Friday, December 31, 2010

A New Year Thank You: A Twitter #FF

"You cannot help but learn more as you take the world up in your hands. Take it up reverently, for it is an old piece of clay, with millions of thumbprints on it." John Updike

As we put another year behind us I cannot help but think of the impact my colleagues on Twitter have had on the work I do. Each day these people inspire me, make me think, cause me to question, and send a million of good resources to my fingertips. I've been building my personal twitterverse for a little over a year now. They are a diverse group of people who bring me a valuable, well-rounded, collection of information. I suggest you check some of these people out!

For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter every Friday is #FF (#FollowFriday), a day when people pass along the names of others who make a difference for them in the Twitterverse. I'm always interested in #FF suggestions from the smart people I follow on Twitter, especially when they give information about the person they are suggesting. However, I always have a hard time participating in #FF because I follow so many great people and worry I will leave someone out. the risk of leaving someone out (my apologies ahead of time)...

Here is my #FF end of year tribute to my tweeps.

For the most part, these are educators living near me and teaching in local districts. I'm fortunate to be able to, not only follow these people on Twitter, but see them regularly. They are a smart group, and continually inspire me. @frankisibberson, @KatieDicesare, and @MaryLeeHahn are responsible for putting me on the path to my current Twitter addiction. Most of the tweeps in my area are terrific literacy leaders. You won't want to miss @Jreaderwriter, @karenszymuziak, @karenterlecky, or @mandyrobek either.

The Movers and Shakers:
These people are "must haves" for your Twitter list. Odds are you already follow them, but I'm going to talk about them anyway. These are the people who seem to have their pulse on the internet. I'm pretty sure they don't sleep. They share great links and seem to be developing a professional online community that is amazing: @gret @ShellTerrell @tomwhitby @teachingwthsoul @web20classroom @ktenkely @tonnet @NancyTeaches

Smart Educators to Follow:
These are educators that constantly share what is happening in their classrooms and in education in their area. They tweet valuable resources, ask great questions, and thoughtfully respond to conversations on Twitter: @Grade1 @paulawhite @whatedsaid @4thGrdTeach @DoeMiSo @KathyPerret @ccampbel14 @4thGrdTeach @dlpd17

Literacy Tweeps:
These colleagues are smart literacy resources. They tweet about books and all things literacy. They not only demonstrate leadership in literacy, but keep me thinking and growing as a literacy educator: @lorilovesbook @the1stdaughter @alybee930 @mentortexts @bluskyz @ReadingCountess @PaulWHankins

Early Childhood Tweeps:
As a first grade teacher, these early literacy colleagues always remind me the importance of preserving the child in my learners. They have great suggestions for working with young learners: @LiteracyCounts @maggiecaryn @teachmama @poulingail @Teach_Preschool @playactivities @JenDobson27

Links to Great Resources:
These people not only filter great tweets and pass them along in the Twitterstream, but they locate smart information on the internet and share it regularly. These colleagues are important for locating resources that will help improve our classroom practice. @kevcreutz @joycevalenza @ghewgley @elizbtheastman @soltauheller @rmbyrne @lizbdavis @cybraryman1 @djainslie @GaryBrannigan @Struggle2Learn @MissCheska @courosa

Always Ready to Help:
It seems every time I put out a call for help, these are some of the first to respond. You should add these "first responders" to your list: @cyndiejacobs @nsharoff @m_yam @weemooseus

English Language Learners:
If you have English Language Learners in your classroom, you'll want to follow @MultiLingLiving @KarenNemethEdM @judiehaynes @PreKlanguages

These Tweeps Keep Me Thinking:

New Tweeps I'm Enjoying:
These are educators I have just started to follow, but am already enjoying. I'm looking forward to more conversations with: @PrincipalBerry @surreallyno @ccoffa@ColoReader @kbkonnected @ruth_ayres @RdngTeach @EdTechSandyK @EdTechSteve

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What in the World Are You Reading? (Picture Books Around the World)

Note To Readers, Please Help:
I'm hoping those of you who read this around the globe can help me to discover books around the world. Tell me about the picture books children in your country enjoy reading. You are welcome to add to the comments on this blog, send me information via Twitter (@justwonderinY), or maybe this is an opportunity to Skype? Thanks, Cathy

For the Love of Liter
A mom recently commented on her child's booklog, "You have so many good picture books." Twenty years of teaching, a supportive district, and a few library cards will definitely fill the room with picture books. It's true. Our classroom is filled with books by authors like Mem Fox (Australian author), Mo Willems, Jan Thomas, Eric Carle, Todd Parr, Robert Munsch, Kevin Henkes, and Eileen Spinelli. Students love reading about characters like Tacky by Helen Lester, Froggy by Jonathon London, Ladybug Girl by Jacky Davis, Bear by Karma Wilson, and Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton.

