Saturday, August 31, 2013

Do You Know Library Mouse?

Today, I'm sharing a picture book that is probably better suited to the younger set, but was one I used with my summer school friends who did not see themselves as writers at all.  Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk is the story of a mouse, Sam, that lives in a library. Sam also loves books and loves writing books.  In fact, he finds some scrap paper and writes several books that he displays in the library.  They become a huge hit with children and adults.  Everyone wants to know, "Who is the author?"  Eventually, Sam makes a "Meet the Author" box.  He put it out one night, and the next morning everyone took a look in the box to meet the author.  Here's the catch. In the box is a mirror. You are an author! Next to the box, Sam leaves a bunch of mini booklets like the ones he writes in for the children to author their own books.  This is a great book for teaching children that they are indeed authors.

If you don't know the book and are interested in it, here is  a video of a librarian reading it aloud. They do a good job of letting you see the text and illustrations as she reads.  You should know she has an English accent which actually makes it sound maybe kind of cool.  You should also know she has a puppet that helps her introduce the book.  I found the puppet to be a bit creepy! Why is its mouth always open?! Once you get past her intro, the book reading goes well.

Library Mouse is just the first in a series.  Daniel Kirk has written several books staring Sam, our friendly mouse.

There's Library Mouse A Friend's Tale  in which Sam does some collaborative writing with a child.  Library Mouse A World to Explore  introduces us to Sam's friend Sarah who isn't much on writing but is in to research and exploring.  In Library Mouse A Museum Adventure,  Sam and Sarah go on an adventure that combines research and journaling.  Finally, there is Library Mouse Home Sweet Home which is due out in September 2013. Amazon has a release date of September 3rd. This book continues the adventures of Sam and Sarah when the library is under renovation and they must find a temporary home.  I haven't read it, but it sounds like this one could be good for a social studies/community tie in as they make an igloo, a castle, a modern house, and more.

As I wrote, I think these books are better suited for the younger set, but my 3rd going into 4th graders enjoyed Library Mouse very much.  And, the message that they are authors certainly hit home.  In fact, to really make an experience of the book you could easily make the "Meet the Author" box that Sam makes.  Just put a small mirror in a tissue box, wrap the box leaving the top hole open, and make a "Meet the Author" sign.  It would be a fun way to introduce writer's workshop at the start of the year.

You can also make some mini books for your kids to write their own story or a mini "About Me" book as a back-to-school activity.  Here's a quick video on how to make an 8 page mini book using one piece of paper and no staples.  It looks just like the mini book Sam makes!
I linked to Daniel Kirk's author page earlier in the post.  If you explore his web site, you will see that he also has an activities page where you can print out book marks, posters, and coloring pages.  There's a cute poster of Sam saying, "Be Kind."  There are also suggested academic activities for his books.

Library Mouse isn't a brand  new book, but it is a good one! Plus, Daniel Kirk is a New Jersey author. How could I not brag about a fellow New Jerseyan?  If you live in the area, Daniel Kirk does paid author visits. His web page also notes that he does FREE twenty-minute Skype visits for classes doing an author study, schools with limited funds, and those too far from New Jersey.  Did I mention FREE? :-)


One off topic question for you!  Does anyone out there use Remind 101?  I've downloaded the app, but I am hesitant to use it.  Just wondering if anyone else has used it and how it works.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Project and Some Bookmarks

So, I mentioned in my last post that I was going to tell you about a project I completed inspired by a picture I saw on Instagram.  It was actually a craft project done by Hope King over at Second Grade Shenanigans. I love her blog.  She makes so many great printables.  In fact, Hope made the Good Reader posters I used for decorating outside my door this year. It was the project picture I saw on her Instagram page that led me to her blog and the reading posters.  But, back to the project.  Here is what my final project looks like!

Totally inspired by Hope's masterpiece. . . 

A pretty good match I think! When I saw Hope's pictures, I knew I had to do it. The READ display fit right in with my literacy themed room.  I'm not going to give any directions here, because you really need to hop on over to Hope's blog and see how it's done!  After all, she did master mind this project!  I will give one thought.  This took me WAY longer to do than it did Hope.  I mean WAY, WAY longer!  Obviously my crafting skills are not on par with hers! So for me, it was time consuming but worth it.

One of the reasons I like it is because the vibrant colors. . . 

. . . fit right in with the colors of my class library baskets! 

But, you could pick any colors that match your room.
I put the display up high to leave room for anchor charts, posters, and student work.

I will say that one of the things you have to do for this project is cut 24 squares for each circle.  Well, that left me with a lot of scrap pieces.  It turns out that each scrap piece made two perfect bookmarks for my friends.  24 x 2 x 4 = 192.  That's 192 bookmarks!  I used card stock for the project so they are sturdy.
I went to the dollar store and grabbed a couple of packages of stickers to fancy them up a bit. I put them on while watching TV one night.  How much school work gets done that way?!   I was going to laminate them, but then I came to my senses rather quickly when I realized that would mean cutting out 192 individual bookmarks.  So. Not. Happening!

Thinking on it more, I realized these are perfect for my guided reading groups as they are and have a ton of uses. The backs and most of the front are blank. These are prefect to have on hand to do things like. . .

  • You can easily write the focus skill/strategy on the bookmark for your friend to have as a reminder when you send them off.  
  • The kids can use them to write interesting words as they are reading.
  • You can write a question for them to answer at the guided reading table after they read a section.
  • A reading goal can be written on the bookmark as a reminder for the student. 
I'm sure you can think of many other things to do with these.  Even if you don't make the project, it would be nice to cut up some colored card stock as blank bookmarks for use in your guided reading groups.  Actually, you could even use small, colored index cards if you don't want to do the cutting.
 So, that's the project and a sneak peak at one area of my room.  
I'm still working on the rest, but getting close to being done!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

READ in the Hall

On Monday, I finally started on my classroom.  It's been a project because 80% of everything I have was in a box.  This year, I am only going to be teaching literacy.  That means two things:

  1. You won't be seeing a lot of math posts this year! 
  2. My entire classroom from decoration, instruction, to function is focused on reading. 
 Every corner of my room relates to reading in some manner.  This includes the area outside my door.  Every year, I like to put something out there that can stay up all year.  I found these "Good Readers" posters and loved the content and color theme.  My room is all bright colors (a little too bright maybe, but I will explain that in a post to come) and these posters fit right in with what I'm teaching, my room colors, and have content all kids need to be reminded of.

 These reading strategies subway art posters are by Hope King.  They were exactly what I was looking for!  If you get them, I would suggest taking them to Staples or Office Max to print.  All that black ink would wreck havoc with your home printer.  I also find that anything I have printed at Staples is much more vibrant than anything my dinky little printer can produce.  After printing, I just laminated them.  Easy peasy!

Once I had the posters, I needed something to pull it together.  I made these READ letters to match the posters.  I think it goes together really well.  The lined letters match the "Good Readers" letters on the posters. I was going to put them up as a download for you, but I realized I used a font that was for personal use only.  If I get a chance, I will try to redo them with a font I can publish for you.

In the past, I have decorated the outside of my room several different ways.  I was able to find the past two years buried in my blog.  That's one of the things I like about blogging. It keeps a great record of things I've done in the past, for better or worse!

In 2011, I had a simple sign that actually fits in with this year's color scheme.

In 2012, I went with some motivational signs.

And for 2013, we READ!

If you look closely in the picture above, you can see just a couple of the many, many boxes I have been unpacking the past two days.  I don't dare show you the inside of my room just yet!  However, in my next post I am going to share a project I found via an Instagram picture that I knew I just had to do for my room.  
Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

School Prep? Nope!

