Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Day The Crayons Came Home

Last year, my third graders LOVED The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywelt and Oliver Jeffers.  It was always one of their favorites to read aloud and borrow to read on their own.  I was delighted to hear there would be a sequel- The Day the Crayons Came Home.  Yesterday it arrived in the mail and I decided to read it for the first time with son, Alex, at bedtime.  

The concept is so smart- all of the lost and broken crayons are sending postcards to Duncan about their adventures, looking to come back home.  Each crayon's story is really funny, with phrases built-in to make adults laugh ("Esteban- the crayon formerly known as Pea Green" calls to mind "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince").  My personal favorite was the postcard written by the Big Chunky Toddler Crayon, sent from Duncan's baby brother's room.  I actually couldn't stop laughing to read this page out loud! 

This book will be perfect to show students the joy and fun that reading brings.  I am thinking some of my students are going to be coming to third grade feeling not so good about themselves as readers and reading in general.  The more I can present books that make us laugh together, the more I can convince them that they really might want to give this reading thing a try again. 

Add The Day The Crayons Came Home to your library! 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Dear Deer #bookaday August 18th

 I am always in search of ways to make our Fundations program  At the third grade level, the program has a lot of rules about syllable types and exceptions to the rules.  One part of the program emphasizes "sound alike words" or homophones.  Dear Deer, by Gene Baretta,  would be the perfect book to introduce the idea that some words sound alike but have different meanings.  The book is playful and entertaining and the illustrations are colorful and fun.  This will be one of the first books I read to kick off Fundations! 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Capital Mysteries: Kidnapped at the Capital #bookaday August 17th

Ron Roy is the author of the A to Z Mysteries, The Calendar Mysteries, and Capital Mysteries.  These are popular books for my third graders and I am on a quest to get to know more books in my classroom library.  Mysteries are a popular genre for all readers and part of the 40 Book Challenge.  

This series takes place in Washington D.C., with KC and her friend Marshall as the main characters.  This is the second book in the series (I still have to read the first), and the mystery involves KC's mom and the President of the United States getting kidnapped. 

This is a fun book and I think students will really like the series! 

Deadliest Animals #bookaday August 16th

Nonfiction, or informational books, are never my go-to reads.  I love a good story and I'm a realistic fiction gal most of the time.  After reading Steven Layne's In Defense of Read Aloud, I realized the importance of reading aloud from all different genres.  I plan on introducing my third graders to the 40 Book Challenge and helping them try many different genres as they grow as readers. Part of my job is to include different genres in my read alouds and book talks.  

To that end, I brought home stacks of books to read this summer. The nonfiction titles have been patiently waiting for more attention.  Last night I read, Deadliest Animals by Melissa Stewart.  Here were some of my thoughts while reading it:

  • This book is a vocabulary boon! Not only are there science specific words, like predator, prey, species, and toxins, there are other rich words and expressions like "skillful stalkers."
  • The information is presented in different ways across the pages.  There are "Deadly Definitions" for key terms, "Weird but True" fact boxes, amazing photographs, and jokes.
  • This would make a great mentor text for showing 3rd graders the possibilities when writing a nonfiction piece.
  • Reading this book would be a great way to start a conversation about what you are still wondering about after reading it.  There was a picture of "bee bearding" on page 39 where a man is covered in bees.  I am very curious about why a person would choose to do that and could explore this through online research.
Deadliest Animals will be one of my first informational read alouds this year! I think it will really hook readers into wanting to read more informational texts. This would make a great addition to your library. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Hard Working Picture Books! #pb10for10

The possibilities of picture books! As I began to think about what theme or category I would choose for this year's collection, my mind went to September. A new year brings so many hopes and dreams but also a feeling of "How am I ever going to teach them all I need to teach them???" Picture books can serve many purposes: sharing a beautiful story, putting forth a life lesson, fluency, finding wondrous words, comprehension strategies, reading like a writer, etc. For this year's list, I decided to select books that will really pull their weight! Each book has multiple purposes, making them text I can return to in order to teach different skills, saving time along the way! In no particular order...