We are so fortunate in the United States to have so many beautiful picture books, but lately I've been wondering what kids around the world are reading. What are the books they love to hear? What are the books they go home to enjoy?

Children in a Global World
Each day I wonder about connecting students globally. In my classroom I have students who regularly visit family in countries around the world. Each day I read posts and tweets from teachers everywhere. I hear about teachers connecting classrooms in other countries through Skype and other web 2.0 technologies. The ease of travel and the use of the internet have both contributed to a more global society. In this world, it seems necessary to help my students understand different cultures, to learn about students around the world, and to connect with others.

Can You Help?
So I was wondering about picture books around the world. Picture books can be a lens into the lives of others. Who are the authors children around the world love to read? Who are the illustrators that call children to reach for books on the shelves of their homes?

I did what I have come to do often when I start wondering these things; I asked my colleagues on Twitter. Here's what I have collected so far:

Educators Aviva Dunsiger (@Grade1) and Kathy Cassidy (@KathyCassidy) suggested these authors from Canada:

Louise Winsor (@Louwinsr), educator:

Karen Collum @KarenCollum, Australian Picture Book Author

@AllanahK recommended:
Thanks to all of my colleagues on Twitter who replied to my request. I value all you share.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Readers ARE Readers: NCTE 2010 Picture Book Possibilities

Readers are readers. So often the words reluctant, struggling, striving, remedial, and even nonreaders are words used in our profession to describe children. I'm always a little uncomfortable with these labels (I think we all are). I wonder if the children start to feel them and begin to believe in them.

You see, I'm a gardener. Actually I'm a terrible gardener. If you stop by my house in the heat of July you will find my plants in need of watering and the weeds are beginning to win the battle for space. You see, I'm not the best gardener. I love to garden. I enjoy deciding what will be in the garden and getting it planted. I enjoy watching the plants begin to grow. I enjoy working outside in the sun for some perceived purpose. However, somewhere in July when the sun gets hot, and we find ourselves busy, the garden begins to be overtaken. By August I'm struggling to have something make it through the summer. When it is time to spend hours in the garden harvesting, I'm busy spending hours in my classroom preparing for a new school year. It never goes as planned.

Yes, I'm a gardner. Not as good as my neighbor, not as productive as the gardener down the street, now as experienced as many....but I'm a gardener. Gardeners will talk with me about their work. Stores will let me buy all kinds of tools and gardening supplies. I suppose I could be called a reluctant gardener or a struggling gardener, but no one ever says that.

I feel the same way about reading. Students are all readers. They all come with different experience and different places on their learning paths, but they're all readers. As a community we come together to talk about the choices readers make, books they want to read, and authors that are a must. My students talk with each other about books and share equally in the conversation.

Time for independent reading is an important part of our day. My students would yell and scream if I even attempted to cut that out of their day. There would be a mutiny. My students love to take home picture books, and I've found ways to support that in our classroom. In our classroom, students choose the books they will take home each day. Overwhelmingly they love to carry picture books home to share with their families. Here you will see some of the ways this works in our community and the characteristics of books which support readers.

Following is a link to our presentation today about Picture Book Possibilities: Using Literature to Collaborate with Learners with Katie DiCesare, Kathy Collins, Ann Marie Corgill and myself.

Here are the links to other presenter blogs:

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Am I Crazy? Blogging with First Graders!

Getting Started

My goal this year is to utilize technology with my students in purposeful ways. By sharing their examples, enthusiasm, and expertise, educators like Katie DiCesare (@katiedicesare), Aviva Dunsiger (@Grade1),Greta Sandler (@gret), and Kathy Cassidy (@kathycassidy), convinced me to start blogging with my students. It seemed the only way to begin was to just dive into it.

Starting blogging with first graders was a bit intimidating to me. There were so many questions. How would I manage 22 first graders on a blog site? What would we blog about? How would I handle commenting? Would they be able to compose on the computer or need prewriting strategies? What about the dotted red line under their words? Am I crazy? There were so many questions I asked myself. I didn't know how to start, but I've learned one thing across my years of teaching: TRUST THE KIDS to figure it out. They always make it work. I knew that as a community we would find our way as bloggers.

Here We Go

So, I took the plunge. I headed to school one morning in early October knowing the day was going to be messy. I pushed the computer carts down to my classroom, rolled up my sleeves, said a little prayer, and began. I'm so glad I did! Honestly, the hardest part was getting everyone signed into the site, From there we were off and blogging.

