Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Slice of Life - Squishy Fingers

The moment I woke up Sunday morning I knew the dreaded stomach virus had found me.  My husband told the kids to stay out of the bedroom, so that I could rest quietly.  I had just dozed off when I heard the bedroom door slowly squeak open.  Assuming that it was just my husband I continued sleeping.  Then I felt them, squishy fingers that smelled like a combination of Play-Doh and peanut butter and jelly, massaging my face so carefully.  

"Shhhhh mommy.  Don't tell daddy I here."

I just nodded and smiled at him.

"Drink all you juice and I bring more so you feel better."

"Okay honey, I can do that for you."

Next thing I knew those squishy fingers were gently rubbing my eyelids, just like I do to him when I rock him to sleep.

"You sleep mommy and I tell you a story."

I wish I could remember the story that my little man told me.  However, I was so tired that I was already asleep before he started the story.  My husband said he came into the room and Evan, my squishy fingered three year old, was sitting on the bed jabbering words he couldn't understand while holding my hand.  

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Young Adult Readers in a Middle School Classroom

Last week I returned from four intense days of learning at the NCTE Annual Convention in Boston, MA.   One of the many perks of attending was the amount of free books that I received for my classroom library.  I brought back over 70 books for my students!  In talking with colleagues, I decided that one of the quickest ways to get the books into the hands of the students was to do a book pass, or as I like to call it “Speed Dating with Books”.  When I was sharing this idea with my husband, he asked me how I’m going to make sure these books are appropriate for all of my students.  That’s an impossible task.  There is no way to make sure all books are appropriate for all readers.   However, that doesn’t mean that I should prevent my students from reading some of the books in this new collection for the classroom library.

Being that this is my first year teaching 7th graders, I am finding that this is a pivotal year for them as readers.  I have some readers who are devouring Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  I also have a group of readers who can’t get enough of Bigger Than a Breadbox  by Laurel Snyder, Rump by Liesl Shurtliff and The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen.  The students who are reading books in the first category came to me reading those books.  If I were to “censor” their book selections or make recommendations avoiding books that have young adult content including vulgar language, abuse or sexually active teens they would ignore my suggestions and read them anyway. 

Making assumptions about where students have been and lives they have lived, even at the age of twelve, can be difficult.  It saddens me to think about some of the things my students have witnessed and experienced at such a young age.  I know that many of their peers (or even teachers) couldn’t even fathom going through such experiences.  Therefore, many students feel alone in the world believing that no one could possible understand what they are going through.  Reading books with similar experiences can help student find a place in this world.  These books might mean that there is actually someone else out there struggling or overcoming similar issues as them. 

As for students who have not experienced any of the abuse, depression or sexually related content in young adult novels, these books can still provide a sense of understanding and compassion.  I remember some of the books that I read when I was in middle school, and looking back I realize how much of the explicit content I truly did not understand.  However, I still feel that I was able to have an emotional connection with many of the characters.  I learned compassion and my eyes were opened to an entire world that I didn’t know existed.  I truly believe that these books have made me a better person today because they first taught me how to be compassionate and empathetic.

As a teacher, this doesn’t mean I will hand any book to just any student without thoughtful conversations about the content.  The majority of the books I received at NCTE I have not yet read.  However, many of my friends that also teach middle school have read them.  I will look at their reviews on Goodreads before determining how to handle a book within my classroom.  I have some books that I keep behind my desk, and there are certain students that know they can check those books out at any time.  I determine who those students are based on the books they have already shared and discussed with me.   However, there are some books that I will directly recommend to a particular student knowing that their peers respect them as a reader.  Once that student finishes the book, the book popularity will spread like wildfire.   As much as I like to think of myself as a person that students will feel comfortable talking to about difficult content in books, I know that isn’t a realistic expectation.  Knowing that many peers in the classroom are reading and sharing the same book opens the door for supportive conversations between peers about difficult topics. 

Always remember that parent preference about book content is always first priority.  If a parent does not agree with a book that I have recommended or that their child has checked out from my classroom library, I always respect that parent’s choice.  This has only ever happened one time to me, but I know it probably won’t be the last time.  In that situation I listened to the parent’s concerns and made sure that any book I recommended in the future fit the parent’s expectations for their student as reader. 

Students want to read about stories that they can connect to as readers.  One student said to me, “I don’t like reading books with characters younger than me.”  I think this statement is true for the majority of middle school readers.   If we want to help inspire our students as readers, we need to meet them where they are, and be prepared for them to want to read books about drinking, drugs, rape, sex and relationships.  These books can help open the doors to conversations and action involving compassion, empathy and understanding. 

I’ll leave you with some great thoughts about Jackson Pearce’s perspective of the “F-Bomb” in books.  

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Celebrating Halloween

Discover. Play. Build.

I hope everyone had a very safe and fun Halloween this past week!  The weather had the potential for becoming dangerous on Trick or Treat night here, so the time was changed to ensure everyone remained safe.  Despite the rain, my three children had a blast dressing up and collecting candy!  This is the first year all three of my children really understood the concept of Trick or Treat.  There was lots of strategizing and plotting that happened.  It only took skipping one house without their lights off for my kids to scope out the houses with lights on, and plan that we would only be knocking on those doors.  It  makes my heart happy when I step back and watch my three children interact with each other.  My daughter, Autumn, is the middle child, but she does not hesitate to become the ring leader of the crew.  Gavin, my oldest, is very methodical and strategic and he will take her plans and find a focused, organized approach.  Then there comes the youngest of the crew, Evan, who ignores the plan and charges in with his own ideas.  Gavin and Autumn are always on the look out to protect Evan from doing something that would be dangerous, but are never far behind in joining in with his crazy ideas. Watching this process of interactions happen while collecting candy, dressed as Spiderman, a flower and Yoda, and playing in the rain is definitely a memory I will be celebrating for years to come.  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Celebrate This Week: Skyping and Perseverance

Discover. Play. Build.

This past week was a crazy whirlwind of events.  However, I have several awesome celebrations to share!  

1.  On Wednesday, our 7th grade students had the opportunity to Skype with author Chris Grabenstein.   This is the first author Skype visit I have ever attended or coordinated, so I was nervous to say the least.  There were about 300 seventh graders in attendance for the session, and only half of them had the opportunity to read The Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library.  All of the students had the chance to research him before the Skype, but I was still nervous that the students who had not read the book would not take the Skype session seriously.  All of the students were AMAZING!!  The questions that the students asked Chris Grabenstein were well thought out, and led to some very interesting and creative answers.  He was entertaining and provided a wonderful first author Skype experience for the staff and students.  I am so thankful that I work with a group of people who helped support this opportunity for the students.  I am also celebrating the fact that I have my first Skype visit under my belt! 

2.  One of the 7th grade social studies teachers that I work with is in the process of teaching his students how to create a digital textbook.  The students will be creating digital learning objects and putting them into the textbook for other students, current and future, to use to master understanding of content knowledge. In order to provide this opportunity to as many students as possible, on an individual basis, he is trying to get more iPads for his classroom.   Therefore, he created a Donors Choose grant project to help with this goal.  The funding for this project started on Wednesday (around $1,000) and he text me yesterday morning to let me know that the project was already fully funded.  His determination and perseverance to do whatever needs to be done to help students learn, in a way that is beneficial for them, needs to be celebrated.  I also want to celebrate those people who donated to this project.  I am so impressed with people's willingness to help children learn and helping to provide them with a positive education experience by donating to classroom projects.  

I have no doubt that this upcoming week will be full of more reasons to celebrate amazing things that are happening around me!  

Monday, October 21, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


These memes were started by Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journeys, to inspire readers to share books they have read and will be reading. I have found many of my current reads by following bloggers participating in It’s Monday! What are you reading? Be sure to check out their sites for more information on what they are reading, and learn how to participate. 


Books Read Last Week:

Title:  Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Author:  Ransom Riggs

Title:  A Long Walk to Water
Author:  Linda Sue Park

Currently Reading:

Title:  Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author:  Benjamin Alire Sanez

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Celebrating a Wonderful Teacher

Every Saturday share a celebration.   It can be anything (or several things). A photo, a page from your writer's notebook, a favorite lesson, a success story, student writing, a recipe, a new book for your classroom library -- just find something to celebrate.  

Discover. Play. Build.

My oldest son is a kindergartener this year, and what a learning experience it has been.  Not for him because he absolutely LOVES school.  For me, because I have learned how to trust.  His teacher is helping me learn how to trust.  First, let me give a little background and share that she is a first year teacher.  I remember my first year of teaching, and it's a year I would like to erase from my memory.  When I found out that this was her first year of teaching, I panicked and could only think of my first year.  I tried to quickly think positive and trust, but that was easier said than done.  After some advice from other teacher friends I decided to make the best of this year (thank goodness!!).  Here is a quick list of some things I love about Miss Achauer:

1.  She emails the parents daily with a quick recap of the day, so that we can have meaningful conversations with our children about their day in school. (Her words)

2.  She truly understands my son, and I couldn't ask for anything more.  She understands that he is a hands-on learner and that paper/pencil tasks do not reveal his true potential.  She also understands that he is caring and sensitive.  

3.  She differentiates based on student needs and abilities.  When I think of teaching kindergarten, I picture trying to herd cats.  There is such a wide variety of needs in a kindergarten classroom, and many  kiddos still struggle to work independently.  I am in awe when I see how successful she is at accomplishing this!

4.  She puts my mind at ease.  It is obvious that she has listened to my concerns about my sons communication and frustration issues.  The information that she shares with me about him is beyond positive.  This puts my mind at ease as a parent, more than she will ever know!

5.  She CELEBRATES learning.  One thing that she shared with me at parent/teacher conferences was that the class celebrates each other's writing through all parts of the writing process.  I seriously wanted to jump across the table and hug her!  

Miss Achauer needs to be celebrated, not because she has helped me learn how to trust, but because she is delicately nurturing my son's love of learning.  She is a natural teacher who truly understands that teaching is more than standardized tests, OTES and Resident Educator requirements, but it is about children.  I am so thankful that my son has the opportunity of  learning and growing with Miss Achauer during her first year of teaching.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Reading Aloud: A Few of My Favorite Things

There is nothing I love more than reading aloud to a group of students.  My co-teachers are always offering to take over some of the reading, but my response is always NO (said with love, of course).  Seeing the look of excitement and pure interest/focus on student's faces makes my day.  Currently, we are reading The Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein.  I knew the students would enjoy this story, so I was excited to be able to share it with them.  Here are just some of my favorite things that have happened during or because of the story, which make me genuinely make me happy:

1.  Talking while I am reading - this is on-task, interactive conversation about the story.  Students are constantly trying to predict the next event, sharing their emotions about certain characters or commenting in agreement with decisions that are being made throughout the story.  These are not disruptive comments for the entire class to hear, but soft chatter similar to what would be heard in a movie theater at exciting parts of a movie.

2.  One student shared that she loved this book so much (we are only about 19 chapters into it) that she went out and bought her own copy.  She is using the copy to read to a group of 4th and 5th graders at a neighboring elementary school during a reading group that she helps to host.  

3.  There are just some words that I struggle to pronounce correctly.  Indubitably just happens to be one of those words, and it also happens to appear in the story.  As I stumbled over the word, one of the students grabbed a dictionary to look up the word because he was curious about its meaning.   He also taught me how to correctly pronounce indubitably.  

4.  There was second student who couldn't wait for the ending, so he bought a copy for himself.  He was so excited after he finished that he couldn't wait to ask me 1,000 questions about the story.  He shared that as I am reading the book (re-reading it to him) he is having all kinds of a-ha moments about important information the author shared, which he didn't realize was important the first time he read the story.  

5.  Yesterday morning, a student stopped me in the hallways and asked if I would be reading Lemoncello again.  He was thrilled to find I that I would be, and he said to me, "I love when you read aloud.  I feel like the book comes to life and that I'm living in an actual movie."  This comment made my day, if not my entire year!  

