Baby’s First Birthday

How time does fly – can’t  believe that we’re celebrating our first grandbaby’s  first birthday already! So I wanted to get Quinn something super special for this first milestone birthday of her little life. She is lucky to have two grandmas who are teachers (AKA getting lots of books!) and this grandma decided to make this gift all about cozying up with some good books to read. I happened upon this awesome little chair at @PotteryBarnKids and my gift idea was born! (I also found this darling little mouse doll for babies made by to complete the package – even teething friendly!)

When I went book shopping, I discovered that one of my favorite children’s bookstores in Columbus is undergoing new ownership and is temporarily closed. What! I was so sad – Cover to Cover has been one of my favorite book spots going back to my college days. Change is SO hard!  So off to Barnes & Nobles I went and I will say they have a pretty extensive board book collection for little ones. There’s so many books I want to introduce Quinn to over the years, but today I’m looking for board books that she can enjoy RIGHT NOW … ones just perfect for her little hands and interest. Here’s what I picked:

Little Yellow Bee: Garden Lift-a-Flap

Love little interactive books and Quinn does too! On each page, there’s an easy to open flap that shows the next animal in the garden. Short and sweet!

Dancing Feet by Lindsey Craig and Marc Brown

This book is so cute and really fun to read! Colorful, engaging collage illustrations. Simple text with fun words like thumpity, tippity, slappity, creepity, and stompity. Happy feet – a book to read and dance to!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s ABC by Eric Carle

I remember studying the characteristics of a good alphabet book back in college and one feature is that the picture for each letter should be clear and easy to locate. Some alphabet books are simply too busy! In this book, there is one animal on each page in Carle’s collage style and lots of white space. Another strong feature is the consistent placement of the letter and picture on each page. What makes this particular book unique is that the letters are all lower case. Hmmm … There’s a nice mixture of very familiar animals and unusual ones. What exactly is a quetzal?

Ten Pigs: An Epic Bath Adventure by Derek Anderson

I am so hoping that I haven’t already bought this book for Quinn – fingers crossed! This book is simply hilarious – a rarity in board books. It’s a counting book (number words) that begins with a happy pig sharing his bubble bath, perfect for me and you, with his rubber ducky. But along come his pig friends and all their water toys until the tub is beyond overflowing and pig is not happy at all! I won’t spoil the surprise  ending, but it will have you laughing out loud! Very fun illustrations and rhyming text that will be fun to read aloud. 
So there you have it! One cozy chair, four great books, and one happy first birthday!


A Stack of Books for a Rainy Day

Today is a cold, rainy day in Central Ohio, so a perfect day to browse in a bookstore! Here’s the stack I brought home today . . .



Norton and Alpha by Kristyna Litten

Yesterday, I wrote a post about Earth Day read-alouds and this book captures some related themes, particularly reusing things for different purposes and planting!  In this story, Norton loves to collect junk of all kinds and invent new things. One day, he creates Alpha, a robot who helps him on his quest to find unwanted but useful things. They happen upon some flowers which have them puzzled … what are these unusual, mysterious things and what are they for? Norton soon learns that sometimes you just have to appreciate the beauty of some things. Cute new 2017 book with fun, detailed illustrations!

Happy Dreamer by Peter H. Reynolds

I love all of Peter Reynold’s books about embracing your individuality. In this new one just published this year, he focuses on all the different ways you can be a happy dreamer even though sometimes the world doesn’t appreciate it. “But the best way to be a happy dreamer? Just be you.” Another one to add to a back-to-school collection and a great one to remind all of us teachers about allowing our little dreamers to dream!

Too Many Carrots by Katy Hudson

Rabbit has a carrot problem …. too many carrots and too little of a house! So his friends try to help out by inviting him into their homes which doesn’t work out so well. So in the end, they discover that sharing is the best solution of all! Sweet characters with very vivid illustrations, just perfect for read-aloud. “Keep calm and carrot on!”

I Really Like Slop by Mo Willems

The cook in me could not pass up this book! (Not to mention that I’m a huge Mo Willems fan, probably with the rest of the world!) Piggie is trying to get Elephant to try slop and of course, the conversation between them is hilarious, but this time it’s accentuated with wild color! 💥  Many people think this series is geared toward very young children, but if you’ve read one and reacted to it, you know these books are fabulous for all ages. Teaching second grade, I’ve found them to be perfect for modeling fluency – expression, intonation, and how to interpret changes in font. Great to put in a fluency center! And Mo Willems is quite the master of life lessons, in few words and with loads of humor!

