Friday, March 29, 2013

Happy Easter From Gramma Preschool

This week at Gramma Preschool we did some fun spring things.  We first of all had reading and read some spring books. Then we worked with words using magnetic letters.
We also made playdough using spring neon colors. When we were done, we had three different colors all put in individual zip lock bags to take home.
For writing this week we did Easter cards. She made one for Mom and one for Dad. She wrote their names on the front and added stamps using ink pads. On the inside she wrote Happy Easter and signed her name!
The last time she was here, she made chocolate instant pudding for her snack. Afterward, she wrote a How to book on How to Make Chocolate Pudding.  She was quite the expert on that!
1. Put in pudding 2. Add 2 cups of milk 3. Stir it up 4. Put in cups 5. Eat it!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Poetry: Ordinary to Poetic

As you are writing poetry in your classrooms, it might be fun to try something new. The lesson I will share with you today is all about how you look at things. Just observing the every day normal things around us can turn us into wonderful poets.  Try this and see what you think!

Lesson: Poetry—Ordinary to Poetic
Material: paper to write on or notebook

T.Point: Poets write with poetic language not ordinary language.
You have been working on poetry and have a sense of what poems sound like.  One of the things poetry does is that it helps us look at the world in a new way and describe it like no one has before.  Today, we’re going to write a poem together that tries to do just that. 
Let’s look at something together---how about the trees outside the window here?  [On a chart draw a line down the middle. On top left write Ordinary and on the right Poetry.] 

            Look at the trees and tell me the first words that come into your minds.  Poets often begin their poems this way with “anybody’s words”.  [Write down words such as: green, tall, leaves, old.] 

            Now we’ll read those words together.  Do they sound like a poem?  NO!  This is what poets do.  They write a few words down, and then they reread it and sometimes realize that they have to go back and resee.

            Now, let’s look at the tree again, even more closely.  What kind of green is it?  The green of the ocean?  How old is it?  [Write down what they say: trees are as green as limes; majestic giants; their leaves are jewels; historic recorders of time.]

            Now, we’ll read these words.  Do they sound more like poetry?  Yes, because we looked at them with poetic eyes.
            Now I want you to choose an interesting object to look at—either out the window or in the classroom.  When you have your object turn and tell your elbow buddy.

Now at your seat start a new paper.  Under ordinary describe the object using the first words that come into your mind.  Then under poetic transform these descriptions into poetry by using metaphor and simile or describing its exact details.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Using Charts to Enhance Your Teaching

It is amazing to see how teachers use charts in the classroom to keep thinking in front of the students at all times. Charts that are made WITH students or BY students are the most valuable.  Even though the posters that can be bought are beautiful and colorful, they are not as powerful as those you make yourself with the children. 
This chart is about the features of nonfiction writing. Notice how bright and colorful it is. Notice how you can really tell that it was made by the teacher, not bought. It is also amazing how the charts were all around the classrooms of those we visited in New York. They found space to display the charts where students were able to see it easily.
This is a chart that the teacher and students have done together about Talk Styles. After this has been discussed and used, it is then put onto chart paper and displayed in the room. It is something that the students will use each and every day.

Charts in the classroom are not just for language arts. This chart is one that would be used in math. It is on Problem Solving.  What a great way to have this thinking in the room where the teacher can refer to it over and over.

This chart was posted in the hall as we walked by it. However, I am sure it was in the classroom during this unit of study. It was from a kindergarten class and a rubric of their writing.
As I said before, charts are everywhere. I think almost every classroom had charts hanging from a wire that went from one side of the room to the other. They were high, but still available to the students. Recording their thinking is so important for their learning!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Displaying Our Work

While visiting P.S. 247 in Brooklyn, New York, we were able to see the work the students were doing as we walked the building. Outside every classroom was examples of each of the steps in writing workshop for a particular unit of study. Whether it was poetry, fiction, or author studies, the work was displayed.  Learning was evident.
This picture shows the writing process. Under each topic: planning, drafting, revising, editing, publishing; are samples of that part of the process. These samples are from an upper grade classroom.

This bulletin board located in a hallway, it is about authors. It  is a study the children did on various authors.  It is not just a simple piece written like the author, but a researched poster on the author the child chose.
This is a sample of a first grade bulletin board.  It is about a particular author the class studied.  It is from the Unit of Study: Authors As Mentors.
The next two pictures are of the same board. It is on poetry. The first picture is of the entire board. You can see the art work around the board. This was done in their art class and was in a particular artist's style. Then each student wrote poetry for those pictures. The next picture is the piece that the teacher wrote explaining what the students did.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Reading Poetry, What Are You Reading?

Today I have two books on poetry that are about as opposite as you can get. I love when that happens!  It is up to each teacher to know the students so well, that it becomes easy to choose books that those children will love and use!  Here are a couple for you to try!
How can you go wrong with Heartsongs by Mattie J.T. Stepanek? This is just one of his many books. Mattie began writing poems when he was three. He had muscular dystrophy and had lost three siblings to the same life-threatening condition. But that isn't why we remember Mattie.  His poetry proclaims the innocent hope, wisdom and humor of childhood. These poems will become heart felt mentor texts for your students.
FEG by Robin Hirsch...This book is for the intelligent child...and maybe the intelligent teacher! From alliteration, haiku, and onomatopoeia to palindromes sonnets, and even spoonerisms this book will have poetry lovers saying, ahhh!  It is such a fun book for those who would like to take poetry to a new level. Ready to try one?  Here you go...hint: read it fast and think alphabet.

Abie's seedy effigy
Eight chide Jake: a lemon
O peek:
You are as tea
You feed double
You axe why

Friday, March 15, 2013

Visiting a New York City School

Last week I had the chance to visit a great New York City school with a couple of my friends.  It was P.S. 247 in Brooklyn. The principal was wonderful to give us not only a tour of the building, but also took the time to explain his thinking behind what made the school so successful.

We picked this school to visit because it was similar to the ones we work with in our district. It has 27 different languages spoken in that one school of about 700 students.  There is a 75% free and reduced lunch count. We felt right at  home. The thing that startled us was when the principal took us to his office window and showed us another elementary school just three blocks away that has 1,000 students.  Yes, it is a neighborhood school. These children all live within three or four blocks of the school. AND, if you went to the other side and looked out, there would be another school with that many students.
We got there early in the morning as the students were walking to school.  In fact, after getting off the subway, we were having a hard time finding the school. We finally asked a mother with a little child, "Are you going to P.S. 247?"  She said yes and allowed us to follow them to the school. On the walk there, she couldn't stop talking about how great the school was. Many of her children had gone there and she loved it!
The school was build in the depression era and was four stories high. It was built on a small area of land. The funniest thing was when the principal showed us a stairway that led to nowhere...a wall. The original plans were to have a gym there, but there wasn't room when they went to build it. So, the wall!

As we traveled the halls of the building and stepped into various classrooms, we saw great teaching and very engaged children. The expectations for teachers and students are high. The atmosphere was relaxed and happy. The students would greet us with smiles and "Good Morning" as we entered the rooms. They were used to people visiting their rooms.

Next week, I will be blogging about some of the actual things I saw while walking around the school. Great charts and bulletin boards. We can't thank Mr. Ogno and the staff and students at P.S. 247 enough for allowing us to take a peek at the wonderful things that are happening for children at their school!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Where Poetry Hides For Me

This month in all Indiana schools, the children in many classrooms will be taking the state test. Doing writing during that time can be difficult. For that reason, many are turning to the more relaxed, pleasure of teaching poetry.

I remember when I first taught poetry to my second graders.  I tried all the usual types: acrosstic, haiku, rhyming, you get the idea. However, when I began using the non-rhyming poems, that is when both boys and girls fell in love with poetry. That is my wish for your children. Does that mean we don't teach those other types?  Of course not.  It is just an easier way to get the children "hooked" on poetry!  Here is a lesson that I started out with.  Try it and see what your students think!

Lesson: Beginning Poetry

Materials: overhead of my: Where Poetry Hides for Me; copies of various kids’ poetry showing variety of subjects on overheads

You have been doing a lot of writing in your room.  Today we are going to talk about a different type of writing.  It is called poetry.  I love poetry because I can say things with poetry that I can’t say any other way.  The lines are short and usually I don’t have to worry that much about punctuation.  I get ideas for poetry everywhere.
Today I want to talk to you about where we get our ideas for poems that we might write.  I like to think of it as, where poetry hides.  Yes, hides!  Poetry is everywhere!  Lots of times I find poems when I am outside. It seems like nature is a place where poetry hides for me.  I can see poems on my morning walks with my dog.  I can see poems when I sit outside under a tree and watch the sky.  Poems can be in the food I eat.  Poems might be around the Christmas tree or in the rain falling in big drops.
I'mgoing to show you what I do first when I get ready to write a poem.  I go to my notebook and look at a list I have made. I call the list: Where Poetry Hides For Me.  Look at this list. (Show it and go over list.)
Maybe you don’t have a list like I do.  That is something we are going to work on today.  First, I want to show you some poems that some kids have written.  Where do you think these poems were hidden? (Go over the overheads and let children talk about the topics.)
Think for a minute where you think poetry hides for you.  Who has an idea?  (Let them turn and talk about some ideas and then share a few with the group.)
Now when you go back to your seats, get out a paper (or notebook) and start your list like mine.  I am going to give you some time to do that and then we will share our lists.

For sharing time use the “whip share”.  Sit in circle and each child gives one idea from the page.  The others may add an idea they liked from a friend’s list.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Monday in March, What are You Reading?

 This month I am going to be focusing on poetry books. One of the teachers I work with has Poetry Friday and they work with poems in the writer's workshop every Friday.  I love that idea! Many classrooms are busy with state testing this month. Doing a unit in poetry is a relaxing, fun way to focus on another type of writing.
all the small poems and fourteen more by Valerie Worth is a great book for any grade level. What I like best about this book is that it is not rhyming poetry. Do you know how hard that is to find for children? This book is full of poems that children can identify with and use as mentor texts. Ms. Worth also uses all aspects of poet's craft.  Her poems are fresh and observations are sharp. Here's a sample:
The sun
Is a leaping fire
Too hot
To go near,

But it will still
Lie down
In warm yellow squares
On the floor

Like a flat
Quilt, where
The cat can curl
And purr.
The other book I want to start out with for the month is  Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. Yes, it is a novel, but it is based on poetry. This is a must read for the 3rd-5th graders studying this genre. It gives boys, especially, a new outlook on poetry. Here's a sample when Jack was asked to write a poem:
Sept. 13
I don't want to
because boys
don't write poetry.
Girls do.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Small Teaching Moments Happen Any Time

Teachers play a big part in a child's life.  I know, I was a teacher for 43 years and got to see not only those children grow up, but also see them with their own children and sometimes even grandchildren. I know how important teachers are.  However, even more than that, I always told the parents I worked with: "You are the most important person in your child's life. You are his/her first teacher!" Not only are the parents important, but so are the grandparents.

As I spend time with my own grandchildren, I can see how it is important to take those tiny moments and make them into teaching moments.   We did that at Gramma Preschool last week.  It was a cold February day when Meron came.  For Science we decided to do an experiment. We wrote our thoughts in her Science Notebook. Our question was: What happens to bubbles in the winter?  Her prediction was: They will freeze.  We then went outside and tried it out. It wasn't quite freezing that day, only 34 degrees. So when we blew bubbles, they flew off into the sky. But when she would blow them into the snow, they lit on the snow and froze. When she "popped" them, they would shatter!  We had loads of fun!
We also noticed that across the street, there were big machines digging into the ground. They were going to build a new house.  So, we watched.  We investigated. Then she wrote her book about Big Machines and what they did.  What a great chance to do some research before our writing!

Graham also had a new learning experience at Story Time.  They were learning songs, stories and rhymns about Teddy Bears.  For one of the songs, all the children put their bears in the middle of a parachute. Then they sang and bounced their bears. How fun!
For the craft that day, they all colored a bear with a poem on the back.  After they colored it, they got to take it home!
Being a Gramma is so much fun!!!!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dr. Suess!

Saturday was Dr. Suess Day...his birthday! Many classrooms will be celebrating by reading his books to the students.  That is what I have been invited to do in a fifth grade classroom. I decided to do my read aloud with the first book Dr. Seuss wrote: And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.

Since I will be traveling to New York City this week, I thought it would be great to share the idea of what Mulberry Street in New York looked like and the history of the book. Well, I was mistaken.  The Mulberry Street in this book is from the hometown of Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Suess, in Springfield, Mass.

The book is about a boy named Marco who wants to tell his dad an interesting story about what he saw that day. But the only thing Marco saw was a boring old horse and wagon. So he decides to liven it up a bit and the story goes from there!

But, did you know this book was rejected 27 times? One day Theodor was walking home in New York City and he bumped into a friend who had just become an editor at a publishing house. Theodor told his friend that he had given up and was going to destroy the book. His friend told him to let him look at the book. That was the moment that changed Dr. Suess's life.

If he had been walking down the other side of the street, he probably would never have become an author. The book was published. So, it was that ordinary street that launched one extraordinary career!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers

Time for another professional "book talk". When this book came out, I just knew I had to have it. First, of all, the author, Penny Kittle, is one of my favorites! I love her books! I love when she comes to speak at our All Write Summer Institute. I just love her! So, even though I'm retired...I bought Book Love! And yes, I love it!

Last week I was in my niece's sixth grade classroom in Utah and heard the same story I hear in classrooms in Indiana: "My students are great word callers, but they are fake readers!" Penny addresses that issue and talks about how we, as teachers, can help students develop a love for reading!

Her book tells us about building stamina and fluency. She helps students set goals. Penny knows what students need to be successful in college and she knows how to encourage them to get there. Even if you are an upper elementary or middle school teacher, you will be able to take what she says about stamina and apply it.

Even though I have sat at the feet of the master of conferencing, Carl Anderson, for many years, I still learned so much from Penny's chapter on conferencing during reading time. Samples of conferences, questions to ask, and types of conferences were all so helpful.

I really enjoyed her chapter on Book Talks. When she talked about the book Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, I knew I had to have it. Then when she showed how the students took that into their writing time, I was really hooked. I mean hooked---as in "getting out my writer's notebook and beginning my Encyclopedia of a Retired Teacher hooked". But, that's for another blog!

Let's just say, I am so enjoying this book! Penny just keeps sharing her wonderful ability to be herself and show (not tell) us her passion for books and kids!

See you this summer, Penny, at All Write's Summer Institute!