Monday, October 31, 2011

Lessons from Lily: An Interview With Bigger Than a Breadbox Book Trailer Creator

Lots of my thinking lately has been around digital reading and digital writing. I want to make sure that no matter what we do with digital  writing, that I stay true to what I know about writing process. I want more of the learning and teaching to be about writing and being a writer/creator.    One piece that I think is important is the idea of mentor "texts" in writing.  I think writers and creators find their inspiration in so many places and kids need to "read" lots of whatever it is they are going to "write". With digital pieces, these mentor texts are a  little bit more difficult to find.  One amazing new book trailer out there is the one below for BIGGER THAN A BREADBOX by Laurel Snyder. (An amazing middle grade novel!) This trailer was done by Lily, a 7th grader.   I have been working with some kids on creating book trailers and put this into my YouTube playlist of book trailers that we can study. I want my students to know about the many decisions that go into digital creations and that these decisions all have an impact on the piece. I want them to know all that is possible in creating book trailers.

As I've watched this trailer over and over with different groups of students, I can't help but continue to be amazed by so much here.  This is a brilliant trailer, from both a literacy perspective and a technology perspective.  Lily has such a deep understanding of the book and she conveys it so well.  

I had so many questions for Lily about her process--I knew that I could learn from her about authentic book trailer creation. So, I asked her some questions about the trailer that have already helped me rethink my work with students. (I think so often we worry about "teaching" all of the technology that goes into a project like this but Lily's answer to my question about her biggest challenge reminded me that the tech is not as big of a deal for kids as it is for us!)    If students are going to create trailers, I want the process to help them understand the book more deeply. My goal is to keep any creation work authentic and learning from Lily has helped me understand this process much better. 

Thanks, Lily!  I can't wait to see what other videos she creates!!

FRANKI:  What made you decide to create a book trailer for Bigger Than a Breadbox?  Is this the only trailer you've created?

LILY:  This was the only book trailer I have made, but not the first video. I made the trailer for Bigger Than a Breadbox, basically when my mom told me that Laurel wanted one. I had already made a music video for the They Might Be Giants song, "Can't Keep Johnny Down". My mom is friends with Laurel, so when she saw my video, she asked if I would make her one. 

FRANKI:  Your trailer is unique.  Where did you get your inspiration for the book trailer?  Was there a movie or trailer you saw that gave you the idea to create it in this way? 

LILY:  I was inspired by the book trailer Maggie Stiefvater made with the paper craft. When I first got into stop motion animation, I thought I wanted to make it like a flip book, where I drew all of the clips. But then I remembered that I had 20 pounds of artsy paper under my desk, and figured that it would end up looking much cooler that way. 

FRANKI:  You made quite a few decisions in the process of creating this video trailer. Can you talk about some of the decisions you made as you created. (such as how did you decide not to use words/talking in the trailer? How did you decide on the music--what significance does it have? why did you decide to show the specific scenes like you did?) Any specific decisions you made and the reasons you made them?

LILY:  I  didn't add talking into the trailer because I wanted to make it seem like the book was coming to life, and I didn't want to limit the reader's imagination. Giving the characters only speech bubbles let the viewer imagine the character's voice, the same way you would when reading the book. When choosing the music, I had to decide between two songs. One gave the trailer a warm, uplifting feel. The other one, (the one I used) gave the trailer a more creepy feel. I picked the creepy song, because the book is mainly about a box that stole things. That's pretty creepy.  I picked the scenes, because I wanted to basically make the following points: Her life used to be great, her parents started talking about getting a divorce, she left her dad for Atlanta, she's staying in Atlanta, she finds a the breadbox, and the breadbox only works when the thing you wish for would fit inside it. 

FRANKI:  You ended the trailer with a powerful statement about consequences. Can you talk a little bit about that decision and why you chose that as an ending?

LILY: I guess it was because it really summed up the feeling of the book. It helped with the whole creepy feel, and it was meant to really draw in the audience.

FRANKI:  I imagine you learned a lot about the book and came to a deeper understanding about the book in general by creating the trailer. Is there anything you understand about the book now that you didn't understand before you created the trailer?

LILY: I did become more connected with the characters in making a trailer. When I was reading, it was like I was listening to Rebeca talking to me, but while I created the trailer, It was more so like I was actually Rebeca.  Also, creating the trailer gave me a personal connection with the book. Whenever I see it, I think, "Wow, That's MY book!"                                                                                                                                                                                                   

FRANKI:  Can you talk a little bit about the technology needs--what technology did you use to create the trailer?  

LILY:  All I needed was a digital camera and my Mom's laptop for editing.

FRANKI:  What was the biggest challenge for you in creating the trailer?

LILY:  Definitely cleaning my room up after wards, and trying to keep my paper figures from tearing up the book. I also had a hard time with the part where I unfolded the map and finding ways to prop up my figures.

FRANKI:  What are you most proud of when you watch the trailer you created?

LILY:  I really love the part when I have to box shaking, and when the seagulls came out. I love that seagull...

FRANKI:  What advice do you have for others who are creating book trailers?

LILY:  Read, and re-read. Highlight all of the parts you might want to include, and always plan ahead. Also, you need to love the book. If you don't love the book, why bother creating a trailer?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Two in Time for Halloween

Never Kick a Ghost: And Other Silly Chillers
by Judy Sierra
illustrated by Pascale Constantin
Harper, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

Three short stories, a hand-clapping rhyme and a trio of funny gravestone epitaphs make this a fun book for beginning readers. Of note is the last page -- "Where The Stories Came From." It's never too early for readers to learn that stories might have traceable sources. Judy Sierra has a PhD in folklore, so it probably never occurred to her NOT to include the sources for these stories/rhymes!

 Zombie in Love
by Kelly DiPucchio
illustrated by Scott Campbell
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

Mortimer the Zombie is doing his best to attract a sweetheart for the Cupid's Ball. Somehow, nothing he tries is very successful. (Could be his rotting face and his falling-apart body...) Optimistically, he puts an ad in the paper for a date and shows up at the ball. Just when Mortimer is about to give up, a drop-dead gorgeous girl shows up. Yes, that kind of drop-dead.

A very punny book that I can't wait to share with the Zombie-obsessed student in my class!

October Mosaic

October is probably my favorite month of the year. Here's a peek into this year's fall color, dramatic skies, the Fairfield County Fair, and the MG Club Hayride. If you're a local and you haven't been to Winan's Fine Chocolates & Coffees in German Village (first 2 pics), you owe yourself a field trip!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Poetry Friday -- A Must-Have For Every Classroom Collection

BookSpeak!: Poems About Books
by Laura Purdie Salas
illustrated by Josée Bisaillon
Clarion Books, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

In our classrooms, we grow readers and writers. Here is a book with a poem for nearly every occasion in your reading/writing workshops!

Laura Purdie Salas has given the books a voice in her poems. The lead poem is a call to readers to leave behind their electronics and discover new worlds in books. There are poems from a book's character, from the index, and about cliffhangers. The cover, the illustrations and even the conflict in the story get their own poems!

Books have secret lives in the bookstore at night. The neat ones in rows on shelves pitied by the messy ones that are much-read and much-loved and who wind up under the bed with the dust bunnies. And books can't wait for us to take them along when we go on vacation.

My favorite poems in the collection are the ones that look at books and writing a little bit slantwise. "Written in Snow" compares the words on the page to footprints in new snow: "Through the blizzard / stories roam. / They tiptoe bravely / out, then home."

And here is my favorite-favorite. It taps into my love of and fascination with bird blobs:

by Laura Purdie Salas

Line after line of inky black birds
forming the flocks that shift into words.
Page after page of tales winging by,
singing a story against a
white sky.

(here's my favorite bird blob video -- it's about 5 minutes long)

Diane is rounding up the Poetry Friday posts this week at Random Noodling.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Exciting News!

Mary Lee Hahn Wins National Grant 

Mary Lee Hahn has received a $500 mini-grant from the National Center for Family Literacy and Better World Books.

She is one of only 20 winners nationwide to receive the award, which will promote creative ideas for using Wonderopolis® with families. was created by NCFL in 2010 to provide free, family-friendly content that is practical, easy to use and designed to engage children’s natural curiosity and transform it into a lifelong love of learning. It was one of only five family websites that TIME Magazine named the 50 best websites in 2011.

The funding will be used to purchase an iPad, which will support Mary Lee's use of Wonderopolis to teach nonfiction reading skills in her fourth grade classroom.

Wonderopolis is a free resource for families and schools, so hundreds of educators across the country already are using it to generate excitement for learning in schools, libraries and homes across the country. But this mini-grant will help Mary Lee magnify the reach and impact of this 21st century online learning tool. Other programs and communities also will learn from Mary Lee on how they can maximize the use of Wonderopolis.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

YA Books I've Enjoyed

I love Young Adult Literature but I don't have time to read a ton of it. Keeping up with K-5 books takes up most of my reading life. But I LOVE YA so I try to read several each year.   Last year, I attended ALAN at NCTE and that helped get me a bit more up-to-date on the new titles and authors out there.   I looked back at my Goodreads account and I've read about a dozen YA Novels over the last year or so.  I feel like I've been lucky with my YA reads this year.  If you are looking for some great YA, here are some of the ones I've enjoyed this year:

MATCHED by Ally Condie was a favorite this year. My 12 year old and I both loved this one.

 We are VERY excited about the sequel, CROSSED, which comes out next week.

SHINE by Lauren Myracle was a powerful read.  Not an easy read but an important book.

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN was a unique read and the way it was put together was fascinating.  The real photos embedded through the book made the book seem real.  A great fantasy.

A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness is another powerful read.  It was the first book I'd read by this author and I am hooked.

THE PULL OF GRAVITY by Gae Polisner is another favorite.

And I LOVED my most recent YA Read, THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson.

Two others I loved were CHIME by Franny Billingsley and ALSO KNOWN AS ROWAN POHI by Ralph Fletcher.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Books I Learned About at CAWP/Literacy Connection Conference Saturday

Saturday, The Literacy Connection partnered with Columbus Area Writing Project for a one day conference event. The day was amazing and was just what I needed to regound myself as a teacher.  Sonia Nieoto, Asma Mobin-Uddin and Troy Hicks were the keynote speakers.  Local educators conducted concurrent sessions.  The day was wonderful. I was able to attend 3 keynotes and 3 sessions and they were all brilliant. I can't even begin to synthesize all that I learned so I thought I'd share some new books I discovered.

A book that Troy Hicks shared at the end of the day is a free ebook (or available for purchase in paper format) from MIT press is HANGING OUT, MESSING AROUND, AND GEEKING OUT: KIDS LIVING AND LEARNING WITH NEW MEDIA.  This book looks full of great information from case studies of kids. I downloaded the book last night and it is packed with info that can inform our teaching.  The trailer that Troy shared is below:

 I didn't expect to find that many new children's books because these presenters are my local friends--we talk books often and we all shop at the same place for books.  But, I found lots of great books I didn't know about! I am anxious to read these books soon.  Most of the books came from a session I attended on primary writing with Stella Villalba and Sharon Esswein. The session was brilliant and I tweeted one of my favorite quotes from the session.  Stella asked, "Teachers have reading & writing lives outside of school.How often are we intentional about sharing that with students?"

These are the books I discovered yesterday--books I think I'll have to buy eventually.  Most are not new but I had not seen or heard of them before. So fun to discover friends' favorites that are new-to-me!

Alphathoughts: Alphabet Poems by Lee Bennett Hopkins. I never really looked at this one because I didn't love the cover. But Sharon read a few of the poems to us in the session and I loved it. A great addition for both poetry and ABC books!

I am not sure how I've missed all of Anna Walker's books but I fell in love with them immediately.  Stella shared some stories from an author study they had done with these books.  Such a great author for young readers. I need too add these to our library!  I LOVE BIRTHDAYS was the one I picked up from the table but I really like all of them!

I love list books and I love Harriet Ziefert. I hadn't seen this book before: 41 USES FOR A GRANDMA and fell in love with it. 

I thought I had all of Cynthia Rylant's books but totally missed THE STARS WILL STILL SHINE. I ordered this one right after Sharon read it to the group.

One that I want to get from our library and NOTHING TO DO by Douglas Wood. I didn't have much time to read the book but I loved what I read as I flipped through it.  Great text and great illustrations. THE SECRET OF SAYING THANKS is another one I didn't know about by Douglas Wood.  This is one I'll have to get sometime soon.

And how I missed a book by one of my favorite poets, Kristine O'Connell George, is beyond me. But I will definitely need to add HUMMINGBIRD NEST to my personal collection. 

I love that I have so many friends who love books and who find, fall in love with, and share books that are new to me!  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Book Shopping With Friends: Junior Library Guild Warehouse Sale!!

What could be better than book shopping with friends? We are lucky to live in the city where Junior Library Guild is located.  I love the services that Junior Library Guild provides.  I feel pretty good about the ways I keep up with books but there are always categories that I am not so good at keeping up with and analyzing.  I usually subscribe to a few categories a year as a way to build up the collection in a certain area. I can count on JLG to provide great new books on a regular basis.

Once or twice a year, JLG has a warehouse sale and sells its overstock books for $5 each. These are all great books--you can't go wrong on any titles that JLG reviews. And they are all hardback. I usually spend about $200 on books for the library and a few dollars on myself at this sale.

This year, I shopped with friends and colleagues, Kami and Katie. You can see by the photo above that we all found great books and we were VERY happy with our purchases. I am happy to let you know that I did not spend the most (although I spent plenty!). It was fun to shop together, talk titles, and leave with great boxes of new books for our students.

Some highlights from my purchases this year:

I bought 2 books for my personal reading that I am extra excited about:

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE BARBIE: A DOLL'S HISTORY AND HER IMPACT ON US by Tanya Lee Stone is a book I've had my eye on for a while.  I am anxious to read this book and to learn more about the history of Barbie. From the review, it looks like a great balanced piece.  I'm not sure when I'll get to it, but I do like reading lots about history of toys, pop culture, etc. so I am sure I will enjoy it.

The other I picked up for my own personal reading is THE ASK AND THE ANSWER. I have been hearing about how amazing this Chaos Walking series is and I figure I will get to it sometime.  I think I own 2 of the 3 books now!

I picked up lots of books for the library--about 35. Many are extra copies of favorites such as SIDEKICKS, SQUISH, DIARY OF A WIMPY KID and WINTER'S TAIL. It is hard on a small budget to have too many copies of any one title, but at this bargain rate, it will allow more students to read books they love.   Others will be new to the library. Some books that I'll be adding to the library because of this great warehouse sale are:

ALPHAOOPS: H IS FOR HALLOWEEN by Alethea Kontis.  This is a fun sequel to the first ALPHAOOPS in which the letters are all dressed up for Halloween. A fun way to play with words and letters.  We don't have a huge collection of books about Halloween so this will be a fun add. And, since it is an ABC book, I think kids will read it all year round.

There were so many great graphic novels at the sale. Recently JLG has added several levels of graphic novels to the kinds of books they review. I had several from their list and added a few more this week.  I was excited to see ATHENA: GREY-EYED GODDESS by George O'Connor.  So many kids are interested in Greek mythology since reading the Percy Jackson series and I love this graphic novel series. This is categorized as YA and seems appropriate for some of the older elementary readers (targeted audience grades 5-9)

I wasn't aware of THE CARTOON CHRONICLES OF AMERICA so was thrilled to see ROAD TO REVOLUTION. I have a handful of students interested in American History and this looks like a good intro to this time period.

I was able to add a few titles to great series we have in the library.  I added NIKKI AND DEJA: THE NEWSY NEWS NEWSLETTER by Karen English. I love this series for transitional readers and was glad to see another to add to our collection. I also discovered KEENA FORD AND THE SECRET JOURNAL MIX-UP by Melissa Thomson.  From the cover, this looks like a book filled with a bit of preteen drama!

I LOVE the Scientist in the Field series--I think it is some of the best nonfiction available for 4-8th graders. I have a few students who are just starting to look at the series so I added two that we don't own.  EXTREME SCIENTISTS. This one is  a bit different from the others in the series. It is a series of short pieces about various scientists. This would make a great read aloud as each scientist has a fascinating story. The other one that I picked up is SAVING THE GHOST OF THE MOUNTAIN that explores the issues around studying and protecting the snow leopard.

Finally, I've been trying to add to our biography collection since I began in the library 4 years ago. There are so many great picture book biographies and kids have the stamina to read these and learn about the people in history. I picked up NO EASY WAY: THE STORY OF TED WILLIAMS AND THE LAST .400 SEASON by Fred Bowen. I imagine this one will be checked out the minute it hits the shelves.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Poetry Friday -- Sharing Words

Growing up with a big brother wasn't always fun. But being a grown up with a big brother is pretty awesome!

One of the things we share is a love of words. My brother has taken to sending me cellphone pics of words he finds around New York City.

He recently found these words on the sidewalk of a street that leads up to the Main Library (lion entrance):

And this week, he shared this poem that he found on the subway--a poem about how a shift in tracks can be jarring, but how the lights DO come back on again after the shift (hallelujah):

He sent along these links: an easier to read view of the poem, and the poet Charles Reznikoff's bio on the Poetry Foundation website. Reznikoff had a fascinating (and hard) life, and was never much acclaimed as a poet while living. I'm pleased to be able to help his work live on. A quote at the end of his bio says it best:
"On the death of Yeats in 1939, Auden wrote that, when he dies, the poet becomes his admirers. That is what has now happened to Reznikoff. He is no longer driven by the compulsion to create. It is not up to him now; it is up to those who are left behind and who think that they may have deciphered something of the meaning which he strove faithfully to create."

Today's Poetry Friday round up is hosted by Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I WANT MY HAT BACK by Jon Klassen

I had heard of this book, I WANT MY HAT BACK, but didn't think it looked like anything unique. So, I wasn't in a hurry to get my hands on it. It looked good and I meant to pick up a copy but I didn't expect to LOVE it. Boy, was I wrong.  I started to change my tune a bit when I noticed that almost all of my Goodreads friends gave this book 5 stars.  Colby Sharp even went so far as to say "Top 5 picture book for me this year." on his Goodreads review.  So, last week, when I saw it in Bill Prosser's library for a meeting, I picked it up.  Bill told me it was funny but we don't always share the same sense of humor. But I totally trust him on funny books. So I started to read and I didn't laugh immediately.  Then I laughed REALLY hard. Then I laughed even harder.  Then I had to order the book right away. Then I had to read it when it arrived. And I laughed really hard again.  Now, I know why so many of my smart, literate friends are in love with this book. I agree with Colby--in my top few picture books of 2011 no doubt! 
(Even if the trailer doesn't totally sell you on it, you'll fall in love with it when you actually see the real book. Trust me.

There is a great review at Fuse #8 if you want to hear more great things about this book:-)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I just received my copy of Nursery Rhyme Comics--a collection of "50 Timeless Rhymes from 50 Celebrated Cartoonists" with an introduction by Leonard Marcus.  This is a great collection for any classroom, home or library!  A definite new favorite!

This book is exactly as it is described on the cover-50 nursery rhymes, each illustrated by a different cartoonist. Many cartoonists are artists you'll recognize (I love that Nick Bruel of the Bad Kitty series illustrated the nursery rhyme, The Three Little Kittens!)  It is an amazing collection of art. Each nursery rhyme is short-many are done on a two-page spread. The art gives new meaning to some old favorites. I can see kids reading these in this format again and again.

Most of the rhymes are the traditional version. A few of the illustrators change things up a bit, which adds to the fun.  I love the variety of things the authors did with the comic format.  I love the different color schemes that the illustrators used. It gives each a unique look. We are getting ready to start working on comic making with 2nd graders and this will be a great new mentor for them. So many things to notice and study.

The editor's note at the end gives some information about the idea for the book and the book ends with blurbs about each cartoonist.  A definite favorite of 2011!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Letters to Book Characters

Binky the Space Cat
by Ashley Spires
Kids Can Press, 2009

Dear Binky,

You are so cute and funny. Why do you eat “Aliens”? I think you are a chubby little kittie. I have two cats at home, a big one named Luna and a small one named Taiyou. Toayou is very funny like you, they do not fart as much as you. If you have to much “Aliens” in your “Spsce station” just call an exterminator they kill all “Aliens”.

Your friend,


P.S.   Please answer me.

* * * *

Dear S.,

You are so kind and know when you see a good personalty. I think aliens taste like fried chicken, it is so yummy. Luna should be the leader of the space station because she’s older. I do not need an exterminator I am the one who kills the aliens, anyway I can’t let an intruder in my space station. 

Your Pal,


 Holly fuzz butt I forgot! I’m on a diet.

* * * * 

The assignment was to write a letter to a book character, and then write the letter the book character might write back. The students posted the letters on their blogs. This pair turned out great!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Home "Work"

After reading Making Learning Whole last summer, I really got to thinking about how to make the game of school transparent for my students, and how to honor the work they do at home for fun and personal learning.

Also last summer, when we were doing some cleaning in the basement back home, I ran across this straight line design I made with embroidery floss on black poster board back in middle school, and I remembered doodling endless variations of these designs for hours on end with ruler and well-sharpened pencil. I remembered the sketchbooks full of floor plans that my cousin and I made, as we imagined ourselves becoming architects in the future. I still have the writing journals I filled with adolescent angst, cartoons, poetry and fits and starts of stories.

It's this kind of "work" that I want to honor in my students. I want them to see connections between the learning we do in school and the playful exploration of these ideas that they can give themselves as "assignments" and bring in to share with the class.

Filling the wall around the straight line design which was my long ago home "work" are photos of students and the things they've brought in. One budding car enthusiast brought in the engine he made from a kit during the summer. Several have brought in collections. One girl has made several different tri-o-ramas, following directions she found either online or in a craft book. They have practiced math facts, and made a connection to a read aloud (I got a cupcake in honor of PAULIE PASTRAMI ACHIEVES WORLD PEACE).

When we were studying landforms, they made paper and cardboard and clay models of the landforms we were learning about. Although the landform unit is complete, a student was looking at the wooden M on her wall (one of the letters of her name) and she saw a canyon between the two peaks of the letter. When she shared it with the class, another student saw two plateaus on the flat tops of those points. They have seen that learning and thinking about a topic don't have to end just because they've taken the end of unit assessment.

Last week, when I was exhausted beyond belief and in a value-added/data-induced funk, my student who has inspired girl and boy readers of all abilities with her quest to read every Babymouse book in the series (she and several others have created checklists), brought in the Cupcake Tycoon board game she made.

Because of the way we start our day, I was able to play the game with her in the ten minutes the class and I spend together at tables in the cafeteria before they go to related arts. I played as Wilson and she, as Babymouse, thoroughly whomped me.

The time, energy, detail and thoughtfulness that this student put into her board game, which was an assignment SHE GAVE HERSELF, repaired my funk. My students really are more than just test scores, and I have finally found a way to honor their joyous learning "work" that is more like play, and which they seek out on their very own.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Poetry Friday -- Sleep

In Praise of My Bed
by Meredith Holmes

At last I can be with you!
The grinding hours
since I left your side!
The labor of being fully human,
working my opposable thumb,
talking, and walking upright.

(the rest of the poem is here)

As you can see from the picture, even those who don't have opposable thumbs and walk upright love the embrace of the bed.

It's been an exhausting week. At some point yesterday when it was feeling like the endless week from you-know-where, I actually thought it was Wednesday. Time passed in an amazing rush when my students corrected me and said, "No, tomorrow is Friday."

How time can feel slow or fast and yet pass by at the same measured rate has always fascinated me. Years for a little kid are a gigantic fraction of their total life, and so years are huge. The older we get, the smaller the fraction of our life for a year, and the faster time slips by. Or so it seems.

And the time we spend asleep seems to be lost, but sleep is what makes awakeness even possible. There's a definite Zen trapped in that conundrum...but don't lose any sleep over it! And don't waste any valuable awake time thinking too hard about it!

How about you spend some time perusing the Poetry Friday round up? David Elzey is hosting this week  at FOMAGRAMS. (I'll be visiting the round up tomorrow morning...after I sleep in!!)

Thursday, October 13, 2011


by Oliver Jeffers
Philomel Books, on shelves Nov. 10, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

The blurb for this book on Oliver Jeffers' website reads:

"A tale of trying to solve a problem by throwing things at it."

Floyd's kite is stuck in a tree, so he throws his shoe at it to get it down. His shoe gets stuck. Then he throws his other shoe and it gets stuck, too.

The sequence of the rest of the things Floyd throws at his problem starts off reasonable and veers decidedly to the ridiculous when he throws the kitchen sink, an orangutan, an ocean liner, the house across the street, and a whale...among other things. (Isn't that the way it goes, when you start throwing things at a problem?)

I can't really tell you about the end without taking all the fun of it away from you, but I will tell you that you're likely to have hope for Floyd's problem-solving ability, which will immediately be dashed, and yet, against all odds, there will be success...although you'll want to wring Floyd's neck in the end.

Kids will love this book. For them, it's a funny story of unintended consequences.

Adults will consider sending this book to their elected officials. Except for the fact that doing so would seem an awful lot like throwing a shoe...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Die Pflicht ruft.

We have a Living Language German phrase calendar sitting on our kitchen table. Every now and then it "speaks" to us -- it gives us the German equivalent for what is happening in our lives. Yesterday, before I spent all day with my grade level doing a data dig and curriculum mapping work, the calendar told me, "Die Pflicht ruft." (Duty calls.)

The Gapingvoid cartoon (by Hugh MacLeod) that is delivered to my email inbox every day often does the same thing. Yesterday, along with "Die Pflicht ruft," I was reminded that what I'm trying to do MATTERS.

*   *   *   *  

Edited to add (because I wrote this post last night and we never peek ahead at the calendar):

Sie ist sehr Fleißig.
She's very diligent.

Thanks, Living Language. I guess you've noticed how many hours I spend at the kitchen table working...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

iPad Apps in the Library

We added four iPads to the library this year. They are not for circulation but will be used in the library. We also have 2 new iPods. As we move more of the building technology to classrooms, our library will be a place where we hope students can choose tools that make sense for their purpose.  In terms of technology, we'll have 15 laptops, 4 iPads, 2 iPod touches, 2 Nooks, 5 Kindles and a Smartboard.

I want the iPads to be tools for learning so we made sure not to put any games on these. I believe games are definitely tools for learning--we have lots of games in the library. However, since we are limited in the number of mobile devices we have, I want to give kids more possibilities for their use.  In surveys we've done with our students, playing games is something they already do quite often at home on computers and mobile devices. So, in the library, I want to show them what else is possible in terms of production/creativity/reading. So, we are starting the year with the following apps on our iPads:

Our students are familiar with Pages, Keynote and iMovie so we've added those to the ipads.  We will most likely add Comic Life as well.

As we work toward helping kids read with depth, I thought Flipboard would be a good tool for the library. Flipboard is a reader that allows you to follow sites and blogs of your choice. I will load the websites that kids read often--Wonderopolis, DogoNews, etc. so that kids can enhance their reading experiences with the iPad.

Last week, students explored Screenchomp. This is a great screencasting tool. In just a few minutes, students learned to share their learning, their drawing, their thinking and their stories with this tool. My hope is that screencasting becomes a way for them to share their learning and Screenchomp is  a great iPad Screencasting tool.

Dragon Dictation changes speech into text.  This will be a good tool for lots of things that kids do.

Talking Tom is a fun app that our younger kids will enjoy. Reading to Tom will allow students to hear their pacing, expression, etc.

I am focusing on more collaboration tools and Popplet is a great one for the iPad.  I'll introduce this one to students within the next few weeks.

We added a few draw tools such as Doodlebuddy and a few other draw tools on each iPad.

As we begin to explore ways to use QR codes, we added QR Reader.

A few social bookmarking sites we included were Evernote and Diigo.

We also put 4-5 iBooks on each iPad.  I want students to experience the best ebooks as readers. I also want them to begin to look at these as mentors--what is possible in their own creations later down the road.  Some books we purchased were:

Timbuktu Magazine is a new magazine for kids that looks promising.

Fantastic Books of Morris Lessmore is one of my favorite iPad books. Others we added were Cozmo's Day Off, and The Three Little Pigs Pop Up are three favorites so far.

This is where we'll start with the iPads.  I already have students using the apps they know and exploring others. Will be interesting to see what happen once the newness of the tool wears off.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Annotating Digital Text

I want my students to be able to track and record their thinking while they read.  Annotating text has helped so many students understand text more deeply. I work with students in grades 4 and 5 to use various tools such as highlighters, pencils, stickynotes, etc. to support their understanding of what they read.

I have loved the annotation tools I've used in my own reading using Diigo and Evernote. They allow me to do the same things I do on paper, digitally. I want my students to have experience using tools on the computer to highlight and take notes with non-paper text.  To get started on this, I decided to use the Preview tool and PDFs with students this week.  I took a web article with visuals and all and turned it into a PDF and will put one on each student's desktop.  Then I'll let them see how annotation tools work in Preview. I want them to learn the skills for annotating text and then I know those skills will transfer to more web-based reading and social bookmarking tools. I have to explore the educator accounts that Diigo and Evernote provide to determine which will best meet our needs.

After just a few conversations, I can see this helping students in their reading of online text. Often this text is overwhelming to them and these tools will help them to do what they know to do for understanding. My husband was nice enough to make a screencast of these tools for me. You can see it on his blog. Really, the preview annotation tools took me about 5 minutes to learn. I am confident that after a few minutes of exploration, these tools will be hugely helpful for my students as readers.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Poetry Friday -- Details

The Devil's NOT In The Details

The details are holy.

How can you not be recharged by
constellations marching
sun glinting
blue skies blazing
trees changing
hawks soaring.

The details are holy.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2011

It's so easy to get bogged down in the big stuff and forget to notice all the small things that can give us another way to look at the world.

I can always depend on the world to show me peace and beauty, right when I need it the most.

Mary Ann has the Poetry Friday round up at Great Kid Books this week.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Love, Mouserella by David Ezra Stein

LOVE, MOUSERELLA is a fun picture book of a letter from a little mouse to her grandmother. Mouserella's grandmother came to visit but left a few days ago. And Mouserella misses her so she decides to write her a letter. The letter is filled with happenings in Mouserella's life.  From going to the zoo, to working on her posture, Mouseralla fills her grandmother in on all that is happening.

The book opens vertically rather than horizontally which makes for some fun. Mouserella's letter continues from one page to the next. Each page of sharing is accompanied by photos and drawings.  There is evidence of some editing as Mouserella changes the spelling of a word here and there. The letter is babbly--as it would be from a young child, telling all that she can to her grandmother.

I think kids will love this book and will relate to all that Mouserella shares.  I also think that this could serve as a model for young writers.  This isn't your typical correct-letter-format example, but it is real life.  I think it can be used to talk to young kids about expanding their thinking, working to connect text and visuals, adding information, etc.  Mouserella does a great job of telling lots, that's for sure!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

2 More Alphabet Books

I love the variety of ABC books being published these days.  One of my new favorites is AN ANNOYING ABC by Barbara Bottner.  This abc book tells a sequential story about the children in one classroom--they look to be young children.  On the end and title pages, the children are walking to school in lots of different moods. Some look happy. Some look tired. Others look a bit grumpy but we meet the children first before the story begins.  The story begins like this, "It was a quiet morning until....Adelaide annoyed Bailey. The first letters of each child's name are highlighted throughout and the alliteration used on each page reminds us that this is an abc book. But the story is about a class who is just getting on each other's nerves. It is a reminder of how out of hand things can get when we let the cycle of crankiness continue!  Anyone who has ever spent anytime in a classroom will know exactly how this can happen. But with the help of an understanding teacher, all is turned around for a much better afternoon. This is a fun story and the illustrations are worth spending lots of time with.  I am not sure this is one kids will read on their own--the names and verbs are tricky. But it is definitely one kids of all ages will enjoy and one I can see some classrooms creating their own version of this abc book with their own names.

The other alphabet book I purchased was AN EDIBLE ALPHABET:  26 REASONS TO LOVE THE FARM by Carol Watterson. I have not had the chance to read this one from cover to cover--it is packed with information. But this is one that would make a great read aloud for young children. Each page is packed with information connected to one letter of the alphabet.  From how often asparagus needs to be planted to root vegetables, to the role of hummingbirds, this book gives students a very detailed look at a farm. There seem to be several opportunities for children to enter the book. Some may look for the illustration that matches the letter. Others may dig in deeper to read more about the farm.  If a teacher were to read this aloud, it would probably take several days to do so. At first glance, it looks like a quick read but each page is filled with information and readers will want to take it all in. This one would also serve as a great mentor text for students writing literary nonfiction.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

September Mosaic


It starts with the Arts Festival, jumps into school with both feet, and ends with the Casting for Recovery retreat.

Beehive Books, a very nice independent bookstore in Delaware, OH was bonus this month.

However, the rain with which the month ended has not yet gone away...

Monday, October 03, 2011

It's October, and that means...

It's CYBILS time!!

This is the SIXTH year for the CYBILS, and they keep getting better. There are new eligibility rules, and a new category for nominations: book apps.

When CYBILS were born, I was a first-round judge in the Graphic Novels category. This year, I'm a second-round judge in Poetry.

Here's the nomination form (make sure you read those eligibility rules). More than fifteen poetry books have already been nominated! Is your favorite on the list yet? How about your favorites in all of the other categories?!?

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Looking Forward to These Books

I have been having lots of conversations with students about thinking ahead as readers.  My stack of to-be-read titles never ends. And that is a good thing.  As I think head to my fall reading, I am going to try to make some more time for my personal and professional reading.  These are the books I am anxious to read.

I always learn so much from Kelly Gallagher.  His teaching and writing have had a huge impact o my teaching life. I am excited about his upcoming book Write Like This.  I have done a pretty good preview of the book on Stenhouse's site but I want to wait until I have a "real" copy to read it cover to cover.

I did a podcast interview with Kelly for Choice Literacy a while ago where he talks a bit more about mentor texts.

I came across the book Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield and ordered it right away. I am pretty sure my oldest daughter will "borrow" it from me when I finish.

I feel like I haven't taught math in a long time. For the last 4 years of my professional life, I have been in the library and for the two years prior to that, I taught Literacy 1/2 day and coached literacy 1/2 day. So I was excited to see this book--Math Exchanges by Kassia Omohundro Wedekind one that will help me see the possibilities for math classrooms.  Love the connections she makes to workshop.

Another professional book I am anxious to read is The Ten Things Every Writer Needs to Know by Jeff Anderson.  I heard Jeff speak about this book at the All Write Summer institute and I have been waiting to pick this one up since then!

I had the opportunity to hear Rae Carson at Cover to Cover last week. She is the author of the brand new YA novel, Girl of Fire and Thorns.  My 12 year old insisted on reading the book first and devoured it (said she maybe liked it better than The Hunger Games and Gone!). It is now my turn to read the book and I can't wait.

Another book that caught my eye is The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka. I'm not sure where I first heard about the book but it looks like one I'd enjoy so I've added it to my list.  A review in the New York Times was posted about a month ago.