Monday September 24th, 2012

It’s Monday!

What are you reading?

Connect to Jen and Kellee’s meme to share all of your great reads – from picture books to young adult selections.

This is such a wonderful way to learn about a variety of new titles and to ensure that those To Be Read piles are very tall and very tippy. I think I have book stacks in about six different places in my classroom and my house.

Sigh. This will be week two where I haven’t completed a novel. Hoping this is not not indicative of my school year and instead just a result of a busy back to school season! It also doesn’t help that the book I have my nose in is 539 pages long (Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore) Although, I am loving every page so happy that there are more than 500 to savour!

So for this It’s Monday! What are you reading? post I am going to highlight  ten picture books (both fiction and non) that I read this week (some shared as class read alouds).

Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCarty. This is an interesting little story told as much through the illustrations as through text. Jeremy is too shy to venture out and play and when he draws a monster and it comes to life, it turns out to be an annoying creature he wishes he could just erase. A very clever ending does resolve the monster issue but along the way some interesting themes are explored: imagination, the shy child, taking risks, etc. Beautifully illustrated by McCarty.

The Worrywarts written by Pamela Duncan Edwards and illustated by Henry Cole. I used this book to launch learning about making connections. Read more in this post. If you are reading this aloud, warm up! All of those W’s will exhaust your lips as you read! Fantastic alliteration from Edwards as usual.

Marshall Armstrong is New to our School by David Mackintosh I shared this book with my new class as a morning read aloud. We talked about how in a sense we are all new when we start a new school year even if we are not new to the school. This book helped us understand to reserve judgement with people “new” to us, to not turn away from someone who is different and to celebrate the unique aspects about us all. The students LOVED the illustrations and keenly studied all of the details on each page. They were particularly intrigued with Marshall’s “space” food.

There is a bit of a book obsession going on in our room with Mo Willems right now! Check out how book boxes looked on day one of setting them up. Elephant and Piggie books were gathered by the handful! We have, as a class, come up with a new rule: no more than one Elephant and Piggie book in your box so that there is access to all. Oh how we adore these characters!

I still come across titles that I haven’t read yet. I read When We are in a Book by Mo Willems aloud when requested by numerous students. And then I read it again because, well, if you read carefully, it does request the reader to do just that!

I am Going by Mo Willems was another title I read this week and then read over and over with a keen student who wanted to read with me, each of us being a character (Gerald or Piggie).

Jeremiah Learns to Read written by Jo Ellen Bogart and illustrated by Laura Fernandez and Rick Jacobson. This was a book I shared with my reading group as we talked about how reading is a gift. (For student reaction to the fact that Jeremiah couldn’t read, read here.)

All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon and illustrated by Katherine Tillotson Lyrical language. Stunning art. Superb images. Wow. And . . . a fantastic book to teach the water cycle.

Are you a Grasshopper? by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries I love these Are you a ____________? books and just added this title to my class collection. I have a real admiration for grasshoppers. For the last three summers we have walked through a water starved grassy bluff on Galiano Island. There is never anyone else there and it is vey quiet except for the grasshoppers. They are hidden in the tall dry foliage and the air absolutely vibrates with all of their noise. We always talk with our children about how this noise is produced and I love how it is explained and illustrated in this book.

What Comes Next? by Bobbie Kalman I have continued to add Bobbie Kalman titles to my non-fiction collection. This title begs to be interacted with, perfect for buddy reading. Full colour photographs illustrate a variety of nature concepts.

Animal Families by Bobbie Kalman This is another wonderful non-fiction title with many colourful photographs of animals and their families. Love the pages that explain how seahorse mothers transfer the eggs to the father seahorse. So interesting!

Really hoping next week will give me more time to read for big chunks of time so that I can finish Bitterblue and tackle other titles sitting in a stack just waiting for me. Next book? I think it will be Code Name Verity.

Getting down to the business of reading

Reading Groups started this week. Every morning I have the pleasure of working with a small group of eager Grade 2 students to help them develop their literacy skills: build reading fluency, learn new comprehension strategies, provide opportunities for meaningful responses to literature, learn how to navigate non-fiction texts, learn about genres, etc. That’s what I know I need to do. What did I tell these lovely, eager little students on our first meeting together? Not all of that! Nope. I explained that I was going to transform them into READING FANATICS! That they would be so excited about reading that they would choose books over candy, over chocolate cake, over roller coaster rides, over the latest movies. That they would eat, sleep and dream books. I went on for a while about this, trying to make sure my reading excitement was as contagious as those unblocked sneezes we all wince at. Their reaction? Fully in! “Can we have book parties?” “Can we take a book outside to read?” “Can we sometimes just sit and read and read and read?” My answers to all of these things? Yes. Yes. And yes!

In our first two days together, we got busy. We tackled some big questions: What do good readers do? What is difficult about reading? We read for “get into your book” chunks of time. I read to them . . . a book that celebrates the gift of reading (Jeremiah Learns to Read).

We are on the road to becoming passionate readers, of, I am hoping, the lifelong kind!

Peek into our room for a taste . . .

The first big question I asked: What do good readers do? We charted our answers: I particularly loved the excitement and thoughtfulness that was expressed trying to explain to me what the “right book” might be. (see below)

Also important to note is that the immediate answer to my question: “What do good readers do?” was an exuberant, “They read!” Exactly! So simple. My job? Making sure there is time in the day to do this. Every day.

The next day we read Jeremiah Learns to Read written by Jo Ellen Bogart and illustrated by Laura Fernandez and Rick Jacobson.  In this story, we meet Jeremiah an old man who can do many things. Amazing and beautifully useful things like tap a maple tree, build a split rail fence and grow a vegetable garden. But Jeremiah has never learned to read. The students found this concept startling. Their comments and questions revealed their worries and bewilderment.

 “He can’t read? But he’s old.” “Oh . . . that would be so horrible.” “What if his kids asked him to read them a book?” “I really wish he could read.” “Were there no schools when he was little?” 

Jeremiah decides to attend school with the children in his neighbourhood and learns to read and write. One of the most lovely moments of the story is when he reads a poem aloud to his wife.

I read this book as a reminder that reading is a great gift we need to treasure. It also helped us start talking about how reading is not always easy.

I posed this question to the students: “ What is difficult about reading?” I like to ask this because it helps me understand where the group is with their learning.  What struggles do they identify? Do their ideas centre on the decoding of text? Or, have they moved into comprehension issues?

I noted down their ideas on a chart as we explored this question. This group are solid primary readers who are still developing their ability to read more complex texts and who are unfamiliar with some strategies to decode some longer multi-syllabic words. So it was natural that many of their worries focused on the actual being able to read/pronounce the words on the page. There was the beginning of a discussion about meaning and again a focus on what is the “right” book. This helps me to realize that we will need lots of instruction on genre, book selection, introduction to new authors, etc. We will revisit this chart as we move through the year and add to it as necessary as we learn and grow as readers.

What I value most about getting student ideas and input like this is that while that chart paper is still blank, I just have no idea what ideas we will end up listing. We are directing and shaping our learning together.

As we get down to the important business of reading, I couldn’t be more excited. We have a busy and book filled year ahead!