Showing posts from 2011

The Monster at the End of This Book App

I'm not a big fan of character books.  By that, I mean books that take television, movie or toy characters and put them in books.  I think typically the quality of these books are okay at best.  This post is not about why I don't care for these books but how I found one I liked and then loved.

I found The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone several years ago.  I vaguely remember hearing someone read it during my student teaching.  The kids thought this book was hilarious.  Grover is so outrageous and dramatic I instantly liked the book too.  I bought the book and read it to several different classes all with huge success, but there was always something missing.  The sound of Grover's voice would really take this book to the next level.  I listened and practiced but there was nothing I could do to sound like Grover. 

Then a couple of weeks ago I discovered the perfect enhancement to a book.  This maybe the only time I will say that a book could be improved upon, bu…

New Books (to me) For Professional Reading.

This summer I did a bit of professional reading.  I had planned on a lot more but the sun, pool and fresh air became a higher priority.  There are several books that I've been wanting to read so I took the plunge today and ordered three of them.

The first book I purchased was Choice Words by Peter H. Johnston.  I've heard about this book for a couple of years but kept pushing it aside.  I've realized recently that I need to be more explicit in my responses to my students.  I'm hoping that this will help me shape my language to push the kids even farther.

Sometime this summer I started hearing and thinking about small groups for math.  I was following @kassiawedekind on Twitter and she seemed to know a lot about the topic.  I send her a message asking for her thoughts and she replied that she had a book coming out, Math Exchanges, all about it.  I have never read a math professional book.  Literacy seems to always be the focus and math often gets pushed aside.  I've…

Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes

For several of my students, kindergarten is their first school experience.  Many of them have had limited exposure to books, so the first book I read to them has to be special.  I'd been hearing about Pete the Cat all summer so when I had a gift card to spend both books were on the top of my list.  I read the books and listened to the songs and really liked them.  Then I read and listened again and I liked them more.  Eventually, I couldn't get the songs out of my head and thought maybe I'd found the book that would start their school experience.
Yesterday was our first day of school and after the parents and tears were gone we sat on the carpet and read Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes by Eric Litwin.  The kids loved it and starting singing along immediately.  THEN, I took out my iPad and let them listen to the story and song...they were hooked.  They were singing Pete all day long.  We listen to the song several times. 

When we returned from recess someone notic…

Picture Books: 10 on Aug 10th

I really couldn’t be more excited about Picture Books: August 10 for 10th.There not much I like to buy more than a great picture book.Looks like my credit card and Amazon is about to get an amazing workout after this event.Thank you to Cathy and Mandy for hosting and creating is wonderful event.So without further ado…here are 10 picture books I love.

I discovered Ish by Peter H. Reynolds when a friend told me I had to read it.I loved it from the first read but was unaware the impact this book would have on my students.I had a student who among other things was an absolute perfectionist.His illustrations had to be “perfect” and “look like a real one”.His spelling also had to be like “grown-ups”.Although his reactions were mostly out of his control the other children in my class had the same frustrations.After school one day trying to figure out how I could calm everyone’s anxiety about these things and this book came to mind.I thought if Ramon could overcome his need to create perfect t…


Sometime last year I started following several blogs of other teachers.  I loved hearing about new books they were reading, goings on in the classrooms and their new learning.  I even started this little blog of my own.  I felt connected outside my district and was constantly talking about the things I had read. I thought this was the best way to connect.

I'm pretty sure the first time I heard about teachers utilizing Twitter was at the Dublin Literacy Conference.  Franki Sibberson was talking about tech in the classroom and mentioned using Twitter to connect with other teachers.  To say I was skeptical is an understatement, why did I need to know what other teachers were having for dinner or where they were shopping?  I did wonder why someone I respected and learned from would be into Twitter but I still wasn't convinced.

Early this summer, I listened to a podcast by Kassia Wedekind and Katie Keier.  They talked about how teachers are "tweeting" to connect and learn…

Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator

I've said it before and I'll say it again...I love Mo Willems.  Everything the man writes is amazing.  I love him because he connects with my kids is a way that few authors can.  He's funny yet he always leaves us thinking. 

Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator  is another gem from Mo Willems.  In this story, Amanda's best friend is her stuffed alligator.  They have a very sweet friendship based on trust and respect.  Alligator trusts that Amanda will always be there for him, she'll come home ad always have a surprise for him.  One day Amanda's surprise isn't quite what he expected.  He realizes that sometimes things are better than you expect. I love how this friendship evolves. 

In kindergarten we talk a lot about what it means to be friends.  Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator is a great story about friendship and trust.

Press Here

A week or so ago Mary Lee at A Year of Reading reviewed the book Press Here by Herve Tullet.  I was immediately drawn to the book and the imagining it inspired.  I ordered the book with some Boarders gift cards that needed to be used up and I was more impressed in person.  Each page has a task "causes" a reaction on the next page.  I found myself getting excited to see what would happen to the dots next.  The text is simple but the creativity is powerful.  I can't wait to see my kindergartners faces as the pages change.

Conferring Part III Reflection: It's time to start ploughing

Thanks again to Cathy Mere, Laura Komos, and Jill Fisch for hosting this wonderful book chat.  This is some of the best professional development I've participated in.  If you are interested in the entire conversation visit Cathy's Jog where she has brilliantly compiled all of the posts.

Part III of Patrick Allen's book Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop was a bittersweet ending for me.  I am so excited about everything that I have learned but also sad to see it end.  Patrick's writing made me feel like we were sitting together and he was slowly and methodically explaining me to why and how I could confer with my own students.  Like the conferences in his classroom he nudged me along, showing me real conferences, showing me his notes and then explaining how that would translate in my own room.  Unlike his classroom, he did all of the talking and I did a whole lot of listening.  He anticipated my questions and answered them promptly.  He addressed my co…

Conferring Part II Reflection

I just finished Part II of Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop by Patrick Allen.  Thank you to Cathy Mere, Laura Komos, and Jill Fisch for hosting this wonderful book chat.  I probably wouldn't have read this book had I not seen all the talk about it on Twitter.
I started this a little late so my first post came after most everyone had posted their second post.  I wonder what you were thinking as I grappled with the idea of conferring in kindergarten.  You already knew what I'd discover when I read the second part. The first part didn't have me convinced that I could do this in K.  What would it look like? What do I say?  Thankfully Part II cleared a lot of things up for me.

In this part of the book Patrick gets into the nuts and bolts of conferring.  The first thing he talks about is his RIP model for conferring.  This makes so much sense to me!  I like that there is a structure for every conference.  Kindergartners need structure and need to know what to …

Conferring Reflection Part I: Changing Misconceptions

This summer I joined Twitter as a way to interact and learn from other people who care about the education of children as much as I do.  I had no idea how much I would learn from these amazing people, but that is for another post. A couple of weeks ago Cathy Mere,Laura Komos, and Jill Fisch decided to host #cyberPD.  It was going to be an online book club about Patrick Allen's  book Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop.  I saw post after post about it and thought about the stack of books I already wanted to read, my vacation would interfere with 2 scheduled posting days and for heaven's sake I teach kindergarten how is this going to apply to me.  My curiosity won and even though I joined late I'm reading and posting about my thinking that went along with Part 1 of this book.

I teach kindergarten and this year we are changing our schedule, I will see my students 5 full days over two weeks time.  I think there are lots of good things that come from this and also…

Red-Eyed Tree Frog

I'm always on the lookout for new and interesting non-fiction books to add to my classroom library.  Kindergartners love anything with photos, especially with animals.  I picked up Red Eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley on a recent trip to Cover to Cover.  The photographs in this book are bright and colorful; very visually appealing.  Joy Cowley starts the story when the frog is waking up and takes you through a day in the life of this frog.  She does a great job of introducing other animals living in the same habitat.  Joy Cowley uses interesting words but keeps the text simple enough for some Kindergartners and first graders to read themselves.

