Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Kindergarten Book Shopping Lists

Some of you may be finishing a reading unit of study that supports young readers to reread familiar picture books like Corduroy, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, or Caps for Sale by looking at the pictures and telling the story.  Now, through lots of repeated shared reading activities your students are probably ready to reread these familiar shared reading texts.  If you need some recommended titles for familiar shared reading or teaching ideas, see the list in this post from last fall.  Some kids too may be ready to read higher level books in your classroom library. 

You may be wondering how to manage and support these different needs.  I like to give kids personal shopping lists to keep in their book boxes or baggies.  Then, on the days they go into the library to shop for books, they will know how many books to choose from the different baskets. 

Here is a photo of one such bookmark from an inclusive kindergarten classroom.  Special thanks to the teachers Mia and Lisa.

Happy Book shopping everyone!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Build Reading Stamina

Hello Readers,

I've been talking with lots of teachers lately about building reading stamina in the reading workshop.  We have been thinking about ways to help kids enjoy their books and read for long chunks of time.  We know how to show kids how long they read each day by building a tower of cubes to represent how many minutes we read and we know we can make a bar graph so kids can see their reading stamina growing across time.  In addition, we are using a few tools that I thought would be helpful to share.

We are creating welcoming and comfortable reading spaces in our libraries so kids can shop for plenty of books.  Two pictures are shown below.  One is for a series section in a library and the other is a leveled book section.

Next, we have been thinking lots about reading goals with kids.  Emily has this chart hanging in her room to help her chapter book readers set goals for themselves and their reading for the week.  This could be helpful for second and third graders who are getting into longer texts.
Setting goals and monitoring progress toward those goals with a reading log is crucial to maintaining stamina.   We can confer with the logs and notice if kids stick with a book, how long it takes them to read a book, and their preferences for certain genres and authors (and their understanding of each genre).  It also helps us see how long they have been reading at a given level and if they struggle to maintain stamina when they move on to the next level. I like kids to keep all of their reading logs for an entire year in a folder so we can reflect together about the kind of reader the child has grown to be throughout the school year.  A sample of one of these logs is seen here.


I think a chart to help kids build stamina and get back into their reading when it feels difficult is also important.  Here is one that a second grade class built together:

I hope you are all off to a strong start to the school year!  More posts will come in October!  I've got some things to share about Small Moments units and partner talk time during the read aloud.  I'll be back soon.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Literacy Classroom Photos

Are you a literacy coach or reading teacher looking to remake your classroom or small office space?

Maggie, a teacher in Brooklyn wanted to create a space that would allow for these two things:

  • a place for teachers to gather and plan curriculum
  • a place to teach small groups of students who need more support in reading and writing

She worked hard, with an incredible team, to create a classroom make-over.

Above:  Curriculum mapping board.  Tables for teachers to gather are in front of this board.

Above:  List of PD workshops, locations, and directions.  
Dates for on-site PD will be listed on the posters at the bottom of the board.

Above:  Maggie, seated in front of the professional text shelves.  
Her meeting area for the kids is behind this shelf and books for their classroom library are on the opposite side of this tall shelf as well as in a lower set of shelves that run perpendicular to this one.  
This shelf breaks the room into two zones, one for kids and one for teachers.

Above:  Each teacher has a pocket to hold notecards.  Teachers can jot the titles of the professional books they need and place the notecard in their pocket so texts can be located and shared.

Above:  This is the shelf opposite the professional text shelf where Maggie was seated in the other photo.  These shelves contain baskets for series books as well as nonfiction topics.  
Maggie also has a few bins for mentor text to use in writing workshop as well as genre specific read aloud books she knows she wants to use throughout the year.

You can give your literacy room or coaching room a makeover too!  Here is how we started.  First, we asked a key question and we gathered lots of answers to it.

Question:  What do we want out of this space?


  • Meeting area for kids to gather with comfortable seating and an easel or smart board for teacher.
  • Classroom library that supports the needs of the students and has clearly organized bins.
  • Writing center with paper choices and revision tools that support the needs of the students and has clearly organized zones or buckets.
  • Bulletin board to display student work.
  • Tables for students to work independently and with partners.
  • Folders and folder hold areas for students to keep their work and have access with independence.
  • Bulletin board to post workshop dates and on-site PD notices.
  • Bulletin board to display curriculum maps and units of study resources.
  • Tables for teachers to gather with writing tools at the center.
  • Bookshelves with professional texts for teachers and a bulletin board with pockets for teachers to jot the titles of the books they check out and take into their own classrooms.
Then, we divided the work into the zones, each took on tasks, and stuck true to our needs to have all the things we wanted in the room with no clutter.

I hope you enjoy your own classroom makeovers.  Have a super week everyone!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Morning "Do Now" in a Workshop Classroom

Are you thinking about the first 5 minutes of your school day and wondering how you can get everyone in the room, unpacked, and started with academic work quickly?

Or are you wondering how you can fit all the academic work you want to into a school day?  Thinking through your morning "Do Now" routine may be helpful.

Of course many of us begin our day with attendance, collecting notes, and then sitting down for a morning meeting at the rug.  We can keep our kids working hard during these first 5-10 minutes before the morning meeting - and we can give them meaningful work to do.

I like to start the school day in Pre-k and K (and even first and second grade) with 5-10 minutes of an academic activity that gets kids talking, and capitalizes on their morning energy.  Here are some options you may want to try:

  • 4-6 Kids a day do their book shopping for reading workshop.
Remember to keep this schedule posted so students know their shopping days.  I like to invite the books shoppers to enter the classroom first, so they can unpack and get 5-10 minutes for book shopping in the classroom library.

  • Storytelling time with partners.  

Kids often come to school wanting to tell teachers stories and so giving them a few minutes in the morning to sit at the rug and tell stories is powerful - and it helps them plan stories for writing workshop. I have seen teachers teach kids to hold out their three fingers and tell stories across fingers (just like we do in writing workshop) each morning.  Kids sometimes retell old favorites - and even stories from the classroom.  Some teachers keep a box of field trip photos handy to help kids tell stories.  This picture shows a drawing from a story some kindergarten kids told about a fire drill.

  • Singing a song or reading a poem together at the rug.
Teachers can give students the job of pointing to the words of the song or poem on a chart/smart board. The guest pointer can start the music and use the pointer.  As kids come to the rug, they can join in the singing or chanting.

  • Word Study Sorts
Click here to see the posting on teaching word study sorts to help you get word study up and running.  Then, once it is running smoothly in your classroom, invite students to do their sorting first thing when they enter the room.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thank You Teachers!

Read Write and Play is celebrating its first birthday and the milestone of 100 followers thanks to all of you dear readers.

This summer was filled with more and more of your thoughtful questions, great stories, and beautiful cities.  I celebrated hard work in person with teachers in Wisconsin, Texas, and Seattle.  I met teachers from all over the country as well as teachers from schools in South America, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Australia at the summer institutes at Teachers College.  I can see all of you from all corners of the globe looking at pictures here on the blog.  Thank you for being part of this community.

I wish you all a great school year and many happy stories with your students.  I'll be here and will continue to post all the things that inspire my teaching as well as the teaching I see in your classrooms that inspires me.

I took this picture at the Ace Hotel after having dinner with some of my teacher friends in NYC this summer.  I think it will be my back-to-school mantra.  It reminds us all to dig deep, take a risk, and teach our hearts out.

Happy New Year Everyone!  Here is to you and another great year of sharing great stuff from our reading, writing, and choice time workshops!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Classroom Library Organization

Hello Teachers,

It is August.  Time to enjoy the summer breeze and begin to think about your classroom environments once again.  I want to devote some posts this month to organizing our classrooms to support student independence.  I can see that you like the classroom library photos, so I will post a few more of those today.  Many thanks to Phyllis for allowing me to share these photos from her classroom.  Click here to see more classroom library pictures.

A few tips for your library:
  • Put out the books your students in need.  The baskets should represent the range of readers in your room.  

  • Make sure the labels on the books are clear and consistent.
  • Sort your nonfiction books into baskets with interesting categories and invite your students to make and resort the baskets with you.  I like to have the books in these nonfiction baskets leveled when possible.

  • You can place author bins and other topical baskets on separate shelves (for example, an "Authors We Love" shelf, a "Partner Reading" shelf, and an "Ideas We Love" shelf) so kids understand the organization.  You may want to unveil this section and these baskets after you read books with these favorite authors and themes (perhaps in read aloud or in a unit of study that involves partners reading the same books) so kids know how to browse these sections, how to look and pictures and retell the stories, and where to put them back when they are finished.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Summer Reading Lists for Kindergarten, First, and Second Grade Readers

Hello Teachers and Families,

I read a comment this week from a follower wondering about summer reading lists for young readers and I wanted to follow up with a few suggestions to keep young and budding readers reading over the summer.  It can be tricky to find leveled books to match the needs of our youngest readers.  I have a few series suggestions for teachers and families.  First, check your child's report card to see if the teacher mentioned a reading level.  If you aren't sure the level, read a few of these series to your child at the bookstore or the library and you'll be sure to find the right match when your child begins to read along with you.  I like to recommend series books for the summer because once a reader is hooked, he will have plenty of books to read!  In other words, it builds stamina easily.

Piggy and Dad

Books that you can easily find at your child’s independent reading level:
Level C and D Readers: 
Brand New Readers Series
click here for information about ordering.  My favorite characters are Piggy and Daddy, Worm, Termite, and Mouse.  Adults will even find these simple books laugh out loud funny.  

Level E and F Readers:
Puppy Mudge Series by Cynthia Rylant
Tiny Series by Cari Meister
Kipper Series by Mick Inkpen

Level G and H Readers:
Turtle and Snake Series by Kate Spohn
Biscuit Series by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Fly Guy Series by Tedd Arnold

Level I and J Readers: 
Dragon Series by Dav Pilkey  
Poppleton series by Cynthia Rylant

Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant
Fox Series by Edward Marshall

Level K and L Readers
Commander Toad by Jane Yolen
Arthur Series by Lillian Hoban
Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel
Pinky and Rex series by James Howe

Some websites that will support oral language development and nonfiction reading:

National Geographic for Kids
 PBS Kids 


And, if you are planning for summer bookstore or library time this week to get out of the heat, here are some books that kids and adults love to talk about together.  Remember that your kids are NEVER too old for read aloud.  They love hearing the sound of your voice and talking about books with you!  Happy reading!
Read Aloud Titles:
Keller, Holly  Sophie’s Window.  Greenwillow, 2005.
Fleming, Denise. Buster. Henry Holt, 2003. Ages 4 - 7
Montenegro, Laura Nyman. A Bird About to Sing. Houghton Mifflin, 2003. Ages 5 – 8
Hopkins, Lee Bennett, editor. Hoofbeats, Claws & Rippled Fins: Creature Poems. Illustrated by Stephen Alcorn. HarperCollins, 2002.
O'Connell George, Kristine. Little Dog Poems.
Marshall, James.  George and Martha.  Houghton Mifflin, 1974.
Marshall, James.  George and Martha Round and Round.  Houghton Mifflin, 1991.
Marshall, James.  George and Martha One Fine Day.  Houghton Mifflin, 1982.
Waber, Bernard.  Bearsie Bear and the Surprise Sleepover Party.  Houghton Mifflin/Walter Lorraine Books; Reprint edition.  2002.  


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Visiting NYC for a TCRWP Institute?

Are you looking for some after-institute fun?  I have some of my favorites listed here for all of you.

Casual dinner with a great view?
Take the 1 train to 59th street and enter the Shops at Columbus Circle.  Then take the escalator up to the third floor for Bouchon Bakery.  This will be close to Times Square (walk down Broadway after dinner for good Times Square at night photos) and provide some time for shopping too.

Going down to SoHo?
I have a few favorite places in this neighborhood.
My new FAVORITE NYC restaurant is The Dutch.  It is on the corner of Sullivan and Spring Streets.  You can take the downtown A,C, or E train to Spring Street.  Get there at 5:00 if you don't want to wait.    This restaurant is close to The Angelika, a small movie theatre that plays limited released films.  It might be a great after dinner, air-conditioned treat.

Dinner and a show in midtown or Times Square fun and an inexpensive place to eat:

I love Memphis.  This musical is inspiring and filled with great music.  Before or after the show, you can get dinner in one of may great restaurants on 8th and 9th avenue.  Here are some good bets:

Vynl on 9th ave and 51st street

Eatery on 9th and 53rd street

Toloache  on 8th and 50th street

El Centro on 9th and 54th street

Are you looking for something a little sweet after school or after dinner?  Try some of my favorite bakeries:

Crumbs for cupcakes.  Various locations.  There is one on Columbus Ave near 98th Street, another on 75th and Amsterdam, another on 52nd and Broadway, and several other locations in NYC.

Levain Bakery  Hands down, my favorite cookies in NYC.  This bakery is tiny so be careful to look for the little sign.  You'll find them on 74th street just off the corner of Amsterdam Ave. (right around the corner from a market)

Magnolia Bakery  I love the banana pudding from Magnolia.  And the ice box cake too...  Yum.  Go here if you are headed to Rockefeller Center (see the plaza, the Today show, the Top of the Rock, etc.).  There are other locations, but this location on 49th street and Avenue of the Americas is a good one.   You can also find them on Columbus and 69th Street.

Check back throughout this week for more fun NYC ideas!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Summer Reads for Teachers and Coaches

Hello Friends,

For many of you this month signals the end of one school year and the beginning of another.  I want to give you a great big THANK YOU on behalf of the students you teach!  

As you sort through placement cards, cumulative records, and report cards for this year's class, you can't help but think ahead to the kids who will gather at your meeting area in September.  Even if you have 4-8 weeks away from school this summer, I know you will be thinking of the year ahead.  That's what we do.  So, with that in mind, I have a summer reading list for you - filled with lots of fun reads for you, both professional and to help you connect again with your own reading life.

