Friday, August 10, 2012

#PB10for10 2012

I'm just so excited about participating again this year!!! Thanks so much to Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek for hosting this book-loving event. My classroom library thanks you, too! (If you haven't followed along before, be prepared to add to your wish list and/or shopping cart!)

 I've had my list ready since the end of May, with only a few tweaks to it since then. For the 2011 event, I wrote about my all-time, just-can't-live-without picture books. This year, I decided to go with my Top 10 favorite "New to Me" picture books. So without further adieu...

After learning about Elephant and Piggie books during last year's #PB10for10 event, I cannot say enough good things about them! This was the first one I ever read, as well as the first one I shared with my first graders. We howled with laughter and read it over and over again! Elephant and Piggie books were, by far, my kids' favorite books last year. Mo Willems definitely earned a place in their reading hearts!

After hearing about this book on Twitter, I just had to read it. Oh. My. It's a very simple book... and yet it is so very, very complex! We had so many conversations on Twitter about it (and went so far as to choose sides - Team Bear or Team Rabbit.) This book had the same impact on my first graders! They enjoyed discussing and debating what happens when Bear discovers what happened to his hat (no spoilers here!)

While I didn't get a chance to share this with my first graders last year, you can bet I'll share it with them this year! There is just something about the relationship between these two that makes me believe my little friends will love it as much as I do. I wrote more about this gem in my recent blog post.

I absolutely, positively LOVED reading this book aloud! My kids loved it, too. It begs to be read aloud with dramatic flair. And who hasn't been freaked out about what might be hiding in... THE WOODS...

My good friend Jacquie gave me this book, and I can't thank her enough. It's a sweet (haha!) book that is also a little silly. You can't help but fall in love with Vanilla Cupcake, who just wants to be decorated! My first graders and I giggled with delight at the surprise ending. 

I was reminded of the magic I used to feel when we'd experience a blackout when I was growing up! It was as if time stood still. I felt that same magic when I read this book. It's told in a graphic novel style, which really adds to the power of the book. This one sparked some great conversations with my first graders!

"I love my white shoes... I love my white shoes... I love my white shoes.... I love my..." I guarantee this one will get stuck in your brain! Great story about going with the flow and not worrying about stuff, and it's a really catchy tune that will get your kids excited to read it again and again. Be sure to visit Harper Collins to listen to all of the Pete the Cat books with your students!

Okay, so maybe I kinda sorta cheated and snuck in an extra book here. Whoops! My first graders really enjoyed both of these books by Peter Brown. You Will Be My Friend led to some great discussions on how we make (and keep) friends. Many of us could understand how Lucy felt when she was trying SO hard to make a new friend, and everything just kept going wrong.

We loved the grand adventure and story of this one... but we also loved reading the pictures, which told a whole different story. It's also a great vocab builder in figuring out what "gumption" means!

Kate's beautiful book tells the story of what happens both over and under the snow. What a neat idea! I think this is something children probably wonder about, and I love the way Kate explains it. I didn't share this one with my students last year but am definitely going to this year!

I am so looking forward to reading everyone's posts! I hope I've given you a new book or two to consider.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Boy + Bot

Have you read Ame Dyckman's Boy + Bot yet? If not, you are missing out! I loved it when I first read it, but as I've reread it a few times, I have found more and more to love. Here's a glimpse into the story...

In the Classroom...
Ame's book touches on how friends can be completely different, and yet, they still enjoy each other's company. Discussions on how to be a good friend would come naturally when thinking together with this book. I think I'll use it as we are building our classroom community and as a way to review how friends treat each other (when needed!) I can imagine using it to work on changing our voice to match the text, especially when the robot speaks. We could also explore the organization of this story and how what happens to the robot mirrors what happens to the boy. I think this will also become a class favorite that will be revisited many times!

When I ran into Mr. Schu at Anderson's Bookshop the other day, we chatted about Ame's book. He pointed out the power of the illustrations, which made me go back and revisit the book yet again! Dan Yaccarino really helped the story come to life with his illustrations. I think my very favorites are the page where Boy and Bot are looking at each other when they first meet, and the last page where they walk off in the snow hand-in-hand. Dan's illustrations would be a great mentor to children who are learning to illustrate their own writing.

I cannot wait to share this picture book with my first graders! I have such fond memories of growing up and watching Will Robinson and Robot. The relationship between Boy and Bot reminded me of how Will and Robot spent time together, looking out for one another.

An added bonus to this fantastic picture book is being able to get to know Ame. I follow her on Twitter, and let me tell  you... she is hilarious!! Her tweets constantly make me laugh out loud. She is also super sweet! I was lucky enough to receive some Boy + Bot swag from her AND I won an autographed copy of the book on Jessica Spotswood's blog. You can read Jessica's interview with Amy by clicking here.

**Disclaimer... I am not being paid or bribed by Ame (or anyone else) to write this post! I simply loved the book and had to share it with others.

Should you go get your own copy of this book RIGHT NOW? Affirmative!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Opening Minds - Final Reflection

Today marks the final portion of this year's #CyberPD event. In case you've missed the previous weeks, the easiest way to get caught up is to read our Jog the Web on Opening Minds. In it, Cathy Mere linked all of the posts related to our blog book chat on Peter Johnston's book Opening Minds. We began on Cathy's blog, moved to Jill's blog, spent last week on my blog, and are finishing this week on Carol's blog. Be sure to head over to Carol's blog to follow the conversation and link up your post today!

My Final Thoughts, Reflections, and Actions
Over the course of the past week, my mind has been in constant motion. How can I incorporate what I've learned and realized through our book study? How will Johnston's latest studies and suggestions impact my teaching? What can I do right now?

Moving away from "I like the way..." will be a challenge! It is so imprinted on my brain that I'm sure it will slip out occasionally. But like Peter said during our chat, "No guilt. Just action." 

Right now, I don't have a classroom full of first graders. I tried practicing on my niece, but she is only 7 months old. So, I've turned to my classroom set-up as one immediate thing I can work on. While I've been working in my classroom, I am constantly asking myself how I can arrange things to be more conducive to big open spaces and room for children to collaborate. My goal in doing so is to create a more dialogic classroom.  I have completely changed the look (and feel) of my room in the process. I've taken down almost everything off the walls, except for the absolute "essentials" (like alphabet, numbers, word wall) and am going to leave it blank so that my new group and I can create it together. By doing so, I'm hoping it will remind me that our classroom is truly "our classroom." I hope children will see there is room for them to show their learning and thinking.    

As I was reading through my Twitter feed, a tweet about Matt Renwick's blog post caught my attention. In his post "Summarizing a Book Study with Prayer Cards," Matt talks about one of his ideas for what to do after a book study so that you can easily access (and remember) important parts of your learning. The idea is very similar to the "cheat sheets" we've all been talking about and planning. I'll be working on my "prayer cards" in the weeks to come, because as Matt says in his post, "Learning lost is nothing gained."

When my students arrive, we will spend time learning how to have discussions and how to be good listeners. We will think about the way we talk to each other. We'll wonder and play and collaborate. We'll be thinking together with books. Together, we'll create the kind of classroom where everyone has a voice and everyone matters.

In the next couple of weeks, I'll be rethinking, revisiting, and reflecting on my goals for the upcoming school year. My learning from this book study will definitely have a part in those goals. Thank you to everyone for pushing my thinking and stretching my mind in ways I hadn't considered! 

The power of #CyberPD...
In case you missed it, Cathy Mere wrote a guest post for IRA's Engage blog about the power of #CyberPD. She really captures the power of using this form of professional development to enhance our teaching skills. Be sure to check it out!