Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday 4.01.15


I am excited to join Alyson Beecher and other friends in this weekly challenge.  Finding great nonfiction picture books isn't a challenge anymore, there are so many wonderful books to be read now!  The challenge is sharing them with as many people as possible so they can find this wealth of literature to share with our young readers.  Thanks to Aly for starting this weekly link-up and thanks to all who join in!

It's time to think spring, even if the weather in the midwest is not cooperating!
Our kindergarten has studied birds and other animals and this week begins their study of eggs.  Thinking spring, animals and eggs, check these out!

Egg: Nature's Perfect Package
Egg: Nature's Perfect Package by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
I'm not going to write much about this beautiful book, instead I'll refer you to Margie Myers-Culver's comprehensive post from last week - she does the book justice!  
I read a conversation on Twitter today by Carrie Gelson, Alyson Beecher and Melissa Stewart about text structure, and I thought about that a lot as I read this book.  Egg is full of amazing information but Jenkins and Page make it so accessible to all readers by dividing the information into sections, example "Egg Eaters" and "Egg protection" are two different headings.  Teachers can guide young children through the book slowly and read just a bit at a time or they can focus on specific sections.  When going back through the book, students can use the heading to locate information quicker.  There is so much information, it helped me think about eggs in different ways but be able to categorize everything as I read.

Raindrops Roll
Raindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayre
Oh my, have you seen this gorgeous book?  This is one that warranted numerous re-reads. You need a read to just read the words, then a read to think about what it's teaching you, then a read to go back and re-read after you read the end notes about the science behind the book, and of course a read just to look through the amazing photographs.  So much to do with this book:
* ask, "what does rain do to insects? plants?
* what sounds do raindrops make?
* what does rain do?
* what happens after rain stops?
* how is rain important to the environment? (think plants and animals)
* look at the describing words, sort them into categories - examples: helping, science
Gorgeous.  And again, make sure you read Margie's post on this beautiful book.

Sweep Up the Sun
Sweep Up the Sun by Helen Frost
Poet Helen Frost and photographer Rick Lieder, the team that brought us Step Gently Out is back again with another sight for our eyes and prose for our ears.  Frost captures what it must be like to be a bird, flying solo or with friends, living on earth or up in the skies.  Lieder's amazing photography captures birds at moments that take our breath away.  This book is beautiful.  The endnotes, again, share information about the birds to make this book a wonderful addition to a science unit.
* I think I would use this book with students, first, just sharing the poem.  After talking about the words and what it makes us visualize, then I would share the stunning photography.

You Nest Here with Me
You Nest Here With Me by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple
Ok, I'm cheating here with this one.  It's a work of fiction, but if you just concentrate on the endnotes, then you're talking nonfiction!  This is a very sweet story, maybe even a bed time story about a mother sharing with her child about some of the nesting habits of birds, but always reminding her child "you nest here with me".  If kids aren't careful, they might even learn a little bit about birds and how and where they nest.  And if they have a savvy parent who shares the information in the endnotes, well, then they will definitely learn a few facts about the birds featured in the book.

What are some of your favorite bird, egg and spring books?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 3.30.15

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.

Spring Break reading was good :)
Here are the ones that really stood out.  I reviewed everything on Goodreads.  Check these books out:

Picture Books

Orion and the Dark
Orion and the Dark
 by Emma Yarlett

5/5 stars
I talked about this book briefly after ALA.
I'm so grateful to Jen Vincent for pointing this book out to me!
Being scared of the dark is something many young children face.  Having an illogical fear of something is a rite of passage for young children.  In this book, Orion has many fears, but the big one, is being afraid of the dark.  Until the Dark comes to visit.  Dark reminds me a bit of Beetle - a kind, old soul that has a heart of a giant.  
I think I said "awwww" a couple of times as I read this gem.  Make sure you find a copy of this book.  Maybe like me, it will find its way onto your bookshelf.