I get several text recommendations from Amanda at her blog Reading Myself Into the Word.  This year she gave me two of the books I put on this list.  Thanks Amanda!

Now, on with the list!

Barefoot How To

My favorite NF book this year was a tie between Born to Run and Play.  Both books inspired me to think hard about the parts of teaching that feel playful to me.  Born to Run is not just a book for runners.  It is for all of us who need a story of hope and a story of defying odds.  It is also a great example of how a writer turns a simple question or wondering into a big project, one that reaches to several continents and helps readers meet a cast of interesting people who will live with you as you read.
 Product Image Play (Reprint) (Paperback)

Play is a must-read if you are thinking about recapturing that child-like joy over the summer and carrying it with you into the next school year.  It is written by a doctor who has investigated the science of play, emotions, joy, and productivity.  It is easy to read and gives you opportunities to think about the kind of play you want to put back in your life if they are missing.

I should also say that The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was one of my favorite reads this year.  I admire Rebecca Skloot's tenacity as a writer with each and every page I read.  She weaves beautiful narrative passages and information text in a way that we can all read, react, and synthesize.  If you need a good book club book this summer, I love this one.

This summer, I am planning to read the NF text, Moonwalking With Einstein.  Read along with me and post your comments!

I also love to have some humor in my tote bag or on my nightstand.  I highly recommend the book People Are Unappealing.  It is a memoir, filled with short stories of a young woman's life in Brooklyn, NY.  You will laugh out loud when you read this book.  I think it is perfect for reading at the pool, while the kids are taking a swimming lesson, or on a plane ride.

Product Image

I am also planning to read Bossypants by Tina Fey this summer.  I am sure we'll get some good laughs in that one.  If you missed Let The Great World Spin or Freedom last summer, and/or want a great fiction read, I can recommend both.  Both have interesting text structures and plot lines that push you to read, "just a few more pages."

Product Image

I also want to tackle a few professional books this summer.  Katie Wood Ray's book In Pictures and In Words has been on my list as well as Engaging Young Writers: Preschool - Grade 1 by Matt Glover.  I'm also in the middle of Comprehension Going Forward.  I think all three of these will be a good shot in the arm.  I love each of these authors (the third book is a collection of authors) because reading their books makes it seem like I am in a conversation with each of them.  They have a great ability to talk directly to their readers and give honest and practical advise.  

Happy Reading Everyone!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Summer Reading and Writing Projects

You can have worked so hard to support your students' growth in reading and writing this year.  Now you'll want to send them off for the summer with their bags filled with ideas for summer reading and writing. 

Kelly, a first grade teacher, and her students spent the final days of the school year last June making summer reading and writing plans.  Here are some photos from her room and some tips on making your own summer reading and writing kits.

Remember that summer reading and writing is all about independent projects.  Kids can think about the following:
  • What can I make all by myself?
  • What favorite authors/series do I want to read?
  • What topic do I want to learn more about this summer?
  • What tools will I need?
  • Where can I keep my tools?
Kelly's class decorated simple tote bags with fabric markers to hold their summer plans.
They took home blank calendars for the months of July and August and jotted some of the things they might do over the summer. 

Then they used the calendars to dream up some of the writing they would like to make.  For example, if they knew that they were spending a week at grandma's house and grandma has cats, they might decide to make an All About Cats book at her house.  Or, if they really loved the poetry unit and they knew that they were going to be at a summer camp or day care program, they might take several sheets of poetry paper to make an anthology.  Be sure your kids plan for several projects to create over the summer. 

Kelly's class used old charts from previous units to make decisions about the writing they will make over the summer.  They could choose from a paper buffet that included the following:
  • Small moments and fiction story booklets
  • All About book paper choices
  • Poetry paper 
  • Letter writing paper
  • How to Paper
Kids can also imagine audiences for their summer writing projects.  Kids will most definitely do their summer writing projects if they have someone to send their story/letter/book/poem to in the mail.  Kelly's class made these simple address books so kids could collect (with family permission) the addresses of friends and family.

You'll also want to fill the kits with tools (besides paper) that will help kids follow through with their summer reading and writing plans.  You might include the following:
  • Pens and pencils
  • Copies of your word wall, alphabet charts, or other spelling tools that have supported kids
  • Strategy charts from some of the units that kids have found helpful
  • Phone numbers of writing buddies or partners (with family permission)
  • Library card
  • List of favorite books/authors/genres
  • Small summer reading log 
One of my favorite blogs, Tiny Reader, has lots more great ideas for summer reading and  writing kits.  Click here for the post.  

Look for another post soon about creative ways to get students to read over the summer including a post about making a summer reading DVD for kindergarten and first graders as well as making summer reading plans for yourself. 

Poetry Charts Part 2

Hello Teachers,

We all want our students to write one poem after another during our poetry unit of study.  We hope that they choose meaningful topics and look at the world with a sense of wonder.  You can give them some mentors who do this such as Georgia Heard and Valarie Worth.  And, you can chart some of the same strategies these poets use on charts for your young writers. 

Two examples of these charts are shown below.  Thanks to Bianca, one of our followers, for sharing these!  You'll notice that the second chart was used to help kids make songs too.

We also know it is important to have examples of poems up in the classroom so kids can see the writing craft that their mentors use.  Bianca shared this example of a Valarie Worth poem with me.  Notice how she and her students highlighted some craft the author has used.  Now, with coaching, the students can try some of these things themselves.

This Valerie Worth poem, Coins, can be found in her book tall the small poems and fourteen more.  it is filled with great poems to use in your k-2 writing workshop.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Poetry Charts

Hello Poets,

Lucy Calkins and Stephanie Parsons teach us that poets often write about deep feelings with honest and precise language in their beautiful minilessons in Poetry: Powerful Thoughts in Tiny Packages.  I love the way they ask kids to be honest with the words they choose.

I have been wondering how I can capture some of the things that poets do, like using honest and precise language, and create some strategy charts to go along with the minilessons I teach.  I want the young poets I teach to be able to write poems about big feelings too, and to have some ways of finding honest and precise words.  The following is a chart that a first grade class and I made together this week to help us write poems with big feelings using honest and precise words.

Happy writing.  I hope you and your writers enjoy this time to celebrate poetry with one another!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Poetry Centers Book List

Hello Teachers,

I've been busy collecting some poems for kindergarten, first, and second grade students to read in Poetry Centers.  You may have some favorites too.  Share them with us!  I searched for poems that help kids understand the following:
  • Poets can use honest language to create strong images.
  • Poets can use interesting patterns on the page to create sound and rhythm.
  • Poets can write about big feelings they have and make their readers feel big feelings.
We sorted some of the poems into three simple categories so kids could read poems around topics first and then later they could perhaps sort them like writers, noticing some of the author's craft. 

Poems about Different Kinds of Animals:
Turtle by Charlie Reed
Cow by Valerie Worth
Goldfish by Valerie Worth
Fish by Mary Ann Hoberman
Cat in the Dark by John Agard
Cat Kisses by  Bobbie Katz

Poems about Nature:
March by Elizabeth Coatsworth
Pebbles by Valerie Worth
Sky by Grace Nichols
From My Window by Zaro Weil
Mermaid’s Lullaby by Jane Yolen
The Wind by Stanley Cook
Rainy Day by William Wise
Spring by Hugo Majer
Silence by Eve Merriam
SSSH by Betsy Hearne
Sunrise by Frank Asch
Autumn Leaves by Leland B. Jacobs
Go Wind by Lilian Moore
Until I Saw the Sea by Lilian Moore

Poems About Insects:
Fireflies by Zaro Weil
Clickbeetle by Mary Ann Hoberman
Ants Live Here by Lilian Moore
The Caterpillar by Christina Rossetti
Crickets by Valerie Worth
If You Catch a Butterfly by Lilian Moore
Hey Bug by Lilian Moore

Many of the poems above are favorites of children's author Georgia Heard and mentioned in her professional resources as well.  Her resources for supporting kids as the read poetry include Climb Inside a Poem and Awakening the Heart.  

You will also want to have a collection of poetry anthologies on hand in your classrooms.  Some Georgia's anthologies as well as other favorite anthologies are listed below. 

Stella Unleashed by Linda Ashman and Paul Meisel
Once I Ate a Pie by Patricia Maclachlan and Emily Maclachlan Charest
Creatures of Earth, Sea, and Sky by Georgia Heard
Animal Poems by Valerie Worth
All the Small Poems and Fourteen More by Valerie Worth
The Llama Who Had No Pajama: 100 Favorite Poems by Mary Ann Hoberman
Climb Inside a Poem (Big Book) by Georgia Heard
Falling Down The Page: A Book of List Poems by Georgia Heard
Honey I Love and Other Love Poems by Eloise Greenfield

I have plans to put up more charts, video, and mentor text to support poetry reading and writing this month.  Looking forward to sharing more with all of you!


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Content Area Reading and Writing: Insect Book List

Hello Teachers/Friends,

Some of us are embarking on a science, reading, and writing study soon in our classrooms.  We are ordering bugs, caterpillars, worms, and more in preparation for our students to observe animal life cycles.  You may also be shopping for some books so kids can read about these insects during reading workshop.  I just did some browsing myself and thought I would share the lists I made. 

