Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Club - Naomi Knows It's Springtime

It's been awhile since we've had a book club because every time I had it scheduled, somebody was sick.  This morning, however, everyone seemed good to go and we were excited to have our friends over for our monthly book club.

Today we read the lovely book Naomi Knows It's Springtime by Virginia L. Knoll.  The language in this story is beautiful: "Naomi knows it's springtime when wind whispers secrets to the trees and doesn't screech and bellow at the houses anymore."  Each page describes something Naomi knows about springtime using one of her senses.  I recommend reading the story with a glass of lemonade and a pair of flip flops.  Or perhaps a Corona.

Since the author does such a fine job of describing springtime, I asked the kids how they could tell spring was on its way as a prompt for observing the change in seasons.  The kids mentioned noticing bugs, or wearing t-shirts instead of sweaters and sweatshirts.  I said I always know spring is coming when the birds start chirping at a terrible hour outside our bedroom window.  Not exactly the poetry of Ms Knoll, but you have to start somewhere.

After we read the story we went outside to look for spring.  I gave each child a piece of paper that read: "_____________ knows it's springtime!"  They took a marker to draw or write how they could tell it was spring (it was quite cold this morning so I was nervous this was not going to work out so well).

We noticed buds, or "new leaves" on the bushes outside.
Hadley noticed that there was mud instead of snow on the ground.

At one point someone found a worm, and another child noticed that it was dead. "It's dead.  I'm going to write that down."  Suddenly I was afraid this book club was going to go in a very different direction.
After we collected some observations, we went inside to work on another activity.  The kids each made a caterpillar and a butterfly.

The caterpillars had numbers on them for the kids to put in order and then glue on the body.  Harper was mostly interested in the glue part.
I have to give credit to Hadley for this activity.  She picked it out, and the kids seemed to like putting the numbers in order.  Except for Harper.  But she has no respect for caterpillars.

Another mom made pretzels and jello in the shape of butterflies for the kids to eat.  They were a huge hit.
(You can see one of the butterflies that was made on the table.)
So even though it might not feel like spring this morning in the DC area, we had a nice time talking about it.  Before we know it, we'll be reading a book titled, Naomi knows it's time to turn the A/C on.  That sounds like a hit of a story.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Leaving You With Something Better Than Before"

Hadley and Harper are both frightened and excited when we get the car washed.  I understand, too.  It's loud and somewhat disorienting to have monster washclothes thud and splash at you as you are pulled along slowly.  And you're not really sure what's coming next, but here you sit waiting. 

It always seems quiet as those plastic curtains lift off the windshield to reveal the outside.  The last bit of water dries, and then we're on our way with a new, clean car.  Although, I always feel like we've been in another world for a bit, and that we have a new lense to look at the "real" world after we've left.

Cameron, a student at Goshen Middle School, compares going to a carwash with reading a book in the following poem.  I love the metaphor.


Books are like carwashes,
Hooking you in, pulling you to the action.
You're not sure what will happen next
But the author gives hints.

You feel like the character
As they are battered and beaten with events.
What's that?
Is that the end?

No. The big dryers add something
Entirely different,
Then it's over,
The mystery solved.
Leaving you with something better than before.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

An Attempt at a St. Patrick's Day Book

I have always wanted to be Irish.  Or maybe it was Catholic.  Either way, my interest in this group of people started when the majority of my friends went to something called "CCD" on Tuesday nights and at the end of this class they wore these great white dresses that resembled wedding gowns.  We were all 8 back then, and I wanted to wear one of those dresses so badly.

It seemed that if you grew up in Chicago, you had a good chance of either being Irish or Catholic, or both.  But not me. I grew up Presbyterian. Once, after a heated discussion with my parents over why I wasn't allowed to take Communion at church until I was 14, I told them, "When I grow up, I'm going to be Catholic."  I married someone who went to graduate school at Notre Dame, and that seemed to satisfy my Irish-Catholic interest (even though he's 100% Dutch).

At any rate, every St. Patrick's Day I wear green, and think about watching Circle of Friends, and eating soda bread, and this year I wanted to do some sort of book and activity with the girls to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.  However, we don't really have any St. Patrick's Day books. 

I did the next best thing and took out The Song of Francis by Tomie dePaola.  You've got your Catholic Saint, plus the entire book is filled with color which reminded me of the rainbow and the pot of gold. 

It's a stretch, I know, but what I love about the book is that St. Francis wants to share the love of God that with everyone.  He doesn't know who to share it with because he is all alone, so an angel tells him to go ahead and share God's love - talk about it - and there will be a response.  Soon different parts of creation come to join in the singing, and the climatic part of the story has all of God's creation singing "Love! Love! Love!"

It's a little like that last scene in Love Actually.

Anyway, we talked about where we can see God's love in our lives.  We see it in Harper, and Hadley, and Mom, and Dad.  We see it in the squirrels outside our condo, and in the trees.  Hadley and Harper suggested we see His love in chocolate as well. 

We decorated birds to remind us of God's love in creation after we read the story.

And then we hung them in the sunroom.

It seems better then teaching them a drinking game.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Student Poetry

I am behind in posting student work from Goshen Middle School, which is a shame because this latest batch of work has been impressive.  Lisa, the teacher of this group, had the students describe a book or an experience reading a story through poetry.  I love this idea, and I think each poem is so unique.

The first one, by Jennifer, takes a personal look at a very familar story in our household.  Readers to young children will probably know the story right away.

"Family, Family"

Little sister, little sister
What do you see?
I see my big brother
Looking at me.

Big brother, big brother
What do you see?
I see my big sister
Looking at me.

Big sister, Big sister
What do you see?
I see my little sister
Looking at me.

Little sister, little sister
What do you see?
I see my parents
Looking at me.

Parents, parents
What do you see?
We see our children
Getting sleepy.

The second poem, by Kim, describes the suspense reading can bring as well as how hard it can be to put a book down.

The cover looks OK
Harmless enough
I open the cover and start in on an unknown world

The story's getting better
I can't stop reading
Flip, flip, flipping the pages
All the characters are popping out of the book

They're showing me the story in their eyes
Soon they pull me in with them
I feel what Nora feels as Patch
gets closer and closer

I see how much taller Patch is then Nora,
And I see the black eerie upside down V
Scar on his back

Something's going to happen
Nora touches his right scar
Now we're both in his memory
The place is familar

We can't believe what we're hearing, what we're seeing
And then it's over
We're out of Patch's memory
We feel his anger
His strength
And, and


"Mommmm! Ugh!

Nora and Patch look at me
"We understand," they say.

As I shut the door behind me,
I wonder,
Is it a good idea to leave those two alone?
Who knows what they might do.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's Like a Volcano of Inspiration

If you happen to be looking for some great articles on incorporating reading and writing into your children's lives, you'll want to hop on over here to the Book Chook blog.  The 8th edition of the ezine Literacy Lava is out, and it's filled with great ideas for both parents and teachers.

Also?  I'm in it.