Thursday, December 27, 2012

First and Second Graders' Performance

Below, our first graders are performing Tacky, the Penguin Readers Theater before holiday break.  The second graders are reading an excerpt from the How the Grinch Stole Christmas.



Saturday, December 8, 2012

'Tis the Season for Readers' Theaters: The Grinch and Tacky the Penguin

Product DetailsProduct DetailsMy readers are off to the North Pole--in reading, that is! Santa Grinch has stolen the hearts of the second grade readers by reading a lively excerpt from Dr. Seuss's book.We chose to perform the excerpt in front of a live audience of adoring parents! It has been so much fun practicing it! A great way to use up some of their holiday restlessness. 

Although, not necessarily a holiday book, the second graders will also be performing, "If You Take a Mouse to School", from the book by Laura Numberoff. The first grade group will be entertaining everyone with "Tacky, the Penguin", another fun, seasonal readers' theater.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

My Bookworm Buddies and More Readers' Theaters

This month will be as busy as November. The week before Thanksgiving, my second grade reading group performed an adaptation from the Weekly Reader passage on Squanto. Now they are hooked on readers' theaters! Each child felt empowered as a reader.  What a great way to read, read, read, and still have the fun of a skit--without the commotion and stress of costumes and props!

We'll be performing "Tacky, the Penguin" as one of our readers' theaters. We may have time for another one! See the link (on the right) for some free readers' theaters scripts for your classroom. Parents and other children will be invited to join us in the thrill.

My bookworm buddies are going to be busy writing responses to text, using evidence from the text. This is a biggie, and takes extra planning from me...but well worth it. 

If there's time, we'll be making cards and letters to real people. We'll be spreading holiday cheer with our creations. Some kids have not had the experience of writing a real letter to anyone that'll be fun.

Making Books--another project we will make time for. I like to show kids how to make the star book--a great format for almost anything. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November Poem: Five Fat Turkeys

Today, we read a poem called Five Fat Turkeys, which the second graders read enthusiastically. They do not seem to get tired of reading poems together. Choral reading is such an empowering reading activity to struggling readers. Teachers sometimes forget that everyone gets something out of reading poems matter what skill level. Good readers will enjoy the fun of the rhythm and rhyming. It is much like singing a song.  I like to think of it as another way of reading music. After reading this several times in different ways, we made thumbprint turkeys using stamp pads to illustrate the poem. Great fun and an activity that allows differentiation for students in grades K-2. Excellent opportunities for ESL students, too.

A Fun November Poem:

Five Fat Turkeys
Five fat turkeys are we.
We hid all night in a tree.
When the cook came around,
We couldn't be found!
And that's why we're here you see!
                                                   -Author Unknown

sentence strips or chart paper
stamp pads

Write the lines of the poem on sentence strips or chart paper.
If using strips, place in a wall pocket chart.
Write the rhyming pairs in matching colors so they stand out.

1. Choral read the poem.
Take turns reading together, dividing up lines among students.
Try different and fun ways to read this, pairing up students in creative ways.

2. Phonological awareness: Ask what word rhymes with tree? What word rhymes with found?

3. Print awareness: Bring attention to the uppercase letters at the beginning of each line, the contractions and apostrophes in the words, we're, that's, and couldn't. Discuss end marks such as periods, and exclamation point.

4. Comprehension check: What or who are the turkeys afraid of?
How do you know?

5. Art Activity:
Copy the poem onto a page for each student.
Leave space below for illustrations.
Set out stamp pads, markers, and colored pencils.
Ask the kids to draw a tree and make 5 thumb prints and details to make mini turkeys.

(The illustration is also an opportunity to show comprehension. Drawings should show relevance to the poem and the main idea that the turkeys are hiding from the cook.)

Extension: Together, create signing or pantomiming of the words. Learn the poem by heart and recite it with movements in front of an audience (parents, classmates).

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pugs Make Good Book Buddies

Literacy Week is a fun time to invite our community to read with us. Not too long ago, we had some four legged visitors. Here, Miss Sally, our bus driver's pug came along for a good story! (Well, she was a good listener earlier.) I guess a warm lap is as good as a story.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Choral Reading and Readers' Theaters

My younger students get so excited when they do a readers' theater. They really do feel like super stars. It's such a great opportunity to improve fluency and comprehension skills.  This month of November, I will have my second grade reading group do one just before Thanksgiving break. We have such little time to do a real play, so a readers' theater is ideal. Although it is easy to create your own script from a favorite story, there are plenty out there that you can print out. 

After Thanksgiving Note: My crew ended up doing a very nice readers' theater on Squanto, which I adapted from Weekly Reader. This was the best segue for kids to write a report on this famous Early American peacemaker.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mini Gallery of Random Photos from Home and School

Everyone looks forward to our Annual Literacy Week Book Fair!

Bees in pinks in my garden...

Bulletin Board Speaks.....

Recyled bags with "I love to read!" messages made by kids
during Literacy Week one year

Repurposed recycled, shredded snowman lives on....

My daughter and I enjoying some time together...
This barn has seen better days...We had our wedding photo here...and after 30 years, the old catalpa tree still blooms right on our anniversary!


Another favorite barn ten miles away ...Still beautiful even though condos have popped up in back of it. A reminder of a much quieter life, once a working farm when I was growing up.

Paint Fearlessly

When I'm not teaching, I try to find time to get out my paints. But I don't do it as often as I'd like. Painting over the summer gives me a chance to free my brain, rejuvenating me for the school year. When I don't have time to paint, I still try to keep up with ideas, so I subscribe to Lillian Kennedy's website. Her lessons remind me to just paint whenever and wherever ... and to do it fearlessly. I think all teachers should get out and paint.
Weekly Art Lesson

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Writing Templates

Writing templates are not really cheats for kids. Some teachers feel templates hold back their students from writing in their own words. But...I have found that they do more good than harm, as long as they are not overused. After all, they do help the hesitant writers. They are simply tools to help expose them to vocabulary, text structure, as well as faciliate their reading. Once they've finished their story using a template, students are surprised to find that they can read the story or passage more fluently. The extra exposure makes them feel successful. Then soon enough, they'll want to write some more!

Check out this excellent website for teachers who are looking for resources at Also, I have some reading freebies at

Literacy Week Book Poster Contest

Schoolwide Literacy Week Book Covers

One of my favorite schoolwide literacy week activities was when every student created a book cover or book poster for their favorite book. It wasn't really a contest.  But making it a contest, made it just a little more interesting to our older students. Middle schoolers in a K-8 school are sometimes hesitant to get involved in the same literacy activities. This particular literacy week, they jumped in to create some interesting posters. Every class had at least two "winners", earning a certificate for their choice of a new book from the PTA school book fair. Shown are just a few examples. Posters are simple and fun for kids to make. It is surprising how many kids start talking about books, too. We don't do this every year, but when we do, it still turns out to be a very worthwhile event.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

October...A month for fun literacy activities

October's such a busy month for my reading groups. So far, we've done loads of poetry reading, writing and all kinds of fun stuff to do with witches, bats and pumpkins (none of that gets too old for me).  We created acrostic spider poems to put inside a spider web booklet. My students loved all of it. Writing is fun for even those who may struggle, especially when it's something they want to write about.  A good reason to have holidays! I always forget how every child's work turns out as a unique creation. I only wish I had remembered to take pictures....