Monday, November 21, 2011

Tips for Traveling with Tots

Here are some thoughts as we approach the busiest travel day of the year!!

While I acknowledge that all the fun electronic stuff can be life-savers at times, please remember that there are many great ways to engage young children during those special times you share en route that will also boost their learning and thinking skills as well as nurture closer bonds.

Planes, Trains, . . .

Air travel can be challenging for anyone these days and more so with the little ones along. Be prepared!
* Pack a bag for your child with lots of goodies. Include snacks--healthy treats as well as a few of your child's favorite ones to pull out when needed as a diversion. Bring sippy cups and continually fill them with water or juice.
* Bring books--and lots of them! Bring books that your child can read on his/her own as well as some new read-alouds. Bring a few activity books with crosswords and other puzzles, as well as self-contained craft kits, card games, paper and crayons. Bringing a travel journal is also a lovely idea.
* Bring a few toys, including a favorite "huggable," as well as a few small new toys. Wrap every new item like a little present. The act of opening them will take time and enhance small motor skills.

. . . and Automobiles

Car trips can be a little easier on little ones, since you can stop frenquently and let them run around a bit. Along with the items listed above, books on tape are a wonderful activity for kids in the car. Listen along as well, so you can discuss the story and encourage your child to make predictions on what will happen next. When a child listens to a story, they have to create a picture in their mind of what is going on. This is a powerful way to build comprehension skills. That's why you should intersperse movie watching with books on tape when you're on the road. I also highly recommend music videos and CD's. Music accesses and stimulates different parts of the brain. 

For lots and lots of more great ideas, car tips, and travel games, check out

Friday, November 11, 2011

Ideas to Get Kids Writing

Need a writing idea? Just look around you!

When I visit classrooms and talk to kids about their writing,
I always tell them, "Look around you. No one sees the world just like you do!"

Encourage children to think of as many different writing topics as possible. Below is a reproducible that they can use to record their thoughts and ideas. Have students put the lists of ideas in their writing folders or notebooks to have access to ideas whenever they run dry, like the poor chap in the cartoon above!

Click image to download
this reproducible.

For more ideas for writing, click on this link to one of my previous postings:

Friday, September 30, 2011

Make This Class Book!

My friend, Barbara Maio, helped her students create a class Big Book
based on the text of my book, Who Can Go to School?

Who Can Go to School?
First, the students brainstormed a long list of things children can do at school and at home too. The list included classroom jobs and learning activities. Then each child created two pages for the class book.    
Other pages included these innovations to the text of the book above:
Can a giraffe play at recess?
No, but Josue can play at recess.
Can an elephant pass out paper?
No, but Max can pass out paper.
Can a hippo write in a journal?
No, but Kaila can write in a journal.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bookmaking with K-1 Kids, Part 3 * Practice reading the books before sending them home.

Never send student-made books home unless children can read them with 99% accuracy. Here are some ways to practice reading the text:
* Place the little books in students' book boxes for independent reading time.
* Pocket chart or Smart Board Activities
* Create a Big Book version for shared reading.
*Buddy reading
* Record the stories for a listening center.
Here's my version of that iconic 1st grade story, "The Little Red Hen." Make sure you check out an acompanying book-making activity with free down-loadables. Also fits well with the tale, "Stone Soup."

Little Red Hen Makes Soup

Hints: Staple a snack size zip-loc bag to the book cover. Add the manipulative pieces along with a plastic soup with a small stone glued inside it. The spoon can be used as a reading pointer and to "stir up" the ingredients as they are added to the "pot."

Click image to download this reproducible.

This book-making activity is from by resource book below, check it out on the Amazon link!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Where to Get Appropriate Text for K-1 Bookmaking

* Innovations of shared reading material.
* Reproducible emergent readers from resource books
*Traditional poems, songs, rhymes, and chants
* Adaptations of emergent readers
* Download free books from the internet.

For your book-making pleasure, here is a great idea for a class book based on my book below, What Goes Together?

What goes together?
June Swinney, a 1st grade teacher, made this class book with her students. First she read aloud several books with the theme of catagories or things that go together. Then the class brainstormed a long long list of paired objects. From that list they created rhyming couplets. Pairs of students created and illustrated each page of the class Big Book. Adorable!

Friday, June 3, 2011

When is a Good Time to Make Books with K-1 Kids?

When is a Good Time
to Make Books
with K-1 Kids?  
Finding time to make books with your beginning readers can be a challenge.
Here are some good times to keep in mind:
  •  As a learning center activity
  •  Homework
  • When parent volunteers are available (Coordinate this with center time.)
  •  Time with upper grade buddies
If you have other suggestions for how to find time for book-making,
please let me know and I"ll post your ideas!

Here is one of my favorite Cat and Dog books,
with a cool book-making activity that you can download for free. This fun book fits with a social studies theme of "needs vs. wants."
Good Choices for Cat and Dog
Book Making!
Click the images above to download!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Why Make Books with K-1 Kids?

Here some great reasons to use valuable school time making books:
  • Supply extra reading at school. Beginning readers needs lots and lots of easy to read books to practice reading and rereading.
  • Integrate reading in the content areas. There are many book-making resources that feature science, social studies, and math themes.
  • Practice reading sight words in context.
  • Create a supply of reading material for home. After spending some time in the students' book boxes at school, you can send the books home for extra practice. Many K-1 teachers make a home book box at Back to School night and emphasize that the books sent home be placed in the box for home reading.
  • Extend reading practice beyond the school day and through summer vacation. This is a great way to avoid "summer fall-out!"

Below, you can download a fun book-making activity that goes with this Itty Bitty Phonics Reader.

You can copy the bear shape on colored card stock and stick on wiggly eyes, bows, hat, etc. This book practices initial consonant /b/. You can invite your child to glue items to each page such as a button, bow, bean, etc.


Click image to download
this reproducible.

My next blog: When is a good time to make books?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bookmaking with K-1 Kids

Welcome to one of my favorite topics--making books with beginning readers. In my next series of blog postings, I will be sharing my ideas on the Whats, Whys, Hows, and Whens of making take-home books with children just learning to read and write. I'll be sharing my creative ideas, some free-downloadables, as well as linking you up with some valuable resources.

But to start you off, here are 2 fun and easy books to download.

For the book "Bugs," children  just color the pages to match the text and complete page 4 with a color word and matching bug. Then cut the 4 pages apart, and staple them together with a fun cover made from construction paper or card stock. I used to bug stickers to decorate the cover, but having kids draw and color their own would be better yet.



Here is a simple "flip' book. Cut out the top strip and glue it to a piece of construction paper. Then cut out the color words/pictures and staple them as shown. Children repeat reading "I see . . . " and flip the pages to read different color words.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Getting Set for Writer's Workshop

Above is one more photo I'd like to share with you from my recent visit to a 2nd grade Writing Workshop in action. Consultant Renee Houser from Growing Educators, who was working with students, tacked up this poster. The set-up routine gets young writers ready, puts them in the right mind-set, and helps them focus on what they will be working on. I love the way this routine sets the expectation that serious writing will be taking place in this session! 

Here's more from Renee Houser's hand-out:
Create rituals and routines around notebook work
 such as:
 *  At the beginning of every writer's workshop, have students edit at least one entry as they sit and wait
for classmates to settle in the meeting area before the mini-lesson begins.

 *  Interrupt students in the middle of the independent work time and challenge them to accomplish a 'quick edit' (you might want to focus each quick edit for something specific each time such as: end marks, capitalization, word wall words, etc.).

*  Provide time for students to reflect on their own note-booking. Perhaps they share their reflections and goals with their partners. Example: I date each entry. I fill the page margin to margin with my writing. I use my writing notebook only for writing. I tend to use  ____  as a strategy because ____ . 

*   Building time during a 1:1 conference to invite students to share their notebook work and goals.

*   Establishing some non-negotiables for notebooks such as:  All entries are dated. Writing should be from margin to margin, etc.
Next, I will be blogging on one of my favorite subjects:
Book-making with beginning readers and writers. Stay tuned!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Becoming an independent writer. . .

As a continuation of my previous blog posting, I'd like to share some ideas
from writing consultant Renee Houser: 

"We can live wide-awake writerly lives and capture these moments in our writing notebooks by: 
  •  Writing about things that matter to you, you feel strongly about or perhaps want others to change or think about. . . let your voice be heard!
  • Searching for an object on your body or in your surroundings that may spark a memory
  • Time-lining part of your day
  • Observing people, places, sounds. . .
  • Collecting words, phrases, or parts of texts
  • Rereading old entries and find more to say
  • Rereading old entries in a way that it sparks a new or different memory
  • Sketching a place and then write about it
  • Making a list of things you want to write about, pick one and start writing
  • Being inspired by photographs or artifacts
  • Making a list of questions or wonderings and then search for answers or other questions and thoughts
  • Saying it better. . . reread an entry and find a line or phrase you think you wrote well and write it again, better, clearer . . . "
If beginner writers follow the guidelines above, they won't find themselves in the predicament Cat does in my book, Cat Can't Write.

                     Click here to read the book about Cat

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Scenes from 2nd Grade Writing Workshop

I was invited to my friend Renee Keeler's 2nd grade classroom to observe a model lesson (along with all the 2nd grade teachers in the district)  with consultant Renee Houser. She trained with Lucy Culkins and is with a group called "Growing Educators." All the teachers met with Renee H. first, but there was a mix-up with the subs, so I, having a credential, volunteered to take over for a half hour. I read a biography of Dr. Suess, then the students read a version on their own. Notice the level of engagement. Loved it!      
Here's Renee Houser, above, conferencing with a table of writers.
Renee's class is set up for "The Daily Five," so you can see lots of "busy brains" in the following photos. 
This story is off to a great start! Notice how this child planned the story by drawing a picture first.

Renee Houser demonstrated how she uses a graph, below,  to show how writing workshop time is divided. This is on display and referred to often. The sticky note star is moved to each section. Time is allowed for:  Set Up (materials), Meeting (planning, mini-lesson), a big chunk of Independent Writing Time, Partner Work, more Independent Writing Time, and Wrap-UP.

Scenes from the classroom. I love the self-portraits and the Daily Five Posters. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Scenes from CA Readers Luncheon on Feb. 26th, 2011

Me with legendary children's author Eve Bunting
New Books!

Rene Colato Lainez and Alexis O'Neill
Rene with his book featuring The Tooth Fairy and a cute rat.

The entire Leo Politi Collection.

59th Street School displays the reader's theatre project they created tied to the CA Collection.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

California Readers

I will be attending the 15th Annual California Readers "We Love California Authors  & Artists Luncheon" Saturday in Burbank. Below is a link to my interview posted on their site. This organization is a great way to connect with local writers and illustrators. Susan Patron will be keynoting and the Leo Politi Golden Author is Jerry Stanley. I went last year for the first time and really enjoyed meeting up with other authors and lots of library and school personnel.

Click on this link to find out how I got the ideas to write these books.  
Click here to view larger image
Click here to read this book.

 Click here to view larger image
Read this book inspired by my daughter, Laura

Click here to read a book written and illustrated by Mrs. Keeler's 2nd graders!  


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Keep Reading on Track with Fun Pointers

 I received a little package in the mail containing a collection of fun reading pointers. It was from my friend, Luella Connelly, who just happens to be the founder of Creative Teaching Press. Not one to really retire, she is currently volunteering at an elementary school. She is working on reading with six children. They have trouble tracking, so in addition to using their fingers, she made them some cute pointers. Some are tied to the themes of the books they are reading. Pointers are easy to make. Just start with craft sticks, any size, and glue on buttons, wiggly eyes ("Keep your little eye on the words!"), puffy stickers and other fun stuff.

Why is tracking important?
When beginning and remedial readers track words, it helps engrain necessary left-to-right processing, helps them keep their place, and notice all the sounds.
" Poor readers have frequent tracking errors where they improperly process letters out of order. They often exhibit erratic eye movement as they look around for 'whole words' or jump around searching for familiar chunks or word families. These incorrect tracking strategies contribute to reading difficulty."
---M. Gagen     
Also, by tracking as they read, beginning readers are connecting spoken words to written words. Many books they read on this level have repeated text that children easily memorize. Sometimes children finish "reading" the book but they still have some pages  leftover! By tracking with their fingers or fun pointers, their attention is focused on the text.  

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Great Books for February!

Here are two of my favorite books for Valentines' Day. 
  Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli
This is a great read-aloud for any age.
Summary: An anonymous valentine changes the life of the unsociable Mr. Hatch, turning him into a laughing friend who helps and appreciates all his neighbors.

This is a book all pre-readers as well as beginner readers can read and enjoy on their own
Every bird loves a tree,
Every flower loves a bee,
Every lock loves a key,
And I love you! 

This book provides a perfect model for the creation of an "instant" class book your students will enjoy reading over and over again. For directions and free downloadables go to this link:  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Little Notebooks--Big Gains in Reading Fluency


Here is an idea you can use with your beginner readers either in the classroom or at home. It came from my friend--classroom teacher and educational editor-- Barbara Maio. I quote her:
"This is one idea that, in all my years as a first grade teacher, has proven to be THE BEST activity to help my students become fluent readers."   

Here's the HOW TO:
  • Give each student a small notebook, any kind.  Label each notebook with the student's name and title, "Star Reader."
  • During independent reading time, the student chooses a book from his/her book box (previously introduced books). The child reads and rereads the book until she/he can read it perfectly. They can take it home to practice too. 
  • Then when the child can read it perfectly and fluently, he/she reads it to a parent volunteer or the teacher.
  • If the reading is perfect, the students writes the title in the Reading Star notebook.
  • For every 10 books read, the student gets a star or sticker, and then gets to pick a prize from the goodie box. 

That's it! Remember:
Rereading builds fluency.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Connect school to home in the Kindergarten classroom with take-home bags..

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Are you looking for meaningful, hands-on homework for your kindergarten kids? Do you want your students to practice and extend the learning they are doing in the classroom? Do you want your students to be excited about homework? Several of my teacher friends, (special thanks to Kim Jordano!) create lots of take-home bags tied directly to classroom skills. They have enough bags so that every child can take one home for the night and bring it back the next day.

Want to read this book? Click on the cover!

Here is a take-home bag I put together for my book Monkey in the Story Tree.
I found the bag last year in the dollar bins at Target. But you can use simple tote bags. Recycle the tote bags you get at conferences by turning them inside out and labeling them with fabric markers or puffy paint. I attached the book and the letter to parents to the bag with ribbon. I also included a list of sight words the kids are working on. I also included:
  • a small dry-erase magnet board and marker
  • magnet sight words
  • a bag of magnet letters
  • a class journal
The letter to the parents explains what to do with the materials. You can download a copy of the letter here. And click on the book to read the story. I think take-home bags are the perfect homework for Kindergarten Kids! Take-home bags create active learning activities, are easily understood by parents, and reinforce learning going on in the classroom. Hint! Take-home bags make great learning center activities too.