Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wonder Block

How to incorporate wonder into the classroom has been a question on my mind this summer. I want to use wonderopolis.org this year to inspire our class to wonder, research, read, discover, collaborate, share and create. (Just a few small goals...) 

My wonderful librarian suggested today that we have a "wonder block" every other week in the library! I LOVE this idea. Every other week students will come to the library with wonder notebooks in hand. This will be a time when they research wonders they have, record important thinking in their notebooks, record important new wonder words, and ask further questions. I want a share time to be built in where we will share the process of our research, wonderful new facts, strategies to help us understand non fiction, wonder words that are important, ways to hold thinking, etc. I'll have a short mini lesson to guide us along the way. 

My librarian is going to do lessons at the beginning of the year on how to find books you need on nonfiction topics independently. The library is a great place for us to spread out. We are surrounded by reference materials, technology (8 computers and a smart board) and of course great non fiction. Our school just opened last year so our books are all very new!  I hope this special block of time will take us great places this year!  

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

10 for 10 Great Read Alouds

Thank you Mandy Robek and Cathy Mere for organizing 10 for 10 picture book event!
I LOVED reading everyone's choices last year! I'm very new to blogging but thought I would jump in and contribute this year!

Must have picture books to me are books that..

  • Have powerful language that can inspire us as authors (Lots of golden lines that make us say wow...I wish I could have written that!)
  • Beg readers to TALK and discuss what is happening (hopefully building bigger and better understandings through listening to each other's ideas)
  • Keep readers talking and thinking after the story is over
  • Have strong characters
  • Make readers want to inquire or WONDER more about a topic
  • Have themes that teach, inspire, and make us think about our own lives 
  • Are delightful to the ear and meant to be read out loud
  • Make kids smile-instill a love for books and language!
Okay, okay I'll stop writing and get on to the great books I can't wait to share this year!

1. That Book Woman by Heather Henson is a beautifully written story about a Pack Horse librarian who helped bring stories to a family in the Appalachian Mountains. Patrick Allen has me thinking about stories that show endurance and this one is perfect. Cal is a young boy who hates books. He says "I was not born to sit so stony-still a-staring at some chicken scratch. But me, I am no scholar boy." He sees a woman travel through all types of weather to bring he and his sister books. At first he thinks she is a fool, until he changes his thinking to see her as brave. Eventually he learns to read. The book has beautiful language and is written almost in verse? I think later in the year we can take out pages and discuss the authors use of language that helps the readers get to know the character, infer and visualize. In writing this is a great book to teach word choice and voice. And of course it tells the tale of how reading changes lives! I want to read more about the Pack Horse librarians now...maybe a lesson in how books lead to further inquiry about a topic?

2. I have added Amy Krouse Rosenthal to my favorite author's club! This Plus That; Life's Little Equations is going to be a fun read to get kids writing and talking about their own equations for life and for our own learning in the classroom. I think this will be great community building throughout the year to come up with our own equations. Some of Amy's are wishes + frosting = birthdays, bird + buds = spring. I want us to have fun with language this year to create our own equations.

See full size image

3. If I Never Forever Endeavor by Holly Meade will be an anchor text this year for endurance, believing in yourself, and trying new challenges! It is a short read about a bird who must decide whether or not to use his new wings. He weighs what might happen if he fails with the great possibilities of what could happen if he is successful. I love the message. I'm hoping kids will see the connection to giving our best in school and FLYING even when we are fearful.

4. I love Patricia Polacco. She inspires me to tell stories about my own life. Aunt Chip and The Great Triple Creek Dam Affair tells the tale of a small boy whose town uses books to block the dam and turns to tv to get all their information. His Aunt Chip warns the town "there'll be consequences" of too much tv. I love to discuss how much tv is too much? Could a society that doesn't read have grave consequences?

5. Saving Sweetness by Diane Stanley goes in the meant-to-be-read-out-loud category. Voice leaps out on every page through the tale of mean Mrs. Sump an orphanage director, an itty bitty orphan Sweetness and the Sheriff. This book is just plain fun-it always gets laugh. You can use it as a mentor text for reading strategies as well as a mentor text for writing.

6. Sophie's Masterpiece by Eileen Spinelli. I love this story. Sophie is a spider who goes out into the world to create a masterpiece. She struggles as no one appreciates her gifts. As she ages she finds a beautiful way to create a final masterpiece. The language in this book begs for discussion. The illustrations give all readers much to discuss. This will also be a mentor text for our beginning of the year study of endurance! Sophie's perseverance is inspiring.

7. I read Big Blue by Shelley Gill and learned many amazing facts about blue whales. Did you know a newborn calf (baby blue whale) is the fastest growing creature on Earth?  A mother blue whale has to feed her baby 160 gallons of milk a day. Babies will gain 250 pounds a day! Kye, the main character is a young girl who dreams of swimming with a blue whale. She loves to research information about blue whales. Her dream comes true when she joins her mom on a whale research project in Baja, Mexico. I loved that this book told a story and gave lots of facts about whales. The author used great descriptive language to talk about the ocean. Her words left me wishing I was near the ocean.

8. The Dot by Peter Reynolds is another great text to inspire kids to try even when something is hard. A little girl Vashti is discouraged because she believes she can't draw. Her insecurities hold her back as she proclaims, "I CAN"T". Her art teacher finds a way to help Vashti believe in herself and make original work that she can be proud of. I hope this story encourages kids to try and take risks even when they feel insecure in themselves.

8. Courage by Bernard Waber is a wonderful book. Every page describes what courage is, I love all the examples. Kids (and adults) can relate to so many of them. It will also be a mentor text for writing in our classroom using other words...(endurance, kindness, wondering, collaboration, empathy, creating!) I want us to write examples of what these important words look like to us.

9. The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe by Loree Burns. This is a book I read this summer because I was wondering about why bees were disappearing after talking with a honey farmer at the farmer's market. I will use this book to show how a WONDER I had led me to inquire further. I will also use this book to model what happens when readers are confronted with a hard non fiction text. (This is definitely an upper elementary book) I had to do a lot of close rereading, reading in short chunks, studying of pictures and captions, and I had to stop often to think about new vocabulary I encountered.) This was a great book that I'd love to share bits and pieces of throughout the year as we look at nonfiction.

10. This is a great nonfiction book ... or books, there are two stories in one book depending on which direction you choose to start reading. Tadpole to Frog and Egg to Chicken by Camilla de la Bedoyere. The photographs in this book are amazing and enhance the reader's learning so much! I must balance my nonfiction reading choices better with fiction this year. Kids need to build bigger background knowledge and non fiction hooks so many kids-this is a great book to enjoy and to teach non fiction comprehension with.

10 for 10 Books for Toddlers

I loved participating in 10 for 10 picture book event for must have classroom books so I decided to keep going and write an additional post, my 10 must have books for toddlers! I have a 2 year old and much of my time spent reading this summer has been with her and my eight month old. (The younger one is more content eating books so I'll focus on the ones my oldest loves). So here is my list of books that she wants to hear over and over again.

I had to include a picture of my sweet little reader!

1. Farmyard Beat by Lindsay Craig and Marc Brown

2. We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxbury

3. The Neighborhood Mother Goose by Nina Crews

4. The Sleepy Little Alphabet

5. No, David! by David Shannon (she loves all the David books)

6. Fairy Tales by Mary Engelbreit

7. Where is the Green Sheep by Mem Fox

 8. Goodnight Gorilla

9. A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker

10. Potty by Leslie Patricelli (Okay, I'm pushing this one!) 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Promoting Inquiry

      I have been thinking a lot about how I will promote inquiry in my third grade class next year. I've been reading lots of great blogs, professional books, and even tweets on this subject and hope that my classroom next year is one where real authentic learning propelled by authentic purpose and intrinsic motivation is encouraged as well as valued.
     I read about www.wonderopolis.org in Choice literacy this winter and immediately emailed the site to my fellow teachers. I started thinking about how I would use this site. Then I stumbled upon a  great blog  teachingin21.blogspot.com that gave me so many great examples of how to use the site to get kids motivated to learn and to inquire.          

Here are some goals for next year....

  • I want to model for kids how a WONDER or a question or an interest can lead them to dig deep into topics, inquire and research based on their individual questions and interests.
  • I want to set up a wonder station in my classroom. I am hoping this can be a spot to read wonderopolis articles online, record wonders kids are having, provide lots of non fiction books to read, research facts and record important thinking as well as further wonders they have. 
  • Each kid will have a wonder journal where they will list wonders and record new important learning.
  • I am hoping that through looking at the structure of Wonderopolis articles as mentor texts to do some non fiction writing of our own through kidblog.org! I think blogging is going to give us some authentic purposes for writing. I am excited to get kids writing for a real audience and not just me the teacher.
  • I want to build in lots of sharing time for kids to talk with the whole class, small groups and partners about their wonder learning.
  • Another great blog, thinkingstems.blogspot.com gave me the idea to create a whole class wonder jar at the beginning of the year and have kids bring in artifacts that represent their wonders.
      Kelly Gallagher got me thinking this year about students prior knowledge and how the experiences they bring to the text help them understand and make meaning. He encouraged teachers to bring in more social studies, more science, more content area reading to close gaps in understanding. I am hoping through year long inquiry projects this will help kids build more background knowledge. 
     Thank you to everyone who gave me such great ideas this summer and posted great ways to use Wonderopolis to promote Wondering and inquiry!!