Saturday, February 10, 2018

Nonfiction 10 for 10: People Worth Knowing

I loved learning about these people and I think you will too.  
So for this year's 10 for 10, here are a few great titles in ABC order. 

1. Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome

Before She was Harriet

2. Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton by Sherri Duskey Rinker

Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton

3.  Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman by Marc Tyler Nobleman
Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman

4. Enormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Commings by Matthew Burgess

Enormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Cummings

5. Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laura Wallmark

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Women Who Changed Our World)

6. Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters by Michael Mahin

Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters

7. Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville
Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire
 8. Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille by Jen Bryant

Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille
 9. Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor by Robert Burleigh

Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor
10. Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet
Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White (Ala Notable Children's Books. All Ages)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Picture Book 10 for 10

I didn't stick with a theme this year, I just included books I love. Paring the list down to ten was difficult, but I managed, so without further ado, here is my 10 for 10. Click on a pic if you want to see it on Amazon. 

1. What's Your Favorite Color? by Eric Carle
15 beloved children's book illustrators use beautiful language to tell us about their favorite colors. 

2. This House, Once by Deborah Freedman
Sweet, lovely, lilting, and thoughtful. A gem of a book. 

3.  Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty, Illustrated by Bryan Collier
Wow. What a beautiful book. Several of our students have absent or incarcerated parents or grandparents, so the relevancy of this book gave me goosebumps. Loved the author note and the purpose to offer hope that "every fatherless child can still create the most beautiful life possible."

4. The Thank You Book by Mo Willems
I love the Elephant and Piggie series so much. I felt a twinge of grief when I discovered Mo Willems was writing the final book in the series. I have to say, he could not have written it better. Knowing many of these Elephant and Piggie adventures by heart, this book felt like the perfect way to say "thank you" and "goodbye."

5. Today I Feel . . . An Alphabet of Feelings by Madalena Moniz
What a great picture book. One word per page, but multiple opportunities for inferring, making connections, and having conversations. The artwork is thought provoking and wonderful.  

6. Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
Loved this! Loved how gentle Jabari's father was. Loved that Jabari showed courage. Loved the step-by-step telling of a small moment. Loved the various perspectives in the great illustrations.   

7. The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak
I need to admit that when I read this book silently to myself the first time, I thought it was kind of silly. When I read it to kids, I discovered it is one of those magical, outrageously funny books that must be read aloud, and once read aloud, is begged for over and over. 

8. Ragweed's Farm Dog Handbook (Learn from the best!) by Anne Vittur Kennedy
I am prone to love books that make me laugh out loud. This tongue-in-cheek narrative did just that. 

9. Dragon Was Terrible by Kelly DiPucchio, Illustrated by Greg Pizzoli
Fun, funny, and a bit meaningful in that I couldn't help but think of some of the really hard kids I have had who I began to win over with great read alouds. 

10. The Water Princess by Susan Verde, Georgie Badiel, Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds.
A relevant topic. Everyone should have access to clean water. The art by Peter H. Reynolds is stunning.   

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Poetry Lesson

This poem is rich with meaning and things to talk about, and is a wonderful introduction to personification. 

Here is how you might use it with your students. 

Introduce the word personification. Highlight the word person within the word personification and share that personification means to give human characteristics to something that is not human. It is a writing technique that J. Patrick Lewis uses in his poem.

Give each student a copy of the poem "Are You a Book Person?" from the book Please Bury Me in the Library and read it aloud. Ask students to read it again and circle the various ways in which the author compares a book to a person. 

After a few minutes, have students share with an elbow buddy, allowing them to learn from each other and revise their findings. 

Share out. What do all these things mean? 

The third-grade students I worked with started with basic comparisons like “A book has a spine, and a person has a spine in their back.” Their thoughts turned more insightful with “The heart, it’s like the middle of the book, where the excitement happens” or  “The heart is the part of the book that makes you feel something.” “Maybe the soul is the part of the book that stays with you forever.” Wow! 

After discussing what the personification discoveries might mean, we ended with inferring what J. Patrick Lewis’s purpose might be. What does he want us to take away from this poem, and how do we know? 

At the end of the lesson, every student agreed that they liked the poem better and understood it at a deeper level as a result of rereading and thinking more deeply about it.  

J. Patrick Lewis was kind enough to give me permission to share the poem with you in its entirety, so if you are interested, you can share it with your students as well.

Are You a Book Person?

A good book is a kind
Of person with a mind
Of her own,
Who lives alone, 
Standing on a shelf
By herself. 
She has a spine, 
A heart, a soul, 
And a goal.
To capture, to amuse,
To light a fire
(You're the fuse(),
Or else, joyfully,
Just to be,
From beginning
To end.
Need a friend?

~J. Patrick Lewis

Friday, August 28, 2015

Unexpected Blessing

Where will our unexpected blessing come from this year?

Isaac Gautschi stopped by, camera in hand, to photograph our home so we could list it for sale. As he moved from room to room, I asked him about his story. Isaac is young (only 23), so it wasn’t surprising that he’d been taking photographs for only two years and had had his photography business for only one. But it was surprising to hear about the journey that led him there.

Ready to begin college, with a passion for music and his guitar, Isaac had everything ripped away on April 18, 2013, when his body was thrown 30 feet in a horrific motorcycle accident. Multiple broken bones and injuries made him unable to walk or care for himself. Instead of entering college, he moved back in with his parents, who once again took on the mantle of feeding and caring for the son they loved.

Both arms and hands were in casts. Only the index finger of his right hand had mobility. Knowing his guitar days were probably behind him led to a deep depression. Isaac’s mom gave him a camera and encouraged him to try it. She reminded Isaac that he was an artist, and that maybe his artistic voice could be found in another medium. So he gave it a try. Balancing the camera on his cast, he used his index finger to shoot. He discovered that he had a gift, and he’s been taking photos ever since—amazing photos!

Isaac says that something beautiful and good can come from the most horrible of situations. His camera has become an extension of himself, and when he looks back now, all he sees is the unexpected blessing.

Where will our unexpected blessings come from this year? Perhaps you’ve taught only first grade and have never wanted to teach anything but first grade, but are being moved to fifth grade. Maybe you love your colleagues but are being transferred to a new school. Or perhaps you looked at your class list and saw a name you were hoping not to see. Hang in there. You may discover gifts and talents when you land there that you didn’t even know you had. You, too, may experience the joy that comes when hardship turns into unexpected blessing.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Flight Map

Does your mind ever make strange connections that make you think, Where did that come from? It happened to me recently when I was in my seat, ready for takeoff.

I was reminiscing about my limited skiing experience. After getting started, I slid on the bunny slope for a bit, but since I couldn't stop, I kept going until I fell down or ran into something. The strange thought was I am so glad this pilot can fly better than I can ski. Bizarre, I know. I am sharing it with all of you because pilot proficiently get us from point A to point B over and over, and we can learn a lesson from what happens along the way.

We place ourselves in the experienced hands of the pilot and trust him or her completely to get us to our destination. If you are like me, you are happier when there is a map on the seatback in front of you that shows where you are in relation to the goal.

And there is the connection to what we do every day and why ongoing, formative assessment is so important. It provides our students with a glimpse of “Here is where we are going, where we are now, and where we will move next to get you closer to the end point.”

On the first day of school, our students place themselves in our care. They trust that we will get them from point A to point B before the school year ends. We can make their journey even more pleasant by frequently and transparently showing them right where they are, and clearly taking them where they need to go with instruction that matters.

Friday, June 5, 2015

I See You

Our 15-month-old grandson is learning new words every day. He put his first sentence together when playing the I See You game with my husband at the dinner table. I couldn't help but smile (and record the event) when I witnessed the joy and delight they experienced each time their eyes met.

In a blog post titled "Sorry Confusion,Seth Godin writes, “I see you is what we crave.” He says that many of us have forgotten what it means to be human, and how much it means when we authentically care for each other.

This "authentic seeing" is deeply important to our students, and it comes when we build relationships. A wonderful article by the National Education Association suggests four ways we can build good relationships with our students.

I’d like to add two more. We need to train ourselves to be present. When in a one-on-one conference with a student, we don’t want to let thoughts about our next focus lesson creep in. It’s when we are truly present that the message “I see you and understand you” will be fully conveyed.

Lastly, we need to know students so well, and know children’s literature so well, that we can successfully match students with texts they will like/love. In Igniting a Passion for Reading: Successful Strategies for Building Lifetime Readers, Steven Layne (2009) writes about the power of handing a child a book we purchased or selected with them in mind.
It’s often said that the three most important words people need to hear are “I love you.” I would never argue with that. But I’ll tell you the four most important words that I think kids—our own and our students—need to hear. They are “I thought of you.” Those words, supported with tangible evidence, can work miracles in the life of a disengaged reader (p.15).
So as the school year draws to a close, and we are inundated with the end-of-year demands that have the potential to rob our joy, let’s infuse that joy and delight back into our lives with the message "I see you—I really see you."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Practiced Avoidance

You are going to judge me and you will be completely justified in doing so.
I have a shoulder impingement injury. I have been assigned stretches and exercises, which if practiced daily will lessen the pain and bring back my range of movement, yet I don’t do them. They aren’t very hard. They don’t even take very long. I don’t have a single good reason for avoiding them.

How is it better to live with stabs of pain so intense that I go from being a normal woman to one with circling cartoon stars of pain above my head? How is it better to live for months, careful not to make movements that cause mind-numbing, nearly faint-inducing pain? It isn’t. I get it. It isn’t.
All of you with healthy bodies are thinking, That doesn’t make sense. Just do the moves and get better. And you are right. See, I knew you'd judge me.
But until one of my loved ones steps in to hold me accountable, or until I decide that I am tired of the complete lack of improvement, the stretchy purple band and illustrated list of moves collects dust while I practice avoidance.

So now I know.

Now I know and can relate to that special brand of reluctant reader who wants to be proficient, but doesn’t read. They have what they need in their book boxes, but avoid engaging with text. They are given time to practice, but don’t use it. It doesn’t make any sense. And time after time, they shrug and say they don’t know why they don’t read, they just don’t.

But being a nonreader is a pain inducing experience we can’t allow. So until our reluctant readers become voracious and independent readers, we must assess accurately, instruct wisely, support and scaffold brilliantly, check in with daily, cheer on optimistically, and tenaciously impart the message that reading is a superpower they must have for themselves. No judgment, just understanding and the message that they are too important to let slip through the cracks.