Did you notice Pigeon on my new stack of books?  He’s right at home now with some of my other book friends! (Sorry for the dark picture, but it’s late!)

Celebrating Earth Day

I’m getting ready to celebrate Earth Day with some second grade classes and April 22nd is right around the corner! (I’ll share my plans in another post but it’s not your traditional reduce, reuse, recycle!) I headed to my local Old Worthington library to see what treasures I could find:


What Does It Mean to be Green? by Rana DiOrio

This book would be a good introduction to any Earth Day discussion, especially to generate ideas about how to preserve the earth and its resources on a day-to-day basis. Simple text with cartoonish illustrations. A quick and easy read aloud for primary classrooms.

The Great Big Green Book  by Mary Hoffman

Nice informational text complete with engaging text features so I would add this to a writing workshop mentor text collection too. Each section briefly explains a different approach to preserving the earth. Cute, eye-catching illustrations with speech bubbles that contribute to the content. 

How Groundhog’s Garden Grew by Lynne Cherry

I love Lynne Cherry’s books about nature and this one did not disappoint! Groundhog keeps stealing food from his friends’ gardens and come to find out, it’s because he doesn’t know how to grow his own. This is not just a simple “how to plant a seed” type book – it also goes into different categories of how vegetables grow. Beautiful borders that add to the content. Beautiful illustrations, good story, great science content! Ends with an author’s note telling about her experiences growing food as a child and encourages the reader to do the same. Buying my own copy!

What to Do with a Box?  by Jane Yolen

Very simple text to introduce the idea of reusing things for new purposes.

Love Your World: How to Take Care of the Plants, the Animals, and the Planet (DK Books)

An easy-to-read introductory text that explains the 3R’s: Reuse, Recycle, and Reduce. Appropriate for preschool-kindergarten. Nice mixture of photographs and collage in an engaging layout.

What Happens to our Trash by D.J. Ward

Informative book from the Lets-Read-and-Find-Out Science  series. There are mind boggling facts in here to convince the reader how important it is to reuse, recycle, reduce, compost, etc. AND if you’re looking for a mentor text to teach comparisons in writing workshop, this would be a good one. Here’s just one: “An estimated 80 million Hershey’s kisses are wrapped each day, using enough aluminum foil to cover over 50 acres – that’s almost 40 football fields.”

Bee: A Peek-Through Picture Book by Britta Teckentrup

Very pretty, poetic book to introduce the topic of how important bees are to our food supply, a topic that has gotten much attention the past couple of years. 

Clean and Green Energy by Colleen Hord

Informative text comparing clean energy sources using sun, wind, and water with energy sources that rely on fossil fuels. Sounds like heavy content but described in easy to understand manner. A little different, but important  topic for Earth Day appropriate for 2nd grade and up.

All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon and Katherine Tillotson

I saved one of my most favorite literary non-fiction books for last! Now, I loved using this book as a mentor text in writing workshop when we were writing and designing our own informational books – great conversations about the decisions authors make in HOW they communicate the content through layout, color, font size, etc. But also another great read-aloud for Earth Day, particularly water as a limited resource that we need to protect. 

So, there you have it! I love how Earth Day can be approached in lots of different ways to motivate our little activists to get out there and make a difference in the world!

A Unique Little Seaside Bookstore

Books on the Beach is a little bookstore in Treasure Island, Florida and guess what? It’s also the local post office. It has three rooms of what looked like mostly gently used books perfect for beach reading. In the small children’s section, I found a great book about sea turtles and I was looking around for the register so I could pay. All I could see was the post office counter and yep! That’s the checkout for the bookstore too. Mail a package and buy a book – I love this concept! I said as much to the woman working there and she said, “I do too- just wish I had more time to read them.” I like checking out local bookstores wherever I go and really glad I happened upon this one!

So here’s my thoughts on the book I bought, Turtle, Turtle, Watch Out! by April Pulley Sayre. It’s a literary nonfiction text that is told as if it’s happening right now. A very smart writing style to engage young readers! It tells about the challenges sea turtles face from the time their eggs are hatched and buried to when they crawl out of that sandy nest and attempt their often dangerous journey to the sea. But most of all, this book explains how communities help the baby sea turtles to make it to the ocean each year. Now here in Florida, this seems to happen later in the spring and summer. I’m so sorry to miss it!
When I taught second grade, one of my science standards focused on the interdependence of living things in the environment and this book would be great to add to that text set. Also, a good mentor text for writing workshop for the text structure, informational features, and language. This author has written several other books on different topics, so a great non-fiction author study idea too!

There are many YouTube videos about sea turtles hatching. Here is a short one:

Loggerhead Sea Turtle Hatching

Beach, books, and local wildlife make  this one happy place! ☀


(Post from my prior blog, Back in the Classroom.)

On the morning of the conference, we awoke to several inches of snow here in Central Ohio. What a winter it has been! But one thing I know about this conference is “the show must go on!” I’ve always loved the timing of this conference. Between too many snow days and just the dreariness of winter, the Dublin Lit conference always lifts me up and sends me back to school with a renewed enthusiasm. (And this year, I was super-excited to meet some of my Twitter rock stars in person – Chris Lehman, Colby Sharp, and John Schu.) So here’s some highlights of this snowy, yet stellar day of learning:
Despite the snowy roads, I actually arrived a little early so I headed over to the vendors to check in with my favorite independent bookseller, Tami Furlong of Fundamentals. It’s been a crazy busy year between moving and just keeping my classroom going, that I haven’t been book shopping this year as much as usual. It was great to talk new books with Tami for a few minutes before she got super busy … and put aside a few books to start off my pile! (It ended up being quite an expensive day!)

Chris Lehman was the opening keynote of the day.  Words I would never imagine saying in the same sentence are “love” and “close reading”, but Chris showed us how close reading starts with something that you care enough about that you take the time and really notice the tiny details that others may not. You’re willing to (and actually enjoy) revisiting that thing again and again and each time, your experience is heightened. We “closely read” many things in life that are important to us — a favorite spot, a loved ones face, an artifact that reminds us of a treasured time. We want to bring that type of experience into our classrooms as we teach children the habit of reading closely.
Joy … love. That was the message of this opening keynote. That hour alone was worth the tense commute in the deep snow!

I have been following Colby Sharp and John Schu on Twitter for a few years evenr since Donalyn Miller was here and challenged everyone to give it a try. It was great to see these two together talking books and authors. As expected, the time was way too short but I walked away with lots of new titles and a strange urge to start smelling new books! Yes, Mr. Schu makes reading an experience that engages all the senses. I loved all his stories about how he has kids sniffing and savoring the smell of a freshly cracked spine. In both their classrooms, reading is a special event that ends with rowdy celebration. Picture lots of clapping!

Our afternoon began with author Lisa Graff sharing her journey as a reader. Interestingly enough, she went through a phase of trying to read difficult books like Moby Dick and the Bible only to find a series she loved – The Babysitters Club! But all those reading experiences led her to the reader that she became … and she believes that if anyone had told her she couldn’t (or shouldn’t) read certain things, who knows if she would have truly become a reader. Lisa had a very simple presentation – an author and her stories, but she had a message that was far from simple. Readers need to know who they are. I was relieved to hear her share how she is a slow reader, who often doesn’t remember the plots of books she’s read, who can only have one book going at a time. I will admit that I am intimidated at times by Nerdy Book Club Members – people who read a staggering number of books in short periods of time and who actually remember them well! While I thank my lucky stars to have people like Donalyn Miller, John Schu, Colby Sharp, and so many others who can read like that, I know that I cannot. And I thank you, Lisa Graff, for sharing your story and reminding me that it’s perfectly fine to be the reader that you are. In this time of “complex text”, we have to remember that our most important  job is helping students find out who they are as readers. Readers will find their way.

Another great day of celebrating books and authors! I was happy to make it home from the conference with a huge stack of new books. I enjoyed meeting Paul Zelinski who signed Circle, Square, Moose for my Room 22 readers … which I think will be a part of the Mock Caldecott that is going on in my room right now. (I know … Aren’t you supposed to do that before ALA awards? But it’s actually going well after awards.) Now if only the weather would cooperate and get us back in the classroom. Thanks, Dublin for another motivating day – see you next year!


Dublin Literacy Conference 2014

(Post from my prior blog, Back in the Classroom.)

It’s been such a long winter with crazy low temperatures, mountains of snow, too many snow days, and on top of all the weather related issues, my husband, John had not just one, but two knee surgeries since just before Christmas. I know we’ll be saying in years to come, “Remember the winter of 2014?”  But this year, like every winter, I’ve had something to look forward to. One of my favorite literacy conferences, the Dublin Literacy Conference, comes at the end of February, right when I need a boost of positive energy. A day to remind me how important our work is as teachers and how honored we are to be working with students every day. I was catching up with my daughter, Kathryn on Friday night and was telling her how I’ve been going to this conference since she was in kindergarten – and she recently celebrated her 23rd birthday! This conference has been part of my teaching life for so many winters and it really feels like going to spend the day with an old friend.  The slide show at the start of the conference highlighting the authors who have been a part of this conference for the past 25 years was pretty amazing to see. Well done, Dublin!

This  year, I was happy to attend the conference as a classroom teacher once again. For the past five years, I’ve attended the conference as a literacy coach and so my perspective was a little different this year.  Here are my big take-aways this year:

So can you think of a better way to start the day than a keynote by Penny Kittle talking about creating a passion for reading in your classroom? I’ve been lucky enough to see Penny a couple of other times but her success in turning busy, high school students into avid readers never ceases to dazzle me. As an elementary teacher, I know that we can get most kids hooked on books but how do we keep it going through high school? This drop-off in reading through middle school and high school tells us we cannot work in isolation from each other. Teachers from all levels need to collaborate together but how often does this happen in school districts? I’ve loved seeing this conference transform over the years and it truly is a K-12 conference.

So it’s a literacy conference but guess what? I spent much of my day learning about math! I have been frustrated this year with a math program our district is using. Too much testing, too many paper/pencil tasks, and too little real-life connections that will make kids love math. So I was thrilled to go to sessions on math workshop. Author and math coach, Kassia Omohundro Wedekind, approaches math workshop with the same philosophy that we do with reading and writing workshops. What are your building’s beliefs about math? This big picture is just what I needed to get back on track with my math teaching. Also, enjoyed a session by teacher, Meagan Erwin on ideas about writing about math and exploring multiple strategies. Glad to see this conference looking at literacy beyond the ELA classroom.

If you’re a lover of literature, there is nothing quite like listening to an author walk through the history of their books. Bryan Collier was amazing as he told the powerful story behind Dave the Potter and Knock, Knock. I don’t think anyone in that audience will read those books in the same way again.  Simply beautiful. (But I was so mad at myself this morning when I realized I bought one of his books and did not get it signed!)

Now that the conference is over, I am ready for spring … and it can’t come soon enough!

Social Studies Literature: People Changing the Land

(Post from my prior blog, Back in the Classroom.)

One of our 2nd grade standards is all about the positive and negative consequences when people use and change the land. When I was putting together our read aloud list for this part of our unit of study, I was looking for a range of angles. Here’s what we read this year:

There’s an Owl in the Shower by Jean Craighead George
Note: A strong chapter book that shows how complicated environmental issues can become in a community. Things get heated when loggers can’t provide for their families because the government steps in to protect the owls’ habitat.

The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry

Jaguarundi by Virginia Hamilton

Country Road by Daniel San Souci

Barn Savers by Linda Oatman High

The Story of Silk by Richard Sobol
Note: I haven’t read this one yet with my 2nd graders but it’s a beautiful book about a community in Thailand and how the production of silk is truly a community effort and a source of pride.

Exploring Our Backpacks: What’s That in your Backpack?” article from Toolkit Texts, Grades 2-3
(How logging provides us with paper and pencils; “how-to” structure embedded)

As we read, we kept an on-going anchor chart listing the book title, how people changed the land, positive and negative effects. (I’m still figuring out to post pictures using my WordPress app on IPad!) We discussed throughout each read-aloud how city leadership has to continually consider this balance. For next year, I need to find some more titles to add to this list. I’d love to find a strong picture book that does what The Owl in the Shower does – show both sides of an issue and how complicated change can be.