Here are some Big Universe Learning titles that might be of interest especially around the time of Mother’s Day:
- A Mother’s Journey Acclaimed nonfiction author Sandra Markle presents the daring story of a mother emperor penguin’s struggle to reach the sea, find food, avoid predators, and make her way back to her mate and their newborn chick before they starve. Alan Marks’ luminous illustrations highlight the harsh conditions and stunning landscapes of Antarctica.
- A Zany Zoo Day Mom is in for a surprise when a trip to the zoo brings out the animal in everyone!
- Grandma’s Feather Bed Upbeat, funny and irresistibly singable, this song was made famous by John Denver and now made doubly delightful by Christopher Canyon’s illustrations. Especially if you listen along with Denver, kids will say, play it again! It is all about the cousins, the chicken pie, four hound dogs and a piggy, but as the song says, the best darn thing about Grandmas house was her great big feather bed.
- Emma’s Question A question scritches and scratches at the back of Emma’s throat.Emma is a curious kid. She loves to ask questions,and she loves the silly answers that her grandmother always gives. But now Emma has a very important question, one that she is bursting to ask, one that scritches and scratches at the back of her throat. Her grandmother is sick and has to stay in the hospital. Emma wonders if Grandma will still be able to read to her kindergarten; if she will still make up funny stories over bagels on Wednesdays; if she will still be able to watch her after school.
- We Like the Beach A girl and her mom go for a walk on the beach. They see some of their favorite things.
- Animal Mothers and Babies This book helps children learn to read with descriptions of animal mothers and their babies.
These are just a few of the publisher books about mothers. There are also many Member Books that have been created for and about mothers.
Just as all mothers are unique, each of these titles represents an individual and interesting book to read …
Maybe you will choose to read a book or a poem about mothers …
Maybe you will choose to write and create a book or a poem about mothers …
Find a way to celebrate and share!
What kinds of questions are being asked?
What kinds of questions can be asked to support reading?
What kinds of questions can be asked to support reading skills?
Who is or should be asking the questions?
What would happen if we started keeping track of the questions being asked?
… how many are being asked?
… what types are being asked?
… who is doing the asking?
In The Case for Curiosity by Susan Engel in the February 2013 ASCD Educational Leadership magazine, it is stated that “simply by counting questions, teachers will begin to be more aware of them, which thereby encourage more questioning.”
Think about the possibilities of what could happen if there was more questioning ….
Do you have favorite characters from the books you have read?
I laugh when I think about Penelope in Penelope and the Monsters and smile remembering Becca and her imaginary adventure in The Patch.
I also remember the stories my dad told me when I was growing up that always had the same character in them … it was a mischievous little girl who go into all kinds of crazy situations and she always learned a lesson in the end!
As I was looking through Journeys: The Teaching of Writing in Elementary Classroom by Carolyn L. Piazza, I came across a Character Fact Sheet. Since Piazza’s book is about teaching writing, I know the point of the fact sheet is for brainstorming for full character development, but when I first saw it, I started thinking of ways it could be used to explore the characters in the books children read.
The fact sheet I found is a list of questions used to create a detailed character sketch. Looking at the questions, I think that some of them could be answered easily about some characters after reading a book … Let’s call those the “look and find” questions. There are other questions in the list that would require a making inferences and a bit more thinking … Let’s call those the “read and think” questions.
There are many uses for both types of questions. I think the “look and find” questions can be a good indicator of a child’s ability to read and remember details. They can also provide a little look at fluency since it is much easier to know where to “look and find” when reading the story doesn’t involve focusing so much on decoding the words. In my mind, the “read and think” questions encourage critical thinking that goes beyond what is explicitly stated by the author. Those involve knowing the story and the characters on a deeper level.
Here are a few of the questions from the Character Fact Sheet in Piazza’s book:
- What is your character’s name?
- What does you character look like?
- What types of things does you character like to do?
- What types of things does your character dislike?
- What problems does your character face?
