Poems to kick-start the year!

It’s hard to believe that the school year has already begun.  The start of this year also marks the one year anniversary of this blog!  In one of my first posts (Paving the Way with Poetry), I wrote about something near to my heart: poetry.

As I plan beginning of the year lessons for my own 2nd grade classroom, I like to select and read poems as a way to introduce daily procedures and routines.  I do this for several reasons.

First, they are fast and fun to read.  Second, there are many poems written about the school day, which makes it easy to connect them to the students.  Third, reading poems early on (instead of waiting for National Poetry Month in April) helps to foster a love of poetry.  Finally, poetry opens a door to literacy that is not always accessible with other genres.  This is especially true for struggling readers and writers.  Because they are shorter by nature, poems often feel less threatening to these students.  And ALL students can enjoy and be challenged by poetry.

Ready to get started?

Here is a list of some of my favorite beginning of the year poetry books and poems, along with procedures/routines that connect to them.  Don’t have the books?  They should be easy to find in the school library or even online.

1. Almost Late to School by Carol Diggory Shields

Suggested Poems to Read             Routines to Teach  

Word Problem                                   Introducing Math Workshop/Journals

Gotta Go                                              Bathroom Procedures

Almost Late                                        Arrival Routines

After School                                         Dismissal

2. Creatures of Earth, Sea, and Sky by Georgia Heard

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Suggested Poems to Read                        Routines to Teach  

Fishes and/or Frog Serenade                    Partnerships and teamwork

These are “poems for two voices” and lend themselves well to introducing the concept of “working together.”  Let the students decide how to read them together as an initial team building activity.

3 & 4. Chicken Soup With Rice, by Maurice Sendak

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and

A Child’s Calendar, by John Updike

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Suggested Poems to Read                      Routines to Teach  

September (or August)                             Reading a poem to introduce each month

5. Way I Feel, by Janan Cain

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Suggested Poems to Read                      Routines to Teach  

Scared, Shy, Excited                               Beginning of the year feelings

This is a fast read and I recommend reading through the whole book if you have time.  It’s also a great segue into Morning Meeting/Responsive Classroom.  The students can state one feeling that they have as part of the “share” portion of the lesson.

Note: Today I Feel Silly by Jamie Lee Curtis is another great read aloud for discussing feelings.

6. I Like it Here at School, poems collected by Jack Prelutsky

*You can purchase this for $.01 on Amazon! Now that’s a good deal….

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Suggested Poems to Read                       Routines to Teach

Why My Homework is Missing            Daily homework

Look in a Book                                            Independent Reading

7. If I Were in Charge of the World, by Judith Viorst

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Suggested Poems to Read                       Routines to Teach

If I Were in Charge of the World             Creating classroom responsibilities/rules

Apology                                                              Problem Solving/working cooperatively

Summer’s End                                                 Back to school

8. The Mouse Was Out at Recess, by David L. Harrison

*You can buy this used on Amazon for $.084!

This book is chock full of poems that connect to the school day.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Suggested Poems to Read                                                          Routines to Teach 

The Bus                                                                                               Arrival/dismissal

Mystery Lunch                                                                                 Lunch

They Call it Science                                                                        Science

In the Hall                                                                                          Hall procedures

Raise Your Hand if you Know the Answer                              Raising hand

Teacher’s Eyes                                                                                  Staying focused

9. Honey, I Love by Eloise Greenfield

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Read Things to introduce writing workshop. (Click on the link to for “Things” to see a Brain Pop activity on Eloise Greenfield.  This is one of my favorite poems to read with students so I’m sharing the text here:

Things

Went to the corner
Walked in the store
Bought me some candy
Ain’t got it no more
Ain’t got it no more

Went to the beach
Played on the shore
Built me a sandhouse
Ain’t got it no more
Ain’t got it no more

Went to the kitchen
Lay down on the floor
Made me a poem
Still got it
Still got it

I like to read this poem to introduce the concept that our writing is special, something to be treasured.  It’s also fun to act out.  Give one stanza or line to teams or partnerships.  Let the students be creative!

11. Lunch Money and Other Poems about Schoolby Carol Diggory Shields

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Suggested Poems to Read               Routines to Teach

Pledge                                                  Pledge of Allegiance and/or school announcements

Decisions, Lunch Money                Lunch routines

Far Away                                              Independent Reading

Moonwalker                                        Dismissal

I’m Doing my Homework                Homework

Read this book to hook your students on poetry!

12. Alphathoughts, by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Suggested Poems to Read                                 Routines to Teach

Books and Library                                               Independent reading

Pencils                                                                     Classroom pencil routine

Those are a few of my picks of poems to kick-start the school year.  Please let me know if you try them and/or if you have other favorites.  For additional book recommendations (poetry and otherwise), read:

A is for Musk Ox and a few other good books…

Launching a Love of Reading from Day One

Recommended Picture Books

And for more ways to integrate poetry into your lessons, click here: 5 Easy Ways to Get Your Class Excited About Poetry.

Here’s to a successful start of the year!

Happy reading,

Lisa

 

Traveling with Tulip

Looking for some end of year ideas to fill those last few days of school?

Here’s a fun and easy read aloud by author Cynthia Rylant that you can use to spark conversation about summer travel plans.  And because of the repeating language and beautiful imagery, it’s a no-brainer to connect this to a follow-up writing lesson.

Note to parents: Try reading this book at home and then using the attached handout Tulip Sees America as a summer writing activity.  A great way to document your summer travels in a meaningful, authentic way!

Possible Writing Objective: Use descriptive details to describe a setting

Possible Reading Objective: Create mental images to support comprehension

The Book: Tulip Sees America, by Cynthia Rylant

Before Reading (intro and possible language)

“This is about a boy who never goes anywhere as a child.  When he grows up, he decides to travel across the country in his VW Beetle with his dog Tulip.  (Show different states on map: Ohio, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado).  In each place, he notices something different about the setting.  As you listen, put your thumb up if you get a picture in your mind because of the details that the author uses to describe each state.”

During Reading: 

Stop to discuss parts of the text that stand out to the students.  Try one turn and talk: “What images stayed with you on this page?” or “Share your mental movie with a partner.”

After Reading:

Make a list of the descriptive words that the author used to describe each state.  If time allows (or during another lesson), try out the writing extension (see attached) Tulip Sees America.  The students can write their own “Tulip Sees America” stories based on a place that they have visited.

Disclaimer: I read this recently with some second graders and they got a good chuckle from the Nevada section.  I won’t give it away but be sure to preview that part before you read!

 

 

 

 

 

Knuffle Bunny Too to the Rescue

Before winter break, I had a few minutes to do a read aloud and word wall lesson in a first grade teacher’s room.  The teacher had been working on word wall words with her students, yet they needed more practice.

I wanted to read something fun, yet purposeful for her class, to foster a sense of excitement for books, reading and the word wall in general. So I pulled out one of my old favorites, Knuffle Bunny Too, by Mo Willems.

Before the lesson (planning):

This book is amazing in so many ways, with endless instructional possibilities. And the illustrations! I could look at the pictures forever!  For this situation, however, I decided to focus on word wall words.  Prior to the lesson itself, I took a few moments to jot down the many high frequency words that I noticed in the story:

saw

they

very

well

not

day

to

was

her

but

that

down

want

did

were

Then I compared them to the list of words that she had not yet taught to her class and chose these:

1. very

2. but, not butt (yes, this caused some chuckles when I introduced it. I have my own first grader at home so I should have expected that!)

3. that

4. day

5.were

The lesson:

Part One:

I began by introducing the words.  They were prewritten on index cards and I held up each one.  As I did, the students:

*said the word

*read the word in a sentence

*bounced each letter of the word like a basketball *click here to read more about ways to interact with the word wall: literacywithlisa.com/2015/11/09/word-wall-101/

*students “sky wrote” the words using their imaginary pencils (i.e. their fingers)

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Part Two:

We read the story!  It helps to give the students are purpose for reading.  In this case, I reminded them to listen for the word wall words.  To keep them engaged, I asked them to put their thumbs up for each word wall word that they heard.

Did I mention how much I love this book??  No matter how many times I listen to it, I still chuckle, especially when the two dads come to school the next day, tired and unshaven.   Meanwhile, Trixie and her friend are peppier than ever, chatting away about their Knuffle Bunnies. I also love how the mom gives Daddy a knowing look, when Trixie wakes them both up to say that Knuffle Bunny is missing. That it doesn’t matter if it’s 2:30 in the morning  He better get his butt (yes, Joey, I’m using your favorite word in the right context now!) out of bed and find Knuffle Bunny.

I could go on and on about this book.  If you haven’t read it yet, you should.

Reflections on the lesson…

If I were to do it again, I would highlight some vocabulary words as well, like: realized, devoured and/or marched

These are great examples of words to post on a “wow” word wall.  Displaying the words will help students remember to use them in their speaking and/or writing, which will ultimately increase retention and overall vocabulary development.

 

 

Overall, this entire lesson took about 20 minutes from start to finish (read aloud and activities). I enjoyed it and judging by the students (and teacher!), I think they did too.

How do you use read alouds and/or interactive games to reinforce the word wall or other phonics lessons in your classroom?  Feel free to share and comment here so we can borrow ideas from each other!

A is for Musk Ox and a few other good books…

Since I love children’s books – and it’s also the holidays – I can’t help but share a few now.  If you wait until the last minute to shop (like me!), maybe you still need a few gifts for the children in your life.  But even if you’re finished shopping, these books are still ones to consider buying or at least borrowing from the library to use in your classroom (or to read at home).

A is for Musk Ox

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This is my new favorite read aloud and if I hadn’t already finished shopping, I would buy it for my own children.  (Maybe I still will!).  It’s not only an alphabet book, but the story of two characters: a zebra and a musk ox that don’t get along.  The book is humorous, silly and also filled with good tidbits of information about musk oxen, such as:

Did you know that they form a ring around their calves to protect them from predators? And their fur is sometimes called a skirt?

Grab the book today to learn more about musk oxen and also for a few good laughs!

Teaching Idea/Home Connection: After you’re done reading, have your students choose their favorite letter to create their own alphabet page.  See the example here from a first grade classroom:

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The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

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A teacher told me about this book before but I never read it cover to cover until the other day.  I had goosebumps at the end!  It’s the story of a boy who falls in love with books at an early age. If you want to promote a love of reading in your classroom (or at home), read this book to your students! Also, it inspired a short film that won an Oscar.  Need I say more?

The UnBEElievables

Love insects?  Or great poetry?  Informational texts? Beautiful illustrations? This poetry book is a combination of all these features and more.  Each page has a different poem about bees, along with a short informational paragraph that further explains the content explored in each one.  For example, what is a worker bee, a drone, etc.

This is a great way to expose your students to poetry and informational texts, in a fun, engaging way. It’s also fun to read and like all poetry, can be read in short doses.  For example, keep it out and read a poem or two whenever you have a couple minutes to spare.  And if you haven’t seen any of Douglas Florian’s work before, his illustrations are original paintings.  It’s worth the money just for that!

John, Paul, George & Ben

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Do you teach the American Revolution? Are you a history buff?  Then you HAVE to get this book.  It’s written by Lane Smith, author of Math Curse and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, among others.

This book tells the story of John Hancock, Revere, George Washington and Ben Franklin, in a humorous and engaging way.  I laughed out loud several times.  Trust me, you will too!

Measuring Penny

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A great way to provide context and real life examples of how we measure (and use math) on a daily basis.  This book is the story of a girl, her dog (Penny) and the multiple ways that she measures Penny. Not just in height and weight, like you would think but also in time (how much time does she spend taking care of Penny?), money (how much money does she spend on dog food, etc.) and even volume (how much water does Penny drink?).  As you can see, this illustrates multiple math concepts and can therefore be read and re-read several times throughout the year.

A is for Angry

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Are you looking to improve your students’ vocabulary?

It’s obvious that this book can be used in K and 1st grade classrooms for alphabet recognition, letter sounds, etc.  But what I like about this book is that it also leaves room for vocabulary development.  Alphabet books aren’t just for emergent readers and this book is a great example of that. Could a third grade teacher use this as a way to show examples of more sophisticated language that students can then use in their writing? Absolutely! This book is filled with rich vocabulary like:

T is for tangled

O is for Outraged

Z is for Zany

You could even use it as a springboard to have your students write their own alphabet books.  The possibilities are endless and it’s also fun to read…

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So start your shopping list and grab one (or two or three) of these today!

Happy reading and best wishes for a wonderful holiday season!

Lisa

 

One Book

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving and holiday season?  The story below helped me to reflect on what I have and what really matters.

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I share an office with Tammy, the reading specialist, at my school. This past week,  she called a new 2nd grade student in to administer a reading assessment called the DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment). They sat together at the long rectangular table, Tammy making notes on her paper as she asked the obligatory, scripted questions about reading engagement.

Tammy: Who reads to you at home?

Student: No one

Tammy: Do you own any books at home? How many?

Student: One.

One book!

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When they finished the test, Tammy sent the little girl over to me, to “shop.” Over the last few months in my role as literacy coach, I’ve helped to sort and level books that teachers can add to their classroom libraries. We also set some aside for situations such as these, to give to students that have limited books at home.

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She walked over and stood before me.

Pink coat, jeans, beads in her hair. Big round eyes.

“How many can I take, she asked?”

“As many as you want.”

As she began to sort through the pile, I inquired casually about her reading interests.

“What kind of books do you like?”

“Dinosaurs,” she answered immediately and I was surprised by her fast response.

She knows what she likes, I thought.

Soon, we had a small collection started. The Berenstein Bears, two dinosaurs books, a picture book of different animals and a pile of board books for her baby sister. Oh and a tattered Golden Book with Santa Claus on the cover.

Raggedy Ann and Andy Help Santa Claus - Little Golden Book

When she found this last one, she lit up and a smile spread across her entire face.

“Ohhh…christmas. Can I take this?”

So we went on like this, sorting though the books together, moving some to her stack, returning the rest to the original pile.

We chitchatted a bit and she shared that she lives with her mom, and aunt, and cousins, and grandmother. A few siblings, younger and older.

In one house.

And they share one book.

One book!

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Soon it was time for the girl to go back to class.

“Come on or you’ll be late,” Tammy called.

She started to walk away but then turned back to me, almost shyly.

“Will you be my friend?” she said.

I nodded yes, and then she moved towards the door, waiting for Tammy.

“Thank you,” she said to me from across the room and waved.

In her hands she held two plastic bags, overflowing with not one book, but many books.

I waved back and then she followed Tammy back to class, the door clicking quietly shut behind them.

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I’m thankful for many things this holiday season, including:

This 2nd grade girl, for reminding me how of lucky I am and of the power of books, in general.

For her classroom teacher, the reading specialist, and all of the other teachers at my school and throughout Philly, who help students like this child every day, teaching them to read and write – and to develop a love for both – even in the most difficult of circumstances.

To my own children at home, for letting me read to (and with) them, so I can discover and rediscover new and old favorites, like these:

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And to my mom, who is the first person that gave me the gift of reading and all things literacy, who took me to the library on an almost weekly basis, where I came home with a pile not much different than the one that this girl carried out of my office.

Thanks, Mom.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

 

 

Planting the Seeds now with Independent Reading

One of my favorite children’s books is the classic story by Ruth Krauss – The Carrot Seed.  If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the story of a boy who plants a seed in the ground.

“Every day the little boy pulled up the weeds around the seed and sprinkled the ground with water.”

And every day, his mother, father and brother tell him that the seed won’t come up.  But still, he keeps on watering, pulling and sprinkling, day after day.

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Let’s think about our students for a moment, in respect to independent reading. Independent reading is the “seed” getting ready to grow.

Will it happen overnight?  Will they read successfully (and with independence) for 15 minutes on day two?

Of course not.

When we introduce independent reading on the first day, this is just the seed, burrowing in the soil, forming roots, finding a home.

What next? We model the behaviors that we want, create an anchor chart and give our students a chance. Maybe they only read with success for 2 minutes that first day, possibly even less.  That’s okay.  We know that the seed is there, forming roots, ready to grow, AS LONG AS WE KEEP TENDING TO IT.

How do we do that? By revisiting our routine the next day, giving the students a chance to continue to build stamina over time.

Some days, the plants might look wilted, so adjust as necessary.

Maybe you put them by the window for some sun or add some water.  Prune off dead leaves and watch them spring back to life.

In the classroom, our water, sun and food can come in many forms.  Maybe it’s revisiting and/or revising an anchor chart or share successes/challenges at the end of independent reading time.  Or, it might be sitting down one on one with a student to give specific praise and feedback.  Just the burst of sun that he/she might need.  It also might be letting a student sit in a different spot that day.  Sometimes getting comfy and cozy can work wonders…

You know best what your own students need so be patient and keep at it: watering, sprinkling, pulling, watering again, until one day…

They come up.

