Animals in Winter

January 6, 2012

Tanja Askani provides a home for injured animals. I blogged about her book, A Friend Like You.  Her brilliant photographs are breath-taking. As I researched Tanja, I came across some brilliant videos of animals in winter.

To introduce animals in the elements and bring the wild to your classroom, view Tanja’s YouTube video.

After visiting Florida over Christmas break, we were met with beautiful snow. Although the snow is beautiful, I much prefer warm sunshine. I was reminded of the book, Stranger in the Woods by Carl R. Samms II and Jean Stoick. With a smile, enjoy the winter season.

Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley

January 15, 2009

Tonight the temperatures are dipping in the negative numbers, plus add the wind chill, equals Brrrr!  Cold is not my favorite;  I’d prefer spring to summer any day.  So, when I glanced at the dedications, I began sharing my head.  Mary Azarian, the illustrator for Snowflake Bentley, writes:

For all the snow lovers of the world, who – like me – think that snow is like chocolate; there is never enough.”

I do enjoy the white, sparkling beauty of newly fallen snow, so I can grasp that a young Wilson Bentley could become fascinated with snow.  Wilson believed that the beauty of a snowflake was a treasure – no two alike.  He lived for snowstorms.  “I never know when I will find some wonderful prize.”

Snowflake Bentley is a blended genre of narrative nonfiction and informational text.  On the side columns,  Jacqueline Briggs Martin has added information paralleling the current part in history.  I appreciate the voice that is added through this format.  I think this format brings to life the biography of Wilson Bentley in a way that your students will respond and find fascinating.  Mary Azarian illustrates in an almost-cartoon-like format, grabbing more of the reader’s attention.

As a class, after you’ve read the book, talk about the character of Wilson Bentley.  He persevered through the cold and enjoyed the moment.  He was self-motivated, learning at home and experimenting.  He was patient, very precise and careful with each snowflake.  He had a dream and worked toward it his entire life.  Wilson Bentley wanted to give the world a gift, and he was finally able to publish his book when he was sixty-six years old.  Wow!  We need to talk to our kids about striving for a goal and keep working at it, in school, in life.
Savorings for reading and in writing for Snowflake Bentley:
  • Biography with voice
  • Passage of Time – Each part of W. Bentley’s life that is highlighted, the focus is on the progress of his work; very self-motivated.
  • Perseverance – “He waited for hours for just the right crystal and didn’t notice the cold.”
  • Character traits

Snow Ponies

January 10, 2009

The illustrations created by Jason Cockcroft caught my eyes.  (I also admire horses and am awestruck by their beauty.)

Snow Ponies by Cynthia Cotten is a metaphoric narrative that makes the reader ponder.  Prior to this writing, I have read, reread, put it away, reread and pondered about this book.  Although the symbolism of the changing winter season is clear, I kept being “stumped” about what to write about.  The language in this book drew me in each time that I felt I needed to share.

Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader–not the fact that it’s raining, but the feel of being rained upon.
– E.L. Doctorow (found on Cynthia Cotton’s website, under her writing quotes)

I finally showed the book to my eleven year old daughter and asked what she thought about the book.  Through my discussion with her, my wonderings and questions, I was able to finally process the text.  Her new perspective and our sharing discussion made my writerly-eyes become focused… and my understanding deepen.  A lesson learned!!

Our students need time to process.  Conversations about a text is so crucial for children to go deeper into their comprehension.  But I also think it has to do with returning to a familiar text.  With rereadings, deeper meaning arises.

Jason Cockcroft illustrates “Old Man Winter” as a wilderness, rugged, white-haired gentleman.  My daughter, E, immediately exclaimed, “He looks like Santa Claus in work clothes.”  It made sense.

Cynthia Cottenscripts her mind’s eye of how snow storms blankets the wintery setting.  Old Man Winter sends his snow ponies out to romp.  “Their feet make no sound on the cold, hard ground, and whatever they touch turns white.”

Savorings for reading and in writing for Snow Ponies:

  • Symbolism – Old Man Winter for the season change and weather
  • Alliteration – “Their whinnies and whickers whistle through the trees.”
  • Science – hibernation and changing of a season
  • Author’s dedication – “… for James Ashcraft, the first teacher ever to make me rewrite something – now I know why.”
  • “Paced” action – I’m not sure what to call this craft, but the author chooses her words to create a mood like music, a symphony of word notes.

The snow ponies “toss their heads and paw the floor” –> “Faster and faster they go, manes flying” –> “In their flurry…” –> “Flakes fly off branches…”  “Wilder and wilder their play becomes” –> “At last the snow ponies begin to tire.”  –> “shake their heads, shuffle their feet, and sigh long sleepy sighs.”  –> “…and slowly, slowly nod off to sleep.”