Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Penguin Day – A Family Story

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Penguin Day - A Family Story

I have been waiting three years for this book to be published. Three years ago I had the honour of introducing Nic Bishop at the Western Washington Children’s Literature Conference. He entertained the audience for a good hour telling tales of his world travels as a photographer, author and photo journalist. He has done some pretty incredible and often highly amusing things to get some of his photographs. At the end of his talk, he spoke about Rockhopper penguins and his travels to the Falkland Islands to photograph these mighty little penguins.

I remember him making a joke about these penguins writing their own hairstylist guide. They do have some pretty fantastic yellow fur stretching out from their “eyebrows”! He also spoke about penguin porpoising and penguin showers (both depicted in the book). What stuck with me though was his story of how the Rockhopper penguins are able to swim in rough, violent waters, how colonies make nests 100 feet up the sides of rocks where their nests are and how the penguin population is on rapid decline since commercial fishing was established in the area.

I was so excited to see Penguin Day: A Family Story by Nic Bishop (Scholastic Press 2017) at the bookstore the other day. This title allows us to follow a penguin family through a typical day. Mama penguin heads out to fish for food. The photograph of penguins diving underwater to ride the waves is amazing! Father penguin stays back to guard the chick. When he is distracted, we learn about dangers like the sea birds that attempt to make off with a penguin chick that is not being watched.

This title has simple text with engaging full colour photographs. Back matter includes more detailed information in the author’s note. Recommended for classroom libraries K-5.

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2017. Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction books you need to read!


Capturing play: Slice of Life #15

Capturing play: Slice of Life #15

Click. Click. Click.

Looking through old classroom photographs, I am struck by how often I captured play.

Tall buildings.

Imaginary lands.

Towering structures.

Beautiful designs.

Camera in hand, I was drawn to the feelings in the room: contemplative planning, joyous giggles, cooperative negotiating.

I was also attracted simply by the results of play themselves.

The physical manifestations that resulted when there was time for play.

What was imagined?

How were invitations offered?

How did nature weave itself into stories?

Capturing play: Slice of Life #15

I love that really I didn’t have much to do with it. My role was peace keeper but that wasn’t a full time gig. I could be observer. Walk around and notice. While the children played, I learned. Saw things in new ways.

Noticed the light.

Felt the community.

I was gifted with time to wonder.

Capturing play: Slice of Life #15

It’s freeing to have no expectations of where things will go.

Then it’s all discovery. All impressive. All about risk taking.

Pure creativity without pre-imposed limits.

Capturing play: Slice of Life #15

There is more and more research to support the benefits of play on the social emotional well being and cognitive development of our learners. In our quest for the most meaningful learning opportunities for our students, we need to make room for play.

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

Sometimes Guilt: Slice of Life #14

Sometimes Guilt: Slice of Life #14

Yesterday we went grocery shopping at a store about five blocks away from the school where I worked for so many years. As I scanned shelves for mild salsa, I scanned the aisles for small people I might know. I wanted to see someone and I absolutely didn’t.

I would like to say I don’t avoid the area, but that wouldn’t be true. I don’t exactly avoid. I just work at finding reasons to not go that way. It’s too raw. It hurts to miss it. I wrestle with rushes of guilt. Rushes that come at me and then quickly fade away. Like ferocious stormy waves. Crashing in and instantly receding. Leaving me doused and sputtering. Checking to make sure I am on solid ground.

I had necessary reasons to leave. I mostly believe myself when I insist that that makes it okay. I stayed for more than two decades. Leaving to get away from poverty, to get away from hard, to seek refuge from trauma – those things were never going to be my reasons.

And they weren’t.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize when I have walked through a day without the intensity that deep inner city teaching brings. I feel the absence of pain. I am aware of my new found calm. I am deeply conscious of the pure ease of things that were never ever easy.

Sometimes, I just am aware.

Sometimes the guilt comes.

Soon, I think, I will be able to write about the differences. How it is really so very hard there. Hard to support the children. Hard to do the necessary work.

Not hard to love them. Not hard to care. Not hard to give everything.

Hard to bear witness. Hard to know. Just hard.

I miss it desperately. And, I am at a place where I am happy. Not happier. Happy different.

Recognizing the happy has been all about light. But it has activated the guilt. I thought I gave it away. Left it at least.

This is now the haunting.

I am letting myself feel it. It’s not scary. It’s full of remembering. Remembering all of it like it never really happened but at the same time like I am right there in it. It’s an enchanting, exhausting process.

This sometimes guilt is washing away. It won’t be here long.

It’s like how mud from a strong rainstorm is a mucky mess and then it gives way to beautiful.

I am almost at the beautiful.

But today, there has been a lot of pacing about in the mud.

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

Monday March 13th, 2017

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Each week I share a reading photo of the week. Or two, or three . . . 

