Monday, October 5, 2015

Otis - A New Favorite Book

Oh, how I love this wonderful story! It's not a book I would have looked twice at if it happened to be on display at a bookstore. The illustrations look dark, so I probably would have passed it by.

I purchased a literacy unit from Deanna Jump on Teachers Pay Teachers and one of the books she used was Otis. I bought the book, and I'm so happy to have this in my classroom library now. 

We focused on stopping to make predictions, because that's what good readers do. Tomorrow we will work with the same story on retelling and following a sequence of events. It is the perfect story to share with young children and then practice these important skills!

If you have favorite books for young children that you would like to share, please let me know!

Happy reading!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Collecting Sunflower Seeds

Have you read the Sunflower House?  In my opinion, it's a classic.  Well, we read the book yesterday in Kindergarten and the kids were thrilled with the treasures I brought in for them to explore.  Last week I asked parents in my class if they would be willing to donate a few sunflowers.  They came through in a big way, and kids had a ton of sunflowers to use for drawing, exploration, and observing.  The only problem was that the seeds in those store-bought sunflowers are tiny.  You can hardly see them!

I needed home-grown sunflowers, but I didn't grow any sunflowers in my garden this year. The squirrels ate ALL of the seeds I planted.  I took to Facebook for a little help.  I put out a request for sunflowers to any of my neighbors, on our neighborhood Facebook page.  A nice lady, who I had never met before, responded that she was heading to Eastern Washington and would be able to get a few for me.  I picked up the bag of dead flowers from her porch - my kids thought I was crazy for wanting dead flowers.  I explained that I didn't want them for the flowers, but for the seeds!

After reading The Sunflower House, in Kindergarten, we went outside to explore the sunflowers.  I showed the kids how to pull the florets off and they were thrilled to find the treasure underneath.  There were several different types of sunflowers in the bag, so kids were able to see a variety of seeds.  

In the book, the kids stuff their pockets with seeds, so I told the class that they should do the same.  One little girl said, "If I stuff another sunflower seed in my pocket, my pants might fall down!  I might need a baggie."

They even used their Center Time to continue exploring!  We left lots of seeds outside for the birds, planted some in the ground "just in case" they might grow, and sent lots home with the kids.  It was a great book, great lesson, and I'm SUPER thankful for fabulous parents and neighbors for sharing sunflowers with us.

Happy exploring!

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Seasons: Fall

It's a rainy Fall day, here in the Pacific Northwest.  Our nature table is filled with drying sunflowers, apples, and a new book.

Fall, published by Barron's is one of my favorite books to read to my kindergarten class.

I love encouraging the kids to collect leaves in the Fall and create pictures with them.  Soon, our nature table will be overflowing with the kids' nature collections.  Leaves, pinecones, and snail shells are always favorite items to find and bring to class.  

This page inspired us to sing The Ants Go Marching.

There are lots of great videos on You Tube that feature this song.  Click here to go to one of my favorites.

Thanks for stopping by!  I hope you love this book as much as I do.  Happy Fall!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Making Applesauce

One of my favorite things to do in Kindergarten is cook with the kids and I'm always on the lookout for great books to connect with our cooking experiences.  When I found Applesauce Season, by Eden Ross Lipson, I was thrilled with the connections we could make to our personal experience.

When we made our applesauce in the classroom, we started with a big bucket of apples.  We had already talked about the differences in size, shape, and color.  The kids washed their hands and then chose an apple to wash.  

I did the cutting, simply using an apple cutter and throwing away the cores.  We added water, cinnamon, and sugar to the pot and turned on the crockpot.  The apples have to cook for most of the day in the crockpot, but they only take about 20 minutes to cook, if you are doing this on the stove at home.  

After the apples were mushy and the water was bubbly (and the smell in the room was to-die-for) we brought out the food press.  

