Tuesday, July 31, 2007

An Aha moment!

Dr. Seuss Vs. Mercer Mayer

Yesterday, as I was pondering ducks, I was reading with my daughter that is ready to enter the first grade this year. Let me preface, SS#1 (my firstborn daughter) has always had phenomenal language skills. She began speaking at a very early age. Her ability to read however, has been a bit disappointing from a teacher's perspective. She is doing fine, but upon entering Kindergarten she had not mastered her letters/sounds. She showed no interest, and not wanting to make it a negative situation I didn't push her. I allowed the teacher to set the pace and then I pushed from her teacher's side. We all know the pull a K teacher has on their students, I used it to my advantage! Anyway, SS#1 is doing fine now, but I was a little apprehensive to say the least. Yesterday we were reading two different books. First we read Dr. Seuss' One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, thinking it would be easy with all those phonetic rhyming parts. Wrong!!!! I became very frustrated. Why wasn't she getting all those words. They are the same on each page! I thought she knew CVC rules. Has she lost all of her strategies?

We switched books and decided to read Mercer Mayer's book Just For Yu-You! She did phenomenal!

What is different?
Here was my Aha! moment:
SS#1 reads for meaning! Isn't this what I want! Those language skills, they are what support her reading. She needs to have story for understanding. "What makes sense?" That is what drives her throughout the book. She knows her meager knowledge words, her fluency is great, her decoding does not come from breaking words down. Her approach is genius. She approaches text thinking, "What makes sense in the story for that beginning sound?" Duh!?!?!?!?!
While reading the Dr. Seuss book she had no support for meaning, it was all about decoding. I can actually see her skimming the pages looking for picture support and word strategy. She stops at meager knowledge words not because she doesn't know them but she is wondering how do they support the next hard word that is coming up. She is thinking, "how am I going to make that make sense?" Brilliant!
My classroom:
1. How often have I selected a book for a guided reading group because I wanted to teach a new decoding strategy? How often did it have meaning support?
2. Do I teach for strategy or for meaning?
3. Duh, why is this just occurring to me?

I have spent all summer reading all things Reading Workshop. I am gearing up for that purpose. I have been struggling with guided reading. How does it all fit? I think reading with my daughter yesterday solved this mystery for me. I still will have guided reading, I still will be teaching phonics strategies, BUT I am more focused on meaning...and then phonics.
What makes sense?

Monday, July 30, 2007


I know kind of a cheesy title but I think that this post is going to be cheesy too.
Today, before entering the local Walmart I noticed two good samaritans trying to corral a mama and her baby ducklings into cardboard boxes. They were so cute, newly hatched they were still yellow feathered and snuggled close to their mama. I was drawn to this action as I thought about the place this mother had decided to nest. This is a Walmart not close to any water, there is not ever really a sufficient place to put a nest even. I'm sure had the babies and mother stayed in this parking lot nest that they surely would have died. However, these kind samaritans decided to save them from their untimely death.
We have a family of ducks that travels through our back yard from one pond to another. Every spring she quacks with her babies while crossing our road. Every once in a while she holds up morning traffic while drivers honk and flip her the bird. My oldest daughter always gets annoyed by this, "my goodness, they are just ducks Mama. They are so cute. Why are the cars honking?" My daughter has learned that baby ducks and their mamas are so cute and in need of rescuing. She is only 6.
When we lived at the lake we had a duck that took up residence near and around our pier. We named him Bert. He was a little different than all the other ducks because he was a cross between a farm duck and a mallard duck. He couldn't fly it seemed because he stayed during the winter. Bert never had a nest of eggs, never had a mate, never even seemed female. One day Bert showed up with babies. We were never sure where he got them because they were older, not yellow any longer, and he was a wonderful mother. They all lived. He taught them how to be ducks.
A day thinking about ducks.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

I've Been Tagged!

