Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Spiritual Journey Thursday - Patience

Welcome back, friends!  Every Thursday, I explore my spiritual journey and invite you to link up your explorations here below.  I love learning from all of you!
     The word PATIENCE was whispered to me this morning for some reason.  The school year has begun, my husband and I are empty-nesters, and my Mom and Dad have moved into their new home in far away Florida.  A lot is happening.  It's a time of ambivalent and strange feelings.   I knew this year would be marked with significant journeys.  That's why I chose JOURNEY as my OLW.  There are all kinds of emotions this September - excitement over meeting new fifth grade students, getting used to the new schedule, stress over new expectations (testing, testing, testing), happiness over seeing kids from last year, lesson planning and grading beginning, project planning, etc.  Throw in my youngest leaving home, my oldest beginning her senior year in college, and my parents moving across country, and I've got some pretty big things affecting my life.  I'm so thankful my husband isn't traveling right now.  It's so nice for him to be around. 
     I'm not sure why PATIENCE was the word that came to me.  I'm a pretty patient person.  I don't lose my temper easily, I'm pretty easy-going most of the time, and my reset button is on "happiness."  But God must think I'm being impatient.  I just have to think about what that means.  One of the things I do is project - I've been a "projector" into the future all my life.  I am always looking forward to what is going to come next.  I tend to be looking around the corner all the time.  Sometimes that is a good thing because I always have plans and things to get excited about; but in another way, I tend to rush things.  I forget to live in the moment.  Even now I'm thinking about how nice things will be when I know all my new students, and they know the routines, and it's October or November and things are running smoothly.  I look forward to the things Libby is going to do in her future when she graduates and am excited for her.  I look forward to the trip to Florida that Ed and I will take later next month to visit Mom and Dad.  I look forward to seeing and talking with Katie to hear about all her goings-on during her first weeks at college. But what I really need to be doing is experiencing the now.  Being patient.  Living in the moment.  Enjoying the newfound empty-nest freedom, quiet, and time with my husband.  Time goes by fast enough..  What's ironic is that I should realize that more now than ever with all the milestones that are happening.  They come upon us so fast.
  So I think through writing this post, I understand what God is telling me.  Slow down.  Enjoy.  The future is coming at dizzying speed anyway.  Life is short.  Be patient.  Be still.  My time is now.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Slice of Life - Kid President

I love participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers and writing a story, reflection, or musing at least once a week.
     Kid President helped me out today with Quick Writes for my fifth and sixth graders.  In fifth grade, I will be starting a September literacy contract in which we will be reading and writing around the theme topic, empathy.  Our building's first quarter 5th grade theme topic is diversity, so teaching empathy is a perfect introduction to appreciating diversity.  Today we wrote a Quick Write inspired by one of Kid President's recent videos to introduce the idea of treating others kindly and appreciating life.  It's produced as a letter to a newborn baby.  I love it because of the idea "We're glad you're here."  I also love the idea of thinking about life and how it can be awesome AND difficult.  If you haven't seen it, you're in for a treat:
     I was so pleased when I asked students to write their Quick Writes specifically to one of our teacher's brand new baby that they all started writing immediately!  They loved the video (none of them had seen it before).
They had a lot to say.  Here are some snippets of advice and descriptions of life and people:
- "Just remember, you will meet people of all shapes, sizes, and colors.  But we are all human beings.  Don't let anyone put you down."
- "If you are mean to someone and apologize, they will probably forgive you.  If they don't forgive you, you should try to make it up to them."
- "You can do a lot of stuff, so always enjoy the moment because it is going to be gone fast."
-  "It is a challenging but fun and amazing place."
- "When you think people are having a bad day, pat them on the back and say, "Do you want to play?" and that will probably make him feel a lot better.  Be nice out there.
- "Welcome to the world!  We're glad to be with you now.It's good to be human for better or for worse.  Some days you will get a new high score, and some day you will get the all time low.  But either way you have to keep your chin up and keep on living and acting awesome because you are.  You are the best thing your mom ever made."
And just because I thought it was hilarious...
- "Don't put too many things in your mouth."
We'll be revising and writing finals to give as a gift to Baby Brayden.
     In sixth grade, our theme topic will be social injustice.  Our #ReadWalkWater project will be coming up after reading A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park.  I got them ready today by thinking about Heroes.  Again, Kid President...