The apples were poured into the food press (sometimes called a food mill) and the kids took turns smooshing the apples.  This is their FAVORITE part!  When the apple sauce has cooled a bit, it's time to eat it up!

There are very obvious connections between experience and text in the book.  I usually read the book after we have started our applesauce and it's cooking away.  As I read, the kids usually point out, "Hey, we had lots of different types of apples!" or "We added cinnamon and sugar to our pot too!"  I tell the kids that good readers make connections to their own experiences, just like they are doing.  

There is nothing better than experiences that connect to literacy.  Happy Applesauce Season!

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Shape Song Swingalong

I've recently discovered the book and CD singalongs from Barefoot books, and my kindergarten students love them! I use as much music as I possibly can in the classroom and, in my opinion, it's even better when the song has a book to go along with it.

The Shape Song Swingalong is written and sung by Stevesongs.  Barefoot books is one of those companies that sells their products through an individual distributor.   You can go to and click on Buy Barefoot to find someone in your area who sells these books.

This is a great books to introduce in our classroom right now because we are really focusing on shapes.  In our Writer's Workshop time, we emphasize small motor, slowing down in our drawing, and telling our stories through our drawings.  Many kids have no idea how to tell a story through drawing, and drawing people or places is exceptionally hard.  We begin with modeling, modeling, modeling!

I show them that I draw a very careful circle for my head, an oval for my body, and some rectangles for arms and legs.  When I draw the circles and ovals, I make it starting at the top and curving around to the left... just like I would do if I wrote an "o" on my paper.  Our c's, a's, d's, and q's are formed in a very similar fashion, so sometimes I begin off-centered like I'm starting one of those letters.  I remind kids that I'm starting my shapes at the top, just like I start my letters at the top, and I encourage them to do the same in their stories.  I am NOT an artist.  As a matter of fact, the kids' drawings are often better than mine.  I point out to kids that I am not good at drawing, but I try my best by using shapes and it helps me show and tell my story.

During our Number Corner time, we are focusing on shapes as well.

We are using a new math curriculum in the Snohomish School District called Bridges.  It is part "calendar time" and part "number" work.  The calendar has a pattern that uses shapes and their are little songs to go along with the shapes.  Once again, The Shape Song Swingalong ties in very well!  I love the way the book uses different shapes in the illustrations.  It ties to our calendar, where the shapes are 2-D as well as 3-D objects.

I'm loving the connections between our curriculum and my new shape book.  It's a great book to read, especially if you like to tie in music.

Happy reading and shape hunting!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Apple Season

It's apple season and it's time to start thinking about apple related activities!  In my kindergarten classroom, we have many books about apples and we have been pouring through them.

Last year I wrote several posts for LeapFrog Learning Path, which is a great resource for parents.  Here are a few apple related activities to try out at home or in your early childhood classroom, if you are a teacher.

Apple Pie Play Dough is one of my absolute favorite activities.  I bring my pie plates into the classroom and the kids can make the filling with cinnamon scented Play Dough. Click on the picture or the link for more details and the recipe.

Umm. Who doesn't love apple pie?

I posted the recipe for Kid Sized Apple Pies last year and they were a big hit.  The best thing was that they were baked in canning jar lids so they were the perfect size without buying special mini-pie plates. Click the link or picture for the recipe and step by step instructions.

Finally, for the little artist at your house, we have apple painting.

This isn't just a simple painting activity.  This takes attention to detail and subtle color differences to a new level.  The Observational Apple Painting  activity is a fun way to slow down and take notice!

Happy Apple Season!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Idea Books

My older brother is a very organized man that runs his own successful business and keeps track of many aspects of a complicated process. For as long as I can remember,  he's also been one to keep a calendar/journal that he carries with him. 

The original Idea Book

My older daughter, Maggie,  has always loved her uncle and they have a sill, laughter-filled relationship; however, he's also the person that will go into great depth when answering any question she has. They've had many, many complex conversations about nature and how things work. He's very patient. 

Inspired last year, a picture with invented spelling of 'pumpkin'

Over a year ago we were visiting him and Maggie got wind of his journal/calendar. She thought it was the coolest thing EVER. I have journals, but I tend to write just words and lists. Seeing my brother's book, which has sketches, cartoons, and words made her excited beyond words to have her own book. 

"Audrey is always tired"

My brother gave Maggie her own "Idea Book" and ever since she's been jotting down different ideas. Last Fall she was inspired by the pumpkins and her sister's nap schedule. The book has been around our house, mostly kept in her room, something that she picks up when she's feeling inspired by an idea or thought. 

"I'm always ready to be awake"
When she mastered some number writing, she decided to work to put the numbers in her book, all on her own. I'm a huge fan of invented spelling and have been so happy to see her writing about things she notices.

Inspired by Numbers
In her Idea Book there are many, many drawings and sketches that she's been inspired to think about. Flowers, fireworks, and just about anything else that we've done over the past 18 months. She has finally finished up most of the book that started this whole thing, the one my brother gave her. 

A happy wizard

Sometimes we talk about what she's put in her Idea Book, but mostly I just let her share when she's ready, which sometimes she doesn't want to.  My favorite part about the Idea Book is that it doesn't matter if her ideas are good or bad, meeting some conceived idea. Each and every idea is hers, making it unique, smart and limitless. 

Idea Book #2, ready for some great thoughts

Monday, July 20, 2015

If Rocks Could Sing

I've been a "rock nerd" my whole life.  I remember starting my collection with any rocks that sparkled, when I was about 5 years old.  I had a rock box that I added my precious stones to.  My mom used to ask, "Are you going to save those forever? What in the world are you going to do with those when you are an adult?"

I added to my rock collection in college. We went on a science excursion to a private island in the San Juans and the rocks were amazing.  I collected interesting rocks that were unlike any I had found before.  Soon after graduating college, I was on vacation and realized that there were entire stores dedicated to selling rocks!  I was in Heaven and found that I really DID have a use for those rocks, even as an adult.  My rock collection became part of my classroom and I've added to it for the last 20 years that I've been teaching.

I shared the story of my encounter with a stranger in the bookstore on my home life blog.  You can read the story here.  Well, the book that I fell in love with (the one that my new BFF bought for me in the bookstore) was a rock book.  If Rocks Could Sing is not just any rock book.  It's an ABC book dedicated to rocks!  How cool is that?

The rocks used in the book were mainly collected on a Florida beach over 10 years and they are all alphabet shaped.  Maybe I am just not observant enough, but I have never seen a rock shaped like a letter of the alphabet.  I think I'm on a new mission to find some though!!

I wanted to share the picture, above, because I wanted you to see the rock alphabet, but I also wanted to show the book jacket.  I always love to read the book jackets and about the author information to my students. I think it is very inspiring to young writers in the classroom!

At the end of the book, the author, Leslie McGuirk, shares a bit about her love for nature, the art hidden in the little rock treasures, and the process of collecting.

Here's the link, if you are interested in finding this book. Or you could just find a stranger in a bookstore with a wonderful heart, who wants to buy you a book!

I've recently added to my rock collection with two pieces of Obsidian

and, my new prize, a giant piece of pumice. (Yes, it really does float!)

I was inspired to purchase these pieces when we were in Sunriver, Oregon.  We visited the Obsidian Lava Flow and my true rock nerd-ish-ness came out.  Taking rocks from the National Park was not allowed, so I had to purchase the rocks from a rock shop in town.  

The Obsidian is absolutely breathtaking.  (I told you I was a rock nerd.)  It just sparkled in the sun and there were mountains of it!  It was like hiking across glass.  It cuts like glass too, so we had to be careful.

This next picture is a combination of Pumice and Obsidian, so it doesn't sparkle quite as much.

Honestly, this was one of the most amazing places I've ever been, and we just happened upon it.

