Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday 1.29.14

NF PB 2014

We know that a big part of the CCSS is to include more informational texts into our students' reading.  I quickly discovered I had a "gap" in my reading diet - the genre of informational texts!  To help me fill the gap this year, I am going to participate in Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesdays!  This is a great link-up hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy.  Please visit this website to see other educator's link-ups.  My goal is to read at least one informational text each week and post information on the blog.  The more books and subjects I read, the more I can encourage (my #OLW for 2014) other teachers to use in their classroom! 

Can you believe it's almost February?  Maybe by the end we'll see a hint of the grass that is under all of this snow??? Hahahaha!  Funny, right?

Black History Month is during the month of February, so thought I would kick off the month with some standout recent releases that spotlight some fabulous historic contributions to the African American culture.

This Is the Rope: A Story From the Great Migration
This is the Rope:  A Story From the Great Migration by Jacqueline Woodson
This is the fictionalized account of the author's family and their move from South Carolina to New York City.  The author included her note about this time period at the beginning of the book, which helped me understand the book more instead of putting it in the back of the book.
CCSS connection:  RL.4 - talk about the words the author used to describe the rope.  How did the author feel about the rope?  How did you know?  Make a list of the words that the author used when discussing the rope.  Any patterns?  What could this mean?
RI.7 - Do a close reading of the author's notes and then discuss the places in the story/text that have a connection with the author's notes.
RI.9 - compare this fictionalized account to an article or story that gives additional information about The Great Migration
Recommended grade levels:  2nd-4th grade

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker
Josephine by Patricia Hruby Powell
I loved this book.  It is a narrative biography about Josephine Baker who was an American dancer, who because of the time period she lived in (segregation, racism), did most of her performing overseas, particularly in France.  This longer picture biography is told in verse and the author plays with the fonts and size which adds to the meaning.  I liked that the author used many quotes (and cited them!) to make the verse even more authentic.  
Because of the difficult times Josephine lived in, there are numerous mentions of words that might be more appropriate for an older audience (ex. rape, beat, murder and other time-era vocabulary sensitive words - Negro, colored, Ku Klux Klan).  However, the majority of the story would be good for younger ages, as well.  If sharing with a younger grade, skip over selected words/phrases/sections.  This story lends itself to many close reading activities.
CCSS connections RI.4 - What did the author do to help you understand the vocabulary?  Pay attention to the words that were altered, is there a pattern?  Do a close reading of a couple pages to look for those patterns.
RI.2 - Select a few sections and look for themes that are present.  How do those themes describe who Josephine was as a person?  About the time she grew up in?
Recommended grade levels:  5th grade and up
Selected close reading passages:  use with 3rd grade and up

Harlem's Little Blackbird
Harlem's Little Blackbird - The Story of Florence Mills by Renee Watson
Biography of Florence Mills who was famous for her dancing and singing abilities.  She performed around the United States in the early 1900s.  Would be a great book to use to talk about the contributions of African Americans that students might not have heard of.
CCSS connections RI.9 - compare to Josephine!  It would be a great activity - what were their contributions?  How did the time period they grow up in affect their performing?
Recommended grade levels:  2nd-5th grade

Something to Prove: The Great Satchel Paige Vs. Rookie Joe Dimaggio (Carolrhoda Picture Books)
Something to Prove - The Great Satchel Paige vs. Rookie Joe DiMaggio by Robert Skead
Great story that informs the reader about one important day in the lives of baseball greats Joe DiMaggio and Satchel Paige.  One of the underlying themes of the story is racism and the unfair treatment of African Americans during the 1900s.  The author's notes at the end were helpful because since this book was a "day in the life of" book, I wanted to know more about what happened to Satchel Paige and this part gave me a few more details.
CCSS connections RI.4 - the author uses great words that would be prefect for a study of patterns and use (baffled, fret, showdown, unique, flummoxed)
RI.2 - theme
Recommended grade levels:  3rd-5th grade

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Thoughts on the Common Core and PARCC

It's all we've heard about for awhile:  The Common Core State Standards.  Specifically Language Arts.  Really, Reading Literature and Informational Text Standards.  Every educator has an opinion on them.  Some people say they are great.  Some people hate them.  Some people have picked through them, whether because they need to know them or because they hate them and have found every flaw there is.  Some people say it's going to teach my students to think deeper.  Some people say it's going to make my students hate to read.  And then if you're going to talk the standards, then you need to talk about the "big" assessment:  PARCC or Smarter Balanced.  In Illinois, we are getting ready for the PARCC. What to do, what to think?