The sixth graders thought about these questions:
1. What is a hero?
2. Who is your hero and why?
3. What is not okay with you? (I love that question as a catalyst for change!)
4. What can you do about that?
5. What do you have? (You already have it!)
6. Who are you going to bring with you?
     I loved reading about what matters to sixth graders and how they define heroes.  These were great ways to kick off writing and thinking in my classroom today.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Poetry Friday - Adventure

     Yesterday, I shared a portion of my daughter, Libby's, amazing new poem.  Today, I share it in full:

By: Libby Mueller

I set out.

No, I don’t know where the hell I’m going
And I tried the map and ended up
Just another pair 
Of smooth soles,
Of unscarred hands
Young and burning
But my heart is yearning
To know what it means 
So I set out.

I left behind a few messes
Some ugly stains I never 
Quite got out
But it’s far behind now.
I can see for miles 
And I am free
I take a breath
Let out a shout and
I set out.

Inhale sharp pine 
Exhale streetlamps
Inhale birdsong
Exhale smoke

I’m quite a long
Way from where I started
But I knew that
When I departed
It would take me to places
I’ve never known.

I wander through cities
And peer down alleys
I traipse up mountains
And slide into valleys
I’m searching for something
To fill me up,

This vacant heart
This restless soul
This empty cup.

See me
Wobbling on 
The horizon tightrope
Hands splayed
As the light fades,

I’m unqualified
And uncoordinated
And utterly unworthy
And still I set out.

I left behind
That I thought were
My only choice
Left them lying
With my fear
A familiar voice
That speaks no more.

It’s just me.

And I never knew me
For who I really was
But out here 
Skies and dreams are
Endless and
I can just

So I set out
Clean and new
To shake off 
Days past and
Demands and
Dreams imposed
Wide-eyed and barefoot
In the morning dew.

When I come to the end,
I don’t expect to find
To boast as I grow old.
No, I only hope to hold
A soul fulfilled, a 
Life well lived, and
I don’t know how but
I want to find out 

I set out. 

     As you set out on a new school year adventure or any other JOURNEY, I wish you a "soul fulfilled!"  Head on over to Irene's for the poetry roundup!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Spiritual Journey Thursday - Bedraggled Ragamuffins

Welcome back, friends!  Every Thursday, I explore my spiritual journey and invite you to link up your explorations here.  I love learning from all of you!
     On Sunday, my pastor, Peter Larson, from Lebanon Presbyterian Church, preached a sermon called "Hungry for God."  He opened it up by referring to the movie Slumdog Millionaire and how the characters are beggars in the streets of India.  He tells us that even though we may not be literal beggars, "the truth is, we are beggars at the throne of grace"  and read Luke 14:15-24, the parable of the Great Banquet.  At the end of the sermon, he talked about The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning.  I haven't read this book, but I was so taken by the image of a ragamuffin Christian.  In the summary of the book on Goodreads, it quotes, "We come to Him as ragamuffins--dirty, bedraggled, and beat-up. And when we sit at His feet, He smiles upon us, the chosen objects of His 'furious love.'" Don't you just love that?  Haven't we all felt "bedraggled and beat up?"  We don't have to be perfect or even close to perfect to come to Him.  He doesn't need what Peter referred to as the "A List."  In fact, He doesn't need us at all, but He invites us to His party anyway.  In Manning's obituary, it says, “Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement, and death will be part of your journey, but the Kingdom of God will conquer all these horrors. No evil can resist grace forever.”
     Last night, my daughter Libby, called from Miami U. to read me a poem she had written.  There was one part that struck me as relating to the sermon on Sunday.  The poem is written for an adventure theme for a friend's publication,  but I starting thinking about it in the spiritual sense of adventure as she was reading it to me.  That wasn't really the intention of the poem, but you'll see what I mean!  I'm just going to share part of her poem today:
This vacant heart
This restless soul
This empty cup.

See me
Wobbling on 
The horizon tightrope
Hands splayed
As the light fades,

I’m unqualified
And uncoordinated
And utterly unworthy
And still I set out.

I left behind
That I thought were
My only choice
Left them lying
With my fear
A familiar voice
That speaks no more.

It’s just me.

- Libby Mueller

     Doesn't that sound like a bedraggled ragamuffin at the throne of God?  So today, if you're feeling "bedraggled and beat up" or "wobbling on the horizon tightrope, hands splayed," don't worry.  God will greet you at the door of the party.  And you're on the list.

     If you'd like to watch Peter's sermon (and I highly encourage you to), here is the video:

As usual, if you'd like to write about the theme, "bedraggled, ragamuffin Christian," please do, but if you're led to write about something else, feel free to do so and link up below!

Wednesday, August 20, 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.  Here is the nonfiction I read this week:
 Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation
I think this book will be eye-opening for my students. They've learned a lot about the civil rights movement and the fight for equality and desegregation in the African-American community, but they may not realize Mexican-Americans have fought the same fight. This is the true story of Sylvia Mendez, and her family's determination to give her an equal education in California in the 1940s.  I will share it with my sixth graders when we start our social injustice/global awareness unit soon. Some students will be reading Esperanza Rising, which will be a good pairing. I like the way it starts in the present, flashes back to tell the story, and then returns to the present with a different attitude from Sylvia. I'll be curious what my students think of the illustrations.  They are unusual.
George Ferris, What a Wheel!
George Ferris: What a Wheel by Barbara Lowell, illustrated by Jerry Hoare
This is a Penguin Core Concepts book, and when I picked it up at the library, I was a little disappointed and wanted it to be larger and designed as a real picture book.  I didn't realize it was made for this series. I did like the information about George Ferris, though. His grit and imagination were inspiring. The Ferris Wheel, built for the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, was quite an accomplishment. I want Brian Floca to make a real picture book out of the story!
A Home for Mr. Emerson
Mr. Emerson was such a likable fellow! I enjoyed learning about his home, his affinity for friends and neighbors, his free-thinking, and how much he was loved. This book would be a great way to introduce writing workshop and the importance of journaling and thinking. "Build a world of your own." 
What nonfiction did YOU read this week?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Slice of Life - Open House

  I love participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers and writing a story, reflection, or musing at least once a week.
     Last night, our school, Columbia Intermediate, held its Open House for 5th and 6th graders.  We have recently made the switch to teams, based on our study of Taming of the Team by Jack Berckemeyer, an hilarious  and informative speaker and workshop leader.  Our principal is passionate about meeting the needs of middle school/intermediate students, and she felt that moving toward teaming would help us do that.  I am part of the leadership team, responsible for helping move our building toward teaming.  One of the things we wanted to do to support our students is revamp the way we do our opening programs.  We used to have an ice cream social, and then an information session a week or so later.  These weren't terrible, but they weren't particularly innovative, either, and largely involved the parents by having them sit and listen in a packed cafeteria.  We decided to go back to an Open House idea, but with a few twists.

Taming of the Team: How Great Teams Work Together
     Our fifth grade teams are still in teams of two (with one three-person team), helping the transition between our three elementary schools, where students have been since kindergarten, and our intermediate building. Our sixth grade teams are in teams of four, helping our students transition to a junior high experience, where they will have many teachers.  Teams chose names and mottoes (I work with many teams since I teach kids identified gifted in reading, but I was still assigned to the sixth grade Team Legacy, to give me a "home" - other specials teachers, like our intervention specialists, were also assigned teams).  Some teams even chose to make t-shirts (Team Renaissance).  Teams will be meeting at least once a week to discuss students and make plans, contact parents, meet with students, etc.  I love the spirit of collaboration and caring this creates.

     Our Open House started at 6, and by 5:30, there was a long line of parents ready to come in and learn about our school and its teachers.  We arranged "Lockers and Lollipops," since students get lockers and locker combinations this year.  In the past, this caused a lot of stress and chaos on the first day of school when students tried getting into their lockers for the first time.  We helped alleviate this by giving them their locker combinations last night and having them try it out.  When they were successful, they opened the locker and found a lollipop and a note of encouragement inside.  Some teams set up scavenger hunts, Chromebooks with a Google Parent Information form, gave out creative team brochures, arranged ice-breakers, and much more.  Students were able to go through the cafeteria line and tour the building. It was a night filled with energy and positivity.  And we still served ice cream.

     There is no doubt that students will start today feeling more relaxed and excited since they've met their teachers, saw that they will be taken care of and encouraged by teams, and experienced a staff who is ready for them.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Celebration Saturday

Discover. Play. Build.

 I'm so happy that Ruth Ayres started a Celebrate Link-Up on her blog!!!  I will be joining the celebration every Saturday!!

It's been several weeks since I participated in Celebration Saturday because of travels.  I missed it - I'm glad to be back!

    1.  I was a part of a mission team from Lebanon Presbyterian Church (thank you, LPC, for all your support) who went to Czech Republic to teach English at a family camp.  We ended the week in Prague for sight-seeing.  I recapped what I learned and loved about the experience in this post.  I also made this video to share:

     2. This week, I set up my classroom and attended our in-service day on Friday.  I can't believe it's time for school to start!  I was excited to see a letter from Water for South Sudan, Inc. in my mailbox from over the summer.  In it was an official letter stating where our sponsored well was built, and these wonderful pictures.  We're so excited to lead another #ReadWalkWater project this year.  All our 6th graders will be reading A Long Walk to Water, and we'll culminate a fundraising event with our walk on November 7th.  So exciting!

     3. Libby came home this weekend after finishing up a great experience interning with Smucker's.  She learned a lot, and she's ready for her senior year at Miami University!  

Good luck to all you teachers and students out there celebrating another start to a new school year!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Spiritual Journey Thursday - Joy

Welcome to Spiritual Journey Thursday!  I hope you will link up below with your own spiritual journey thoughts.
     As you know, Robin Williams took his own life this week.  It is a devastating loss.  Any loss of life taken by a person's own hand seems especially devastating.  We know from the news that Williams has suffered for a long time with addiction and depression.  Mental illness is so mysterious and many times misunderstood.  It can cause such hopelessness and despair.  We cannot ever really understand the inner workings of anyone.  I've seen this famous quote several times on social media this week in response to this tragedy:  "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." I'm so sorry that for him, the battle was not worth fighting anymore.  He was such a beloved, gifted actor and comedian.  He was able to be so funny and yet so tender, so outrageous, and yet so poignant.  
     Robin Williams was famous, so his death is getting a lot of media attention, but I can't help but think about all the ordinary people in the world who suffer to this extent.  Yesterday I tweeted that my theme/topic today was going to be JOY.  I'm sure you're wondering around now how this post is going to be about joy.  I've been thinking about joy after this terrible news. How can people find it and the hope that comes with it?   I know that serious depression  is much more than just a mood or disposition.  I want to be sensitive to those who suffer from it, and I don't profess to know much about it.  There is no blame or judgment here.  I just wanted to explore what joy is and how we can get it - we need it. 
     I found this definition of joy on the internet.  I was looking for joy in a spiritual sense - not just "happiness" that can come and go.  I know God's sense of the word is deeper than that.  Here is what I found from Rick Warren's Daily Hope
 Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.
     I loved this definition.  I kept reading.  Here is more from this source:
     We tend to think that life comes in hills and valleys. In reality, it’s much more like train tracks. Every day of your life, wonderful, good things happen that bring pleasure and contentment and beauty to you. At the exact same time, painful things happen to you or those you love that disappoint you, hurt you, and fill you with sorrow. These two tracks — both joy and sorrow — run parallel to each other every single moment of your life.
     That’s why, when you’re in the midst of an amazing experience, you have a nagging realization that it’s not perfect. And while you’re experiencing something painful, there’s the glorious realization that there is still beauty and loveliness to be found. They’re inseparable.
     If you look down train tracks into the brightness of the horizon, the tracks become one. You can’t distinguish them as two separate tracks. That’s how it will be for us, too. One day, our parallel tracks of joy and sorrow will merge into one. The day we meet Jesus Christ in person and see the brightness of who he is, it will all come together for us. Then it will all make complete sense.

     Isn't that incredible?  I can't help but think Robin Williams showed those two tracks to us in his work.  We loved him because we know what those parallel tracks feel like.  We live it every day.  Some people have to bear so much and can't come to an understanding of why there is so much pain.  My heart goes out to them.  God promises us that if we depend on Him and thank Him for EVERYTHING, that we will see what it all means some day.  We can trust that it will make sense.  That assurance can bring us joy.  I leave you with this verse:

May the God who gives hope fill you with great joy. May you have perfect peace as you trust in him. May the power of the Holy Spirit fill you with hope. - Romans 14:13 
I couldn't help but share some of my favorite Robin Williams scenes.  Sorry about the language in the Good Will Hunting clip.
This is a chilling scene from Dead Poet's Society in light of what happened.
Brilliant acting!
      I hope all of you reading this have joy in the deepest sense of the word.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Slice of Life - I Just Wasn't Ready

  I love participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers and writing a story, reflection, or musing at least once a week.
     I have to be honest.  I was not ready to start school this week.  Our teacher work day is Friday, and I needed to start going into school yesterday to get my room ready and prepare for students.  It's not that I don't love my job, my subject, or my students.  I love them all.  I just wasn't ready. 
     My summer was full.  I went to district Google training, a writing conference, a celebration trip to for my 25th anniversary, Mom's 70th birthday, and to attend the Newbery banquet, and a mission trip (which was amazing).  In between I finished up a book proposal with my friend, Megan, which you know got rejected, so now we need to rework it and shop it around.  I tried (and failed) to keep up with TeachersWrite!, blogged, read, spent time with family and friends, and now it's time to go back to school.  I am not complaining.  The summer was full, and I felt blessed.  I felt blessed to be so fortunate to have a summer and be able to travel like I did.  I just wasn't ready.
     I packed up my car with things I stored at home over the summer and filled bags with books I had bought, read, and was ready to put into the classroom library.  I stopped at Ace Hardware to buy red spray paint for an old bookshelf I wanted to fix up, and a few picture hanging materials for a new Peter Brown print I had framed over the summer.  I wore workout clothes because I knew I'd be dragging down boxes of books and materials I had put away in cabinets during the last week of school so the custodians could have access to floors, furniture, and shelves.  I wasn't ready to do that physical labor and reorganization.  I just wasn't ready.
     I came through the office to pick up my paperwork, badge, and key.  Greeted the office staff, the principal, and a few teachers. Checked my mailbox.  It was full.   It was nice to see some of the people I work with, but I still just wasn't ready. 
     On the way to my classroom, dragging my feet a little, I noticed the shiny floors and spotless locker bays.  The empty display cases ready to be filled.  A few new additions to the d├ęcor - all really nice.  I looked down and noticed a fat envelope in the pile of mail I just picked up and saw that it was from Water for South Sudan, Inc.  I excitedly opened it up, and saw that it was full of pictures from our #ReadWalkWater sponsored well in South Sudan!  Our Columbia Intermediate banner was being held by the villagers that received the well!  I smiled and started thinking about our walk last year, the A Long Walk to Water read aloud, and the enthusiasm and generosity it generated.  I started to get excited about doing it again with this year's sixth graders.  I picked up my pace.  I passed the head custodian and thanked him for beautiful job he and his staff did on the building. I could feel myself getting ready.
     I reached my classroom door, put in the key, and walked in.  Everything had been spotlessly cleaned, and the furniture returned to its exact spots.  I put down my bags, smiled, and thought about the possibilities that awaited my students and me this year.  I thought about my new fifth graders and their excitement and my sixth graders who I've been teaching since their 4th grade year and realized how much I missed them.  I thought about the books I was going to add to the classroom library that I had loved reading over the summer.  I thought about the authors and illustrators I was going to introduce to my students and use as mentors.  I thought about the part of the room I was going to make a writing station.  I thought about the theme topics and book sets my students were going to explore.  And I realized I was ready.
I am ready.

       Oh, the possibilities...

Monday, August 11, 2014

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. 

It's been a couple weeks since I posted a #IMWAYR, so the list is a little longer than usual...
 The Lion and the Bird
Aw. What a sweet story. It reminds me of City Dog, Country Frog. I really enjoyed this book of friendship and the seasons of life. Great for units on friendship and the symbolism of seasons.
A Thirst For Home: A Story of Water across the World

This book was inspired by the author's own adopted Ethiopian daughter. This beautiful and heartbreaking story is perfect for our human rights/global issues unit that accompanies A Long Walk to Water and #ReadWalkWater!
Circa Now
This is a special book. I loved Circa and Miles, and all the gems of friendship, family, spirituality, and wisdom McRee packed into this story. It reminded me a little of Savvy and Scumble, but with a quieter, more serious tone. The Shopt photographs and accompanying stories were quirky and unique. There were so many interesting and wonderful parts of this tale: the mother's depression and anxiety, coping with the loss of Circa's dad, the possibility of magic, the Maple Grove residents and memory wall, Miles and his mysterious story, the photographs and photoshopping, and I could go on and on. This is a mentor text, a touchstone text, and would be a whopper of a good read aloud. Can't wait to share it with my students! Favorite lines: "...she considered how a person's purpose here on earth might not be made up of a thousand past or future thens. How it might be all about just one now..." 
 Conversation between Circa and Miles:
  "Your mom is stronger than you think," said Miles.
  "Easy for you to say," said Circa. "She doesn't seem to have any trouble taking care of you. It's me that's the problem."
 "There might be a good reason for that," said Miles. "Maybe it's because I see what she can do, and you see what she can't."
Sigh. Great book! 
Rain Reign
Heartbreaking. Rose Howard, a misunderstood girl diagnosed with high-functioning autism, and her love for Rain and homonyms will tug at your heartstrings. Thank God for her uncle! This book would be great to pair with Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine, Rules by Cynthia Lord, and Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. Look for this book when it comes out in October (or on Netgalley, which is how I read it early). It is a must-read for middle graders!
The Meaning of Maggie
I really, really loved Maggie Mayfield and her family! Her funny, poignant, and smart voice captivated me from the very beginning. I caught myself laughing aloud, tearing up, and cheering her on. Her sisters, running feats, botched romance, and sarcasm cracked me up, but her struggles with the serious things happening in her life made me ache for her. I don't think this book is for anyone under 6th grade (maybe some mature 5th graders) - there is some young adult material (drug, alcohol, and sex references), but it would make a great mentor text for voice and structure for older students. I loved the footnotes. I also appreciated that it tackled a parent's illness (multiple sclerosis) and the inner workings of a gifted girl. Some of our students are faced with the great challenge of living with an ill parent and would see themselves in Maggie's journey. The story is inspired by the author's real family experiences with a father with MS. I highly recommend this book!
Reread - I loved it just as much as the first time. I so admire how Wiles tackles every day problems as well as global issues and politics in this story. I reread it to refresh my memory so I could read REVOLUTION. Original Review:  This is a terrific book! I loved Deborah Wiles for Each Little Bird That Sings, and now I love her even more! I don't think I've ever read an historical fiction book about the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I love to learn history through a great story - and this is a great story! I listened to the audio book, which I loved. The narrator who plays Franny has an endearing voice, and the audio clips of that time period are fascinating. I'm glad I had the actual book, too, so I could see how she did it in print. I would want kids to have both the novel and the audio version to get the most out of this unique coming-of-age story. I loved the message at the end. I HIGHLY recommend this! I'm so excited - I saw someone's review that this is a planned trilogy. Yay!
I was fortunate to meet Deborah Wiles at NCTE in November!

We Were Liars
This one is impossible to write about without giving the premise away, so I will just say that you will be riveted! There is one movie I could compare it to, but if I did, it would be a spoiler.  Be ready for captivating characters, an incredibly strong sense of setting, and an unforgettable mood.
            Looking for Me    
  I enjoyed following Teddi on both her personal and professional journeys. Her love of antiques and furniture restoration was interesting, and her suffering from the loss of her brother, Josh, an avid and gifted wildlife enthusiast, painful. Josh's story was a little far-fetched, but I was happy about the resolution. 
Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus
I read this book while in Czech Republic teaching English. It was very convicting for me. Idleman's challenge is to stop merely being a fan of Jesus, but to make the commitment to follow Him. This is not an easy task. It requires fearlessness and faith, and a willingness to get out of your comfort zone.
Boys of Blur The Writing Thief: Using Mentor Texts to Teach the Craft of Writing
My family loves to read, too!
Libby is listening to:
Legend (Legend, #1)
Where She Went (If I Stay, #2)
The Night Guest
What are YOU reading this week?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Picture Book 10 for 10 - Creativity

     Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek are hosting their 5th annual Picture Book 10 for 10 Round-Up today.  This will be my third time to participate.  The hardest part is figuring out how to choose only 10 picture books.  For my first year, I chose nonfiction favorites; then last year, I chose 10 picture books to start out the school year; now, what to do this year?!  I could do an empathy theme, since I start my 5th graders off with that, or a global issues theme, since I'm starting off my 6th graders with that theme topic.  OR,  I could do a writing theme since I want to get my students excited about writing.  Yikes! 

     After thinking about my classroom goals, I decided I'm going to go with a creativity theme.  In the light of CCSS, I want to make sure my students know that creativity, problem-solving, collaboration, wondering, questioning, and individuality are things I value in my classroom and students.  Test prep is going to run rampant this year since we're fully adopting Common Core, and  I know it's important to prepare my students so they do well on those tests, but I want them to keep that spark of creativity!  I want them to see creative solutions in problems, ask questions, and tap into their creative reservoirs.  I teach students who are identified gifted in language arts, and I want to encourage them to think outside the box (especially those multiple choice boxes).  It's something I've been trying to nurture within myself, and I want to help encourage my students to do so, also.  Here are some books that will help us keep our creativity, questions, and problem-solving abilities alive:

What Do You Do with an Idea?
What Do You With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada
This story talks about what to do when an idea comes to you.  You nurture it - no matter how big, odd, or difficult. 
The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life
This memoir captivated me with its big, bold illustrations and photographs of all that makes Lois Ehlert the creative person she is.
The Most Magnificent Thing
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
Love, love, love this book!  This story inspired me when I was a little down about my own writing.  It addresses the frustration and temptation to give up when your first idea doesn't quite work.  Encourages the creative process, innovation, and persistence.
The Dot
The Dot by Peter Reynolds
Get ready for International Dot Day on September 15th!
  You probably already know and love this book, but it doesn't hurt to remind you to get it out again!
Beautiful Oops!
Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg
I love to share this book with my gifted students, many of whom are perfectionists.  This clever little picture books shows what can happen when you turn mistakes into works of art.
Caterina and the Lemonade Stand
I think this adorable book would work great incorporated into a social studies economics lesson.  It's all about problem-solving and how to stand out in a crowd.
The Day the Crayons Quit
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
My students love this book.  Think outside the box!  Who says the sky has to be blue and the grass green?
The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art
Wow - this book is so inspiring.  What seems to be a disability (possibly synesthesia), turns into a gift.  Artist Vasya Kandinsky becomes one of the pioneers of abstract art when he refuses to conform to the expectations of traditional art. (Pair this book with the novel, Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass.)
The Boy and the Airplane
I love the problem-solving creativity of the boy in this story.

How could I complete a list of books that encourage creativity without including my favorite picture book of 2013?!  Where can a red marker take you?
BONUS BOOK (you didn't think I could stop at 10, did you?)
Quest (Available August 26th)
Who is more excited about the 2nd book of the Journey trilogy than me?! Nobody! ;-)  I can't wait to see what creative and adventurous journey the boy and girl will go on next.
Ah, picture books.  I couldn't teach without them!  Thanks, Cathy and Mandy, for hosting this great event each year.