A Whole lot of Literacy

Recently I had a picture perfect day in my little reading group. Everything went so smoothly that I just mostly wandered amongst my students and snapped photos! They were engaged in the important work and I was lucky enough to just watch it all happen. 🙂

We had started to work on being able to retell and summarize stories and I found an easy to use anchor chart on pinterest that helped us with this process. (Somebody Wanted But So) During one class, I read two stories to the group and we filled in the chart trying to choose the best words to capture the essence of what happened. We read Boy by James Mayhew and Jojo the Giant written by Jane Barclay and illustrated by Esperanca Melo. Our thoughts are captured in the chart below.

These books were fantastic to use. Boy is the simple story of a little boy who wakes up cold and is determined to find a warm place to sleep. He encounters all sorts of intimidating creatures (mammoths, sabre tooth tigers, etc.) during his morning journey and ends up returning to the security of his parents after his brave and independent search.  I have featured this book before in this post. Jojo the Giant (mentioned in this post) really impacted the students. As much as they were caught up in the story of a little boy who was determined to win a race despite the taunts of the bullies who doubted him, they really responded to the act of kindness Jojo performed for his mother. I love how when we talked about whether or not Jojo really did grow taller, one student commented that he grew bigger in his heart. Beautiful.

Students caught on quickly to using the chart so the next day I put out some picture books and had them work with a partner to read a book together and fill in their own summary chart (one chart for the partners).

I was so pleased by how independent and engaged the students were. They took turns reading aloud, negotiating how they should split up reading the text. Everyone listened keenly to his/her partner. It was wonderful fluency practice!

Also fantastic practice at attentive listening! I observed partners gently coaxing each other with decoding a challenging word. Lots of laughing together and stopping to talk about the text.

Students then got down to the business of filling in their charts together. Many took turns writing sections. I saw children going back and rereading to confirm ideas or search for a specific part in the text.

While the pages were filled out well (especially for the first time with just minimal guided prompts from me), it was the conversations I was most excited about. Students were really listening to each other. There was negotiation about what to say. Students had creative ideas about how to share the writing. They considered together how best to explain something.

So while I had set out to practice summarizing and knew that fluency practice was built into the activity, a lot of other things happened. This is the magic when students meet lesson plan and the sum is absolutely more! What else did I see?

  • active listening
  • stating opinions
  • asking and answering questions
  • rereading text for specific information
  • building on an idea
  • discussion/negotiation about how to approach an assignment
  • partner work practice
  • relationship building

What did students do who finished early? Found more books and engaged in buddy reading, happily extending the joy of reading with each other. Yep, a whole lot of literacy!

New Books for Buddy Reading

Thanks to a generous donation towards books for our classroom and funds matched by Adopt a School, we have some amazing new titles to share when our Grade 2/3 s invite the K/1 class up for buddy reading once a week. It is an important time we all enjoy and now we have some wonderful new books to share together!

Hug Time by Patrick McDonnell is a tiny little book all about having a huge heart. A little kitten so filled with love decides to give the whole world a hug and sets out with friends and a Hug-To-Do-List to travel the world from pole to pole and do just that – hug every living thing he comes across. My favourite? Hugging a big blue whale!

Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett has wonderful rhyming, repetitive text perfect for sharing with our 5 year old little buddies.

Monkey and me, Monkey and me,

Monkey and me, We went to see,

We went to see some . . . .

Flip the page and who knows what you might find? Bat! Elephants! Penguins! All beautifully illustrated in classic Gravett style.

Antoinette Portis created the extremely clever Not a Box. Little Rabbit is in the first picture sitting in what looks like a box. “Why are you sitting in a box?” the text reads. Next picture, little rabbit is in a race car, “It’s not a box,” he explains. And so the book continues. The power of imagination means that a box is really anything a child can make of one. Fun to read and more fun to begin a conversation. What else could a box be?

Hello Baby is written by one of my favourite authors for young children, Mem Fox and illustrated by the incredible Steve Jenkins.

Hello, Baby! Who are you?

The book begins with this first question and goes on to ask many more, Are you a . . . ? Everything rhymes, images are striking and often surprising and at the end, you want to go back and read it all over again. Yes, our 5- 8 year olds aren’t babies but many of them are intrigued by animal babies and Fox and Jenkins have created an engaging delight in a tiny little book.

It is hard to resist the humour in Jeremy Tankard‘s Grumpy Bird. Grumpy Bird wakes up, clearly on the wrong side of his nest, too grumpy to do anything. He won’t eat, play or even fly. His grumpy march across the land looks lovely to every other animal who joins him as he trudges along snipping and quipping at everyone he meets.


In the end, as you might guess, Grumpy Bird has found a cure for his grumpiness and he gets to share it with his friends. Lots of fun, especially for those of us that work really hard to stay mad even when we aren’t anymore . . . .

Little Blue Truck is written by Alice Schertle and illustrated by Jill McElmurry. In this sweet little story, Litle Blue Truck shows a Big Dump Truck the power of many helping hands. I think this book will be a favourite as it is full of rhyme, repetition and animal sounds! So fun to read aloud and have a little buddy join in as they are able: Oink! Quack! Baa! Moo! Cluck! Peep! Neigh! Croak! Maa!

I absolutely adore this book by James Mayhew and now, happily have a copy for the classroom! Saber-toothed tigers. Wooly mammoths. Sleepy dinosaurs. A little boy exploring the world around him. In Boy, author James Mayhew explores a little guy’s yearning for independence while at the same time honouring his deep connections to home (and the happy snuggles from Mom and Dad). Where in the world do we find warmth? In the security and love from our own family.

How fun is this book by Edward Gibbs?! In I Spy with My Little Eye, we turn page after page of eye spy riddles – on each page, we get a clue, the name of a colour and that same colour in a perfect circle that turns into the eye of each creature.

I spy with my little eye . . . something that is gray. I have a very long trunk.

Flip the page and of course you find . . . an elephant! So much fun to look through a spy hole to discover an exciting parade of gorgeously illustrated animals in bright and beautiful colours.

Note: I purchased many of these books in board book version – to give them more lasting power and to be easily held in tiny hands. 🙂

Thanks to our generous donors and the Adopt a School fund for supporting early literacy at Seymour! We are keen to put the remaining funds into other important book purchases to share with our students.

If I could go to Kindergarten . . .

I love reading to the Ks at Seymour. I get to do it at least a few times a month at our primary Social Responsibility Gatherings. The Ks sit right up in front, eyes wide, serious expressions, taking it all in. They listen intently, little hands raise in the air to tell me connections and ideas. Then when they leave, they wave, they smile, they whisper, “I’ll miss you.” One of my favourite things to do is to read to the Kindergarten class.

So I got to thinking what if I could go to Kindergarten everyday? And read? What would I read?  During my last few visits to the public library I found some wonderful possibilities.

Saber-toothed tigers. Wooly mammoths. Sleepy dinosaurs. A little boy exploring the world around him. Boy by James Mayhew explores a little guy’s yearning for independence while at the same time honouring his deep connections to home (and the happy snuggles from Mom and Dad). Where in the world do we find warmth? In the security and love from our own family.

A beautifully illustrated story inspired by the author’s love of his own son.

Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick wrote There – as a series of questions. A story about growing up and celebrating the journey as much as the destination. When will I get there? How will I know? And will I know everything, There? The little girl then wonders Can I change my mind and go Elsewhere instead? She then decides that she will go There tomorrow – after she does all the things she needs to do.

A book that begs to be explored with children. Winner of the Bistro Awards in 2010.

I think this book by Mara Bergman and illustrated by Cassia Thomas Lively Elizabeth is especially appropriate for kindergarten. Life when you come to school is all of a sudden a lot about lining up. Going here, going there, hands to yourself, “shh!” Several times a day. What happens when you have a little extra energy and it kinda spills over into a push? Well in a kindergarten line, it is full on domino effect! Bergman does a lovely job of playing out the whole scenario – from upset to apology and then forgiveness and moving on (and quickly – after all, little ones have the important business of play to get back to)! Cassia Thomas’ illustrations are absolutely delightful! A book, I predict, that will get many “Read it again!” requests.

Okay who doesn’t love surprises? And guessing what will happen next? Little ones do especially. What a treasure is The Surprise by Sylvia van Ommen! Wordless so there is a lot of space for interactions. Predictions. Inferring. Questions.  Sheep zips here and there on her moped on a mission. She dyes her wool, when it seems long enough, a brilliant red. Then she brings it to poodle who spins it into yarn. She then knits something special and wraps it up and delivers it to . . .  Well, not going to spoil the surprise here but how fun would this be to do with a class of Ks?

Mattland coauthored by Hazel Hutchins and Gail Herbert and illustrated by Dusan Petricic is a wonderful book to explore with children stressed by moving. The scary sadness of someplace new followed by the gentle, spontaneous introduction of new playmates and new activities. But this book is also ideal to celebrate imaginative, outdoor play. Building a place – roads, rivers, houses, prickly trees and getting some quiet help from someone with their own treasure trove of discoveries – a flattened penny, some popsicle sticks, four pine cones . . . To be fair, you can only read this book with intended outside play planned next. Lots of it. And it should probably involve some mud!

Now I just need a plan to sneak in and share some of these with the Ks!