Saturday, May 30, 2015

Lunch Lady and the Field Trip Fiasco #bookaday 5/30

Some of my goals are to read more books that I can recommend to my third graders, to become more familiar with the graphic novels, and to keep record of my reading in a reader's notebook to see what feels authentic to me as a reader but also helps me hold onto a story.  With those goals in mind, I read Jarrett Krosoczka's Lunch Lady and the Field Trip Fiasco, a graphic novel appropriate for my third grade readers.  

The gist is that Lunch Lady and Betty are  the school lunch helpers who also happen to be superheroes that can save the day! Their services are needed when a field trip to an art museum reveals that crimes are being committed and "the breakfast bunch", Hecotor, Terrance, and Dee get into trouble.  Some of my favorite parts were the gadgets Lunch Lady uses to fight crime: a spork, truth brownie, ziti microscope, gelatin cup glob, and anti-gravity sensible shoes!

None of my students have been reading this series so I am excited to share it with them! For this book, the notes in my notebook were just title, author, list of characters, and I kept a list of the superhero gadgets Lunch Lady used because I found them so funny.  I am looking forward to reading other books in this series to recommend to students!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Cloudette #bookaday 5/26

I might be cheating a little, as Cloudette is not new to me.  I've owned it for a while and read it to my class when I taught kindergarten.  Now, as a third grade teacher, I reread Cloudette today with the lens of what third graders can bring to a text like this.  We are studying the water cycle and weather, which is partly why I pulled out Cloudette.  There are some examples of figurative language, content vocabulary (precipitation) and the story fits in well with our May character trait of Perseverance.  There are also great examples of writer's craft to study in this book such as the intentional use of "and" to start a sentence and a close echo ("Cloudette was a cloud. A very small cloud.")I am looking forward to reading it to my class tomorrow! 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Hate That Cat #bookaday 5/25

Hate That Cat is a novel in verse, narrated by Jack in Miss Stretchberry's class.  The book, written by Sharon Creech, is the sequel to Love That Dog, which I read years ago and loved.  At the heart of Love That Dog, Jack transforms from a boy who hates poetry and writing to a gifted poet telling the heartbreaking story of his dog getting killed by a car.  

In Hate That Cat, Jack is back in Miss Stretchberry's class and he again uses poetry to tell his stories, this time about getting a new pet, a cat.  Through the book, you discover that Jack is also trying to understand how his hearing impaired mother processes the world even though she cannot hear sounds.  

This is a beautiful book.  As teachers, I feel we often read children's literature with different lenses. One lens to read and understand and enjoy.  Another with our teacher lens- how can we bring this book to our class in a meaningful way? As I read Hate That Cat, my teacher lens reflected these things:

  • I want to be Miss Stretchberry.  I want to believe my reluctant writers CAN become prolific writers through believing in them, showing them quality models, and having them engage in the writing process all year long.
  • Miss Stretchberry did not limit poetry to April.  She incorporated it throughout the year and gave frequent feedback to student writing, asking questions and caring about her students' lives.
  • Miss Stretchberry filled the classroom with mentor texts and let her students approximate different styles and poems. 
  • While in Love That Dog, Jack didn't think he was a writer, in Hate That Cat, he seemed much more comfortable in the role and easily attempted new styles and techniques.  We need to help our students embrace the idea that they ARE writers.
  • Next year, I want to read both Love That Dog and Hate That Cat to my students.  It is accessible, relatable, and sends the message that we are all writers with stories to share.  Poetry is one way you can share your story.  
  • I need to read more of Sharon Creech's work! In graduate school, one of my assignments that I will never forget was a literature response project after reading Walk Two Moons, which remains a favorite book.  Prior to this year, I taught kindergarten for a long time and didn't keep up with Sharon Creech's work.  She is an author who writes #heartprint books as JoEllen McCarthy would say and I can't wait read some more. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Personal Pick: The Husband's Secret #bookaday 5/24

I have stacks of books to read.  Picture books, chapter books, YA books, professional books, parenting books.  Reading a book purely for the story and not for what I can bring to my classroom or what will help me be a better teacher or mom feels a little indulgent.  My reading time is limited and I mostly try to use it for professional purposes.  

Yet...I am a reader, a person who loves to lose myself in a story.  Yesterday I found myself doing just that.  Several weeks ago, I saw Liane Moriarty's The Husband's Secret while shopping at Target.  Liane Moriarty wrote one of my all-time favorite books, What Alice Forgot, and her books are written in a way that strike an emotional chord.  I picked up The Husband's Secret, knowing it sounded like a great story and hoping I would find time this summer to read it. 

Last night, there was time.  There was laundry to do, papers to check, toys to straighten, and stacks of children's books and professional books to read.  But it was a holiday weekend and I just felt like losing myself in a story.  Between last night and this morning, I read and loved The Husband's Secret and it is a story that will stay with me. 

It's a modern day Pandora's Box situation.  Cecilia finds a letter addressed to her, to be opened upon her husband's death.  Except he is very much alive and they are in the middle of their busy lives together.  The letter is connected to two other stories being told in the book and has ramifications for everyone involved.  

Moriarty writes, "None of us ever know all the possible courses our lives could have and maybe should have taken.  It's probably just as well..."

If you are looking for a beach read or a story that will draw you in and stay with you after the last page is read, I highly recommend The Husband's Secret.  I also recommend her earlier book, What Alice Forgot, which touched my heart too. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Only One You #bookaday 5/23

Mama kissed Adri on the top of his head. 
"There's only one you in this great big world," she said.
"Make it a better place."

I am on the Character Education Committee at my school and we have chosen a book each month to celebrate a different character trait.  We also have a book that is the touchstone text for the entire year: One by Kathryn Otoshi.  Only One You, by Linda Kranz, is our choice for June and the character trait "Pride."  It is the perfect punctuation mark on a year of books that we've read to start conversations about character.  It feels a bit like a circular ending because in One, we learn that "it only takes one" to make changes.  In Only One You, we celebrate that you are unique and you can make a difference in the world.  

I love that this is our June book for many reasons. The deep blue ocean background and brightly colored fish scream SUMMER.  It is also perfect for graduates since advice is offered as the fish is about to leave his home to make his own way in the world.  The front and back inside covers are filled with colorful, wise advice like, "Love with your whole heart" and Test the waters- then dive in!"  Any one of these pieces of advice would be great for classroom glitter boards that feature wise words for students to celebrate. This is a great book to give as a gift to someone you love as they embark upon a new challenge.

Friday, May 22, 2015

In Defense of Read Aloud: Sustaining Best Practice #bookaday 5/22

My favorite thing to do as a classroom teacher is to read aloud.  There is magic in the stories we share together, as a community, through a class read aloud. This year, we've read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, The One and Only Ivan, The Hundred Dresses, James and the Giant Peach and countless picture books.  Though we sat in Room 215, we were on an ocean liner with Edward Tulane and Abilene, in a cage with Ivan, and floating in a magical peach with enchanted creatures.  If I believe in anything as a teacher, I believe in the power of reading aloud to students. 

So you can see, I came to Dr. Steven L. Layne's In Defense of Read Aloud: Sustaining Best Practice, already a believer.  He didn't have to convince me- but he did.  If you are looking for research-based reasons to defend reading aloud to students of all ages, you will find it in this book.  More than just research, this book radiates heart and was fun to read.  One of my favorite parts was when teachers wrote to authors about books that made a difference in their classroom and the authors' letters back.  The one by Katherine Patterson regarding Bridge to Terabithia is unforgettable.  

Some other take-aways for me, including lists of books that make great read-alouds:

  • Teachers need to stop being genre-haters and expose students to all different types of genres through read alouds.  I have to work on this.  I'm a realistic fiction type of gal and I need to plan more read alouds across many genres.
  • Choose some read alouds that are higher level than the students can read independently but be flexible enough to include read alouds that tell stories your students need to hear, no matter the level. 
  • Don't forget the boys! Be mindful to pick books that will hook boys in, too. 
  • End your read aloud a few days before a school break.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

I Pledge Allegiance #bookaday 5/21

I Pledge Allegiance, by Pat Mora and Libby Martinez, is a beautiful story of Libby helping her great aunt, Lobo, to become a citizen.  They practice reciting the Pledge of Allegiance together to get ready for Lobo's citizenship ceremony.  Some of the ideals named in the Pledge are explored, like what it means to be "indivisible", and characteristics of good citizens are named.

I'm on my school's Character Education committee and we look to find books that would be appropriate for each trait.  I plan on recommending I Pledge Allegiance for our citizenship book. I  think it would open up rich discussion about immigration, patriotism, and the responsibilities of citizens. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Who Was Roald Dahl? #bookaday 5/20

A few months ago, when an outbreak of measles at Disneyland led to a renewed debate about vaccinations, I read a letter written years ago about the topic, penned by Roald Dahl.
I remember thinking how tragic and sad that Dahl would have lost a child and I was curious about his life.  

Yesterday, my Scholastic Book Box arrived filled with new books I purchased to add to my classroom library, including the Who Was? Biography series.  One of my goals is to read more varied genres and model that for students, as well as encourage them to try new genres, too.  I noticed one of the books was Who Was Roald Dahl? I decided to make that my next #bookaday.

The book states, "His life was full of wonderful ups and terrible downs.  Roald Dahl was an up-and-down person, too.  Charming one minute, nasty the next."  He experienced a lot of tragedy in his life, including losing his older sister at a very young age and his father.  His daughter Olivia died of measles and his son Theo was seriously injured by a car at the age of 3 months (he did recover).  Roald Dahl himself had a lot of health and back issues from injuries sustained by flying planes in World War II.  I didn't realize he had been married to a famous American actress, Patricia Neal.  

While reading this book, I could imagine my third graders being confused by the history and names that it assumes they know, like World War II and Hitler.  There are also features like a timeline that they would need to understand.  

One thing to share with my young writers is how Roald's writing process was described.  The book says, " He was very picky about his writing. He rewrote again and again. For every page he wrote, he might throw away three!"  I think  it is important to keep sharing these ideas with our students so they internalize the need for revision. 


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

One Green Apple #bookaday 5/19

 "Laughs sound the same at home. Just the same. So do sneezes and belches and lots of things. It's the words that are strange.  But soon I will know their words.  I will blend with the others the way my apple blended with the cider." 

My class is reading books with the lens of finding and discussing social issues.  Eve Bunting's books are perfect for this unit.  Yesterday, we read Yard Sale and had powerful conversations about what you really need to be happy.  I am planning on reading aloud One Green Apple to them today, which is told from the point of view of a student new to America, learning English.  I think this book could be a great addition to our school-wide character education program where we select a book that matches a character trait.  Empathy and courage are two traits that stand out to me in this book.  

Reading One Green Apple after Yard Sale, I am thinking an Eve Bunting author study would be a great way to explore symbolism, social issues, and how the different illustrators Eve pairs with creates tone in the books.  

Monday, May 18, 2015

Island: Book One #bookaday 5/18

I've always been a big fan of Gordon Korman.  My first year of teaching was in 6th grade and I read  No More Dead Dogs aloud to my class in a quest to get them to see how books are really fun.  I agreed with Wallace Wallace, having never been a fan of tragic-dog-dying books.  I read and reread this book before reading it aloud to my 6th graders, often laughing out loud before LOL was even something people said.

That first year of teaching was 2001, which coincidentally is when Island: Book One was released.  Part of a trilogy, Island is like a teenage Gilligan's Island, if the castaways were troubled and instead of a 3 hour tour, they were sent on an experience at sea to rid them of their individual struggles.  I asked two of my third grade boys to read this book and we will be discussing it together.  I started it weeks ago but finished it today and tomorrow will discuss the book with my students.  I am planning on giving them the next book in the trilogy and would like to hook them into Gordon Korman's books as there are many other adventurous books as well as funny ones that I think they would enjoy.

Adventure isn't my favorite genre, so I found myself reading quickly through some of the descriptive scenes about the ship and its' inner workings. My class is focusing on identifying social issues in the books they are reading and this book had many: wealthy vs. poor and the advantages/disadvantages that go along with each, sibling rivalry and violence, the price of being a winning athlete and loneliness.  I'm hoping the second book in the trilogy gives us more insight into the characters and how they came to find themselves on the sinking ship.  

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Scraps Book #bookaday 5/17

When I taught kindergarten, Lois Ehlert's books were among my favorites to share.  Bright, colorful, simple text to teach many concepts such as healthy eating, how flowers grow, and seasons.  Her illustrations in Chicka Chicka Boom Boom! make that story come to life and it has always been a favorite among my students.  I recently purchased The Scrap Book: Notes From a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert and it is a joyful book that will make a perfect mentor text for launching Writer's Workshop in my third grade classroom.

     The book reads like a scrapbook with old photographs mixed in with the colorful collages from her books and notes.  I love that she promotes creating things with your hands and finding treasures in nature.  It is also lovely to read how her parents both created and made things, fostering her love and talent for art by giving her a wooden folding table to do her work.  The notions of persistence, your life's work choosing you, having mentors, and creating a space to do your work are all part of this book and would make for great discussions as students embark on leading a writerly life.  Lois talks about noticing things and finding stories in all different places in her life, such as getting an idea for a book about fish while visiting the aquarium.  She lists words that are related to fish, which is a great strategy to share for our writers to try in their writer's notebooks.  

Art is featured as Lois Ehlert's passion and there are some beautiful quotes about art at the end of the book.  I love the one by Matisse: "The moment I had this box of colors in my hand, I had the feeling my life was there."  Some of my students are gifted artists who aren't as comfortable yet with words.  A book like this could hold their interest while planting seeds about growing as a writer.  There is something in this book for everyone as we all want to lead a more colorful life. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

#Bookaday Begins! 5/16

Summer vacation is still a month and change away but Memorial Day is inching ever so close, signifying the unofficial start of summer! I've decided to start the summer #bookaday challenge a little early, which follows my impatient nature when it comes to waiting for holidays, birthdays, and other celebrations. Can you really go wrong reading MORE books? I think not!

Starting off the challenge with Kate Messner's How to Read a Story, which just arrived in the mail yesterday! The blurb says, "Kate Messner's and Mark Siegel brilliantly chronicle the process of becoming a reader..." I like the simplicity and how it is broken into steps such as "choose a book" and "find a reading partner." For younger students, I think this book would be a perfect way to introduce reading workshop.  For my third graders, I envision using this book to talk about what their reading advice would be- do they recommend finding a special spot to read? Do they enjoy talking with friends about their books?

I can see this being a great mentor text for young writers in a "how to" writing unit. This book would also be good to re read when discussing reading strategies like predicting, solving for unknown words, and reading with expression.