Writers.

Also check the Two Writings Teachers blog for more Slice of Life stories!


 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Time to Read Monday

I love to read!


I have been reading a varied selection over the last two weeks.  I've been reading a couple of Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggy books with my daughter.  They aren't new, but they are new to us and we really enjoyed them!  We read Happy Pig Day, I Broke My Trunk and Should I Share My Ice Cream?, which quickly became a new favorite.  I just love Mo!

We have also been reading the Knuffle Bunny books, also by Mo Willems.  We read the first two, Knuffle Bunny and Knuffle Bunny Too.  Each of my daughters picked out one of these books (I see I'm not the only one who loves Mo at my house!) and they have spent the last week pouring over them...even trading them back and forth!  They rarely do this with each other, probably because of the 2.5 year age difference, or maybe because the almost second-grader doesn't want to read the 4-year-old's books!  Anyway, I have enjoyed it, whatever the reason!

I have also enjoyed a few YA books too!  I read Hound Dog True by Linda Urban, which I enjoyed.  It is interesting to me to read a YA book that displays the thinking of a YA so clearly, now that I have a child in that age group!  I often find myself wondering if he thinks like the main character.  I loved how the main character, Mattie, was so easy to relate to in this book as she tried to fit into a new place with new people.  Even though it's a girl in the story, I think boys could relate to her feelings and the dynamics of the relationship between Mattie and Quincy, her maybe-friend.  It was a good read and I hope my son will read it too, as he approaches a move to the middle school this year as a big fourth-grader!

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm was another good YA read.  I actually read this one before Hound Dog True and found myself comparing the main characters.  The main character, Turtle, was also in a new place, with new people and trying to find her place there.  I enjoyed the setting of this story the most - Key West during the 1930's.  I think the culture of Key West is interesting anyway, but by changing the time to the 1935 gave it yet another layer of interest.

I also enjoyed reading a "grown-up" book too!  I may be a little late to get to this one, but I truly enjoyed reading The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.  It was a little confusing at first to keep up with the time traveling aspect...actually, even later when I was used to it I often found myself trying to put it all together...but it was such a sweet love story that I was hooked immediately.  I was hooked by the book enough that I decided to follow it up with the movie!  Usually, I don't do that because I always like the book more than the movie, and this case is no different, but I did enjoy the movie version as well.  I'd recommend both!

I am currently still plugging away at Debbie Diller's Math Work Stations.  I love all the ideas in it! I am reading it with my page flags in hand because I find myself flagging something on every few pages.  I had to limit myself to flagging only those ideas I thought I would use in the first half of the year for now...I think maybe I'll have to switch flag colors for the second half of the year ideas...if I don't run out first!

I am also reading Sara Pennypacker's Clementine's Letter.  I read Clementine at the beginning of the summer and really enjoyed it.  I have been waiting for the other books to be back on the bookshelves in the library since then and finally, on my last trip, this one was waiting for me!  It is just as sweet and funny as the first.  I can't help but laugh out loud at some parts!  Clementine reminds me of my own children at times, as well as former students of mine.  I often find myself wondering if Clementines thoughts are similar to my children's thoughts...sometimes I think so!  She is such a loveable character.  I look forward to reading the other books in this series.

Happy reading!