Read Your Heart Out Day

One of my favorite days of the year is Read Your Heart Out Day. Community members, high school students, and parents come into classes and read to students. It’s a celebration of reading and community engagement.
These books were read aloud to my class this year:
The Dragon Takes a Wife by Walter Dean Myers
Jojos Flying Sidekick by Brian Pinkney
Looking for Bongo by Eric Velasquez
Long Shot by Chris Paul

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Snow Day

Winter snow day. . . no going to school day. The birdhouse wears icicle earrings day. The white pines wear wintery coats day.

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Back To School

Back To School Picture Books – 2018

It’s the 27th time I’ve started a new school year and gone “back to school”. Even when my oldest son was born in the middle of September, I still began the school year and set up the classroom. I’ve given myself a little back to school present and purchased some books for our classroom library. I’m looking forward to sharing them with the class! The beautiful flowers are from our school garden!

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Summer Reading

It’s been a great summer! I love the chance to connect with family, spend time outside and read, read and read. What a pleasure to know I have time to sit with a good book and soak up the sunshine.

I’ve been on a historical fiction binge lately. This summer I read Secrets of a Charmed Life and A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner, The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa, and The Baker’s Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan. These were all thought-provoking and character driven. These were the kind of books where you miss the characters when you are done!

I also read the popular suspense novel The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. This is a “page turner” and I loved trying to figure out “who did it”. I was kept thinking until the very end.

I purchased The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan in a bookshop (of course) in Grand Lake, CO. The book is about a librarian who tries to save books from her library closing. She decides to open her own little bookshop in Scotland. My favorite thing to do in an independent bookshop is to ask the seller, “What are you reading now?” The bookseller of Cascades of the Rockies Book Store and I had a great chat about books!

I also loved reading The Address by Fiona Davis. This novel takes place in New York City in 1884 and 100 years later, in the same apartment building. The building was named The Dakota because it was considered remote (from Manhattan) when it was built, just as the Dakota territory “out west” was considered remote. The characters from the “present” find they are related to the original architect of the building. They each discover more about themselves by exploring the history of The Dakota.

Chloe Benjamin, the author of The Immortalists, wrote an intriguing story of four siblings living in New York City. Each one is individually told their own death date by a traveling psychic in 1969. The prophecy follows them for the rest of their lives. Their stories are interwoven, yet told in each character’s voice, one at a time. After reading this book, I can not stop thinking about it. Would you want to know the date of your death?

The books I read this summer encourage me to think and find out more – especially when there are moments that are a blend of historical fact and fiction.

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Mom’s Sewing Machine


It’s year 2 of our “Disney Musicals in Schools” grant in coordination with the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, WI.   Along with 5 other staff members from my school,  we are in week 17 of rehearsal for our production of Aristocats Kids! We have “serious fun” after school two times a week in rehearsal – singing, dancing and acting. The students are thrilled to be using their tails for rehearsal.

Again this year, my mother offered to help out with costumes. I cut out, ironed, stuffed tails – she did the sewing. After using 200 yards of black thread and lots of black, brown, and  white fur we have finished the tails for our cats and dogs! Together,  we also made colorful bandannas for all of our jazzy alley cats to wear.

My mother’s sewing machine is a real work horse. It didn’t complain once. I fondly remember this old machine, with my  mother’s home economics talent, creating many Halloween costumes, holiday outfits as well as many pairs of shorts and t-shirts for myself and my brothers. I also learned to sew with this machine and completed projects for 4-H. Now, this same machine is contributing to the imagination of our “cats, dogs and mouse” as they dance, sing and act their way into Paris and the French countryside.

Thank you Mom from the cast of Aristocats Kids -we are so thankful for your costume making expertise!

Here is a link to the Disney Musicals in Schools program in coordination with the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, WI.

Disney Musicals in Schools

Our performance of Jungle Book Kids -2017 onstage at the Overture Center for the Arts:

The views on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent the views, opinions, vision or strategies of the Madison Metropolitan School District.

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Spring Hope

Is there anything better than a classroom window sill filled with cups of soil and seeds?

We planted corn seeds and pea seeds as part of our math curriculum. We will measure and compare the plants as they grow. Every year, I am delighted at how excited students get as they dig into a bag of soil and scoop it out to place into a cup. They are amazed that the pea seed looks like a pea and the corn seed looks like corn.

During the year, we discuss seeds in other ways; with picture books, when we eat snacks, (seeds in the apples and cucumber slices) and in lessons related to the parts of a plant or the life cycle of tree.

But, there is something about planting a “real” seed that they get ridiculous about.

They understand a bit about the “how” – roots grow down, stems grow up, the seed has food for the growing plant, it needs sunlight and water.

However, the fact that you can plant a seed and it will grow is still a bit of a mystery to second graders. They have a real sense of wonder about seeds. There is nothing to plug in. No buttons to push. Nothing to program. No further directions. Nothing they can do to urge the little seeds along.

Plant a seed, water it, put it in the sun, hope for the best, and wait.

“It’s not just a cup of soil anymore.”

“There is something about to happen in there.”

“How long do you think it’s going to take?”

“I think the corn will grow up first, it’s really tall when I see it in the field.”

Some students are not sure it will really happen. But they are excited, hopeful and willing to wait.

Some of my favorite books about seeds to share with my students are:
A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Aston and Sylvia Long

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

A Seed Is The Start by Melissa Stewart

From Seed to Maple Tree: Following the Life Cycle by Laura Purdie Salas and Jeff Yesh

From Seed to Daisy: Following the Life Cycle by Laura Purdie Salas and Jeff Yesh

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Meet My Family Inspires Writing

Meet My Family Blog Tour Graphic 2018

My second grade students were honored to receive an autographed copy of Laura Purdie Salas’ newest book – Meet My Family – Animal Babies and Their Families. The book is illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman.

In the book, twenty baby animals introduce their families through rhyming text. Students learned new information about animal families. They also recognized some facts from our animal information writing and our studies of vertebrates/insects in science. This book lends itself to discussion that incorporates many curriculum areas – writing, science, engineering, social studies and social emotional skills.  The back matter includes a map and the glossary has further explanation of the animal “parent names”. My students were particularly empathetic toward the animals who survive on their own from the beginning!

Laura has written over 125 books for children. We checked out many of them from the library. My students loved her books about various habitats and poured over the maps and text features. I heard, “Hey, come look at this. . .” many times while students were reading – information that needed to be shared! They also enjoyed books in her “Colors of… ” series and her “… Can Be ” series.

We used our shared reading discussion about families from the book to try different ways of writing. As we worked, I quickly realized that Meet My Family helped us to further build our classroom community as we shared new stories about our own families. For example, Ayla taught us about Azerbaijani pakhlava and Liliana taught us about her mother’s enchiladas.

Student sharing led us to appreciate the diversity represented in our own class. Students grew to have new understandings about their classmates and further develop interpersonal connections that are so important for success in school and in life outside of school.

Students wrote acrostic poetry with their own names and family member’s names and “Meet My Family” narratives and poetry.

Here is some of their writing:

Ayla’s rough draft plan of her poem. She first wrote the words on sticky notes so she could move them around to plan her poem. She decided to arrange her family words from “super simple” ideas then “simple” ideas, then “kinda simple”, then “unique” and lastly, “Super Unique!”


Here is the final poem – she wanted periods after the words.

Meet My Family by Ayla

Me and my 5 year old brother are helpers. Brave.

Books.  Can’t take off the smile.

Math.  Writing.   Funny stuff.

People can’t tell I’m Asian. Cooking. Silly faces.

Azerbaijani pakhlava.  Unique. Music. 


Liliana’s Acrostic Name Poem


Collin’s poem about his Dad


Zion wrote about “My Bigs” – These are two people who work with Zion from the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program. He feels that they are like “family” to him.

Meet My Bigs by Zion

Sean and Sarah are like family to me. 

We go places, like their parent’s house.

They stay next to me when we go places.

At their parent’s house, we played ping pong.

Sarah even messed up sometimes and hit the ball into the air!

We made brownies.

They are the nicest people I ever met. 


Meet My Family by Iona

My mom, my dad, my brother and my dog.

We play, eat and give each other comfort.

We were all born in different places.

The best thing about my family is being all together.

I’m so glad I’m not an orphan!

I might cry if I grow up and I’m not with any of them!

Meet My Family by Lux

Little brother Smith, Mom and Dad.

AND my mom is having a baby – I hope it’s a sister.

We play games like Sorry. We do art and drawing. 

I like my family – they are funny and we help each other. 

One time, my family met all together in North Carolina. Even the family from Oregon came to North Carolina.  That was really fun to be with so much family. 


Meet My Family by Brooklyn

My family has me, Marcus, London, DonnAi, Daisha and baby Paris -that is 5 girls and 1 boy. We like going to Chuckie Cheese and watching movies. When I get hurt, my mom takes care of me and gets a band-aid. We tickle each other and laugh at each other. Mom lets us buy Jolly Ranchers at the gas station. My mom and me, we cook together – macaroni and cheese, corn, chicken with hot sauce and green beans. When I think of my family, I think of happy.

For Teachers, Laura has resources at this link:

The views on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent the views, opinions, vision or strategies of the Madison Metropolitan School District.

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