Perfect Square

I found the book perfect square by Michael Hall, while I was shopping at Cover to Cover recently.  The cover popped and I couldn't wait to see what was inside.  This is the story of a square that is "perfectly happy".  Each day the square is altered in some way but instead of being sad about the changes the square decided to make the most of the situation.  The text is simple yet powerful; the illustrations are beautiful. I can see using this story when the kids are learning about shapes, as a mentor for writing and also in an imagination center.

Reflections on myself as a reader

Only during the summer do I take the time to read an adult novel. During the school year I'm constantly on the hunt for the best children's books to use in my classroom.  This summer I chose Water for Elephants. It was supposed to be a great love story and I wanted something pretty mindless to get lost in for a few days. The book itself was good, the ending was disappointing but that's another story.  As I was reading, I started to think about myself as a reader; the things I do, where I read, how I read. 

Let's just say that's it's a miracle I'm a even reader as an adult.  In school, I was always in the high reading group and given the hard books to read but I was a slow reader, really slow; or so I thought. I would take me two days to finish a chapter. I was always behind in my reading and never really remembered what happened. I remember in 4th grade we had to read Little House In the Big Woods by Laura Ingles Wilder, I HATED it. I didn't care about …

A Very Full Morning

I picked up "A Very Full Morning" by Eva Montanari the other day mostly because I liked the illustrations and it was about the first day of school.  Wow, was I pleasantly surprised when I read the book all the way through. The story starts with Little Tooth going to bed early, "tomorrow morning she has to go to a very special place".  The only clue the reader get as to where Little Tooth is going is on the front cover.  The story winds along until she finally gets to school and a little surprise is revealed. 

The illustrations are what make this story amazing.  The illustrations are dramatic with the use of extremely over sized and under-sized objects and characters.  Montanari uses minimal words and lets her illustrations tell most of the story.

After learning with Matt Glover at Lakota I've read this book a couple of times trying to "read like a writer".  I think this book could be used over and over again to talk about word choice, many different …

Books for students and my learning

We have a discount store around here called Ollie's.  They have a hodge podge of things including brand new books.  The first time I went here I had no expectation of finding quality literature but was soon surprised by what I saw.  I've never paid more than $3.99 for a book and often leave without buying everything I really want.  This picture is from the trip I made today.  The authors include Thomas, Cronin, Carle, Gravett, Clements and many more.  In the past I've also bought books by Kevin Henkes and Peter H. Reynolds here.  It takes some work to search through the stacks but when you come out with gems like this, it's well worth it.  Look for my thoughts on these books to come.

I also have a stack of the professional books that I plan on reading this summer.  This is the only time I feel like I have a chance to read and appropriately absorb what I need to from these brilliant people.  First on my list is Jan Anderson's The Next Steps in Guided Reading.  I'…

Lakota Literacy View-New Learning

For me, teaching writing to kindergartners is the most unsure time of my day.  I have pretty high expectations of my kids for everything else but during that time I didn't really know what to expect.  The most consistent advice I've gotten is "if they get words and pictures on a page you are doing great" or "pictures and words matching is a huge deal".  I always felt like my kids could do more but didn't really know where to begin. 

Then last year I attended the Lakota Literacy View and met Ann Marie Corgill.  She talked about using mentor texts and letting the kids have full creative power.  I set up a writing area a lot like the one Ann Marie had in her classroom.  I think that my kids writing this year was better. They wrote different kinds of things but it still where I wanted it.

This past week at Lakota I took sessions with Matt Glover.  I hadn't heard of him but after a little research I found out he believe that kids can write a book on the…
The second book I read last week was Hooway For Wodney Wat by Helen Lester. This is a story about a rat who can't pronounce his Rrs. His peers make fun of him and repeatedly ask him to pronounce words that have Rrs in them. When Camilla Capybara moves to their school the unlikely Wodney has a chance to become the hero.

I used this story during Friendship Week to talk about how we are all different. We talked about how we are all good at some things and not so good at others. I then strategically placed the kids so that they were sitting by someone they wouldn't have chosen on their own. Each kid had to write something nice about the person next to them. I was surprised by some of the creativity. Some of my favorite responses were "I like the way _____ talks" about a girl with a very distinct voice, "I like the way _____ writes", "I like that ____ is helpful", I could keep going. The kids were very kind and creative.

Friend week

The dynamics in my classroom have changed dramatically over the past couple of weeks. With those changes I realized that the culture in my classroom was more of an "all for one" than a community of learners. I think this is 50% my fault and 50% due to uncontrollable circumstances. I decided this week to right this wrong in my classroom by introducing "Friend Week". Almost everything we did this week required teamwork and communication. My read alouds were about friendship and self-esteem. This week I'm going to share the books I used to recreate the community of learners we had at the beginning of the year.

On Monday, I explained to the kids that it was friend week and we were going to get to know each other again and relearn how to be friends. I also explained that in order to be a good friend to others we have to like ourselves. We did all of this at the beginning of the year so most was review. The first book I read was I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a …

Cat Secrets

I think I heard about the book Cat Secrets by Jef Czekaj this weekend at the Dublin Literacy Conference.  I borrowed it from the library this week and I love it.  The pictures are simple and all dialog is in speech bubbles.  Three cats have found a book called Cat Secrets and they want to share but first they have to make sure that everyone reading is a cat.  The story has the audience practicing all sorts of cat activities like purring and stretching to make sure only cats are listening.  The cats are humorous and the story ends with a cute twist.  I'm going to use this story as a mentor text for interactive writing and make a class book of a new "secrets".  We'll see what the kids brain storm.

Dublin Literacy Conference

Yesterday, I got to spend the day with some brilliant teachers learning at the Dublin Literacy Conference. I was thrilled to meet several of the teachers who's blogs I follow regularly. If you want to know more about using technology during readers workshop, check out Franki Sibberson's blog at A Year of Reading.  I also got to hear Cathy Mere and Katie DiCesare talk about better using read alouds in the classroom.  You can find their presentation here.  Both of these ladies teach first grade so it was easy to see how I can use these ideas in kindergarten.  If you have not checked out their blogs you need to do so.

I always leave sessions such as these knowing I still have a lot to learn but thankful that I have to opportunity to learn from experienced teachers.  I'm also thankful that these teachers are willing to share their ideas and methods that work. 

I ended my day in a session with Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  I have long loved her books but I was unaware of all of the o…


If I could pick only one book to have in my classroom this would be it.  That's a bold statement from someone who spends hours combing over books at the library, online and in other classrooms.  A friend of mine introduced me to this book and I've loved it since the first read.

This is a story about Ramon a boy who loves to draw.  When his older brother makes fun of his drawing Ramon gets discouraged and starts throwing everything away that isn't "perfect".  Little does Ramon know his little sister is covering her bedroom walls with his discarded art.  She calls them "ish" because they are kind of like the real thing.  This changes Ramon's whole view and opens up his world to new possibilities.

This book changed the whole culture in my classroom, especially in writing.  Kindergartners have a tendency to want to spell everything just the way adults would.  This book freed my students to spell and draw things to the best of their ability "ish&quo…

There is a Bird on Your Head

As you will soon see, I love anything by Mo Willems.  I think he is a genius at drawing kids into short simple stories.  This book There is a Bird on Your Head is one of mine and my class' favorites. 

In this story, Elephant has a bird on his head and he seeks help from his friend Piggie.  Piggie gives him a simple solution that in turns causes her problems.  Piggie and Elephant are both very dramatic about the situations they are in.  These books are hilarious and leave my class laughing out loud.  Mo Willems' use of large text, and bold words also makes this (and all of the other Piggie and Elephant books)  great for teaching kids to read with expression.

A new adventure

I've decided to start a blog so that I can share some of the books that I love to use in my classroom.  My hope is that other teachers and parents will be exposed to new literature they had not yet discovered.  Please feel free to leave comments about the books I show or add new books for me to discover.  Hopefully we will all learn something new.