Welcome to our First Grade Family! (2018-2019 edition)

Welcome to 1st Grade, Friends!

I am so excited you’re here!

The following letter contains 2636 words that will begin to shape your child’s first grade year (I know–it’s a little long.  Sorry!).  You will want to have your family sit and read this so you can all be excited about first grade together.  You should also have dancing shoes on (you’ll learn why later!) and your phone (or other recording device) handy.

Ready? Of course you are! Because you are all about to become…

First Grade and Fabulous!

I am excited for the year ahead – how about you??

Let’s get started! First a little bit about me. 🙂  I am going into my 18th year of teaching and every one of them has been at Robinson!  I even did my student-teaching here long ago, so Robinson is definitely my home-away-from-home.  In my real home I have a fabulous family that I love dearly.  My husband, Grant, is a teacher, too, in Mehlville.  He has taught 3rd, 4th and 5th grade.  We have a 11YO son, Riley, who is in starting MIDDLE SCHOOL, y’all! (Not sure how this happened but we’re excited for a new chapter. 🙂 )  We also have a daughter named Allison–we call her Allie–who is 7 1/2.  She goes to Robinson and you might even know her (if not, I’m sure you’ll meet her soon).  We LOVE (yep, love) Disney World, and travel there often.  Chicago is another one of our favorite places to travel to together.  We also just like to hang out together at home (or anywhere, really) and spend time with each other.  So that’s me.  What about you? Can’t wait to learn more about YOUR family!

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Like I said, this is my 18th year as a teacher, and every year, I begin the school year as a different person. I decide on that first day and then every day thereafter, who I am as a teacher. What is important to me. What I want to accomplish. What I want my students to see when they come to school. I choose that. I don’t let other people tell me who I will be and I don’t just be who I think other people want me to be. I read, I think, I write and then I decide.

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Today is your day!  Choose how you will use it. 🙂

Parents, I am excited to find out who YOUR CHILD will be!  

Another wondering: What is important to you? What is important to your child?

There are lots of things that are important to me: my husband and my kids, sharing ideas, reading, writing, being able to have a conversation, making things, discovering things, sharing what I know, staying healthy and active, sleeping in, staying up late and knowing when to say sorry (and when to say nothing at all!).

As a teacher, there are a few more things that are important to me:

* YOU and YOUR CHILD!:   They’re the reason I’m there, after all right?  It is important for me to get to know your child (and your family!), and know them well.  Not just as a learner, but as a kid, too.  I want to know what they like, what they don’t like, what makes them tick.  Who they are.  That’s ok, right? 🙂

* Respect: At Robinson, it’s pretty much what we’re all about.  I expect respect to be a huge thing in our classroom.  I will respect your child, and I expect them to respect me, as well as everyone else in our community.  This counts when we agree and even when we don’t.  I have a saying that I learned from my good friend Mrs. Ford years ago, that is really important with this whole respect thing.  It’s this: You are not the sun. In other words, the world does not revolve around you, and there are lots of other people in our classroom that have needs, wants, likes, dislikes, etc., that we need to take into account.  I love your child, but I love everyone else, too!  Additionally, it is SUPER important to me that we learn to love each other as people, learn to support each other, learn to cheer when our friends do well (and know that that doesn’t mean anything negative about us), learn to encourage each other when they need it, learn to understand and appreciate how we’re different as much as how we’re the same, and learn to learn together.  We are in this together and none of us will be as successful alone as we can alongside each other.  That’s a life lesson, not just a 1st grade lesson.  🙂

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Maybe you saw our #classroombookaday wall in the mail hallway.  We made it to 560 books last year!  Here’s to another great year of reading in first grade!

*Reading: I know–you’re thinking, “well isn’t every subject important?”  And yes, to a point, that’s true.  But in my opinion, one of the single most indicators of success in life (and let’s face it, enjoyment as well!) is developing a love of reading.  I ask that you join me in the task of helping your child LOVE reading.  I am sure they’re probably already on their way, but let’s keep it up together!  Read to them as well as with them.   Share your own reading with them.  Read in front of them.  Show them the importance of words and how you can lose yourself in the right text.  HAVE FUN and help them do the same!  I hope that I will do my part to encourage all of these things as well! (In case you want to see more about how important this is, read about our #classroombookaday challenge from a previous year here).

