28 Sep 2014

The Book Whisperer: Chapter 2

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Good morning, everyone!

Chapter 2: Everybody is a Reader

Isn't that a fabulous chapter name? I mean, it really says it all.

Everybody is a reader ... we're just all at different places in our development.

That's a crucial message for kids, of all ages, to hear and understand.

In this chapter Donalyn discusses three types of readers (developing, dormant, underground). She also discusses in some detail Brian Cambourne's "Conditions for Learning" (immersion, demonstration, expectations, responsibility, employment, approximations, response, engagement).

ONE point stood out for me in chapter 2:

"BOOK FRENZY".  I love that term! Donalyn describes how she gets the kids choosing books from her classroom library (to take home and read) on the very first day of school.

The kids choose THEIR OWN books. All of them. Regardless of where they are on the reading development continuum. 

This choice is so very important for all children.  Book reports, comprehension questions, book dioramas etc. do NOT help kids become readers. 

Reading books they love and then sharing their questions, insights and excitement about those books is how kids learn to read and learn to love reading.

I'm so happy this is something I already do. The readers in my class spend lots of time reading "just-right" books with me (that I choose), but they spend even more time reading books of their own choice. And usually with a friend ~ just so it's even more enjoyable.

Happy reading, folks!

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24 Sep 2014


I just started reading this very interesting book, The Welcoming Classroom, by Johnna Darragh Ernst.

As you can see from the title, it's all about building strong home / school connections.

Given the prevailing climate in BC right now (our province-wide teachers' strike just ended) this book is very apropos. While it's geared towards pre-school teachers, I'm finding there's LOTS in here that's applicable to elementary school.

I'm going to review Chapter 1 today and then continue with another chapter each week.

I hope you find this useful!

CHAPTER 1: Your Role in Engaging Families

The main premise in this chapter is all about building a strong foundation in terms of teacher / parent relationships.

The author outlines the reasons for adopting a strengths-based approach, rather than a deficit model.

By this she means, "Viewing families and children through a positive lens..." rather than a negative one.

For example, if you have a non-English speaking child in your room, instead of thinking, "This kid can't speak English", switch it around and think, "Wow! This child is making great strides at becoming a bilingual speaker."  

A simple practice, but one that has far-reaching effects; not only does it remove blame, but it shifts one's thinking so that the strengths and talents of a child are highlighted, rather than the perceived shortcomings.

According to the author, it's important to recognize and focus on each family's unique strengths and provide support where needed. She suggests you ask yourself "What does this family need to develop and thrive?" rather than "What is this family missing?" 

When this simple, but powerful shift in thinking occurs, it creates room for respect, reciprocity and support.

At the end of this chapter the author poses a series of questions. The one that stands out for me is:

"What are the family's concerns, hopes, and plans [for their child]?"

Wouldn't this make a GREAT question on a beginning-of-the-year "Let's Get To Know Each Other" survey that many teachers send home?

I'd love to hear what YOU do to strengthen the home-school connection!

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

If you're interested in some other professional books I've posted about you can find them HERE.

Thanks for stopping by!

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22 Sep 2014

The Book Whisperer: Book Study

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Happy Monday, everyone!

I'm very excited to be part of this book study that Angela put together.  I've already read The Book Whisperer, but it's such a good book, that I was more than pleased to read it again. Here we go!

Chapter 1: There and Back Again

The first chapter is a recollection of Donalyn's personal reading history and her struggles as a new teacher.  I could relate to almost every single word!

Reading about Donalyn's early reading history rekindled some dim memories of my own .... I'll keep them brief :)) 

1) I actually have no recollection of my parents reading to me as a child, although I assume they must have! My first independent reading memory is looking at a Dick and Jane text and suddenly something literally clicked in my brain. I can remember, as a six year old, thinking, "Oh! Now I get it!" And I was off and running.

2) Like Donalyn, and probably most avid readers, I also went everywhere with a book and often read with a flashlight under the covers.

I can remember a couple of long hot summer road trips from the west coast through the mountains and over the prairies all the way to Winnipeg. Luckily I never got car sick, so I read the whole way there and back, usually finishing two Nancy Drew books each way. And it was always so stinkin' hot (no air conditioning) that I'd lie on the floor right behind my dad (no seat belts either) where it always seemed just a little cooler.

3) At home, in Victoria, the book mobile parked in the local Safeway lot every Saturday morning. I loved Saturdays and would fully stock up on books for the week.

Okay...so that's not actually the book mobile I frequented (I couldn't find a picture), but you get the idea. I did wear a dress and bobby socks like those little girls ~ haha!

4) My husband is also an avid reader, as are both my sons. And now my little grandson has an enviable library of his own and is always asking the people around him to read him a book. 

Hmm... it seems he also enjoys reading the morning paper.

Book Choice is Where it's At!

Fortunately I learned very early on, thanks to Elaine, an awesome mentor teacher of mine, that book choice is the most important thing!  Her grade three class had reading workshop every single day and the kids were in charge of their reading choices. She kept tabs on their comprehension and choices through daily individual reading conferences.

I've taught grades K, 1 and 2 for most of my teaching career so I've had to do things a little differently. My main focus is teaching them the joys of reading and .... actually HOW to read.

Most of our day revolves around literacy-related activities, but during our 45-minute daily guided reading time, the kids are either reading with me (my choice of book), by themselves (their choice, with a few guidelines), or with a friend (100% total freedom of choice). Guess which format they like the best?

I still haven't perfected the way I teach reading...has anyone? But here's what I do ~ strive to do ~ or did at one point and will start again:

1. Grand Conversations: This is just a fancy term for book talks. I'll blog about it in more detail in a future post.

2. Book Share: I give my kids the opportunity to read a passage from their own favourite book in front of the class while we all ooh and ahh.  This is a huge hit.

3. Nightly Reading Book Club: I did this for years at another school and will do it again this year. I don't assign books: again, it's all about choice. After the kids have read for 25 nights they bring their sheet in and I give them a simple little certificate. I announce it to the class; we all clap; and that's that.

4. Stickie Notes: I haven't done this yet, but I love the idea of the kids leaving a stickie note on a favourite book with a brief note of recommendation for their peers.

5. Book Response: To be honest, I don't do these all that often because I prefer book chats or Grand Conversations. However, I do have a weakness for story maps (actual maps of the story journey). I also find it very useful (I did my Masters project around this very thing) to have kids draw pictures representing their thinking of the story. I always do this after a book talk based on student-generated questions.  A big hit last year was to have the kids paint a picture of their favourite part of the class novel I read them. This was SERIOUSLY popular! 

But 90% of our comprehension-related activities are just talking about the books we read. At home I usually do this over a glass of wine. Which makes me think that maybe I'll serve grape juice during our next book talk:)

Thanks for reading this far. That's all I have to say about Chapter 1. I hope you visit again next week for my thoughts on Chapter 2. 

I'd love to hear about some of your early reading memories.

And please don't forget to visit the other blogs for more insights!

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19 Sep 2014

Free Math Game for Grades K and 1

Hi Everyone!

Did you hear the great news??  Our strike is over! YAY!!!  I'll admit, it's not the greatest deal in the world, but it's a step in the right direction and we can start back to work on Monday. I'm so excited to see my old class again and meet my new one.

Here's an activity I'll be doing very early on with my new ones: "Number Race".

Every player has their own game board (below) which they cover with 10 counters.

These 10 frame cards ....

 ... and these number cards are placed in a pile, face down.

Player one draws a card then removes the corresponding counter off his/her game board.

Then he/she traces the matching number 3 times on this sheet.

The first person to remove all their counters is the winner!

This is a ONEderful game for number recognition, 10-frame recognition (subitizing), reading number words and printing the numbers correctly.

If you'd like a FREE copy, just click HERE.  And if you grab, then please follow me :)

Happy teaching, friends!

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11 Sep 2014

Two Giveaways: One Worth $250!

Hey Everyone! 

Now that lil' old Victoria has a Target store ~ actually, two! ~ I couldn't resist sharing this HUGE giveaway with you.

This is sponsored by Big Event Fundraising, which is an American outfit that designs programs to help schools raise money. I looked all over their site to see if Canadians are eligible and I couldn't find anything saying we're not. So hopefully it's all good:)

Want to enter? Click the pic below and go for it!  It ends in 4 days.

Here's my second (very modest in comparison :)) giveaway. Just made some transportation clipart. If you want to win this or something else from my store like me on FaceBook with a bonus entry for following my TpT Store.  Doesn't get any easier! This one is a quickie and will end on Sunday.  If I get a decent amount of entries I'll give away two items. What's a decent amount? I don't know ... depends how I'm feeling Sunday:)  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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9 Sep 2014

Bedtime at the Nut House Book Review with Awesome Resources & Freebie

TITLE: The Nuts: Bedtime at the Nut House

AUTHOR: Eric Litwin


PUBLISHER: Little, Brown and Company, 2014

GENRE: Fiction

THEMES: Rhyme, Play, Bedtime, Nuts, Family Life

AGES: 3 to 7

SYNOPSIS: Bedtime at the Nut house is very nutty. Hazel and Wally are two sweet little nuts who love to dance and sing and play and howl even when it's bedtime. Especially when it's bedtime! Mama Nut has to be very strict (as most Moms do from time-to-time) to get her little Nuts into bed.

