Sunday, August 10, 2014

Picture Book 10 for 10...2014!!!

Since I started this blog back in January, I was able to participate in Nonfiction 10 for 10 in February. When I saw Picture Book 10 for 10...I had to take part! It is so hard to choose just 10 favorite picture books, but I think I have finally narrowed down my choices! Here it goes...in no particular order.


                   
                                                 
 1.   Little Red Writing by Joan Holub is one of my favorite new books that I discovered this year.  I grabbed it from the local library after reading about it on a blog. This books is adorable and whimsical! 
A perfect book for teaching your students about writing.  After I read this book to my class, I had to go out and buy it! I love the page that incorporates loads of adjectives about the deep, dark forest. An enjoyable book for kids of ALL ages...even teachers! 



2.  Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin is a NEW favorite. I now know why this is a  New York Times Bestseller!  What a great book to read to draw kids in and point out fabulous writing! The author first starts out with "Hey, Kid! Do you know what dragons love tacos?" What a way to teach students the importance of "bold beginnings" in writing.  Lots of great inferring can happen with this text as well.  The voice in this book is hilarious and will make your students laugh uncontrollably! 



3.  The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt is another one of my new favorites! I found this book in the library on a whim. I didn't even realize how hilarious it was until I started reading it to my class. My students loved the "voice" in this book and we laughed and laughed. We loved how "overworked" the red crayon was, loved the beige crayon's perspective about only being able to color wheat and turkey dinners, the gray crayon complaining about ALL of the large animals that it has to color, and of course the peach crayon being "naked!" Tee Hee!!!  The students couldn't wait to try their hand at experimenting with voice as soon as we were done reading!  I had to change my plans up so that I could accomodate their excitement! 



4.  Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian is brilliant. There is also Memoirs of a Hamster which is  equally brilliant!  Love reading this book from the perspective of the goldfish. Another book written with great "voice" and you can just hear the tone of the goldfish as you read the book aloud. Love when Rhoda and Clark announce they're going to have babies in the small fishbowl and the goldfish says, "Like there's room for THAT."  Lots of great humor in this book that will especially make older students laugh. 





5.  Mr. Peabody's Apples by Madonna is one that I ALWAYS have to read to my class each year. I heard about this book after a boy in my class started a rumor about another teacher. The assistant principal came in and read this to my class and I loved the message in this book.  I read this book when we talk about theme and it is a great interactive read aloud. A boy starts a rumor about his baseball coach and then realizes that it is really hard to take back your words once you say something about someone else. A great book and a great lesson for EVERYONE! 


6. Hooray for You! by Marianne Richmond is such a sweet book! I love reading this to my own kids as well as my students every year. This book has beautiful illustrations and a sweet message. The text rhymes and encourages kids to appreciate their individuality and reminds them to be yourself. I love the line, "Yes, from head to toe tip, you're truly original, a creation in progress, a distinct individual." All of the books by this author are equally sweet and touching. 


7.  Ralph Tells A Story by Abby Hanlon is another great book to encourage kids with writing stories. 
Ralph is like many of our students who never have anything to write about because nothing exciting ever happens to Ralph. I've heard this same story myself many times over the years. Students can really relate to this book and to Ralph. This book will encourage your students to think outside the box, help them develop their writing and find stories in their everyday life! 


8.  Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes is one of my ALL TIME FAVORITES! I love Lilly! Always have...always will! I think I also love Kevin Henkes! His books just make me laugh and kids can always relate to his stories. I love the "voice" in his books and I love how he develops his characters so thoughtfully. I also love the added adult humor in his books. To me, Lilly is an icon...when she isn't busy being a dancer, or a surgeon, or an ambulance driver, or a diva, or a scuba diver. 



9.  The Gardener by Sarah Stewart is one that I love every time that I read it! I love the format of this book and how the author writes the book through Lydia Grace's letters to her family. Lydia Grace writes home about her experience visiting her grumpy Uncle Jim and growing flowers at his place.  The students always painfully wait through each page to see if Uncle Jim will finally smile. The students ALWAYS love the ending of this book and love to see the change in Uncle Jim over time. 