*Writing: Words are important.  They help us to communicate and tell our stories.  When you write those words, you can deepen thinking and learning, as well as better process things you heard or are still thinking about (I know this is one of the most important reasons I write!).  We will write, write, write in Rm. 111, just like we will read, read, read!  (And no, don’t worry about correct spelling or perfect handwriting–everyone is allowed to make mistakes, the message is the most important part!)

* Mistakes:  I expect your child to make them. 🙂   I want them (and you!) to learn to work through it when it’s hard and figure out what to do.   I want them to feel the joy and success of learning something new because they persevered!  Not everything will be easy here. And that’s ok. We’re in it together and I’ll help you all along the way. 🙂 THIS IS A PLACE WHERE WE WILL BE GRITTY!

* Collaboration: I love to share ideas and get ideas and try new things and even when those things fail, I know I am just one step closer to finding what does work. I love to work with other teachers to figure things out and find new solutions to old problems.  But just as much as working with adults, I love to collaborate with students.  I love to hear what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling about things, what they think would be the best way to learn something.  It’s OUR classroom, and often your kiddos’ ideas are WAY better than mine.  I know I’ll share lots of examples with your child (and you!) about how that’s happened to me over the years.

Aside from collaborating with me, though, they’ll be collaborating with each other!  Your child will have lots of opportunities to share with their classmates, to give ideas, ask questions, prove reasoning and challenge each other.  I expect that we will work together to help EVERYONE in our class be the best they can be.  Together we’ll achieve much more than we would if we tried to do it on our own. 🙂  Reminds me of a sign I saw in Disney World at the Animal Kingdom:

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I like to say that in our room, everyone is a teacher and a learner.

And as a new level of collaboration and learning, we will be combining with and I will be co-teaching with Ms. Turken for many things this year.  Be ready to hear your kiddo talk about a whole other class of kiddos, and their “other” teacher, Ms. Turken.  We had such an amazing year last go-round and are excited for another! Can’t wait to share more as we go forward!!

* Curiosity: There is no better way to learn something than to ask a question.  It is DEFINITELY how I learn, and so please understand if you find me asking you (or your child) lots of questions as a means of figuring out how best to meet their needs or to connect with your family.  In turn, I hope you will feel comfortable to ask me any questions you may have, and the perhaps most importantly, your child will feel comfortable to ask me–and their classmates–questions when they need to.  Knowing when to ask for help is an important part of learning. 🙂  Also, WONDER is a natural part of being a kid, as well as a super important part of learning something new.  WONDER is something that I will always encourage, and hopefully many things we learn together will start as someone’s wondering about the world.

 

* Technology : I  love technology because it allows me to connect to new ideas. I like to think about what I want to do and look for tools to help me do it. I want to hear your ideas on technology and what works for you–and I ask that you be open to trying new things (that goes for BOTH you and your learner). We will be using technology in many new and exciting ways this year, so get ready!  You child may be blogging, using Twitter, Schoology, Seesaw (which is an AMAZING app that allows endless ways for your child to share their learning with me, their peers AND YOU!) and other sites (like Skype to connect with other learners around the world), using iPads, making videos of learning and trying out many new things that we may not even know about yet.  Whatever we do, though, the goal is always learning.  We will use technology in meaningful ways to better create new knowledge.  Excited?  I know I am!  PLEASE let me know what–if any–apprehensions you have in this area, either for you or your student.  This will be an important area for us to explore together. 🙂

* Community: Our class, our families, our school, our neighborhood, our city, our state, our country, our world. There are so many amazing people doing amazing things.  I am hoping to integrate your family stories into our classroom this year, taking full advantage of all of the amazing things each one of us has to offer.  That might mean I ask you (grown-ups) to come read to us, teach us something, help us make something, send in things, etc.  We want EVERYONE to be a part of the Rm. 111 family!!  One of our first units this year will be learning about our names and families so stay tuned!

