Thursday, June 26, 2014

Oh the Places You'll Go (Dr. Seuss)

I always like to read Oh, the Places You'll Go to my class at the end of the year. I did that again today. We talked about all the Dr. Seuss books we have read and loved. Not a lot of children had read this one. As we read, one piped up that this book didn't make any sense. We talked about the symbolism of all the changes that happen in life and why I might like to read this book to them at the end of the year. I think some of them got it! :) I encouraged them to read it again and again and always think of our Grade 3 class.

Dr. Seuss is a children's author, but the themes in this book work for all ages. As one poster, on Goodreads, said: "The book conveys the problems and challenges that people face in life. The colorful illustrations are very interesting and there are geometrical landscapes on most of the pages. We are introduced to "The Waiting Place" in the book, where people are always waiting for something to happen. However, it never does. I believe that there is an underlying message here, that opportunities will not fall into your lap in life, one must get up and search for these, travel and see beautiful places. I think that the author is saying that nothing will come from waiting around in life."

I ran into a mom this year who has a copy of the book and is getting her child's teacher to write a little entry in it each year. She'll give the book to her when she graduates from high school. Imagine?! What a treasure!

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Impossible Knife of Memory (Laurie Halse Anderson)

I joined a Facebook group called Talks With Teachers Summer Book Club and this was the first choice for the summer. I've quite enjoyed being able to read what other people thought of the book as they read. It's a good group.

I struggled with the book at first - wondering if I should bother reading a kind of depressing story. I kept reading though because the thought that I kept having was that some kids really have lives like this. It seemed disrespectful to those kids to stop reading. It would make it seem as if I don't care, and I really do care that kids have difficult lives. They need responsible adults to help them deal with the issues they face.

The characters in the story seemed quite authentic. They each dealt with challenges in their own ways, some successfully, and others less than successfully.

Goodreads Summary:

For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

I definitely will read more of Laurie Halse Anderson's books.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Stuart Little Hides Out (Susan Hill)

In an effort to try to redeem the Stuart Little novel we read in class, we looked to see if there were any subsequent Stuart Little books. Apparently E.B. White didn't write anymore. Disney did some great things with the story. It looks like this little I Can Read book is a spin off from Disney. The pictures are like the movie. However, he story does originate in the book, so I can't totally slam it. It is a good book for kids who are just learning to read, for sure. The back cover says there are 12 more to check out as well.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Myth of Ability (John Mighton)

I recently attended a JUMP math workshop and am very excited about the program. John Mighton is a fascinating person. The success rates from this program that they claim are astounding. I'm excited to teach it!

The author is fascinating as well. Who writes plays, gets a PhD in math, and starts a non-profit for teaching math to elementary students, and writes books on the side?

The premise behind this book is that we don't have a 'math gene' that makes us good at math. Everyone can learn it, if taught properly.

GoodReads Summary:

For decades teachers and parents have accepted the judgment that some students just aren’t good at math. John Mighton—the founder of a revolutionary math program designed to help failing math students—feels that not only is this wrong, but that it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A pioneering educator, Mighton realized several years ago that children were failing math because they had come to believe they were not good at it. Once students lost confidence in their math skills and fell behind, it was very difficult for them to catch up, particularly in the classroom. He knew this from experience, because he had once failed math himself.
Using the premise that anyone can learn math and anyone can teach it, Mighton’s unique teaching method isolates and describes concepts so clearly that students of all skill levels can understand them. Rather than fearing failure, students learn from and build on their own successes and gain the confidence and self-esteem they need to be inspired to learn. Mighton’s methods, set forth in The Myth of Ability and implemented in hundreds of Canadian schools, have had astonishing results: Not only have they helped children overcome their fear of math, but the resulting confidence has led to improved reading and motor skills as well.

The Myth of Ability will transform the way teachers and parents look at the teaching of mathematics and, by extension, the entire process of education.(

Monday, June 9, 2014

Stuart Little (E.B. White)

I read this book with my class as a novel study. I read it along with my class, figuring an another like E.B. White makes it hard to go wrong. Honestly, I thought it was just okay. I played like I was very enthusiastic for my students, but I didn't think the story was great. The chapters don't compel you to go on to find out what happens in the next chapter because scenarios pretty much get resolved in each chapter.

Each chapter is a vignette. We really enjoyed the story of Stuart getting caught in the blind. We also got a kick out of the parents concerns about Stuart being self-conscious about being a mouse. They ban all references to "mice" in family conversation; they even tear the song "Three Blind Mice" from the nursery songbook. A theme starts to run through a few chapters with a bird named Margalo, but the bird flies away, Stuart sets off to find her, and that part of the story is never resolved. He also meets a girl, Harriet, who is small like him. He's quite taken by her, but his planned date doesn't work out and it pretty much ends there.

When we finished the book there were a number of exasperated children who said, "That's a terrible ending!"

We immediately got on the library website to see if there was a second Stuart Little book. It looks like Disney continued the story, but E.B. White didn't. He didn't even end this one very well. Not your best work Mr. White. Sorry.....we did enjoy watching the movie, after though. Not surprisingly, it's quite different from the book....I suppose they had to do something with it!

Call me weird - but I found, as I was reading, adding in commas that were missed. There were also some terribly long run on sentences. My students also had some confusion over things that are just plain old fashioned. For example, in the beginning the mother is introduced as Mrs. Fredrick C. Little. The kids said, "Her name is Fredrick?!" It took me a few minutes to realize she was introducing herself as women did in the past, with her husband's name.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

How I Discovered Poetry (Marilyn Nelson)

I'm not much of a poetry person, but this book somehow appealed to me. Each poem is vignette and a small look into Marilyn Nelson's life. I didn't know Marilyn Nelson at all prior to reading this book (did I mention I'm not much of a poetry person?). I chuckled at her comments about Lot and his wife and the flea and then her Mama swatting her leg while she giggled. I felt a little sad about when she brought up people's unkind words towards her and the troubles with racial tension in the states in the 50's. I felt her wonder when people thought she tried to do well in school to show off. And I felt proud of her teachers that encouraged her with writing.

A lovely book. Easy to read. Lots to think about.
I think it would be a great book for middle school or high school...even in Canada.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Legend of Spud Murphy (Eoin Colfer)

This is a hilarious story. Will and Marty Woodman are 2 of 5 boys in a family. The parents decide there is enough craziness at home and the two of them, since they're the oldest, need to do something a little more productive with their time - so off to the library they go. They're scared to spend any time at the library because of the legendary very scary librarian, Spud Murphy. She doesn't just have eyes in the back of her head, she has spidey senses that tell her when kids misbehave in the library. Even the best prankster can't prank her.

This is a short chapter book, perfect for kids who are just getting into reading chapter books. There's lots of humor and brotherly ribbing to keep any younger elementary boy's interest peaked! I love the lesson in this book: libraries really are great places and librarians aren't as scary as some think.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Circle Maker (Mark Batterson)

I really enjoyed this book. It was a great reminder of the power of prayer. The author's premise is that God has many blessings waiting to shower down on you. They are there for the asking, if only we will ask. Not only that, He can bless us with far more than we can likely imagine. The author relates the story of the Israelites and how they tired of manna and wanted meat (Numbers 11). Quail fell from heaven....more than they could have ever imagined!

The circle aspect of it is interesting. The idea is that we need to circle things we are praying for or about, like Israelites did when the caused the walls of Jericho to fall down. (Joshua 6) He also encourages the reader to circle miracles in the Bible. It is all built on the legend of Honi, a man who prayed for rain after several years of drought. He drew a circle and called down the rain. I thought it was interesting that he would start the book with a legend, rather than a biblical story, but it worked.

All in all a good read. It is easy to read and has a lot of stories, both personal and biblical.