Monthly Archives: May 2013

Another Great Book for Father’s Day

Darth Vader and Son by Jeffery Brown

Darth Vader and Son by Jeffery Brown

Darth Vader and Son (sample page)

Darth Vader and Son (sample page)

Darth Vader's Little Princess by Jeffery Brown

Darth Vader’s Little Princess by Jeffery Brown

Darth Vader's Little Princess (sample page)

Darth Vader’s Little Princess (sample page)

I am not a particularly huge Star Wars fan, but have enjoyed the early movies in my younger days and enjoyed watching my both my boys live through the “Star Wars” phase, obsessing over the movies, Star Wars Lego, books and mini figures.

But I laughed out loud when I read through these two books, making connections not only to Star Wars, but to being a parent.  These two hilarious comic-like books by Jeffery Brown depict Darth Vader as a dad like any other.  He puts a fresh twist on many classic Star Wars moments, depicting “the trials and joys of parenting through the lens of a galaxy far, far away”.  Life lessons include light saber batting practice, using the Force to raid the cookie jar, Take Your Child to Work Day on the Death Star (“Er, he looks just like you, Lord Vader!”).

Two great read alouds for students as Father’s day approaches, but would also make great Father’s Day gifts for a few dads out there!

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“My Garden” – Wonderful Writing for Spring! – Part 2

The next day, when their garden pictures were complete, the students paired up and did a “point and talk- point to your picture and talk to your partner about it”.  The chatter in the room was filled with excitement as the children described the amazing things in their gardens.  One little boy was so excited to tell me that “In my garden there is a tree that grows hockey cards.  And when you pick a hockey card – the guy shows up!”   There was even a tree that grew French Fries and a nest that was filled with ketchup!

Sharing their garden pictures with a partner - "Point and Talk"
Sharing their garden pictures with a partner – “Point and Talk”
Sharing Garden pictures
Sharing Garden pictures

After the children shared their garden pictures, we met on the carpet and I showed them the writing I had done about my garden.  (see photo below).  I had intentionally written in “robot writing”, listing facts with no details.  I read my piece out loud and asked the children to tell me what they had noticed about it.  Many hands went up to tell me that I had written “robot writing” – “Boring!”

Teacher model: "Robot Writing"
Teacher model: “Robot Writing”

I reminded the students that writers need to make sure their writing is interesting for their readers.  Adding details is one way we can help make our writing interesting.  I asked the students to help me think of an interesting detail I could add about my book tree:

In my garden there is a book tree that grows books.   Every morning when I go into my garden there is a new  book growing just for me! 

The new writing technique I introduced for this piece of writing was “if” sentences; cause an effect sentences that can add a sophisticated sentence structure to beginning writing.  We first looked for “if” sentences in Kevin Henkes book.  Then I asked the students to help me come up with some “if” sentences for my garden picture:

“If you want to go into the garden, you have to say the secret password”“If you plant a piece of Lego, a Lego box will grow”

“If you want to change the season, you tell the tree what season you want”

“If you pick a book from the book tree, a new book grows.

Finally, we reviewed the things we were going to try to include in our writing:  1) interesting details    2) “triple scoop” words   3) Anchor line: “In my garden…”   4) 1-2 “If” sentences

The students couldn’t wait to get started on their writing!  I am excited to read their finished pieces soon.  One little boy asked if we could skip the field trip to the beach next week and “just go visiting everyone’s garden”!

Gr. 2 Sample - My Garden
Gr. 2 Sample – My Garden

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“My Garden” – Wonderful Writing for Spring! – part 1

Anchor Book:  My Garden by Kevin Henkes

Anchor Book: My Garden by Kevin Henkes

After spending several weeks writing about things from our “memory pockets”, the primary students at my school were excited to use their “imagination pockets” this week to help them with their writing.  After reviewing the strategy of “VISUALIZING” with the students, (“making thinking pictures in your brain when you read”) I read “My Garden” by Kevin Henkes. I told them that I was not going to show them the pictures the first time because I wanted them to make “thinking pictures” inside their heads while I read. This delightful book tells the story of a young girl who helps her mother weed and water the garden, but then proceeds to describe her own imaginary garden.  “In my garden…..Flowers bloom and never die”, Strawberries glow like lanterns, If I plant a seashell, shells would grow.”  After I finished the story, students shared their “thinking pictures” that were “stuck” inside their brains. I then read the book again, this time, showing the pictures.

I explained that for our weekly writing this week, we were going to write about our imaginary gardens. I prompted some questions for them to start visualzing their own gardens: How do you get into your garden? What interesting things grow there? What animals and plants can you find there? What can you do in your garden? What magical or extraordinary things happen in your garden?”

I then modeled by drawing a picture of my own imaginary garden. I talked through my picture explaining the things in my garden, including: a special gate that has a secret password to get in; a tree that grows books, a fountain that has buttons to push and different coffees come out, a bench to sit on and read my book, a chipmunk that comes to paint my toenails while I’m reading, flowers with red licorice stems, cotton candy clouds and a chocolate waterfall. (see picture below)   The students couldn’t wait to get started on their own garden pictures!

My Garden - teacher model

My Garden – teacher model

The students worked hard drawing and coloring their pictures.  These pictures will then be used to help them with their writing tomorrow!   Stay tuned for Part 2!

 

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Anchor Books for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day

What Not to Give Your Mom on Mother's Day

What Not to Give Your Mom on Mother’s Day

My Father's Hands - Joanne Ryder

My Father’s Hands – Joanne Ryder

Applesauce - by Klaus Verplancke

Applesauce – by Klaus Verplancke

My Dad - Anthony Browne

My Dad – Anthony Browne

My Mother's Voice - by Joanne Ryder

My Mother’s Voice – by Joanne Ryder

My Mum - by Anthony Browne

My Mum – by Anthony Browne

Mother’s day has now passed but Father’s day is just around the corner.  Here are a few of my favorite books that I like to read to inspire writing about “mom” and “dad”. 

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Mother’s Day Writing

Mother's Day Writing - Gr. 1

Mother’s Day Writing – Gr. 1

4 Corner Planner "My Mom" - Gr. 1

4 Corner Planner “My Mom” – Gr. 1

Four Corner Picture plan for  "My Mum" - teacher model

Four Corner Picture plan for “My Mum” – teacher model

My Mum - by Anthony Browne

My Mum – by Anthony Browne

In the primary classes at my school last week, in honor of Mother’s Day,  we wrote about “Mom” (“Mother”, “Mama”, “Mummy”, “Mum”, “Ma”, “Mama”)  I read “My Mum” by Anthony Browne as an anchor book to stimulate ideas about our moms. It is a lovely “walking story” and also an excellent model for using similes in your descriptions.   We brainstormed things that moms do, filling an entire chart paper!  Beyond the “cooks food”, “goes to superstore”, “cleaning”, “does the laundry”, “drives me to soccer”, “washes everything”, “working”, we also wrote: “tucks me in”, “helps me with reading”, “plays cards with me”, “buys me toys”, “hugs me”.  Using the “four corner picture planner” – I modeled 4 big ideas we could focus on in our writing:  1) what my mom looks like  2) What my mom is good at.  3) things I like to do with my mom  4) why my mom is special to me. I drew “quick pics” (quick pictures”) in each box and included a few key words.   The students then spent time creating their own planner about their moms. 

The next day, I talked to the students about how to use their plan to write their walking story about their mom. We reviewed “similes” and I encouraged them to include at least 2 similes in their descriptions.  I showed the students how to fold their picture planner so that they were only looking at one picture at a time.  They could then write 3-4 sentences (including interesting details  and triple scoop words!) about the picture.  Once they were finished writing about one picture, they re-folded their paper so that a new picture was showing. 

The writing was amazing!  I know that there were many moms on mother’s day who would have been touched by the beautiful words that were written about them.  I can’t wait to try this again for Father’s day! 

 

 

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Saskatchewan Reading Conference

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Image

On April 25th-26th I had the privilege of presenting at the 2013 Saskatchewan Reading Conference in Moose Jaw  Saskatchewan.  They have had the snowiest winter in history in Saskatchewan and there was still snow on the ground when the plane landed!  The venue for the conference was a hockey rink – home of the WHL Moose Jaw Warriors.  I made a lot of connections as I spend many hours in hockey rinks with my boys!   This was a first for me, however, presenting a workshop in one!  When I saw the back doors opening up during my presentation, I thought “Uh-oh – the zamboni is coming!”  When I told my son Oliver about the venue the only thing he wanted to know was:  “Was your face on the Jumbo Tron?”  

The event was attended by over 300 teachers and several extremely well respected speakers with whom I felt privileged to be among – including  Kylene Beers/Bob Probst (authors of Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading)  Sue Jackson (Scholastic’s National Literacy Consultant), David Booth (author of Reading Doesn’t Matter Anymore and MANY others!)   Aimee Buckner (Author of Notebook Know-How), Kathy Cassidy (author of Connected From the Start: Global Learning int he Primary Grades)   I was fortunate enough to attend Kylene and Bob’s presentation and am excited about trying some of these ideas out with my students when we are reading our novels for Lit. Circles.  

Although my workshop sessions were focused on an Introduction to Reading Power, I was amazed at how many teachers already knew and were using some of the strategies in their classrooms.  The response I received  was extremely positive and many teachers were kind enough to come up to me and tell me personally how Reading Power had changed the way they thought about reading instruction.  I could not have received a bigger compliment. 

Thank you to Tana Arnott and Amanda Hassen and their team for all their hard work to organize this event.  I look forward to visiting Saskatchewan again very soon!  

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School Visit

Auguston Demos

Auguston Demos

Auguston Traditional School – Abbotsford

On April 24th, I was invited to Auguston Traditional School in Abbotsford to do some Writing Power demonstration lessons with K-5 classes. This was a follow up session to a Writing Power workshop that the staff had attended last year.  Most of our classes have been using Writing Power and I went in to help move their learning foward.  I focused on some important writing lessons including Walking Stories and Climbing Stories with the grade 2’s, 4 Corner Picture Planning with the Grade 1’s, Personification with the grade 5’s and Organizing Ideas in writing with the Grade 4’s.  The principal, Woody Bradford, the staff and the students welcomed me with warmth and hospitality and made me feel right at home.  The school is beautiful and is fully equipped with Smart Boards, Mac Computers and Ipads!  I had to put my very limited Smart Board skills to the test!  Workshops are good for overviews, but the real learning I feel happens in classrooms with real students doing real writing.  I loved watching the students respond so positively to the lessons and seeing how they tried out what they had learned.  Thanks for a wonderful day, Auguston!

Learning together

Learning together

                        

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