Putting all my doubts and fears aside I began because I wanted to see the growth from the beginning of the year. To make it more manageable we began with a common post about visitors from Hong Kong. From the first post, kids were off and rolling. I couldn't believe how easily they navigated the blog. It wasn't long until they were commenting on each other's posts, blogging from home, and before I knew it someone figured out how to add a picture to a post.

Within days students were independently and purposefully blogging about what was important to them and finding their voice within our community of learners. It also wasn't long before a parent asked me about the purpose in blogging. It was a genuine question, and one I had thought about often.

I suppose my reasons for blogging with my students are very similar to my reasons for having my own blog. Aside from the obvious benefits of writing often, here are some of the advantages I think my students receive through blogging.

We Blog To:

build community. Blogging has strengthened the community in our classroom. We have common conversations on our blogs about our learning, but we also have opportunities to read and learn about each other. Blogging gives students a chance to share what is important to them in their daily lives and comment on one another's worlds. It's not uncommon to hear someone come in and say, "I saw your blog about your favorite stuffed animal. I take mine with me everywhere too."

have an authentic purpose for writing. We sometimes write about a shared topic, but I'm finding the blog is best for allowing students to choose their own purpose for writing. I'm learning a lot about them through blogging (and this really helps in Reader's and Writer's Workshops to support book choice and develop writing ideas). I don't see any reason to constrain their writing. Bloggers write about a variety of topics that are important to them --- so do my students.

expand audience. This is probably one of my number one reasons for blogging with my students. Writing for a teacher isn't true writing. We write for an audience because we have something important to say. My students are writing for themselves, their classmates, and our community, but parents and other staff members are also reading and commenting. Students are motivated by the response of others to their message. I'm envious of schools that allow student blogs to be accessed by the world. Imagine the excitement when a comment is received from a reader in another state or country.

understand the power of our message. Writing a response to turn it in, or creating a story to be put in a folder, is not really how writing works. Yes, many writers have a notebook they use to play with their writing and collect ideas privately, but they're looking for the power in the message they want to share with others. Students need to feel the joy their message can bring. They need to understand they can ask important questions to make others wonder too. They are not in school to learn to be a part of our world, but are in school to be a part of our world. I want my students to have a voice now.

develop a learning conversation. I'm finding my students blog about some common learning ideas. They're sharing what they've learned in content area studies. They're reflecting on the authors and books we are reading in our classroom. They're connecting the learning in our classroom to their lives at home.

encourage revision. This is just starting to take shape. When writing is going out into the world for others to see, you have some responsibility in revising your message for clarity and editing to make it easier to read. Students seem more willing to do this work when they know their audience benefits.

move my classroom into the 21st Century. I read a post recently (and I wish I could remember where) in which the author talked about finding some photographs from her classroom that were taken 20 years ago. She was reflecting about how similar her classroom looked today. She was asking herself, "Has my teaching change?". I've been watching children outside of their classrooms with their parents' iPhones, library computers, and various real-world technologies. I've realized our classroom needs to look more like the world my students are living in today.

teach social responsibility. This has been an added bonus. I'm impressed by how thoughtfully my students comment on each other's posts. We've been able to have conversations about creating a positive image online. If you're mad at your brother you really don't want to write a post for others to see about him. How can your voice help make the world a better place?

learn about internet safety in a monitored environment. This is another conversation I am happy to be able to have with these young learners. How do you protect your identity? How do you post and comment safely? There is information you do not want to use in your posts. We're talking about that.

More Reasons to Blog
My students are blogging for authentic purposes. Here are a few reflections about why others have started to blog. I think you'll find the reasons are often the same. (There are some great comments on these posts as well.)

Aviva Dunsinger, Why Do I Blog?
Microbiologybites, Why Blog?
Dr. Jeff Cornwall shares a video clip of Seth Godin discussing reasons to blog, Why Blog?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

October Favorites

Nothing quiets a classroom of first graders like a good book. My students sit spellbound through many a read aloud. In our classroom we read aloud several books across our day. As we read books in our classroom we place them in our "This Week" basket. The basket's contents grow all week long. At the end of the week students vote for their favorite. There are always so many good books to choose from in our basket. It's never an easy decision.

As the month ends we take all of the favorites from the month and vote to find the book we loved most of all. It is always hard to choose. Here are our favorites for the weeks of October. Our very favorite is at the end of this post.

