Sunday, January 31, 2016

DigiLit Sunday - Balancing Rubrics

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.
Credit for photo goes to The Inspired Classroom blog
Margaret chose BALANCE as the theme topic for today's DigiLit Sunday posts.  I almost skipped writing today because I didn't have an idea for BALANCE right away, but then I thought of an experience with my 6th graders this week and a dinner conversation with teacher friends.  The experience and discussion revolved around rubrics.
I teach gifted 5th and 6th grade ELA.   I'm the teacher of record, and I have the same group (give or take a couple of newly identified kids, move-ins, or opt outs) for two years.  This is a wonderful thing because I can see amazing growth and can build on skills I've taught.  I know my students well and can plan accordingly.  One of the things I consistently do is provide rubrics for all our papers and projects. Some of these rubrics I make myself, while others are written by district teachers from Common Core guidelines.   I post them on Google Classroom along with examples or patterns for the kids to consult when they do an assignment.  They've become very efficient at using these guidelines and expect them for everything we do.  They certainly make writing and grading easier.
Earlier this week, I posed two questions over a play and an article we read.  They were to synthesize the texts and compare the subjects of both in order to answer the questions.  Right away, one of my brightest and best writers asked, "Where is the rubric for this?"  I responded that there wasn't a rubric.  They needed to make their own decisions on structure and content.  I told them they know a lot as writers by now, so they can pull from their experiences and answer the questions effectively and thoroughly.  They could pull from past rubrics and patterns.  Twenty faces looked back at me blankly.  They started protesting and arguing.  I had a mutiny on my hands (I'm exaggerating, of course)!  They were at a loss and very uncomfortable.
Uh oh.  What had I done?  Had I created automatons?  Were they so conditioned to write and "create" within boundaries and expectations that they didn't know what to do when left to their own devices?
Not long ago, my friend who works in higher education posted this commentary, "Resolving to Be Better (Rated)", by a professor, Rob Jenkins.  In it, he remarked, "I do give credence to a few reviews that made a related complaint: I’m not always as clear as I could be about my expectations. While I explain my grading standards and process early in the semester, I’ve never been a big fan of rubrics, which I find limiting and artificial. However, I see now that I probably need an actual document, something rubric-like that I can share with students to help them understand what’s expected of them and how they will be evaluated."  This sparked a reaction by an art teacher friend who is frustrated by the lack of rubrics at her daughter's university.   At dinner on Friday, we talked about how kids need/want to have clear expectations, so rubrics are necessary and good.  However, I told my friends about my 6th graders' reactions when not provided with a rubric and said it was good for them to have to figure out what to do on their own once in a while - for the exact reason that, in the future, they won't always have specific guidelines for assignments and projects.  They don't always provide rubrics or frameworks in business, either.
I talked to my daughter and husband about this - they're both business people - and asked their opinions.  Libby said she loved rubrics in school because she didn't like being docked for things that weren't explicitly called out.  Understandable.  However, she said experiences with more ambiguous assignments would have been good because that's how real jobs are.  Ed shared that successful businesses value people who can be given a project and construct their own "road maps" on how to accomplish the task.  Collaboration is accepted and encouraged during that process, but ultimately, businesses want people who can move forward based on past experiences and knowledge without specific, step-by-step guidelines. 
Through these conversations, I conclude we need a balance.  When something new is given to kids, they need specific guidelines.  We're teaching in an outcome-based educational system right now, so we have to give kids specific steps to reach those outcomes, but that is not necessarily all good - it's possibly stifling creativity and critical thinking.  With such specific outcomes, we're not encouraging kids' own thinking.  In the beginning of teaching a new kind of structure or format, we need to be specific and provide rubrics.  After that, however, we need to be encouraging kids to construct their own plans and rubrics - they could collaborate on that kind of activity.  Put the learning and outcomes in THEIR hands.  Jason Augustowski, a teacher I heard speak at NCTE in November, talked about that (his students were part of the panel, and they were awesome).  He shows his kids the Common Core standards, has them break down what the standards mean, and then leaves it up to them to design how they'll show mastery.  Wow. 
You may already be doing these kinds of things with your students.  What are your thoughts on balancing rubrics and ambiguous assignments?  How do you use rubrics in the classroom?  Who writes them?  How are they written? Do your kids write their own rubrics?   I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Celebration Saturday - Celebrating my #MustReadin2016 List


I love linking up to a wonderful celebratory community, inspired by Ruth Ayres, every Saturday!

     Carrie Gelson, at There's a Book for That, is hosting #MustReadin2016.  I enjoy participating in this book bonanza each year, so I'll try again!  I didn't get to a lot of my list last year, and many of them had been on my list the year before.  Therefore, this time, I'm just going to let those books completely go for now and make a brand new list!  I've tried to make this list as diverse as possible - in genre, subject matter, characters, etc. Here we go - celebrating my 2016 reading list!

1.  I don't think I've actually dreamed about a book before, so this might be a first.  Earlier this week, I dreamt I went to the bookstore and picked this off the shelf.  I think it's the cover that has intrigued me so much (it IS done by Jon Klassen, after all), along with all the buzz.  I don't have to wait long - comes out next week.  I can't wait to read it!

Pax by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen

2.  I recently finished Ally Carter's first installment of the Embassey Row series, so I'm ready for #2!

See How They Run by Ally Carter

3.  Let's face it: if Kate DiCamillo writes a new middle grade book, of course it has to be on a Must Read list!  I loved hearing her speak a couple times at NCTE 2015!  I have to wait until April to meet Raymie.

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

4.  Kirby Larson had a book birthday this past week, so it is time to take a trip to the bookstore to grab this first in a new series.  I can't wait to get to know Audacity! 

Audacity Jones to the Rescue

5.  This is already on Colby Sharp's "2017 Newbery Contenders" list.  If that isn't a reason to put it on my list, I don't know what is.  I have to wait until March for this one.

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager

6.  I will be seeing Rainbow Rowell at the OCTELA (Ohio Council of Teachers of English Language Arts) Convention at the end of February.  I adored Eleanor and Park and really enjoyed Fangirl and LandlineCarry On is her newest one, so I'm looking forward to it.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

7.  Here's another book Nerdy Book Club story folks have been talking about...

Lily and Dunkin

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

8.  I want to catch up on books that won ALA Youth Media Awards this year that I never got to read in 2015.  I was thrilled that I had already read all the Newbery and Caldecott winners.  However,  I hadn't read the Coretta Scott King Author Book Award winner, Gone Crazy in Alabama.  I read the first in the series, One Crazy Summer , so I need to catch up on P.S. Be Eleven, and then Gone Crazy.

P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia
READ 2/16


Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia
READ 2/16
10.  Because I've loved the Jason Reynolds books I've read, All American Boys and When I Was the Greatest, I'd like to read his Coretta Scott King Honor Award winner, Boy in the Black Suit.

Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

11.  I read the Printz Award winner, Bone Gap, but not the Honors, Out of Darkness and The Ghosts of Heaven, so they're on my list.

Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez


The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

13.  I read the Sibert Award winner, but I missed two of the books that won Sibert Honors:  The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club and Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March.

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose


Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom  by Lynda Blackmon Lowery
READ 2/16
15.  I want to read George and The Porcupine of Truth, the Stonewall Book Award winners.


George by Alex Gino
READ 2/16

The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg

17.  I know there was a lot of buzz around the William C. Morris Award winner, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, so it's on my list.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

18.  I love Steve Sheinkin's books, so I need to catch up on his YALSA Award-winning book, Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War.

Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin

19.  The last award winner I want to make sure I read is the Schneider Family Book Award for teens, The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B.  I read the other Schneider Award winners.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Roten

20.  I CAN'T WAIT for this one (April):

Booked by Kwame Alexander

21.  My students will be excited for Red!  We've read Rump and Jack, so we can't wait to read Red's story!  This one comes out in April, too.  April is going to be a great month for book birthdays!

Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood

22.  I'm hearing a lot of 2017 Printz buzz about this one:

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

23.  Marie Lu's second installment of the Young Elites series came out, so it's on my list!

The Rose Society by Marie Lu

24.  I need a few adult books and some professional books on my Must Read list, so here we go!  All the Light We Cannot See has been on my bookshelf for awhile.  One of these days this year, I will pick it up.  I know I'm going to love it.  It's a Pulitzer Prize winner, after all!

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

25.  This is our next book club book - we LOVED A Man Called Ove, his previous book:

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

26.  This is one I missed when there was a lot of buzz around it.  It's on my Kindle, waiting...

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

27.  Here's another one on my Kindle that I've yet to read and have heard lots about - I loved Big Little Lies:

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

28.  I need a book of poetry on my list, so I chose one of the National Book Award for Poetry finalist books that appealed to me...