OPENING LINES: It was time for bed. The day was done. But Hazel and Wally were still up having fun. And they sang together. "We're Nuts! We're Nuts! We're Nuts!"

WHY I LOVE THIS BOOK:  The illustrations are bright, colourful and cheerful. It's a funny, goofy book, full of the Litwin magic. I also enjoyed all the silly word play: "Titanut" for Titanic, "Nutvana" for Nirvana, "Unutted States" for United States, etc.  I know my new class of Grade 1's will go nutty for this book!


1. Here's a  snippet of the book, including the song!

2. Mosaic Acorn Art:
Click to grab the instructions.
Thank you to Spoonful

3. Beautiful Acorn Cap Jewels:

Click the pic for directions.
Thank you to KiwiCrate!

4.  Math File Folder Game (plus and minus one games using oak leaves and acorns):

Click the pic to visit FileFolderFun
and grab these free games.

5. A free acorn paper (8 x 11) I made just for YOU!

Click to grab

I'm linking up with Susanna Hill for Perfect Picture Book Friday. I haven't done that in a long while. Be sure to check out her blog. There are always fabulous book recommendations to be found.

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3 Sep 2014

Tutorial: No-Reply Blogger

I've noticed on face book recently that people are talking about "no-reply bloggers". Is that you?

I sure hope not! It seems to happen to everyone at some point and I've certainly found myself in this situation.

In case you're not sure what a no-reply blogger is .... when you leave a comment on someone's blog, the blog owner receives an email with your lovely comment. If you're a no-reply blogger, they can't reply to you.

How sad is that?

Not sure whether or not you're a no-reply blogger? Just leave a comment on your own blog. When you receive your email click on reply to try and answer yourself. If "noreply-comment@blogger.com" pops up in the address then you know you have a problem.

Before you go and fix things you need to know there are separate instructions for bloggers who are on google plus and those who aren't.

If you're on google plus then visit Fluster Buster for her fabulous tutorial.

If you're not, then pop on over to Sue's blog, Sullivan and Murphy. She's got lots of pictures to help you out.

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2 Sep 2014

Paper FREEBIES & FLASH Giveaway

I just finished making a couple of paper sets.

FREEBIES:  If you click on the images you'll be able to grab the black dotty paper and the blue/black/green cube paper. They're the preview downloads.

FLASH GIVEAWAY:  If you'd like to win either set then just leave your email and which set of papers you'd like!  PLUS like me on facebook. I'll pick two winners sometime Wednesday ... or maybe even Thursday!

Thanks!  I hope you like them.


Thanks for stopping by everyone. There were also two comments left on facebook so I set the random number generator to 7. The winners are:

That's Gaby and Lori. Congratulations!

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31 Aug 2014

Book Review & Freebies: Pete the Cat and the New Guy

Title: Pete the Cat and the New Guy

Publisher: HarperCollins, 2014

Intended Audience: 3 to 8 year olds

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Inclusion, Friendship, Self-Respect

Opening Lines:  It was Sunday, and Pete's friends had come to play! They were rocking to a new song when ... BEEP BEEP BEEP   There was a noise coming from across the street!

Synopsis (from the book flap):  There's a new guy in town and Pete can't wait to meet him. After all, more friends means more fun. But who can he be?  When Pete finally meets Gus, he realizes they're very different from each other. But that's what makes him cool: Gus is special in his own way, just like Pete and just like you, and there is something everyone can do!

Why I Like This Book: Hey, it's Pete the Cat! What more is there to say?  But if I'm going to be perfectly honest (and I am), I miss Eric Litwin. The Pete books are now being authored by James Dean and his wife Kimberly. It's still Pete but it's not quite the same ~ it's missing the Litwin magic.

But, having said that, I still really like this book.  Some reviewers on Amazon trashed it saying that the message is, "If something's too hard, then give up!" But I don't see it that way: Gus is a platypus! There are some things he just can't do. That's not about giving up; that's about realizing everyone has limitations in one area or another. It's important to realize that, move on and find something you CAN shine in. I think that's a very valuable message!

Related Activities:

1. The book is on video!

2. You can grab a Beginning/Middle/End freebie from 1st Grade Hip Hip Hooray:

3. Here's a Venn diagram I made to discuss same and different:

Click Image to Grab

4. And I think this book lends itself well to a discussion about what everyone is good at:

Click Image to Grab
BTW, the cute blue frame is by My Cute Graphics and the cat is by me, Ruby Slippers Blog Designs.

That's it! Happy Labour Day weekend.

Today's Must See Blog:

Books First in MaineI can't say enough good things about Kimberley's blog. She loves to write and read, is very reflective, down-to-earth, and is ALWAYS thinking about how to improve her craft. Please visit!

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