Tag Archives: back to school

Back to School

26 Jul

It’s almost back to school time here in my little piece of the midwest. It’s a time simultaneously dreaded and celebrated by teachers, students, and parents. The end of July marks the start of back-to-school sales, the last days of summer vacation, and the final hours of personal freedom. Although I’ve been retired for three short years now, my teacher’s soul still aches for the beginning of a new school year.

For me, July is a time when I really start to value the gift that is summer vacation. The minutes of extra sleep in the morning, the carefree hours of dilly-dally, the days and weeks of unfettered sojourn. One of the most precious gifts of summer vacation has always been the endless supply of library books and hours upon hours of relaxed reading enjoyment. I never understood people who didn’t love reading. As an educator, I studied this alien phenomena. Why did so many children hate reading? Why did they avoid reading? Why did they find it so laborious?  Kids are not born hating reading. As a matter of fact, I’ve never met a kid who didn’t enjoy sitting on someone’s lap and listening to a story. Even as they got older, toddlers and preschoolers still enjoy hearing a story from the criss-cross position on the floor, so it’s not just the human touch of the lap which makes reading enjoyable. Actually most kids don’t start disliking reading until school-age. Which begs the reason so many kids dread the beginning of another school year. Do they equate school with achievement in reading, writing, math, or failure, embarrassment, and boredom? I made reading success my mission. What could I do to foster a love of reading in every child I met? How could I make reading an enjoyable activity? How could I turn reluctant readers into successful readers?

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So, contrary to popular beliefs, I and countless other teachers across America spent July and August preparing for the next school year. Before the first #2 pencils hit the sales rack, I attended classes and workshops dedicated to helping me be a better teacher. Prior to the last days of vacation, I spent days researching new titles and finding just the right books for my students. In lieu of the last hours of personal freedom, I scoured thrift shops and discount stores for things to make our reading time special. Because for me, nothing was more important than helping students find their own joy and self-worth in a book. And although I won’t be joining you in another adventure this school year, I will always value and respect the passion and dedication of teachers everywhere.

Tradition holds the back to school time as a season in and of itself. The end of July marks the beginning of a clean slate for a new year, the hopefulness of new or renewed friendships, the promise of fresh ideas and discoveries, and the anticipation of a precious gift. Wishing all my young and young-at-heart friends the gift of a wonderful school year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to School

3 Aug

It’s that time of year again. Kids and teachers are getting ready for another year of learning and growing together.  The nervousness mingles with the excitement. backtoschool1

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has a fun little writing prompt for this month: In 50 words or less, give us a first impression of your character’s new teacher.

And so I present to you, a 47 word story. Enjoy!

Dragon Lady

A nervous hiccup escaped my lips.

Dragon Lady whipped around.

A second hiccup erupted followed by a warm blast of shame.

Her red painted claw pointed at me.

“Lesson One,” she growled.

The third hiccup exploded in flames.

“You have earned the first star of the year.”

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Clark the Shark

13 Aug

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Clark the Shark written by Bruce Hale and illustrated by Guy Francis (2013)

It’s back to school time for Clark the Shark, and he’s super excited. Clark LOVES school. In his own words, ‘SCHOOL IS AWESOME!’ ‘LUNCHTIME IS SWEEEET!’ and ‘RECESS ROCKS!’ The problem is that Clark loves everything way too much. He’s too loud, too wild, and just too much for the other fish to handle. Luckily for him, Clark’s teacher, Mrs. Inkydink is there to help him remember the rules. Clark gets a big idea… ‘Maybe if I make a rhyme, I’ll remember every time!’  So Clark reminds himself with his own rhymes, ‘When teacher’s talking, don’t go walking.’  ‘Only munch your own lunch’ and ‘Easy does it, that’s the way. Then my friends will let me play.’ Clark has learned how to get along with everyone and still have fun. Now it’s time to teach the new kid, Sid the Squid, how to get along.

Bruce Hale has written a series of Clark the Shark books in addition to his other works. He gets into the heart of a young child with loud and sometimes rude antics of a fun-loving fish who just happens to be over-the-top, but who really just wants to be accepted.

Guy Francis takes is deep into the waters of Clark’s world with details of the ocean incorporated into the human-like settings of Clark’s home and school. Reader can immediately identify with the underwater playground, the submarine school bus, the kale salad, and the sea slug ice cream.

My favorite character has to be Mrs. Inkydink. Bruce and Guy must have known that teachers must have eight arms to educate, protect, and handle all their students. I love how Mrs. Inkydink can grade papers, write on the board, and hug her students all at the same time!

In the second book in the series, Clark the Shark Dares to Share,  Bruce Hale and Guy Francis take their readers on another learning adventure for Clark. It’s Show and Share day at school, but Clark doesn’t get the concept of sharing. Sharing is complicated, but Clark finally understands and shares a ‘home-baked krill cake and a great big shark apology’ with his friends.

18090126The next installment in the series is due at the end of this year. Look for Clark the Shark Takes Heart in December, 2014.

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Lazy Little Loafers

10 Aug

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Lazy Little Loafers written by Susan Orlean and illustrated by G. Brian Karas (2008)

Babies are Lazy Little Loafers. They don’t work. They spend all day playing and lying about. They get away with this because they are so cute. While the narrator ponders the question of what babies do while she (and the rest of the kids her age) take tests, give book reports, and figure out tough math questions, she notices that all the babies in Central Park are waving at dogs, snacking, and hanging out with their friends. Just as she arrives at school, she realizes why babies don’t work…they’re too smart!

Susan Orlean tells the story like a true New Yorker. She doesn’t talk down to the reader and she includes the reader by identifying with their plight and dropping little bits of sarcastic humor in the monologue.

G. Brian Karas depicts the city streets and parks of New York with details like Broadway-like signs, black clothing, crowds, doormen, and sidewalk cafes.

 

I like the narrator’s voice, a little mature for her age, leaving me wondering if all New York school kids are so sophisticated. And I loved the humor in the artwork. I especially liked the last illustration… the narrator enters the school building and realizes that babies are too smart for school when a baby passing by in a stroller sticks out his tongue at her, showing the reader that babies really do know what they’re doing!

With the setting in early September and the narrator bemoaning her school work while she obviously would rather be hanging out in the park, this would make an excellent back-to-school choice for parents, teachers, and students.

Dog Days of School

30 Jul

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Dog Days of School written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Braian Biggs (2014)

Charlie is tired of going to school. One night he sees a star and wishes he was a dog…  And in the morning, he realized his wish came true! His dog, Norman goes to school in his place while he stays home and naps and watching the leaves fall and generally has a great day. As the week progresses, Norman gets to make clay sculptures, have birthday cupcakes, paint, go on field trips, learn to play the maracas, and build a house out of blocks. Charlie has dry biscuits, drinks out of the toilet, gets chased by a skunk, has to go to the groomer’s, and gets locked up in the laundry room when he digs in the garden. Charlie realizes this is not such a great idea after all, but when he tries to tell his parents, they only hear ”WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!’ and they send him outside in the cold. That night he sees another star and makes another wish… and in the morning he’s back in his own bed and Norman is sleeping on the floor.

Kelly DiPucchio tells a funny story about switching places, something I bet many kids wish they could do from time to time. She really captures the joys and downfalls of a dog’s life and a boy’s life.

Brian Biggs has the fun job of bringing Charlie and Norman to life on the pages of the picture book. His expressions are both charming and silly, exactly perfect for a children’s book.

I love the story as it’s written, but I also love the story as it’s drawn with details not given in the text. This is the type of book any kid would want to read… especially a kid like me!

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