Friday, August 10, 2012

My Top 10 Picture Books (Today)

Picture Books August 10 for 10

Thank you Cathy Mere at Reflect and Refine and Mandy Robek at Enjoy and Embrace Learning for hosting this event. This is my first time participating in this awesome event! I love reading everyone's lists.  They remind me of so many I love and add to my list of so many yet to read!

My own list really does change day by day although many of these books are my long time favorites and I end up reading them no matter what grade I'm teaching or what group of teachers I'm working with.  

 If You're Not From the Prairie By David Bouchard 
This is a great mentor text.  My students love to write their own books using their own expertise.  Awesome images!

Water Hole Waiting By Jane Kurtz  This is a story based on an actual water hole in Africa.  It is filled with beautiful words and pictures.  After we read this story we started to watch and could observe African animals at their natural water hole.  We saw elephants, giraffes, hyenas, hippos, lions, and so much more.  It became our favorite thing to do and was a huge hit with families!

How to Heal a Broken Wing By Bob Graham
This is a beautifully simple story that is told as much through illustration as the text.  Bob Graham is one of my favorite author/illustrators!  


Let's Get a Pup Said Kate  By Bob Graham The enthusiasm in this story is contagious!  All the kids can relate to the story and you really find your self totally engaged with Kate's family! It's another awesome mentor text.

Some Things Are Scary By Florence Parry Heide  I love the inverted sentences in this book and the things that are scary in this book are definitely scary to children of all ages.  It's a great beginning of school book to make connections and build common ground! 

Memoirs of a Goldfish By David Scillian  One of my favorite books! The kids and I laugh all the way through it!  It is awesome if you have a classroom goldfish.  

Surprising Sharks By Nicola Davies  This is a literary nonfiction.  This is one of the most engaging texts--kids love to find out information about sharks, but this is so much fun!!

A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever By Marla Frazee I really like everything Marla Frazee does.  This book we read over and over and never get tired of it.  Of course it prompts all kinds of stories from the kids!

A Splendid Friend Indeed By Suzanne Bloom Beautiful story about two friends.  Illustrations are so comforting.  We send our incoming K's home with this book at K registration and we all have the big books that we read the first week of school.  Kids are so excited that they already know the story!

The Granny Man  By Judith Schachner  This is a wonderful story about an old cat whose body is old and tired that receives an incentive to keep on living!  The language in this story describing this old cat is awesome!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Thinking About the Kindergarten Classroom Library

Classroom Library
in Kindergarten

Amy and I started sorting books the other day for our classroom library. We want to start the year with some baskets already sorted so that our students start to think about how to find and choose a 'Just Right' book. We don't want to overwhelm them with 25 book baskets and 200 books! So...How many baskets do we put out? Which baskets do we put out? Which books do we put in the baskets? Of course it's much easier to make those decisions once you know your students, but to get us started until we do know our students we need to consider....some of our students come to kindergarten being able to read while others have very little experience with books, most young children love animals, they are attracted to books that are visually interesting, but not so cluttered that they don't know where to look. We want them to be actively involved with the books they choose from the library and to be able to start to independently expect and create “story” using what they know about how a story works, the words, illustrations, and retelling stories that are familiar to them. We need to create a library that makes our students feel like readers right away!
Some of the baskets we created are...
  • Alphabet Books: Jerry Pallotta books that are themed (Icky Bug, Dinosaur, Ocean, etc.) Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (Bill Martin Jr, and Archambault), Eating the Alphabet (Lois Ehlert), The Alphabet Tree (Leo Lionni), Tomorrow's Alphabet (George Shannon), The Handmade Alphabet (Laura Rankin),Toot and Puddle's ABC (Hobbie) This is a good read aloud to then add to baskets-- goes along with writing your name and your friend's name! LMNO peas (Baker), Z is for Moose (Bingham)
  • Number Books: Five Little Monkeys (Christelow), 10 Black Dots (Crews), Ten Nine Eight (Bang), Anno's Counting Book (Mitsumasa), This Old Man, Roll Over (Traditional Rhymes—they can start matching print to what they already know!), 10 Minutes Till Bedtime (Rathmann), 10 Little Caterpillars (Bill Martin Jr.)
  • Eric Carle: The Hungry Caterpillar, The Grouch LadyBug, 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo, The Very Busy Spider... Many of our students are familiar with these stories and love the illustrations. These books really support our students as developing readers.
  • Animals:(both fiction and nonfiction) After the first few weeks of school we will use this basket to help us start to think about informational books vs fictional stories... Brown Bear, Brown Bear (Bill Martin Jr.), Spots, Feathers, and Curly Tails (Tafuri), Llama Llama Mad at Mama (Dewdney), Llama Llama Misses Mama, Yip! Snap! Yap! (Fuge)
  • David Shannon: No David, David Goes to School
  • Dr. Seuss Books: One Fish Two Fish, ABC,
  • Mo Willems Books: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late, Knuffle Bunny, Elephant and Piggie Books (we will read a lot of these books as read alouds—always the most popular basket!)
  • Big Machines: Demolition (Sutton)

