A Home Connection for Shared Reading

Illustrating the Poetry and Song Notebook

Illustrating the Poetry and Song Notebook

Every week we do a lot of shared reading in our kindergarten classroom. I typically choose two new songs or poems and one or two new mini-books each week, in addition to a big book or two. The purpose of shared reading is to make texts accessible to all children, allowing them to experience what it feels like to be a proficient reader. It is a time for us to teach about the reading process and serves as a gateway to guided reading and independent reading. A focus for a shared reading lesson at this time of the year, could include, but is not limited to the following:

*concepts about print such as voice-to-print match, left-to-right reading with return sweep, reading the left page before the right, and punctuation and what it means for the reader

*using meaning, structure and visual information to solve words and comprehend

*searching and gathering information to support word solving or comprehension

*word work and word study analogies

I feel that it’s important for families to see the shared reading we do each week and to give their child a chance to read the poem, song or book to them at home. One way that works quite well is to send home a weekly Poetry and Song Notebook. This is a 3-ring binder where children keep copies of all the poems, songs and mini-books we read each week. Every Friday we pass out copies of our shared reading and give the children a few minutes to illustrate them. They are then put in the binder and sent home for the weekend. We stress the importance of bringing these binders back to school on Monday, since they are kept in the child’s individual book box and are familiar texts that children can read independently during our reader’s workshop. I take photos of the actual charts, (thanks to a great suggestion by my teammate Sam), and put those in the binders. Here are a few examples.

Our charts are stored here for children to read during Reader's Workshop

Our charts are stored here for children to read during Reader’s Workshop

The opening letter and first song in our notebooks

The opening letter and first song in our notebooks

The charts are photographed so children see what we read in class

The charts are photographed so children see what we read in class – this is a mini-book we did after The Kissing Hand

August 10 for 10 Picture Book Event!

We are excited to be participating in the 10 for 10 Picture Books project again! This is the fourth year that Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek have hosted this compilation of blog and Twitter posts (#PB10for10) about the 10 picture books you just can’t live without.

The first five are Katie’s picks and the second five are Pat’s. Enjoy!


Good News Bad News, by Jeff Mack is a simple text that uses only 4 words to tell the story of two friends who have very different ways of looking at the world. Kids love reading the pictures and beg for this to be read again and again.





It’s a Tiger, by David LaRochelle and Jeremy Tankard.  This book was voted as the #1 Favorite by my class this year. They absolutely loved it!  A rollicking adventure with a tiger makes this an instant favorite read aloud.





Beautiful Oops!, by Barney Saltzberg.  This is a wonderful book to show kids how mistakes can be something beautiful. With fun cut-outs, pop-ups and interactive pages, this book engages children and encourages them to create and not be scared of making mistakes.





Press Here, by Herve Tullet. I absolutely love this fun book. The text instructs the reader to push dots, shake the book and then through your imagination the book magically comes alive. This is a must-have for your classroom library regardless of the age of your students.





Ol’ Mama Squirrel, by David Ezra Stein. Mama Squirrel will do whatever it takes to protect her babies. Kids enjoy this funny story of brave Mama Squirrel. This book also has nice text features to use as a writing mentor text.




6140VbmaPML._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Each Kindness, by Jacqueline Woodson. I would not be surprised to see this book on everyone’s list of 10 for 10.  It’s a big hit with everyone I share it with, adults and children alike.  A little girl learns a lesson about kindness after being mean to one of her new classmates. This book leaves children with a desire to treat everyone with a little kindness lest you regret your missed opportunities.




51E7nP9Xi-L._SX300_The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt, is a book filled with subtle humor.  Each crayon writes a letter to their owner telling him about why they are feeling rejected, overused, stubby, or naked. Yellow and orange fight over what color the sun really is.  I had to laugh out loud at Purple’s letter because one of my grandchildren just LOVES purple and uses up all our purple markers and crayons. This book would be fun for K-2 to hear, but also useful in upper grades for an example of point of view writing.



31y-kfs3+XL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_I am definitely on an “Amy Krouse Rosentahl” kick these days.  I just love her humor.   In Exclamation Point we get a quirky lesson in punctuation.  My favorite page is when the question mark shows up and asks no less than 20 questions in a row.  When reading it aloud, read these fast.  It cracks the kids up.



51TAO9fNSrL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_This one has been around since 2006, but I just discovered it.  Another A. K. Rosenthal book, One of Those Days, would pair nicely with Viorst’s classic book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. All kids will relate to “Feeling Left Out Day” and “Can’t Find Stuff Day” and “Nobody’s Listening To You Day.”  The pictures tell it all. This one is an easy mentor text for getting writing ideas too.




31OLeLfeF2L._SX300_Kathryn Otoshi does it again with Zero as she did with OneAnother great book with a serious message.

NEW Mrs. Wishy-Washy Books and a Giveaway!

We love Mrs. Wishy-Washy!

We love Mrs. Wishy-Washy!

We love Mrs. Wishy-Washy in our kindergarten classroom. She becomes an old friend early in the year when we read the many  early stories of her adventures with the cow, duck, and pig. The big books become treasured items in our classroom. We act out the stories using tiny toys and create interactive writing pieces based on the books. The children beg for more stories about her and get very excited when Mr. Wishy-Washy is introduced.  Last year at the Reading Recovery conference, I was excited to see that there is a whole new series starring Mrs. Wishy-Washy by the wonderful Joy Cowley. I bought single copies of the books and they became fast favorites in our classroom.

Recently, I was contacted by the publisher, Hameray Publishing, and asked to review these new titles. I turned this task over to my kindergarteners. We read the books and used them in our study of story elements including characters, setting, problem and solution. Here are some thoughts from the voices of five and six year-olds – the perfect audience for the Mrs. Wishy-Washy series.

*I like the books because they have animals in them. I like Mrs. Wishy-Washy.

*They are so funny because Mrs. Wishy-Washy is always trying to give them a bath. I liked when the animals went to a car wash. (in the book Mrs. Wishy-Washy and the Big Wash) That was so funny!

*Joy Cowley is a smart writer. She knows how to make kids laugh. I love Mrs. Wishy-Washy!

*Mrs. Wishy-Washy is the best character ever. I like her and the Pigeon (from Mo Willems) the best!

*It was so funny when the animals put on Mrs. Wishy-Washy’s clothes (in the book Wishy-Washy Clothes). They looked funny and it made me laugh so hard!

*Joy Cowley writes books for kids that kids like. She makes the characters solve problems in a funny way. Sometimes Mrs. Wishy-Washy gets tricked by the animals. I like that!

As a teacher, I love these new books too! The Early Birds Collection is perfect for emergent readers, with easy to read text, meaningful story lines and engaging pictures and text. I’ve used these books for small group shared reading and independent reading. If I had multiple copies, they would be ideal for guided reading. The Joy Cowley Collection is excellent as well. These books are a bit more challenging, but still perfect for late kindergarten, first and second grade readers. The books engage children and provide multiple opportunities for predicting and thinking beyond the text. The stories are highly engaging and truly appeal to children at this age. Again, I have used these books in small group shared reading and for independent reading. They would be perfect guided reading texts as well.

I encourage you to visit the Hamaray website and see the new Mrs. Wishy-Washy series, as well as new books with Dan the Flying Man, the Meanies and the Hungry Giant. They also make finger puppets with the characters – perfect for a retelling station. If you love  Mrs. Wishy-Washy, you will love this new series! And if you’d like to win some of these books for your classroom, or a for the classroom of a favorite teacher, then read on…

The Joy Cowley Classroom Giveaway calls for teachers, parents, friends, relatives and anyone else who wants to nominate a classroom to possibly win 90 new titles from The Joy Cowley Collection and The Joy Cowley Early Birds Collection by beloved author and Mrs. Wishy-Washy creator, Joy Cowley! These two new collections of leveled readers, for K-2nd grade classrooms, are developed for shared, guided and independent reading. Finger puppets and 3 audio CDs will also be included. Please nominate your favorite early childhood classroom here. You can also find out more about Hameray Publishing, Mrs. Wishy-Washy and other fun activities on Pinterest, Facebook and Hameray Publishing. You can use the discount code, ZJCC13 for a 20% discount that expires 6/30/13.

Hamaray Publishing is also generously donating a Joy Cowley Big Book as a prize to a lucky winner on our blog! All you need to do is leave a comment below with your name and the grade level you teach before 5pm April 28. We’d love to hear your thoughts on using Joy Cowley’s books in your classroom as well! The winner will be randomly chosen April 28. Check back that evening to see who the winner is!

A few of our favorites...

A few of our favorites…

Disclosure: I received complimentary products for review. All opinions are my own and this is not a compensated post. 

Name Books

Name puzzles

In my kindergarten class I have a wide range of learners – from the few who aren’t quite sure what a letter is to the few who are fluently reading Hattie and the Fox. I’m sure many of you can relate to this! I was reflecting on my work with the kids who had no known letters, or only a few, and wondering what our next steps were. I always start with the known, so names were my launching point. We did many name activities and these students were beginning to consistently know a few letters from their names. I wanted to create a book with them to keep in their book box and to help reinforce the teaching I was doing. These particular students were not quite ready to start an ABC book like the ones Pat and I refer to in Chapter 6 of Catching Readers. Since they had very limited letter knowledge, (2-5 known letters), I wanted to start with something more in their ZPD. So I decided to make them a “name book”.

“For almost every young learner, knowledge of one’s name unlocks a multitude of understandings. A name forms a link in helping a child learn about print.”

(Fullerton, 1997)

The cover of a name book.

I made the books with enough pages for each letter in the child’s name and one additional title page. I wrote the full name (first name only – for now) on the cover, making the capital letters red and the lowercase letters blue. Then I put a picture of the child on the cover as well. On the inside pages I wrote the letters of the child’s name – one per page – again with the capital in red and the lowercase in blue. I sat down with each child as I created this and the child chose links (pictures or words) to go with each letter. They either put a sticker on that page or drew a picture. These books can now be read with the children, read independently and kept in book boxes or read with a buddy. Currently, I only made name books for my children who are working on learning their names and the letters in their names. But I think all the children would enjoy having one of these books. It would make a great book basket for our reading area and would allow children to learn each other’s names.The first page of Sophia's name book.

Some other concepts that can be taught by using names and the name books:

*The connections between letters and sounds

*That letters can be written in two ways (upper and lower case, like David)

*The same sound can be represented by different letters (Jasmin, Gerald)

*Concept of word vs. letter (“Jose’s name is a word. How many letters are in this word? Let’s count them.”)

*Long and short words (“Jackeline’s name is a long word, Bo’s name is a short word.”)

*Words have parts (“Let’s clap Alexander’s name. Let’s clap Ann. How many parts?”)

Names are such a powerful tool for teaching in the early grades. How else are you using children’s names to teach?

We are readers!

Retelling the story Owl Babies with props

My kindergarteners are readers. Every single one of them. Every day we read poems and songs together on charts, we read art, we read the morning message on our SMARTboard, we read labels in our classroom, we read books that we write, we read on the iPads, we read Tweets and blogs, we read books by ourselves and with buddies and we listen to lots of books read aloud. The kids are learning to read the pictures, read the words and talk about the books. We retell and act out our favorite stories with toys that go along with the books. We spend a lot of time talking about authors and what authors do. Some of our favorite authors are: Mo Willems, David Shannon, Eric Carle and Eric Litwin. I refer to my students as “readers” throughout the day. I am helping build  and create that identity and have them see themselves as readers. It’s the foundation we build in kindergarten that will carry our readers through to a lifetime of reading.

Who are some of your favorite authors? How are your readers building their identity?

Think – Rethink – Layer

Recently someone asked me, “What kinds of things do you do in summer to get ready for the upcoming school year?”  I referred the person to Katie because I assumed the question meant “ideas for setting up your classroom or other things related to your organization, management, or curriculum for the next class of kids.”  Since I am no longer working full time in a school my first reaction was that I had no thoughts on the matter.  But over the past few weeks, I’ve come to realize that I do plenty in the summer to plan for the next year.  As a literacy consultant who does staff development with groups of teachers and as a volunteer who works in a school to support kids and teachers, I spend lots of time thinking, reading, rethinking, layering my knowledge base, and sometimes shifting my ideas about teaching reading, supporting children who struggle, and guiding teachers toward new understandings.

One way I do this is to read, read, read in the summer.  I read blog posts, professional books, children’s literature, and various articles referred to by colleagues on Twitter.

