Reading/Book Buddy Activity for… you guessed it: Poetry!

I don’t know where you are in the world, but here in Korea, the weather has been gorgeous! Which makes writing poetry that much more fun. Last Friday my students headed up to Jee Young’s classroom to meet with our fifth grade book buddies (also called reading buddies, your choice!). Jee Young and I decided that since we are both teaching a unit on poetry, it would be fun to have our students write a poem together.

(This is one of my student’s checking out Jee Young’s Classroom’s Poetry Corner with her book buddy.)

The fifth graders always hold a Poetry Cafe, and at the end of their unit they invite the elementary school to come and listen to them perform poems that mentored and inspired them, as well as poems they wrote. This year Jee Young thought it would be great if our book buddies wrote a two voice poem together and performed at the Poetry Cafe. I was so impressed by some of the poems our students wrote together last Friday!

Here is an example of a two voice poem that Jee Young’s students taught to mine: Fireflies by Paul Fleischman.

What are some things you do with your book buddies? Any creative ideas for us? Please share!


Eric Carle Exhibit & Art Studio

I was so excited to hear that there was an Eric Carle Exhibit here in Seoul! One of the kindergarten classes at my school went there as a field trip. I love his books and especially his illustrations. I had a chance to go with my cousin and her daughter. Soo much fun! Did you know that he has a museum in Amherst, Massachusetts as well? I must check it out, the next times I’m near there.

This art exhibit ends September 9th! So make sure you check it out if you are an Eric Carle fan. This would be a great field trip for lower elementary school classes. However, it’s a bit small, so you should probably make reservations before hand. They also have an art studio where you can sign up for art classes!

More information: Eric Carle Exhibit

Eric Carle also has a blog where he writes about this exhibit! Eric Carle blog

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While I was searching online, I discovered an English website on fun places to take kids. I thought it might be helpful for our readers here in Seoul:

Guest Blog Post: Coup D’Etat + Evacuation = Virtual School

Mela is a veteran teacher, who has taught in Alaska, Seoul and Mali. When we worked together as the 5th grade team, I learned so much from her. She shares with us about her journey in teaching in Africa and has some great tips for the international school teacher!

Coup d’état + Evacuation = Virtual School

In 2010 I moved to Sadiola, Mali in West Africa to work at the American International School of Bamako’s satellite campus.  It is a small school located at a gold mine ten hours drive from Bamako, Mali’s capital.  Mali has been considered to be a fairly stable democracy unlike some of its West African neighbors.  Presidential elections were scheduled for April 29th with the current president stepping down.  On March 20th we heard news that soldiers had been shooting in Kati.  Interesting, but not worrisome.  We woke the next morning to news that the presidential palace had been stormed by renegade soldiers, they had taken control and borders were closed.  We had some concern, however, life in Sadiola continued as it always had for us, unlike our colleagues in Bamako who had gone virtual and were staying indoors.   We were surprised when the mine administration informed us we would be evacuated to Senegal with only ten kilos per person as soon as the borders opened.  When the borders closed, supply lines were cut off, which was causing difficulties for the mine’s continued operations.   As our spring break was only a few days away, we were able to continue on to the states while we waited to hear when we might return.  Although we still don’t know have that answer, we have gone virtual. Virtual schooling has its own challenges, my students not having their texts (remember we all left with only 10 kilos), I have none of my teaching materials, and 10 hour time differences.  However, we have high hopes for the reopening of our school.   Let the lesson be, no matter how stable or safe a place may seem; the unanticipated may happen.

Tips for personal preparation

  • Keep your passport and important papers in one place.  (We have all heard this before, but have you done this?)
  • Keep cash (local currency and US dollars/Euros) on hand; enough to buy a plane ticket to a safe place.
  • Register with your embassy and have their numbers handy.
  • Check if your school has an emergency evacuation plan.
  • Think ahead, if you could only take 10 kgs with you, what would you take?

Tips for virtual school

  • Have your student’s emails/parent’s emails on a flash drive.  (Don’t rely on the school server-it may be down.)
  • Find out expectations before you go.  How often are you required to post?  Will the school reimburse you for pay sites?
  • Become familiar with online resources. (Keep a list on a flash drive.) The good news is there is a lot out there.  The bad news is there is a lot to troll though, and much of what is out there is not the greatest.
  • Be flexible.  Your students may not have access to a scanner or a printer.  How will you handle that?

