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Monday, March 30, 2009

Show Me Your Book Nook!

I love to be inspired by other people's spaces. Especially the spaces where they read, or keep their books and such! Here's another on of my book nooks:

This is a basket that is kept in the corner of our breakfast nook (it's a nook within a nook). I keep books, puppets, and CDs in it to use with my son. I utilize the contents of this basket mostly during breakfast time, but also during meal prep or kitchen cleaning times too (especially those CDs). 

Right now the basket contains:
  • Horton Hatches the Egg
  • George Shrinks
  • More More More Said the Baby
  • Owl Babies
  • Just So Stories (audio CD)
  • The Story Tree (audio CD)
  • A turtle puppet
Oh, and here's what the rest of my breakfast nook looks like:

I didn't bother cleaning it up before I took the photo. Sorry. You can't see my basket in this photo, but it's tucked in the corner behind the high chair.

Now it's time to see your book nook! When sharing, be sure to link to the specific post of your book nook. Also, include a link back to this blog. 

UPDATE: Mr. Linky code was wreaking havoc on my blog's layout. I don't have time to mess around with it. So leave a comment with a link to your post of your book nook in your comment!! Thanks!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Mommy Grace Giveaway Winners!

I had five copies of Mommy Grace: Erasing Your Mommy Guilt to giveaway, and here are the winners:

1. Kristal @ Velma96
2. Dana @ Our Sunny Side
3. Karen

Congrats to you all! If you haven't yet, please email me your address!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I Never Was Much of a Reader-A True Confession!

I once heard a lecture of some sort (on a video, I believe) in college about teaching reading to children. The lecturer said that many of us reading teachers have a difficult time relating to struggling or reluctant readers, because we never were this kind of reader ourselves.

This seems to be true a lot of the time. So many teachers, librarians, authors, mothers, etc. have stories about how they loved reading from a very young age. Many spent the majority of their childhood with their noses in books. They have long lists of books they have read. They have favorites they have read over and over again. They visited the library often. Perhaps they were even teased for being such a bookworm?

I don't have a story like that to share. I never struggled with reading. I have actually always done quite well in school. But I would say I was a bit of a reluctant reader. I don't think anyone would have ever described me as a bookworm.

My childhood was not completely devoid of reading experiences. Not at all. My parents read picture books to my siblings and me frequently while we were growing up. I have many fond memories of that. I can even remember the pride I felt when I completed my first chapter book on my own! When I got to be about school age though, most of the reading I did was required reading (from school). Reading books wasn't how I chose to spend much (if any) of my free time.

There were some spatterings of reading interests during my childhood. I loved Sweet Valley Twins and read many books in that series. I loved Jack Prelutsky and memorized many of his poems (No I won't turn orange if I eat this orange...). I probably read all of the Molly books in the American Girls series (this was when the books were at least as popular as the dolls). In general though, I didn't view reading as much of an enjoyable past time while I was in grade school. And I sometimes mocked those who did bury their nose in a book on the bus ride home.

My second year in high school I started being homeschooled, and finished off my high school years this way. This is probably when my interest in books grew a bit more. I had an awesome family friend that taught my sister and me literature (a retired literature teacher). I fell in love with Louisa May Alcott's books (The Inheritance, Moods, Long Fatal Love Chase). My sister and I laughed out loud together as we read plays like "You Can't Take it With You." I stayed up late many nights reading Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and Tess of the Durbervilles.

When I got into college and decided to study education, I discovered children's literature all over again... in a completely different - and amazing - way. While working in preschools (throughout high school, college, and beyond) I realized I had a knack for reading with children, and that I loved lessons that were centered around great books.

... And the rest is history (as they say).

This is not the typical story of how a children's lit. enthusiast grew up. And I'm sometimes embarrassed when I hear my peers in this field discuss their literature-loving childhoods and can't identify with that. Do I really belong here?

The answer is Yes! Because I do know what it' s like for a child to not "get" what's so great about reading. I can identify with that. And hopefully that perspective makes me a better teacher. And maybe a better mother too.

Were you a bookworm growing up, or are there others out there that were like me growing up? If you're out there, speak up and let me know I'm not alone!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

More Adventures in Reading!

One of the main missions of Literacy Launchpad is to motivate children to read: to show them how fun reading is, and to create a desire in them to want to read more and more and more and... Well, you get the idea. 

Books that focus on adventure seem to be especially effective at creating reading motivation. Although it's pretty amazing how almost any picture book can become an adventure. Some may require you to search a little harder for the adventure aspect. And some require a little more creativity in bringing the adventure to life. But it usually can be done. (And I'm here to help if you need it, just give me a shout.)

Take a look (in the photos below) at how much fun my kiddos are having with Kate and Jim McMullan's book I'm Bad! Let me tall ya, as soon as they saw the T Rex on the cover, these kids were sold on this book. Some were telling me that they liked it better than last week's story before we even read it. What?! I didn't know a dinosaur on the cover would be quite that appealing, but evidently it is!

I need to change my pattern for these T Rex masks. They didn't end up looking as T Rex-y as I would have liked. Most of the kids didn't care (see photo above). Ideas for how to tweak them (or come up with something completely new) anyone? 

Thanks to some iTunes sounds and a little imagination, we were the fiercest T Rex's around! O.K. we were the only T Rex's around, but still...!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mommy Grace Giveaway!

O.K. So, perhaps this giveaway appears to be a bit off topic for this blog, but I'll tell you why I'm hosting it:
1. Parents need to be reading role models. So I'm putting a book suggestion out there for all you reading mommies!
2. I was petitioned by a publisher to do my first blogger book review, and I couldn't say "no!" (too exciting)
3. Five of you will win a copy of this great book!

So... I just finished this very refreshing read - Mommy Grace: Erasing Your Mommy Guilt. Boy, it sure did show up right when I needed to read it. Funny how things work out like that.

Mommy Grace is a faith-based book of encouragement for those of us mothers who feel like we're far from having it all together, who worry we might be messing our kids up with our not-so-perfect parenting, and who struggle with mommy guilt regularly. Is there a mom in America that doesn't feel like they fit this description?

The author of Mommy Grace, Dr. Sheila Schuller Coleman, formatted this book so perfectly by keeping each section very brief and straightforward. It's perfect for a quick end-of-the-day pick me up before turning out the light, or to read during your morning quiet time (or any quiet time you may be lucky enough to get).

Each section focuses on a specific area or source of mommy guilt. Coleman draws you in with personal stories and anecdotes that are often griping. I caught myself both crying at times and laughing out loud at times as I read through Mommy Grace, and that rarely happens.

I enjoyed the scriptures included at the end of each section. They were well chosen (beautiful and very relevant to each topic). The scripture passages were always followed by a poetic prayer, which will be awesome to be able to go back to and pull out on days when I can't find the right prayer to utter on my own (Stormie Omartian's books are another great resource for this). 

Mommy Grace struck a chord with me. I underlined and dog-eared the heck out of my copy, and will be referring back to it often. 

One section especially resonated with me: "The 'Perfect Parent' Trap." This is a trap I fall into frequently. Reading the following paragraph was a bit of an "aha" moment for me:

pg. 38
So why do I keep trying to be perfect? Because I want to be loved. And somewhere I mistakenly bought into the lie that my imperfections could keep me from being loved. But in truth, this logic is backward, counterintuitive. I have since learned that I can show I care more by being fallible than I can by setting a standard so high that it intimidates others. Then all I have managed to build is a wall, a moat that holds those I love at arm's distance. Ironically, it is my foibles, my wide hips, my face that not only has wrinkles but zits, my dusty house - in short, all my imperfections that draw people closer to me.

Don't you love that?

Makes you want to read the whole book, doesn't it? Perfect! 'Cause you can win your own copy right here! Simply leave a comment sharing something that causes you a little (or a lot of) mommy guilt, and you'll be entered for a chance to win one of FIVE copies of Mommy Guilt I'm giving away. Subsequent entries can be gained by linking to this post on your blog or website; or by submitting it to social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Stumbleupon. Each entry needs to be a separate comment (provide me with a link to verify your post please).

The deadline for entry is next Thursday. The winner will be announced next Friday. Only residents of the U.S. or Canada are eligible to win (P.O. boxes not eligible).  

Please link to your blog or email so I can contact you if you win. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Love Letters!

Had to share these cute photos of my little guy playing with the letters on his mobile!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Our Adventure Unit Begins!

...And it's been a bit of a roller coaster already! (Har! Har! Har!) That's because we read Marla Frazee's Roller Coaster! Have you read it yet? It's a simple story. That's the brilliance of it, and the very thing that seemed to draw the students in. The simple title and subject of the story was extremely intriguing to them. Most preschoolers (actually, probably all preschoolers) have never been on a roller coaster before, except perhaps the tiny coasters that are often at the state fairs. So there was definitely mystery and curiosity surrounding this topic. They were eager to discuss roller coasters before I even began reading the story. And once the story began, they were captivated and eager to learn what a roller coaster is all about. Don't you love the magic of books? 

Before I even began reading the story, we talked about how we can go on any kind of adventure with the help of a good book and  our imaginations! They were all over this idea! It's amazing how quickly accepting of this idea they were. It was almost like they wanted to say to me, "Books can take you on adventures? Duh!!" And when they found out that the day's adventure was a roller coaster ride, they were beyond thrilled. 

Roller Coaster follows the experience of a young girl on her first roller coaster ride. But we don't only see her experience, we also see the experiences of various other people who are waiting in line for (or getting out of line), and then riding the roller coaster. The text is pretty short and simple with the illustrations focusing on the emotions of the roller coaster riders. 

It was entertaining to examine the illustrations with the students and hear their takes on how the passengers on the ride might be feeling in each illustration. I cannot tell you how much these kids crack me up. 

So after the story, it was time for them to muster up their courage and ride a roller coaster! Of course, I didn't force anybody to "ride" the roller coaster I had created in the classroom for them. In fact, I made reference to the page in the book where people were getting out of line because they were scared, and I asked the students a few times, as they waited in line, if they wanted to change their mind and not ride. None of them chickened out. They were greatly amused by me trying to make them nervous and suggesting that they might not be brave enough. What a bunch of true thrill seekers!
I did what I could to make the experience as authentic as I could. The students all received tickets on their way into class. This helped build anticipation, because nobody knew what the tickets were for. Everybody was asking me, and I just told them, "You'll see!" 

After I had them all lined up for the coaster, I measured them each as I took their tickets and allowed them onto the ride. I had to make sure the height requirement wasn't too tall. (Gosh, can you imagine if someone had been too short to ride?!) I think I went a little too far; the Smurfs could have ridden this roller coaster! Ah, well! It didn't bother the kids at all. It made them all feel like big kids!

"The Crazy Coaster" was what we rode that day! Look at those smiles! And even better, look at my one little student with her hands neatly folded in her lap, waiting for the ride to start. I made them all buckle their pretend seat belts and lower their imaginary harness bars. (The Crazy Coaster goes upside down, ya know.) Then I, as the ride operator, had to check to make sure everyone was properly fastened in. 

Before the ride started, I gave the official safety announcement. It made the kids giggle, and was not heeded by a few of the passengers who thought it would be funny to make themselves fall out of the roller coaster part way through the ride. 

Thanks to iTunes we even had some roller coaster sounds to make the ride even more authentic. We screamed and hollered as the roller coaster went upside down and all around. 
When it was over they all wanted to ride again. Look at them run to get on when I told them they could!
And you have to have a photo of yourself on your first roller coaster ride, right? Well, obviously, that wasn't possible in this situation, but this little project seemed like the next best thing. And it got them thinking about how they felt on the roller coaster... if they like it... etc.

As they left class they were asking me if I would bring the roller coaster next week. Oh boy, I better have something good up my sleeve for our next adventure, huh? Perhaps I should have saved Roller Coaster for the last lesson of this unit?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Author Signed Book Giveaway!

Quick! Quick! Head over to The Bookworm's Booklist and enter to win a copy of Boomtown, signed by the author! The giveaway also includes a full color map of Boomtown also signed by the author!

The drawing will be held on Monday, so you don't have much time. Run on over there right now!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Five Habits For Effective Teaching*

photo by dcJohn

Found these tips in an old folder from college (from one of my education courses). I think they're great, so I wanted to share. Perhaps some of you have already heard these, but I think they're worth repeating. 

Whether you're a classroom teacher, a homeschooling parent, a stay-at-home-mom, a babysitter... I think these five habits are applicable in many circumstances.

Here they are:

1. Recycle: Make it Stick. What do you want to make sure they never forget? (Identify the basic truths that need to be repeated weekly or monthly.)

2. Impress: Make it Big. What is the one thing you want them to understand? (Make sure everything keeps pointing to the main thing.)

3. Transition: Make it Flow. How are you going to keep them engaged? (Use strategic words and tools to connect each segment.)

4. Personalize: Make it Real. What can you model for them? (Show them a lesson or struggle from your personal life.)

5. Apply: Make it Fit. What do you want them to walk away and do? (Give them a clear and easy next step.)

"If certain truths really have life-changing potential then we need to be intentional about how we communicate them."

* These five habits are quoted from 252Basics

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed

After what seemed like a long hiatus from Literacy Launchpad classes (my son was sick, and the week after that I was short on a babysitter). I finally was able to wrap up our Author Study (Mo Willems) last week. Yay! I'm glad we finally got to have our next lesson in the series, but I'm sad that this wonderful unit is over.

We've been in stitches reading Knuffle Bunny and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. I love stories that make us laugh. Is there anything better than a group of preschoolers giggling over a funny story?

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed (that's a lot of typing, let's refer to it as NMRGD for the rest of this post) is about Wilbur, a naked mole rat, that likes to wear clothes. The rest of the naked mole rat community is appalled by this, and tries to convince Wilbur that he shouldn't wear clothes. Wilbur asks a great question: "Why not?" The other naked mole rats go visit Grand-pah, "the oldest, greatest, and most naked mole rat ever." They explain the issue to him, and then Grand-pah decides to make a proclamation. He declares that it's O.K. to wear clothes. The story ends with some of the naked mole rats deciding that they want to wear clothes too. Wilbur opens a clothing store... and they all live happily ever after (I added that last part, but it does end happily).

I really liked the way this story started, but the second half of the story left much to be desired for me. I feel like Willems had a clever idea, but the story didn't keep up it's momentum the whole way through. My students picked up on this as well. They were very engaged for the first half of the story, and then when we hit the middle of the story, the wiggling and distracted gazes began. This was not the case for our other two Willems stories.

I didn't completely dislike the story. It has its charm. Perhaps I just had too high of hopes for it. Has anyone else read NMRGD? What did you think about it? Am I way off base here?

I anticipated giggling and such during the story, and I got it. Come on, any story with "naked" in the title is sure to get preschoolers giggling.

I also had some students asking what a proclamation is. I love that their brains are engaged and they don't mind asking questions.

The discussions following the story (with each group) became about why we wear clothes. It was interesting. They relished in the silliness of the naked mole rats, but got real serious about why we shouldn't be naked.

I thought it appropriate to end our author study by letting the children get a chance to be authors and illustrators. So we did a popcorn story. I started the story off (after letting the students choose what the story would be about), and then each student got to add something to the story. This activity was a struggle for the youngest group of students, but they did O.K. with a little help from me. The older students really took off with the story. They're so creative, and we ended up with some silly tales. What I really liked was that each group wanted their story to be about one (or several) of Willems' characters that we had read about during this unit.

After creating our stories, we used watercolor paints (like Willems did in NMRGD) to create illustrations to go along with our stories. The students were chatty, chatty, chatty as they painted their pictures. They were talking about our story, and about their illustrations.

Great lesson!

Friday, March 6, 2009

I'm Still Here!

A new post is coming soon!

I have family visiting from out-of-town and haven't had much extra time to be blogging. Well, I have had time, but have chosen to spend it relaxing with my family.

I hope you understand.

I'll be back next week!!