Self Smart

Reading an “Again, again!” book in a new way

Posted by on Dec 4, 2020 in Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Fluency, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas, Key Ideas and Details, Logic Smart, Print Awareness, Print Concepts, Print Motivation, Professional Development, Self Smart | 4 comments

Happy Almost-the-End-of-2020! I think this year has been most challenging for those living with or working with small children. How do you keep them enticed if you can’t get new books from the library or from school? How do you keep yourself from going nuts if you’re tired of rereading the same books? Here’s how.

Mara’s “again, again!” book. I can’t say I blame her!

Ask your child, “What do you notice when you look at the cover of this book?” It’s really interesting to hear the details kids notice that we adults may not, the details the illustrator intentionally puts in.

“I see faces in the trees!”

“I see them now, too! Do you notice anything else?”

“The trees have snow on this side and the tree over here doesn’t have snow. So that’s winter and that’s not winter.”

“I wonder why the illustrator drew the trees that way. “

You can talk about what you see until your child is done reading the picture and wants to hear the words. The pictures often give information that the words don’t. Reading pictures is a big part of learning to read words.

This technique of letting kids lead the reading was a big shift for me as a teacher/librarian. I’m eager to get to the words. I’ve often told kids what I want them to learn from the book, trying to pour in knowledge. Lifelong learners are gatherers of knowledge. We can put kids in charge of pulling in meaning first.

Even if it’s a book you’ve read a dozen times, encourage your child to take the lead. They can tell you what they see and show you how their minds are making meaning. You may see the familiar book in a new way when your child says, “Again, again!”

“Reading Picture Books With Children” by Megan Dowd Lambert (Charlesbridge, 2015)

This Whole Book Approach is wonderfully taught by Megan Dowd Lambert in her book, “Reading Picture Books With Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking About What They See”. I highly recommend it!

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It’s important: “Let’s Talk About Race”

Posted by on Feb 26, 2020 in Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Key Ideas and Details, Non-Fiction, People Smart, Print Motivation, Self Smart, Social Studies, Uncategorized | 2 comments

Let's Talk About Race written by Julius Lester and illustrated by Karen Barbour

Talking about race is hard for me, but that doesn’t let me off the hook. Racism isn’t either/or, as in I don’t shout hateful slurs therefore I’m not racist. I’m racist because I’d rather hide any prejudice I have from growing up as a white, middle-class, suburban female in America than have important conversations where I might feel uncomfortable. My silence won’t help our kids. So let’s talk about it.

Let’s Talk About Race was written by Julius Lester and illustrated by Karen Barbour. Lester, who sadly died in 2018, wrote, “I am a story. So are you. So is everyone.” He wanted kids to know that being African-American was an important part of his story, not the entirety of it. He wanted to engage kids in conversations to see our differences and our commonalities. “What is your favorite food, your religion, your favorite color, your nationality? All of these things are a part of our stories.” But, he reminds us all, “…some stories are true. Some are not. Those who say ‘MY RACE IS BETTER THAN YOUR RACE’  are telling a story that is not true.”

After you read Let’s Talk About Race with your kids, talk about race! Open up a safe conversation where students can share and ask questions. Work hard not to deny experiences, and challenge with compassion any statements that make others “less than.” And talk about all the other wonderful parts of our stories, from favorite foods to hair color to pet peeves. You can make a questionnaire based on all the elements Lester talks about for kids to answer about themselves. Then, kids can find someone who had the same answer on their list. When we help our children talk about race and equality, we help build a stronger, kinder world.

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How-To Poems and My Love of Hedgehogs

Posted by on Sep 26, 2019 in Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Key Ideas and Details, Nature Smart, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Range of Reading, Self Smart, writing | 0 comments

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How To Poems
“The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Richard Jones”

How-to poems are an easy introduction to poetry, to nonfiction, and to writing what you know. This book of poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Richard Jones has such a wide range of topics that all your students will find at least one poem that they love. My favorites are “Toasting Marshmallows” by Marilyn Singer and “How to Scare Monsters” by Rebecca Kai Dotlich.

This book was given to me by fellow librarian Linda Pannuto because my storytimes always began and ended with Barb the Hedgehog. (She can curl up into a ball when she is shy.) And look at what Barb and I now have! Honey Hedgehog Cookies from Trader Joe’s AND a hedgehog purse! I’m all prickly with excitement!

Share “The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems” and have students write an informational poem about what they know how to do. Share Honey Hedgehog Cookies while they write and get your own Folkmanis hedgehog puppet to share. Hands off the purse, though. That beauty is mine.

(Shout out to Lisa Wheeler and Janie Bynum for their book, “Porcupining: A Prickly Love Story” from which I stole Barb’s name. You two are sharp.)

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How To Poems
“The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How To Poems” selected by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Richard Jones is recommended by Barb. She also recommends Honey Hedgehog Cookies.
Hedgehog purse!
Hedgehog purse!


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Start your new year off with compassion

Posted by on Aug 18, 2019 in Early Learning, Fluency, Key Ideas and Details, People Smart, Print Awareness, Readers' Theater, Self Smart | 2 comments

Start your new year off with compassion

This is a post I’ve shared before but I think it’s more important than ever to make your classroom a place of acceptance and compassion from day one.

It’s September, the start of a new school year. I have no apples for you teachers, but I do have the perfect back-to-school picture book to teach empathy and point of view: I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien.

Maria, Jin, and Fatimah are new to their schools and to the United States. Through their stories, we get a glimpse of what it’s like to hear a new language, to see a new alphabet, and to try to pick up a new set of classroom expectations. “Back home… I knew just what to do.” All of your students can relate to the unsettled feeling of a first day in a new classroom. With I’m New Here, you can expand upon that feeling to help your students empathize with people who are new to our country. I love that Anne Sibley O’Brien not only shows what it’s like to be an immigrant, but how we all learn from each other. On one page, O’Brien writes from Jin’s point of view, “I am learning from others. And they are learning from me.” Jin asks a little boy, “How to spell cloud?” The boy responds, “C-L-O-U-D.” Jin holds up a piece of paper with Korean characters on it. “This is cloud in Korean.” “Cool.”

Michelle A., a gifted kindergarten teacher of English as a Second Language students and a remarkable friend, told me about Step Inside thinking. After you’ve read through the book, ask your students to “step inside” a character and imagine that they are Maria, Jin, or Fatimah. Students can write and draw from the perspective of the character, describing what was a challenge and what helped. You can turn this book into a readers’ theater script for students to perform, or have students take on the roles in an impromptu performance as you reread the book. As a class, you can talk and write about what you all can do to help a new student feel welcome. Whether or not you gain a new student during the year, all of your students will gain a wider, more empathetic perspective from I’m New Here.

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