Sunday, July 19, 2015

Top Ten 2014 - 2015

A sample Top Ten list from a First Grade student
The Top Ten posts are my favorite to write because they serve as a time capsule showcasing the uniqueness of a particular class.  The books and the children's writing bring back memories of our time together and the dynamic moments we shared.

This year, as in years past, our students created individual top ten lists (see above) from the many books we read together.  Each book was then voted on by the whole class until we settled on just ten.

Number One
Number One: Washington Irving's The Headless Horseman (adapted by Natalie Standiford) topped the list this year.

Our class was so enraptured by the dark mystery of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow that they created their own version.

It is a testament to the staying power of the story that it survived in the children's minds and hearts throughout the year.

It was as popular in June as it was in October and remained the number one selection for independent reading.  Luckily, this year I bought an extra copy so it cut down on the quarreling.

Marilyn wrote, "I think my favorite book is The Headless Horseman because the character Icabod is funny.  And I like scary stories. That's why I like The Headless Horseman".

Number Two
Number Two: Otto Has a Birthday Party by Todd Parr.

This book was read at every single birthday celebration this year.  Over time the boys and girls began to substitute their names for Otto's as in "Today is Gabriel's birthday, and he is going to make his cake all by himself" (That conceit became a little more complicated when a girl read the book and had to remember to change all the pronouns).

Speaking of Gabriel, he wrote...

"My favorite book is Otto has a birthday party because it was funny when Otto put a cootie bug and mud for frosting. I hope you loved my opinion writing." 

Number Three
Number Three: I used to take issue with Teachers Pay Teachers. I was of the opinion that teachers should share ideas freely and the thought of making a buck off of one another just did not sit right with me.

My feelings about the site changed this year when I discovered that there are many fantastic free resources.  Plus, the items that require payment are absolutely worth the small fee.

It was on Teachers Pay Teachers that I found a free reader's theater script for The Stinky Cheese Man.  I used it during small group work with children who needed to develop fluency. What fun!

They happily performed the "fairly stupid tale" for the rest of the class and learned some interesting vocabulary along the way.

Number Four
Number Four: Usually when we do a read aloud I sit next to Oni (my co-teacher) and voice while she signs.  However, we changed things up a bit when we read A Night in Santa's Great Big Bag by Kristin Kladstrup and Tim Jessell.

Oni projected the story onto our large SMART Board and stood in the front of the class to sign the book while I sat in the back and quietly voiced for those who needed it.  The large visual display made an impact on the students who interacted with the text in a way we hadn't seen before.  It drew them in and they didn't forget it.

Number Five
Number Five: This was a new one for me.  I had never heard of My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett until Oni introduced it to me with fond reminiscence of her childhood.

It turns out there are three books in the trilogy (My Father's Dragon, Elmer and the Dragon and The Dragons of Blueland).

We read all of the chapter books to a rapt audience over several weeks.  I don't think the children were ever so attentive as they were during those readings.

Number Six
Number Six: Greek Mythology makes its first appearance on the list at Number Six.

Let's Go, Pegasus! by Jean Marzollo retells one version of the story of Perseus and Medusa (we highlight that these are old stories and as it gets passed down through the generations some details change).

This is the myth that launches us into an in-depth study of Greek mythology because the story is chock full of intrigue and action.

Variations of Medusa's head by Elyssa
Elyssa wrote, "My favorite book is Let's Go, Pegasus! because I like the colorful pictures.  And the story. And it's interesting."

This knowledge is put to good use when we visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art to view and sketch the exquisite Perseus with the Head of Medusa by Antonio Canova and the equally stunning Andromeda and the Sea Monster by Domenico Guidi.

Andromeda and the Sea Monster at The Met

Number Seven
Number Seven: Oinky! Oink! Oink!

That means Happy Pig Day!

This charming book by Mo Willems was another reader's theater script I downloaded from Teachers Pay Teachers.  Honestly, I do not know what could make someone smile more than a bunch of pigs together celebrating the joy of simply being a pig.

The Elephant & Piggie books are a great resource for teaching about character and the use of speech bubbles. With a limited range of words they are easily accessible and non-intimidating for beginning readers.

Number Eight
Number Eight: Exclamation Mark! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld is a bright, happy book centering on the journey of self acceptance.

Although it certainly works on that deeper level, it is also perfect for teaching young children the proper usage of an exclamation point...and a question mark.

The authors make their point in simple, clear terms that are extremely engaging.  A touch of humor is never a bad idea in a children's book!

Number Nine: The Chef and the Baker by Clayton Suttles with art by Nate Suttles and Christy Sexton is an as-of-yet unpublished children's book that I was fortunate enough to get my hands on this year.

Number Nine
This is the story of a chef and a baker (naturally) who are angsting over the imminent arrival of an intimidating food critic.  The conflict arises when they must decide whether to bake or to "chef".  Which delicious delicacy will the food critic prefer?

With humor and dazzling illustrations the message becomes clear - it is best to work together even though it can sometimes get messy.

It is a perfect lesson for children in First Grade to learn and that message carried over into our dramatic play area where they created a menu I simply couldn't resist.

Why was I cast as the flamboyant food critic?  Hmmm....

Anny wrote, "My favorite part of the story is when the chef and the baker  try to make the best food in the whole world!

Number Ten
Number Ten: I have a friend - and former college professor - who always tells me, "Don't forget about the goddesses!"

Well, Marilyn will be happy to see that Aphrodite: Goddess of Love by George O'Connor has made the Top Ten.  This is the first year that a goddess from the Olympians series has made the list but the gods weren't far behind.

Boys and girls were equally attracted to the story of Aphrodite but one little girl had more questions for the talented Mr. O'Connor.

Cydney wrote, "I like Aphrodite because she is beautiful.  And it is cool that she was born in the sea.  Is Zeus her father? Why does Ares love Aphrodite?"

I adore when they want to know more!

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators who worked to create the wonderful books in our Top Ten this year.  We appreciate all of you!

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