Celebration: All is better with a little gold dust

celebrate link up

Celebration honoured. This is the loveliest of reasons to share. Join Ruth Ayres who shares a Celebration Link up on her blog each week.

I had a fantastic week back with my students. I think all of us were thrilled to be together again after a two week break, learning and sharing. I have many things to celebrate this week!

1. I loved all of the #MustReadin2014 spring updates shared by a wonderfully keen reading community. The Must Read phenomenon was born out of an attempt to gain some control over unruly TBR lists that grow and grow! Check out my update and links to update posts here. Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo is one of my favourite books read so far from this list. Maybe even more special because I read it aloud to my children and we all loved it.

 Celebration: All is Better with a Little Gold Dust

2. I was thrilled to have a Nerdy Book Club post published this week. I saw a request from Colby Sharp for some retro review posts to be shared on twitter a few weeks ago. I have written some other Nerdy posts but never one in this category. I asked Colby if I could share something a little different instead of a review of one specific title. I wanted to go “retro” and look back at titles treasured with my children (now 11!) when they were preschool age. It was a nostalgic look back at books we adored. Read the post here.

Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge  Celebration: All is Better with a Little Gold Dust

3. I read the powerful picture book Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson illustrated by E.B.Lewis to my class this week.The reactions and comments were quite incredible. I think I might share some of their thinking and writing on our classroom blog. But the most interesting moment came with the ending. If you have read this book, you know that it ends with Chloe standing at the shore of the pond feeling a mix of regret, sadness and guilt. Her opportunity to offer kindness to Maya is gone. The story ends with these words:

“I watched the water ripple as the sun set through the maples and the chance of a kindness with Maya was becoming more and more forever gone.”

At first there was silence in the room and then one girl erupted, “What?! That’s terrible! It’s a terrible ending!” It’s not terrible. It’s just not happy so it’s confusing a bit,” someone else added. Another child piped up,”It makes you think about drama and saying sorry. It makes us think. It’s good.” As we were getting ready to move on to Reading Workshop, another child said, “I liked it. I have been waiting for a bad ending in a book. Not bad like not good but every ending shouldn’t be happy – that’s not how life is.” This little girl asked me to help her find a new novel and we kept talking about the story. I asked her if she wanted to put her thoughts into a reader’s statement (we have a huge wall of these posted on a bulletin board). She came up with something that I think is quite brilliant:

Readers can’t always expect a happy ending.

That books inspire discussions and thinking like this – this, I celebrate!

 Celebration: All is Better with a Little Gold Dust

4. Ah . . . book love! My students were happy to be back to our classroom full of books. I sensed it on Monday morning when an instant hush fell upon the room when we started Reader’s Workshop. I did “book commercials” for new books all week and this generated lots of excitement.

I felt the book love when I saw “who reads it next” lists being created and stuck to new books.

 Celebration: All is Better with a Little Gold Dust

I felt it as I observed the wonderful engagement of one to one time with various adults who listen to children read and talk about stories and thinking with the students.

 Celebration: All is Better with a Little Gold Dust

I sensed it when listening to the the buzz around the book bins during buddy reading time with the K/1 class.

 Celebration: All is Better with a Little Gold Dust

Ah .  . . book love!

5. If you have hung in reading this very long Celebration post (it was a wonderful week!), here is the pot of gold 🙂 One of our students makes a lot of paper objects and sculptures all throughout the day. It helps him to focus and listen. We started thinking . . . Wouldn’t it be great to showcase some of his work? Wouldn’t it be better if it was spray painted gold? Absolutely! Here is the young artist at work, gold paint in action!

 Celebration: All is Better with a Little Gold Dust

And here is the installation. Thank you to the amazing Miriam (the Support Worker who I get to work with every day!) for her huge role in displaying and advertising the “piece.” There are flyers pasted up all over the school! When this boy’s Mom came in to see this art and got hugely proud and teary, we all got teary. It was a moment.

 Celebration: All is Better with a Little Gold Dust

I celebrate all the many ways this is golden . . .

What are you celebrating this week?

Celebration: Children’s Art

Celebration honoured. This is the loveliest of reasons to share. Join Ruth Ayres who shares a Celebration Link up on her blog each week.

celebrate link upThis week I had a visit from someone that spent a lot of time in my classroom last year. She walked into the class, paused and took in all of the wall space and displays.  “I just love all of the art in this classroom. It is always so amazing.” she commented. Yes, I thought, I think so too!

The art all over our walls and on display in the hallways speaks to our spirit, our creativity and our community. Making art together every week is a happy time. Time to talk, to problem solve, and to share. We often have three to four projects on display at once. Often a picture book has been an inspiration for these projects. I also regularly read a variety of art blogs for great ideas.

This week, I am sharing some final projects as well as some in process photos of art projects created in my classroom over the last 12 months or so. I celebrate the art my students produce! It is always a source of joy.

I hope it brings as much happiness to you as it does to us to be surrounded by colour and creativity everyday!

We did gorgeous cityscape pieces last spring using black construction paper, glue lines and vibrant chalk pastel. Our inspiration for these pieces was the book by Robert Neubecker‘s Wow! City! More about this project here.

 Celebration: Children's Art There's a Book for That

We were inspired by the “eyepatch” page in Calef Brown’s book Pirateria. Fabulous pirates guarded our hallway after everyone got to work on making some amazing pirate art. More about this project here.

 Celebration: Children's Art There's a Book for That

Mini Grey‘s The Very Smart Pea and the Princess-to-Be was part of the inspiration for some princess and pea inspired art. More about this project here.

 Celebration: Children's Art There's a Book for That

The book Ten Little Beasties by Ed Emberley was the inspiration for a project to make our own beasties. Lots of colour, lots of fun.

 Celebration: Children's Art There's a Book for That

What is Halloween without amazing witches? More about this project here.

Witches  Celebration: Children's Art There's a Book for That

I have a thing for owls. Last year we did three projects about owls in art. This year, I just couldn’t resist sneaking one in. More about this project here.

 Celebration: Children's Art There's a Book for That

We are VERY fortunate to have Arts Umbrella come in and do a project with us almost every year. This year we did huge insect art. Stunning!

 Celebration: Children's Art There's a Book for That

We finished up some gorgeous winter castles in January and added some writing to go with the final pieces on display. I love working really large with projects!

Winter castles  Celebration: Children's Art There's a Book for That

For Valentines and Kindness week, my class made Love Robots. Programmed to love. What could be sweeter?

 Celebration: Children's Art There's a Book for That

And sometimes art going on display is not a class project, but a body of work by one child. This is an in process photo for a project to be on display after our Spring Break. Thanks to the brilliant inspiration of Miriam, who shares these wonderful children with me, to bust out the gold spray paint!

 Celebration: Children's Art There's a Book for That

May your week be filled with colour, creativity and joy!

Celebration: Different Days

celebrate link up

Celebration honoured. This is the loveliest of reasons to share. Join Ruth Ayres who shares a Celebration Link up on her blog each week.

This week I am celebrating different days. Each day this week had something out of the ordinary and it made for quite a lovely week with lots to be grateful for each day. Change brings new perspectives and insights. For this, I am grateful.

On Monday, which just so happened to be Family Literacy Day, my children came to school with me. They had a Professional Day at their school and wanted to come hang out in my classroom. They were involved in lots of literacy activities and did a wonderful job supporting and connecting with my students.

 Celebration: Different Days There's a Book for That

Tuesday afternoon is typically quite busy in my classroom. This week, we worked on having a very calm p.m. We finished art/writing projects and everyone felt very proud about getting all of our art up on the walls. A sample of student art work – gorgeous winter castles.

 Celebration: Different Days There's a Book for That

On Wednesday, we celebrated outside winter play with the FunMobile sponsored by Participaction.

What fun my class had playing outside with our little buddies from Mr. Blanchard’s K/1 class. Lots of activity, much laughter and some creativity with cones . . .

 Celebration: Different Days There's a Book for That

On Thursday we celebrated science with Lisa and Nelly, our amazing volunteer scientists from the Let’s Talk Science Program. Students learned how to use different equipment to measure liquids. Celebration: Different Days There's a Book for That

On Friday I had the opportunity to celebrate my own learning with an amazing Professional Development Day. Pat Johnson and Katie Keier authors of Catching Readers Before They Fall were in Vancouver for a full day of presentations and discussions.

catching readers

I could write a LOT about things I took away from this session but I am going to try and limit it to my top ten takeaway comments/ideas/questions/inspirations. Note – these come from sessions with both Pat and Katie.

1. If a child is struggling with a word when reading, don’t help by prompting with the same strategy – use a different one. (i.e. if child is sounding out and not getting word, don’t say “try the other vowel sound” – instead, use a meaning or syntax prompt)

2. Be careful about our language – not “This is what good readers do” but instead ” Readers . . . ” when we talk about the habits/strategies of readers.

3. Our assessment should focus on what it is the child does when stuck. What strategies does he/she have? Which does he/she need to learn?

4. Use Reader’s Statements with your students to communicate what readers do. For example: Readers think about what they read or listen to or Readers make sure what they read makes sense I am already thinking about what statements I want to highlight with my students and where to post these in the room. 

5. Think about the difference between heavy handed strategy teaching and “spotlighting” certain strategies. Integrate strategies because all readers need all of them. There shouldn’t be a continuum where certain comprehension strategies are taught at certain grades.

6. Don’t skip/rush the shared demonstrations. Children need the “do it with me” time. Some need more practice and explicit support linking back to these lessons as they are developing independence with the strategies.

7. The children who struggle (who don’t have a reading processing system happening) do not realize that other readers have all of these things going on while they read – make thinking explicit in modelled read alouds

8. Really think about what fluency means. It is not just speed and accuracy. It is also phrasing, flow, punctuation, expression, etc. Use text to show how punctuation “tells us how to read it”  in shared demonstrations to talk about fluency.

9. Effective literacy programs are anchored in best practices but responsive to today’s world. Think about  purposes for reading/writing when thinking about using new technologies i.e. blogging and sharing with school community, wider world, responding to comments, etc

10. When thinking about having children use technologies – think about a shift from children thinking about technology as a toy to using it as a tool. Is what we are teaching helping our students become literate? Help them be creators/producers and not just consumers.

I also loved that in Pat’s a.m. session she referred to one of my favourite blog posts on the Catching Readers blog: Signal Words This is a great post full of ideas about how to assist students learn how to read nonfiction texts.

Wishing everyone a wonderful week!

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Jumping Penguins

It’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday! NFPB 2014

This title is difficult to categorize. It is definitely nonfiction. A fact book of sorts. A book of art. That too. Quirky, odd, fantastic. All of these things. Some of nature’s truths displayed a little more graphically and gruesome than one might usually find in children’s literature. . . Cannibalistic crocodiles munching each other for lunch. But also absolute charm conveyed through simple text and illustrations that go where our imaginations might.

A polar bear is left handed as are most artists.

This line is illustrated by a polar bear holding paints having just painted a self portrait.

What exactly is this book I am describing? A gorgeous animal concept book illustrated by Marije Tolman with text by Jesse Goossens: Jumping Penguins (published in 2013 by Lemniscaat) In the Netherlands this title is published under this title: Jumping Penguins and Laughing Hyenas.

Jumping Penguins: NFPB2014 There's a Book for That

There is an index in the back. It lists 27 animal names and the pages they are featured. That is about as far as a nod to typical organization of nonfiction texts might take us. Otherwise it is all whimsy. Wonder. Amazement.

Each fact is given some elaboration or not. But each one is illustrated not realistically but more in a what might/could this mean if we thought creatively about it. Penguins can leap six feet in the air? So . . . do they stand around and watch graceful leaps out of the freezing sea? The illustration suggests just that.

What were particular wow facts/illustrations for me?

  • An adult porcupine has 30,000 quills on its body which are replaced every year (the illustration shows us porcupines using discarded quills to erect a fence around their property)
  • The ribcage of a hippopotamus is so large, the average seven year old could stand inside of it.
  • Sumatran tigers do like water – in fact they have webbed toes and can swim more than fifteen miles.

Find the book and be delighted and informed in the most wonderful of ways. Amazing animals. Yes, truly.

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2014! Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction titles.

My goal is to read 65 nonfiction picture books for 2014. Progress: 25/65 complete!

Wise Eyes Watching

These beautiful owls are now perched up high on our our bulletin boards – wise eyes watching us:

 Wise Eyes Watching There's a Book for That

Inspired by this wonderful post on the art blog A Glimmer of Light, we created these gorgeous owls. Here is our process.

First, we drew with oil pastel directly onto black construction paper (no pencil marks first!) – thinking about the shapes of the body, eyes, wings, talons and added a fancy crown. Students then began colouring in the owls with oil pastels, creating patterns and textures.

 Wise Eyes Watching There's a Book for That

After about 20 minutes of work time, most children were at this stage: shapes drawn and quite a bit of colouring and design complete.

 Wise Eyes Watching There's a Book for That

On Day 2, we just had another short amount of work time so our goal was to finish adding colour to our owls and to outline important lines.

 Wise Eyes Watching There's a Book for That

On Day 3, we broke out the chalk pastels and added bright and beautiful backgrounds with swirls and stripes. Students were encouraged to not use more than 4 different colours.

 Wise Eyes Watching There's a Book for That

Many students helped with background colouring so that we could all complete our masterpieces to have them ready to post up in the room.

 Wise Eyes Watching There's a Book for That

Final step was to outline any lines that had blurred at the edges of the owls into the chalk pastel background and these stunning owls were ready!

 Wise Eyes Watching There's a Book for That

Some students even wrote a little bit to share about their process or about who their owl might be . . . . Check out our classroom blog Curiosity Racers to read about what was shared and to see some more images!

Fly Free

We love making art in our classroom. It seems always to be more powerful when it is a response to a book we have read. I don’t think it is hard to figure out why – books inspire us to think and feel and reflect and respond. Art is all about responding creatively to what we are thinking about. So the picture book/art connection is a powerful one.

There is a bit of a story to how my Grade 2/3s happened to create these pictures:

 Fly Free! There is a Book for That

It started with the wonderful book The Secret Message that author Mina Javaherbin sent to our class after we had made a connection with her when we reviewed her book Goal! This book, based on an ancient  Persian poem by Rumi, tells the story of a wealthy  merchant and his parrot. The beautiful bird sings of longing and dreams of freedom and yet, his only reward is a larger cage. When the merchant travels to India, the parrot asks him to tell his wild parrot friends of his captivity and how he misses flying in the forest. The birds manage to send a secret message back to their parrot friend in Persia, ensuring his route to freedom. This story inspired many questions and lots of discussion. Big themes of course involved freedom and the merchant’s right to keep a wild bird captive.

The Secret message

Students were not impressed by the larger cage that the merchant bought the parrot. They felt it didn’t come close to measuring up to the beautiful forest where wild birds flew free. This got me thinking about an art project I had pinned to my art boards on Pinterest. It was from the wonderful art blog Mrs. Picasso’s Art Room. This project also looked at birds and cages and questioned captivity. Inspired by this project, I decided to have the students draw their own bird cages that they could have birds perch upon. We also incorporated the message from Mina when she signed her book for us: Fly Free!

Students began by drawing an elaborate bird cage with black crayon and oil pastel. We thought about a door to the cage and making it stand out as firmly closed. Some students began with mock up sketches to think about shape and design.

 Fly Free! There's a Book for That

Finished cages were elaborate and beautiful. We talked about how we liked the idea of these cages for decoration but not for keeping a bird inside!

 Fly Free! There's a Book for That

We then made our birds after looking at many picture books and nonfiction books that featured parrots but also other exotic and beautiful birds with interesting colouring and decorative bills. A favourite was a book that celebrated being observant about the details of different birds: Puffin Peter by Petr Horacek. Simply gorgeous! The striped beak of this little puffin made its way onto many finished birds! We loved the layered colours and the loose lines that outlined this beautiful bird.

 Fly Free! There's a Book for That

Drawings started with crayon. Some looked very puffinesque (thanks Petr!)

 Fly Free! There's a Book for That

Other birds came in different shapes.

 Fly Free! There's a Book for That

Some students were very excited to make their birds multicoloured using layers of crayon and oil pastels.

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

Two colours on the beaks were very popular

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

Big theme? Pride!

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

And smiles!

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

Students then cut out their birds and the signs they had made that expressed either: Freedom of Fly Free. They positioned them on the page so it was clear that the birds were perched outside the cages and voila – beautiful art projects with a message!

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

Fly Free! There's a Book for That!

The great thing about this project? As we worked on it over multiple days, our discussions continued. As students worked, they talked about blending colours, interesting birds and what it means to be free. What could be better?

Thanks to Mina Javaherbin for such an important book!

Ahoy there Pirates!

Sometimes a page in a picture book just speaks out and begs to be emulated. This happened to our class when we turned to what we call the “eyepatch” page in Calef Brown’s book Pirateria. (Read student reviews of this book here)

 Ahoy there Pirates! There's a Book for that!

There is a full page spread of various pirates sporting eyepatches in perfect pirate colours.   Colours such as: Briny Deep Green, Dreaded Red and Swashbuckled Huckleberry. And of course: Cannonball Black. Students wanted to look at it again and again. We decided it was the perfect inspiration for some of our own art in Calef Brown‘s style. We included the elements of his pirates that we loved: the striped shirts, stylish bandanas, whoop-de-doo noses and colourful faces. Below, read the step by step of how our pirates came to be.

Pirateria

First we did some sketching with black crayon, trying out various pirate styles.

Students then chose a favourite and began their large pirate face, using a black oil pastel. Don’t you just love these noses? We sent Calef Brown some pictures and told him how much we loved the noses. He explained their importance:

 Ahoy there Pirates! There's a Book for that!

Then time to colour with oil pastels – just the eye patch, the hair, shirt,  bandana, and mouth. Some people couldn’t resist colouring in their nose!

 Ahoy there Pirates! There's a Book for that!

On Day 2, we painted.

 Ahoy there Pirates! There's a Book for that!

We used 2 colours – one for the face and one for the background.

 Ahoy there Pirates! There's a Book for that!

Students then outlined with pastel again if necessary once the paint was dry. All pirates had a lot of style. This saucy fellow, according to the little artist who created him is a bit of a facke (fake)!

Ahoy there Pirates! There's a book for That

Some pirates were all about the nose!

Ahoy there Pirates! There's a Book for That!

Others – it was lips not to be missed!

Ahoy there Pirates! There's a Book for That!

Can you say moustache? How about three?

Ahoy there Pirates! There's a Book for That!

Some pirates had lovely smiles.

Ahoy there Pirates! There's a Book for That!

Some smiles need a little dental attention or the occasional toothbrush at least!

Ahoy there Pirates! There's a Book for That!We had pirates who looked serious and wise.

Ahoy there Pirates! There's a Book for That!

And some who pondered life under a starlit sky.

Ahoy there Pirates! There's a Book for That!

Now all of these pirate characters hang outside of our classroom. Come by and check them out but don’t get too close . . . They may make you walk the plank!