Sunday, September 28, 2014

Digilit Sunday - Public Service Announcements

      I love that Margaret Simon has started a Sunday Link Up for posts about digital literacy at her blog to challenge us to share our technology journeys.  
     I'm excited about the upcoming week with my 6th graders.  We've been reading, writing, and discussing around the theme topic SOCIAL INJUSTICE.  Each student chose a nonfiction book about a social injustice, many of them historical like the Holocaust, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the women's suffrage movement, and the Negro Baseball League.  Some are reading about modern-day social injustices like Malala's story and the right to girls' education in Afghanistan.  We're also reading A Long Walk to Water and talking about the water crisis, which will culminate in our #ReadWalkWater fundraising project.  The unit is wrapping up, and next week I thought it  would be fun to make public service announcements concerning the social injustices about which they read in their nonfiction books.  Some will need to put them in historical contexts.  Public service announcements teach students about persuasive techniques, research skills, and reading images.  

     First, we're going to watch some of YouTube's top PSAs, discuss, and identify their characteristics. We'll chart them and have them on display as they work.  Students have already filled out research sheets that required facts and figures about their topics, who they want to target in their PSAs, and images they think they will use.  They'll write scripts and decide things like voice-overs, whether they'll use still images or film skits, etc.  

     Because technology is so exciting and the possibilities vast, I sometimes jump into things without knowing everything about what I'm going to use with students.  We sometimes figure it out together. My 6th graders know this about me - this is our third year together, and I have some techie whiz kids who teach ME as we experiment with some of these things.  I wasn't sure what kind of movie/video making tool to use with this.  Some kids will want to use their phones and iMovie or whatever app they've found on their personal devices which will be fine, but for those who don't have a personal device, we have Chromebooks.  Therefore, I wanted to investigate tools we could use with them.  I found WeVideo, and tweeted Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) to find out if he knew anything about it.  He tweeted back that it was great, so we're going to go with that and see what happens! 

     I would love to hear from you if you have any suggestions for us with this project.  Maybe some of you have already created PSAs with your students and can share your ideas.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Poetry Friday

     This week I want to celebrate two singer/songwriters (who are really poets) - one country and one rock-n-roll.  The first one is Johnny Cash.  I read a picture book biography of him this week and brought it to class.  I brought it to school and tried to book talk to a student looking for nonfiction, but he had no idea who Johnny Cash was and wasn't really interested in finding out.  He chose the Mr. Ferris biography instead.  That's okay, but it still made me a little sad.  I'll try again!  If you haven't seen it yet, here it is.  It's especially appropriate to share today because it's all told in free verse!

Hello, I'm Johnny Cash
Hello, I'm Johnny Cash by G. Neri, illustrated by A.G. Ford
One of my favorite songs by him is Folsom Prison Blues:
I hear the train a comin'
It's rollin' 'round the bend,
And I ain't seen the sunshine,
Since, I don't know when,
I'm stuck in Folsom Prison,
And time keeps draggin' on,
But that train keeps a-rollin',
On down to San Antone.

When I was just a baby,
My Mama told me, "Son,
Always be a good boy,
Don't ever play with guns,"
But I shot a man in Reno,
Just to watch him die,
When I hear that whistle blowin',
I hang my head and cry.

I bet there's rich folks eatin',
In a fancy dining car,
They're probably drinkin' coffee,
And smokin' big cigars,
But I know I had it comin',
I know I can't be free,
But those people keep a-movin',
And that's what tortures me.

Well, if they freed me from this prison,
If that railroad train was mine,
I bet I'd move out over a little,
Farther down the line,
Far from Folsom Prison,
That's where I want to stay,
And I'd let that lonesome whistle,
Blow my Blues away.
I also want to celebrate Bruce Springsteen today, who turned 65 this week!  My husband is a huge fan of Springsteen, and we've been to several of his concerts.  He's another amazing poet and musician.  Ed used to sing Thunder Road to our oldest daughter, Libby, as a lullaby. 