At the beginning of the month we chose Birdie's Big-Girl Shoes by Sujean Rim. This book was recommended to me by my friend,
Deb, as a good book for talking about choosing just-right books. Students enjoyed the story of a girl who loves her mom's shoes and wants to wear them, but finds them all to be a bit too big. These beautiful shoes make it hard for Birdie to do the fun things she loves to do.

Another favorite we read was What Am I? Halloween! by Alain Crozon. This is a favorite every year. The pages in this book are filled with flaps which hide many of our favorite Halloween characters. Rhyming clues help children guess what might be hiding behind the flaps and make the book fun to read aloud.

Where has Jan Thomas been all my life? I was looking for simple pictures for our study of illustrations. Our media specialist quickly recommended Jan Thomas. Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas is still being checked out each evening in our classroom. It is a book which begs to be performed. Jan Thomas's other books are quite popular, as well, each day in Reader's Workshop. This author has now earned a place on our author shelf as students just can't get enough of these stories. We love that Thomas writes and illustrates her own books just like we do!

I Stink! by Kate McMullan and Jim McMullan is one of the books I chose in my picture book 10 for 10. It is a book I just can't live without, and another book passed across the hall (Thanks, Deb!). My students can't live without it either. "I Stink" is the story of a garbage truck who loves his work! He's a truck with attitude. The illustrations are captivating. Students enjoyed watching his lunch be consumed alphabetically.

I've had this book for a long time and it is ALWAYS a favorite. Shake dem Halloween Bones by W. Nikola-Lisa and illustrated by Mike Reed is our very favorite book in October. In this story the rapping host encourages all the characters to shake dem Halloween bones. Students enjoy seeing Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, the Three Pigs, and others dance at the Hip Hop Halloween Ball.

September Favorites:
Marley Goes to School by John Grogan and illustrated by Richard Cowdrey.

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Chalk by Bill Thomson (also featured in my Picture Book 10 for 10 list)

Where's Spot by Eric Hill

Good Boy, Fergus by David Shannon (our very favorite for September)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

First Grade 1973 - First Grade 2010

Have Schools Changed?

Today may have been a day of rest for many, but for teachers on Twitter the conversations were intense. The arrival of "superman" (AKA "Waiting for Superman" the movie) and the conversation of media (AKA #educationnation) kept everyone busy.

During the Twitter traffic @PaulaWhite tweeted:
paulawhite today’s 4th graders to exactly the same educational experience that I got in 1976, that my father got in 1946, and...

My first reaction was "Too True", and I immediately retweeted her comment. I had a similar thought just a week ago while talking to a new acquaintance. He was about my dad's age and was talking about his experiences in our community high school (small town tales). As he was talking, I couldn't help but notice the similarities between his experience, my experience, and my son's high school experience. Essentially, we're talking about 60 years of school, but it sounded exactly the same. School hasn't changed.

Or has it?

Sometimes I think change is so gradual we don't always notice or acknowledge it. I think schools have a long way to go until they catch up to the world our children live in every day. I know I am always working to improve my practice. School is in many ways the same, but there are also some differences. As I started thinking about my days in first grade here's what I know is different:

When I was in first grade we read Dick & Jane, and only Dick & Jane. I don't remember any other books being in the classroom. My students can choose from a variety of books, a variety of genres, by a variety of authors. Our room is full of a variety of books.

When I was in first grade the entire class read together. We opened our books and read. My students move in and out of fluid groups to support their reading growth. I confer with students in one-to-one conversations, work with small groups, and adjust instruction to meet the needs of individuals (not the group).

When I was in first grade we could go to the school library one time each week and check out one book. My students can go every day. They can check out books, movies, CDs, magazines.

When I was in first grade we sat in neat quiet rows. My first graders sit at tables, we sit on the floor, we work around the room.

When I was in first grade the classroom was absolutely silent all day. Our room is rarely silent. Collaboration is encouraged.

When I was in first grade we practiced handwriting on big fat lined paper. My first graders write stories.

When I was in first grade there were no computers, Flip video cameras, or digital cameras. My first graders use all of these.

When I was in first grade we colored pictures. My first graders don't have time to color pictures. In addition to learning to be literate, my students are learning science, math, and social studies.

What do you KNOW is different? I hope you'll share your thoughts here....

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Oh No! Scissors in Writer's Workshop!!

It started innocently enough. The first student grabbed his scissors and started making a huge character. The scissors, glue and paper were all over the floor. It wasn't long until the scissors came out again. This time for a shark and some small fish. Then scissors were out everywhere!

When I look around my classroom during Writer's Workshop I expect to see pencils, crayons, and colored pencils in everyone's hands, but scissors????

What to do?

Somehow I resisted uttering "put those scissors away". I suppose I resisted in part because it is the beginning of the year, but also because there was such a joy to their work. As I watched them cut shapes they were completely engaged in what they were doing. They were quite good at it as well. They meticulously cut airplanes, people, sharks, and other objects.

As I watched them work I saw possibility.

So I took a deep breath, started conferring, and listened. I asked the same beginning questions I usually ask in a first of year writing conference: "So tell me what you're working on today." "What's your story?" "What do you want everyone to know?" "Where'd you get your idea?". Honestly, I think many of the students made up their story as they were talking to me, but at this time of year that's really not any different than the students working on a flat sheet of paper with drawings and words. First graders are developing their sense of story and that's as it should be.

As I listened, I noticed something else. I was struck by their use of language as they began to weave their tales, MOVING characters to tell about events. Their sentence structures were longer, their details were greater, and their excitement over their stories was clearly visible.

So I decided to teach through it. I decided to follow the energy in the community and use it to strengthen our work as writers. I'm pretty sure Eric Carle cuts paper for his illustrations. Eric Hill uses flaps to make his Spot stories interesting. Mo Willems managed to finally fit a frog in a book.

Katie, of Creative Literacy, reminded me in a recent post titled "Listening for What Next" of the importance of observing and listening to children to see where they are as learners, and what they need next. So I'm looking for books in which illustrators have taken some risks - and pulled out a pair of scissors - so we can talk about the ways authors/illustrators choose to create interesting ways to share a story. I'm thinking there is much potential for developing oral language and strengthening our sense of story in this work.

If you have thoughts or book suggestions, please pass them along.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rethinking Beginning Assessment: How Soon Is Too Soon?

Early Assessment
In many ways I miss the earlier days of my teaching. I miss the first few weeks of school when we could get to know our students and build our community of learners. We can still do that, but there is now this pressing need to assess our learners early. We are in the first days of school and students are leaving my room to be assessed by intervention teams.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all for having helpful information about my learners. I'm all about knowing where they are and where they need to go. I think it's important to know what they have under control to find ways to support their learning. I assess my students often, and adjust my instruction accordingly.

I've worked on the intervention side of instruction so I understand the need to get students identified quickly, placed in groups, and positioned for thoughtful instruction. But I'm wondering - just wondering - what would happen if we slowed down a bit in those first weeks? What would happen if we gave learners a few weeks to get back in the groove of school? What would happen if we spent time getting to know what our children CAN do through observation and reflection? What would happen if intervention teams started with the students whose previous year's data demonstrates, without a doubt, they will qualify for services? What if, within the other slots, intervention teachers went into classrooms and worked alongside the teachers to get to know students?

Assessment vs. Observation
So how soon is too soon to assess? This difference between assessment and observation is critical at the beginning of the year. Intentional observation, instead of formal assessment, during the first four to six weeks of school allows children time to get back to what they knew and get comfortable with the teacher and learning environment. It allows us to get to know our students as individuals. This time, will allow the rest of the year to be more focused and intensive in instruction. This time, allows me to see what students know, the strategies they utilize and how they respond to instruction.

In our district we are fortunate to have strong data from our previous year's teachers. I start my year by looking at the previous end of year's assessments. Using previous year's assessment information I can find out strengths of my new learners. I look for strategies they have in place in literacy. I can also find commonalities among students. I place books in baskets on tables which I think would match my learners. Then I watch. I provide opportunities for writing. Then I watch. There are times for conversation. I listen. As students read, write, and talk I confer alongside them to add to what I know about each child as a learner. Read aloud, shared writing, and interactive writing also allow me to discover strengths of my new learners.

Observing Students in the First Weeks
During my time as a Reading Recovery teacher we were taught to begin our weeks of instruction with "Roaming in the Known". My trainer was adamant we respect this time to get to know our students, establish a rapport, and discover all children COULD DO. It wasn't a time to teach, it was a time to observe. It was a time to see what children knew about language, the ways they construct knowledge, the strategies they use to read and write, their ability to monitor and self-correct, and note learning strengths. It wasn't a time to record what they couldn't do. It really wasn't about what they couldn't do. It was about discovering what they had under control to use their strengths to teach into new learning. I use this "roaming in the known" thinking to guide my observations in my classroom during the first weeks of school.

