Friday, June 7, 2013

Welcome Summer!

When I closed my speech room door on Friday I closed a year of speech services at Redwood Elementary. It feels something like closing a good book. I’ll hold these young “characters” in my mind long after they leave our campus. Some of them I’ll see again next year but others are moving up to another school or off to another city. I’ll miss them. But many have left me with mementos to remember them by:

And many authors have left these students with treasures to remember over the summer and into the coming years. About a month ago, one of my second grade students drew a blockish bird with skinny legs and a lot of charm. When I asked Bodie where he learned to draw like that, he said, “You know, that book.”

I didn’t know. But the bird looked strangely familiar and before long I remembered, Calvin Can't Fly: The Story of a Bookworm Birdie by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Keith Bendis. Bodie had drawn a Calvin look-alike! I introduced the story over a year ago and haven’t had it in the speech room since that time. Bodie doesn’t own the book but he hasn’t forgotten the adorable Calvin or the story.

A few months before that when Landen, a young first grader, asked for the book about the really, really loud kid I knew exactly what he was thinking of – Holler Loudly, by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Barry Gott. I read that book in the spring of 2012 when Landen was in kindergarten and then donated it to our school library so other kids could check it out. I don’t think I ever saw a child more excited about a book than Landen was when we read this story in his kindergarten year. He felt a special bond with Holler.

The kids often ask for stories we’ve read in the past or ask if they can make up their own, modeled after a favorite book. On Thursday of this week, when the kids were cleaning out their folders, seven-year-old Esmeralda ran across her story, “Creepy Bananas!” A smile spread across her face and her eyes widened in pleasure. She wrote this tale last September after we read Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown. She plans to add more details this summer so she tucked the pages back into her folder and took it home. I hope I’ll see the revised version next year.

I’m going to follow Esmeralda’s example and work on my own stories this summer. To fully immerse myself in these projects I’ll be taking a blog-vacation, but I’ll be back in the fall. And since, when I write, I like to read the best stories I can get my hands on, I am likely to discover more wonderful books. When school is back in session and the students walk through my door, I’ll be ready with a new supply. And soon thereafter, I’ll have more speech-room stories to share with you.

Have a wonderful summer!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Take a Gander at Geese!

Two weeks ago I featured some of my students’ artwork modeled after Mo Willems’ goslings from That Is Not a Good Idea! The kids loved making those darling animals almost as much as they loved the book. At the time, I thought I’d pair the story with a nonfiction book about geese but I couldn’t find one appropriate for the five to seven-year-old crowd. I searched on-line through our county library system and, though I didn’t find a perfect match, I found a wonderful book, Geese by Darice Bailer. It came in to our local library on Tuesday and so this week we were able to compare and contrast facts and fiction.

Geese by Darice Bailer (2010, Hardcover)

Darice Bailer’s book was written for grades three and above so it was a bit advanced for my students but I was able to modify the text as I read and the kids had a chance to see beautiful photos of real geese and goslings. They may not be as expressive as Willems’ hatchlings but there is no denying the down covered babies in this book are adorable. I was as enthralled as my students when I turned to page twenty and saw a mother Canada goose with a young gosling nestled on her back, sleeping. The photos in this book inspired several “oh look!” and “how cute” and general sighs of longing to own a fluffy young gosling. They also inspired some imitative drawings. Take a look:


The stately neck of the adult Canada goose caught the eye of several of my students and they were amazed to discover:

“The Canada goose has excellent hearing and can even hear a nearby dog’s tail wag!”

The kids were charmed when I read about the family life of geese – they choose their mates for life and work together to protect their young. When a goose needs to leave her nest, her mate keeps an eye on her and her eggs.

“If a predator approaches the mother goose or the nest, the gander will stand up tall, stretch out his neck, and hiss. He will chase after the intruder and attack it with his wings.”

My students wondered if a gander might chase off a fox like the one pretending to court the goose in Mo Willem’s story. I couldn’t answer with authority but I have my doubts. The hungry fox pictured in Darice Bailer’s book didn’t look like he’d run from an angry gander! On the same page, we read that in 1975, biologists moved Canada geese onto a fox-free island to protect the endangered Aleutian Canada geese from that predator. It sounds like those ganders weren’t taking on any foxes.

With the emphasis on balancing fiction and nonfiction in the Common Core Standards, I was happy to find this appealing fact-filled book. Perhaps next year I’ll find a more age-appropriate pairing for Mo Willems’ book. I hope to find many such pairings and if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.