Sunday Reflections: Ten things I will do again this school year

I don’t own boxes of themed units. I barely have any files. I don’t like to repeat things. New students. New year. New place in my learning. New world. All of this new always leads to different things every year. But some things are worth repeating because they will benefit a new group of students as much, albeit differently, as a previous group.

What ten things will I be doing again/continuing this year?

Buddy Reading with the kindergarten class

This is time that is pure joy. My students get to be literacy leaders. I smile through the entire experience each week.

Sunday Reflections: Ten things I will do again this school year There's a Book for That

Games Hour

Every week we have Games Hour (really about 40 minutes) and bring out games that we don’t play with at any other time of the week. We work on perseverance, turn taking, leadership skills, cooperation and patience.

Sunday Reflections: Ten things I will do again this school year There's a Book for That

Hosting another class from a different school

What great learning happened when we invited a K class from another school to spend almost an entire day with us. We did yoga, art, outside play and buddy reading. Thank you Ms. Hales! I hope she will visit with her new class this year!

Sunday Reflections: Ten things I will do again this school year There's a Book for That

Daily play and exploration

Keva blocks frequently come out during this time. As do various other building materials, art supplies and multiple games. We do a lot of building and exploring, tower making and imaginative play.

Sunday Reflections: Ten things I will do again this school year There's a Book for That

Mock Caldecott

This was such an amazing unit and I can’t wait to do it again this year. We read. We wrote. We raved. We talked. A LOT!

Sunday Reflections: Ten things I will do again this school year There's a Book for That

Camp Read

This was a school wide event and I would love to be a part of the organizing committee again. A highlight of our day was having our school secretary come in and read to us.

Sunday Reflections: Ten things I will do again this school year There's a Book for That

Time in the forest

Lucky us that St George’s Outdoor Education students invited us to come and spend the morning with them in the forest near UBC a few times this year. Outside experiences are so important. I am planning for many more next year.

Sunday Reflections: Ten things I will do again this school year There's a Book for That

Yoga: Inside the room

Our lovely Miriam leads us through regular yoga experiences.

Sunday Reflections: Ten things I will do again this school year There's a Book for That

and yoga outside of the room

Our favourite thing is to get outside to do yoga!

Sunday Reflections: Ten things I will do again this school year There's a Book for That

Let’s Talk Science activities

We have the best Let’s Talk Science volunteers. We are sure hoping that Lisa and Nelly will return and do hands on science with us again next year!

Sunday Reflections: Ten things I will do again this school year There's a Book for That

Inviting in guests to share their passions

BLG readers who share stories. Ms. Sheppet who shared a geocaching experience. Eric Balke who talked to us about his time in with orangutans in Indonesia.  Poet and artist Calef Brown who shared his writing process with us. I so want my students to be passionate about what they do and meeting adults who are passionate about their interests, hobbies and careers is amazing!

Sunday Reflections: Ten things I will do again this school year There's a Book for That

What will remain part of the learning experiences in your room for 2015/2016?

Celebration: New Experiences

Some days life can achieve the perfect balance of trying the things out there we haven’t yet done mixed in with a comforting dose of all that we know and treasure. Friday of this week was that day for our classroom.

Celebration: New Experiences There's a Book for That

We hosted a K class from another Vancouver school for most of the morning, through lunch and into the afternoon. For the little ones, everything was new! The bus ride, our classroom, the activities we shared and of course, all of us. They handled it all in the best 5 and 6 year old style. Frequent comments and questions were about the most important of things:

“Are we really going to get to play outside?”

“You have the best playground ever.”

“Do you have Elephant and Piggie books?”

For my students, there was joy in sharing what we know – our school and classroom, our beloved books, our playground, our lunchroom and our yoga skills. But, it was the different that made the day amazing. We had responsibility. We had to look after a little one whose entire day was new. We had to be in full out host mode. We had to care and be careful. We had to check in. We had to notice things. We were given a huge gift – the opportunity to do the giving – of ourselves and of our time. This is what I celebrate. Because watching it made me smile. Smile with pride. And joy. And awe. A beautiful day.