We will start to create some general baskets so that our students can start thinking about how we might sort them to make them easier to find. Young students love non fiction and science topics. We will have a wonder center (table) in our classroom that will always include a basket of books that go along with the kinds of things that are on the wonder table and with some books that may give our kids new ideas of what to bring in for the wonder table! Early in the year there will be lots of books about Life Cycles—such as caterpillars, frogs, trees, etc.
    • Science Books
    • Family/Friends/School
    • Realistic Fiction
    • Holidays/Seasons
Introducing the Classroom Library:
The Library will be an important part of the classroom in lots of ways. It will serve as a center as part of the workboard every day and will be one of the most important places our students start to interact with books. It will also be a place where students develop the language they need to talk about books with their friends and really enjoy books and reading. We will spend a lot of time all year modeling and practicing being readers.
  • At first we will let students explore the baskets available in the library and talk about what they discovered. This will give them a chance to look at books and think about how they may be grouped together.
  • We'll talk about why the books are grouped together to get us thinking about how that helps us to choose 'just right' books.
  • We'll talk about and practice how to 'read' the books we choose and how important illustrations are and the kinds of things we notice in books that help us understand what the author is trying to tell us (we'll notice the bold print, single words authors choose to show us noises animals are making or things people may be saying in bubbles, and how illustrations can help us think about so much of the story that we wouldn't know if we weren't paying attention, and how we can retell the stories we've heard as read aloud or songs and rhymes we already know).
  • We'll practice choosing books and talking about the ones we love and why we love them and also about the ones that just aren't working for us and that it's ok to put them back and find another one!
  • Amy and I will spend time reading with kids in the library and modeling some of the same kinds of things that we want kids to take on.
  • As we watch our kids grow as readers we will continue to design mini lessons around the kinds of things they need to keep growing.

I love young readers and their excitement over all the things they discover! It's really important that as teachers we continue to make sure our kids are enaging with text and not beginning the 'fake reading' that plagues our older kids when they disengage with text. Observation, conversation, and continuing to help our kids find books they love will help them to stay engaged as readers!   

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Using Imaginative Play as a Learning Experience

Creating a Restaurant with Kindergartners

We know that young kids love to play and NEED to play. This play offers major literacy learning and can provide so many opportunities to develop language, routines and procedures in order for that literacy learning to become self sustaining as the year progresses. My co-teacher, Amy, and I talked about the opportunities that a classroom restaurant could offer and decided to make space for one as one of our first imaginative play areas of the year. We were talking about some of the things we would need and we started to make a verbal list. We did go ahead and get some things we felt the kids would need to play, but before we reveal them we will use this opportunity to set up the structure of our classroom where kids will be in charge of all the thinking and planning.
Some books to help us start our discussions: Froggy Eats Out (Jonathan London), Wiggens Learns His Manners at the Four Seasons Restaurant, How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? (Jane Yolen), Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes.
We will start with a discussion around restaurants and the experiences they've all had. What is a restaurant? What would you find at a restaurant? Then start to make a list (through interactive writing) about the kinds of things that we will need in our restaurant. I would expect that the list the kids would come up with would include menus, food, waitress, dishes, silverware, cook, etc. We will continue to add to that list as kids get the chance to talk with their families (it would be awesome to take them to a rest, but we are on a no field trips budget) about going to a restaurant.
Creating the necessary elements of our restaurant:
Once we have a list established we will go about setting our restaurant up and organizing it together.
We do have some “food”. We will show the kids the food we have and ask them what we could offer on a menu based on the food we have. Using chart paper we will be able to make a list of the foods we could put on our menu. It's important for students to have the chance to look at a variety of menus so that they can start to notice the features of a menu and what all menus include. This will give us the chance to start to model and practice looking at “mentor text”, working with a partner, and how to “notice”. After allowing them the chance to take a look at some menus in small groups/pairs we will share what everyone found and make a chart to refer back to. This info. Will help us to design our own menu. The menus we will provide for the kids to look at will have some purposeful features, such as pictures that go with the food selections, simple bold headings, etc. We then want them to use the features we noticed in other menus to create our own. A lot of literacy learning will go into the design of our menu: labels and illustration, very beginnings of saying words slowly and writing what we hear, matching sound to letter, making words and pictures match, how to use a mentor text, how to collaborate as a group, layout, communicating with an audience... These same kinds of skills will be used as we create place mats, a restaurant name, paint the restaurant name on our aprons and chef hats for the workers in the restaurant, create name tags, etc.

