Monday, April 30, 2012

Story Elements!!!

I had a great week of reading last week! We are really diving into story elements and defining them at this point in the year; I love this! I reveal a new element each Friday, there is all kinds of buildup the kids begin to wonder, it is exciting! Have I put enough exclamation marks in this post yet?

Last week I read and blogged about More and The Cloud Spinner. Here is the chart my students and I made together, a little shared writing. We were really figuring out characters.
On Friday I revealed setting, and students began trying to identify the setting of books in their book boxes following our Read to Self time. All this week setting will be our focus. 

The book that will tie all the story elements together is the book that I will revisit each week while we work through these elements, Rosie's Walk, the best book in my estimation for this task! It just has it all, great characters, one setting, a clear problem and a resolution all easily contained within simple text!

 Another book that I plan on using this week to help us identify setting is Stella, Star of the Sea. It is perhaps one of the sweetest stories I have been introduced to recently.

I also discovered this book over the weekend, Sweet Dreams by Rose A. Lewis. It is a poetic bedtime story. It is loveliness ten times over and I am particularly partial to a story that includes moon flowers. We have/had moon flowers that come up each year and they are a sweet sight each evening in the summer. I plan on sharing this with my class as well.


 And, lastly, a great book for setting, a great book for me this week! Chalk, by Bill Thomson. I have had this book recommended by a few bloggers over the past few weeks because today I am hosting a Chalk-A-Bration for poetry month.  I have been so excited for this day, my class and I have been preparing, I have been preparing, and finally I will read this book to my class today.
 It will be a great start to a great week!


I Chalk
Today is the day
I hope you got
dusty eyebrows
scraped knuckles
sore palms
dirty kneecaps  
and truly


I hope you all had/have a good chalking experience. Mine was especially dusty, fun and admittedly a bit nerve racking! How silly, right? It's chalk! So, go chalk to your heart's delight and share with all of us fellow chalkers to celebrate one wonderful month of April. I know I have learned a whole lot!

Early entries and anyone else who posts to my previous chalky-goodness will get updated in this post. All others can check out, comment, and link your own chalk poetry or illustrations in the comments below! For the back story on this idea and more specific instructions visit here.

Mary Lee gets us started from A Year of Reading saying goodby to Sunday with her Chalk-ku.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Wavy Week

This week's Poetry Friday round-up is hosted by Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference.

Lately I feel like I am seeking more and sorting everything. I am using a writer's notebook over the past few weeks more thoughtfully, intentionally. I am reading with clearer vision and seeking interpretation. I am processing, reflecting, trying to look into my future, seeking...something. I don't know what but I feel the impending impatience. The act of composing, scratching out and rewriting seems to be biding me time as I wander through all these words in my head. The following poems are combinations of my discontent and content within my world these days.


Waves of words
wash over me.
Do you know of this
sea I speak of?
The waves bring treasure.
Sometimes jumbles
of disorganized chaos.
Each wave brings


A speck
Becomes a mass
Without consideration
A rapid


Kneading and slicing the wind.
Intersecting each burst.
Tilting past each pause.
Easy landing.

Chalking on pavement
Eraseable graffiti
Creates playful words

I hope you will chalk some poetry and share with me on April 30th! If you are curious enough to read more, check out the full description of our chalking celebration here! I just bought a whole lot of chalk, go get yours!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Connections and Characters and Chalk...

    OH MY!!!

Share your slice of life story at Two Writing Teachers 
hosted by Stacey and Ruth!

Today I read two stories to my class, The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool and More by I.C. Springman. I told my students that I was going to read both stories and that they were very different. However, I wanted them to link the books in some way. I was hoping they would see the connection between the characters' experiences. My plan worked and we had a good discussion that lead to us talking about characters and their importance in a story.
Tonight I read, Otto The Book Bear by Katie Cleminson. It has been in a stack next to my couch for a few days now, begging to be read, but I hadn't looked at it yet. It is a very sweet story of a bear who is the character in his own book and when left on his own comes alive to wander. He writes, he reads, explores and gets left behind! In the happy ending, Otto stumbles into a library and meets all kinds of other characters from different stories. It got me thinking about characters again and how I want to write a shared story with my kindergarteners, a character story. What adventures could the character(s) have? I know they would come up with great ideas.
We shall see!
I am up to my elbows in poetry right now and May is around the corner. Later this week we are going to be chalking up the sidewalk in front of my school for more poetry creations! I hope you will chalk some poetry and share with me on April 30th! If you are curious enough to read more, check out the full description of our chalking celebration here!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Have You Heard...


