Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Some Favorite New Books for 3rd Grade Transitional Readers

I have been on the lookout for short reads for my 3rd graders. I still have a handful of students who are struggling with finishing books.  Finding quality books for 3rd graders is always a struggle. So I am always thrilled when I find something with a little more to it than most.  And with a humor that is perfect for 8 and 9 year olds. I've found several great ones for kids pretty new to chapter books lately.   Here they are:













Sunday, October 19, 2014

Digital Literacy K-8: Empowering Our Students


Saturday, I had the opportunity to work with Ruth Ayres, Bill Bass and Colby Sharp in Indiana. We worked with 50ish Indiana teachers through the All Write consortium and learned together about digital literacy.  I loved Saturday. The teachers were incredible and the conversations at each table that I joined pushed me to think about things I haven't thought of before when it comes to digital literacy.

I left with lots of new thinking. How can you work with Ruth, Bill and Colby and not come away with new thing to think about. Each of these 3 people grounds me in different ways.  We each bring something different to the conversation around digital literacy and that alone is worth it.  Ruth continues to remind us that staying true to our core beliefs matters.  Colby reminds us that kids' voices are the most powerful voices there are.  And Bill's belief that technology can change classrooms to empower all children reminds us that we can't take our time with this.  The most powerful thinking happens when different voices come together.  I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to learn from and with these 3 amazing people on a regular basis.  

We created a Weebly site so participants had all of the resources at their fingertips. The site grew and evolved as the day went on.  Such fun to update a site as new things came up in conversation.  You can find the site: Digital Literacy K-8.    Some of it might make no sense to you but there are pages that I love (Colby's iPad screen is one of them:-). There are pages that give me things to follow up with--things I didn't have time to explore Saturday. And there are slides and quotes that reground me, remind me why digital literacy matters.

People always ask me how and why I sometimes spend Saturdays working. And some days I wonder that myself. But then I have a day like yesterday--and I think "How could I not?" When else would I have the chance to be inspired?  Learning with amazing teachers,  laughing with friends, learning myself. What could be better?






Friday, October 17, 2014

Poetry Friday -- My New Hero

"Time to Dust"


Delight in Disorder
by Robert Herrick

A sweet disorder in the dresse
Kindles in cloathes a wantonnesse:
A Lawne about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction:
An erring Lace, which here and there
Enthralls the Crimson Stomacher:
A Cuffe neglectfull, and thereby
Ribbands to flow confusedly:
A winning wave (deserving Note)
In the tempestuous petticote:
A careless shooe-string, in whose tye
I see a wilde civility:
Doe more bewitch me, then when Art
Is too precise in every part.


Herrick is writing about those who are careless in dressing, but I am taking this poem to heart as a person who is careless in housekeeping, and Herrick is my new hero. Last weekend, I finally got around to dusting took five minutes to Swiffer a few key surfaces in the house. After reading Herrick, I quit beating myself up for the cobwebs, cat hair, and kitchen table clutter. I am choosing to "see a wilde civility," become bewitched, and find the wonderful imprecise Art of our home. (Also giving thanks that Mr. Mary Lee cares less than I do about a clean and tidy house!)

Michelle has the Poetry Friday roundup at Today's Little Ditty.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Jacket


The Jacket
by Kirsten Hall
illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova
Enchanted Lion Books, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

This is a book about a book who wants nothing more than "for a child to discover him. / To disappear into his pages. / To laugh at his story. / To love him and care for him in a way all favorite books know."

That day finally comes for Book, but unfortunately, the girl who loves him also loves her dog, who loves to roll in the mud, which spells disaster for Book.

All is not lost, though. The girl is creative. Can you guess what she makes for her book to cover the mud stains? Yup. A jacket!

Directions for making a book jacket are included. ("*Don't forget to cut eye holes for your book's eyes!")


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mister Horizontal & Miss Vertical


Mister Horizontal & Miss Vertical
by Noémie Révah
illustrations by Olimpia Zagnoli
translated from the French by Claudia Bedrick
Enchanted Lion Books, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

Mister Horizontal and Miss Vertical couldn't be more different.

Can you guess who likes gliding, boating and "walking in the desert, with sand as far as the eye can see?" And who likes bungee jumping, rockets, and "New York, the city of sky scrapers?"

More than just a concept book about horizontal and vertical, this is a book about opposites, and a fabulous mentor text for writers of all age and experience who need to practice describing their characters in a variety of ways.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

I haven't had time to read as many upper middle grade/young adult books that I'd like to this year. There have been a few 2014 books that have been on my radar but that I haven't had a chance to read.   I am trying to make time to read more of these books lately--at least the few that everyone seems to be talking about.

Last week, I read The Crossover by Kwame Alexander.  I had started this book a few times but didn't get past the first few pages. I picked it up last weekend and was hooked in just a few pages. (I always find it so interesting how important timing is when we read books!)

This is a novel in verse. It is a powerful novel in verse intended for upper elementary/middle school kids.  It is one that is being talked about as a good one for boy readers but I see it as an amazing book for all readers.

The book is about basketball. But more importantly it is about basketball player Josh Bell and his twin brother Jordan. They are stars on their school basketball team and basketball is clearly their passion.  The story revolves around the two of them and their parents--a family you come to love immediately. And a family that will stay with me for a very long time.

But things are changing for both boys-as they grow older, discover girls, and face life issues.

This is an amazing book. A must read for anyone who likes to keep up with great books for this age. A must read for teachers and parents trying to stretch their upper middle grade readers to try something new. So glad I took the time to read this one. Once I was hooked, I didn't get off the couch until I had finished.

An incredible and powerful read.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Books and Breakfast: Shelter Pet Squad #1 by Cynthia Lord

On Friday, we had our first Books and Breakfast Book Club.  Kids who signed up were dropped off at school 30 minutes early.  We had donuts and chatted about the book.

For this first Book Club, I chose the new book Shelter Pet Squad: Jelly Bean by Cynthia Lord. I wanted a book that was accessible to most kids in my room (either on their own or with help from a parent). And I wanted a book with something to talk about.

I love Shelter Pet Squad and am excited about this series as you may know from my recent blog post about the book.  

About 2 weeks before the Book Club, I gave each student a copy of the book. They had 2 weeks to read it and to jot down thinking, knowing they'd be talking to others about the book. I had no idea how it would go this early in the year so it was very open ended.


Then a few days before the Book Club, I put up a poster inviting kids in the group to jot down questions that might be worth talking about on Friday. I wanted this to be simple and I hoped that this was enough preparation for them.  The board filled as the week went on.
On Friday morning, I typed up the list of questions and kids used this list if they needed it.  I had about 12 kids attend the book talk. Some used the list and others had other connected conversations. The conversations were fabulous and we all had a great time.  The event was definitely a success!  We sent a few tweets to Cynthia Lord and heard back.  


Below are the questions that students discussed:

Shelter Pet Squad #1

What is your favorite part?
What do you like about this book?
What’s your favorite thing about Shelter Pet Squad?
Who is your favorite character?
What is an interesting part you like? 
Did you choose this book because you like animals ?
What did you think about to pick this book?
What is your most favorite chapter?
What is so important about this story?
Why did you decide to read this book?
Do you have a pet?  If you do, did you get it from a shelter?
Why do you think the author wrote this story?

We had a great time and can't wait until our next morning book club. Next Up: Sisters by Raina Telgemeier.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Poetry Friday -- The Stars


Flickr Creative Commons photo by JosMetadi


When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer
by Walt Whitman


When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

We are learning about the Solar System in science, and while the facts about the planets are intriguing, it's the students' questions and wonderings that are the most compelling. (How I wish we could have had a sleepover at school this week so that we all could have watched the lunar eclipse together!) They are grappling (and rightly so) with the sheer vastness of our galaxy...and the universe, and with the ways scientists can know distances between or temperatures on the sun and the planets. We watched this video of a hexagonal hurricane on Saturn and they were fascinated by the way the scientists replicated the storm in the lab. The idea that scientists build models to explain and understand the world is new to them.

I need to write about our Genius Hour at some point. What I'm aiming for, but not achieving (YET) is for the work they do each Friday afternoon to come from their own curiosity and desire to explore. I'm beginning to understand, at the ground level, the data that shows that school dampens a child's natural curiosity. What I'm hoping to see, over the course of this year, is that it can be reignited, with time and scaffolding.

I'm hoping for students who would rather slip out of my classroom and look up "in perfect silence at the stars."

In a change of venues, Tricia has the Poetry Friday Roundup today at The Miss Rumphius Effect.


Wednesday, October 08, 2014

That Look of Surprise



Enzo Races in the Rain/Enzo Picture Book #1
by Garth Stein
illustrated by R.W. Alley
HarperCollins, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

I love that look of surprise when you hand the right book to the right reader at just the right time. A review copy of Enzo Races in the Rain had just come, and I had a reader who was more than half of the way through Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog, the kids' adaptation of The Art of Racing in the Rain.

When I put this book in her hands, the look on her face was priceless! Like I was a magician, or something!

She read it right away, noting all of the ways it is different from Racing in the Rain. She was surprised that the story in the picture book didn't even get to chapter three in her book. (If I had seen that the full title includes "Enzo Picture Book #1, that would perhaps have explained that...) We noticed the careful marketing -- the cover background and font colors are exactly the same as Racing in the Rain (and the adult version, as well) and the dog looking out at the reader from the picture book matches the dog on her book. Except for the checkerboard collar. But we developed a theory about that.

My reader took the picture book home to read to her 5 year-old brother. After reading it again to him, she noted these similarities and differences:

SAME                                    
•Enzo is in both                    
•Pile of stuffed animals is in both (although the "evilness" of the zebra is not dealt with in the picture book)
•Enzo is born on a farm

DIFFERENT
 •The Farmer in the picture book is The Alpha Man in the chapter book
•Zoe is already born in the picture book, but is born later in the chapter book
•Enzo doesn't run with cars in the book

The biggest difference she noted was that Racing in the Rain is not about a dog running with cars in a rain storm (as portrayed in the picture book). It is about a dog whose owner is a race car driver. The checkerboard collar seems to be the only evidence of auto racing.

My reader's little brother didn't like the book much. But that's likely because he's more into superheroes than dog stories.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Fox's Garden



by Princesse Camcam
Enchanted Lion Books, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

This newest book in Enchanted Lion's Stories Without Words series is magical and perfectly suited to being a wordless picture book -- it is the story of a fox who needs a safe place to give birth to her kits. 

The snowy nighttime scenes have the silence of secrecy as the fox moves towards a secluded house. She is chased by a woman and a man, but quietly observed by a boy as she finds shelter in the greenhouse. The boy brings her a gift but doesn't interfere. In the end, the fox repays the boy's kindness.

The quote opposite the title page captures the quietness of the story:

"On the fresh snow,
as in my heart,
footprints, traces."