1. I am a good teacher because I allow students to be who they are. I accept them for all their differences and glitches. I not only accept that but I foster that throughout the year. My aide says, "It's like a garden in here, a bunch of varieties all blooming when they are supposed to." I just add water, and sun!
2. If I weren't a teacher I would be a dog groomer, or hairdresser. I like going to both of these places. I also like that there is a finished product. I often don't get to see the finished product and that is sometimes frustrating.
3. My teaching style is very open. I think that I veer off from the beaten path at times and I am safe in thinking that that is what kids need. I enjoy learning right along with my students.
4. My classroom is chatty. I don't mind talking. I often will say, "Do you get this?" to a student. When they do I ask them to peer tutor another student. We are all learning at the same time. My classroom is also diverse. I am the teacher that requests the special needs, special education, etc. in my classroom. I have a concentration in Special Education and this is the reason why: I wanted to know what to do when I had these students in my room and I wanted to be positive about it. I'm so glad I did!
5. My lesson plans, are weekly. I know what skill, what strategy, etc. but the activity changes daily. I have such a workshop setting now that we really have to just go with whatever the kids need. Fortunately it has been successful.
6. One of my teaching goals: I am pushing forward with Reading Workshop (I don't know what else to call it) and hoping for the best. I am excited about all they will be learning. I want my students to feel the same way I feel about books.
7. The toughest part of teaching is knowing so much about their home lives and not being able to do anything about it. I don't think the American public can even remotely know what adult parents are doing to children. I have purchased clothing, lunches, school supplies, snacks for them to eat for supper, field trip money, etc. People have no idea what we do for these kids. I never knew my heart would be pulled on so emotionally.
8. The thing I love most about teaching is not the academia, it is educational, but not a state standard. It is the moment when you must let them go. I love looking at a student that came in different, one that you raised your eyebrows at and thought, "you have to learn to read?" I look at them in June and my heart is so proud of them. I have brought them to this point. We have worked so hard. It is like watching a bird take flight after being caged. It is like a child on a two wheel bicycle for the first time.
9. A common misconception about teaching is that we get money for the things in our classroom. Even down to staples and paper clips a teacher buys it all. For those of you frustrated by the prospect of rising property taxes for education I say, think of your teachers who have not only paid the taxes but are still filling their rooms with stuff that will make their students better. On average, a teacher spends $1200 out of their own pocket for their classroom. Books aren't cheap folks.
10. The most important thing I have learned since starting my career is that my students, their parents, my administrators, and my colleagues just want to be respected as humans. If we validate one another in a loving way we can get so much further than if we are tearing each other down. It has been a lesson in being human.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Poetry Friday: How He Feels

A poem about grief and the emotions experienced during that time. As a poet, it has been observational. As a wife, it has been a moment of anguish for the one I love.

How He Feels

by Sarah Amick

The days are long, this week is longer;
He is busy making plans,
Tender moments are happening around him;
The endless phone calls, the plans are overwhelming,
The guilty laugh
Small moments dancing with his children;
Conversations cut short-because of grief.
Unbearable thoughts, reflective music.
Questioning...why, why, always why?
Watery eyes, slow falling tears, a chuckle at a memory.
Hidden moments, gazing at nothingness,
Please, just sit with me,
Quiet moments, in the silence;
this is how...he grieves

Gearing Up!

All summer long you get to listen to people say, "You are so lucky to have three months off for summer!" Yeah, yeah, yeah. I have spent already three days getting my room ready for the upcoming school year. I have been in my room early this summer. I just had so much to do. All that reading makes you just itching to get back in there to get started. I got to thinking about all the criticisms that we teachers face because our achievement scores are plastered for all the world to see. It can get a little unnerving even for an optimist like me! I made a list, a list of all the "achievement" that I see because I get to be...A Teacher.

-Oh, when they read. First grade, around October, they all fall in love, and you can't get them to put the books down. Not many teachers get to see this transformation but it is just like a butterfly breaking from a cocoon. They read. Spend a day and just focus on that one little skill that you learned when you were in the first grade, it was the foundation you needed for the rest of your life...to read.
-How about the struggling student, the one with all the strategies that you have tried and they still aren't with the others. How can you not just ache for them? They inspire you to keep trying, to ask others questions, to read more about them, and finally, you start watching the littlest achievements that they make. It will never be posted in the paper as an achievement- they wouldn't understand, but you saw achievement!
-Everyday, from 8:40-3:20 I am among greatness. Future doctors, lawyers, human resource persons, mothers, fathers, ministers, and teachers sit in my room and learn from one another. I have influence in their lives. One person, who gets to touch many.
-Forever, I will be learning. Not just the teacher, I am the learner. They share the greatest wisdom these little people. They allow you to look at life through a different set of eyes, I get to witness that, daily.
-I came to a realization when I sent my own kindergartner off to school last year. I had such worries, and concerns for her. I wanted to protect her and keep her safe from the world. Looking out at my students I was struck with this realization: Their parents feel this same way. These people must be handled with care. My profession, I feel my impact, I see the responsibility, and I understand the importance of what I do...everyday.
Thank God, I am a teacher.