The wonderful Ms. Hales who brought her class to be with us shared their experience on her class blog and has invited us to come back to visit at their school!

A few glimpses into our day:

Buddy reading began within moments of their arrival!

ICelebration: New Experiences There's a Book for That Celebration: New Experiences There's a Book for That Celebration: New Experiences There's a Book for That

Miriam led us through some incredible Earth yoga. Everyone was an instant expert!

Celebration: New Experiences There's a Book for That Celebration: New Experiences There's a Book for That Celebration: New Experiences There's a Book for That

Celebration: New Experiences There's a Book for That

In the afternoon we transformed our hands into birds and then our little buddies went back home. We can’t wait to meet up again!

Celebration: New Experiences There's a Book for That Celebration: New Experiences There's a Book for That Celebration: New Experiences There's a Book for That

Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community! Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks.

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Celebration: Camp Read

Sometimes a day just must be celebrated with lots of details. Today was that day. It was Camp Read at my school. All day, all literacy, all the time.

There was an author visit. We got to do yoga twice. Once outside. We had buddy reading for a second time this week. Lots of independent reading. Lots of reading aloud. I mean, really, could this get much better?

Our day began with the magical book Dream Boats written by Dan Bar-el  and illustrated by Kirsti Anne Wakelin. This is a beautiful book to read aloud. It is lyrical and full of gorgeous images.

DreamBoats Celebration: Camp Read There's a Book for That

After I read the story, Miriam led us through some yoga experiences where we got to ride on our own imagined dream boats. Who says you need a boat to go sailing? Or even water.

 Celebration: Camp Read There's a Book for That  Celebration: Camp Read There's a Book for That

We then got to go and meet author Dan Bar-el and listen to his engaging presentation. One of my students got to introduce Dan and then she spent the entire presentation in awe of his hilarious voices and dramatic retellings of his books.

“How does he do those voices? Really – how does he make his voice do that?!”

Such a fun and entertaining author visit! The children talked about it all day!

 Celebration: Camp Read There's a Book for That

After recess, we had a very special guest reader come to our classroom. Our school secretary Sally came in and read us the charming book Library Lion written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes.

Library Lion  Celebration: Camp Read There's a Book for That

It was so wonderful to share the story experience with an adult who is very dear to us but isn’t often in the classroom with us.

 Celebration: Camp Read There's a Book for That

After reading some of our current class novel Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles, we headed outside to read Silence by Lemniscates.

Silence  Celebration: Camp Read There's a Book for That

A book like this must be followed by some mindful, quiet listening. And then some yoga.

 Celebration: Camp Read There's a Book for That

Sun salutations.

 Celebration: Camp Read There's a Book for That

Growing “seeds”

 Celebration: Camp Read There's a Book for That

Group balance

 Celebration: Camp Read There's a Book for That

After lunch we read more books – one aloud – Papa’s Mechanical Fish written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Boris Kulikov – and many on our own.

Papa's MEchanical Fish  Celebration: Camp Read There's a Book for That

We also had a visit from our little reading buddies. Which is always delightful!

 Celebration: Camp Read There's a Book for That

Celebrate this week

 Celebration: Camp Read There's a Book for That

This week, I celebrate a beautiful day full of literacy. A day that highlights that so many of our days are full of literacy. Surrounded by stories. Inspired by books. Definitely worth celebration.

Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community! Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks. Read all of the celebrations by following the links shared here.

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Celebration: Monday leads to Friday

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On some Mondays, I question whether I have it together at all. A lot seems to not be yet “in synch” and the previous week feels very long ago. Monday often feels like a warm up, remind ourselves, get it together day. I don’t often say TGIF. But I often think TGMIO. TGMIO = Thank Goodness Monday is Over. Monday is the day when we don’t have the cushion of success immediately behind us. Anxiety is higher. Stamina is lower. Energy is inconsistent. When Monday is under our belt, it’s like the clouds part. The sun creeps in or sometimes it lights up the week bright and strong on Tuesday and holds fast.

That was this week. Monday was a yikes kind of day. Tuesday started a torrent of amazing and I celebrate Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and all of their glory!

A few highlights:

Reading books for our Mock Caldecott competition has been pure joy. Students are so engaged with this! I hear them chatting to each other, “Do you have a top three?” “So now which ones are your favourites?” ” I know my favourites but there are too many of them.” “Oh . . . how are we going to decide?”

Reading Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen was a particularly special experience. We read it last thing Tuesday afternoon. I got to share it with a room of children and four adults (including my parents who volunteer on Tuesdays!) I loved listening to the children’s comments. Even more amusing might have been watching the other adults listen to these comments. I covered the pages in sticky notes – recording all of the utterances. I knew that reading this book aloud to this group of kids was going to be pretty fantastic. It totally surpassed my expectations.

Celebration: Monday leads to Friday There's a Book for That

I celebrate math problem solving and the beautiful mess it creates! On Friday, we were all so lost in our work, we didn’t pay attention to the time. When it was time for library, I just had them all stand up, line up and go. We could clean up later. “Walk away from the math,” I had to prompt. They were so engaged! When the students left (it was my prep) I snapped a picture. I loved the piles of manipulatives, the wipe off boards in use, the way notebooks were pushed together as little groups or pairs had formed to work together. We are mathematicians! We share ideas. We talk. We learn from each other. We take risks. This photo of the “post” math work period, reveals just that. It makes me smile.

Celebration: Monday leads to Friday There's a Book for That

Even though my students are reading nonfiction titles right from September, I always do a big nonfiction launch in Reading Workshop starting in January. We have more guided instruction, more nonfiction book talks than usual, frequent mini-lessons, some nonfiction group activities, etc. Day one was so much fun. I simply put out the baskets everywhere around the room and give the children some recording sheets and send them off to be Fact DetectivesAs they begin looking through books and recording, I am walking around noticing. What books do they gravitate to? Who remembers how to use the features to help them better navigate the texts? Do my new students feel comfortable locating and recording information? It’s noisy. It’s energized. It sets the tone for much more to come.

I love this photo below – she shouted out, “Holy Bagumba! Look how big this boat is!” (Yes, we did just read Flora & Ulysses!)

Celebration: Monday leads to Friday There's a Book for That

As I walked around the room, children were sharing. Not just facts – but their thinking, reactions and questions. With me and with each other.

Celebration: Monday leads to Friday There's a Book for That

There were impromptu fact announcements. Kids would jump up and tell anyone who might be listening, “Listen to this . . . ” “Did you know . . . ?” The best thing? We were listening! “Really? Whoa . . .” “Can I read that book next?” “Ms. Gelson do you have more books about . . .?” 

Celebration: Monday leads to Friday There's a Book for That

And, the excitement continued. The next day in Reading Workshop when everyone was engaged in independent reading, many children pulled nonfiction titles out of their book boxes and continued to read. The little guy below told me: “This book make me fainting.” When I asked him to tell me more, he shared a bunch of “wow” facts and just shook his head as if to say, “I never would have imagined . . . ”

Celebration: Monday leads to Friday There's a Book for That

And again I am celebrating the yoga in our room. It represents community. Focus. Space. Recharging. The children crave it. And thanks to the amazing Miriam who works with me, we are finding time throughout the week to practice.

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Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community! Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks. Read all of the celebrations by following the links shared here.

Celebration: Movement

This week I celebrate movement. Literally, movement. Free from pain. Without stress. Regular, functioning movement. This winter holiday, I was hit hard by a pinched nerve that meant severe pain, limited movement, very little sleep and a numbness down to my thumb. It hit me  December 24th and I am only now reentering the regular, physical functioning world. I have two full nights of sleep under my belt. My thumb sort of feels normal. I worked almost a full week.

I am grateful to Scott, my calm and committed physiotherapist. And I celebrate my morning walks, my trusty heating pad and my ability to breathe through pain. I had thought that this week was going to be challenging. Yet, it was full of fabulous learning. Despite my commitment to getting home early to do my stretches, apply heat and relax, my classroom was buzzing with activity and excitement. For the first week back, we were on full speed ahead.

