Monday, December 3, 2012

A Day With the Authors

I spent an absolutely fabulous day at a conference featuring Jack Gantos, Lester Laminack, and Katie Wood Ray. Jack Gantos is just a hoot; he had me belly laughing.  When I met him to have my book signed, he was very funny and gracious. During his presentation he spoke about writing and journaling in the classroom, and he shared very personal (and some very comical) tales of his youth.  One ah-ha moment of his presentation was that as readers and teachers we need to look for and share the physical story and the emotional story. I had never really thought of that point. I believe I share the feelings in books that I choose to read, but I never discuss that as being important to our audience connecting with our writing.  If you are not familiar with Jack Gantos (and I was not), check out his website.  

Lester Laminack brought me to tears with his discussion of "the attitude and intention behind the words that create bullying". He shared personal experiences that were truly touching. He also shared points from his book Bullying Hurts and some of the books referenced in that piece of work. His primary point is summed up in his comment, "Kindness thrives on recognizing our sameness." When I had a chance to meet him, we actually shared a warm, comfortable conversation.  What a gift to be able to just stand and chat. And he signed my favorite Lester Laminack book, Saturdays and Teacakes. You can find his website at

Katie Wood Ray closed the day.  Being a kindergarten teacher, I have followed Katie Wood Ray and used Already Ready and About the Authors in my teaching.  She is a guru in my eyes.  She spoke about using reading aloud to children to build their sense of the sound of writing. She said that as a teacher you "want to become a voice in their head" so that when they're reading they hear your voice and phrasing. She also said that children don't just need to hear a piece of writing, they need to see it, see how it looks when it's written to learn to cue how to read it, and they need to see the author, the person who wrote the piece being used, in order to share that this person was the one who made the writing decisions that crafted the book. Katie Wood Ray, not surprisingly, is very warm and friendly. Her presentation was very much like a conversation.  I was happy to have her sign my brand new copy of In Pictures and In Words. To read a bit about this book, take a look at an interview with the author at .

Just have to add my photos from the day; unfortunately my picture with Jack Gantos didn't come out well. Thanks to these three wonderful authors for sharing a day with a room full of Maine educators.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Flat Stanley

I have a wonderful student teacher this semester.  She put together a unit "Me and My World" which incorporated learning about ourselves, our community, and our place in the world.  She used a Montessori activity "Me on the Map" which truly engaged the children and helped them understand the idea of how big our world really is.  (I found a freebie at .) She also incorporated map skills using a classroom treasure hunt in which children had clues to collect "treasure" - pieces of a map of our classroom which they had to read and follow to find the real treasure. She then used the book Flat Stanley to kick off an adventure for our own Flat Stanley visiting each of the other kindergarten classrooms in our school.  The kiddos just love Flat Stanley.  Through their letter writing they learned so much about asking questions to get more information, including important information, and the excitement of a returned message. The unit has worked so well that I am extending it throughout the year by sending Flat Stanley on adventures to other towns in our state, three other states, and at least one other country.  This is such a great opportunity to incorporate geography, math, literacy, and technology skills in the classroom. I have already found three online map units to use as jumping off points to continue geography and global studies. (I've included the links below.) As we continue our adventure, we are going to use Google Earth to follow Flat Stanley's journey.  We are also going to continue using the map wall that the student teacher created to post state, U. S., and world maps to track Flat Stanley during his travels.  As he ventures out of our school, we are going to include information about our state and some souvenirs for his hosts. I am thinking about creating flats of my students to send like penpals. If anyone is interested in hosting a Flat Friend, please let me know!,

Friday, November 16, 2012

Can you believe the holidays are here?

