Forget Prepositions, Let’s Just Read…

For those of you who do not know, I am teaching the language arts portion to two home-school children this year. Today’s post is a result of my time spent with my third grader, Lorenzo, this morning. I had intended on spending about an hour on grammar this morning… but as I’ve said before, sometimes the best lessons come when you least expect them. We worked so hard yesterday on grammar that I wanted to begin today’s lesson with just a simple picture book. I had intended to simply read the book to Lorenzo and move on to the all important task of crossing out those prepositional phrases. However, as I began reading, Lorenzo began opening up. He began smiling. He began sharing his thoughts and feelings and opinions. I absolutely love this book and knew that it had the possibility to open up the lines of communication. But Lorenzo, took the bull by the horns and led us away from grammar today. He had so much to say about this book, that I just decided to let him say it. So without further ado, I give you Lorenzo’s guest appearance on my blog today…. Take it away, Lorenzo.

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The Book that Makes My Feelings Happy: by Lorenzo

The  picture book the fantastic flying books of mr. Morris lessmore shows us how books can be great. In the begining mr morris was writing his own story. But then a storm came and blew all of his pages away. Because of his unhappiness a book angel drops a book that leads him to a library. While he is there he becomes happy again and finishes his story. In the end mr moress goes to heaven and a girl reads his book that he left behind.my faverate part is when he takes care of the books the way they took care of him.This story makes me happy and sad at the same time because he dies but the books have been changed by him and he was changed by the books. this story shows how the way we live our lives is important because it can change other people around us and our lives can also be memories for them once we are gone.

 

Homeschool: Week 1

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Jacob and his mom, Olga, picking up a copy of the book we are reading together! Book Club for two.

“The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning, joy and passion.” My students always become like family to me… I get caught calling them my kids and on more than one occasion I’ve overheard a couple of them call me mom. Where I am lacking in numbers for a group discussion, Jacob has shown in just two days that he will pull the extra weight. I have spent two days with this young man who is not shy about expressing his opinions and view points. I say to him, “Let’s talk about the personal narrative.” He replies, “Well, can I write a personal narrative in poetry form?” I told him I loved that idea. He recalled a past time in school where he wanted to do just that but was discouraged. That is the difference in having to meet state standards and having to teach a child according to their needs and passions. Let the journey begin.

 

 

To Censor or Not to Censor

beware

Recent conversations have stirred my never resting mind. I have been reminded that sometimes there are books we NEED to read to our children, in spite of the content of the text. I had to defend my choice of literature several years ago to get it added to my team curriculum. I had to continue defending it as each year went by. Eventually though, a reputation for the novel grew from word of mouth. A good reputation. One in which parents were trusting the one who was reading it aloud to children (that would be me :))

I ran across this blog this morning and was struck by one comment: “And sometimes you just need to trust that the author has a reason for what they are doing.” Oh how true this statement is. Pun completely intended, we tend to judge a book by its cover way too often. Until you have finished the book, or even sometimes the entire series, you cannot fully understand the intent of the author and what he/she is trying to teach. I am so grateful that my principal and my parents trusted me through the years with The Giver series. There were moments in the book where I had to even defend it to teammates. But in the end, the means were justified.

Read to your children… Yes! But read to yourself first to fully understand where the story will lead. I am sharing the following link from which the quote above comes. This blog post is regarding reading Harry Potter to young children.

http://boundandgaggedbooks.wordpress.com/2013/11/19/to-read-or-not-to-read/

Breakfast and Books

emerson and lessmoreSomeone very recently asked me to give my opinion concerning reading to children. It was really one of the most difficult questions I’ve been asked, simply because it is an overwhelming task to clearly and briefly discuss. There is a plethora of reasons why I am such an advocate for reading to children.

What began as my own personal love for books has grown over the years as a mission. A mission to make true lovers of literature out of those who do not read for pleasure. I began that mission in the classroom and I continue that mission in my own home now. It has been accomplished with Emerson. She’s hooked. She gets lost in books.