You Nest Here with Me
You Nest Here With Me by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple
4/5 stars
Mother-daughter team have created a wonderful bedtime story - visions of parents and children snuggling up to read this story come in my head.
But then the teacher side of me sees how this book is teaching its young readers about nesting habits of birds.  
This lovely fiction story has wonderful end notes, giving us additional information about each bird, their feathers, eggs, nests and other interesting facts.
And, oh yes, Melissa Sweet is the illustrator.  Icing on the cake.

My Pen
My Pen by Christopher Myers
4/5 stars
A pen is a tool that lets our imagination come to life. 
A great story that would leave much to talk about and write about and draw about.  I think this story has a place with older students.  I think they will understand it on a different level.  But young students may love where the pen takes them in the story.  What I love about picture books is they don't have an age limit stuck to them.  They are not just for our primary students.  So many more can enjoy them.

Meet the Dullards
Meet the Dullards by Sara Pennypacker
4/5 stars
Need to teach sarcasm to students?  This is a perfect tongue-in-cheek book that will get them laughing.  A family that finds staring at paint fun?  Mr. and Mrs. Dullard are trying their hardest to keep their young children dull.  But it's hard when a neighbor welcomes them to their new home with... chunky applesauce cake!!  Mr. Dullard even has to ask her to "Please don't use exclamation marks in front of our children."

Young Adult

Vanishing Girls
Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
4/5 stars
I like Oliver's books, but... they really make me nervous for my daughter to become a teen! Surely not all teens drink, do drugs, have sex, sneak out, and be mean to everyone, right?????
This one was good too.  Good twist.  But if you're going to read this book, I highly recommend reading it slowly.  Or else you're going to want to go back and reread everything to find what you missed.

Graphic Novels

Amulet, Vol. 1: The Stonekeeper (Amulet, #1)
Amulet #1: The Storekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
5/5 stars
I've had this one for awhile, just haven't gotten around to it.  I cannot believe how popular these books have been this year.  Very thankful for what this series has done.
This was on my #mustreadin2015 list.  Check it off!

Transitional Chapter Books

Lulu's Mysterious Mission
Lulu's Mysterious Mission by Judith Viorst
5/5 stars
I love Lulu - she's a spunky and a not-so-perfect character.  This third installment is probably my favorite.  She's funnier, more clever, and has even more schemes.  I love how Viorst turns and talks to the reader.  This book makes a beautiful read-aloud - kids will laugh and since it's a series, there's more to read!

Adult Reads

Yellow Crocus
Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim
4/5 stars
I really enjoyed this book.  If you liked The Help, I would recommend this one.  It's a great story about a wet nurse and her charge, a young plantation debutante.  It takes place during the time of the Underground Railroad.  The story was gripping, I didn't want to put it down.  But... the writing was not so good.  Debut author, but you would think the editing would have found some of the holes - week transitions, confusing at times, hard to sometimes follow who was telling the story, parts that needed to be developed.  But, even with all of that, it was a really good story!  It's a quick read.  Highly recommended.

Currently Reading

The Alex Crow
The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

Black Dove, White Raven
Black Dove White Raven by Elizabeth Wein


A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Celebrate This Week 3.28.15

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

Small Celebration Saturday!

It was a rough week a week ago and I just didn't have it in me to celebrate last weekend.  A week has passed, and no huge ups, but no bad downs either.  Just small celebrations.

1.  Spring Break
This was not the best Spring Break.  It was full of doctor appointments (routine) and appointments of things that need to be done not during a school day.  I appreciate that I had a week to do them.  I do my best to get things done outside of school but that's not always possible.  Having a week to get things done is helpful.  Of course we started Spring Break with a snowfall of 5+ inches.  Yuck.  The temps have not been cooperative.  But, we were off school.  I took a nap 4 days over break.  I didn't pack a lunch.  I got reading done.  Not bad.

2.  Movie time
Last weekend my daughter and I had a mother-daughter movie date.  We saw the new Cinderella.  Have you seen it?  It was beautiful.  The costumes were gorgeous, the scenery breath taking and the story fantastic.  Disney does it again.  I really enjoyed the casting too. Helena Bonham Carter as the fairy godmother?  That was a bit far-fetched, but it was fun to see her play a "good guy" because she really is a fantastic villain!  And the Frozen Fever short was so fun!  I adore Idina Menzel and Jonathan Groff so it was a pleasure listening to the new song.  This weekend my daughter is going to have a father-daughter movie date and go see the new movie Home.  It looks cute, but I think I may enjoy some downtime of my own!

3.  Shoe shopping
I have had trouble finding good spring shoes the past couple of years.  I think I finally solved the problem for this year.  A couple of weeks ago I got a couple of pairs of Sketchers, the new ones with the memory foam in them.  I love them, but feel like sometimes I need something just a bit more dressy.  I found 2 super cute pairs this week that fill that void.  And I have a pair of flip flop sandals that I love love love.  But they are getting to the point where they don't smell the best :)  Found them on Zappos, so now have a cute pair of nice smelling flip flops!

4.  Author week
I'm sure many of you have heard of the wonderful Indie bookshop, Anderson's in Naperville, IL.  It's a little over an hour away from our house.  Closer to 2 hours away when you're driving in rush hour traffic.  We don't get down there too often, which is unfortunate because they have wonderful children's literature authors that come frequently but always on a school night.  We took Spring Break as an opportunity to see two amazing authors - my daughter and I met Chris Grabenstein and.... the one and only Katherine Applegate!  We went two different days and shopped both days.  Came home with some great kidlit including a blinged up copy of The Crossover!

5.  Doing Good
This week my daughter and I went with Jen Vincent (@mentortexts) and her son to Feed My Starving Children.  I knew it was a place where you put food together that they ship out to the hungry.  I didn't realize the extent of what we were doing.  They showed us a video before we started of children in third world countries and what malnutrition is doing to them. Then we got ready and went back to the food prep room.  We actually put together food packets (vitamins, veggies, soy and rice) they they called Manna packets.  These packets are put in boxes and shipped to these different countries.  It was a great experience - the energy in the room was amazing.  This is something I would definitely like to do again.  I'm glad Jen got me involved!

Happy week, everyone!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday 3.25.15


I am excited to join Alyson Beecher and other friends in this weekly challenge.  Finding great nonfiction picture books isn't a challenge anymore, there are so many wonderful books to be read now!  The challenge is sharing them with as many people as possible so they can find this wealth of literature to share with our young readers.  Thanks to Aly for starting this weekly link-up and thanks to all who join in!

This week I read the book Alex the Parrot: No Ordinary Bird by Stephanie Spinner because it landed on the 2016 Bluestem Award nominations.  This is the 3rd-5th grade IL Kids Choice award.  This book is a great mentor text for narrative nonfiction.  It is divided into chapters, with each chapter being several pages long, usually one full page of an illustration and the opposite page with another illustration and half a page of text.  The amount to read is very accessible for 3rd-5th graders, with even younger students being able to listen and comprehend the story.  The story is in narrative format, showing how Alex the Parrot learned information and was able to communicate over time.  The scientific process is shown to students as the text explains how the scientist, Irene Pepperberg, went about her study of how the grey parrot learns and communicates.  This highly engaging text and story will be a book students read again and again.  With multiple ways of using the book - either as a mentor text for writing nonfiction, a mentor text to show the scientific process in writing, or a mentor text for looking at research, this is a great addition for the classroom.

Alex the Parrot: No Ordinary Bird: A True Story

Monday, March 23, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 3.23.15

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 love my on-line life and it has certainly added to my reading pile.  I try to get as many books as possible from the library so my budget isn't absolutely ruined by my book buying.  As soon as I see a book I am interested in, unless it's already in my must-be-purchased-immediately-without-even-looking-at-it-first pile, I put it on hold at the library.  But why is it when you have as many books on hold as I do, they all seem to come in at once?  And if you have any longer chapter books, say some young adult or even adult reads on hold, well. that really dents your reading time!  So, not a ton read, but some good longer reads to recommend!
I also just got back from seeing the new Cinderella movie.  While I am definitely Disney-biased, I do highly recommend this movie.  It was beautiful!

Picture Books

In Mary's Garden
In Mary's Garden by Tina and Carson Kugler
5/5 stars
I quickly read this book at ALA this winter, but I was thrilled to have more time with it this week.  Art can be so many different things and I love that Mary Nohl saw something so unique and special.  I think this book is going to touch the hearts of many readers.

In by Nikki McClure
4/5 stars
I think this book is going to go on my Mock Geisel unit at the end of this year.  Simple words, but I love what you can talk about the writing.  This book reminded me of Lizi Boyd's Flashlight but with text.  The things you can find when you use your imagination...

Informational Texts

Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh
Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally Walker
4/5 stars
For those who know me, they know I love all things Disney.  However, I detest Winnie-the-Pooh.  Not a popular opinion, I know.  I've never liked Pooh Bear.  Too whiny for me.  I don't care for any of the Hundred Acre Woods characters.  But I thoroughly enjoyed this book that gives some of the history behind the bear.  Maybe because it's history, I can look past my detest for Pooh and love his story!

Middle Grade

The Question of Miracles
The Question of Miracles by Elana K. Arnold
4/5 stars
My heart broke for the main character.  To want something that in your heart you know cannot happen... to ask the impossible questions.  Thought provoking book, especially at the end.  While I loved the emotion and big questions it asked, I thought the author could have gone a bit deeper, it seemed that she got into the shallow water... almost at the deep end... but came up a little too soon.  

Adult Read

Mightier Than the Sword (The Clifton Chronicles, #5)
Mightier Than the Sword by Jeffrey Archer
4/5 stars
I love historical fiction and this family chronicle has fed that part of my book soul.  This was another good addition to the Clifton family story, and as usual, it ended with a cliffhanger.  Since I know the next one won't be out for another year, this time I wrote down what was happening with all the main characters.  I'm hoping that will help me remember the major plot lines.  It seems like I spend the first part of each book going, oh yeah!  Now I remember!

Currently Reading

Yellow Crocus
Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim
Loving the story - told in the 1800s, about the relationship between a young daughter of a plantation owner and her nurse, a slave the family owns.  Fantastic story.  It's gripping, and I always want to return to it when I have to put it down.  It's a debut author and I think there are certain writing techniques that need to be improved upon (better editing??), but the story is so strong, you can get through the writing.  Highly recommended.

On Deck

It's Spring Break reading time!  I have a lot of picture books to get through.  The 2016 IL Bluestem  and Monarch Reader's Choice nominees just came out and I'm trying to get through some of them.
Some other books in the pile:
Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith
RollerGirl by Victoria Jamieson
A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean
Amulet #1 by Kazu Kibuishi
Lulu's Mysterious Mission by Judith Viorst

Here's to #bookaday!!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday 3.18.15


I am excited to join Alyson Beecher and other friends in this weekly challenge.  Finding great nonfiction picture books isn't a challenge anymore, there are so many wonderful books to be read now!  The challenge is sharing them with as many people as possible so they can find this wealth of literature to share with our young readers.  Thanks to Aly for starting this weekly link-up and thanks to all who join in!

Last week's post talked about using chapter book biographies.  This week I'm using picture book biographies, but for an activity that is a bit more specific.  I've noticed that my reading students have a hard time answering the question "what type of character is ____?", this question along with naming character traits or adjectives has proven to be difficult.  Often I get answers that the character "lives with their family" or is "nice".  

Using picture book biographies and turning the activity around a bit, has shown students a way to look at the characters in a new light.

I have found finding descriptive character trait words (beyond the usual nice, a good friend, etc) a difficult task for students.  Instead of starting with character traits, we started with actions.  After reading through pages of a picture book biography, I stop after one or two big pieces of action.  Not necessarily a "fighting" scene, but a part in the biography when the person has done something big in their lives.  We talk about the action of the character, what did they do, how did they do it?  Once they have an understanding of what happened, then we talk about what does that mean for the character?  "Because the character did ______, that shows __{insert describing word}__.  By going in this reverse order, the kids can concentrate on one specific part of the character's life, instead of thinking broadly.  Continue reading the book in this fashion, and students will have several great words to describe the character!  

Along the way, I have found some great picture book biographies to use with students.  Mostly thanks to the bloggers on #IMWAYR and #NFPB2015.  What amazing resources this has been!

Make sure you check these out!

Sixteen Years In Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story
Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds The Sammy Lee Story by Paula Yoo

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone
Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Kathryn Russell-Brown

I am Jackie Robinson
I Am Jackie Robinson by Brad Meltzer

Ben Franklin's Big Splash: The Mostly True Story of His First Invention
Ben Franklin's Big Splash by Barb Rosenstock

Earmuffs for Everyone!: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs
Earmuffs for Everyone! by Meghan McCarthy

Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah
Emmanuel's Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson

Monday, March 16, 2015

SoLSC 3.17.15 Posting Our Spring Break Shelfies!


Slice of Life is a weekly event hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

Our 4th graders have been joining in on their own Monday #IMWAYR posts.  I saw a tweet by Kristin Ziemke about using padlet for IMWAYR.  I was intrigued and decided to give it a try.

Since I work with reading students, I needed to use an avenue for our Monday posts that everyone could have access to.  I knew kidblog was an option, but Kristin had mentioned using padlet and I thought this was something new, yet accessible.

Each week I set up a new page with a new date.  That way kids are constantly updating the page with new books and getting new ideas.  My reading students always blog about what they are currently reading or a book they've just recently completed.  We looked at my blog and my #IMWAYR posts and a few other blogs.  I pointed out different ways to review a book.  You can summarize, talk about lines that stick to you, point out what was special about the book, use adjectives to describe or make you feel.  But the most important thing is don't give away the ending!  We talked about giving the reader just enough information and dangling something that makes them want to read the book.

After the students review their book and sign it (boy, they love seeing their name "in print"), they take a picture of their book or find a picture from the internet.  They attach it to their review and then it's posted.  I've encouraged the kids to look at the books their classmates have posted - see something you like?  Add it to your TBR list!

We have four 4th grade classrooms and two of the classrooms are currently joining us.  The students have all week to add their reviews to the page.  Friday afternoon I review everything and lock the page.  The page is then added to the school's website.  We are currently trying to get the "word" out to parents that this is a great resource to use to get book titles - getting a peer recommendation goes so far!

I'm really excited for this week's posts.  Since it's the week before Spring Break, I thought instead of writing a review, we would post some Spring Break shelfies!  I regularly do book talks for the kids, but this time I talked to them about making Spring Break reading plans. We talked about knowing how many books would we need to have over break.  Are they going to challenge themselves?  Try something new?  Just make a goal to always have a book!  All the kids left with new books to read and a Spring Break plan.  Next up, taking some shelfies!  The kids were really excited to show what they would be reading.  I invited other 4th graders to show us their Spring Break shelfies as well as their teachers.  I can't link the page up yet, since they have all week to add their pictures. 

You could feel the excitement as the students made their plans and getting to share it through technology made it even more fun!

This is just one way I have found to have kids share their reading.  What has worked for you?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 3.16.15

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.

A little more normal reading week!  I've had so many holds from the library come in, so lots of picture book reading!  With all the holds, that means my #mustreadin2015 slows down a bit with these other books taking priority.  That darn 3 week checkout!

Picture Books

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise
Hoot Owl Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor
4/5 stars
When I first started reading this story, I didn't know how I was going to feel about it.  It ended up being very cute, one I want to share with my younger readers.
It's a great mentor text for simile and metaphor, too!
The "disguises" the hoot owl comes up with will have younger audiences laughing for sure.  And his last "prey" is very amusing :)

Home by Carson Ellis
5/5 stars
This one went on my must purchase list.  First of all, the illustrations are beautiful.  I think it could also be used to talk about what makes up a home?  What is a home to you?  The simple text packs a powerful message.  
And I think I could go back and look at the illustrations days in a row and find something new!

The Thing About Spring
The Thing About Spring by Daniel Kirk
3/5 stars
It was cute, but I didn't love it.  As spring arrives, Bunny is not happy about winter leaving (what????).  He's going to miss making bunny angels and snow forts.  His friends show him the fun things about this next season coming until Bunny finds how his remaining piece of winter combined with spring to make everyone happy.

Informational Texts

The Thrills and Chills of Amusement Parks
The Thrills and Chills of Amusement Parks by Jordan Brown
3/5 stars
I think Alyson Beecher featured this series on her blog a few weeks ago.  I'm hoping to find some readers that will be interested in this series.  I like that the science of common experiences are explained.  Make those kids think a bit!

Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama
Seeds of Freedom by Hester Bass
5/5 stars
Beautiful story about the integration that took place in the 1960.  Great mentor text how to take a smaller moment to write about - the civil rights moment is huge and so many important events took place in Alabama.  The author pinpoints the town of Huntsville, Alabama and how it tried to have a peaceful integration in 1963.  The author clearly shows how the city had more peace than violence during this tumultuous time.  This is a book I will be adding to my collection.

Transitional Chapter Books

My Family Adventure (Sofia Martinez)
Sofia Martinez My Family Adventure by Jacqueline Jules
4/5 stars
I found this book on Crystal Brunelle's blog a little ways back and I'm glad I was able to get it from the library.  This is a great transitional chapter book series for young kids.  There are 3 stories in the book and each story has several chapters.  Easier text and colorful illustrations will catch student's interests.  The series tells Sofia's adventures and features her familia (Spanish glossary found in the back of the book!).
Fans of Kylie Jean and Heidi Heckelbeck will find a new friend in Sofia.
I got this copy from the library, but I will be purchasing a few from this series.  I know some girls who will really enjoy these stories.

Graphic Novel

Sidekicks by Dan Santat
4/5 stars
I know I'm a little late to the game reading this one.  I've checked it out from the library before, just never got around to reading it.  It landed on the 2016 IL Bluestem Choice Award list and I knew it would be an easy sell to many of my students.  I really enjoyed the Sidekicks and their passion to help their owner!

Middle Grade

Listen, Slowly
Listen, Slowly by Thannha Lai
5/5 stars
Oh my gosh.  Put this on your must read now list.  
It was such a pleasure to read.  I said on my goodreads review, I think this was the book of 2015 that I immediately hugged to my heart upon finishing it. 
I loved the main character, Mai.  She has the perfect middle grade voice.  She was sarcastic, but unsure of herself.  She wanted to please adults, but was self-centered at times.  She loved her family, but needed space.  She learned so much about herself by being put into an unfamiliar place.
Woven in with Mai's story, is Ba's story.  Ba is Mai's grandmother who is on a return trip to Vietnam to find out what really happened to her husband after the war.  Told in bits and pieces, Ba's story is as important to us as Mai's self-discovery.

Currently Reading

My adult read is Jeffrey Archer's Mightier Than the Sword.  I'm almost done with this fifth installment of the Clifton Chronicles.  I enjoy this series and I know it won't be the last one. All I can say is I'm really glad my family isn't involved in politics or business to the level the Clifton family is!
My middle grade read is The Question of Miracles by Elana K. Arnold.
A colleague loaned me The Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim.  Have you heard of this one?

One more week and it's Spring Break reading time!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Celebrate This Week 3.13.15

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

Looking for those small celebrations can make a week end positively!

1.  Quiet swim week
Because our swim arena is being used for another swim meet this weekend, my daughter has another 5 day swim break.  While she ends up having more energy than I would like, it also meant we got to come straight home straight after school.  I cannot tell you the last time I was home by 3:30 to do nothing.  It's lovely.

2.  Glimpses of spring
We finally got some spring weather this week.  We've had our first 60 degree day up here in the north Chicago suburbs.  My daughter and I went out for a walk - well, I walked, she scootered, this afternoon.  We still have snow on the ground but it's great seeing the melted puddles.  I love feeling the sun on my face and not shivering!  I know we've got cold days ahead but I'm going to enjoy these temperatures while they are here!

3.  No socks
Small celebration, but it's a good one.  I love wearing shoes that don't require socks.  Little chilly in the mornings, but another sign spring is coming!

4.  Round one of PARCC is done
Well, for my daughter.  I was very disappointed to see her school schedule all 5 PARCC tests for 5 days straight.  I was lucky that these tests didn't completely stress my child out.  I don't think they were easy for her, but we didn't have major breakdowns.  I'm glad she's done for this round.

5.  Happy Reading Days
I received some gift cards for my birthday last week which promptly went to buying books.  They started arriving this week.  I'm looking forward to reading RollerGirl, Reading Between the Lines, and a bunch of books from the IL Bluestem Choice Awards:  Dorko the Magnificent, Sidekicks, Masterpiece and Regarding the Fountain.  Love the reading I have ahead of me!

Happy weekend :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday 3.11.15


I am excited to join Alyson Beecher and other friends in this weekly challenge.  Finding great nonfiction picture books isn't a challenge anymore, there are so many wonderful books to be read now!  The challenge is sharing them with as many people as possible so they can find this wealth of literature to share with our young readers.  Thanks to Aly for starting this weekly link-up and thanks to all who join in!

Our 4th grade students are currently in the middle of a biography unit.  They are reading and compiling facts.  They are using longer biographies and if they have time, they are finding additional information in picture books and internet sites.  Most of the students are reading books from the "Who Was/Is" Scholastic series.  I like these books because they present the information in a chronological order.  Kids understand timelines and they understand that there is an order to a person's life.  

To take notes we've used an outline the classroom teachers are using and then we're taking notes on post-its using a timeline order.  The classroom teachers want the bulk of information in 2 areas - the person's early life and then adult life.  The students used the table of contents to determine which chapters would cover early life and which chapters would include the adult life.  We had to have a conversation about what constitutes early life - most students don't see the teenage years and college years as early life :)

Next, students put small post-its on parts they thought were important in those chapters.  We talked about taking quick notes on the post-it note to remind us why we put the post-it note in that section.  Once the chapters are read, students lay their post-its down in order and go through and decide what information needs to be included, and what is probably extra info.  They also had to include information on a timeline, so the post-its were perfect to move from their notes section to the timeline.

This unit allowed me to have the opportunity to look at the wide variety of biographies that are out there.  The picture book biographies are great for introducing students to the stories of people who made a difference.  They are a great resource for older students to add additional information to what they already know.  Chapter book biographies can be well done or they can add confusion to students.  I noticed that some of my reading students who selected biographies of people who lived during a time period way before my students, struggled more with background knowledge.  Reading about George Washington and Thomas Jefferson was more difficult than reading about Martin Luther King Jr. only because there was a certain amount of understanding and investment in those time periods.  

And as many of us know, not all biographies are created equal.  I found a new series, "History's All-Stars" that present the information in a narrative format.  While entertaining, I think it would take a discerning reader who could separate the narrative from the facts.

One final point on chapter book biographies, it is sometimes interesting to see if there was a relationship between the author and the subject. That gives me information that the author might have access or additional knowledge as a result of a working relationship.  Other author bios let you know if there was a relationship with the person or if the author is someone who has made a name for themselves writing biographies. 

Here are some of the series I looked at during this biography unit:

"Who Is/Was" series
Who Was Walt Disney?

"I Am" series
I Am #11: Walt Disney

"A Biography for Kids" series
Walt Disney: Drawn from Imagination

"History's All-Stars" series
Walt Disney