Friday afternoon reading peace.

Monday March 13th, 2017

This is kind of my all time favourite photo right now! These two are celebrating Spring Break reading choices. Reading is the thing!

Monday March 13th, 2017

More Spring Break reading plans

Monday March 13th, 2017

#classroombookaday titles

Monday March 13th, 2017

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. It’s the best way to discover what to read next.


On the blog:

It’s Slice of Life Season so many posts (and not quite as much reading):

Reading Workshop Truths: Slice of Life #12 12 truths of Reading Workshop

Inspiration sources: Slice of Life #11 On Spring Break, where will I find writing inspiration?

The Buddy Reading Phenomenon: Slice of Life #10 Buddy reading is about so much more than reading

Finding Community: Slice of Life #9 Feeling at home in my new school

But I’ve got this: Slice of Life #8 I want my room to be where life long readers are made

Kid collecting: Slice of Life #7 My morning walk involves a kid or two

Room 202: Slice of Life #6 Wondering why my new classroom feels so much like home

Books I enjoyed:

Bloom by Deborah Diesen and illustrated by Mary Lundquist

A beautiful book about seasons and time and growing. A perfect gardening book. Also a perfect parent child connection book.

Liam Takes a Stand by Troy Wilson and illustrated by Josh Holinaty

Sibling rivalry can sometimes be way over the top. What if you’re the littlest brother? This book will make you smile. And kind of thirsty.

Noisy Night by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Brian Biggs

Lots of noise in this very tall apartment building? Who is making it? A fun story time read aloud. Warning: it might get loud!

The Fabulous Friend Machine by Nick Bland

Oh yes – clever commentary on our social media world.

A Year of Borrowed Men by Michelle Barker and illustrated by Renné Benoit

During the war, three French Prisoner’s of War are sent to work on Gerda’s farm in Germany. Told from a child’s perspective, this book is a very human look at hard times in European history. Full of tender and sweet moments and the harsh realities of suspicion sand cruelties of war.

The Dance of the Violin by Kathy Stinson and illustrated by Dušan Petričić

A story of young violinist Joshua Bell. He wants to compete in an important competition. Can he convey the movement he hears as he plays? Or will nerves win out? Incredibly illustrated.

The Great Antonio by Elise Gravel

This Toon tale made me a little sad. A biography of sorts of The Great Antonio, the true story of Antonio Barichievich, Montreal strong man. All the things he could do! Gravel doesn’t shy away from featuring Antonio’s eccentric and troubled later life.

Upside Down Magic by Sarah Mylnowski, Lauren Myracle and Emily Jenkins

I had a group of students reading this book for Book Club and it was the only title I hadn’t read. I quite enjoyed this story of a special Upside Down Magic classroom for a group of children who can’t seem to learn or execute magic in more normal ways. Well developed and sensitive characters elevate this young middle grade novel beyond a simple fantasy story.

Reading Progress updates:

2017 Chapter Book Challenge: 12/75 complete

Goodreads Challenge: 73/365 books read

Progress on challenge: 3 books ahead of schedule!

#MustReadin2017: 6/30 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 13/50 titles

Diverse Books in 2016: 11/50 books read

Up next? I am reading Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart 

The little girl I should have taught: Slice of Life #13

The little girl I should have taught: Slice of Life #13

You would have been in my class. We both knew it.

I left before you arrived. I missed out. I know.

I remember you in Kindergarten, those big brown eyes of yours. The way they took in everything and missed nothing.

I remember when you came to my class as a little buddy. Your partner sat back and smiled when you took over. You read like a reader does. Part words. Part expression. Part interaction. All proud.

You would look up from the page with those big brown eyes and we would all be right there with you.

I admired your tenacity. Your striped socks. Your big presence in such a little body.

We were waiting for each other. I know.

You made me cards.

I posted them up.

You visited me.

Every morning.

I put aside special books.

You smiled big before sitting down to read them.

I stopped and listened to all of your stories.

You had a lot.

“I am going to be in your class,” you told me all last year. You would have been. I know.

I was waiting for you.

Before I had to go.

Before I missed out on teaching you.

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.


Reading Workshop Truths: Slice of Life #12

Reading Workshop Truths: Slice of Life #12

On Day 12 of the March Slice of Life Challenge, I am celebrating 12 truths I have observed during Reading Workshop with my Grade 4 & 5 class this year. This is six months in with an intermediate classroom. Some of my learning is new. Some has been confirmed yet again.

  • There needs to be daily time to read during class. If special events happen, a space for reading still needs to be found. This is non-negotiable.
  • Reading culture is strengthened by peer recommendations, hype about popular books and a buzz about new titles. Readers need to be immersed in a reading culture. The contagion factor of book love is the most true thing of all when it comes to helping readers develop reading lives.
  • “Just for you” matters. A book stack selected for a specific reader’s perusal is a bridge on the road to independent book selection. When I hold up a book to a child and say “This is a {insert child’s name here} book” I can almost guarantee they will read it.
  • Provide lessons on book abandonment. Reiterate what you have said throughout the year. Support these choices. Smile as enthusiastically when the book goes back on the shelf unread as when a book is taken off the shelf to be read.

Reading Workshop Truths: Slice of Life #12

  • Let there be too many books. Celebrate the overstuffed book box. Happily diagnose “book-lover-itis” disease. Let there be room for enthusiasm and then teach how to prioritize, how to read more than one book at a time and how to save some for later.
  • Make sure there is a huge selection of books in your classroom library: books from all genres, short books, long books, books that are light and books that are heavy. Picture books matter. Nonfiction matters. Poetry matters. Graphics matter. I can look around the room and see one child reading Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon and another one reading A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen. A range of books sustains a range of readers with all kinds of moods, skills and interests.
  • If a child is choosing books beyond his/her reading level, don’t fuss around them too soon. Give permission to truly choose freely. Guide and suggest. Don’t limit and direct. They will find their books.
  • Don’t discount a reader reading graphic novel after graphic novel. This child is really reading. Really reading real books. This is not a warm up for novels. This is a reader loving a specific format. I had one boy read 17 graphic novels in a row and then he read a non-graphic novel for Book Club. Now he knows he can read a larger variety of books. Options have opened up.  But he has been reader building reading skills all along. There are many books in his future including, I am sure, at least 17 more graphic novels.

Reading Workshop Truths: Slice of Life #12

  • Reading a series helps to develop reading comprehension. The child reading book 6, 7 or even 11 or 12 of a beginning series is building amazing fluency, sense of plot and story and learning to navigate new words without any storyline confusion to get in the way. I first read about this from author Jim Trelease and it has never felt so true as with these 8, 9 and 10 year old readers.
  • When conferring with students, be specific in your conversations but also think about asking every child the same question over a week or two of conferences to get the flavour of the room. Questions like: “What’s working?” “What’s next?” “What is challenging you?” are great broad questions that everyone can answer. They help the teacher shape the next mini-lessons that need to be taught.
  • Be really explicit when teaching reading goals. When readers are reading a longer chapter book, hundreds of pages can seem daunting. I bring out a pile of sticky notes and we write dates on the top and split up the reading. Students love adjusting these if they read ahead or miss a night. Small goals make a longer book seem manageable,
  • Know when to hang back and when to swoop in. I watch body language when children are book shopping. When I see casual browsing, hunting for a specific title or stack building, I am not needed. Aimless wandering? Loud sighing? Pacing in front of the book shelf? I make myself available. I remind about the “Want to Read list”, we look again at which genres we haven’t read, we discuss books that have worked and why. Usually, this gets everything back on track.

If you teach with a Reading Workshop model, what are the truths in your room?

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

Inspiration sources: Slice of Life #11

Inspiration sources: Slice of Life #11

It is now Spring Break for my district. Two weeks. Which means two weeks without daily sources of material for me. My work day is where my writing begins to whisper. Somehow, by day’s end, something is rising to the surface as a possibility.

Now, I am worried. What happens when I shift into the introspective, reflective time away from students? My writing may have more meaning or it may be completely disconnected from reality. Time will tell. All I know is for two weeks, I have kind of lost my place.

In these first ten days of Slice of Life posting, I have had daily inspiration sources.

I spend all day kid watching. I listen in. I hear things that stick. They turn over and over in my mind. Writing lets me define them. It enables me to make sense. It reveals things I am trying to learn.

I have lots of stories of this past week I haven’t told. But they will become farther and farther away.

I place some of them here to hold them.

The words from one little guy two days before our break began: “I will be missing you soon.”

The girl who read her story aloud to all of us at the carpet. As I listened to her words, I watched the dramatic reactions of her peers and realized, we have a writer here.

The quiet in the art room as students worked to find their dreams in their work.

The expression on the face of one child who sensed the theme of a story as I read it aloud. I saw everything in her face: disgust, horror and anger. Her indignation was just like mine the first time I read this book and it was pretty powerful recognizing myself in her.

A quiet Friday afternoon making Spring Break reading plans with my students, one reader at a time.

Gratitude Circle 20 minutes later where reading was mentioned time and time again. “I am grateful I finished my book club book. I really loved it.” “I am grateful for the books I am taking home to read.” “I am grateful we can borrow books to read while we are away from our classroom.”

I sent my students off wishing them happy breaks full of words and stories.

Yet I know in one way they will stay with me as I continue to write about the world we share.

Inspiration sources. These aren’t direct lines to follow. Happening and recounting. It is not just this. It is layering. Weaving. Circling. Wondering.

The examination of one thing as it becomes quite another. Word by word, new truths are made.

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.