Kindergarten Boot Camp

Does this stuffed Chihuahua have personality or what? Sigh. This photo was taken back in the day when I taught kindergarten. The students ran a Stuffed Animal Day Care in the classroom...for months! Big brown eyes was one of the stuffed animals attending day care. She joined stuffed teddy bears, cats, bunnies, and several other dogs too. Kindergarten is such a magical year of school and I hope that all the new kindergarten students this fall get a wonderful teacher who takes the time to look them in the eyes every day. A teacher who knows their likes, dislikes, fears, and dreams. A teacher who will enhance their literacy skills, embrace their strengths, and nurture them like they are the most important kid in the world...because they are. If anyone has any burning questions or concerns about kindergarten please post here and I will respond to all! I will put together some tips for new kindergarten students and a book list soon. Thinking Kindergarten Boot Camp of some kind.

The Man with the Violin

Kathy Stinson; art by Dušan Petričić
This is a fictional account based on a true event that exposes questions around  music and value, and reminds us to reclaim our sense of curiosity and inquiry, that came so naturally with childhood. The event was when (on January 12, 2007) one of the best violinists in the world, Joshua Bell, dressed as a regular street musician played his priceless violin to a busy metro station in Washington D.C. for 43 minutes. Only seven out of thousands of people stopped to listen for more than a minute. This is a violinist that fills concert halls with $100 seats. In the post script of this story about a little boy who tries to get his mother to stop and listen to the music that has ignited passion and emotion inside of him; Bell confirms that it is true to his experience, in that it was the kids "who were turning their heads, straining to listen while their parents dragged them away". Building off this idea of kids curious and imaginative nature, we all should ask questions of ourselves about our own willingness to absorb true lessons and moments of undefined beauty. Defining and finding those important moments and values all around us, demands we listen more. This book would make a beautiful read aloud for any music teacher and is a must have on any mentor text set around music. I am pleased that this event (which I first heard about on Facebook) is in picture book form. Bravo to the author and illustrator for validating the intellectual and critical thinking skills of young readers and listeners. A story that needed to be told in this platform.

Doll Bones

Holly Black is is the author of The Spiderwick Chronicles too.

Holly Black delivers a story infused with friendship and adventure with an air of creepiness throughout. Friends Poppy, Zach, and Alice are fueled by their imagination and somewhat ruled by an off limits old china doll imprisoned in a cabinet at Poppy's house. After Zach's dad betrays his childhood by throwing away his "toys" and Poppy keeps having dreams about the ghost of a little girl who can not rest in peace until the bone-china doll is buried in her empty grave, the three friends head off for an epic journey. Through hurdles, more dreams, and adversity, their travels will slowly unravel bits of the mystery and insight to what the china doll means to them.

Readers 10 and up will especially appreciate this type of mystery and will surely relish in the creep factor! The three characters are likable and the plot moves swiftly, making this the type of book that gets read in a few days for even the most reluctant of readers. Add this to your summer reading list and if you have a classroom or library to share this book- be prepared to hear a chatter about it and to see it move off the shelf often!

Nel Noddings & A Book List

"If we decide that the capacity to care is as much a mark of personhood as reason and rationality, then we will want to find ways to increase this capacity." - Nel Noddings

In the spirit of Nel Noddings, I have started to put together a mentor text list of books that encourage a dialogue around ethics, choices, and caring. One idea for extending conversations might be to have small groups of students write prologues or epilogues to help express how they saw through a character's lens. Exploring the diverse characters and how they came to make and reflect upon their actions, will offer participants critical discourse opportunities.

Picture Books
  • Little Beauty by Anthony Browne
  • Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne
  • Willy the Wimp by Anthony Browne
  • Gorilla by Anthony Browne
  • Wiener Wolf by Jeff Crosby
  • Hey, Little Ant by Phillip & Hannah Hoose
  • Fox by Margaret Wild & Ron Brooks
  • Night Diary by Paul Hunt
  • The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
  • Thanks to the Animals by Rebekah Raye
  • Friends by Catherine Thimmesh
  • Everyday Dress Up by Alko
  • The Robot & the Bluebird by Lucas
  • Woolbur by Leslie Helakoski

Books for Grade 4 and Above  

  • The One & Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
  • Flawed Dogs by Berkeley Breathed
  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
  • Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos
  • Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt
  • Paperboy by Vince Vawter
  • Rules by Cynthia Lord
  • Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
  • Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick