Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Getting a Kindle...

for Matt. He carries about 8 books in his backpack, and, as a result, gets backaches - not to mention ruins every backpack in about a month or two.

I am going to let him experiment with reading electronically, and, in the process, I will too. Who knows? I may like it!

Here's the deal, however.

Matt loves to read already - anything he can get his hands on.

I was having a discussion with a fellow educator this week, and he was asking me why I don't recommend that kids read electronically, if that's what it takes to get them reading.  I firmly believe that the brain has specific neurons and development that goes along with reading books. If you don't grow those neural passages, it changes the entire make up/structure of the brain.

Now that is something to think about. Kids who are learning through technology, who have other ways of learning are DIFFERENT in their brain structure than us (those of us who learned on a chalkboard, anyway).

I don't want to hinder technology development, because, believe me, I am grateful for all the advancements we have made -- I have had four babies, and every improvement made my life amazingly easier!

I am not saying we have to do things "the old fashioned way" - but I do believe that reading (and language) is important in creating a brain that learns...period.

So, I am getting him a Kindle, but he had to show me he has mastered the basics, first.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Last minute ideas from me??? Books of course!

If you are still clamoring at the last minute to get all those gifts for your kids...consider books!

Here's my protocol: I buy a book I think I want them to try (it may be one we read together) and a gift card to a bookstore with the promise that I will take them while on vacation.

The giftcard gives them the opportunity to choose a book themselves, and the preselected books give me the opportunity to expose them to genres and text they may not necessarily consider for themselves.

Hopefully, you have a few wonderful books wrapped and under the tree...

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Surround yourself with readers...

As I was wonderfully encouraged by a friend of mine to try a new workout, I thought about how motivating it was to have her with me...ok, so she physically drove me there too, and pedaled right next to me.

She made it fun, and painless! I thought about how it has always been others who have really pushed me to be better, to do things I know I should, and who follow up with me and ask when I am going to do it again.

That's what we need when it comes to reading. You and your child may need a buddy...maybe they read the same book and you compare notes...or maybe you both keep a reading chart of books read or time read.

It will be more fun, and you will be held accountable.

I think for kids, it will begin their journey knowing reading is a part of a greater community and that it connects us to others...and you might too!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Letter and Word Hunts

Today Nick and I shared the newspaper again, and this time we did some letter hunting. We alternated between my pointing to a letter and him telling me what it is and my asking him to find a letter and him pointing to it. After he said the letter name, he always added something he knew that starts with that letter.

Once he's older, I will have him look for sight words - then more complex words. In second grade and early third, I have my kids hunt for certain kinds of words - adjectives, verbs, nouns -- and different kinds of sentences: interrogatory (?), exclamatory (!), and declarative (.).

Play around - give them highlighters, gel pens - have them cut them creative.

Three more days...and I have one with a stomach bug, one with an ear infection, one with a bad sore throat, one with runny nose, and my fingers crossed that it doesn't get any worse!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Imitation is the Greatest Form of Flattery

Involves a lot more than books. I noticed my son Nick (2) grabbing his portion of the newspaper this morning as we sat together at the breakfast table. First it was the Toys R Us ads, then the comics. As I continued my section, I noticed him looking over at me and imitating my reading habits. He laid out the paper exactly like me, and held his sippy cup just like I held my cup of coffee.

My point is, I wasn't actively trying to teach him anything about reading. I was just doing it.

I know life is busy for everyone, but if you want your kids to read, you need to lead by example.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Finding a happy place...and reading

Today I took my boys to Bookpeople...they expected to hit the aisles, load up my arms, and head on to the next destination...

Not so fast, partners.

Instead, we went straight to the cafe, claimed a table, and spent the next hour reading our new books and sipping hot chocolate.

They were a bit taken aback, and unmotivated at first. But after about 15 minutes, they realized I wasn't budging, and I was reading, so they dug into their new books.

We got a couple really good ones. Matt has been hooked on a new sports writer, Tim Green. He's devouring the series. He got an autographed book.

Sam opted for the next Alvin Ho, which I read a bit tonight. I like it...for reasons that I can see myself teaching with it. There are details and references to things that might slip over kids' heads...but if they catch it and get it, they will laugh hysterically. I already have two students in mind for this book. Good for boys, but girls too.

Ben picked two. One, called Kickers, he got into immediately. It's about a group of kids who play soccer, and the first book revolves around bossiness and being a "ball hog" and how that can be resolved. Good for kids playing sports. Second, he grabbed a book out of my hand: "Frankie Pickle" a good easy read balanced with graphic novel. It talks about a boy who is a "possum scout" entering his car in the Pinerun Derby -- as a cub scout, Ben was all over relating to that one.

Me? Oh, I was reading Cuthbert Soup's second book, "Another Whole Nother Story." Very subtle humor, very good writing. I have several students who have finished the first book, so I had to get the sequel for them.

So, where have I been? Up to my eyeballs in school, grades, then the holiday planning...not to mention our internet went out for two weeks...yep, two weeks.

I am back. Hopefully on a daily basis. I would love questions, situations where you may need advice...

Oh, and by the way, less than 5 shopping days left!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Resistance to do anything but the bare minimum...

...that's my son Sam right now. He's only willing to do what he HAS to do, especially when it comes to reading.

So what am I doing? Well, I am giving him a few weeks to do just that -- do only his 15-20 minutes of homework reading per night -- and then I am going to switch things up on him.

It is perfectly timed with Christmas break, where he will insist he doesn't NEED to read since he doesn't have homework.

I am going to plan a special trip to the bookstore with him...and I am also going to tap into his passion - computers and Legos. He is going to read about Legos by way of the "Visual Dictionary" books and then he will have the chance to go to the Lego store and explain to me what he read before getting a new set (under 40 dollars).

I am not going to force, or coerce. I am going to approach it peacefully, calmly, and coaxing a cat.

That's what works with him.

Sure, I could get upset, push, or just hand him books, but that isn't Sam's style...

Get to know your child's "style" -- how they need to be approached. That's the key to getting more.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A fun way to preview vocabulary and get them to write!

When you are reading with your child, look ahead. Just a few pages. Pick about 6-8 words that are either words they might not know (vocabulary) or interesting words. Write them on the top of a piece of paper.

Tell your child they are going to do "Splash" - named for the splash of words they get - review the words with them - define, give examples...and then have them use those words in a story - you can have them write or tell it to you. Or make up a story together if you have a reluctant writer.

Why would we do that out of context? Because it's different than simply telling them the meaning along the way. They will do different processing. They will think of the meanings as they use it in their own made up story (the stories can be ridiculous, serious, fiction or non - they choose).  Later, when they read their book, guess what words are going to pop out at them?

Guess where they can retrieve that information? From the context of their story!

I love this strategy because it gets the vocabulary, gets them reading, and writing is thrown into the mix!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

You know that nagging feeling...

when you feel like you should be more consistent doing something, yet...

I have got to carve out time to blog more. I think I need time. Time to actually blog, and also time to be inspired.

Thanksgiving was a teaser - it was so nice to have time to get done what I have been putting off. Necessary things that don't get done when you work full time and have four kids.

But I am making some goals for myself to restore myself - physically, mentally, and emotionally.

A few thoughts - in no order -

Go to the bookstore, drink coffee, and let the books be the priority - not the teaching, not the blog - I need to nurture the reader in me.

Hit the gym for yoga, maybe a massage, and a meeting with the personal trainer - to revitalize me in body.

Find a church home - and go. Enough said.

Take each kid for a "date" solo - give them the attention they so need...

Take my hubby for a date. Again, enough said.

Think about what your kids may need too. It's been a long haul since August, and they need the break and revitalizing as much as adults.

Keep in mind that we will need our batteries recharged as we return in January!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

No excuses

I took a little hiatus...wonderful holidays, great memories made.

Now the work. Your kids will probably be going through some mid-year testing soon - if not before Christmas, right after.

My students don't see many worksheet/fill in the bubble things. So it is my job to prepare them for what is to come.

My philosophy is to teach them how to read - how to summarize, analyze characters, and infer - with REAL TEXT...and then teach them how that looks on tests.

It's much better that way. I can't tell you how many kids I have seen over the years laden with packet after packet of test prep. They get so drilled, they don't even enjoy reading anymore. It's all about performance.

And it is about performance, but they WILL perform BEAUTIFULLY if they understand how to naturally do the work of reading.

Teaching them how to read questions and figure out the type of question it is is easy, once they know how to produce the thinking on their own with wonderful books.

My two cents today. My kids took a benchmark.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Reading Aloud is always essential...

Reading aloud to kids is as important all through life as it was when they were toddlers. They learn so much listening to the inflection and expression in your voice - and they are able to comprehend stories without the burden of decoding.

Reading aloud to your child should not be the way you read exclusively. Even now, with Nick at two, I have him read me a book each night. He tells me in his babble about the pictures, and whatnot I don't understand. As he does, I nod my head and confirm with words, "Yes, that is a bulldozer. I see how it pushes the dirt," or whatever is on the page. He usually acts things out or makes noises like the item.

One time we were reading an ABC book and he saw a balloon. Immediately, he stood on his bed, pointed towards the ceiling and shouted, "Up in the sky!" I remembered that we had "lost" a balloon to the sky before...and he remembered looking up and watching it go. That is connecting for him - schema - using what he knows from his prior knowledge/experience to comprehend what he is reading.

Wow. Long tangent. My point is to read out loud to them, but balance that with them reading to you aloud and them reading alone silently. BALANCE.

We are reading Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff. It is a Texas Bluebonnet Nominee, and I know that most of my kids wouldn't pick it up on their own. But since we have been reading, they have been asking for other books to read either by the same author, or similar in content.

That's the magic - you can introduce and get them excited simply by sharing it with them. Yes, I know you are busy - but make the time to keep reading aloud.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I forgot - it's officially been a year in Austin

This past week marked one full year here in Circle C, Austin. So much has happened in a year...

and I feel like it is like New Years in that I need to reflect and set some new goals.  When we came last Fall, I was home with Nick for the year...very different goals for my time and energy.

Now with teaching full time again, and boys that are older and more independent, it is time to push myself in new ways.

Reflection is the key. Looking where I have been, what's gone on...looking for patterns, even ruts.

I know myself. I need times to do that. If I don't, I am simply functioning day to day.

One goal I have is to grow this blog. How? I don't know yet. I do know that many people have read this the past year, and I want each and every one to walk away from the computer feeling positive about reading. Maybe even motivated.

So this weekend is a long one, and Wednesday I plan on taking time in between cooking and cleaning to sit back, get a cup of coffee, and journal about where I want this year to go.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Seriously? It's Sunday Night?

Wow. Has it been since Thursday? Yep. That's because my life has gone that quickly this week.

And now the holidays begin. It's not going to get much slower around here.

So I am in need of prioritization. Obviously, blogging has gone by the wayside in that more has been pressing on the immediate, needs-my-attention front.

This past few weeks has been emotional. One of Sam's teachers presented me with a question. Had we ever considered that he may have ADD? Yes, we had, but that had been ruled out - tests had shown more of a language processing issue in the past. But then I got to thinking...and analyzing, and, well, those of you who have gone down this road can relate.

I have so many thoughts: would this help him? does he need meds? what would the meds do? he has many characteristics, and maybe that is what is hindering him with expressive/receptive speech. Maybe there are lots of things running around up there and he can't grab a thought to get out.

We have agreed to screen him, and talk to the pediatrician. Chances are we will be referred to a neurologist.

All this to say that my mind has been preoccupied with him.

I say this too, to show you that my family struggles in their own ways, and I don't have a handle on everything.

I would like to...but that's not realistic.

So, two days till vacation...a well deserved break all around.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Handling it all

I know how busy life can be. Trust me.

Four kids, husband travels, full time teaching job and all those things entail -- when do I fit it in? The day to day chaos can easily push out time spent in quiet, spent with reading.

But make it a priority. Like exercise. You know it's good for you, and you feel so much better after you do it.

Think of it as an investment.

Yes, I know time is precious and fast fleeting...use what you can for what matters.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kids Talking about Books

The nice thing about having a big family is that there is always someone to talk don't wear the same brother can go to the next one and they have fresh ears for you.

My boys have been talking a lot about books they are reading - to each other. There is something wonderful and easy about talking to someone your own age, rather than an adult (your parent or teacher).

If you have a smaller family, try and find opportunities for them to talk with other kids. I have noticed that happens when we are at the bookstore. They just start talking to other kids as they are looking at books.

Or start a book club. Or ask your child's teacher if they ever have time to provide time for kids to get together and just talk about what they are reading in class.

I think sometimes that is overlooked as a powerful strategy to keep kids reading.

Think of it as positive influence, positive peer pressure, so to speak. It will pique their interest, and make reading a social, fun thing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Reading Nonfiction

Today I SLOWED kids way down...

It is very normal for kids to pick up nonfiction books, be fascinated by the pictures, yet never read a caption or put the picture together with the information that is being talked about in the text.

Today I taught them how to LOOK, EXAMINE, CRITICALLY THINK, AND INFER about pictures. We spent a lot of time on each and every picture and READ EVERY CAPTION.

I made it a mandate that they read captions NO MATTER WHAT (you must think I have caps lock on, but I am really emphasizing this for a reason).

It is common for kids to skim through or not read the captions at all and have several misconceptions and misunderstandings before they even begin to read.

I taught them how pictures should be a source of information, but also a springboard to lots of good questions to guide them in their reading.

I told them that each picture and caption is placed there for a reason: to help them understand.

Skimming or skipping this information would be tragic.

So ask your kids, require your kids, to look, read, examine. It will amaze them how much easier the text reading will be, and how many interesting things they will learn!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Making Books Accessible

I know this...but more than ever, I have realized that a lot of the reason my boys read is because...books are everywhere. Not in the clutter-filled, hoarder type way, but in a "we-have-books-at-hand-all-the-time" way.

The boys' backpacks, the baskets in the car, baskets in the armoires in the family room and den, the bookshelves in their rooms and the office...they are always available.

I think when books are a constant option, they are more apt to be involved with them.

Liken it to food - I read an article this morning on how San Fran (love that city) is trying to ban toys from Happy Meals. It mentioned that it isn't the toys that are the problem, but they are a draw. They talked about  how the meals aren't the evil in themselves (albiet not healthy), but it is the frequency that kids are consuming the meals.

Ok, so how does that relate to what I was saying about accessibility? Well, when we lived in Houston, there was fast food on every corner (just about). It was everywhere. On any drive we took, we would pass something. Of course, that made it that much easier to swing through (oh yes, the drive through makes it really simple) and get a quick meal rather than going home.

It takes more effort (and time) to go home, prepare a meal, and sit down. It even takes more effort (and time) to go to a sit down restaurant. Both of those options, however, provide a setting where people will savor their food, talk, and make eating an experience - people make choices - what to eat, how much to make, etc.

Back to books. It's kind of the reverse - we WANT books to be easy for them to get their hands on. Once they have the habit, then we want them to go to the library, bookshelf, and bookstore and be discerning - choosing what they want to read.

Maybe not the best comparison, but my thoughts on books sort of collided with what I was reading in the paper this morning.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cars and Trucks and Things That GO!

Nick's new favorite. I have not written about the preschool reader for a while, and last night Nick reminded me of his passion as he REFUSED to go to bed without reading two or three books.

What I have noticed in him as a reader is that whenever we read, he begins to act out things in ways that show me he sees this in real life.

For example, when we are reading ABC books, he insists on telling me things he knows that start with that letter ~ especially N "for me, Nicky."

In reading word books, we will see "lamp" or "lion" and he points to the lamp in his room or growls ferociously. He even showed me where the lightbulb was in his light when we saw one in his book.

Why is that important? Why do I make note of it?

Because he is connecting reading/books to his world.

He even sees a character doing something (say, Winnie the Pooh putting his hand in a honey pot) and he will say "that's messy mommy, go clean!"  He gets it.

Those are the building blocks. If Nick wasn't engaging at this point, I would be pointing those out to him, modeling how to do that.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Rich Content Engages

We have been doing an author study of Patricia Polocco. Her books are deep, meaningful, and full of content that kids really have to grapple with. There is a lot of inference too - they have to put pieces together to figure out some of what is happening.

Perfect fit for Veteran's Day yesterday was her book, Pink and Say. It takes place during the Civil War, and brings to life two 15 year old boys who are fighting in the Union army.

Let's suffice to say that there are some heavy moments - wounding, death, slavery, racism - and my kids hung on every word. It's a long book too...but it sparked amazing thoughts and discussion from my kids.

Oh, and yes, I cried. I always do. And the kids just patiently wait for me to compose enough to continue reading. Sometimes I explain my tears, sometimes I ask them if they understand why I am affected, sometimes it just goes unsaid.

I heard my kids gasp at one part...what does that mean? They were INVOLVED. They CARED. They REACTED.

And that is all I could ask for...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Wimpy Kid is Out!

First off, day two of reading in the morning - peace and quiet - I am loving this!

The past few days have been a waiting game for my three oldest boys. They knew I had pre-ordered (and saved about 12 bucks!) the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, and they were DYING for it to get here in the mail.

We knew the book was released on the 9th, so of course, the mail was the most important thing in the world to get on our way home. Unfortunately, no box yesterday. The sadness and disappointment! Matthew, who checked on Tuesday, stomped his foot after opening our mailbox and seeing nothing but bills (I have much the same reaction).

So they were SURE that yesterday the package would arrive. First, they fought over who was going to get to check the mailbox. We have a neighborhood set of boxes, so we have to stop and use a key before we get home.

Lucky Matt won the toss. He ran quickly to check...but by the slump in his shoulders I could tell it wasn't there.

Then Ben tried to brighten everyones' hopes, "Maybe it was too big and it's on our porch. Sometimes when mom orders books that's what happens."

So Sam starts craning his neck from the backseat as we pull into our driveway. I begin unloading Nick and the various other items I have to drag into the house and I hear, "IT'S HERE!"

As I turn to look, my porch is covered in dropped backpacks, pieces of torn cardboard, and packing wrap. They didn't even wait for scissors to open the box~and Sam stood there and immediately began to read.

Can you say excitement? Those are kids who love books...and yes, I made them clean up the mess...after they read a chapter or two.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

First thing in the morning

My boys have started a new routine...we usually arrive at school about 20-30 minutes before the bell. Therefore, they are in my classroom with me.