Here are my thoughts, take them or leave them.  

Illinois has adopted the standards and we're getting ready to roll out the PARCC.  They are here, whether you love, like or despise them.  It's my job as an educator and as a literacy coach to help teachers and students understand them, use them, and apply them to their daily lives.  The PARCC is the assessment that we will be using to determine if our students have met those standards or not.  It's my job as an educator and as a literacy coach to help teacher and students to prepare for this test, understand what this test will look and feel like and have an understanding of what will happen when they take the test.  

So.  The standards.  I actually do like them.  I can see how they are encouraging teachers to take their students deeper into the text, not only thinking about the text, but also the craft the author used when writing the text.  The first 3 standards are covered so frequently in our lessons, but I don't think I always used them to the extent I was supposed to - I was more "surface level".  Now, it's not just what is the setting of the story?  It's what words did the author lay out in the sentence that made you know and understand the setting?  How is the setting important?  How did the location of the story make an impact on the events?  I know I haven't always been asking those questions!  I also did not dig very deep into the author's craft.  How did the author put the story together?  How did one paragraph impact another... maybe even change the story?  What structure did the author use?  What did the author do here to move the story along?  What patterns are you noticing that the author used over and over again?  Nope, had not been asking those questions!  After playing with the standards and using them more and more, I do think the kids are capable of understanding them, using them and applying them.  I do think it's the conversation that we have with the students - encouraging, and not always asking - about what they are reading and their thoughts, their reflections, that take the understanding of the standards to move the students thinking forward.  As teachers, we cannot stand in front of our class asking the questions, getting specific responses, and robotically teaching and drilling the standards.

I also understand there are problems with the standards.  How do we make sure students with learning disabilities, no matter the severity, meet them?  How do we make sure students who don't have a disability, but are having trouble learning to read meet them?  Our ELL students?  How about our low-income families?  There is a certain amount of understanding that while educators have their work cut out in front of them while the kids are at school, there is also an amount of "continuing education" that parents must do at home.  Namely, ensure that all students are reading, and reading a lot more, at home.  Not everyone has access to books or someone at home who is ensuring more gets done at home.  How do these kids overcome the difficulties ahead of them and make sure they are "college and career" ready?

Then, after we teach, we have the PARCC.  When I first saw this test, I had A LOT of questions.  Mostly, if I am getting some of these questions wrong, what are the students going to do???  How many tears are we going to have on assessment day?  The kids have to TYPE their responses???????  And my favorite thought I've had.  There is no way I am smart enough to teach kids how to be ready for this assessment.  It's been almost a year since I started learning about this assessment and I still have a lot of questions.  I still have worries - is this assessment developmentally appropriate??  Is the technology going to hold out for us while everyone takes the test?  And I still have some feelings of inadequacy, but I am feeling better.  I think, the bottom line is we are going to be taking this test.  I don't know for how many years, but I cannot ignore it.  It's not going away.  For now anyway.  So I will prepare everyone as much as I can.  I will learn about it and put the knowledge to good use.  I do not want to walk away from this assessment without being able to say I did my best to get everyone prepared.  Learn from it and continue on.  The one part about the PARCC is they are going to use "real" texts!  None of this pay money to a company to write a story that goes along with our testing questions.  It's real literature.  And with the close reading and multiple readings the kids will be doing, I think that is a step up from what we're used to.

Then there is the "rigor" part.  Yes, the standards are more "rigorous".  Check, got it.  Yes, students need to be reading and writing more.  Teachers need to be very specific about what they are teaching (still working on that part myself).  But.  I am a reading specialist.  I chose that job because I.  Love.  Reading.  Period.  And I don't want to ever forget that.  If I just focus on the standards and I just focus on the upcoming PARCC test, it doesn't leave much room to love reading.  And I don't want to be teaching if I can't remember that.  I want to help teachers find time to let their kids love reading.  I want everyone, teachers and students, to get excited about a book that is coming out - that feeling of I can't wait to get my hands on it!!!!  I want kids to talk to each other about what they are reading.  Let it be part of their daily conversation.  And I do think both can be done.  I've done a lot of professional reading, and I see how other experts are doing it.  Thank you Kylene Beers and Bob Probst for Notice and Note.  Thank you Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts for Falling in Love with Close Reading.  Thank you Donalyn Miller for Reading in the Wild.  Thank you Sunday Cummins for Close Reading of Informational Texts.  These are books I will use to guide my teaching and love for reading.

Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading    Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Texts--and Life   17196305   Close Reading of Informational Texts: Assessment-Driven Instruction in Grades 3-8

I'm going to try and balance this blog with a mix of everything.  I want to encourage readers to pick up the books I review.  I want them to know what their own style of reading is and be able to choose books.  Get excited about a new book to read!  And then I am also going to post lessons that I am using to teach standards.  The lessons will always be tied to a great book and then have a CCSS tie-in.  See something you like?  Great, try it out and let me know how it went.  

And if the PARCC is gone by next year and the standards are all rewritten?  Well, that's ok.  I'll keep learning and thinking about what our students need.  

But it will all begin with a book.

Happy Reading :)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

It's Monday! What are you Reading? 1.27.14

This weekly post comes from Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers.  It's a great source to find new books to use with your students.

Dot. by Randi Zuckerberg
4/5 stars
Very cute story about a little girl who knows how to do everything on a tablet, phone, computer, and any "i" device.  Her mom reminds her it's time to "reboot".  Go outside and play!  This would be a great story to use in January to talk to students about their own "reboot"!  Connect it to a "One Little Word" theme!

Henny by Elizabeth Rose Stanton
5/5 stars
Love this story!  Love this story!  Love this story!  Please read!  
Henny is one determined chick.  Instead of wings, Henny is born with arms.  While Henny acknowledges that arms can be difficult, she is quick to embrace her difference!  What a wonderful lesson to teach young children - celebrate your difference and look at the positive!

You'll Soon Grow into Them, Titch
You'll Soon Grow Into Them, Titch! by Pat Hutchins
3/5 stars
Great book to use to teach children that they can have goals and aspirations to accomplish in the future.

Bowling Alley Bandit
Arnie the Doughnut in Bowling Alley Bandit by Laurie Keller
4/5 stars
This book picks up where the picture book, Arnie the Doughnut (which I reviewed last week) left off.  I loved loved the picture book and this one is almost as good as the picture book.  It has the same humor and Arnie still has a dynamic personality!  This chapter book will be great for kids who are ready for longer books.  The book has great illustrations that adds to the humor of the story.  Kids 2nd-4th grade will love this story!

Still working on:
A Snicker of Magic
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Loving it so far!  Have several passages set aside to use for some close reading!

Eleanor & Park
eleanor & park by Rainbow Rowell
I am definitely enjoying this book and pulling for these two :)

One for the Murphys
One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
I started this book with my daughter - she's reading it on her kindle, borrowed from the library, and I'm reading my paperback copy.  It's super cool to do this with your daughter - we both read separately but come together to talk about it.  I love seeing her reactions and thoughts and having the opportunity to do this together!

We have "Cold Days" off of school coming up, so looks like a great opportunity to read more!  Strange school year... started off with "Heat Days" (no a/c in our building) and now starting off 2014 with "Cold Days".  Love Chicago weather....

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Celebrate This Week 1.25.14

It's always good to end the week on a positive note.  Sometimes we concentrate on the negatives.  We have a choice.  Choose positive.  Choose to celebrate.  I will be joining Ruth Ayres and her weekly link-up, Celebrate This Week.  Check out all the other celebrations HERE

It's always surprising when you do something weekly, how fast a week really goes by!  Just a quick post today.  Have to get ready for another round of weekend swim meets!

1.  First Celebration - I went to another conference on the upcoming PARCC test this week.  This particular day focused on the 4th grade.  I've been going to these day-long conferences that our local ROE has been hosting for almost a year.  I generally get very overwhelmed and my brain feels like it's going to explode!  This is the first time that I felt more like I could handle everything.  I still felt like my brain was going to explode (isn't that how you always feel when you leave conferences???), but I wasn't as overwhelmed.  I felt like for once, this was helping me narrow down what we need to focus on for our trimester units.  We are still working on what to teach, how to teach it all, getting the assessments in, and somewhere in there, enjoying everything, but this was the first time I felt like I was going to make some headway that would make a difference.  Tonight, I sat down and put together a lesson that combines the questioning technique we learned in last week's inservice day with some form of the PARCC's Literary Analysis Task.  It's a 4th grade lesson that I am going to try with our students this week.  I will post later in the week the lesson for anyone who wants to give it a try!

