Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Winter Books

Winter is here and I have snow on my mind.  We were able to take a short trip to Lake Chelan over the Holiday break and it was beautiful over there.  It had snowed a little, just before we arrived, and there was still a dusting covering everything.

I made my hubby pull over as we were driving so I could snap this picture with my phone.  Talk about a beautiful view!!

After a short, 7 mile, drive up the hill we arrived at the ski and tubing hill.  There was quite a bit more snow up there and it was the perfect place to learn to ski.  My kids had each taken one lesson before, but they were still a bit unsteady.  They LOVED this place.  It had a rope tow and they went up and down that hill for hours.  I rented equipment as well because I just couldn't resist getting on skis again.  

Here's my youngest, carrying her skis.

When we got home from our snowy vacation, I brought my snow-themed books home from the classroom.  I set them in a little basket in my family room and just waited.  Last week, when we had a little down time, my daughter spotted them.  My hubby was reading his book and I was reading some blogs on the ipad. My daughter grabbed the stack of books and happily started talking to herself about the books she remembered reading before.  She lit up when she saw Snowballs.  That was a favorite when she was about 6 years old.

It didn't take long before she took off into the other room with her stack of books and I heard her saying, "Now, class, today we will be reading this book about snow."  I looked at my husband and said, "I love that all I have to do is bring out a new stack of books and she's excited to read."  You see, both of my kids hate reading with a passion, which absolutely kills me.  But, as soon as I bring out some seasonal picture books, my daughter just can't resist.  If you build it, they will come!  Am I right?

Here are a few of my favorite Snow-Themed books.

A Perfect Day by Carin Berger
Snowballs by Lois Ehlert
Snow by Uri Shulevitz
The Snow Speaks by Nancy White Carlstrom
That's Not My Snowman by Usborne Books
Flannel Kisses by Linda Crotta Brennan
Snow Happy by Patricia Hubbell
It's Winter by Linda Glaser
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Happy Snow Day!
(Now I hope we get some snow in the Seattle area!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Chalkboard Thanksgiving Table

My chalkboard Thanksgiving table activity is up on LeapFrog Learning Path.  This activity was especially fun to create, photograph, and write about.  My daughter helped make the place cards for a dinner party earlier in the week and my son helped set up the camera and lighting for the photoshoot.

Details on how to make the table covering, place cards, and tags are on Learning Path.  There are a few fun products I tried out and even a chalk stamping portion.  

I hope you try it out at your Thanksgiving Kids Table.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Little About the NAEYC Conference

Over the weekend I shared about my Dallas trip on my home blog.  It was such a wonderful opportunity to travel, learn more as a teacher, and present with a group.  It's an absolute dream to be able to attend the conference (which is really expensive - thank you LeapFrog), but to be asked to help present just pushes it over the top!

NAEYC is the National Association for the Education of Young Children.  This conference was specifically designed for the early childhood educators out there who wanted to learn more about teaching this age group.  There were over 700 different sessions offered over the 5 day conference.  We were not there all 5 days, but I was able to fit a handful of sessions into my time in Dallas.  The first session I attended was the one I was part of!

So, there we are!  Left to right, that's Jody from LeapFrog, Me, Jill from Tennessee, and Gina from Detroit.  We each had a roll in sharing information about technology and media at home and in the classroom.  One of the things I love about LeapFrog is that they aren't just an educational toy company.  Yes, they sell fabulous educational products, but they are also about sharing information with parents and teachers.  So, this session wasn't all about how to use LeapFrog products in the classroom, but it was more about how to make informed decisions when it comes to media and technology.  The big idea behind it, supporting teachers and helping teachers support the parents in their classroom, reminded me of the big idea behind Learning Path on the LeapFrog website.  I've been writing and taking photos for Learning Path, and it's not all about selling a product.  It's about sharing educational activities with families and teachers that they can do at home with their kids.  

Ok, back to the conference,

Our session went very well.  We had about 50+ people attend.  I really had no idea what to expect, but 50, or so, felt like a good crowd.  People kept coming and going during the presentation, which made me hope we weren't boring them to death.  After attending a few more sessions and talking with other teachers, I found out that many teachers scheduled their time so they could see as many different sessions as possible. Sometimes that meant splitting the time, beginning at one sessions and then heading to a new one half way through.  Overall, I think it went well.  Hindsight, there are things I would have changed, but I'm hoping there will be a "next time" so I can try them out!

After our session, I squeezed in as many sessions as I could.  I went to sessions on music in the classroom, issues and trends in kindergarten, Autism, reading instruction, and a special presentation of children's book authors. Oh, how I loved hearing the authors speak!

My favorite authors were Marla Frazee and Peter Reynolds.

Some of the must-have Marla Frazee books include Boot and Shoe, Boss Baby, Stars, and her newest wordless book called The Farmer and The Clown.  I can't wait to buy that one!  I love wordless books and this one looks so sweet!  Marla did a great job of telling her story.  She combined telling her life story with walking us through her writing process, and sharing how she turns life experiences into her illustrations.  Of course, she's a story teller, so you can only imagine that she told her own story wonderfully.  

Peter Reynolds books are very popular.  He has written Ish, The Dot, and Sky Color.  Those are on my "every teacher mush own" list.  Ok, confession time.  I may have gotten a bit choked up during Peter Reynolds' speech.  He is incredibly passionate about education and some of things he commented on were very powerful.  He reminded me of the power we hold in the classroom, as teachers.  We, alone, can make or break a child's year - or even beyond.  Here are some of my favorite Peter Reynolds quotes from his time speaking.

"Name your studio or classroom.  Take two words you love and combine them to make your name.  My company's name is Fablevision.  I combined those words because I love the idea behind them."

"Writing is an extension of thinking."

"Take your wisdom, dip it in a little art, and just start."
(That one can be applied to lots of different areas of life.)

"I don't believe in standardized testing. Kids are not data."
(I just have to plug my 2 cents in here.  I believe that some testing is good and essential in education.  We need to assess to see where kids are in the learning process and adjust our teaching to fit those needs. The high stakes testing that we are seeing, on the other hand,  is ABSOLUTELY  INAPPROPRIATE IN EVERY WAY, SHAPE, AND FORM. I could go on and on about my thoughts on this and tell you lots of stories about how our lawmakers are failing us in so many ways, but I want to stick to the happy thoughts about my great experience in Dallas.)

Going to Dallas and attending the NAEYC conference was right at the top of my list, when it comes to highlights of my educational career.  I was in Teacher Heaven!  I think the funniest thing I saw was the number of teachers who exited their session and went to the hallways, taking a seat on the floor criss-cross, to review their booklet and decide where they were going next.  There was plenty of seating at the conference and lots of chairs to choose from, but sometimes a kindergarten teacher is just more comfortable sitting criss-cross-applesauce.  I'll admit, I did the same thing.  At the end of the day, I didn't think I could handle sitting in another chair and I found myself a good spot on the floor.  What can I say... it's the teacher in me.

My biggest take-away from the conference about my teaching and even about my homelife is this:

I plan to take my wisdom (about reading, math, writing, baking, sewing, cooking, or whatever I'm passionate about), dip it in a little art (which every child needs more of), and just start.  
Thanks Peter Reynolds.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Firework Photo Journal on LeapFrog Learning Path

My Firework Photo Journal has been posted on the LeapFrog Learning Path site.  

Have your kids paint up a firework journal to get in the 4th of July spirit.  Then, after the 4th, print out a few favorite photos to add to the journal.  This is a great way to encourage your kids to keep writing over the summer!  Check out the LeapFrog Learning Path site to see the full how-to.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Farmer's Market

Farmer's Market season is finally here!  We have one at our neighborhood park every Friday evening.  I think it's the highlight of my kids' week.  Ok, lets be honest - it's the highlight of my week too.  At 3:00, every Friday, from June - September my kids take off on bikes or scooters with dollars in hand.  

There haven't been many booths yet, and only one veggie stand so far.  But I know more will be coming.  It's only the beginning of the growing season around here.  The cherries have been wonderful!  

Since there was only one veggie stand, the line to pay was really long. It was worth it though.  We also bought a half flat of berries and shared them with a neighbor.

I always think it's funny when my daughter gets that "hey, what a coincidence" look on her face when suddenly there is a stack of books about the farmers market on a table somewhere.  I think she truly believes that they appeared there by accident.  Well, it's no accident.  Strategically placed books, on topics of interest, always draw her in.  She claims she doesn't like reading, but can't seem to resist my picture book collection.

Whether you are heading to the beach, camping, or to the farmer's market this summer, don't forget to find some great books on the topic.  Strategically place them around your house so your kids will "find" them.  Maybe you'll even hear the same comments I do, "Hey, look at this!  These books are about the farmer's market and WE just went to the farmer's market.  Huh."

What a coincidence!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Favorite Camping Books

When we started our classroom camping unit, I looked around my classroom for camping related books.  I also purchased a few new books to go along with the unit.  Here are a few of my favorites!

The Discover Series CAMPING book is a very simple book, showing a picture of a camping related item and a word to go along with it on each page.  We did a lot of writing during Camp Read A Lot and several kids wrote camping related stories.  This book was a favorite resource because kids could use it to spell words they needed to use in their stories.

My daughter was a big fan of the Olivia series when she was younger, so we have lots of these books.  The kids loved this book because they could read it on their own too.

Oh, how I miss the days when my kids were little enough to enjoy watching Caillou!  There is always a great message in the Caillou stories.

Ok, this next book is my FAVORITE camping book!  I think we should write our own adaptation of the story and call it Mrs. Ross Goes Camping.  We wouldn't need to change the main idea of the story too much.  Mrs. Ross does not like bugs, wild animals, sleeping outdoors, or walking to the stinky bathrooms - and Scaredy Squirrel feels the same!

I love everything about this next book.  Camping by Nancy Hundal, is a perfect story of  seeing the joy in camping and it has beautiful illustrations.  The illustrations remind me of Ted Rand's work and he's an illustrator that I absolutely love!  This one is a MUST BUY!

Finally, we have a terrific alphabet book with camping related words.  The kids really enjoyed this one and one of my first grade friends even tried to make her own ABC book and used this one as her inspiration.

If you have favorite camping books that were not listed here, please leave the name of the book in the comments.  These books are great to read before you take a camping trip this summer!

Happy reading (and camping)!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Camp Read A Lot

Whew!  Camp Read A Lot is coming to a close and the kids have had a GREAT time.  Thank you SO much to parents who helped make our campers happy this week.  Our week started off on Monday morning with one of our parents checking kids in at the Camper Registration Desk.  A huge highlight was the camper mail that parents sent in.

As many of you know, I play a tiny bit of guitar... but nothing like one of our student's moms!  Our special guest had the kids rocking out with their air guitars and put my really slow- hold on until I find the right chord- rendition of Itsy Bitsy Spider to shame!

The kids had a great time reading in our tents too.  I was so happy that one of our parents was able to bring in an extra tent because it was certainly a highlight of the week.  We had a different theme each day of the week.  Kids were able to sing campfire songs, read lots of different books about camping, do science and math activities around camping, write camping poems, and even go on a "hike" to find the perfect reading spot on our playground.

One highlight was reading under the stars.  We turned out the lights and did our buddy reading with flashlights.  I'm so thankful to have a great buddy class who will share fun camping ideas with us!  It made our week so much more special for the kids. 

You can't go camping without some really fun camping snacks too!  A HUGE thank you goes out to my parents of allergy students.  I really appreciate you sending alternatives so kids would not feel left out, but that we could make accommodations so everyone could be involved.

Campfire cupcakes were a huge hit!

Making S'mores allowed for a great connection to writing.  It was a perfect tie in to our Sequence of Events and How-To writing.

We also enjoyed trail mix on our hike around the school.  Over all, I'd have to say it was one of the best weeks of the school year.  Often times, at this time of year, kids are just done.  They are tired and ready for the year to be over.  Having Camp Read A Lot this week has been perfect.  Kids were excited to come to school each day and thrilled to find out about our new adventure for the day.  Thanks for your help, parents!!

Happy camping!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Camping Fun

In honor of the "unofficial start of summer" (aka Memorial Day Weekend) we're having some camping fun, right in the classroom!  
Comfy pillows and blankets, a little table, a lamp, and a few camping books have set a nice backdrop for reading and relaxing.

We have lots of happy campers in the classroom today!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Favorite Teacher Books

When someone asks me about my favorite books for teachers, I find myself stumped.  It's like asking which one of my children I love the most.  Well, a friend sent me a Facebook message and was wondering about great resources for kindergarten teachers.  She is moving from the intermediate grades down to kindergarten next year and looking for some good summer reading materials.  (I know she'll do great because she was a great second grade teacher, back when we worked together!)

I started looking through my bookshelf and had a hard time picking, but here are my greatest inspirations.  First up, is anything written by Katie Wood Ray.  When I first started teaching Regie Routman was my go-to author.  Over the years I've drifted a bit toward Katie Wood Ray.  This may make me sound like a nerdy teacher, but I get goosebumps when I read her books.  I want to be her.  About the Authors is a must-buy for any teacher in early primary.

I've always been totally fascinated by the transition from pre-k to kindergarten.  I wrote an ebook a few years ago about my experience as a mom and teacher, and how that transition went for our family.  Literacy Beginnings was a great resource to help understand where kids are coming from and figure out how to supplement curriculum for those kids who never attended a pre-k program.

Playful Learning and The Language of Art are right up there on the very tippy-top of my list for must reads!!!  These two books are great for parents as well.  I love, love, love the Reggio Emilia philosophy of education and these books are incredibly inspiring.  

Is That A Fact? is a good resource for teaching non-fiction writing.  I use this in late winter or early spring when we need to change things up a bit in Writer's Workshop.

The Write Start was written by an occupational therapist who wrote a book to help parents and teachers know how to support young writers at home and in the classroom.  It has very simple activities for kids to try and supports the developmental process kids go through as they learn to write.

Already Ready and In Pictures and In Words are two books by Katie Wood Ray that are also on my MUST BUY list for teachers of very young children.  I think these two could be put in the category of "Bible of Early Childhood Education"... seriously.  They are that good.

Here's one by Katie Wood Ray and Matt Clover that is SO cool!  It's actually available on iPad only.  It's an ebook that is loaded with short videos of Matt and Katie conferring with young writers.

These last two books are kindergarten specific.  I bought them when I was moving from second grade to kindergarten.  They really helped me wrap my head around the essence of kindergarten.  

To sum it up, if I had to pick, I'd buy Playful Learning, In Pictures and In Words, and About the Authors as my first choices.  Then, I'd buy the kindergarten-specific books if a move to kindergarten happened to be in my future.  The rest of the Katie Wood Ray library and The Language of Art would be on my must buy list as well, but there is only so much time to read in the summer.  

Happy reading friends!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Let Brainworks Begin!

Yesterday's post was all about Brainworks.  Here's a peak into the creation  of book covers for our research books.

We used a collage technique, thinking about the shapes we see in our animals' bodies.  I had my doubts about giving this a try, mainly because I know that if I had to made a zebra out of cut paper it would look like a black and white cat - if I was lucky enough to make it look that good!

Kids always impress me when they are given the opportunity to be creative!

Saturday, May 17, 2014


For the past few weeks, the students in our school have been working on their Brainworks projects. Brainworks was created many years ago by one of our teachers who wanted to develop a way for students to show their learning by demonstrating through a project that is based on the way their brain works.  We know that there are many different ways for students to show their learning.  Some students learn best by writing books, others need to move and act things out, some may learn best through music, and others just need hands-on projects.

The kids in our class spent several weeks researching a zoo animal, writing and illustrating a book about their animal, and then creating a project to demonstrate their learning.  The projects I have seen in other classrooms are STUNNING!  I wish I had gone around and taken more photos, but pictures of my class will have to do.  Wednesday and Thursday, kids spent time presenting their projects to kids in other classes and their families.  Our Brainworks museum was a huge hit and it was so much fun to hear the kids telling other people about their learning.  I can't take any credit at all for these projects or the process.  This was all the work of the teachers who developed this idea, the teachers who have had their classes participate in it for many years, the teachers who helped me through the process, and of course the KIDS who came up with the ideas to show their learning.

Here's a zebra habitat and several clay models.

My little friend who created this blue and gold macaw had some help from a second grade teacher who assisted in fulfilling his vision.

One little friend wanted a wall hanging, so we broke out the sewing machine and whipped it up!

The girls who came up with a monkey beanbag toss had their idea from the very start.  I'm guessing they had seen something like this last year and really wanted to create it on their own.  They sewed their own beanbags and made a gameboard and cards to demonstrate their learning.

Komodo Dragon Soccer was a huge hit.  One of my boys couldn't decide on a project, so he made one at school and one at home.  This was the game he made at home.  Kids playing the game were able to move their game piece when they answered a question correctly.

Several kids made models of their animals with Model Magic. This is another Komodo Dragon.

When I was talking to the creator of this project, she immediately knew she wanted to make a Clay Monkey Pot.  I had no idea what this would be or how it would show her learning, but we gave her supplies and she made it happen!  She had teacher help with the hot glue gun though. (Thanks, Sam for helping with this!)

Tapir baseball was also a fun project for kids to learn facts about tapirs.

These projects were just the tip of the iceberg.  There were 20+ projects in each of our first and second grade classes.  Third and fourth grade will be finishing up their projects and begin presenting as soon as their Standardized Testing is finished.  I'm always amazed at the work the kids do, the support the teachers provide, and  creativity and learning that happens during Brainworks!  

Happy learning!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Books We're Reading Now

I spend way too much time at the bookstore.  The University of Washington, in Mill Creek, is probably my favorite at the moment.  The have an AWESOME discount table!  If you're looking to expand your kids' book collections at home, this is a great place to shop.  The discount books change every month or so, which is why I have to stop by frequently  

Here are a few of the books I picked up last week.

The yellow sticker on the children's books mean SALE! Many of the books on the discount table are hardback books, which are a great investment when you're a teacher.

I bought Mama Doc Medicine for me to read.  I love to read, but I'm not a fan of grown-up-fiction.  I'd much rather spend my time reading a good "teacher book" or how-to books.  Seattle Mama Doc, Wendy Sue Swanson, is my kids' pediatrician at the Everett Clinic and she's fabulous!  She writes a blog for Seattle Children's Hospital and I'm thrilled that she has written a book.  I've been skipping over the infant chapters because, sadly, I can't convince my hubby that it's a good idea to have just one more teeny tiny baby. (They hardly take up any space! Right?)

My daughter has been enjoying the new books at home.  I'm excited to see what the kids in my class think of these!

Happy reading!