This morning, Emerson brought a book to breakfast and asked if she could read it to me. Of course, I stopped everything I was doing to take a seat and listen. The first time I read this book to Emerson my heart was touched. Today when she read it to me, I was affected even more. Emerson doesn’t just read a book. She has to TALK about it…. I mean TALK and TALK and TALK. Makes me smile. She would stop here and there to make sure I was understanding the plot. We were able to discuss vocabulary such as squadron, festive, amiable, tragedies and comedies, wonder and wander. She even gave me her interpretation of the biblical symbolism. Yes, that’s right… biblical symbolism. She sees it now, because I have pointed it out in so many other books. My faith and my love for reading often collide. I can’t seem to read a book without seeing the scriptural connections, even though I’m sure they are unintended.

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For those of you who do not know of the book The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, by William Joyce, please become familiar with it. It is one of those books that will touch your heart in a profound way. Really, it will. I will not give away all the spoilers of the story, but it begins with Mr. Morris opening the pages of his own story that he is writing. He writes a bit of his own life every day. Here are the opening words: “Morris Lessmore loved words. He loved stories. He loved books. His life was a book of his own writing, one orderly page after another. He would open it every morning and write of his joys and sorrows, of all that he knew and everything that he hoped for.” However on the next page, we see that “every story has its upsets” as his pages are strewn about by a storm. Without giving away too much, by the end of his journey, he has finished his book and passed it along to a precious little girl who is just beginning her experience as a reader.

lessmore3  The story displays a beautiful picture of the circle of life. It describes symbolically what happens as we leave a lasting legacy and then enter into a better place to call our final home. I am beyond moved that my seven year old daughter gets the message of this story. I am hopeful that my six year old will follow in the footsteps of her big sister as she sees her pleasure for stories daily.

 

These words I write are for me. I am not a writer. If you have found your way here, reading my words, I am appreciative. But mostly, these words are for my children… for them to one day look back at with nostalgia and appreciation for the paths they took. Thank you for indulging my words. I do hope that within in them, there is something that motivates you if you are a non reader. If you are obsessed with books as much as I am…. carry on!

I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library

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I was downright depressed when I realized that we were moving to Houston and I would be leaving behind my beloved literature curriculum that I helped create in fifth grade at Madison Crossing. I was on the roster as a Reading/Language Arts/Social Studies teacher, but I have always considered myself a literature teacher primarily. Reading is my love. But beyond that, sharing great books is where I truly thrive. It’s always an emotional experience for me when I see young minds immersing themselves in the worlds of the characters I introduce them to.

I felt I was giving up a great deal when I agreed to leave it all behind. I thought that it would be years before my own children were ready for thought provoking literature. I was wrong.

Until now, Emerson has only been drawn to juvenile chapter books such as Junie B. Jones, Ivy and Bean, Judy Moody, etc. I see now, that she needed those stories to engage her interest. She has become a lover of literature just like her mom. She carries a book with her everywhere. She loves fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. And I love her for it. Don’t get me wrong…Reese doesn’t not like to read. She just hasn’t entered into that stage where one reads for pleasure and seeks out literature that interests them. She is still learning the foundations of decoding. But she loves to listen to a good story. In fact, her deep thinking, analytical skills may surpass Emerson’s.

We began The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe last night. I hesitantly began reading, what I feared might be a story that wouldn’t hold their interest. I feared they might not be ready for it.

I had to hold back laughter as I read the first two chapters to them. Their eyes were wide with anticipation over the land of Narnia that Lucy stumbled into last night. When I finished reading the second chapter, Emerson asked me to give her a list of books by C.S. Lewis. For he is her “new favorite author.” Reese is most enthralled right now with the Professor as he reminds her of Santa… Just wait until she meets Father Christmas. Emerson is most curious about Mr. Tumnus and how in the world he can have half a human body and half a goat’s.

I am just thrilled to begin this adventure. I still miss my fifth graders and the discussions over Lois Lowry literature. But I look forward with anticipation to the discussions I will have with my children. I have a list a mile long of all the books I can’t wait to share.

Encouragements of the day:

“So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away, And in its place you can install, A lovely bookshelf on the wall.”

— Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”

— Emilie Buchwald

“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”

— Jacqueline Kennedy

Online Reading Log for Children

bean ivyI remember the drill….Go easy at first, then let ’em have it!

Week three of school and the homework begins. Up until now, I haven’t had much to do at night in terms of working with Emerson and Reese. Reading is of course a nightly occurrence, but there just hasn’t been much written work in their prior grades.

Tonight, was my first taste of real homework with two children. And although I really did love every minute of it tonight, I couldn’t help but think… “How will I tackle this when there are three of them?”  … and furthermore, “How will I help them when they move past third grade math?” Emerson read silently while I worked with Reese; Reese read silently while I worked with Emerson. I must say, these Texas schools are serious. Serious about their sports, serious about their physical education classes, serious about their state flag, serious about their academics. I am growing more and more fond of Texas every day!

Children’s literature is something I can sink my teeth into, for sure. Ms. Hudspeth (Emerson’s reading teacher) has started the year off right. She introduced us tonight to an online reading log program called Reading Rewards. If you have not seen it, I encourage you to check it out. This is great for children, as it is such a positive tool that encourages reading. I’ll make it easy for you: www.reading-rewards.com

Emerson and I have been reading Ivy and Bean together at night. Tonight she read a chapter of it aloud to me for her reading log assignment, and then logged her time online. She then, had to complete a written response about the book, answering several questions. Here is what she wrote:

I read the chapter called “The Ghost of Pancake Court” in Ivy and Bean. This book is fiction because it’s not real. It is made up. I want to read this story because it looks like a fun chapter book from the front cover. Maybe Bean will bump into Ivy and Ivy will be nice. I think Bean is a crazy girl and does silly things. I would not do those things, like hide in the bushes, and ride my bike really fast around a curve. I think in the end, Bean and Ivy will end up being friends, or maybe they’ll be friends and then something happens to leave us hanging for the next story about them.

I am enjoying seeing a love of literature emerge!

Now…I’ve got shelves and shelves of girl books filled to the brim with amazing girl characters: Gooney Bird, Pippy, Pinkalicious, Anne Shirley, Anastasia Krupnik, Mrs. Spider, Junie B. Jones, etc. etc. etc. But, I am at a loss when it comes to boy books. Of course, The Giver series will be PERFECT for my little Sam! But that’s a way’s off. So, if any of you out there have some great titles you want to share for little boys, I’m all ears. I only have 6 more months to fill the shelves for Sam!

A Year of Reading!

This has been an amazing year. A year of reading, really. I have never had a group of students more motivated to read than this group. Not only have they taken on the tasks of reading and discussing deeply what we have required for class, but they have independently become searchers and researchers of great literature. 
 

We finished our Giver series today. Although these books were not part of our testing curriculum (and by that, I mean they were pure read alouds…for listening pleasure), we have learned so much from these books. Life lessons mixed with deep analytical discussions of literary devices were the name of the game with these books. I have learned through reading these this year that beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder. I also feel that delivery is everything. Although Lois Lowry can be quite somber in her literary quest for great plot, she also has such poignant and beautiful themes. I chose, as the sole reader and guider of these read aloud days, to focus not on the trees but the forest. The forest (no pun intended…for those of you who have read The Messenger) was a magical place for us to have real conversations throughout our entire year about character and social issues such as honor, truth, love, kindness, and overall good vs. evil in our world. As far as literary analysis goes, I had students picking up on such intelligent topics as dramatic irony and point of view, an author’s use of characterization as well as foreshadowing and flashback. Where some teachers spend a year knee deep in work sheets, we accomplished these same goals by reading for pleasure and simply having conversations. What a way to end a year. It has truly been a journey of discovery this year. The main lesson we walked away with today, was that there is evil in this world that we can only fight with good. Evil feeds off of tragedy. Evil was finally destroyed today with love, generosity, selflessness. I can’t think of a better lesson for us all to learn than that. 

 Kwaylon and Mrs. DuBose reading Freedom Crossing
Free book grab!
A group of eager students! They have decided that Lois Lowry must write another book in the series. They are writing a summary of what it should be, and I will email it to her for them. Can’t wait to get her response!