Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Head Hurts...

I was under the impression that NBC planned on dedicating an entire week to this big Education Nation business, which, you know, made sense that it would be at least a week since there is so much to talk about.

Wait.  What?

It seems to have ended yesterday?

There aren't any other scheduled interviews or panels?  No other non-teachers to talk to?  Brad Pitt wasn't available for comment?  The local barista at Starbucks?  No?

I was all set for a week's worth of blogging, venting and yelling at my television.  I had popcorn and everything.

Fortunately, a lovely reader (Thanks Laura Swain!) dropped this little 'ol bomb on me and bingo!  I'm all fired up again.

Evidently the LA Times has taken it upon themselves to do some value added analysis of ten years worth of standardized test scores in order to determine each teacher's general effectiveness and then (You guessed it!) point some fingers.  Very public fingers.  With pictures. 

(I will pause for you to at least read the beginning of the article linked above.)

(I will pause some more for you to finish yelling and maybe shaking your fist at the computer.)

(It's no problem, I totally get it.)

In the spirit of being Zen in 2010 (I mean, it rhymes so i HAVE to do it!), I shall start with the (relatively few) points with which I agree and/or find interesting without being inflamatory.

Well, okay.  Let's see.  The author FINALLY recognizes that urban schools are not pits of teacher waste, brimming with irresponsible adults hell-bent on widening the achievement gap.  I know that WE knew that, but the media just loves to harp on that one, don't they?  (Nor are we all clad in leather.)  (Michelle Pfeiffer, I'm looking at YOU!)  If we consider the very contraversial statistical analysis of the LA Times to be remotely telling, this is one thing I'm happy has been brought to light.  Teachers in urban areas kick ass.  Teachers in suburban areas kick ass.  Teachers in rural kick ass. And you know what?  The crappy ones are EVERYWHERE!  (Which is probably part of the problem, but I digress.)

I also found it interesting that the author would suggest that the teacher a child is assigned contributes more to that student's overall academic success than the school itself.  See above.  Pretty obvious if you ask me.  We are one of the MOST IMPORTANT PIECES TO THE PUZZLE YET ARE CONSTANTLY IGNORED. 

Dude, we just want a place at the table.  Just give us a say and I will totally stop with the all caps. 

I think this article (no matter how ridiculous it is to rely on these numbers to tell such a HUGE AND COMPLEX story) brings to light an interesting question for us all to ponder regarding student engagement too.  If there is teaching, by no learning is happening, is there really any teaching going on?  Very if a tree falls in the woods, very chicken and egg.  I'm going to go ahead and say no, there is no teaching going on if all the students are disengaged.  But I would also like to suggest the following mental cluster f*ck for your pondering pleasure: If "reform" and mandates abound, but no real progress is made, is it really reform?

Boo yah!

And now, on with the venting.

ARE THESE PEOPLE AT THE LA TIMES ABSOLUTELY INSANE?!?!?  THEY ARE GOING TO PUBLICLY HUMILIATE TEACHERS BY PUBLISHING THEIR TEST RESULTS IN THIS MANNER?  THIS IS HOW WE GO ABOUT REWARDING THE BEST TEACHERS?  BY PUBLISHING THE NAMES AND PICTURES OF THE BAD ONES?

I mean, can you imagine the aftermath of this puppy?  Parents running to the school to insist their children be removed from certain classes? Students deciding to totally check out because their teacher was written up as ineffective by a newspaper reporter? Administrators giving jaded feedback because they read the morning paper too?

Ah, sweet, sweet accountability.

Now, I'm not saying that ineffective teachers should remain in the classroom or be quietly shuffled to another district to become their problem. No, No, No.  HOWEVER, I do not see how this type of jaded, anti-teacher, anti-progress, inflammatory reporting is going to make anything better.  Yes, ineffective teachers need to be dealt with.  But no, they do not need to be publicly humiliated nor does their existence need to be spread all throughout the media masquerading as accountability when we can all see it's just another attempt to shit all over us. 

And for the love of Somebody With A Brain, when are we going to stop making test scores the be all and end all?  When are we going to actually use this data in ways that make sense?  When are we going to realize that the tests were not designed to measure teacher effectiveness and therefore should not be used to measure teacher effectiveness?  When are we going to stop minimizing the goal of schooling?

