Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New Teacher + New Classroom = Excitement!

As many of us are returning to our classrooms, pulling things together, trying to come up with new ways of arranging our room to inspire our students, I had the unique opportunity to observe (and help when asked!) my son pull together his very first classroom.  Just the idea of a new job and first classroom is exciting enough, but then throw into the mix that he is going to be teaching in the elementary school he graduated from, in a classroom that he actually learned in….  Well to me, as his mom and a teacher myself, I am just so proud!  I am also amazed.  His classroom would easily have qualified for my “dream” classroom when I started teaching.  I know parents are going to walk into his room and immediately be put at ease, this is definitely a classroom where students will be engaged and motivated to learn.  You can feel the energy as you enter room. 

Students sit at tables so all class supplies are organized on the middle shelving unit.

Even though he'll be teaching math, science and social studies, he still has a great classroom library!

Garrett found the great metal racks under his chalkboard and Smart Board at Ikea.
I just love all the color in this room!

This is the back of a portable shelving unit that stores all his math manipulatives.  He decided to pull it away from the wall, extend the top, add a groove in the wood to support iPads - instant work station for students!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Picture Books - Mentor Texts Part 2

One aspect of summer that I just truly love is having the time to sit and enjoy picture books.  Notice I didn’t write “read” picture books.  I am not simply reading the books.  It’s so much more than that.  This summer I have happily checked out dozens of picture books from the library at a time and then reveled in being able to just sit and page through the books as I read them, marveling over their illustrations, frequently get a good chuckle, and then reflecting on how I can share them with my students.  As mentioned in an earlier post, I like to use picture books to not only share my love of reading but also as springboards into mini lessons for both reader’s and writer’s workshop.  Here are few of my recent finds:

It’s a Book by Lane Smith

     This book is about the exasperation one friend feels as he tries to describe what a book is to his friend, a donkey.  Donkey is all about high tech so he has some trouble understanding the concept of reading a book, something with no bells, whistles, cords, passwords, etc, for the shear pleasure of falling into the book.
     After reading this book (and I LOVED it) I read about the controversy over the use of a certain word in the story.  Sorry, but this book made me laugh out loud and we all need that.  If anyone finds the word offensive or questionable just say “bleep” when you come to it and let the kids use their imagination.

Mentor text:  I will be using this book at the beginning of the year to help explain/demonstrate to my students how I feel about books and reading.

Bluffton by Matt Phelan

     This is a historical fiction graphic novel of one boy’s experience when vaudeville performers came to spend summers in his town on the shore of Lake Michigan in the early 1900’s.  Henry gets to know the fun loving actors and finds a summer best friend in a young vaudevillian his own age, Buster Keaton.  The boys enjoy their summer days to the fullest, each finding aspects of the other’s life more interesting/exciting than their own.
     Historical fiction fascinates me and this book did not disappoint.  Living so close to Michigan (actually grew up on the Wisconsin of the Lake) I had never heard of Bluffton or the vaudeville summer retreat so I immediately took to Google to find out more.  Isn’t this what we hope our students will do?  I was excited to find that the author actually includes some factual historical information about the real Actors’ Colony in Bluffton and the famous people that summered there.

Mentor text:  There are so many possibilities for this book!  It would be great as a mentor text for a unit on inquiry.  Besides the historical aspect, the book brings up the issue of the problem of child labor in the 1900’s. (Is there really a Gerry Society?)  How about the contraptions that Buster designs?  Possibly a springboard into a science unit?  Finally, this book will be a wonderful mentor text for teaching inference.  As with many graphic novels, much of the story is told through the illustrations rather than the text.  Through careful examination of the pictures students will learn much more of the story and gain valuable insights to the characters.

14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy

     I first learned about this book last week when attending a Donalyn Miller seminar.  My first thought after her book talk?  Why hadn’t I ever heard of this book before?  Immediately after the seminar I went to the library and checked the book out. It left me speechless.  The story is about a remote village in Kenya and a Maasai tribe.  They learn of the 9/11 tragedy in America and they are so moved they want to do something to help.  This book touched my heart. 

Mentor text:  I will be using this book to promote discussion on 9/11 this year.  As sixth graders the majority of my students were not even alive when the attacks occurred, yet I know they will be curious and have many questions.  This book gives a new and touching perspective of how a different culture thousands of miles away reacted to the tragedy.