Monday, December 13, 2010

The Terracotta Girl

Michael, Dexter, Laura, Cathy and Jared were avid readers and enthusiastic participants in discussion as we finished reading The Terracotta Girl A Story of Ancient China. Yung Lu is a young girl, living in the time of the Qin dynasty, who is determined to become a warrior in Chang'an when her father dies from mercury poisoning. She is brave and fearless as she journeys alone to reach her goal. When she encounters Qin Shi Huangdi, First Emperor of China, she tries to convince him not the take the mercury pills that he thinks will extend his life. Our book group members correctly predicted Qin Shi Huangdi's reaction to Yung Lu.
Ran Jie-shu is the artist creating the terracotta warriors who had summoned Yung Lu's father to join his project, and when Yung Lu finds him and asks if she can take her father's place as a warrior, she finds that Ran Jie-shu had a different kind of warrior in mind.
Third grade has spent the Fall studying Ancient China. This created a firm foundation of background knowledge for those reading historical fiction books. Members of this book group made many connections to this knowledge and to other books and film as they read and discussed this book.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ruby and the Booker Boys

Merrie, Ivy, Marvin, Samantha, Adam and Andrew are engrossed in reading Ruby and the Booker Boys by Derrick Barnes. Discussions are animated as they make text to self connections. Ruby starts a new school and has the reputation of her three popular older brothers to live up to. She is scared but puts on a brave front. Halfway through the book, she needs to make a decision as she learns that one of her brothers Roosevelt has made a bad choice in school, he has drawn on posters hanging up around the school, and rather than face the consequences he wants Ruby to help him. Ruby is resourceful, and caring and does think of a way to be of help in a positive manner. Friendship issues are ones that Ruby encounters and one that all of the students in our book group can share connections from their own lives and offer strategies to help Ruby.

Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie

Abbie is faced with quite a challenge in Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie. Book talk from Drew, Persey, Ava, Callie, Ari and Sarah has been lively as they envision the challenges Abbie faced when she was left with the responsibility to ensure that the lights kept burning in the lighthouse on Mattinicus Rock. On January 19, 1856, Abbie's father left the island and asked Abbie to care for her sisters and ailing mother while he went to gather oil, food and medicine. for her sick mother. A storm prevented him from returning that night and in fact it took four weeks for him to return. Students wrote in journal entries as if they were Abbie.
Ari wrote, " I am very nervous about the lighthouse. I miss Papa. I will do whatever it takes."
A selection from Sarah's journal entry is the following, " I really miss my Papa. He went away to get medicine for Mama, oil and corn. He was not supposed to be gone for long."
Drew included in his journal, " I wish I had help. It was easy to keep the lights burning. I want Papa back. If I didn't keep the lights burning, I wonder what it would be like for Mama and my sisters."
Callie included her responsibility of also taking care of the chickens. " I am worried about my chickens..."
A selection from Persey includes, "Papa has been away and I am sick of eating eggs and our house is wet and my chickens almost got washed away."
Ava wrote, "What has been hard for me is, father is away. I miss him so much. I can't wait until he gets back home. I kept the lights lit. It was really hard to do this job, but I did it anyway."
Everyone agreed that Abbie revealed courage, bravery, and a caring and helpful personality as she took care of her family, the chickens and the lights in the lighthouse during a raging storm while her father was away.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Literacy in Prekindergarten and Kindergarten

Our classes are rich in literacy endeavors.

Reading, writing and talking about books occurs daily. Students brainstorm ideas and view them in a written web or chart. They write about literature, math, science and their lives. Illustrations are an important part of this composing process. Stories are read aloud by teachers, classmates, older students, parents and in Spanish by Catalina. As children engage in these rich literacy activities, they broaden their vocabulary, develop early literacy skills, and lay the foundation for a passion for reading and writing in all areas of their lives.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Riding Freedom

Fourth grade book group members are engrossed in reading, writing and talking about the life of Charlotte Parkhurst as portrayed in the book Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan. Brave, confident, persistent and optimistic are a few of the character traits students are discovering Charlotte displayed, allowing her to carve out a life much different than the one she found herself living in, raised in a boy's orphanage in the mid-1800's. We are excited to continue to uncover how Charlotte ended up becoming a legendary stagecoach driver and the first woman ever to vote.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

First Graders Talk About Character and Setting

"Henry thought Mudge would be with him always. He thought Mudge made everything safe. He thought Mudge would never go away. And when Mudge did go away, when Henry called and called but Mudge didn't come, Henry's heart hurt and he cried for an hour. But when he finished crying, Henry said, "Mudge loves me. He wouldn't leave. He must be lost."
I read this passage from Henry and Mudge The First Book, to each first grade class at the beginning of reading workshop today. Students have been avidly following Henry and Mudge, listening to a chapter read aloud and thinking about character and setting. In response to this section of the book, Leah said, "Henry cried hard because he was mad when he thought that Mudge would run away." Kayla added that Henry was sad and was missing Mudge. Jevon and Mason were both happy when Henry realized that Mudge would never run away and that he must have gotten lost. Gurbani shared that Henry is looking for Mudge through the same forest that Mudge got lost in. This focused discussion about character and setting at the beginning of reading workshop allows students to work as a group on this reading strategy and then go off to apply the strategy to their just right reading. Reading partners think about character and setting in their just right books that they read and discuss with teachers and then independently show their thinking about their reading in writing.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Justin and the Best Biscuits in the World

Jason, Josiah, Daniel, Lydia and Aidan from Leslie's class and Colin, Miles, Krista and Margaret from Andrew's class were engrossed in reading and discussing their fourth grade book group selection, Justin and the Best Biscuits in the World. This book written by Mildred Pitts Walter won the Coretta Scott King Award. When we finished reading the book each student felt strongly that this book deserved the award based upon the strong writing, the family history that Justin learns about when he reads his Great-Grandpa Phillip Ward Sr.'s diary and the life lessons and self confidence Justin learns from his grandpa.
Justin reads about the challenging time his Great-Grandpa had when he was ten and his family decided to leave Tennessee in 1879 and settle in Missouri to live a better life as an owner of a ranch. Although slavery was officially over in Tennessee African Americans were not treated equally or remotely fairly. Justin's ancestors had to show courage and determination to seek a life of true freedom. Justin uses this knowledge of the courage they displayed to gain confidence in learning skills such as cooking, and working on the ranch during his summer with his grandpa. He returns to his mother and sisters with an independence that is admired by his family. All members of the book group were able to make text to self connections and recognize times they felt proud when they learned a new skill, or needed to resolve conflict with a sibling. They also made a lot of text to world connections and text to text connections to the time period Justin read about in his Great-Grandpa's diary. This was certainly a book that will be remembered for quite a long time by all.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ruby Holler

Thoroughly engaged in reading about the lives of Dallas and Florida in Sharon Creech's book Ruby Holler, Kenan, Cameron, Taylor, Lauryn and Kaiya decided to read the last couple of chapters together rather than independently. Our book group discussions have been spirited as each member brought their reflections on character, text connections and envisionment to share during our group meetings. Although, these fifth graders did not grow up in an orphanage and experience living in foster homes, often being mistreated, there were still many opportunities to connect to the lives of Dallas and Florida. Kenan compared himself to Dallas, as they are both optimists and see the positive in situations. We had a great discussion as to whether we are more cautious like Florida or optimistic like Dallas. Reading the end together felt glorious
as each reader savored the language and waited with anticipation to see how events resolved and to discover the decisions that characters would make.

Monday, November 1, 2010


"Are you scared, Dinnie?" Guthrie said. "Don't be scared! Look at this! Don't you feel so-so-free up here? It's like we're floating." Jamie wrote this passage in her reader's notebook and responded with the following: "Guthrie always is optimistic about almost anything. He is also very nice to people when they're scared." Jaime's preparation for our next book group meeting will help to guide Claire, Gabby, Kiryna, Ariel and Alyssa to probe deeper into Sharon Creech's beautifully written book, Bloomability. Each of the girls carefully prepare written reflections in their reader's notebook that will contribute to our discussions. Sharing insights, questions, and noticing effective writing is producing not only closer reading of the text but thoughtful lessons about friendship, family and identity.

Gorillas Gentle Giants of the Forest

Students from Jeanne and Sandy's second grade rooms are reading, researching and recording information and their thinking about gorillas. The following site contained valuable information about gorillas. We viewed pictures of them in their habitat, looked at a map and saw the area that they lived in Africa and read about the way they communicate. It was very exciting to watch a short video on the National Geographic site.

This important previewing gave us a strong background of knowledge to start reading the book
Gorillas Gentle Giants of the Forest by Joyce Milton and illustrated by Bryn Barnard.
Dolphins, wolves and honeybees are being read by other children in small groups. This kind of reading in a small community allows all of the children to have a shared experience in how to read and research a particular animal. We are all focusing on the ways animals communicate. Each student will also be researching an animal that they have selected for their individual research project.
Second grade research skills build on the ways of reading and the research skills that the students learned in first grade. They are excited as we all embark on this research project.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hill of Fire: A Fiery Read by Two Second Grade Book Groups

Thumbnail for version as of 20:42, 17 October 2006

The volcano that erupted in Paricutin, Mexico in 1943 is only the second volcano witnessed in its inception by people. Second grade students feel as if they are there as they read about the moment Pablo, his father and their family ox discovered white smoke billowing from the ground in the field they were plowing. In the days leading up to this volcano erupting, Pablo's father has been feeling discontented with life in his village. He often says, "Nothing ever happens."
What advice can our student readers give to Pablo's father to help him to enjoy and appreciate his life? In order to think of ideas, we needed to understand what the community was like in 1943 in Pablo's village. Kacey noticed how the farm animals are valued and how children can take their pigs with them to their schoolhouse. Gracen and James noticed that the village had a market place where villagers can sell food and things they made. All agreed that they thought the market would be a great place to catch up with neighbors. Andrew, James, and Devon suggested that Pablo's dad could carve an animal for his son. Everyone was really excited when later in the story he gives Pablo a bull that he carved.
Second grade readers are transported in time through Hill of Fire author, Joan Sandin's effective writing and illustrations. She actually sketched her pictures at the site! They gain an appreciation for the culture and community of Pablo and his family in their village of Paricutin and the bravery of Pablo's family and the villagers in facing the challenge and change brought on by this volcano.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ready, Set, Read!

Chloe Juliet was born on September 16 in Austin, Texas. Chloe is my first grandchild. Her mom Rachel graduated from Abington Friends in 2000 and is now teaching in Austin. Both grandmothers are teachers. Her dad Jesse is an architect as are her two grandfathers. I'm sharing this background to help provide the context for the rich conversations Chloe has been listening to during these first days of her life. Debates about architectural philosophy, conversations about books, music, art and baby development. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities for sweet talking to Chloe also. She loves being read to and was especially engaged in Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown. All of this early exposure to the cadence and rhythm of language will help to develop her vocabulary and love of responding to and expressing language herself. She also by the way, loves listening to music, whether its her dad playing the guitar or the rich sounds of classical music. She is looking forward to her Aunt Emily's visit (AFS grad 2006) and listening to her playing violin. Her Uncle Eric (AFS grad 1998) and Aunt Diana will further her love for film and design. Seize the opportunity with all of your young babies and children to engage in play, lots of hugs, and to also expose them to rich language and discourse. Most of all, of course:enjoy this precious time. I know I am.