Sunday, April 29, 2012

For the LOVE of POETRY

"Just you and me, Little Poem, mí amigo. "             (J. Johnson)
This was the poem artfully written at the top of Jane's responses to my interview questions. And, it's the reason I wanted to interview her for my blog. She loves poetry. Poetry is a part of her life.

Jane is one of my lifelong friends . . . one of those special friends that spans time . . . a friend since high school. Not only does she love poetry, but she's also a talented artist, avid reader, and a school librarian.

National Poetry Month reminds teachers of the importance of including poetry in our teaching, not just for a month, but throughout the year. So, how can we get children interested in reading poetry?

Some insights and ideas from my interview with Jane:

How did you first get interested in reading poetry?

I first started reading poetry in high school. I had a job at a small restaurant, and on my breaks, I would go into the small independent bookstore up the street, and peruse the poetry section. I discovered e.e. cummings, and fell in love! I bought every paperback book of his poetry with my tips. Then I started reading Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. Poetry became an open door to other academic subjects, and I began to develop intellectual confidence. In addition, I was artsy, so I began putting poems in my collages. Poetry and art became lifelines to me in the time of adolescent uncertainty.

How do we get children interested in reading and appreciating poetry?

I think children will be open to poetry as soon as they are exposed to it. My suggestion is to start reading poems to children when they are babies! Read the same poems to them over and over, so the rhythms and rhymes become familiar. Then poetry becomes comfortable for them before they can intellectually fear it.

What poems and/or poets do you read to elementary school children?

I read both fun and classic poems to the students I work with. I want them to be exposed to both forms. For fun, I read Douglas Florian, Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, and Bobbi Katz. The classic poets I choose are Langston Hughes, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Rita Dove for starters.

What activities do you do during National Poetry Month to promote the appreciation of poetry?

I hold 2 events during National Poetry Month for students in our library.

First, Poetry Café, in which students memorize a poem as their ticket to attend the Poetry Café. I decorate the library up to look like a café, and I have volunteers who listen to the students recite their poems. It's a magical day.

The 2nd event is "National Poem in Your Pocket Day." This is a national celebration of poetry that simply asks each person to carry a poem around and share it that day. I print up age-appropriate poems on bright colored paper for all students and staff and pass them out that day. We read them to each other, and encourage the students to take the poems home and read them to their families. This year the date was April 26th. The students love this event, and many come in asking for additional copies of a poem that one of their classmates read to them. The whole point of the event is to read poetry, so this exposes the students to more poetry. I have plenty of extra copies available, and I love their enthusiasm!

Do you have anything else you'd like to share?

Finally, I'll share a few of my all time favorite poems for children:
"First the rain came down to soak us,
And now, before the eye can focus,
Crocus!" (L. Rogers)
"Oh dear, this poem is very weak,
It can hardly stand up straight.
Which comes from eating junk food,
And going to bed too late." (R. McGough)
"'Stay!' said the child.
The bird said, 'No,
My wing has mended, I must go.
I shall come back to see you though,
One night,
One day.'" (N. Lewis)
A spring collage by Jane 

You can see more of Jane's art at Nomadic Notebook: Jane-Art. 

My hope is that you will be inspired to continue reading poetry throughout the year to the children in your class. I know I am. Thank you, Jane!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Recycle, Reduce, and Reuse!

The first graders at our school had a homework assignment during spring break. It was an Earth Day project.

The project:

Take recyclable material and create a craft or useful creation. Create something that can be used in a different way.

It was so much FUN to see what the children (with parent help) created. We displayed them in our multipurpose room for all the children in the school to view.

Here are a few:

 Panda Bank: ears are the bottoms of cups and the eyes are made from the lids.

Bottle Game: watch the marbles travel thru this one - a BIG HIT with the kids!

Aluminum Can Train: How clever is this?! You can even see the animals and people traveling inside.

Binoculars: How practical! Everyone had to look thru these!

Aluminum Can Dog: Your very own pet out of aluminum cans. 

Needless to say, the day was filled with EXCITEMENT! We're looking ahead to our school's Earth Day Celebration on Wednesday. This is an after school activity. Earth Day community booths and activities will be set up for students and families to enjoy.

Have a great week!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Novel Idea

I want the children in my class to be exposed to as much children's literature as possible in the course of a school year. And this is because I want them to not only be good readers and writers, but to also enjoy reading and writing.

So, I read novels to them. First graders begin to read chapter books. It's a big deal for them to be able to read a chapter book. So, when I talk to them about a novel, they think that's an even bigger deal!

This is what we do when it's time for me to read the novel. It's usually at the end of the day. The children find a comfortable place on our carpet. They can lay down if they wish. (I've actually had a few fall asleep.)

And then, they just enjoy.

I begin the year by reading Ramona the Brave  by Beverly Cleary. It's a great one to start with, because Ramona is telling about her experience as she enters first grade.

We just finished My Father's Dragon  by Ruth Stiles Gannett.

It's a wonderful story of a boy telling about his father's adventures (when he was a boy) as the father tries to save a flying dragon from an island filled with dangerous wild animals.

I just love the cover of the book. It was perfect for making predictions. Don't you just love the lion's braids and bows?

So, I decided to make a set of worksheets to go with the book.

You can download the worksheets here.

We're just starting to read The Mouse on the Motorcycle  by Beverly Cleary. The kids can't stop laughing when the mouse starts riding the toy motorcycle.