IMG_4820* Taking risks: I like to take risks.  I hope you do too. It is scary sometimes and it fails sometimes but sometimes, more often, it is just A-MAZ-ING! Usually when you do something scary you do things you never thought you could.  You surprise yourself.  And then you want to do more! Someone smart once said “Fear and Excitement are shades of the same color”. Cool, huh?  (Parents, this is true for you as much as it is for your kiddo!! 🙂

HANG IN THERE….You’re almost done!

OK…if you made it this far and are still with me, congratulations, you (and your kiddo) are a rock star. Stop reading right now and do some kind of victory dance.  No really, go ahead.  Dance.  I’ll wait.  Better yet, have someone video tape your dance and send it to me!  I’ll even post it on our blog! (Did you see the posts where I did that with my last class?  They didn’t believe that I’d do it, either. 🙂 )

So….what now? How can you best prepare for the extreme awesomeness of first grade?

  1. Have a great summer! Be extraordinary.
  2. Read something.  Write something.  Wonder something.  This will get your learning muscles warmed up. 🙂
  3. If you have any questions you can always email me. Anytime. No question to big or too small.
  4. Think about what I said about who you want your child to be. Most importantly, remember that everyone else in our class is thinking about that too. Be gracious to those who are brave enough to set lofty goals and make the effort to become an even better version of themselves.
  5. Talk with your family about how you would define HOME.  I really want to make our classroom a comfortable, warm place were our school family can feel safe to get down and dirty, taking chances and making mistakes and LEARNING TONS!  I want this to include pieces of each of our homes.  I will send a survey to you later, where you can give share your ideas, but I wanted to get your thinking about it now. 🙂
  6. THIS ONE IS FOR THE KIDDOS!: Look around your house (or your computer, maybe) for a picture of your family.  I’d love to be able to decorate our room with us–pictures of all the people who help make us who we are and who encourage us to do our best.  I want to be able to fill our room with love, support and smiling faces, so please bring a 3×5, 4×6 or 5X7 picture (framed if possible–but don’t stress over this part!) with you to Open House or on the first day of school.  And if you don’t have one, don’t worry!  We’ll take your picture!

Despite having now used more than two thousand words, there are no words to describe how excited I am about working with you next year!

Here’s To Being First Grade and Fabulous!

♥ Mrs. Bearden

PS. If you didn’t get up and dance before and are now wishing you did, there is still time to do it. Anytime. Send me that video with your best moves (we’ll check these out together once we’re all in school together.  Fun, right?).

When you have had a chance to relax, digest this letter (maybe talk about it with your family or friends) and get your first grade brain tuned up, I would love for your child to write to me to introduce yourself, ask questions, maybe respond to something you read in this letter that made you think.  An email, postcard or a good ‘ole letter via snail mail is great!  Don’t worry–there’s still loads of time before school starts!  You can send your letter to Robinson, c/o of Mrs. Bearden at 803 S. Couch Ave., Kirkwood, MO 63122.

I look forward meeting you!

Mrs. Bearden: Email–jennifer.bearden@kirkwoodschools.org; Phone–314-213-6100 x4211 (after August 9)

Twitter: @jbeardensclass (This is our class feed, and we will tweet here together with my supervision and instruction.  It’s a great way to stay on top of what’s going on in our classroom since you don’t get to be there every day!  Follow us!)

Blog: http://www.20somethingkidsand1kookyteacher.com Feel free to leave me a comment here to let me know what you thought, what you wonder, how your summer has been, etc….this is always a great place to talk to me! 🙂  Also–if you have a minute while you’re here, go ahead and subscribe to the blog feed.  That way you’ll never miss anything that happens here.  I add things often and you’ll want to read it all!!  Just click on the button on the right side of the page and add your email address. 🙂

**Thanks to @terSonya for help with writing this post! Like I said, I love to share ideas!**

I’ve Got Some Questions…

I have been navigating this cyberspace for 7 years now.  I’ve had many great experiences, learned and shared many things, and met many great people.  I’ve changed my view along the way and rethought my audience, but have always tried to write things that were engaging to my readers.  Often I could gauge that engagement by how many people commented on my posts, and/or how often readers connected with me on Twitter or Facebook regarding my writing.