Happy Reading!

Books for Content Area Study of Insects:

Ladybug Books
 Books found at and Other Online Booksellers:
Ladybugs: Red, Fiery, and Bright by Mia Posada
A Ladybug’s Life by J. Himmelman
Ladybugs by Claire Llewellyn
Ladybugs and Other Insects (Scholastic First Discovery) by Gallimard Jeunesse
A Ladybug Larva Grows Up (Scholastic News Non-fiction) by Katie Marsico
The Life Cycle of a Ladybug (Learning About Life Cycles) by Ruth Thompson
Ladybug (Life Cycles) by David M Schwartz

Books found at Book Source:
Are You A Ladybug by Judy Allen
Hungry Ladybugs by Judith Jango-Cohen
Crawl, Ladybug, Crawl! By Dana Meach Rau
Ladybug, Ladybug, What Are You Doing (Board Book) by Rourke, Eds.
Ladybugs by Margaret Hall
Ladybugs by Chery Coughlan

Mealworm to Beetle Books
Books found at and Other Online Booksellers:
From Mealworm to Beetle: Following the Life Cycle (Amazing Science) by Laura Purdie Salas
Mealworms (Watch it Grow) by Martha E. H. Rustad
Beetles (Welcome Books) by Edana Eckart
A Mealworm’s Life by John Himmelman
Young Naturalist’s Pop-Up Handbook:  Beetles – Book #1 (Young Naturalist’s Handbook) by Robert Sabuda

Butterfly Books
Books found at and Other Online Booksellers:
Time for Kids: Butterflies! By Editors of Time for Kids
The Life Cycle of a Butterfly by Bobbie Kalman
Are You A Butterfly? By Judy Allen
The Life Cycles of Butterflies: From Egg to Maturity, A Visual Guide to 23 Common Garden Butterflies by Judy Burris
From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heiligman
Monarch Butterfly by Gail Gibbons
Monarch Butterfly (Life Cycles) by David M. Schwartz
A Monarch Butterfly’s Life by John Himmelman

Ant Books
Books found at and Other Online Booksellers:
National Geographic Readers: Ants by Melissa Stewart
Are You An Ant? (Backyard Books) by Judy Allen
Inside an Ant Colony (Rookie Read-About Science) by Allan Fowler
The Life and Times of the Ant by Charles Micucci
Time for Kids: Ants! by Editors of Time for Kids
The Life Cycle of an Ant by Hadley Dyer (a Bobbie Kalman book)
Ant Cities (Let’s-Read-And-Find-Out Science 2) by Arthur Dorros


Monday, April 4, 2011

Celebrate National Poetry Month

Hello Teachers/Writers,

Spring is in the air and I am busy gathering a new collection.  "Of what?" you might ask.  Well, I'll tell you. 

I am gathering them from lots of different places and getting inspiration from several other bloggers, teachers and kids.  One of my favorite sites right now is the Poetry Everywhere site from PBS.  Lucille Clifton is one of my favorite poets of all time and I thought this clip would welcome us all into the celebration that is National Poetry month.  You can see more of these great videos at the Poetry Everywhere site.  Thank you PBS!

"won't you celebrate with me..."
Another favorite of teachers is this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye.

"Music lives inside my legs..."

I also found a lovely blog, with several great suggestions for anthologies and ways to use poetry in the classroom.  Go to

I'll be back with some of my favorite poems and suggestions for ways we can help kids read and write poetry later this month.  Happy collecting! 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Support for Students with Autism

This week I was profoundly changed by a workshop here at Teachers College.  Kelly Chandler-Alcott and Paula Kluth presented a workshop to support teachers who work with students diagnosed on the PDD spectrum.  One of the many things we learned was to be open to various ways students communicate with us and to seek out news ways for them to have their voices heard.  One of my favorite parts of the day was a short clip where we were able to hear the ideas and perspectives from a 7th grade student.  I'll share it with you in the link below.

To view this at the Storycorps site, click here.

Or, go there by typing


Q & A

12-year-old Joshua Littman, who has Asperger's syndrome, interviews his mother.

Paula and Kelly also shared some concrete ways to adapt things like read aloud for students with autism.  You can find some of these suggestions at Paula's website.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Text Sets To Use in Teaching

Are you thinking about teaching kids to think and talk across books about bigger themes?  The Common Core Standards invite students to do this work in first and second grade.  Many of us are including this in our teaching in Read Aloud as well as independent reading.

The challenge:  getting sets of books that belong together in the hand of kids!  Some teachers and I have been thinking about this and we have conquered the challenge.  At first we rushed to order new sets of books for our classroom libraries.  "What are the book lists?" the teachers asked me.  I suggested that we go with interests of the students and invite the kids to make sets of books from the baskets that are already in the classroom libraries.  Really... it works!  We found these examples of text sets on my shelf. Enjoy!  I hope you and your students have fun learning about interesting topics!

Some Text Sets from My Shelf That You Can Use to…
  • Teach kids how to study and learn about a topic.
  • Teach kids to talk across books during read aloud or partner time.
  • Teach kids to notice themes across books.
  • Teach kids to use content specific vocabulary in their accountable partner talk.

Koala Lou by Mem Fox
Mr. Putter and Tabby Run the Race by Cynthia Ryalnt
Sam Plays Paddle Ball by Annette Smith (published by Rigby)
Max Rides His Bike by Jenny Giles (published by Rigby)
Sam’s Race by Annette Smith (published by Rigby)
Good Sports:  Rhymes about Running, Jumping, Throwing, and More  by Jack Prelutsky
My Basketball Book by Gail Gibbons
My Soccer Book by Gail Gibbons

Mr. Putter and Tabby Walk the Dog by Cynthia Rylant
Henry and Mudge and the Big Test by Cynthia Rylant
“The Trouble with Dogs…” Said Dad by Bob Graham
Once I Ate a Pie by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest
Stella Unleashed:  Notes from the Doghouse by Linda Ashman

Earthmovers by Lee Sullivan Hill
Toby and B.J. by Annette Smith (published by Rigby)
Toby and the Accident by Annette Smith (published by Rigby)
Toby at Stony Bay by Annette Smith (published by Rigby)
Toby and the Big Red Van by Annette Smith (published by Rigby)
Toby and the Big Tree by Annette Smith (published by Rigby)
Construction Zone by Cheryl Willis Hudosn, Photos by Richard Solbol

Friday, February 4, 2011

All About Book Demo Writing

Hello Writers/Teachers!

Are you getting ready to write your own All About Book to teach your young writers a new form of writing?  Are you using the Units of Study Book written by Lucy Calkins and Laurie Pessah, Non-Fiction Writing: Procedures and Reports?  If so, you'll want to create some demo writing to use with your students.

This year my All About Book has been inspired by a long time love affair as well as recent events.  Are you wondering what topic I chose?  It is....  All About the Green Bay Packers!  I thought I better get at least a few pages of my demo text up before the big game this Sunday.  Below you will see my cover and planning page as well as one of the sections in my book (ironically, it is the section kids are most interested in when I visit classrooms).

First, the planning page.

My colleague Marjorie (a follower of our blog) taught me this strategy for young writers and I am happy to share it with you.  Yes, you can plan by organizing a table of contents.  You can also plan by using a web as Laurie suggests in the book.  Many kids know and like these ways of organizing their information.  But last spring I tried this "draw what you know about your topic" strategy.  Then point to each picture and teach something (orally rehearse that out loud).  Then, grab a piece or two of paper and make that section/chapter.  

For example, in my book I can touch the player in the bicycle and rehearse or teach about the preseason ritual of kids lending their bicycles to hefty players as they commute from the stadium to the practice facility.  I might say out loud, "It is a long tradition for players and kids from Green Bay to interact during training camp.  Each July and August weekday, kids wake up early, ride their bikes to the stadium, and wait near the door where players exit to walk to the training camp facility.  Players choose a kid with a wave or a handshake and then, the burly player climbs onto a small-ish bike and hands his helmet to the kid.  The player rides the bike, often with a few wobbles while the kid runs along side carrying the helmet.  It is a beautiful sight to see NFL players having such close interactions with their youngest fans.  Some players choose a regular,  the same biker each day, while other players opt to choose a different kid each day."  After I rehearse this out loud, I would get the pages from the writing center, thinking carefully about the paper choice I would want to use to convey this information.  Then, I would show I would plan to put all of these words on the paper.

The second graders in Rachel and Dan's CTT class were on fire as were the kids in Liz's kindergarten class when we gave them the option of drawing everything they knew, then touching the pictures to rehearse/teach, then write.  We gave the second grades the choice of planning tools since they had used tables of contents and webs in the past.  The kids chose the planning strategies that worked best for them as individual writers.  The kindergarten writers seemed to be able to organize their books with ease by looking back on the "cover" that had all of their pictures and then turning to a new page to write/teach.
***  Important note:  The kids planned and began drafting sections of their books all in one day.  You don't want to limit kids and make them wait for the next step.  Get them started making the sections fast!

You can see one of my drafted sections of my book below.  It is the Parking section of my All About The Green Bay Packers book.  I mentioned earlier that this is the section kids seem most interested in when I show my demo writing.  I think they may have spent some time looking for parking in their young lives : )

You might also notice that I have used this draft to teach some craft techniques like using parentheses, and writing an introduction at the beginning of the teaching to orient the audience.  I also used this particular version in a revision minilesson to teach writers to reread with the audience in mind, making sure that specific information was taught (i.e.  Writers, think, "would my readers really understand?").

