Tag Archives: Books to love

Tiny Gardens, Young Minds

I think I went to school with that guy...

I think I went to school with that guy…

Earlier this week I tweeted and posted a thing or two on Facebook about fairies–books that describe them, gardens that welcome them, and adventures in finding them. Since then I’ve been thinking a lot about how to incorporate a study of fairies into the classroom. Hold on a second! I know what you’re thinking: “C’mon, are you serious? If I started teaching about fairies, I’d have a flood of parent complaints. If I’m going to do that I may as well enroll a chimpanzee as a student in my class and call it an ‘educational experience’!”

Bear with me for a minute. Without question, the first order of business would be to send home a well timed and carefully worded note that clearly explains the unit you have planned and details the pedagogical value of the unit on fairies. You’d be sure to make clear that you can neither confirm nor deny the existence of fairies to your students, which is best handled by your students’ families. Now you’re asking what I might possibly find in a study of fairies that could have pedagogical value, and that’s a valid question. The following is my answer, which I hope you will find not only legitimate but persuasive as well.  

MiniFairyGarden_top1

The Utah Core Standards for social studies in kindergarten, first, and second grades state that students will be able to use geographic tools and skills, including maps and globes, and 1364782980_1understand map legends and directions. Now, because of that wonderful semester I spent in Educational Psychology (I’m serious! It was hard, but it was also really fun) learning about Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, I know that some students’ learning styles are better suited to visual/spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, and naturalist approaches.

I think you know where I’m going with this one. That’s right, a fairy garden is little more than a diorama of a physical (either real or imagined) space, combined with soil, plants, and other living and nonliving natural features. Because it is a 3D representation, it benefits visual and kinesthetic learners. Its use of plants, rocks, and natural objects facilitates learning for those who lean in the naturalist direction. A fairy garden can include houses, streets, signposts with directions, water features, even tiny human people. Depending on how the garden/city is laid out, students can gain a clearer sense of Core Standards concepts such as “grid,” “landmark,” and “compass.” Moreover, because it’s a fairy garden, the unit satisfies a science Core Standard with regard to examining living and nonliving things (such a multi-tasker!).

moreI think I’ve made a fairly strong case for this idea, but I’m not one for resting on my laurels. That’s why I’ve come up with even more applications. In Writers’ Workshop, why not encourage students to write stories set in the class fairy garden? Instruct them to visually examine the garden and then include those details in their writing, so that someone who hasn’t had a chance to see the garden personally can still imagine what it looks like.

Here’s another idea–as a class, identify a tiny object that can be moved within the fairy garden. Explain to students that as soon as they get to school tomorrow they will want to search for and find the object. Then, after students have gone home for the day, hide the object in a particular place in the garden. For bell work the next morning, have students find the object and write a short paragraph describing its specific location in the garden. Emphasize that they should use directional and measurement words. Collect the responses and pull them randomly to read aloud. The first student whose response correctly describes the location of the target object can have the chance to hide the object for the next day.

Once upon a time in a quiet, peaceful village lived a....

Once upon a time in a quiet, peaceful village lived a….

At this point you’re probably thinking you might be able to do this with your class, but you’re not sure where to start. How about this–collect students’ milk containers, rinse them out, and have students make them into houses and other buildings in the fairy garden. In the note you send home explaining the project, tell parents that students are welcome to contribute craft supplies, plants, and other small objects lying around the house. Ask students to gather pebbles, twigs, acorns, pinecones, and other interesting items in nature. Consider writing a grant proposal and submitting it to local garden centers, asking for donations of soil, plants, and a large container for your garden. More than anything, keep it simple and cost-effective, and as a teacher, you’re already really good at that!

Posted by Karen Rapier, an elementary education major at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT

Looking for a book to love…

Valentine’s Day is past, and I’m feeling guilty that we didn’t re-post our guest blogger’s great Valentine’s Day tradition from last year, so here it is (just a couple of weeks late). It looks like spring may have sprung early (around here, anyway!) and I’m fearing that my leisurely reading hoursBook_Lovers_Day will be prematurely replaced by garden-planning and yard work.  I left my last “lost-in-the-book” experience behind when I drove home from our inspiring conference (UVU Forum on Engaged Reading) at the Chateaux in September.

 

I just haven’t lost myself in a good book, for way too long. Oh, I’ve enjoyed reading some new picture books, and some that are new to me even though they have been around for a while, and I’ve enjoyed classroom and office discussions of the books that my students and colleagues have been losing themselves in.  But I’m feeling pretty melancholy about this, BLANAand I’m starting to worry.  Maybe this is more than a midterm crisis for me – I’m thinking this is serious!  I can’t hear any of my night-stand stacks of “read-me-next” books calling to me.  I look through the Scholastic Book Order leaflets and notice some recent additions, but nothing is reaching out to me. I don’t feel drawn into  bookstores at the moment – not even my favorite ones.  I am stressing over feelings of  guilt about co-chairing a conference that fights the 21st Centure problem of “a-literacy,” while I am exhibiting symptoms of it myself. I don’t want to read a book to “get current” in my field, and I don’t want to read a book just because it received some recent (albeit prestigious) award. I just want to feel lost in a book again.  medalion book-loverI’m longing for a book that holds my heart in between my reading sessions, and that I can hold to my heart as I tell someone about it.

 

I recently came across a delightful poem written by Tom Robert Shields and published (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004) in Wonderful Words: Poems About Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and Illustrated by Karen Barbour. wonderful-wordsThe poem is “I Am the Book” and it promised to be my friend, stay by my side… bring dreams I’ll “forever keep,” to warm me, and to plant in me a “spring seedling…” while I am reading.  It promises,

 

“… I am the book

You are needing.”

 So, I decided to ask you…  any reader who may have stumbled onto this blog, in spite of the fact that it hasn’t been updated for some time – until now.  What do you suggest?  Is there a book that has been your friend…  brought dreams bklvr1you have “forever [kept],” and planted in you a “spring seedling – some book that you were needing and found — that you can share with me?  Please write soon., because you may know the book I am needing.  Yours truly, An Engaged Reader in Crisis

Posted by Nancy Peterson, Professor of Elementary Education at Utah Valley University, and Co-Chair of UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading