The Story I’ll Tell: Book Review for Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017

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In celebration of Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017, we reviewed The Story I’ll Tell, by Nancy Tupper Ling, illustrated by Jessica Lanan, and published by Lee & Low Books (the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the country). This lyrical and gorgeous picture book subtly touches upon adoption, the wonderful ways families come together, and the love shared between parent and child. I was excited to read this book to my k/1 class since it tied in nicely with our Social Studies theme, Families & Homes.

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We read, The Story I’ll Tell, several times and had many heartfelt conversations. A few even picked up on the adoption slant of the story and shared personal stories. While the rest of the class didn’t understand this concept, we did come to an understanding that families come together through close friendships, religious institution, neighborhoods, school communities and work relations. Also, that families come together in many special ways and the most important thing is love.
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We asked families to share with their children how they came to their home. We said that their “coming home” stories could be factual, magical, or a hybrid of both. Most of the little ones found inspiration from this story, saying that they came to their home on a hot air balloon, or on an ocean wave. But some shared very specific and factual events to tell how they came to their home. As they narrated their stories I laughed, cried and felt much joy to be privy to them. Then they chose a sentence from their “coming home” story that best described their journey home. Their complete stories were pasted on the back of the heart mobiles.

Priceless…

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One day at work my parents met. Later, up in Big Sur, at Pfeiffer Beach, they made a wish for me. I came on a whale and found them. They took me home and I became part of their family. We are a fun family with a lot of laugher.

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I was on a rainbow star and I slid down the rainbow. The same star came back and took me to my parents. They screamed because they were so excited. And then, another star slid down and brought my twin brother, Grant. I brought rainbows and rainbow stars to my family.

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They were at my grandma’s, my dad’s mom. My mom wanted to wash laundry but grandma’s washing machine was broken. So she went to their old house and washed the laundry there instead. She was washing the clothes, and sitting on the couch with her cat, Whiskers. My mom felt contractions, so she had to gather all the clothes, but they were wet. She put them into the car. And then she went back to my grandma’s house and told my dad and they went to the hospital. And then, when it was time, I came out like a football! My dad thought the doctor would miss, but he was wrong because the doctor did catch me. My parents were so happy.

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One magical night I was in an invisible hot air balloon. It drifted over the sparkly ocean. The wise wind blew the hot air balloon to my family. When my mom saw me, she smiled and held me to her heart. My brothers were excited! My dad was sleeping so he didn’t see me ‘til the next morning. When my dad saw me he smiled and hugged me.

 

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Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is in its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that.

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include ScholasticBarefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. RomanAudrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTVCapstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle SwiftWisdom Tales PressLee& Low BooksThe Pack-n-Go GirlsLive Oak MediaAuthor Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

 Author Sponsor include: Karen Leggett AbourayaVeronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen BurkinshawMaria DismondyD.G. DriverGeoff Griffin Savannah HendricksStephen HodgesCarmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid ImaniGwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana LlanosNatasha Moulton-LevyTeddy O’MalleyStacy McAnulty,  Cerece MurphyMiranda PaulAnnette PimentelGreg RansomSandra Richards, Elsa TakaokaGraciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

 

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teachers-classroom-kindness-kit/

Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents: http://bit.ly/1sZ5s8i

 

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The Belonging System: A glimpse into the places where children feel they belong.

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In Social Studies, we are continuing our learning on Families & Homes. We have spent the beginning of the school year exploring the various ways families come to be. Some family members are born into their families and other are made with love and appreciation. We have concluded that families are formed through friendships, school communities, religious places like churches or synagogues, work, school and travels.

We are beginning our investigations on where families live and the types of places that can be considered home. We will discuss the types of homes people live in, in our communities and around the world. To start this conversation, we read the gorgeous picture book, You Belong Here, written by M.H. Clark and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. This book takes the reader on a lyrical journey of where plants, animals and children belong.

And the trees belong in the wild wood and the deer belong in their shade,

and the birds belong so safe and good and warm in the nests that they’ve made.

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After we read this book, we brainstormed the various places where we belong. We explained that belonging can be attached to a physical place like one’s home or favorite park. We can also belong to ideas, or places that make our hearts sing, nourish our souls, and ground us. I shared that I belong to words and writing, picture books, and my yoga corner. Using a systems map we asked, “Where do you belong?”  Our littles shared many interesting and heartfelt places of belonging.

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As a follow up activity, our little ones wrote a book where they chose five places using the sentence starter: I belong in / I belong with__________________.

Here are some of the wonderful places where we belong. It was also noted that no matter where we come from, there is always a place where we belong.

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If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.

– Mother Theresa

 

Writing “Small Moments” in a K/1 Class

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As we continue to explore and discuss our year long social studies theme, Families & Homes, many conversations around Holiday traditions are coming up. In writing, we have been focusing on “small moments”, writing with focus, detail and dialogue. Since I attended the Teacher’s College Writing Institute in the summer, I’ve been keen on implementing the new writing tools I learned.

This is the abbreviated version of the “small moment” piece I modeled.

It was raining cats and dogs and I could barely see the road.