Here is a bit of the thinking that comes from all that reading:

1. I can’t stop reflecting on the idea of changing the way we talk to children so that they develop a sense of agency as Peter Johnston explains. He got me thinking about this with his first book, Choice Words, but took me even further with Opening Minds. He says we can support children in developing agentive narratives…. “I am a person who…” By the end of Opening Minds he gets us thinking about supporting kids’ moral compasses as they realize “I am a person who…acts when I see injustice or inequality.” But in the early chapters, Johnston shows us how to support all students, even kindergartners, as they create agentive narratives about themselves as readers and writers.  “I am a person who…. solve problems when I read; tries something and, if that doesn’t work, tries something else; goes back and rereads to keep the story in my head;  keeps checking to make sure that what I’m reading makes sense; and so on. He does this by giving us peeks into classrooms where teachers support these agentive narratives so well.  On pages 2-4, teacher Pageen loses her place during a read aloud because of an interruption.  She tells the students that she needs to go back and reread a page to remember what was going on.  Michael chimes in saying that he does that same thing.  Pageen asks him to tell the class more about that. The child describes how he does exactly what the teacher was just talking about. Later in the day the teacher attributes that idea to Michael when she mentions to the class, “Remember what Michael does when… ”  The teacher has “created a story line in which Michael was a particular kind of reader.” Michael nows owns this narrative.  He is a reader who...

2. I’ve also spent hours thinking about Barnhouse and Vinton’s idea of back door teaching — not naming a strategy for the students until they have actually experienced using it as they negotiate a text together (from What Readers Really Do.) Take character traits, for example.  How many times have we asked kids to name a trait of a particular character?  They often say, “she’s nice” or “not nice.”  To help them with better word choice, we’ve often brainstormed a list of traits for the kids to choose from and then ask them to provide evidence of why they think that trait applies. But Barnhouse/Vinton say we should help kids start with what’s in the text.  Help them learn to read carefully and notice what the character does or says.  Then ask, “what kind of person acts like that?” By doing this together, the students have actually done some inferring.  But there is no need to begin the lesson by defining or identifying “inferring” as a useful strategy.  Always begin with meaning making.

3. While reading  an article by Franki Sibberson in Choice Literacy, I got excited to share her ideas for setting up an upper elementary classroom with interactive wall displays.  She suggests a board with pictures of book characters, another with interesting/fun facts, graphs, surveys, or images; another display with word play ideas, and yet another with websites worth visiting.    She says, “Like a museum, I want the room to be filled with invitations and possibilities, with something for everyone.” I can see the kids in that room having so much to talk about and share while browsing the walls in the first few days.

4. From my reading of children’s lit, I am recommending several of my favorite chapter books to read aloud to 4th and 5th grades this year:  One for the Murphys, How to Steal a Dog, and The One and Only Ivan. Today I’m heading to a book store to look for Wonder because I loved what Katherine Sokolowski wrote about it in this week’s Choice Literacy.

What have you been thinking a lot about this summer?  

Are you changing anything next school year because of something you read or heard this summer?

August 10 for 10 – Picture Book Extravaganza!

It’s that time of the year again…the August 10 for 10 Picture Book Event! This is the third year that Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek have hosted this compilation of blog and Twitter posts (#PB10for10) about the 10 picture books you just can’t live without. I am excited to share the 10 books that I will most definitely enjoy again this year in my kindergarten classroom – a few of these suggested in posts from last year’s 10 for 10. Enjoy!

Red Rubber Boot Day

1. Red Rubber Boot Day  by Mary Lyn Ray – A wonderful celebration of a rainy day, stomping through puddles and enjoying the rain. This was  a writing mentor text we returned to often. Her book Mud is equally fabulous and pairs well with this one.

Big Frog Can’t Fit In

2. Big Frog Can’t Fit In by Mo Willems – Another fun book by Mo Willems, this complex pop-up, pop-out, flap book is the story of poor Big Frog who is too big for the book. With a little help from his friends he finds a solution to the problem.


3. Stars by Mary Lyn Ray and Marla Frazee – The illustrations and story in this book are just lovely. From stars in the sky to stars on a magic wand, short lines of text explore stars and the many different ways stars can be seen and found in the world. Beautiful language and exquisite illustrations made this a book that many children “stood on the shoulders” of as they wrote their own books about stars.


4. Help! A Story of Friendship by Holly Keller – The animals manage to convince Mouse that Snake wants to eat him instead of be his friend. Mouse listens to the gossip and becomes scared of Snake – until he gets into a situation where only Snake can help. This book launched some great conversations when we had  issues with children talking about others in unkind ways and helped the class come to the conclusion that problems are best solved when you go straight to the source, and making up stories about other people isn’t a good way to make friends. A pretty big concept for kindergarteners, and an important life lesson as well.


5. Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell – This true story of Jane Goodall makes me tear up just thinking about it. A fabulous, simple text, yet deep story of following your dreams. I ended our last day of school with this read aloud (and many tears). I hope my kids remember the message it left us with that you can be anything you want to be – follow your passions and don’t let anything stop you.

If Rocks Could Sing

6. If Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet by Leslie McGuirk – A wonderful addition to your alphabet books, this author found rocks that were in the shape of all the letters of the alphabet. She compiled the photos in this book along with short text to accompany and explain each of the rock shapes. It is great and the kids just loved seeing the alphabet in rocks. It inspired many of them to look for letters in rocks and outdoors as well.

Chickens to the Rescue

7. Chickens to the Rescue by John Himmelman – This was one of our all time favorites! It’s a laugh-out-loud, “read it again!” book that the kids love. A fun, crazy story about a family living on a farm who has many misadventures but never needs to worry because the chickens come to the rescue! Or maybe they DO need to worry… We had some great conversations about whether the chickens really were helping or just making more of a mess. This is the first in a series and each book ends with clues about the next book. Just go ahead and get the whole series (Pigs to the Rescue and Cows to the Rescue) – your kids will be begging to see what happens next!

Grumpy Bird

8. Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard – We all have bad days and Grumpy Bird is the best cure for a grumpy class (or teacher). Ha! A good story of friends helping out and turning a bad day around.

The Doghouse

9. The Doghouse by Jan Thomas – I discovered Jan Thomas this year and she immediately became a favorite author in our classroom. We used her books for mentor texts in writing and as “laugh out loud” favorite read alouds to revisit again and again. The Doghouse was a favorite.

Bob the Dog

10. Bob the Dog by Rodrigo Folgueira – Pat gave this book to our class as a gift and it immediately went to the “Our Favorites” box. The illustrations are hilarious and tell much of the story. The kids fall in love with Bob, the dog who accidentally swallows a canary. Bob is distraught over this situation and tries many ways to get the canary out. It’s only Jeremy the Canary’s mom who can finally get him to come out. We loved learning why Jeremy went down Bob’s throat (because he didn’t want to clean his room), and what his punishment is (cleaning Bob’s room). We liked this book so much we made a VoiceThread of our comments and thoughts about the book.

What are some of your favorite books? Are any of my favorites ones you use in your classroom?

Summer Reading

One of my very favorite things about summer is the time I have to read. I have vivid memories of riding my bike to the public library during summer vacations when I was in elementary school. I would check out 12 books (the most they would allow), balance them precariously in the basket of my bike, ride home and devour them on the screened in back porch and then ride back to the library to get 12 more. Summer days spent reading were the best. I still feel that way now.

I started my summer by reading several “just for fun” books. Elin Hilderbrand is one of my favorite “beach book” authors, as well as Chris Bohjalian. Now that I’ve decompressed a bit and am in full-on summer mode, I’m diving into my professional reading stack. Of course, I’ll make sure to mix up the professional reading with plenty of pleasure reading too.

Here’s what’s on my professional reading list:

Teaching in the Digital Age: Smart Tools for Age 3 to Grade 3 by Brian Puerling

Talk About Understanding: Rethinking Classroom Talk to Enhance Comprehension by Ellin Oliver Keene

What Readers Really Do: Teaching the Process of Meaning Making by Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton

Choice Words (I always reread this one in the summer) and Opening Minds by Peter Johnston

Blocks and Beyond: Strengthening Early Math and Science Skills Through Spatial Learning by Mary Jo Pollman

The Play’s the Thing: Teachers’ Roles in Children’s Play by Elizabeth Jones and Gretchen Reynolds

Magic Capes, Amazing Powers: Transforming Superhero Play in the Classroom by Eric Hoffman

Already Ready: Nurturing Writers in Preschool and Kindergarten (rereading & discussing with my Kindergarten team) by Katie Wood Ray and Matt Glover

Young Mathematicians at Work: Constructing Number Sense, Addition and Subtraction by Cathy Twomey Fosnot and Maarten Dolk

In Pictures and In Words: Teaching the Qualities of Good Writing Through Illustration Study (another reread but I want to do more with this next year) by Katie Wood Ray

Happy summer reading, friends! Enjoy.

What’s on your summer reading list?

Do you have favorite books you read and reread as a summer ritual?