Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It's Monday, What are YOU Reading? 1/31/12

Hello faithful followers :)

I am proud to say I read not one, but TWO books this week! A big improvement from last week. Although, I am still hanging my head in shame a bit since I am not actually posting on a Monday. *sigh*

If you fee like lending your eyes for a moment, I can explain (if you don't want to hear my excuses, just keep scrolling). You see, I am one of two teachers heading up Student Council. I am realizing that this is a HUGE undertaking since I work with about 20 students third, fourth, and fifth grade. We are scheduled to publish our first ever school newspaper, and it has been hectic! So, my reading life is not what it should be. However, I am looking forward to posting about out paper and even publishing a copy for you all to check out, so stay tuned...

This week I finally finished Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. It was very good. I enjoyed the creepy twists and turns, most of which were unexpected since it is a Newbery Award winning book. I tend to associate the Newbery with strictly realistic fiction, but in my "Nerdbery Challenge" journey, I am discovering that there is a whole lot more to Newbery than I had previously thought. This would be a great book for some of my staunch "horror" fans to begin moving towards some other books. If they like this, then maybe they will like other Newbery winners in other genres? 

The other book I read was Grandpa Green by Lane Smith. This is a lovely picture book filled with images of lush green topiaries that tell the story of one man's life. This book gave my insides a little nostalgic punch. Not because I am a green thumb, but because the man whose life is being told through the sculptured flora makes me think of my own grandparents whom I miss on a daily basis. It is a simple story, but a sweet one. 

PhotobucketThis week I am going to work on The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley. This is another Newbery winning fantasy...see a trend happening? 

That's is for now, friends. So tell me...what are YOU reading?  

Friday, January 27, 2012

What a WONDERful site!

Maybe some of you are already familiar with this site, if not...get familiar!

Thanks to my ever flowing fountain of knowledge and resources that is Twitter, I happened upon this site when I began following Barbara Phillips (@wonderphillips). The site is Wonderopolis, a project developed by the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) to encourage families to embark on reading and learning adventures together. Barbara is a Lead Ambassador for Wonderyear 2012.

Here's how it works:
Screen Shot
Each day, a new "wonder" is posted. The wonder is in the form of a question that most kids may have puzzled over at one time or another. At this point, there are over 400 wonders to peruse through! Each one includes a short video related to the wonder of the day, a bit or informational text, links, and vocabulary.

My brain immediately began cranking out ways to incorporate this new (and FREE) resource into my teaching. I wanted to spend some time with my students working on the skill of determining importance, as this is often difficult and many of them struggle to sort important facts from interesting ones. Of course this is not easy, as sometimes they are both one and the same! A light bulb went off and I knew that Wonderopolis would help. 

I taught my students how to use a Fact, Question, Response (FQR) organizer to track their learning (find one here from BetterLesson.com). This is a great tool because it helps them sort their connections, thoughts, "wow" moments, and questions from the actual facts that they need to take away from the text. It also helps them to see how much thinking goes on as they are learning from a text.

Searching for "wonders" of their own
Once I had modeled with a short article, I introduced them to Wonderopolis. Wonder is an understatement when it comes to how enthralled they became with the concept. I gave them free reign to choose any "wonder" that they found interesting. Once they found one that struck their fancy, they worked on their own FQR organizers. I explained that when we met again, I wanted them to share some of what they had learned. They were so engaged! You could have heard a pin drop as they began clicking away, and this was without access to the videos! (Unfortunately, our county blocks the content of embedded videos, but I can access it with my teacher account for whole group if need be.)

After finding a "wonder" to learn about, I began hearing some chatter. Normally I would hush them back down to help them focus, but when I heard the content of the chatter, I stepped back and let them run with it. I heard a lot of "Hey! Did you know..." and "Wow! Look at this!" followed by "That is so cool, I am going to read that one next!" No, your eyes are not deceiving you, they wanted to read more and were very disappointed when our time was up. I promised to email a link home and encouraged them to share their learning with their families.

Adding information to FQR charts
Their work was impressive. Had I chosen an article for them, I doubt it would have yielded the same results. I am glad I gave them the freedom to explore and be guided by their own curiosity. In education, it is becoming an increasingly rare thing to allow the students so much freedom to explore their own interests. Wonderopolis gives that power back to children. This will definitely become a staple in my "bag of tricks."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Winter/ New Year's Poems and Activities!

Today is my birthday! (I am not telling you how old I am, but I will say that I am getting uncomfortably close to a dreaded decade!) Since I can't share any cake with you, I thought I would celebrate by sharing a "freebie" with all of you instead.

Our school has decided to change our "Poem of the Week" event to "Poem of the Month." As always, our reading specialist has found some wonderful poems and created writing activities to accompany them. Enjoy!

New Year's Poems:

Snow Poems:
Intermediate Response

Monday, January 23, 2012

It's Monday...What are YOU Reading? 1/23/11

Alright friends...I have a confession:

I think I went into reading overdrive for a while and have stalled out. It's so easy to read like a fiend when you are not working, but now that Winter Break is long since over...I am afraid I have not been as successful.*sad face*

I am still working my way through the books I posted about last time. Additionally, it is report card time which means I am devoting my extra time to grading like a mad woman. Please forgive me!

However, please be sure to stop by Teach Mentor Texts to find out what others have been reading this week!

Did you read anything good this week?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Toy!

I am so excited to share the new "toy" I have in my classroom! I got it for Christmas and am already obsessed with it. It's called IntelliScanner, and it is going to change my classroom library!

Books that are "lent" out appear with  yellow
 dots indicating that are not available. 
Because I want my students to read as much as possible, I obviously need to give them constant access to books. Unfortunately, not all of my students have a plethora to choose from at home, so I allow my precious, treasured, books to go home with them. A lot of time and money has gone into putting together my ever-growing classroom library, so I have students act as my "Librarians" to check books in and out for their classmates. This used to be done with cards I created, but I am currently in the process of transitioning my system from the pencil paper world into the digital one. Enter the IntelliScanner. 

Once books are scanned, a lot of useful
 information about them is added.
This handy little device scans and catalogs pretty much anything with a barcode. Once you scan the barcode, it will conduct a search and find information about that item. For books, it will pull up the title, cover illustration, author, publisher, price, and often a summary of the book. In addition, you can check books out to "friends" by entering in who has position of the book. You can conduct searches using keywords from the titles, too! 

I am currently in the process of scanning my books into the library. I will admit that some of my older books do not scan in correctly and I have to input the ISBN number by hand. However, the software that allows for the managing of my library is well worth the money I spent on my scanner (around $80 for the "Classic" IntelliScanner), even if the scanner itself doesn’t always get the job done. In two days I was able to input over 200 books, so in my opinion it is a pretty quick process. Once all books are scanned, I will teach my “Librarians” how to search for and check in/out books. I anticipate that this will make the process much faster and easier to track. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

It's Monday...What are YOU reading? 1/09/12

Check out what other bloggers are reading this week at Teach Mentor Texts!
Well, it's actually Wednesday...oops! Due to being out sick for the entire first week back after break (talk about bad timing), I have had a lot on my professional plate and haven't been able to sit down until now to post! Shame on me!


This past week I was only able to finish one book out of the few that I had anticipated. As much as I love to read, when I am sick I enjoy sleeping much more. 

This week I read Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger. This was the sequel to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. I was actually more fond of the sequel, although I really did enjoy them both. The characters in these books bring me back to my middle school days, complete with all of its awkward glory! In this book, Origami Yoda has found some competition in the cleverly dubbed "Darth Paper."  Whereas Yoda has become famous for doling out wisdom, Darth Paper is prone to slinging insults at innocent bystanders. It all adds up to a  humorous and heartwarming story that my students are already thoroughly enjoying. 

I am still working on  Strawberry Girl, and Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go. I have also started reading Neil Gaiman's Newbery Award winning The Graveyard Book. That's all I am putting on my plate for this week. Hopefully my improved health will lead to more reading, which I have desperately missed! 

What are you reading this week?

Monday, January 2, 2012

It's Monday, What are YOU Reading? 1/2/12

Check out what other bloggers are reading this week at Teach Mentor Texts!

Well, let's just say I surpassed my own reading expectations this past week. Thanks to having a wonderful and relaxing week off for winter break, I was able to accomplish a TON of reading!

Let's start with the novels...

First, I finished the last book in The Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay. This is another must-read series. The way in which Suzanne Collins tied up the series was exactly what I had hoped for, although it did tug at my heart strings like any good series should.

Next, I read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. This is a beautifully written story about love and loss. I highly recommend it, but warn that you will need a box of tissues nearby as you near the end of the story. The story is haunting and tragic, accompanied by creepy yet exquisite artwork from Jim Kay (the cover art is only a preview of what lies inside).

After finishing such an emotionally heavy book, I went for something on the lighter side. I read (and thoroughly enjoyed) The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger. This story is about the magical power of an origami puppet (or maybe it's his creator who has the true "magic") to give sound advice to those who seek it. With a middle school-aged male protagonist, I think this book will appeal to many boys who are still considered developing readers.

With part of my New Year's resolution being to challenge myself in my reading life by reading as many Newbery Award winning books as possible, I headed out to the store and bought a few. I was able to finish The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman in a few hours. I'll admit I was hesitant about this book at first, but as I continued to read the story really grew on me. I admit I love dynamic characters who learn and grow through their successes and failures, of which this female protagonist has many.

I also read a graphic novel, The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen,which had stunning artwork. The story is about a town plagued by a dragon in a time when all dragons were thought to be extinct. Through a clever plot to destroy it, the lead character and a less-than-thrilled "hero" set out to save their town.

And then there were the picture books...

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney is a Caldecott Award winning wordless picture book that tells Aesop's famous fable about two creatures who become unlikely allies. It had some modern twists and new additions, and the artwork was beautiful. I found myself lingering on each page to make sure I didn't miss a thing.

Chickadee Winter is an older book by Dawn L. Watkins  that I discovered for the first time. It is written in prose and tells a heartwarming story of a boy and his family who uprooted their lives in New Mexico. They find themselves now living in a winter wonderland with the boy's grandparents. Only the grandfather seems to know the secret to "getting used to" new surroundings. I thought this book was very sweet and enjoyed the colorful illustrations that made me feel as if I was looking through my own window out to the crisp, fresh fallen snow.

A Full Moon is Rising was an intriguing book of poems by Marilyn Singer about celebrations and customs around the world related to the various phases of the moon. I enjoyed the varied poems and the colorful illustrations that accompanied each. I also appreciated the information about the moon in the beginning of the book to help supplement my background knowledge about Earth's satellite.

Since school will be starting this week, I am sorry to say that I do not think I will get quite as much reading done over the next seven days. However, here are the books I am going to *try* to get through.

Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski (Newbery Award Winner)

Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go (Circles of Heck) by Dale E. Basye (it looked so interesting I had to grab it!)
What books did you read this week?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Reading and Writing Resolution

Ah New Years...a time to start fresh, make changes, improve, and grow. Every year I always think about what resolutions I will make to help make the year that is starting better than the one that just ended. I decided to ditch the tried and true "lose weight" (did that last spring and am happy where I am), "clean more" (I know that one is dead in the water), and "learn something new" (this would be cheating because I learn new things everyday through reading and the people I surround myself with). Instead, I decided to build upon something I already do: read and write.

In 2012, one of my goals is to read more books than I did last year (100 is what I am aiming for). It should be easy as I have so many great resources to turn to thanks to blogging, Twitter, and my "Nerdy Book Club" friends (#nerdybookclub on Twitter). In fact, there are tons of challenges swirling around the net related to this very resolution. In addition to tackling 100 books this year, I am going to read as many of the Newbery award winners and honors. I already purchased three of them and have an ARC (see previous post) for one that was rereleased on December 27, 2011. This challenge was sparked by my Nerdy Book Club Friends as well, and dubbed the name "Nerdbery" (#nerdbery).

The second "resolution" I have is to work on a dream I've had since I was young. One of the many things I adore about Twitter, is having the ability to not only connect with other teachers and readers, but also my connection to authors. I feel so inspired them that I am finally ready to tackle the challenge of writing a book. Will it get picked up by a publishing company? Maybe. Will it become an instant success and win a ton of awards? Probably not, but that's okay. I just want to start "living the dream," as it were.

The good news is it's only day one of this brand new year, and I am already four books into my reading goal and brainstorming ideas for a book. Things are looking pretty good for 2012.

What are some of you New Year's resolutions for 2012?