So…while I honestly write as a means of reflection, I also strive to make this blog a conversation around teaching and learning.  And I’ve found that recently I seem to be writing to myself…I figure there are many reasons that might be happening, but am hoping that maybe you’ll help me more specifically with figuring out some of them by answering some questions.  I’d LOVE to learn more about what you, my blog reader, is thinking!

  1. What kinds of blogs do you read and revisit often?
  2. What kinds of blogs do you comment on, and what makes you want to do that?
  3. Do you find yourself reading blogs/posts that are more word-focused, video-focused, photo-focused, or some combination of all of those?
  4. If you write a blog, what do you do to help invite conversations and interactions?
  5. What other suggestions do you have?

PLEASE, please, please take a few minutes to let me know what you’re thinking!  I’m a learner at heart, and this is an important place for that to happen!  Can’t wait to hear from you, friends! 🙂

 

It’s Summer–What Are You Reading? 2018 edition

If you’ve been around the block on EduTwitter, or even if you’ve been around for a while on this blog (when I used to post regularly!), you probably know about #IMWAYR–It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?  I have written about with highlights from my classroom , and also many times with my own reading.  This usually happens during the summer (which seems to be the only time I have time to both read and write!).  So here we are again, and I have a big ‘ole list of good ones to share. 🙂

It’s summer, and here’s what I’ve been reading!

Sprinkle Sundays, Mia’s Boiling Point and Smart Cookie:  I think I’ve written before on this blog about how I have a strange love of the intersection of cupcakes and books, and I started by summer reading headed down that road.  These all focus on middle-school girls and the first two also include their “tribes,” as well as at least one “mean girl.”  That whole structure is predictable, and as a 40-year-old mom/teacher it was a little silly (although I’m sure I acted exactly the same way when I was 12!), but I enjoyed them nonetheless.  I loved the way the girls were empowered to do their own thing, to become entrepreneurs, and also how they showed how cooking/baking can provide a powerful avenue for stress-relief and creativity.  Each of these stories has a strong family element, and show complicated relationships and problem-solving.  Maybe I’m just a sucker for a sweet book, but these did not disappoint. 🙂

Masterminds Trilogy by Gordon Korman: Without giving too much away (in case you haven’t read these yet but want to!), this trilogy tells the story about a special group of teenagers who discover just how special they are and then work (against most of the adults in their lives) to find answers to the questions that arise.  These books are all page-turners and I breezed through them!  They are the first that I have read by Korman, but I am interested in the countless others he’s written now. 🙂 . Thanks, Rachael, for the recommendation!

IMG_4274-min Epidemic by Reid Wilson:  So far this is the only non-fiction book I’ve read this summer.  I am a big fan of the NPR show The 1A, hosted by Joshua Johnson, and recently heard Reid Wilson, the author of this book, talking about the Ebola outbreak of 2014.  Unlike when I was a hypochondriac child (and would have been surely convinced I HAD ebola), I was interested in this topic and grabbed the book recently at the library.  It’s definitely science-heavy and also filled with way too many acronyms (which he thankfully explains), but was both interestingly written and informative.

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Who Stole New Year’s Eve? by Martha Freeman: I have read many other of the mysterious adventures of Alex Parakeet and Yasmeen Popp on Chickadee Ct, and Who’s Stealing the 12 Days of Christmas? is one of my favorites.  I have read it so many times on my own, and also to my students.  This one followed the same structure and involves most of the same familiar characters.  Loved it, too!

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 Rosetown by Cynthia Rylant: This one represents an old, favorite author I haven’t read in a long time, and who I really know mostly as a picture book author.  I have long been a fan of Cynthia Rylant, and so when I saw this on in the NEW section at the library, I snagged it.  Might add it to my class read aloud list for this year.

 

IMG_4269-minMoo by Sharon Creech:  I had to admit my hesitation of this book to Sharon Creech when I started reading it.  For some (dumb) reason, the fact that it was written in verse scared me.

