Guest Blog Post: Writing to Mo Willems

Julia is an experienced Kindergarten teacher who enjoys using the reading and writing workshop model in her classroom. She even had Lucy Calkins as a professor at Teacher’s College. She is a fellow New Yorker, co-worker and friend. We are excited for her next journey!

My last year’s Kindergarten class loved Mo Willems. We read every single Mo Willems’ book available at the school library and I purchased titles unavailable at school. Naturally, Mr. Willems was chosen for our Aurthor Study unit.

During Reading Workshop, we discussed Mo Willems’ writing and illustration style.
During Writing Workshop, we tried one or two of his styles in our own writing.
Towards the end of the unit, children wanted to meet Mo Willems. They wanted to know if he could come to Korea or if we could take a class trip to his office.

We didn’t get to go to his office in New York, but we went to the local post office to mail our letters to Mr. Willems. Each child wrote a letter and lined up at the post office to mail their letters! Children asked me if we’ll ever hear back from him. I didn’t think we would, so I told them, “Mr. Willems is reaaaalllly busy.”

The school year ended. I enjoyed my summer vacation and came back to work a week before school started. And there sat a large brown envelope in my mailbox. An envelope from Mo Willems office in New York!!!! “Ahhhh Ahhhhh Ahhhhh!”

I brought it to my classroom, shut the door, and opened the envelope like a little kid opening a Christmas present. Mo Willems wrote back to us and sent us an autographed book poster! Mo Willems ROCKS!

*I highly encourage you to allow each child to send their own letter at the post office. (Rather than sending it in one large envelope.) They loved it. For most of them, it was their first time mailing something, let alone their first time at the post office.

Advertisement

Poetry Read Alouds

My all time favorite poetry read aloud books are Sharon Creech’s, Love That Dog and Hate That Cat. These two stories follow Jack  on his journey with poetry and the teacher Miss Stretchberry that pushes him along the way. It’s a story that kids and adults can appreciate, smile and learn from. On Sharon Creech’s website, you can find some good teaching resources for using both books!

Sharon Creech’s Love that Dog

and the sequel…

Sharon Creech’s Hate that Cat

Another fun poetry read aloud book is Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston. This book was recommended by another 5th grade teacher. I did get to read the book, but didn’t get to read it to my kids. It’s a fun fantasy story written all in rhyme. It would go well during a poetry unit for upper elementary kids!

Here are some other good poetry resources!

Scholastic Poetry Site 

Poetry for People

Poetry Foundation

Online Poetry Classroom

Poetry Resources from NYC Department of Education

Do you have any good poetry read aloud books or resources that you recommend?

Poetry Centers

To piggyback off of Jee Young’s post, I thought I would share what  I do during my poetry unit. I love, love, love, it when it is time to write poetry!

To kick off the unit I give my students a poetry notepad that they get to design, I purposefully make it long and skinny to help the students create line breaks. Here are a few examples of my students’ notepads from last year:

I love how each student’s is so unique (some of my students used three our four notepads throughout the unit!).

Since it is unrealistic to expect a child to write poetry for thirty to forty-five minutes, my teaching partner and I created centers. First, we have our mini-lesson (courtesy Lucy Calkins), and then we slowly introduce centers. For the first week, I explain a different center every day, or every other day. As the unit goes on, they are required to do each center a certain amount of times each week, along with their writing time.

I am including a few of the centers we do:

Missing Titles“- Students read a poem with the title missing and have word bank of titles to choose from.Click on the title for the link to the poems I use!

“Line Breaks”- Students are given a poem in paragraph form, they get the chance to create their own line breaks, and then they rewrite the poem. Here are a couple of examples: Beavers in the Bathroom,Hammock,Broccoli for Breakfast,Wavy Hair, and Shaking.

Visualize the Poem“- At this center, students read a poem and then draw a picture of the poem. Simple! The link is to the poems that I use.

“List Poem”- at the beginning of the poetry unit have each student bring in a random object from home (anything from an old watch, to a stuff animal, to a Pokemon card). Keep these objects in a basket, and allow students to look through the basket to create a list poem.

I also have a center where students can read poems to each other, practicing how to read a poem.

Here is a poem that I love to use when I start of my unit (poet’s look at everyday objects with fresh eyes), thanks to Lucy Calkins!

Pencil Sharpener
by Zoe Ryder White

I think there are a hundred bees
inside the pencil sharpener
and they buzz
and buzz
and buzz
until my point
is sharp!

Do you have a center you love to use during your poetry unit? SHARE!

Poetry is back!

Poetry is definitely one of my favorite units to teach in reading and writing workshop. I love poetry because it is a nice refreshing break from writing literary essays and reading challenging historical fiction books. It is a unit where the students get completely immersed in poetry in both reading and writing. This week, we are launching our poetry unit in my class. I’m hoping to tweak this unit from the past, by using some of the suggestions and ideas from the 5th grade Curricular Plan for the Writing Workshop unit from Lucy Calkins.

Some of things that I like to do during this unit is have a poetry wall in my classroom. I just get a large sheet of colored paper that I put on the wall. I have the students write down poetry on the wall. They can write sentences, verses, complete poems, and even draw. It’s a wall to inspire them and others. It’s like poetry graffiti that is totally allowed.

Some other good ideas that are in the Lucy Calkins’ curricular plan is to start off with a class anthology of poetry. Usually I have them create a self portrait poetry anthology at the end of the unit, but it might be fun to have them doing a whole class anthology in the beginning of the unit as well.  I will brainstorm with my students this week on different possible topics we could do a class anthology on.

One of my personal goals for this poetry unit is to write more of my own poems and write in my writer’s notebook along with the kids. I would like to say in theory that I do that all year long, but that unfortunately doesn’t happen. So, I’m hoping to write more with my students in this unit and use my writing as an example of mentor text as well. So let the poetry begin…

A New Kind of Graphic Organizer

To start off this beautiful week, I would like to share with you a new graphic organizer (new to me that is!) that I learned about during my time at EARCOS in Bangkok, Thailand. I went to a workshop held by Brett Dillingham and gained a lot of great tips to use during writing workshop. I implemented the graphic organizer just this morning.

At the end of this week, we are going to display writings from every grade, in an event that we like to call “Write Across APIS” (Jee Young has mentioned this before here). Each classroom gets a set of the same pictures, and this year we chose artwork by Norman Rockwell. (I personally LOVE Norman Rockwell’s work.)

This morning I gave my students a chance to pick a picture (they are allowed to choose the same one if they really like it, though most of them chose different pictures) and then asked them to write their own story about it. Before they started, I modeled an example, using this graphic organizer that Brett illustrated during his workshop:

You see, often we tell the students everything they need to include in their story (characters, settings, problem, solution, etc.), and we have them brainstorm, and then we make them write. My students will start a story, and not know where they are going with it, even if they have an idea of their problem and solution. This graphic organizer requires them to plan out their whole story before they even start writing. Once you have this drawn, you add a couple of words by each section to plan out your story. Then, you ask the students to share their story (with you or a partner) aloud. After they do that, they draw the main picture (or character) of their story in the middle of the organizer. For my assignment with the students this morning they already had the picture.

For my example, I chose this picture by Norman Rockwell:

And this is what my completed graphic organizer looked like:

The students can write a couple of words, or a sentence by each part of their story. In the end they might have 18-20 words on their organizer. Once they explain it a loud, they have a lot more than 18-20 words, and this is the story they write down:

Have you ever used this graphic organizer before?

Do you have a graphic organizer you love? Share it with us!

Guest Blog Post: Resources for the Teacher

Jane is a talented, creative, and experienced fourth grade teacher from Chicago. Among her many talents we are amazed by her font like perfect teacher handwriting!  It would make any teacher jealous. It’s been a privilege to work with her at our school here in Seoul as she has become one of my closest friends. 

Ever since I started teaching I have always been attracted to the many teacher resource books you could find at teacher stores and bookstores.  I always wondered how it was possible that teachers could have so many great ideas to make learning so much fun.  I now realize that teachers probably have the most resources in books and now unlimitedly on the Internet (and each other of course).  Over the past few years I have been teaching in Korea I have not passed up the opportunity to pick up a few new teacher resource books while being at home during break.  It’s usually hard to determine in the few minutes you have whether the book will be really helpful to you until you actually start using the activities.  Here is one book and one Internet resource that I can genuinely say have been useful to me.

The Creative Teacher: An Encyclopedia of Ideas to Energize your Curriculum
This is a book that has something for every subject in short and long term project form for book reports, social studies reports, major math concepts, a random variety of science experiments, writing prompts, and even art projects.  What I particularly appreciate is that the templates can be copied directly from the book.  Although not everything that you will be teaching is included in this book, there are still a lot of creative and useful ideas.  Personally, I like to use the “Submarine Sandwich Book Report” and assign it for students to do over a longer break.  I also think these ideas can be used for a variety of grade levels and are a nice way to change up formats of reports and projects.

The Internet is also the home to an unending supply of resources, but I will share with you the one math website that I am always going to: Math Drills–http://www.math-drills.com  The math textbook we have been using is limited when it comes to reviewing or more practice with students which is why I find myself returning to this site.  It is very easy to print out these pre-made worksheets that are organized by the major math concept.  There are sites out there that can help you customize your worksheet, but I find I haven’t had any trouble finding the concepts I want my students to continue practicing with or review on.  The answers are also all available so no need for doing calculations!

Field Trips in Korea!

Everywhere I went in Paris, I saw students! I saw students on field trips in the Louvre, on our night river cruise, Versailles, on the streets of Champs Elysees, and even on our airplane. At times, I was glad that I was on break and didn’t have to travel to other countries with my students. It was pretty cool to think that the students in France could easily go to see the Mona Lisa on a field trip. I wonder if they even know how lucky they truly are to be living in a city with such amazing and significant pieces of art all around.

This reminded me of my students and the fun we have going on field trips here in Korea. Here are some of the fun places I’ve been to with my students within these past 4 years.

  • Seoul Tower near Myeong Dong
  • Seoul Museum of Art
  • The National Museum of Korea in Yongsan
  • Gwacheon National Science Museum
  • The Korean War Memorial Museum in Yongsan
  • Seoul Zoo in Gwacheon
  • The 63 Building in Yeoido
  • Dreamland Forest
  • Everland Amusement Park
  • EGG Hall in Jongno
  • What the Book Store in Itaewon
  • Lunch at Petra’s in Itaewon
  • Native American Art exhibit at Sejong Museum of Art in Jongno
  • Ice Skating at local ice rink
  • Ski Resort
  • Nature walks- Local mountain behind our school
  • River walks- Local river next to our school
  • Gyeong Bok Palace- Folk Museum??
  • Live Shows- The Snowman Musical
  • Pottery Making at the National Museum of Korea

Some other possible places for field trips:

  • DMZ
  • Korean Traditional Palaces
  • Blue House/Museum near there
  • Local farms
  • Animal Shelter

What is your favorite field trip?

Are there any other good places you recommend for field trips in Korea?

More Good Books, recommend by Dr. Peggy Sharp.

Since I loved the first workshop I attended at EARCOS with Dr. Peggy Sharp. I went to her second workshop as well (you can never have too much of a good thing right?). During this workshop she discussed new books to use in the classroom that are appropriate for grades 3-5. After the workshop was over I honestly wanted to run straight to a bookstore, purchase all of the books, and start reading… for myself, not even for teaching and sharing them with children! Hehe, anyway… here is a link the handout/packet she had for this workshop:

Peggy Sharp, Grades 3-5

I completely forgot to mention last time that Peggy has symbols by the titles of the books in the handout.

❤ (heart)= picture book that everybody loves

@= early intermediate (grades 3-5)

%= (grades 5-8)

! = sophisticated content (maybe language, violence, etc)

(She didn’t mention what t and the * snowflake mean, so use your best guess?).

It was even more difficult to choose my top three to share really quick… but if I had to pick, these would be it!

There are absolutely fantastic tips in this book for kids who are not the biggest fans of reading (really, they are so useful!).

From the author of So B. It, oh it says that in the picture…

This was the top book I wanted to run out and purchase. I cannot wait to read it. Brian Selnick has done it again, possibly even better than Hugo…

Who doesn’t love to read? I used to get grounded from it when I was little…

i heart books

While in Paris last week, I got to go to a lot of museums. One of them was Les Arts Decoratifs Museum right next to Tuileries Garden. They had an exhibition on Babar. Yes, the famous elephant picture book series. Here are some photos of the exhibition. It was really cute and cool to see the drawings and artwork.

Also, I loved strolling into the random books stores we would come across in Paris. I loved seeing some of my favorite books in French. I do like my Kindle, but there’s something special about flipping through the pages of an actual book. I heart books! Enjoy the photos!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Published Gems of 2011

I am inspired. I feel empowered. I can tell that I have just recently been developed professionally! It would take an incredibly long post to share all of the knowledge I received from attending workshops at EARCOS 2012… so instead, I will share little tidbits at a time. Bite-size nibbles if you will.

The keynote speakers, once again, were fantastic. But I will save that for later. What I want to talk about IMMEDIATELY is the very first workshop I went to, lead by librarian Dr. Peggy Sharp (who pretty much has my dream job, she gets boxes and boxes of books sent to her house, which she then reads, and gives her opinions on which ones are her favorites, and then she goes around and presents to schools/educators/etc. Yeah, so where can I sign up???).

During the conference, Peggy lead 3 different workshops. The first one educated me about new books to use in the classroom for grades K-2. All of the books she mentioned were published in 2011. Since sharing is caring, I am going to attach the handout she provided for us. This handout includes all of the books she talked about, and even includes a couple of activity ideas for some of the books.

Here are my top three FAVORITE books she presented on:

You will here more about this book by Herve Tullet, it is genius. I plan on blogging about it in the future, there are ideas on how to use this book in Peggy’s packet.

Who doesn’t love Mo Willems (I am obsessed with his Pigeon books!).

This book is about Jane Goodall (strategies and ideas for incorporating this book are in the packet).

CLICK HERE to check out Dr. Peggy Sharp’s handout, there is a much longer list of books in this packet.