The Bear and The Piano

November 18, 2018

Delightful story, The Bear and The Piano by David Litchfield! I am drawn to the beauty of the setting, the internal conflict, the story. I have been savoring this book over several days. The words linger. The dream lingers. The question of acceptance, friendship, and love lingers with me. You just need to read it and fall in love with the bear, his music, and the family waiting for him.

The Power of 3 is used often as a craft in this text.

He missed the forrest. He missed his old friends. He missed his home.”

No piano, no bears, no anything.”

View the reading of The Bear and the Piano (5.5 minutes).


Savorings for reading and writing for The Bear and The Piano:

  • One day
  • Adverbs – shyly, eventually
  • Onomatopoeia – Plonk!
  • Power of 3 – several forms
  • Frienship
  • Teaching ideas – click on this link

Distressed or Taking a Rest

April 20, 2011
Slice of Life Tuesdays

School teachers rarely have the pleasure of eating out leisurely for lunch. Today, during our day long intervention team meeting, we decided to treat ourselves out to such an adventure. We shared about family and recent trips during spring break. We laughed at comments we made. We enjoyed each other’s company. It was refreshing.

On the return trip to school, we noticed a small car stopped along the road, in front of the school play yard. As our driver slowly passed by, we noticed a short, white-headed little old lady peeking over the steering wheel. Turning into the drive, we continued to look at her. “She looks like my grandma,” one teacher said.
“I wonder if she needs help,” another stated the words in my head.
Our driver stopped. I volunteered to get out and check. We knew we needed to get back to our meeting, but this stranded soul needed our help. The wind bitterly whipped around me as I came closer to her vehicle. Her car lights were turned off. As she spied me, she rolled down her window.
“Ma’am, do you need any help?” I inquired sincerely and with concern.
Looking calmly at me, the elderly lady politely replied, “No, I was just talking on the phone” as she held up the cell phone. I smiled and bid her a good day, returning to the car.
A smile began to creep over my face, getting bigger and bigger.  “Well, does she need help?”
“No. She was just talking on the phone.”  I was amused. The lady was trying to be safe by not talking on the electronic device yet stopped on a busy state highway only a few feet away from our school parking lot.
“Bless her heart,” my friend stated.”She was only trying to be safe.”

SOL 16: Hope

March 16, 2011

In light of the recent earthquake in Japan, I was encouraged through the book, Hope for Haiti. Jesse Joshua Watson creates hope through the after-math of the earthquake in Haiti a year ago.  He begins the book with an author’s note.  Through seeing photos of children playing soccer, a sport the author enjoys, he noticed the children were rising above the chaos and destruction. Jesse shares how he writes and illustrates the book at the Amazon link.

Hope for Haiti is a story of a young boy who plays soccer. His home is a temporary shelter made with tarps, posts and a sheet of tin. His ball is made of rags twined together with rubber bands. His joy is through playing with friends and children.  Meeting a man who encourages their youthfulness by giving them a soccer ball signed by professional, one who had been like them.  Laughter rises above the turmoil.

I hope you find books that will bring joy and hope in times of hardship and difficulty. Through sharing this book and others, children’s imaginations will allow them to rise above their circumstances and sail toward their dreams.

Afraid of Monsters

August 6, 2009

Many children fear monsters and let their imaginations go, thinking of weird-like creatures that are waiting for them in hidden places.  Mercer Mayer has written on this topic in There’s a Nightmare in my Closet.  Disney Pixar created the Monsters, Inc. movie.  Meg Rosoff created Jumpy Jack and Googily. Books are a tool for children to talk about and face their fears.  It’s also a creative idea to write about a monster in a friendly sort of way. Jumpy Jack & Googily

In Meg Rosoff’s book, Jumpy Jack, a snail-like creature, is worried about monsters.  Each time the friends encounter an object or place that a ‘monster’ might jump out at them, Jumpy Jack’s friend, Googily will check.  Ironically, Googily is blue, big-eyed and has sharp-looking teeth.  Sophee Blackall illustrates Googily in all the poses his friend fears, yet not scaring his friend at all.  The children will love looking at the illustrations and probably laugh at the irony of the fear.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Jump Jack and Googily:

  • Conversational text – each scene is introduced by Jumpy commenting to his friend
  • Small Moment – an afternoon walk
  • Writing Idea – fears, imagination
  • Repeating Structure – “No monsters here,” said Googily.  “Or here.”  “Phew,” said Jumpy Jack.
  • Transitional response (I’ m not sure what to call this, but the phrases are used in transitions and in response to a friend’s statement) – Perhaps I am, Nonetheless, All the same, No doubt

(Warsaw Public Library)

a boy read

Storm is Coming

June 23, 2009

Heather Tekavec creates a fun story based on point of view in Storm is Coming.  The title page illustration, by Margaret Spengler, gives a foreshadowing of a thunderstorm approaching. 

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The farmer begins, “Storm is coming.  We better get the animals safely in the barn!”  Once the animals were in the barn, the cat awakens and asks, “Who is Storm?” 

Speculation begins between the animals.  Who is Storm?  Each animal shares some terrible attribute they think the animal might be.  As the weather becomes bleak, the animals are ironically encouraged.  They believe “Storm” will be driven away.

“The wind will blow Storm away.”

“The rain will wash away our tracks, so Storm can’t follow us.”

In the end, “Storm” never arrives and the animals cheer. 

Savorings for reading and in writing for Storm is Coming:

  • Show don’t Tell – “The cows just lay in the corner and moaned.”
  • Tag on Said – “Round ’em up!” the farmer called as Dog ran circles around the sheep.
  • Past and Present Verbs – “The barking, the flapping, the bleating, the mooing awoke cat from her nap in the hay.  She stretched and yawned and opened one eye.”
  • Magic of 3
  • Character Emotion – “And he must be-e-e very sca-a-a-ry!” the sheep stammered, starting to shiver.”

Slice of Life 2: Kindergarten Innocence

March 2, 2009

I love remembering fun moments in the day.   Watching young children, they often enjoy life and are easy going.  I can learn a lot from them.   We’ve been working on community and helping each other through the learning process.  We celebrate each others learning.  This slice of life will bring much laughter to me each time I think of these boys.

I have been working in a kindergarten class as a literacy coach this past week.  This one particular day, I had finished the mini-lesson and was dismissing the youngsters to their seats.  Wanting to reinforce the colors they had been working on, I began by saying, “Girls with brown hair may return to their seats.”  A little boy, Max, was  sitting next to a colleague’s son, Brian.  Max innocently turned to Max, pointing to his hair and asking, “Is my hair brown?”

Without missing a beat, Brian gave him a quizzical look and said, “Dude, your not even a girl!”  I couldn’t help myself.  I began to chuckle.  Oh, the innocence of kindergartners.

Yuki’s Ride Home

February 9, 2009

Children begin to learn bravery at a young age.  They face their fears through small experiences that seem grand to them, just like the little girl in Yuki’s Ride Home.  The author, Manya Tessler, stated that she had a difficult time “learning to leave Japan, where she resided for two years.”  Thus, she related the events to this story she created.

Yuki rides her bike over the bridge connecting her home to where her grandmother lives.  She’s excited; it’s her fist day riding her bike home alone.  Do you remember the sense of freedom learning to ride your bike and then getting to go places?  Our students have many stories inside of them that can revolve around a bike ride.  This book would be a great lead for a story idea to use with them.  I also appreciate the interweaving of the thoughts and feelings of the character.  Students often find it difficult to write the emotions and turmoil in their writing, which definitely lifts the connection to the reader.

The story shares simple activities Yuki and grandma do together – feeding her pets, making origami, listening to the wild life near the pond.  Our kids can write about ordinary activities in their life, especially when shared with a special family member.  Manya Tessler gives the reader a glimpse as to how Yuki is feeling through her thoughts.

‘Mom will worry if I’m not home soon,’ thought Yuki.”

Ka-tung Ka-tung beat Yuki’s heart.”

Enjoy this beautifully illustrated book with your students.  Capture the every day moments.  Highlight how each child can relate to Yuki as they have accomplished a difficult task and been brave during the difficult times.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Yuki’s Ride Home:

  • One day story
  • Exploding the moment scene
  • Show don’t Tell – “Yuki’s stomach flipped, and she sat still on her bike.”
  • Character’s internal conflict
  • Every day activities

 (Warsaw Public Library book)

Drawing Lessons

January 12, 2009

Dudley Ellington had trouble in school” begins this realistic narrative.  At first glance, my mind began placing different current males students in this character role – someone who doodles and fidgets in his eat when he has trouble learning.  Know of anyone like that?  I’m sure you do.  We can all relate to a Dudley.

In Ms. McCaw Learns to Draw, Kaethe Zemach shares a story that any teacher appreciates.  (In some ways, the teacher reminds me of Mr. Falker in Patricia Polacco’s book,  Thank You, Mr. Falker.)  Ms. McCaw is a patient teacher.  She cares and wants to see him achieve.  She helps Dudley, modeling and coaching, sitting expectantly beside him until he learns.  The students love Ms. McCaw and believe that she can do anything.  Why, she is a teacher, you know.  She teaches them all subject areas, bringing the unfamiliar to life in her class  (just like yours).

One day she struggles with drawing a person on the chalkboard.  Her frustration is so great, she becomes defeated and finally gives up.  You can almost hear the sigh of “what-do-we-do-now?”  coming from the children.  Dudley rises to the occasion and becomes the hero!

I think this book allows for the class to discuss how everyone has areas of struggles and need.  We can help each other out.  Dudley shares his talent and “trades” roles with his teacher.  This book can be a springboard in helping build community.  (It even makes reference to making fun of someone.)

Enjoy learning to draw faces from a side profile position.  I found this book to be perfect for the kindergarten class I am working with.  I have been reading this great resource book, Talking, Drawing, and Writing by Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe The philosophy behind the book is to teach children to draw with deals the oral stories they share.  The more detailed the picture, the better the story, thus lifting the level of writing.  Therefore, when I read the book, Kaethe Zemach has “Dudley” share specific moves to make the face.  You should try it!  Have fun.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Ms. McCaw Learns to Draw:

  • One day story – highlighting an important event
  • Ellipse – used with transition to the next page, a suspense holder
  • Community – everyone has a talent; we can learn to help each other
  • Drawing –
  • Feelings – as the reader, you become involved with the characters’ emotions