If you want to teach me to write, first you have to love me. ~AVI

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ten Picture Books and Authors That I LOVE

For the past two August 10th's, I have enjoyed the celebration of picture books, so I thought it was about time for me to participate. A great big thank you to the girls who started and continue the August 10 for 10 tradition. Cheers to bloggers Mandy from Enjoy and Embrace Learning and Cathy from Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community and all the book lovers who spread the picture book love.

Each morning this week, I settled down with my morning coffee to peruse some picture books that I had brought home for the summer. My initial plan was to ponder their use as writing mentors and reading mini lessons. This stack was a fine place for me to start my list of 10.

My love affair with picture books is nothing new. It started during a children’s literature course when I was working on a preschool associate’s degree in the early 80’s and really exploded when I took my first little bookworm daughter to the library. She’s now 27 and a book loving, book collecting teacher!

You could very well be thinking…so what’s your point here? Well, this thinking led me to think about my criteria for choosing books and realize that it is varied , but definitely starts with
·       A LOVE for the book
And continues with…
  • ·       Beautiful language – words and phrases that invite us pause, linger, and often return to the book later
  • ·       Strong characters, often spunky, brave, or inspirational
  • ·       Characters or people that readers care about
  • ·       Illustrations that complement the words, like that perfect accessory that pulls an outfit together
  • ·       Stretches our thinking – elicits a reaction
  • ·       Makes us want to be better people
  • ·       Makes us wonder and often times sends us on a research mission
* Sorry that I do not have images of books. Having an issue...anyway the titles are links to books on Amazon. Thanks for stopping by! *

1 ~ Miss Rumphius story & pictures by Barbara Cooney

            This beautiful book tells a story of Alice’s dedication to fulfill the commitment she made to her grandfather. Alice travels to faraway places, lives by the sea, but needs to find a way to make the word a beautiful place. I have used this book to get students thinking about the seemingly little things each of us can do to make the world a better place, starting with our classroom community. Last year, Miss Rumphius was the book our class chose to focus on during “Kindness Week.” The door to the classroom turned into a field of lupines, as we sprinkled the seeds of kindness. 

2 ~ The Purple Coat by Amy Hest pictures by Amy Schwartz
             I love Gabrielle, who goes by Gabby! This simple, yet sweet story about a “new coat” tradition and trying new things is definitely a tale we can relate to. I love the warm relationships between Gabby, her mom, and her Grampa. Gabby has a lot of spunk. Like many children, she knows what she wants. I have never thought of this before, but I could see using this book anytime during the school year when students get stuck in a rut. Perhaps students need a nudge to branch out to other genres in reading or writing. It would also make a writing mentor when working on word choice. There is strong description, vivid verbs, and dialog to study and emulate.

3 ~ Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull Illustrated by David Diaz

While my list is far from a balanced, I definitely wanted to include at least a couple non-fiction selections. I like to start the year with inspirational characters, especially real people. In history, the men get so much of our attention, it’s important to feature women who worked hard to overcome challenges and make the world a better place. Wilma Rudolph was born in 1940, survived a disease that often killed children, rose above discrimination, and went on be an Olympic track star. This book is in my back to school stack!

4 ~ All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan, paintings by Mike Wimmer

This beautiful book is one of my favorite writing mentors. Each family member shares her love of a special place around the family farm. I love the outdoors and my writing is often a reflection of that. The illustrations are breath taking in a peaceful way. It’s not a showy book. It’s more like favorite broken-in quilt or a home-cooked soup. It’s a feel-good book. Patricia MacLachlan sprinkles in stunning similes at just the right place, like a chef who uses the perfect balance of spices to season that soup.

5 ~ Thank You, Mr. Falker  by Patricia Polacco
I can’t think of a more inspirational story for the classroom and to learn Trisha, the main character, who struggles for years to learn to read, is the true story of Patricia Polacco. Like we’ve come to expect from Polacco’s books, there are many opportunities for rich discussions, inferencing, and lingering over interesting word choice.

6 ~ Let’s Go Home by Cynthia Rylant illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin

This is another writing mentor that my 4th grade writers and I return to many times throughout the year. Like All the Places to Love, it feels good to read this book. It’s a tour through the cozy rooms of beloved home. I like reading it also because it reminds me that it’s not all about the fancy, new improvements that we save for and fret about. I appreciate the memories that our aging 23-year-old house holds. It’s the little things that make a house a home. The book bursts with beautiful word choice. Mentor sentences and paragraphs abound. And on a more practical level, pages are organized with topic sentences, details, and satisfying closing sentences.

