Friday, February 28, 2014

Scrapbooks - Creating and Reflecting


     Yesterday, I posted that we were making scrapbooks in order to "rehearse" memoir writing.  I promised some pictures of finished products today.  I was thinking about how creative projects like these seem to be disappearing somewhat because of our time crunch.  However, the kids did plenty of writing while compiling and reflecting on these memories, so I didn't feel like we were missing instruction and practice, and I loved seeing how involved they got.  They were so proud of their scrapbooks.  One student turned in her electronic Shutterfly scrapbook by sharing it with me via e-mail.  It was 40 pages long!  It was the first scrapbook she ever created.  Amazing.  I hope some of these creative kids are inspired to continue to scrapbook and write about their lives.  Now they're ready for the March Slice of Life Challenge and memoir writing!

This group is holding up the memoirs they read right beside their scrapbooks.

 Sample pages and covers:


Aren't they wonderful?  I can't wait to look through them all!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Memoir Rehearsal - Student Scrapbooks

     This month my students have been reading books around the theme topic family and home.  Small group books included One For the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Bigger Than a Breadbox by Laurel Snyder, Hound Dog True by Linda Urban, Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate, Tangerine by Edward Bloor, and Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. Each student also chose an independent memoir (most of them were by children's authors).  Memoirs included Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka, Marshfield Dreams by Ralph Fletcher, Knots in My Yo-Yo String by Jerry Spinelli, Woodsong by Gary Paulsen, Looking Back by Lois Lowry, A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary, How I Came to be a Writer by Phyllis Reynold Naylor, and the one outlier, not written by a writer, Soul Surfer by Bethany Hamilton.  The kids LOVED the memoirs.  I was really happy about that.  Our read aloud is How To Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor.  We've explored our understanding of home and family, and expanded our definitions of those theme topics.

     Now we're making scrapbooks.  They have chosen a focus so that's it's not necessarily a chronological account of their whole lives, but a concentrated look at a single event, person, theme topic, etc.  Kids are picking a pet, a sport, a particular family member, a tradition, or a single trip.  I've explained that a memoir is not a personal narrative - it has a reflective quality.  This is difficult for young kids since they don't always think about how an experience or person in their lives help them become who they are.  However, when they do, you get some great stuff!  The scrapbooks are a great way to "rehearse" for memoir writing, which we're going to begin in March (just in time for the Slice of Life Challenge - we're going to be participating in a modified way - I've committed to the adult challenge).  I CAN'T WAIT to see what kind of writing these amazing children are going to create.

     Take a look at how my classroom has transformed into scrapbook heaven!  I included a picture of a student on a Chromebook because some kids chose to use digital scrapbook sites.  As the scrapbooks are being completed, I've looked over their reflection pages, and one student's was about her dog who died on New Year's Eve.  I confess tears were streaming down my face from her amazing writing.  Her scrapbook is beautiful.  Come back tomorrow to see pictures these creations.  For information on my literacy contracts (which I created with my writing partner, Megan Ginther) from which I choose monthly theme topics like home/family, see Choice Literacy.  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Nonfiction Wednesday

I'm excited that Alyson Beecher, at Kid Lit Frenzy, is continuing her Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge for the third year in a row.
The nonfiction books I read last week:
The Long, Long Journey: The Godwit's Amazing Migration
I really enjoy Sandra Markle books. I liked learning about the godwit and its amazing journey from Alaska to New Zealand every September and October. What I especially liked is that the people of New Zealand celebrate the godwits' arrival and departure. Beautiful illustrations accompany this informative and entertaining book.  Here are some other Markle books I've read, all of which are great for the classroom library:
  What If You Had Animal Teeth!?  Snow School  Bats: Biggest! Littlest! 
Volcano Rising
2013-book, nonfiction, nonfiction-challenge-2014, onomatopeoia, picture-book, science
I liked how this author described volcanoes as creative. "But volcanoes are not just destructive. Much more often, volcanoes are creative. They grow taller and wider. They form majestic mountains. And they build new islands where there were none before." I also thought the illustrations were beautiful. This would be a good book to teach onomatopoeia while sneaking in some nonfiction! Great "Volcano Vocabulary" in the back.
JFK by Jonah Winter, illustrated by AG Ford
Jonah Winter was only one year old in Dallas, TX when he saw John F. Kennedy drive by, only moments before he was assassinated. He writes of the legacy of JFK's Irish Catholic family and how John rose to power to become the President of the United States. The vivid illustrations capture the Kennedy family's charisma and Camelot-like charm.
Through simple text (only one word per two-page spread) and eye-catching illustrations, Hurley captures the essence of the life cycle of robins (which is symbolic of growing up for all of us). The author's note contains lots of information about robins.

I'm not exactly sure how to categorize this next one.  I'm choosing to put it with my nonfiction post, mostly because I just read it, and I want to share it NOW!

What's Your Favorite Animal?

What's Your Favorite Animal? by Eric Carle and Friends

I LOVED this compilation of children's artists' favorite animals! Some are funny, some are touching, and some are outlandish. All are wonderful. I'm going to use it for an upcoming memoir unit. I'm confident my students will want to write about memories of their favorite pets and animals. This copy came from the library, but I'll purchasing my own. It's definitely one you'll want for your classroom library. It would make a great gift book, also. Mini-biographies of the artists are at the end. All royalties from this book will go to The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Art, so when you buy it, it's also raising money to promote the arts. It's a win-win!
What nonfiction are YOU reading this week?

Slice of Life - A Little Sunshine

I've been participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers. I love the challenge of composing a piece of writing at least once a week about life or teaching.
     Over President's Day weekend, I visited my parents in their new Florida home.  Katie was skiing in Seven Springs Resort with her high school ski club, and Libby was staying on campus. My husband, Ed, was still traveling on business, so I flew solo.  I left this:
And arrived at this:
     I originally planned on leaving Thursday, but my direct flight got canceled.    I had to reschedule it for Friday and had to fly through Minneapolis/St. Paul.  That's quite an indirect flight to Florida - Cincinnati to Minneapolis to Tampa.  But never fear!  When you are a reader, longer flights just mean a longer time to read.  I started and finished The Shadow Throne by Jennifer Nielsen and loved it!  When I arrived, Mom and Dad's backyard view was a sight for winter-sore eyes!
     You can sit out on their lanai and see all kinds of Floridian wildlife - including an alligator!  Ed arrived late Friday night, and he had fun tracking that alligator all weekend! ;-)  On one of our walks, Mom and I loved spotting this pair of Sandhill Cranes and a beautiful Bird of Paradise flower.

     You can't beat this for a Sunday afternoon in the middle of February!  The pool was heated to bathtub water temperature.  It wasn't super warm that day, but the sun was hot, and I enjoyed soaking in as much vitamin D as I could.  We met some of Mom and Dad's friends for lunch there and heard about all the wonderful activities, excursions, and clubs you can join while living in this great community.

     Sunday night was Ed's birthday, and his parents live a short distance away from my parents, so they were able to drive down and spend the evening with us to celebrate.  We went to Circles Restaurant in Apollo Beach.  It was a beautiful night.  We sat inside because it was a cool evening, but we enjoyed looking over the water.  The sunset was beautiful, and we had fun talking about family memories.
     I couldn't help but ask to take this picture of a family's dog who sits up at their table with them!  They were seated outdoors, of course, but you don't see this everyday!   You can't see it very well, but he's got a navy blue bib on.  I asked the family about the restaurant letting them have the dog at the table, and they said the owners have let them do it for a long time as long as they're outside.  The staff says he's better behaved than some of their human customers. ;-)  So funny!
     It is a blessing that we have both sets of parents healthy and happy in Florida!  They're active and living a great retired life.   Ed's parents on the left have been married 53 years, and my parents on the right have been married 49.  I also think about our daughters, 20 and 17, who are so lucky to have all four grandparents still in their lives.  I had lost three of my grandparents by the time I was in college, so I'm so happy for Libby and Katie that they can still enjoy theirs. 

     It was sad to leave, but we will be back to visit soon!  I wish my parents many happy years in their new, sunny home!

     Unfortunately, this was our drive back home from the Cincinnati airport.  We even got stuck in our driveway when we arrived home.  Ugh. can come any time now!