I have had the dreaded head cold that has been going around, and my one motivation for coming to school has been so that I can see the student's reactions to Mr. Lemoncello!  Reading aloud has always been something I love doing, but this book and these students have increased that love more than I ever imagined possible.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Writing Changed My Life

Writing has changed my life.  I'm just going to put it out there and say that these past few months have been difficult for me.  I am working on making ME better, and I honestly don't think I could have done it without writing.  My writer's notebook has been a source of therapy and stress relief.  It's funny how when I am sad I just can't seem to find the verbal words to explain my thoughts and feelings, but my pen is always able to find just the right words to put on paper.   Someone, during the past year, told me to, "write like my fingers were on fire".  This statement has truly changed me.  I'm not sure who originally said that line, but I want to personally thank them someday.  Since hearing that, I write in my writer's notebook like my fingers are on finger.  I write fast and free, and I write EVERYDAY.  

As I am reflecting on my past few months, I can't help but think about my students.  How many students are silently struggling?  How many students have no positive way to express their feelings?  How many students are afraid to write because the mechanics and process will be judged, and not the heartfelt emotion of the piece?  

I remember going through school and my goal was to always make my writing technically perfect the first time.  I was petrified of teacher corrections.  Once (and only once) did I find the courage to pour my heart out into a piece of writing; only to have it passed back with red (actually purple) correction marks about my grammar and mechanics.  There were no comments (aside from "very nice") about my emotions, fears, thoughts and feelings that were delicately scattered within the piece.  What I learned from this was that I'm a terrible writer, and that's when I stopped writing for ME.  

I know my teacher (who is a WONDERFUL person) did not mean to kill my love of writing.  I know she meant well, and had the best of intentions in mind at that point and time.  I also have a strong suspicion that she wasn't a writer.  Since I've started writing, it has changed me as a teacher.  I know I still struggle with the mechanics and grammar, but at this point I am more concerned with the art of the writing.  How do the words make me feel?  As I am working with students, I strive to give purposeful and heartfelt feedback to each and every writer.  I want to celebrate what they are doing great as writers, and nudge them gently in areas in which they could continue to expand.  I want each and everyone of my students to know that writing can be a safe outlet for those silent struggles. 

I can confidently say, since I have started writing for ME, my views on teaching writing have completed changed for the better.  My views on myself as a person have also started to change for the better.  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Instagram to Inspire Readers and Writers

While waiting for Dublin Leadership Academy to start, Tony Keefer and I were sharing thoughts about the upcoming school year.  He shared with me that he's starting a class Instagram account.  Honestly, my only experience with Instagram, in a school setting, has been negative.  Last year, for me, Instagram was associated with bullying and girl drama.  However, he got me thinking about ways I could make Instagram a positive tool for the classroom.  I shared the idea of using a class Instagram account with my seventh grade team leaders, and they said that they are planning on using one for math class.  At that point and time, I thought I would wait and let them work out all the kinks. Thankfully, I read Stacey Shubitz's post Instagram Can Help Treat Writer's Block and decided just to take the plunge.  I shared this idea with the seventh grade language arts teachers, and all they agreed it would be a great idea.  

Here are the basic rules of the account:
1.  Only teachers can post pictures.
2.  We only follow other classroom accounts.
3.  Students can comment on any picture.
4.  Comments MUST be school appropriate (even if they are posted at 1am).
5.  Anyone can follow (parents, students and other classrooms).
6.  We will post no required information to the account because not all students are going to have access to Instagram.  However, I always mention to our classes what was posted, so all students have access to the same ideas. 

I have tried to be creative in the ways that I am posting pictures.  I want to make sure every picture that I post will relate back to reading or writing. I have also tried to incorporate some humor into some of the pictures, so that students can see that reading and writing isn't always serious. 

Picture ideas:

1.  Homework and Daily Reminders
I will take a picture of any homework or daily reminders, so that students who tend to forget their assignment notebooks will have another way to access the information.   I also plan on taking pictures of any mini-lesson charts, so that students can access that information no matter where they are reading or writing.

