Saturday, July 27, 2013

Great Blog Posts

Here are some great blog posts I read this week:

  • I've been running across posts by different people who attended NerdCampBC. Looks quite intriguing. They had about 150 people attend. They start with a blank slate, visit and mingle and eventually some people volunteer to lead sessions and then people sign up for those sessions. What a risk eh?! I spent quite a bit of time on A Year of Reading's post about the conference. She had a number of links to things she learned there! Here are the slides from Donalyn Miller's presentation on Reading in the 21st Century. I get to do a presentation on The Book Whisperer and the info in her presentation will be quite helpful! As I kept digging I found an even more amazing link. This link has all the sessions with a link in each that takes you to the notes from that session! Wow!! 
  • I found a list of authors who will skype for free! Boy, if we could have an author skype with us for a book club session....yowza!! That would be so fun!
  • Mrs. Biggs has some great questions in her get to know you questionnaire. I'd like to do a little revising of the one we use. Her post is a great start!
  • I've been mulling over what goals I should have for my professional development this year and I'm leaning towards focusing on formative feedback, especially with writing. This post reminded me of that again. I loved her thoughts about being careful to not look too much at the neatness or perfectly organized paragraphs - but at the content. I learned a lot about that while marking PATs this year. Must remember that as the school year continues! I need to find a good book or expert to use as a study this year to keep myself focused.
  • I believe that teachers should be readers. I am a bit like a religious zealot. In my heart I have a great desire to get other people to read. I loved this Nerdy Book Club post, which expressed so well, the importance of reading kids books. This is going to be a part of my presentation in October, for sure!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Day The Crayons Quit (Drew Daywalt)

The Day the Crayons Quit

You know, I've never thought about how crayons feel about what we use them for. This book is hilarious and makes you think of things from a whole new perspective. As a matter of fact, it would be a great story to introduce the concept of perspective or voice! Every crayon has his/her own character that, when I was reading it, I said, "Hey! I bet blue (or green or red or whatever) would really feel that way" ...especially those poor naked crayons who had their paper torn off! It might also be fun to read at the beginning of the school year when kids are opening up all their new supplies. I'd read the story and remind them to take really good care of their supplies because you never know how they're feeling!

Seriously, this book will make you laugh out loud.

Here is the GoodReads summary:

Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit! Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon. Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking—each believes he is the true color of the sun.
What can Duncan possibly do to appease all of the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Chicken Soup for Little Souls: The Never Forgotten Doll (Lisa McCourt, Jack Canfield, Mary O'Keefe Young)

Chicken Soup for Little Souls: The Never-Forgotten Doll

Chicken Soup for the Soul is at it again. They hit every niche it seems.

I wasn't that impressed.

The story is nice, but it isn't one of those books that you read and think, "Wow!" It tells the story alright. It's not that kid friendly. The pictures are realistic, but not really compelling.

This book is a real lesson in that writing a kid's book is hard. You have only a few words to use to tell the story well. This one is great story, but not a great picture book.

Here is the GoodReads summary:

When Miss Maggie, the best babysitter ever, reflects warmly upon the delicate doll she received many years before on her eighth birthday, young Ellie, her charge, embarks on an odyssey of generosity, determination, and caring, as she tries to give her friend a gift of enduring happiness. Full color.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Great Blog Posts

  • How To Conquer Your To Do List attracted me because my summer is slowly slipping away and I really need to get organized so I accomplish some desperately needed tasks before I am back to the mad world of full schedules. I have Evernote on my iPad, so I started using it, and even downloaded it to my phone. I'll get back to you on whether or not I love it yet.
  • I found a kindred spirit at Read, Write, Reflect. I live her posts on conferences she has attended this summer. She did some summer reading workshops and book clubs for her students! I especially loved her post on reading logs. This is a must- read blog, for sure. 
  • This post, about The Match Box Diary, got me thinking about kids and journals and fun ways to record history. It would be a fun book to read and do an activity on family history. You could use this idea in the classroom too. I can imagine making 10 matchboxes and then each month, choosing something to go into the matchbox to represent a special memory from that month. It would also make a great memory for a family reunion. Grandparents could prepare 10 matchboxes and throughout the reunion kids could pick a match box and listen to the story told that goes with it. Matchboxes are not that common anymore, but you could make your own origami match boxes. This could also be a fun thing to add to our Star Student presentations.
  • This post reminded me that I need to do more writing. 
  • In my school we have a wonderful program that truly gives kids a great foundation to be great decodes and fluent readers. Every class has a rotating list parent volunteers that come in and read with children each week. We don't do that so much in Gr. 3 because they are usually quite fluent by then. However, 
  • This post, from There's a Book For That, got me thinking that perhaps I should still be having volunteers do that - but to with the regular "decodables", with regular picture books linked to our learning. Hmmmmmmmm......
  • And this has nothing to do with books, but Lara's post reminded me that the really important things in life are often fleeting and can suddenly be taken away. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

City Dog, Country Frog (Mo Willems)

City Dog, Country Frog

I love this book! I love dogs. And the dog in this book is a typical lovable, fun dog.  The illustrations look like water color paints. They're simple and beautiful.

Here's the GoodReads summary:

In spring, when City Dog runs free in the country for the first time, he spots Country Frog sitting on a rock, waiting for a friend. "You'll do," Frog says, and together they play Country Frog games. In summer, they meet again and play City Dog games. Through the seasons, whenever City Dog visits the country he runs straight for Country Frog's rock. In winter, things change for City Dog and Country Frog. Come spring, friendship blooms again, a little different this time.

This would be a great book to use in Grade One when studying seasons in science.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Timmy Failure Mistakes Were Made (Stephan Pastis)

Recently I was talking with some teachers and the topic of graphics novels came up. They figured the poor state of children's writing skills was partially due to the graphic novels that are becoming so popular. I was a little perplexed. I have read a few and haven't been bothered by how they are written (which is a little unlike how I felt about Geronimo Stilton books after reading a couple of those!) I mentioned that, while I aim certainly no graphics novel expert, there certainly are some that are pretty darn good actually. You can find a graphic novel version of a lot of different books! ...even classics! The person I was talking with admitted he hadn't read any. That was kind of where I smugly ended the conversation. I was feeling pretty proud for having read a few.

That is basically what led me to read this one. Although, I must admit, this one was a little painful! Good thing it is a quick read. I don't think I could endure the silliƱess for too long.....but I do think it is right up the alley of your average Gr. 3 child - so I am certainly glad I took the hour or so it took to speed read it.

Timmy Failure is a pretty obtuse, funny kid. Even a grumpy old lady like me had to chuckle now and then. Definitely a perfect book for my Gr. 3 kids. It has crazy humor throughout. The vocab is pretty challenging for a student that age, I'd say - but I would kids would work through it because they'd be caught up in the silly humor. Donalyn Miller, on her GoodReads review suggested this might be a great book to practice inferring skills. She's right! A lot of times Timmy, the self-proclaimed great detective, overlooks clues. Great opportunity for inferring!!

The Fault in Our Stars (John Green)

The Fault in Our Stars
The main character in this book loves reading and the story is centered around her love of a book: An Imperial Affliction. I loved this quote:

p. 33: My favorite book, by a wide margin, was An Imperial Affliction, but I didn't like to tell people about it. Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. And then there are books like An Imperial Affliction which you can't tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like betrayal.
It wasn't even that the book was so good or anything; it was just that the author, Peter Van Houten, seemed to understand me in weird and impossible ways. An Imperial Affliction was my book, in the way my body was my body and my thoughts were my thoughts.
The author has a great way with words and there were many times where I had to pause and chew on the words a little longer to truly appreciate them.

And to get a little philosophical - I think the underlying message in this book could be that we need to write our own stories. She tries to find out how An Imperial Affliction should end - but is unable. (I loved how Peter Van Houten was portrayed, by the way....shocking and ridiculous and pathetic). In the end, she really should have written how the story should end....just as she writes how her story will end.

I have a confession though: I didn't cry.
I know. I have no heart.
I do, however, think it's really really good. You should read it.

Augustus: He's seldom seen without a cigarette.And by the way that just a metaphor.

"You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don't give it the power to do its killing."

P. 157 Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.

I found this on GoodReads. I have no idea who made it, but it's a great summary of wonderful things to remember about this book.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Chrysanthemum (Kevin Henkes)


This book would go well with Rump by Leisel Shirtliff.
Read July 16, 2013

Reread August 31, 2017 - we read this book on the first day of school. Kids really related to the teasing and could relate to how Chrysanthemum felt. For homework, the students wrote a paragraph about their name. Why did their parents choose it? What does it mean? etc.

Goodreads summary:

She was a perfect baby, and she had a perfect name. Chrysanthemum. When she was old enough to appreciate it, Chrysanthemum loved her name. And then she started school. "I'm named after my grandmother," said Victoria. "You're named after a flower." Chrysanthemum wilted. Life at school didn't improve. In fact, it got worse. Then the students were introduced to their music teacher, Mrs. Twinkle. Mrs. DelphiniumTwinkle. And suddenly, Chrysanthemum blossomed

This book would go well with Rump by Leisel Shurtliff

Reading With Dad (Richard Jorgensen)

Reading with Dad

This book made me miss my dad. My dad wasn't really a big reader and he didn't read with me, but the book is so touching. It stirs up warm feelings. It reminds me of Love you Forever by Robert Munsch. This book made me think I need to do more reading with my kids. They're quite independent readers and often don't want to read books aloud with me because it takes longer. However, when we do do it they don't want to stop. I need to do that more.

Monday, July 15, 2013

How Full Is Your Bucket (Tom Rath and Donald O Clifton)

How Full Is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life

This is one of those books I should read every 6 months or so. It's simply written, so it wouldn't be hard to read it. It has some great reminders though. Sometimes it's easy to get on a negative trend - and this book is a great reminder to simply just be more positive and kind to people. There are also great lessons in the back that could be used for family night lessons, or in school. Definitely on to keep in easy reach.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Great Blog Posts

I read a lot of different blogs about reading. Here are some great posts I read this week:

  • Jen Robinson posted a challenge to read aloud 15 minutes a day. The more I know kids the more I know how important that is. Mine are 11 and 14. I'm going to try to read aloud each day with both of them this summer after reading her great post
  • Top 10 Ways to Turn Your Classroom into a Hotbed of Enthusiastic Readers made me feel good - like I'm on the right track.
  • Lost in My Work made me feel great too. I find myself, in the summer, wanting to discuss books with kids. Everytime I brought up the idea about doing a summer book club most teachers I talked to told me I was crazy and that the kids deserved a break. Thankfully my admin is much more supportive. To me, summer is a great time for more reading, not a time to take a vacation from it!
  • I'm a real fan of Donalyn Miller and The Book Whisperer. I found out she hosts a monthly twitter chat with Colby Sharp, another blogger I follow. I really have to figure out how to get in the game with twitter!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wild Boy (Mary Losure)

I have been curious about this book for a long time. I learned about it after hearing the illustrator, Timothy Basil Ering, speak at the Kaleidoscope conference in November 2012. He was an amazing speaker (I wish I had a link to add. I can't believe I didn't blog about that amazing conference!)

Wild Boy is the story of the Savage of Aveyron. He was a boy that was found living alone in the wild. As we humans like to do, people wanted to assimilate him. He was captured and studied and taught for years. Apparently the scientist who studied him, Dr. Itard, was part of the inspiration for Maria Montessori's work. When Victor, the name the Wild Boy was later known by, was an adult, he lived near the boyhood home of Victor Hugo. Some have mused that perhaps Victor was the inspiration for The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Some think that he might have been autistic. There is so real conclusion on that either.

The book is quite interesting, and in some ways, kind of sad. As Dr. Itard said,  "People looked at the wild boy without really seeing him, passed judgment on him without knowing him, and after that [when he left the home for deaf children], they spoke no more about him."

He died when he was about 40, of unknown causes. The only reason it was even known he died was of a few lines that Dr Itard wrote, that were published when he died.

Mary Losure writes some interesting books. By chance, a year ago, I read another one of her books: The Fairy Ring. I have never forgotten that book. Fascinating book! And, so is this one.

July 31 Update: Here is a review by Horn Book Reviews.

Here is a picture of Mary Losure that I found online. It's just as I imagined she'd look like. I'd love to spend an hour or so over a lovely drink discussing her books with her!

...and just because I love Timony Basil Ering, here are some of his unforgettable illustrations from this book:

Monday, July 8, 2013

Hannah's Suitcase

In school, my son started reading Hannah's Suitcase, a holocaust story. He has talked about it endlessly. He was really taken by the whole story. I haven't read it, so I can't write about the book because I haven't read it, but I wanted to mention it because it would be a great story to read along with Number The Stars. Hana's surviving brother, George, lives in Canada now so it has an interesting Canadian connection as well.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish (Neil Gaiman)

The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish

This is an interesting story. It's funny, and one I think kids would love. I'm a little bothered by how the dad is portrayed though. He's so out of it and so consumed with reading his newspaper that he doesn't even notice he's been traded again and again.The mom is busy and bossy, and the sister is a real I-told-you-so kind of girl. They're all people who seem to be in every family! It would be kind of a funny way to start off a Father's Day discussion....but then perhaps follow it up with a more serious book about dads (or not!) :)

I loved the artwork in this book. It's kind of bizarre - like the story - but fascinating too. I also loved the little blurb at the end that tells us how he came up with this story.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Sunwing (Kenneth Oppel)

Sunwing (Silverwing, #2)

Earlier this year I read Silverwing with my Grade 3 Book Club. I was surprised at how good it was. I decided I wanted to read the rest of the books in the series. It's taken me a while to get at it, but I finally did: this past week I read Sunwing. It's equally as good as Silverwing. There are lots of good twists and gripping moments that keep you on your toes, and adds in a touch of romance (don't worry....not too much).

In this book Shade is trying to find his father, who he fears is dead. There are still a number of characters from the first book: Marina, his friend who he invites into his clan, the elders (who are actually female that!), Goth, the terrible giant jungle bat who eats other bats (is a bat who eats other bats a cannibal?), Shade's mother, Chinook, and more. The characters in this book are very memorable.

I keep telling my own kids that they should read these books, and they look at me like I'm crazy, "Mom. It's about bats. How weird is that?" I felt the same way when I heard about this series...but it's well worth the read! I actually ran into a picture book while I was marking PATs that was about bats, and I was surprised at how drawn I was to it. I have a real affinity for bats now!

On to the next one! Firewing!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Great Estimations and Greater Estimations (Bruce Goldstone)

This was a book left by a teacher for other teachers to read. Such a cool math book! It's a great way to teach estimating. Fun!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Story(Steven Guarnaccia)

Goodreads summary:

In this quirky, artsy retelling of "The Three Little Pigs,” the pigs and their homes are nods to three famous architects—Frank Gehry, Phillip Johnson, and Frank Lloyd Wright—and their signature homes. Each house is filled with clever details, including furnishings by the architects and their contemporaries. Of course, not all the houses are going to protect the pigs from the wolf’s huffing and puffing. Which one will? The wolf, and readers, are in for a clever surprise ending.

This book would be a great one for our Structures and Design unit! It would be interesting to teach them about the three great architects mentioned in the book (Frank Gehry, Phillip Johnson, and my personal favorite: Frank Lloyd Wright). Frankly, I think this book would be a great one for all ages)

Hey! Wake Up! (Sandra Boynton)

My four year old niece read this book to me tonight. Well, she didn't exactly read it. She totally has it memorized. It was so cute! I love Sandra Boynton! She is brilliant.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Little Black Book of Colors (Menena Cottin)

Book summary from Good Reads:

Living with the use of one's eyes can make imagining blindness difficult, but this innovative title invites readers to imagine living without sight through remarkable illustrations done with raised lines and descriptions of colors based on imagery. Braille letters accompany the illustrations and a full Braille alphabet offers sighted readers help reading along with their fingers. This extraordinary title gives young readers the ability to experience the world in a new way.

This book would be great to use with our Hearing and Sound unit in science. We had two presentations during that unit and each time the kids had a lot of questions not only about the deaf world, but about blindness too.

This book is simple and very beautiful and really gives you a lot to think about.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Extreme Productivity (Robert C Pozen)

Cover Art for Extreme productivity : boost your results, reduce your hours

I'm always interested in these kinds of books. It's partly a curse from being told that I have the ability to accomplish a lot. That seems to cause me to take on too much.

I'm always interested in being more productive. That being said, I am becoming less and less interested in these books. It reminds me of how I know what to do to lose weight, but am not so good at doing it. I get all the theory behind how to be more productive. I'm just not sure I always have the energy or discipline to make it happen.

Oh well. This one seemed like a good one. Read it if you want....or not, like I did. I skimmed all the main bullet points at the end of each chapter. Good enough for me.