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.