Thursday, December 22, 2011

Meli swimming

My ESL student and I are reading the "Meli" series from the Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention kit. We're really enjoying the series, and after we read Meli at the Vet, my student asked me if Meli was a real dog or just made up for the series, which I thought was a good question. When my student asks questions, (the last one was "Do baby sharks have teeth?") I like to try to follow up with some modeled or shared research. So, after some back and forth with very helpful representatives at Heinemann, I found out that Meli is Irene Fountas's West Highland Terrier and they sent me a youtube link of the real Meli swimming. So cute!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Diigo bookmark (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Diigo bookmark (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Diigo bookmark (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Using voki for response to a movie!

Friday, July 29, 2011

The periodic table in a kid friendly format

This book was recommended by my amazing local public children's librarian: I haven't run it by a science teacher yet, but Solana and I love it. Each element is given a personality and cartoon like image (kind of reminds me of Pokemon), but important facts are given as well.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cat on a Rollercoaster: Using iMovie with young children

One way of using iMovie with children is to incorporate their natural imaginative play into a narrative. For this video, I helped Solana think of a beginning and then she became the director and began to add onto the story. We recorded the entire video in Photobooth: I'm still having some issues getting the backgrounds such as the rollercoaster in this video to look natural. I did something similar with my ESL student as a way of working on beginning, middle and ending. At the end of the year, I gave my student a DVD with her iMovie project and a slideshow of images from the year which her family enjoyed watching at home.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cats and Kittens

Hi.My name is Solana.You have met me before in my mom Kathy's writing. I'd like you to hear another of my poems. I'd just like you to know a little about me first. I am six years old at the time and I love cats and kittens. I wish I had a pet one, but my mom's allergic. So here is the poem:

Cats and Kittens
Cat meowing,
Meowing, meowing,
What's wrong kitty?
I will eat first.
Chew, chew,
Where's kitty?
She always comes for dinner
There you are in the shed
Who's with you?

Blogging inspires poets!

Seeing her poems on the blog inspired Solana to write more!

Fox in a den
Fox sniffing,
Sniffing, sniffing
Is there good food here?
No, try again.
Sniffing again
Hide behind a bush,
A rabbit

End of the year animal poems

After having done research on local animals in the school library and written down important facts about animals, the students in Solana's class chose animals and filled out an alphabet chart with words they knew about that animal. After that, they wrote poems about their animal, and were encouraged to use "ing" words to show action. They were allowed to use any kind of punctuation they chose, just like real poets do. Many of the poems ended with an animal running away from a predator to safety: I'm not sure if this was modeled, if they saw other classmates writing this way, or if it was just something that stood out to students from the research. Each student had one poem published in a class book, which they illustrated and read aloud to parents at an end of year celebration. I thought this was a great way to combine a research project with poetry. Here are Solana's poems:

Guinea Pigs Galore

Cavy smelling
guinea pigs running...
For shelter and shade
pink nose twitching,
White teeth chomping
Tasty cucumbers
Chewing, chewing,
Guinea pigs eating
Sipping water,
Chomping carrots,
Tiny pink paws running.
baby guinea pigs
run everywhere
sipping milk
No tail
Tiny claws,
Scribbling, scrabbling, ears listening
Cat coming!
running for shelter,
Hooray! Shade!

From egg to robin
Mother robin
witing for a hatchling
baby robin
Growing feathers
Lots of feathers
Learns to fly...
Flap! Flap
gets a liftoff
Growing, Growing
Building a new nest
Blue, bright eggs
Small babies
yummy! worms!

Running from a fox
Squirrel storing
yummy seeds
having babies soon
Yikes! It's a fox!
run to your den
eight babies at last!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Social Studies Picture Books in Middle School

I’m working with seventh and eighth grade social studies teachers to write several collaborative lessons using picture books for read alouds. Keith Schoch's Teaching with Picture Books blog is a great resource. His Squidoo article "Teaching with Picture Books" was a helpful starting point for our discussion. I also took notes on Lucy Calkins' helpful advice on read alouds from A Guide to the Reading Workshop in preparation for our discussion.

At home, Solana and I have been revisiting Virginia Hamilton’s If the People Could Fly: although there is no traditional history content, the stories are a powerful example of the importance of recording oral history and the notes at the end of each story give information about their historical origins.

I’m finding in general as I read through the picture books that the author’s note at the end, not always easy to understand for younger readers, can provide useful information for older readers on both additional historical context as well as author’s purpose. For example, Michael McCurdy's great-grandfather was a Union soldier and kept a journal during the war: he thought of his grandfather as he created the drawings for the book Gettysburg. Alan Shroeder, after drawing us into the life of the young Harriet Tubman, accompanied by Jerry Pinkney’s beautiful illustrations, lets the reader know what happened in her adult life in his author’s note.

Harvesting Hope: the Story of Cesar Chavez, which is also published in a bilingual edition, stood out among the pile of books I looked through, so I was happy when the teachers chose it as one of the books they’d like to focus on. I’m also really liking Independent Dames, Dolly Madison Saves George Washington, Sybil’s Night Ride and especially They Called Her Molly Pitcher. These are exciting and inspiring stories of girls and women in the colonial period.

Malcolm X: A Fire Burning Brightly by Walter Dean Myers and Leonard Jenkins has a winning combination of artful illustrations, biography and compelling quotes, finishing with a timeline sprinkled with more quotes. Reading this book with students is timely , as there is much discussion currently on the internet of the late Columbia professor Manning Marable’s new biography.

Carol Hurst’s web site is always a great resource for picture books by topic. And I’m lucky to have such a great local children’s librarian.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Diigo bookmark (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Diigo bookmark (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Digital Stories from Senegal

I’m always looking for good examples of digital storytelling. These videos made by students at the Sinthiou Mbadane school in 2008 and 2010 in the Mbour region of Senegal were recommended at a workshop I attended recently facilitated by Giselle Martin-Kniep. They’re short videos narrated by the students in French with English subtitles that provide a window into the daily lives of students who attend the school.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Steve Jenkins Author Study

I recently finished an author study of Mo Willems with my ESL student, and was wondering where to go next. I’ve been attending and giving presentations on the common core standards, which emphasize how important nonfiction is. With this in mind and since my student loves books about animals, I thought Steve Jenkins would be a good choice for our next author study, and would make an interesting comparison/contrast with Mo Willems. After we read many of Mo Willems books, we watched a video I found on amazon of the author talking about his work and his process. I just found this video of Steve Jenkins describing his process for the book Move! on There’s also an accompanying slide show that takes you through the steps of the process of writing Move! with his wife, Robin Page. I love how the two videos perfectly illustrate the difference between the manic hilarity of Mo Willems illustrations and Steve Jenkins’ calm deliberate approach.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Diigo bookmark (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Here's another post from Solana with a video she found in a google search for dogs and puppies (Can you tell it's spring break?): Solana says, "Who let the dogs out? You'll get a bark out of this video!"

Cute Shih Tzu

Post from Solana (who has been researching dogs): "This Shih Tzu is cute and affecionate. Maybe it doesn't like the leash; maybe it does. Looks like it's looking at the post office boxes." (Photo taken from

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Diigo bookmark (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tweets I Wish I'd Tweeted: Teachers College Invitational

Once again, I was invigorated and inspired after attending the TC conference in March. As I become more familiar with Twitter (still a novice!), I've realized that it’s a helpful way of publicly taking/sharing notes on key points when I attend workshops. Unfortunately, halfway into my first workshop, a Q and A with Jon Scieska, my phone ran out of juice and I didn’t have my charger, (Fie on you, Droid!) so I had to resort to pen and paper. Now that I’ve finally gotten around to going over my notes, in the spirt of public notetaking, I’d like to share some nuggets that are TLFT (Too Late For Twitter).

Jon Scieszka talk
He likes Kafka, Borghes, and Tristan Shandy: “the original meta fiction”
He like to "mess with the idea of what a book should be"
Look for an upcoming YA novel
Guysread inspired by his son who had to read LH on the Prairie as a 3rd grader and found it tortuous
Technology—lagging in the children’s book industry
Favorite letter from a student: “We’re supposed to write to our favorite author, but Roald Dahl is dead, so I chose you.”
Kids should know there are lots of different ways to be authors and illustrators
“The main thing I learned was how not to get in kids’ way…and to really respect them for who they are as learners.”
“What I learned as a teacher was to listen.”

Stephanie Harvey on "mini inquiries"
Laying down a foundation for inquiry—kids’ questions matter
“One of the great things about inquiry is we find things we didn’t anticipate.”
The great thing about inquiry is that it leads us to more inquiry: “the more we know, the more we wonder.”
#1 way to teach inquiry is to model our own curiosity.
“Wisdom begins in wonder.” –Socrates

Linda Darling Hammond Closing Key Note
“Testing without investing” setting standards without putting resources in place
School to prison pipeline: “We choose to incarcerate rather than educate”
8 states spend more on incarceration than schools
“A war on teachers becomes a war on children.”
“We can’t fire our way to teaching excellence.”

Friday, April 1, 2011

Nonfiction summary

This is a voki that a small group of fourth graders completed with teacher support after reading an on level book about whales, recording facts and questions, and finding main ideas and supporting details. The next step will be for them to do the same on their own.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vokis for Nonfiction

I know: another post about vokis. But the more I use them, the more different ideas I have for how to use them. We're working with some students on reading nonfiction and I'm wondering if this could be a way for them to share their facts, thoughts and questions about what they read. In one fifth grade class, we read a short article from the Comprehension Toolkit (great resource!) about war. In a seventh grade class, we're reading about financial literacy. Here are my examples from my own reading:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

xtra normal again

I was trying to use voki to work on my ESL student's writing skills, but she became so obsessed with changing her avatar's hair and clothes that it distracted her from the writing, which was the real purpose. (Quite possible the distraction was also avoidance, since she knew writing was the next step and is a reluctant writer.) I'm wondering if xtra normal would push the writing more, since you naturally want the characters to have a dialogue. Here's a sample that I'm going to show her to introduce her to the web site. (I heart pawz!)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The power of modeling once again!

I was taking a webinar with Sharon Taberski (great experience!) and Solana was out of school on break. Since the webinar was an hour long and I had come into the office to take it, I wanted Solana to be occupied, so I put her on a web site with videos of one of her new obsessions, “the Swat Kats.” Every so often, she would come over to my desk to see what I was doing, and I would glance back to make sure she was okay. I had my notebook out and was jotting notes and ideas down from the session. When it was time to leave, I noticed that Solana had been taking notes on her video (see above). “How cute,” I thought and showed it to my husband that night. He immediately pointed out the power of modeling. This was just another reminder to me about how important it is to model with our students.

We can also make use of modeling by referring to series such as the Magic Tree House, where we see the main character taking notes from nonfiction texts. Since so many students have read the Magic Tree House series, this is something to draw on when we model notetaking for older students. Some fantasy books, such as How to Train Your Dragon and Dragonology (dragons are popular in our house!) also have notetaking pages: even though they're on a fantasy subject, you can make the analogy to notetaking for research.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Vokis for paragraph writing

I'm working with some teachers who are using voki to work on the goal of having students write a complete paragraph that sticks to one topic. I modeled brainstorming about my interests, family, and experiences and had students help me choose the most interesting ones to use for my paragraph. They helped me write a first draft of an "About Me" paragraph last week. Next week, I'll show them these final drafts. If we had more time, this would lead really well into digital storytelling. (I had a little difficulty getting my voki to say "La Mega se pega," but I think she got close enough.)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Diigo bookmark (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Readwritethink lesson on persuasive writing

In our booktalk podcasting assignment, I've been working with teachers and students on how to "sell" a book that they would recommend to other students. During the college football season, the TV was on at home more than I would like. One thing our family ended up doing was talking about funny ads. Now that we can play them on the Droid, we can look up and share a funny commercial with each other whenever we feel like it. We all laughed at the Piggy Geico commercial, and then I had to revisit one of my favorites, the Old Spice commercials, which Solana thought were hilarious.

Our enjoyment of the commercials made me think there must be a way to bring in the creativity and humour of advertising to help students write better leads for their booktalks. One of the teachers I'm working with thought we could introduce the different types of advertising (bandwagon, etc.) as a springboard for ideas. Although the main goal is improving student writing, looking at persuasive techniques in advertising is also an important lesson in critical media literacy.

I haven't found any great lists of advertising techniques for use in the classroom online, although this site's list of examples does use visual cues. My favorite resource so far is a lesson on persuasive writing from readwritethink that uses a more sophisticated description of persuasive rhetoric that is used in advertising or any persuasive argument. It might be adaptable for a younger age group and for the booktalk assignment.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pokemon Literacy Connections

Another burgeoning area of interest for that daughter of mine is Pokemon. Last July, My brother-in-law got a bunch of Pokemon cards for Solana and her cousin to trade on a hot summer evening in Chicago. They spread out the cards and got involved in some very intense trading. Then I kind of forgot about it. But recently, Solana has been scrutinizing her cards, giving us cards to trade with her, reading and requesting Pokemon books, and watching the television series.

I remember the whole Pokemon thing when I was working in what was then district six in Washington Heights. Even sixth graders were completely obsessed with it. I thought of Pokemon as some cute marketing ploy to get kids to buy the cards. Now I’m thinking I missed out on a teaching opportunity: I didn’t realize the literacy potential for this interest. As I read the Pokemon books or watch the show with my daughter, I’m seeing parallels to reading non-fiction, especially the idea of classification in science. For example, the Pokemon Junior Handbook series has stats on each page, with a pronunciation guide and the Pokemon’s type, weight and height as well as a sidebar “fun fact," much like the structure of early science readers. The more advanced Sinnoh Hall of Fame has quite a bit of text, with topics and subtopics such as “Who’s Who in Sinnoh.” The whole idea of “Sinnoh,” this alternate imaginary world, could also be a precursor to fantasy books when Pokemon fans get older.

I have always felt reluctant to promote books that are written for commercial content because they’re so poorly written and are basically the company's marketing extensions. I remember last year a teacher was reluctant to buy Bakugan books for the Bakugan-crazy boys in her classroom for the same reason. Of course, I’ll always prefer well written children’s literature and nonfiction to a commercial series. But if a young reluctant reader is obsessed with Bakugan and that’s going to get him into reading, shouldn’t that be an important part of the equation? And shouldn’t we be looking into the potential of student interests to expand them as readers of both fiction and nonfiction?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Diigo bookmark (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Diigo bookmark (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cooking on a snow day (and in the classroom!)

Solana has been getting into cooking lately. Before the snow day, she picked out several kid cookbooks on her own from our local library: our hands down favorite was Molly Katzen's Pretend Soup. The book has fun ideas with kid quotes about each recipe and step-by-step illustrations. The Williams Sonoma kids cookbook had interesting ideas with beautiful pictures: I'd give it a second place. My ESL student also loves to cook: looking at this snow day activity from a teacher perspective, there was so much incorporated into making one recipe: following step by step directions, thinking about nutritional value, being aware of how much sugar to use (or not), figuring out how to double a recipe, and getting that sense of satisfaction when you eat what you made and share with others. Worth giving a try in a kitchen-friendly classroom!

Hide and seek muffin

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Diigo bookmark (weekly)

  • Describes Ben Amor, his arrest and his song

    tags: hiphop socialjustice socialstudies

  • Description from middleweb: "The reality for those of us working in public schools is that ourwork is very, very stressful," writes middle grades teacher‑coachElena Aguilar. "At a breakneck speed we must perform a multitude ofmentally and emotionally draining tasks." Add the pressures ofhigh‑stakes testing, budget cuts, and constant change from above "andsometimes it feels like it can't get any harder." Which no doubtexplains why Aguilar's thoughtful advice on how teachers "canincrease our emotional reslience" has drawn a huge readership at theEducation Week website.

    tags: resilience

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More vokis from Solana!

This was interesting for me because Solana created four characters (two of them below) and started building a narrative around all three. I had never thought about this use before. Then she asked if she could email them to a friend. 21st century student at work!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Setting reading goals

Last summer I was preparing to work with a small group of teachers to discuss and plan for guided and independent reading in their classrooms in the fall. I found Franki Sibberson’s Bringing Reading to Life DVD and the video resources on the Daily CafĂ© web site (which I have access to as a member ) invaluable resources.

As a common thread in these best practice videos, I saw teachers working with students to set reading goals. It made perfect sense that we should help students set reading goals for themselves and monitor their own progress as readers. So why we don’t do it more often?

Recently, Solana has taken an interest in some of the parenting books I’ve taken out from our local library or older books that I have on the bookshelves. She especially liked Kid Cooperation. (Not my absolute favorite, but I think she responded to the definitiveness of the tone.) After reading a section on using step-by-step charts for bedtime routines, she asked me to make a chart on her wall of her own routine for us to refer to at bedtime. She started giving me tips on how I could get her to clean her room and go to bed on time. (And most cringeworthy, easily recognized when our commands to her were not the ideal ones recommended in the book!)

I’ve noticed how different it is when Solana is in on setting the rules with me rather than me racking my brains trying to think of ways to motivate her or losing my patience. The same thing happens to us as teachers. So I’m hoping to learn more about goal setting with students and practice what I preach in the classroom as well as at home.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Trying out Calameo at the recommendation one of my technology mentors, Karen Brooks. Can see the possibilities for this in terms of publishing student research as well as creative writing. I just wish you could edit it once you upload the document.