Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

I went to Barnes & Noble this afternoon to check out the new children's books and fell in love with The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

I was immediately enchanted by the warm, welcoming cover and carried it over to small table to read. The book is breathtaking.  It is filled with a charm reminiscent of the books I read as a boy.  The story spoke to all the different sides of me.  The "me" who loves dynamic, old tyme illustrations, the "me" who appreciates a touching, tender story and the teacher "me" who relishes the excitement of finding brilliant new books to share with my students.

A sticker on the cover noted this was an Academy Award winning short film.  I was pleased to find the whole thing available on YouTube!  If you have 15 minutes do yourself a favor and get lost in the pages.  The movie captures the heart of the book (or is it the other way around?).

I want to be a little more like Mr. Morris Lessmore and lose myself in books a little more often.

What a brilliant day!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Families Come in All Shapes and Sizes

Teaching Tolerance has published my latest blog post entitled Families Come in All Shapes and Sizes.  You can find it by clicking here (I also included it below).

A school district in the midwestern town of Erie, Ill. found Todd Parr's award-winning children's book objectionable because it included references to gay and lesbian families.  The school board gave in to pressure from a small group of outspoken parents and decided to remove The Family Book, written and illustrated by Parr, from their elementary school's social and emotional development curriculum.

According to the school district Superintendent Brad Cox, the concerned parents took issue with the fact that "the book references families with two mommies or two daddies."

The offending line in the book reads, "Some families have two moms or two dads."  This brightly illustrated page is placed within the context of other nontraditional family units such as families with a stepmom or stepdad, families with adopted children and single parent families.

Parr explained his inspiration for writing books.  "Everything that I try and do is about inclusion.  It means all of us," he said.  "It means bringing people together.  Helping them feel good about themselves while learning about differences."

By banning The Family Book the Erie school district is missing the main point and an opportunity to teach both tolerance and acceptance. They are sidestepping an important family lesson in diversity and inclusion and opting instead to promote a school climate of shame and conformity.

They are also ignoring the growing number of households with same sex partners.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of same-sex couples raising children has more than doubled in the past 10 years, from 8 percent in 2000 to 19 percent in 2010.

The reality is that children talk about their families everyday in school. They mention their moms, their dads or perhaps their two moms or two dads.  It's a huge part of their lives.

Recently, I read a book aloud to my first-grade students wherein the author describes Halloween decorations as gay.  One boy giggled when I read that.  I explained that the author meant the decorations were happy and colorful.  I asked him why he giggled.  He explained that gay had another meaning, "It means when a boy loves a boy or a girl loves a girl."

Another student shared that her aunt just got married to a woman and her mom went to the wedding.  I asked, "How was that?"  She replied, "It was fine.  I had someone to take care of me."  She was more focused on who was babysitting than on her aunt marrying a woman, but noted the union as part of her family.  As I continued reading aloud the author once again described the party as gay.  This time there were no giggles.

There is no reason to shield children from reality.  My years of experience teaching young children have shown me that they can handle such diversity with openness and acceptance.

When creating The Family Book, Todd Parr thought about his own childhood and looked for ways to write about all the different kinds of families in the world and help kids--and their families--feel good no matter what kind of family they have.

Everyone's family is special and important.  And that is the message the folks in Erie need to embrace.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


The end of the 2011-2012 school year is in sight.  Only three days left until summer vacation and a much needed (deserved) rest.  It has been a fun, yet hectic, year full of change.

The past few days have been no exception.  Report cards, end-of-the-year assessments, portfolios, celebrations, moving up ceremonies and graduations have occupied much of our time.

Our fifth graders had their graduation ceremony on Friday and this Tuesday the eighth grade students will don cap and gown to collect their diplomas.

Many of them were once my Pre-K, kindergarten and/or first grade students. So, when they were asked who they would like to have speak at their graduation they voted for me.  It feels as though we have come full circle. I once welcomed them to school and now they are welcoming me as they embark on a new chapter in their lives.  It's an honor.

They keep asking me if I have written my speech yet and I continue to say, "not yet".  I'm generally better unscripted but I do have an outline. Since I am closely associated with a particular little monkey I plan to construct my talk around life lessons learned from Curious George (kinda, sorta like those found here and here).

I also plan to bring along some small stuffed Georges to throw out at the graduates every so often.

Just to make sure they are paying attention.

*A bit of a follow-up

I am told the speech was a grand success.

The five life lessons I chose to impart to the young graduates as they set out on their adventures were...
  1. Enjoy life!
  2. Help Others
  3. Be Curious and Creative
  4. Love What You Do
  5. Surround Yourself with People who are in your Corner (like The Man in the Yellow Hat)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Gift From NASA

This afternoon I checked my mailbox at school and pulled out a package from an unknown sender.

"What could this be?" I said to my coworker as I examined the package, noticing it cost $8.83 in postage (signifying, of course, that it must be important).

And it was!

Inside was a sweet note from Rachel at NASA stating that she found my request for Solar System materials on DonorsChoose and thought she'd send along some of NASA's space-related materials for my classroom. She also offered to send more because "we're here to help!".


I cannot wait to get to school tomorrow to show my first grade students the posters of Titan, Voyager, Saturn (Jewel of the Solar System) and Jupiter or the set of gorgeous lithographs depicting our Solar System in glorious color and detail.

Each lithograph contains information about the planets, moons, comets, meteors, asteroids, Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud with Fast Facts and Significant Dates.  The posters provide lessons and activities for children in grades 1-4 and grades 5-8.

She also sent along a CD of educational materials, bookmarks, postcards and a list of "Cool NASA Websites" such as...

NASA Homepage

Solar System Missions - Cassini to Saturn and Juno to Jupiter (Fantastic! Check it out)

NASA Science Web



Solar System Exploration Website

And many more.

A great big thank you to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Keep it coming!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Solids and Liquids

Our first grade science "states of matter" explorations provide children with an opportunity to observe what happens when solids and liquids are mixed together.

Objects such as craft sticks, cloth, beans, candy, rice and rock salt are observed and charted according to their properties.  Afterwards the items are placed in water and we see what happens.

The following day when asked, "What happened?" our young scientists eagerly raise their hands to share their observations.  Using their important scientific words they tell us...

"Some things dissolved!"

"It evaporated!"

"They can melt!"

"It became crystals!"

"They can change to different colors!"


"Some things didn't change at all!"

But, my favorite observation, which came at the end of the discussion, came from one little girl whose statement was so obvious I didn't even think of it.  She said, matter-of-factly,

"They got wet!"


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cochlear Implants

I was asked to write a blog post for Teaching Tolerance about cochlear implants and am looking for input/feedback from those of you with knowledge in this area.

I plan to tackle this issue from an educational perspective and hope remain as objective as possible.

That's where you come in.

I am curious to know...

  • How are cochlear implants impacting the education of young children?  
  • What information are parents given to help them make informed decisions about the procedure? 
  • What expectations do parents have regarding the outcome of the procedure?
  • How do classroom teachers educate children with cochlear implants? 
  • What types of training is given to these teachers?

And of course, I would love to read your opinions about cochlear implants for children in general.



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