Lastly, if you are evacuated, talk to your colleagues.  Support each other.

AISB Sadiola before...

AISB Sadiola Now

Poems in Pocket Charts

In March I wrote a post about the beauty of pocket charts. During my unit on poetry I have another way to use them! Last year, my teaching partner and I worked with our literacy specialist during our poetry unit, and she gave me a lot of great ideas.  Here is one of them (it can also be found in Luck Calkins book Poetry: Powerful Thoughts in Tiny Packages).

When you are teaching students how to create line breaks in poems take an example poem and write it in a paragraph form, like this:

Pay attention to the bottom half of the easel. (I am a big fan of chart paper, but because it is hard to come by in Korea, I also like to use laminated paper.)

Ask the students to help you create line breaks in the poem and mark them. Then have the words prepared on index cards and use a pocket chart to show the line breaks the students made:

Try the poem in a multiple ways, and have the students take turns reading it aloud. It is amazing how each student reads it in their own unique way! Model for them how you would read it.

You can also lay the words on the floor first and have the students move them, and then put them into the pocket chart. Another idea, have students write a poem on index cards and test it out in the pocket chart, to see where they want their line breaks, during center time.

I love poetry.

Poetry Walks

One of my favorite things to do in our poetry unit is have our students go on a poetry walk. I have my students take their writer’s notebook and a pen with them and we take a walk outside. Last week, the beautiful cherry blossoms were everywhere outside our school.  Our amazing guidance counselor was telling me about this beautiful hidden area on our campus with cherry blossoms.  She said, “It would be a crime to not allow the kids to see this…” So we took our 5th grade classes and went to a small park area on our school campus. The students got to write down what they saw and be inspired by nature to write down poems.

I wish that we could do more of these types of walk instead of always being stuck inside a classroom. I think that in my dream school, the kids would spend more time outside. 🙂

The Read Aloud Corner

Welcome to my Read Aloud Corner! (It’s not really a corner, just a post, pretend with me.)  As some of you may know by now, read aloud is my favorite part of the school day. I am constantly looking for new books (that can be old, I don’t discriminate) to read to my students. I try to mix it up between chapter books and picture books, for variety you know.

Over the past two years I have discovered that one of my favorite series to read as a kid, The Boxcar Children, is a huge hit amongst my students. Because they are only in second grade, I save it for 3/4 of the way through the school year and then they become addicted! Even as I am reading the first one, they check it out from the library to read ahead. I don’t know what it is about this series, but most of them are not familiar with it until I introduce it, and then they can’t get enough.

Just recently, though, I discovered a book while roaming through the school library, I am positive many of you have heard of it (I had never read it!). It’s called Enemy Pie, by Derek Munson. It even has it’s own website.

This is a great book to read and then talk about ways we can be kind to our classmates, and friends! I love that one of the main characters is a father, who helps his son understand the best way to get rid of an enemy.

What is your favorite read aloud? (I know we have asked this question before, but as my list is always growing, I am sure yours are too!)

Special Student Post: The Hunger Games Movie Review

I’m very excited to announce our first ever student blog post on two apples a day! This student was in my class last year and we used to talk about The Hunger Game series often. We were both excited when the movie came out this year and I discovered that for her creative writing class, she wrote an amazing movie review of The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games Review

By K.

The Hunger Games had a big reputation to uphold. There was a lot being expected of the movie by lots of diehard fans. Suzanne Collins, the author of the trilogy, was working with the movie directors and scriptwriters to make the movie accurate to the books. Many people loved the movie for its insight on many events and plot points. But to a lot of other people, the expectations weren’t met.

Of course, the movie wasn’t all bad—it’s a complete box office success, it follows the plot line of the book very well, and the training center scenes were very interesting to watch. They, along with the chariot parade, offered a new point of view on how Katniss’ pre-game stay went. The Cornucopia was also very unique—it was very unlike the one in my imagination, but the movie’s Cornucopia was better equipped for the fight between Katniss, Peeta, and Cato. Also, even though Katniss’ narration makes up most of the story, and it’s obviously very hard to show thoughts in a movie, the Hunger Games still managed to make sense. The visuals of the movie made the small hints of rebellion in the arena very clear, whereas in the book, they weren’t very obvious. And the cold, futuristic blue-ness of the anthems and the score-giving screens were chilling, like that cold-voiced woman who narrates for Minute to Win It.