Choose your own passionate topic and get started.  Happy Writing!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Teaching Struggling, or Perhaps Striving, Writers: Compassion First

This is the time of year where we reach a half-way point in our teaching and often assess progress.  We know that students grow on a developmental continuum but we also have benchmarks for progress.  We search our class lists and the progress each student makes as well as the distance between a student's current level of performance and the expected benchmarks.  We begin to talk about them as our struggling or striving writers and we search for ways to support them.

You may have recently come to this point in your teaching this year and need a shoulder to lean on in your teaching and planning.  First, let me tell you this.  You are not alone in your concern for these students.  And, allow me to share in this post a few things that have helped me in BIG ways.

 First, I think we all need to take a deep breath and give ourselves and these students some compassion.  

Yes, I know readers, that may sound a little fluffy to those of you who read my posts and hear "rigor, rigor, rigor" in my voice.  But, when I say that it is important to feel compassion for ourselves as teachers and for our students, I am NOT saying that we should lower expectations or give kids a way to opt out of challenges.  In fact, I am saying the opposite.  We can be compassionate by digging in deeper to our work, recognizing what works and what does not, and improving our work and the student's work at the same time.

We can show this compassion when we recognize all we have done thus far, both ourselves and our students, to work toward achieving the benchmarks.  And, we can use all we have done thus far to help us plot a further course.

You can reflect on a few things in your search for this compassion.

  • How can I continue to be compassionate in the words I use to the whole class and to my striving writers?
  • How can I continue to be compassionate in the physical environment I create in the classroom?
  • How can I continue to be compassionate in the in the social and work bonds I support in the classroom? (i.e. partnerships and clubs both formal and informal)

Here are just a few of the things in each area that we can try as we search and reflect together:

Compassion in our words:

  • Write down the times of the day when the student feels successful.  Remind the student what it feels like to be successful.  Point out that they are smiling during these times.  
  • Write down exactly what the writer is "striving" to do next and tell them what you see without judgement.  I like to say this rather than what the writer is struggling to do.  Semantics, I know, but to me it shifts something in my mind.  It changes the way I approach a writer.  When I talk to young kids I often say, "I notice you are working hard to ___" or "You've been working on this part now for about __ minutes."
  • Make a list of the times in the day we meet with the student.  Perhaps one time of the day works better than another.  
  • Make a list of the kinds of conferences and small groups we have taught.  Perhaps we need to continue some of the things we have already tried.  Often one conference doesn't do the trick.  You may need to repeat the same teaching point.  Whenever a fellow teacher is feeling down and out and says, "I already tried that.  Didn't work," after I offer a suggestion, I sometimes reply, "Keep doing it.  It may take time and repetition."
  • Make a list of the things the writer can do now that was not evident in his/her writing or habits 6 months ago.  Share these with families at conferences along side of the reality of the benchmarks the writer is striving to meet.  It is important to see growth as well as the next steps.
Compassion in the physical environment:
  • Make the paper choice the writer needs available in the writing center and have honest conversations about the paper choice you believe the writer is ready for at the moment.  Make sure you are not holding the writer back, always providing one or two lines more per page than what the writer can currently do. 
  • Invite the writer to co-create a work space that will inspire writing.  If it means the writer chooses a private space, talk with the child about the positives of a private space and make sure the child notices the positive results (more writing volume, for example) that comes out of the private space.

Compassion in the social bonds we create:
  • Make a list of the other students the writer sees as mentors in the classroom.  Perhaps you can seat the writer near those students or give some partner time to the students so the striving writer has time in the middle of the workshop to show his/her writing to the partner for feedback.  For more support on setting up partnerships and supporting students in them, see some sample minilessons in the Units of Study Series.  I like the partner time minilesson in Session XII in the Revision Unit as well as the partner time minilesson in Session III of the Small Moments Unit.

If you are searching for more to help your struggling writers, you will want to get Colleen Cruz's beautiful book, Reaching Struggling Writers.

In her book, Colleen gives tip after tip to help writers who need support with topic choice, the physical demands of writing, and the process of revision.  It is a quick read and one that will leave you filled up with things to try right away in your classroom.

Second, the folks from Responsive Classroom have supported a shift in my classroom management with their book, The Power of Our Words.  This book is thought-provoking, teacher and child changing, and one of the most important books I think we all should know and read.  It has chanced the way I work with striving writers, kids with IEPs, and frankly, all students.  The practical examples can shift a classroom climate and leave you feeling better about yourself and your teaching at the end of each day.

Power of Our Words