Posted in Books

Do’s and Don’ts of Read-Aloud

I am a few days behind so I am trying to catch up on my blog posts before we go to Boston tomorrow.  Chapter 4 is a short chapter that is a list of Do’s and Don’ts for Reading Aloud.  I thought I would just comment on a few that really resonated with me.

The first thing that I have really been thinking about for a few days now was sparked by reading the Managing Interruptions post on Teach Preschool from an interview with Jim Trelease.  Trelease discusses interruptions by both reader and listener.  I understand and agree with his comments on student interruptions – managing them is a skill.  It is interruptions by the teacher that I have more of a struggle with.  When we are learning how to ‘teach’ Read Alouds much of the focus is on ‘Thinking Aloud’.  In Ontario a lot of this is outlined in Guide to Effective Instruction in Reading.

In the think-aloud process, the teacher models reading strategies – that is, the teacher says aloud to the students what he or she is thinking in order to make meaning of the text.

I understand Trelease’s comments on maintaining the flow of the story and avoiding stopping but there are times when teaching that it is useful to stop and ‘think aloud’.  The goal for a teacher is to determine when it is more valuable to comment and when it is better just  to keep reading.  A few points in this chapter discuss this idea.

  • As you red keep listeners involved by occasionally asking, “What do you think is going to happen next? (page 74)

  • When you come to a part of the story that the audience might not sense is important, pause and then whistler, “Mmmmmmmm.  That could be important”.

I think that while considering this, often as a teacher I sometimes ‘Think aloud’ a bit too often.

Here are a few other Do’s that jumped out at me:

Set aside at lease one consistent time each day for a story. (page 73)

I need to work on this one in my class.  I think it may be first think in the morning but as I work on my daily schedule for next year I need to find a way to schedule in a time every day.

Allow your listeners a few minutes to settle down and adjust their bodies and minds to the story. (page 74)

In my class we sing a lot, and often our singing indicates transitions.  I have been looking for a while for a song to sing with the the class to signal that it is time for a Read-Aloud.

Create a wall chart or back-of-the-bedroom-door book chart so the child or class can see how much as been read (page 76)

I love this idea, I just need to find the way that works in my class.

Chapter 5 up next, if I don’t get it read today it will probably not be posted until next weekend.

Posted in Books

Chapter 3 – The Stages of Read-Aloud

The main thing that struck me (again) in chapter 3 is that I really wish I had read this book before I had kids.  I think it may be on my list of baby shower gifts.  In chapter 3 Trelease breaks down read-alouds at different ages and stages of development.  I found it particularly helpful that he highlights the key features of each age and some recommended books.

Infants: “… parents frequently read aloud books and stories that rhyme.” (page 49)

Toddlers: “As much as possible you want the child to interact with you and the book” (page 51) “labelling the environment” (page 52)

Some other key things that jumped out at me:

  • Taking a short time to introduce the book and some unknown vocabulary prior to reading can increase learning benefits.
  • The transition from picture book to novel should be smooth.

While you don’t want to drown the child in words, you do want to unconsciously entice him away from a complete dependence on illustrations for comprehension and into more words. (page 57)

  • I love how he discusses the difference between novels that are meant to be read aloud and those that should be read silently.  I hadn’t thought about it before but  it is a great point!  There are some things that need to be processed more slowly as you read to yourself but others that have so much more power when you hear them.  This is a concept I would like to further explore.
  • bowdlerize 1: to expurgate (as a book) by omitting or modifying parts considered vulgar 2: to modify by abridging, simplifying, or distorting in style or content (Merriam-Webster app).  I learned a new word!
  • I love the rule of 50!  I don’t know why I haven’t come across this before but I am totally using this in my own reading.
Posted in Books

The Read-Aloud Handbook Chapter 2 – When to Begin (and End) Read-Aloud

I have  a bit of a confession to make, I didn’t really ever read to my children until they could sit up with me (approx. 6 months).  I have a really cute picture of my husband reading to Kaitlyn with 1 week old Eileen in his lap but usually they were not read to as babies, especially Kaitlyn (my eldest).  Since then we have read to all of our children and filled our house with books.

Much of the first part of chapter about the impact of reading-aloud to children starting young and continuing to read to them as they grow up. There are a number of very inspiring stories of different families in different situations with different challenges.

I am a parent and teacher who likes specific an concrete steps to follow.  Before my teaching career I earned a degree in Microbiology and I have a pretty analytical approach to most things.  Because of these I appreciate the steps Trelease outlines throughout his book.  On pages 32 and 33 he gives 4 factors found in the home environment of every early reader (I love lists):

  1. Child is read to on a regular basis.
  2. Variety of printed materials are available in the home.
  3. Paper and pencil are always available to the child.
  4. People in child’s home stimulate child’s interest in reading and writing.

