Friday, August 12, 2011

The Wrap Up: Our 2nd Annual Picture Book Event August 10 for 10

Thank You
This week was our second annual picture book event:  August 10 for 10 (#pb10for10).  While Mandy Robek and I co-hosted the event, the real success of it came from the diverse group of participants willing to share their picture book expertise with one another.  The result of this collaboration is a resource we can all return to throughout the year.  This year's event included books for preschool children, nonfiction lists, picture books for math, multicultural literature, old books, new books, borrowed books, blue books (ok, I'm getting a bit carried away).  Thanks to everyone who took the time to post, to e-mail, to tweet (and retweet), and to tell friends.  You rock!  (And a special thanks to Mandy for joining me in another year of crazy fun.)

August Event Links
If you'd still like to post, I'm not much of a rule follower so I'll be happy to add your post to the collection.  Just comment here (or on my 10 for 10 post) or mention (or DM) me on Twitter.  

It's hard to explain to other people what I have gained from professional interactions on the internet.  The networks I've come to rely on through Twitter and the blogging world are such a big part of the learning I do.  I've gained a positive community of educators willing to help one another.  This event is a perfect example of what happens when we all join together.  You inspire me!  Thank you.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 10 for 10: Authors I Just Can't Live Without

It's here!  Today is our second annual picture book event:  August 10 for 10.  If you love picture books, you'll love this event which I'm excited to be hosting with Mandy Robek.  For weeks we've all been wrestling with the 10 picture books we just can't live without in our worlds.  You'll find picture books for your classroom, your library, and your bookshelves at home in this year's collection of posts.  If you'd like to have your blog linked to the conversation, just comment with the link for your picture book list here or at Enjoy and Embrace Learning.  You can also send us a link on Twitter using the event hashtag #pb10for10.  If you don't have a blog, but would like to join, there are lots of ways to participate.

Authors We Can't Live Without
Last year, I shared my list of 10 picture books I just couldn't live without.  This year I'm going to share 10 picture book authors I could not live without in my classroom.  I cannot even begin to imagine how I would teach without a collection of picture books.  The authors of these books are such a part of the discussions that take place in our learning community.  They are the books we read to learn, laugh, and talk together.  Not only do these authors help us to grow our reading lives, but they also help us to learn to live the life of a writer.  Authors are an essential part of our classroom.  Here are some must-have authors:

Eve Bunting
Eve Bunting is an author I just can't live without in my classroom.  Her books are perfect for young readers no matter what the grade level.  ANYtime I need a book that is a good mentor text for writing or a read aloud that will evoke discussion I know I can go to his author to find a book that will work.  Most of her books are written in first-person from the point of view of the main character.  Choosing a favorite is a bit of a challenge, but children always enjoy Ducky written by Bunting and illustrated by David Wisniewski.  Bunting wrote this book after reading about a box of plastic toys lost at sea (book includes an author's note).  In this story, Ducky spends days lost at sea hoping to be saved.   He has to be brave as he tries to survive.

Mem Fox
Mem Fox is one of those authors children just love.  I'm always amazed by the reactions her books get when being read aloud.  I love Mem Fox's books for young readers and writers for the very reason she wrote them; they put the sounds of language into the hearts and and minds of children.  Children love to hear books written by Mem, and those books then turn into great writing mentors in our classroom.  Young writers can learn a lot about language, repetition, and story from Mem.  I couldn't live without Harriet, You'll Drive Me Wild by Fox and illustrated by Marla Frazee.  My classes always love this story about a small girl, Harriet, who seems to have a hard time staying out of trouble and a mom who sometimes finds it hard to be patient.

Mo Willems
I must admit I was a little slow to get on the Mo bus.  However, it didn't take me long to realize the power his books had with children.  Mo is a bit like Mem in that as an adult I look at his books and say, "That's a pretty good story."  Then kids get ahold of the books and shout joyously as they turn the pages.  Children seem to come alive at the crack of a story by Mo Willems.  Now my classroom is full of Mo Willems books.  My students just can't get enough of his books.  They are a perfect way for emergent readers to choose real picture books in the classroom and not just leveled readers.  So I have to choose a favorite?  Just one?  I think my class from last year would want me to tell you about Elephants Cannot Dance.  In this story Piggie tries to teach Gerald how to dance, but no matter how hard he tries he just can't move like Piggie.  Will Gerald ever find his groove?

David Shannon
David Shannon is the perfect author for a classroom full of beginning readers.  Shannon's character, David, is always one of the characters students love most in our classroom.  I can't imagine starting a year without David Goes To School.  In this story, David seems to have a hard time following the rules of the classroom.  As in many of Shannon's books, the pictures tell the real story.  This is good book for beginning a conversation about ways to make the classroom a place for learning and how each of us can help to do that.

Robert Munsch
Every classroom has to have a collection of books by Robert Munsch.  How can young readers resist stories in which the adults are always a mess and the children always save the day?  The repetitive phrases in Munsch's books make them easy for young readers to reread after the story has been read to them.  Kids love the humor in Robert Munsch's work and his books are always being taken home from our classroom.  Again, picking a favorite is tough, but I'm going to have to say Alligator Baby is always a hit.  In this story, written by Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko, Kristen's parents go to the hospital to have a baby but keep coming home with an animal baby instead of a people baby.  It seems they got confused and went to the zoo instead of the hospital.  Kids love guessing the animal as Kristen slowly lifts the blanket to find the new baby doesn't have "people" characteristics.  Can Kristen save they day?

Todd Parr
I love Todd Parr's books for the message, but the bonus is that young readers love them too.  I think his books are perfect for the beginning of the year when students are first learning to use pictures to tell a story.  Parr's use of shapes and bold colors are perfect for helping young writers begin illustrating their own stories.  Being the literacy geek that I am, I couldn't live without Reading Makes You Feel Good (thanks, Deb Frazier).  It is perfect for the start of the year as we begin our Reader's Workshop and share our love of reading.  (Oh, and I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of his new book, The I'm Not Scared Book.  Yes, I think I might have just bent the rules a bit and slid in an extra book.)

Eileen Spinelli
Eileen Spinelli is the perfect author to help teach the craft of writing.  Spinelli varies her choice of crafting techniques in her books creating a strong collection of mentor texts for young writers.  My favorite mentor text for young writers is In My Yellow Shirt.  In this story a young boy receives a yellow shirt for his birthday.  What would be considered by many to be an ordinary gift turns into an extraordinary gift as he shares all he can be in his new yellow shirt.  This imaginative tale demonstrates the use of repetition, strong vocabulary, and a seesaw pattern of text among other techniques.

Kevin Henkes
Kevin Henkes is another must-have author for any classroom.  Children love listening to his stories.  His new book, Little White Rabbit, is a book I just couldn't live without in my classroom.  In this story, rabbit wonders what it would be like to be different.  After each page in which little rabbit wonders what it would be like to be different, a beautifully illustrated double page spread shows what it might be like.  For example, little rabbit wonders what it would be like to be tall.  Readers turn the page to find a double page spread showing rabbit taller than the fir trees.   A group of us have been discussing using wonder to frame discussions of inquiry in our classroom.  Maria Caplin has shared Wonderopolis and an idea using wonder jars to start inquiry with students.  I'm thinking this book might be perfect for a collection of books about wonder to help in this experience.

Amy Krouse Rosenthal
I really have to thank Franki Sibberson for this next author.  She has often mentioned Amy Krouse Rosenthal in posts at A Year of Reading.  Eventually I started to put two and two together and realized how many books I had by Rosenthal, and how many more I needed to check out.  I'm still in the discovery stages of noticing all this author can offer the young readers and writers in my classroom.  However, I'm quite sure she belongs on this list of must-have picture book authors.  My students would want me to tell you about Duck! Rabbit!, but I'm going to suggest another favorite Little Hoot written by Rosenthal and illustrated by Jen Corace.  In this story Little Hoot doesn't want to stay up all night like the owls.  Will he ever talk his parents into letting him go to bed early?  Kids love this play on tricking parents at bedtime.

Eric Carle
Though these authors are in no particular order, I suppose it makes sense to end with the tried and true work of Eric Carle.  I don't think I have to tell anyone about all that Carle's work teaches my young writers about illustrating and story telling.  I love, that like Henkes, Willems, Parr and Shannon, Carle writes AND illustrates his own books just like the young writers in my classroom.  They love the innovative ways he presents books to children and this usually inspires some innovation in student writing.  Yes, Eric Carle brings out the scissors and the glue invariably...and a lot more.  Not only are Carle's books perfect as writing mentors, readers love rereading his books over and over again.  It is truly impossible to pick a favorite from Carle's collection, but I suppose A House For Hermit Crab ranks high on my list.  In this story Hermit Crab gets too big for his shell and has to go out searching for a new home.  Will he find the perfect home  for him?

There they are; 10 authors I couldn't live without.  A big thank you to the authors who share their stories in our classrooms shaping the reading and writing lives of the young children in our classrooms.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Let's Quit Hiding Behind Our Classroom Doors

Close Our Doors?
A little over a year ago I wrote this in Putting Politics and Policies Aside:
As educators, we know children deserve more than a role as political pawns in a game in which there are no winners. So while the politicians debate, we'll be in our classrooms because we believe the best use of our time is working to help our students learn and achieve. We believe in the children who enter our doors each day eager to inquire, discover, and create meaning in their worlds. We know they are the scientists, the peace makers, the writers, and the problem solvers of our tomorrow. We understand the significance of the work we do.
Tough Times For Public Education
Times are tough for public education across America.  Here in Ohio, as in many states, public education has seen major reductions in funding as "public" charter schools have received increases in dollars with little oversight.  Additionally, the increased use of standardized testing to measure public schools, teachers, and children has resulted in a narrow curriculum.  One could ask if these tests actually measure the things we value in learning, such as innovation and creativity, which have helped to make this country great.  I think the argument could be made that many of the current complaints about public education, especially those made by politicians, will find their roots in the test driven policy that has come from No Child Left Behind laws.

Since I wrote that post over a year ago, you might say, nothing has changed.  In fact, you might argue, it has gotten worse.  I feel a growing concern that public schools will soon be a place of segregation once again.  This time a place of economic segregation.  As more and more states find ways to move educational funds to charter and private schools, as more and more states raise income limits for vouchers, public education loses again.  Children lose again.

You might say nothing has changed, but...

Advocating For Public Education
Something has changed.  The willingness of educators to continue to allow politicians and corporate leaders to dictate educational policy is changing.  Events like the SOS March are part of an effort for educators to collectively raise their voices about the significance of public education.  As educators it is no longer enough to close our doors and teach.  It is time to stand up for our profession, the children we work beside each day, and the necessity of public education for our nation to thrive.

Something has changed.  I no longer am satisfied to, as I said last March, close the door to my classroom and teach.  The best use of my time, of our time as educators, is in creating the narrative for education not being a victim of it.

Standing For Children
The voice that is lost in all of this is the voice of children.  To say that they are our tomorrow is to ignore what they already are today.  Children deserve learning environments where they have time to learn and to grow.  We must be thoughtful about the ways we ask them to use their time.  School should be a place where they work together, ask deep questions, seek answers, read real books, write real pieces and learn to live in this world that extends far beyond their neighborhoods.

I hope you will join me by opening your door, lifting your voice, and advocating for public education.  Let's create our own narrative for children and learning.

Where To Begin?

  1. Share your classroom:  Having a blog is the perfect place to help parents, politicians, as well as other educators know all of the amazing work going on in public schools.  There is a positive narrative weaving across the educational blogging community.
  2. Get informed:  Find ways to follow the work of elected political officials.  It's probably wise to have their e-mail address and phone number too.  Raise your voice.
  3. Share your work:  Tell parents, administrators, and public officials about the work you do outside of the classroom.  Talk about the groups you belong to, share the professional development opportunities you've participated in, and discuss the ways you collaborate with other educational professionals. (Thanks, Karen.  @karenterlecky)
  4. Say "I am an educator" with pride:  When asked what you do proudly announce that you are an educator shaping this country's future....not "just a teacher." (Thanks, Deb @frazierde)  Share your concerns about your profession and the future of public education with friends and family.  Spread the message.
  5. Build Networks:  One of the biggest problems for educators is we have not established a common voice. While billionaires and politicians put money into advertising their agendas, we do not have these resources.  Twitter is one place teachers can network and collaborate to raise our voices about educational policies.  (I'm advocating at @PublicEd4Kids)
  6. Read.  Read.  Read:  Thanks to the internet there are many blogs, e-newspapers, and other media to help stay informed about your state and public education.  
  7. Add other thoughts in the comments below:  What do you do to advocate for public education?  I hope you'll share.
If you're looking for public education advocates on Twitter, here are a few lists I've made:
You might be interested in:

Friday, August 5, 2011

So You Don't Have a Blog: 10 Ways to Still Join August 10th Event

Wednesday, August 10th, is our second annual picture book event.  Last year nearly 40 blogs joined the conversation by sharing their favorite 10 picture books.  This year looks to be full of great posts, but what if you want to participate and you don't have a blog?  

A few suggestions:
  1. Start a blog (or resurrect an old one):  You know you've been thinking about it and this is the perfect time to get started.  
  2. Comment on one of our blogs:  You can leave a comment with your favorite picture books on Enjoy and Embrace Learning or Reflect & Refine:  Building a Learning Community (or any other participating blog).  
  3. Tweet your favorites:  If you have a Twitter account you can tweet your favorites using the hashtag #pb10for10 on the day of the event (Wednesday, August 10th). 
  4. Join Posterous*:  Posterous has a simple format that will allow you to share your books, and other thoughts, quickly.  
  5. Attach your list to your Wiki*:  If you already have a wiki, just put your list there.  
  6. Make a Glog*:  Sure, why not. 
  7. Use Wallwisher* for your favorites:  Add a post-it for each of your favorite 10 books and easily create links to books. 
  8. Create a Listmania* on Amazon:  I'm sort of a Listmania nut.  The great thing about Listmania is everyone will easily be able to quickly purchase books off of your list.  ;o)  
  9. Create a Google.doc:  Just type your list in a Google.doc and publish it to the web. 
  10. Surprise us!:  Oh, I love surprises and there are probably a million more ways to publish your list.  How fun is that?? 
*I think I will be able to add these formats to our collection of posts on JogtheWeb.  I love a challenge.

You can see we are quite flexible in this event.  We really just want an opportunity to talk about picture books.  Is there a better way to get excited about the new school year?  If you have other ideas about how to publish your list feel free to share them in the comments --- or surprise us on August 10th.  Whatever you decide, remember to comment with your link on one of our blogs or tweet it using the #pb10for10 hashtag.  I can't wait!  (Oops, I better get busy on my list!  I'm such a procrastinator.)

I hope you've been saving your money because you won't be able to resist purchasing a few titles.