2.  Second Celebration - I did some Fountas and Pinnell running records with students this week.  Gosh, those take so long to complete!  I don't know who is more exhausted at the end of them - the students or me!  If anyone has any ideas on how to speed up the process, let me know!  However, one of my reading intervention students, who I've worked with for years, is finally performing on this assessment at grade level.  And an even bigger celebration is his new interest in reading!  I got him started on the Creature in my Closet series before winter break.  His parents bought him the third one to continue over break, and then this week his dad bought him 2 more books based on my suggestion - a Lunch Lady and a Squish book!  I'm glad to see his parents helping him continue his desire to read!

3.  Third Celebration - It's amazing how fast our children grow up.  I wish I could slow down and appreciate it more.  One day, I will look back on this post, and remember how much I love it when my 8 year old slows down long enough to give me a really great hug and whisper in my ear, "I love you Mommy."

Have a great week!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday 1.22.14

NF PB 2014

We know that a big part of the CCSS is to include more informational texts into our students' reading.  I quickly discovered I had a "gap" in my reading diet - the genre of informational texts!  To help me fill the gap this year, I am going to participate in Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesdays!  This is a great link-up hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy.  Please visit this website to see other educator's link-ups.  My goal is to read at least one informational text each week and post information on the blog.  The more books and subjects I read, the more I can encourage (my #OLW for 2014) other teachers to use in their classroom! 

I'm going to spotlight 2 books today.  One for Science and one for Social Studies.

The Animal Book: A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest--and Most Surprising--Animals on Earth
The Animal Book by Steve Jenkins
5/5 stars
This book is amazing.  I think younger and older students will POUR over this book.  Younger readers will soak up the illustrations, older students will be fascinated with the facts and illustrations.  I was a little worried with the size of this book.  It's very big, very thick.  I'm not much of an animal person, much less someone who would pick up an animal book to read.  If it wasn't for the fact that this was Steve Jenkins, I would have probably skipped over it.  The facts were fascinating.  The amount of writing about each animal at a manageable size.  The organization was impeccable.  Kids can skip to certain parts that interest them the most.  Read a few pages, read the whole section, or read the whole book.  I think kids will enjoy looking at the illustrations (done in true Steve Jenkins style) and talk about the facts.  Some are interesting, some are gross, some are unbelievable.  Jenkins also includes interesting information about how he goes about and puts his research together when writing a book.  He gives descriptions, photographs and even timelines to show his process!
Great addition to your home or classroom.

Classroom Connections:  Use a page for close reading.  Talk about similarities and differences between the animals.
4th gr. NGSS:  Structure, Function and Information Processing (LS1-1, LS1-2)
3rd gr NGSS:  Inheritance and Variation of Traits:  Life Cycles and Traits (LS3-1, LS4-2)

Deep in the Sahara
Deep in the Sahara Kelly Cunnane
4/5 stars
Although this story is actually a fiction story, I am putting it in the nonfiction category today because of the connection to traditional Muslim customs.
Beautiful story that explains the tradition of the Muslims' traditional dress for women, the malafa. Use this book to inference the meaning of new words (traditional Hassaniya words) and look for patterns that the author used to describe the beautiful dress. The author included a great note that gives the reader additional information about the dress.

Classroom Connections:  Figure out the meaning of the traditional Hassaniya words using the text and illustrations.  Check inferences using the glossary in the back.
Throughout the story, the author uses additional words to describe the meaning of the dress.  Use these descriptions to talk about what the dress stands for in the Muslim society.

CCSS:  standard RL.4 and RL.7

And I finally read:
Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives
Lifetime:  The Amazing Numbers in Animals Lives by Lola M. Schaefer
5/5 stars
Numbers your thing? This is a book to check out! The author has written about different animals' specific activity and averaged it over the animal's lifetime. I liked how the author included additional notes on each animal and explained the word "average" and how averaging works.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 1.20.14

This weekly post comes from Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers.  It's a great source to find new books to use with your students.