Um, hellooooooo?  TEST SCORES ARE NOT EVERYTHING.

They are convenient.  You know what else is convenient?  Nursing bras.  But you don't see me trying to remove a hot casserole from the oven with my nursing bra just because it is convenient in another context, do you?

But perhaps the saddest bit to this article?  The brief section where a teacher admitted that being held up as a successful teacher often makes you an outcast amongst your peers. 

It's sad.  And kinda true.  At least it is where I used to teach.  It's like if an administrator says anything positive about one teacher, there's another group of teachers that assumes this compliment means something negative about them.  And aren't we all supposed to be in this together?

Oh, my friends.  My head hurts.  Can't we just all get along?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Education Nation: The Latest Forum For No-Duh Sound Bites and Finger Pointing

With it being an election year and all, education is suddenly a topic everyone wants to talk about again.  And when I say "talk about," I guess I really mean "spread around statements full of bull shit and buzzwords" or "finger point."  It has been a loooooooooooong time since Mrs. Mimi has actually seen anyone on the old television have a constructive dialogue about education and even longer (read: never) since Mrs. Mimi has seen an actual teacher who is currently working in the classroom get a place at the proverbial table. 

Last night, there was a special segment (part of Education Nation) that discussed the issues covered in the new documentary Waiting For Superman.  Guess who was on the panel?  The one assembled to talk about the state of education in our country.  No, really, guess.

Okay, let me give you some choices:
 a) a film maker

 b) a teacher
c) a singer/song writer
d) a fairly inarticulate union president who needs to work on her snappy come backs
e) a school chancellor who has been known to fire teachers on film
f) the founder of a successful charter school
g) a, c, d, e and f but NOT b. I mean, NO WAY to b.  Including b would be absolutely ridiculous!  Ha ha ha ha haaaaa.....

Wait.

Yes friends, you read correctly, John Legend got to weigh in on education in this country.  I know, I know, he did GO to school at one point in his life and evidently that qualifies one to open one's mouth.

Wait.

So if we're following that line of logic, I guess the next time John Legend is working on a new song for a hot new album, he's going to talk to a teacher about harmony?  A chorus?  Hot new dance moves?

Wait.

I think it's great that a movie such as Waiting For Superman can trigger so much national discussion about an issue as serious as education.  For real.  HOWEVER, I do take issue with the fact that this movie (and all the subsequent discussions) choose to only highlight successful charter schools while simultaneously spitting on all public schools, implying that going to a neighborhood public school is equivalent to flushing one's future down the toilet or something.  I mean, let's take a deep breath and think before we speak, shall we?  Let's not take the whole super hero, good vs. evil thing too far and draw an overly simplistic picture of what is actually happening...let's not pit charter schools and neighborhood public schools against one another and call it "competition"....let's not talk about test scores alone when discussing desirable outcomes for children...let's not be so quick to ignore the brilliance that is happening in public schools across our country.

This is Mrs. Mimi's year of zen and frankly, all this finger pointing is making me feel decidedly UN-zen.  In fact, it's making me want to dust off the old soap box and start throwing around the word "douche bag" again....

Then President Obama gets on television this morning and is all, "we need great teachers", "teachers are the unsung heroes of this nation" and "we need to reward excellent teaching" which (duh!) no one is going to argue with.  He talks about removing inadequate teachers which (duh!) no one is going to argue with.  He talks about having high standards for students which (duh!) no one is going to argue with.  He talks about raising respect for teachers and professionalizing the career which (duh!) no one is going to argue with.  It is like watching a train of buzz words fly by in a flurry of amazing sound bites just waiting to be snapped up by the evening news.

Where is the substance?  HOW are we going to determine the good from the bad?  (And please don't say test scores...or else I'm reaching for the soapbox.)  HOW are we going to have high standards for students when our only measure of achievement seems to be a number on a test?  HOW are we going to encourage excellent teachers when tying their hands through mind numbing standardization is slowly killing their creativity? 

Take a stand.  Say something.  Or maybe, ASK A TEACHER.

Wanna know what I think?

I think we need to start at the source.  Make it more difficult for people to be accepted into ed schools.  Make teacher preparation more rigorous, theory IS important to the development of one's overall philosophy of education.  Make student teachers spend more time in the classroom observing and watching expert teachers, not just any old teacher who signs up for the free credits.  Make new teachers work side by side with outstanding mentors at their same school and give those partnerships the time and resources to actually make a difference.  Make professional development for all teachers relevant and differentiated by speaking to teachers instead of planning for them.  Make a professional career ladder for people who stay in teaching - don't assume or imply that "moving up" means moving out of the classroom.  Make a place at the policy table and the school decision making table for excellent teachers - don't assume ONE rep actually represents us all.  Actually DO one or more of these things instead of talking about them or doing them in insultingly superficial ways. 

This whole education nation thing so far?  My hopes are feeling a bit dashed....but I'll keep watching.  What about you?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Picture Book Party #s 11-7

Watch out, friends!!  We've only got two more posts to go and we're done reviewing the list of Top 100 Children's Books....I have to admit.  I have some mixed feelings about all this.  I think the peeps at my local library are breathing a sigh of relief (since I'm THAT JERK who reserves them all over the internet and then just breezes in to pick them up which was cool when I was pregnant times and essentially on bed rest but now I'm just...well, I'm a fan of the service, let's just leave it at that).

Here we go with number 11 which is The Story of Ferdinand by Monro Leaf.  I've never read this one personally but totes remember it from the movie "The Blind Side" and so feel like I love it already.

The Story of Ferdinand (Puffin Storytime) (As usual, click on the images for links to online picture book shopping paradise!!)

This story takes place in Spain, so I love it right off the bat.  (Did I ever tell you guys about how I met Mr. Mimi in Spain??  No?  It's a good one...remind me sometime.)  However, I will continue to sum it up for you here.  (You're welcome.)  Ferdinand is not like the other bulls.  He likes to sit under the trees and smell flowers.  He's the introspective type, I guess.  All the other bulls are running around in a macho pissing match trying to get picked to fight in Madrid.  Ferdinand could care less, but...sits on a bee and (who can blame him) jumps up and runs around like a bull possessed.  Clearly, he gets taken to the bullfight and everyone thinks he is so ferocious that they are scared you-know-what-less.  HOWEVER, Ferdinand sees all the flowers in ladies' hair, sits down in the middle of the ring and just smells.  Infuriated, the matadors have no choice but to take him home where he promptly sits down under his fave tree again.

Awwwwwwww!

I love it.  I mean, I love it when characters break traditional stereotypes and show that it's okay to be your own person.  (Am I getting to deep with a children's book here?  I have a smidge of a tendency to read into things.)  Basically, this book has a great story that will keep your little friends (perf for first and second grades) interested, simple text and lovely black and white illustrations.  I think there is a lot of potential for great follow up discussion about this meaty little lesson Mr. Leaf has tossed up for us.  All in all....heart it. 

At #10 is Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by the man, the myth, the legend...Mo Willems.  My love for his books is pretty intense, people.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book. LOVE.  L. O. V. E. I. T.  The only issue I have is with it's pronunciation...Similar to the whole "Henkes" debacle, I have heard "Knuffle" pronounced two distinct ways.  It's like an inner battle between the teacher inside me, who wants desperately to have "kn" always say "n", and the other part of me who, deep in her heart, thinks it's pronounced quite the opposite.

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale (Bccb Blue Ribbon Picture Book Awards (Awards))

For those of you who know I love kitties...I was pumped to see the following title at #9.  It's Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag. Bonus, this is also a Caldecott book.  Kitties and awards...I mean, how good can it get?

Millions of Cats (Gift Edition) (Picture Puffin Books)

An old man and old woman are lonely.  The woman wants a cat to keep them company.  (Can you blame her?)  So, the old man sets out to find her one.  He comes upon this hill filled with millions of cats.  He tries to pick out the prettiest cat, but every time he turns around, he sees another one she might like.  (Picture me at the shelter trying to pick out my kitty...Not.  Easy.)  He ends up bringing them all home.  Clearly the one who thinks ahead in this relationship, the old woman asks how they are going to feed all these cats.  The old man suggests he lets the cats fight it out and choose which one of them they should keep.  While not graphic at all, I don't condone kitty violence, so this part bugged a little...I mean, all the cats are fighting each other to determine who is the prettiest.  In the end, all the cats ate each other up, except for one very homely cat that none of the other cats bothered with.  They take him in, feed him well and give him a bath and soon he is a lovely little cat too.

Minus the cat fight part, I think this is a sweet book.  I love the whole ugly duckling twist on things too.  It has fairly simple black and white drawings, and I bet your friends could come up with some really creative, colorful and fabulous drawings on their own too.  I'm trying to imagine where you could fit this into your day to get the most out of it, and I think that it may be one of those books you hang on to for those emergency five minutes and/or put on the sub plan pile.  (Because don't you hate it when a last minute sub reads one of your faves that you have been saving forever?? ) 

Although I totes think they spelled it the wrong way (one of my BFFs spells it the truly French way with the extra "e"), #8 is the Caldecott Award winning Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. 

Madeline

Do I really need to summarize this one?  I don't want anyone to feel left out if I don't and they haven't read it, so I'll keep it short.  Madeline evidently goes to boarding school and has to have her appendix taken out.  She's scared, but, of course, everything ends up being okay and all the other little girls from boarding school come to visit her.  When they see all her fab gifts, they all want to have their appendix out too.

Very cute, very simple, very basic story.  HOWEVER, totes a classic AND totes has a rhyming pattern.  And you know how Mrs. Mimi loves that word study connection to a read aloud.  LOVE IT!  As an added bonus, famous landmarks from all over Paris are included in the illustrations...*sigh*...making me want to be in Paris right now.  I can practically taste the chocolate croissant...

For our last book this morning, we have #7 which is the always popular Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson.  *sigh* I do love children who can spend a whole afternoon crafting arts and farts projects all on their own.

Harold and the Purple Crayon 50th Anniversary Edition (Purple Crayon Books)

Um, classic titles much?  I heart this little boy's imagination.  Harold and his trusty purple crayon draw themselves all sorts of adventures including landmarks so they don't get lost.  Would I love Mini Mimi to take a crayon and draw herself silly?  Um, yes please. 

I love this story.  Love, love, love.  Talk about a wonderful story to share with your little friends, especially if you are an arts and farts lover like myself. 

All right kiddies, that does it for this week.  Mrs. Mimi is going to go treat herself to a nice cup of tea - watch out - I'll be back to cocktails before you know it!

Have a fabulous weekend...did you notice that we're basically done with September already??  I thought being a teacher made time fly, I didn't realize becoming a parent would multiply that by a ho-jillion.

xo,
Mimi

Friday, September 17, 2010

Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Picture Book Party #s 16-12

All right, all right! Happy weekend! We only have a few books to go on our list of Top 100 Picture Books - we're almost done!!!  By the by - how is everything going?  Are your little friends everything you'd hoped they'd be? Are you deep into your most favorite read alludes? You have to let me know if any of these made the cut!

All right, September means no one has time for my ramblings...so on with the list!  #16 is a total classic. It's the Caldecott Award winning Owl Moon by Jane Yolen.  Yet another text that I used frequently in my classroom, but always felt that I could have used better.  I worked hard to make sure my read alouds felt purposeful, you know what I mean?  And I just felt like this one didn't quite hit the mark...and I knew it was me.

Owl Moon

Enough of my ramblings...

If you haven't read it before, Owl Moon is about a boy who goes owling with his father in the woods.  They wait quietly, walking deeper and deeper into the woods.  His father makes owl calls and finally, one answers back.  They catch a glimpse of the owl in their flashlight before the it flies away.  The father and son have shared an important moment, one that you can feel is some sort of right of passage in this family.

I mean, the language in this book is absolutely beautiful.  I did use it during our poetry study to talk about how to create a strong mental image...the shadows, the quiet, the anticipation are all describe fabulously by Yolen.  I have also used this text during units on winter and family, although I felt like those readings were slightly less successful.  My first grade friends never really dug this one, but I think second, third and maybe even fourth graders would enjoy and appreciate it more.  The illustrations in this text are also gorgeous - especially the one with the owl.

#15 is one of my favorite books of all time...FAVE!  I love the story, I love the characters, I love the illustrations, I love the author!  Any guesses?  It's another Kevin Henkes book - Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse!!!  This Lilly is just one of the coolest female characters around - at least in my opinion.