1.  In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek and illustrated by Christine Roussey.
This book explores how your heart feels when you feel happy, sad, angry, shy, confident, and more.  There is a page that discusses how your feelings change and bad feelings won't last forever. There are examples of beautiful language throughout the book. An extension could be having students list feelings in their writer's notebook and pick one time they felt one way and tell that story.  Another idea could be to create a class poem.  Each student can think of a sentence, perhaps from their work in the writer's notebook, that describes when their heart felt a certain way.  Like, "My happy heart is like hitting a home run and winning the game!" This work could be put together to create a collaborative poem about our feelings.  

2.  The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Leonard Weisgard

I love everything Margaret Wise Brown writes but The Important Book is one that transcends all grade levels and subject areas.  Determining importance in reading is often challenging for my third graders, who will tell me every last thing that happened in a chapter but miss the larger issues at play. The Important Book has a lovely, predictable structure that makes your writing sound poetic.  After reading this book, students can write the important thing about themselves. I am considering doing this as Padlet this year.
 Once they are familiar with how to do this, this can be a way to explore content area issues (What's the important thing about weather? or What's the important thing about Mexico?- to take two third grade content topics as an example).  It can also be a way to write about reading and explore a character or a book (The important thing about Fish in a Tree is..... or The important thing about Ally is...).  An oldie but goodie that really pulls its weight! 

3. Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox and illustrated by Julie Vivas

Mem Fox is another author I adore and her books often leave me with a lump in my throat or tears falling.  Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge is a book that touches my heard each time I read it.  It's often a wonderful book to use to celebrate memories and writing and to introduce writer's notebooks.  All of the items Wilfrid collects to help Miss Nancy remember can be related to the items students bring in to cover their writer's notebooks.  This is also an excellent book to use for character education purposes as Wilfrid is a kind boy who wants to help Miss Nancy remember (connections to empathy).  

4. I'm Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton

Are there things you know you should love but just don't? For me, it is brussell sprouts and wearing high heels.  Both would be good for me (I'm 5 feet 2 inches....on tip toes) but both make me miserable.  I'm Trying to Love Spiders is a funny book with a lot of voice that will teach you facts about spiders.  One thing students could do is create a double entry journal with facts they learned about spiders and what they think or wonder.  Another way to use this book is to ask students about the things they wish they loved, but don't.  This could be an entry in the writer's notebook.  I can imagine at least one person would write, "I'm trying to love homework" or something like that! I think this book would be great to share when you want to convince students that books with facts don't have to be dry or boring.  The author used a great structure to draw the reader in while still giving information about spiders. 

5.  My Pen by Christopher Myers

Last year, I read my class Love That Dog by Sharon Creech.  There is quite the nod to Mr. Walter Dean Myers in that book, including his poem "Love That Boy."  It would be fun to share the book, My Pen, written by the son of Walter Dean Myers, Christopher Myers.  Beyond the connection to Walter Dean Myers, this is a brilliant, hopeful book for young writers.  The opening words are, "There are rich people who own jewels and houses and pieces of the sky.  There are famous people- musicians, athletes, politicians, whose words and actions spread across televisions and newspapers to every ear and eye across the world.  Sometimes I feel small when I see those rich and famous people.  But then I remember I have my pen."  The book is dedicated "To the people who make things and to the people who share them" which reminds me of the generous, creative teachers here on Twitter.  Students can compare this book to Harold's Purple Crayon and discuss the central message in both books.  I think this would be a wonderful book to reread before a persuasive writing unit because it speaks to the power writing has and the voice it gives you in a world that can make your ideas feel small.  

6.  Hello Ocean by Pam Munoz Ryan and illustrated by Mark Astrella

This summer, as part of my work as co-facilitator of the Long Island Writing Project's Summer Institute, I was reminded of the beauty of this book.  A skillful teacher, Regina Benzing, taught a demo lesson on using ocean sights, sounds, and textures to create a haiku.  She read aloud this book to inspire more ideas for us as we thought about the words we could use in our own haiku.  Here is the haiku I wrote during that lesson, inspired by a picture I took of my son last summer.
I was never a big fan of haiku until this lesson.  In third grade, we use the word study program Fundations, which focuses greatly on syllables and the different syllable types.  Haiku is based on syllables (5 in the first line, 7 in the second line, 5 in the last line is usually the formula).  I think teaching students haiku and connecting it to the beach would be a great way to tap into their summer experiences while connecting to this new learning around syllables.  This book has fantastic sensory images and the words are beautiful.  One hope I have this year is to be more explicit about naming and posting words and phrases that we as a class love.  Reading Hello Ocean would give us some words to start that collection!