10.  The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires is a new favorite! I heard about this book and HAD to buy it. What a great message in this book! The girl in the book wants to make something, has a great idea, and some great supplies, but just can't seem to get it right. She gets pretty frustrated and quits.  This book is perfect for teaching perseverance and helping perfectionists navigate what to do when you don't complete something perfectly right out of the gate. A book that will be a classic read aloud for years to come! 

Checkout pinterest for my Top Read Alouds of 2014.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reading in the Wild #cyberPD- Week 3


Thank you to our cyberPD hosts – Cathy MereLaura Komos, and Michelle Nero for hosting this year’s #CYBERPD.  I have enjoyed the opportunity to reread Reading in the Wild this summer and it has been fun to read all of the other participants’ posts. The wrap-up twitter chat will be on July 30th, 8pm EST.


Chapter 5-Wild Readers Show Preferences

After reading this chapter, I thought about my own reading preferences. What do I like to read? What do I enjoy?(I enjoy the latest kid lit, memoirs, mindless summer reading, and books on literacy to name a few.) It made me think...can my own students verbalize their reading preferences? Donalyn writes, "True preferences come from wide reading and lots of positive encounters with books." 
It is our job as teachers to make our student's encounters with books positive!
Don't make them read a book just because you have always taught this book for 15 years. Don't force books on kids, instead take time to find what they like and recommend books for them. 
I have helped turn many kids into voracious readers just by taking time to look for books for them.  I will say..."Jake, I ordered this book from Scholastic just for you...I really think you will love it...could you read it first and then I will have you tell the class all about it." They always look at me like..." You were thinking of me when you got that book and you got it for me to read???" We then start this relationship where I lead them in the direction of good books and before I know it they are choosing their own books and over time they become a wild reader! They just need to find and recognize their reading preferences...sometimes with a little guidance. This echoes what Donalyn writes, "Students' preferences provide a starting point for building positive reading relationships between us and our students." So find a reluctant reader or more this year and help shape their reading life! What a lasting impact on that child or children!!

My one struggle that I have in my classroom is the balance of reading graphic novels. Our library has a million of them(or so it seems!) and my students are pulled to them. I hate to tell students that they can't read a certain book, but I had this major struggle with graphic novels. I teach in a classroom of all gifted students and am responsible for their reading growth(amongst other areas as well!) I  had students only reading graphic  novels week after week, rereading Diary of a Wimpy Kid 4 and 5 times, and not stretching themselves as a reader. I realize that these books can be enjoyable to read, engaging, creative, and less overwhelming to read than a traditional novel or text but I felt that it was my job to push my students to read more challenging text. I ended up telling students that they could check out one graphic novel each week but they would have to read it at home. In class, we would be focusing on reading novels and nonfiction. Every once in awhile I would say, "Today during read to self you can read a graphic novel."  Some students would, some wouldn't. The parents were in support of this plan, because they were ready for their children to move away from the repeated readings and reliance on graphic novels. It is a delicate balance and something I still struggle with in my head. I also know that there are exceptions and sometimes I encourage students to read graphic novels or to read the matching graphic novel to the chapter book.(Maximum Ride series by James Patterson). As a teacher, you have to always be thinking about what is best for your students and how you can grow them as readers!

I love the statement in this chapter that states, "rereading books increases comprehension and enjoyment." (pg. 175) It was when I was young and reread The Boxcar Children multiple times that I started to notice books in depth. I could visualize the boxcar house, I could infer their feelings about living on their own, I asked myself questions about how they could possible live on their own, and I felt like I was such a part of the book that I had to step out of it when I was done reading. Students discover new things when they reread, they notice story structure, and it should never be forbidden to reread a book. When it becomes obvious that a student is not moving away from a book, then a conversation can take place. 

