Thursday, January 27, 2011

10 Myths About Immigration | Teaching Tolerance

10 Myths About Immigration | Teaching Tolerance

As an educator of English Language Learners I feel it is my duty to spread knowledge and understand about our students, their place of origins, cultures, traditions and of course, spreading understanding about immigration misconceptions. Please take a minute to read this article from Teaching Tolerance, an amazing for all educators!

Some January Book Companion....

I've learned that during the tough winter months here in Ohio, you have to look for positive things in order to survive. So here's my reflection on that: yes, it is cold; yes, it's no fun how soon it gets dark but I AM getting a lot of great reading done while sipping my hot cup of coffee and relaxing on my couch. So, I'm thankful for the time to read, for the cozy place I have to remain warm and for the wonderful books in my hands. Now, having said that, I would like to share with you a couple of picture books that have been on my lap the last couple of days.

     MirrorMirror by Jeanni Baker is one special book. Here is the story of two families, two boys living in two different places. One family lives in Australia and the other family lives in Morocco, North Africa. Their lives are so different from one another yet so similar in so many small and big ways. Regardless of where a family is from, there are some things that remain universal. Now the challenge for the reader is to figure out the author's message relying solely from the pictures provided. Yes, it is a wordless picture book. The author and illustrator of this book shares her experiences making this book, starting with drawings, then turning them into collages. An absolute piece of art. The author explains that the idea behind Mirror stems from her own experiences traveling as a woman by herself in remote Morocco. Absolutely worth taking your time to create your meaning of this book by paying attention to the details. 

Ernest, the Moose Who Doesn't Fit Ernest, The Moose who Doesn't Fit by Catherine Rayner is a great picture book that knows how to capture the readers' attention through its illustrations. So what can a Mooose do when he is so so large that he doesn't even fit in the book where he is being portrayed. After some not successful trials, a little friend has a perfect idea so that Moose can not only fit but also shine as his true self. This books leads to wonderful conversations in the classroom such as predicting the possible solutions, exploring themes, and of course, discussing the craft and art of writing and illustrating this book!

Up and Down The newest book by Oliver Jeffers is out. I must confess that I really didn't know much about Oliver Jeffers and his books until I discover The Heart and The Bottle which I loved from the very beginning! So what is Up and Down all about? Well simply put, it is about two dear friends who are inseparable! They enjoy each other company and do everything together until one day penguin decides he wants to fly. This feels like a mission to penguin, something he must conquer by himself. So he sets out to find out the possibilities of flying but that's when he realizes that he needs his friend for things to make sense....because you know....there's nothing like the supporting arms of a best friend! 

The Rabbit Problem Oh I love Emily Gravett!! She never disappoints and wait until you see what she has created with her newest picture book! Amazingly creative, this book is a journey through the 12 months of the year and the problems that these adorable rabbits face each month, until they get to December....
Each page is featured as a month of the year, with the statement of the problem and the unique illustrations that provide the perfect balance and combination of fun and wild imagination! I can see this book being a big HIT with the children! 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

No Name Calling Week

Did you know that Jan. 24 through the 28 is No Name Calling Week in the USA? Yes, and it is a wonderful opportunity for honest conversations with children and young adult about how name calling can be hurtful, how bullying someone can lead to terrible consequences for both ends, and what are possible solutions or ways to handle different situations.
No Name Calling Week was created in 2004 by GLSEN and Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. During this week, educational and creative activities are designed with the purpose of putting an end to name-calling of all kinds. If you click here, it will take you right to the official website where you'll find resources, lessons and activities for elementary, middle and high schools.
In my last visit to our amazing Columbus Metropolitan Library, I found an awesome new book on a topic that is a reality in our daily school lives: Bullying.  Author Ouisie Shapiro wrote the book entitled Bullying and Me Schoolyard Stories which is a collection of brutal and honest experiences from people that experienced being bullied. The stories comes from kids, young adults, grownups who knows what that pain feels like. Photographer Steven Vote captures a picture of each person that brings a testimony to the book. One great contribution to this book is the advice from Dorothy Espelage, a professor of educational psychology who offers an advice or perspective at the end of each story. These different advices become a practical toolbox of ideas on how to deal with bullies.