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay

29.  Kate Morton's new one looks great!

The Lake House by Kate Morton

30.  The National Book Award for Nonfiction went to Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

31.  A National Book Award for Nonfiction finalist went to a book by Sy Montgomery, an author who also writes for children.  It sounds SO intriguing!

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

32.  And several professional books - I'm concentrating on writing instruction.
I know I should have read this a long time ago, but I'm finally reading it cover to cover!

Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson

33.  One of my colleagues told me this is a must read...

Writing with Mentors by Allison Marchetti and Rebekah O'Dell

34.  I love Lester Laminack and Reba Wadsworth, so I'll be reading this one:

Writers are Readers by Lester Laminack and Reba Wadsworth

35.  This new one by Ralph Fletcher looks awesome!

Making Nonfiction from Scratch by Ralph Fletcher

Wow - okay.  I could probably add a few more, but this is a pretty extensive list.  I need to stop making lists and start reading!!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Spiritual Journey Thursday - SELAH

 I look forward to Thursdays when I can publish thoughts on my spiritual journey and hear the thoughts of others on a weekly basis.  It has become a space for an encouraging and fortifying community to come together.  We welcome anyone who would like to join us!
For the next couple of months, we are writing about each other's One Little Words.  Please join us!  If you have a One Little Word this year and would like to explore the spiritual aspect of it, let me know, and I will add you to the schedule!  Today's OLW is Michelle Haseltine's word, SELAH.
      I wish I would stop and listen more.  I would feel so much better!  I tend to talk too much.  Say too much.  I need to just be quiet.  There are SO many verses in the Bible that advise us to be quiet, listen, take counsel, don't be foolish with words. 
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning (repentance) and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15
     I wonder what would happen if I paused more - waited to speak.  Listened to the music around me. Listened more to my students.  My friends.  My family.  God.  Nature.  Stepped away from being busy, busy, busy.  Reflected upon the important things.  Time is going so fast.  Thank you, Michelle, for choosing a somewhat mysterious word.  A beautiful word.  Pause.  Reflect.  Stop.  Listen.
     Did you know there is a Christian band called Selah?  Perfect band name, perfect song to remember to slow down and appreciate what God has given us.  I have two children, one married and another in college, so I can totally relate to these lyrics; but even if you don't have kids, you know time flies.  Don't let it go by - so many moments in this life are Heaven on Earth. "I'm down on my knees; help me soak it all in.  I want all of this life that you let me live, and when time flies by, Lord remind me to breathe, because my Heaven on Earth is moments like these..."

     Each week we'll each write about the spiritual aspects of the word that is scheduled, and the person who has claimed that word will write about it as well.  When my post is published that morning, link up!  Let's see what we learn and discover! (If you would like to be added to the schedule, just let me know in the comments!)
January 14: Carol Varsalona - BELIEVE
January 21:  Margaret Simon - PRESENT
January 28:  Michelle Haseltine - SELAH
February 4:  Justin Stygles - (Blind) FAITH
February 11: Leigh Ann Eck - INTENT
February 18:  Irene Latham - DELIGHT
February 25:  Violet Nesdoly - MINDFULNESS
March 3:  Julieanne Harmatz - ADMIRE
March 10:  Holly Mueller - WAIT
March 17:  Linda Kulp - SIMPLIFY
March 24: Doraine Bennett - SHINE
March 31: Donna Smith - BOLD


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Slice of Life - Snow Envy

I love participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers and writing a story, reflection, or musing at least once a week.

     "The big snow storm predicted for most of the Tri-State ended up being a big flop," Jason Adams, meteorologist remarked.  Here in Cincinnati, the hype over all the snow that was supposedly coming ended in a disappointing snowflake or two.  Our school was dismissed an hour early and everyone checked their weather apps all day long.  Evening activities were canceled. Lots of Cincinnatians hunkered down in their homes after buying staples at the grocery store, awaiting the onslaught.  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

     I know for some in the South and East, the huge amounts of snow have caused hardships.  I certainly don't wish that on anyone!  However, a long, cold, gray, drizzly Cincinnati winter can be a drag.  A good snow can add some fun and excitement - some magic to an otherwise dull season.  The beauty of a winter wonderland beats a cold rain any day.  We may not have gotten snowmageddon this time around, but it's only January.  Maybe February?  In the meantime, I'll scroll through my Facebook friends' pictures of snowdrifts and toboggan runs, snowman building and skiing, snowball fights and snow-covered dog muzzles.  Enjoy your snow days and working on that to-read pile.  Next time, send a little our way!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

DigiLit Sunday - What Inspires You? A Thank You Note to Bloggers

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.
     What is my rocket fuel?  Margaret Simon tweeted, "What inspires you?" this week as the theme topic for today's DigiLit Sunday posts.  There are a lot of things that inspire me, but since this is a space to write about digital literacy, I thought I'd reflect on the blogging community and how it is one of my greatest inspirations personally and professionally.  This is going to be a love letter/thank you note of sorts.  A chance to thank some folks who have sparked my teaching career, helped me take risks as a writer and educator, and provided me with daily reminders to be extraordinary. 
     I began blogging in the summer of 2012.  There were several people who inspired me to start blogging.  I can pinpoint a revolution in my teaching several years before that after seeing Franki Sibberson at a local literacy conference.  She introduced me to Goodreads, Twitter, and Mr. Schu's amazing blog, Read.Watch.Connect.  So I'll start my thank yous there, with Franki and Mr. Schu. 
Thank you for inspiring me:
Franki Sibberson - I wrote a "If Not For Franki" post for her 50th birthday, a wonderful idea led by Mary Lee Hahn, telling her how much she has inspired me.  Franki and Mary Lee write a terrific blog about teaching, books, writing, and life called A Year of Reading.  Don't miss it!
Mr. Schu - At the literacy conference where I saw Franki, she told us about this librarian who reads thousands of books a year.  She encouraged us to "friend" him on Goodreads, and then I discovered his blog, Watch.Connect.Read.  He celebrates children's books like no other - a kidlit rock star!  I finally got to meet him at the Dublin Literacy Conference last year!
Colby Sharp, Donalyn Miller, Cindy Minnich - I'm going to thank this power team together.  Not only do each of these amazing literacy champions bring us inspiration in their own blogs (and Donalyn with her books), but they founded the best kidlit blog ever, Nerdy Book Club Katherine Sokolowski, another inspirational blogger, joined the team as well.  I visit her blog often for wonderful classroom ideas and philosophies about teaching.  They've also organized NerdcampMI, a place where I got to meet so many other kidlit enthusiasts.  I love that we are all part of the NBC merely by loving children's books.  We can also write for it.  I've written eight Nerdy Book Club posts, which brings me to my next inspirational blogger...
David Etkin - I think I first "met" David through his #WONDERchools initiative.  I also followed him on Twitter and read his blog posts.  Many of my classroom ideas have come from him.  Two and a half years ago, we collaborated on #ReadWalkWater and wrote a NBC post about it (after we were inspired by Linda Sue Park's A Long Walk to Water).  This past fall, we helped organize our third annual walks for water.   He continues to inspire me with his fearless and innovative ideas in teaching and life.
Two Writing Teachers - Stacey Shubitz and Ruth Ayres (who now inspires us to celebrate every week) founded the Two Writing Teachers blog, a place where I was inspired to start writing my own Slices of Life and encouraging my students to participate in the Slice of Life Classroom Challenge.  Starting my students with their own Kidblogs has been a wonderful teaching experience.  The writers/educators who write for Two Writing Teachers now (Ann Gratz Cockerille, Betsy Hubbard, Beth Moore, Dana Murphy, Tara Smith, Deb Frazier, and Kathleen Sokolowski) are a constant source of inspiration for so many of us!
Margaret Simon - I'm not sure when I exactly discovered Margaret's blog.  I think it was because of linking up to Tuesday's Slice of Life community.  She inspires me in so many ways.  She challenges me to step up my game in using digital tools, writing and creating, and trying out my poetry skills.  She helped support me with my blogging venture with Spiritual Journey Thursday, which was a huge step out of my comfort zone at the time.  I'm SO happy to have finally met her in person at NCTE, where I got to present with her.  That brings me to my next inspiration...
Carol Varsalona - Because of Carol, I was able to be a first-time presenter at NCTE this past November.  She is a mover and shaker and supports so many people in education.  She was also an early supporter of me in my Spiritual Journey Thursday endeavor (she helped create the meme), and I love her Galleries of Artistic Expressions.  She inspires us all to be more creative and passionate.
Michelle Haseltine - I love visiting Michelle's blog and getting a lift.  She is one of the most positive and inspiring bloggers ever!  Her love of teaching and students, writing and creating, and putting her heart out on her sleeve is contagious. 
Greg Armamentos - Greg is an encourager.  He reached out during my first Slice of Life March Challenge a couple years ago and inspired me to keep writing and blogging.  He is an inspired writer himself, and the encouragement he gave me increased my writing confidence.
Jen Vincent, Kellee Moye, Ricki Ginsberg - The link up, It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? started by Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers, has inspired me to keep track of and share my reading every week.  They've created a reading community who keeps our reading piles high!
Alyson Beecher - I love Alyson's passion for nonfiction.  She has inspired me to link up every Wednesday to share the nonfiction picture books I read and to read other bloggers' nonfiction recommendations.  She is a tireless champion of children's literature!
Cathy Mere, Mandy Robek, Carrie Gelson - I love these bloggers because they inspire us to make book lists!  Cathy and Mandy created picture book events where we make our top 10 fiction and nonfiction lists each year, and Carrie helps us think about our must-reads.  I need to write my #MustReadin2016 post!
Linda Baie - Linda is a dedicated and inspired blogger, and I love reading her posts, but what inspires me even more is her amazing dedication to commenting on everyone else's blogs!  She is always there to give an encouraging word.
Pernille Ripp - I am a new reader of Pernille's blog after she slam-dunked a keynote speech at NerdcampMI.  She is an incredibly inspired and inspiring educator.  She created the Global Read Aloud initiative and is a proponent of choice in the ELA classroom.  She is a force in the literacy world now, and I think we're going to hear more and more about/from her!
Kate Messner - Kate is one of my favorite author bloggers.  The reason I love her blog so much is that she is a champion of teachers.  She started a free TeachersWrite! program in the summer, which has inspired many of us to be teacher writers.  She also gathers names each year for authors/illustrators who will Skype with classrooms on World Read Aloud Day.  Thank you, Kate!
 Choice Literacy - a compilation of amazing literacy articles, videos, and posts by some of the best literacy educators we have!
Spiritual Journey Thursday Community - I cannot thank the bloggers who have linked up to my SJT post in the past and present (Violet, Bobbie, Leigh Anne, Mary, Margaret, Greg, Justin, Amy, Teresa, Carol, Michelle, and now Linda, Julianne, Doraine, and Irene) enough.  So sorry if I've forgotten someone!  I am constantly inspired by their own spiritual journeys and the way they support each other and me. 
The risk of writing a thank you post like this is that I've forgotten someone really important!  I probably have, and I am so sorry!  However, the reward outweighs the risk.  It is important to thank the people who inspire us.  Thank you, inspirational bloggers, for making a huge difference in my personal and professional life, and thank you, Margaret, for encouraging us to share our inspirations. You are definitely one of mine!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Spiritual Journey Thursday - Be PRESENT

 I look forward to Thursdays when I can publish thoughts on my spiritual journey and hear the thoughts of others on a weekly basis.  It has become a space for an encouraging and fortifying community to come together.  We welcome anyone who would like to join us!
For the next couple of months, we are writing about each other's One Little Words.  Please join us!  If you have a One Little Word this year and would like to explore the spiritual aspect of it, let me know, and I will add you to the schedule!  Today's OLW is Margaret Simon's word, PRESENT.
Be present.  Three moments came my way today that solidified the concept of being PRESENT.  One was reading this blog post by my daughter, Libby's, best friend who is living in Montenegro for a year on a CRU (Campus Crusade) STINT (short term international ministry).  I was struck by the wisdom this young woman expressed when she realized she was living in the future.  I heard someone say once that anxiety is caused by living in the past or future.  If we lived in the present, we would be so much more content and grateful.  But it's much easier said than done!  We have to remind ourselves daily to be present.  To focus (my 2015 word).  To wait (my 2015 word).  To be.

Another moment was after I filled the bird feeders during the snow we got today.  I looked outside this evening and saw at least 15-17 cardinals settled in the trees that line our backyard and around the feeders.  Bright red male cardinals and soft brown females perched, waiting their turns, while 5 or so feasted on the seeds.  It took my breath away.  What a spectacle!   I stopped preparing dinner and just appreciated them.  I took a picture, but it was with my phone from inside because there was no way to go outside without scaring them all away.  It didn't do them justice at all, but I wanted to capture the moment.  I stood still.  I was present.

The third moment came tonight.  I teach a Spiritual Gifts class at my church, and tonight was the first session.  We tried to start last week, but only one person came (my OLW, WAIT, came into play!).  I waited, and tonight there were six.  When discussing that spiritual gifts are given to you by the Holy Spirit when you become a believer, one of the participants wondered why it was such a mystery then.  Why isn't it revealed clearly to us what our spiritual gifts are?  Why do we need a class to figure it out?  An honest and fair question.  I'd like to know why lots of things aren't clearly revealed to us by God!!  Another participant spoke up with some wise words.  He said, "Maybe God is being merciful in not showing us where we're going.  It might scare us."  I wrote it down immediately.  Why yes, that's the answer, isn't it?!  What an amazing revelation.  We can't know all the answers now.  We wouldn't necessarily be able to handle it. 
Live in the present.  Trust God.  Be grateful for now.  God is with us.  He knows what He is doing (even when we don't).

31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  - Matthew 6:31-34

Each week we'll each write about the spiritual aspects of the word that is scheduled, and the person who has claimed that word will write about it as well.  When my post is published that morning, link up!  Let's see what we learn and discover! (If you would like to be added to the schedule, just let me know in the comments!)
January 14: Carol Varsalona - BELIEVE
January 21:  Margaret Simon - PRESENT
January 28:  Michelle Haseltine - SELAH
February 4:  Justin Stygles - (Blind) FAITH
February 11: Leigh Ann Eck - INTENT
February 18:  Irene Latham - DELIGHT
February 25:  Violet Nesdoly - MINDFULNESS
March 3:  Julieanne Harmatz - ADMIRE
March 10:  Holly Mueller - WAIT
March 17:  Linda Kulp - SIMPLIFY

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Nonfiction Wednesday - A Nonfiction Caldecott Winner!

I'm excited that Alyson Beecher, at Kid Lit Frenzy, is continuing her Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge for the fifth year in a row.

I don't know what is wrong with me! I thought I had read this, so when it won the Caldecott, I picked it back up again to reread (I had it in my stack of mock-Caldecotts/Siberts for my students - many of them picked Finding Winnie as their Mock Caldecott choice), but then I realized I hadn't! I had only read the other Winnie book published this year. I even knew there were two 2015 books about Winnie, but I thought I had read both. Ugh. Anyway, now I've read Finding Winnie, and it is wonderful!! I loved Sally Walker's telling, too, but Finding Winnie brought tears to my eyes. I love that it is told from Lindsay Mattick's point of view; she is the great-granddaughter of Captain Harry Colebourn, and she tells Winnie's story to her own son. I also love Blackall's tender, beautiful illustrations - I'm a big fan of hers and am so glad she won!! A Fine Dessert, written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Blackall, was another 2015 favorite of mine! Congrats to Lindsay Mattick and Sophie Blackall! I'm going to buy both Winnie books for my classroom - it will be fun for my students to read both. 
Read Mr. Schu's blog post on Sophie Blackall and her big win:  Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall
Out of the Woods: A True Story of an Unforgettable Event
What an interesting true story told by the granddaughter of Antonio Willie Giroux. When Antonio was a boy, he lived in Ontario in a hotel that his mother ran. The description of his life there, accompanied by beautiful illustrations, seemed peaceful, interesting, and adventurous. His life was briefly interrupted, though, by a terrible forest fire. He and the hotel guests, along with all the people of the village, ran to safety by standing in the lake. The animals of the forest - foxes, rabbits, bobcats, raccoons, wolves, elk, bears, etc., started emerging from the trees and heading to the lake, too. Miraculously, all the creatures peacefully waited out the fire. When it subsided, everyone and every animal went quietly back to their homes. The hotel was not touched. What an amazing experience that must have been! 
  Aaron and Alexander: The Most Famous Duel in American History
I met Don Brown at the Dublin Literacy Conference in 2014! So happy for his Sibert Honor win for Drowned City!
This is a fascinating compare/contrast biography of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. I didn't know a lot of the background of the two men before reading this picture book. Kids will be fascinated (and probably horrified) by the somewhat common practice of dueling to settle disputes if they haven't heard of it before. Great mentor text for our Common Core standard on text structures.                  
W Is For Webster: Noah Webster and his American Dictionary
Interesting and entertaining biography of Noah Webster! I loved the sophisticated vocabulary the author used to describe Webster's thoughts and feelings about things while providing the common words to describe the same thing. For instance - "Everywhere, Noah thought the schools were 'wretched' and the British textbooks being used were 'defective and erroneous.' That was Noah's way of saying they stunk." It would be fun for students to try out that writing strategy!