ImageChef.com - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

On death and dying

My husband lost a friend today. A friend that wasn't very old, quickly lost his life. It has been looming over our home for days now. We have been living, waiting for the news. I got to thinking about what types of children's books deal with death and dying? I immediately thought of all of the books that deal with the death of grandparents. There are a lot of those out there. That is a very real issue for children because a lot of them lose grandparents as children.

I have some chapter books that deal with death and dying:

1. Charlotte's Web- We wept openly this school year when that spider died. I heard the children discussing the importance of friendship, loyalty, and that very special spider. We loved her dearly, not just the character, but the friend she was to Wilbur. She is a very special spider. We talked about her qualities throughout the year, when a friend wasn't being kind, we remembered Charlotte.

2. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Toulane- I happened upon this book because of the Tales of Desperaux, the same author, Kate Dicamillo. This book is about a rabbit, a toy rabbit, that experiences what it is to love, and then loss. In this book one of his owners, named Ruthie, is poor, very sick, and so little. The rabbit grows to love her and be loved for the first time in his existence. Ruthie dies. My students stored Ruthie in their hearts the way Edward did. He talks about how Ruthie's death hardens his heart to never love again. My students understood that opening his heart meant that he might be hurt again. We discussed that after such loss people must choose like Edward to love again.

3. The Boxcar Children- while not a story about dying, the parents are dead, they are orphans. I remember thinking this when I was young and listening to my teacher, why had the parents died? Why would they leave these four children all alone? What was going to happen to them? Why were they so alone?

Do you see how these books draw you in? Do you see the emotional attachments they create for children? I do not think that my students will ever forget how we felt about Charlotte. We loved her to the bitter end, we also learned that our reward for loving her was the hope of her 514 children. They lived on, we learned that. We also learned that it was Wilbur's responsibility, as a friend, to continue to care for them, long into the future. A lesson about life. It is our responsibility to continue to care for those left behind.
Lessons, on death, and dying.

Monday, July 23, 2007

My Serious Life

Hipwritermama always has Inspirational Mondays. I love Monday, it is my hen party night, Monday Night Football is coming up, and then I also get to read her posts! Today was especially uplifting for some reason. I guess I got to thinking about several people in my life that are starting over. All of them are going to pursue educations later in life and I am so proud of them. They are living their dreams out loud! What a novel idea! Personally, my dream was to become a teacher and a mother. I guess all this other stuff in my life is a blessing! I'll take it and be content. I am very content. I wrote this poem in response to Hipwritermama's post, hope you all enjoy. I only ask, "where is your dream?"

The Flame
I have a dream...
I keep it hidden in my drawer;
My dream is not the desires of many,
not the wants of a few,
but the need of one.
I have a flame.
It burns brightly in my soul,
I fan it ever so slightly for all to see,
It is the fire I want to be.
For when the flame is fanned
I am quenched from within-
Still my soul stretches and reaches
gasping for the food, the oxygen, the skills-
I must feed the flame;
All around me, I see:
flames, people, humans, embers,
I see small flickering flames,
they give hardly any light at all,
they are not strong, not ready to sustain the heat.
I see others, eating, digesting, consuming,
fuel to build the flame.
And then, there is- the flame,
the torch, the light blazing
It can't be contained:
others have tried with discouraging words;
but the flame was relentless, it's spirit unyielding.
As it burns it intoxicates everything in its path-
But the littlest flicker dreams seriously about its life
It's potential, could it be the big flame?
Or, will it retreat to the safety of the drawer?
Safe, safe, safe...
But never what it was meant to be.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

An "I remember" kind of day...

