A Poetic Christmas

Published December 10, 2013 by Mrs. Malo

Day 4’s book was Merry Christmas, A Victorian Verse by Mary Teichman.  We previously did this book on our countdown in 2011 but thought we would revisit it now that everyone is 2 years older.

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We read the book together and then I gave each child a different task.  Kaitlyn (age 7) loves to write poetry.  Her task was open-ended, she was to write a Christmas poem:
Kaitlyn's Poem

Eileen (age 5) had to come up with a word for each letter of the word CHRISTMAS.   She was determined to do this all on her own.

Eileen's Poem 1

I wasn’t going to have Michael (age 3) do anything this night but he was determine, and also very pre-occupied with the fact that ‘MERRY CHRISTMAS’ starts with the letter M.  He is convinced that this letter belongs solely to him as it is ‘his letter’.  I decided to embrace this and I printed him a large uppercase M to decorate.

Michel's M

Santa Slept In

Published December 7, 2013 by Mrs. Malo

To pick a book for day three I searched through my collection for a book on Santa because we need to do our letters to Santa early in the month.  I ended up with Hurry Santa by Julie Sykes and Tim Warnes.

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I had left over paper from when my class did their letters to Santa last week so I let each of my own three pick their favourite paper.  Michael dictated his letter to me and I printed it out for him.  Eileen and Kaitlyn wrote their letters themselves.  From year to year this is always a very interesting experience to see how their writing has improved – I am always so very impressed.  Check out my post from last year to see the changes for yourself.

Michael's santa letter 3 Kaitlyn's santa letter 1

 

eileen's Santa letter 3

Reindeer is Hungry

Published December 3, 2013 by Mrs. Malo

Our book for day 2 of our countdown was Reindeer’s First Christmas.

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This is a cute tale of a reindeer who visits The Cat in the Hat’s Christmas Party but then has quite the adventure on his way home for Christmas.  It is no literary masterpiece but it has a good rhyme and cadence to it as a read aloud and fans of the television series will enjoy.  Throughout the story the reindeer is feeling very hungry because he can not find any ‘Reindeer Moss’ to munch on, so we decided to make a treat of our own: Reindeer Nuggets.  This is an easy recipe we found on the Elf on a Shelf website and adapted for our needs.  We substituted Honey Nut Chex for the Golden Grahams and chocolate chips for the morsels but we managed to find everything else.  The best part was that I could use gluten free granola so that I can enjoys this snack with the kids.

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24 Books of Christmas – 2013

Published December 2, 2013 by Mrs. Malo

It has started again, for the 3rd year!  Our 24 books of Christmas Countdown.  This year I am really trying to keep it simple as my kids already have a pretty hectic life. I considered not doing it this year but they love it so much and started asking about it mid November.  I have compiled the list, collected most materials and we hit the ground running today.

As always our first book was “The Elf on the Shelf”.  You can check out what we did in 2011 and 2012, but we have to do this book the first of December every year as our elf Frankie comes back to visit.  My girls in particular have been very much looking forward to his return.  Kaitlyn was even invited to have a sleep-over at a friend’s last night but came home before sleep time because she wanted to wake up here in the morning to see Frankie.  In our house it is almost the excitement of Christmas morning.

To keep it ‘kid friendly’ and in the spirit of ELK Kindergarten I invited the kids to work together to make a house for Frankie.  I showed them a picture of an idea on spoonful.com and told them they could use whatever they wanted to make Frankie’s house.  I had been saving the boxes from all our winter boots so they picked their favourite and from there I let them use anything they could find in our craft centre and introduced them to the Christmas craft bin where I had put a collection of random Christmas craft supplies.

The most amazing part was how well they worked together.  For almost 1 hour my three children (aged 3, 5, and 7) work quietly together to build this house.  No one yelled, no one told someone they were doing it wrong, they were even complimenting each other – it was pretty amazing.  I gave no guidance and the only thing they asked me to do was glue the boxes together at the end.

Their finished project:

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The Read-Aloud Handbook – What have I learned?

Published August 17, 2013 by Mrs. Malo

I finally finished Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook.  It was nice how he finished the book, and wrapped everything up by telling his own story.  There were two things I highlighted in this chapter.

Personal interest can be a powerful driving force with boys, whether that interest is sports, auto repair, model racing, war, music, or computers. (page 169)

A California professor, once tol me that girls tend to be extrinsically motivated in their reading (favouring the choices of their peers, mom, and teacher), while boys are intrinsically motivated (favouring what they themselves are interested in).  Call it selfish or pragmatic, but guys are drawn more to what interests them, not what interests the crowd.  (page 169)

When I think about this and my class last year it kind of makes sense.  We have a treasure chest in our class and every time I read aloud a book it goes into the treasure chest for students to revisit later.  It is usually the girls who go here to get books.    The boys are less frequently looking for books independently but if I can find a book on something they are interested them, they will spend a much longer time ‘reading’ that book, and usually come to me for another.

So now that I am done reading what have I learned that will affect my teaching practice this year?

  1. I NEED at least 1 read-aloud every day.  I have gone through and taken a long look at my daily schedule.  My ECE and I decided last June that there are some changes we need to make so this is a great time to switch things up.  In the morning we will start with some brain exercises / DPA as we give everyone time to enter and prepare for the day, and then we will go straight to a Read-Aloud.  Sometimes it will connect to a lesson but sometimes it will just be a read-aloud for the fun of reading.  There may be read-alouds at other times throughout the day but we will ALWAYS have one in the morning.  I would like to try and use one book from Trelease’s treasury per week.  Later in the year I would really like to introduce chapter books to my class but we will see how the year goes.
  2. This year we are going to have B.E.A.R. time.  I love this acronym from Pre-K pages that stands for “Be Excited About Reading”.  We have a large class (27 students) so this will take some work.  Our school is on balanced day so we are going to have BEAR time at the beginning of block #3, right after second nutrition break.  I am going to introduce the concept on the very first day by reading Otto the Book Bear by Katie Clemson.  Otto is a character in a book with a special secret – when no one is looking he comes to life.  This is a cute story of how Otto gets accidentally left behind one day and his journey to find a new home.  After reading aloud to the class I will introduce them to our book bear (I am still looking for the perfect stuffed bear).  We will discuss what B.E.A.R. time will look like everyday.  Everyone will get to select a book from the class library and read at their seat.  Because the class is so large we are going to start with everyone reading at their table but hopefully as the year progresses they can select a quiet place in the class to read.  We will also put a bin of books on each table.  If they finish their book they can read one from the bin but not get up and walk around to find a new one, hopefully this will reduce chaos.  The student who is the ‘Star of the Day’ will be able to read with our class book bear.
  3. One of my main goals is going to get the parents to read to their children daily.  I am going to use Trelease’s phamplets that he has available on his websites and send them home at different times throughout the year for the parents.  During September interviews I am going to stress the importance of reading to your child every night.  For the entire first term I am not going to have any homework sent home with my students.  Instead I am going to have families log time that they read-aloud together.  I have read aloud record sheet in their communication folder for parents to record ever time they read aloud with their child.  I found an awesome idea at theteacherswife to use dog tags and beads to track how much each child has read.  I really like this idea, and I could display these in the class using minimal space (wall space is a premium).  I have already started looking for dog tags.
  4. When choosing books to read-aloud I will now be looking at them in a different way.  In the past my primary concern was how the content connected to what we were learning or what I wanted to introduce to the class.  Starting at the beginning of the year my goal is to select books to hook my students and build their attentions.  Next we will work on building vocabulary and background knowledge.  Later in the year I hope to expand into longer picture books and short chapter books.  There is an excellent example of the progression on pages 58 an 59 of The Read-Aloud Handbook.
  5. As students are tracking their reading at home we are also going to track the books we read-aloud in class.  We will make a ‘book worm’ who will curl around our wall/door (haven’t figured out exactly where he will go yet) as a new circle will be added with the title of each book we read.
  6. Finally I would like to create a Newstand in our class to highlight magazines and newspapers as forms of reading.  To help build our collection and create variety I am going to invite families to send in their old/used copies of magazines and newspapers (appropriate ones of course).

I blogged about all this to share my thoughts but also to give myself a check in.  Every couple of months I intend to reflect on how our literacy program is running an I will share our successes and re-thinks.

I really enjoyed this book study, but now that I have spent most of the summer focusing on reading and my literacy program I am going to switch gears.  My next book is Christine Moynihan’s Math Sense as part of the book study hosted by Math Coaches Corner.  I love following her blog and seeing all the ideas she posts so I am looking forward to this book study.

Dad’s Job in Reading

Published August 15, 2013 by Mrs. Malo

This chapter was a bit out of my realm on familiarity.  My husband has very high expectations of our children (even though I am starting to realize mine may still be a bit higher).  As they get older, if their grades should drop sports and extracurriculars that they love to do, will be cut back.  Saying this our children are still young (3, 5, and 7).  The 5 and 7 year old are girls and both advanced readers.  My 3 year old boy loves books, but I think that sometimes it is because he loves to do what his sisters are doing.  Since reading chapter 5 on SSR we have been trying it at home and even the 3 year old loves to participate.  We have yet to have Daddy participate.  This is because it is summer and we are reading when he is not home but I wonder if he would be reluctant to participate if he was present.

Daddy reads to the kids when they ask but I am working on getting him to see the value of reading to them everday.  He is the one often saying it is the first thing to go if everyone is busy and tired but I am trying to get away from this way of thinking.  I am going to get him to read chapter 9, and will ask his thoughts, but I think that the beginning few chapters may be more important to him.  He very much already ‘gets’ many of the concerns Trelease mentions in chapter 9 of The Read-Aloud Handbook.  He is more than aware of the business changes in the past decade – he is a chartered accountant and news junkie.  The only sport that is frequently watched is Hockey Night in Canada, and that has even declined in the past couple of years.  The girls both played hockey, my 5 year old still does, and my 3 year old son is starting this year, but it is the the center of the universe.  At times we are a bit guilty of the girl’s dance over taking our lives but even on competition weekends we always take a few books with us for down time.

The one thing that he could improve on is letting the kids see him read.  He reads the newspaper daily, but only online.  I have looked into traditional subscriptions but we live in a rural area and the only thing we can get delivered is our small local paper.  He gets the Economist weekly but the kids rarely see him reading it.  If we can swing it in our busy lives I think we need to try and get daddy to join us for SSR (quiet reading time).  The other thing I would like is for him to sometimes pick books to read aloud to the kids.  He always asks them to grab a book but at times it would be nice for him to share his favourite books with them.

TV & Audio – Chapter 8 Comments

Published August 12, 2013 by Mrs. Malo

TV is a very big part of may of our student’s lives as they are growing up.  It is part of the environment my own kids live it.  It is our responsibility as parents to monitor and regulate their consumption.  We have three TVs in our house.  Our main one is in our media room, not our main living room.  This was a design decision when we built our house and I love it!  When no one is watching the TV it is off.  We never watch TV while doing homework, eating dinner or other tasks. In my opinion this makes it much easier to monitor usage.  Our winter routine is all on a schedule. My children have a number of extracurricular activities so for practicality we made a TV schedule.  They each get one night a week that they get to pick a 30 minute show.  Friday nights are family movie nights.  For 10 months of the year that is pretty much it (with the exception of sick days and the odd rainy Saturday afternoon).  Because they know the schedule, and can see it (we post it in the media room) they rarely argue.  We have two other TVs in the house.  One is an old one in the basement hooked up to the Wii and one is in our room.  I don’t usually consider Wii time TV time as the girls are usually doing very active dancing games on it and not that often (if it ever becomes an issue we will deal with it then).  I resisted getting a TV in our room but my husband really wanted to (especially for hockey playoffs) and I regret it.  Too often I fall asleep watching TV instead of reading, like I did before.  I am a firm believer that children should NEVER have TVs in their room.

I enjoy reading Trelease’s chapter 8 on Television and Audio: Hurting or Helping Literacy?  Often I hear in the news people saying children watch too much TV and some parents take that to mean they shouldn’t watch any TV.  I strongly feel this is unrealistic for us to expect of some parents.  With a bit of leeway, letting them know that a small amount of watching is OK – I think they would be able to manage it much better.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a limit of ten hours a week, and no TV for children under two. (page 148)

That is a fair amount of TV.  When you add up the hours my own children watch it is approximately 3 to 4 hours a week.  What do my children do – they play.  Today my youngest is a daycare  but my girls are home (as it is summer).  They are 5 and 7.   They watched one 1/2 hour program this morning. What else have they done today.  They played ponies, barbies, dolls, they planned a birthday party for a teddy bear, they read, they danced, they made their beds and tidied up a bit, they were kids!!!  I didn’t have to even suggest a single thing for them to do – and I accomplished a lot today!  A TV is not a babysitter – it is an excuse.  I love it when Trelease writes:

If there were a babysitter who interrupted your child’s natural growth that much, you’d never hire him or her again, right?

After reading this chapter I think I need to re-examine my own TV watching.  I am fine watching a show in the evening after the kids go to bed but the one thing I notice is that I often have the bedroom TV on throughout the day.  It is usually on CBC News or CNN but I forget that the kids are often walking around. I think that I need to make my tea in the morning, sit and watch the headlines and then TURN IT OFF!  I often forget that they might see something that they shouldn’t – even on the news.  I like to have background noise when we are moving around the house – so maybe I will just start putting on music in the morning.

The final thing I wanted to highlight was the study Trelease mentions on page 148.  The vocabulary used on the CBS Evening News was studied between 1963 and 1993.  It went from the level of a high school graduate level in 1963 to a junior school level in 1993.  To me this is very concerning.  Is the vocabulary decreasing because the viewing population has a lower vocabulary – or is the programming a cause of our lower vocabulary???  Food for thought!  Maybe even more of a reason to keep reading thought provoking and challenging material as adult!

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