As I read this weekend, that is what I kept hearing myself say. The connections that I can hardly wait to make with my students await me and I have books to thank.

First up, The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool

A book that repeats "enough is enough and not one stitch more," is a touching story of a child who spins the clouds into fine thread and fabric. I am teaching a unit on Earth materials in science, and although I know clouds cannot be spun into happy frugal garments, it is a sweet thought.

I hope to connect this story to another wonderful find this week called, More, by I. C. Springman. It shows what happens when a bird collects too many things for the nest. It has great vocabulary and I think my students will be able to see the comparison between the two stories.

In celebration of all things Earth and curiosity comes The Curious Garden, by Peter Brown. This is a lovely story of a boy who stumbles upon a small patch of an abandoned garden in his urban town. This story's message spreads the idea of community and something as simple and special as a garden which is personified as spreading curiously through the city!

Then a touch of humor for my students, this book is sure to please them because when I read it, they are who I immediately thought of. They often have a story in their mind and when they go to write it, something else comes out! This book, The Obstinate Pen by Frank W. Dormer, spins a hilarious tale of silliness and innocence. It reminded me that all stories are inside of us and come out when ready and given the opportunity. My own little interpretation of the text, but meaningful to me all the same!

A happy week of reading is ahead!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Littlest of Poets Revealed!

Isn't it funny how some things, so small, can be so intimidating at times? I am speaking of beautiful little stanzas of poetry. However, if you thought I was talking about kindergarten students, they definitely have their moments.
I have always loved reading aloud poetry to my students, making song/poetry books for them to read, letting them illustrate poems, lots of fun right!? But rarely did I think about "teaching" my little writers to compose their own poetry. I think that was my problem; they don't really need to be taught. I'll explain in a moment, but I was letting myself think that poetry was only something certain kids could do, only the really "special" ones. Yes, I know. You might be thinking,"what...who is she to could you not encourage everyone...what is wrong with her?" Once again, in my life as a teacher, I WAS WRONG! Totally, by the way, and I can't go back to fix it. But, I can make sure that this year, these kids get the poetry experience they deserve. (Yes, I realize the obnoxiously giddy side of myself is taking over a bit, but like I said, it will all be a little more clear soon)!

It began with me reading poems all week and then the epiphany occurred.
About two weeks ago on a Friday morning, I began thinking...

Okay, they need inspiration, what can I offer? It was a beautiful day, maybe we could go outside? What would they need, maybe nothing, maybe I just convince them they can do this and see what happens?? Wait, their old draft book, take notes, explain later. Okay, sounds good, let's do this!

And, that's what I did. On a whim I quickly set up watercolor paint materials on the tables since that also seemed inspirational. When they walked in the door I told them to get their coat, a skinny marker and their draft book! When they asked, "why are we doing this?" I said, "because we are writing poetry today!" And, yes, I got looks of confusion, but they played along. We went outside to a small, very overgrown floral garden in the backyard. I told the kids to write down or draw anything they saw that interested them. What did they hear, touch, smell? Anything at all was a possible topic. Again, confused looks, but cooperation. The one snag for me was my camera had no battery while we were outside, but my phone worked when we came back in! While were outside I took notes too, wrote a poem of my own and shared it when we went back inside. I told the class to try and capture their little trip outside in a painting. "Paint one thing you loved or everything, whatever feels right." Here they are:

Then I told them:
"Inside of you, right now, is a poem. It is waiting to come out and when you begin writing, it will happen. Poems are stories too, just a little different. Think a little about poems we have read and write your poem. Anything you do will be right."

I gave them a slightly skinny piece of paper to draft their poems.

And, to my amazement, they wrote poems. Real, beautiful kindergarten poems. I was overwhelmed, teary, ecstatic and thinking, "if this is what they do now, then this is going to be more fun than I thought!"
Here is a taste of a few poetic words:

The Flowers
by B
The sun
on the flowers
and the

Flag Flowers
by C
Rain on
And day.

The War
By J
The war between the
Tree and the daffodil.
I don't know who will be in charge.

By P
I like the sun.
I like the squirrel.
I like the butterflies.
I like the playground.
I like the clouds.

Half Sunny and Half Cloudy
By K

By D
The sun is
going in my eyes.
The trees are
The rocks are in the ground.

Outside and My Family
by Z
I see you
And I see flowers
And more and more
And more and more
And look a bush
And a hill
I love poems.
And more
And I love my mom
And dad
And my sister
And my brother.

Outdoors Stuff That Levi Saw
by L
The outdoor
Stuff I just love.
To the trees standing tall.
To the grass below the trees.
I just love the world.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Celebrating Non-fiction...The Finale!

If you missed the first two installments of non-fiction research writing in kindergarten, check them out here and here!
I left off just in time for spring break and the kids had a week off from their projects.
When we returned it was great to have something already in process that we could finish! We reaped the rewards of hard work as the week came to an end.
Here is how it went down:
Monday: Check in on your project, re-read, check your title and start thinking like an illustrator! We talked, talked and talked about what we needed to include in our pictures.
Tuesday-Thursday: Who will your audience be? Decide who you think would enjoy your work. Begin illustrating your text.
Friday: Celebration time! Read, read, read your book to the class, your friends, your third grade buddy and the person/people you chose in the building. Several students chose to read to other teachers in the building, the preschoolers down the hall, a cousin, a neighbor, principal, "the office girls," we had quite a selection of audience members.

Here are some snapshots of illustrating and celebrating. It was a great time and a great process to watch!

 E is busy illustrating "A wolf can walk in the forest."  She was getting a little carried away with the color, but hey, it's her wolf, her project, and she was proud!
 "Dogs stick their tongues out to cool down." (He dedicated his book to "all the dogs of the world," how cute is that?)!
 Here is a small group practicing before they go read to some preschoolers! I love how they are all leaning in; it was great to catch this moment.
 C's dedication page, "To my mom."
 I know that seals eat fish and play in the water.

 I learned that baby seals cannot swim.

Onto new adventures as we continue to build a love of writing in kindergarten. Stop back again soon!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


 Still slicing!
The other night after I published my 100th post I went back and re-read almost all of my previous 99 posts. It was very neat to read through the journey I have begun and to see myself growing, struggling and learning. This blog has been such a great experience for me, so positive! It has pushed me to read, learn, write and reflect not just as a teacher but as a person too! I have met so many people who are amazing and it has renewed my confidence. So, I guess this little slice is a slice of gratitude and appreciation for all of those people out there who inspire me to be better! Thank you!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Books That Are Speaking To Me!

I am sure I won't be the only one featuring these books on a blog this week, but I couldn't help myself. They are so beautiful and meant to be shared!

Last week several people were buzzing about Laura Purdie Salas and I have a better understanding why after getting two of her books in my hands!
Take a journey on a leaf and all it can be. Wow, this book is so beautiful it hurts a little; the good kind of course. The vocabulary and information that comes out of this brilliantly simple text will definitely get you ooing and aahing out loud! I can't wait to read it to my class this week. I made my husband and children listen to me read it before we could get out of the car at the grocery store Saturday. Yeah, it's that "feel good!"

Last week Book Speak was a featured book on Robyn Hood Black's blog along with a great interview. Laura can also be seen reading a poem from Book Speak at Katie Davis' blog or of course just check her out on her own blog here! One of my favorites from the book, (I had to read this one out loud in the car too after I said, "oooh" and my family was intrigued):

If a Tree Falls
Laura Purdie Salas

If a tree falls in the forest
with no ear to hear its fall, 
does it make a crackling thunder 
or descend in silent sprawl?

If a book remains unopened
and no reader turns its page,
does it still embrace a story 
or trap words inside a cage?

And finally, a bit of humor to add to my pile of books to share with students this week.
C.R. Mudgeon by Leslie Muir
A heartwarming story of a persnickety hedgehog who learns to be a little more tolerant of others and whose kindness shines through by the end of the story.
In my kindergarten world we are at that point in the year where students begin to get a little tired of each other. Less tolerant. Less kind. I think this book will be a nice reminder that we do truly care for each other and how much we all appreciate acts of kindness.

Before I go, I am celebrating many things this month! Student writing later this week, this post is my 100th post on my blog (Yahoo!!) and I am celebrating poetry with chalk on April 30th. Join in the fun and learn more here! Happy April!

Non-Fiction in Kindergarten Day Three, Four and Five

If you missed day one and two, click here!

Otherwise, here they both are simply stated.
Day one: Choose your animal absent from any suggestion.
Day two: Research your animal.

Then we moved on to day three. After we had done our research, students needed to do something with this new information. It would be hard for some of them to choose just one or two bits to share in their book. We talked, a lot, shared with peers and narrowed down what we thought readers would appreciate knowing the most. What that really means is, what each of them liked best! Who knows better than a kindergartener what a kindergartener wants to read?
Then they got busy drawing and writing this new information. Again, it was a pin drop kind of moment. I know all you teachers out there know what this feels like, when it is all going like a freshly oiled engine. The sound of work and concentration always amazes me. I try to remember to relish in these moments because not every day is like this!