In the first days of school I prepare my assessment notebook, and take notes about what I notice students are able to do. I also take the time to find out about their interests and attitudes about literacy. Here are some questions I consider as I work with students during the first weeks of school:
  • How confident are learners?
  • What are their attitudes about reading and writing?
  • What do they prefer to read and write about in our workshops?
  • Do they read and write with purpose?
  • Do they have a sense of story?
  • Is there a match between literacies (is there a match between what they know in reading and writing, or a difference between the two)?
  • What oral language structures do they use (do these carry over to their writing)?
  • Do they monitor and self-correct?
  • What is their experience with books, writing, and story?
  • What strategies do they have in place for reading and writing?
  • What do they know about letters and words?
During the first days of school these questions will guide my thinking as I observe my students during various learning opportunities. Discovering and celebrating all they can do in the first days of school, instead of quickly assessing my students, will give me time to see all they know and how they transfer this knowledge to new situations. It also gives me time to get to know them as readers, writers, thinkers....and the amazing people they already are.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Picture Books, A PLN, and Possibilities: A Thank You

August 10 for 10
Nothing like having a big event and then disappearing for 10 days. Since completing our Picture Book 10 for 10 August event, I had to shift gears to get in back to school mode. Lots to do!!! I couldn't, however, not say a few words about our event.


It's really all I can say. When Mandy, of Enjoy and Embrace Learning (Mandy's reflection is here), and I developed this crazy scheme of a picture book round up to share 10 books every classroom library should have, we had no idea it would turn into such an event. The response was much greater than we anticipated thanks to so many friends and bloggers who thoughtfully participated by sharing the books they love having in their libraries.

Picture Book Must Reads!
The result was a "jog" of 40 blogs; each sharing their 10 favorite books. There are many spins and twists on the event that are worth checking out so make sure you go through all 40 steps. Here are a few of the twists you won't want to miss (all are in the jog as well):

A PLN: My Inspiration
We were thrilled that so many of our friends and local bloggers joined the event. This group is always an inspiration to me. They keep me learning, buying books, and trying new ideas. You won't want to miss these: Literate Lives, Raising Readers and Writers, Two Learning Journeys, A Year in Reading, Learn Me Sumthin', Wandering and Wondering in Libraryland, Teaching in the Tech Frontier, Teaching in the 21st Century.

Mandy couldn't have said it better when she said, "Technology is a powerful tool to connect people. Technology is a powerful tool to share ideas." I was completely unprepared for the power of a hashtag, #pb10for10, and my Twitter friends @Saskateach from A Work in Progress, @LiteracyCounts from Room to Grow, @bookblogmamma from Ready. Set. Read!, @mrs_honeysett from The Hive, @tessasdad from Stay at Home Dad in Lansing, @TeachJohnson from Random Thoughts of a Teacher, and @JulieHedlund from Write Up My Life. In addition to many many other Twitter colleagues who helped spread the word. What a wonderful PLN!

Special Mentions
I would be remiss to not thank a few friends who helped spread word of the event.
Thanks to:
@MaryLeeHahn for sharing the information about the event with the Kidlitosphere. This really helped get the event off to a great start. Mary Lee, you rock!

Nancy Ehlrich (@NancyTeaches). Nancy not only passed word along through Twitter, but she also wrote an article about the event at Thanks, Nancy!

Brenda at Choice Literacy (@ChoiceLiteracy). I was surprised to see a link to the event jog on the August 14th Big Fresh Letter. It made my day! I'm not sure how Brenda keeps up with everything going on in the Literacy world, but her site is a constant resource for so many educators. Much appreciated, Brenda!

Special thanks to everyone who contributed (there are so many more!). It was such fun because all of you joined in the conversation. I'm truly honored to be part of this learning community!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The "Final" List: August 10 for 10 Picture Book Event

The Event
It's finally here! Today I am co-hosting the August 10 for 10 picture book blogging event with Mandy from Enjoy and Embrace Learning. All posts will be linked to both of our blogs. Mandy will be putting together a summary of posts, and I've created a jog to allow you to view all the posts from a common link. A jog allows you to page through all of the posts much like turning the pages in a book. When you click here to go to the jog you will be able to see the "table of contents" of posts. We are thrilled to have so many blogs joining the event. If you're looking for new books for your classroom, for your children, or as a gift you'll want to stop here.

Finally, My 10
For days and days and days you've heard me talk about choosing 10 picture books I can't live without in my classroom. You've watched me tweet, tweet, tweet the links (#pb10for10). I've probably driven a few Twitter friends crazy with my event updates and reminders. Consider yourself lucky. At home, my family has watched me collect picture books, rearrange stacks of picture books, and talk about the reasons I love certain books. I've had picture books stacked on tables, across the living room, and on the couch. They've heard me moan and groan because I just couldn't get my list under 15.

So here it is...the moment we've all been waiting for. Was I able to narrow my collection of picture books to 10 "must haves"? (Yes, I'm cheating a bit with the picture. Rules were meant to be broken bent, right?)