Today, my family gathered at my 82 year old grandmother's home to do an extreme makeover. My grandmother lives in the city. She lives directly in front of a creek, in the city. Yet, her home is deemed a natural wildlife preserve. As astonishing as that sounds, it's true. She has every variety of plant and flower you could dream of, and she knows them intimately. My grandmother is also an active member of the Audubon Society. My children today watched a variety of birds fly in and out of her yard while she named them all. Here are the sounds I heard as the little children, cousins, second cousins, and even aunts and uncles worked in her yard:
"oh, look there is the cardinal, that is the state bird." -Grandma
"What kind of bird is that that made a nest in there?" -My Husband
"It's a Jenny Wren, grandma said!" -My youngest daughter
"Be careful of that tree! It is the tulip tree, our state tree!" -Grandma
"Is that poison-ivy?" -my mother
"Why do they call the weeping willow that?" -My oldest daughter
"Quiet now, can you hear the mother Wren talking to her babies?" -Grandma
"Aughhh, can you see the little babies? They are so cute!" -All looking inside the birdhouse.

My family is big, my grandmother raised 7 children and then her brother's son, so actually 8. I can not remember my grandmother being married. She has always been on her own. She is getting slower physically but her spirit is unyielding. I have the greatest honor of truly knowing her. Today we spruced up her beloved yard. We mulched, and trimmed. We planted, and raked. It was hard, dirty, but fulfilling work. My children played with their distant cousins, and connected with all the world around them. Today felt safe. Today I felt like I was inside the inner circle of life. It was all going on around me. It was an "I remember..." kind of day.

ImageChef.com - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Poetry Friday

I have decided my favorite place in the world is the ocean. Just recently while researching poetry to use in my classroom throughout the year I discovered that I am drawn to poems about the sea. What a wonder the ocean brings!

Sea Joy

by Jacqueline Bouvier

When I go down by the sandy shore
I can think of nothing I want more
Than to live by the booming blue sea
As the seagulls flutter round about me

I can run about- when the tide is out
With the wind and the sand and the sea all about
And the seagulls are swirling and diving for fish
Oh- to live by the sea is my only wish.

Here is one my daughters enjoyed just this afternoon. It reminded them of our recent trip!

Maggie And Milly And Molly And May

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea
-e.e. cummings
(Please know that I am not illiterate and know that words that are proper nouns need to be capitalized but this is how they appeared in print and I liked it that way. I can do it this way, it's my blog. Some folks are very peculiar- I mean particular about these things!)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum

Originally, I had chosen Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse for one of my 10 books. I love that book so much. I may still choose that book by Kevin Henkes as it is one of my favorites. First graders love Kevin Henkes books. My personal favorite though is Chrysanthemum. She is such a great character, she feels like a wilted flower in this book. School is not a great place, and when my first graders come in to school I am sure they feel like her. They relate to her and the way she feels as a student, even though she's a rodent. Here are some of the teaching points that I gained from the text:

1. Repetition: I am finding that this is a must in children's books. I can't wait to discuss this with my students. Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum!

2. There is an epilogue, students will be introduced to this.

3. The author describes the way Chrysanthemum feels in flower-like characteristics. She wilts, she blooms, she beams, they smell her, they pick her, etc.

4. I could use this book when we have discussions about paragraph writing. On page 3, the author says, "Chrysanthemum loved her name."
On page 4 and 5 the author goes on to support this statement, "She loved the way it sounded when her mother woke her up. She loved the way it sounded when her father called her for dinner. And she loved the way it sounded when she whispered it to herself in the bathroom mirror."
Closing sentence, "Chrysanthemum thought her name was absolutely perfect."

My most favorite thing of all about this book: It has antagonistic and heroic characters!!!!!!

Antagonist: Victoria and her posse Jo and Rita. They tease Chrysanthemum and make fun of her name. They are really disliked by the end of the book. Also, in the epilogue, Victoria goes down in the class musicale, she forgets all her lines as the "dainty Fairy Queen." Chrysanthemum giggles throughout the entire performance. The students love this. It's redemption for Chrysanthemum.

Hero: THE TEACHER- Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle! The author builds her up as "an indescribable wonder." The children tease Chrysanthemum and Mrs. Twinkle puts a stop to this immediately! (If you don't know, Kevin Henkes paints teachers out to be just wonderful people, understanding, and heroic).

I always share this book with my students during the first day of school, along with Tikki Tikki Tembo, another book on my list. We do some name activities for Math and Literacy. I can't wait to use it throughout the year for Reader's and Writer's Workshop!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Have I done enough?

Jen, my friend, has a saying that I just love. She says, "I just don't want to get to the end of my career and wonder, did I do enough?" The Literacy Teacher asked last night what we were going to do with our "one wild and precious life?" This is what I responded with to that question:

"Support change: I look at older teachers that buck change and they are so unhappy in the profession. They blame it on the kids, the administration, parents, etc. They don't want to change, are too scared to change, or have no knowledge of what is out there? Those teachers that do support change and have been teaching for years: those people are so contagious to be around. They have so much background knowledge, years of pushing against the regime of mediocrity. They are who I plan to be. Someday I want a 30 something teacher to be looking up at me and be in awe. I want to be contagious, about anything that I deem valuable. If I can live this way, my family, my marriage, my profession will be better. I plan to change: into who I am supposed to be!"

I wanted to unravel this for you a little bit. I am not talking about the "unhappy" teachers. We know who they are. They are in every building across America. We know what they do, how they do it, we just don't understand why they continue to do it. They give our profession a bad name. I refuse to give them anymore space than this on my blog!

I want to talk about teachers that I know who have supported change over the years. I am not saying, change willy nilly. I am saying the change that occurs after weighing all other options. In order to know the options you have to be knowledgeable about best practices and what is new out there. You also have to use a good level of common sense. What programs make the most sense? Look at your own building. Who has been teaching a long time and yet is really great with their students. Who do you see that is growing still, even after all of their years? I have four:

Reading Recovery Teacher: 30 plus years, I have so much respect for her job. She is just outstanding. She serves our school. I serve on a board with her and I love picking her brain about stuff. She is not stuck in the mud but she mulls it over and picks out the good points . She uses common sense, things that have been good quality ideas forever! She is not afraid to ask questions, and she praises you for a job well done. She also asks you to be reflective when things don't go well.

Kindergarten teacher: Across the hall I work with an exceptional teacher. Graduates come back just to visit her. She closes her door and magic happens. She is satisfied with being the Kindergarten teacher, not that that would be dissatisfying ever. Those kids are so prepared when they leave her. She has had to change over the years but she has evolved into something spectacular!

K-2 specialist- Comes to my room for a half-hour daily and my kids beg to be in her group. She is so good about generating strategies for one student that could help. She gets discouraged when they don't work. She takes it personally when her students aren't achieving what they should. And she is willing to change if it keeps occuring.

Language Arts Facilitator: Hello, Jen and I led her into the blog world! She personafies change. She left her job, school system, and city to come and work with us crazy girls. I think she loves it, she is always smiling? She always accepts my questions and tries to understand. She then helps me pick out the great stuff and disposes of the rest. She's always willing to change direction if she needs to.

These ladies encourage me. I look around and I just remember the greatness around me. I get to work toward that greatness everyday. "This is who I am going to be," I say in my heart. Ultimately, at the end of my career and life I want to pull into my parking spot, hair blowing in the breeze, skin wrinkled by a good, long, life- a little out of breath, but living and loving every minute of it! Hopefully, it will be near my good friend Jen, she will nod to me and I will concur: "We did enough!"

Monday, July 16, 2007

Mem Fox's Harriet

I have chosen this book for my 10 books to use as the crown molding in my classroom for Writer's and Reader's Workshop. Before purchasing this book I knew nothing about it. I chose it because I know Mem Fox and I know children love a character that is constantly getting into mischief, like Harriet! I recently received the book and was not disappointed by Mem Fox. Here are some teaching points that jumped out at me from the first read:
1. Tons of repetition, in fact the text builds upon the repetition. Students will love this!
2. There are italicised words in the book, quotation marks, and commas. This helps with fluency, grammar, and teaching students the fine art of leaving your reader hanging during writing.
3. Time order words help you know that throughout the day Harriet drives her mother wild!!!!
Here they are: At, Before, Later.
4. The language of the mother vs. the language of Harriet really shows the age difference. It also shows that Harriet is not that old.

One last tidbit: I made a self connection when reading this book because of my "Harriet." She is four, and yes, she drives me wild!!!! She also loved hearing this book read to her, she can relate.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Poetry: A lesson with my daughter

Before my family went to the beach we purchased writer's notebooks for the trip. My daughter that is 4 enjoys drawing pictures in her notebook and writing her pre-literacy words. My daughter that is six is ready for the first grade. She is great mathematically, and is a phenomenal writer. We were getting ready for the trip and she and I had a great conversation about poetry. She asked, "Momma, how do you write poetry?" I then explained that poetry is not like writing a story, or like writing sentences, but more like writing phrases about something. We decided, that while we were on the island we would sit down and write a Haiku about a seashell. (My daughter blew me away with how quickly she picked up the concept of Haiku). Well, we did not write a poem about a seashell we wrote a poem about a shark tooth we found on the beach!

I had written a Haiku earlier in the week about these cool little clam-like things that dig themselves in the sand after each sweep of the tide (not sure what their called?). They fascinate me and so I shared this Haiku with her so that she could see the rhythm of the poem.

We sat on our porch looking at the tooth, we described its many characteristics (like a scientist) and then we wrote our poem together. It was a very proud moment for me.

I also mentioned that I would like to try a tritinia poem while on the island. Cloudscome tried this and I was intrigued by the challenge. My daughter understood what the rules for this poem was when I read it to her... "Cool Mama, you just repeated those words, I get it now!"

Here is a picture and our poetry at the beach:

Shark Tooth
Dark, pointy, black tooth;
Laying hidden in the tide's surf,
Were you here?

Mentor Haiku used to help my daughter write the shark tooth poem:

I am a shovel;
Digging in the salty sand
Waiting here

My attempt at the tritinia:

The World at Sea

Catching the air,

blowing in the breeze,

drying in the sun;

Protection from the sun, providing warmth from the air,

smell the salty sea breeze;

Hot and humid longing for a breeze,

ever pressing heat from the sun,

Salty, moisture carried in the air;

Feeling the cool air, coming in from the sea breeze,

cooling off from the warm summer sun;

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Newest in Computer Design

Have you seen this? My 82 year-old grandma sent me a link to check this out. I thought that I would show it to you. This is a series of pens that project a, screen, keyboard, etc. of a computer. You just need the surfaces. No need for a laptop anymore. I thought it was very cool. Here is the website to check it out:


Thursday, July 5, 2007

One Word...

Ruth had a post recently about thinking of a word to "live by." I have thought long and hard and my word would have to be: OPTIMISM. There is too much negativity in this world, and it just doesn't make sense to dwell. It really does bring people down. If we could all just decide to change the things that we can control. This is not to say that negative things will not come your way, believe me they will. However, if I can't control it, then I shouldn't let it get to me. For instance, I can't control the home lives of my students. It can't be done by me. I can, however, better myself by personally reading about best practices, watching others in action performing best practices, and then doing my best at my profession. This is what I can do, and that seems optimistic, doesn't it!?!

I wrote a couple of poems about optimism and the word positive:

Optimistic eyes
Are always looking through life's
rough waters.
Positively Positive by Sarah Amick
Partakes in life's simple pleasures,
Optimistic outlook
Shares enthusiasm
Invites others
Takes only what is good from others
Vibrantly contagious
Encourages others to respond positively
Well, that is it for me for a while. I am off to the family vacation at the beach. (YaHooo!) Think of us basking in the sun, reading by the waves, and being positively happy!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

List of Ten: Mentor and Touchstone Texts

Here is my list of 10 books that I will be using:

1. Tikki Tikki Tembo by Mosel
2. Through Grandpa's Eyes by Patricia MacLachlan
3. The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
4. The Raft by Jim LaMarche
5. The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant
6. All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan
7. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
8. Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
9. Saturdays and Teacakes by Lester Laminack
10. Harriet, You'll Drive Me Wild! by Mem Fox

Chapter Books:
1. Charlotte's Web
2. The Mysterious Journey of Edward Toulane
3. Boxcar Children
4. Sarah, Plain and Tall
5. Stonefox

Anyone, got any ideas for craft within these send me ideas. I'm sure that I could use them.

Lessons Learned: Lester Laminack

At the All Write! conference I had the privilege of hearing Lester Laminack. Here are a few things that I thought would be beneficial for me. Perhaps you will find them helpful for you as well.

Lester says there are 6 opportunities for read aloud during the normal school day:
1. Opening Act: Reading just to enjoy a book and build community. Take 10 behavioral problems you have and make a list. Then match 10 books to those behavioral problems and use them for your opening.
2. Use books during transitions. Grab them when you have them and then move into the next subject. Make it a cohesive move, don't make transitions a, "stop this, and then now let's do this."
3. Poetry- Do this during down time, like washing hands, or using restroom. Kids will get done faster because they don't want to miss out on the poem for the day.
4. Use sections of previously read text to help with mini lessons. For writer's workshop, and reader's workshop.
5. Writer's Craft- Pick 10 books to really know as a teacher. Go through them and find the points that you want to teach from them. Pass them off to colleagues, have them find the craft that could be taught from those books. Use them often for teaching craft, and mentor texts.
6. Closing Out the day! (this is my favorite!) He says that we need to leave children hanging when it comes to reading chapter books them. Like a drug dealer, we give them just enough, but not too much. We want them to come back for the product that we are selling. Just like a drug dealer. We are in sales, our product is books.