Bullying and Me: Schoolyard Stories
It is a sad reality to know that there are so many children that face this kind of struggle everyday. Sometimes it is difficult for educators to realize that this happens because we don't "caught" other students during the act of bullying. However, if teachers create and raise an environment of trust and respect in their classrooms, students would feel more likely to turn to adults for help.  Let's help our children, and young adult and be a voice for the voiceless.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Clever Jack Takes the Cake

Clever Jack Takes the Cake   Clever Jack Takes the Cake by Candace Fleming and G. Brian Karas is indeed a CLEVER tale. So what is a boy to do when he is invited to the princess tenth birthday party and he has absolutely no money for a present? Well, this is where Jack's cleverness comes into play. Jack decides to bake an amazing cake for the princess but he doesn't have the ingredients. So Jack has to be creative and resourceful  to get the ingredients for the cake, like giving extra handful of seeds to the hen in exchange for two fresh eggs.
So when humble Jack gets all the ingredients ready and bakes the most amazing cake for the princess, then it is time to start the journey to the castle where the party will be held. But little did Jack know that on the way there, he would run into some crazy troubles like running to 24 blackbirds that took all the walnuts that spelled Happy Birthday. Jack found himself protecting that cake all along the way, but there was nothing he could do, with each step, more danger came his way. So by the time humble Jack made it to the castle, his amazing cake was gone. What would he tell the princess? What would the princess reaction's be when he sees him empty handed? Oh Clever Jack and his tremendous heart mixed with creativity makes the ending of this story such a clever one. I guess you would have to read it to find out, eh?

Happy Journey!!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Long Walk to Water

A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story  When I finished reading the last sentence in this book and closed the back cover, I just sat and stayed on my couch digesting one more time all I've just read. A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park will have that effect on you. I guaranteed you the story will stay with you for a long time and it will make you ponder many things. This book is based on the true story of Salva, a young boy in Sudan who at the age of 10 had discovered the meaning of the word death, lost, pain, survival, fear and struggle. The way Linda Sue Park tells us Salva's story set in Southern Sudan in 1985 is by simultaneously telling us the story of Nya, a young girl also in Southern Sudan by set in 2008.

A background information important to understand and one that the author provides beautifully in the book is that in Sudan in 1983 a war had started between the southern part of Sudan and the northern part of this country. The Southern part of Sudan were fighting against the government who wanted all of Sudan to become a Muslim country. Most of the people living in the northern part of Sudan are Muslims.  Therefore, the long fight for independence of religion starts in Sudan and it spread all across the country killing, injuring, and devastating hundreds and hundreds of families.

One of the families affected by this war was Salva's family. They are separated, each person looking and struggling to survive. Salva joined hundred of other people who are also running away from the war and looking for protecting. But the question was where would they feel protected? Where would they run in the middle of Africa? That's when their long journey from Sudan to Ethiopia started going through nights of living and surviving among the wildest animals. Days crossing the land with nothing to eat and barely anything to drink. Once they arrive in Ethiopia, they soon discovered they are not wanted there  either so they are forced to leave to Kenya. Throughout all this journey, I stayed wide awake reading every detail of their survivor, feeling every fear and even found myself holding my breath as I was afraid to turn to the next page. The author kept Salva's story alive in this book and when you thought that the story reaches a point of hope for Salva, then the book surprises you with Salva's determination and perseverance to help his people, his country, their safety and their health. A man like Salva teaches everyone not only about the Lost Boys in Sudan but he wants to teach the rest of the world the possible ways that people can help. After all Sudan still struggles with some of the most basic needs: having access to clean and safe water.

