Friday, January 31, 2014

Author Study

Welp, we have officially used up all of our allotted snow days :(

But I did have a nice couple of extra days off on Tuesday and Wednesday last week :) Still, this week has felt EXTRA long because last week we only had 2 days of school!

When we actually got back, I was SO SO SO excited to start our author study! I always enjoy author studies. There are so many great children's book authors out there that have stood the test of time: Ezra Jack Keats, Patricia Polacco, Leo Lionni, and my personal favorite and star of this particular author study......

......TOMIE DEPAOLA! (click on the link for his AMAZING website!)

Since I was very small, I have loved his books. I remember when my mom brought me home The Art Lesson to read. I immediately fell in love with the story and with Tomie. I felt like we really connected. Like Tomie (known as Tommy in the story), I absolutely loved drawing and painting from a young age. In nursery school, my teachers even told my parents that they were concerned because I never wanted to leave the painting easel when we were directed to another activity!

I decided to begin our study with this book. From it we learn how Tomie became who he is today. We also learn about some members of his family: his mother, his father (the barber), his brother Joe, his Irish grandparents who own the grocery store, his cousins in art school, and his Italian grandmother, Nana Fall-River.

Because we have been practicing many skills of good readers, I decided to give them a worksheet to sequence the events of The Art Lesson. Of course, after they wrote the events of the story in sentences, they could draw pictures of each part (just like Tomie probably wanted to do in school!)

On the other side, kids had to put together a web of some of Tomie's feelings throughout the book. I reminded them to give examples from the book to describe why Tomie felt that way.

If they wrote he was disappointed, they had to give an example, such as: Tommy felt disappointed because he wasn't allowed to bring his birthday crayons to school.

 The next book we read to learn more about Tomie and his family was Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs. This book always gets me. It is a heartfelt story about Tomie's relationship with his Nana Fall-River and his Great-Grandmother. The story also brings up the subject of death and people living on in our memories. It really is wonderful.

I wanted the kids to have a dialogue about this story, since it does have a kind of serious subject. I had them respond to a few response questions that might illicit different ideas, such as:

Who do you think enjoyed Sunday visits more? Tommy or Nana Upstairs?
(Many kids said that they thought each enjoyed the time equally because they loved spending time together. Some kids said that Tommy enjoyed it more because he got candy. Other kids said Nana Upstairs enjoyed it the most because she loved Tommy's company) 

Why do you think Tommy thought Nana Upstairs was beautiful, even if his brother said she looked like a witch?
(A lot of kids said that Tommy thought Nana Upstairs was beautiful because he loved her. A couple of kids talked about how beauty is on the inside and that's what counts, and she was a nice grandma)

 We will finish learning about Tomie's family by reading the book Tom, about his relationship with his Irish grandfather. Tom seemed like such a fun grandpa! I can see why Tomie wanted to write about him! After we finish reading Tom, the kids will work on a web comparing Tomie's relationship with some of the other family members we read about this week!

Next week, it is on to one of Tomie's most memorable characters......


You got it! STREGA NONA!

Stay tuned, amici miei! There is much more Tomie dePaola fun coming up!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

New Year, New Adventures!

Getting back into the swing of school can be hard after a nice, long break. Because I want to remain excited about teaching, it is important to me to keep things fresh, new and interesting in my classroom!

I tried my hardest to have everything NEW NEW NEW when we returned from break. I finished up our math unit and read aloud book, but did not have time for everyone to complete their Lenape legend stories to finish our Lenape study and writing unit. So, the first week back we pushed ourselves to finish up our amazing stories and create a watercolor portrait of our Lenape persona (a character that is living in Lenape times that is present in our legends).

To celebrate our success of completing this in-depth Social Studies unit and our beautiful writing, we had a publishing party for families on the first Wednesday back.

We hung up their portraits and legends around the room:

I created a sheet for parents and peers to write comments about their writing that were at each child's table spot:

Each child wrote their name and the title of their writing on the top two lines. Then, the left side has boxes labeled "reader's name(s)" where parents/peers can write their names down. On the right, there is a box for some comments! 

Of course, since it was a party, I was kind enough to provide yummy doughnut holes for the guests! YUM!

Now that our legend writing is complete, we are moving on into another writing topic: persuasive writing! I find this to be a very accessible writing style for kids, because they are always trying to prove their point as to why they should have/do/not do/get something!

We first brainstormed some ideas of where we might see persuasion. The kids came up with a great list, including advertisements, political campaigns, and petitions! Then, the kids thought about some things they would consider wanting to persuade others to agree with and had a debate!

The topics:

Each group had a chunk of time to come up with at least five points to support their opinion that would persuade someone on the other side to agree with them. Then, each side expressed one point. The other side could provide a counter-point. Then there was another round with the other side presenting their point, with the opposing side having the opportunity to give a counter-point!

Finally, we began our newest Social Studies unit, which I am really excited about! We will begin studying the Aztecs! As a Spanish major, I have always been interested in the cultures of Central/South America. There is such a rich cultural history in Mexico that started WAY before the Europeans colonized. There is also such a fantastic connection between the Aztecs and the Lenape, which I'm sure the kids will begin to notice as we dive deeper into our study!

The class has already come up with a list of things they'd like to know more about Mexico and the Aztecs:

And now, for some organization!

Many of the students in my class are great about packing up all of their things and remembering to take their homework home. Yet, there are still plenty who don't! To eliminate forgetfulness, I created a "dismissal checklist" so kids can make sure they have ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING they need before they go home. It may seem a little too detailed, but I think it doesn't hurt to make sure all of the bases are covered!  

Although I enjoyed my vacation, it feels pretty good to be back! Here's to a great first half of 2014! 

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