It just seems impossible that the holidays are upon us!  The school year is flying by. As I was catching up with my Facebook and email, I happened upon this gem. If you have ever used Elf on the Shelf, you will certainly enjoy this freebie!  I think it looks like great fun for the holidays. Check it out.   and

Friday, November 2, 2012

Surprise Visitor

     It was an exciting afternoon in our classroom. Several weeks ago I received an out of the blue email from Jessie DeVito asking is she and her husband, New York Jets defensive end Mike DeVito, could visit our classroom as a special surprise for their niece. When they arrived today, I saw the biggest smile that I have ever seen on my little kindie's face.
     What a nice couple. Mike seemed very humble and kind. Jessie, also very sweet, actually grew up in our town and went to our school when she was little. They both came in with smiles on their faces and patient demeanors, comfortable with all of the energy in our room.  Mike sat in my old wooden rocker and read The Runaway Bunny, one of his favorite books when he was in kindergarten, to a class full of very excited kindies.  Jessie, led by the hand by her little niece, sat criss cross applesauce on the rug, and her niece snuggled close to hear the story.
     Well, after story everyone had the chance to check out Mike's helmet and a real NFL football.  That helmet looked so big in those little hands!  When Mike asked if anyone had any questions (and you all know the way kindies question), one little guy said "I really like your sneakers, and they sure are big!" Mike just smiled and agreed that they certainly were.
     Jessie had asked for a list of first names of the children in our class, because they wanted to bring each child an autographed photo.  Well, I was stunned at the wonderful gifts they brought for all of the children, including their own copies of The Runaway Bunny. I think this was a visit the class will talk about all year long.  And let me tell you, this kindergarten teacher is going to take advantage of the excitement.  I am going to spend the weekend making some football related centers and planning all the writing activities I can think of related to our very special visitors.

Special thanks to Mike and Jessie DeVito for creating a wonderful experience for my kindies!
Mrs. B.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I want to thank everyone for their interest.  My Halloween giveaway is officially complete. I can hardly believe that I have over 100 followers already!  Keep an eye on my blog to learn more about my kindergarten kapers and to watch for freebies.
Mrs. B.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Halloween Giveaway Innovations

I just want to thank everyone for their interest - and of course MMMB for sending her followers. Being a complete newbie, I of course had a minor glitch, but now my followers button is up and working.  That didn't stop some true problem solvers who added me to favorites or otherwise creatively worked around my lack of a button.  True kindergarten spirit!

I just wanted to share a little Monkey Business - Mrs. M. is using the monster number cards for a write the room math center.  A clever adaptation. I know my kiddos were carrying around the monster word mats to match with the popcorn words around our room. They also loved the eyeballs, and one little girl decided to cover the numbers on the monsters' tummies to have friends guess the number (we play a number sequence  guessing game quite frequently). Please share any other innovations you create; I'd love to know how folks are using the centers.

Happy Halloween!
Mrs. B.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Halloween Giveaway

I don't know about other kindergarten classrooms, but I try to keep Halloween pretty low key.  We have been having a great time with some of my favorite Halloween stories: Room on the Broom, Big Pumpkin, The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, The Vanishing Pumpkin, and Too Many Pumpkins. I have been doing some research about anchored vocabulary instruction, and these seasonal books are filled with wonderful words like shrieked, vanished, and rapscallion which make interesting words for lessons. It makes me smile when children point out the recurrence of words that we have targeted.  Next week we will be using pirate books for our literacy work; it seemed fitting for Halloween week. On Halloween day we will be watching Spookley the Square Pumpkin.  If you are not familiar with that book/movie, you should be sure to give it a look.  It has a strong character education focus, and the kiddos really enjoy it. I show it every year for Halloween. I would like to hear what you do in your classroom at this time of year.

I don't want you to think we have no fun at all. I created a set of Halloween activities to fill our math and literacy centers.  A brief preview is posted above. My class is enjoying them, so I decided to have a last minute give-away to launch my blog. If you would like to have a copy to use in your classroom, just follow my blog.  Leave a comment which includes your email address, and I will make sure you get a copy! This offer is open until Halloween.

Enjoy the last few days of October!
Mrs. B.