Happy Reading,

Lisa

P.S. Please leave a comment about the “water, sun and food” that you leave in your own classroom so we can share ideas.  Let’s work together to help all of our students “come up!”

Also, if you haven’t read this story, grab a copy today.  It’s a fast read and has such a powerful message, not only about independent reading but anything that requires hard work and effort.

Paving the Way with Poetry

It’s the first few days of school and everything is a blur of new faces, forms to complete, and procedures to teach.  The days fly by and as teachers, we often don’t finish half of what we had planned to do each day.

Sound familiar?

Here’s a great idea to fill those spare moments when you don’t have enough time to start something new, yet need to bridge the gap before the students transition to the next part of the day.

Read some poems!

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Don’t wait for National Poetry month in September. Poetry is great for the beginning of the year in so many ways – it builds community, adds humor and introduces students to a genre that they can return to again and again.  This is especially important for struggling students.  With its short format and lower word count, poetry is often less intimidating to those students and more inviting.  So why not introduce it to them now, help them get “hooked” and also keep them engaged?

When I taught third grade, I would keep a one or two poetry books on the ledge below the whiteboard, or on a shelf near the front door.  That way, whenever I had two or three minutes to spare, I could grab a book, read a poem or two and move on.  This resulted in less distractions, more focused students and an increase in interest for this genre and reading overall.

Humor is always a good way to draw kids in, especially in September.  It’s also helpful to find poems that connect to actual parts of the school day, like the cafeteria, recess, etc.   Once you start reading on a regular basis, your students will want to find their own poems to share.  If possible, let them copy over the poems and display them in different areas of the room.  You can even have them sign up for poetry readings or create hand gestures to act them out.

Ready to get started? Here are a few of my personal favorite books for the beginning of the year.

Lunch money and other Poems about School by Carol Diggory Shields

Honey, I Love by Eloise Greenfield

A Pizza the Size of the Sun and anything else by Jack Prelutsky

Unbeelievables and anything else by Douglas Florian

Falling Up and anything else by Shel Silverstein

The Way I Feel by Jana Cain

The Dog Ate My Homework by Bruce Lansky

If I Were in Charge of the World and Other Worries by Judith Viorst

Have some of your own favorites? Post them here so we can share ideas!  Thanks and happy reading!

Launching a Love of Reading from Day One

The first day of school is fast approaching and you’re doing all the usual things that teachers do:  setting up reading corners, hanging curtains and other decorative items, clearing out the cobwebs in corners.  You’re climbing on top of desks to tack up number lines, stapling paper to bulletin boards, fastening letters onto the word wall.  Photocopying your introductory parent letter, an “All About Me” packet and the supply list. You leave at the end of the day exhausted, sweaty and…excited.

Excited for the new faces that will enter your classroom in just a few short days.  Excited for their stories, their enthusiasm and their own unique sense of excitement.

You’ve made a list of procedures to teach the first week, ice-breaker games, math lessons.  Everything’s ready or as ready as it will be.

But what about read alouds?  Sometimes we feel like we have so much to squeeze in those first few days (and beyond) that the read aloud is often the first thing to go.

Don’t let that happen.

There is so much to be gained from reading to students: fluency, comprehension, vocabulary and even phonics/phonemic awareness.  And perhaps most importantly, developing a love of reading and a community of readers in the classroom.

I’ve listed a few of my personal favorites here, along with a possible classroom connection for each:

Book Title                                Author                            Classroom Connection

A Chair for My Mother            Vera B. Williams             Helping others

The Carrot Seed                    Ruth Krauss                    Hard work and persistence

Something Beautiful               Sharon Wyeth                Caring for our classroom and community

The Important Book               Margaret Wise Brown     We are all unique and important

Chrysanthemum                    Kevin Henkes                  Diversity

Today I feel silly…                 Jamie Lee Curtis              Understanding feelings

A Bad Case of Stripes           David Shannon                Being comfortable with who we are

Bad Kitty                               Nick Bruel                         Following directions

The Relatives Came             Cynthia Rylant                  Summer vacation writing

Knuffle Bunny Too                Mo Willems                       Getting along and sharing

Lunch Money and                 Carol Diggerty Shields      Poems about the school day

other poems about School

Have any of your own “go to” books to share?  Please leave a comment so we can add to our list.

Then sprinkle in a few extra read alouds to your schedule those first few days.  You’ll be glad that you did.

Happy Reading!

Lisa

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