Author Visit with Rukhsana Khan

Our school hosts various authors throughout the year,which is pretty amazing, considering we are all the way in Singapore! This year, we had an author visit from a well known children’s author, Rukhsana Khan. Her books include Big Red Lollipop, Muslim Child, and The Rose in My Carpet. Not only is she an amazing and accomplished author, but she was a captivating speaker! The room full of 5th grade kids were engaged, excited and laughed as they listened to her stories.

In one of our sessions with her, she shared her story about immigrating to Canada from Pakistan at a young age. She shared about her different struggles including being seriously bullied for being different in her school.   She shared with us her journey to becoming a writer and the funny stories along the way. She had the entire audience eagerly waiting to hear what happened next. (I don’t think I’ve ever met a writer who wasn’t an amazing story teller!)


Rukhsana also shared a few stories of teachers that made a strong positive impact on her life and encouraged her to write. One teacher had her keep a creative writing journal. She even brought in the journal and showed us the letter that the teacher wrote to her after an entry. One of the students asked her to read it aloud. She shared the positive feedback that the teacher wrote in her notebook calling her a poet.

Our words can impact our students positively or negatively. I was reminded of the power that I have as a teacher. I was reminded that I need to continue to tell my students that they are writers. Thank you Rukhsana for inspiring our students and even our teachers!


Also, I found out that our school hosts an annual children’s literature conference! How cool is that?! This year it will take place from Feb. 1-3rd. We will have the following authors presenting: Chris Crutcher, Kadir Nelson, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, and Deborah Wiles.  I can’t wait to meet and learn from them! Check out the website for more information on registration and the authors.


The Act of Writing

Happy August everyone! I hope everyone is having a fabulous summer, especially if you are a teacher. You deserve the time for rest and rejuvenation. I feel like other people (non teachers) always get jealous that we have such long vacations, but honestly, if we had to do what we do, all year long with no summer break, I don’t know how we would survive! 🙂

My summer vacation is pretty much over now, so I guess it’s time to get back to blogging! This past July, I had a chance to attend the Teachers College Reading Institute. It was amazing as always. One of the keynote speakers was author Christopher Paul Curtis, who was a funny and charismatic speaker, which would be expected if you have read his books. He kept us laughing, smiling and almost crying with his keynote speech. This one thing he said that really stuck with me was how he described writing.

“Writing is an act of revelation. The more I wrote, the more revealed I would be. ”

-Christopher Paul Curtis

As he shared stories about how his writing connected and reflected his own life in many ways, I was reminded about how my writing reveals who I am. I was also reminded of the importance in keeping up my writing, especially as I am going through these big changes this year. So stay tuned for more posts, hopefully more on the summer institute and transitioning to a new school and country!

School Wide Publishing Party

Once a year, our elementary school has a school wide publishing party celebrating the art work and writing of our students. This was the second year that we did this celebration. For the first part, the students had a chance to go to the gymnasium where all the students had an artwork and a writing piece on display. The PTO does an amazing job volunteering and helping this publishing party run smoothly. Afterwards, we went to the auditorium where we had a special presentation.

Last year we had a famous Korean children’s author come in to share about her writing. She also happens to be a parent of one of the kids at our school. She wrote a book called Cloud Bread. This year, we had another parent come in who is an artist. She does a lot of sculptures. I really enjoyed watching her presentation about her different art work. She did a series on fractured fairy tales. I liked her “Cinderella” sculpture, where she is stuck inside a glass box, and her leg is broken trying to fit inside the box.

This was a really a fun and special day to be able to recognize the hard work the students do in their writing and also in their artwork!

Bare Books

Have I ever mentioned that during my first year of teaching I was mentored by the great Jee Young you have all come to know and love through reading this blog? She has given me invaluable guidance in my first years of teaching. She has also shared resources. It is amazing how many things are out there that we just don’t know about. There should be a class in college that purely covers resources and how to sort the good from the bad (I am e-mailing my university asap).

One such resource is a website that sells Bare Books (and their mascot is a bear— so clever!):

Jee Young told me about this website and how she orders books when she goes home for the summer and brings them back with her.

The books are fantastic! I recommend ordering them with plastic sleeves for protection. Blank books are great for poetry units, and picture books, and the line pages work for other kinds of writing.

We are using them to publish our favorite poems from our poetry unit. Since Jee Young and I both used them last year, this year the school budgeted to order some for all of the elementary teachers! It may seem simple, but I had no idea this website existed before Jee Young told me.

What are some great resources you could share?

Making your Students feel like REAL Authors!

Several months ago one of our first grade teachers had an idea (I am pretty sure she got it from Lucy Calkins- we really like her here at our school). What if after we had a publishing party with our students final stories, we put the books in the school library? Then the whole elementary school could check out each other’s books, and the students would really be real authors! We e-mailed the school librarian to see if we could get a shelf reserved for this, and if we could put the books in the computer system. She happily obliged.

Can I be honest with you? I thought it was a great idea— really I did! The thing is… each first grade teacher only has six students, and laminating each page of each student’s book (so they wouldn’t get destroyed by the other students) for them, wasn’t too bad of a challenge. I have twice as many students (which is still a small class I know!), and my students- being in second grade- might write more, especially since we were doing our fairy tale unit. The thought of laminated a hundred pages (if not more!) of student’s writing was overwhelming. But after my students were able to check out the first grade “books” in our library, I had to do it. Their faces lit up when they held those books.

AND I AM SO GLAD I DID. I have never seen my students more proud and excited to complete their final published story. Being able to see it on the shelf, in our school library, was a huge excitement for them. They even got to LOOK up their books in the library catalog online. They looked so official.

Here is a picture if you made a search for a second grade book (sorry it’s dark!):

If you have the means to do this, DO IT. The corner shelf in our library has become very popular since their books showed up!

An example of what our books look like, this was from our “All About” unit. The students design a cover and back page:

What are some ways you get your students excited about their writing? 

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. 🙂

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.