2.  Quotes and Random Pictures
As I was looking at student's writing territories on their notebooks, I was gathering multiple ideas for pictures.  If I see a quote or picture, which I think the students will enjoy, I will take a picture and then write a caption about inspiring their reading or writing.  The other day I took a picture of my bobble head collection, and asked the students if they have any odd collection that would inspire their writing.  As students are writing throughout the year, I plan on having them look back at the Instagram pictures to see if they can find inspiration for a topic.

3.  Book covers
I took a picture of Sidekicked by John David Anderson and asked the students, "Would anyone read this?".  The comments that followed were great, and the students were excited to ask me for a copy the next day.  Pictures of books covers are going to be great inspiration as an invitation to read.  I also took a picture of my bookshelf and told the students that I will be updating my collection this weekend.  I wanted to know books that they think I should have on my shelves.  They named titles that I have never heard, and they were also able to get book recommendations from their peers through that conversation.

4.  Word Study
To be honest, I'm not really sure how this will look, but I think it's worth a try.  My original idea is to post a picture of something related to a word that was just discussed in class or maybe a word that will be introduced later in the week.  I would invite students to use words to describe the picture, just to get their descriptive ideas flowing.  Again, this is something I am still trying to figure out, so any ideas would be appreciated!

Overall, I think a class Instagram account is going to be a great way to inspire students to read and write.  Students have been very receptive to the idea, and have participated more than I ever imagined would happen.  As the school year continues, I plan on asking the students for suggestions on what they want posted.  I think if they have a say in what is happening on the account, they will be more likely to utilize it in a positive way.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

First Week Reflections

I am exhausted, but it's a happy, fulfilled, energized, and inspired kind of exhausted.  I have just finished my first week of co-teaching 7th grade language arts.  This has always been my dream position. I teach three periods of language arts with two different teachers.   For the first time in my career I introduced myself, to the students, as a language arts teacher.  We purposely told the students that I was just another teacher in the classroom, instead of the intervention specialist. I will be working with all students, and we wanted to establish that expectation from the first day of class.  As I have reflected back on the events of the first week of school, I realized that the ideas and activities were a combination of planning and ideas from all three of us collaborating together.  

One thing I always stress about, when getting to know my students, is making sure I pronounce their names correctly.  I am always afraid that I will butcher their first name, and then their peers will tease them about the new name I accidentally created.  My anxiety level instantly dropped when I learned how my co-teachers learn the names of the students.  They put a number on each desk, and then call out numbers.  The students then say their name when their number is called. This makes so much sense, and I am embarrassed to admit I had never thought of doing this.  The next way that we got to know about students was by having them say their name and favorite ice cream flavor.  However, before they shared that information they had to repeat the name and flavor of everyone before them.  This was a great way to get to know student personalities.  The amount of teamwork and respect that was shown during this activity was amazing to me!  There is definitely a future teacher in one of my classes because he was so patient with his peers and quietly helped each one of them when they stumbled with a name or flavor.  This week will not be the last time students think about this activity.  When teaching and encouraging rereading for deeper understanding we will be referring back to this activity.  The students easily remembered the names and flavors and the first students in the name game, because they were "rereading the class".  It was the students name and flavor that they just heard that they struggled with repeating.  The same will go for rereading, they will have a better understanding of information if they reread it, as opposed to just reading it once.

Next, we had the chance to introduce ourselves to the students.  Instead of creating a poster board with pictures about myself, I decided to just pass around my writer's notebook.  My notebook is covered with pictures of my family, interests and passions.  I explained to the students that I use my notebook to help me find inspiration when I am struggling to think about a writing topic.  Students will be creating their own writer's notebooks inspirations next week, so this will also give them an example of something they may want to do.  I had one student, in particular, that was so excited about the thought of creating and using a writer's notebook this year.  She said she loves to write and can't wait to share her writing with us!

