19 Oct 2014

The Book Whisperer: Chapter Five ~ Freebie & Giveaway !

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Welcome to Chapter 5 of The Book Whisperer!

"Walking the Walk" was a quick, inspiring read.

The big idea in this chapter is that it's the teacher's responsibility to be an awesome reading role model. 

"Readers are made, not born" (p. 108). 

And since we can't assume all students will get the role modelling they need at home, we, as teachers, MUST ensure they receive it at school.

Donalyn spoke briefly about the two different stances teachers take towards reading, which I found very interesting.

First is the efferent stance. This is when teachers see reading as "a way to acquire knowledge". Obviously this is super important.

But! Is it more important than taking an aesthetic stance? This is where teachers see reading as an "emotional and intellectual journey".

Donalyn argues that both are needed, but the aesthetic stance is the most important one. I whole heartedly agree with her and so does Ruddell (1995). Ruddell said that teachers with an aesthetic stance do a much better job motivating students to read. 

If kids aren't LOVIN' reading, then they aren't going to read. And chances are this will carry right on into adulthood. 

Donalyn shared this revealing statistic:

Findings from a 2007 Associated Press poll, reported in the Washington Post, indicate that the average adult American read only four books that entire year. This statistic does not tell the whole story; of the adults who read, their average was seven books, but 25 percent of the respondents did not read a book at all (Fram, 2007). (p. 106)

It gets better! Or scarier, I should say:

Teachers fare no better on surveys of adult reading behaviours than the general population; in the 2004 article "The Peter Effect," Anthony and Mary Applegate report that of the preservice teachers whom they studied, 54.3 percent were unenthusiastic about reading, leaving little hope that these teachers would be able to inspire students to engage in an activity they themselves did not enjoy.  (p. 107)

WOW! I think that's crazy. I'm sure the stats would be similar for Canadians, too.

If more than half the teachers aren't avid readers, how can we pass on a love of reading to our students? Especially to those borderline students?

Donalyn shares her reading plan (so that teachers can "walk the walk"), which includes reasons why adults should read children's books. Yay! Now I have an excuse for my teen lit weakness:) 

She also lists this website, which I think is fabulous. I'm so glad I found it!


I'm an AVID reader. I even have a reading journal. I'm always buying children's books for my class and I read to them every single day!

But do I share with them my own personal loves for reading? Not directly. They know I love books because of my enthusiastic reading, all the books in my classroom, and all the reading I expect them to do.

But I'm not sure I've ever actually said to them, "I LOVE reading. I can't live without it. Look! Here's the reading journal I've been keeping for the last 10 years."

So...I'm walking most of the walk, but not the whole kit and caboodle. That will change:)

I have a fun freebie for you. I just made this sweet little blinkie to remind us to read, read, read! Just copy the code, open a new html gadget in your sidebar and pop it in. You can see mine off to the top right.

Barbara Leyne Designs

The penguin comes from mycutegraphics.com
but I made the blinkie:)

AND, before you go, I'm having a quick giveaway at Barbara Leyne Designs for some autumn clipart I just made. I'll be giving away a few sets... hope to see you there!

Thanks for stopping by!

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My Favourite Pattern Math Lesson!

Every single year I do this math lesson cause it's FUN, it looks great, and the kids get some excellent pattern practice.

Some years I go with a Halloween theme but this year I went with autumn.

I always use a bucket of foam stickers from Michaels. I wait 'til early October to buy them 'cause they always seem to be 40% off at that point.

We've been doing patterns off and on for the last couple of weeks ... I don't just jump into this.


First off, I sorted the stickers and put them in piles. The kids chose 2 or 3 different kinds of stickers and went back to their desks to make their patterns. I don't let them use AB (too easy for Grade 1) but pretty much anything else goes, EXCEPT for ABBCDEFFG. You get the idea. There's always one kid who wants to make the longest pattern but I say no because they have to repeat it at least once and the paper backing is only so wide:)

Once they've made their repeating pattern and I've checked it, I give them a long strip of paper. They build it again on their paper and then peel off the backing and stick it to the paper.

There are usually 3 or 4 kids who need help with the pattern. They manage the "core", it's just that darn repeating part that gets confusing :)

After the pattern is in place they fill in the accompanying piece of paper with their name and the pattern name.

Last step: Colour the pumpkin border using the EXACT SAME pattern (that was also hard for a few kids, but excellent practice)!

You can CLICK HERE for a copy of the pumpkin pattern sheet that goes along with it.

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17 Oct 2014

PPBF: Little Blue and Little Yellow

Title: little blue and little yellow

Author: Leo Lionni

Publishing: HarperCollins, 1995

Suitable for Ages: 4 to 8

Genre: Children's fiction

Themes: Friendship, Similarities & Differences, Colours 

Synopsis (from Amazon):  Little blue and little yellow share wonderful adventures. One day, they can't find one another. When they finally meet, they are overjoyed. They hug until they become green. But where did little blue and little yellow go? Are they lost? 

Opening: This is little blue. Here he is at home with papa and mama blue.

Why I Like This Book: I love the simplicity, charm and innocence of this book. Each page has just a few dots, but even though the illustrations are sparse, the book is surprisingly full of character and carries an important message. My class LOVED it when I read it to them this afternoon.  They loved how the dots mixed and changed colours and they decided that the blue family and yellow family should just merge and become the green family forever:)


1. Scholastic has a fabulous lesson plan pdf HERE. My favourites are the Paint-Blot Book and a lovely poem called "Yellow".

2. Rainbow Milk Experiment. This fits right in with the science part of the book.

Fill a dish with homogenized milk, add some food colouring, dip a q-tip in liquid soap, then dip the q-tip into the milk.


It can be repeated over and over ... the milk just keeps moving and swirling. This was a BIG hit with my class today.

Then we found some neon food colouring so of course we had to start all over:)

Looking for MORE great book suggestions? Be sure to check out Susanna's Perfect Picture Book Friday Linky!

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16 Oct 2014

The Welcoming Classroom & A FREEBIE!

I just finished reading the last three chapters, and for me, Chapter 4 ("Becoming a Culturally Competent Communicator") was the most relevant.

The big idea I took away from this chapter is that culture influences communication and without this understanding in place, there's a real danger of miscommunication.

To communicate effectively with people from another culture we need to be thoughtful observers. We need to watch people as they interact with us and with others, and notice what makes them comfortable. We also need to pay close attention to body language, and in particular to touch, eye contact and personal space. 

To sum it up, it's all about being thoughtful and respectful. 

Chapter 5 specifically addresses pre-school organizations and discusses ways to be culturally competent.

The book concludes with Chapter 6, "Culturally and Linguistically Competent Classrooms". My favourite part in this chapter was Ernst's advice to lose the lingo and use language that families will understand. My guess is that most teachers already do this, but it's definitely worth a reminder. For example, instead of saying "gross motor development", say "large muscle development". Similarly, talk about how "children feel about themselves and how they get along with others" rather than using the terms "social and emotional development".

My Personal Opinion

Overall, I thought this was a well researched book with a great message. While it's geared towards pre-school, there's certainly LOTS that a teacher of any grade can take away. My only complaint (and it's a mild one) is that it reads like a text book.  

If you'd like to read my earlier chapter reviews you can find them below:

Before you go, you can grab this little freebie. If you click the image it will take you to my other blog (Barbara Leyne Designs) where you can download the bunting.

Thanks for stopping by!

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15 Oct 2014

Our Kindness Bookmarks

As part of our Kindness unit we made these bookmarks. They're a little hard to see, but they say "Have a beautiful day!"

Last week we hid them in some books in the school library as a lovely surprise for the other kids in the school!

Before we made the bookmarks we watched this video twice. The kids were begging me to play it again. It's been around for a little while now, but in case you haven't seen it before, it's worth a listen.

You can find TONS more great ideas on my Kindness Pinterest Board (which is so full thanks mainly to Barbara from The Corner on Character. Thanks, Barbara!)

Have a sunshiney day!

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14 Oct 2014


As many of you know, I've been designing custom blogs at Ruby Slippers Blog Designs for the last 2 1/2 years. 

It's been a TON of fun and a great source of satisfaction, but I've recently decided to take a big break from blog designing. 

There are a lot of different reasons why, but mostly it's because I want to concentrate more on drawing and creating my own digital art. And that's really hard to do when you're a full-time teacher AND a part-time blog designer.

So in celebration of this change, I've started a new blog with a new name (I had to keep the colour scheme though :))

Barbara Leyne Designs

I'll be posting my new clipart on the new blog, as well as sharing freebies. I'm planning on having a small weekly giveaway, too, but I need to get things a little more organized before I start that.

Currently, there's not too much on the new blog ~ I only have one post! and my pages aren't ready yet, either.  I guess I'm kind of rushing things ... but I just wanted to share right away:)

In any case, if you click on my button you'll find yourself at my new site. I've posted my Halloween Glossy Buttons and the first 3 commenters will win the set.

I'd LOVE it if you stopped by.


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13 Oct 2014

The Book Whisperer ~ Chapter 4

Reading Freedom

Thanks for joining me for a review of The Book Whisperer ~ Chapter 4.

When I read this chapter, Reading Freedom, it made me think of summer time reading on the deck, cool drink in hand, not a care in the world; a book in my lap, iPad off to the side, the whole day in front of me, and the freedom to read whatever I like!

Donalyn encourages (actually, she insists) that her students read whatever they like, as long as they're reading. How wonderful is that? It's just like my summer time reading.

There are some guidelines though: The students must read 40 books during the year and they need to sample from a variety of genres, but that's basically it.

A dream-come-true for a committed reader, but quite possibly a nightmare for a book-phobe! But Donalyn stands her ground, gives LOTS of encouragement and support, and never gives up on those reluctant readers. She admits that not all kids meet her 40 book requirement, but hey, if a child who read only one book the previous year manages to read 20 books in her class, that's nothing but a reason to celebrate!

I LOVE this woman's attitude. 

Donalyn also requires her kids to keep a reader's notebook. After all, as teachers, we certainly need some accountability from our students. The notebook includes a tally list, a reading list, a books-to-read list and response entries.  

I started keeping my own reader's notebook 10 years ago. It's nothing fancy, as you can see below. I added some tabs so I could easily find each year.

And I colour-coded my entries, but that's about it. I can't believe how incredibly satisfying it is to look back in my notebook and see all the reading I've done. It's also great for checking which books I've already read when it's time for a new purchase.

If you're interested in The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Millerthen please join our book study blog hop!

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7 Oct 2014

The Welcoming Classroom: Chapter Three

Chapter 3: Understanding Social Identities and Cultural Frameworks

This chapter is about understanding "our own perspective and the perspective of others" in terms of our own unique identities. If we're able to do this, then we're able to create a healthy, respectful classroom environment.

Our social identify refers to how "we define ourselves as members of a group", be that gender, religion, ethnicity etc. 

Our cultural framework is derived from our social identities. We all belong to a variety of cultures, each of which helps shape our view of the world. 

The advantage of having both a clear social identity and cultural framework is that it helps connect us to other people.

The disadvantages? Stereotyping! 
Not only that, but some groups might demand conformity from others outside the group.

What Can We Do?

We can work hard to learn about our students' families.

We can become aware that everyone "has unique perceptions based on his or her social identities and each [person] believes that his or her perspective is correct".

Ernst touches on the issue of poverty, which I found to be quite interesting. She reminds us to move beyond the deficit perspective (e.g., poor people succumb to a culture of poverty; they just need to work harder, etc.) and instead view it from a strength-based perspective. In other words, try to recognize the obstacles and challenges people in poverty must face on a daily basis.

Ernst also reminds us that in order to provide support to families we need to be reflective about what goes on in our classes.  As an example, she touches on Show & Tell.  From the teacher's perspective it's probably about giving the children an opportunity to speak about something meaningful in front of the class.  But in reality, perhaps it's just highlighting differences in personal wealth.  

She also mentions that we shouldn't jump to conclusions when some families are mistrustful of teachers or don't appear to be engaged in their child's learning. This doesn't necessarily mean the families don't value education. It could simply mean they've had bad experiences within the school system and feel marginalized.

Here's my favourite quote from this chapter (p. 57):

"We are all basically ethnocentric. We feel that our own culture is better than others. This relates to the idea that we often accept culture as truth: 'This is how things should be,' or 'They should not act like that.' As culture is deeply rooted and something that we learn about through immersion from birth, we tend to accept our realities as truths, not recognizing that others experience totally different realities."

I think if we (as a society, not just teachers and care-givers) could get our minds around THAT, most of our problems would be solved!

Thanks for reading, everyone!

Disclaimer: Gryphon House gave me a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I share are wholly mine.


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5 Oct 2014

The Book Whisperer: Chapter 3

The Book Whisperer.png

Welcome to The Book Whisperer book study!

Chapter 3: There's a Time and a Place

This chapter focusses on three BIG ideas:

1. The importance of FREE READING TIME,
2. How to carve out time for more independent reading, and
3. Do we really need a dedicated reading corner?

Free Reading is King

Stephen Krashen found, in a 40-year investigative study of independent readers, that:

He goes on to say that "drill-and-kill" activities are a waste of time, at best having minimal impact on students' learning and often having a negative effect on achievement.  And by drill-and-kill he's referring to spelling lists and tests, grammar exercises, and low-level comprehension exercises (p. 41).

The big message here is, reading is NEVER a waste of time. We need to provide more opportunities for free choice reading so that it becomes an established habit in our students' lives.

Finding Time for Independent Reading

Donalyn outlines several ways to squeeze in more reading time:

Classroom Interruptions:  How many times a day are you interrupted by other teachers? Parents? Phone-calls? etc.  If the kids always have a book with them, then they can read while you deal.

Bell Ringers and Warm-Ups: Instead of providing "time-filler" activities at the start of the day (which generally need to be marked) have the kids reading first thing.

Fast Finishers: Do away with extension activities and fun folders. According to Donalyn, they're nothing but busy work. Again, get the kids reading.

Picture Day (and other "standing around" times): Waiting for your picture? An assembly to begin? In the lunch line? If you have a book with you, then you can be reading.

Library Time: Often the kids end up socializing instead of reading (I'm guilty of allowing this to happen when we visit the library). Donalyn says we need to set the expectation that the kids are either reading or choosing a book. Socializing? It's not in the cards.

Do We Need a Reading Corner?

Nope, not according to Donalyn. But wait! Don't get rid of yours. If you have one, that's awesome. But if you don't have the room, then don't despair. The kids need to learn that they can read anytime, anywhere.

If we give them the time and space, they'll find their own nook to cozy up with a book.


I'm going to start our day with a basket of books on the carpet meeting area. We waste at least 10 minutes at the start of each day waiting for everyone to arrive, taking attendance, etc.  This time can definitely be put to better use.

I already have the kids look at books when they're finished work, but I'm thinking I could put more emphasis on it. Really let them know how important this time is ... something to be treasured.

Library time is a little chaotic in my class so I'm definitely going to have to work on this. I'll have to raise my game and expectations:)  If anyone has some tips for me, I'm all ears!

Thanks for stopping by, everyone. Hopefully you found something useful here.