Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Another Visit from Laura Ljungkvist

Children's book author and illustrator Laura Ljunkgkvist shared her latest publication Pepi Signs a New Song with our preschool and kindergarten students recently.

Laura has visited our school in the past so I was really looking forward to seeing her again and learning first-hand what she has been up to since our last meeting in 2008.

This Swedish charmer, whose successful Follow The Line books brought her much deserved attention, has created Pepi to expand children's vocabulary in an entertaining way.

I am not sure if she knows it or not but one of the hot topics in education at the moment is vocabulary instruction. And Pepi knows quite a few words to go with the places he visits. My students were thrilled to see Pepi visit a bakery and name all of the things he saw there.

But the real magic, for me at least, are the illustrations. I love her bright, colorful, clean, retro-ish drawings.

On this visit Laura showed us her very first children's book. It was a beat-up 'dummy' book she put together long before she was ever published. That book contains impressive illustrations already showcasing her unique style right from the start.

Although that book was never picked up by a publisher it does have the distinction of introducing Pepi as a character. Pepi's path from supporting player to star of his own book reminded me of how Curious George got his modest start in Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys. You never know where the seeds of inspiration may lead. The key is to keep creating.

Laura read several of her books and then answered questions from our children. At one point I showed her the books our students wrote based on her Follow the Line series. She was very touched as they came up with Follow the Line through Central Park and Follow the Line through Outer Space, etc. She knew how precious they were and I can imagine it to be quite flattering. Below is one of my kindergarten students book entitled Follow the Line through the Bronx Zoo.

Thank you Laura for coming back to visit us. We hope to see you again soon!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Comic Books and Second Language Learners

I was toying of the idea of calling this post "Oh, happiness the very pith" due to the sweet fact that I have completed another semester at Fordham University, but thought that might be a tad too esoteric, hence, a more straightforward approach.

After an truly intense three weeks with my head in the books, the onslaught has subsided. And although the work was relentless, it was also quite interesting.

The first of three major projects was a poster presentation for a class entitled Second Language Proficiency. I chose to present on how comic books can be used to promote interest and development in reading with second language learners.

As I read the main article I thought "how brilliant if I could get George O'Connor to draw some pictures on this for me".

George O'Connor is a New York Times best selling children's book author whose books Kapow! and Ker-Splash! were inspired by his love of comic books. The main character is a boy with an active imagination who becomes the superhero American Eagle when a crisis arises.

I envisioned that American Eagle, in my poster, could signify the power of comic books as well as highlight the main point in the research which is the appealing fact that comic books present material in both words and pictures (the significance of this is supported by the Dual Coding Theory). A speech bubble (words) and a thought bubble (pictures) over American Eagle's head would provide a nice visual from which to begin my presentation.

I asked George and he was willing to help me out with whatever I wanted. Brilliant!

So, in addition to the American Eagle centerpiece I also asked him if he could draw the hand of Zeus holding a lightening bolt to signify the spark of interest that ignited this exploration in the first place.

"No problem" says George.

This would also tie in nicely with my presentation because I wanted to provide some examples of excellent graphic novels teachers could use in their classrooms.

George's Olympians Series is a perfect fit. The first two books in the series Zeus: King of the Gods and Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess are already available and they are AMAZING!

We chatted the whole time he worked on the poster about our shared love of Greek Mythology, about his art (which is perfected only after hundreds and hundreds of drawings have been created for each character) and about many other things.

Before long he was done and I had a the beginnings of a poster I was very excited about.

Lauren was kind enough to color it for me (thanks) so all I had to do was organize the research (overview, methodology, findings, implications) on the poster and prepare hand-outs.

Now that the presentation is finished I think we are going to frame the centerpiece of this poster and hang it in the classroom.

Thank you George!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

I simply love the Mother's Day card/gift each child made for his or her mom this year. It is a little bit of love coming at you in 3D.

What mother could resist the image of her child offering a handmade flower?

With love...

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Although we continue to play in our classroom Cakery our next exploration is underway. It may seem like an odd choice but the students voted and decided that they wanted to learn about...


Two weeks ago we went to visit our first hotel - Hotel Giraffe. We took pictures and scrutinized the inside of the hotel. All the students made observations like: a hotel has a doorman, flowers, a woman who asks about bed size and an eating area.

We also drew pictures from our first hotel visit. Those sketches are going to help us plan the hotel set-up in our classroom.

This past Friday we set off to see the W Hotel armed with a big question - "Why do people go to hotels?"

Going inside the hotel, we made more observations. One child noticed that they had dog food by the entrance so we inquired and found out that some hotels are pet friendly!

Another noticed that the doors had slots for key cards. Someone saw carts for luggage and we all peeked inside a meeting room. One student made some inquiries at the front desk and we learned that 80% of the people who go to hotels are business people and 20% stay for pleasure.

We walked away from the beautiful hotel and exceedingly friendly staff with some yummy green apples and even yummier information.

One student cinched it when she said that hotel people want to be nice to us.

Note: This post was written in collaboration with guest blogger, Lauren! :)


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