I gripped the steering wheel and I felt my heart pounding all

the way to my fingertips.  I said to my sister, “Poka, I’m

really nervous driving in this rain. What should we do?” 

Finally it stopped raining cats and dogs. It was sprinkling now

and I could see the road ahead. I felt relieved. I even started

to get excited about the many adventures we were

going to have in San Francisco!

The kids laughed when I wrote “cats and dogs”. I told them it was a figure of speech and I plan on having a mini lesson on that sometime in the future. I explained that when writing a “small moment” we focus on just one event and expand on it. I told my students that I could write about all the things that I did in San Francisco: the car trip, Golden Gate Park, my aunt’s house, Mitchell’s Ice Cream, the different restaurants, visiting with my cousins…

However, I was only writing about the moment when it rained hard as I drove to San Francisco. The kids asked, “How long was that?”  I said, “It rained for twenty minutes but it felt like an eternity for me because I was so nervous.”

Most of my students wrote about a small moment during the Thanksgiving break. As I sip my coffee on this Saturday morning while reading their writing pieces I am all smiles. Each and every student is making progress.

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This kinder friend told me how he was jumping so high on the trampoline his hair was escaping him. “My mom kept telling me to stop jumping on the trampoline because she was scared I was going to fall but I didn’t.”

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This first grader asked how to spell Thanksgiving. “Use your brave spelling. Say the word slowly and write the sounds you hear.”  FAXGIVEN – fantastic!

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This kinder friend surprised me! “I went to my grandma’s hotel.”

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This first grader added many details in her small moment writing piece. On her way back from New York, they had to wait in the airplane for two hours. Prior to writing I asked my students to tell me about their pictures. She shared that it was really boring but she kept herself busy by reading and drawing. She asked me, “What do you call the person who fixes airplanes?” I suggested, “Airplane mechanic and aircraft technician.” It was great to see that when she wrote she used  “airplane mkanik” – brave spelling at its best! She also incorporated “I felt relieved” from the writing piece I modeled.

Our little writers have become very comfortable and confident as they write. I wish I could video them to show how focused they are during writer’s workshop. After all these years teaching, observing their writing progress always feels like magic!

 

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. ― Roald Dahl

Student Created Alphabet Cards

We have begun our year long social studies investigation on Families & Homes. Through picture books, family shares, systems thinking and essential questions, we hope to guide our little ones to understand how families and homes are inherently similar, while celebrating the unique differences of everyone’s family and home.

 

The three essential questions guiding our discussions are:

  1. How can families be the same and different?
  2. What systems does a family use to work together?
  3. What does a home give a family?

 

When asked, “What is something that you do with your family that warms your heart?”, students eagerly listed various activities particular to their families. Using their ideas, students created their own alphabet cards that will be posted in the classroom. Their ABC cards nicely link their use of systems thinking to their personal lives, their school and the learnings around Families and Homes. They are also adorable and extremely creative!

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We are only four weeks into our year long investigation, but our little ones have already concluded that the most important part of a family and home is love. Another recent comment is that family members aren’t necessarily those that you are born to.

I am looking forward to what I will learn from their conversations and how their wonderings will steer our investigation.

 

I sustain myself with the love of family. –Maya Angelou

 

The Teachers College Reading & Writing Project: August Writing Institute

 

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Teachers College: Columbia University

This week I participated in the August Institute on the teaching of Writing at Teachers College at Columbia University. Upon registering, we were given tote bags with the Teachers College logo, several books and a notebook where we would be practicing and developing our own writing skills during the course of the week. As an educator who loves everything about literacy and writing, I was thrilled to be here.

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We were welcomed by Lucy Calkins, the founding director of The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP). She shared a very personal story about her father. I thought of my own father and how on my to do list there is a huge need for me to listen and understand his story.  Lucy’s words rang true because writing for me has always been a deeply personal and spiritual affair. It also occurred to me that I don’t always honor this personal connection of writing with my students. Unfortunately, in the game of testing, standards and rubrics, I have sometimes been more concerned with the final product than the personal connection of the story or the writing process.

Every day we broke out into small groups. In these small group sessions, we experienced what a writer’s workshop could look and feel like as a student. Our presenter guided us through mini lessons, whole group and small group instructions. She modeled different writing styles: personal narratives, small moments, non fiction, writing reviews, how to and all about books.

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After she gave a mini lesson, we were sent to draw a picture/sketch to help develop our writing. This I found interesting because some schools frown upon drawing because they think it is not academic in nature. I myself have been told that the drawing portion of my interactive big books were not in line with the curriculum. As a veteran teacher, I have observed time and time again how eager kids are to share what they have drawn. And as we learned, drawing is equally important as the written word because its purpose is to tell a story, share an insight or convey a message. The presenter modeled how teachers can confer with students (individually or in a small group) and how crucial it is to take notes on what the student is doing independently, observe where they get stuck, and how to scaffold support so they use their “writing tools”.