Here are a couple of thoughts that I took from Lester that I am still mulling around:
- If we are selling a product:books then we must vastly know literature. We must be able to sell authors, illustrators, and different genres. Titles should roll off our tongue because kids will notice when they don't!

- We are in the business of raising human beings, not test scores. (Someone send this off to whatever moron made that No Child Left Behind Act!)

- We are like drug dealers, we must leave our students satiated with the books that we are reading to them. It keeps them wanting more. They become addicted!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Things Learned: Georgia Heard

At the All Write! Conference last week I had the privilege of hearing Georgia Heard speak about the influence of poetry in the primary classroom. She stressed the importance of reading a piece of poetry daily, and making sure to introduce all genres of poetry. I was inspired. I was thinking about times in my day when spending 5 minutes to just read a poem would be great. How about that time when we are all standing around using the restroom- you know down time?
After that Ms. Heard suggested spending a week dissecting a poem. As she describes it,"climbing inside a poem." (Isn't that just the greatest imagery you can think of?) Here is a layout of that week. I think we will give it a try this coming year.

Monday: The heart of the poem. What is it about? Conversations about the poem.
Tuesday: Movement in the poem. Act it out, find the verbs. She says that this changes the poem for the children, it is not just a poem anymore, they make it their own.
Wednesday: Illustrate the poem. Stretch it into a writing piece.
Thursday: About the poet: any information you can have about the poet. Also, what can you compare from this other work? What is the context around the poem?
(Don't worry, Thursday is a little scary for me. I guess I didn't quite get this point?)
Friday: Craft Talk: How did the poet use punctuation to enhance this poem? Take note of line breaks, commas, metaphors, simile, also this would be a place to talk about haiku, acrostics, etc. (the genres of poetry)

She was very interesting! One of the best points I think that I heard from her that day was her comments about Science and Observation. She mentioned that Scientists and Poets are a lot alike because they are both observational. A poet will look at some form and make all sorts of observational notes, just like a scientist, and then create a poem. Why can't we do this with our children? Have places in our classroom where they can discover? Imagine a T-chart with headings like Scientific Observations Vs. Poetic Observations. Kids could write details about these objects, questions, observations, and descriptive words. Having all genres of poetry around them they would soon get a sense of what poetry is and what it can be for them.

I am excited about the upcoming year!

Sunday, July 1, 2007


Many of you know, I love poetry. Mostly I love writing poetry. I never teach a unit on poetry with my first graders. Just haven't done it, I know shame on me. I have some tools now, after hearing Georgia Heard. I will be sharing poetry with my first graders, not in a unit, but as another genre, daily, 180 days of poetry will be happening in room 127!

Here is another tidbit I'd like to share, I haven't written poetry in years! I mean when I started to blog I had no idea that that was in me! I didn't even keep a writer's notebook. I just moved through life enjoying the world around me without writing what it meant to me in words. Now I have this outlet, this world of sharing the poetry within, whether you like it or not! From the beginning, a friend has said, "Have you ever thought about publishing?" Yeah, right! I checked it out, the internet gurus said, while easy to write, poetry is hard to publish. I entered a contest online at poetry.com, I received a letter on Friday. I am currently a semi-finalist. I have gone over my author's proof, signed my copywrite form and am ready to send it in. Anyone want a copy of the book that will contain my poem? Let me know! (Thank you Kirsten for encouraging me to step out.)
Here is the copy of the poem:

The Path of Sweat
By Sarah Amick
Rush of the crowd,
Feel the adrenaline building.
The warm bodies perspire at the soundof the bell.
The sweet smell of sweat appearing and glistening on the evertiring men;
Then, droplets of it explode from the forcefulness of the blows.
Sweat on sweat as bodies collide in a wire cage;
Sweat falling on a well worn mat,
Can you smell it?
Can you see that it's here?
The towel wipes the salty liquid from the face
flashed red, swollen, and battered.
The face is dripping sweat of uncertainty
Finally, it, the sweat, trickles slowly down the arm
that is raised...