Sunday, September 13, 2015

Circus Mirandus

Miracles, magic, goodness, faith, home.  Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley is a gift you should give yourself and the children (4th grade and up) you love. Micah Tuttle and his Grandpa Ephraim are characters you will fall in love with at first sight.  Micah's circumstances called to mind James and the Giant Peach and his Aunt Gertrudis would fit right in with Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker.   There were twists and turns, tangles if you will (this is part of the story!) but this book will captivate you, delight you, break your heart a little and end the way all books should, in my opinion. (Spoiler alert.....happy!)

So glad I finally read this book as it has been sitting on my TBR pile all summer long.  Don't make the same mistake! Read it today. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Day The Crayons Came Home

Last year, my third graders LOVED The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywelt and Oliver Jeffers.  It was always one of their favorites to read aloud and borrow to read on their own.  I was delighted to hear there would be a sequel- The Day the Crayons Came Home.  Yesterday it arrived in the mail and I decided to read it for the first time with son, Alex, at bedtime.  

The concept is so smart- all of the lost and broken crayons are sending postcards to Duncan about their adventures, looking to come back home.  Each crayon's story is really funny, with phrases built-in to make adults laugh ("Esteban- the crayon formerly known as Pea Green" calls to mind "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince").  My personal favorite was the postcard written by the Big Chunky Toddler Crayon, sent from Duncan's baby brother's room.  I actually couldn't stop laughing to read this page out loud! 

This book will be perfect to show students the joy and fun that reading brings.  I am thinking some of my students are going to be coming to third grade feeling not so good about themselves as readers and reading in general.  The more I can present books that make us laugh together, the more I can convince them that they really might want to give this reading thing a try again. 

Add The Day The Crayons Came Home to your library! 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Dear Deer #bookaday August 18th

 I am always in search of ways to make our Fundations program  At the third grade level, the program has a lot of rules about syllable types and exceptions to the rules.  One part of the program emphasizes "sound alike words" or homophones.  Dear Deer, by Gene Baretta,  would be the perfect book to introduce the idea that some words sound alike but have different meanings.  The book is playful and entertaining and the illustrations are colorful and fun.  This will be one of the first books I read to kick off Fundations! 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Capital Mysteries: Kidnapped at the Capital #bookaday August 17th

Ron Roy is the author of the A to Z Mysteries, The Calendar Mysteries, and Capital Mysteries.  These are popular books for my third graders and I am on a quest to get to know more books in my classroom library.  Mysteries are a popular genre for all readers and part of the 40 Book Challenge.  

This series takes place in Washington D.C., with KC and her friend Marshall as the main characters.  This is the second book in the series (I still have to read the first), and the mystery involves KC's mom and the President of the United States getting kidnapped. 

This is a fun book and I think students will really like the series! 

Deadliest Animals #bookaday August 16th

Nonfiction, or informational books, are never my go-to reads.  I love a good story and I'm a realistic fiction gal most of the time.  After reading Steven Layne's In Defense of Read Aloud, I realized the importance of reading aloud from all different genres.  I plan on introducing my third graders to the 40 Book Challenge and helping them try many different genres as they grow as readers. Part of my job is to include different genres in my read alouds and book talks.  

To that end, I brought home stacks of books to read this summer. The nonfiction titles have been patiently waiting for more attention.  Last night I read, Deadliest Animals by Melissa Stewart.  Here were some of my thoughts while reading it:

  • This book is a vocabulary boon! Not only are there science specific words, like predator, prey, species, and toxins, there are other rich words and expressions like "skillful stalkers."
  • The information is presented in different ways across the pages.  There are "Deadly Definitions" for key terms, "Weird but True" fact boxes, amazing photographs, and jokes.
  • This would make a great mentor text for showing 3rd graders the possibilities when writing a nonfiction piece.
  • Reading this book would be a great way to start a conversation about what you are still wondering about after reading it.  There was a picture of "bee bearding" on page 39 where a man is covered in bees.  I am very curious about why a person would choose to do that and could explore this through online research.
Deadliest Animals will be one of my first informational read alouds this year! I think it will really hook readers into wanting to read more informational texts. This would make a great addition to your library. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Hard Working Picture Books! #pb10for10

The possibilities of picture books! As I began to think about what theme or category I would choose for this year's collection, my mind went to September. A new year brings so many hopes and dreams but also a feeling of "How am I ever going to teach them all I need to teach them???" Picture books can serve many purposes: sharing a beautiful story, putting forth a life lesson, fluency, finding wondrous words, comprehension strategies, reading like a writer, etc. For this year's list, I decided to select books that will really pull their weight! Each book has multiple purposes, making them text I can return to in order to teach different skills, saving time along the way! In no particular order...

1.  In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek and illustrated by Christine Roussey.
This book explores how your heart feels when you feel happy, sad, angry, shy, confident, and more.  There is a page that discusses how your feelings change and bad feelings won't last forever. There are examples of beautiful language throughout the book. An extension could be having students list feelings in their writer's notebook and pick one time they felt one way and tell that story.  Another idea could be to create a class poem.  Each student can think of a sentence, perhaps from their work in the writer's notebook, that describes when their heart felt a certain way.  Like, "My happy heart is like hitting a home run and winning the game!" This work could be put together to create a collaborative poem about our feelings.  

2.  The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Leonard Weisgard

I love everything Margaret Wise Brown writes but The Important Book is one that transcends all grade levels and subject areas.  Determining importance in reading is often challenging for my third graders, who will tell me every last thing that happened in a chapter but miss the larger issues at play. The Important Book has a lovely, predictable structure that makes your writing sound poetic.  After reading this book, students can write the important thing about themselves. I am considering doing this as Padlet this year.
 Once they are familiar with how to do this, this can be a way to explore content area issues (What's the important thing about weather? or What's the important thing about Mexico?- to take two third grade content topics as an example).  It can also be a way to write about reading and explore a character or a book (The important thing about Fish in a Tree is..... or The important thing about Ally is...).  An oldie but goodie that really pulls its weight! 

3. Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox and illustrated by Julie Vivas

Mem Fox is another author I adore and her books often leave me with a lump in my throat or tears falling.  Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge is a book that touches my heard each time I read it.  It's often a wonderful book to use to celebrate memories and writing and to introduce writer's notebooks.  All of the items Wilfrid collects to help Miss Nancy remember can be related to the items students bring in to cover their writer's notebooks.  This is also an excellent book to use for character education purposes as Wilfrid is a kind boy who wants to help Miss Nancy remember (connections to empathy).  

4. I'm Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton

Are there things you know you should love but just don't? For me, it is brussell sprouts and wearing high heels.  Both would be good for me (I'm 5 feet 2 inches....on tip toes) but both make me miserable.  I'm Trying to Love Spiders is a funny book with a lot of voice that will teach you facts about spiders.  One thing students could do is create a double entry journal with facts they learned about spiders and what they think or wonder.  Another way to use this book is to ask students about the things they wish they loved, but don't.  This could be an entry in the writer's notebook.  I can imagine at least one person would write, "I'm trying to love homework" or something like that! I think this book would be great to share when you want to convince students that books with facts don't have to be dry or boring.  The author used a great structure to draw the reader in while still giving information about spiders. 

5.  My Pen by Christopher Myers

Last year, I read my class Love That Dog by Sharon Creech.  There is quite the nod to Mr. Walter Dean Myers in that book, including his poem "Love That Boy."  It would be fun to share the book, My Pen, written by the son of Walter Dean Myers, Christopher Myers.  Beyond the connection to Walter Dean Myers, this is a brilliant, hopeful book for young writers.  The opening words are, "There are rich people who own jewels and houses and pieces of the sky.  There are famous people- musicians, athletes, politicians, whose words and actions spread across televisions and newspapers to every ear and eye across the world.  Sometimes I feel small when I see those rich and famous people.  But then I remember I have my pen."  The book is dedicated "To the people who make things and to the people who share them" which reminds me of the generous, creative teachers here on Twitter.  Students can compare this book to Harold's Purple Crayon and discuss the central message in both books.  I think this would be a wonderful book to reread before a persuasive writing unit because it speaks to the power writing has and the voice it gives you in a world that can make your ideas feel small.  

6.  Hello Ocean by Pam Munoz Ryan and illustrated by Mark Astrella

This summer, as part of my work as co-facilitator of the Long Island Writing Project's Summer Institute, I was reminded of the beauty of this book.  A skillful teacher, Regina Benzing, taught a demo lesson on using ocean sights, sounds, and textures to create a haiku.  She read aloud this book to inspire more ideas for us as we thought about the words we could use in our own haiku.  Here is the haiku I wrote during that lesson, inspired by a picture I took of my son last summer.
I was never a big fan of haiku until this lesson.  In third grade, we use the word study program Fundations, which focuses greatly on syllables and the different syllable types.  Haiku is based on syllables (5 in the first line, 7 in the second line, 5 in the last line is usually the formula).  I think teaching students haiku and connecting it to the beach would be a great way to tap into their summer experiences while connecting to this new learning around syllables.  This book has fantastic sensory images and the words are beautiful.  One hope I have this year is to be more explicit about naming and posting words and phrases that we as a class love.  Reading Hello Ocean would give us some words to start that collection!

7. Goin' Someplace Special by Patricia McKissack and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Early in the year, as we are getting to know each other and trying to create many entries in our writer's notebooks that will inspire ideas for drafts, this is a fantastic read for that purpose.  Students can sketch their own "someplace special" in their notebooks and then write about why that place is special to them.  This can connect to the setting in stories and why it is important that we pay attention to when and where the action is happening.  Students can predict where the little girl is going and why.  Goin' Someplace Special has connections to the civil rights movement.  I read it last year to my class as I introduced a "library card challenge."  Spoiler Alert- the "someplace special" in the book is the library, where everyone was welcome, no matter what.  I want my students to have a deep and abiding appreciation for the library and all it can offer them in their lives.  Goin' Someplace Special easily connects to many character education topics, such as courage, pride, and empathy.  

8. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

I know many people HATE this book, which is why I'm including it! There are a lot of fantastic craft moves in this book and the voice of the tree and the boy are so clear.  Some of the important reading work I will do with my 3rd graders involves having them answer questions like, "What kind of person is ____?" and "What lesson can we learn from this story?" The Giving Tree would be a great text to use to explore characters and text based evidence to defend our answers.  Years ago, at a Long Island Writing Project Summer Institute, I saw a teacher use this book along with the "I am" poem.  She had participants take on the role of either the boy or the tree and write the "I am" poem from that perspective. Then, she paired up people who wrote as the boy and the tree and had them read their poem as a "poem for 2 voices." It was so powerful. I've done this lesson in workshops and teachers have spoken about extending that idea for works like "Romeo and Juliet."  I think the "I am" poem can be a fun way to think deeply about characters and the poems for 2 voices can really show the difference between 2 characters.  I plan on using The Giving Tree to try that activity this year.  One other idea is to use this book in your persuasive writing unit.  Ask students if the tree was right to be so giving and have them debate it, then write about it.  

9. The Dot by Peter Reynolds

The Dot is about making your mark in the world, signing your name to what you create, and taking chances to create something that others might not like.  International Dot Day takes place around September 15th and is a great chance to connect globally with other students around the idea that we can all make our mark in this world.  Last year, my school celebrated Dot Day as part of our character education kick-off.  This year, I want to connect Dot Day to the idea that we all can make contributions and we are all smart but in different ways.  Paul Solarz is the author of Learn Like a Pirate.  In this book, he describes teaching his students about Marble Theory, which says that people are all born with the same amount of "marbles" in our brain.  Over time, we put those marbles into cups, which are our skills and abilities.  You can have cups for all different things- being mechanically inclined, a great athlete, a talented artist, a strong writer, a good problem-solver, etc.  Some children might have less marbles in one cup but more in another, and some "cups" don't get recognized in school.  This was a powerful image to me and Paul actually uses marbles and cups to illustrate this point with his students.  When students understand that we are all smart and have talents, it creates a better sense of community and helps build their sense of themselves as learners.  I plan on discussing Marble Theory on Dot Day after reading this book aloud.  This will connect well with our first chapter book read aloud, Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, for the Global Read Aloud Project. 

10. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

When I taught kindergarten, this was one of my favorite books to read to the students in September.  Your name is one of the first words you learn to read and write and it is a powerful way to introduce letters, sounds, words, etc.  Now that I teach 3rd grade, I still read this book to my students in September.  I plan on typing out all the students names and having them cut out the names and sort them in some way, which they can determine! They can sort by the number of letters in a word, the number of syllables, the first letter in each name, or some additional way.  This will be a good way to introduce our word study program while connecting to the words that mean the most to them still- their names! Chrysanthemum has many interesting and new words for the students to learn and is a good book to start a discussion on kindness and respect for others.  It's also an "old friend" for most students, as they've been read this book in their other classes.  Since they are familiar with the story, they can listen in a new way for figurative language and the central message in the book (or the lesson we might learn after reading this book).  I'd like to keep an ongoing list of books and their lessons for students to refer back to when they need to think about the lesson or theme in their own independent reading. 

Whew! I'm exhausted thinking about how hard these books will work to accomplish many purposes.  I can't wait to read the other #pb10for10 posts and get new ideas for books to read to my students this year! 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Horrid Henry #bookaday August 9th

Now that August is here, and more than a week in, I am looking at the PILES of books I brought home from my classroom library that I wanted to read.  Many of the books are ones I want to become more familiar with so I can recommend them to students and share book talks.  I'm especially on the lookout for books that boys might enjoy along with girls. As a reader, I tend to gravitate to books where the girl is the main character and I wanted to be more mindful of choosing books everyone can enjoy and relate to as readers.  

Horrid Henry was new to me, although it was published in 1994 so not a new series.  It was very funny! I'm actually thinking of doing it for my first chapter book read aloud since it is 4 short stories.  Some of the work I want to do with my third graders early in the year is around answering the question, "What kind of character is ______?" This question is featured in the Independent Reading Assessment by Jennifer Serravallo and students often don't know how to answer it.  Horrid Henry would be a great way to model how to think through that question and find text based evidence to support our answer.  

Since this is a series, I'm thinking that after I read this book aloud, students might be interested in reading more Horrid Henry on their own.  It's listed as a Level M book, which is a comfortable level for many students early in the year.  I'm excited to add more Horrid Henry books to my classroom library! 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate #bookaday August 8, 2015

I loved Dave Burgess' Teach Like a Pirate when I read it last summer.  I reread it this spring for a Long Island Writing Project book discussion.  Dave's passion for teaching and his philosophy really resonated with me and changed me in some ways.  When Talks with Teachers chose Paul Solarz's Learn Like a Pirate for their August Professional Book Club (discussion on Facebook), I was excited to read another "pirate" book, this one focusing on the students.  

Paul is the teacher I want to be.  The idea of empowering students to be passionate, collaborate, take risks and be engaged in their learning is so powerful.  The worst thing as a teacher is to look around the room to a sea of bored faces, watching the clock.  When school is disconnected from your interests and when you don't feel successful, it is not a happy place.  Of course, I went into teaching to help students reach their potential and Learn Like a Pirate is full of amazing ideas to make that happen.

It's also a little overwhelming.  Paul is so incredible and his students are doing so many amazing things that it's easy to feel kind of deflated and sort of like the worst teacher in the world (of course, not his intention). It's also very different from traditional classrooms and without a visual model of how this works, some of the ideas were hard for me to imagine doing.  One of the key components in this book is giving students the power to stop the class with a "Give Me Five." I understand the value,  yet I am afraid of how my third graders would do with this privilege.  

In the Summer Literacy Institute in Merrick, literacy coach Pete Gangi told us that we need to believe the students can do it and rise to the occasion. If we believe they can't do it, they won't do it.  This reminds me of Learn Like a Pirate and Paul's expectations for his students.  He writes, "I beg you to have high expectations for your students.  Too often, we are the ones making excuses and preventing our students from stepping up to challenges." 

So, taking a deep breath, I am going to work to move towards a more student-centered classroom.  Who's with me? 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Notebook Connections #bookaday August 1

Honest Confession: When I came to third grade last year after a decade of being a kindergarten teacher, I had no idea what students were supposed to put in their Reader's Notebook.  Oh, how I wish I knew about Aimee Buckner's brilliant book, Notebook Connections: Strategies for the Reader's Notebook.  Friends, this is the book to read if you are confused about writing about reading and how students keep track of their independent books.  Aimee's style is like the teacher in the classroom next door and she makes her thinking and strategies crystal clear, bridging the gap I often find from professional texts to actual classroom practice.  She is a classroom teacher, which is so refreshing, since most professional books are from teachers who became coaches or consultants. There are so many ideas for me to try right away with my third grade readers.  Aimee Buckner also has a book about writer's notebooks, Notebook-Know-How, which is on my list to read this summer! I highly recommend Notebook Connections to all my friends who have been studying writing about reading (#WabtR) this summer. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Crossover #bookaday July 26th

The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander, has been on my TBR list for months and I am so glad I finally had the chance to read it this weekend.  Tomorrow I will get to hear Kwame Alexander give the Keynote Speech at #LiLit15 in Merrick, NY and I cannot wait to hear him! The Crossover is a novel in verse, narrated by Josh aka "Filthy McNasty." There is drama on and off the basketball court for Josh as his twin brother JB falls for a girl and his dad has health issues related to heart disease, which he doesn't want to acknowledge.  One of my favorite parts was the "Basketball Rules" weaved through the book which you could easily make "Life Rules".  The Crossover won the Newberry Award this year and was a Coretta Scott King Honor Book.  It was a fast, exciting read and I love the way Kwame Alexander played with language while also striking an emotional chord.  Add it to your TBR list if you haven't read it yet! 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Sky Color #bookaday July 25th

Sky Color is part of the Creatrilogy by Peter Reynolds, also including the books Ish and The Dot.  Each book is excellent as a stand alone, but together, they drive home the message that we are all unique and don't need to worry about coloring in the lines or making something "perfect."  In Sky Color, Marisol doesn't have any blue paint and worries how she will be able to paint the sky in her class mural.  By paying attention to the colors of the sky as she heads home, she sees all the colors that the sky can be! Her painting of the sky includes many different shades and colors.  

Reading Sky Color, Ish, and The Dot to my new third graders and then discussing the central message of each book would lead to a great discussion on the work we create this year.  I especially like the idea of pairing Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Litchtenheld's Exclamation Mark with The Dot because they both talk about making your mark on the world.  Ish and Sky Color remind us that there is no one perfect way to do something and the freedom to make something "ish" lets you start and try without becoming stuck and paralyzed by fear.  These lessons are important for all of us to remember- teachers too! :) 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Exclamation Mark #bookaday July 24th

While I have been reading a lot this summer,  I haven't been able to blog about a #bookaday each day.  Now that the LIWP Summer Institute is over and I am back from my family trip to Chicago, I am hoping to be better at keeping up with a #bookaday!

I read this one, Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, while my son Alex watched a movie at our local library.  I know Amy Krouse Rosenthal is the picture book author for The Global Read Aloud Project this year.  I love her books and was excited to see that she was chosen for the GRA.  Exclamation Mark is one of the books that will be studied during the Global Read Aloud and it was one I never read before.  It is a treasure!

The main character, the Exclamation Mark, feels different from the others (the periods) and not in a good way.  It isn't until she meets Question Mark that she recognizes her gifts and her power.  The other punctuation are all very proud of her.  There is an important message about making your mark that would be a great companion to The Dot by Peter Reynolds.  I look forward to reading this book to my new third graders! 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Handful of Stars #bookaday July 11

Many thanks to Julieanne Harmatz for organizing an online book club where several reflective and creative teachers read Cynthia Lord's beautiful book, A Handful of Stars.  We read it with the lens of writing about reading and what we ask our students to do when they read a book.  We shared our notes as we read, which really helped me see the possibilities of how students can respond to a book.

This book would be a perfect read aloud for my third graders.  I love the themes of friendship, sacrifice, ordinary vs. extraordinary, the possibilities of art, and being inclusive.  There were so many "golden lines", often spoken by Lily's grandfather.  One of my favorites: "Times change.  And it's good that they do.  But it only happens if someone is brave enough to be first."  Lily also spoke many golden lines.  One of my favorites: "I guess that's life.  It's not always fair, but you have to show up and play your best anyway."

I am looking forward to our Twitter chat to discuss writing about reading.  We will be chatting on Tuesday, July 14th (which happens to the be the birthday of my own wise grandfather who spoke many golden lines in his lifetime.)  The time is 7:30pm EST and you can find us at #WabtR.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Snicker of Magic #bookaday July 5th

Natalie Lloyd's A Snicker of Magic was a completely delicious read from start to finish.  There were so many beautiful, meaningful, poignant lines and the story had several layers and connected characters, all tied to a town's supposed curse.  One of my favorite parts of this book was the character, Jonah, who happened to be in a wheelchair.  His disability was just one part of who he was and one that was not the focus of his character.  You might even forget he was in a wheelchair except for the occasional reference of him driving his chair.  It seems that in some books, if a character has a disability, that is the entire focus and you don't get to know all the other facets of this character.  I deeply appreciated the way Jonah was written and he was a compelling and memorable character. 

I think I will reread this book later in the summer with the lens of how I would read it aloud to students.  I would love to know if any other third grade teachers have read A Snicker of Magic as a class read aloud and any experiences/ideas you could share! 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Cozy Book #bookaday July 4th

I've always loved Mary Ann Hoberman's book A House is a House For Me and often read it when I taught kindergarten.  The Cozy Book was one of the books I inherited when I moved to third grade and it was in a basket all year, unread. Today I read it and LOVE this book!

I am someone who adores being cozy.  Really. If it involves being uncomfortable, I am not a fan.  This book appeals to all things cozy and begins, "When you wake up bright and early, in your roasty toasty bed, with your covers wrapped around you and your pillow on your head, and you peek out at the morning, that's a cozy kind of way to begin the cozy doings of a very cozy day."  As you can tell, the book is told in rhyme.  It goes through cozy things to eat ("Chicken soup with spots of yellow, creamed tomato red and rosy- cozy cozy cozy cozy"), cozy games to play, cozy smells, cozy sounds, cozy places, cozy people, cozy feelings inside you, and cozy-sounding words.    

This book can inspire many ideas for writing.  There are many words and phrases to save and savor and I can imagine putting several of them up on a board reserved for "wondrous words." ("Scrambled eggs stirred soft and sunny"; "Whipped-up frothy orange Jell-O", "Snap of dry leaf underfoot" are some examples of phrases I loved). 

I love all the ways Hoberman captured the feeling of being cozy through all her examples.  The book left me with happy, warm, fuzzy, cozy feelings! 
(Happy 4th of July to all!)

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Birthday Cake is No Ordinary Cake #bookaday July 3rd

It was on my birthday that I saw this book in the middle of the shelf at the local library where I was with my children.  What a birthday gift to find this gem that I have somehow missed! Debra Frasier is the author of the classic On the Day You Were Born, a book I read often to my children when they were babies.  

In A Birthday Cake is No Ordinary Cake, the premise is that it takes an entire year to bake a birthday cake.  Science is woven in as the earth rotating around the sun is integrated into the beautifully crafted story.  It reads as a recipe, but each season is highlighted since it takes a full year to have another birthday.  There are many strong verbs and sensory details.  

This is a book I plan on ordering for my classroom library.  I can see it being a useful mentor text for several areas of writing and it would be a great text to read during a unit on seasons and how the earth revolves around the sun.  

In the About the Author section at the back of the book, I love how Debra Frasier recalls writing a sentence in her notebook when her daughter was turning 1: "She's finished her first circle around the Sun, and now she is one."  It was this sentence and her daughter's fascination with cakes that came together for inspiration for this book.  It took 18 years.  You just never know where what you write in your notebook could lead! That is a great story to share with my students. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Digital Reading: What's Essential Grades 3-8 #bookaday July 2nd

I have an ambitious book stack for #bookaday purposes.  There are several professional books I want to read this summer, picture books, chapter books for middle grades, YA books, and some personal reads for my book club and just for fun.  Even still, I am finding it hard to complete a book each day and blog about it.  Now that July is here, I need to get serious if I want to accomplish all my summer reading goals.

I am excited to participate in #cyberPD starting July 6th to discuss Frank Sibberson and William Bass' book, Digital Reading: What's Essential in Grades 3-8. I did complete this book and found it very valuable with many ideas to come back to and explore further.  I'm eager to see what the other teachers participating in #cyberPD share about their insights, too.

One of my biggest take-aways from reading this book was how being part of an online community makes reading and writing, something I already enjoyed, even more motivating.  Surrounding myself with other professionals who love books and love to write makes me feel part of a community of like-minded friends.  It helps solidify my identity as a person who loves teaching, reading and writing.  Digital reading and writing experiences have strengthened this identity for me quite profoundly.

I think of some of my students who still said in June that they "hated" to read (like a knife to the heart!) How might it be different if they were part of a community that enjoyed reading and writing? If it was cool to like books and swap them with friends? While I did my best to create that type of classroom, there is more work for me to do to help students feel they belong to this "literacy club" as Frank Smith would say. I think a big part of the answer lies in connecting traditional reading and writing with the opportunities that come from digital reading and writing.  I recommend this book for teachers looking to seamlessly integrate the opportunities technology creates with traditional reading and writing workshops.

Monday, June 22, 2015

On the Same Day in March: A Tour of the World's Weather #bookaday June 22

I was ambitious to think I could keep up with #bookaday at the end of the school year, but alas, I couldn't.  I'm in my last week of school now and as I clean my classroom, I am gathering interesting titles from my classroom library that I never read.  One of my goals is to be able to book-talk many different titles and genres next year. In order to do that, I need to read more of the books in my library.  

This one is perfect for both third grade Science and Social Studies connections: 

On the Same Day in March: A Tour of the World's Weather is written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Frane Lessac.  The gist is that all over the world, on the same day in March, there are very different types of weather.  An author's note explains the tilt of the earth and why the weather is different around the world.  In the beginning of the year, my third graders study geography and the continents.  This book would be perfect for making connections to the different countries and continents.  Later in the year, we study weather in Science.  I can see bringing this book back to revisit why the weather is not the same in different parts of the world during the same month.  

Beyond the curricular connections, the writing in this book would serve as a mentor text for informational writing with voice.  One beautifully crafted sentence says: "Polar bears ride on floes of ice, stalking seals, wishing fish, as the six-month sun begins to rise slowly in the Arctic skies." 

I am so glad that I discovered this gem in my classroom library and I'm looking forward to reading it with my new class of third graders next year! 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Lunch Lady and the Field Trip Fiasco #bookaday 5/30

Some of my goals are to read more books that I can recommend to my third graders, to become more familiar with the graphic novels, and to keep record of my reading in a reader's notebook to see what feels authentic to me as a reader but also helps me hold onto a story.  With those goals in mind, I read Jarrett Krosoczka's Lunch Lady and the Field Trip Fiasco, a graphic novel appropriate for my third grade readers.  

The gist is that Lunch Lady and Betty are  the school lunch helpers who also happen to be superheroes that can save the day! Their services are needed when a field trip to an art museum reveals that crimes are being committed and "the breakfast bunch", Hecotor, Terrance, and Dee get into trouble.  Some of my favorite parts were the gadgets Lunch Lady uses to fight crime: a spork, truth brownie, ziti microscope, gelatin cup glob, and anti-gravity sensible shoes!

None of my students have been reading this series so I am excited to share it with them! For this book, the notes in my notebook were just title, author, list of characters, and I kept a list of the superhero gadgets Lunch Lady used because I found them so funny.  I am looking forward to reading other books in this series to recommend to students!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Cloudette #bookaday 5/26

I might be cheating a little, as Cloudette is not new to me.  I've owned it for a while and read it to my class when I taught kindergarten.  Now, as a third grade teacher, I reread Cloudette today with the lens of what third graders can bring to a text like this.  We are studying the water cycle and weather, which is partly why I pulled out Cloudette.  There are some examples of figurative language, content vocabulary (precipitation) and the story fits in well with our May character trait of Perseverance.  There are also great examples of writer's craft to study in this book such as the intentional use of "and" to start a sentence and a close echo ("Cloudette was a cloud. A very small cloud.")I am looking forward to reading it to my class tomorrow! 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Hate That Cat #bookaday 5/25

Hate That Cat is a novel in verse, narrated by Jack in Miss Stretchberry's class.  The book, written by Sharon Creech, is the sequel to Love That Dog, which I read years ago and loved.  At the heart of Love That Dog, Jack transforms from a boy who hates poetry and writing to a gifted poet telling the heartbreaking story of his dog getting killed by a car.  

In Hate That Cat, Jack is back in Miss Stretchberry's class and he again uses poetry to tell his stories, this time about getting a new pet, a cat.  Through the book, you discover that Jack is also trying to understand how his hearing impaired mother processes the world even though she cannot hear sounds.  

This is a beautiful book.  As teachers, I feel we often read children's literature with different lenses. One lens to read and understand and enjoy.  Another with our teacher lens- how can we bring this book to our class in a meaningful way? As I read Hate That Cat, my teacher lens reflected these things:

  • I want to be Miss Stretchberry.  I want to believe my reluctant writers CAN become prolific writers through believing in them, showing them quality models, and having them engage in the writing process all year long.
  • Miss Stretchberry did not limit poetry to April.  She incorporated it throughout the year and gave frequent feedback to student writing, asking questions and caring about her students' lives.
  • Miss Stretchberry filled the classroom with mentor texts and let her students approximate different styles and poems. 
  • While in Love That Dog, Jack didn't think he was a writer, in Hate That Cat, he seemed much more comfortable in the role and easily attempted new styles and techniques.  We need to help our students embrace the idea that they ARE writers.
  • Next year, I want to read both Love That Dog and Hate That Cat to my students.  It is accessible, relatable, and sends the message that we are all writers with stories to share.  Poetry is one way you can share your story.  
  • I need to read more of Sharon Creech's work! In graduate school, one of my assignments that I will never forget was a literature response project after reading Walk Two Moons, which remains a favorite book.  Prior to this year, I taught kindergarten for a long time and didn't keep up with Sharon Creech's work.  She is an author who writes #heartprint books as JoEllen McCarthy would say and I can't wait read some more. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Personal Pick: The Husband's Secret #bookaday 5/24

I have stacks of books to read.  Picture books, chapter books, YA books, professional books, parenting books.  Reading a book purely for the story and not for what I can bring to my classroom or what will help me be a better teacher or mom feels a little indulgent.  My reading time is limited and I mostly try to use it for professional purposes.  

Yet...I am a reader, a person who loves to lose myself in a story.  Yesterday I found myself doing just that.  Several weeks ago, I saw Liane Moriarty's The Husband's Secret while shopping at Target.  Liane Moriarty wrote one of my all-time favorite books, What Alice Forgot, and her books are written in a way that strike an emotional chord.  I picked up The Husband's Secret, knowing it sounded like a great story and hoping I would find time this summer to read it. 

Last night, there was time.  There was laundry to do, papers to check, toys to straighten, and stacks of children's books and professional books to read.  But it was a holiday weekend and I just felt like losing myself in a story.  Between last night and this morning, I read and loved The Husband's Secret and it is a story that will stay with me. 

It's a modern day Pandora's Box situation.  Cecilia finds a letter addressed to her, to be opened upon her husband's death.  Except he is very much alive and they are in the middle of their busy lives together.  The letter is connected to two other stories being told in the book and has ramifications for everyone involved.  

Moriarty writes, "None of us ever know all the possible courses our lives could have and maybe should have taken.  It's probably just as well..."

If you are looking for a beach read or a story that will draw you in and stay with you after the last page is read, I highly recommend The Husband's Secret.  I also recommend her earlier book, What Alice Forgot, which touched my heart too. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Only One You #bookaday 5/23

Mama kissed Adri on the top of his head. 
"There's only one you in this great big world," she said.
"Make it a better place."

I am on the Character Education Committee at my school and we have chosen a book each month to celebrate a different character trait.  We also have a book that is the touchstone text for the entire year: One by Kathryn Otoshi.  Only One You, by Linda Kranz, is our choice for June and the character trait "Pride."  It is the perfect punctuation mark on a year of books that we've read to start conversations about character.  It feels a bit like a circular ending because in One, we learn that "it only takes one" to make changes.  In Only One You, we celebrate that you are unique and you can make a difference in the world.  

I love that this is our June book for many reasons. The deep blue ocean background and brightly colored fish scream SUMMER.  It is also perfect for graduates since advice is offered as the fish is about to leave his home to make his own way in the world.  The front and back inside covers are filled with colorful, wise advice like, "Love with your whole heart" and Test the waters- then dive in!"  Any one of these pieces of advice would be great for classroom glitter boards that feature wise words for students to celebrate. This is a great book to give as a gift to someone you love as they embark upon a new challenge.

Friday, May 22, 2015

In Defense of Read Aloud: Sustaining Best Practice #bookaday 5/22

My favorite thing to do as a classroom teacher is to read aloud.  There is magic in the stories we share together, as a community, through a class read aloud. This year, we've read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, The One and Only Ivan, The Hundred Dresses, James and the Giant Peach and countless picture books.  Though we sat in Room 215, we were on an ocean liner with Edward Tulane and Abilene, in a cage with Ivan, and floating in a magical peach with enchanted creatures.  If I believe in anything as a teacher, I believe in the power of reading aloud to students. 

So you can see, I came to Dr. Steven L. Layne's In Defense of Read Aloud: Sustaining Best Practice, already a believer.  He didn't have to convince me- but he did.  If you are looking for research-based reasons to defend reading aloud to students of all ages, you will find it in this book.  More than just research, this book radiates heart and was fun to read.  One of my favorite parts was when teachers wrote to authors about books that made a difference in their classroom and the authors' letters back.  The one by Katherine Patterson regarding Bridge to Terabithia is unforgettable.  

Some other take-aways for me, including lists of books that make great read-alouds:

  • Teachers need to stop being genre-haters and expose students to all different types of genres through read alouds.  I have to work on this.  I'm a realistic fiction type of gal and I need to plan more read alouds across many genres.
  • Choose some read alouds that are higher level than the students can read independently but be flexible enough to include read alouds that tell stories your students need to hear, no matter the level. 
  • Don't forget the boys! Be mindful to pick books that will hook boys in, too. 
  • End your read aloud a few days before a school break.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

I Pledge Allegiance #bookaday 5/21

I Pledge Allegiance, by Pat Mora and Libby Martinez, is a beautiful story of Libby helping her great aunt, Lobo, to become a citizen.  They practice reciting the Pledge of Allegiance together to get ready for Lobo's citizenship ceremony.  Some of the ideals named in the Pledge are explored, like what it means to be "indivisible", and characteristics of good citizens are named.

I'm on my school's Character Education committee and we look to find books that would be appropriate for each trait.  I plan on recommending I Pledge Allegiance for our citizenship book. I  think it would open up rich discussion about immigration, patriotism, and the responsibilities of citizens. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Who Was Roald Dahl? #bookaday 5/20

A few months ago, when an outbreak of measles at Disneyland led to a renewed debate about vaccinations, I read a letter written years ago about the topic, penned by Roald Dahl.
I remember thinking how tragic and sad that Dahl would have lost a child and I was curious about his life.  

Yesterday, my Scholastic Book Box arrived filled with new books I purchased to add to my classroom library, including the Who Was? Biography series.  One of my goals is to read more varied genres and model that for students, as well as encourage them to try new genres, too.  I noticed one of the books was Who Was Roald Dahl? I decided to make that my next #bookaday.

The book states, "His life was full of wonderful ups and terrible downs.  Roald Dahl was an up-and-down person, too.  Charming one minute, nasty the next."  He experienced a lot of tragedy in his life, including losing his older sister at a very young age and his father.  His daughter Olivia died of measles and his son Theo was seriously injured by a car at the age of 3 months (he did recover).  Roald Dahl himself had a lot of health and back issues from injuries sustained by flying planes in World War II.  I didn't realize he had been married to a famous American actress, Patricia Neal.  

While reading this book, I could imagine my third graders being confused by the history and names that it assumes they know, like World War II and Hitler.  There are also features like a timeline that they would need to understand.  

One thing to share with my young writers is how Roald's writing process was described.  The book says, " He was very picky about his writing. He rewrote again and again. For every page he wrote, he might throw away three!"  I think  it is important to keep sharing these ideas with our students so they internalize the need for revision. 


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

One Green Apple #bookaday 5/19

 "Laughs sound the same at home. Just the same. So do sneezes and belches and lots of things. It's the words that are strange.  But soon I will know their words.  I will blend with the others the way my apple blended with the cider." 

My class is reading books with the lens of finding and discussing social issues.  Eve Bunting's books are perfect for this unit.  Yesterday, we read Yard Sale and had powerful conversations about what you really need to be happy.  I am planning on reading aloud One Green Apple to them today, which is told from the point of view of a student new to America, learning English.  I think this book could be a great addition to our school-wide character education program where we select a book that matches a character trait.  Empathy and courage are two traits that stand out to me in this book.  

Reading One Green Apple after Yard Sale, I am thinking an Eve Bunting author study would be a great way to explore symbolism, social issues, and how the different illustrators Eve pairs with creates tone in the books.  

Monday, May 18, 2015

Island: Book One #bookaday 5/18

I've always been a big fan of Gordon Korman.  My first year of teaching was in 6th grade and I read  No More Dead Dogs aloud to my class in a quest to get them to see how books are really fun.  I agreed with Wallace Wallace, having never been a fan of tragic-dog-dying books.  I read and reread this book before reading it aloud to my 6th graders, often laughing out loud before LOL was even something people said.

That first year of teaching was 2001, which coincidentally is when Island: Book One was released.  Part of a trilogy, Island is like a teenage Gilligan's Island, if the castaways were troubled and instead of a 3 hour tour, they were sent on an experience at sea to rid them of their individual struggles.  I asked two of my third grade boys to read this book and we will be discussing it together.  I started it weeks ago but finished it today and tomorrow will discuss the book with my students.  I am planning on giving them the next book in the trilogy and would like to hook them into Gordon Korman's books as there are many other adventurous books as well as funny ones that I think they would enjoy.

Adventure isn't my favorite genre, so I found myself reading quickly through some of the descriptive scenes about the ship and its' inner workings. My class is focusing on identifying social issues in the books they are reading and this book had many: wealthy vs. poor and the advantages/disadvantages that go along with each, sibling rivalry and violence, the price of being a winning athlete and loneliness.  I'm hoping the second book in the trilogy gives us more insight into the characters and how they came to find themselves on the sinking ship.  

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Scraps Book #bookaday 5/17

When I taught kindergarten, Lois Ehlert's books were among my favorites to share.  Bright, colorful, simple text to teach many concepts such as healthy eating, how flowers grow, and seasons.  Her illustrations in Chicka Chicka Boom Boom! make that story come to life and it has always been a favorite among my students.  I recently purchased The Scrap Book: Notes From a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert and it is a joyful book that will make a perfect mentor text for launching Writer's Workshop in my third grade classroom.

     The book reads like a scrapbook with old photographs mixed in with the colorful collages from her books and notes.  I love that she promotes creating things with your hands and finding treasures in nature.  It is also lovely to read how her parents both created and made things, fostering her love and talent for art by giving her a wooden folding table to do her work.  The notions of persistence, your life's work choosing you, having mentors, and creating a space to do your work are all part of this book and would make for great discussions as students embark on leading a writerly life.  Lois talks about noticing things and finding stories in all different places in her life, such as getting an idea for a book about fish while visiting the aquarium.  She lists words that are related to fish, which is a great strategy to share for our writers to try in their writer's notebooks.  

Art is featured as Lois Ehlert's passion and there are some beautiful quotes about art at the end of the book.  I love the one by Matisse: "The moment I had this box of colors in my hand, I had the feeling my life was there."  Some of my students are gifted artists who aren't as comfortable yet with words.  A book like this could hold their interest while planting seeds about growing as a writer.  There is something in this book for everyone as we all want to lead a more colorful life. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

#Bookaday Begins! 5/16

Summer vacation is still a month and change away but Memorial Day is inching ever so close, signifying the unofficial start of summer! I've decided to start the summer #bookaday challenge a little early, which follows my impatient nature when it comes to waiting for holidays, birthdays, and other celebrations. Can you really go wrong reading MORE books? I think not!

Starting off the challenge with Kate Messner's How to Read a Story, which just arrived in the mail yesterday! The blurb says, "Kate Messner's and Mark Siegel brilliantly chronicle the process of becoming a reader..." I like the simplicity and how it is broken into steps such as "choose a book" and "find a reading partner." For younger students, I think this book would be a perfect way to introduce reading workshop.  For my third graders, I envision using this book to talk about what their reading advice would be- do they recommend finding a special spot to read? Do they enjoy talking with friends about their books?

I can see this being a great mentor text for young writers in a "how to" writing unit. This book would also be good to re read when discussing reading strategies like predicting, solving for unknown words, and reading with expression.