Friday, August 31, 2007

August Carnival of Children's Literature

Check out the August Carnival of Children's Literature here at Po Moyemu--In My Opinion. You won't be disappointed.

P.S.- The next issue is listed as located at Charlotte's Library.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Redemption Song... Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

I take it back, I take it all back ten times over... Christopher Paul Curtis has redeemed himself in my eyes with Elijah of Buxton.
Early this summer I gave a less than stealer review of Curtis's Mr. Chickee's Messy Mission. (I'm sorry, I just really didn't get into it.) And I love Christopher Paul Curtis so much, it really pained me to do so. I truly believe Christopher Paul Curtis is the best story teller of our time. Or should I say my time. (Not reveling what that is, however) This story can be used to prove my point. If it isn't nominated at the very least for many awards, I would be shocked. I am positive it will gain Curtis his 3rd (?) Corretta Scott King Award. But will it be in the running for that all coveted Newbery? I say, "yes!" This story is packed full of funny, serious, and educational information.
I had never even heard of the Canadian town of Buxton. Buxton is the setting of the novel and has a wonderful history I am only now learning more about. You can find information on the link I have provided which will take you to the Buxton National Historical Site & Museum.
I don't exactly know if I want to try to explain the plot of the book. I think it would be best read yourself. There are great reviews out there. Including this one from Fuse #8 and Part Two also by Fuse #8. So, I am not going to try to do this book justice. I just want everyone everywhere to read this book. Read it to a kid, read it as an adult, read it to be a better person.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Starting the Year Off Right!

There are two books I read to my students to get them thinking about reading. Souperchicken by Mary Jane and Herm Auch and Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind by Judy Finchler and Kevin O'Malley. This year was no exception and I always get a good feeling after reading the books.
I read Souperchicken to emphasis the point that reading is important to your life. Basically the message or moral to the story is Reading can save you life! I don't think kids realize or think about this point. If you couldn't read, there are lots of things in life that would be more difficult.
Miss Malarky Leaves No Reader Behind is a great book if you use reading workshop. It gives the message that there is a book out there for every reader, but it might take a lot of looking to find it. It helps me explain to the students that I will never give up on helping them become a reader. The best part about this book is the subtle little jokes only a teacher would get :)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

What Kind of Teacher are You?

I promise I am still working on reading Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis... But until then, something fun. I got the idea from Jen Barney at A Teacher's Life.
What Kind of Teacher Are You?
The students know they won’t get away with misbehaving, but at the end of the day they appreciate you and all they have learned. You are conscientious, and your classroom is neat and organized. When someone is in a bind, they know you will be sincere in your advice and council. The students learn from both your class and your example. You are quick to compliment and praise. You always look for the good in people and events.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Book Talking

I read this in my Instructor magazine, and loved the idea! Now, I am not quoting, and I am really not sure if this is on the internet anywhere, but you could look...
Basically it is an idea for doing book talks with middle school age students probably fifth and up. It is modeled after the idea of Speed Dating. Some students would set up a station at their desk displaying their book and other props that may help them talk-up the book. These students would be trying to attract students to come to listen to their book talk. The other students in the class would carry a score card and listen to different book talks and rate the books as to which books sound like something they would be interested in reading. (Maybe 1-10?)
I thought that was so creative! I bet there are a lot of cool ideas for book talks, but this one seemed the most realistic and most "book talk-like" that I have read.
On another note. I promise I am getting back to blogging. You would not believe how busy I have been! As well as how HOT our school has been. As a matter of fact, we are dismissing early tomorrow. The downside, we have to stay for our contracted day. (3:30!)---GRRRrr...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Bookstore Jackpot!