There were many other great points in this chapter that I will highlight below...
 •During these reading habits conferences, we gain deeper understanding of how each reader has grown and the wild reading habits each one still needs to develop. (pg. 183)
•Constantly looking for ways to bridge the divide between school reading and life reading, I changed the term "student" or "name" on every form to "reader" or "writer" as the task suited. (pg. 184)
•I do not obsess on a book-by-book basis about whether my students read books that match their reading levels at all times, but I do consider trends in reading choices. (pg. 185)
•Readers who have finished few books by certain points in the school year may reveal a lack of consistent engagement with what they read. (pg. 186)
•I have learned that the most avid readers often keep the worst records of their reading activities. (pg. 187)
•Conferring about their independent reading habits keeps my students and me focused on our long-term goals--internalizing wild reading behaviors and developing the self-reflection skills necessary to maintain lifelong reading. 

This books has so many nuggets of wisdom about developing wild readers. Let's go out there in a few short weeks and develop reading lives and build more wild readers!!! 



Sunday, July 20, 2014

It's Monday What Are You Reading 7/21/14


Since it is summer, I have had lots of time to read. It is probably my favorite way to decompress and relax. I've read a few books this past week....
I read this little gem via netgalley.com. I was able to submit for an advance digital copy and I luckily received it to read. It was awesome! I read it in less than a day and was very impressed by it. The book had many science references and inquiry based questions that you could really delve into with your students. A book with a great message as well that comes out at the end of August. This book is part of The Global Read Aloud in October and already has a lot of buzz around it. I think middle grade kids will really like this one! 


Another good one that I read in just about a day was Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff. This book was about a boy named Albie that struggles with many different things. He struggles in school and has trouble meeting other people's expectations of him. This causes him great angst. He learns that it is not so cool to be cool and that kindness is what matters. A great book to start the year! 


I picked this up at the Hamline Literacy Institute last week! A great book by Frank Serafini on assessment. He spoke last week and was a very engaging speaker and educator. I'm so glad that I had the chance to hear him! Lots of information on qualitative assessment and thoughts about looking at readers through many lenses and windows. It's kind of weird to say...but I'm really loving this book on assessment! 


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Reading in the Wild-Part 2 #cyberPD



I am absolutely excited that I can revisit this fabulous book and blog about my thoughts before I start back into another school year! After blogging about Reading in the Wild last week, it just reaffirmed for me what an asset Donalyn Miller is to the literacy community! 


Chapter 3- Wild Readers Share Books and Reading with Other Readers

How else can I start but to say I wholeheartedly agree with the line, "Children's future success depends on their acquisition of literacy skills." This line alone is why I do everything that I can as a teacher to hook my students on books. I want each and every one of my students to leave at the end of the year with either a love of reading or at least a greater appreciation for reading. 

Donalyn Miller write about the importance of fostering a strong school and home reading community. She gives many suggestions for making this happen and all of them have value! I love the idea of adding a weekly student book recommendation to your email signature. I might just have to try that this year. 

She also adds the importance of "carving out meaningful blocks of time for independent reading." She suggests at school and at home. I would much rather have my daughters reading for homework than answering "critical thinking questions" at the end of a story in a basal. (BTW-she hates when she has to do this for homework!) 

I also LOVED the section on the Benefits of Reading Communities. Donalyn mentions that reading communities, "foster connections with other readers, increase how much readers read, challenge readers to stretch themselves, improve readers' enjoyment and appreciation of what they read, encourage new suggested titles for reading, and encourage mindfulness about what you read and share with others." When I implemented book clubs this year in my class and an after school book club the excitement level about reading skyrocketed even more than before! Students were reading with the intent to share certain parts, students were talking about books before book club even started, and they were encouraging others to read along with them or to read a certain book as soon as they had a chance. It is one thing that I will not stop doing in my classroom...book club has been such a positive experience for our classroom and has really encouraged discourse about books! 

The other thing that I started this year that was in Donalyn Miller's book was a graffiti wall. I saw it being used in a 6th grade teacher's classroom and I loved to read it and see what the students were writing from their books. After observing this graffiti wall in use for a few months, I decided to make my own after winter break. I love the deep thinking around this bulletin board and I love how it adds to the reading community and contributes to our LOVE of reading! This board really gets the students to think about what the author is saying and to pay attention to their own reactions to the author's words. Metacognition at its finest!

Chapter 4- Wild Readers Have Reading Plans

Having a plan is always important. Especially for those of us with Type A personalities. :-) This chapter is all about having a READING PLAN. Readers need plans and setting reading goals can be a great first step in forming a plan. We use data binders to set goals about our reading. We make lists of books that we would like to read and reflect on our progress toward meeting these reading goals. I try to give students ideas on how they can keep lists of "next reads" if paper and pencil doesn't work out for them. 

I love the section on conferring with readers and I love to read how other teachers conduct their reading conferences. I either learn new things or it reaffirms for me what I am already doing. I loved what Donalyn said about reading series books, "students who read series walk into each subsequent book with background knowledge from previous installments...their comprehension improves, which increases their confidence and reading enjoyment."  I found this to be key many times throughout the school year for hooking a student into books. If I could find a series that they loved and that they could continue with success, it motivated them and provided a lot of confidence for reading future books and putting them on the path to a love of reading. 

I also really focused on launching summer reading after reading this book this year. She gave lots of great ideas for launching summer reading.  I decided to host a book swap this year, have students complete book talks about books to inspire summer reading, make a list of summer reads, and track their books so that I could monitor their progress this summer. 

Once again, Donalyn Miller packs a lot of valuable information into these 2 chapters and a lot can be learned from reading her book and even rereading her book! 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Thoughts on Reading in the Wild #cyberPD




It's summer! I've been taking a little bit of a blog break this summer to spend time with the family, catch up around the house, and to just chill.  I've been itching to write a blog post but I haven't had any overstimulating ideas to make it worth my while. Until...I happened to see the #cyberPD tweet on twitter about Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller. 


I read this wonderful book this year back in January for the start of our staff book club. It was awesome to sit around with teachers outside of school and discuss best literacy practices.  I decided that I could easily revisit this book this summer and participate in #cyberPD. 

Chapter 1-Wild Readers Dedicate Time to Read

When I started this chapter...I was hooked by Donalyn Miller! I kept writing in the margins the words, "agree with this!, true, ****, !!!!, totally!" The first part that resonated with me was when she wrote, "the noise of my life demands that I find daily solitude within the pages of my books. I can think and grow and dream. I am happier when I make time to read, and I feel stressed and anxious when I don't for a few days. Reading centers me." This is ME! I love to read and have always loved to read...since I was 4 years old. I used to get in trouble for reading. I use the word trouble loosely, but I was often told to put my book away. Reading just takes me away and makes me forget about the daily grind. It relaxes me and calms my mind. Reading is something that I HAVE to do! Someone once told me to carry a book with me wherever I go so that I could read in the car, waiting for a soccer game to start, etc. You can often find me with a book in my purse and my husband always teases me that he is my personal chauffeur while I am reading in the car. It is so hard to find time to read as a busy, working parent but when you steal small chunks of time you can make it work! 

I've always felt that students who read a lot, do better in school. I am constantly pushing for my students as well as my own children to read as much as they can. My own children do not have the LOVE of reading like I do and I admit that at times it crushes me.  I'm hoping that someday when I am not nagging them, they will LOVE to read too. :-) 

I also wholeheartedly agree with the statement that we reduce the effectiveness of reading interventions when we don't provide our lowest-performing students reading time and encouragement. Developing readers need more reading, not less. I have seen this time and time again over the years. Our struggling readers need time to read, time to be engaged with books, and to be taught by the experts(us teachers!) I have seen so many struggling readers pulled out of class to work with a parent volunteer, literacy volunteer, etc. Time with books and focused instructional time with their teacher is the best opportunity to see growth. I once had a struggling kiddo in 3rd grade who started at a level G. After making time to read with him EVERYDAY during reading workshop, by the end of 3rd grade he had made it up to an independent level N! 

Another resonating point was the phrase, "Wild readers don't keep reading logs." I totally agree with this as well and struggle with this at the same time! It is nice to see a record of what they are reading, but how often do you write down what book you read, the author, the page #, the genre, etc. Boring right! I try to keep up with Status of the Class to record books and see trends and this year I may try having them take a picture of each book that they read on their iPad. And the reading log at home...forget about it! Like Donalyn Miller states, "I can determine if students are reading at home by assessing their reading engagement in class and how many books they complete over a set period of time." 

Chapter 2-Wild Readers Self-Select Reading Material

This year I feel like I have taken it upon myself to become a "wild reader" of books. My take away from Donalyn Miller was that you have to know what the students are reading and be familiar with the latest books out there. I could never read a book a day in the summer, but I try to read as much as I can so that I can recommend quality books to my students.  For book ideas, I use Nerdy Book Club, blogs, the librarian, friends, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, Twitter, magazines, and trusted professional colleagues.  I have read so many fabulous books this year after becoming a "wild reader." Amazon has been very happy with my book obsession! 

THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF MY DAY IS READ ALOUD! I love it! It is sacred time and such a great time to build community. Donalyn Miller talks about the importance of read aloud and the benefits that it brings to readers. I love sharing this experience with the students and stopping to discuss the book or looking out and seeing every child engaged and hanging onto every word that you read. Chills! I loved her idea of having each child share their favorite read aloud at the beginning of the year. After reading this chapter I also participated in World Read Aloud Day and planned lots of literacy based activities and read alouds throughout the day. The students loved it! 

I loved reading her thoughts on habitual book abandoners. She said that they lack reading experience and that they don't recognize narrative arcs. I found this interesting as a teacher and have worked to teach my habitual abandoners to recognize some of these elements in the beginning books. One of the many things that I am trying to help them with as I want to create a classroom of "wild readers!" 
Donalyn Miller is just a wealth of knowledge and I wish that EVERY teacher would read her book and just take away a few new opportunities for growth in their classrooms! 

Monday, June 23, 2014

It's Monday What Are You Reading?

It's Monday... it's summer... I have time... I'm reading a lot! 
I love reading and I love summer, therefore, I love reading in the summer. My family is getting a little tired of seeing me read...but I can't stop.



The first book that I read last week was We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride. This story is told from multiple perspectives and all of these perspectives end up intertwining and contributing to this amazing story.  The story take place in Las Vegas and even includes a child's perspective. It took me 2.5 days to finish this story...I highly recommend this book for a great summer read! 


The next book that I read in 2 days was Fly a Little Higher by Laura Sobiech.  This book is based on a true story of a seventeen year old boy named Zach Sobiech from Minnesota who died from osteosarcoma last year.  After he died, his mom reflected on the past 3 years and wrote it all down in a book to help with the healing process. I knew how this book would end, but the messages in this story were moving. This book has plenty of parts that made me smile and plenty of parts that made me cry. My 8th grade daughter is currently reading it and can't put it down as well. My 10 year old is next in line after her.  Very moving book with lots of parts that will make you reflect on your own life. 


The next book that I read was The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo.  This story just has so many wonderful messages and life lessons. I was constantly writing down lines from the book to save for reflection. This story focuses on  transforming the power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.


I just finished reading The Literacy Teacher's Playbook for Grades 3-5. I loved this book and gathered a lot of great thoughts and ideas for going into next school year.  So my next professional read is The Comprehension Experience by Hammond and Nessel.  This book talks about the importance of classroom talk and encouraging a deeper level of thinking in the classroom. This book came highly recommended to me and I am anxious to dig into it. 



Reflections on the Past School Year

Well that was a whirlwind! What a year! It was a year of many firsts and also another year to refine my craft. I started a new school year in September...teaching in a new district and starting a new all-day gifted program.  I was lucky enough to get hired for this amazing job and to start the MOSAIC program in our school district.  I had 22 highly gifted 4th grade students that stayed in my classroom all day long and their gifted needs were met within the confines of our classroom. I tried many new things and learned just as much as my students did this year!
Here is a list of some of my A-HA moments...

1.  Students need choice! Every time that my students had choice they were far more engaged and willing to give more effort.  Even if I give them choices within what I want them to do...it helps. Maybe I allow them to use a Google Doc to share their work or allow them to use an iPad App to show their learning...it all gets to the same thing...showing me what they have learned.  Sometimes they even negotiate their own choice and I'm okay with that as long as it meets their learning goal. 


2.  I need to be flexible with my daily plans! I am a girl who likes to have a plan. I'm not big on deviating from that plan but I have learned that flexibility is the key to success.  My students may take me in a whole different direction than I imagined and that's okay. They get excited about different topics and want to learn more or focus in more on a similar topic and I need to be flexible and provide time for these types of learning experiences.  We read A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park and the students were extremely interested in the process of building a well in Sudan and why the water supply is so different around the world. We looked at online videos, websites, and read other books about water to learn more about building freshwater wells in Sudan. 

3. Jump in and let the students help guide you! This year was a year of firsts and it was the first time that we had iPads in our classroom. Our district went 1-1 this year with iPads at the elementary level and WOW!!!! what an experience! First, I felt so fortunate to have this amazing resource in my classroom and in the hands of my students.  There were so many things that I did not know how to do on the iPads...but sure enough...my students did. I would introduce an app and at about 2 minutes into the introduction a student would figure something out that I didn't know, have a helpful hint, or show me how I was doing it all wrong. I let them be the EXPERTS! And they loved that feeling. I had an iMovie expert, a Google Drive expert, an Explain Everything expert, a Notability expert, a website expert, an iPad cart organizer...everyone had their own talent to share.  If someone had a question about building a Google Site...I knew who to send them to. When I learned to let go...we got a lot more accomplished! We even had a class EdCamp that the students LOVED! They loved sharing their knowledge and engagement was through the roof! 


4.  Try Genius Hour! As part of our gifted program, we knew that we wanted to incorporate choice projects and project based learning in our program.  We weren't sure about how EXACTLY this would work but we had some ideas.  I then came across a blog post about Genius Hour and read up on it over Winter Break.  After reading about it, I was hooked! I had to try this! I put some lessons and materials together and mapped out a plan and introduced it in January. The students were instantly hooked! They were engaged at all new levels. They were going home and spending hours working on their Genius Hour projects(even though they didn't have to.) They learned about some amazing topics and explored some really deep questions.  Check out my previous posts on Genius Hour for more information about it. The students thought that it was by far the best part of the year and I was amazed at their projects and knowledge about their topics. Genius Hour also aligns to #1, #2, and #3 above! 



5.  Don't be afraid to try new things! If I had been afraid to try new things...there would have been so many things that wouldn't have happened this year!  Most of the things that I tried...I would do again in a heartbeat.  I tried Genius Hour, Discovery Quests with a technology component, using Notability to keep track of word study words, interactive math notebooks, book chats, book clubs, an after school book club, fully integrated iPad use, air serving presentations, hard core use of Google Drive, and many new collaborative and independent projects. 

6.  Use an online web tool for lesson planning.  I used www.planbook.com and loved it! It was only $12 for the year and it was so easy to use. I did not have to lug a lesson plan book back and forth from school to home and it was easy to move things around when my plans changed(flexibility.) 
I now have my plans on my computer and they will be THAT MUCH EASIER to tweak as I make plans for next year. I highly recommend this for busy teachers! 

Overall, it's been an amazing year and I can't wait to see what 2014-2015 has in store for me. Well...maybe I can wait a little bit to see...
It's time to enjoy summer!