So I thought I would check. 1 – Our kids are read to on a regular basis, we could do better but we could definitely do worse.  2 – We have tonnes of books in our house, if we weighed them they might actually come close to a tonne.  Both the girls have bookshelves in their rooms (we are working on Michael’s), there is one in the kitchen, our raingutter shelves in the playroom, and many drawers are filled with books.   We have some magazines but could improve on the variety of material available.  3 – There are definitely writing materials everywhere, from and early age the goal has been to keep them writing on paper and not the furniture.  4 – I like to think I am pretty good at stimulating their interest in reading and writing.  I am always answering my children’s questions in proper detail and posing new ones to them, even Michael’s thousand why questions a day.  If I don’t know an answer we always go to a book or the computer to find an answer.  We go to the school library frequently and in the summer the public (even though right now I am a bit scared to due to over due fines we owe).  This summer both of my girls are keeping journals and as I expect this of them I am also keeping my own journal, and sharing it with them.

Some other thoughts from chapter 2:

  1. Page 35 talkes about reading to each child separately if possible.  At school, in my class of 30+ kinders this is virtually impossible but I encourage co-op students, volunteers and anyone else in my class to read to individuals and small groups.  At home, when my husband is home, we try to divide up so that throughout the week everyone gets some one-on-one reading time.  I was happy to get a little reminder how important this is.
  2. “When a child has little or no experience with books, it is impossible for him to have a concept of them and the pleasure they afford.” (page 36) Very simply but honestly put!
  3. Bed lamp – my girls each have a bed lamp but I like the idea of suggesting to them that they are old enough to read for 15 minutes.  My eldest has a really hard time falling asleep and this might be the one thing to help her wind down, she loves to read and loves to think she is ‘big’.
  4. Can I still read Dr. Seuss to my kids?   Eileen went through a phase where she loved Horton Hears a Who and we read it every night.  I personally feel this is still important as it is her pleasure in reading, but maybe I need to throw in a few more challenging (vocabulary books) for her.  With Kaitlyn we are in to reading chapter books but maybe Eileen, my advanced reading (almost ) 5 year old, is ready for read-aloud chapter books

Looking forward to chapter 3!

Posted in Books

Lisa Moore’s “Caught”

Today I finished my one adult fiction book of 2013.  It sounds a bit depressing but I only usually read one adult book for enjoyment once a year, and unless I make myself I don’t think that would happen.  I read a lot of children’s books, and a fair amount of professional material (books, journals, etc), but in my busy life this is one little luxury that I don’t often allow myself.  The one time I do read, for solely enjoyment, is the one week I rent a cottage with my family every summer. I spend a lot of thought and research selecting a book.  It has to been an adult novel, fiction, not too much of a thinker but also not trashy.  This year I selected Lisa Moore’s new fiction Caught.

I found this book by an online suggestion at the Globe and Mail.

It met my criteria – it kept me hooked, I was able to read it in a couple of days and it was the appropriate level.  I am not really sure why I picked this book, normally I am not in to stories of drug smuggling and escaped cons but I did enjoy the book.  I don’t know if I will read it again or put it on my top 10 list but it was a good cottage read.  I enjoyed Moore’s style of intertwining the different characters and time periods seamlessly, however the lack of quotation marks for dialogue did drive me crazy at first.  I think I may have to check out her other books February and Alligator if I every have time to read another adult fiction book.

Posted in Books, Uncategorized

The Read-Aloud Handbook – Chapter 1: Why read aloud?


At a cottage in Muskoka this week, I enjoyed sitting in a screened porch looking out over the lake, as I read Chapter 1 last night.  I enjoyed reading the introduction a few days ago so I had no trouble getting in to the book.  Prior to starting I made sure to first read with my girls – Kaitlyn a chapter from The Wide Awake Princess and Eileen a story from her Cars anthology.  Michael was not sitting for a story last night but I was not too worried. There are a few distractions here at the cottage and at home where he can pick one of his hundred own books he always brings a book to “Family Reading Time”.  Trelease often writes of making reading enjoyable for children and this can’t happen by ‘forcing’ them to sit and listen to a story, to me that seems counterproductive.

Trelease starts chapter 1 with statistics, there are a lot of statistics in this book and a lot of research.  The first shows the decline in the number of students who read for pleasure as they age.

“We have 100 percent interest in kindergarten but loose three-quarters of our potential lifetime readers by the time they’re eighteen.”

Trelease has a a good discussion on his thoughts on electronic reading – tweets, email, facebook etc.  His points on vocabulary are important and became more concrete when you see the table on page 18 comparing the number of rare words per thousand in different forms of oral and written communication.  This kind of sums of the content of this chapter.  Trealease goes from discussing the reading problem, discussing what needs to be done to fix it, and then finishes with discussing why this is important (background knowledge and vocabulary).

