Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday 4.29.15


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 am celebrating some books that can be used in Social Studies units.

The Founding Fathers!: Those Horse-Ridin', Fiddle-Playin', Book-Readin', Gun-Totin' Gentlemen Who Started America
The Founding Fathers! by Jonah Winter

I was very excited to find this book as it will be a great addition to many 4th-8th grade classrooms studying US History.  Quick information given in a reference-style format, this book provides a small biography of 14 men we refer to as "Founding Fathers".  The book begins with some background information on the Founding Fathers and their ability to get along when making big decisions.  Each of the Founding Fathers are featured on their own page.  A brief background is given about each man, detailing his thoughts and feelings about the war against Britain, as well as his contribution to the formation of our country.  Quick reference information is provided too:  quotes, political party, years served in various armies, education, position on slavery, religious views and achievements.  There is also fun information like height, weight, hobbies and, with inflation, their wealth.
The back notes give more background information about some events and terms that are mentioned - Boston Tea Party, taxes, slavery, religion, The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
I particularly liked the endpages - on one side it shows the "Varsity Squad", including Washington, Jefferson and Hamilton.  The other side shows the "Jr. Varsity Squad", spotlighting Sam Adams, Hancock and Henry, among others.  Humorous.
This would have been a great resource when my students were doing presidential biographies.  Not that this book is comprehensive, but is wonderful for a few extra facts.

28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World
28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed The World
By Charles R. Smith, Jr.
Illustrated by Shane W. Evans

It took me awhile to get my hands on this book, but wow, it was worth the wait.  
The book is organized by celebrating people, events, and laws that have made an impact on Black History in the United States.  Each page covers a day to celebrate the 28 days in February, usually the month that we celebrate Black History Month.  There is one extra page for not only Leap Years, but to remind us that every day can be a day to do something great.
I like that the author included a variety of events and people, and not just the ones you would expect.  I learned new things about people or events I might not have known about before.  I also like that the author included relatively new information - first African Americans in space, Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama.
I can see using this book during the month of February as a Quick Write activity.  I'd like to read a page a day and have students reflect upon the accomplishments and what they and the people mean to us and our country.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

SoLSC Organizing the Book Room 4.28.15


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

Last week I answered a Tweet posted by Michelle Nero (@litlearningzone) about how our book rooms are organized.  We started a great conversation which led to a few more inquiries of how mine is organized.  Here it is in pictures and thoughts.

I wanted to create a room that has books out in a visually appealing manner, easily organized and a place where any students could come check out books.  I work with students all over the building, and we're not always in this room.  I needed it to be well organized and self-explanatory so that way if students visit this room with an assistant, they would know how to find books without my help.  My reading students often come to me without a book identity and not feeling like they are readers.  My goal by the time they leave me is they know what they like, they've tried different genres, and they know what to do to continue their reading life.  Big goals, but I aspire to reach them with each student.  
The wonderful thing that has happened is my reading students have influenced their classmates.  Before we knew it this year, we had students all over the building wanting to come down to my room to check out books.  My reading students always get first priority, but I'm happy to let anyone check out books.  
I try to keep current with my book selection.  I purchase a lot with my own money, which is not always an option for all teachers.  I figure I read the books, my daughter reads the books, and then there are lots of school children who read them, what a value!  I get other books from Scholastic, which is a wonderful option.  I don't have students order from me since they order from their classroom teacher, but I get a few bonus points from my orders that I always turn over right away and buy more books.  
I don't have as much room as I would like, so I'm constantly weeding out books to make sure I have room.  The tired and true books stay, but kind of like the rule with throwing away clothes in my closet, if I haven't worn them/a child hasn't checked out a book in a year, it can be weeded.  I give them away to new teachers, students or book collection services.  
Students check out books by writing their name and the book title on a paper on a clipboard.  Nothing fancy.  I tried using an online book service, but I couldn't get it on the school iPad, only on my iPhone, and since I don't leave my phone in the room, it became impractical.  The kids can sign their own books out, and I can hunt them down if I need them.  Probably not the most efficient way, but it works for now.
The top shelves are my most popular books, the ones that I know the kids like to check out and find very easily.
I do have books that are leveled by a colored dot system.  These are picture books that are leveled, but grouped together in multiple levels.  For example, A-D are together since they have similar characteristics.  I continue that up through P.  Some are divided out by fiction/informational text.  I level these books for a purpose.  I service 1st-4th gr students.  While I strongly believe in choice, I also know students need accessible texts to support their growth.  Every child can check a choice book out.  My younger students who need support, also check out a book they can read on their own.  We talk about the characteristics of each colored dot bin.  We talk about books that have short sentences vs. longer sentences.  Books with just a few sentences per page vs. books that have more text than pictures.  Books that have pictures that help tell the story and words and books that have pictures that support the story but may not help figure out the words.  This way, students understand what books are right for them instead of me assigning them a level.
I really like the colorful bins that I was able to purchase this year.  They are eye appealing and the best part is there are dividers so I can section off series.  Each bin has 3 sections, so I can use 1 bin to keep 3 series organized in.  It also gives a separation for the picture books so they aren't all stuffed in the large bin.  I got them through Really Good Stuff.
Some favorite bins are the new books bins.  As I bring in new books, they go in this bin and they are frequented often!  I have a new bin that has longer chapter books and another one for transitional chapter books.
I also started a Challenge for students.  Our students in 3-4th grade can vote in the IL Bluestem Choice Awards.  The list for the 2016 vote just came out in March and students have until February to read at least 4 books from the 20 book list so they can vote.  I have bookmarks in this bin that list the books so they can keep track of what they have read.  I posted above this bin the books I own from the list that they can check out and another list of the books I have read from this list.
This year we received a bookshelf someone didn't want.  It has 4 sides: 2 are for display, 2 sides you can stack books.  I use them for my new picture books.  One display side is for new fiction picture books, the other for new informational text picture books.  The sides are where I rotate them out.  Anything I purchase this year goes on the shelf.  At the end of the year I will dot them and put them in the bins and start over next year!
Here are my shelves in pictures!

Top shelf has fantasy and realistic fiction series.  Also popular graphic novels.
2nd shelf has more graphic novels and books that have text and illustrations (Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, etc)
3rd and 4th shelves more series, most that aren't as popular.

Colored Dot bins
The yellow dot bins have an informational text bin and a fiction text bin

Top shelf has the "new" books.  Popular bins!  Also the IL Bluestem books.  I've since added lists of what they can check out and bookmarks so they can keep track what they have read.
Bottom shelves have colored dot bins.

Top shelf has the very popular Elephant and Piggie and Fly Guy collections.  Also transitional chapter books.
Middle shelves are divided by genre.

Top shelf has Animal series (Who Would Win, Seedlings series, National Geographic Kids) and animal series.
Next shelves are divided by genre.

New Fiction Picture Books on display for eager readers!

New Informational Text Picture Books

What do you do to organize your book room?  Any ideas to pass along to me?

Monday, April 27, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4.27.15

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 have had a very busy week and weekend, so just some quick notes on what I read this week!  I stopped in Barnes and Noble this weekend and sat down and read a few picture books that had been on my list.  Might've left with one or two :)

Picture Books

Stick and Stone
Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry
3/5 stars
I liked the initial story but then it changed and there was one weird part that threw me off.  I liked the theme of friendship, sticking up for your friends.

Butterfly Park
Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay
4/5 stars
The illustrations are standout.  I've seen this story done in several other books, nothing new, but nice story.

Bunny Roo, I Love You
Bunny Roo, I Love You by Melissa Marr
4/5 stars
I immediately bought this for my sister-in-law who is expecting.  Great gift book.  Not sure about the classroom.  Not that it's bad, it's just a sweet mother/child story.

Wild About Us!
Wild About Us! by Karen Beaumont
5/5 stars
This book surprised me.  Loved loved the message - we are meant to be unique and we should embrace our own special qualities!

Snoozefest by Samantha Berger
4/5 stars
Way cuter than I thought it would be.  Perfect for nighttime family reading night.
Cute character, would have loved jumping in the illustrations as a child.

Wherever You Go
Wherever You Go by Pat Zietlow Miller
4/5 stars
The possibilities for this book... they are currently spinning around in my head!  I think this is a great picture book for older students because they can understand the metaphor of "the road" and where it can take you.  Wonderful book.

My Secret Bully
My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig
5/5 stars
Ludwig writes amazing books that hit the heart of what happens with children. Bullying is not always loud, it's not always physical, it doesn't always have the cruelest words.  But kids are mean and the quiet, short, hurtful words don't go unnoticed. 
I passed this book onto my daughter.  I wish I had it last year for her.  
What an important book to have in a classroom.

Middle Grade

The Whisper (The Riverman Trilogy, #2)
The Whisper by Aaron Starmer
3/5 stars
Finally finished this one.  This one went slower than The Riverman.  I think there were too many background stories telling about the different lands in Aquavania.  I should have written them down to keep track of them.  I'll still finish the trilogy, but this one wasn't a great follow up, for me.

Currently Reading

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
I finally started this one and I am really enjoying it.  I'm interested in seeing how the stories are going to come together.   Ryan is a very talented storyteller.

I have a lot of books planned to read in May and June.  Hoping I get to many!
What are your reading plans?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Filling a hole - Scholastic's Branches series

Image result for scholastic branches

I have no problem finding picture books that engage many readers.  Middle grade books?  Check.  But books to engage those readers that are ready for longer books, but they are just a little too young for them... whether because the content is a bit too long, or a bit too mature.  It can be a challenge.

Have you seen the Scholastic series, Branches?  I love the variety it offers, both in topics and styles of books.  They are colorful, fun and engaging for students who are ready to move from picture books, but may need just a bit more support with chapters books.

Some benefits of this series:

  • All of them are series!  Which means kids can learn the characters and have predictable plot lines and settings, which is important to beginning chapter book readers.
  • Many of them have bright, colorful, illustrations.  By giving readers a strong visualization, it helps support the text and gives kids picture to hold in their head as they read.  The illustrations give just enough context clues to provide readers with some background information.
  • The series is an appropriate length.  Many young readers are ready for longer books, but don't have the stamina to read longer chapter books.  They end up abandoning many books.  These books are long enough to provide an engaging plot line, but not so long that children can't sustain their reading.
  • Branches uses different formats to keep readers interested.  Many of them use the illustration/doodles along with text format that Jeff Kinney made so popular with his "Wimpy Kid" books.  There are also books that include a comics/graphic novel format.  
I recommend classrooms and libraries that have grade levels 1-4 should look into having this series.  They are engaging, fun and appropriate.  I hope Scholastic continues making this series of books!

Check some of these out!

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