Another perk of the movie was that many characters were brilliant. Wes Bentley, the man who played Seneca Crane, had an amazingly intricate beard, for example. His death scene was also very creative. In the book, Suzanne Collins doesn’t describe Seneca Crane’s death very much, so I loved the insight.

Woody Harrelson was also very fitting as Haymitch. When I saw him on IMDb, I thought he would be a horrible Haymitch because his appearance didn’t seem anything like the sullen, drunk Haymitch of the stories. I was wrong. Woody Harrelson wasn’t exactly Haymitch, since his witty remarks weren’t really there, and he seemed much more clean and reserved, but he played the part well.

Jennifer Lawrence was also a great Katniss. Many people didn’t like her in this role, but I believe she was a great actress. Elizabeth Banks was a very nice Effie, as she highlighted the lack of understanding and compassion for the Districts in the Capitol. Cato also seemed very realistic, and I loved the Cornucopia scene.

However, there were also many low points in the movie. One big one was the lack of character development—this sounds cold, but we didn’t really feel as bad when they were murdered. The movie made even Rue’s death, a very important scene in the book, almost inconsequential, since Rue was Katniss’ ally for only a few minutes in the movie. Rue didn’t seem very close to Katniss at all. Also, a scene where the people from District 11 send Katniss bread after Rue dies, a fairly symbolic event, never happens, so Katniss and District 11 don’t have as close a relationship as they should’ve had.

Also, as viewers, we didn’t really get much information on Panem, or her dad, who got one short clip each, and I don’t think that we learned much about Gale and Katniss’ relationship in the movie—even just a flashback would’ve helped explain a lot about how close they were.

I also didn’t like Peeta. The bond between Peeta and Katniss was very cheesy and seemed fake—the scene in the cave where Peeta talks about when he first met her, which I actually liked in the books, was the worst. He also comes off as an attention seeker—particularly the scene where he’ s waving to the Capitol. He just wasn’t Peeta to me.

There were also a few problems other than the characters. For example, the characters just aren’t starving in the arena. They are not the desperate, rib-showing tributes they were in the books—they’re healthy and young (usually) and vicious. Also, the scenes where Katniss starts hallucinating (after the tracker jacker stings) and she goes temporarily deaf (which should have lasted longer) are very unrealistic. The hallucinating scenes just looked like the Photo Booth videos on the CLC computers. In the deaf scenes, Katniss is standing a couple of feet away from Cato but he still doesn’t see her.

Violence wasn’t shown at all. I think the producers worried that it would be too graphic. I did too, but there was no blood spurting or anything. In fact, the only signs we got that the tributes were dead were their eyes—and all of that keeling over. Even the feast was barely bloody, even though Clove’s skull was supposedly smashed in, although that would, admittedly, be hard to do.

           Another big problem was the camera. It was as if the cameraman was trying to set a world record for consecutive somersaults. The camera was dizzying and out of control, and in some hectic scenes, it was impossible to understand what was happening.

             I sincerely hope that the next movie of the trilogy will be amazing (And that Josh Hutcherson will be replaced). Thanks for reading! Happy Hunger Games!

Movie Ad in Paris!

Guest Blog Post- Building Lifetime Readers

This week’s guest blogger is not only my second grade teaching partner, she is also a very, very good friend! Elaine has been teaching second grade for three years, and before that taught 4-year-olds (translated that means she has a lot of patience!). She has attended Teacher College Workshops in reading and writing, and I am constantly looking to her for ideas to improve and enrich our lessons.

Over spring break, I attended the EARCOS conference in Bangkok with Melody and a few of our other colleagues. I was able to go to Dr. Steven Layne’s (one of our keynote speakers) session on Successful Strategies for Building Lifetime Readers. Not only is he an incredible author, but an amazing speaker too. He currently teaches literacy education at Judson University in Illinois and travels to give speeches to teachers and writers throughout the world. I walked out empowered, inspired and motivated. Here is a slice of what I’ve learned…

He started out with a quote:

“It should be the teacher’s aim to give every child a love of reading. A hunger for it that will stay with him throughout all the years of his life.” – Mayne, 1915

He pointed out that in this quote; it is the teacher’s aim, regardless of subject (science, social studies, counselor, P.E….) and not just the English teacher’s job to provide every child a love of reading. Everyone can help who’s willing to!

In schools, we find lots of students with aliteracy, not illiteracy. Aliteracy means I can read and write, but I choose not to! You can’t make me!

Steven introduced to us a simple diagram of what a complete reader looks like:

The skills on the right are important, but without the will (right column) you can’t have a complete reader.

Now, for some ways to motivate our reluctant readers, he gave us an interesting recommendation for teachers to try out. It’s called The Golden Recommendation Shelf (aka GRS). Dr. Layne decided to buy a cheap bookshelf for a few bucks and sprayed it GOLD! (The name of the shelf can be changed based on your color preference^^.)

Once you have your shelf ready, you are going to set it somewhere in your classroom and wait until your students start asking you what it’s for. The students, being nosy, will want to know what the bookshelf is for and will eventually become curious. The next day, the teacher adds a few (content and age appropriate) books to the shelf. When the students ask again, the teacher doesn’t make a huge deal out if and can say that it’s just some of his/her favorite books. Now the students’ curiosity goes up and they want to check out what these books are about. When you’re ready, you can also add a fancy sign by the bookshelf.

To add more excitement, you can also:

  1. Take a photo of yourself with the author (if possible) and tape it inside the book.
  2. Buy hard cover books for this shelf whenever possible (it’s worth the money in the end)
  3. Create a sign-out sheet
  4. Stock up multiple titles by favorite authors to give kids the idea that if you like one book by an author – you might like more! We need to teach our students to value the author and choose what they love. Often times when we ask our students who their favorite author is, they can’t recall the authors’ names and would just describe the book or shout out the book title. They often think most authors are males, old, or dead.
  5. Keep some of your favorite books from childhood on this shelf
  6. If a friend gives you a book that’s meaningful – have it inscribed.                                                                                                                         -If you don’t have lots of books with author’s autographs or pictures, you can always inscribe or write a short note about what  made you want to buy this book, your thoughts on the book, why you would recommend it to someone, etc.

Reading Log

Reading is not always books. It can be directions, recipes, instructions…  We often take too much time telling what we can’t do rather than what we can do. Dr. Layne said he used to print out a huge (poster size) reading log and taped it outside his classroom. He would write down all the reading he did in his smaller (normal size) reading log to model for his kids, but also on his reading log outside. The reason for that is to share all the books he has read to ALL the students who may pass by his classroom. The students pass by and can go to the library and check out a book read by the “2nd grade teacher.”

Some books written by Dr. Layne:

For more information, you can visit his website:


Students Teaching Students

For the final project in our landforms unit, I have my fifth grade students teach our book buddies class (Melody’s 2nd grade class) about volcanoes. The students are expected to teach the second graders what they learned about volcanoes. This is fun to see them take on the role of a teacher. Not only do they realize how hard it is, but it helps them make sure they really learned and understood what we studied.

One of the requirements for this project is that they integrate technology. In the past, I used to require them to make a power point or use a specific type of technology. However, something our I.T. specialist has encouraged me to do is to leave it more open, so the students can choose how they will use technology. So for this project, I let them decide how to incorporate technology.  Many of them created I-movies, Powerpoint, Glogster, and used  iPads. The students also have to create an assessment to see if the students learned what they taught. For the first day, my students went in to teach about volcanoes, and the next day they will give them the quiz!  The final part of the project is to erupt volcanoes with them.

One of the groups came up with a fun board game!

Here’s a link to one of the glogster’s they created!

After my KONY 2012 post (which had less to do about education, and more about children’s safety), a friend of mine sent me this video through Facebook (I seriously love how Facebook connects the world):

This short clip hits the heart of any teacher, and the first step is raising awareness. The second step is doing something about it.

After visiting this site, it was encouraging to see who was involved:

“The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack counts among its steering committee members many of the most important international human rights and education organizations in the world. The member organizations contribute unique capacities to GCPEA.”

This coalition includes organizations such as Save the Children and UNICEF.

In Korea, birthdays are a really big deal, and the parents love to throw big parties. Students love it because they get a ton of presents from their classmates (most of the time, I think these parties are always a little over the top, but I do work at a private school). One of my students this year decided to donate her birthday to UNICEF. I have never heard or seen anything like it. She got a blog through the site, where her classmates could go and buy a present for another child in the world. I look at this student and I see her growing up and accomplishing great things. All of our students have that capability.

Do you have a favorite organization or NGO? Has your class been a part of raising support or awareness for something?

As teachers, we have the chance to empower our students!