Today I hit a bookstore jackpot! I was not necessarily looking for anything in particular and I found two brand new books from my favorite authors! I will get reading right away, but I am not sure how fast I can finish them.
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
Love is a Many Trousered Thing by Louise Rennison
P.S. I am aware that the series of Confessions of Georgia Nicolson by Louise Rennison is not 5th grade appropriate. I read them for myself. Do not be fooled. They are cute and hilarious books, but not made for younger readers. 7th grade and up I would say.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Please Forgive Me

Please, Please forgive me for my lack of blogging. I am scurrying around trying to get ready for my little 5th grade cherubs and the 2007-08 school year. I cannot even believe this is my 10th year of teaching!!! I will continue my blog of course. I have just been so busy.
In the meantime, check-out any one of the blogs in my section titled Some Noteworthy Blogs. There are some great conversations going on out there about books, reading, writing, teaching, and life!
Thanks for your continued support.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Reading Aloud

I really liked this post from BookMoot, so I am going to link it here, but also quote the advice and rules here as well:

My advice and rules for newbie read-alouders
1. You HAVE to like the book you are going to read. 2. Read the book before hand 3. Try to have the kids "below" you. If you are sitting in a chair, get them on the floor. If they are in chairs, stand. Maybe this is just me but I like to be at a "commanding" elevation if possible. 4. Know what kind of time frame you are expected to fill. 5. Make eye contact with your listeners while you are reading. 6. Have fun! If you are not enjoying yourself, no one else will.

These are not my words, but I totally agree with all of them
Do you have other advise or rules? Any books you would recommend? Feel free to comment!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

What is your blog worth?

I got this from A Chair, A Fireplace, & A Tea Cozy. Very interesting, and kind of weird. I don't have any idea where they come up with the calculation, but interesting none the less. Notice how much less my blog is worth compared to A Chair, A Fireplace, & A Tea Cozy. I best be stepping up my game!

My blog is worth $5,080.86.
How much is your blog worth?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time by Lisa Yee

I needed to read Standford Wong Flunks Big Time by Lisa Yee to be caught up on all things Yee related, and I am glad I did. I am still amazed at how seamlessly Yee can integrate the three books of this series together. This book is no exception.
As with So Totally Emily Ebers, we find ourselves introduced to a friend of Millicent Min from Millicent Min Girl Genius. This time the character is a boy, Standford Wong. Stanford is being tutored by Millicent to pass his English class. He is also after Emily trying to make a romantic connection.
Although the book is packed with things for boys: sports (basketball), girl troubles, friends, a dislike of all school related topics, and a relationship with a father that is less than satisfying; I know girls will get into the story as well. At some points I even felt girls may enjoy it more than boys. None the less, I would not hesitate to introduce a boy to the world of Stanford Wong. The book is fast paced, with short increments, and also hilarious. There are some parts which will really touch your soul. I found myself crying at Stanford's attempts to repair his relationship with his father. There is so much for a young boy to relate to in this story. And maybe a lot for a young boy to learn from this story. I really have a feeling there are some questions Standford has that could be answered for many of my students. It would also give girls a great view into a teenage boy's mind. (Which, let's face it, has always been a great mystery.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Author Interview on A Year of Reading

Yes, I am jealous, and yes, I have let her know this fact, but Franki at A Year of Reading has recently posted an interview with Peggy Gifford writer of Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little.
This is a must check out blog interview. And after you check that out, you can check out where the author commented on my blog after I reviewed the book. Okay, not as cool as an interview, but very special none the less.