Again, movement. Continuing towards independence, discovery and a strong classroom community.

I need to go sit with my heating pad and my book but want to quickly share a few highlights of a positive first week back.

#1 Our Mock Caldecott

I am thrilled to have my students participating in a Mock Caldecott award process. We have eleven gorgeous titles on our list (follow the link above for our process). So far we have shared 4 of them. After we read Quest together, two students needed to compare it page by page to the beloved Journey (also by Arron Becker). There is lots of picture book buzz in the room!

Celebration: Movement There's a Book for That

#2 Rich discussions

I am beyond thrilled with how prepared the students have been to leap right into discussions about the books we are reading. Turn and talk time has never been so focused! Our nonfiction read aloud this week has been Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey written by Loree Griffin Burns.  I love what one child said early in the week:

“This book gives us questions but lets us find the answers.”

Celebration: Movement There's a Book for That

#3 Commitment to building community in Reading Workshop

We missed our discussion about picture books on Wednesday because of a fire drill. Students begged me to do it today because they wanted to “talk picture books.” What could be better? The conversations were rich and on task. Lots of sharing and really listening to each other.

Celebration: Movement There's a Book for That

#4 Book love renewed

So much engagement and enthusiasm for meeting up with our classroom library once again.

Celebration: Movement There's a Book for That

One child even posted a sign on our door 🙂

Celebration: Movement There's a Book for That

#5 Daily activity. 

I am so lucky to have Miriam, who works with me in the classroom, bring yoga into our room. We did yoga almost daily this week and the children are able to be so much more present and confident. In the picture below, Miriam and a student are demonstrating a series of poses.

Celebration: Movement There's a Book for That

Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community! Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks. Read all of the celebrations by following the links shared here.

celebrate-link-up

Celebration: Eleven Halloween Phews

Celebration: Eleven Halloween Phews There's a Book for That

As an Elementary teacher and a Mom, I am always hoping for extra doses of calm on October 31st as much can go sideways with Halloween celebrations. Lots of candy, excitement, costume drama and big expectations often lead to meltdowns, minor catastrophes and just a general sense of, to borrow from the brilliant Kate Dicamillo, “holy unanticipated occurrences.” However, on the morning of November 1st, I can truly say Halloween 2014 was smooth. Smooth and full of “Phew” moments. At least eleven worth celebrating.

1. Everyone is my household was up without nagging to ensure that face painting with the talented Dad/Artist could happen. No fussing. No complaining. Out the door early in fact. Phew.

Celebration: Eleven Halloween Phews There's a Book for That

2. My students came in the door (some with fluttering wings) smiling and went out the door smiling. Phew.

Celebration: Eleven Halloween Phews There's a Book for That

3. No costume drama. All costumes stayed together. No pieces were lost. Everyone agreed to keep fangs and false teeth in little (labelled) plastic cups during learning time. Phew.

4. My own early in the week costume change decision worked out wonderfully thanks again to my husband’s face painting brilliance. (I am the witch on the right not the beautiful princesses) Phew

Celebration: Eleven Halloween Phews There's a Book for That

5. My students happily settled into an academic morning designed to keep routine and lots of calm. Phew.

Celebration: Eleven Halloween Phews There's a Book for That

6. When we attended special events like potion making in the library with our little Kindergarten buddies, everyone listened. Nobody fussed if they didn’t get to drop in wonderfully icky ingredients like white rats, tarantulas and slithery snakes. Phew.

7. Afternoon yoga led by our resident yoga expert and for the day, pixie, Miriam was focussed and fun and paved the way for more calm for the rest of the day. Phew

Celebration: Eleven Halloween Phews There's a Book for That

8. Choices time was full of creativity and cooperation, not grumpy, over excited moods. It looked a lot like this. Phew.

Celebration: Eleven Halloween Phews There's a Book for That

9. When checking in with other staff throughout the day, calm and happy seemed to be the general theme. An all around successful day. Phew.

10. The rain that seemed torrential and endless all day ended in the afternoon. Trick or treating was warm, dry and not too muddy. Phew.

11. My own children, now in Grade 7, went trick or treating on their own with friends for the first time. I handed out candy at home, fretting. But both returned on time rosy cheeked under all of the makeup. Big smiles. Rules followed. Maturity and responsibility demonstrated. Biggest phew.

All of these things I celebrate. It was wonderful to be pleasantly surprised at the calm and the ease of a festive Halloween!

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Thank you also to Ruth Ayres, for the inspiration and her Celebration Link up that she hosts each week. I love how being a part of this #celebratelu community reminds us weekly to look for the positive and take some time for gratitude.

 

 

Celebration: Ivan: One, Only, Ours

celebrate link up

I love ending each week thinking about all that I have to celebrate. Join Ruth Ayres who shares a Celebration Link up on her blog each week. Thank you to Ruth for the inspiration.

I celebrate Ivan, Mighty Silverback and his story, shared.

This week, we finished the brilliant, beautiful and special story The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. This is the third time I have read this book but the first time I have read it aloud. As a read aloud, it is pure magic.

Celebration: Ivan: One, Only, Ours There's a Book for That #celebratelu

My students have already shared their brilliant thinking on our classroom blog. This celebration post highlights our closure with the book. Finishing a novel this profound needs some time. We finished the story Thursday morning.  When I read the last few words, there was a brief silence. The power a read aloud has to create community was felt in the room. Some kids crawled into my lap, some asked to hold the book (I noticed that they hugged it before passing it on), many just sat and let the story wash over them. Big smiles. Big feelings. 

On Friday, we read the author’s note in the back and checked out three websites/videos.  We . . .

  • looked at the information and video from the Zoo Atlanta site about Ivan. The children found it incredible to watch the real Ivan move about. We had to watch the video two times in a row!

Here we are watching Katherine Applegate talk about her picture book Ivan:  The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla to be released in October 2014 (illustrated by one of our favourites: G. Brian Karas).

Celebration: Ivan: One, Only, Ours There's a Book for That #celebratelu

Watching the real Ivan in the Zoo Atlanta video. Absolute joy and fascination on their faces!

Celebration: Ivan: One, Only, Ours There's a Book for That #celebratelu

We ended the day with Ivan themed yoga! Thank you to the brilliant Miriam who led us through tree poses in the jungle, Ivan knuckle walking, downward dog poses to greet Bob and entwining elephant trunks in honour of Stella and Ruby.

Celebration: Ivan: One, Only, Ours There's a Book for That #celebratelu Celebration: Ivan: One, Only, Ours There's a Book for That #celebratelu Celebration: Ivan: One, Only, Ours There's a Book for That #celebratelu Celebration: Ivan: One, Only, Ours There's a Book for That #celebratelu Celebration: Ivan: One, Only, Ours There's a Book for That #celebratelu Celebration: Ivan: One, Only, Ours There's a Book for That #celebratelu

Before our yoga session, the children did a quick final response. Some excerpts here:

“The novel was amazing because the writing was just right. Ivan didn’t break his promise.”

“Ivan is one of my favourite novels because Ivan saved Ruby.”

“I wish we could go to the zoo to meet Ivan. Did he hang out with his friends?”

“I don’t like the way he was being treated. This was my favourite novel because it was emotional and it was read very slowly. I didn’t have to say ‘Can you say that again a lot of times.’ I feel happy he was in a zoo at the end and it made me happy. It made me even more happy to see the video.”

“So Ivan is a gorilla and he died. I am going to save him. I will dig a hole and I will find Ivan. I will use a defibrillator to make Ivan come back alive. And I will take him home to Africa.”

This little writer was particularly inspired and touched by Ivan and his real and fictional story.

“I’m excited for the picture book because all the kids or anyone should know the story. The picture book will be amazing because the illustrator is one of my favourites. I feel so awesome that people saved an animal that had a cruel life. And after they saved him, he had a wonderful life. I want to see Ivan’s artwork. I heard he’s a very talented artist.”

Isn’t it funny that this story of Ivan, a gorilla, teaches us so much about what it is to be human? Oh, how we celebrate this book!