 The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey, that's me and I want you only
Don't turn me home again, I just can't face myself alone again
Don't run back inside, darling, you know just what I'm here for
So you're scared and you're thinking that maybe we ain't that young anymore
Show a little faith, there's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty but, hey, you're alright
Oh, and that's alright with me

You can hide 'neath your covers and study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a savior to rise from these streets
Well now, I ain't no hero, that's understood
All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood
With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey, what else can we do now?
Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair
Well, the night's busting open, these two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back, heaven's waiting on down the tracks

Oh oh, come take my hand
We're riding out tonight to case the promised land
Oh oh oh oh, Thunder Road
Oh, Thunder Road, oh, Thunder Road
Lying out there like a killer in the sun
Hey, I know it's late, we can make it if we run
Oh oh oh oh, Thunder Road
Sit tight, take hold, Thunder Road

Well, I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk
And my car's out back if you're ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door's open but the ride ain't free
And I know you're lonely for words that I ain't spoken
But tonight we'll be free, all the promises'll be broken

There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets
They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
And in the lonely cool before dawn
You hear their engines rolling on
But when you get to the porch, they're gone on the wind
So Mary, climb in
It's a town full of losers, I'm pulling out of here to win.
I'm looking forward to the picture book coming out by Bruce in November!
Outlaw Pete
Outlaw Pete by Bruce Springsteen, illustrated by Frank Caruso
I love pointing out to students who may be less than enthusiastic about poetry that song lyrics are poems, and these two writers/artists/musicians are two of the best ever!
Head on over to Laura Purdie Salas's place (I love her books, Water Can Be... and A Leaf Can Be..., and so do my students!) for the Poetry Roundup!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Spiritual Journey Thursday - Communion

Every Thursday, I explore different aspects of my spiritual journey, and I ask anyone else who would also like to write about their spiritual journeys to link up below.  I've learned so much from the posts of those who share their thoughts. defines COMMUNION as:
1:  an act or instance of sharing
2: capitalized a Christian sacrament in which consecrated bread and wine are consumed as memorials of Christ's death or as symbols for the realization of a spiritual union between Christ and communicant or as the body and blood of Christ 

b :  the act of receiving Communion
c capitalized :  the part of a Communion service in which the sacrament is received
3:  intimate fellowship or rapport :  communication
4:  a body of Christians having a common faith and discipline

I love how all of these definitions are about togetherness.  About spending time with God and one another, breaking bread - whether that be figuratively or literally.  I could write a post about any of these - I have some funny stories about church shopping and my daughters making mistakes during Communion because they didn't know the customs of the church (and we neglected to clue them in).  I could also write about #4 - I'm really enjoying this definition right now through a small group I'm hosting.  However, I'm going to talk about 3 today and how Jesus wants us to commune with Him.  How He wants a relationship with us.
I will admit it.  I am not good at setting aside a daily quiet time with God.  This is something I have started and stopped far too many times to mention.  I want to, and when I do, I know I am walking closer with Him and am pleasing Him.  But it does not come naturally yet.  I know I have to actively make this a commitment. So many things pull me away from it.  Some day I hope to celebrate the fact that I have achieved perfect fellowship with Him and communicate with Him all the time, the way we are instructed.  We can only know God's Word and know what He wants if we slow down and spend time with Him. 
Cheryl, one of the women I went to Czech Republic with this summer, gave everyone on the mission team a devotional called Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young.  We spent time every day with this devotional while we were there.  It made a huge difference in how I was able to focus, stay energized, and feel purposeful.  I've tried hard to read it daily every day since.  Each devotion seems to have an uncanny way of "speaking" to me.  I know this is not Sarah's supernatural ability.  It's because every time we sit with Jesus and listen to Him, He knows our heart and wants to share His wisdom and love.  He speaks to every human ailment, want, desire, hurt, longing, and more in His Word.  Scripture after scripture addresses our needs, failings, and potential.  There have been times, when I'm paying attention, that God speaks to me - not anything audible - just a knowing, or a song lyric, or a word.  Why don't I sit and listen more often?!  He knows what I need, and if I listened more, I would know what He wants for me and from me.
So today, I will start, once again (I will get it right one of these days, won't I?) to stop, slow down, listen, commune.  My favorite scripture is Psalm 46:10 - "Be Still and Know That I am God."  Only in stillness can I know Him. 