Key thoughts that jumped out at me and what is rolling around in my head:

  1. The opening stats discusses not only if children are reading but what they are reading.  It states that children are reading less magazines and newspapers than they are books.  Do I need to have more varieties of print in my classroom?   I have a bin of magazines (Chirp and Highlights) but do I need to have enough variety.  Maybe I need to have a bin/area for ‘environmental print’.
  2. We read the newspaper online in our house – is this good enough modelling for our children?  My husband gets one magazine (The Economist) in print and the girls each get two magazines but we don’t have any print copies of the newspaper. Is this something we need to reconsider?
  3. I don’t need to abandon what I am doing now in my class, I just need to re-jig a few things. “You need the combination of know-how and motivation (pg. 10)
  4. Background knowledge!!! As a parent this is the one area I feel very confident, our children have lots of experiences and adventures but I teach children from a diverse SEC group that don’t have as rice of background experiences
  5. Types of vocabulary, I found the illustration on the different types of vocabulary on page 14 very helpful – listening vocabulary, speaking vocabulary, reading vocabulary, and writing vocabulary.

Final favourite quotes from chapter 1:

The one prekindergarten skill that matters above all others, because it is the prime predictor of school success or failure, is the child’s vocabulary entering school.  (page 15)

The least expensive thing we can give a child outside of a hug turns out to be the most valuable: words. (page 16)

The eventual strength of our vocabulary is determined not by the ten thousand common words but by how many rare words we understand.

Posted in Books, Family Adventures

Christmas Carols

Day 4 was all about Christmas carols.  Last year we started a tradition where the kids gather around the piano and sing a Christmas carol while Daddy plays the piano, and Mommy tapes it as our Christmas message.  This year we have decided to extend it a bit – both of the girls will play their Christmas pieces on the piano and then we will sing a carol.  I picked up Curious George Christmas Carols to offer them some inspiration.  9780547408613Tonight we read through the book and sang a bit of each of the carols.  The book also came with a CD so I have added it to my iPhone and showed them how to play the songs whenever they want.

And the winner is … Deck the Halls.  Fortunately it was unanimous.  Later this month, after lots of practice, we will record our message.


Posted in Books, Literacy Tuesdays

Merry Christmas Splat (& Seymour)

Last night’s book was Merry Christmas Splat.


In the story Splat writes his letter to Santa and then worries that he has not been good enough.  We used this as an opportunity to write our letters to Santa.  You can find many different templates online for letters to Santa.  I let the girls pick one out and printed 3 copies.  We talked about what you write in a good Santa letter.  Kaitlyn wrote hers independently, I wrote for Eileen as she dictated to me, and we tried to get something out of Michael (without too many suggestions).

Eileen's santa letter 2

Michael's santa letter

Kaitlyn's santa letter

I wanted to start something a bit different this year so I combined two ideas on interest.  I picked up some large clear plastic Christmas balls at Michaels and each child put their handprint on a ball.  I then wrote their name on the ball and the year 2012.  If you are doing this make sure to use permanent marker or it will wipe off (my scrapbooking markers wiped off too easily).  Next was the tricky part.  I folded and rolled up a copy of their letters to Santa and put it in each of their balls.  Of course we made a copy to mail to Santa as well.  All that was left was to add some ribbon so we can hang them on the tree.  I am having trouble getting a good picture of them so these will have to do for now.  Once our tree is up I will try and take better pictures with them hanging on the tree.



Posted in Books, Literacy Tuesdays

A Hypochondriac Christmas

The Book for Day 2 was Scaredy Squirrel prepares for Christmas by Melanie Watt.



I was very excited to see that there is a Scaredy Squirrel christmas book so I had to pick it up.  It is a bit advanced for Eileen and Michael but Kaitlyn loved it.  It is quite a bit longer than the usual Scaredy Squirrel books so we didn’t read it all in one sitting.

It is divided into 8 ‘chapters’ and Chapter 1 is called “Christmas is Coming”.  Scaredy has a list of 12 things to do do before Christmas so we decided to make our own list (well Kaitlyn did – the other two weren’t interested).  She wanted boxes just like Scaredy’s list so I drew the lines for her but she did the rest herself.  She did an awesome job!!

12 things to do 6

12 things to do 8


Posted in Books, Kindercrafts

24 Books of Christmas – Day 1

Our 24 books of Christmas was such a hit last year that it has become a must-do for our family this year.  This year I feel it is even more important because it make me stop and do something fun with my children every day.  Since I have gone back to teaching full time and my kids have such busy schedules  our life has become a bit chaotic.  All of our books and activities are strategically planned and scheduled this year – with larger more time consuming crafts on slower evenings and weekends.

We of course started off the countdown with The Elf on the Shelf.  When the kids woke up on December 1st it didn’t take them long to find that Frankie (our elf) had returned for the holiday season.  To celebrate his return our actvities for the day were all elf based.  We re-read the book (well Grandma actually read it to them because I had an eye infection and reading was challenging).  I was searching for elf related crafts and ended up on the official Elf on the Shelf website.  If you go to “North Pole” and “Reindeer Stables” you will find a number of elf crafts.  I have also pinned them on my Pinterest Page.


We started with the Elf Clock. I wanted to start the season off with a craft that we would add to our collection and would come out every year.  We took a trip to Michael’s Arts and Crafts where we found the Clock Movement Package.  It didn’t call for a specific size but we used 3/8″.  Grandpa also helped out by making us a box out of plywood.  This makes it more durable and more sturdy for saving for future years.  The girls started by painting it with red acrylic paint and colouring the elf template (we used pencil crayons, markers and silver glitter).

painting clock

We gave Granpa the job of attaching the clock parts – I didn’t want to mess it up!

attaching clock

After it was all done it was the first item put on our mantel for the holiday season.


For fun we also made the Elf table.  This was pretty easy, but I did all the gluing with the hot glue gun.  The instructions are very clear but make sure you get large tongue depressors for the large stick and mini sticks (smaller than popsicle sticks) for the small sticks.


Our elf table took it’s place on the mantel beside the clock – maybe Frankie will decide to sit on it one day!!


Posted in Books, Cooking with the Kiddies

Little Book Adventure – Challenge #4: Inviting Pinkalicious to Dinner

We started challenge #4 by discussing the idea of characters.  I realized it is a difficult idea to explain without using the word character.  We talked about that a character is the who the book is about but that ‘who’ doesn’t need to be a person – it could be an animal or a thing.  I tried to use some simple examples such as the pigeon in Mo Willems Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (example of an animal character), and Thomas the Train (example of a thing character). I sent Kaitlyn, Eileen and my niece Lyric to find a book with a character they all loved.  The two younger girls really had no idea what they were doing, as I quickly realized when they both brought me ABC board books.  Kaitlyn understood but was bringing me books she liked with more obscure characters.  I went to her bookshelf with her to find some more well known characters that her sister and cousin might also like.  First I suggested Curious George and was met with a look of disgust (not really sure why).  When I pulled out Pinkalicious her eyes lit up.  I quickly found Purplicious, and Goldilicious and rounded the girls up on the couch.  We read each of the three books and then I explained their task to them.  We were going to plan a dinner party and invite Pinkalicious to Dinner.

Now that they had picked the character it was time to get started.   First Kaitlyn helped me pick the menu.

Don’t worry we didn’t eat mice for dinner – it is to read mousse.  From this I found some recipes online and made a grocery list.  My nieces were with is for a few days and they are vegetarian, which is why we had risotto for the main course.  My kids LOVE risotto so I thought this was a good fit.  There wasn’t too much for me to prepare.  I had made coloured devilled eggs for Easter so this was pretty easy.  All you do is soak the boiled egg whites in water with red food colouring for about 30 minutes before adding the yolks back in for devilled eggs.  We found a pink brie recipe and pink risotto recipe online.  We bought a mix for strawberry mousse at the grocery story along with pre-packaged raspberry lemonade.  Not to much work but a successful, and kid friendly menu.

Before heading to the grocery store we decide to paint some pink pictures for the walls of the kitchen to decorate.  This was inspired by the art class which Pinkalicious had in the book Purplicious.  I got out the three paint palette trays I had picked up at the dollar store a few months ago and mixed red and white together to make a variety of shades of pink. I gave each of the girls a large piece of painting paper and let them create.

I love how Eileen has become so meticulous with her painting.  She decided she would paint a cupcake and took her time and patience and it looks like a cupcake!

After we returned from the grocery story the girls set the table with Grandma while I worked on the food.  We searched the house and pulled out everything pink we could find.  I managed to find 8 small pink plastic plates along with cutlery from our Princess Tea Party last May.  I also found some streamers and random balloons in the craft bin in the basement.

After that Kaitlyn quietly disappeared – and I didn’t realize how long she was gone unit she came back upstairs with her creation!  She had decided that we needed a real Pinkalicious for our party so she made one!  This was entirely her idea and it was AWESOME!

She also decided that Pinkalicious needed a proper invitation so she disappeared back downstairs to her craft centre and returned with an invitation.

Front of Invitation

Inside of Invitation

Everything was ready so the girls ran off to get dressed.  They found the fanciest pink dresses they could in their closets.  The table was set and Pinkalicious was waiting for her hosts!

Appetizers were ready to be enjoyed.  Yes, I know the crackers are not pink – I could not find any pink crackers in the grocery store.

Our pink risotto!

Finishing off with some yummy pink mousse (not mouse).

It was a fun afternoon preparing and a fun dinner for everyone!  Now I think I may just have to take the girls to see the Pinkalicious stage show before the summer is over!