Another plan we have for the year is to share a book talk per day.  The teachers will start sharing for the first month (though with this group of students, I think they are ready to take over for us next week).   I had planned out the books I wanted to share with students, and The Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library  by Chris Grabenstein was going to be the first book I was ready to share.  However, Bulu: African Wonder Dog by Dick Houston was one of the books on the summer reading list.  I heard multiple students comment about reading sad books about the dog dying, and how depressing those stories are.  Therefore, I scrapped my original book talk plans and shared No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman.  Several students had already read this book, and quickly shared their enthusiasm for the story.  I'll admit, I was nervous about book talking because I wasn't sure how 7th graders would react to my excitement about books.  However, they quickly squelched that fear and began excitedly asking me if I have read many of their favorite books.  My to read list has quickly doubled!  Starting Monday, we plan on "raffling" off the books that we are book talking.  The students will put their name in a jar if they want to be the first person to read that book.  During last period we will draw a name and have that book delivered to the winner at the end of the school day.  The students who did not win the "first read" will sign up and the book will then be passed down that list as students finish reading it. 

Our final goal for the week was to begin introducing the idea of "Together We Can".  Students desks begin in rows, but will only be like that for the first couple weeks of school.  We want to get to know each other as individuals, and then help teach them how to work together as a team.  If students can respect each other, individually, they will have a better understanding of what it means to work as a team.  Once students know and understand what the expectations are for working together, we will then move their desks into teams.  For the first activity, we took the students outside and had them stand in a circle.  Each person had to state their name and goal for the year (academic, athletic, or social) and they then had hold a piece of string and throw the ball of string to a classmate on the other side of the circle.  In the end we made a web of string.  Students discussed the symbolization of the activity, and determined that each of us is an important part of a team.  We all need to hold up our part of the team, or the dynamic and expectations will shift for everyone involved.  After this activity we read the book The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson.  Students had to write a reflection about the connection between the book, the web activity and "Together We Can".  The insight and reflection that was shared by students was amazing.  After completing these first few activities, I have high hopes for the teams that will be built with the understanding of collaboration and respect among the students. 

I will admit, I was scared to move districts and shifting from elementary to middle school.  However, I already feel at home with my team and students.  This has been a great week of getting to know students and starting to build a community of readers, writers and collaborators.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Celebrate the Positive with Mentor Texts

As I am attempting to unpack boxes and rearrange my new classroom space, I came across one of my previous teacher evaluation forms.  I cringed when I saw it, and I'm not even sure why I have saved it (except maybe for some comic relief or to raise my blood pressure).  Here's just a brief snippet from this horrendous evaluation: 

Domain C: Teaching for Student Learning (Needs Improvement)
C2:  Mrs. Shouldis used a little kids book to teach a reading lesson to fifth grade students. Mrs. Shouldis did not use any OAA practice questions during lesson.  

Just typing this makes me furious.  There are so many comments I could still make about this evaluation (even three years later), but I just want to focus on the "little kids" book reference.  The book that I was using to teach 5th grade students about character development was Mr. Lincoln's Way by Patricia Pollacco.  In no way would I consider this book a "little kid" book, even though it is a shorter text containing picture.  There are some huge ideas embedded within this text.  Not only is this a great text for teaching reading ideas and strategies, but it can also be used as a writing mentor text and a mentor text for life.  

I recently read Bullying Hurts: Teaching Kindness Through Read Alouds and Guided Conversations by Lester Laminack.  He provides an impressive collection of picture books that can be used for read alouds to help teach kids about acceptance and diversity.  He also provides great lessons and conversation starters about each of the issues discussed in these books.  The ideas within this books are deep, and can help to develop and nurture open-minded citizens.  These are books that I would consider to be mentor texts for life.  These books are small text with big ideas.