Getting ready for the new school year?
Uh, nope.  Not yet.
This is how I spent my day!
And, I'm planning to do it all over again tomorrow!
Thursday it's into the city (NY) for a taping of
the new Bethenny Frankel show.
Squeezing all the juice I can out of this summer
because. . .
room prep begins on Monday.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Author's Chair ~ Share Chair

Many years ago, I spent a lot of time making an author's chair.  If you aren't sure what an author's chair is, it is "just" (Not really "just," but there's more on that at the end of the post) a fancy chair your author-students sit in when reading their work to the class.  Somehow, one year, my chair disappeared from my room.  I'm pretty sure it was probably broken misplaced one summer during the room cleanings.  Lately, I've been toying with the idea of creating a new author's chair.  While the summer has flown by, I've not abandoned the idea.
I have an old, wooden chair like the one above that would be perfect for the project.  In fact, I turned to Pinterest for some inspiration and was so amazed at how creative my fellow teachers are that I decided to share some of it here.  The pictures are from the teachers' blogs or their Pinterest boards, and I have tried to link directly to each.  However, some of the pictures had no blog or site linked to them. The just linked back to the image.  If you know who a chair belongs to, please leave a comment and I will happily add the link to the teacher's blog, Pinterest board, or web page.

Let's begin with some . . .

Author's Chairs!

Lauren is not a blogger, but a pinner!  She pinned her author's chair on her Pinterest board: My Creations. Instead of a standard chair, she used a director's chair.

Angie Austin is an artist that paints author's chairs for teachers.  Below is one featured on her blog.  If you visit her blog, you can see some others she has designed.

Stephanie Mellon painted this chair for her classroom.  She doesn't seem to have a blog, but posted her picture on her Pinterest board. Her chair is amazing!  Her picture collage below shows you the many steps involved in this project.

Here's  another great chair from Pinterest that only links back to the image.  I love the pencils painted across the back.

Here's another amazing chair that links back to an image.  This chair looks like it took a lot of time, effort, and love of teaching!

The chair below is painted by Priscilla Zachary for her school teacher daughter.  As far as I can tell, Priscilla also doesn't have a blog, but posted her picture on her Pinterest board that you can see here. Priscilla is very talented as evidenced by this amazing paint job!

This picture also links to the image on Pinterest, but I had to include it for its simplicity.  If you don't have time to paint a chair, simply grab some ribbons, a chair cushion, and some Sharpies.  No painting needed.  Also, this chair could fold up for easy storage when not in use.

Share Chairs!
Share chairs are nice because they aren't limited to author's use only.  
You can use a share chair for any kind of presentation.

Heather, from Fifth Grade Frenzy has created a super snazzy share chair. I like this chair because it fits in with my room's color theme this year.

Ms. K at Teacher Blog Spot shares a genius idea for a quick, cheap, and easy share chair a teacher in her building came up with.  All you need is a plastic lawn chair and some stickers.  Imagine how cute this would be with a lawn chair in a cute color and some themed stickers.

Who needs an actual chair? Stools takes up less space and need less paint!

Amanda at First Time for Everything has added some fun pom-pom trim to her stool.

Beth, the Inspired Writing Teacher, has this very colorful stool as an author's chair. If you follow the link to her blog, you will see that she also has an actual author's chair, too.

Here's another colorful stool posted by Kelly on her Pinterest board that is used as an author's chair.

All Purpose Celebration Chairs!
An all purpose celebration chair is more of what I had in mind for my classroom.  I like a chair that you can do an author's celebration in as well as be a reward chair to sit in for good behavior or birthdays.  

Hope at 2nd Grade Shenanigans made a most amazing chair.  Love the feathers!  You can hardly tell, but the chair is a basic wooden school chair.  Hope shows you the before and after in her blog post. I love her blog! 

Debbie Clement is an author/illustrator who visits schools.  She took the picture of the chair below on one of her visits and posted it on her blog, Rainbows Within Reach. Imagine the possibilities with a chair labeled Imagine!

Here's a really fun chair for those not into painting. Mel D. at Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations made this awesome celebration chair using tissue paper, old Dr. Seuss books, and Mod Podge. Love it!

And, Finally. . . 
How about a reading BENCH?
I love how so many favorite books have been incorporated in the paining.  I also love all the books laying on the seat.  I'm not sure I'm talented enough to pull off something like this!  Again, this is a picture that only links back to an image, but I would love to know who created this gem.

Here's an amazing idea!  The Ethelbert B. Crawford Library in Monticello, New York had children paint reading chairs and auctioned them off.  If you follow THIS LINK, you can see several of the chairs the kids created.  The library was able to raise $1300!  If your school has some older chairs, wouldn't that be a great art/literacy project?  Instead of auctioning them off, they could be great additions to the school's media center or front office.

There's more to the author's chair than "just" a presentation seat.  When an author is in the chair, it is a time for the reader author to practice public speaking, fluency, and prosody. There is also the joy they get from seeing the power of their words.  I will always remember a time a friend was reading a story to the rest of our class that had a very funny moment in it.  When he read that part, the entire class laughed so much that he had to pause in his reading.  When he was done, I pointed out to him (and the class) that his written words had the power to make an entire group of children laugh for quite a while.  His words made people experience joy.  I told him, and the class, that THAT IS THE POWER OF AN AUTHOR!  The look on his face was priceless.  He really hadn't understood until that moment that words have power and as the author, he wields that power.

For listeners, it is a time to practice active listening skills and social skills for audience behavior.  Often, during author's celebrations, the class is asked to respond to the author with one specific compliment and a question.  You can't do that if you aren't actively listening!

If you are new to using an author's chair or just want some ideas on how to make it more meaningful,
here are a couple of resources that might help:

  • Click here to see how Teacher Vision has outlined exactly what an author's chair is and how to use one.
  • The Oakland Unified School District,  via their Writing Proficiency Project, has a nice printable of tips for making your authors' chair a successful experience for all.  Click here for the pdf.
   In addition to showing some great chairs, the links will take you to some great blogs to explore.
Hopefully, you have found some chair inspiration! 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Name It! A Game FREEBIE

Many years ago when getting my master's degree, I had to take a theater course.  Don't ask me why!  To this day I still don't get it.  It was a theater class focused on using theater and games in the classroom.  One of the games the professor showed us was Name It!  I have actually played this game for many years with my friends.  It is a fun favorite.

Let me tell you how it is played.  It begins with a set of cards that have various topics written on them.  Have all your friends stand in a circle.  Place one friend and the stack of cards face down (the cards, not your friend!) in the circle.  The friend in the middle picks one card and must name a certain number of whatever the topic is.  For example, they would read aloud, "Name four. . . colors of the rainbow."  Then, the class will pass around a ball.  The friend in the middle has to name the correct amount by the time the ball makes it completely around the circle.  Once the ball gets back to the person who started it, your friend is out of time.  At that point, allow the class to share answers they thought of.  And, that's part of the fun.  Everyone is thinking of possible answers whether they are in the middle or not.  To justify the game, you could always explain that you are busy building schema!

The number of items you want your friends to name can vary.  If you have younger kids or a smaller group of children, you would want to keep the number small.  Larger class and older children can usually name more.  I would keep it between 3 and 5, but try it out and see what works for you.

I rarely play the game for points or winners.  Usually, I just try to get everyone a turn in the middle. You can play for points by breaking the class up into two teams (boys vs. girls, right side of circle vs. left side of circle, etc.) and if they are able to name it all, that person gets a point for their team.

As I mentioned, I've been playing this game for years.  It was hard to come up with categories, so over the years I've allowed my friends to write some they thought of on index cards.  I ended up with a pile of messy index cards that looked like this.

The cards were getting bent and wrinkled, so I thought it was time to clean this up and create a more aesthetically pleasing and durable version.  I took most of the topics my friends thought of and typed them up in a name tag template with a fancy border.  Now, I have this!

I printed the cards on card stock and laminated the pages.  Then, I cut them out and put them all in a file card holder I got at the dollar store.  Below, you can see how it stores nicely and the mini-basketball we use in my class for passing around the circle.

Since I have it all saved, I decided to share it with you.  If you CLICK HERE! you can download the game for yourself.  All together, there are 80 different cards with some blanks for categories you might want to add.  With 80 cards, you can pick and choose the ones you would want to use with your friends depending on age level and number of children playing. I also included a direction sheet with the printable, and I just hope it makes sense when you read it! :-)

One thing you should know.  The cards aren't exactly the same size.  Two of the cards on each page are a little bit bigger than others.  I'm not sure why that is because I used a standard label template, so they should have all been the same size.   It looks huge in the picture at right because it's an extreme close-up, but it's really just a smidgen bigger than the others. The good news is that it is really just aesthetic annoyance and doesn't effect the game.  And, hey! It's FREE!

If you are looking for a more academic related game, I posted another one a while ago called Heart Breakers.  It is a fun review game for any academic subject.  I don't have a printable available for it, but if you read the post you will see it takes minimal time and effort to make the cards you would need.  Heart Breakers is always a popular way to review before a test.    If you decide to play Name It! or Heart Breakers with you friends, stop back and let me know how it goes!

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~: ~ : ~
Well, school starts in September for my friends and yesterday I finally found out what I will be doing next year.  It is going to be challenging and I anticipate a busy year. I'm not allowed to talk about it yet, but I will soon!  The best news I received was that I don't have to share my classroom with anyone this year.  This allows me to set it up exactly how I want.  Last year, I had to take into account the three other teachers I shared the room with, so it was never really what I wanted it to be.  This year, I have free reign once again! I took some before pictures yesterday so that I can share a before and after of my room with you once I finish. Excited to know my room is going to really be "my" room this year.  Not so excited to have to do all the work involved in making that happen!  I know many of you have started back to school, but I'm still in summer mode!  And on that note, I'm off to go play outside! Have a good day! 

And, yes!  I did notice the excessive use of the exclamation point!  What can I say?  It's my favorite punctuation mark!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Bookmark Freebie and Picture Books

Yesterday was the last day of summer school, and I could not be happier!  I love teaching, but I am ready for some time off!  Today, I have a bookmark to share with you. It was one of the projects my summer school friends completed.

Let me explain two things that prompted me to create the bookmark.

  1. I may have mentioned that the summer school program in my district is focused on literacy.  Students who would benefit from extra literacy instruction over the summer are invited to attend.  This year, I had friends who are entering fourth grade but reading anywhere from 1.5-2.5 years below grade level.  
  2. One of the things all students in our district are required to do is keep a reading log over the summer and turn in the log and a reading project to their new teacher in September.  The projects are quite varied in both type and level, so there is something on that list that every child would be able to complete.  
Now, here's how they come together.  My summer school friends, for the most part, are not independent readers.  They are not picking up a lot of books over the summer.  Many are struggling writers, as well.  So, the tasks of keeping a reading log and completing a reading project without any teacher guidance is a daunting one.

To ease the pain, we read A LOT of fun picture books this summer, both together and independently.  We even did a mini author study of Margie Palatini's books.  Three favorites were Lousy Rotten Stinkin' GrapesBedhead, and Piggie Pie!  All were major crowd pleasers!  

Lousy Rotten Stinkin' Grapes is a fun twist on the Aesop fable The Fox and the Grapes.  Great problem/solution story.  Reading all these picture books gave my friends a nice start on their summer reading logs. I know they now have something to turn in when they go back in September even if they don't read another book all August.   Fingers crossed they will!

Then, there was the issue of the required project.   I wanted them to independently reflect on a book of their choosing and have a simple, completed project to take home and turn in with their reading log.  My goal was to keep it simple considering the range of reading and writing abilities.  To accommodate all, I created a very basic bookmark.  The front has room for title, author, and an original illustration.  On the back, there was space to tell their favorite part (and why!) as well as their favorite character and why.  Finally, at the bottom is a little space to tell what their illustration on front shows. I made a model bookmark using the book A Bad Case of Stripes so they could see just what to do.  Here's some of what my friends came up with:

They aren't perfect, but I can tell you a lot of little kid heart and soul went in to getting them done. Below is a picture of the form I made. Remember, I wanted to keep this simple and easy.  The picture is crooked, but I promise the printable is not. 

Each friend was given a copy of the form to draft.  After revisions, mostly trying to get them to add more information and proofreading, they were given a copy I had printed on card stock to do a final copy. When they finished, we folded the paper in half and glued it together.  To finish it all, we hole-punched the top and added some ribbons.

You can print out your own copy of this bookmark by clicking HEREI have added this bookmark as my first item on Teachers Pay Teachers.  You can still download it for free by clicking HERE! I think this would also make a great center activity.  Just print it out on plain paper and once your friends finish it, they can just fold and glue. You don't have to put the ribbons on top. It would also be a good back-to-school activity where they could create a bookmark to share with the class telling about their all-time favorite book.

That is all! :-)