Thursday, August 22, 2013

Getting Started with Reader's Workshop

Shaping a Reading Community
The calendar turned to August and in a snap my mind began racing with thinking about school.  I’ve started making lists of things to do, items to purchase, arrangements to consider, ideas for learning, books to request, and ways to grow our learning community.  This part of the year always finds me a bit uneasy.  Though I am excited, I always worry a bit too.  Will our classroom become a place where students feel safe, are willing to take risks, and are interested in the learning taking place.  Will my new students be eager to be at school every day?  Will this group of first graders be able to grow a community that supports one another in learning?  Will I be able to help them to grow as readers and learners?

Last year, as March and April rolled around, I remember moments of looking at our learning community during Reader’s Workshop and smiling with pride.  I could have walked out of the classroom and students wouldn’t have noticed.  There were students engaged in a variety of types of learning.  I noticed a small group working together on a study of pets.  They had books collected on their tables, notebooks out, and were reading to discover the answers to questions they had asked.  There was a group circled on the floor with a collection of planet books talking about discoveries.  There were students blogging about book favorites on the computer.  There were pairs reading together, individuals snuggled in spots with a good book, and a variety of books being read in the classroom.  They had come to rely on one another.  The quiet hum of thinking, learning, reading, and collaborating could be heard around the room.  

Now it is August.  Uneasiness settles in as I wonder, how do I get back there?  Will we be able to accomplish this as a new community?  How will we determine the way we organize our library, the way we use our time, the volume we are comfortable with during the workshop?  How will we create a common language to use to talk about books and share our thinking?  Will we be able to learn to listen to one another, consider the ideas being shared, and add to them or even disagree politely with them?   

Getting Started
When making decisions about setting up our workshop and planning our first days together I try to step back to think about my beliefs about reading instruction.  What do we need to thrive as reading community?  What do young readers need to own their learning?  I want to start our workshop on the very first day of school.  I want students to know Reader’s Workshop is a place where we read books and my hope is they will look forward to this time each and every day.  As I get the room ready I try to think about:
  • Time:  Readers will need plenty of time to enjoy books independently.  I try to be especially mindful of students receiving support in reading as often they end up with the least amount of time to enjoy books, yet they need the most.  Time reading provides authentic opportunities to use new strategies and come to greater understanding.  
  • Choice:  The choice of books, reading goals, and ways to share thinking should belong to my readers.  Introducing possibilities, keeping an eye on new discoveries made by students, focus lessons and community conversations about developing our reading lives will help to grow the choices readers make during our workshop.  
  • Space:  The classroom should have a variety of types of spaces for readers.  As I look around my room, I hope to create spaces for whole group conversations, small groups working together, pairs reading together, as well as individuals who prefer a little nook to quietly curl into as they read.  I also want to consider the location of books, tools, and technology for readers.  
  • Strong Library:  Across the year our library will grow and change as it is shaped by the reading lives of the students in our classroom.  I like our library to surround us as we work together across the day.  I consider the placement of books, wanting to have books within reach no matter where students choose to sit during Reader’s Workshop.  Books will rest across the main shelves of our library, but they will also sit on our math tool shelves, near the reading nook created, on tables, in the center of the classroom, near our wonder area, and anywhere I think I can squeeze a few baskets.  
  • Conversation:  Each year, our community seems to have readers who like the room quiet, readers who love to laugh over books with friends, and readers who like to think in small groups about topics of study.  This can be tricky to balance in small spaces and will be shaped in conversations across our first days.  However, I know I want to provide time, space, and opportunity for readers to talk about books.  For many, conversation and social interaction will be what brings them into books.  

First Steps
What will the first days of our workshop look like?  During the first days I will try to be mindful of the choices readers are making, notice the smart decisions they are making, consider the books they seem to revisit, and have conversations to discover who they are as readers.  In the first weeks I’ll try to consider where we are, but also keep an eye toward where we are going.  

First Days
Moving Toward
Reader’s Workshop is a place where we read books.
Reader’s Workshop is a place where
we read books, share our thinking,
and discover new learning.  
Discover who we are as readers.  
Grow our reading lives.  
We talk about books.  
We grow our thinking by talking, writing,
and creating new understandings
with books.  
Books to begin our workshop.  
Growing our library to support our
reading lives and topics of study.  
Discovering new genres, authors,
and topics of interest.  
My responsibility as a reader.  
Student responsibility for the other
readers in our classroom.  
Reading with partners.  
Talking and growing our
thinking with learning partnerships.  
Having a plan for Reader’s Workshop.
Setting goals for growing as a reader.  

Getting Ready
Somehow the gathering of a few baskets of popular book collections to place around the room starts to put me at ease.  I try to think of collections I think students may have enjoyed in kindergarten, as well as books to help us with beginning community conversations.  Baskets of picture books about vehicles, pets, friends, reading, numbers, as well as song books are some of the collections I have started.  I only want enough books to get us started.  There are many empty baskets filling the shelves too.  This new community will decide what we need to add to the shelves that surround us.  I’ve requested many new titles from the library, created Evernote folders to document the reading journeys of these new young learners, and started to plan the structures to support our learning as the year begins.  I’m feeling a little better now.  I remind myself to trust the process and the new students who will soon share this space with me.  I’m looking forward to beginning a new journey.  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Picture Book 10 for 10: Picture Book Magic

Join 4th Annual #pb10for10
It's finally here.  Get your library cards ready and you might want to consider a limit to your Amazon purchases --- or maybe not.

Today is our annual picture book event.  We're thrilled to have so many picture book lovers joining the conversation this year.  This is the fourth year for this event, and Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning and I are expecting a wide range of participants today.  In past events we've had parents, media specialists, authors, educators and people who just can't resist a good picture book.  Participants post their ten picture books they can't live without, and then we create a magazine-like collection of everyone's lists.   It's always a great resource. (NF2013, 2012, 2011, 2010)

It is often a little challenging to link all of the posts to the Jog from both of our blogs without duplicating information.  For this reason, we have a few requests if you're joining the event to make it easier for us to collect picture book lists.  If you'd like to join us, here's how:
  • If you'd like to have your blog linked to the conversation, just comment with the link (cut and paste your post address in the comments) for your picture book list here OR at Enjoy and Embrace Learning.  
  • You are welcome to comment on both blogs (comments are always appreciated), but to simplify our work in creating this year's jog as a resource, please ONLY LEAVE YOUR LINK ON ONE OF OUR BLOGS.  This will help us to keep from duplicating posts in the jog. 
  • You can also mention us in a link on Twitter using the event hashtag #pb10for10.  However, we cannot guarantee that tweeted links will be added to the jog.  (It gets a little crazy out there!) 
  • If you don't have a blog, but would like to join, there are lots of ways to participate. 
My #pb10for10
In past year's I've shared many of my favorite picture books:
As an educator I am continually thankful for the authors and illustrators who rest on the shelves of our classroom library.  Picture books make us laugh, create opportunities for important conversations, and teach us big lessons about life.  Picture books are mentors for young writers.  I've been fortunate in my years as an educator to be able to rely on authors like Mem Fox, Eric Carle, Kevin Henkes, Eve Bunting and Cynthia Rylant.  Many of these authors were mentioned in my 2011 post:  Ten Authors I Just Can't Live Without.  I can always count on these authors to capture the attention of the young learners sitting in front of me.

Now other authors are emerging in children's literature that I hope will continue to write and share their stories.  These authors and illustrators continually share this same level of excellent literature for children.  These authors and illustrators capture the attention of my students and keep them begging for more.  I'm going to share a few picture book creators I hope will keep sharing great books for the young learners in my classroom.

When I started making this list I thought I would be writing a list with 5 authors I love and then 5 illustrators.  What I discovered is I most often love illustrators who write their stories too.  It turns out that most of the authors on my list are writers and illustrators of their work; much like the young writers in my classroom.  Some were illustrators who sometimes do their own writing too.

My hope is that these writers will continue to work their magic:

Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Exclamation Mark:  written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.

This book written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal was a hit last year with my students.  They were spellbound from the start to the finish.  This is a story of Exclamation Mark and Question Mark and their friendship.  Of course, we've loved many of Rosenthal's books including Yes Day (early mentor text for writing....and what kid doesn't want to be told YES to everything?), The OK Book (a perfect book for setting the tone that it is ok to take risks and learn to do new things), and Spoon (poor Spoon just doesn't think he is as necessary as Fork or Knife).  Amy packs big messages into small stories that young readers can understand.  I love the diversity of her work which provides support for a variety of classroom conversations.  Please keep writing, Amy (@missamykr on Twitter)!  We love your work.

Alex Latimer
Lion vs Rabbit Written and illustrated by Alex Latimer .  

This year my students loved The Boy Who Cried Ninja and Penguin's Hidden Talent.  However, I am quite sure Lion vs. Rabbit just released this month will be the biggest hit.   Students love "vs." stories.  When Lion vs. Rabbit he is quite sure there is no way a little rabbit can beat him, but never underestimate good old-fashioned creativity and smarts.  

I tend to be a character reader, and the characters Latimer creates are hard to resist.  However, I have to really speak to his work as an illustrator as I know that is the part my students will love.  Much of the story is told in the pictures and my students never miss these fun clues.  I wish I were more of an artist so I could put words to the techniques I think make his work stand out, but it will have to be enough to say the colorful pictures in the story make it even better.  I look forward to more work from Alex Latimer (@almaxlat on Twitter).

Peter Reynolds
Ish (2004) Written and illustrated by Peter Reynolds

Peter Reynolds often illustrates for others, but I really enjoy the books he has written and illustrated.  His thinly black lined sketches filled with color help to tell his story.  He sticks simply in his pictures to the things that matter strengthening his message for readers.  

In Ish, Ramon loves to draw.  One day his older brother laughs at his work and then nothing he draws is good enough for him.  He creates drawing after drawing, but crumbles his imperfect work into small balls to be discarded.  Soon however, his sister, Marisol, helps him to see his work a little differently.  She helps Ramon - and the students in my class - see the power of "ISH."  

Peter's books are perfect for helping young children understand learning is a journey and mistakes are expected - and necessary.  It is also is important to add, Peter is also one of the best authors for interacting with classrooms and students (@PeterHReynolds on Twitter).  It looks like he and Paul Reynolds have a new book coming next year:  Going Places.  I'm very excited!

Scott Magoon
The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot by Scott Magoon

You most likely know Scott Magoon from his work with other authors.   He has illustrated for Amy Krouse Rosenthal (Spoon and Chopsticks), Michelle Krudsen (Go Mean Mike) and a variety of other authors.  However, I am hoping Scott will be illustrating more of his own stories. 

My students loved The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot!  In this story, a little like The Boy Who Cried Wolf, no one believes the boy is seeing Bigfoot.  However, the boy is determined to prove it.  My students laughed over this tale again and again.  

Young readers loved Magoon's illustrations.  Magoon (@smagoon on Twitter) uses color to set mood and tone throughout the story.  His illustrations cover the page and delight readers.  Of course, young readers enjoy spotting Bigfoot and watching the antics of the boy's small dog.  This is a must for every classroom library.

Steve Jenkins
Time to Eat by Steve Jenkins

Really, I just couldn't leave Steve Jenkins off the list.  It is delightful to have an author and illustrator so adept at the genre of nonfiction.  I find Jenkin's work to be enjoyable for read aloud (not always an easy task for nonfiction), interesting for young readers, full of strong information, but most of all a perfect example that nonfiction doesn't just have to be a bunch of facts as it can tell a story too.  

My students fell in love with Time to Eat and sent me searching for more of his books for our library.  It is becoming more common to find nonfiction with illustrations which always starts an interesting discussion.  His use of white space and collage to show animals in action is appealing to readers.  I am looking forward to reading his upcoming release:  Animals Upside Down.

Loren Long
Otis by Loren Long

Maybe I love Loren Long's work because he is from Ohio.  Maybe it is because I just can't resist his characters.  However, I think it is his illustrations which draw me to his work.  In Long's biography on Amazon he says about his love of storytelling, "The words are like a screenplay and I'm choosing which scenes to bring to life."

In his story, Otis, Long (@lorenlong on Twitter) accomplishes this very thing with detailed pictures, character expressions demonstrating complex emotions, and strong use of color.  It is true the boys in my room sit up as soon as they see a tractor on the cover, but the story and character are loved by all.  You will often see Long's work alongside the writing of other authors, but I hope he will tell more stories in the years to come.  

Oliver Jeffers
The Day the Crayons Quit illustrated by Oliver Jeffers and written by Drew Daywalt

I can't wait to read this story to a class of young readers.  I know they are going to love it.  This book has voice and attitude which I know will be a hit!  Daywalt's entry into children's literature is colorful (couldn't resist) --- and has me hoping for more.

However, I want to talk about Oliver Jeffers here.  I would love to hear about the process of creating this book between author and illustrator.  In this story, Duncan's crayons are on strike.  Pink is tired of being used only by girls, blue is frustrated to be so small from overuse, and yellow needs orange to understand he is the color of the sun.  Jeffers work really brings Daywalk's story to life.  Crayons write letters of protest on paper.  Students could easily see themselves creating illustrations in this style and Jeffers use of white space draws your attention to the characters.

Jeffers (@OliverJeffers on Twitter) work is an asset in any classroom library.   We love Stuck, The Incredible Book Eating Boy, and How to Catch a Star, among others; all written and illustrated by Jeffers.  Jeffers has the unique ability to bring stories to life in his illustrations.  I hope we will see more books by Jeffers in the years to come!

Peter Brown 
Creepy Carrots illustrated by Peter Brown and written by Aaron Reynolds

This book was a huge hit in our classroom.  Our neighbors in Deb Frazier's classroom shared it with us.  We enjoyed this story by Aaron Reynolds in which a rabbit is haunted by carrots trying to get him.  He determines a creative plan to stop them, but was it his imagination or were those carrots really out to get him?   

Peter Brown brings this story to life with his illustrations.  I am a huge fan of Peter's work (as is my friend, Deb, who introduced me to him).  In this book, Peter uses dark colors to make readers feel as frightened as the rabbit in this story.  The illustrations are dark with the contrast of orange.  The black and white shadings contrast the bright orange. He uses the entire space to tell the story in his illustrations.  While Peter is the illustrator of this book, he has his own collection of books he has illustrated AND written including Children Make Terrible Pets, YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND, and The Curious Garden.  I look forward to adding Brown's work to our library shelves for years to come.

Jon Klassen
The Dark illustrated by Jon Klassen and written by Lemony Snicket

Oh, Lemony Snicket.  I can't really wrap my head about Snicket writing picture books.  However, I enjoy wrapping my hands around work by Jon Klassen and this is no exception.  Let's be honest, if you're on Twitter, you didn't miss the hubbub around I Want My Hat Back.  Twitter participants took sides in this story.  It was crazy!

My students loved The Dark.  In this story the dark takes on a life of its own.  Who hasn't been scared of the dark at some point in their lives?  Young readers can definitely relate to this and it creates space for interesting - and important - discussion.  Once again, I find myself lacking the words to describe Klassen's art in a way that speaks to the uniqueness of his work.  However, I can tell you young readers are drawn to his illustrations which add depth to every story.  While Klassen has illustrated for many authors, I enjoy his work as an author AND illustrator.  I hope he will continue to create and share his work.

Todd Parr
The I'm Not Scared Book by Todd Parr

Last, but certainly not least, is Todd Parr.  This book, The I'm Not Scared Book is a favorite each year.  Todd Parr shares things that are scary....and the ways we feel better when we're scared.  This patterned text is enjoyable for young readers to listen to and for young writer's to use as a mentor.  Todd Parr's use of bold colors and thick black outlines help give his work a style of its own.  Todd Parr's work is perfect for looking closely at shape and the way shape can be used to illustrate.

I love that Todd Parr writes and illustrates his own work.  We enjoy so many of his titles including:  It's Okay to Be Different, Reading Makes You Feel Good, and The Peace Book.  Todd's books are always helpful in creating caring communities.  The messages of kindness, friendship, and caring are always understood by kids.

Todd Parr is another author who takes the time to interact with classrooms and readers.  Todd often shares new drawings on his Twitter and Pinterest pages.  I hope Todd will continue to write to help make our world - and each classroom - a better place!

What authors and/or illustrators do you hope to see continue to create picture books?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.