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse

I love Lilly.  Love her.  Love her spunk, love her boots, love her attitude about school.  In a nutshell, Lilly gets some fabulous glasses, a great new purse and bunch of quarters and is dying to show them to all her friends at school.  She just can't wait until share time and whips them out, distracting her friends and getting her precious possessions taken away by the teacher.  Lilly always loved her teacher, but now she is angry.  She writes a nasty note (complete with nasty picture) and sticks it in her teacher's bag! (Can you imagine?)  At the end of the day, Lilly's teacher gives her things back along with a special snack to take home.  Needless to say, Lilly feels like crap.  She writes her teacher a lovely apology, gets her family to help her make some special snacks and...all is forgiven.

Have I already told you that I love this book?  LOVE!  I used this one every year at the beginning of the year (to establish read aloud routines), when we studied strong female characters (you know we did) and as part of our Kevin Henkes author study (Connections across texts much?).  Downright fabulous on a stick.

Ack!  What a fabulous piece of the list we've got on our hands this morning!  At #14 is a book I discovered a little late, but loved to pieces!  It's The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka.  Talk about hilarious and imaginative!

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs



#13 brings a nice twist to today's books...a bit of a classic edge, if you will.  Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey (remember Make Way for Ducklings?) is another book that I had in my library, liked but never felt like I used very well in my classroom.

Blueberries for Sal (Live Oak Readalong)(Book + CD)

And last but not least this morning, is a book that I give every single friend of mine when ever they have a baby.  You KNOW Mini Mimi has a copy on her overflowing bookshelf! I think this book is fabulous for all friends, young and old!  It's Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann.

Good Night, Gorilla

The only text in this book is made up of the zookeeper saying good night to all the animals as he locks up the zoo for the evening. What he DOESN'T see is the super cute little gorilla sneaking his keys off his pants!  The little gorilla then proceeds to let out all the other animals who all follow the zoo keeper home.  The zookeeper's wife says good night to the zookeeper and all the animals answer her back.  She opens her eyes to see the gorilla, and then walks all the animals back to the zoo.  What SHE doesn't see is that fabulous little gorilla has taken the keys once again...

I am really digging these texts with very few words!  I think they are fabulous opportunities for oral story telling practice with picture support or possibly inspiration for sharedvwriting with the small fries.

Guess what today is? It's Mini Mimi's first official trip to Barnsey!!! I know! A very big day....I only hope she loves books as much as crazy Barnsey-loving mother does.

Have wonderful weekends, my dear readers!

xo,
Mimi

Friday, September 10, 2010

Spam!

Friends.  I have come to hate the hotmail.  No offense to any of you out there who are totally digging the hotmail, but seriously?  My hotmail accounts have brought me nothing but annoyance, the occasional virus and pleas for me to buy a penis enlarging device.  Basically, hotmail is like a bad boyfriend.  And so, we are breaking up.

Currently, my personal hotmail account is sending out millions of bogus emails a day to everyone in my inbox offering free iPads, various penis related accoutrement, and a whole lot of computer heart ache.  I fear that it is only a matter of time before the same happens with this account...unless it's happening already and you've been too afraid to tell me.

Tell me! 

So, in the future, when you want to reach out, email me at itsnotallflowersandsausages (at) gmail (dot) com.  I know.  Could I have picked a longer name?  The answer is no.  However, mrsmimi was already taken.   Thems the breaks, people. 

(PS - I do love getting email from you all and try my hardest to respond in somewhat of a timely and helpful manner.  For reals.)

Happy Friday!!
xo,
Mimi

Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Picture Book Party #s 21-17

Okay, my friends, it is officially back to school season for all of us, yes?  Some of us went back WAY before Labor Day and some of us are just getting into it, however I'm sure we are all EXHAUSTED!  Hopefully some Picture Book Love (fresh from the list of Top 100 Picture book over at the School Library Journal blog), will make you smile.  Or run to Barnsey.  Both are good in my book.

Getting this party started today at #21 is Bark, George by Jules Feiffer.  Seriously, the number of new titles I have come across never ceases to amaze me (or my debit card).

Bark, George (Click on the images for links or...if you are so bold...just run to Barnsey.)

Super cute!  I mean SUPER CUTE!  George's mother wants him to bark, but all poor George can say are things such as "meow," "oink" and "moo."  Clearly not dog talk.  Concerned, his mother takes him to the vet.  The vet reaches in George's mouth and pulls out a cat, a duck, a pig AND a cow.  All of a sudden George says, "arf!"  Thrilled, his mother takes him home and along the way, wants George to show off his new found skill to all the people on the street.  But this time when he opens his mouth, all that comes out is, "Hello."

I mean, awwwwwwwww, right?  Probably better suited for the small fry version of our friends, this book would make a fun read aloud.  I'm thinking preschool when you work on animal sounds and even to tackle a bit of predicting what might come next. 

Watch out, because #20 is one of my absolute faves.  FAVES!!!  As in, I used this book every year and still love it FAVES.  It's George and Martha  by James Marshall.  Ta-dah!!!!

George and Martha

George and Martha are perfect for a character study.  PERF!  I used to always use these babies in my mini lessons for modeling and thinking aloud because they are amazingly short and memorable.  Oh, and totally HI-larious.  

Number 19 is Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney.  I'm ashamed to admit that this book was in my classroom library (the one given to me, not the purchased one) for years and I always breezed right by it.  No time like the present to get this one under my belt, I guess.  I mean, girlfriend DID score an American Book Award for this one.

Miss Rumphius



I'm totally digging this book and regretting not reading it sooner.  It's like I had a billion stacks of papers to deal with or something for eight long years.

Anyhow, the narrator is Miss Rumphius' grand-nephew (??).  He tells us that when Miss Rumphius was a little girl, her grandfather would tell her stories about all sorts of far away places, prompting Miss Rumphius to someday want to travel herself.  However, he tells her that it is also important to do something in her lifetime to make the world more beautiful.  Miss Rumphius grows up, becomes a librarian, travels the world and finally settles down in her house by the sea.  She isn't sure what to do to make the world more beautiful and before she can decide, she gets very sick.  She admires the flowers she can see out her window, lupines she planted the previous spring and hopes that she will be able to plant a garden again the next year.  After being sick for quite awhile, Miss Rumphius begins to feel better and discovers the seeds from her lupines have spread to another hill.  This gives her an idea!  She buys as many lupine seeds as she can and spends her days walking everywhere, sowing lupine seeds to make the world more beautiful.  Now very old, the children call her the Lupine Lady.  Her grand-nephew listens to her stories, wanting to go visit faraway places.  Of course, Miss Rumphius tells him that he must also do something to make the world more beautiful.

Sorry for the long summary, friends!  But I think that book deserved it!  It's a lovely story that can be used in so many ways in your classroom.  I'm thinking Earth Day off the top of my head, but also if you were talking about the idea of giving back to a community or even about what children want to do when they grow up.  This is a sweet story with an important lesson, making it a perf read aloud for friends in first through third grades.  For sure.

At number 18, we have another book by the genius Maurice Sendak.  It's called In the Night Kitchen.

In the Night Kitchen (Caldecott Collection) 

Okay, honestly?  First impression?  There's a mini little penis on page five.  The little boy falls out of his clothes and into this mysterious kitchen in the middle of the night and yes, it is full frontal.  Full.  Frontal.  I know that personally, I was not ready, willing or able to deal with this in my classroom so I may choose not to use this one.  Am I being too judgey?

As the story continues, these bakers bake the boy into a cake, he turns some dough into a plane and flies into a giant bottle of milk.  ANNNNNDDDD...then there's more full frontal.  (No joke.)  Full frontal once?  Shame on you.  Full frontal twice?  Shame on me.  And we're just going to move along.

And at the end of our list today, at #17 is Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina.  A classic, but one I was never sure I was using well or in the right way.  Does that ever happen to you? You know everyone loves it, you feel like you should use it but somehow, it always seems to not be what you thought it would be.  Oh well, let's give it a fresh look, shall we?

Caps for Sale Big Book (Reading Rainbow Book) 

Evidently this book is a folk tale (according to the info on the inside flap).  And since most of you have read this one before, we'll do a quick summary. A peddler has a bunch of caps that he sells.  One day, no one buys any caps, so he walks to the country, sits under a tree and takes a nap.  When he wakes up, he sees that a bunch of monkeys have stolen his caps and begins to freak out.  As he is about to walk away, the monkeys give him back his hats and on he goes with his day.


I guess this book is funny?  Or funny to a five year old?  The thing I do see in this book is the simple, mostly repetitive text.  I think it would be great to work with readers on being careful as they read, since one or two words changes on each page in certain sections.  Definitely best suited for first grade friends, I can imagine using this book to teach various reading strategies...especially if I had it in big book form.  Maybe if they were shoes, I would feel more connected to this text....

Okay my fellow book nerds!  That'll do it for this week!  (And August!)  Here's to soaking up every last drop of summer!!

xo,
Mimi

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Brown Baggin' It + A Little Flair

Let's face it.  Most of us choke down our lunches in exactly 4.7 minutes, usually while correcting something, filing something, or organizing something.  Rarely do we sit down and enjoy a leisurely 45 minute lunch break.  In my experience, 45 minute lunches usually happened when some major S-H-I-T had gone down and the gossip was just too good to get through in 4.7 minutes...

However, this is the Year of My Zen Self, My More Professional Self, My More Positive Self and therefore, avoiding gossip in the teacher's lounge/classroom in which you eat is paramount!  (Although still deliciously necessary from time to time.)  (Will I ever change?)

So, what are we going to do to spice up our lunch hour sans gossip?  Because, honestly?  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can be da bomb, but not on day #105 of having nothing else in your refrigerator that you can throw together at the last minute.

Can I tell you a secret?  For YEARS Mr. Mimi would pack my lunch for me the night before.

All together now!

Aaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwww!

(Total. Keeper.)

However, then Mr. Mimi started to travel a ton for work and poor Mrs. Mimi was forced to pack her own lunch.

All together now!

Oooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhh!

(No sympathy?)

Regardless, it was during that time of lonely lunch making that I realized brown bag lunches can totally start to blow.  Yes, they save us money.  Yes, they can be a much healthier choice.  And no, I can't imagine having the time to actually GO OUT for lunch.  But come on!  Day after day after day can get b.o.r.i.n.g with a capital Sucks.

In those moments, I would get creative and pack left over Thai food from the night before.  Then I would totally stink up the room of a fellow colleague as I microwaved my yellow Thai curry with tofu.  I would then proceed to shovel it down my throat, alternating between burning my mouth and severe stomach cramps. All in all, it was not fabulous.  And the subsequent 2 pm food coma?  Definitely did not help put a smile on my face.

The point?  I was always looking for some ideas to keep it fresh and thought I would share some of them with you!

Like getting a much more fabulous bag to tote your lunch.  I used to shove my things into a Ziplock bag that I would reuse until it absolutely begged to be thrown out.  When I could have just bought one of these from Pottery Barn


And paired it with these other lunch accessories from Pottery Barn Kids:


Or, if Pottery Barn is too everyone-has-that for you, try this little Dutch number.

Or any of these from Built NY:


Here are a few from Amazon too (click for links):

Built LB31-FVE Gourmet Getaway Lunch Tote, French Bull Vine PatternBuilt LB7-MDT Extra Relish Lunch Tote, Micro DotKids Konserve KK035 12-Ounce Insulated Stainless-Steel ThermosSassy Travel Case with Fork and Spoon Colors May Vary

Bon appetit, my friends!  And, in the midst of your daily multi-tasking, perhaps try to take a moment, just once a week, to slow down and actually chew your food.

xo,
Mimi

Friday, September 3, 2010

Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Picture Book Party #s 26-22

Sooooooo....someone skipped a week or two with the old countdown. Someone may be finding it a bit more difficult to fit it all in. Someone might get everything figured out and then suddenly a certain smaller someone decides to change things up.

Good thing that someone spent many years working in a public school which basically trains one to "be flexible" to the point of being a semi-pro contortionist.

Regardless, someone is back. Until everything changes again.

I guess I should start stretching....

On with the books!

#26 is Corduroy by Donald Freeman...a total classic. 

Corduroy (40th Anniversary Edition) (This may seem obvious at this point, but click on the image for links.) (Proceed at your own risk - with your credit card that is.)

Is there anyone who doesn't love this story?  Corduroy is a bear who lives at a department store.  He is spied by a little girl one day, but her mother says she can't buy him that day plus he has a missing button. That evening, Corduroy goes searching for his missing button around the department store, but is discovered by a night watchman and put back with the toys.  The next day, the girl comes back to buy Corduroy - she's counted all the money in her piggy bank and realizes she has enough.  She takes Corduroy home, fixes him up and Corduroy realizes what friendship is all about.  

This book is just adorable.  With a little adventure, a little imagination and a lot of friendship, this story would make a fab read aloud with friends in kindergarten or first grade.  It's got a basic, easy-to-follow story line, great pics and a wonderful message.  You know I've been brewing with ideas for a unit on unlikely friendships - this one would totes fit the bill!

Coming in at #25 is The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton.  I mean, talk about a string of old school classics lately on the old list, huh?

The Little House

The Little House on the hill is bought by a family who intends to never sell it and keep it the same forever.  The Little House watches the seasons change and is happy although she wonders what it would be like to live in the city.  Soon enough, houses are built up around The Little House, and before long she finds herself surrounded by a new city.  She misses the country because now everything seems so fast and the seasons seem the same.  One day, a girl, the great-great-granddaughter of the dude that bought the house stops and recognizes The Little House.  The girl hires some movers and takes the Little House out of the city and back to the country where she is happy.  

This book would make a very sweet and basic introduction to seasonal change or the difference between rural, suburban and urban communities for our favorite small fry friends.  It's an old classic (originally published in 1942) and who can't respect that?

We were just given #24 for Mini Mimi and can not WAIT to read it with her.  Um, she is SO going to have a word wall in her room as soon as she starts talking.  (Somewhere Mr. Mimi is sighing and shaking his head at me.)  It's Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom: Anniversary Edition

Can I just say that girlfriend totally hearts this one! I love the colors and simple illustrations for super duper small fries and clearly the whole alphabet connection is amazing. Throw in a cute story line and a fab rhyming scheme and viola! We've got a winner!

Oooooo! #23 is one of my absolute faves when I was a kid!  I think it represents a period in my life in which I became more technologically savvy, because I had this one....wait for it....on TAPE!  Ha ha!  No more Fisher Price records for me...I was movin' on up.  Just like the Jeffersons.... *stares off into space for a moment*

Sorry.  Let's get on with it.  #23 is Bread and Jam by Frances and Russell Hoban.  Seriously, I listened to this bad boy on repeat...and was fascinated by the whole idea of eggs in that little cup...I know.  I so needed a hobby.  Or more friends.

Anyhow. Frances is a fairly picky eater.  She will only eat (you guessed it!) bread and jam.  Girlfriend is evidently unafraid to carbo-load.  Her parents try to get her to eat eggs, veal cutlets, string beans, you name it, but Frances is all jam all the time.  Her parents, who are clearly total geniuses, pull the old reverse psychology bit on Frances and give her nothing BUT bread and jam while they eat all sorts of other fabulousness.  Soon enough, Frances is all jammed out and concedes to eating spaghetti and meatballs.  (A good choice if you ask me.)  The next day she brings quite the lunch to school, complete with a vase of violets (Um, my mom SO dropped the ball on that one.  I never had fresh flowers in my lunch box. The injustice!), lobster salad (Say wha?), plums, cherries and vanilla pudding.

This book is just fantastic.  I know, I'm jaded, but deal with it.  It's easy for friends to read on their own, coming in at a level K (according to this book list which I totally dig)...which is perf for smarties in first grade or friends in second grade.  OR, you could totally use this as a read aloud with kindergarten and first grade small fries.  There are great moments to encourage whole class discussions and a super lesson about eating healthy.  (I want to scream when I see my kids drink that blue juice at lunch....ugh!  I can practically feel the sugar crash coming.)

Annnnnnd at #22 is The Monster At The End Of This Book by Jon Stone . Totally intrigued by the title and pumped to check this one out.
The Monster at the End of this Book (Sesame Street) (Big Little Golden Book)

Totally couldn't find it anywhere! And I loves me some Grover. Bummer.

Happy Friday!!!!!!!! If there was ever time for a cocktail (or seven)!

Who's Peeking?