Yesterday they figured something out. They could use that time to do their reading homework, freeing up time later.

It is a total win-win. It is so quiet and peaceful in my room right now...I am actually getting things done!

Maybe instead of the TV in the morning, they could start out with a book - like we adults with the morning paper and our coffee (even though sometimes it is electronic versions of the paper).

The tone for the day is so different - they are ready mentally - it's set them up for success.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Rigor in Reading

We have been talking a lot about how in our teaching, we need to be providing rigor - complexity, opportunities for creativity, higher level thinking - every minute of the day.

I say a hearty AMEN.

I have always strived to provide precise teaching - knowing that every moment there is a plan - everything on purpose, that is. I have to know that my children are getting MEAT, not milk.

It's looking not only at what they are reading and writing, but what they are processing with that reading and writing.

Rather than simply retelling, they need to synthesize, analyze. Rather than choosing an answer from a,b, or c...they need to be creating, questioning, and inferring on their own.

We need to be asking questions that get them to think. Think about relationships between characters, motivations, influence...asking it in a way that makes them bring thoughts to the table. Why do you think? How does? Tell me about,,,

And give them time to think. Don't let them just say "I don't know."

Prod - "tell me what you are thinking..." If they say "I don't know," push for an answer (gently) by saying "I know you have great thoughts in your head about this - let's try to find one." Again, if they say they don't know, model what you are thinking. Then have them come up with a thought too. Don't let them off the hook.

Some of it might be they don't know what they are thinking and they just need to be taught to get in touch with their thoughts...others may be passively reading and need to be taught (or kept accountable) for having thoughts while they are reading.

Create opportunity where they bring their thinking to the table. That's where good conversations start. That's when they start understanding that reading is more than a task.

We need kids to be prepared for this world - which is ever changing - they need to be self directed, independent thinking, and able to generate ideas and processes...their brains need to have that exercise now. If all we are giving them is questions with discrete answers and then "let's move on," that's all they will be able to do.

I am all for rigor!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Giving You Feedback, Naturally

If you aren't sure what your child struggles with, watch them when they read -- without them knowing. I learn VOLUMES from body language, facial expressions, and the amount of focus they are giving. Watch for patterns in what they are "willing" to read, and where they are resistant.

I had an experience with my son, Sam, yesterday at the Book Fair (thus the entry entitled "patience"). He repeatedly tried to get me to buy books that were either too easy for him or were sticker books/Star Wars manuals.  Not that anything was wrong with the actual books, but - they weren't the right thing for him. We have more than enough Star Wars, and he needs a challenge to keep him growing as a reader.

He's my one who will always choose the easier route: "That's too long." (and yes, he does exhibit some ADD symptoms and receptive expressive language difficulties) Or, "I don't feel like that one right now."

I knew I shouldn't give in. We'd have to move past this, get over this hurdle, in order for him to get to the next level. 

Therefore, we clashed. I never raised my voice, I just kept talking him through it in a quiet, calm manner. He, however, disintegrated into a crying, whining, can't-handle-life state. 

But I stood my ground, and, a half an hour later, we came to a point where he could chose wisely, he could handle me saying no. 

Some parents would have just put everything back and said "I'm done with your attitude." And I do that, but this time, I knew that we needed to get through this and he would be better for it. Liken it to Annie Sullivan with Helen Keller - I am sure she dealt with her hand worth of tantrums and struggles before they broke through with "Water" as her first word.

So sometimes, it's watching, sensing, knowing what they need and following through (also known as just getting through).

Thursday, November 4, 2010


I have used a lot of it recently. With both a classroom of 40 and 4 at home, I have found that I need to dig deep sometimes.

But, thank goodness, (with some prayer) and some perspective, I keep remembering that they are only kids. And they need time, patience, and guidance. Lots of it, over and over.

Keep that in mind with your kids too. You may feel like you are at tug of war with them over reading at times, but stay focused, cool, and calm.

They will come around, and with each time, they grow -- you might too. I know I do.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hmm..not so sure

I got an email ad from Barnes and Noble for the new! latest! V tech reader -- something touted to help the bittiest children to learn to love to read.

Something didn't sit right with me.

Why would I give another electronic gizmo to my little one (complete with animation) to get them into reading?

I give my kids books.

Ones that don't light up and talk. Ones without buttons.

Here's my gut feeling - they are getting kids ready to be itouch/nook/kindle buyers.

End of story.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Opening up worlds to writing

It is amazing to me, even though I already know this to be true...

Kids that read, write well.

They may not be the best spellers, and punctuation may still be a struggle, but MAN! They can tell a story.

Reading opens worlds, presents ideas, models what they themselves can do. And here's the other that my kids' stamina for reading is a minimum of 25 minutes, guess what? They can WRITE for that long too.

Today they worked for over 30, and yesterday about the same.

I have one student, A, who has always been a fabulous reader, but hated to write. Today he finished Chapter 3 of an AMAZING piece that I swear sounds like something that could be published. What happened?

I provided opportunity, time, and choice. I didn't limit him. I let him write. And I am so glad.

Sometimes teaching is too rigid - worksheets don't offer limitless responses. That stifles. But then again, it is more demanding for them to create without's scary, and risky.

So hand in hand with time, opportunity, and choice in BOTH reading and writing is SUPPORT. They need to know I am ok with them making mistakes, that I am there to guide, ask questions, and provide a safe place for them.

By the way, post 301 -- that's quite a bit of chat about reading!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Visit your school book fair...

This week is my school's book fair - a perfect opportunity to buy a special treasure for your child (or your child's teacher) :) 

My classroom previewed and made wish lists last Friday. What I really enjoyed was that they were picky! They weren't just goggling the posters and do dads, nor were they just picking out any old book.

They knew what they liked, what would be a "just right" book, and what authors/genres really interested them.

They have come a LONG way in just 9 weeks!

Many of them picked out books that are parts of series they are involved in - Rick Riordan, JK Rowling, Secrets of Droon, Big Nate, and of course the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid due out in a week. But others looked for their favorite authors - Sharon Creech, Patricia MacLauglin, Cynthia Rylant, Dan Gutman, Gordon Korman.

Not one had to ask me, "Is this ok? What book should I pick?" and not one, "I can't find anything, can you help me?"

That's huge. INDEPENDENT, SELF MOTIVATED readers!  

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Using Fables

Lately, I have really enjoyed using fables in my classroom...they are great for the reading aspect, but also for vocabulary. Not to mention a perfect bridge for talking about kindness, respect, philanthropy, and giving.

We have read several versions of many of them -- it is surprising how many variations there are!

One in particular, I really liked. Jerry Pinkney's wordless picture book of The Lion and the Mouse.  I had my kids tell the story as we went along, since they weren't given words. It was fascinating to hear their interpretations of what they saw in the illustrations. When kids do that, they have to infer...a great skill...which causes them to tap into their previous knowledge, plus what is given, to figure out what is happening.

I would highly recommend using them with your kids. POWERFUL conversations.

And make sure you take the conversations from simply being about the book to how they can apply it right now, in their lives.

I am telling you -- great segways!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Did I really miss again?????

So it goes - busy, busy life. It's ok, I was just caught up in preparing for my principal observation that I had today (it went fine, by the way).

I have been working with a specific few students this past week, working on issues other than academics. More on the behavior front...let's just leave it at that.

I have tried lots of rewards/classroom management techniques, and they have worked (somewhat)...but I have noticed one thing that ALWAYS works...

sitting one on one, either reading or talking about books.

Like I have said so many times before, books are a connecting force...

When we are sitting together, or even when I am reading aloud to the whole class, there is peace. There is calm, there is focus.

Not that there is chaos in my classroom - I run a tight ship, and engaging in rigorous, enticing learning is what I strive to provide (and I think I do pretty well)...but there are times in our teaching careers where we are blessed with students who need to have their energies channelled in the right direction.

Maybe your child struggles with attention issues, or me. Find some engaging books. Something that makes them think. Read to them...a lot. You will see a big difference in demeanor.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I missed yesterday - sorry.

I am struggling, as you may be, with juggling all that is on our plates lately. Kids' practices, meetings, late work at school, planning, music programs, homework, oh, and there is the issue of keeping a clean house.

I wanted to share, however, the exciting things I am seeing with kids.

Today I worked with small groups in a nonfiction piece about Aesop...since we are studying fairy tales and traditional literature. It gave me the opportunity to review nonfiction text. It is so crucial to point out to them  all the specific things that help aid comprehension-graphs, pictures, maps, captions, etc.

We also talked about context clues and using sentences around vocabulary to make meaning. I asked them to look for "clues" - but with the caveat "words that help you get a guess about what it means" - I think that makes it clearer to them as to what they are looking for.

It's about getting them to think about what they are thinking - think about what your brain is doing as you are figuring things out. Think...think...think.

It's getting them to be active - not passive.

Which, by the way, is my kids these days - when we are reading together, they are hanging on my every word...a big difference from the beginning of the year. Also, they are discussing rather than just letting a few kids talk - that's fun.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

i need rejuvination

This week has been tough...just emotionally draining. It always floors me how exhausted you can physically be from strain emotionally.

I will recover. I just need this weekend to chill, hibernate, and recoop.

You may feel like that too...or your kids...remember to take care of yourself and your kids. Sometimes we are running so fast we don't realize that we haven't taken a second to breathe.

I know I will pick up a book as part of the recovery process!

Friday, October 22, 2010

I am reading...

a memoir of Lois Lowrey. It is really inspiring. I love the pictures and the way she has written snippets based on the pictures...amazing writer! (Number the Stars - holocaust based Newbery Award winner).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Teaching Empathy

I have found books such a great way to soften hearts and break down walls. I am reading a book (a Texas Bluebonnet Nominee) called Umbrella Summer. In it, a young girl is dealing with life -- a family in grief, more specifically.

It is a beautifully written book in that it makes deep discussions possible.

Even my rowdiest boy sits quietly as I read, hanging on what is going on. They gasp, they infer, they empathize.

Two other books I love for this purpose (PLUS they are just great books) are Mick Harte was Here (young boy killed because he fell off his bike and wasn't wearing a helmet - talk about a lesson to teach kids), and Love that Dog by Sharon Creech (the loss of a beloved pet).

They make me cry, and I like showing them how books affect me. I am not putting on a show, and they know it -- and they see that it is good to let books into your heart.

That's the depth I want and feel.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Examining Text Structure of Fairy Tales

We have begun our study of Traditional Literature, and we started with Fairy Tales. We start by reading the original (which the kids have discovered as rather dark) and then chart common themes and things we find occurring in the stories -

So far we have:

Begin with "Once upon..."
End happily
there is a prince/prince Charming
there are maidens in distress
a character is greedy
a deal is made
there is a lie involved
there are strong women characters
there is repeating words/chant
good vs. evil
there is a trick involved

They have done this with only three stories - I think that is awesome. They are clueing into what the text structure is and what patterns they find.

Why is that important? Because it aids comprehension!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Books Were a HIT!

Snatched one by one...

During independent reading today, my student, G, picked up Dr. Cuthbert Soup's book, A Whole Nother Story -- AND LAUGHED OUT LOUD THE WHOLE TIME. Which, of course, piqued other kids' interest.

Savvy is being devoured by K, who loves fantasy - she's been reading Harry Potter - until today. The lure of a girl character having a superpower was too much for her to resist.

And N, my switcher, is into the new toy inventor book...I should mention he is a Lego fanatic, so creating prototypes and inventions works perfectly with his personality.

So every penny has been worth it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Went to Bookpeople Today...

...and spent what I didn't spend at the Book Festival - easy to do with three boys who love books in tow. The great thing is, however, the boys bought their own books.

And we bumped into another author, who signed his book on the spot for the boys -- and I managed to convince them that one copy would be enough to share. :) His book is FUNNY - somewhat sophisticated humor, but I know exactly which four boys I am going to have read's called A Whole Nother Story by Dr. Cuthbert Soup. Good read. Highly recommended by all the Bookpeople associates (and they know their books)!

For the girls in my class -- and I selected them with specific girls in mind -- Savvy, 11 Birthdays, and Lily Quench, and the Dragon of Ashby.

A few others were part of series I have - Dragonbreath, Attack of the Ninja Frogs; Alvin Ho, and the last Dan Gutman book Matt hadn't read, Abner and Me.

I went out on a limb for a few others...Nerds - a team of 11 year old Super Spies; Vordak the Incomprehensible (thanks Kristy for the recommendation); The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow; and finally, Monster Squad - The Beast with 1,000 eyes.  Why those? After reading a few pages, I knew EXACTLY who would love them.

So there you have it. I will have my kids review them on my class webpage as soon as they finish them...check it out

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Book Festival = great fun!

I made it! In between baseball, working out, and the weekend errands, I got to the Book Festival -- and enjoyed it all...

Perfect weather for strolling through the tents, talking to authors, reading books along the way.

I had Sam and Nick in tow (Scott had the other two) and a funny thing happened. As we passed by a table, Sam picked up a book and exclaimed, "Hey, I know this book - we read it at school in our Texas Treasures book (textbook).

The book was a colorful book written by a class of second graders at a school for the deaf. It was a cute story, but Sam's connection and seeing him light up was what made an impression -- on me, and the women at the table. They were authors themselves, not of this book, but of others on the table.

They listened in on my conversation with Sam. I asked him to tell me about it - about the characters, his reaction, and his recollection of parts. I read the blurb to him and he told me how that gave clues about the story.

I asked him if he wanted me to buy one so he could share with his class, and mentioned that I too, could use it in my classroom, showing my kids that they could write books as a class too.

Before I could take out my wallet, both women gushed, "Please, take it - we would love for you both to have sounds like so many kids will benefit from your son having it and you too!"

Just like that. A free book. I can't wait to share it, and the story behind it, on Tuesday.

And do you think that made Sam's day as a reader? YOU BET. He beamed. To hear those women talk about him and give him a book -- HUGE IMPRESSION.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Couldn't have said it better myself...

at points. Today the Statesman had an article focusing on the Texas Book Festival, and in it, she supported the idea that kids keep reading picture books instead of rushing into chapter books.

I agree...with disclaimers.

Picture books tend to have a very sophisticated vocabulary - tricky for decoding and comprehension at times. So my advice would be to read those aloud to your child, and allow them naturally to gravitate towards books (whatever form that would be) that they are able to read on their own.

New third graders to my classroom tend to pick up picture books for different reasons...they enjoy reading old favorites that have been read before, they need a brain break from picture-sparse chapter books, or they really rely on those pictures to get them through a book. It's the last ones that I worry about reading them independently.

They are the ones who will skip over that more challenging vocabulary...and just miss a ton.

So, I agree with her point that while we shouldn't be pushing our little ones into chapter books too early, we need to be cautious in how they are reading picture books too. They are an amazing opportunity to help them be exposed to and learn this deeper, more complex vocabulary, but they need you to help.

Friday, October 15, 2010

For as tired as I am...

...I still love conference time. It gives me the chance to sit and talk to parents and really explain all that we do...all that their child does.

I love telling them the "why" and "how" we do things - and how precisely every activity is planned and balanced so that their child is not only getting the requirements of our state standards, but they are surpassing them with RIGOR and application.

It's not enough for me to have kids simply complete work...they have to UNDERSTAND, THINK, and ENJOY. Sometimes it isn't simple...oftentimes it isn't. It is complex.

I liken it to a workout class I take called Total Conditioning. It works every part of your body, muscular and cardiovascular...and it uses compound moves. So if I am doing a tri dip, I am doing a lunge on the Bosu ball at the same time.

We need our kids to be exposed to that. They can, and will, strengthen more. So as my kids are reading, I tell them something to specifically look for, focus on, or try. How is that compound? Well, the time they are reading alone works their fluency, accuracy, and when I add, say, a task to think about the relationships/influence characters have on each other, I have added a layer. Complex thinking. The next level would be WHY - why did that characters actions influence, and how did that impact the story itself?


Do kids shy away and tell me it's too hard to think that way? No. Because I model it first. Our read aloud book is where I show them how to think that way. I talk out loud and tell them what I am thinking and what I expect them to be experiencing. Then I send them to do it with their books.

How can you do that at home? Have a read aloud - either a chapter book or a picture book - and read that for a period of time first. Model what you are thinking, wondering - what you want them to do. Give them a chance to do it too, with that book. Help refine their thinking until they get it. Then give them some time to read their independent book (different from your read aloud) and have them try it. Here's the big part, need to talk AFTER they read and find out whether they could do it with their book.

How can I do it with 20 kids? I have them use notebooks and they write their responses in the Log. That's where I can see it, if I didn't get a chance to get around to talk with them during reading time.

Model, support, set works.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I started a new blog for my class...

Where they will be posting what they are learning in reading and writing...

Check it out!

I want them to realize that what they are learning is applicable through the writing, and that what they are doing in reading can be fun for others to hear about.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The New Rick Riordan Book... out! And he had a launch yesterday at BookPeople in Austin (I MISSED IT, DRAT!)...and several of my kids went.

It was soosoooo cool to see their faces light up when they talked about hearing him read, all the neat things they heard from him about writing, and then their pride in showing where they got personalized author signings in their very own copies of the book. Signings they had to wait over an hour for.

I made a huge deal of it -- but was I fake? NO. I really, sincerely, think it is so cool.  And they have actually motivated me to borrow the first book, The Lightning Thief, from I can read it.

I am totally fascinated by how they are caught up in those series.

And do you think they liked that? YEP. They loved being the ones recommending books to ME.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Focus on Relationships Between Characters

Today we are looking at how characters change throughout books, and how those character changes occur due to relationships/influences from other characters.

In Julius, the Baby of the World, older sister Lilly is jealous of new baby brother Julius. She does all sorts of "mean" things due to her feelings UNTIL she hears cousin Garland expressing distaste for the baby. Lilly suddenly springs to Julius' defense and shows her true love for him.

We talk about character motives - why did she do "mean" things - is she truly that way, or is it her jealousy? What made her change? Would she have changed if Cousin Garland hadn't appeared?

Next, they go to their independent books - I tell them to watch their character...who are they interacting with? How does that influence their behavior and choices?

We make a little sketch of our character and arrows to names of others who enter the preparation to discover that those interactions ARE the storyline...

That's exciting!

Monday, October 11, 2010


So I have spent a great deal of time planning this weekend, and I have come back time and time again to one thing: how can I plan so that my kids are getting the most authentic experience in reading - how can I help them learn to read so that they understand that the reading is the most important?

Yes, I teach skills - very specifically, I might add. BUT - they are always embedded in actual time reading.

Lately, there have been opportunities that remind me that that is the way to go.

I have always held the philosophy that more time reading, not simply filling out worksheets, is what counts.  But I will admit, it takes more time, more thought, more of me personally understanding the reading process (and writing too, for that matter) than pulling out a workbook or packet.

Packets are more concrete, but they limit what kids can express about what they are reading and learning.

Does it make them think harder to not just fill in the blank? YOU BET. But they cherish their notebooks from day one. They know that it is their hard work, their thinking in there...and it doesn't go into the trash.

I also grade by rubrics - ones I make up specifically for the tasks at hand, the learning we are doing. In the boxes on my rubrics are descriptions ("thoroughly and thoughtfully addresses task" for a score 4 to a "work shown does not exemplify that task is understood" for a score 1, and variances for a score 2 or 3)

I love this because it does give accurate feedback to all involved. That way I can do my open ended questions and have them synthesize, connect, analyze and evaluate without giving them a worksheet. It's all them.

I think kids get a disconnect when it comes to reading packets and worksheets. I think they look at it as reading is apart from them, instead of a part OF them.  It is something they have to prove they can do by being exactly right.

There is the problem of the standardized tests, yes...and we prepare for them, you bet. But it is WAY later on, after they understand that reading is real...authentic...and this test is simply something they need to learn the form - how to take a test, and they are good to go.

So when I don't run things off, or don't have a ton of worksheets to send home to parents, don't worry, I have the right perspective, and my kids are doing AMAZING deep thinking...just check out their notebooks!

I am also wanting to start my classroom blogging...I think it will be a real world application of writing...and they can share with you all what they are reading! Website link to be posted soon!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

New Big Nate Book...

Is due out in a few days! I got my Amazon alert that I have bought similar books (ok, they didn't say I have bought kajillions like it) so I may be interested...

of course I was, and have it ordered.

Just keep your eyes and ears open, and books your kids might enjoy will fall into view. On Wednesday, the Statesman will have a special insert for the Texas Book Festival - pull it out, circle events to attend, and GO!

Happy Sunday - I actually slept in, got up healthy, and am enjoying a fabulous leisurely morning! The first in a VERY LONG TIME.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Texas Book Festival!

As a newbie to Austin, I wasn't here for the annual event in 2009...but I am making plans right now to go next weekend!

When I lived in Los Angeles, we always made it a point to go to the UCLA Festival of Books Weekend. It was HUGE, and talk about inspiring.

AUSTINITES: here is your opportunity to take your child to meet REAL authors, who write REAL books, and to get them excited about reading.

They have some great plans - I really want to see/hear David Wiesner - but then they have a whole "boys" event too, with books and authors for the "guys" (they have it for the girls too - my girls who love Allie Finkle will be pleased).

I am going to be advertising it heavily in my classroom, so if you are one of my parents, be prepared to be asked to go!!!!!!!!!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Choosing Reading over Recess's Friday, and I am sitting here planning.

Yes, there are a lot of other things I COULD be doing, but I got motivated, and now I am excited.

I can't wait for what we are going to do next. But is the excitement in the fact that I am going to teach Cause and Effect? No...

But it is in the books that I am going to be sharing in order to teach it.

Funny thing happened at lunch and recess today. About half of my class took books with them. No, I didn't ask, or require, or even SUGGEST it. It just happened.

No, it doesn't just happen, really, but my kids are beginning to fall in love with reading. They have found books they enjoy. Books they want to spend time with.

Yes, they should be running around at recess...and they do, but they also love to sit on the benches in the shade, novel in hand. And I love that.

I am pretty sure it is having an effect on how much reading they are doing - maybe they do most of their reading at school but at home it's tougher to make the time - but I am COMPLETELY sure of how it is having an effect on how they THINK about reading.

Our discussions are richer...I can ask Why? What do you think? Turn and talk to someone around you...and they are giving deep, more thoughtful answers.

They are sharing before I ask. They are asking for more.

Yes, I still have a few I am still really working with. Some with issues deeper than motivation. And yes, some still need me to meet every day with them simply to stay involved in the book they are in.


my class is reading. And boy am I proud of them!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tonight, I will read

We have been talking about setting goals. Because I am a reader, just like my students, I set one too. I will admit, other than a glance at the newspaper and the occasional look at a professional book, I am not reading much these days at home.

And I feel guilty about it.

So my goal was to read a "grown up book" for 10 minutes a night.

And my kids have been holding me accountable.

It's a good thing. So I am going to turn off my electronics and read...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Making Connections with Your Books

Focusing on an author and reading several of his or her books is a great way for kids to get into books. They start to get a taste of a style, and they can use their previous information to help them with the new.

It's automatic now.

When I pick up a Kevin Henkes' book, you can hear it, "I bet it has mice as characters," "I think the characters will be young," "The title will be the character's name."

How do they get good with that? I ask them to reflect after we read. I ask pointedly, "How is this like the others we've read?" and we chart it.

They love "knowing" what is coming, and look forward to this next, new installment.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Connecting Character traits with Text Evidence

One of the most important things to get kids involved in what they are reading: GET TO KNOW YOUR CHARACTER.

Like them, hate them, be shocked by them, laugh at/with them.

That's how you get hooked into a story, because the story hinges on them.

We have been "gathering" character traits on a chart in my room. We refer to that chart often when we are talking about books. They also have been giving me evidence from the story as to why they think a certain characteristic describes a character.

Today we made a chart where we used one character, Lilly, from Kevin Henkes' Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse. They listed traits on one side, and proof from the text in either actions, words, or appearance of the character.

It was great. They really got it. Now, next step is to have them evaluate the character. How do they like them? What qualities do they admire? Like? Dislike?

The evaluation piece takes it to a deeper level, and also gets them more invested personally. They have a preference, an opinion.

Nudge your kids to get to know their characters - you'll be pleasantly surprised at how much more they care about what they are reading.

Monday, October 4, 2010

They've Come up With a way...

that Mo Willems can continue his Knuffle Bunny books.

Where I was satisfied with the way things wrapped kids just kept thinking.

"He could have Trixie's son or daughter have adventures with Knuffle Bunny..." "He could show how Knuffle Bunny lived those years with the other baby..."

I LOVED that they thought, and wanted more. Creative, creative kids!

I am sorry to make this short, but yesterday I didn't post because I got the flu for the second weekend in a row. This time it wasn't stomach, but fever -- and tonight one of my twins seems to have caught it too...I need to catch a break on this sickness thing!

I am pumping the rest with Vitamin C!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Latest Knuffle Bunny...

Came in the mail today, and I LOVE IT! There is a host of things that can be learned from this third and final episode in the series adored by so many.

My class, and my own boys, have been waiting with bated breath.

For any parents trying to ease your toddler from their beloved blanket or stuffed animal, this is a MUST HAVE!

I can't wait to read it on Monday!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Once they get a taste, they can't settle...

I have noticed my students are getting picky - and I am glad. They don't want just ANY book, they want a GOOD book.

That means different things to different kids, but overall, it means they are knowing themselves better as readers, they are developing tastes in books.

I love that they read the book jacket and blurb no fail to get their minds ready. They are smarter readers.

I like how they share recommendations with each other.

I like how they ask me to read certain authors and order certain books because they know them and they love them.

How did this come about?

Sharing, talking, and building stamina. Providing material and TIME. Sticking to teaching them what good readers do and being sincere and authentic.

That's where we are week 7.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Responding to Reading - Teaching Summary

One of the toughest things for kids is to create a summary of something that they have read. It is a requirement of every grade in some shape, length, and form, and many gauge how well they have understood a piece by how well they can summarize.

Summarizing, however, is a separate skill in itself. They need to be taught it -- and practice - A LOT.

Just to be clear, summarizing is different than retelling - summarizing hits the main points, retelling is more sequential and could contain more detail.

I start with teaching the difference between main idea and detail. Kids easily get distracted and focus on details because they are interesting and memorable...but often extraneous. So I take a magazine picture -- usually something that will catch their eye. Wordless is awesome - they are free from the weight of accuracy and decoding words.

I have them start by telling me about everything in the picture. I write down each thing on a chart paper. For example, if it is a picture of kids on the beach, they will tell me everything from waves to sky to the color of the suits they are wearing. I point out to them that they have done more of a retelling when they do this, and now we need to go through and label each item D for detail (a small part) or MI for main idea (what the picture is mostly about). Once we do that, they create a sentence or two using the statements that have MI next to them. VOILA! A summary statement of the picture.

We do this a few times together and then they start doing it independently. Once they have pictures down, we move to small chunks of text and gradually longer text until they get it.

If you are frustrated with their lack of being able to create a summary (those book reports are all over it!), try will be fascinated to see how it clicks!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Really Tapping into Important Connections

As we have been studying connections, I have been nudging the kids to make really meaningful connections...not just superficial ones.

It takes a little more thinking and digging. When we read a book, for example, one by an author we have read before, I ask them to predict, based on what we know about theme, style, etc...what they expect with this one. After reading, if our predictions were incorrect, we then revise our thinking.

Also, I try to teach them that connections to a book are more than, "I've seen a frog before," or "I like frogs." It's more..."I know frogs jump and hop, and they are amphibians...I wonder whether this frog lives in the water, on land, or both?"

And with thematic connections - what do they really think, know and feel about them? What experiences do they have and how does that affect how they think about this book?

Connections strengthen if they are made. The deeper the connection, the stronger the bond.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Celebrating another birthday...with books!

Not mine, but my twins, Ben and Sam...they turned 8 today, and we headed to get new books to celebrate. I love how easy they are to buy for in that sense. Of course, they asked for the gamut - from Ds "stuff" to Legos...but a good giftcard from Barnes and Noble always gets them excited.

I love that!

Happy Birthday to my two big boys!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Great Day be back at work!

We had a blast reading with our buddies in Kindergarten. It was a perfect way to solidify our learning...teach others. It was classic seeing them become teachers in their own sense and style. Have your older child buddy read with your younger. Both benefit from it...your older in fluency and your younger in fluency, accuracy, and comprehension by the good modeling.

Today too, we talked about activating prior knowlege and experience -- SCHEMA -- to apply to our new text. We talked about text relating to self, our own experience...and text to text, when another piece of literature relates in someway to the new material...and text to world, how a text connects to something we have heard in our greater world - maybe not our experience exactly, but something we know secondhand.

We talked about how our brains are like spiderwebs with millions of connections...the more connections we make with something, the stronger the bond (the learning). I also pointed out that our brains do this automatically, but we need to actively THINK (metacognate) about the connection to make it go into long term memory. That's when it helps...later on, when we come across something else that relates, boom, it's that easy to process.

We are going to continue this and then go into how that can help us figure out unknown words (a little bit of root word work). 

How do you connect with today's blog?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

So this weekend...

has been a bunch of SICKNESS. Stomach bug, to be exact. It began Thursday with Nick, and then Ben and me, and last night we have two family members to go, and I am already running on little energy stores in my tank.

It was incredible to me, how my body just shut down. Literally I was in bed from 6 p.m. Friday night until 12 p.m. I don't remember the last time I laid down for so long. Thank goodness for my husband being home to help.

So today is a "pick up the pieces day" - in hopes that no one else falls prey to "THE BUG!"

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Really liked the article on boys, reading, and technology

In the last post, Stephen sent me a great link to an article from The Wall Street Journal you may find interesting:

It discusses the discrepancy between girls and boys in reading, and argues that, to get boys reading, it doesn't take giving them more material that they relate to (or find gross), but rather, we should take AWAY the distraction of technology.

Hmm...I found that a good morsel to chew on in my house.

I agree, that boys will enjoy the Classics if given the chance - they do savor reading books with substance - what boy wouldn't like a story of shipwreck and survival? I don't believe they would, in an honest world, tell you that nerds and a cheese touch make for better books.

Boys in my classroom read the gamut...from Star Wars to Zoobreak...but they do get involved, knowing that during reading time in there is no Wii, DS, or computers going on. It is reading - holding a book and letting yourself get lost in a story.

Think about it...weigh how technology affects your young reader. It may encourage you to make some changes.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Making the Reading Experience Authentic

This morning my class had our monthly "Breakfast and the Paper." I started this several years ago, with the thought that, "Hey, I enjoy my coffee and oatmeal with the morning paper, that's a nice reading habit...why shouldn't my students learn that?"

We take our Weekly Readers, a nonfiction/newspaper style text, and have our breakfast in the classroom. Some choose to sit together and make their desks like a "breakfast table" and discuss things as they are reading. Some sit alone (as I would) to process their reading and enjoy their breakfast. I point out that this is, in fact, a preference they have as readers - sometimes you want to be social, sometimes not. Sometimes being with others helps the process of understanding what we are reading, sometimes we need to be alone.

After we read and enjoy, we get together as a whole group where I might focus on a specific text feature (headings, subheadings, captions, etc.) or I may want to talk about vocabulary, or I may want to talk about a certain current event.

Other times we just share our thoughts and new discoveries.

Today we did that, and it became a discussion on how prior knowledge and experiences (OUR SCHEMA) will affect how we read something.

One of my students, A, had previously visited a King Tut exhibit. In one of the articles, it talked about a relic that had been uncovered. He shared with me all the things he knew about Tut, and I pointed out how he used that schema to enhance and build his new knowledge from the article.

Of course I had to gush about that...and soon others were raising their hands and sharing the schema they had with that or other articles we read.

FUN? yes. AUTHENTIC? you bet. A GREAT READING MEMORY? I guarantee it -- what other teacher lets you have breakfast IN CLASS?????

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nothing Like Sickness to Bring Everything to a Screeching Halt

Not me, but my youngest. He's better, hopefully good to go for tomorrow, but I always marvel at how absolutely helpless I feel when something like this comes up. I can't make him better, I have to depend on others (to whom I am unspeakably grateful), and what I thought was going to be accomplished today goes a whole new direction.

In the same breath, it's amazing how the world can keep spinning, and my world becomes so small, tuned in to him, his needs, being a mom.

Today I trusted others to handle my world. Today, and every day, I need to remember that it is not I that controls...I am in the hands of One who knows way better than I, what I should do today.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Gradual Release of Responsibility's time.

Around second and mainly third grade, kids need to start taking more responsibility. I mean this in a very general sense -- in terms of writing/knowing what their homework is, packing their own backpacks, putting away laundry, etc...but also in a very specific sense - with reading.

I have been very supportive in helping kids choose just right books and getting them "into" books, but they are all on a gradual release from my hand holding.

If I always tell them what to read, they will depend on that. If they only come to me for suggestions and to "get pumped" about a book, they will need that all the time.

So as I see them able to get a sense of what is right for them, I nudge them gently from the nest.

It's fascinating. They first look at me wide eyed with a "you want ME to WHAT? Choose a book without you?" but as I supportively give them more freedom, you see them blossom.

That is when they start to develop the confidence in themselves as readers, learners, people.

Don't hold their hands too might hold them back.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Love to hear them mimic

Today we practiced reading our Piggie and Gerald books for our buddies. They paired up and "taught" each other.

The room was abuzz with great reading...I loved hearing them read with such expression, and when they stopped to talk about the story and how to read fluently, I got a kick out of hearing my words through their voices.

Don't think kids aren't listening and watching you as you are reading...that's how they pick it up.

A good reason for us to get silly, use voices, and enjoy, huh?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Using Post Its as a Tool

This week we are beginning to use post its as a way to tab our thinking. We can't write in our books, nor can we get Mrs. Forrest's attention every minute, so we write it on post its.

So far we have learned that post its are a way for us to:
Mark places where we are confused
Identify places where there are words we don't know/understand
Mark favorite parts
Funny Parts
Surprising parts

When they come to words/parts that are confusing, stopping and jotting "I don't understand what _____ means" makes them stop and think for a minute. They don't just keep reading on. They have identified an issue and now can use their fix up strategies. I tell them that if they have a hunch about the meaning, to write it on the post it. That shows me good thinking...they tried to make meaning.

I also told them that post its save them from having to dig back and find that part they want to share with me. When I come over to conference with them in their reading spots, they always have something to show me, but it takes forever for them to find the part again. Post its solve that!

They are also motivated by using "big people" its make a huge difference - they usually react with disbelief that I am handing them a pack of post its...we do train on how to use them, and they know I am trusting them to handle them.

We will grow how we use post its, but for now, that's how we are using them. It helps when they do their response/log at the end of independent reading too...they don't have to hunt - they use the post its -

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Young Readers

I am enjoying watching my son Nicholas, who will be three at the end of March. I laugh because I see him doing things and remember Matthew doing them, but not the twins...I am sure the twins developed the same way, but with two at the same age, life kind of goes by in a blur.

Nicholas has bins of books throughout the house. They are mainly the chunky board books, easy for little hands (and durable). I catch him frequently pulling his favorites out, and every morning they are scattered all over his bedroom floor from the reading he's done the night before rather than going to sleep. Have I told him to only choose books? No. Does he have bins of toys he could choose to play with instead? You bet. But he doesn't - he opts for books.

How is it that my boys love to read so much?

I don't know how you picture my household. You may imagine me on the couch reading a book, my boys nuzzled up against pillows, books in hand. Actually, it's quite the contrary. Everyone in my house has to "steal" moments to read - there is so much going on -- it's almost chaotic at times.

Yes, I am scheduled, and we do read together, but it's hit and miss.

I get asked a lot: "How do you do it? You must have read to them a ton when they were little."

I always cringe when I hear that. I feel a bit guilty, because I didn't read to them every night. I didn't take them to the library for storytime. I am a full time working mom...we have always run a PACKED day. Sometimes the only reading they did was in the car on the way to practice, or the store because we were again, out of mile.

Yes, research shows that those things are positive influences on reading, so I am not saying they aren't important. They definitely are. Do those things if at all possible. But I do know that many of you run a busy household too, and feel guilty about it -- and if those kids are struggling in reading, it's an easy thing to think "hey, maybe that's why..."

But what did I do? I surrounded them with books. I always read authentically and with sincerity. I shared myself as a thoughts, my questions, my ideas. I listened to them as readers and encouraged them to talk and feel about books. I corrected with praise, and always coached with "I heard you say x, but it really says y - doesn't that make the book make more sense?"

The excitement for THEIR books...even from those chunky board books with Elmo simply identifying shapes...makes the biggest difference.

Maybe that is it. Be sincere. Be interested in their books. Show the excitement in what they are reading. Hmmm....

Saturday, September 18, 2010

funny how he reads...

...what he wants to, not what he's supposed to.

My son Matt brought two books in the car today (on his own) -- we were taking a jaunt to the Boy Scout Shop way North, so he knew that would be a good way to occupy himself.

HOWEVER, Matt has a biography due this week -- assigned three weeks ago -- but instead he's brought two fiction books (ironically biographical about Babe Ruth and Shoeless Joe, but written with a fictional main character, so it wouldn't work for his book share).

Now he wants to frantically finish it so I can help him create a power point presentation for Thursday.

Can I say "UGH!!!!!!" My boys have the passion for reading, they just need organization and prioritizing!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Teaching Fluency

I haven't talked about fluency specifically yet -- that I remember anyway.

Fluency, or reading smoothly with expression at a talking pace, is something I believe we have to make a point to clearly teach kids.

They hear us read fluently, but there are a lot of complexities that kids don't just "pick up."

I teach kids that good readers can read fluently when they pay attention to the characters. They look at the illustrations for the expressions on characters faces or their body language. If there aren't pictures, I tell them to look for the words that help them make a picture in their minds. If their character is yelling, they need to know their character is angry, and their voice will reflect that.

We talk about what is going on -- is a character sad? Make your voice be sad. Are they happy? Sound that way! Look for the clues and think about the situation. If the character just got invited to a birthday party, they will talk like they are excited.

But not all reading is's different types of sentences too. So I teach them that fluent readers pay attention to punctuation. We tie this into our punctuation study in writing, so it's a double punch.

They learn that when you come to ... you pause with dramatic effect. When you see a comma, you pause. Periods, your voice stops but stays normal. Exclamation marks, your voice gets loud and stops. Question marks, your voice goes up and stops.

I also have them look at the font size and style. I teach them to make their voice louder when the font is bigger or bold, and softer for smaller or finer. We look at italics too, and find that when we see words like that, we need to make our voices a little different for emphasis.

Here's the caveat. They learn it, and then teach it. I have them buddy up with kindergarteners and teach them how to read fluently, incorporating all we talked about above, with Mo Willems' Piggie and Gerald Series.

It is powerful, and they don't forget it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

and with effort comes sweet reward...

I am going to give you a report on my little guy. Today I did exactly as I told you. He selected a book, we read together (I was lying on my belly next to him on the carpet) where I did a lot of talking/getting him excited, and then we set the goal of 5 minutes. I left to conference with others, one eye on him. Guess what? He stayed focused, and did it.

When I came back over, he was happy to share with me what he was reading.

I enjoyed what he learned. The book is graphic novel (comic style) called "Happy Birthday Bad Kitty." It's a silly story, except mixed in are some great facts about cats. And he was interested.

In fact, when he read about cats scratching and rubbing against things to "mark their territory," he related it to dogs. "I bet that's why they sniff so much...they are smelling other dogs and cats if they have marked the things."


So I read a little more with him, laughed and shared with him what I thought was funny and what I was thinking for a few pages.

Then I asked him, "How do you feel about this book - ten or fifteen more minutes until I come back?"

"Fifteen will be good. Then I can get farther," he responded.

So I left again, and he did it again. He stayed focused, in one place, with that single book.

When I came back, he proudly exclaimed, "I am on Chapter 6!"

Of course I made a huge deal. And I shared his achievement with the class. He showed the book to everyone and told them what a great book it was.

As he logged his reading in his reading notebook, I stopped by. I whispered how great I really thought this was, and promised to get the first book in the series, Bad Kitty Takes a Bath when he finished this one.

He said I better get it soon, and even agreed to take it to his tutor's tonight to show her.

Now, do I think that he's done? NO WAY. But I enjoyed today seeing the growth!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It takes effort...

I knew this was going to be my quest. I knew from day one this would be my challenge. But hey, who doesn't like a challenge???

My little one who is in and out of books is, in a nutshell, in and out of books -CONSTANTLY.

I bought those graphic novels for him (I like them for content, except the binding is weak and they are already falling apart), and he's "done" as quickly as he can.

He's not getting engaged, or building stamina. And it's not for a lack of me giving him material.

SOOOOOO, I am going to keep trying. Today I finished up oral testing (where kids read to me for district reporting), so I have time to now be conferring constantly during independent reading.

I am excited, but am formulating a plan. First, I am going to meet with him and have him really choose a book. I am going to select things I have read so I know the material well. They are also going to be quicker reads.Next, HE is going to set a goal for himself for the amount of time he is going to read. I am going to gently guide him to read for three minutes solid. After three minutes, I will confer with him. I need to know what his process is and listen to him -- my guess is he isn't actively thinking about what he is reading. He isn't letting the story take over - he's reading words, and that is "boring" him.

I am going to model how excited I am about the part he read and tell him the things I thought about when I read it. As I share, I will be saying, "I bet you thought that too? You know what I mean? I know as a good reader you thought that too..." I will be planting the thinking, and building him up positively.

I will let you know how day one goes...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Teach them to search for books

Today was one of those, "hey this would be a great teachable moment" in my afternoon class. One of my boys, R, was finished reading "The Gollywhopper Games" which he devoured. It's a long one, and the content is more rigorous.

So I wanted to keep him going. We first checked out the Texas Bluebonnet Nominees, which is always a good place to start.

He wasn't sure about any of them without holding them in his hand and being able to check them out.

I remembered another book, Pond Scum, that Matt read about the same time as he read "The Gollywhopper Games." R seemed interested, but disappointment took over as I pulled the book out of the bin. The book jacket was missing.

I guess I have taught my kids well. They know that before picking a book, it is crucial to read the "Blurb" on the back or the Inside jacket flap. He wasn't going to bite without that bit to, as I tell them, "get their minds ready to read that book."

My mind raced. Hmm...thank goodness for technology and

I called up the book in a search and showed him how you can click on some of the books and they will give you a "peak inside" the book. You can even see the book jacket -- both flaps!

I also told him that if there is no search inside part, you can scroll down to get a summary and a few reviews.

See if that works with your child!

Monday, September 13, 2010


Accountability is a tough lesson. It's hard for us to do sometimes...either we are busy, tired, or we take them at their word that it's getting done. needs to happen.

Especially in reading.

It doesn't have to be done in a dictatorial way, either. It can be gentle and supportive. Kids need to know we are going to be listening -- hearing them read, and asking them to work hard in those areas they have set goals.

I have noticed with kids in my classroom, mainly the ones who don't LOVE reading yet, that they are the ones who aren't used to being held accountable.

Here's how I do it. Rather than: You must read this book for this amount of time, I will say, "We know these are just right books (offer two or three choices), and I would like you to choose one to read during this reading time. I will check in with you in a bit to see how you are doing. I may give them a teaser about a character or a plot to get them going." Then I COME BACK and ask them about how they are doing. I ask about the book, but I also ask about how they feel about the process. Are they able to be focused? If not, why? How can we change the circumstances so they can focus. If they are focused, I praise specifically for the focused behaviors they have done.

Do that at home. Check up. In a nice way. Pretty soon you will notice the spans of time will get longer and longer, and they will become more focused.

Why? Because you consistently held them accountable. EVERY DAY. EVERY TIME.

Yes, it is a lot at first, but gradually that will change. They will become more independent as they build that stamina.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I got these two hooked...

We started baseball this week, and I asked two kids who I loaned a couple bags of books to last year if I could get them back.

Their moms both said the exact same thing. When they first got the books, they were gung ho, and read and read and read.

Then summer hit, and their excitement waned. The books basically sat there.

But as soon as I asked for them back, both boys clamored to have more time with them, and selected books to keep reading or at least read one more time before they had to go.

I smiled. I must have found something that connected.

I still had to take the books, however. A few of them are a part of some book studies we are doing on fluency, and another is a series I need to get one of my guys involved with.

Tomorrow my quest to satiate those reading appetites begins at 7:35!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Here's One I Guarantee Boys Like...

...and this is how I know. One of my kids, C, brought in a book, and within two minutes, every boy in my class was hovering over his shoulder.

I had to see.

It was the Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary. And it is a HIT! I watched them for a few minutes and then got involved.

Me: Hey guys, do you know there are special muscles in your brain that help you read this kind of book? Them: Oh. But we want to tell you what we know about these guys... Me: ok, you tell me a little bit, then I am going to tell you something I learned by reading this little graph/chart over here. Them: Lots of chatter about fifty different movie based things having to do with the pictures on the page. Later...Me: ok, I know that this character was created in 1992. This one was a series in 1986. Them: Wow! I didn't know that.

So there. I knew I had material I could use to teach how to read nonfiction text features (how to read a visual dictionary/encyclopedia of a certain subject): facts about Star Wars...which is Science Fiction and something they are completely into.

In fact, almost all the boys had been to the new Lego store that opened about a month ago at our local mall.

Here's what I did. I went over to the computer during indoor recess (it rained HARD this week) and bought it. I announced it as they were free drawing and playing board games, and everything stopped. "YOU DID???? JUST NOW??? JUST LIKE THAT???" I could hear the excitement.