 

While I am in the habit of conferring/conferencing with my students in writing, I have mostly focused on the rubric. I am sad to say that yes, I did mark up their papers, I did point out missing periods and misspelled words.  In our morning group I asked the presenter, “So if I’m not helping them edit and revise and I’m not marking their paper, what exactly should I do?” She said, “Focus on one writing point: structure, development, conventions or processThis will help the student better understand the writing process. The focus is on understanding the process of writing so that they eventually transfer these skills in their independent writing.”  “So they don’t publish a final copy?” I asked. She smiled,”No. They are 5, 6 and 7 years old. They can fancy up a writing piece by adding a cover and coloring a picture. How many times have you asked your students to publish a piece to include all of the revisions you’ve helped them with, and they still copy some, if not most of it incorrectly. What’s more important, the final draft or internalizing the writing process?”  I didn’t answer her because I was having an AHA moment. This was paramount! 

We were asked to write in our notebooks everyday. We wrote a lot. Sometimes I really understood the lesson and went for it. Other times I was at a loss. “What’s a small moment?” I asked. “It’s writing with focus, detail and dialogue.” “What?” I asked again and again. As much as the presenter explained it to me, my colleagues at my table gave examples, I still couldn’t wrap my head around it. But after writing several small moments throughout the week, I understand how necessary it is to put myself in the role of the student in order to help them navigate the process of writing.

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Our final day together, we gathered for a closing celebration. I was exhausted, hot and consumed with rushing back to the hotel to pack and head back home. I sat on the steps of the aisle since there weren’t anymore seats available. But as five brave teachers shared their “small moment” writing pieces I leaned in, wanting to hear their stories. My heart pounded and broke, I wiped tears from my eyes and held my breath. While I couldn’t see any of the speakers, I could hear their words, I could feel their pain and was instantly taken to that small moment in their lives. Their stories were brutally honest and I wondered how they didn’t lose it as they shared to a crowd of over 1300 people.

 

I have lots of ideas brewing in my mind and I know how lucky I was to be part of the amazing TCRWP group. I also need to get my father a notebook so he can share some family stories with me.

The wonderful thing about writing is that it separates the meaningless and the trivial from what is really important. – Donald Graves

 

 

Writing Summer Camp For Young Children

e4c96e7f-5d6a-49ff-967a-d03b9a8645da.jpgThis week I taught a writing class at a summer camp to incoming first and second graders. We read several picture books where we discussed and wrote about them. We also had daily shared writing activities where each student gave their input and ideas as I scribed their words. We explored “juicy words” or expanded vocabulary like epic, wonderful and melancholy and encouraged each other to use “brave spelling” or invented spelling.

One of the stories we read was I Feel a Foot! written by Maranke Rinck and illustrated by Martijn Van Der Linden.

i-feel-a-foot.jpgBetween two trees, high above grass and ground, Turtle, Bat, Octopus, Bird and Buck are sleeping in a hammock. Suddenly, Turtle opens his eyes. “Hey,” he whispers. “Do you hear what I hear?”  Each animal’s imagination runs wild with what wild creature may be making the sound they all hear. Is it a giant turtle? Or a bird with a giant beak? Perhaps it is Bat-Tur-Octo-Bird- Buck. Luckily for the small animals, it isn’t any of these creatures. It is just their old friend Elephant who was out wandering around. The animals invite him to join them in the hammock and soon the wild imaginings about the night noises begin all over again.

The illustrations are magnificent with gorgeous black backgrounds and a collage type feel. The look of the illustrations was the inspiration for our final writing project. Our little writers watercolored the scenes of their stories, which were then pasted on black construction paper. Their stories included mermaids, Pokemon, a lost octopus, family, cycles, bad guys, destruction and American flags in the jungle! It was a pleasure to work with these little writers. They were an incredibly talented group with lots of enthusiasm and wild imaginations.

in the rainforest

In the Rainforest

in the desert

In the Desert

the search

The Search

eevee vs the bad guys

Eevee Vs. the Bad Guys

the great day at the beach

The Great Day at the Beach

in the field

In the Field

the lovely night at the beach

The Lovely Night at the Beach

 

 

 

 

 

Funny Things Kids Say & Write in School

The school year has come to an end. As we wrap things up before heading off for summer vacation, we still giggle as we remember some of the funny things our little ones have written and said. Enjoy!

 

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Peanuts Movie: Snoopy

 

Teacher: Does no mean no at your house?

Student: No, because I’m so cute.

 

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I like the shower because I can take a steam shower.

 

Student 1: Do you believe in Jesus Christ?

Student 2: I do.

Student 3: We don’t because we’re Jewish, even though I think we’re gonna get a tree.

 

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When I grow older I will drink wine.

 

Teacher: I thought you said you weren’t feeling well? You sure were running all over the yard!

Student: I only get a headache when I’m inside.

 

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Basket of phones used for writing. It helps isolate the sounds when they are “brave spelling”.

Teacher: Don’t ask me how to spell a word. Use your resources, call your brain.

Student: What if no one’s home?

 

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Farty Pig – Watch out!

 

And for those who teach kindergarten or first grade, guess what this says…

BRAVE SPELLING at its best.

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Congratulations!