Dr. Seuss is on the loose in schools across the nation this week, and I am linking up with The Primary Chalkboard to share some of the authors that inspire me and influence my teaching the most!
I was introduced to Leo Lionni's wonderful fables during my time as a student teacher. It was the first author study that my mentor taught in the fall with our first graders, and I still start every school year with these beautifully crafted and colorful books about the importance of friendship, cooperation, uniqueness, and family. My students marvel at the torn-paper collage technique in Frederick and block-print watercolor illustrations in Swimmy, and truly understand the life lessons Lionni's precious animal characters learn in each story.
I had the pleasure of meeting James Dean at the Mazza Museum Summer Institute in Findlay, Ohio this past July, and have been a Pete the Cat fan ever since! My second graders absolutely love the bold, primary colors and rhythmic, rockin' and rolling text of his stories! We often choral read them together for fluency practice and just plain FUN! We also love to visit the publisher's website to listen to the free song download! To paraphrase the words of our favorite funky feline friend....."It's all good and it is all groovy!"
My vast collection of Jan Brett books comes out in December and is well-loved by my students throughout the rest of the year! Both her adapted and original folktales from faraway lands like Norway, China, Africa, and South America help me introduce different animal habitats and geographic regions, and her rich, descriptive language and characters help me teach story elements. We visit her website at www.janbrett.com to watch her "How To Draw" videos, download Reader's Theater pieces, and print off art projects regularly. We marvel at the snowy mountains of Norway in The Trouble With Trolls and contrast it with lush green rainforest in The Umbrella Tree. We hunt for the pet hedgehog hidden in her illustrations, and love to predict what is coming next using the framed picture clues and intricate borders she includes on every page.
I introduce my unit on personal narrative writing with the books of this esteemed author and illustrator. I explain to my students that most of her stories are based on things that really happened in her own life, and that she had to overcome many different types of hardship to become the creative force that she is today. My Rotten Red-Headed Brother and The Ultimate Dare are two of my group's favorites because they can make real-life connections to how Polacco and her big brother Richie were huge rivals when they were young. My class loves watching Reading Rainbow videos on Discovery Education that feature her books, especially Reschenka's Eggs, because it includes an interview with the author while she designs and colors eggs like the glorious ones in the
story. A few years ago, Polacco visited two schools in my district and I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a teacher-only session after hours. She shared the original Keeping Quilt with the group, wrapped one of the principal's new grandchildren in it, and then recited a traditional blessing. Needless to say, there was not a dry eye in the house.....
I have a set of small, stuffed book characters that Kevin Henkes autographed for me when he visited a local bookstore many years ago. Chrysanthemum, Lilly, Owen, Sheila Rae, and Julius all sit on a special shelf near my classroom Story Corner in a place of honor next to their books. I also have a purple plastic purse that plays music, holds movie star sunglasses, and contains jangly silver coins. It is my desperate wish to own a pair of red cowboy boots someday.....just like Lilly's. Henkes' tiny mice characters are the "stars" of the self-esteem unit I begin each school year with, and will forever hold a special place in my heart. Wemberly Worried is the perfect foil for young children's "first day jitters," and Chester's Way teaches a wonderful lesson about accepting and respecting individual differences.
It has been a pleasure sharing some of my favorite authors and their best books! I hope you'll stop back again this week for more posts about different ways to celebrate reading with your own students!
A special shout-out goes to The Amazing Classroom for the "star" clipart and The 3AM Teacher for the absolutely awesome Read Across America logo! Check out both websites and TPT stores for more amazing graphics and products!
It is now time for this bleary-eyed teacher to tuck myself in so that I can be ready for more Seuss-related lessons with my second graders tomorrow! I leave you with this thought-provoking quote from the good doctor.....
Continue to teach your children well and make a difference in their lives....