Amazing Kids

Amazing Kids

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Power of a Picture Book

Today in fourth grade we read This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen.

I'm telling you this because I just read Beth Shaum's Nerdy Book Club post citing her "Top 10" list of things picture books taught her.  You see, I was ignorant of the value of a well-written picture book until after I had given away far too many of them when I moved from first grade to fifth. Regret is always the emotion I feel when recalling those wonderful books.

In our classroom we have been discussing and investigating ways to make inferences as we read. During our read-aloud time, I'll often stop and ask questions that lead to inferences, and we've had several mini-lessons on the topic, with charts to help sort out direct information from prior knowledge in order to arrive at an inference. As much as I appreciate organizational charts, sometimes they just don't quite get to the heart of a thing, though.

This morning's experience was sheer delight. It was my goal to make it absolutely, positively obvious to my kids that they are more than capable of making inferences every single time they read. Up to today, there has been a cloud of doubt in their minds, which has bothered me more than a little. I wondered how to shake it off; how to wrap them instead in a cloak of confidence. Today's reading of Jon Klassen's amazingly told story did the trick!

As I relive the reading of the book, what stands out to me is the kids' absolute immersion in the story. But just as important is their confidence in making their own inferences throughout the entire tale. Some kids thought the little fish was going to return the hat; some thought he had "found" it. They all were audibly (gasps, laughter, and various comments) moved when the big fish narrowed his eyes. They INFERRED that the big fish knew exactly who (or whom?) had taken his too-small hat. They were one-hundred percent engrossed, underwater, as the little fish swam confidently into the tall grass that was "close together," convinced he was completely safe. There were inferences flying all over the place!

Today my kids experienced an exquisitely told story of stealing and... (no, I'm not going to spoil the ending). But mostly, they enjoyed themselves completely while they gained confidence in learning that they CAN do something they thought was out of their reach. Every one of them felt success, engagement, and love for a well-told story.

Thank you to Jon Klassen for this incredibly illustrated tale! You rocked our world today!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

One Little Word

I don't know how many of these I've read or heard about. At least 20. At first I didn't really pay attention - until one of them got stuck. Hung on. Wouldn't let go. I found myself brining up the topic in a conversation at home. Then with a friend, then with a friend and colleague. 'm not really a "New Year's Resolution" kind of person but do find it important to set goals for myself. Over our holiday break the idea of one little word kept nagging away at me. In the middle of the night (like right now) when I suddenly found (or find) myself wide awake for apparently no reason, often my thinking has been about someone's one little word. Fighting the urge to jump on another bandwagon with the rationale that it would only add something else to my already overflowing plate didn't seem to help.
Gradually I allowed myself to at least be open to THINKING about a possible word that would be my focus for this year. That open door ushered in a host of possible words. It wasn't a long and it was relatively simple to eliminate certain words. Most importantly, it was impossible to shake the idea of needing one for myself.
Wanting to see if this was just going to pass, I stalled on writing about it. Then I got the flu and was out of commission for over a week. My mind was a fog and there was pretty much nothing else I could do but drag myself from the bed to the couch or vice-versa. I vaguely remember reading a few emails, blog posts, and twitter feeds, but that took way more effort than I was really capable of putting forth. Yet the OLW kept sitting there in the shadows of my brain, keeping a quiet but determined presence through it all.
So here's my one little word: ENCOURAGE.
Encourage my students. This isn't really a huge stretch for me. That's my tendency anyway. Sometimes, though, I find myself going down a path that's taking me in the wrong (negative) direction. I want to be careful not to do that, so my word will be a reminder to stay true to the best parts of myself.
Encourage my students' parents. There have been times when parents make me want to pull my hair out (not THIS year, of course!) for this or that reason. I could list them, but that's the whole point. I'm a parent, too, and nothing helps me more than to hear a word of encouragement in the midst of  one of my own kids making some bone-headed choice. Just this week some friends  empowered me through their encouragement of me as a parent. At school this past week there were a few difficult conversations I needed to have with parent, and because I made it a point to encourage them, to help them see good and hope, to speak words that would "bring courage" to them, every one of the conversations ended on a positive note. The parents felt better, which in turn, helps kids, too.
Encourage other teammates. There are so many people who make up our daily "world" and each one is an important person both in terms of being a team member and in terms of them being a human. It's easy to overlook some people. But every person in our building has an important role. Making it a point to encourage each of these amazing people helps maintain a community of caring individuals who make school a welcoming, positive, safe place to be.
Encourage my family. I have a really great family. I am so proud to be part of my family. My spouse is a man of honor and integrity, my daughters both teach me so much about myself and life, my parents, brothers, and nieces and nephews are loving, thoughtful people. Spending time with my extended family is a boost for everyone involved. So many people today can't say that. I'm very fortunate, I know. Investing in them, even if it's with simple encouragement is what I want to be known for.
Encourage myself. This one might be the hardest. But it's important, I know. While it's often easy to encourage others, it's pretty easy for me to be my own worst critic. Of course that's counter-productive. I know this and yet so often I'm down on myself for this or that. So this year, one of my tasks will be to encourage myself. Several years ago I heard or read someone's advice to "build on islands of strength." We all have many of those islands. Things we do, skill sets we possess,  personality traits, and more, that comprise our strengths. This year I will remind myself of those and build on them with more intention.
Okay, there's my one little word. Thank you to the many bloggers who have shared theirs, ( is one) and to the people who allowed me to to dialogue through this ( ). You have all encouraged me and I'm so very grateful.