Mentor texts seem to be most closely related to the area of teaching writing.  This just seems like a common sense approach to teaching writing, in ALL grade levels.  I truly believe that kids need to be taught the correct way to write, and that as teachers we need to focus on how real writers write.  What better way to do this than to use picture books to help celebrate real writing.  I do think there is a place and time to teach editing, but I do not think it requires daily review and practice.  Too often, I have been in classrooms where daily language reviews are taking place, instead of actual writing.  Students are editing a piece of work, filled with crazy errors, and then graded on their ability to correct this inauthentic piece of writing.  Why?  I love Jeff Anderson's solution to this idea!  In Everyday Editing he discusses inviting our students into the writing process.  Show them how to correctly uses certain grammar or punctuation and them invite them to do it within their own writing.  Using mentor text is a perfect way to show writers how to properly use proper grammar and punctuation.  I fear that by focusing writing instruction on the editing process, by finding errors, we are scaring away some very talented writers.  I am still nervous, in terms of publicly publishing my thoughts out of fear of incorrect grammar or punctuation, and I can't even imagine how some of our young developing writers feel.

As I am teaching my three young children social skills and manners, I explain and provide examples of how I want them to behave.  I do not provide them with ideas of how not to behave.  If one of them misbehaves I will sit down and talk to them about what THEY did and how to change their actions next time.  On those glorious days where they are perfect angels all day, I celebrate the wonderful things they have done.  Never do I stop and talk about ways they might one day act in undesirable ways, and what to do if that happens.  I hope for the positives and only address the undesirable behaviors IF they act in that way.  I use many mentor texts to help guide these discussions.  At times I will select certain books that exhibit positive behaviors, especially if one of my children have been struggling to exhibit that positive behavior.  

Parallel this idea to teaching writing.  I teach my students how to write in ways that can be celebrated.  I will also share mentor texts that exhibit the skill I am teaching that day.  I will then celebrate the ways my writers are correctly applying those skills within their own writing.  It is only when a student incorrectly applies that information that I will conferring with that writer and have them talk about that skill as it applies to THEIR writing.  I do not take time out of my day to stop and talk about the incorrect way they MIGHT use punctuation or grammar.  Instead, I try to keep my focus on celebrating the positive.  Using mentor texts is one of the best ways I have found to make sure that I am continuously teaching and celebrating what real writers do.  

High school all the way down to kindergarten, I encourage all teachers to incorporate pictures books into your classroom.  They are not just books for "little kids", but they can provide and inspire positive ways to think about life and life as writers.  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Picture Book 10 for 10 - August 10, 2013

I Mustache You a Question!

Do you read picture books?  If so, you've come to the right place!  If not, you've still come to the right place, because this is the perfect way to start finding amazing titles!  Not only will you be able to see ten of my favorite picture books (actually my son's favorite), but you will also be able to see hundreds of other people's favorite picture books.  Today, Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek are celebrating the 4th annual picture book ten for ten! Be sure to click on the picture to be able to read about hundreds of other wonderful picture books that are being shared today!

A few weeks ago, I was telling my five year old about my plans to participate in picture book ten for ten.  He has asked me everyday since if I've decided on my topic.  Until two days ago, I was still unsure about what I was going to share.  Then it hit me, why don't I share picture books about one of his favorite topics?!  Aside from blue footed boobies, he loves anything to do with mustaches.  He gets that uncontrollable belly giggle just hearing the word.  So in honor of my favorite five year old, and him getting ready to take a big leap into kindergarten this year, I will be sharing our favorite books with mustaches!  

1.  Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos

Mustache Baby

2. Mustache! by Mac Barnett and Kevin Cornell


3.  Big Bushy Mustache by Gary Soto

 Big Bushy Mustache

4.  Moosetache by Margie Palatini


5.  If You Were a Chocolate Mustache by J. Patrick Lewis
**This is actually a collection of hilarious poetry.  

If You Were a Chocolate Mustache

6.  The Magic Mustache by Gary Barwin

Magic Mustache

7.  Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger
**This is actually a chapter book, but I felt it was worth the mention.  Besides, it's hard to find ten picture books about mustaches!!!

Fake Mustache

This is where I'm going to start (well finish) breaking some rules.  I couldn't actually find ten picture books about mustaches - I was shocked!!  Therefore, the final three books are just going to be three of my son's favorite books, non-mustache related.  
8.  The Boy and the Airplane by Mark Pett


9. Island:  A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin
**This is the book that started his fascination with blue footed boobies! 

 Island: A Story of the Gal├ípagos

10.   This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen