Monday, October 29, 2012

Test taking blues...

Hello my bloggy have ya been???? All is well in this neck of the woods ;) sorry for the long absence last week. Did you miss me? I missed you, yet I have to admit; I cannot even say (as usual) that it was because I was so overwhelmingly busy. Unfortunately, last week our class had a severe case of the test taking blues...YUCKY! If I felt so completely bored and frustrated by testing, I just can't imagine how my kiddos felt. Don't get me wrong ~ without a doubt, I am sure my kiddos kicked that test's keister! Just what a zap to the creative and calm flow of our classroom! Oh well, they (they in this case being the people that get paid the big bucks ;p) didn't ask my opinion about testing, and I know it is a necessary evil. So I guess I will make an attempt to stop moaning and suck it up, as difficult as that may be, wink wink.

We did have a small glimmer of inspiration and lightheartedness when we watched Taylor Swift's: Read Every Day Live Webcast. Hmmm...have I mentioned I am a fan. She did an amazing job, and yes, you know just how annoyingly old you are when you feel a moment of motherly pride for a young lady that you are absolutely no relation to and will more than likely never meet in your life. She was just so cute and sweet in how she spoke to those kiddos about what moved her as a reader and writer and the impact all of that reading made in her life! Hello...I could say that EVERYDAY, ALL DAY (hey wait, I DO ~ LOL) and she probably had more impact than I will. I mean she is way cooler than me, right? Good for her, and good for my kiddos! Be sure to check it out if you get a chance.

We were all very sad to say goodbye to Skeleton Man, but we all stood up and cheered for Molly! Don't want to say too much more just in case you want to pick it up and read. Which of course, you really should! Already have a few flocking to the library looking for more Joseph Bruchac. Yay!!! Reluctant reader buster right there ~ I promise you! 

We have moved on to some nonfiction informational reading as we get ready to head into informational writing. Biographies and lots more information coming soon...still trying to become inspired and conquer those darn test taking blues. Whew, you should see me in April. 

Here are a few more glimmers of inspiration though...I love how my kiddos work so hard for me. Reading these readers' notebooks really make me smile sometimes! Spelling and grammar mistakes aside, I could not be more proud of some of my readers and writers this year! They are setting the bar pretty high for next year's group! I know these are only two examples...way more to come soon!

Love how she uses her post-its :)



Just look at that intense reading! :) I could watch this ALL DAY!


My sweet little pink-out girl and the yummy treat she gave me! If that is not enough to make you smile or cure any blues, I don't know what is!

Just a few picture books to share tonight. I feel as if I am getting behind, but I promise to catch up soon. Remember, biting off more that I can chew

Look at sweet Elmer by David McKee. He has been one of my favorite little character education reads for a while now, and this week I found a bag full of 8 more Elmer books. You know I just had to pull him down and share his sweet story. Great read for common themes in literature! I will share a pic of our new books as soon as I can. So cute!
Here is another great read for common themes in literature ~ acceptance and kindness. The Bumpy Little Pumpkin by Margery Cuyler is a sweet, little seasonal story. How boring it would be if we were all alike! Each year I am surprised by how much my kiddos enjoy it. I often wonder if they will feel to old for this story, but so far they all have enjoyed it just the same.
Now my next picture book is just for fun.  I love Tell Me a Scary Story by Carl Reiner as much as Halloween by Jerry Seinfeld. The illustrations are SO FUN! Fun as in creepy, silly Halloween fun. Love it! Students can also make some predictions with this one. I always enjoy seeing if the kiddos can pick up on the clues in the end just before Reiner spells them out for us. 
Happy Reading!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Text structure and creepy fun

My days are rolling together lately, and I feel as if I am saying hello to a long lost friend as I type. I have thought of sitting down to post often in these last few hectic days, and I have even been asked by my hubby if I was going to do my "bloggy thing." It just wasn't meant to be last week for me to share as much as I would have liked, but here I am, finally a quiet moment to be as bloggy as I wish! :)

Let me start with a perfectly creepy seasonal read! Our read aloud at the moment is a quick Native American folktale that I have sneaked in before our next reading unit, and it is one of my all time faves...and no, I don't want to hear about how much I repeat that statement... this REALLY is a FAVORITE! Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac is a reluctant reader transformer! I can promise you that every year I have read this, I have pulled a boy or two (or three) into the magic of reading! Without fail, I have boys looking for more written by Mr. Bruchac. The fact that this title has a strong female lead is not a conversation that I skip with some of my girlie girls either. I have just one more thing to share about this completely awesome and unforgettable folktale. I secretly love that the first chapter creeps out my kiddos. Now, please don't jump to conclusions and think that I am into frightening small children (usually ;). No matter how many ohs and ahs and oh-my-goshes and hows ~ they never, EVER want me to stop. One of these days I am going to record my kiddos as I read this first chapter so that everyone can see their expressions, but more than anything so that everyone can hear and share in all the shouts of NO as I close the first chapter. That is why I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE reading to my kiddos! 

In between all of our great reading and writing, we have had some fun activities roll our way. It was Fire Safety Week, and our local fire department does an awesome job of teaching our kiddos. Now anyone that knows me knows just how much I begrudgingly give up instructional time, but as much as I hate to loose my time with them, this has always been a great experience for my students. 



Do you remember how I went on and on about how much I love our figurative language study? Our next focus of text structure is pretty close to that. We are about to spend some time drowning in great picture books! Picture book after picture book after picture book! We will step lightly into the study of text structure by looking at fictional picture books, but we will wrap it up with a look at nonfiction text structures and how they compare and contrast. The most important part will be looking at just how understanding the structure of what we are reading will help us understand exactly what the author is trying to share.


Our first look at text structure is one most students are quite familiar with. We look at the linear flow of a story; a movement that takes the story from beginning to end. These books will also help us look back at our "Story Mountain" and look at the elements of plot. 
First of all, it is hard to go wrong with a Bunting Book. There are just so many things I can say that I love about Ms. Eve Bunting. In The Wednesday Surprise we enjoy a sweet surprise that many students find moving. Great look at linear movement in a story and one that we will definitely revisit when we talk about surprise endings.
Another Bunting that I absolutely love is The Memory String. Again, I am starting simple and looking at the linear movement of a story from beginning to end and how the plot of the story progresses throughout. This is also a great share because of all the connections that many students have with it; lots of great reading strategies can be modeled and discussed with this one.

This next one is a masterfully illustrated story based on true events. Gabi Swiatkkowska moves Ms. Schaefer's story (told through the hawk's point of view) so beautifully. Every time I read this, the illustrations pull me right back into the hawk's treacherous journey and rescue, and the photograph and author's note at the end are right up my alley. You know I always love a good author's note! Again, we are looking at the movement from beginning to end without it necessarily being a narrative story  written in first person.

As we step lightly into our look at different structures, I am again focusing on something the kids are familiar with. When we look at circular studies, I will not have to spend to much time as most students are very comfortable with this type of structure. The great and time saving part is that we will be looking back and books we have already shared, My Mama Had a Dancing Heart by Libba Moore Grey and The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant!


The next circle story that I will share is another Bunting beauty and absolutely perfect for this time of year! One of my favorite things about Eve Bunting is her choice of such diverse illustrators. One of my colleagues pointed out how completely different most of her books are and not because of her writing style but rather how the illustrators carry her stories. Night of the Gargoyles is illustrated by David Wiesner. Can I say another of my favorites and you still respect me, LOL? He is a master at his craft, and I have been known to purchase a book simply because it has his name on it. I cannot wait to share this fun and lyrical circle story! 

Alright, one last text structure for the night. We will be looking closely at cause/effect with another amazing (dare I say favorite?) illustrator, Steven Kellogg. Both The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble and The Day the Goose Got Loose by Reeve Lindbergh are picture perfect displays of cause and effect. Chaos ensues in both books, and kiddos giggle as we share how many times the effects multiply and yet become the next cause and each continue to build upon the other. So fun and silly! 


I just have to share one more amusing little seasonal read. I can't even tell you just what it is about Pumpkin Town! by Katie McKy that I love so much, but nonetheless, I love it! It could be Pablo Bernasconi's whimsical illustrations or the open-ended loop ending. You just know when we look at loop endings to help us with our own conclusions, this will be a revisit for sure! 

Well friends, the hour grows late and this bloggy girl is growing tired. I have one last thing to share. Sarah, Katie Byrd and I ran - no... walked in very close proximity to complete strangers that I now feel bonded to in some strange way - another 5K this weekend. It was my first time to participate in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. I have to say that this was the most moving and rewarding 5K I have done yet. I had a blast with both these girls, and boy was I worn out when we were done. Something about navigating through the massive crowds, and finding pockets, as we called them, to jog here and there. Whew, that would be one of the reasons I did not blog Saturday or Sunday as I tried to recover, but all the same, I CANNOT wait until next year! 

Just look at all those people!

Katie Byrd and myself ~ yes we had enough time to stop
and click a pic as we were in a standstill...think it had
something to do with firetrucks and firefighters...hmmm

 Happy reading my friends....

Follow on Bloglovin

Monday, October 15, 2012

Reader's notebooks and letter after letter after letter

As soon as my kiddos walked in this morning, their eyes lit up when they saw stacks of reading response notebooks across my desk ~ some with books banded to them. They could barely wait until after morning meeting to find out what it was all about. When I explained that Katie Byrd dropped in and was very excited to see what they were reading, they smiled ear to ear! She took time out of her day to respond to many of their letters about their reading. Again, getting them to wait until reading workshop to read their letters and see what she may have recommended was a difficult task. 

Sometimes, I think the most difficult task is keeping up with all of their responses myself. Two classes makes for a lot of reading! Enough to make your eyes cross if you're not careful. ;) Making sure that all students have responded and written their letters, or even simply making sure to get to all that have before they look at me with their "what's taking so long" look can be overwhelming, LOL. Yet, I have to say that this really helps me know exactly where my kids are in their independent reading. I learn so much about my kiddos this way, and boy do they have fun writing back and forth with me. As tiring as it can be, I sure do love it, but I can't wait to tell Katie how excited they were to read her letters.

I will post some pics of reader's notebooks here soon. 

Speaking of morning meetings, thought I might share a couple of morning messages. My kiddos crack me up...they keep me on the mark if I don't give them a message either on time (you can usually hear sighs if I am still writing as they walk in, haha) or if it is too short. That is what the 10-10-12 message is referring to. 

You might notice that we are still focused on practicing what a complex sentence is. I have tried to include at least one, if not two, in every morning message. I also try to use the vocabulary from our read alouds as well.  

Just one picture book for tonight, but it is perfectly fitting for the topic of letters. :) We all love to get them don't we! The Long, Long, Letter by Elizabeth Spurr and illustrated by David Catrow is a great little read for of hyperbole and alliteration. We move through the seasons as sweet, lonely Hetta waits for her letter. Love the illustrations, but if you have been visiting long, you are not surprised. ;)

With that, I will close with a short little post for the night. There is a first for everything.

Happy reading...

Follow on Bloglovin