Sunday, August 31, 2014

Loving My New Classroom Alphabet

It's time to get ready for another school year!  This summer, I decided to give my classroom alphabet a makeover, and I'm very pleased with the results.  Let's start with my old alphabet.  It looked like this.

It looks pretty good, but I wanted my front classroom wall to appear a little less cluttered.  I decided to go with a banner style alphabet because these triangle, banner-like signs are all over blogs these days.  I chose colorful backgrounds that had hints of oranges and warm tones which go nicely with my classroom colors (orange, brown and blue).  Here is my favorite clip art, the pizza for the letter "p."

I hung up the letter signs using orange ribbon and those heavy duty 3M hooks.  Here's a pic that shows this.  Because I had used the clips before, I hot glued them instead of buying those replacement sticky mounting pieces--how's that for saving some money?

To match, I dyed my own clothespins by putting them in Rit dye for about half a day stirring occasionally.  Of course they had to dry overnight.  This was a quick and fun DIY project that I had always wanted to do.  Summers are just perfect for that!  I have many clothespins left over.  

So happy with the end results!  It looks clean and colorful.  I really like how it freed up some wall space to make the overall appearance uniform, colorful and uncluttered.  

Click HERE for more information on grabbing this alphabet.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Introducing My Summer Reading Scrapbook Featuring What's Mr. Giso Making "Room to Read" Pick #8

I'm really delighted to introduce my summer reading project.  I'm so busy during the school year with teaching grades 1/2 by day and instructing my grads and undergrads by night.  As a result, I try to cram all my reading in over the summer, but last summer that was impossible!  I moved schools (after 15 years of teacher hoarding--you know we all do it), got my Sheltered English Instruction (SEI) endorsement, taught six graduate credits worth of courses AND co-directed a summer reading program.  Whew!

My goal this summer is to take some time for myself to do something I find relaxing.  It's school related, but it's also part of my hobby--reading children's literature.  I'm considering this a "two birds with one stone" kind of deal.  This idea is a double bonus.  It will put all the countless scrap booking supplies I have to use.  They have been collecting dust for years.  I am also playing around with the idea of using this as an assignment in my Children's Literature in the Elementary Grades course this fall.

Our Teaching and Learning Alliance (TLA) coach, Joia, ended our last PD with sharing ways to encourage summer reading for both ourselves and our students.  I was inspired.  She showed us some very neat ways of keeping track of reading in journals, on bulletin boards, etc.  I thought this was a perfect idea.  The reading coach in our school, Shawna, and I have decided to read and log as many books as possible over the summer.  We have started already even though our last day of school is (YIKES) June 25th.  We are sharing and trading books and hope to get a few more colleagues on board.  Each book we read will help us become better teachers and will more importantly, give us the chance to share these books with our students and to incorporate them as possible mentor texts for Reading Workshop.  This is the cover of my journal.  Surprisingly, it's not orange.

Here is the beginning of my Summer Reading Scrapbook.  The first book I read was Esio Trot by Roald Dahl. 

Joia said I had to read it, so I did!  It was adorable and exciting.  I made Alfie the turtle and typed out the turtle chant whispered by Mrs. Silver in order to get her pet to grow.  Because Mr. Hoppy kept a garden, I incorporated some plants along the sides with the word "grow."  Here is the finished product.

After this, I put together a PowerPoint template that I will use to journal some thoughts for each book.  I'd love to attach it for you, but I can't due to the font and border copyrights.  The information I chose to record was, in part, inspired by a wikiHow I came across on Pinterest.  Click HERE for it.  It includes the following.

book number (read):
title (with the book level):
received/recommended by:
number of pages:
part of a series (or not):
first line (from the book):
last line:
teaching points:
summary, favorite quotes and anything else (on the back):

I plan to store each form in back of my scrapbook page.  Here's a better look.

I'm looking forward to sharing with you my summer reading.  Please leave a comment with a favorite book or two.  Here's my "Room to Read" pick. . .

Esio Trot

By:  Roald Dahl
Illustrated By:  Quentin Blake

This fantasy begins with "Mr. Hoppy living in a small flat high up in a tall concrete building."   He lives above Mrs. Silver (his secret crush).  Retired, Mr. Hoppy tends his garden.  He's lonely and sad.  Afraid to ask Mrs. Silver for tea, he devises a plan to help Mrs. Silver's beloved turtle, Alfie, to grow.  It involves Mr. Hoppy's homemade tortoise-catcher, a secured chant from a tribesman in North Africa and over 140 tortoises!  Whether or not Alfie grows or if Mr. Hoppy confesses his love for Mrs. Silver are revealed by the end.  This book is surprisingly, a quick read.  I read it in one sitting on my back porch.  It's ideal for a few days worth of interactive read aloud in grades two or three and perfect for an opinion writing piece (you will understand this if you have read it).  This book is definitely all you would expect from Roald Dahl!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Time for Teacher Appreciation and Reflection...

This Teacher Appreciation Week comes at a very challenging time for educators everywhere. This being said, I wish the following TOP 10 for our profession.

1. May our job performance be judged in more ways than using a Number 2 pencil such as the love of learning we spark, the sense of curiosity we ignite, the sophisticated literacy and mathematical foundation we lay, the life lessons we teach, the look only we can understand that shows how much our students look up to us, and the community of citizens we raise.

2. May we be given the respect and dignity to make decisions (based on our education, experience and expertise) on what's best for our students.

3. May our school systems be run (at all levels) by politicians who collaborate NOT alienate us. Our schools, our children and our livelihood are not to be belittled to dollar signs, corruption and one's political agenda. It's just not OK. Saying "it's for the kids" does not mask the evil.

4. May we begin to unite, to come together, to be joined by parents, friends and families to protect our profession! There has never been a more crucial time to start a plan. Before others judge us and throw around hurtful one-liners, may they take time to learn what is the "real deal."

5. May the most needy, poor and unstable children continue to get many of the most dedicated, qualified and passionate teachers out there--they need us most.

6. May our families, our personal friends and our spouses/significant others, continue to put up with us--the stress we take home, the extra/unpaid work we take home that takes us away from you, and the physical and mental exhaustion we face at the end of each day.

7. May both our future and current children of our own (or in my case my doggies) continue to grow despite the fact that at times our attention may be taken away, in part, to raise a class of 20+ children.

8. May we be free from financial stress. May you receive a raise that meets the cost of living. If you do get one, may your insurance not be hiked so that in reality you make LESS than you did in years past.

9. May we not lose hope in our profession. It's still the best one. It's still the one that teaches ALL THE OTHERS. Stay strong and encourage-- not discourage our very brightest to be future teachers. We need them.

10. May we take 50 seconds today and everyday to, from the front of the room, look at our students (of all ages), take a deep breath, smile and thank them for all they teach us. Thank them for being the reason we persevere each day despite all that we have against us. Thank them this week. We are strong enough week after week, ALL year including those summers we "don't get paid." We don't need a week to call our own.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Pocketful of Poetry for Poetry Month

Keep A Poem In Your Pocket

By Beatrice Schenk de Regniers

Keep a poem in your pocket

And a picture in your head
And you'll never feel lonely
At night when you're in bed.

The little poem will sing to you

The little picture bring to you
A dozen dreams to dance to you
At night when you're in bed.

So - -

Keep a picture in your pocket
And a poem in your head
And you'll never feel lonely
At night when you're in bed.

I really enjoy using this poem to introduce poetry month (April).  It's a nice tool for explaining to young poets how a poem is able to "paint a picture in your mind."  Poems are so special because of their short nature.  The poet must pay careful thought to EACH and EVERY word in a poem in order to achieve the precise feelings and imagery sought.  We are talking pretty heavy stuff here!  Can you tell I have been reading Lucy Calkins?

To celebrate poetry month, I start by making sure each of my young readers (for those of you that don't know, I teach a combination of first and second graders in an innovation school) have a book of poems in their browsing boxes.  They love this.  Among my favorites are Jack Prelutsky and Shel Sliverstein, of course.  I let them "book shop" for their own poems even though some may be a little bit off with their reading levels.  Shhhhhhhhhhhhh!

I also celebrate an addition to our Morning Meeting routine.  I place a poem of the day on my morning message easel.  We share it after we read the morning message and solve my riddle/joke of the day.  After we choral read the poem, I ask my students what do they think, feel or notice.  This question is vague and open ended, but I do this on purpose.  I want my young poets to discuss what the poem means to them, NOT to me.

In addition to these two new routines, I put out my Pocketful of Poetry center and resources.  It includes 18 task cards good for any poem.  Students simply select a poem and respond to the task card on the stationary provided.  Tasks include searching for rhyme, figurative language and themes.  They also include writing a critique, discussing the poem's setting, visualizing and discussing feelings.  

I also use my cards for sharing poems to change up the way we read poems with partners, in a small group, during guided reading, etc.  We experiment with choral singing, cumulative choral reading, line-a-child reading, call and response reading, dialogue reading, impromptu reading and refrain reading.  All of these cards (with what they mean) are available as part of my Pocketful of Poetry resource.

For my second graders, or advanced firsties, they take some time to look at a poem in a more technical manner using my Pocketful of Poetry Student Glossary.  They hunt through a poem and answer the questions provided with help of the glossary (written in child friendly language).  The items include rhyming pattern, rhythm, author's purpose, speaker, descriptive language, figures of speech, summaries, audience and critiquing.  This part of my poetry study can be done over, and over again.  Once I model the steps whole class, it's a great "What to Do When You Are Done" activity.

I did want to share some pics of my putting together this product over the weekend.  I made it last year, but am finally implementing it this year in my classroom.  I'm a busy guy; things take time you know.  

Here I went printing away.  This took awhile as there are a lot of pages in this resource.  


Next up was laminating and cutting, laminating and cutting--repeat.  I have my own personal laminator at home and another personal laminator at school.  I was tired of transporting them back and forth.  I'm not the only one with two, right?

I had a mini-3D display board that a colleague gave to me last year (Thank you, Judith).  She knew I would find something to do with it and, and she wasn't joking.  I had some extra chevron borders from September, so I glue-gunned them to make a fun border that matches the heading banner pocket.  

I used Velcro patches to attach the pockets to the display.  I attached the task cards this way so that the poets could grab a pocket and a poem, take both to their seats and get right to work.  When done, they would just place the pocket back on the display.  I numbered the board so they would match the numbered pocket back up appropriately.

And this, folks, is what you call my classroom-bound, finished product. 

Stop on by my TpT store for a detailed description of this product by clicking HERE.  Happy poetry month!  What do you do to celebrate?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mr. Giso's Room to Read Bright Idea #14

Make a Set of Stacking City, Country and State Cups

Well it's certainly been busy, busy, busy since we came back from February vacation.  For those of you unfamiliar with this New England custom, we have a week off for President's Day.  Spring is here, but is definitely NOT in the air, for we are getting snow and maybe a (fingers crossed) two hour snow delay tomorrow.  I have been battling a three week sore throat--along with my students and colleagues as well.  YUCK!

I started our mini unit in social studies covering "City, Country and State" today with reading the all familiar book, Me on the Map by Joan Sweeny.  If you have not used it before to introduce this concept, you don't know what you are missing.  In this book, we trace the many global "addresses" of a young girl from Kansas.  Students are easily introduced to the theme that "we live in many places."  The sequence of events build from the immediate location of the character (her room) to the entire world in this sequence.
•my room
•my home
•my street
•my city/town
•my state
•my country
•my world

From this read aloud, I continue my introduction by demonstrating this concept a step further using a set of those baby/toddler stacking cups.  For this concrete model, I label the following using a permanent marker--starting with the smallest cup.
•city or town
I know this varies slightly from Me on the Map, but I prefer to include the terms continent and planet (rather than world).  As you can see, a set of these eight stacking cups works nicely.  My young geographers can stack and unstack the cups saying their address, their state, their country, etc.  It's great practice whole class, small group, with a partner or independently.

After this introduction, I make a flip book that I have customized to our city, state, etc.  It's done with good old cutting out pictures and permanent marker.  Sorry, I would love to post it for you.  I did, however, really enjoy coming across these two ideas.  Look at these nesting cans featured on Teach Beside Me's blog.

You can also download (for free!!!) this concentric circle idea from Courtney Quinlan by clicking HERE.

Please share other ideas you have on teaching this popular social studies concept.  I'd really enjoying hearing about them.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

It's a Mrs. Wishy-Washy Kind of Sunday!

 Happy Sunday folks.  I'm excited to share Hameray Publishing's celebration of Mrs. Wishy-Washy and all her funny farm antics.  As you may know, I contribute to their Classroom Literacy Blog.  Check out my posts, to date, by clicking HERE.  Who doesn't love Joy Cowley's Mrs. Wishy-Washy and all of her adventures with her friends the Cow, Duck and Pig?  Like her, I have an obsession with cleanliness and have no luck keeping my floors clean in this New England wintery weather.  My dogs, Toby and Winston, do a number on my house.  They are pros at tracking in the snow and mud on a clean hardwood floor.

The rhyme, rhythm and repetition common in Cowley's books are great for my younger readers.  When high frequency words are introduced, they are done nicely in context to promote automaticity.  I like how the story structure of a Mrs. Wishy-Washy adventure is linear and comical--perfect for introducing my readers to the problem and solution in fictional texts.  As a series, my readers gravitate towards filling their browsing boxes with her tales when book shopping for independent reading material.

Mrs. Wishy-Washy, along with her husband, make us laugh.  Her barnyard friends make me chuckle when the pretend to be sleeping when it's time to take a bath.  It's adorable when a mirror is introduced to the characters for the first time.  I enjoy a good mystery and am eager to find out what happened to all Mrs. Wishy-Washy's corn.  All of these familiar plot lines are favorites among my students too.

To celebrate, I'd like to share Hameray's Mrs. Wishy-Washy Contest.  Enter it by clicking HERE.  All you need to do is follow a few simple steps to win books, puppets and more.

I'm also offering up a little contest of my own thanks to the folks at Hameray--the chance to win a title chosen at random from the Mrs. Wishy-Washy Big Book collection mailed to you.  Sorry, but you need to live in the 48 contiguous states to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mrs. Wishy-Washy is on Facebook, so be sure to shoot her a "like."
For more information on Hameray's outstanding literature collections, find them on Twitter, Pinterest, or Facebook.  Have a good week and do Mrs. Wishy-Washy a favor and STAY OUT OF THE MUD!

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