Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Nonfiction Wednesday

Thanks to Kid Lit Frenzy, I made a goal to read more nonfiction this year which I will be featuring on my blog every Wednesday.

Here are the nonfiction books I enjoyed this week - they both feature inventions:
Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball
2013-book, biography, nonfiction, nonfiction-challenge-2013, picture-book, problem-solution, reading-gap-challenge-2013, sports
James Naismith was a young teacher who had a problem. He took over an out-of-control and bored gym class in 1891. He needed to figure something out. He tried having them play all his favorite sports: football, soccer, and lacrosse, but nothing worked. They played too rough. Naismith then thought about a game of accuracy he played as a boy and started modifying it. He even asked the custodian for help with a goal. He asked for square boxes but got two old peach baskets instead, and lo and behold, a new game was born. The boys loved it and a bit later, even some women teachers who were watching the game asked to play(one of whom Naismith married). In 1936 basketball was included in the Oympics and James was honored there. I love the bold illustrations and first draft of basketball rules on the endpapers.
Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea: A Fairly Fabricated Story of a Pair of Pants
biography, economics, humor, hyperbole, legend, nonfiction, nonfiction-challenge-2013, picture-book, play-on-words
Dang, this is a funny biography of Levi Strauss! This mostly legend rendition of how Levi Strauss invented jeans is entertaining and will surely make kids laugh. Strauss was a German salesman who knew a market when he saw one during the Gold Rush in the 1840s and 50s. I love that the illustrations were painted on old jeans!!
What nonfiction books are YOU reading this week?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mind Maps

I heard about Mind Maps several years ago and have been experimenting with them in my classroom. This year my students made them for the civil rights unit I'm doing.  This group read Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges, so they made them over her book.  Thought I'd share their good work!
Through My Eyes: Ruby Bridges

Here are some spin cams of what my students are reading now:

JFB 2:

JFB 1:

Check out David Etkin's blog.  He was the one who introduced me to spin cams.

Monday, February 25, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

These are memes started by  Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey, and I'm excited to participate, along with many other bloggers, in reviewing books I read the previous week. I'll be reviewing picture books through adult books.

These are the titles I read this week:
Babymouse for President (Babymouse #16)  Babymouse: The Musical (Babymouse, #10)
I'm continuing my journey through all the Babymouse books.  Love these two!  Again, don't let the cuteness (although, they ARE cute!) fool you - there are sophisticated layers of humor in these Babymouse books! Younger kids will love Babymouse's personality and antics, and you can use them for older kids to point out allusions.  OR, you can just all read them for a great laugh!
The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 Glory Be
I paired these up for my civil right movement unit for groups to read, and we just finished them.  I reread each of them as I taught them and once again appreciated the great storytelling!  What I love about both these books is that they teach the horrors of racism layered with every day problems and triumphs kids face.  My students loved both of them, and we had lots to discuss!  Watch for an upcoming blog post featuring the book trailers we're going to make for them using Animoto. 
In A Glass Grimmly (A Tale Dark & Grimm #2)
2012-book, adventure, allusion, books-for-boys, fairy-tale, fantasy-science-fiction, humor, intermediate-kids-book, point-of-view
I didn't listen to the audio version of this one, but I still heard the voice of the audio version of A Tale Dark and Grimm in my head. This one still has the humorous narrator popping in to warn the reader of the upcoming violence and mayhem. I laughed aloud just like I did while listening to the first one. However, I think this one might have gone a bit overboard with the gross factor. My students (especially boys) liked it just as much, though, and they are the ultimate judges of children's literature. This one features Jack and Jill and alludes to well known tales such as "The Emperor's New Clothes," "Snow White," and Mother Goose rhymes. But there are more obscure references, too, which Gidwitz explains at the end. I loved that he even used a Car Talk story as a source. The title and story structure reflects a scripture verse! So if you want to teach your students to pay attention to allusions and have fun with fractured tales, Gidwitz's books are for you (and all the boys in your class)!
Good night, laila tov

Good Night, Laila Tov by Laurel Snyder

cats, dogs, family, figurative-language, kindness, multicultural, nature, poetry, sensory-details, setting, spiritual, theme

I read this for the #SharpSchu Twitter book club in February with Laurel Snyder. A family goes on an adventure, and the parents plant trees in the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam, or repairing the world. It's such a sweet book of nature, family, and the idea that kindness and peace make the world a better place.

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

2013-book, adult-fiction, audio-book, historical-fiction, slavery

Interview with Tracy Chevalier about The Last Runaway:

I am a huge fan of Tracy Chevalier and loved Girl With a Pearl Earring and Remarkable Creatures. Honor Bright is an English Quaker who travels to America with her sister, who is to be married, in 1850. Tragedy befalls them, though, when her sister dies. Honor ends up moving in with her sister's betrothed and his family in Ohio, but is very uncomfortable with them. She meets and marries a man in their small community who is also a Quaker. Adam is a good man and treats her well, but she is not satisfied. Honor becomes involved in helping runaway slaves, but her husband's family does not approve. She becomes angry and withdrawn, even going without speaking for some time. She eventually leaves the family home even though she is pregnant. Honor never seems like a completely sympathetic character. She is critical and discontent, and unbelievably falls for the slave catcher. I did like the ending, but for me, Honor was never a likable protagonist. The audio version didn't do the story any favors, unfortunately.

The Runaway King (The Ascendance Trilogy, #2)

The Runaway King by Jennifer Nielson

2013-book, adventure, arc, books-for-boys, character-development, fantasy-science-fiction, intermediate-kids-book, series

I read this as an ARC from NetGalley. I can not tell you how enthusiastic I am about this series. I love the writing - it draws you right into the action, and Sage/Jaron is a likable, accessible, yet complicated character. This sequel to the New York Times bestseller, The False Prince, jumps right back in to adventure with an assassination attempt on Jaron's life, which prompts him to run away and hide his identity once again. Pirates become a focus in this one, and Jaron has to figure out who is a friend and who is a foe. Throw in a little complicated romance (Amarinda or Imogen?), and you've got yourself a swashbuckling fantasy that kids are going to LOVE! Both would make fantastic read alouds.  Watch for its release on March 1st!  Stay tuned because Paramount is making a movie adaptation of The False Prince:

Book Trailer for The False Prince:

The Conductor
The Conductor by Laetitia Devernay


I picked this one up at the book sale at the Dublin Lit Conference. Its unique design was irresistible! I loved the magical tale of a conductor climbing the tallest tree and conducting an orchestra of leaves that take flight. Beautiful illustrations.
Punk Farm

This funny book reminded me of Click, Clack, Moo. I read this in preparation of seeing Jarrett Krosoczka at the Dublin Literacy Conference. A seemingly normal group of farm animals come out after the farmer's light goes off in the house to form a popular punk rock band. Love the ending with the forgotten sunglasses left on the floor of the barn the next morning. Kids would love this book.
Annie Was Warned

Annie's birthday is on Halloween, so she's not scared of anything! However, when she is dared to go to the haunted house, things start spooking her on the way. Maybe she is scared after all. Cute surprise ending!
TED Talks by Jarrett Krosoczka:
The Dovekeepers
The Center of Everything
Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2)
Gregor the Overlander (Underland Chronicles, #1)
Cover art for HIDE AND SEEK
What are YOU reading this week? Let me know in the comments below!  Do you like reading this blog?  I'd love for you to join or subscribe to it!  Whenever I see someone sign up, it makes my day!  Just scroll down to the bottom of this blog, and you'll see places to join and/or subscribe on the right hand side.  Thanks!


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dublin Literacy Conference 2013

 “Capture the Joy of Literacy"
What an amazing day I had yesterday attending The 2013 Dublin Literacy Conference at Dublin Coffman High School near Columbus, Ohio.  The teachers in the district do an incredible job putting it together, inviting top-notch authors and educators to present their skills and stories in creative and interesting ways.  A lot of us also commented and tweeted about how impressed we are that kids are incorporated into the day's activities. They create the bags we're all given to carry our materials, greet and direct participants, and introduce speakers. The featured author presenters included the following:
 RALPH FLETCHER (Keynote Speaker)
LOUISE BORDEN (Keynote Speaker)