Opportunities to Learn and Practice Language...

Training our restaurant workers: It will be fun to train our servers and chefs to work in the restaurant. We will be able to have discussions around how you treat your customers, the language you use when you talk with customers, how to explain what food specials there are, how to take an order, and so much more. We will figure out what we need to know as we play!

Of course we will have to talk about how to be a good customer (not like Froggy!) in a restaurant and practice the kind of language you use when you're ordering, how to ask questions, or tell your server when you want something cooked in a special way (no onions please!).

Reading and Writing Recipes:The restaurant will give us the chance to look at recipes and talk about how to read one and what is included in a recipe. This will help us to write our own and talk about how to explain how to do something step by step (Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes is a great mentor text for this.).

The more I think about this restaurant the more opportunities pop up! The playing itself will be awesome. As we get the chance to pretend (and model) with our kids in the restaurant and watch and listen to them it will give us new ideas and opportunities to use that imaginative play to continue to encourage our students to create new dishes to be served, new specials to make posters for, to solve problems, and brainstorm new imaginative play centers.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Environment is Created Together

When I first started teaching I loved getting "my" classroom ready.  I bought all kinds of cutouts for the walls--theme based and visually appealing and all pre-made.  Now 25+ years later I do still enjoy getting our classroom ready, but at this point all I'm doing is organizing and looking for ways to allow students to collaborate during the first few weeks of school to create our environment.  When I created the environment and it was totally ready and "done" when the kids came to school on the first day my kids still learned--it didn't hurt them.  Now, I spend my time looking for ways to allow students to work together to create our environment.  They feel more ownership and become a community much quicker than when I prepared everything.  

The first week of school we spend all of our time getting to know each other and creating places and spaces in the classroom.  The agreement we come to about how we will 'live' in our classroom is created out of our discussions about how we can learn and grow with each other (many of our discussions stem from the books we are reading like Mean Jean the Recess Queen, How Full is Your Bucket, ...).  We create a short bulleted list of some generalities that come out of our discussions through interactive writing.  

Interactive writing  helps us to create so much of our classroom.  We create a color/color word chart together, we Design and create a birthday chart, the alphabet chart, the beginnings of our word wall, the labels for all of our centers and classroom places (math, wonder table, abc center, library, book basket labels...), number/number word chart...  We spend the month of September learning routines and procedures together and then creating charts to help us remember.  Charts for how to talk about books, how to turn and talk, how to talk about our writing, how to share important information with each other--learning terms like reader and writer.  It sounds silly, but young readers and writers have a hard time thinking about themselves as the writer or thinking about who their readers are as they write.  Many of these discussions happen during interactive read alouds and shared reading of poems, big books, or during sharing time. The charts we create together hold multiple roles in our classroom.  They help us to become a community as we talk about and make decisions about many things that will be important to us as friends and learners. The charts also provide invaluable foundational literacy skills that each student will take from participating as part of a group, to small group, and to independence.  The experience of creating these charts allow our students to feel connected to each chart, label, and creation on our walls.  They want to read and re-read what we have done together.  They also serve as resources and reminders everyday.  Lots of times in the morning students will come in and say, "Hey, Mrs. Horton I think we need to make a chart about...." or they actually create charts about things they think are important and share them with the group. I love when they can't wait to write!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Creating an Environment That's Creative, Inviting, & Interesting

I'm continuing to read Beginning Literacy (Pinnell & Fountas) and A Place for Wonder  Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades (Georgia Heard & Jennifer McDonough).  Both of these books remind me page by page that our students need to create their own environment, BUT it's our job to make sure that we provide the supports and opportunities for them to be able to do that.  Kindergartners come in with a range of abilities; we need to create opportunities for all of them to feel successful.  The poem, Straight Lines, in the first few pages of A Place for Wonder is awesome and really speaks to my beliefs about young learners (pg. 2-3).  Georgia Heard says over and over that we must fill our classrooms with wonder.  Ok, I totally agree, but how do we do that and all of the things that New York State is demanding as well.  Even though I don't agree with a lot of what is landing in Kindergarten I still have a responsibility to make sure my students are meeting those expectations so they are  prepared for what is facing them next.  It's definitely not their fault that the educational system has become test bound.  I'm confident that by providing opportunities for inquiry, exploration, imagination, and creation that Kindergartners will become successful readers, writers, problem solvers, and innovators!  Curiosity is a great fuel for 4, 5 and 6 year olds.  To start with,  students need to get to know each other, Amy and me, and we need to know them.  Of course, like so many other classrooms we will need to provide opportunities for that to happen.  At the same time we need to give them lots of opportunities to work with their names and the names of their new friends to start our journey as readers and writers. 

Great books for shared reading, independent reading, and interactive read alouds are hugely important.  They need to believe they are readers and writers from the first day!  Some of the books on my list to start with are:

Pete the Cat  Eric Litman and James Dean (love the message that things happen--no big deal--go with the flow! I'm hoping some of Pete's logic will rub off in our classroom rules) 

Our Tree Named Steve Alan Zweibel and David Catrow (I'm hoping this will get kids talking about their own families and things that matter to them!)

Mo Willem's Books  (His books automatically make kids feel like readers.  All readers can relate to these books.  Some love Elephant and Piggie, some love the Pigeon and the Duck.  These stories compel kids to create their own stories.  These books make kids feel like readers and need to be included in our classroom library.)

No, David, David Goes to School, David Gets in Trouble all written by David Shannon  (Kids relate to these books in so many ways.  They understand David, defend David, Love David, and have their own stories about the David's in their lives.  These books absolutely make all kids feel like readers and writers--these are a must in our classroom library!)

I will continue to add to this list and start to create the baskets that will find a home in our classroom library.  The library really has to call to our kids!  I want them to WANT to be in that library!  This will be an important part to creating an environment that causes kids to wonder!  To be continued...

Monday, July 9, 2012

So many things to think about...

I'm a loooong time teacher and at this point in my teaching life am a K-2 Literacy Coach.  I have been teaching in first and second grades for the past two years. This year I am moving to K!  I am going to be co-teaching during the literacy block with another teacher.  I'm really excited to be working with Amy and getting to focus on K.  I've been re-reading Literacy Beginnings by Fountas & Pinnell.  There are so many pieces to think about when planning ways to provide opportunities for young children to grow as readers, writers, and thinkers.  Of course I live in New York where we are incorporating the Common Core as well.  One place I am really focusing is language learning.  Tony Johnston's book Opening Minds is helping me think about the power of language; both ours as teachers and our students'. With that in mind, I'm really thinking about how we organize our environment and instruction to allow our students optimal time to learn about, 'try out', and practice their language.  Fountas and Pinnell talk about young children really not distinguishing any difference between playing, reading, and writing.  They are always curious which leads them to discovery and learning. (p. 22) to continue to support that essence of 'play' to provide opportunities for our 5 and 6 year olds to be excited about what they are doing while they grow as readers, writers, and thinkers?! I'm starting to make lists of centers that will facilitate that thinking. Georgia Heard's book, A Place for Wonder, is one of the best I've read to help you think about how to continue to engage kids as 'wonderers'. Of course the first center on my list is the Wonder Center.  So far I've also included: writing (thank you Katie Wood Ray and Matt Glover), books (making, reading, writing, sharing), imaginative play, art & music, and... still thinking! 

I will continue to post often as my thinking grows toward K and would love any input to help me keep moving my thinking forward!