7 ~ Butterfly Eyes andother Secrets of the Meadow by Joyce Sidman illustrated by Beth Krommes

I choose this book primarily for two reasons: it’s fine, fine poetry and intriguing non-fiction. Joyce Sidman does a beautiful job at writing about nature, often times the lesser-known beauties. This collection of poems that explores the meadow in a riddle-like format, but don’t let that fool you, they are quite sophisticated. Each poem includes additional facts with a glossary of science terms in the back of the book.

8 ~ Red Sings fromTreetops a year in colors by Joyce Sidman illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

I will never tire of reading this lovely book, lingering over the luring language and the lovely illustrations. It’s one of those books where you can’t imagine any other art adorning the pages. The word choice is amazing, sometimes surprising, yet perfect. It’s poetic. No surprise that this book has helped me teach writing, specifically word choice and personification. It has also inspired seasonal color poems and been a text for modeling inferential thinking.

9 ~ The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson illustrations by E.B. Lewis

I chose this book because it demonstrates the power of kindness, accepting others, and building bridges. The story is set in a segregated community, in a neighborhood where children play on their side of the fence. Annie, a white girl and Clover, a girl from the black side of the fence watch each other, but don’t speak for quite some time. When they do, the fence becomes a meeting place for the two of them. Eventually they play together and others join them on the fence. While today, it’s hard to imagine this way of life, there are lessons to be learned and many places in the world that have fences to be taken down.

10 ~ Owl Moon by Jane Yolen illustrated by John Schoenherr

This beloved treasure was first published in 1987 and won the Caldecott Medal the following year. I have loved this book for a long time. Jane Yolen’s stellar similes and word choice create and sustain a magical feeling throughout the book as a young girl and her dad venture out on a cold winter night to go owling. From the beautiful beginning to the satisfying ending, this book is a jewel in my basket of favorites. After enjoying a first reading, I have most often returned to the text for a writing model.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Got Picture Books?

Gearing up for the 3rd Annual August 10 for 10, a blog event coordinated by Mandy from Enjoy and Embrace Learning and Cathy from Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community. I am excited to join with book-loving bloggers this Friday, when the final lists of top 10 picture books will be shared. Until then, I will be hunkered down for the 2nd week of the 2012 Olympics and holding picture book semi-finals and finals to trim down my field to ten titles. Hoping I have the skills to complete this challenging task! Follow any of the above links to read more about this awesome August event. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Inspired by Our President and 22 Fabulous 4th Graders

Happy Poetry Friday!  It's been a while, a long while since I have really joined in the party. I guess you might say I crash the party, reading and enjoying the poetry buffet. Hoping to find my way and add something to the party.  It's time to pass the poetry.

This week, I started to read Writing Toward Home by Georgia Heard. So far, her stories and lessons are giving me a nudge to grab my notebook and pen...
Put this with all the pleasure reading I have had the time to indulge in and I should be on my way.

The writing I share today is sort of a poem. My students and I loved the words in of Thee I Sing - A letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama. It became a mentor text for many of us. 
Have I told You

 Have I told you lately how special you are? How the sight of your smiling faces coming down the hall brings sunshine to the grayest of days? How the sound of your greetings makes me look forward to working together?

Have I told you that you are compassionate? That you look out for one another like Sistine and Rob? You offer a helping hand and encouraging words to a friend in need. You are gardeners sprinkling the seeds of kindness to make the world a beautiful place.

Have I told you that you are persistent? That your stick-with-it attitude will take you places?  Borrowing the words of Dr. Seuss, “Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” It may be steep, but keep climbing.

Have I told you that you are insightful? That you listen with your head and your heart wide open? You consider the viewpoints of others. You imagine what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes.  You are understanding.

Have I told you that you are hardworking like the westward traveling pioneers? You wrote each day in March conquering the Slice of Life challenge. Your writing pieces are blossoming like a spring garden with beautiful words.

Have I told you that I loved being your teacher?
Have I told you that you were my teachers too? Thank you for a wonderfully memorable year. Your spirit, enthusiasm, and curiosity are inspiring. Keep wondering and digging deeper! You are ready to soar into fifth grade.

Be sure to enjoy your time away from school. Remember to take time to disappear in good books, record some thoughts in your notebook, and play lots of games too!

For my fourth grade Stars ~ June 19, 2012
                  With love, Mrs. Annello
Inspired by of Thee I Sing - A letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Poems in Pockets

         Poem in Your Pocket Day comes just once a year and this year it comes at just the right time in the midst of state testing. This Thursday our school will celebrate poetry’s big day. Some students are choosing from poetry resources in the classroom, others are selecting pieces from their stash, and others are writing new poems just for the celebration. This is the chance to step back from the bubble sheets, put the intensity on the back burner, and…

Catch a breath of fresh air.
Spread some poetry love!
Serve up a smorgasbord of similes
A buffet of beautiful
A mound of metaphors
A pinch of this
A smidge of that
Whatever tips your hat
Or floats your boat
Spread some poetry love
Catch a breath of fresh air.

         Be sure to visit Poets.org website to find out how this day got started in New York City and how people across the country rejoice the power of poetry. It’s not too late to gather some favorite poems, slip them in your pocket, and put some smiles on faces when you share your selection.
         We read, write, collect, and love poetry all year long, but in April we bring it on with an extra dash of passion. Here is a sampling from a few fourth grade poets:

Just the other day
I was going out to play
Now I see the snow-
Spring's eternal foe

Just the other day
I felt the sunshine from May
Now I'm turning into ice
The weather isn't being nice

Just the other day
By Chelsea

How To Be a Dog
You run around all day,
You play,
You play,
You play!
You lay around in the grass,
And bark
When people pass.
You sleep all the time,
You make a crime.
And when it's time to go to bed,
You always want to get fed!
And that is how to be a dog!

By Jamie

In the universe there was a planet
                                                       In the planet there was a continent
                                                       On the continent was a country
                                                         On the country there was a state
                                                    On that state there was a town
                                                      On that town there was a school
                                                       In that school was a hall
                                                       In that hall was a classroom

                                                        Inside that classroom was a desk
                                                      On that desk there was a notebook
                                                      In that notebook was some words
                                                      In those words were some meaning
                                                     In that meaning was some dreaming
                                                     In that dreaming was a whole new world!

By Caleb

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Knee Deep in a Good Book

Gonna put the the world away for a minute
Pretend I don't live in it
Sunshine gonna wash my blues away…
Wishing I was knee deep in the water somewhere
Got the blue sky breeze and it don't seem fair
Only worry in the world is the tide gonna reach my chair
Sunrise there's a fire in the sky
Never been so happy
Never felt so high
And I think I might have found me my own kind of paradise
~ Zac Brown Band with Jimmy Buffett

      Since I am here in chili western New York, instead of knee deep in the water somewhere, I am perched like a lazy cat in a perfect little sunny spot in our family room.
I will pretend this is my beach chair.

Here's my reading stack,
a cup of steaming java,

and some stitching for in between books.

And Grace found her sunny spot!

      I can’t stop thinking about the book I finished yesterday. On the basis of several recent reviews, I could not wait to get my hands on Wonder by RJ Palacio.  A few pages in and I was hooked. I fell in love with August, an amazing ten-year-old boy who rises above the challenge and adversity he faces simply because he is judged by his appearance. August is in fifth grade and not only is he starting middle school, but he is also starting school for the first time ever.  I join the masses in saying as soon as you get the chance, read this wonderful first novel of RJ Palacio’s.  

A few of my favorite parts…

Mr. Browne, August’s English teacher starts the first class with a discussion of P-R-E-C-E-P-T-S. When no one can tell him what a precept is, he adds a definition to the board:
“A precept is anything that helps guide us when making decisions about really important things.” 
     His monthly precepts will guide students and help them “Know Thyself”, a message on a plaque posted on his door. September’s precept is “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”
         At the end of this first class, August thinks…I suddenly realized that I was going to like school. No matter what.
         August has bumps in the road as do most students, but his bumps are often mountainous. August keeps climbing with the love and support of a strong family and true friends that he makes along the way. We do get by with a little help from our friends!
         At the end of the school year, Mr. Browne asks each of his students to craft their own precepts and mail them to him over the summer. Of course the teacher in me loves this idea and I love August’s precept most of all: Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life because we all overcometh the world. In my world this book and author RJ Palacio deserve a standing ovation. Thank you for a great story!  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Celebrating March

    Slices are totaled. Slices are ordered. Tomorrow I will dine with twelve month-long slicers. This group of fourth grader writers is quite proud of their accomplishments. I am not only impressed with their month-long dedication, but also their on-going enthusiasm for writing. They are eager to take risks and try new ideas. Slicers wrote about many different topics:
·      Small moments
·      A favorite memory
·      Spring’s arrival!!
·      Playing outside
·      Reflections on events of the day
·      Responses to books
·      Playing an instrument
·      Joining band
·      Going to dinner
·      Favorite foods
·      Special friends
·      Beloved pets
·      Family
·      Quotes
·      Vacation
·      Traveling
      Slicers wrote in a variety of genres:
·      Lists
·      Articles
·      Fiction
·      List poems
·      Things to do poems
·      Free verse poems
·      Acrostics
·      Letters

     Tomorrow we will celebrate and share our March accomplishments  
with a pizza party. We have marched into a new challenge for April: “Poem-a-Day.” The excitement is growing to share some extra poetry-love this month. I am hoping to write several poems each week. However, a handful of students are off and running with three poems under their belt! I promise to post some student poems throughout the month. Their voices and passions shine brightly and are sure to move your heart and put a smile on your face.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Things to Do Poem

Things to Do if You Are a Writer

Jot down ideas
For ideas are everywhere.
Live with your eyes wide open.
Live with your ears wide open.
And most importantly live with an opened-wide heart.
Write often.
Try for a little bit everyday.
Read everything and read often!
Read like a writer.
Notice the small moments,
Taste them,
Smell them,
Feel them,
Hear them,
See them,
Savor moments big and small.
Write them down,
For you think you will always remember
And you will if you tuck them in your notebook.
Like a baby nestled in under a quilt
Your thoughts will be safe until morning.

Tonight I am posting a first draft poem inspired by Elaine Magliaro who blogs at Wild Rose Reader.  My students and I love reading and writing this type of poem. Watch for student poems coming soon. Happy Poetry Month!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

March in Lines of Six

As I was thinking about possibilities for my final March SOLS, I was reminded of the SIX WORD MEMOIRS. My daughter introduced me to the six work mini memoirs last year. I recently purchased a collection of the one-liners that has been patiently waiting to be one of my mentor texts.  A blogger that I visited last night had a go with the lines of six. Tonight on the last night of March with the clock ticking, here are my six word reflections on SLICE of Life Month.  

Writer for the month of March.
A late night Slice of Lifer.
Looking for more writing time.
Learning more from other March writers.
Reading, savoring, commenting, here and there.
Trying to travel far and wide.
Inspired by this community of writers.
You have touched so many lives!
Frustrated when potential ideas fizzle out.
Practice what you ask of students.
Move on and learn from mistakes.
It’s true practice fosters improvement.
Proud of write-everyday student slicers.
Proud of my thirty one accomplishments> 
Eyes, ears, and heart wide open.
Wondering what April has in store.
A poem a day for thirty.
Let’s give it a go!

Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.

Love ~ SOLS 30

“Love. Fall in love and stay in love.
Write only what you love,
and love what you write.
The key word is love.
You have to get up in the morning
and write something you love,
something to live for.”
-      Ray Bradbury

“Love. Fall in love and stay in love.
Teach only what you love,
and love what you teach.
The key word is love
You have to get up in the morning
and teach something you love,
something to live for.”

While perusing this week’s Poetry Friday offerings, I read this quote on Irene Latham’s blog that reminded me how much I love what I do. In spite of the negativity and nervousness that suck the enthusiasm out of educators, I am trying my best to stay focused on my beliefs and reasons for becoming a teacher.  With changes in the way that principals and teachers will be evaluated and the way the results will be reported to the public, educators are nervous.
I try to practice what I preach and avoid worrying as much as I can, for worrying will not change the outcome. Yes, I am striving to be better informed and supportive of the voices that represent teachers. My energy is best channeled in positive directions, to the loves of my life.
I am blessed – I love what I do…teaching and learning, I love who I do teach and learn with…22 fabulous fourth graders and 60 or so inspiring co-workers and then there is the blog love, the poetry love, the reading love, the writing love that reaches out to an endless number of people.
I cannot imagine what it would be like to do something that I did not love.