Then it was time to share all the work! This could have been a long process because by now several students had multiple pages (3-4) and EVERYONE NEEDED to share. It was just too important to each of them. Some days are like this, so I got my computer and they read to me while I typed. Then I projected the stories and read them to everyone. It proved to be a little more efficient and now I had their stories typed up too! From here I hit print and day four was approaching!

I have to admit, when day four arrived I was a bit overwhelmed. Spring break was literally around the corner, what was I going to do, finish, not finish? How was I going to handle all this work? I took a breath and we marched on.
We got to work with some mentor texts. We looked at non-fiction book titles. What was interesting about them; were they to the point or exciting? Did non-fiction books have dedication pages? Did we need them too? It looked like this was optional. However, a title page and title, well that was in every non-fiction book we looked through. Kids got busy creating titles, covers, and title pages.
We had made it all the way to Friday. Our third grade buddies came for a visit to check in on our project and students practiced reading their stories. We hadn't begun illustrating the actual pages but I thought that might be just what we'd need when we got back from our week off, so we breaked!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Non-Fiction in Kindergarten Day One and Two!

Every year I have dabbled in non-fiction writing, but this year, I did more than dabble and the results have been thrilling!

It all started the week before spring break. It was a great week to do something different and out of the ordinary; spice up our writer's workshop time! We already had a lot of experience listening to non-fiction read a-loud, but I needed something quick to bring all their understanding together. I showed the class a clip about non-fiction writing from Discovery Channel's streaming videos online. It used penguins as the focus of the clip and the students connected the idea that non-fiction is real life and informative.
Then each student took a clip board, paper and found a spot to "hide" in the classroom as they thought about an animal. You could practically hear the concentration. I asked them to draw the animal and write down one or two things they already knew. I really wanted students to avoid talking, which kind of goes against every grain of my writing process these days, but I felt it was necessary for these impressionable little ones. I wasn't too surprised when four of them picked penguin, I was prepared for that, but just about every other student picked a unique animal. We had two dogs, two cats, but then lizard, snake, elephant, flamingo, cheetah, it was exciting to hear all about these animals and what students knew!
We shared and the class got very excited about this project.
That evening I ventured to the library and checked out a book for each student about their animal. We would be doing some research on day two and I wanted everyone to have their own resource at hand.
Now, obviously these books I chose did not match their reading level, but I didn't let that stop me and neither did my students. They all poured over their books the next day, checking out the pictures that were very informative and I bopped around reading a paragraph here and there to help clarify their understanding. That was a very fun 40 minute writer's workshop. I loved telling them they were researchers, it sounded so important, because it was! There was lots of discussion and excitement over learning new information about their animal and day three would bring me even more surprises!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I Chalk!


If you had the chance to share poetry and chalk illustrations to celebrate poetry, would you?

Back in March my husband was outside with our children doing chalk on the driveway. He got the idea to write some song lyrics. This idea of writing words on our driveway spread. I started writing poems, then my husband started writing poems and song lyrics of his favorite singers. It has been fun. 
Then, I began thinking, what if  others shared writing underfoot? What if someone, somewhere wrote their favorite poem or an original poem and someone else stumbled upon it? Instant smiles is what I thought. 

Soooo...I would love it if you would join me at the end of the month and share some chalk here at Teaching Young Writers. From your favorite poet or from your own notebook, put a poem on a piece of ground somewhere (asphalt, sidewalk, maybe even a fence--just make sure it is appropriate and legal). Illustrate it if you want with chalk too and take a photo! Post it to your blog and link here on Chalk-A-Bration day. 

****Chalk-A-Bration is always the last day of each month!****

Should be fun, tell your friends, tell your students and get chalking!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Books Sure to Inspire

I have found myself reading inspirational text lately (Beautiful Child, Torey Hayden, The Book of Awesome,  by Neil Pasricha). Apparently it is seeping into my picture books as well because this week I picked up these quite accidentally from my book shelf. 
You too will be inspired by these stories.

 (This book was re-published under the title, Reach for the Moon).

Samantha Abeel, a simultaneously gifted young girl, author and learning disabled student, shows her brilliant capabilities as a writer at a very young age in her first book, What Once Was White. I couldn't help but put one of the poems from this book below. If I could, I would put into words all the inspiration that is told by her parents, her teachers and her own poetic self portrait that you will find within the pages. This book was published in 1993, but if you are like me, you may have forgotten that this is a must have for your bookshelf.