I'm always looking for new read aloud book ideas. I would love to hear about some of your favorites.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Game of Tag and Some Bugs

TAG! I'm it! I can't remember when I last played tag. This is FUN!

Kristi and Crystal from Teaching Little Miracles tagged me.

Here are the rules:

1. Post these rules.
2. Answer the 10 questions posted for you.
3. Create 10 questions that you want to ask people who you will be tagging.
4. Tag ten people and link them with your post. Don't forget to let them know that they've been tagged.

So here goes:

1. How long have you taught?   I've taught for over 25 years.

2. What state do you teach in?     I teach in the beautiful state of California. I've also taught in Arizona.

3. What are your contract hours at school?  We are contracted to teach from 8:55 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.

4. Lunch - duty or duty free?  We are duty free during both lunch and recess.

5. What reading series do you use?  We use  Houghton Mifflin Reading.

6. What math series do you use?  We use Everyday Mathematics.

7. What is your favorite hobby?  I LOVE quilting.

8. What is the last movie you watched?  The last movie I saw was Ides of March. I'll admit it. I'm a total fan of  both Ryan Gosling and George Clooney.

9. What is your favorite season and why?  My absolute favorite season is FALL. There's something about the crispness in the air and those leaves falling. It's the one season where you can see some changes in the weather here in California. And, it's the beginning of the holiday season, too.

10. What is your favorite game to play with the students?  I love playing games with the parachute. It gets everyone laughing, even the teacher. It makes me feel like I'm a kid again.

And now, here are my 10 questions:

1. How many students are enrolled in your class?
2. What is one of your favorite children's literature books?
3. Do you have a computer lab at your school?
4. Do you have any pets? If so, how many and what kind?
5. Have you always taught at the same school?
6. Do you teach math in the morning or afternoon?
7. Do you have a class theme for the year?
8. What vegetable will you not eat?
9. What is your favorite flower?
10. How many times have you changed grade levels?

This is who I tagged:

C and C Teach First
Fabulously First
A Teacher's Touch
Peace, Love, and First Grade
A Turn to Learn
First Grade Chatter
Morning Sun First Grade
Hopping into First Grade
Mrs. Stanford's Class
First Grade Smart Cookies

I hope you visit these blogs. I know I'll be checking out  their answers.

And now on to bugs. How can you go through springtime without an activity about BUGS? Our entire first grade puts on a school play called, Goin' Buggy. So, we study bugs.

Students write, illustrate, and share facts about these bugs: bee, butterfly, caterpillar, dragonfly, grasshopper, beetle, ladybug, ant, centipede, and mosquito. Click on the picture to find out more.

It's been one of  those rain, then sun, then rain again days . . . a great day for blogging.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Field Trip to the Zoo

Our first grade classes are going on a field trip to the zoo. We will be spending the day at the zoo and taking a bus tour of much of the zoo while we're there. I've been gathering books to read and have available for the class. I just can't wait to read this book to the kids:

It's a wonderful book about zoo animals and friendship. Amos McGee visits the zoo daily to spend time with the animals and keeps the animals company. He doesn't show up one day, because he's sick. So the animals pile into a bus (looks like a zoo tour bus) and visit Amos at his home, so they can spend time with him. It's the 2011 Caldecott Medal winner. The illustrations are delightful. I especially love the picture of the animals traveling on the bus. It will be a perfect introduction to our zoo animal study.

I created some writing activities to go along with our study. The children complete the worksheets after reading non-fiction books about zoo animals. Students write three facts about a zoo animal, illustrate their writing, and read what they learned to two friends. It's a great way to integrate reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Click on the picture to find out more.  

If you're looking for math center activities for April, you can check this out by clicking on the picture.

The packet includes practice with addition and subtraction facts, adding 3 one-digit numbers, place value, telling time to the hour and half hour, and counting money. The activities have an April Showers theme. They're great for reinforcement and review.

No April showers today. It's a beautiful sunny day. I love these days . . . blue skies and warm weather.

I hope you enjoy your day,

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Homework Helps

My homework packet is continually evolving. I originally got the ideas in the packet from a former colleague. From year to year, I adjust it to meet the needs of the class. This is what I send home for homework.

The students start the year with a colored laminated pocket folder with a cover that looks like this:

Graphics Scrappin Doodles and Fancy Dog Studio.

As the year progresses, the cover looks like this:

The cover of the folder becomes a sticker album. Each time the students complete and return their homework on time, I place a sticker on their folders. The front and back of the folders are covered with stickers by the end of the year.

This is what is assigned:

Monday: handwriting
Tuesday: phonics or reading comprehension
Wednesday: math
Thursday: writing

To be completed during the week:

     daily reading
     practice word cards
     spelling worksheet/practice spelling words

The assignment sheet looks like this:

Packets are sent home on Monday and returned on Friday. All happy faces means that all assignments were completed correctly and returned on time. The children love counting all the happy faces they get on the cover.

The writing assignment is usually connected to our reading series.

The  worksheet for oral presentations has a place for a picture or photograph:

Each Friday the students give brief oral presentations as part of their homework for the week. They practice what they are going to say about the topic. This is one of the students' favorite times of the week. They love to give their presentations! The students work on speaking, listening, and questioning. After each presentation, the students are able to ask questions of the presenter. I'm amazed at how much the students have grown in their abilities to speak to a topic.

The homework definitely helps. It reinforces skills and gives the children extra needed practice.

Looking ahead to to SPRING BREAK . . . just 2 days away!