I know–that makes NO SENSE, but it did. Can’t explain it.  But, as I told her, I should have trusted that EVERYTHING by Sharon Creech is amazing, and that since some of my favorite books were written by her, this would be a quick favorite, too.  And indeed it was.  Who knew I liked cows so much?

IMG_4709-minOne Hundred Spaghetti Strings by Jen Nails: See how I mentioned that I love books about food?  This one was definitely a “judge-a-book-by-its-cover” moment and I picked it just because it looked like it would be a story about a girl who cooks.  And it was.  I loved the way the character used food to figure out problems in her real life; this reminds me of how my husband uses cooking as his outlet, and also how I sometimes bake when I am in need of some “me” time to think things through.   I liked how all the recipes she made in the story were included in the back of the book.  Didn’t try any of them, but they looked tasty and like they might actually work!

The last four I’m going to mention were not the ones I read last, but I am mentioning them last because of the impact they had on me.  They are from authors I already love–Kate Messner and Katherine Applegate–but were titles that were new to me and that were about topics that were timely and hit on “big” ideas.  It’s one of the things I love about middle-grade fiction–helping kids work through important ideas and hard topics in the midst of a good story.  I am excited to try at least of these with my class this year; even first graders can handle deep conversations about big things.

IMG_4273-minWishtree by Katherine Applegate:  I know Katherine Applegate because of Ivan, and had heard the buzz about this book a few years ago but hadn’t yet read it.  And in full disclosure I didn’t actually “read” this book either–it was an audio book in my car on our recent family vacation.  (On a side note, this is one of our favorite things about traveling–sharing great stores together as a family.  Last summer it was Roald Dahl themed, previous years we devoured all of Christopher Paul Curtis’ books (we are HUGE Mighty Miss Malone fans), some years its just a mishmash of different ones none of us have heard.  Regardless of the author or the book, everyone loves this routine!).  So…the first big surprise was that the book is told by the tree.  Ha!!  I would NEVER have thought of that as a storyteller, but of course it makes perfect sense.  This one had some important things to say about being different, accepting others (specifically refugees/immigrants) and standing up for what’s right.  It’s a new favorite for sure!

IMG_4268-minThe Seventh Wish by Kate Messner: Here’s another title that I was SUPER late to the game on.  Sometimes teaching primary means I don’t always get to novels I want to read because I live in picture book world for much of the school year.  Sorry to have waited so long, but this one was TOTALLY WORTH THE WAIT!  I knew that this book dealt with the topic of addiction, and it did not disappoint with the reality of the story.  I have not personally been affected by drugs, but I can see how easily and quickly it can happen–even in “good” families with “good” kids raised by parents who did everything right.  No one is immune and I liked how through a sweet family story I got a peek into that world.  At first I wasn’t sure about the magic fish part, but now I’ve convinced that somehow that fantasy element balanced out the depth of the “hard” parts of the text.  I am SO glad I got to this one, and would recommend it to anyone. Ok, everyone, really! 🙂

fullsizeoutput_4b7-minHome of the Brave by Katherine Applegate: Oh my goodness.  Kek may be my new favorite character.  And remember how I was afraid of Moo written in poetry? This one was too, and was also had cows.  I LOVED the insights into immigrant life we got in this one, too, and how the story was told in such a real way.  Being able to see Kek’s bravery and spunk in the story was heartwarming and I love the way the story really dug into the definition of what home is, and where you find it when it seems so far away from where you are.

 

fullsizeoutput_4b6-minExact Location of Home by Kate Messner:  I found this book (which I had never heard about previously) after I read The Seventh Wish and decided I needed to check out all the rest of her books.  I loved the geocaching element of this story, as it’s an activity I learned about a couple of years ago in an after-school club I lead with a friend (plus there just aren’t many geocaching stories around I’d say!).  The “big” topic is in this book is homelessness, and the reality of how 1) quickly it can happen to those who least expect it, 2) it can happen to anyone, and that we probably know someone who is homeless (or as in this story living in a shelter) and might not even know it, and 3) homeless people are not crazy, weird, wrong, dangerous–often it happens because of things out of their control and they deserve the same respect as EVERYONE else.  People are people.  As I read this one, and connected it with the “home” theme in Home of the Brave, it got me thinking about a possible theme for my classroom this year….I’m excited to explore that topic with my students: what does it mean to them, how can we create stronger connections between home-school, and how can I make our classroom an extension of home.  I might try this as a read aloud this year, too, because like I mentioned in the last one, even little kids can tackle big topics.

And…right now I’m reading two more.  I feel a little funny putting them together in a picture here because of how completely opposite they are (one about Hurricane Katrina and the other about middle school girls who take a cooking class–ha!), but hey–variety is the spice of life, right?

I’ll share more when I finish. 🙂 . Come back to check it out, will you?

So I’m wondering a couple of things…

  1. What are you reading or have you read this summer (or whenever!) that I should check out?
  2. What topics/themes do you like to read about?

PLEASE leave a comment and let’s chat about books!!  There’s still a lot of summer left and I can’t wait to hear about what you’re reading!

 

 

Can’t Pick Just One

I have always had a hard time labeling my “favorite” of something.  For some reason I have an enormously hard time narrowing things down to 1.  I can’t choose just one amazing ice cream flavor; my favorite concrete has Oreos, Heath bars AND pecans.  How in the world do you choose ONE favorite song from your 40 years of life?  Favorite movie? No way!  There are too many good ones.  And don’t even get me started on my favorite book.  Can’t do that either.

Somehow it seems unfair to me.  Or just too hard to spend my time on it.  Also, every movie, book, song, food, etc. is so different from every other one there’s NO WAY to decide.  Apples and oranges here, people!  (Oh, wait!  There you go.  My favorite fruit is apples.  Organic fuji apples, thank you. 🙂 And they are the ONLY fruit that can be cooked or baked into another food).

So I already mentioned not having a favorite book, and it seems that as a teacher, that’s teh one that I most often get asked to identify.  “Hey, Mrs. Bearden!  Let me take a picture of you and your favorite for this library display!” Mrs. Meihaus so kindly asked me a year or so ago.  Nope. Couldn’t do it. I had to at least include two in my picture.  ‘Cause really ALL THE BOOKS are my favorites.  Because they’re books.  And there are just too many.

But while I cannot nail down ONE definite favorite book, I have always been able to identify a short list of titles, as well as a short list of admired authors.  And not surprisingly, the two lists often have similarities.  I can even remember a time when I mentioned many of them in an old blog post I wrote about reading.  And as I reread it, I did designate a book and an author, but I think I said it was “one of my favorites.”  There.  See, still hard people. 🙂

But here’s the thing.  It wasn’t until recently that I really could nail down what it is about why I am drawn to certain authors and why I read all of their books.  I think at one point I would have said that it was the characters.  For example, Fig Pudding has the most realistic characters ever (maybe because they are based on actual people!), and I love the way I feel when I read about a big, loving family and all of their crazy antics.  That is NOT the family I live in and it’s fun to see how the other side lives.  Walk Two Moons was another great story about a real character, and became even more “real” after I had babies.  The tears that streamed on the second read were much more intense.  And that’s another thing: I seem to be drawn to stories that bring forth strong emotions.   Guess I’m a sucker for a good cry (gotta give Fig Pudding another point in that category!).  For some unknown reason I also seem to LOVE to read books that involve baked goods. 🙂 . You put pie, cupcakes, cookies, a restaurant or a recipe in a story and it’s for me.  And man–the WHOLE series that Giada DeLaurentiis put out where the kids travel  around the world and experience the food and culture–genius (I really enjoyed the one about Paris).

And so it wasn’t until just these last few books I’ve read–with my first graders in our classroom–that I was able to see exactly what it was that make my favorites my favorites….

Because I’ve been eye-deep in the #classroombookaday challenge for the last few years, that has meant that I’ve read many less chapter books with my kiddos than I have in years past.  And also differently than previous years, I gave kids more control in choosing what those chapter books would be.  I did give them a list to choose from, rather than just having them go all willy-nilly, but ultimately they were in charge.

Screenshot 2018-05-09 21.21.31They chose Roscoe Riley Rules #1–Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs as their first book.  I put it in the pile (along with books like Clementine, My Father’s Dragon and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane) because it was a new series to me–one that I had bought for my son (who is a RILEY!) but that he had never read.  I was pretty sure it was good, since I knew the author (which I will say more about later).  We soon grew to love Roscoe and his antics, and especially were drawn to the way he talked right to us.  He tells the whole story from timeout! Not to give anything away…the major idea of the book series is that Roscoe tries to be helpful but then accidentally breaks a rule and goes to timeout, tells you the story and then is out of timeout in the last chapter.  He’s a kid, he goes to school, he has a funny family and he gets in trouble–perfect first grade fodder!

Screenshot 2018-05-09 21.21.58Our second choice–probably because the first one was HILARIOUS–was Roscoe Riley Rule #2–Never Swipe a Bully’s Bear.  We read this one in about two school days because we just couldn’t put it down.  It follows the same routine, which makes it predictable enough for kiddos that haven’t heard lots of chapter books before (makes it easier to hold all the info and characters in their head!), but told about a new rule that Roscoe had broken.  Kids connected with the “bully” theme in this one, as well as the “lovey” that the kid wanted to bring to school.

So fast-forward to our current read aloud, which is NOT a Roscoe Riley book, but is related to it because it’s written by the same amazing author–The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.  I fell in love with this book when it first came out (I was teaching 5th grade at that time) and I have read it to every class I’ve taught since then–in 1st grade, 2nd grade and 5th grade.  And I think I read it to my own kids at home at least 3 times.  Yep, because it’s that good.

And as we’ve been getting further into this book, I’ve been noticing more about what makes all these books I’ve mentioned (and the ones I listed earlier) similar: voice.  They are written in the character’s first-person voice.  They use funny ways to describe things.  The words they say are real, and I can imagine myself actually saying some of them.  The sentences don’t follow all the rules–which I LOVE–because it’s how I write, too.  The characters who tell the stories also have a little bit of a sarcastic streak in them. Which I also have.  And particularly with Ivan, there are strong emotions involved.  Because of the way Applegate tells the story, you want to (you HAVE to, really) care about what happens to the characters.

So…here’s a list of MANY of my favorite books (and their authors are also my favorites), most of which are written with a strong lead voice and probably make me either sob like a baby or laugh out loud hysterically.  Or maybe both. 🙂

1.) Walk Two Moons, Granny Torelli Makes Soup, Pleasing the Ghost and The Unexpected Angel by Sharon Creech

2.) Fig Pudding and Marshfield Dreams by Ralph Fletcher

3.) Crash by Jerry Spinelli

4.) Everything by Joan Bauer.  I’ve read them all. 🙂

5.) Roscoe Riley Rules Series and The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

6.) The Watsons Go to Birmingham and The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis

7.) The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and the Mercy Watson series by Kate Di Camillo

8.) The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

9.) Countless others that I cannot remember right now but that I will think of as soon as I hit PUBLISH. 😉

And of course since there are millions more picture books than chapter books that I’ve read and there are TOO MANY OF THEM TO MENTION THAT ARE MY FAVORITES, I ‘ll save that for another time.  And goodness, that list will be long, too.  Because I love all the books.  Just ask any kid in my class. 🙂

What are YOUR favorite books?  Who are YOUR favorite authors?  Do you know why you love them?  I’d love to hear your thinking, and maybe even get a recommendation for something that could become a NEW favorite book of mine! Please leave a comment!

 

What Do You Do With a Problem?

I am sure you’ve seen this book:

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It’s not a new one, but I just recently read it for the first time to my class.  Ms. Turken, my co-teacher, and I had decided to start our year back after Winter Break with some reminders and reteaching about problem-solving.  We started with this book, as well with a structure for what to do when they encounter a problem.

I was so excited with how much my kiddos loved this book, and as usual, they had SUPER ideas about it and how they could apply the story to themselves.  The LOVED the way the problem got bigger (with the big black swirls) as he put off solving it, and they all agreed the best thing to do with a problem is just to figure out how to tackle it, not ignore it. 🙂

Once we finished the story, Nicholas had a great idea of how we should share what we had learned with others. Then, as is so commonplace (and so great!) with our class, kids kept adding their own thoughts to his original idea and they had birthed a plan where we’d have a whole display/presentation about problems they’d found (and problems they’d had) as well as possible solutions to those problems (which was part of our protocol we’d been learning about).  I told them that I would chew on the idea and talk to Ms. Turken about it over the weekend and get back to them.

As we talked about where we’d go with their grand plans, and it was a PERFECT fit with where we were going in Social Studies–don’t you love it when that happens?? 🙂  We were getting ready to start a history unit, and we decided to go with their excitement about problems/solutions and frame the thinking about how solutions to past problems can help us today.  We’d done that in a past year as we highlighted important people and it seemed like a great continuation and honoring of what kids were already interested in!  Again, love it when that happens–student voice is honored and our goals/standards are met at the same time!

So…our plan was to start with read alouds that show how people from the past (which was a word we had to spend a couple of days investigating because we couldn’t agree on the definition!) solved problems, having kiddos chew on this question as they listen and learn:

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We chose to read the same books to each of our classes, building on what one group of thinkers came up with and sharing it with the other group.   We have chosen books about smart and creative people, both men and women, some black and some white.  The focus has been the same, and kiddos are getting pretty good at finding the themes.  So far we’ve read these books:

I was tickled today, too, as our friend Addy heard someone say, “Take a picture of me!” and she said, “James VanDerZee!”, remembering one of the first books Ms. Turken read to us last week.  She reminded me of what the book was about and told me all about how it’s been one of her favorites. 🙂

Hear the rest (of this part) of the story here:

I’d love you to leave your comments below, and suggest some books you’d read in a history unit about problem solving!  We’re SO open to hearing about great new books!

#classroombookaday: Happy New Year!

Oh, you poor, neglected blog.  Been a whole month since I’ve written.  And more importantly, poor, neglected blog READERS–I’m sorry!!  For some reason, the last year it has been so hard for me to keep a regular posting routine.  I need to get back in the game!

I figured the easiest way to do that was to start with books.  I had grand plans of sharing our last pic of the year, and update you on our goal of hitting 300 before 2018.  Well…we didn’t quite make it, but we did get to 300, but we made it to 287, which is great!!  And like I say all the time, look how pretty that wall is!! 🙂

Then…we returned and I wanted to tell you all about it, but did you know that the beginning of the year is busy?  I know–all the parts of the year are busy. 🙂  So when we came back, we got to 295!

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Then….

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See that new red arrow?!  We hit 300 books!!  As of Jan 12 we were at 308!

And FINALLY the latest update, from this past Friday, January 19:

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321 🙂

I LOVE how this is still going, and how students, teachers and parents alike in our school are still commenting on it!  Hope I never leave the hallway we’re in, because it’s the PERFECT space to share our #classroombookaday story!

Speaking of story…there is lots to tell about the books we’ve added to that magnificent wall, but I’ll save those for another time and another blog post.  Thanks for hanging in there, blog friends, and I hope to be nicer to you in 2018! 🙂

#classroombookaday 2017: Weeks 17 and 18 (Oops–missed one. :) )

Somehow I took a picture of the wall last week but didn’t share it. 😦  Think this holiday season is getting in the way of my blogging. 🙂  So I’ll share two weeks in a row here today!

Last week we were super-focused on small groups and didn’t use read alouds so much in mini-lessons so it seems we read less, but at as of last Friday (the 8th), we had a wall that looked like this:

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That total is 254!  Amazing!!

Then…somehow this week we read and read and read and added 19 MORE!!  Not sure how we did it but goodness that number made me happy!  We’re up to 273 now, and we’re more than half full on the wall we’re using.

We were reading many topical books this week but also just some that we love!  An added bonus is that the pictures are low enough down on the wall that kids can more easily see them and help me hang them up!  Think we’ll be able to get to 300 before Winter Break?  I know, it’s only 4 days away, but my fingers are crossed.  Stay tuned!!