Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Nonfiction Wednesday


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 need to step up my nonfiction picture book reading.  I haven't posted in a while, but I had to share this book!

My Book of Birds

I loved this beautiful book on birds!  The stunning illustrations of the birds are collages made from old magazine paper.  My favorite pages are of the snowy owl.  I also enjoyed the blue heron since I've enjoyed watching them at our new condo on the lake.  One likes to stay in the tree by the corner of our deck!  Loved the end pages of eggs and feathers, too.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Celebrate This Week and DigiLit Sunday


I'm combining my Celebrate This Week post with DigiLit Sunday today.  Thank you, Ruth Ayres and Margaret Simon, for providing these spaces for us!

Wow!  What a week it has been.  This has been the first full week back to school with students, and I'm loving it!  I get to teach my returning 6th graders again this year, and I met my new group of 5th graders.  So much to celebrate!

- I noticed that several of my 5th graders say "Thank you" before leaving class every day.  I'm so encouraged by that!

- Heart maps with 5th graders! 

- 6th graders excited about getting back to Kidblog!  Their first Slice of Life posts are due today.  I loved their excitement for getting back to writing, and I've enjoyed reading about their summers.

- I love that I get all my 6th graders for Round Table at the end of the day, and I love that they're happy about that, too!

- Our staff middle grade book club got together to talk about Peter Brown's The Wild Robot.  We all really enjoyed it and had a great discussion.  Our next book is going to be Ms. Bixby's Last Day.

- The press release from the Ohio Board of Education came out Friday to announce that I was the 2017 Teacher of the Year for Ohio State Board District 4.   Now we wait to see who the overall 2017 Ohio Teacher of the Year will be.  It should be announced soon.  The whole experience has been amazing.  I was nominated in May, so I filled out the application for the deadline at the end of the school year and found out I was a finalist in June.  Then I interviewed August 5th.  No matter what happens at this point, it's been quite a journey (with a few funny stories along the way which I may write about in the future), and I am so honored to represent District 4 and Kings Local Schools. The outpouring of support has been wonderful.  I am beyond blessed that I get to teach at such a wonderful place with great colleagues, administrators, families, and most of all, students. I love my job!

- Fun Friday night concert with my husband to see Mat Kearney and Needtobreathe.  It was SOOO hot, but we still had a great time!

- I continue to love waking up to amazing sunrises in our condo.  We love living here!  As an extra bonus, one of my best friends just moved into our neighborhood last week!!  We had fun enjoying wine and conversation at her condo last night.

- In addition to getting back to digital writing on Kidblog, my 6th graders wrote "Where I'm From" poems and will be creating Animoto videos to accompany their lines.  I did this with my students for the first time last year, and I loved how they turned out!

- I'm happy for both my daughters, Libby and Katie, because they have great things happening in their lives.  

- It's my mom and dad's 51st anniversary today, so I had a nice chat with them on the phone this afternoon.

I'm ready for a great week ahead, and I look forward to following Margaret's Twitter chat with Katherine Bomer this evening!  I read her new book about essays, The Journey is Everything this summer.  It challenged my thinking and provided lots of wonderful mentor texts and ideas for teaching essays.  Margaret Tweeted out the questions for tonight's chat...

Sunday, August 21, 2016

DigiLit Sunday - Digital Voice

   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.

Humans of New York Cover

     When I saw Margaret's tweet about her topic this week, Digital Voice, I immediately thought of my students' weekly Slices of Life on their Kidblog site.  That's where I think their voices ring the truest and loudest.  It's not a place for academic writing - it's a place for personal writing on topics of their choice.  Their voices develop strongly throughout the year.  My returning 6th grades students will start right away, and my new 5th graders will start in the fall.  This year, I'm very excited to have all my 6th graders with me for every Round Table, which is an intervention/extension time built into the school day for all our students.  Usually I have to split RT with several teachers, but this year, I get them all to myself every day for an extra 30 minutes!!  This is like discovering gold.  I especially loved it when I told them at open house, and they all cheered!  I'm going to use that time for Kidblog - to delve into personal essays and poems, authentic grammar and mechanics instruction, and word work - all for their writing within Kidblog.  My 6th graders can't wait to start writing their Slices of Life again, and I can't wait to work with them.

     One of the first projects I'd like to work on for their Slices was inspired by my colleague, Tracy (she and I are the co-leaders of #ReadWalkWater). We started talking about ideas, and I'm not sure how it came around to this, but we were talking about Humans of New York, and she suggested we do it with students.  She was going to have her students write them and call them "Humans of the Renaissance Team", which is her team name.  I loved that idea!  I'm going to steal  borrow it!  I work with several teams, so I thought I'd call ours, "Humans of Columbia Intermediate".  I immediately put the book on hold at our library, and I picked the book up over the weekend.  It's a fascinating book.  I follow his Facebook page, too, and the stories, some short, some longer, and photos are captivating.  I think it will be a wonderful mentor text study...and talk about voice!  The voices are so perfectly captured in their stories and photos.  Of course, not all of them are appropriate for 6th graders- there are plenty that are, however, and I will choose them carefully.  I think the study will also bring home the fact that our stories are important.  They are what makes us human.

     On a personal note, my aunt, who is a positive, vital, intelligent, and amazing woman in her eighties, has been suffering from memory loss.  She had the book, Humans of New York, when she was visiting us last Christmas.  She's always been a reader, but now she can't sustain a novel.  However, she loved the short vignettes in that book.  They're short and poignant, and she loved talking about them.  That really touched me.  These little stories are important. Even with her memory loss, my aunt needs stories.  We all do.

     I'll share our "Humans of Columbia Intermediate" in a couple weeks!

     "We're all desperate to tell a really good story." - Brandon Stanton


Monday, August 15, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and #bookaday

The epitome of summer reading - deck, Ben, and book - I think I just created a new hashtag...#benandbook


     This summer, Donalyn Miller invited us to participate in the Eighth Annual #bookaday Challenge.  Our last day of school this year was May 27th, so summer and free reading started before Memorial Day weekend!!  Joy!  It's hard to believe the summer is over.  I start back today.  So how did my #bookaday go?  I had 79 days of summer, so that means I needed to read 79 books to meet the challenge.  I read...59.  Oh well, I didn't quite average a book a day, but I read a lot of good books!

Here are my 5 star books...


Pink Is For Blobfish: Discovering the World's Perfectly Pink Animals

Pink is for Blobfish: Discovering the World's Perfectly Pink Animals by Jess Keating, illustrations by David Degrand

Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay

Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood, illustrated by Sally Wern Comfort

Freedom in Congo Square

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford and R. Gregory Christie

The Night Gardener

The Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers

Flora and the Peacocks Cover

Flora and the Peacocks by Molly Idle

A Beetle Is Shy Cover

A Beetle Is Shy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois

Mother Bruce Cover

Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins

Return Cover

Return by Aaron Becker

Wendell the Narwhal Cover

Wendel the Narwhal by Emily Dove

Toys Meet Snow Cover

Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins and Paul O. Zelinsky

What Do You Do with a Problem?

What Do You Do With A Problem? by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom

My Book of Birds

My Book of Birds by Geraldo Valerio


Maybe a Fox Cover

Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee

The Honest Truth Cover

The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

Some Kind of Courage Cover

Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart

Wolf Hollow Cover

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Raymie Nightingale Cover

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

(5 stars)

The Serpent King Cover

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Memory of Things Cover

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Picture Book 10 for 10 - Picture Books That Support the Growth Mindset

     I'm excited to participate in Cathy Mere's and Mandy Robek's August 10 for 10 Picture Book Event!  This my 5th year to participate.  Check out the huge Google + community!

     Our building principal chose Mindset: The New Psychology of Success for our staff book study this year, and I've really enjoyed the concepts author,  Carol Dweck, Ph.D. teaches us.   The major concepts about adapting and honing a growth mindset are:
1.  We need to look at obstacles, challenges, and problems as opportunities to learn and grow.
2. Mistakes and failures are normal - what can we learn from them? How can they make us change and grow?
3.  Hard work is more important than talent (as teachers we need to guard against praise for talent and give specific, not evaluative, feedback).
4. A fixed mindset can cause despair and/or superiority.

I am a gifted intervention specialist for 5th and 6th grade ELA.  A good number of my  5th graders struggle when they first get to my class.  I have students who cry or shut down when given difficult tasks or specific feedback for improvement.  I think they're very used to high praise.  Many of them are perfectionists and don't want to make any mistakes or be told they could grow to be better writers, readers, etc. They either think they're already "perfect" or they despair at not being smart enough to do the work I expect.  I know they're not perfect AND I know they can work hard enough to achieve what I think they can.  The growth mindset model is very important for gifted learners (and of course, every learner).  They can make mistakes, continue to grow, and continue to be commended for hard work, not talent/intelligence alone.  These books show how mistakes can be made into opportunities, hard work and persistence pay off, and circumstances and talent don't control destinies.  

These  picture books can promote and teach a growth mindset:


Float by Daniel Miyares

Lost. Found.

Lost. Found. by Marsha Diane Arnold, illustrated by Matthew Cordell

With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School
With Books and Bricks:How Booker T. Washington Built a School by Suzanne Buckingham Slade, illustrated by Nicole Tadgell

"Success is to be measured not so much by the position one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed." - Booker T. Washington

Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay

Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport


Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy, illustrated by Rafael Lopez 


Whoosh!  Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate

The Fantastic Ferris Wheel: The Story of Inventor George Ferris

The Fantastic Ferris Wheel: The Story of Inventor George Ferris by Betsy Harvey Kraft, illustrated by Steven Salerno


What Do You Do with an Idea? by Kobe Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

The Most Magnificent Thing

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Okay, one more that cannot be forgotten!

Beautiful Oops!

Beautiful Oops! by Barney Salzberg

BONUS (One that came out early July, but I haven't read yet, by the same author who wrote What Do You Do With An Idea?! - I know it has to be fabulous for growth mindset!)

What Do You Do with a Problem?

What Do You Do With A Problem?

Also (yes, it's always hard to stop at 10), it's important to adapt a growth mindset after grief/ loss or depression/anxiety so I think these picture books give us hope and resilience.  Plus, I always have to have an excuse to put my all-time favorite picture book on a list like this - it's amazing how many categories it fits!

The Red Tree

The Red Tree by Shaun Tan

City Dog, Country Frog

City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems, illustrated by Jon J. Muth

Yes, this is my all-time favorite picture book.   

I'd love to hear any additional picture books you think would promote a growth mindset!