Salva have started an organization called Water for Sudan, a project that helps drill borehole wells bringing clean and safe water to thousands of people in some of the most remote villages in Sudan. Please visit their website Water for Sudan to find out ways to help, donate, and raise awareness and understanding among people.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Some wonderful book to teach Themes

Teaching Theme is one of my favorite lessons for Third and Fourth graders. However, it is not necessarily an easy one to teach. Deciphering the theme or message behind a story requires a higher level of thinking and reasoning. It involves a lot of modeling and exposure to great quality children's books. It also requires a lot of conversation, negotiation, and paying attention to details and clues.
Here is a list of some of the books I have used for teaching Themes to Intermediate Grades;

Help! A Story of Friendship by Holly Keller
Help!: A Story of Friendship

Walk On1 A Guide for Babies of All Ages by Marla Frazee
Walk On!: A Guide for Babies of All Ages
Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus
Leo the Late Bloomer

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
The Dot (Irma S and James H Black Honor for Excellence in Children's Literature (Awards))
Ish by Peter Reynolds
The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonnell

The Gift of Nothing (Special Edition)
Eight Days by Edwidge Danticat
Eight Days
Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems
Can I Play Too? (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
The Little Engine That Could
The Little Engine That Could mini

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
The Story Of Ruby Bridges

In my last visit to the Columbus Library, the front cover of a picture book caught my attention...
One How did I miss this book? This book was published in 2008, and I have just now discovered.  Boy, I am so glad I did. The simple text and the basic colors in this book stands out in those simple white pages. The story is absolutely fantastic. Blue is a quiet color and Red is a hot one that picks on Blue. Even though the other colors don't agree with what Red is doing, no one has the strength to stand up against Red until.... One comes along and shows everyone how to stand up for themselves. 
This book, winner of 10 awards including Teacher's Choice Awards, looks at the subject on Bullying in the most creative and unique way. 

So...what are some of the books that you have used for Teaching Themes? Please DO share! Picture Books should be driving our instruction when teaching such big concepts (instead of OAA passages that we see so much in the classrooms!)

Enjoy the journey! Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My first readings in 2011

The new year is here and with it all the expectations, hopes and goals for the new year! Regardless of what your resolutions are for this year, or your goals are, remember that your key ingredient to succeed. Whatever you do, do it consistently. And you will see RESULTS.

These are a couple of the first books that started the year 2011 with me:

Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia

Have you heard the true story of Biblioburro yet? It is a story of passion, of reading, of helping people, of dreaming and achieving! Luis Soriano is a teacher in Colombia whose biggest passion in life is reading. He found happiness in books, he found a world to discover and be entertained in books. But he wanted to expand the bliss and joy for reading. He wanted other children to have the opportunity to read even if they live in the country and too far away from anything. So Luis embarks on a journey with the help of two donkeys and starts delivering books to children located in rural areas in Colombia. Soon the word was spreading about this man who goes to the country, delivering books to children and reading them story. So what started to small, with only a couple of books to share, has now extended to tons of books coming from all over the world that want to help Luis Soriano's dream come true: for every child to read!

You can click here if you would like to read the special report CNN made about this amazing teacher and his passion for reading, books, literacy, stories! Jeanette Winter did a fantastic job writing this book. Thus sharing with the rest of the world the amazing initiative of a humble teacher willing to do the hard work every weekend to distribute books to children!
A Bedtime for Bear (Bear and Mouse) If you remember and are familiar with the book A Visitor for Bear, then you will love A Bedtime for Bear. Bonny Becker and Kady MacDonald Denton joined forces again to create another brilliant, interesting and intriguing friendship between Bear and Mouse. Both characters couldn't be more opposite from each other. So, when Mouse comes over for a sleep over at Bear's house, then all kinds of "noise problems" start emerging. But Bear can't help it...with his supersensitive hearing, he can't just fall asleep so easily...until the noise doesn't come from Mouse anymore. But then...from whom? With a nice and unexpected switch, the story unfolds beautifully at Bear's house...all while trying to sleep! Not to miss! You'll love it and the children will too!

You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Fables to Read Together The newest book from Mary Ann Hoberman is here! From the famous series, You Read to me, I'll Read to You comes the latest companion. This time the stories to be read together are very short fables including The Boy Who Cries Wolf, The Country Mouse and the City Mouse, among others. What I love about this series so much is the wonderful and authentic way for students and children to improve their fluency skills in reading. The stories are short, color coded and beautiful illustrated by Michael Emberley.  I have used the series in these books over and over with my students and I'm happy to say that  because the stories are either familiar or highly structural and easier to understand, then students feel more successful at reading and concentrating in other parts of reading as well like fluency!