Wednesday, September 24, 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.
Lots of great biography reading this week!
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus
I don't know why I bothered to get this from the library because, of course, I'm going to buy it! It's another brilliant project created by the amazing duo Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet. I could pour over Sweet's illustrations forever. What an interesting man Roget was! Great timeline and author's/illustrator's notes at the end. Just gorgeous.
With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School
"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed." - Booker T. Washington. Booker T. Washington realized that even though slavery had ended, he could only truly be free with an education. He built a school brick by brick in order to give others a chance, too. Amazing. I enjoyed the watercolor illustrations.
Hello, I'm Johnny Cash
I was so excited to see this biography in the library.  I miss Johnny Cash.  I grew up listening to Cash's music since my dad was a big fan.  I loved the illustrations by A.G. Ford - he captured Cash's presence and stance.  Cash had a complicated life, and his music captured the pain and joy.  I'm glad kids can be introduced to such a gifted musician through this book.  It cleans up his life a bit, but some of his darker times are touched upon in the author's note.
Mr. Ferris and His Wheel
I love George Ferris's story and his determination to build something as far-fetched as his wheel. The illustrations are in purple, pink, and blue hues, capturing the lights and blue skies of Chicago. I can't imagine what it must have been like to be one of the first people up in those cars!
Viva Frida

This is such a unique book. I think it takes several times through to completely appreciate it since there is only spare text (Spanish and English). It is not a biography in the sense that it's main purpose is to teach you all about Frida Kahlo. It seems to me the purpose is to experience her creativity and luminosity through Morales's own art and poetic language. The puppets and settings Morales created for the book are incredible - I'd love to see her studio! If you want more information about Kahlo and how the book shows her work and life, read the author's note at the end first.

Another book by the Slade/Tadgell team! 
My students just finished reading a play adapted from Frederick Douglass's autobiography, so I think they'll enjoy reading this biography about the friendship of he and Susan B. Anthony. I thought it was interesting that the two also battled with each other at times. Their friendship of 45 years lasted until Douglass's death in 1895. Douglass lived long enough to see both the 13th and 15th Amendments pass, but unfortunately, Anthony died 14 years before the 19th Amendment. Both endured hardships trying to fight for the equal rights of African Americans and women - we owe a lot to them.
What nonfiction did YOU read this week?  I really enjoyed reading about these fascinating people!

Monday, September 22, 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. 


SO cute - young children will just love this story about a thieving, troublesome raccoon and the boy who takes the fall for his antics. Great, humorous illustrations that tell much of the story.
Telephone by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jen Corace 
As a message gets passed from one bird to another along the telephone wire, it gets all messed up! Funny twist at the end with the wise old owl. Kids will love this one. Great illustrations!
This quirky and charming story proves that friendship is much better than being alone. Mr. Brown finds that out when birds take up residence in his hat. The illustrations made me smile.  
I seemed to pick up several books featuring birds this week! 
I was drawn to this book at the bookstore because of it's beautiful cover. What gorgeous illustrations and writing. This would make a wonderful mentor text for the writing workshop. I would also use it for teaching theme - when to let go and when to hang on.  The only think that made me laugh, though, is I doubt that Spaniel would've befriended the grouse in real life. I had a Spaniel once.;-)


El Deafo by Cece Bell

2014-book, character-development, characters-with-disabilities, empathy, graphic-novel, identity, intermediate-kids-book, memoir

