Tuesday, January 10, 2012

One Cool Friend

Talk about a timely post.  One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo and illustrated by David Small was released today.  I picked up an ARC of the picture book while at NCTE in Chicago.

This book is a fun story to read.  I am pretty sure it is a lesson for parents about why it is important to listen.  In this story Elliot's father takes him to the aquarium for family fun day.  Upon arrival at the aquarium Elliot's father sits down to read his magazine and sends Elliot off to "have some fun" by himself.

Elliot doesn't go to the exhibits everyone else loves, instead he visits the penguins and finds them delightful.  He asks his father if he can have a penguin.  His father looks at sign advertising "Today's Special Plush Penguins $19.95," and hands Elliot money.  However it wasn't a plush penguin Elliot wanted for a friend, but instead a real penguin from the aquarium.

Elliot brings his penguin, Magellan, home and works to make him comfortable while keeping his father from knowing about his new friend.  Fortunately for Elliot, his father is not very observant.  Young readers will enjoy all the ways Elliot works to make his penguin friend feel at home.  Finally it is time for Magellan to take a swim in the tub.  When Elliot's father goes to take a bath and finds Magellan swimming you won't believe what happens.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Moo Hoo: A Story of Friendship

Every year our guidance counselor spends time in our classrooms talking about a green circle and friendship.  Honestly it is one of my favorite lessons she shares.  The green circle represents our circle of caring.  It represents friends and family.  The people we care about, and the people who care about us, are a part of our circle.  The circle represents the friends we have at school, in our neighborhoods, and in other parts of our lives.  She talks about how we want to keep growing our green circle by making new friends and not leaving others out.

I think she'll want to take a look at this new book about friendship published by Walker and Company, a division of Bloomsbury Publishing.  I happily received this ARC while visiting Bloomsbury at NCTE in Chicago.  It is scheduled to arrive April 10th, 2012. Moo Hoo written by Candance Ryan and illustrated by Mike Lowery is a story of two great friends, Cow and Owl.  Cow and Owl love to do everything together.  They play together, fix things together, and go places together.  Then one day Kangaroo shows up.  Kangaroo wants to join the fun, but Owl and Cow aren't sure they like the idea.  Will Kangaroo ever be let into the "green circles" of Owl and Cow?  Will they be friends?  You'll have to read to find out.  Hint:  I like happy endings.

Kids will enjoy listening to this story.  The words rhyme and have a rhythm which helps to make the story perfect for reading aloud.  The illustrations focus on the characters and help to show the friendship between Cow and Owl, as well as the uncertainty of adding a Roo to the equation.

When I read this story I couldn't help but think about Chester's Way by Kevin Henkes, and I'm sure my students will pick up this connection quickly too.  Chester and Wilson, Wilson and Chester, two friends who do EVERYTHING together.  They are, as the parents in the book say, two peas in a pod.  Then one day Lily comes along.  Lily has her own way of doing things.  Will these three be friends?  These two books would make a great pair for building community and talking about friendship.

You can read more about Moo Hoo at Mandy's blog:  Enjoy and Embrace Learning.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

#Nerdcott, Here I Come!

The Challenge
Keeping up with Twitter over the holiday was a bit of a challenge.  My kids were home from college, my mom visited from out of state, and our house was the hub of family, food, and fun for most of two weeks.  However, in between baking cookies, playing games, fixing meals, and other Christmas traditions I would steal a moment to check up on Twitter updates.  I started to notice tweets about a Caldecott Challenge (#nerdcott).  I first noticed a tweet from LibLaura5 and then MrSchuReads.  I know there were a lot of other people creating energy for this challenge so I apologize in advance for the others I missed along the way.  

Learn More About #NerdCott
The challenge is to read the Caldecott winner and honor books since the award was first given in 1938.  You can make the challenge work for you.

Find out more about the #NerdCott here:
Ready, Set, Go - #NerdCott and Caldecott Challenge 1938-Present (participants are here):  LibLaura5 shares her view of this stress free challenge
Cadecott Challenge:  Anna Zbacknik @a-to-z-library (cohost) 

Learn More About the Caldecott
I see it as an opportunity to learn more about picture books, art, and the history of children's literature.

You can start here:
Caldecott Winners and Honor Books
Art Mediums of Caldecotts (thanks, Mr. Schu)
Covers of Caldecott (thanks, LibLaura5)

My Plan
My first thought was to read quickly through the award winners and post reviews, but I quickly rethought that plan.  I want to be able to take time to really consider each award winner and honor book.  I want to compare the similarities and differences in publishing across time.  To accomplish this, I've decided to read Caldecott winner and honor books by decade and post at the end of each month.  I'm hoping to not only learn about the books, but to discover some of the similarities in art over time.  At the end of the year I hope to synthesize all I've learned, talk about a few books I think should have been Caldecott (why not), and then look toward the new winner.  

2012 #NerdCott Posts
January - 1930s (begins 1938)
February - 1940s
March - 1950s
April - 1960s
May - 1970s
June - 1980s
July - 1990s
August - 2000s
September - 2010s
October - Books that should've been Caldecott (an opinion post).
November - Trends in Caldecott.
December - Review of possible Caldecott winners for 2012

Off to reserve books at the library!  This will be fun.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Year: One Little Word

"Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone."  G. B. Stern 

Image from Jumpstart.com
Yesterday I stopped by Enjoy and Embrace Learning to find Mandy's one word resolution:  Change.  I'm not one to make resolutions. Yes, I've thought of improvements I want to make, but I don't usually keep my resolutions.  I am always setting goals for myself and trying to improve, there's lots of room for that, but resolutions are another matter. Yes, I'd like to eat better, exercise more, read more, write more, and make a million other improvements, but resolutions are always far too lofty and before I know it life gets in the way.  Reading Mandy's post, I thought I might be able to handle keeping one word in mind all year.

Since reading Mandy's post, I've stumbled upon more "One Little Word" posts from other blogs I follow:  Maria - Reflection; Katherine - Be; and Laura - Stand (these posts are inspirational and worth a read).  Every time I finished reading a post I thought, "Yes, that's the perfect word."  While each of these words stuck with me, I felt I should really think about the word that would make a difference for me.

I wrestled with what my word would be.  I've decided it is THANK.  I'm very fortunate to have friends and family who do so many things to make me smile each day.  I'm always struck by the kindness and thoughtfulness of others.  Though I thank people in words and action, I'm not always as good as I should be about putting this thanks in writing.  It's hard to find the right words to tell someone how much you appreciate them.

So I'm going to make sure I take the time to THANK family, friends, and students for the ways they make me smile every day.  I'm going to resist the urge to put a number on this "one little word," but instead hope to take time to send a quick note, text, picture, card, message or something to let everyone know how much I appreciate them.  I found a few ideas for getting started at WiseBread:  25 Ways to Say Thanks.

I found this important reminder at bethankful.com:
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."  John F. Kennedy   

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year, A New Arrangement

In August  
You might remember this empty-walled picture in August as I arranged the classroom for a new community of learners.  A few days ago I forced myself out of my house to go to school for a little winter cleaning.  It seemed necessary with a new year to rearrange furniture for a new look.  However, I really loved this last arrangement.  Traffic flowed.  There were small spaces, large spaces, quiet spaces, playful spaces.  Why change something that works?  Who knows...

My daughter, who was there to provide moral support and prepare for her upcoming student teaching advised me to leave it alone if it works well, but I could not.  Students will enjoy coming back to a little change.  So I started moving furniture.  I moved and moved and moved furniture.  Hours later I had an arrangement I think will work.

Some Considerations
The Heart of the Room:  The center of the classroom should be something that gets at the heart of the community.  The small table in the middle of the room is everyone's favorite spot to work.  This space fills quickly across all workshops.  This is also a favorite table for collaborative work.  I wrestled with moving this table away from the window, but I think students will enjoy having it right in the center of everything.

Quiet Places to Work:  In our community we talk about the level of sound we like for reading, writing, learning, and playing.  I believe students learn best by talking to one another.  They can often help each other out without needing me to interfere.  For this reason, we spend a lot of time talking about when to talk, where to talk, and what level our voices should be in respect to other learners.  Across years this looks and sounds different.  There are some children who prefer quiet to work and learn.  For this reason, I try to create spaces like this one which naturally filter the noise and movement of the classroom.  I tucked this table between a corner and a shelf to provide a quiet place for students.

Spaces for Collaboration:  I spread the tables out for students to work collaboratively in small groups.  In the previous arrangement I had many tables linked together or against furniture making it hard for students to work and talk in groups.  (Yes, there are still a few linked.  It's hard to create an arrangement that doesn't feel heavy in tables.)  Spreading the tables out around the room should allow small groups to talk together without interrupting other groups.

Spaces for Play:  In Ohio, we seem to spend a lot of time indoors at recess.  The months of December to February seem to be filled with an overabundance of inside recess days.  For this reason, I wanted to create spaces where students could build, play games, and create in small groups all around the room.  Spreading the tables out helped to create more large areas of floor space for students to play and work.

Technology:  In this arrangement I wanted to maintain a place to easily plug in laptop carts and connect to the network.  I left space near the computers to make this easier.  Additionally, many students use voice recording to publish their work digitally.  For this reason, I moved the tall shelf behind a set of computers (see NOW picture above) to help maintain a quieter space for speaking.  This shelf should also help when students are using the webcam for pictures and video as it will filter the movement in the classroom as well.

Books:  One of the things I try to do is keep books around the classroom.  I like us to be surrounded by the words of authors all day.  Having books in all areas of the classroom also helps during reader's workshop as it is easier for students to spread out to read near collections of books.  You'll see books on the wall shelves (most all of our shelving is here).  I have added books to the shelf near the computers, above the math tools, in our meeting area and near the window.  Getting out the collection of winter books made my day!  I can't wait to share these titles with the readers in our classroom.

So the room is clean.  The furniture is rearranged.  New supplies await.  Looking forward to a "new start" in our learning community.  Should be fun.