Sunday, August 22, 2010

A reflection on the virtual communities

We are exposed to so much technology in our daily lives. The possibilities to connect, learn, and grow through the different online networking are amazing. It is really our own decision how much we want to be  participate in all the different online communities. Some people resist joining or starting but truth is the learning, growing and helping that goes on in virtual communities are endless. Since I joined the blogging world, over two years ago, I have...
*met (in person) some amazing people that with time, they've become friends.
*met other people that opened other doors for me.
* learned and continue to learn from so many other bloggers in different parts of the world
*took part of projects that involved helping other people, other communities

People have inspired me in so many different ways. I can only hope that through this blog I could give back half of the the things I learn every day. I have joined Facebook and Twitter a while ago, and just like anything else in life, if you "follow" the right people, you would stay on track and not be distracted by the unimportant things in life. 

Today I want to share what I learned from two other bloggers who give so much to the  rest of us. They are Mary Lee and Franki over at A Year of Reading. They don't know about this but a long time ago, they wrote  about Hannah's Socks on their blog. If you're not too sure about the story, you can visit their page and learn about this amazing project was born. 

Anyways, after reading this post, I thought to myself there has to be a way I can integrate this into my teaching, my school. And sure enough, I found the perfect opportunity: at our Annual Cultural Festival. And I'm proud to say that our dear Whitehall Community responded so well! We were able to collect over 400 pairs of socks. You can read the story about Beechwood Elementary's donation in Hannah's Socks webpage.  I'm so proud of my dear school community, our families and our students who are big motivators behind everything we do. And all this was possible through ONE POST that my friends over at A Year of Reading decided to write about. So, as summer comes to an end, and other seasons will appear, keep in mind about Hannah's Socks especially during the season of giving. To all my blogger friends out there,  you never know how your postings can affect (in a positive way) other people's life. Keep up the amazing job, and let's keep our community growing!!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Classroom Designs

The school year has started for us and with that a year of possibilities, changes and growth. So much it's changing in my world, in my ESL world. But one thing still remains the same, our students have a room in our building that they can call their own: their ESL classroom. Even though we're spending the majority of our time doing inclusion in ESL, I wanted our students to feel that despite he changes, this classroom is still theirs. A place they can come in anytime, and feel identified, feel they can relax their minds, be themselves, recharge their energy to keep on facing their bilingual world for the rest of the day. So here is what I came up with, a very simple concept but powerful one. I asked each child to draw a self-portrait picture of themselves. By using oil pastel crayons and a dark border to make their work stand out, the final product shone on our walls. The frames are different sizes so it is visually more appealing and by the time we put it all up on the walls, the classroom sends a message loud and clear: this classroom belongs to THEM.
As you organize your classroom this year, I invite you to think, "if anyone walks into my classroom, what would they see? That this space belongs to me or to them? Or was it a collaboration from both ends?

Enjoy the process of discovery. It's always a fascinating one.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Great New Books to Start Your Writing Workshop!

Today I would like to share with you some wonderful picture books I've discovered lately. I'm excited about these books because each one provides an amazing opportunity as mentor texts for Writing Workshop! The language, the choice of vocabulary, the repeating lines, the illustrations, all these characteristics you'll be able to find in each of these books. Take a look...

Who Said Coo? By Deborah Ruddell.
Who Said Coo?

I'm very excited about this book! I can already foresee that this book would quickly become a favorite read aloud in the classroom. How can it not be? With it's wonderful repeating lines, funny outcomes, it's intriguing sounds, and mysterious page turners, this book would be one of those that the children will be asking to listen to over and over!
So the story is about how all this little pig wants to do is get some rest at night, except he hears a sound every time which leaves him wondering who said....? Coo?whoo? Moo? Shoo? With every turn of the page, you'll find something new! Written in beautiful and repetitive language and with gorgeous illustrations done by Robin Luebs.

Sleepy, Oh So Sleepy by Denise Fleming.

Sleepy, Oh So Sleepy Once again, this author brings to us a wonderful story to enjoy over and over with our very young audience.The story line is very animals are going to sleep, so using a repetitive language such as "tiny baby panda, sleepy oh so sleepy" you'll encounter different animals getting ready to go to sleep. But the pattern is broken when at the end, we find the most special creature of all. The sweet illustrations in this book are a great company to the text and the rhythm of the story.

Seasons Seasons  by Blexbolex and published by Enchanted Lion Books. There is something so "vintage" about this book that I just love! It's illustrations are definitely original, the colors chosen throughout the book were very carefully selected and the texture of the pages all adds up to give this book a special look. The title of this book says it is a book about seasons but it doesn't tell a story with full sentences. It uses one or two words per page to describe something particular about that season or associated with that season. The book encourages you to read each word carefully, pause at the illustrations and find the association with the next word.  For example, It is beautifully done and easy to appreciate what the author has done here. Plus the exquisite vocabulary is always an EXTRA plus!

Tap, Tap, Bang, Bang by Emma Garcia
Tap Tap Bang Bang Oh another fun book to be read over and over. Why? Because the language in this book is so inviting for repetition, for choral reading, for enjoyment!!!  What is this book about? You might be wondering....very simple, it's about tools, what can you use them for  and the sounds they make while you use them. For example:

" We can cree craw crew craw cut with the saw and chippety chip with the chisel."
Then at the bottom of the page the sound words are written again in bold. It is so important for students to listen to language, enjoy it, repeat it and play with it. And this book provides exactly that opportunity. And what a great mentor text for writing workshop!!!

For some of you, the beginning of the school year is near. For some of us, we just made it through our first week. Regardless of the situation, I hope you're preparing yourself for a wonderful year surrounding  and immersing your students with great picture books!
Enjoy the journey my dear friends!!!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Organizing my Mentor Texts

The beginning of the school year is here. Organizing ourselves for the beginning of the school year is the key to a smooth year. It is impossible to think of every little detail ahead of time, but some things we can predict or learn from experience. One of the things I use the most in my lessons for either reading or writing are mentor texts. These books are the backbone of my literacy program for ELLs. I need and depend on them in order to either prove my point, ease the transition or provide model for the final outcomes or expectations.

Through the years I've collected many many mentor texts. I think of them as an "investment" (It helps me justify the money I spend on them, yikes!).  This summer I came up with two ways of organizing my mentor texts in order to keep a better track of what I have and their endless possibilities.
Today I'll share with you one of those ideas. Here is what I did, a system that works for me. It might work for you or it might inspire you to come up with something that would work for you.

First, I purchased address labels by bulk (Sam's Club was my choice). Then I generated a label that could be used for mostly fictional books and poetry as well.  The label reads like this:



Possible Mentor Text for:

Memoirs/Small moments
Comparions        Repeating Lines
Punctuation     Characterization
Noticing Language/Vocabulary/Word Choice


So it looks like this....

Then I added a label to the inside of my collection of mentor texts and highlighted the possible ways I could use that particular book. 

 I'm excited to discover other features as I use each of these mentor texts. It seems to me that every time I re-read a book, I find other ways I could use that book. Love this journey of being a reader, it is a never ending one, for sure!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Dancing Pancake

Oh, I think I found the first book I would like to kick off our ESL Book Club!! I'm very excited to write about Eileen Spinelli's newest book: The Dancing Pancake.  I must say that I already LOVE Eileen Spinelli for her previous published work like Where I Live. I'm happy to report that you will NOT be disappointed with her latest work. The Dancing Pancake is a wonderful story about the changes that we must face in life. In this case, meet Bindi, a middle school student trying to take it all in. She enjoys reading, spending time with friends, and loves her family deeply. Life seems to be running smooth until her parents announce their temporary separation. With this major change in her life happening, others seem to follow like: moving to a new apartment, the opening of The Dancing Pancake, new room, a new love (may be).
The Dancing Pancake When life takes a turn this big, what can help us cope? What are the things or the people that help us make sense of all this? This is Bindi's self-discovery journey. One that will make her mature even faster, one that will make her notice her surrounding, and the other people's pain besides her own.  Written in free verse, this story has you captured and hooked right away. Not only, it makes you  ponder and stop throughout to take it all in, but it also transports you into Bindi's world in a way you didn't think you could.
I can NOT wait to read this story with my students and have a peek at their own thoughts, ideas, and wonderings. Books like The Dancing Pancake are books that help you discover so much about your students not only as learners but also as individuals. Enjoy the journey of The Dancing Pancake. I can guarantee you'll love this ride!