So, now you can see why I was so excited to find some rocks at the rock shop and why I was thrilled to pieces to run across a stranger in a bookshop who wanted to buy me a book!  I'm a rock nerd and I'm just excited to share my joy with my kids and my students.  

For the record, I think my kids (especially my daughter) love rocks as much as I do.

How about you?  Do you collect rocks?  I know I have a couple of rock-nerd-friends who collect too.  We have a whole Facebook thread where we confess our addiction to collecting.  Hey, it's not a bad hobby!

Happy rock collecting! Oh, and I hope you'll check out that book and start your own rock collection.  I know I'm on a mission to find alphabet rocks now!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Summer Adventures

One of the reasons I started this blog was to share experiences that I have with my family.  I want families to see that EVERYTHING we do has an impact on our literacy lives.  From the time my kids were very young I've tried to encourage them to try new activities.  They helped me in the garden, made dinner with me, and helped with pets.  As my kids have grown, so have their interests.  I've had to move out of my comfort zone of my yard and kitchen, and into the great outdoors a bit more.  This summer, my kids are 14 and 10 and they have already kept me busy. 

School got out early this year, because we had zero snow days to make up.  Fortunately for us, the Summer weather started early too!  It's a running joke around the Pacific Northwest that Summer doesn't start until July 5th.  Well, this year it's been in full force since May and we've been enjoying every minute of it!

The garden and berry farms were our first calling.

We try to get our yard and garden in shape before the 4th of July, since we usually have some friends and family over for a picnic.

Due to our early Summer, I almost missed berry season!  The strawberries and raspberries came early this year so we didn't have as much time to make jam and freeze berries as usual.  If you have young kids at home, please check out this post on homegrown berries and and some of my favorite berry books.

We've been living at the beach lately.  I can honestly say that I don't have any books at home about playing at the lake, but I do believe that they will be able to draw on those experiences as they read and write later on. Paddleboarding was a new experience for the kids this summer.

We've all been enjoying a few short hikes around the area, including our furry friend, Cooper.  Even better than enjoying experiences with the family, is seeing my kids working together without trying to kill each other.  When we went to Wallace Falls, the kids wanted to hike down to the waterfall.  We could see them but didn't want to hike over the rocks.  I loved watching my oldest help his sister over the hard parts.  Trust me, that doesn't happen too often!

We've been able to take one vacation so far to Sunriver, Oregon.  The sunsets on our evening bike rides were amazing.  Even the kids stopped to admire the colors in the sky.  They quickly moved on, while I snapped a few pictures.

During our vacation I was reading Connecting Animals and Children in Early Childhood.  It was very fitting, considering the number of deer we spotted!

One of my absolute favorite adventures of our vacation was visiting the Obsidian Lava Flow.  Holy moly, was that place amazing.  I readily admit that I am a rock-nerd.  I've collected them for years and my daughter has taken to this hoading collecting too.  The national park we visited had the most unimaginable amount of obsidian and pumice that you could ever picture seeing in one place.  Because it was a National Park, we weren't able to take any rocks with us, but I did find some at a local rock shop later on.

The view from the trail wasn't too shabby either.

Ok, I said that hiking through the rock trails was one of my favorite adventures, but I haven't told you about the RIVER RAFTING yet.  Talk about an adventure!!! I loved every minute of it.  My kids are both pretty adventurous so this was a great experience for them.  My son tends to be a pretty good writer, when he actually puts effort into it.  I'm excited at the thought of him describing this adventure in writing.  Hopefully, he will have some sort of writing assignment when school starts up and will be able to draw on his experience.  (Sadly, 14 year old boys don't spend much of their free time writing, even with mommy's encouragement.  The extent of his writing over the summer usually consists of Instagram posts saying, "Cool Pic!")

Summer has barely started and we have already had so many adventures!  I can't wait to see what the rest of the Summer brings.  

Happy exploring!