"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Monday, April 23, 2018

ReedALOUD: A Perfect Day

My kindergarten students and I recently read A Perfect Day by Lane Smith

"Cat is lounging among the daffodils. Dog is sitting in the wading pool, deep in the cool water. Chickadee is eating fresh seed from the bird feeder. Squirrel is munching on his very own corncob. Today is a perfect day in Bert's backyard."

At least that's how the day begins. 

I knew my students would love this book. 

We've been exploring books about spring amidst this very non-spring-like spring. (It snowed on the first day of spring!) I was sure that by yesterday the sun would be out and we'd be feeling those warm rays and able to shed hats, gloves, and winter jackets. Not so. It was 35 degrees yesterday. It was very grey and occasionally very wet. So...not A Perfect Day, unless 35 degree rainy weather is your perfect day.

Even though the weather did not cooperate, we pushed on with reading the book and thinking about days that are perfect, a day they they really enjoyed where they were, who they were with, or what they were doing.

This clever and beautiful book captured their attention and hearts. They fell in love with the animals, especially the bird. Lane's mixed-media art is richly textured and engaging. The dog's fur looks as if you could pet it. Lane effectively brings the reader in close and then steps back to give a broader view. 

All along, there's Bert helping to create these perfect days...
and then along comes bear.
"Bear crushes the daffodils, drinks the pool water, and happily gobbles up the birdseed and corncob."

The story shifts and the cat, dog, bird and squirrel's perfect day become the bear's perfect day. 
This perspective within the art and the narrative is fabulous. It WAS a perfect day for those who are looking out on the bear having a perfect day enjoying the things they love.

Along with talking about perspective, I wanted to give the students an opportunity to think about a perfect day and then to think about how that perfect day was no longer perfect. What happened to change it? What could happen to change it? 

How did it go from: "It was a perfect day," to "It WAS a perfect day."

I gave a short example of going to the park and then getting ice cream. It was a perfect day, the sun was shining, the park was full of my friends, we played for hours and then went to get ice cream. I went to take a lick of my ice cream and the scoops fell off the cone onto the sidewalk. It WAS a perfect day.

Before reading the book, the students had shared examples of their perfect days: being at a park, inside reading on the couch, ice skating on a pond, skiing down a mountain, going to the beach, playing board games or doing a puzzle, building blocks or legos, playing a video game, etc.

We went back to these earlier examples and talked about how they might change. How a younger sibling could come toddling onto the scene during the great castle construction and accidentally knock it over. How it could rain and send people home from a park. 

Here are some of their perfect days and how they became a thing of the past....

Monday, April 16, 2018

Langston Hughes helps first grade students learn about using your five senses when writing poetry

My first graders have been celebrating Poetry Month by listening to poems and identifying how the poet used his or her five senses to help the reader feel, see, hear, smell, or taste the experience. 

Starting this unit off with Langston Hughes' April Rain Song (especially during a very rainy April) always engages the students. After listening to and thinking about how he used his five senses to write the poem, the students created an illustration for it. I think their pictures demonstrate the strong imagery he created for them. I am particularly taken with the students that included musical notes within their raindrops, like the one above, but I love all their still pools, and running pools, an sleep songs on the roof at night.

Poetry Inspired by Love That Dog

My fifth graders and I celebrated Poetry Month by reading Love That Dog by Sharon Creech.
In the past, when I had shared this book with students, I read it to them, but this year, I wanted to try something different.

We started in our morning-meeting-style greeting circle. I introduced the book and read the first three entries. I then passed the book to my left and each student read an entry. It was more powerful than I expected to hear the different students giving voice to Jack. The students that had to read the part about the blue car, blue car, spattered with mud, did an incredible job. The book traveled our circle almost twice. As we approached the end, I asked for the book and read the last entry. 

The conversations after this experience showed my how powerful it had been, for all of us.

The next week, the students watched the Readers' Theatre production with Sharon, Walter Dean Myers, Avi, and Sarah Weeks. 

The following two weeks were all about writing poetry like Jack.

Here are some of my fifth graders poems inspired by the poems in Love That Dog, along with some other poems they found on their own.

Other poets that inspired my students or 
that they chose to emulate: