Sunday, July 24, 2016

Books to Incorporate Art

I have always been a big fan of art. I grew up out in the country in Pennsylvania and we would go on field trips to NYC to look at the museums and watch a play. The museums were my favorite part-I could have just spent days in there looking at all the masterpieces. In college I had to take an art elective and because I'm not very good at making art I took Art History. It was my favorite class! I loved learning about what the paintings meant and about the lives of the artist. Art is so subjective-what I look at and like you might hate-it's all in the eye of the beholder.

I teach art to my Kinder students. Once or twice a month we profile a popular artist and learn their techniques and then the kiddos make art. Let me be clear-this is not a craft where they have specific directions-paint this color here, glue these already cut out pieces here. This is art-a blank canvas and they put their vision on the paper.

Here are a few books I like to use when talking about different artists:

This is a beautiful, touching story about Henri Matisse and his life of creating art.

An author (and an artist) talks about her start in creating art and how she was inspired to make many of her famous books and illustrations. I love that she wishes us a "colorful" life.

In customary Gail Gibbons' fashion-she gives us a story about all the tools an artist uses and examples of how they use them. Good for teaching the kiddos art vocabulary.

I love Blue Dog! Rodrigue is an artist out of New Orleans who began painting his beloved dog in his paintings as Blue Dog. She showed up in all different kinds of settings and I think it's a great tribute to her. He came to Houston to exhibit once and I really wanted to take my class, but we didn't get tickets in time. 

My kiddos loved Press Here so much, I had to get the sequel. In this book the kids get to "mix" up the colors of the book by shaking it, etc. They love it and it's teaching them that we can get new colors when we mix them together. Inevitably every year one of my students will ask what we get if we mix all the colors together-so I let them try that.

Huge fan of Eric Carle to begin with, but this is a really beautiful story.

Ah Magritte. I know what you are thinking, he's a little dark to be teaching Kinder students about him. But this book is actually a fun story that highlights the surrealism. A hat that is there and then not there-it's in lots of different strange places. It's a cute story.

So there you have it, a list of books that you can use to keep teaching art to our young kiddos! So important for fostering creativity.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

My 1,000th Post!!!!!

I don't really pay much attention to numbers for my blog-I really don't. But I feel like this is kind of a milestone for me! I just can't believe that I have had enough fodder for 1,000 posts! In 2010 it was Christmas break and I thought-hey, maybe I should start a blog. I know it's hard for me to find resources about challenging students in early childhood, maybe I should share what I'm doing in my class. And here we are today 1,000 blog posts later.

Blogging has been one of the most rewarding things I have done in the past few years of teaching. I tend to be viewed as a bit of  Lone Wolf at my campus. When everyone else is doing this activity-I usually choose to do something different, something more challenging. As a teacher of the only gifted class on our grade level I am often left out of planning sessions. Our two "regular" teachers plan, our dual language teachers plan together and then there's me. And most of the time I really don't mind. I have never been one to do something because that's always the way we have done it before. But there are times you wish you had people to bounce ideas off of.

But I really feel like I found my tribe online! I can connect with other GT teachers, other Kinder teachers, other bloggers. I have learned so much from people that I have met through this little blog. I have been spending some time going back and reading my posts from the beginning. I found some ideas I had forgotten about and I can see how my voice has changed a little bit over the year, gained a little bit of confidence maybe. I think it's a great tool for reflection as well.

We have a part of our evaluation where our admins rate us on our ability to "seek feedback". I feel like every time we post something online, that is exactly what we are doing. And whether we actually get that feedback or not-our thoughts and ideas are getting out there. Every once in a while those doubts creep in and you wonder if anyone is even listening and then I will get an e-mail from someone asking advice for their GT student or saying that they use my ideas.

So if you blog, keep blogging! If you don't blog, think about starting one. It is such a rewarding experience!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Chapter Read-Alouds for Kindergarten

I believe in reading to kids above their grade level. I think that it helps to hear new vocabulary in context and it helps their listening comprehension to listen with no pictures. I also believe that reading the same story for weeks at a time allows the students to create relationships with these characters. They often are sorry to see the book end and even weeks later will talk about how they miss certain characters.

Now there are two different ways you can go as a Kindergarten teacher. You can read Junie B. Jones and Horrible Harry stories. They introduce the students to a series of books they might develop an interest in continuing and make reading fun for them. There's nothing like hearing a class laugh at a well-placed joke in the story.

The other way is to read books with more substance. Books that can foster activities with depth and rigor. Those are the books I am going to share with you today:

This book is a little bit challenging. It's written in verse and uses words a bit above their vocabulary range, but it has a great message (don't judge a book by its cover) and my students last year really enjoyed it.

This is a book about a father who goes out to get milk for his children's breakfast cereal and doesn't come home right away. The story he makes up to explain why he took so long reminds me of one my own father would try to convince us with. :) It's a cute story but also takes some thinking to follow along with the main theme.

A great book when you talk about civil rights. I think this story gives another perspective-one of a child growing up in the segregated South trying to make sense of her surroundings.

This is a fun book about a little girl dealing with missing someone dear to her. The kids really liked it!

A classic in my heart. This is the story of what your toys do when you are not around. I used to have thoughts like this when I was little. They also have to deal with trying to figure out new experiences, which Kindergarteners also have to deal with.

Monday, July 18, 2016

My Summer So Far

I taught summer school this year, so my break did not officially begin until July. I've been spending a lot of time working on lesson plans, student book club study guides and workstations for when we return-but the good news is I can do that while I stream tv shows! :) I do not watch very much television. I watch the news every morning and Game of Thrones-that's pretty much all I watch on regular tv. I do, when we have some down time like to binge-watch (I hate that term). I found 2 that I liked this summer:

I thought this show was very well done. It's a take on what America might look like if we had lost WW II. So Germany and Japan both rule. Very thought-provoking and suspenseful. There were a few times I wanted to just shake the main character!

I thought this show had just enough spooky. The kids they cast were just phenomenal. I wish there were more answers by the time it got to the end, but I assume there will be another season.

I have managed to do some reading for fun:

This is such a well-written book of short stories. The characters in them were very different but they all revolve around our relationship with nature.

This is a pretty good ghost story. Two parallel plots that come together at the end. Not too scary. :)

Now I have eclectic tastes. :) I liked this book. I did not see the fairy tale connection that was in the book summary, however, I did think it was an interesting character study. The first half of the book told by a girl who escapes an abusive home to make a better life for herself. The second half told mostly by her daughter. It is a bit stream-of-consciousness at times and I can see why half the people who reviewed it did not like it, but I did. 

I've also been able to meet some old friends for lunch, celebrate my birthday, catch up on appointments including a well-needed haircut (my first in a year!).

I hope everyone is enjoying their time off and getting some veg time in as well!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Higher Level Questions for Back to School Read Alouds

It is never to early to start asking questions that will make students think critically about read-alouds. I start from Day One! Here are some examples of questions you can ask for common back-to-school read alouds.

1. What job do you think David might have when he grows up/what kind of person would he be?
2. How do you think the other children felt when David was displaying that behavior?
3. If you were a friend of David's, how do you think you could defend that behavior?
4. What do you think causes a child to act like David did?
5. Can you design a classroom that might be better suited for a student whose antics resemble David's?
6. If you were David's teacher, how would you handle the situation?
7. Why do you think this author wrote this story?

1. Why do you think the principal wanted there to be so much school?
2. How could students learn more without extending the number the days they come to school?
3. Would you like to have a principal like this?
4. Do you know anyone like this principal?
5. Was it right or wrong to make the students come to school extra days?
6. What would be the benefits of a program like that?
7. Do you think this principal would ever try anything like this again?
8. What are some ways a student could be successful going to school every day?

1) Why do you think Victoria made fun of Chrysanthemum's name?
2) How did the parents make her feel better? What do your parents do for you when you are sad?
3) How would you handle it if someone was making fun of your name?
4) How do you think parents decide what to name their child?
5) Was Chrysanthemum right in the way she responded to Victoria?
6) What would you do if you heard someone making fun of another kid's name?
7) Create a new ending for the story.
8) If the main character's name was "Jane", how would the details of the story have changed?
9) Were there any patterns in the story?
10) How did Chrysanthemum change over the course of the story? Will she still like her name as she grows up? What do you think she'll name her child?

1. Why do you think all the letters wanted to go up the coconut tree?
2. Why did they want to go back up again after they fell down?
3. How do you think the coconut tree feels?
4. What are some other places you think the letters would like to play?
5. What is the relationship between the letters?
6. How do you think the author came up with the idea for this story?
7. Why did their parents come running?

1. Why do you think Chester didn't want to leave his mom?
2. Why do you think parents also get upset on the first day of school?
3. What other things could his mother have done to make his day easier?
4. What do you think will happen when Chester goes to school next year?
5. Was Chester right to be so worried?
6. What memory do you think Chester will have about school when he grows up?
7. If you were Chester's hand, how would you feel?
8. Do you think if all moms used this strategy, no one would be worried to come to school?

A story about a little mouse with a speech impediment who was unfortunately was named Rodney Rat.

1) Why do you think Camilla Copybara was so mean?
2) How is Rodney like Chrysanthemum?
3) What other things could Rodney have done because Camilla was a bully?
4) How would you treat a friend like Rodney?
5) How would the story have been different if Rodney didn't have a speech impediment? What details would have changed?

1) What would Miss Nelson have done if she didn't have a sister to help her?
2) How would you react if your teacher was Viola Swamp?
3) Was it right that Miss Nelson tricked her students? Why?
4) What details would have changed if Viola Swamp had been nice?
5) Why do you think the students wouldn't listen to Miss Nelson in the first place?
6) How would you feel if you were Viola Swamp?
7) How would the story have been different if Miss Nelson was a mean teacher?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

My First Week Read-Alouds

If you know me at all, you know I'm a bit of a rebel. I try to do things differently than the teachers my Kindergarten students had in Pre-K did. One of those things is to vary the books they hear as read-alouds.

These are some new ones I'm going to use this year and some of my all-time favorites! I love having them compare the fictional story to their own experiences in our class.

I LOVE the concept of this book! The boy is an astronaut and the process of preparing for and attending the first day of Kindergarten is told through space analogies. I had a student last year who would have just adored this book!

I read a book like this and I just wonder how the author came up with this concept. I mean, why a buffalo? But the story is really cute-it's about a buffalo who isn't sure he is going to fit into his Kindergarten class. He, of course does, because everyone, even a buffalo has something to contribute to their classroom community.

                     This is my all-time favorite beginning of the year story. The little boy is going to "Kindergarten"and the farm animals all hypothesize what that word means. It's a really sweet story.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Pets and Their Quirks

I just read the CUTEST story:

The little girl orders a unicorn and the pet she gets, isn't quite what she had in mind. But of course, everything works out in the end. Sometimes the pet you think you want, isn't the one you end up getting.

I may like this story because I can relate! 7 summers ago I decided to get a puppy. I found one at a local rescue:

She was 3 months old and all I knew about her was that she was part of an unwanted litter. She was in the shelter for over a month because she had a respiratory infection. I adopted her and was so excited to bring her home and make her part of our family. She had other ideas though she bit and scratched at me the whole way home. She wouldn't let me sit on the floor with her, or in the grass with her, she would nip until I was black and blue. She didn't want to cuddle or fall asleep in your lap like many puppies do. Ruby walked around incessantly, like a shark, anxious all the time.

We went to 4 different trainers before I found one that understood her. We worked on training techniques, techniques to alleviate her anxiety. Everyone I knew told me to return her. Some people who I had never known to give up on anything suggested it-that really surprised me. One of the trainers told me "she will never be the dog you want her to be, she's not normal." But I couldn't give up on her.  Now 7 years later she has turned into a great companion.

                                                   She helps me do report cards.

She is literate.

She helps hang up the laundry.

She warms my feet when it's cold. I love when she curls up like a fox.

She is adorable when she sleeps.

She communicates what she wants very well. (She wants me to put treats in this bone. :)

Today, she is a beautiful companion. She protects me from all sorts of evil squirrels and the mailman. She makes me laugh every day.

So I completely understand the premise that sometimes you end up with the pet that you need rather than the perfect pet that you want. Sometimes you are meant to find and take care of each other.

Monday, July 4, 2016


So one of my resolutions for my classroom this upcoming year is to celebrate more! I had a calendar many years ago that included all the National Days-National Hot Dog Day, National Sea Turtle Day, Ansel Adams birthday, etc. I am making a calendar for myself this year and I am going to take a few minutes every day to celebrate something or someone.

I cannot figure out how to upload the actual files, however I do have the last 2 weeks of August and September to post here. If you are interested at all in a copy of this calendar-just e-mail me and I can send it to you. It was culled from a number of different sites.

So excited to celebrate this year!!!!

August 22nd-Tooth Fairy Day, Tongue Twister Day
August 23rd-Ride Like the Wind Day
August 25-Earth was first photographed from the moon, Mt. Vesuvius erupted
August 26th-Dog Appreciation Day
August 29th-King Henry the Fifth's Birthday
August 31st-Eat outside day
September (Classical Music Month)
Sept. 9th-Teddy Bear Day
Sept. 13th-Roald Dahl's birthday, Uncle Sam Day
Sept. 15th-Make a Hat Day
Sept. 16-Mayflower Day, Play-doh Day
Sept. 19th-Constitution Day, Talk Like a Pirate Day
Sept. 20-World Gratitude Day
Sept. 22nd-Elephant Appreciation Day
Sept. 25th -Keep Kids Creative Week/Banned Books Week
Sept. 28th-Good neighbor day

Friday, July 1, 2016

Books About New Siblings

I worked in daycare for many years after I graduated from college (much to my parents'chagrin!). One of my favorite stories is when I worked with 3 year olds in the preschool room. A little girl had turned 3 and moved into that classroom. She was telling everyone that she was going to have a little brother or sister. We looked at mom when she came to pick her up and she didn't look like she was expecting, however the girl was very insistent. So one day we finally just broke down and asked the mother, so when are you due? She laughed-I'm not pregnant, what would make you think that? So we explained. The little girl said "whenever a child moves into the 3-year old room, they get a brother or sister". I guess a lot of the parents were leaving a 3 year gap between pregnancies! She thought it was an automatic thing.

Having a little brother or sister enter your world can be a traumatic event. These books explore this plot line and bonus-most of them even feature diverse characters!

Life for Elmore Green was perfect until "it" came along. It wants his jellybeans and copies everything he does. Until one night Elmore realizes "it"may come in pretty handy. A really sweet story.

This is a beautiful book! A little girl who is not too happy about the prospect of sharing everything with a new little one, but she also pretty quickly changes her mind.

My favorite part of this book is when she teaches her new little brother the ABC's wrong! This one is pretty funny-the kids always enjoy it.

There is always room on Mother's lap!!! A beautiful story that has the repetition that the kiddos just love.

Poor Peter-he has decided to take his valuable belongings and run away because he's not getting the attention he needs anymore.

So whether you are preparing for a new little one or that it's a theme the kids can relate to-these are some good choices for books about siblings.