- What might your character say?
- What might your character think?
- How would your character react to others?
- Why is your character interesting to know?
- What sort of emotions might your character feel?
- What is your character’s biggest fear?
You could even have children answer some of these questions using the Write Section of Big Universe Learning …
I wonder what kind of questions could be added to a Character Fact Sheet?
What might be a good brainstorming activity for children …
This is another great image to represent Balanced Literacy and how the individual pieces of it work so well together.
Look in each section and notice how reading, writing, vocabulary, and learning play such an important role.
I am sure that your Core standards may differ from the ones mentioned in this image, but the basics are the same since they are pieces students put together in the learning puzzle.
Think about the ways Big Universe Learning can be used in each of these areas as well ….
- Explicit Instruction
- Small Group
- Silent Reading
- Partner Reading
- Read Aloud
- Response Writing
- Discovering New Words
- Defining Words in Context
What are ways you can or do you things from Big Universe Learning in Balanced Literacy?
image from http://www.forestlake.k12.mn.us/teaching__learning/literacy/
When I’m reading a book, I tend to think about the child who might like that particular story or relate to those characters. Walking in a young readers’ shoes rather than adding my adult 2c. Thinking beyond my own experiences and goals.
What I have discovered is that sometimes in my enthusiastic rush to open that magic literacy box, I forget there are many facets to literacy. It isn’t just about decoding and comprehension. Sometimes it is a child’s own perception of themselves and how they see their place in the world as they are learning to read and “fit in,” all at the same time.
As I was thinking about this, I remembered a post I wrote my blog, Family Bookshelf, five years ago in response to a Washington Post article about the Virginia Tech shooting. What I drew from the article is a timeless reminder of how precious and fragile our children’s sense of self is. Particularly when “the world” is telling them how important something is – in this case learning to read – and they are feeling overwhelmed.
Here is that piece, lightly edited, originally published in August 2007.
At lunch today, I read a Washington Post article about Seung-Hei Cho, the student who killed fellow students, faculty members, and himself at Virginia Tech in April 2007. A lot has been written about Cho’s psychological profile, makeup, but that article introduced a new-to-me piece of information.
Cho suffered from a condition called selective mutism, a symptom of an anxiety disorder. A fellow student of Cho’s in high school offered this example:
when asked by a teacher to participate in class (like reading out loud), Cho would become paralyzed and could not speak. Then the students would start laughing at him.
That’s a paraphrase from the article. Still, I would bet that there are individuals whom you might recognize in that example. Kids who are shy, who might understand his feelings of fear.
Laurie Adelman (BSN, Masters in Family Health/Health Education) has dedicated her career to helping shy children. The principles she presents to parents and educators are readily applied to helping a child who is afraid to read. Reading or learning to read may be one of those things that causes great anxiety for our kids.
- Parents, teachers, TV commercials all tell us how important it is to read … and to do it NOW.
- Their friends may already be reading books.
- As parents, we fall into the trap of thinking our kids should be reading “just like their friends.”
- Kids may feel uncomfortable reading words aloud. They may be afraid someone will laugh if they mispronounce a word.
You can think of other reasons, too. The bottom line is this: some kids find the idea more than a little bit overwhelming. Regardless of their reasoning, in their mind, learning to read seems “too hard.” So our role is to encourage, not pressure!
You can read an an article about helping shy kids with ideas on how to help. You may be surprised to know that there are simple tings we can do to help with the every-day, completely natural anxieties our kids experience when moving to something new … and reading new material for the first time and having to do it out loud may be one of them.
Smiling and patience go hand in hand in instantly easing that calm!
Final note: Cho’s emotional disability ultimately contributed to the choices he made, and I am not suggesting that every person who is shy or afraid to read aloud will become a murderer. Cho’s was a severe reaction, due to a diagnosed emotional disability. But if there is any good that can come from our reflection about what happen, then let’s jump on that!
Rereading is one of those reading strategies that is paramount to a reader’s comprehension. When we want to clarify our understanding of a text, we reread; when we need to summarize an article, we reread; when we do research, we reread. Reread, reread, reread. But let’s face it, students are not fans of rereading. Instead, they want to read quickly, move on and be done with it.
Music is one way we can reinforce the importance of rereading for understanding. Let’s call this relistening. (That’s not a real word, by the way… )
I listen to music every day with my students. Doing so is a great way to build community as well as expose them to a variety of musical genres and artists. In addition we do a lot with literacy skills; rereading is one of them. Actually, it’s the relistening. I will have my students focus on one piece of music for an entire week (we listen each day during our snack time) and it’s during that time that we are relistening to excerpts of the piece and the piece as a whole. Each time we listen again, I ask them different questions about the music. “What instruments are playing?” “How would you describe the tempo?” “Sing the melody back to me.” And for each prompt, some students know right away, while others need to hear the music again. And so we relisten.
After doing this a few times, I draw students’ attention to how we do the same thing when we read. If we are unclear about an event, who a character is or where exactly things are happening, we need to take the time to reread.
When you compare listening to reading, often students understand the concept a little better because they are exposed to it in a new way through music. For so many students music is a natural motivator, so practicing this way is actually a treat. For others this is a new and abstract way of thinking and so it stretches their minds.
You don’t have to be a master musician yourself to do this, you just have to enjoy music yourself. Actively listen to the music with your students and think of some questions you can ask them. Start with questions dealing with instrumentation, tempo (music’s speed), dynamics (musical volume) and pitch (high and low notes). Not every student’s hand will go up, so use this opportunity to relisten to an excerpt with your students. In no time, your students will find clues in the music to help them come to an answer to your prompt as they become better listeners. In time, your students will start to see the importance of going back to relisten and also reread for understanding.
I love hearing authors talk about their books, ideas, and inspirations.
Here is Peter H. Reynolds talking about and reading one of his books, The Dot, on Read TV which is a part of the Read Boston initiative:
(I know that this video may not be accessible since it is from facebook, but I enjoyed it so much that I just felt the need to share it.)
Creativity can come in so many forms. It is about just letting out the creativity that each of us have … not trying to force it.
Did you hear in the video what happened to give him the idea for the book? It wasn’t something he planned … it was something that happened and he saw an opportunity!
How many times do we wait for stuff to happen while missing the opportunities that may occur in unexpected ways?
I think that one way for teachers and parents to get students engaged in reading is to allow them to make personal connections with the authors and illustrators of the books they read. Interviews and author read alouds are a great way to do just that!
Another wonderful place for students (or really anyone) to connect with an author is by exploring that author’s website.
So I encourage you to find a book you enjoy on Big Universe and then start looking around to see if that author has a website or even a blog!
There is something different in reading words written about an author compared with reading words written by that author.
For example, the website of Peter H. Reynolds has a very welcoming and personal feeling to it. When I look at the “Meet Peter” page, it feels like he is talking directly to me. I love how he sees his site as a “work in progress” instead of a static web presence. He even mentions the importance of a teacher in his life …
You also get to explore his art as well as books and projects where he gives advice:
Everyone is different, so let this be a source of inspiration, not a recipe or “how to” guide. Follow your own process, your own path… and let your stories flow!
I love what he says about Creative Thinking in the Ideas/Tips area: Creative thinking is the fuel for getting things going.
There is even a link to his blog!!!
Peter H. Reynolds shares such great ideas and insight. In many ways, exploring the site feels like jumping into his sketchbooks in the middle of a work session and looking around.
Go make some connections!
FableVision artwork on this website copyright by Peter H.
When I did a short read aloud in my classroom, we normally read the book a few times …
The first time we read the book, it was just for the students to enjoy the process of being read to. I felt they needed to be free to experience the book, the characters, the story, and the illustrations without having to listen for something specific. I found that if I started off by telling students to listen for something specific like descriptions, rhyming words, figurative language, or character development, most students would be so focused on listening for that one thing that they would miss the whole of the book.
I wanted to make reading an enjoyable experience … expressive read alouds are a great way to do that …. voices and all!
After the first time I shared the book, I would ask students to tell me things they enjoyed or noticed in the book. If I was looking for specific answers, I started with questions before the book to get the ready … but if I just wanted to jump inside their thinking, I waited until after …
So let’s try it out …
Here is a book to just read …
What are some things you enjoyed from this book? What really stood out? Did you have a favorite part? Why? Did it give you any ideas?
The next time we read the book, which may be a day or two later, I would choose one or two specific things on which to focus.
The “teacher-in-me” had all kinds of grand ideas as I read through the book looking at it from a teacher point-of-view. Here are some of my ideas:
- Use to talk about transportation
- Discuss differences and similarities
- Did you notice the locations that could be used for map skills?
- Did you notice rhyming words or a pattern?
- Focus on verbs as movement words
- Explore how the illustrations contribute to the meaning of the words in the story
Those may seem like small topics, but I think there are way too many of them to try to tackle all at the same time. I would pick one focus for a whole group activity. Depending on how that went and how much time we had, I may let students work in small groups or partners to choose other things to focus on …. It could even be a center-like activity used in the future.
Since students were given time to enjoy the story for just the story, I found they were more motivated to focus on the parts since they had an understanding of the whole.
Trying to focus on too much at one time can take away both from the story and the skills that are being explored …
I wonder how reading a book like this and focusing on certain skills could lead to writing activities …
It is Back-to-School time for many students and teachers!
Starting the year off with picture books can be a great way to build a classroom community. Reading books together as a class provides a shared experience for all that can be referred to throughout the year!
Big Universe Learning has some great books to choose from!
Here are a few that I have found this week:
I know that each class is different and at the beginning of the year, teachers may not be exactly sure how to appeal to the variety of new learners they have, but using a read aloud followed by some type of art and/or writing activity would be a quick way to see some interests, abilities, and concerns of students.
Following the reading of one of the books listed above (or any read aloud), students could draw/write about what they think would help them at school, what things they have questions about, or even what they hope they will do during the year that they will be able to look back on and enjoy at the end of the year!
Don’t forget that Big Universe Learning has a writing tool you can use as well!
When you hear the word shed, what do you think of?
I admit, when I hear shed, I don’t generally think of interesting things ….
But all that changed when I found The Literacy Shed!
I think the description of The Adventure Shed says it all:
Welcome to a little shed
that opens up when you get inside!
So The Literacy Shed is really more than just one shed …. and each shed has its own unique personality, look, and inspiration!
Here are a few of the sheds you can find inside The Literacy Shed:
- The Thinking Shed
- The Fairy Tale Shed
- The Inventor’s Shed
- The Picture Book Shed
- The Mystery Shed
- The Flying Books Shed
- The Great Animations Shed
You just never know what is going be in the shed once you walk through the door …
- The Literacy Shed is home to a wealth of visual resources that I have collected over my 10 year career as a primary school teacher. I trawl youtube, vimeo and other sites looking for suitbale resources to use in the sheds. The sheds are broadly thematic but sometimes a resource could go in 2 or more sheds, I slot it in where I think it works best. Most of the resources can be used in KS1 and KS2 but some do lend themselves to the upper age group and above. The aim is to provide high quality resources that can be used in stand alone literacy lessons, can form the basis for a whole literacy unit or can support literacy units that you already have in place. With the many book based activities I would advocate using the book alongside the digital resource.
I see so many possibilities for reading, writing, thinking, art, and all kinds of literacy that I am having a hard time choosing my favorite shed and favorite activity …
They all look really neat too! I bet the activities could be used along with a variety of books here on Big Universe Learning.
Which is your favorite shed?
If you could create your own shed, what would it look like and what would it contain?
image from The Literacy Shed