Sunday, April 28, 2013

Screen - Free Week

This coming week, April 29th - May 5th is Screen-Free Week!  I talked about it with my class on Friday, and we wrote some goals for the week about how we are going to eliminate or reduce screens in our lives.  The kids were surprisingly willing to do some cutting back on their video-game time (that's a big one!), t.v. watching, computer game playing, and social media networking (Instagram is a big thing with my 4th graders).  I also made some goals:

- No t.v.
- No Facebooking, Tweeting, or Blogging (the kids knew that these would be hard for me to give up!)
- Limited e-mailing/checking e-mail
- Limited texting
- More reading
- More writing in a writer's notebook
- More walking and exercising

I sure hope I can stick to this!  I was honest with my students that I spend a lot of time in front of screens.  We did agree that if you're reading a book on a screen, that would be okay.  A lot of my students read on iPads, Kindles, and Nooks.  After the week is up, I'm going to ask the kids to write about their week.  I will share those pieces of writing after Screen-Free Week is up.  In the meantime, no new blog posts!  This is it!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Reread in April!

Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts encouraged us to reread in April. Here's what I reread this week:
Because of Winn-Dixie
Reread. I'm so glad I reread this. I love Kate DiCamillo's stories. Just a couple days ago I was trying to explain the moods of "bittersweet" and "melancholy" to my students, and I wish I had remembered the perfect explanation of them in this book through the Littmus Lozenges. I'll have to read those pages aloud to them next week. I also love Winn Dixie - what a perfect capture of a lovable dog. DiCamillo's characters are quirky and multi-layered, and this story (as well as her others) are filled with compassion for people and animals.
I need to re-watch the movie!
Kate DiCamillo is one of my favorite children's authors.  I love all her books!
My FAVORITE Kate DiCamillo book is The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.  It remains one of my favorite read alouds, also.  I wrote a Nerdy Book Club Blog Post and posted it on this blog as well:
I can't wait for her new book coming out in September, Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures!
What have YOU reread in April?  Thank you, again, Jen and Kellee, for encouraging us to revisit old favorites.  It helped me remember why rereading is important and essential for  us AND our students!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Fantastic Friday!

This month my students read Newbery titles and novels in verse.  As part of the 40 Book Invitation, I concentrate on various genres and award-winning books throughout the year to encourage and promote wide reading of excellent contemporary, and sometimes, classic midldle grade books. We finished up the Newbery part of the unit recently (we're going to revisit Newberys in May when I introduce the 2014 Mock Newbery Club), and we're partway through a two-week novels in verse concentration and summary response letter-writing unit.  While students are reading the required books (that they chose from lots of book talks), they continue to read independent books of their choice.  Some students finished their 40 Book Invitation in January or February, but many are finishing up now.  I can't wait to see our grand totals at the end of the year.  Take a look at the Newberys (winners and honors) and novels in verse my students are reading - just click on the link underneath each picture to see the Spin Cam.





After a week of reading novels in verse, the kids had to write  summary response letters to their partner readers.  They brought the letters in today in their notebooks, and then their partners wrote back.  Throughout the year, I've taught them summaries separately from response paragraphs, so now they're combining them into a more natural, real life kind of book response.  I really enjoyed reading them, and they enjoyed writing them.  The weather was so nice in the afternoon that I took that class out to write in the playground area.  It was a great idea until 2 or 3 classes of first graders came out to play!  It was still nice to be outside.

I will share some of the letters they wrote to each other next week.

Wednesday, April 24, 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.
Last week, I reviewed a Sandra Markle book called BATS!  BIGGEST! LITTLEST! and shared that my school is part of the 2013 Markle's Book Explorers.  Shortly after we received a signed copy of BATS! and some book swag, we received a signed copy of What If You Had Animal Teeth?
This is an hilarious nonfiction picture book about animal teeth and how they work.  Next to each photograph of an animal showing off its teeth is an illustration of a child with the same teeth and what would happen if you had those teeth. The kids loved it when I read it aloud.  We laughed and laughed!  We were also awed by the photographs of the animals.  There are facts about the various kinds of teeth in the animal kingdom and how they work with the kind of food each animal eats.  I love examples of creative nonfiction, and this one is very creative! Sandra Markle asked that we pay this book forward by raffling it off.  Here is the lucky winner:
Some other fans of the book wanted to get in on the fun:

What nonfiction have YOU read this week?

Monday, April 22, 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.

Here are the books I read this week:

Oh wow. I wish I had someone to talk to about this book right now! It's a story of friendship and conquering fears, bullying and bravery. SPOILER ALERT: But the end was shocking, and although I usually love stories of loss and legacy, this one seemed unnecessary to me. Don't get me wrong - I really loved this book, though!  I remembered Mr. Schu had an interview with Bob Staake on his blog, so I went back to that and Mr. Staake said maybe what you think happened at the end didn't. That's why I need to process it with someone before I share it with kids! Or maybe not - they can help me process it! And does the allusion to Icarus on the school clock earlier in the book give us a clue about what happened? Is the bluebird an angel? Or did it fly too close to the "sun?" Or did what seemed to happen, happen - the bird was killed by the bullies and the other birds help the boy release the bird into heaven? Questions, questions. That's the brilliance about wordless books - much room for interpretation! I love the choice of making the pictures black, white, and gray except for blue accents and the colorful birds at the end. I also love the strong sense of setting - the markets, taxis, apartments, outdoor cafes, and even an independent bookstore!
Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems

                            2013-book, fable, fairy-tale, picture-book, poetry, point-of-view
Reverso poems, which Marilyn Singer debuted in Mirror Mirror must be incredibly difficult to write! This is a companion book to Mirror Mirror and features more poems from different points of view, meant to read top to bottom, then bottom to top with just a few changes in punctuation and capitalization. Singer gives brief summaries of the fairy tales and fables, some more obscure to kids than others, in the back. In the words of my teenage daughter after I asked her to look at a couple of them, "Wow! It's like magic!"
11 Birthdays (Willow Falls, #1)

I've had the Willow Falls books in my classroom library for a long time and just have never gotten around to reading them. This year, I've had some girls who have been clamoring for them, so I thought it was finally time I got to it! I really enjoyed this first one in the series. Amanda and her friend, Leo, were born on the same day and have shared every birthday since. Sadly, on her 10th birthday, she overheard him saying mean things about her at their party and hasn't talked to Leo for a year. Now it's her 11th birthday, and they will be having separate parties for the first time. EVERYTHING goes wrong that day, and Amanda is glad it's all over when she goes to bed that night. Mysteriously, when she wakes up the next day, she realizes it's NOT over. It's the SAME day!! This is like a kids' version of Groundhog Day. No wonder the kids like this book - the characters are realistic, but the magic is compelling. There is also a mystery about what it will take to finally make the day stop. It's no accident that a white-haired lady named Angelina keeps showing up! I'll have to read the next two now.  This series is not the only Wendy Mass books my 4th grade students love.  They've been reading every Wendy Mass book they can get their hands on.  We also had a very successful book group in the fall who read Mango-Shaped Space. Our theme topic was empathy, and they LOVED that book, so it's been circulating too!
The Painted Girls

2013-book, adult-fiction, art, audio-book, dance, historical-fiction, setting, sisters


I like books like this - historical fiction books about artists and their subjects. Tracy Chevalier and Susan Vreeland have written similar ones. I started listening to the audio version of this while in Marco Island, FL, so I will forever associate this book with the sand, morning sun, and ocean since I would listen to it on my morning walks. Not at all like the Parisian setting in which the story was set!  This one is about the van Goethem sisters - Antoinette, Marie, and Charlotte. It begins in Paris in 1878 when the sisters' father dies, leaving them with their mother who falls into an absinthe-induced existence. After being evicted from their apartment, the sisters begin to figure out how to survive and fiercely hang on to each other. Marie goes to work at the Paris Opera, where she hopes to make it into the famous ballet. Antoinette, who has been dismissed from dancing for being rebellious, tries to make a meager living and falls for the dangerous Emile. Marie captures the attentions of Edgar Degas, and she begins modeling for him. She becomes the Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. The story is told from Antionette's and Maria's points of view, and the setting of 19th century France is described richly - from the opulence and glamour of the opera to the seedy underbelly of the poor and criminal. Throughout the story is interwoven a study of newspaper articles that attributed certain physical facial traits to a life of crime. The author experimented with whether or not Marie, and her facial similarities to those described as being criminal, was affected. I've seen some of Degas's work before, but now that I've read this book, I want to see it again!
Documentary that convinced Cathy M. Buchanan to write The Painted Girls:

Eleanor and Park
The End of Your Life Book Club
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers
If you enjoyed stopping by my blog, I would love it if you would consider joining it or signing up for an e-mail subscription!  Just scroll to the bottom of the blog, and you will find those opportunities at the bottom right.  It would make my day!
What are YOU reading this week?


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Parent/Student Book Club at the Cincinnati Zoo

    The One and Only Ivan

 When I set out to read the 2013 Newbery Award winner The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate to my 4th graders, I knew I wanted the experience to be something special.  I invited my students' parents to read along with us, gathering about ten copies from the Cincinnati Public Library, which is great about getting teacher collections together.  They were snapped up by parents right away, and I kept them circulating as I read the book aloud to my classes.  They loved my voices for each character, and I loved their reactions to the funny AND sad parts of the book, trying to keep it together during the sad parts.  I admit I choked up a few times, even when it was my 3rd or 4th time reading those scenes.  As I neared the end of the book, I started planning a Parent/Student Book Club meeting, just like the one we had for Wonder earlier in the year (click on Parent/Student Book Club to see my blog post about that meeting).  One of my students started talking to me about Gladys, our local zoo's baby gorilla, and it dawned on me - we would have our Parent/Student book club at The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden!

     The day dawned bright and sunny, albeit chilly.  We all met at the beautiful entrance of the zoo, which was adorned with tulips of all colors.  Our zoo is one of the best in country, and that day it felt every bit as wonderful as it is touted to be.  I hadn't been there in years, and it was fun to see all the changes and updates it had made.  We started with about 30-35 people - students, their parents, siblings, and even a cousin.  I took a picture of each family at the entrance.  Here are a few:

To celebrate Stella and Ruby, our first stop was the Elephant Encounter, where we met two Asian Elephants:

Even though there are no giraffes or cheetahs in The One and Only Ivan, we still wanted to feed the giraffes and catch the Cheetah Encounter:

Confession:  Giraffes are my favorite wild animal!    It was so fun watching the kids feed him crackers and their faces when that long purple tongue reached out to their hands!  There is even a baby this year:

Next, the cheetahs ran for us:

We found a great place for all of us to eat lunch.  Lunch was our book discussion time.  I printed out copies of The Harper Collins Children's Discussion Guide, which is excellent, and groups talked about the book:

The finale was the Gorilla Encounter, where we paid homage to Ivan.  The silverback featured at the encounter was cooperating beautifully and hung out regally the whole time the zookeeper was talking.

Me-balls anyone?

This reminds me of when Julia and Ivan press their hands together on the glass of his cage - one of my favorite moments in the book.

Doesn't he look like Ivan?

Gladys, the baby gorilla at the zoo, isn't able to be shown to the public yet, but here is an adorable picture of her:

We took group pictures of the people who were left - unfortunately we didn't get everyone since some people had to leave early.

On my way out, a peacock graced me with a goodbye show in the tulips that was spectacular!

What a wonderful day!  It makes the day even better knowing I will be moving up with this group to the intermediate 5th/6th grade building in our district next year!  I'm so excited to be spending three years altogether with these kids and their families!  How lucky am I?!

I loved the silverback and elephant stuffed animals one student bought at the zoo gift store, that I bought my own to put in the classroom to remind us of this terrific day!

Thank you, Ivan, Stella, Ruby, Julia, and Bob for inspiring us to be kind and devoted friends!