Monday, December 2, 2013 

Alphabet Books

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. & John Archambault, illustrated by Lois Ehlert, is an alphabet book that has stood the test of time and is well loved by all young children and adults as well. Most of us are familiar with it, but I am going to show you some new ways to use the end pages as a teaching tool! Many pre-school and kindergarteners come to school knowing how to sing The Alphabet Song but do not have 1:1 letter match. 
When you open up this book, the end pages feature the entire alphabet, written on four lines. The first activity you can do with kids is to have them read the letters, line by line, pausing at the end of each line. This gives them a different take on the alphabet and a chance to view the letters in a 1:1 match. You can also have them read the letters backwards, starting with Zz or have them pick a line and read it, starting with Ll or Qu. In this way, they are much more likely to truly identify and learn the letter names. Another way to do this would be to say the letter sounds, rather than the letter names, again starting at various points. 
Have children find the letters in their names. Names are so important to children . . . they have meaning to them. Don't count on kids being able to visualize these letters however. Write their name down and then have them find each letter in the end pages of the book.
Another game you could play would be to simply have them find a letter you name - "Point to the Ss", "Point to the Mm", - and let them have a turn telling you which letters to point to as well - they will love being the teacher! Again, you can reverse this game - "I am thinking of a letter that begins with /b/, and say the sound instead.
Use the end pages as a game board! Lay it out flat and drop a penny on it. Say the letter name & sound that the penny lands on or use some counters and a die. Roll the die and name the letter & sound of the letter you land on!
Raise the bar for older students. It is important for children to know the beginning, middle and end of the alphabet. Talk about which letters are in each part of the alphabet. Have them show you a letter in the beginning of the alphabet - name it and its sound, in the middle . . . in the end. 
Discuss digraphs (two letters that together make a new sound such as /sh/ or /ch/ and blends (two letters that keep their individual sounds but "blend" together such as /br/ or /st/). Name a blend or digraph and have them point to the two letters that make that sound.
Discuss ending sounds such as /ed/ or /ing/ and have them point to the letters that make those sounds.
Raise the bar by having them point to the sound they hear at the end of a word. "Show me the letter you hear at the end of the word "man". "Show me the letter you hear in the middle of the word "net".
Point to all the vowels and tell me the sounds they make. . .
There are so many different and fun ways you can use the end pages of this book, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and it won't cost you a penny. Check the book out of your local or school library if you don't already own it.
The story itself is a wonderful one that lends itself to reading it with a beat! I always find myself snapping my fingers to the "chicka chicka boom boom" part.
Children can have a lot of fun pointing out all the letters and talking about what happens to them when they fall out of the tree. I always ask them if they think the rest of the alphabet will follow "a" up the tree the second time . . . Good "food for thought", as there are no right or wrong answers. 
Some other Alphabet Books I Like:
Alligator Alphabet by Stella Blackstone and Stephanie Bauer
Here is a blogpost that lists:
I haven't read them all but it looks like you can click on each of them and it takes you to an Amazon review.
Now the next two alphabet books are definitely for older students because they would confuse our younger readers but would definitely be great for grade 2 and above and engage them in some thinking!! 
(A wonderful thing . . .)
Q is for Duck An Alphabet Guessing Game by Mary Elting & Michael Folsom Pictures by Jack Kent 
These two books make kids think about why! For example, in Q is for Duck, the first page says: A is for Zoo. Why? And the next page says:
Because . . . Animals live in the Zoo. Ahhh!!! Great, isn't it?
A is for Salad by Mike Lester
A is for Salad is slightly different. On the first page is a picture of an alligator eating a salad and says: A is for salad. You have to figure out what in the picture starts with "A" - in this case it would be the alligator.

I hope you have enjoyed my ideas and suggestions for alphabet books. Do you have a favorite alphabet book or an idea for an activity for an alphabet book? Please leave a comment or suggestion!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Intervention- Can You Do What You Have To AND What You Want To?                         


  Last year my job description was changed from a literacy coach in which I mentored and worked with teachers in the classroom, modeled lessons, team taught, worked with small groups of students in the classroom as teachers observed, to that of an "interventionist" in which I now work pretty much exclusively with small groups of students in my office. I am not a big fan of this work because although I can move these kids, if I don't change teacher practices, then I am just going to have the same number of students - only the faces will change. Often the work that is wanted from me is to increase data scores as well. So if I am working with kindergarten students, this means increasing their letter and sound fluency. Last year I did do this, but I got very frustrated constantly doing just letter and sound activities day after day. Both the kids and I got bored with it and I felt that I should have certainly been doing more with literacy. This year I was determined to incorporate more with reading as well as cover the basics of alphabetics even with the short time I had with them. The challenge was going to be even tougher as far as the boredom factor was concerned because I am currently working with ALL kindergarten children and have eight intervention groups!
     I am really happy to say that I have managed to incorporate oral language skills, letter & sound fluency practice AND a daily story with comprehension strategies every single day and the time I have with each group is generally around 20 - 25 minutes. I have also figured out a schedule that doesn't drive me crazy! The first week I was doing the same lesson eight times and I WAS going crazy. After that I knew I had to do things differently! I came up with five different activities (although I have eight groups - I work with five teachers - two teachers have two groups) - and chose five different books. I do a different activity and read a different book to each group (except for the two groups that come from the same teacher - I do repeat that lesson twice) so that I am doing something different and reading a different book every time a new group comes in. This keeps me sane! The next day I just move the activity down to the next group and rotate through each activity and book for five days until every group has done each activity and heard every book. This is actually a great plan because I have a full set of activities and books for a full week! So - what IS it that I do? Click on the K-2 link above to find out . . .:-)

Monday, September 2, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading 9-2-2013

Greetings Readers,

It's the Back to School Edition! I am cross-posting this edition with my post to the Maine Reading Association's post which is joining the It's Monday, What Are You Reading? Folks!

Thanks to Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts for hosting this great book sharing post each Monday.


I have read and bought a ton of books this summer so it was hard to decide which ones to choose for my post this week. I have limited it to one picture book, one chapter book and one professional book however because it is “Back To School Week” and we are all super busy!


Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos and illustrated by Joy Ang is a gem! First off, it is absolutely hysterical! I dare you to read this book without bursting out laughing! A baby is born with a mustache and the parents are concerned whether they will have a child with a “good guy” mustache or a “bad guy” mustache. All the nurse can offer up is, “Well, it all depends . . .” The parents are quickly relieved to find out that Baby Billy is a good guy and his pretend play is that of cowboy and cop. But as he grows older the mustache curls and , yup, his mustache takes a turn for the worse and it becomes a bad guy mustache. Baby Billy turns to a life of crime, ending up in jail - (his crib!) There is much tongue-in-cheek fun with vocabulary as well as a theme to teach even the youngest children here, about choices in life, so this book works on many levels. It is a must have in your home or classroom!

Check out Bridget Heos’s Mustache Baby activity page here:

My chapter book selection is Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool. Let me start by saying I have NOT read her previous 2011 Newbery Medal Winner Moon Over Manifest. I heard and read reviews by many that preferred this book or have compared the two and felt they were similar. Since I have nothing to compare Navigating Early to, I can, perhaps, give an unbiased review of this sophomore book of Vanderpool’s. I loved it!!
This story takes place at the end of World War ll. Jack Baker’s father has just returned from the war and his mother has died unexpectedly. He is being moved from his only home in Kansas to a boarding school in Maine so his dad can take a job at the Portsmouth Shipyard. I loved this book immediately because of the home references. It makes you feel like you are close to these characters. One of the first scenes is a very vivid description of Jack’s first sight of the ocean - we can all imagine his amazement.
Jack feels lost here in Maine and alone at the boarding school. He is a sensitive boy and his mother understood him - not his distant father. He comes from land-locked Kansas and is thrown into an environment that has sculling as part of the curriculum.
He soon meets Early Auden, another sensitive soul who has specific classical music that he listens to on specific types of days, Billie Holiday for rainy days, and reads the number Pi as a story.
Together they set out on a magnificent adventure along the Appalachian Trail in search of a great Black Bear during a school vacation. No one knows they have left and they encounter pirates, secrets and strange characters along the way. But truly this is a story of friendship and acceptance and Vanderpool weaves all these various elements into a mesmerizing tale that will entrance readers.
I think this would be a wonderful read aloud and great for our upper elementary and middle school readers.

Read about how Clare came to Maine to research for this book here:

5 Questions for Clare Vanderpool at ReadingTodayOnline.

And finally for my professional book review: If you liked Tanny McGregor’s debut professional book, Comprehension Connections, then you’re going to love her second book, Genre Connections: Lessons to Launch Literary and Nonfiction Texts. If you are familiar with her first book, it is set up in a very similar style. Tanny believes that children need concrete experiences with books before they are given texts to read. With that in mind, she has, what she refers to, as “launching series” for each comprehension strategy in her first book and for each genre in her second.
The first lesson is a concrete experience that connects readers to the genre. I have not used the lessons from Genre Connections with students in the classroom yet but I can tell you that the ones from the first book were extremely successful with students and teachers alike. I did a workshop with teachers from 3rd, 4th and 5th grades around her first book and they loved it. I did some of the concrete experience lessons with both teachers and students and they were very well received.
From the concrete experience, McGregor then takes the students to a sensory experience with the genre, connecting them to it through art and music. This is a great way to really immerse the students, using all their senses, and really hitting all learners - auditory, visual, kinesthetic - something we are not always very good at doing. Only then does she introduce the genre and start to dig into the the text.
At this point, children are much more aware of what it is all about and what it is they are being asked to do - and they have had fun doing it - imagine that? :-)

                      Indie Bookstores

Last but not least, I would like to give a shout out to a couple of wonderful indie book stores that I discovered on an over night to Belfast, Maine this past weekend. Independent bookstores will not survive without our patronage and they often have wonderful ambience, fantastic owners and lovely book offerings. This was what I found at not one but two bookstores in the quaint, tiny town in the down east coast of Maine.

The first bookstore I came upon was Left Bank Books at 109 Church Street. It is a lovely little store and I made my way straight to the nook  that had a wonderful assortment of children’s books. I made myself comfortable in the velvet chairs and started reading! I found more than I could afford (of course) but guess what? They give a 25% discount to teachers so I put a stack on the counter to purchase. I found a great series for beginner readers that I had never seen before and chatted with the owner. Well-behaved dogs are even allowed inside. If you are even close to Belfast, you need to make a detour over here, just to stop by this delightful indie bookstore! I know I’ll be coming back . . .
As I made my way closer to the oceanfront, I couldn’t believe it but I found another indie bookstore and this one was for children exclusively.

BellaBooks, located at 135 High Street,  is on one side of the street, but tucked across the street and down a set of steps is an adorable couple of rooms, entitled, BabyBella, and it is entirely children’s books. The books are already discounted and if you live in the area, for $10.00, you can purchase a membership, and get an even bigger discount! The owner has a great selection, and once again, I started piling the books on the counter. We talked for a while, and he gave me a members’ discount on some of the books. What a sweetheart !Again, this bookstore is worth the trip and it is a hidden gem. Can you imagine, TWO independent bookstores in one little town?
Belfast is a wonderful little town and two bookstores makes it a destination vacation!