I actually got quite a bit of reading done this week.  There was more reading then sleeping going on, I am pretty sure!  I started reading blogs this past summer.  Slowly, since the start of the school year, I kept adding to my daily blogs that I read.  Which means my pile of TBR books kept getting higher and higher.  I feel the need to keep up.  I know, let it go now.  But it's been fun having that many more books in my repertoire to bring to kids and teachers.

Here are some of my favorites from this past week:

Don't Play with Your Food
Don't Play With Your Food! by Bob Shea
4/5 stars
Very cute story.  Would pair well with Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds.  Watch for a future post!

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems
Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It by Gail Carson Levine
4/5 stars
Poems based off of William Carlos Williams's "This Is Just To Say" poem.  Watch for a future post on this one too!

Henry's Map
Henry's Map by David Elliot
3/5 stars
Cute story that introduces mapping.  Good for young readers

Baby Bear
Baby Bear by Kadir Nelson
5/5 stars
Beautiful beautiful book.  Already ordered it!  The illustrations are stunning.  The story is cute, lacking a little bit, but I barely noticed it because the illustrations are so amazing.  The story is definitely one for a younger reader, but our kindergartners do a unit on bears, so I can't wait to share it with them!  Will definitely be comparing text and illustrations during that lesson!

Building Our House
Building Our House by Jonathan Bean
5/5 stars
Awesome illustrations.  Loved seeing the progression of the family building their home.

Herman and Rosie
Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon
4/5 stars
Lovely story about friendship.  Pair in a friendship unit with Frog and Toad and Elephant and Piggie stories.

Arnie the Doughnut
Arnie the Doughnut by Laurie Keller
5/5 stars
I had not read this book before, but had seen several people post about the new(er) chapter book based off this picture book.  The humor and sarcasm in this story are hilarious.  Even older grades (4th/5th) will crack up at the humor.  My absolute favorite line, after Arnie figures out doughnuts get eaten is, "Well, that explains why my friends never write or call - they've probably all been EATEN!" The best surprise for me with this book is Laurie Keller will be at the Anderson's Children's Breakfast in February.  I will be purchasing this book and having her autograph it!

Mr. Wuffles!
Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner
Wordless picture book.  Younger students will laugh at the interactions between the cat, Mr. Wuffles, and the aliens.  Older students will go back, again and again, and try to figure out the language of the aliens!

The Wig in the Window
The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher
4/5 stars
Loved this mystery.  The author did a great job keeping it suspenseful - she never "watered" the mystery down even though it is a book for kids.  My only warning is the author references, repetitively, the social worker's "enhanced" body part, the "time of the month" and the brother ends up with hickeys.

Marty McGuire
Marty McGuire by Kate Messner
4/5 stars
Great chapter book for kids who are ready for chapter books, but not the super long chapter books.  Another great thing is this book is the first in a series.  The second book is out and the third one is scheduled to be released on Jan. 28!  Perfect for 1st-3rd grade classrooms.

SPHDZ (Spaceheadz, #1)
Spaceheadz by Jon Scieszka
4/5 stars
Can Jon Scieszka do anything wrong?  This is a great series from Scieszka.  Michael K. is new in town and he unfortunately gets matched up with the other new kids from school - who just happen to be aliens who are disguised as students, along with the class "hamster" (Major Fluffy).  Another great series that is very reader friendly.  Great for 2nd-4th grade.  Older kids will appreciate the humor!

Continuing this week:
A Snicker of Magic

And hoping to get to:
Eleanor & Park         Better Nate Than Ever

Happy Reading to you!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Celebrate This Week 1.18.14

It's always good to end the week on a positive note.  Sometimes we concentrate on the negatives.  We have a choice.  Choose positive.  Choose to celebrate.  I will be joining Ruth Ayres and her weekly link-up, Celebrate This Week.  Check out all the other celebrations HERE

1.  I have a couple of school celebrations for the week.  We are trying some new things and talking about what direction we want to move things towards.  Exciting, but whenever you want to try something new, it brings uncertainty and nerves.  I'm thankful for my colleagues who are willing to keep an open mind and listen.  We might not always agree, but everyone respects each other and there is a willingness to work together.  

2.  We had a 1/2 day Institute Day today.  Sometimes I worry about them, I never know how they are going to turn out.  Sometimes we learn something, other times, I wish we were with the kids in class. Today we talked about questioning - having students generate questions.  It was informative.  I'm still confused on how it will work, but I left the inservice with something to think about.  I know the first standard is asking and answering questions.  It's easy for teachers to always ask the questions.  I know when I sit with one of my small intervention groups, the students all stare at me waiting for me to ask them a question about what we read.  It's hard to get them to come up with the questions.  We all have "those" kids in our class/groups who do ask questions and do a great job.  But with some good teaching, with common vocabulary and steps, I think we can make some headway with this standard!

3.  I had an almost-wallet-mishap this week.  After almost losing it, I had a colleague point out she thought it was very interesting the items I had in my wallet - it said something about myself.  More in a future post!

4.  I'm going to celebrate this weekend.  It's a 3-day weekend.  Yea, more reading time.  It's also a swim meet-free weekend!  I love watching my daughter swim, but it takes A LOT of time.  So celebrating that, I also have to celebrate how she did last weekend.  I had blogged that she was doing her first 200 free event and she was nervous but excited.  I'm happy to report she did very well.  She actually figured out that she does better in the longer distance events then the shorter ones.  She gained enough confidence that she actually signed up for 2 more longer distance events in a future meet.

Here's to a positive week!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday 1.15.14

NF PB 2014

We know that a big part of the CCSS is to include more informational texts into our students' reading.  I quickly discovered I had a "gap" in my reading diet - the genre of informational texts!  To help me fill the gap this year, I am going to participate in Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesdays!  This is a great link-up hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy.  Please visit this website to see other educator's link-ups.  My goal is to read at least one informational text each week and post information on the blog.  The more books and subjects I read, the more I can encourage (my #OLW for 2014) other teachers to use in their classroom!  

My First Day by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Goodreads summary:  The first day of life is different for every animal. Human newborns don’t do much at all, but some animals hit the ground running. The Caldecott Honor–winning team Steve Jenkins and Robin Page apply their considerable talents to revealing how twenty two different species, from the emperor penguin to the Siberian tiger, adapt to that traumatic first few hours of life, with or without parental help. Jenkins’s vividly colorful cut-paper illustrations are eye-poppingly three-dimensional and as exquisite as ever. While the text is short and sweet, an illustrated guide provides descriptions of the twenty two animals in the back.

My summary:  Great informational text for young readers. Similar style that we've come to know from Steve Jenkins. Readers will learn information about many baby animals and things they can do on their first day of life. Young readers will enjoy comparing animals to themselves. They will also pick up different bits of information and even be able to compare the animals to each other - who flies their first day? who is on their own on their first day?

Who should use the text?  I would recommend it for Kg-1st grade

CCSS Connection:  
Kg - connect to the Science standard "Interdependent relationships in ecosystems:  animals, plants and their environment".  
One RI ELA standard that lends itself nicely to this book is RI.K.3 - "With prompting and support, describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas or pieces of information in a text."  Have students go back and specifically look for patterns in the way the animals connect/have similarities.

1st gr - connect to the Science standard "Structure, function, and information processing" - Students who demonstrate understanding can:  read texts and use media to determine patterns in behavior of parents and offspring that help offspring survive.
Same as kindergarten - One RI ELA standard that lends itself nicely to this book is RI.1.3 - "Describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas or pieces of information in a text."  Have students go back and specifically look for patterns in the way the animals connect/have similarities.  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sunshine Award... Part 2

Sunshine Award Picture

My blog is officially one week old :)  And on its one week birthday, I was officially nominated for a Sunshine Award by Jen and Sarah, here's their blog.  
In less then a month, I've joined Twitter and started a blog.  I'm such a newbie to all of this, but I'm so glad to have connected with so many talented educators.  It amazes me how people have found me - through Twitter Chats, RTs, and link-ups.  I will be forever grateful for everyone's endless knowledge and willingness to share.
When I first started this blog - a week ago - I started it by doing my own Sunshine Award post.  Katherine Sokolowski had invited her readers to do a Sunshine Award post, and I thought it would be a perfect start.  
Now I have a real invitation.  This time, I plan to pass it along to others.  I feel like most people I follow have already received this award.  If I pass it along to you and you've already filled one out, please just know that you have inspired me at some point and I wanted you to know.  Thank you.
Here are the official "rules" of this blogging award:

The Rules of the Sunshine Award
  • Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  • Share 10 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 10 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  • List or tag 10 bloggers that you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  • Post 10 questions for the bloggers you nominate
  • Let those 10 bloggers and let them know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger(s) who nominated you.)
I'm going to cheat a little bit and use the random facts that I wrote in my first post.  No one needs more random facts about me.
Here they are:
1.  I've lived in the Chicago suburbs all of my life.  I hate winter.  I hate snow.  So why do I still live here?
2.  I've been a reader all my life, but when I was in high school, I thought I was going to go into the business world.  Silly me.  My mom, who obviously knew me way better then I know myself, convinced me to become a teacher.  Smart.
3.  I like to think of myself as a good swimmer, but I swam with my daughter's swim team's master program this winter break and my butt was officially kicked.  But instead of being humiliated, it made me more determined.  I will be back....
4. Speaking of swimming, my goal is to try my first triathlon this summer.  Haven't signed up yet, but it's looming...
5.  I'm going to cry when I cannot get my Pumpkin Spice Latte at my Starbucks because they are out of pumpkin syrup until next September. 
6.  I am not on Facebook and won't until my daughter is on it.
7.  I just joined Twitter because I found there are other educators out there who read as much, if not more as me, and think about education like I do.  
8.  Some education conference goals, this year I am going to try really hard to attend my first NErDcampMI and NCTE14!
9.  When I've been running for a really long time, I can no longer do any form of math in my head.
10.  I cannot stand emoticons when texting.

Now to answer Jen and Sarah's questions:

1.  What's your favorite professional book?
I'm finishing up Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller and it's doing wonders for my thoughts on helping students love to read and want to read, and not just at school!  Over the summer I read Notice and Note and my colleague and I are using it this school year.  I still need to figure out how I want it to look, but I like it.  Finally, I read Falling in Love with Close Reading.  I really need to figure out how it looks in a K-4th gr school, but it still has me thinking about it which I think is a sign of a great book.

2.  What is the best read aloud you would recommend to other teachers?
Wow.  No way could I limit it to one.  I think I will always love Wonder by RJ Palacio.  It has so many lessons to teach and discuss.  Plus I love Auggie.  He got me right in the heart.  I just finished Please Bring Balloons by Lindsay Ward and I loved the story and illustrations.  Chopsticks by Amy Rosenthal will always make me laugh out loud.  

3.  What is your most used app in the classroom?
Fail on this question.  Since I am a reading specialist I don't use iPads/ipods in my small groups.  I just can't replace putting a book in their hands, with the small amount of time I have with them.  I use my iPad every week for AIMS Web progress monitoring.  Does that count???? ;)

4.  How do you integrate technology in your daily schedule?
Read above.  I use books :)
I have been trying to use some technology, but I'm not replacing a book.  When I co-teach with other teachers I like using their SMARTboards and doc cams.  Doc cams have made my life easier.

5.  What is the quickest and easiest way to promote content area literacy in the classroom?
Reading.  With books :)  See a pattern?  I'm using Kid Lit Frenzy and her weekly link-up to promote Informational Texts every Wednesday.  I figure the more non-fiction I read, the more I can pass on to other teachers!

6.  How do you support students with special needs in the classroom?
Those are my friends that I work with!  As a reading specialist, I see them during intervention times when we are pulling them out of the classroom so they can receive the extra instruction they need.  As a co-teacher, I see them in the classroom during whole group lesson time.  I try to think ahead of time what they need.  I've been playing with some ideas of maybe seeing those kids first thing in the morning, reading to them what we will be doing in class, and having them reread on their own during class - at that point they have background knowledge to give them tools to use when the reading becomes difficult. But then they are participating with their classmates... big self-esteem boost for them.

7.  Share your playlist of choice during your personal writing time.

8.  Describe your best professional development experience.
I try to learn something from each one.  I've presented at the Illinois Reading Conference, I've presented to our staff, I've presented to small groups of teachers.  I try to carry away something positive from each one.  My new favorite experience is the knowledge I'm learning from on-line!!

9.  If you had to "sell" the Twitter PLN to another educator, what would you say?
Remember how we've been saying we need to have better staff development than just us teaching each other???  I found new presenters.  On line.  And it's free.  

10.  How do you help ELL students gain the background knowledge to participate in your lessons appropriately?
Hmmmm... probably not as well as I should!  I know we read all the time about bringing in hands on materials that they can feel/manipulate, or reading books that might enrich their background knowledge about the subject they are learning about... but... it's hard to do that when you have a 30 min. block of time with them.  We have fantastic ELL teachers who do a lot for us, so I generally just try to get them to understand sounds, letters and how they go together!  Best practice?  Probably not.  

11. What advice do you have for educators getting into the field/halfway through?
Read.  Learn.  Listen.

Ok, I'm done.  Now it's your turn.  
I'm inviting these bloggers to participate, or just know that I was thinking of you.

Kara DiBartolo at Reading Queen @dibartolok
Dylan Teut at Mile High Reading @dylanteut
Mindi Rench at Next Best Book @mindi_r
Patrick Andrus at ReadWonder @patrickontwit
Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers @kelleemoye @ReadwithPassion
Leigh Anne at A Day in the Life @Teachr4
Jen at Teach Mentor Texts @mentortexts
Shannon Clark at irunreadteach @shannonclark7

My Questions:
1.  Favorite place to vacation?
2.  Guided reading or Independent reading?  Why?
3.  Swimming pool or ocean?
4.  Would you rather close your door and teach or co-teach?
5.  City or country?
6.  Most anticipated 2014 children's book release?
7.  Where do you buy most of your books?
8.  Best way to incorporate CCSS in your reading block?
9.  How many books do you have checked out from your public library right now?
10.  Best original teaching idea you've had?

Have fun and thanks for inspiring me!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 1.13.14

This weekly post comes from Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers.  It's a great source to find new books to use with your students.

This week started out as a reading week.  With two snow days, it was a great opportunity to read.  But the reality sat back in.  Going back to school really cut into my reading time.  But also gave me a great opportunity to talk about the books I read!

Here's a few of the books I read this week:

Doug Unplugged

Doug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino
4/5 stars
Very cute story about a boy robot who "unplugs" for the day and goes out to see the "real world".
CCSS connections - Use with kids to closely read a few sections of the story - talk about what he learned from the computer, and what the "real world" was able to teach him.  Students will need to use the text and illustrations to make their inferences.  Where did Doug learn more - in the "real world" or when he was plugged into a computer?  What does that tell us?
Use with Kg-2nd grade

Xander's Panda Party

Xander's Panda Party by Linda Sue Park
4/5 stars
Great story to use to teach including everyone.  Use at the beginning of the year to start developing the sense of community in the classroom.
Use with Kg-1st grade

Fairy Tale Comics: Classic Tales Told by Extraordinary Cartoonists
Fairy Tale Comics edited by Chris Duffy
5/5 stars
This is a must have!  I love this book.  Kids love this book.  Famous cartoonists have come together to illustrate individual fairy tale stories.  Told in a graphic novel/comic book format, kids will love listening to the classic tales and looking at the different ways they are illustrated.
My favorite part - in the "Little Red Riding Hood" story, I cracked up at the part when the huntsman punches the wolf in the stomach and Granny comes flying out of the wolf's mouth!  That was a new version of the story for me and seeing the way Granny flies out of the mouth is classic.

Super (Supers of Noble's Green, #2)
Super by Matthew Cody
5/5 stars
This is the sequel to Powerless.  I loved Powerless.  It's a great novel for reluctant readers.  It draws everyone in.  This is the sequel, and so often sequels just don't measure up.  This one did and surpassed the original.  It is full of nonstop action, thrills and mysteries.  There were some unanswered questions at the end so I sent a Tweet to the author and sure enough - the third installment, Villainous, is due this fall!!!  Can't wait, it's on my TBR list already!

The Sasquatch Escape
The Sasquatch Escape by Suzanne Selfors
4/5 stars
This is a new series and would be a great book for advanced 2nd graders - 4th graders.  Ben is staying with his grandfather for awhile.  Living in a small town proves to be boring.... until Ben sees a dragon flying in the sky.  That's just the beginning.  Next, is finding the escaped sasquatch.  Young readers will enjoy this fantasy and Dan Santat's illustrations make this read even more fun.

Currently Reading:
The Wig in the Window       A Snicker of Magic       Marty McGuire

Happy Reading!