What Once Was White
by Samantha Abeel
Emptiness no longer prevails, her song has now begun
The harmony calls forth images
and as she weaves her melodic tune,
his brush keeps frantic time
Sweeping the canvas, each note becomes a swirling color
What once was white is transformed
and a new world flows forth
Silver notes become strands of her hair,
entwining fish which wave and weave among the brush strokes
Butterfly wings emerge from the treble clef
painting jewels upon her robe which shimmer like wet paint
A noble oak springs from the bass clef
reaching in supplication for the tip of the brush
The canvas becomes a place where songs are pictures
and pictures are symphonies
Harmony and color combine,
creating windows to a life within a life
Immortality swells with each note

A Big Mistake takes readers on a journey through a child's perception of mistakes and how so much can come from making a few! 

Willaby makes her own mistakes in this book. She is a character who loves to draw.She gets distractingly trapped inside her creativity. I have a couple Willaby's this year, I will be sharing her story with them. 

Just the other night, I pulled this book off the shelf for a book spine poem and read it to my own children. Though I recently read that Greg Mortinson, the co-author of this children's book, has come under scrutiny I was still inspired by the story. 

I hope that more good, rather than greed came from all his work.


And Finally...
 To round out my week of inspiration, I will be seeking out A Rainbow of Animals by Melissa Stewart. This book is a bound version of a series of books that answer the question, why is an animal green, or red, etc. I can't wait to get my hands on it and share it with my students. We were just finishing up some non-fiction writing about animals before our spring break began and I think this book will provide my students with the inspiration to push through and finish this week! I hope to share the non-fiction journey when this project is complete in some upcoming posts!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

In a World of Silence

My mom was telling me about a book titled, Beautiful Child by Torey Hayden. If you have ever read any of Hayden's books, One Child, Somebody Else's Kids you know that they can be quite powerful. It has been years since I picked up a book by Hayden and I am feeling the urge recently.

You know when you find out you are getting a new student in the middle of the year, you know that feeling...?
where are they coming from? why are they transferring? will they adjust? will i be ready?
In February I got a new student. She carries with her a protective shell that she willingly places over herself. The shell is in-penetrable...I lay a crayon and paper nearby.
When she is peering from under that shell, I see the glimmer, the shimmer in her eyes. She is powerless against the possibility of creating. I feel like a child holding out bird seed to an unsuspecting chick-a-dee. Crouched down, moving in slowly, gently setting down the bait...waiting...watching. Will she take it? Will she come out and play with us?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

On the Docket!

I have big plans today...
Don't you love it when you start the day and you have a lot planned but you actually feel motivated and like it all is going to come together?!
That's how I feel today.

  • I have my round two freezer meal recipes printed and my grocery list is prepped. It is going to be one of those cooking days! (It's rainy and cold; a perfect day to get going in the kitchen)!
  • I had lunch with my sister yesterday, (she is a blogger and always an inspiration)! We talked about blogging, teaching...I always get pumped up after a lunch with her. We were both sharing with each other things we have been up to in the classroom. I realized after talking to her that I need to share my non-fiction writing/research process that I started a little over a week ago with my K's! I think it could be a series coming soon. (We are on spring break this week, so again, the rainy dreary day is perfect for beginning these posts that are percolating in my brain)!
  • My kids have been begging me for days to make these fun crafts out of egg shells. I think while mommy is cooking, egg shells will be cracking into sail boats, baby chicks, and whatever else they can think of to make with an egg shell. The tub of crafty materials is primed and ready in the kitchen. Oh yeah, messiness will abound; might as well on a rainy gloomy day.
  • I have a few stacks of books on my basement floor ready for revision, review and their photo shoot; book spine poems I have been working on. I am thinking I might try and grab some old newspaper from one of my grandma's tea cup boxes and see if I can "find" a poem there. My sister schooled me a bit on other types of found poems, so now I want to find even more!
  • I was introduced to a new author yesterday (my sister's doing again, I know...she is amazing)! She told me about Emily Jenkins, who I am now on a quest to find, buy all of her books, and read until my eyes blur! I am hoping today I can at least locate her books, so far my book store has disappointed.
  • And, finally...I really need to crack down and finish reading Mockingjay (half way through) as well as make a bigger dent in The Book of Awesome, which by the way is completely awesome if there was any doubt. Perfect reading for those little bits of sitting that I will be doing in between all of the above! 
It will be one of those days when I collapse a bit at the end but feel all kinds of good inside and probably eat a muffin. A well deserved muffin, maybe two! ;) Happy Tuesday