The Reading Zone by Nancie Atwell

When I purchased Smart Answers to Tough Questions by Elaine Garan, I also purchased The Reading Zone by Nancie Atwell.
Again, my thoughts on teaching reading were confirmed ten-fold. It is really hard to explain Atwell's ideas without sounding to simplistic, but her "manifesto" shouts out--- JUST READ! No more of this craziness, trying to get kids to predict, connect, visualize, question, summarize, re-tell right in the middle of their reading time. Give them the time to read, give them the tools to picking the right books, give them the passion to chose, and everything will fall into place.
I must admit, it was a little hard to read that student's did not need to use sticky notes while reading, basically because it stops the act of actually reading. But, on the other hand, it makes sense. Since Atwell teaches students a little older than mine, she talks about only responding to their books every 3 weeks and only when they finish a book. But she does mention that the fifth grade students at her school, CTL (Center for Teaching and Learning), still respond every other week. We have been responding every week and I have been trying to come up with a better system for 3 years, tweaking it a little each year, but I don't think I could tweak to every 3 weeks. So I am going to go for every other week. I also know my fifth graders need to respond in smaller chunks because if they waited until the end of the book, most would end up writing a book report.
I have to say, I have been doing Reading Workshop for the last 4 years or so, and it really works. Mostly it works because the students have CHOICE! I know it is scary to just let kids sit around reading for 20 or 30 minutes at a time, but trust me, if done right, it works. I have had winning Achievement test scores for 2 years running. (There have only been 2 years worth of 5th Grade Ohio Achievement test scores in reading)
Let's all get together and go for an internship at the CTL school! (Unfortunately the deadline for application for the 2007-2008 internships was July 15th!) :(

What Made You a Reader?

If you want to play, copy the list and put a + in front of the books that hooked you as a reader. What are some of the books that hooked you that DIDN'T make it on the list?

- Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene
- Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
- Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
- The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
- The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
+ The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey
-Go, Dog, Go! by P. D. Eastman
- Are You My Mother? by P. D. Eastman
- Curious George by Margret and H. A. Rey
- Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
- The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper and Loren Long
- Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
- Dick and Jane by William H. Elson
- Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
- The Bobbsey Twins by Laura Lee Hope
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
- The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- Heidi by Johanna Spyri
- The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
+ Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
- Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell
+Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
- Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
- Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
- Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- The Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon
+ One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
+Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
- Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
- The Baby-sitters Club by Ann M. Martin
- Horton Hears A Who by Dr. Seuss
- Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
- Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss
- Mother Goose's Nursery Rhymes and Nursery Songs
- Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol
- Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
- The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
- Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
- The Bible
- Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
- Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
+ The Watson's Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

Lots of books hooked me at different parts of my life. I know One Fish Two Fish is the first book I could read alone. I can remember being on vacation somewhere where it rained everyday and we were in the mountains and I read Pipi Longstocking books till my eyes bleed. I used to stay up at night reading Shel Silverstein poem books and laughing like a loon. I remember distinctly the day my mom purchased Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (my first year teaching in '98) and told me my kids were going to be over the moon about it, which they
were. But the book that launched my career as the best Read Aloud teacher in my school was The Watson's Go To Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. I LOVE THIS BOOK with all my heart. I read it aloud every year. I have voices for everyone in the story and it never fails at making my kids readers---No matter what there were before they came to me.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

First Boy by Gary Schmidt

Since I liked Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary Schmidt so much, I decided to read another book by Schmidt. I chose First Boy. I was not disappointed in this book either.
First Boy by Gary Schmidt is a classic tale of a boy who finds he may be famous, or infamous as it is. The book moves quickly and has a real sense of mystery to it. I know boys would enjoy this book. I could see Schmidt's humor come through in the story. Those who know anything about the country will be warmed to the heart with the descriptions of a boy, his farm, and his cows. I liked the way the book started right in with the story having the grandfather die right in the very beginning. (Don't worry I am not giving anything away, it happens right away and is not the major plot.)
One thing I did not see in this book as in Lizzie Bright and Buckminster Boy was the layering and the wonderful story elements of a historical fiction novel. (Although this is not a historical fiction novel.) I just really thought Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy was one of the best books I have ever read, so it is hard to live up to.
I can now recommend two of Schmidt's books to students. This book will definitely be for my boys. (Not that girls couldn't enjoy it) I love the fact that Schmidt does not revert to using cuss words just because his characters are teenage boys. In fact, I don't remember seeing any in the two books.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Smart Answers to tough Questions by Elaine Garan

Wow! Elaine Garan for President! Okay, maybe Secretary of Education or something. And I am not the only one who feels this way. Click here for an article from the Fresno State News dot com.
When I saw this post by Franki on A Year of Reading, I purchased the book right away. It sounded like something right up my alley. I was not mistaken. It is the single most important professional book I have read in quite awhile.
The book is titled Smart Answers to Tough Questions by Elaine Garan. The book contains smart, researched, complex, complete, and often hard-to-swallow answers to the questions most asked about the way we teach Literacy. The book is divided into questions about Reading, Phonics and Phonemic Awareness, Eye-Movement Research and Decodable Text, Fluency, Writing, English Language Learners, and Standards, Accountability, and High-Stakes Testing. Within the sections the format is as follows: "The Tough Question," "Your Bottom-Line Answer," "Something for You to Think and Talk About," and "The Proof."
If you have ever had any questions about if what you are doing is the right thing... Just open this book and dig in! There are some issues in this book that are hard to swallow, and you may be taking part in activities which are not going to further your student's abilities in Literacy, but probably deep inside you always questioned it. This book can help you sort through those questions. I was particularly interested in Garan's information on Accelerated Reading and Dibels, both which my school participates in and I have always questioned.
The only thing that disappointed me slightly is the fact that the cover shows what looks like tabs for the section, but are really just a cover picture. There are no tabs in the book.
I want to pass this book along to you and hope that you do the same; pass it along to someone you think would appreciate it as well.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Choice Literacy

This morning I was going through all the new posts from my blogging buddies, and I read this one from Franki at A Year of Reading. I immediately wanted to check out the suggestions for First Day of School Read Aloud. What I found was so much more. I am thrilled to find the Choice Literacy website. I have signed up to receive newsletters and I am excited to get reading. Franki Sibberson is one of the contributing authors along with many others including another one of my favs, Aimee Buckner. (She learned a lot of what she knows from the same people I did, and I love that!) Check it out, you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Donutheart by Sue Stauffacher

Each time I would get on the Bookmobile that visits our school, I would see this book called Donuthead by Sue Stauffacher. If you have ever seen the cover of that book, you would know it was hard for me to pass up. It just looks F-U-N-N-Y. And it was. So now I see in the library there is a sequel, Donutheart by Sue Stauffacher.
Basically you must read the first to understand the second, otherwise you will wonder "What the the heck is up with this kid?" Franklin Delano Donuthead, the main character, is a rare bird. I am sure I have met his type along the way, and enjoy trying to pinpoint his real life equal. He is, in his own words, "asymmetrical" because one side of his body is longer than the other. (Something he likes to measure nightly.) He is also very cautious, a germaphob if you will. Someone he contacts on a daily basis is Gloria Nealot, his favorite chief statistician at the Washington D.C. National Safety Department. In the first book, Franklin meets Sarah Kervick. Sarah becomes Franklin's body guard, of sorts and Franklin her tutor, of sorts.
The second book finds Franklin and Sarah still friends, Franklin still measuring, Gloria still being called daily, and Sarah much worse off in her family life than before. Something new about this book is Franklin is in love. (A very strange place for Franklin) Also, Sarah has begun figure skating.
Although I liked the first book better, I still really enjoyed reading about Franklin maturing into middle school. I didn't get that lump in my throat feeling I had at the end of Donuthead, but I would recommend the book. The book definitely ended in a way that lent itself to a third book. I will be waiting and watching.

Donuthead and Donutheart Talk:
Fuse #8
Children's Literature Book Club
Sue Stauffacher Amazon Blog
Running Mad

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Champions on the Bench: the Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars by Carole Boston Weatherford

Champions on the Bench by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrations by Leonard Jenkins is the perfect companion book to Campy The Story of Roy Campanella that I wrote about the other day.
Champions on the Bench is a story based on the 1955 Cannon Street YMCA Little League All-Stars who faced discrimination when the white teams refused to play them in the Little League World Series. This story is a realistic way for students to learn about discrimination and segregation because it is a topic many can relate to, sports.
I loved the pictures in this book which were created with pencil, acrylic, and spray paint (of all things). It is just an all around lovely book and I will be reading both this book and Campy this year.