Sunday, August 26, 2012

Monday, Monday!

Well, this week I started and finished two books and am still working on the third.

Here's the thing.  When I love a book I either savor it or devour it.  (The timeline looks similar to when I don't like a book too...except it's called stalling or getting-it-over-with.)  Anyway, I found two I devoured, and am still savoring Splendors and Glooms.  Honestly, Splendors is such a good read-in-the-darkness-of-night book that I only read it in bed with dim lighting.  I can't help it.

Want to know what I devoured?  I am going to pretend you are smiling and nodding and saying softly, "yeah, yeah!"

Little Dog, Lost by Marion Dane Bauer
Atheneum Books, 2012
Recommend for grades 3-6
Poetic Narrative
198 pages

      I loved reading this book!  The style of Bauer's writing gets the reader straight to the emotions swirling through the characters' lives.  Mark longs for a dog-having no father, siblings or cousins close enough to count.  Buddy, the dog with 

"brown paws 
and a brown mask
 and a sweet ruffle of fur on her bum
 just beneath her black whip of a tail," 

has been given away to a woman (that knows nothing about dogs), after her boy had to move to the city.  And Mr. Larue who lives alone in the big empty mansion-afraid to reach out to others and frightening most people with his reclusive ways.  the story shifts between characters to keep things in constant motion.  There are true feelings here that some kids will relate to, but the story doesn't feel dragged down by emotion.  I think this is a wonderful book for 4th graders to read independently.  I plan to read it aloud to my 3rd graders.  I'm going to buy this one!

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
Wendy Lamb Books, 2012
Recommend to grades 6-8
Realistic Fic. with a touch of mystery
192 pages

     Stead knows how to perfectly write from 7th grade Georges' perspective.  The inner dialogue is right on.  I loved the volleyball sequence where Georges is counting rotations until he is up for serve again, and dreading it, praying for the bell to end class before it reaches him.  That was me in volleyball!  I couldn't put this book down, there is so much packed in to this story.  The way Georges' father brings things to Georges' mother while she is working at the hospital does set us up for more to be revealed at the end of the book, but not in any sort of way that diminishes the power at the end of this story.   The relationships Georges' forms with some of the kids in his new building are well developed and make this story seem much deeper than its 192 pages might suggest.  I was crying at the end, one line just got me, and I still can't figure out why.  Can't share it now though, since some of you have yet to experience it!  I am recommending this to 6+ as a read aloud.  So many discussion points, in fact, more than you could ever get to without killing the flow of the book.  Loved it more than When You Reach Me.  And, when Georges finds the note under his pillow from Safer it felt like Stead was smiling a we go again...?  Nope :)

This is the book I have been hanging out with each night for a while now...I'm running out of chapters. Sigh.

I officially start the 2012-2013 school year tomorrow!  Yay :)


Thursday, August 23, 2012

First Read Aloud

In response to Colby Sharp's post on Nerdy Book Club's Blog:
Send in a picture of your first read aloud of the year.

What a decision!  I read a few picture books that day and start our class novel read aloud (and can't forget poetry), but I had to pick just ONE for the picture, so I picked a good one.  A special one.  One that I will touch back upon day after day after day.

What is your first read aloud of 2012-2013?  Leave a comment to let me know how you start the year!!

Yeah, I really am that excited to share this book.  

In case you can't see it that well:

The Golden Rule
Written by Ilene Cooper, Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
Harry Abrams, 2007
32 pages
All ages.  And I mean all.

Amazon will give you a nice peek inside.  Go look!

Alright, I can't wait to see what others are reading for the first day!


Monday, August 20, 2012

It's Monday!

Another Monday, another book.  Currently I am enjoying Splendors & Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz. 

So far I'm only about a hundred pages in, but here's what I think so far:

I love it!  Let's start by admitting to how awesome the book jacket is.  The art work is wonderfully creepy.  Plus, it feels neat too.  

When young Clara sees Grisini's stringed puppet show in the park she is determined to have them at her birthday party.  At the party the final puppet is a skeleton dancing and moving around on stage.  Clara can't stop from laughing out, which is disgraceful behavior for a young lady in mourning of the deaths of her siblings.  When Clara goes missing the police come to search Grisini's lodgings.  Lizzie Rose and Parsefall , Grisini's young wards, begin to piece together a connection between missing children and Grisini.  Interspersed with this story are chapters about the witch Cassandra. How and when the stories connect is yet to come.

There is a major creepy factor here that I am loving and imagine young readers will too (Grades 5+ independently for best comprehension is my feeling.).  I suggest reading this book by candlelight to maximize the experience!  I can't wait to find out where Clara is!  What is Grisini up to?  And how would it feel to be the only surviving sibling, especially when one was your twin?

I'm telling you...candlelight.

Happy Reading!  I'm off to see what others are reading.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Classroom Library

The reason I am posting these pictures is because I LOVE scouring the internet for pictures of classrooms, especially classroom libraries.  Seeing what others have created or designed is so inspiring to us as teachers. We take ideas from others and add our own touch to them, and on it goes.

Setting up a classroom library can take forever.  But since it is one of the most important parts of the classroom, it is well worth it.  I loop from 3rd to 4th grade, so I do a major shift when going back down to 3rd.  I remove hundreds of books from the library, in order to be sure that my students have an ever growing collection of appropriate books to choose from. I slowly add books back to the library over the 2 year cycle, through book talks and other means.

And there were a few new labels to make for new series.  Like 2 new series (that will be great for 3rd grade) I learned about this summer from other teachers: Heidi Heckelbeck and Captain Awesome.  Before I can even think school, I have to have my library set up.  And finally, I think it is right on the brink of being organized how I want it for the 2012-2013 school year!

So, sit back and flip through a few photos.

Classics & by series

Series & audio books.
Most of my audio books are saved for 4th grade due to complexity and content.

Poetry, Novels in Verse & Books Made in Classrooms next to it.

 I remove a ton of books to gradually add into the library throughout the year, and since I also save a bunch for 4th grade, my graphic novel collection is the saddest version of itself right now.
2 side by side shelves by author.

Scary books by series and genre.

Books by series.

More series.

Assorted picture books are along the bottom far shelf.

Now here's the other side of the room.

These shelves used to be coat racks, but they took up a ton of space, looked messy, and there were more hooks in the the fiance was great and turned them into bookshelves!

Fantasy, Sci-fi, Adventure, Based on TV, Star Wars.

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Mystery, Wisdom basket & Fable/Myth/Fairy Tale basket.

Unicorn basket, Horse Stories, Animal Ark, Dog Stories, Animal Stories (novels as well as picture books), Nonfiction Animal, Dinosaurs.
Biographies, World history, US history, Informational US, Stories from Around the World, War basket, Historical Fiction.
General Nonfiction, Sports, Native American basket, US Geography, World Geography, Solar System/Space, DK basket.

Reference books, Alphabet, Math, Gail Gibbons, Magazines, more Nonfiction.

Some close-ups:

Rain gutter end caps.  Love this idea that I first saw in the fabulous classroom next door. 

One shelf is the Hot Off the Press shelf, where I display 2012 books right now. 

This shelf is by the door and houses the current collection of the Maine Student Book Award Books.  I keep it by the door because my Book Club kids from other grades can get to it quickly and easily.  Right now most are checked out by students.  I sent home over 100 books for the summer with my students.

Thanks for touring the library!

Thought I would throw this in because I...just like it!  Kids check in here first thing in the morning.  I can quickly see who is having hot lunch or milk and who is absent.

I found the little letter tiles at TJMaxx, and kind of bought a bunch.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Summer Reading

Came home to some more books on my doorstep.  It's like a super sweet reward for spending so many hours working in my classroom on this gorgeous day.
 I've read Ghost Knight already and liked it quite a bit.  I usually love a good ghost story.  I'm excited to have Splendors and Glooms, as I've heard interesting things about it already.  Has anyone read Storm Makers yet?  As I was reading the jacket flap I felt like I was experiencing deja vu in the form of a combination of Trouble Twisters and Savvy.  Hmmm.

Now, here is a book I am excited to be sharing:
Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker.  Balzer + Bray, 2012 (275pages)

Yes, it is the author of the series about that lovable little Clementine.  But no, it is not similar at all.  Pennypacker's newest novel is for older readers.  I would say as young as 4th and up through 7th.  It's hard to decide what to tell about this book, because when discussing the plot it sounds pretty out there.  But it is anything but.  Let's just leave it at:
A girl dealing with her mother's mental illness and absence.
A second girl that has been placed in the foster care system.
A picturesque ocean side setting.
A tragedy and then a beautiful understanding of what matters most. 

So, do yourself a favor and check this book out of your library and then go to the bookstore to buy it.  Because you will love it that much :)
Than find some good friends to read with!

Me + Book + Blanket + Lucy & Moots = Good Summer Night!

Monday, August 13, 2012

It's Monday! What are you Reading?

 Hosted by:

Happy Monday to you all.  This is my first ever "It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" I'm excited.

Today I am still in the thick of Storybound by Marissa Burt.  I have been thoroughly enjoying this book, and as one that has read a LOT of fantasy over the course of my 6 years reviewing books for the Maine Student Book Award Committee, that says something.  In Storybound protagonist Una finds herself "written in" to a tale in Story.  All the characters she meets there are...well...characters. 
The book has a Harry Potterish feel to it in that the kids are students at a boarding school, so we have the fun of little adult supervision, professors that are up to no go or seem to be up to no good, etc.  At a tad over 400 pages it is perfect for the readers that like beefy books.  
Storybound, by Marissa Burt.  Harper, 2012 (Gr. 5-7) 403 pages

Added bonus to Monday's reading~ I was pleased to come home to find this on my doorstep.  Little, Brown and Company sent this:

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, by Chris Colfer.  Little, Brown and Company, 2012 (438 pages)
What's really funny is the similarities in these books.  I might not be able to read back-to-back stories about a boy and girl in the land of story characters.  

Just flipped to check out the author's photo on the back flap (one of my favorite things to do) and see that this is the guy that plays Kurt Hummel on Glee.   What?!

* The cover of this book lends itself to younger readers, length to sophisticated readers, however I just skimmed through and read a line with a swear in it.  I'm not sure if Chris has a clear sense of what readership he is targeting...  The fold-out jacket flap in the front is pretty awesome though, so he nailed that.

I would love to hear your thoughts on either of these books if you've read them!


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Take Note of this Site!

I just came across this link and wanted to keep it moving.  Below I mention the wonderful Skippy Jon Jones, well here you can project and share the books online with your class!  How awesome.  Plus, each time you read through a book Penguin will donate a book to a charitable organization.  What?!  I read and others get a free book?  Talk about a win-win!!  Check it out my friends!

~And have fun reading~

My Laugh Out Loud Picture Book Top 10

I decided to pull from my favorite line up of FUNNY picture books.  We all need a good laugh, and kids appreciate humor so much.  Now, the stories have so much more to offer than just a few laughs.  All the books I have chosen spark conversations that are anything but silly and light.  Check out a few of them and you will see what I mean.

WARNING:  This list is in no particular order!  They all crack me up equally and in different ways.

Necks Out for Adventure!  Written and illustrated by the fabulous Timothy Basil Ering.  You might recognize his art from The Tale of Despereaux.  Here we have a clam as a main character.  Enough said.   I like to read this one early in the year because it leads to discussion of risk taking. 

Bink & Gollie, written by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile.  Add here that the second B&G is also a fave.  As a fourth grade teacher I can surely say that this book is a winner at read aloud time.  These two characters are perfect opposites and yet perfect friends.  Great vocab extensions. 

I Want My Hat Back, written and illustrated by Jon Klassen.  Okay, if you haven't seen this book yet you are in for a MAJOR treat!  Minimal text, basic illustrations, maximum fun.  I have the next one on pre-order, looks funny~

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Book? Written and illustrated by the cheeky Lauren Child.  I am a huge Lauren Child fan, and if you're not, this book might just do the trick!  What happens when a naughty little boy falls asleep and turns up in his fairy tale book...the one he has, say, drawn little mustaches throughout?  Well, he finds himself face to face with some very unhappy characters!

Let's Do Nohting!  Written and illustrated by Tony Fucile.  Can these two boys "do nothing?"  One can't, his imagination is far too active!  Kids have loved the idea of the book as well as the hilarious illustrations.

Skippy Jon Jones, written and illustrated by Judy Schachner.  This book has been a love of mine since the day my mother took a copy out of her classroom library to add to my up and coming classroom library.  But before she would release it from her grip she made me solemnly swear something.  That I would read it in my very best Spanish accent.  I swore.  And if you aren't ready to be muy, muy silly, play the audio version, it's read by the author!

I Love My New Toy!  Written and illustrated by the genius: Mo Willems.  Really, all the P&E books are a must for a classroom library.  A kindergarten teacher friend of mine was telling me how she uses these books to teach lessons on friendship and sharing, etc.  And I thought...Hey!  I have the same discussions with my 3rd and 4th grade students.  So, I checked the books out and don't know how I got by without them!
It's a Book, written and illustrated by Lane Smith.  Ok, so you might not be able to read this one out loud to the kiddos.  I have read it to past students that are in 6th grade because the ending won't be too much for them...curious now?  It's hilarious.  I also have read it as a read aloud to my teaching team.  A great book to read when technology seems to be taking too much of center stage.

Interrupting Chicken, written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein.  Ever had a listener that interrupts your read alouds?  Me either.  Oh well, someone will relate to this book. 
Like every teacher and librarian everywhere!  But isn't it great?!  They are so into the story that they can't contain themselves.  It's great...sometimes.  Kids have a lot of fun with this one, and it might lead to talk around sharing stories and being a respectful contributor to discussions.

Sipping Spiders Through a Straw: Campfire Songs for Monsters, written by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Gris Grimly.  This resides in my poetry book shelf, and isn't one I read aloud to the class.  I have had great success in getting some of my guys reading with expression and practicing for fluency by using these grisly poems.  The illustrations are the kicker, nasty!  Each poem/song follows the tune of a (mostly) familiar song.  Like: Oh My Darling, Clementine = Oh My Darling, Frankenstein.

Whew!  What fun it was to create this list.  Hope you found it fun too.  Remember that no matter how great a book is, it is the reader that brings true joy to their audience by giving a memorable performance.  So, practice first, and perfect those voices!

Share some of your favorite funny picture books with me.  I can never have too many!


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Dun dun dun duuuunnn! Post the First!

   So here I am, with my shiny new (and empty) blog!  I have been so inspired by the blogs of other educators that I decided to give it a go.  A slow go.  How often does one update their blog?  Who should I assume my audience is?  Should I capitalize blog?  So many questions.  What I really want to do is contribute at least a little bit to the wider world of education that I have been benefiting from each time I visit another's blog.  I see a classroom library tour post to come.  I love virtually visiting classroom libraries, and would love to share mine.  When I began to think about what to write this Number One post about I started looking through my pictures.  So, what follows is a mini tour through my favorite photos (the ones without students, which REALLY cuts down the favorites pile).

 The view from my classroom!
 The above board was created using post cards students wrote to me over the summer.  I let students check out up to 10 books to read over the summer.  Then any interested families share their mailing addresses and I give a packet to all students which includes: addresses for peers and myself, stationary, stickers, post cards with postage and envelopes with postage.  This way students are keeping up with reading and writing while continuing to share that reading and writing.  Each postcard tells me a tiny bit about the book a student finished.
 I use this board to track the books read by my Bookers book club students (Grades 4-8).  We read books on the Maine Student Book Award list and participate in voting in the spring.  I took Jon Scieszka's Guys Read movement idea and posted a Guys Read sign and made a Girls Read sign.  Then kids tracked books read with a little guy/girl cutout.
 This book is a wonderful mentor text for a writing piece on celebrating the best parts of ourselves.  Students thought of a part of their body and wrote about why it was the best part of them.  Pieces were displayed with pictures of the body part.  They were so amazing.  The book is filled with student written pieces.  Check it out!
 These are Appreciation Trees.  We cut out leaves from scrapbook paper and write the things we are most thankful for on each leaf.  My fiance even came in to make one with the class.  These are our trees.  Kids collect a branch and bring a jar.  Then you hot glue the branch to the bottom of the jar, fill part way with small pebbles of your choice (dollar store) and hot glue the leaves to the branches.  I made leave templates for the kids to trace.
 Oh, who wouldn't throw this on their blog? 
News station WGME 13 awarded 2 of my kiddos as Kids Correspondents a couple of years back.