Next questions - will we get to read it? can we check it out from you?

And here's how I am going to handle it. I am going to use it to teach small groups. Girls invited, if they so desire. But if they aren't interested, I am already on a mission to find a book of the same type that draws them like a fly to flypaper.

A few things I want you to notice: I watch them. I get to know what they like. I listen to their side first. And I keep my agenda in my mind too. In the end...I bet we both win!

Friday, September 10, 2010

In speaking with reading experts...

...I found I gave you the right advice about the omitting words question. One of our fabulous teachers specializes in Dyslexia and Reading Interventions, and she gave me the thumbs up.

The past week my kids have been studying reading Genres. Nonfiction - Informational, Biography, Autobiography; Fiction - Traditional Literature (fairy tales, legends, myths), Historical Fiction (those fictional stories which have a real setting that takes place in the past), Realistic Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Science Fiction; and Poetry (which can be from either fiction or nonfiction).

Why do I want them to know this? First, each genre has specific text structure and make up. It is important to know those. Once they know, say, mysteries are books with clues, sleuths, red herrings, suspense, a problem to be solved, and a discovery -- the second they pick up one of those books and begin to read it, their minds will predict click into "I know this structure" mode and they will more easily comprehend it.

Another reason is I want them to keep track of the genres they are reading. Of course, I love it when they find a genre they love, but if they ONLY read that type, I want them to realize it. I have them keep a tally in their Reading Notebooks on the books they have finished.

I encourage them to be adventurous into new genres. Some kids, like my Matt, love Realistic Fiction because they relate...but I want him to try Fantasy too -- see what that's like. Exposure at a young age will give them a wider perspective on reading and books.

Some, on the other hand, love the princess, fairy, Harry Potter Fantasy genre exclusively. I think movies play a major role in why kids lean towards this genre, although it is really a break from the everyday. I encourage them to try Mysteries, or Science Fiction.

Keep a tally of what books your child is reading in which genre. It could tell you a lot...and make sure they know what genres are and what they are reading. It will help their understanding!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Great Question - Accuracy in Reading

Leticia wrote in with a question that I want to tie into another topic: Benchmark Assessments. In listening to her daughter read, she notices that she skips words, often the small ones, "the," "in", etc.

I don't think it is a symptom of a greater problem. My guess is that she is starting to read more difficult text and her mind is going faster than her eyes and voice...but, that's not the end all answer. I am going to ask my reading specialist buddy in the morning her opinion.

To correct? I would say yes. I think having her go back to the beginning of that sentence and try again. If she again misses it, I would point it out. I would model it and then continue that process throughout.

Again, I am going to do more research on that and get more info for you all.

Having said that, it is something important -- accuracy -- saying the words correctly. It is one of the three prongs of reading we test...Fluency, accuracy, and comprehension.

Accuracy is important. If the reader isn't reading accurate words, the comprehension will break down.

Substitutions, when kids say another word in place of the word that is there, are something to track as well. Are they substituting words that make sense to the story? Then they are comprehending and making meaning. If they are saying words that start with the same letter/sound, they are using their decoding knowledge to figure out an unknown word.

In testing, we don't correct them, but when I am conferencing with kids, I do. I tell them what I noticed, what word they substituted, and praise them for using either their decoding or comprehension skills. If they are using neither, I point that out too - how either of those ways are good ways to attack an unknown word.

I hope that helps. I will add more information tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Day AFTER Back to School Night... always a bit of a crash. It's a high energy night, and I always want to say more than I did.

Sorry I didn't post yesterday -- between granite (MY KITCHEN IS PRETTY NOW!!!), shuttling/getting childcare for the kids, and Back to School Night, I didn't get on the computer at all.

It was great to meet my new parents, however, I know how much information is coming at them...they hardly have a chance to process it all, much less formulate a question.

Here's what I would like you to do. If your teacher throws out some education jargon you don't understand, post a question here. I will try and decipher it.

Also, to my parents, if there are questions about books, reading strategies, and the like, make this your forum to ask.

I can put things up here and hope they hit someone's target, but if I am answering questions, I know I have touched something someone needed.

I will, of course, continue telling you what we are doing in the classroom, what I am conferencing with kids about, aha moments, and also good books to try.

Today is going to be one of refocusing for me, getting my schedule and routine on track...wish me luck!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Hmm...I was tempted

Remember how I have said time and time again I wouldn't buy a Kindle. But two days ago, in Barnes and Noble, I caught myself reading the advertisement brochure for the Nook.

Call it wanting the latest gadget or whatever. I don't think I will get one, but I mulled it over in my mind. And I thought about it for our kids.

Think of it -- so many books at their fingertips -- and then, think of it -- so many books at their fingertips.

I am working with several kids in my class on building stamina and sticking with a book. We are working on finding what we like about different books, and giving them a chance to show us something neat by reading it all the way to the end. The Kindle and Nook would be the perfect video game version of books - don't like it - switch - not this one - switch - what else is out there? switch.

Maybe it is a great tool AFTER they have shown they have found a passion in reading. Yet, maybe some will only find a passion for reading if technology is involved.

There are bigger questions in this dilemma, and it depends on your opinion 0whether technology is a friend or not, and in what circumstances.

So I am not buying, anyway...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

New Book -- Gordon Korman -- Framed

As I was buying gifts yesterday for a few people at Barnes and Noble, a book caught my eye.

My son is a huge Gordon Korman fan, and so are a few boys in my class. There it was, the latest - Framed. It is part of the Zoobreak and Swindle series.

I couldn't resist...I bought it.

And no sooner did I get home with a Barnes and Noble bag in hand was I attacked by three of my boys to see what I had.

Matt let out a whoop and far rave reviews...great idea for your 3rd grader and up...a mix of mystery, adventure, and fantasy!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hopefully your teachers will tell you...

Today, after kids' football, errands, finishing the kitchen demo, and taking Matt (the second of four who failed vision testing) to go get glasses, I am going to sit down and write some letters to parents.

Even though it has only been two weeks, there are things that kids have said and done that make my mouth drop and my heart light...both in academics and in acts of kindness.

And I want to let them know of those amazing things...they need to celebrate!

I hope your teachers do the same. To know the specific positives that are coming from their child will make parents proud, but also the kids.

I bet they save these letters!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Making Mental Images

One of the hardest transitions for kids in reading is going from books with lots of pictures to words with mostly text. If your kids are hesitant to get into chapter books, that may be a big reason why.

We need to teach them how to make those pictures in their minds by using the words.

It can start out really simply. Just create a sentence or two: The big black dog ran down the street, dragging its master behind him on the leash.

Then have them draw what they see. Encourage them to create a background...are there trees? Houses? Who is the master? Man, woman, boy, girl? What color hair/clothes, etc.

Challenge them to add detail to flesh it out.

As they get good at it, give them more sentences with more detail. After that, move to using a few sentences from a book. Then a paragraph, then a few paragraphs.

This may seem labor intensive, but we need to grow those muscles in their brains. When we do, it will start to move them to make pictures in their minds automatically.

Envisioning, as we call it, goes through different stages : Still pictures, then more like a movie (movement), to where they feel like they are actually IN the book, experiencing it with all senses and feeling.

We worked on that today.

We also said that it was important to have that just right book in order to do it. One of my kids astutely pointed out that when he is reading a more challenging book (just right, but on the harder side), sometimes it starts as still pictures, but as he reads, it moves into movies and experience...

He could teach for me on that statement.

So check to see if your kids are making mental pictures...if they aren't, it may be the roadblock you need to get out of the way for them to start enjoying and understanding what they are reading!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Get them what keeps them fed

Today I ordered more books - do I really have money lying around? No, but here's the deal. I have a young man in my class who is right on the cusp of finding that connection with reading. So far, graphic novels have been his thing, but he's not one to for the Diary of a Wimpy Kid ilk...

I have some graphic novels (we would otherwise say books written in comic form), but not a ton.

So in order to keep him reading, I am going to feed him. And I am going to give him what he's craving...

It's a mission for me. It's a passion. I will seek out that ONE book that turns them on.

If your child needs that, make it your mission...don't give up. I firmly believe that book is out there...keep searching (or put me on the case!)

I ordered the books on Amazon, sight unseen, so I will let you know how I like them/titles after I get them! Or better yet, maybe I will have my guy write a review for you!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

If the shoe fits...

Today we talked again about picking Just Right books, and it really clicked for a bunch of them today.

I brought in a bag of shoes : Scott's, the boys', tennis shoes, and heels.

I talked about how finding a just right book was like picking shoes. You want ones that fit, are comfortable, and are appropriate for the occasion.

I set the scene by telling them that I needed shoes for a day at Sea World. We discussed how they would need to be comfy, since I would be doing so much walking.

I first pulled out one of the twins' crocs. They decided that, although comfortable, it wasn't my size.

Shoe two brought peals of laughter: Scott's work shoe. Double trouble: too big, and not good for walking around Sea World.

Nick's tennis shoe came out next. They squealed with delight, but told me that it was WAY too small.

I pulled out a high heel of mine. Immediately hands went up: "It's the right size, but not appropriate for Sea World!" they chimed.

Finally, I pulled out my tennis shoe...of course they all hollered "JUST RIGHT!"

And so, like shoes, you want your child to get that sense of something fitting...being comfortable,
just right for them.