There were also excellent teachers presenting, some of whom have terrific books and blogs:
and many more!
We were treated with a Keynote Address by Ralph Fletcher, which set the tone of the day.  Here are some of my tweets and retweets about that fabulous talk and some from the other presentations:
No doubt a richness in vocabulary helps create a richness of thought. @fletcherralph #dublit13
To look at a child's piece of writing you need to have walked the walk of writer in order to know what the child is doing well.#dublit13
Mentor texts open a room to you and let you borrow what you need. @fletcherralph #DubLit13
Good nonfiction writing borrows from all different genres. @fletcherralph #dublit13
@studiojjk We need to validate graphic novels and comics as reading #DubLit13
Mysteries invite deeper reading. - @katemessner #dublit13
High stakes testing teach kids not to fail - can't break new ground when you're afraid of failing. @katemessner #dublit13
When you say wow that means you might have an idea you'll want to write about later." @louiseborden #DubLit13
Authors & illustrators -- await your invitation to #DubLit13 and reply with an enthusiastic YES!…
Go to #DubLit on Twitter to read them all.

I got to meet Ralph and have him sign one of his books for me.  We talked about blogging!

Next up was Katie Messner presenting "Whodunnit?  Reading and Writing Mysteries with Kids!"  My kids loved her book, Capture the Flag, and I was especially excited to see her because my students and I had Skyped her, and I had won an ARC of the sequel, Hide and Seek.  I couldn't believe that she was going to personally deliver it to me and sign it!  How exciting is that?!  Kate is so generous with her time and talents.  She recently set up a list of authors who will Skype with students on World Read Aloud Day, on her blog:  I'm looking forward to her Teachers Write Summer Camp again this year.  Last year's camp was when I was inspired to start this blog!

She gave a terrific talk.  You can find both her presentations for the conference here:
I attended Scott Sibberson's Web Tools for Literacy next.  There are so many cool ways to incorporate technology into the classroom!  His entire presentation and many ideas are here:
After a great lunch where I caught up with my former colleagues from Lebanon, we attended Louise Borden's Keynote.  She was wonderful!  She took us on a journey through her literary life and told us stories behind her stories.  She told me her website will be updated any day now, but you can find some snippets of stories behind her books here:

The last session I attended was titled "Fostering the Young, Creative Mind" with Jarrett Krosoczka.  He was so funny, kind, and interesting.  He talked about his road to being a picture book author and graphic novelist.  My kids are going to be excited about me bringing them some Lunch Lady books.  Jarrett reminded us as teachers how important our encouraging words are to students.  We need to recognize their need to create and be validated.  He also told us about School Lunch Superhero Day.  Be sure to visit that link to read about what you can do for your school lunch staff on that day!  We were also VERY lucky and got to see the book trailer to his upcoming chapter book, The Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked!

3rd Grade Students Introduced Jarrett

One of his early writings/drawings - precurser to Punk Farm!

Great guy!

Whew!  What a day.  I have lots of reading to do after shopping at their incredible book sale!  I can't wait to share all these books with my classes!

After the conference, my friend and former colleague (although we still collaborate a lot together), Megan, and I enjoyed a great dinner at J. Lui's in downtown Dublin and talked about our day and future literacy plans.  We can't wait for Dublin Literacy Conference 2014, which is featuring Penny Kittle, Gene Barretta, Don Brown, Bud Hunt, Kassia Omohundro Wedikind and Bryan Collier!!

Friday, February 22, 2013

World Read Aloud Day Blogger Challenge #2

I'm participating in the World Read Aloud Blogger Challenge each week until the big day!

Here is this week's challenge:

1. I think everyone in the world should read...
When I was 10: Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books, Black Stallion series
Now: Adult book: A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Children's Books: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, Charlotte's Web by E.B. White,  Wonder by R.J. Palacio,Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit, and I could keep going!

2. If I could listen to anyone in the world read aloud to me it would be...

When I was 10: I honestly don't remember being read to in 4th or 5th grade, but I loved listening to my 3rd grade teacher play guitar and sing to us!  I distinctly remember my 7th grade teacher, Mrs. Smith, reading aloud Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh and my high school English teacher, Mr. Uritis reading A Day No Pigs Would Die and E.B. White's essays.
Now: Lester Laminack and Silas House

3. When I read aloud, my favorite character to impersonate is...
When I was 10: I didn't impersonate characters while reading aloud, but I played that I was Laura Ingalls Wilder and Nancy Drew in the woods in the back of our 7 acre plot.
Now: Every year I've gotten better about being less and less inhibited while reading aloud.  Right now I like impersonating Bob, Ruby, Ivan, and Stella in The One and Only Ivan.  It's also fun to impersonate Mean Jean in The Recess Queen

4. The genre that takes up the most room on my bookshelf (or e-reader) is...
When I was 10 (to 12): No such thing as an e-reader when I was 10!  It would be fantasy (Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising Series, Wrinkle in Time), horse stories, and historical fiction (Little House on the Prairie books)
Now: Realistic and historical fiction - lots of Harry Potter books occupy our shelves in our house!

5. The last book I wish I’d written or inspired me to write my own story is...
When I was 10: The Black Stallion books - and I DID write a horse story when I was in 6th grade!
 Now: That's a tough one - there are so many I wish I had written, and I would love to write a book some day!  Picture book: City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems;  Children's Book: Harry Potter books; Professional Book: The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. There are so many, though, I'll probably change my mind tomorrow!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

It's THIRSTday (night)!

Thank you to David Etkin for starting a meme on his blog, {Eat the Book}. Today is Thursday/ THIRSTday: A beverage and a book.
My THIRSTday post each week is going to have a twist. One of my best friends, Karan Witham-Walsh, is an incredibly talented artist and makes pottery in her very own studio. She also teaches ceramics at a local high school. We decided to pair our passions: books and pottery! My beverage will be featured in her amazing designs.
Right now I'm starting The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman for my book club. This book has been on my bookshelf for awhile, so I'm excited to read it.  The only problem is, I have to finish it by Monday!! 
Check out the beautiful mug!  You can find it on Karan's Etsy site. Here is the direct link:   Shino Wheel Thrown Mug.  She sells lots of beautiful, durable, amazing pottery there, so you can order the mug, or anything else you find and love, for yourself!! Enjoy your tea.  Freezing rain is falling outside here!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Nonfiction Wednesday

Thanks to Kid Lit Frenzy, I made a goal to read more nonfiction this year which I will be featuring on my blog every Wednesday.

Here are the nonfiction books I enjoyed this week:
Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell
5 of 5 stars
Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

2013-book, biography, character-traits, gifted-girls, leaving-a-legacy, nonfiction, nonfiction-challenge-2013, picture-book, read, science
Elizabeth Blackwell defied all odds when she decided she wanted to be a doctor in the 1830s. I loved the snippets about her determination and strong will - she once carried her brother over her head until he backed down from their fight, and she tried sleeping onthe hard floor just to toughen herself up. I thought it was interesting she hadn't always wanted to be a doctor, but when a friend suggested she consider it, there was a seed planted that started to grow. Despite rejection after rejection, she continued to pursue her goal until she achieved it and graduated from medical school in 1849. According to the author's note, she continued to overcome obstacles and opened the first hospital run by women, for women, a medical school just for women, and helped start the National Health Society. Pretty amazing! I also enjoyed the energetic, vibrant illustrations by Marjorie Priceman. My students and I are going to Skype Tanya Leet Stone on World Read Aloud Day - I'm looking forward to sharing this excellent new title with them so we can discuss it with her.  We'll also be discussing another of her excellent books, Courage Has No Color.

Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin
5 of 5 stars
2012-book, adage-proverb-aphorism, biography, gifted, government, history, intermediate-kids-book, leadership, leaving-a-legacy, nonfiction, nonfiction-challenge-2013, picture-book, read, science, social-studies-connections
This intricately designed and thorough biography of Ben Franklin is truly electric! Franklin's life was fascinating, and Robert Byrd captured the interesting Colonial past and Franklin's ingenuity perfectly. It's hard to imagine how incredibly intelligent Franklin must have been. He was such a forward thinker. His inventions were numerous, his political contributions timeless, and his mastery of language and wit enviable. His legacy will live on forever. Thank you, Ben Franklin, for helping make America great, and thank you, Robert Byrd, for making a unique book about him. I expect the kids in my classroom will be pouring over everything this book has to offer!
What nonfiction books have YOU read this week?