7. Goin' Someplace Special by Patricia McKissack and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Early in the year, as we are getting to know each other and trying to create many entries in our writer's notebooks that will inspire ideas for drafts, this is a fantastic read for that purpose.  Students can sketch their own "someplace special" in their notebooks and then write about why that place is special to them.  This can connect to the setting in stories and why it is important that we pay attention to when and where the action is happening.  Students can predict where the little girl is going and why.  Goin' Someplace Special has connections to the civil rights movement.  I read it last year to my class as I introduced a "library card challenge."  Spoiler Alert- the "someplace special" in the book is the library, where everyone was welcome, no matter what.  I want my students to have a deep and abiding appreciation for the library and all it can offer them in their lives.  Goin' Someplace Special easily connects to many character education topics, such as courage, pride, and empathy.  

8. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

I know many people HATE this book, which is why I'm including it! There are a lot of fantastic craft moves in this book and the voice of the tree and the boy are so clear.  Some of the important reading work I will do with my 3rd graders involves having them answer questions like, "What kind of person is ____?" and "What lesson can we learn from this story?" The Giving Tree would be a great text to use to explore characters and text based evidence to defend our answers.  Years ago, at a Long Island Writing Project Summer Institute, I saw a teacher use this book along with the "I am" poem.  She had participants take on the role of either the boy or the tree and write the "I am" poem from that perspective. Then, she paired up people who wrote as the boy and the tree and had them read their poem as a "poem for 2 voices." It was so powerful. I've done this lesson in workshops and teachers have spoken about extending that idea for works like "Romeo and Juliet."  I think the "I am" poem can be a fun way to think deeply about characters and the poems for 2 voices can really show the difference between 2 characters.  I plan on using The Giving Tree to try that activity this year.  One other idea is to use this book in your persuasive writing unit.  Ask students if the tree was right to be so giving and have them debate it, then write about it.  

9. The Dot by Peter Reynolds

The Dot is about making your mark in the world, signing your name to what you create, and taking chances to create something that others might not like.  International Dot Day takes place around September 15th and is a great chance to connect globally with other students around the idea that we can all make our mark in this world.  Last year, my school celebrated Dot Day as part of our character education kick-off.  This year, I want to connect Dot Day to the idea that we all can make contributions and we are all smart but in different ways.  Paul Solarz is the author of Learn Like a Pirate.  In this book, he describes teaching his students about Marble Theory, which says that people are all born with the same amount of "marbles" in our brain.  Over time, we put those marbles into cups, which are our skills and abilities.  You can have cups for all different things- being mechanically inclined, a great athlete, a talented artist, a strong writer, a good problem-solver, etc.  Some children might have less marbles in one cup but more in another, and some "cups" don't get recognized in school.  This was a powerful image to me and Paul actually uses marbles and cups to illustrate this point with his students.  When students understand that we are all smart and have talents, it creates a better sense of community and helps build their sense of themselves as learners.  I plan on discussing Marble Theory on Dot Day after reading this book aloud.  This will connect well with our first chapter book read aloud, Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, for the Global Read Aloud Project. 

10. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

When I taught kindergarten, this was one of my favorite books to read to the students in September.  Your name is one of the first words you learn to read and write and it is a powerful way to introduce letters, sounds, words, etc.  Now that I teach 3rd grade, I still read this book to my students in September.  I plan on typing out all the students names and having them cut out the names and sort them in some way, which they can determine! They can sort by the number of letters in a word, the number of syllables, the first letter in each name, or some additional way.  This will be a good way to introduce our word study program while connecting to the words that mean the most to them still- their names! Chrysanthemum has many interesting and new words for the students to learn and is a good book to start a discussion on kindness and respect for others.  It's also an "old friend" for most students, as they've been read this book in their other classes.  Since they are familiar with the story, they can listen in a new way for figurative language and the central message in the book (or the lesson we might learn after reading this book).  I'd like to keep an ongoing list of books and their lessons for students to refer back to when they need to think about the lesson or theme in their own independent reading. 

Whew! I'm exhausted thinking about how hard these books will work to accomplish many purposes.  I can't wait to read the other #pb10for10 posts and get new ideas for books to read to my students this year! 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Horrid Henry #bookaday August 9th

Now that August is here, and more than a week in, I am looking at the PILES of books I brought home from my classroom library that I wanted to read.  Many of the books are ones I want to become more familiar with so I can recommend them to students and share book talks.  I'm especially on the lookout for books that boys might enjoy along with girls. As a reader, I tend to gravitate to books where the girl is the main character and I wanted to be more mindful of choosing books everyone can enjoy and relate to as readers.  

Horrid Henry was new to me, although it was published in 1994 so not a new series.  It was very funny! I'm actually thinking of doing it for my first chapter book read aloud since it is 4 short stories.  Some of the work I want to do with my third graders early in the year is around answering the question, "What kind of character is ______?" This question is featured in the Independent Reading Assessment by Jennifer Serravallo and students often don't know how to answer it.  Horrid Henry would be a great way to model how to think through that question and find text based evidence to support our answer.  

Since this is a series, I'm thinking that after I read this book aloud, students might be interested in reading more Horrid Henry on their own.  It's listed as a Level M book, which is a comfortable level for many students early in the year.  I'm excited to add more Horrid Henry books to my classroom library! 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate #bookaday August 8, 2015

I loved Dave Burgess' Teach Like a Pirate when I read it last summer.  I reread it this spring for a Long Island Writing Project book discussion.  Dave's passion for teaching and his philosophy really resonated with me and changed me in some ways.  When Talks with Teachers chose Paul Solarz's Learn Like a Pirate for their August Professional Book Club (discussion on Facebook), I was excited to read another "pirate" book, this one focusing on the students.  

Paul is the teacher I want to be.  The idea of empowering students to be passionate, collaborate, take risks and be engaged in their learning is so powerful.  The worst thing as a teacher is to look around the room to a sea of bored faces, watching the clock.  When school is disconnected from your interests and when you don't feel successful, it is not a happy place.  Of course, I went into teaching to help students reach their potential and Learn Like a Pirate is full of amazing ideas to make that happen.

It's also a little overwhelming.  Paul is so incredible and his students are doing so many amazing things that it's easy to feel kind of deflated and sort of like the worst teacher in the world (of course, not his intention). It's also very different from traditional classrooms and without a visual model of how this works, some of the ideas were hard for me to imagine doing.  One of the key components in this book is giving students the power to stop the class with a "Give Me Five." I understand the value,  yet I am afraid of how my third graders would do with this privilege.  

In the Summer Literacy Institute in Merrick, literacy coach Pete Gangi told us that we need to believe the students can do it and rise to the occasion. If we believe they can't do it, they won't do it.  This reminds me of Learn Like a Pirate and Paul's expectations for his students.  He writes, "I beg you to have high expectations for your students.  Too often, we are the ones making excuses and preventing our students from stepping up to challenges." 

So, taking a deep breath, I am going to work to move towards a more student-centered classroom.  Who's with me? 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Notebook Connections #bookaday August 1

Honest Confession: When I came to third grade last year after a decade of being a kindergarten teacher, I had no idea what students were supposed to put in their Reader's Notebook.  Oh, how I wish I knew about Aimee Buckner's brilliant book, Notebook Connections: Strategies for the Reader's Notebook.  Friends, this is the book to read if you are confused about writing about reading and how students keep track of their independent books.  Aimee's style is like the teacher in the classroom next door and she makes her thinking and strategies crystal clear, bridging the gap I often find from professional texts to actual classroom practice.  She is a classroom teacher, which is so refreshing, since most professional books are from teachers who became coaches or consultants. There are so many ideas for me to try right away with my third grade readers.  Aimee Buckner also has a book about writer's notebooks, Notebook-Know-How, which is on my list to read this summer! I highly recommend Notebook Connections to all my friends who have been studying writing about reading (#WabtR) this summer.