Sunday, November 30, 2014

Digilit Sunday - Padlet

      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. 
A little while ago, I was intrigued by an Instagram post by Katherine Sokolowski (katsok) about Padlet and how she was reading her students' read aloud responses even while she was home sick.  I asked her what the students were using.  It was Padlet.  She also blogged about it here. I know I've been introduced to Padlet before.  Franki Sibberson talked about and used it during one of her Choice Literacy online courses I took about digital learning.  It's funny how you can be introduced to something, think it's really cool, and then store it away so long you forget all about it.  It needs to come along at a time when you need it in order to use it.  This was the case for me.  I knew the response time during read aloud was getting stale and unproductive.  When I would leaf through readers' notebooks once in a while, I would see that some students weren't putting much effort into their responses.  Students would "turn and talk" after writing responses, but a lot of them sounded trite.  When I saw the Instagram post, I realized I was seeing a possible solution.
I decided to jump in and create a wall for our newest read aloud by Kirby Larson, Duke.  We read chapter 6, and then they responded.  I asked them to focus on fear and courage, since those are our current theme topics.  The second day, we experimented with inserting images.  Chapter 7 talked about the plane Hobie's father flew, so we looked it up.

My sixth graders are reading the play adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank, so they tested Padlet out, too.

Now, one of the questions we need to ask is, why use this technology at all?  How is it better than pencil and paper?  Well, I don't think it's necessarily better than pencil and paper, but the kids started buzzing right away.  Here are some things they said:

-I like seeing everyone else's responses.  It gives me ideas for future responses.
-My fingers get tired when I write.  Typing is so much easier.
-I wrote more than what I do in my notebook.

I see it as a great way to quickly assess their responses.  I can see whether or not they're responding instead of summarizing, reacting empathetically, getting nuances in the story, understanding characterization, affect of setting, figurative language, etc., and thinking deeply.  I could do those things with notebooks, too, but it would take longer, and quite honestly, I don't read them as often as I should.  I can also respond and put my thoughts on the wall for the kids to see.  I can choose exceptional responses and use them as mentor texts.  I can craft mini-lessons around what I notice. We can start discussions based on one or two of them.  I may not use Padlet every time we respond, or I will let them choose which way they'd rather respond. 


Created with Padlet

There are many more videos if you search Padlet.  I'm looking forward to using it in multiple ways!  If you already use Padlet, let me know how you use it!!


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Celebration Saturday

I love linking up to a wonderful celebratory community, inspired by Ruth Ayres, every Saturday!
What a great Thanksgiving week!  So much to celebrate!
- Dinner with Libby's fiancĂ©'s family, the Stagnaros, last Saturday night at our house.  Jamie has a wonderful family (he's one of 10 siblings!), and we have so much fun when we get together with them. 
                                                   Libby and her future sisters-in-law!
- My students finished up a biography project the day before we left for Thanksgiving break.  They read DK biographies and created monuments/memorials for their people.  They did a great job!  I'll write more about this in next week's Nonfiction Wednesday post.
Some even created 3-D ones!
- The girls both came home for the holidays!  Yay!  It was so nice to have them around.  Katie left last night since today is the big OSU/Michigan game.
- We went to a cake-tasting on Wednesday to choose a cake for the wedding.  We had so much fun!  It's going to be a beautiful and delicious cake!
  Libby, Jamie, and the Maid of Honor, Hannah. 
- No cooking on Thanksgiving day - woo-hoo!  Since we host Friends' Thanksgiving, I get my share of cooking, cleaning, and traditional Thanksgiving food.  Our families were in Florida this year, so we decided to book reservations at a restaurant instead of cooking.  It was delicious! After dinner we saw "Mockingjay Part 1," which we thought was very good, and then we had pie and coffee at Katie's boyfriend's family's house (his dad is our pastor).  It was a great way to end the day.
               Katie's "traditional" Thanksgiving meal and a sisters' snapshot by the Christmas tree

Perfect for our Christmas card this year!
Now we're excited about the Christmas season.  It's my favorite time of year.  We put our tree up yesterday, so we're ready!  Off to read YOUR celebrations!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Celebration Saturday

I love linking up to a wonderful celebratory community, inspired by Ruth Ayres, every Saturday!
I wasn't going to write a Celebrate This Week post this morning.  Not because I don't have anything to celebrate, but quite honestly, I was in a little bit of a funk.  I chose not to go to NCTE this year (LOVED it last year) for multiple reasons, and it's still the right decision.  However, I feel a little sad watching/reading about all the goings-on there.  It makes me want to be in DC right now!  There are amazing people, ideas, books, and writing at NCTE. There are some blogging friends I'd love to be meeting and ones I've already met and would love to see again.  Next year, I need to go! 
Then I started to read a couple Celebration posts and started thinking about all the great things that happened this past week.  I need to concentrate on the celebrations, not what I'm missing out on! Besides, there are a lot of great reasons to enjoy being home - like a date night with my husband last night, dinner tonight with Libby and Jamie and his family, writing time, and getting a chance to walk and then read after I finish this post!  I'll also catch up on some grading. That's what I love about the Celebration community - it makes you concentrate on the good stuff!  So, here goes...
1.  I started a new read aloud with my fifth graders.  We're continuing to think, read, and write about fear and courage.  I chose Duke by Kirby Larson.  It fits into our thinking perfectly.  It's historical fiction, which my classes explored through small group books, and it's about a boy living during WWII who feels like he isn't brave like the courageous men in his family.  He decides to donate his beloved German Shepherd, Duke, to the war effort by loaning him to Dogs for Defense.  At the end of one chapter, Duke is being driven away by the director of the organization.  It is heartbreaking.  The kids sat in stunned sadness when I closed the book for the day.  One student sighed and said, "I love when authors can make you feel emotion.  It makes it feel so real."  Yes!  I tweeted Kirby later that day. Here is her reply:
I continue to tout the importance and impact of reading aloud.  It creates community, encourages thinking, and promotes empathy.  I also love that authors like Kirby Larson are so willing to communicate with us!

2.  Speaking of read alouds, I'm doing a different kind of read aloud with my 6th graders.  The 6th graders are thinking, reading, and writing about social responsibility and leaving a legacy.  I chose the stage adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank for the class to read aloud together.  This play means a lot to me.  It brings back memories of playing the role of Miep when I was a freshman in high school.  I wrote about the experience and what Anne Frank symbolizes for me here in a previous blog post.  The kids volunteered for parts, which I'm changing every 3-4 scenes.  It's a great opportunity for them to study this genre and notice things like stage directions, set instructions, format, and characterization.  We're at the scene in which Anne and Peter have begun a somewhat romantic relationship.  Lots of giggles ensued.  It's cute.  It makes Anne and Peter real to them.  I hope to show the movie, also, after we're done.  We've enjoyed this different read aloud experience.
3.  SNOW DAY!!  After a wonderful weekend of celebrating friends during our 27th Friends' Thanksgiving party, I was exhausted!  It was a gift that I was able to sleep in on Monday and recover from the late nights and hosting responsibilities.  I was able to get the house back in order, rest, and read.  Perfect!  It also happened to be a BEAUTIFUL snow!

4.  Libby found her wedding dress!  I'm going to write about this more at length in a future Slice of Life post, but it is STUNNING, and it was such a fun experience the way it happened.  I also celebrate her engagement pictures.  A friend of theirs took them, and they turned out beautiful!
5.  Our cat is better!  Our poor cat, Faith, has been struggling with an illness for months now.  We really thought she was not going to make it.  Our vets, however, were able to diagnose her and prescribe just the right medicine, and she's on the mend!  She's a quirky cat, and I really didn't even realize how attached I was to her!  She's back to her old habits - collecting things around the house in her cat bowl, running around, and jumping up on my lap while I read and watch t.v.  I love when she perches on the windowsill to watch the birds...
Well, as usual, after writing a Celebration post, I feel much better!  I'm looking forward to dinner tonight with Libby's fiancĂ©'s family and the upcoming Thanksgiving week.  I wish all of you many blessings and celebrations during this holiday.  There are so many reasons to be thankful.  Happy Thanksgiving!


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Spiritual Journey Thursday - Gratitude

     I look forward to Thursdays when I can publish thoughts on my spiritual journey and hear the thoughts of others on a weekly theme topic.  It has become a space for an encouraging and fortifying community to come together.  We welcome anyone who would like to join us!
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
 - Thessalonians 5:18
     When I think about gratitude, I think about Ann Voskamp.  I was introduced to Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts through my future son-in-law's mother.  She and I were talking about books, and she recommended it to me.  I had never heard of Voskamp or her book, but I bought it right away, of course!  Here is my Goodreads review:
"Is there a greater way to love the Giver than to delight wildly in His gifts?" Through poetic, painful, and intense writing, even somewhat like stream-of-consciousness, Ann Voskamp, a popular blogger, works through her anxiety, self-loathing, and grief to come to the conclusion that true union with God only comes through gratitude. I saw that Caroline Starr Rose compared her to Annie Dillard (Voskamp even quotes her at one point) - yes! Favorite lines:
1. The only place we have to come before we die is the place of seeing God.
2. Why do I have spiritual Alzheimer's, always forgetting?
3. Fear is like this piano wire cutting round the wrists, life shackled, cutting deep, and the hands spasm, fists of control. Fear keeps a life small. (See what I mean about her writing?)
4. Worry can be our lunge for control and we forget the answer to this moment is always yes because of Christ.
5. Quote from Martin Luther: "God created the world out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us."
6. Quote from her mother: "Expectations kill relationships."
7. Quote from Mother Teresa: "If we pray the work...if we do it to Jesus, if we do it for Jesus, if we do it with Jesus...that's what makes us content."
8. Quote from C.S. Lewis: "If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it's not so bad."
I'm going to look into her Bible study for a possible class offering at church. Be sure to visit her blog at I also discovered Holley Gerth's blog through her: Thank you to Lyn Stagnaro for recommending this book!

     I know that gratitude is the key to happiness.  I know that God calls us to be thankful through everything.  Sometimes I forget.  Sometimes I complain.  Sometimes I whine.  There are people hurting and experiencing hardships that I can't imagine, yet somehow, some way, they endure and even flourish. I know that the ones who flourish, through good times and bad, are the ones who can be grateful and thank Him through all circumstances. 

     This past weekend when I looked around our kitchen as we were hosting our 27th Friends' Thanksgiving,  ready to serve the meal,  and I saw it so full of the family and friends I love, I wondered how God can be so generous.  I saw all those amazing young people - people who are so full of faith and promise, and I was so grateful.  They will graduate from college in a few short months, and I have no doubt they will go out and follow God.  Some will get jobs, some will travel overseas, some will teach, some will get married.  I'm grateful that Libby found a life partner who is so perfect for her.  I'm grateful Katie is happy at OSU. I'm grateful I have a wonderful husband of 25 years.  I'm grateful for a tradition that may have sparked future traditions.  I'm grateful for lasting friendships. I'm grateful for good neighbors.  I'm grateful for abundant food.  I'm grateful for a home. I'm even grateful for my dog and cat!  In this Thanksgiving season and beyond, thank you God - forever we'll lift up Your name...

Libby's friend, Chris, will sing this song at the wedding ceremony.
Ann Voskamp

Come back in TWO weeks to Spiritual Journey Thursday.  I'll be unplugging on Thanksgiving day!

Wednesday, November 19, 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.

I finished this book for the #SharpSchu November Book Club, and wow! It's so full of amazing information and incredible art. The beginning opens up with suspense and tension as a shark approaches unsuspecting prey. It culminates in a shocking and wild two-page illustration of the shark getting the seal. What follows is lots of information and fascinating facts on sharks. I loved the diagram of the shark looking like an airplane as Roy explains how he has a perfect body for hunting. Great Author's Note in the back. This book is sure to be a hit with your students!  It will be great to use with our literary nonfiction unit since the beginning is a suspenseful narrative.  Be sure to check out the SharpSchu recap - we had a great time discussing this picture book along with two others.

Harlem Hellfighters
The Men of Bronze, the Black Rattlers, the Harlem Hellfighters - J. Patrick Lewis tells us about the first all-black U.S. combat unit to be shipped overseas during WWI. Not only were they touted as tenacious by the Germans because in 191 days of duty at the front they never had any men captured nor ground taken, but the 369th Infantry's regimental band, conducted by James Reese Europe, was credited with introducing American jazz to France and the rest of Europe. I love Patrick's description of their music: "Europe's big band 'jazz spasm,' riffing to ten pianos, turned listeners' bones to liquid - cymbal-cornet-clarinet clash coursing in the blood." Gary Kelley's illustrations are emotionally raw, with dark tones accented with patriotic red, white, and blue. This book packs a powerful punch.  I'll be featuring it again in a NYT Best Illustrated Books of 2014 post soon.

Off to read what nonfiction YOU'RE reading!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Slice of Life - 27th Friends' Thanksgiving

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 don't even know where to start telling this past weekends' stories!  It was our 27th Friends' Thanksgiving weekend.  I've blogged about this tradition before, and I continue to be amazed at what this weekend brings.  This year we had 35 people.  My friend, Annie, who lives in State College, PA, picked up Ellie, my friend, Jill's, college daughter at Point Park U. in Pittsburgh to bring her here Fri night.  My other friend, Karan's, daughter, Shannon,  picked up Katie Sat. morning at OSU.  Libby and her Miami U.  and Lebanon High School friends came Sat. evening after bridesmaid dress shopping (more on that  in a later blog post - that's another story), and my neighbors right next door joined us as well.  Two of Ellie's high school friends also came.  I loved that one of them exclaimed, "This is the coolest thing I've ever been to!"  The house got fuller and fuller, louder and louder! 
     Before dinner we had a champagne toast to our two Miami U. engaged couples (I spilled champagne all over the place while opening the bottle and pouring - so much for graceful service).  Libby toasted Bobby, our friend who died three years ago and whom we miss terribly.  We said a prayer thanking God for our blessings of friendship and family and dug into the food!  We cooked a 25 lb. turkey, homemade dressing that required 10 loaves of bread, pounds and pounds of mashed potatoes, an 8 lb. spiral ham, two casserole dishes of candied sweet potatoes, a crockpot full of buttered noodles, two loaves of handmade braided challah bread, two pans of gravy, two giant bowls of salad,  cranberry sauce (over which there is a battle about what's better - from a can or real cranberries - with Libby's friend, Graham), and pumpkin pie for dessert.  It was amazing that there was enough to feed everyone and even end up with leftovers!!  After dinner there was a songfest, led by Chris, one of Libby's friends who plays the guitar, after he serenaded us with "Rise," the song that he'll sing for Libby and Jamie's wedding.
     Next year, we don't know who will join us.  Each year brings its mystery guests, and some of the kids may or may not come due to schedules.  The seniors in college may decide to skip ours and start their own (Jill even gave a roasting pan to the future married couple, Libby and Jamie,  since they're the ones who may host their friends).  The younger college kids may bring new friends.  Who knows what next year may bring - we didn't know that this year would bring a snow storm Sunday night!
     We know that the moments we all get together are precious.  We know that 27 years celebrating this tradition is a rare gift of friendship and family.  We know that this life on Earth is temporary and that we need to make the most of it.  We know that God has blessed us.  We are filled with gratitude!

Monday, November 17, 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.
This wordless book captivated me, just like Boyd's Inside Outside. It's so clever! I enjoyed the quiet and calm mood, the creative cutouts, the curiosity of the boy, and the humorous twist when the forest creatures decide to take a turn with the flashlight.  Kids will really enjoy this exploration of nature.

Outlaw Pete

Be duly warned: this is not a children's book! If you know this song by Bruce Springsteen, though, you would know that immediately. However, I had to have it, and I had to rate it 5 stars because it's a brilliant song (as are 99% of Bruce songs), and I loved the art. I may use it with my 6th graders, but not my 5th graders. It would be great to use in the upper grades, however. Be sure to share the Afterword with them. It's quintessential Bruce.
Voyage by Billy Collins, illustrated by Karen Romagna
A lyrical journey on the ocean turns into a magical reading adventure. The blues and yellows in the illustrations, the happy dolphin, the smiling moon, the swashbuckling pirate, and the transformations of the boat contribute to a wonderful poetic story.
Leaving Time
The interweaving of elephant grief research, the mother/daughter bond, and the missing persons/murder investigation is fascinating. I love how Picoult builds a story. I also love the multiple first person points of view in which she writes. I can't say too much or I'll spoil the famous Picoult twist, but I would have been more amazed by it if I hadn't read a book with such a similar one in the recent past. I'll be recommending it, though, and passing my copy around. I didn't think it was as good as The Storyteller and My Sister's Keeper, but it was among my favorites of hers.
Listen to an audio excerpt here.
Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace I'll Give You the Sun
Landline Son (The Giver, #4)
What are YOU reading this week?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Spiritual Journey Thursday - Difference Maker

     I look forward to Thursdays when I can publish thoughts on my spiritual journey and hear the thoughts of others on a weekly theme topic.  It has become a space for an encouraging and fortifying community to come together.  We welcome anyone who would like to join us!
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. -Ephesians 2:8-10
I chose the topic this week, be a difference maker, because #ReadWalkWater, an event we started at my school last year, was coming up again last Friday.  This event, one we hope to continue as an annual tradition, was inspired because of the Linda Sue Park book, A Long Walk to Water.  You can read all about the initial plan here, and last year's results here. Our school's 6th graders have been thinking, writing, and reading about social injustices and social responsibility, and the walk resulted in the kids reflecting about how they can make a difference in the world.  They were inspired.

Our school counselor arranged for Matthew 25 Ministries to pick up the gallon jugs of water the kids bought and carried!

The week approaching the walk, however, was a stressful one.  There were a lot of details to check off the list, lots of communication that needed to take place with those involved, and many things to arrange.  At one point I actually wondered why I got involved in the whole thing!  Not only was I helping to plan the walk, but I had mountains of papers to grade, lesson plans to write, and things to take care of around the house. Then I read this interview about the NeedtoBreathe song, "Difference Maker." (I know I seem to use their music a lot in these posts!)  The song is actually a complicated one - I was glad to hear them explain it.

Whew.  I needed to let go and follow His lead.  I needed to remember that making a difference was for God, and I didn't have to make it perfect.  It's not about us, it's not about our school, it's not about our staff - it's not even about our students.  It's about God's gift.  It's about surrendering to His plan for us and the world.  If there was a difference that was going to be made, He was going to do it through us.  I could relax.  I could let Him work.  As it turns out, the walk was great. Funds are coming in, and we're excited about the potential well that our school could help build.  We hope to make a difference in the lives of people who won't need to walk miles for water every day.  They can go to school, have access to health care, and drink clean water.  There were many people who helped in our school and community to make this good work happen, but none of it could have happened without Him.
"You start making a difference at the minute you realize you are not capable of making it by yourself." - Bear, NeedtoBreathe
You may recognize "Difference Maker" from THE GIVER...


Wednesday, November 12, 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.
Fall Leaves
Fall Leaves by Loretta Holland, illustrations by Elly MacKay
Everything I've heard about this book is true - it's beautiful! It will become one of my literary nonfiction mentor texts for my classroom. The illustrations are amazing. Nonfiction done with poetry is becoming one of my favorite genres/formats.   Speaking of that, I just read this next one...
Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold
The cover of this beautiful, informative book captured my interest right away. It's gorgeous! The rest of the book doesn't disappoint. Sidman's wonderful poetry and Rick Allen's absolutely captivating prints combine to make this a must-have for the classroom library. Informational paragraphs follow up each poem, teaching us about tundra swans, snowflakes, honeybees, voles, chickadees, and more. I'm looking forward to sharing this with my students in December when I do a winter unit on figurative language and sensory details using short texts. 
Read a Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast interview with Rick Allen here.
Here Is the World: A Year of Jewish Holidays
I was especially captivated by the illustrations in this book about Jewish holidays. This is a great introduction to the traditions surrounding the Jewish holidays with more information in the back. I loved the emphasis on family. 
                 The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse
The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrations by Hadley Hooper
I love the focus of this Henry Matisse biography - his mother's inspiration. Matisse's mother encouraged creativity and loved color, which helped Matisse look at the world's light and movement. I enjoyed Hooper's relief printing illustrations, especially the two-page spread with young Matisse on the left side of the ladder and adult Matisse on the right with the red background. Pair up with Henri's Scissors by Jeannette Winter.
Joltin' Joe DiMaggio
2014-book, biography, nonfiction, nonfiction-challenge-2014, picture-book, sports

Joe had three strikes against him: he was supposed to become a fisherman like his dad, he was an Italian American in a prejudiced time, and he barely said a word. Those things didn't stop him at all, though. He loved baseball, and he was so good at it that the New York Yankees AND his dad approved. He played baseball for the Yankees through the Great Depression and in 1941, he tied the American League hitting streak record that George Sisler had set in 1922. He didn't stop his hitting streak, making it through 56 games, a record that still stands today. Big, bold language and dynamic, expressive illustrations join to make this an entertaining read for all readers, not just baseball fans. An Author's Note & Stats give extra information in the back.
What I'll read this afternoon to get ready for the November SharpSchu Book Club: