Sunday, August 26, 2012

Didn't I tell you?

So do you remember a few posts back when I mentioned that I have a habit of biting off more than I can chew? Well, case in much for a picture book a day! Wow! What is it about a first week back at school that takes it out of you? We had a wonderfully easy and productive first week in our room, yet more than once I found myself taking a nap as soon as I got home. When deciding between jumping on the laptop to update or taking a nap, well I guess you can see which won. So today's post might be longer than usual (or needed, wink wink) but here is to catching up and sharing all of the fun things we did in class this week.

Our Morning Meetings have been a big hit! Watching my students greet each other first thing in the morning has to be one of the cutest things I have ever seen - so,  so stinkin' cute! By the time we are finished, we all have a smile on our face! What an amazing way to start the day. We spent much of the first few days sharing our hopes and dreams for the year. Considerable discussion went into what our goals should be, but even more importantly, how we could reach them. Students have decided that we must invest hard work to make our dreams come true. Our next step was to decide how we could help each other achieve our dreams. We anchored many ways that we could work together for our goals.This discussion led to our "Commitments to Each Other!" 

Students will sign our Commitments :)

Launching Writing Workshop has become one of my favorite parts of teaching writing. We have read many wonderful mentor texts already and shared our ideas as to "why writers write" or "where writers get their ideas."

One very MAD Katie rescuing a puppy
 that someone threw off the cliff...
she was off the cliff, in the air before
the puppy came out of the water.
As part of our launch into writing, we have been storytelling. I told many stories from my own writer's notebook. I still cannot tell which story they like better so far, the tiger at the zoo story (my sister will get me for sharing that again ;) or the one about Katie saving the puppy at the lake. Next week, we will move our storytelling into our writer's notebooks.

One morning while getting ready for work, I heard a song that reminded me of our own storytelling at school. (Some of my greatest lesson planning happens in the shower. And to keep from being too embarrassed about sharing TMI, I will just pretend that everyone gets most of their amazing ideas while washing their hair. ;) After our morning meeting, we talked about writing and storytelling, and I asked my kiddos what that might have to do with music and songs. My brilliant kiddos instantly said that songs "tell a story."  (Their words exactly...yep, it is going to be a great year!) We watched the video The House that Built Me by Miranda Lambert. 

We talked about stories, happy or sad, and how Ms. Lambert has shared the story of  her childhood in a song. We also wondered what kinds of things she might have on her heart map. (The song was actually written by Allen Shamblin and Tom Douglas, but for the goal of this lesson, we discuss it as Miranda Lambert's story.) After plenty discussion, I shared with students an article from Parade Magazine that I had clipped out a number of years ago and added to one of my writer's notebooks, coincidentally titled The House that Built Me by Connie Schultz.  

The House That Built Me
The home that inspired Connie Schultz to share her story.

Because writers learn from other writers, if I find an article that moves me for one reason or another, I like to clip it out for future reference.  (I can already tell this will be a lesson that I do in future years as well. They loved it!) We  found that much of what was written by both writers was from their childhood memories, EXACTLY where my little readers and writers are now. We looked at the different things that each writer shared and the different things that may be on their heart maps. Here are a couple of ours...I will share more soon!


Our writer's notebooks are ready and kids are anxious to get to writing in them! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that they are excited about writing! Here are a few of our notebooks:




I am so proud that students took their time to find pictures, words and phrases that created a clear image of who they are and the stories they might want to share. I was even more pleased at how proud they were of their writer's notebook!

Some of our Reading Workshop
commitments to each other.
This first week was full of procedures and expectations, and Reading Workshop was no exception. I told our class how special it is that in our class, they will read the books they love most! Building a strong reading community is very important to me, and hopefully before long, it will be just as important to them. Students have been focused on building reading stamina during workshop. We have begun reading recommendations, and many students are on their way to completing their first Reading Olympic level. I am beginning to wonder if I did not set our initial goals high enough; I will let it play out for now to see how we do. We can always work at challenging ourselves with higher goals. 

Now to share some of our reading from the week :)


When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant and What You Know First by Patricia MacLachlan are both beautifully illustrated examples of writers writing from what means the most to them. When thinking about why writers write, these are perfect mentor texts. 

"I love being a writer because I want to leave something here on earth to make it a better, prettier, stronger. I want to do something important in my life, and I think that adding beauty to the world with books like The Relatives Came or Waiting to Waltz or Henry and Mudge and the Forever Sea really is important." ~ Cynthia Rylant

"I, myself, write to change my life, to make it come out the way I want it to. But other people write for other reasons: to see more closely what it is they are thinking about, what they may be afraid of. Sometimes writers write to solve a problem, to answer their own question. All these reasons are good reasons. And that is the most important thing I'll ever tell you. Maybe it is the most important thing you'll ever hear. Ever." ~ Patricia MacLachlan from Word After Word After Word

Have I mentioned my love of David Catrow illustrations?? Just kidding, I am sure I have rambled on about it at length, but here is another of my favorites illustrated by Catrow and written by Alan Zweibel. Our Tree Named Steve worked its way into my heart instantly! Such an adorable little story about how something as simple as the tree in our front yard can work its own way into the important moments of our life. It is the small things in life that can make the most impact in our stories. 

Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter is a fun example of writing about what you know. Funny stories can happen in the everyday moments of living. I love the language and vocabulary throughout this story, and we will revisit it often as we begin our daily pages in our writer's notebooks.

Are you starting to see a theme today? Yes, I know - I have launching writing workshop on the brain. One of my goals has always been to have my readers read like a writer! A Chair For My Mother by Vera Williams is another example of writing from what we know. In this sweet story, Rosa shares her story of working hard to earn money for a chair for her mother. The objects around us can tell a story, and here we see a families effort to recover from a fire that destroyed all of their belongings. Lots of inferring here as we see how the concern that Rosa shows for her mother. Super book for character traits as well. What everyday items create powerful memories in you?

Many of the mentor texts above are shared in Denise Leograndis' Launching Writing Workship; A Step-by-Step Guide in Photographs. As mentioned in an earlier post, this is a favorite standby of mine every year. So much so that when I could not find my copy this year, I ordered a new copy to be overnighted. Over the years I have added my own mentor texts to my launch and work to add to my mentor library as often as possible. 
Well...hoping that gets me all caught up on my quest to share a picture book a day. Does it count if I have to share multiple books on one day? Hope so :) but I promise to make a better effort next week!

Happy Reading!


  1. Thank you! I first heard about Launching Writing Workshop from you and I finally bought it. I LOVE it! Writing is not my favorite subject to teach or thing to do, so one of my goals this year is to get better about both of those things. This book is the perfect first step! It confirmed that I was already doing some things right (heart map) and gives me awesome, new ideas. I also found out about Ralph Fletchers writer's notebook book from you and I love that one too! So, again, thanks for blogging about them. Hopefully, writing is more enjoyable for me and my students this year! :)
    Bee Teaches

    1. I am so glad that you love it as much as I do! Writing has become so much more to me in the last few years since using Launching Writing Workshop and Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson. Makes so much more since to me now, and my kiddos usually love it, too. :)