Have you ever been to a restaurant and been unsure of what to order? You're wrestling between a few dishes, and decide to just wait until the waitress or waiter comes to make that final last minute choice?? Well, that's pretty much how this choosing 10 books event is going for me.

The List
OK...the moment you've I've been waiting for. Here are the 10 picture books I think are must-haves. This is my list and I'm sticking to it (for today):

1. The Great Gracie Chase by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Mark Teague.

This is the one book I am keeping from my original list in More Than Guided Reading. (Of course, I still love all the others!) Gracie is a dog who loves quiet. All was quiet and well until the day the painters came to the house. That's the day of the Great Gracie Chase.

This book always has my students spellbound. Rylant has a way with words. Words like "ploop-ploop", changes in sentence length, and repetitive phrases make this a book that is fun for the voice. The story begs to be read quickly...then s l o w l y..., then loud, and then soft. Like all picture books, this book should be read and enjoyed over and over just for the rhythm of the words and the meaning of the story.

Later, it is a good book to revisit as a writing mentor and for reading focus lessons. I've used it to talk about repetition, character, and turning points in stories (among other things). Last year, my students decided our reader's workshop needed to be a place that Gracie would come visit; a quiet place where you could hear "the quiet fish going 'ploop-ploop'". Gotta love that!

2. Good Boy, Fergus written and illustrated by David Shannon

What is a list without David Shannon? There was no way my list could be without him. Let's be honest, young children love David Shannon. How can they not? David Shannon is the perfect author for any primary classroom. Like my young writers, David Shannon writes his own words and draws his pictures. I think this is a powerful example. After much debate about all of his titles, I chose Good Boy, Fergus! for my list. Fergus is not a very well behaved dog. If you read only the words to this book, you'd think Fergus was the perfect dog, but when you look at the illustrations quite the opposite is true.

Young children love this mismatch and play between the words and the pictures making it a good book for discussion about inferring. After hearing the story, the books are easy for emergent readers to return to reread over and over again. Another must-have.

You thought #3 would be another dog book, but that would have only worked if I would have chosen The Pigeon Wants a Puppy. Instead I chose this one, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! I know you've all seen it, but it is a "must have" for children.

In this story the pigeon has a burning desire to drive a bus. Mo Willems, who also writes his own books and draws his own pictures, sets up this story as if the pigeon is directly talking to the reader to get permission to drive the bus. There is a lot of begging and pleading to drive the bus. Will he be permitted to drive it? You'll have to read to find out. (The pigeon also does his own tweeting on Twitter. If you're not following him you should be. Lots of laughs.)

Young readers enjoy the speech bubbles and young writers quickly want to give them a try. This is one of those stories children want to hear over and over again. It's also another book emergent readers can hear and then read over and over again.

What is a list of picture book must-haves without a wordless picture book? There are many good wordless picture books to share with students. Wordless picture books are great for discussion and for language development. (Susan, of The Book Maven's Haven, discusses the benefits of wordless picture books and has suggestions for using them with children here.)

I stumbled upon this book, the most recently published book in my 10, last year. It was a hit in our classroom. In this story, some children go to the playground where they find a bag of chalk. When they use the chalk to draw pictures the drawings come to life. You can imagine the problem when one of the children draws a dinosaur on the playground. This book is perfect for demonstrating to young writers that a story can be told with pictures. As readers, much thinking goes into understanding this book. It provides many opportunities for teaching.

My class spent much time debating whether the events "really" happened in the story or whether the kids imagined it. They loved talking about what they would draw with this special chalk.

I seem to have a collection of books with beautiful language (except the wordless book above, but students create beautiful language for it) and this book is no exception. Kitten is out for the night and sees, what she thinks is, a bowl of milk in the sky. She tries and tries to get the bowl of milk, but with little luck.

Children are always caught by the repetitive phrases Kevin Henkes uses in this book which are characteristic of much of his work. Children chime in on repeated phrases like "Poor Kitten!" and "Still, there was the little bowl of milk, just waiting." repeat throughout the story. In addition to trying repetition, writers like to try the way Henkes uses several frames of pictures on a page to tell about a series of events.

6. Tough Boris, written by Mem Fox, illustrated by Kathryn Brown

Mem never lets down a crowd, and this book is no exception. Maybe it's because I can hear Mem Fox whispering in my ear that if I'm going to read her book to my class I better put my heart and soul in it, or maybe there's something about the arrangement of words, but I swear her books must be magic. Students love them! They love to listen to them being read over and over again. They love to reread them and take them home.

This story is about the pirate, Boris von der Borch. Boris is a pirate like all other pirates, but he has a soft spot in his heart for his pet parrot. This book is one of my favorites because of the see-saw structure of the text. "He was massive. All pirates are massive." This pattern continues throughout the story. It is a pattern readers can readily see, and writers can easily try.

7. Ladybug Girl, written by David Soman, illustrated by Jacky Davis

Students can easily identify with Ladybug Girl. Mom is busy, and big brother has plans, so Lulu is told she'll have to find things to do on her. This is no problem for this imaginative child. Like any super hero, Ladybug Girl, can get through anything. Lulu is one of those strong characters developed exceptionally well by the author which makes this book an excellent choice for character discussions.

Eileen Spinelli is one of the authors I've recently fallen in love with for my classroom. She has such a wide variety of texts of varying topics and varying styles. This book is about a stray cat who has kittens in an abandoned building. Unfortunately, the building catches on fire and her kittens are lost in the heat and smoke. Will they be safe?

This book tops my list for read alouds which make great discussion about various thinking strategies used in reading. In my first grade classroom we work determine the difference between a good citizen and a hero. This book is perfect for helping kids to begin to gain an understanding of heroism. Is this cat a hero?

Of course, my favorite thing about this book is the author's note in the back. Here Eileen Spinelli discusses an article she read in the newspaper about a homeless cat who rescued her kittens from a building that was on fire. She wrote the story to honor the 10th anniversary of this rescue. (Another reason it is perfect for our 10 for 10 event. Sorry, I just couldn't resist.) It is powerful for students to see the connections authors make which give them ideas for their writing. Ideas are everywhere.

On a side note, Eileen Spinelli's website is one of my favorite author sites. Make sure you stop by her monthly poetry post. A delight!

9. The Recess Queen, written by Alexis O'Neill, illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith

This book is one of the best read alouds of all time, in my opinion. In this story Jean is a recess bully. She always got her way, and if anyone gave her trouble she'd "push 'em and smoosh 'em, lollapaloosh 'em, hammer 'em, slammer 'em, kitz and kajammer 'em." Scary, huh. That's how it was on that playground until a new girl named Katie Sue came.

This book, like the Great Gracie Chase, is perfect for reading aloud. Changes in print size and placement cause the reader to slow down, speed up, change volume, and adjust intonation. At one point in the story, Katie Sue stands up to Mean Jean and the other children stop. At this pivotal point the story reads, "No one spoke. No one moved. No one BREATHED." No matter how big the group, this point in the story has always silenced the room. You could hear a pin drop as they wait to see what Mean Jean does.

My friend, Deb, sold me on this book. She actually tried several times. She kept handing it to me, and I kept passing it back. Finally one day, I really needed a book to help one of my young writers. He was a terrific illustrator; drawing trucks, cars, space ships, animals, etc.. I kept trying to help him to take these drawing and turn them into characters with stories, but he wasn't buying what I was selling. That's where I Stink came to the rescue. I needed a good mentor text for making books about cars, trucks, trains, etc.. So, Deb handed it to me again, but this time I really took a close look. I was sold. I purchased a copy of this book, and other books by Kate & Jim McMullin, this summer. Children will enjoy having them in our classroom library.

Stink is a garbage truck who tells about his day on the job. This book has so much voice. You feel like you're chatting with Stink. The author uses text placement, punctuation, and changes in font to help the reader read the book the way it was intended.

A Reflection
Choosing 10 books every classroom must have was a real challenge --- much more than I had anticipated. There are so many terrific authors, and so many well loved picture books. The hardest part was not having a list that is characteristic of everything I think it is important to have in my classroom library. In our library I want students to be able to find a variety of genres including fiction, nonfiction, literary nonfiction, fairy tales and poetry. Our library needs to be multicultural. I want all of my students to be able to find themselves in our library. I work to find books that appeal to the interests of boys, girls, builders, singers, budding scientists, and pet lovers. This list of 10 in no way manages any of that.

Most of the books I chose are books with strong characters and powerful language. I've discussed some ways they can be used in the classroom. Some are perfect mentors for writing, and others are better for anchoring conversations in reading. However, books that are this well written can work for about anything we are teaching in the classroom, especially the myriad of reading strategies readers must use to understand stories.

Most importantly, all of the books listed above are loved by children. I've realized my list are all picture books I love to read aloud, and books students love to listen to over and over again. Mem Fox reminds us, "The literature I heard, rather than read, as a child resonates again and again in my head whenever I sit down to write." (p. 68, Radical Reflections).

So these are my 10 --- for today --- August 10th. We'll see about tomorrow....