My students are going to love this graphic novel memoir about Cece Bell who, after a childhood illness, experienced hearing loss. It's honest, funny, and poignant. I had to laugh about Cece being able to hear her teacher everywhere she went, including the bathroom, because of the microphone she wore so Cece could hear her in the classroom. I had a student one year who needed the same device, and I made sure I turned it off whenever I left the classroom! I can't keep Raina Telgemeier's Smile and Sisters on the shelf, and I'm sure the kids will feel the same about this one.
Last night's #nctechat was on graphic novels and comics.  It was a great conversation.  Read the archive here.

This is my first time through the rest of The Giver series. Gathering Blue had the same mysterious and chilling affect on my as The Giver. Kira's discovery of the truth behind her cruel society is much like Jonas's. I'm looking forward to moving on to Messenger to see how all these stories might come together. I was inspired to read all the books after seeing The Giver movie. 
The Secret Hum of a Daisy
The Eleventh Plague
My family loves to read, too!

My mom:

Me Before You

My dad:

The Tall Men

Libby (21):

Marianas in Combat: Tete Puebla & the Mariana Grajales Women's Platoon in Cuba's Revolutionary War, 1956-58

Katie (18):

Into the Wild

What are YOU reading this week?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Celebration Saturday - The Cybils Awards!

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!!
     My big celebratory news is that I was selected as a Round 2 Middle Grade Fiction Judge for the 2014 Cybils Awards!
     This children's and young adult bloggers' literary award is something I've followed for several years now, especially since I've started blogging and following blogs.  I always get excited about book award lists, and this is one of the best.  It's very exciting to be a part of the selection process.  I'll be serving as a Round 2 Judge with Alex Baugh (@randomlyreading), Terry Doherty (@thereadingtub), Jennifer Donovan (@5M4B), and Heidi Grange (@GeoLibrarian).  The chair is Karen Yingling (MsYingling).  After visiting all their excellent literary blogs, I'm even more amazed and humbled that I was chosen.  Be sure to join in on the nominating process beginning October 1st.  Bring on the books!


Friday, September 19, 2014

Poetry Friday

     I have recently connected with Carol Varsalona online through Twitter and blogging. We have been participating in several of the same memes.  She is creative, thoughtful, and smart.  I love making these meaningful connections through social media and the blogosphere!   This week she unveiled a project she's been working on, and I'm delighted to be a part of it.  I had this poem on a previous Poetry Friday post, but it's fun to see it framed and included in Carol's project.  Take a look at her Summer Serenity Gallery in order to enjoy some amazing poetry and photography.  There are several Poetry Friday folks featured!  Be sure to peruse the gallery and bring back the serenity and joys of summer.  OH, how I miss summer already! 

Hop on over to Amy's blog for the Poetry Roundup today!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Spiritual Journey Thursday - Forgiveness

Every Thursday, I explore different aspects of my spiritual journey, and I ask anyone else who would also like to write about their spiritual journeys to link up below.  I've learned so much from the posts of those who share their thoughts.

     Last week, I saw an extraordinary and tragic story on "Good Morning America."  It was about the family of an Arizona shooting-range instructor who was accidentally shot and killed by a 9-year-old girl.  The children of the man were speaking out to the 9-year-old, telling her they were thinking about and praying for her, hoping she was okay.  They wanted her to know they forgave her.  Unfortunately, the video wouldn't embed, but you can read the story and watch the video here.

     I don't share this story to open up a conversation about gun safety, rights, or control.  I share it because I thought the children's reaction was so moving.  We've all heard stories of family members of other victims, not necessarily accidental ones, forgive their assailants, also.  And we know that Jesus forgave his crucifiers by saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." These are the ultimate examples of forgiveness.  We are called to forgive on a much smaller scale most of the time; and it is even difficult for us to do that.  In Matthew 6 we are instructed to "Forgive people when they sin against you. If you do, your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive people their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."  He forgives us so wholly: "He has removed our lawless acts from us as far as the east is from the west." - Psalm 103:12.  We must do the same for others. 

Wednesday, September 17, 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.
     A couple weeks ago, I wrote a Nonfiction Wednesday post about what nonfiction my fifth graders were reading in order to explore their theme topic, EMPATHY.  This week, I'd like to share some of the nonfiction my 6th graders are reading around the theme topic SOCIAL INJUSTICE.  We're reading A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park in order to gear up for our #ReadWalkWater initiative and fundraiser.  Our Walk for Water is scheduled for November 7th.  We're excited to get started on raising funds for a well in Southern Sudan.  Meanwhile, we're looking at other global issues, human rights issues, and social injustice.  My sixth graders are ready for longer picture books and other longer nonfiction works, so these are not all exactly picture books.
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
I have several girls reading this book this month.  There is also a younger readers' version.  We read an article in Scope Magazine about her, and several of my sixth graders were interested in learning more about her.  What a brave young woman she is!
This is the third year I've taught my current sixth graders.  We studied the civil rights unit in 4th grade together, so many of them are revisiting that topic with a more sophisticated eye this year.
In sixth grade, kids become fascinated with the Holocaust.  Many of them ask questions about why social injustices happen.  They want to ask, why didn't they resist?  This book answers some of those questions.  Some of them did!!  We will be exploring what kind of people stand up against social injustices.  This book highlights those amazing resisters. 
I LOVED this book when I listened to it on audio not too long ago.  I'm so pleased that the kids who chose to read this book are devouring it and telling me how good it is. 
This book fascinated me when I first read it.  Discrimination was alive and well in the military, but these men dared to show their courage and abilities during World War II.  Another wonderful book by Tanya Lee Stone that shows injustices, this time against women, is Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared To Dream.
What are some nonfiction books you direct your students toward when thinking about social injustices?

Monday, September 15, 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. 

Laugh with the Moon

This is one of our small group book choices for our 6th grade theme SOCIAL INJUSTICE in September. Thirteen-year-old Clare is hurting from her mother's death, and now her father has dragged her to Africa where he'll be working in a local hospital, and she'll be attending the village school. She is furious with her father and just wants to be home. When they arrive in Malawi, she is greeted by a large monkey drinking a Coke. This is just the beginning of feeling like a fish out of water. However, through her friendship with Memory, a tragedy involving Memory's brother, and teaching English and theater to the young students at Mzanga Full Primary School, she discovers "home" can be found in the African jungle. I loved the parts that describe Clare teaching English to the young children - she uses a lot ideas that we used when teaching at the English camp in our recent trip to Czech Republic (Simon Says, bingo cards, "Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" and hokey-pokey), and I remember sweating like she did on the first day!!
Shooting Kabul
This is another small group book for our SOCIAL INJUSTICE unit. It's perfect timing since we just talked about September 11th, and they're in the middle of reading it. It explores the journey of Fadi from Kabul, Afghanistan to California. His family fled Afghanistan because of the Taliban, but because of terrible circumstances, they had to leave his little sister, Miriam behind. Fadi blames himself. Once he is in the U.S., 9/11 happens, and then he has to endure prejudice as well. His photography and a chance to win a trip to India may give him a chance to find her again.  The story is fascinating and gives kids a chance to learn a lot about the Taliban, the war on terror, and what prejudice and fear can lead to.
Going Bovine
This is one trippy Wizard of Oz/Alice's Adventures in Wonderlandlike, weird story!! It has one of the funniest beginnings I've ever read, but man. It is very strange.  Sixteen-year-old Cameron gets Mad Cow disease and is told he's going to die.  And that's when the crazy road trip begins.  I did laugh a lot.  Get ready for one wild ride!  IF you even want to go on this trip...
El Deafo The Secret Hum of a Daisy
Gathering Blue (The Giver #2)
What are YOU reading this week?