Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley

My collection of wordless picture books continues to grow. I not only love them as a reader but I have found so many ways to use them for minilesson work and small group instruction in the classroom.  So, of course I purchased a copy of Hank Finds an Egg when I saw that @paulwhankins recommended it. I have to be honest that when I looked at it online, I didn't expect to be impressed. It didn't seem to be what I would expect from a brilliant wordless book. But I trust Paul so I went ahead.

Well, was I happily surprised at how much (and how immediately) I fell in love with this book!  It is brilliant and wonderful and sweet and perfect.  Really.  Another that I shared with the whole family.  Both girls agreed that it was a great book. No question.  It is the book that I am carrying around with me this week--telling everyone I know about. I may need a few more copies as I want to share it but I hate to let it out of my sight for too long!

The story is about Hank who finds an egg in the forest.  You cannot help but love Hank IMMEDIATELY.   He is the best example of kindness:-) Love this stuffed bear.  The story is told through a series of amazing and intricate photographs.  So when you close the book and open it again (and again-trust me), you have to wonder about the author's process. How does she DO this?  How does she create and amazing character and such a powerful story with photos?  Luckily, the Internet is full of great resources so you can read about her process in this interview at UNH Today and this one at Creating the Story.  Rebecca's blog is also worth a few hours of your time!  I just love love love her work and her process. And I love the joy she clearly has in that process.  I am adding her to my mental list of favorite authors immediately.

This book is such an invitation to kids--so many great possibilities..  I think it is a great wordless book with a great message. I also think some kids will want to give this medium a try.  I imagine they could create amazing things with this book as a mentor. And I think Rebecca's process as a writer with photos is also one worth studying with kids. I love that she doesn't take the pictures in order and that the process leads the way.  As we move to more possibilities in the ways that stories are told, I think it is important as a writing teacher that my students and I  learn from the experts and help my students see possibilities for the creation process.

Not many books make me want to create a diorama when I finish, but this one might!

Definitely a book I Could Read a Million Times!!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Poetry Friday: Thug

As seen/passed around on FaceBook


All summer it's been cool
but just in time for school
the heat comes back,
like a big muggy bully.

One afternoon, regardless of the math lesson,
the air conditioning goes out.
Just up and leaves.
Walks out of the room without permission,

leaving the door open
for the bully to swagger in,
disrupt the lesson,
and make us sweat ourselves.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2013

Tara has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at A Teaching Life.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Tuesday Effect

It's nice to know that some things don't change after decades and decades (and decades) of teaching. It's Tuesday night and I'm channeling my first-year teaching self.

As a beginning teacher in a tough school in the Dallas Independent School District, I would go through the same cycle, week after week: I would spend all weekend polishing up the most perfect lesson plans ever. I imagined what I would say and how the students would react. It was beautiful. Masterful. Thoughtful.

Then Monday came.

Monday came and I got a little bit behind.

Then, by the end of the day Tuesday, I was completely behind, thrown off track, and feeling buried in a mire of papers.

I call it The Tuesday Effect.

And if you think this is the part where I tell you how I've come so far since those first years, and how I'm so on top of things and have it all figured out now...well, you'd be wrong. It's happening again, right on schedule, with technology thrown into the mix.

The only thing I've got figured out now that I didn't know then is that it's okay -- even necessary -- to leave the avalanche of work for tomorrow and get a good night's sleep. Wednesday will come and it will all work out...somehow.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Coming Soon: September

One of the best things I've done for my reading life is to start a "Book Release" calendar.  Every time I hear about a book that is coming soon--one that I'd like to read, I add it to the calendar. Then each month, I can see what's coming so I don't miss any new books!  I can't believe it is almost September and I can't believe how full my September Book Release calendar is!  September is going to be a great month for new books! Here are some books I am looking forward to:

Picture Books:

The King of Little Things by Bill Lep
Ding Dong! Gorilla! by Michelle Robinson
Never Ever (Child's Play Library) by Jo Empson
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
Xander's Panda Party by Linda Sue Park
Locomotive by Brian Floca
Moondayby Adam Rex
Mitchell Goes Bowling by Hallie Durand
Cool Creations in 35 Pieces by Sean Kenney

Chapter Books--Fiction:

Ling & Ting Share a Birthdayby Grace Lin
The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson
Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things: Mister Max 1 by Cynthia Voigt
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
The Misadventures of Salem Hyde: Book One: Spelling Trouble by Frank Camuso
The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. by Greg Pincus

And this one is not for kids, but I am always fascinated by his books:

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

Monday, August 26, 2013


When it comes to picture books, I WANT MY HAT BACK is one of my very favorites. And this week I found another that is right up there with I WANT MY HAT BACK--CARNIVORES by Aaron Reynolds and Dan Santat. And anyone who has been following my blog knows that there are no other books that are up there with I Want My Hat Back.  I am so excited about this book--it is one I am carrying around with me and showing to everyone I pass. It is a book that I make people read while I watch them.  Then I take it away so that I can show it to someone else.  It definitely goes on my BOOKS I COULD READ A MILLION TIMES booklist.  (And the last book I have put on my Books I Could Read A Million Times list was.....#hatback).

CARNIVORES is the story of 3 carnivores who are really misunderstood. I don't want to say much more because you should experience every page of the book on your own.  It is a book that I think everyone will love.

I brought the book in today to share with a 5th grade teacher who shared it with his students. A few of my past students (now in his class) let me know how hysterical they thought it was.  When they brought it back, my class asked about it. I hadn't planned on reading it because I wasn't sure they would  get the humor. But they did. And they totally loved it. Absolutely totally.  It was such a fun book to read to kids. Watching their faces and hearing their laugh-out-loud reactions was the best way to spend a Friday.

Pretty much everyone agrees that this is a great book.  Here are some other reviews of the book.

Jen Robinson's Review "Carnivores is actually a hilarious riff"
Waking Brain Cells "screamingly funny, wonderfully inappropriate"
Roundtable Reviews  "Without a shadow of a doubt, Carnivores skyrocketed its way to the top of my favorite children's books of all time."

If you are still not convinced, you can watch the book trailer here:-)

I'd suggest buying more than one of these books. You will want to have one with you wherever you go.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Reading at Home

I have a whole bunch of thinking rambling around in my head as I get ready to fully implement the expectation that my students will read at home for 20-30 minutes each night.

First, I'm going to need my students to work hard to develop an at-home reading habit. I want to provide them with a variety of choices for the way they will track and report their reading so that they will own the whole process, from the selection of their books/texts to the development of the habit, to the tracking and reporting. So far, the menu of options include

  • daily writing on paper (Typically this has been a M-Th assignment that is handed in on F, but why not let the students decide what the cycle will be? Maybe they do most of their reading on the weekend, so it makes sense to do it Th-Su and hand it in M? Or they have sports and lessons so they can best complete the work on M, W, Th, Su, or some other combination.)
  • responding digitally on a Google form (The form I developed has their name, title/author of their book, a genre drop-down menu, and a place to write a reflection. The student would submit their thinking four times a week. This choice would also allow for weekend reading.)
  • weekly letter (This could be handwritten or typed and would summarize and synthesize a week's worth of reading. Students could determine on what day of the week they would agree to hand in their letter.)
  • blogging (Hmm...I guess if I'm going to offer this as an option, I just made my mind up about KidBlog!)

Now I'm really thinking as I type. We've got a five day week next week. I could introduce each of these options (maybe not in that exact order) on M, T, W, and Th, let them practice in class, and then practice again at home. Then they could work up their plan and submit it to me on the Tuesday after Labor Day. With each child/family developing the timing of the plan and the reporting method that works best for them, I will never again be taking a whole stack of papers home on a Friday night to haunt me until Sunday night. I'll be able to spread my tracking and responding out over the week. Hmm...I'm liking this more and more!

So. I think I just wrote my reading lesson plans for next week. Does it make sense to spend a whole week working on developing a plan for and cultivating the habit of home reading? I think in the big scheme of things, a week is a small price. 

The second thing I'm going to need for this to work is buy-in from parents that at-home reading is not fluff, not optional, and not designed by me to torture their family. Remember that chart that shows how a child's reading achievement can be correlated to the number of minutes a day they read?

Here is the same chart with the benefit of 10 extra minutes a day factored in. Check out those gains for the low- to mid-level readers:

I want my parents to know that I expect their child to read for 20-30 minutes each evening because research has proven that it will grow their child as a reader! I'm hoping that this (possible, intangible) reward will be enough to prompt my students' parents to help their child discover the cues they will use to prompt the routine and habit of at home reading.

For more information about cues, routines and rewards, this is a great book:

by Charles Duhigg
Random House, February 28, 2012

I'm only about halfway through the book, listening to the audio version as I drive to and from school. Duhigg's explanation of how cues, routines, and rewards work, and his amazing examples from individuals' lives to huge corporations are understandable, entertaining, and compelling.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Poetry Friday -- Back to School Practicality

I reviewed two new poetry books earlier this week.

My review of SEEDS, BEES, BUTTERFLIES, AND MORE! is here.

My review of THE PET PROJECT is here.

Betsy has the Poetry Friday Roundup at I Think In Poems.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New Poetry Books for a New Year, part 2

The Pet Project: Cute and Cuddly Vicious Verses
by Lisa Wheeler
illustrated by Zachariah OHora
Atheneum Books for Young Readers (April 2, 2013)
review copy purchased for my classroom library

The character in this book wants a pet, but her parents, "...very scientific folk..." insist that she does research according to a scientific plan -- formulating a query, collecting data and observations, and presenting her results.

Our character has a research notebook, seen at the bottom of the page when she takes her study " the field." Her first destination is the farm. Her poems about the cow, chicken, pony, dove, and sheep reveal the reasons none of those will be her pet-of-choice.

"The farm was interesting, and yet,
I still have failed to find a pet.
Sure of what I have to do,
I'll take my research to the

After her zoological expedition, she goes to the woodland, does a "home study," a "controlled environments" study, notes some "inconclusive investigations" and finally comes to a conclusion about the kind of pets that are perfect for an owner like her, someone who is definitely not into the maintenance a pet requires, and rather quite forgetful, as well. Her choice?

"...They need no care.
They need no fuss.
They're not aware
that they're in us.

These beasties who are hard to find
are everywhere...and they're all

I go to Mom and Dad with hope:

"May I have a..."

  Can you guess?*

Such a fun book. You will want it for your poetry collection, for your science class, and for your persuasive writing unit!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

New Poetry Books For a New Year, part 1

Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More!: Poems for Two Voices
by Carole Gerber
illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
Henry Holt and Co. (February 5, 2013)
review copy provided by the publisher

This book is destined to become a favorite on Poetry Fridays in my classroom! My students have nearly worn out Mary Ann Hoberman's "You Read to Me, I'll Read to You" books of poetry for two voices. Now we've got another from which to choose!

Carole Gerber, a local Central Ohio poet and a fellow The Poetry Friday Anthology (Common Core K-5 edition): Poems for the School Year with Connections to the Common Core poet has written a collection of 18 poems about the natural world. The color-coding and the left/right alignment of the two parts will be familiar cues to readers of Hoberman's poems, but because Gerber's poems are not as formulaic as Hoberman's, this book will also make a great mentor text for students who want to try to write poetry for two voices.

These poems will be perfect for life science units on plants, animals, and food chains/webs. For example, in the poem "Seedlings," you will find the science vocabulary "coat," "germinate," "roots," and "sprouting." Told as a mask poem, from the points of view of two seedlings, this is a poem about that first moment when baby plants lift their heads above the dirt. Turn the page and the same scene is replayed with an excited seedling in conversation with a rabbit. That one doesn't end so well for the seedling!

The combination of fun poems and bright, happy illustrations by Eugene Yelchin make this one a sure deal!

Monday, August 19, 2013

My Summer Reading Door

The Door
I will apologize in advance for the lighting on these pictures.  It was the best I could do with the way the light was in the hallway. I hope between the dark photos and the captions, you can make some sense of them.

Lots of people have picked up on Donalyn Miller's idea for kicking off the year by decorating their doors with Summer Reading.   I wasn't planning on decorating mine as we don't do it as a school but then @LauraKomos shared her door display on Twitter and I was instantly reinspired!  Instead of doing the work I needed to do, I switched gears and went to my Goodreads account to see what I had read since summer began. I was surprised at how many books I had read and the thought of creating a door display sounded fun.

My hope in this door is for it to be a conversation starter. Many of the books I read this summer were in preparation for 3rd grade so the door will also serve to introduce students to new series and characters they might read in 3rd grade.

I struggled a bit with how to organize the door because I did not want to separate chapter books from picture books. 3rd grade is such a transition year and I know the pressure some kids feel to read books that are too hard for them --carrying around fat chapter books to look cool may begin at this age!

I decided to sort the books in a way that would hopefully start some conversation or jump start some of my minilesson work. I sorted by how I found/why I chose the books.  I like the way it turned out and am anxious to see what kinds of conversations it starts.

Books I Found When Reading Book Reviews

Books Recommended by Friends

New Books by Favorite Authors

Some Great Nonfiction

New Series Books I Discovered

New Books with Favorite Characters

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Professional Books I Am Revisiting to Get Ready for the School Year

I have 3 tall shelves full of professional books.  They take up a lot of space and there are times when I wonder why I keep them. Friends sometimes ask why I keep them--haven't you already read them? they ask.

Today, I remembered exactly why I have kept so many professional books.  My classroom is nearly finished and I've attended lots of professional development over the summer. I've learned about Common Core and new things that will be in place this school year.  The children come on Wednesday and these next few days are the days that I have to really think and plan those first few days of school.   I have the pacing guides and curriculum standards.  I know the routines that I'll put in place. The room is set up and I have the books and resources organized so students have the learning tools they need.  But these next few days are about getting my head in the game, remembering what really matters in those first few days. These books will help me do that.

I spent about 20 minutes in front of my three shelves this morning scanning the shelves for books I needed to revisit over the next few days.  Books that will help me take my time and do the right things during these first few weeks of school.  I won't read these books cover to cover but I'll pop in and out of them as I plan for the first 2-3 weeks of the school year.  Digging in will help the planning be more smooth and it will help me be more intentional about each of these first few days.

These are the books I am digging back into a bit as I think and plan for this most important week of the school year.

What's Most Important?

These are the books I revisit to reground myself. These three books are probably the most important books I've read--books that really help me think about the language I use with children and the messages (intentional and unintentional) I give them by the things I say and do.  It is easy to forget these things in the chaos of the first few days--when I don't know the kids and they don't know me.  But they are listening closely and I am setting the stage for what learning means in this classroom so I need to reread pieces of this to remind me how important it is to stay true to the language I believe in.

Choice Words and OOpening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives by Peter Johnston
I'm not sure how I taught before I read Choice Words but I have revisited this book more times than any other professional book I own. So important!  His new book, Opening Minds is just as important and I need to revisit it in order to build more of that into my early days this year.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carolyn Dweck
This is the most important idea I need to carry around with me, all day, every day.

Those First Few Weeks of Literacy Workshop
Setting up workshop routines never gets easier. The only thing that makes it easier is the realization that it's always hard and there is always a day when I think to myself, "I'm not sure I can do this!". So, I have to think carefully about the routines I put in place right away, the conversations that begin our year together and the tools we have for learning.

Launch an Intermediate Writing Workshop: Getting Started with Units of Study for Teaching Writing, Grades 3-5 by Lucy Calkins and Marjorie Martinelli
Although I won't use this unit lesson-by-lesson, it will help me hear Lucy's words about launching.

Significant Studies for Second Grade - Reading & Writing Investigations for Children (04) by Ruzzo, Karen - Sacco, Maryanne [Paperback (2004)]
Series books will be important to early third grade readers so I want to revisit the unit of study in this book on series books that is so brilliantly thought out.

Smarter Charts K-2: Optimizing an Instructional Staple to Create Independent Readers and Writers by Marjorie Martinellis and Kristi Mraz
I've been rethinking charts since I read this book. Then I had the opportunity to interview them and did even more rethinking.  I am definitely not being as thoughtful about charts in literacy as I can/should be so I want to think about this during these first few days.

Don't Forget to Share: The Crucial Last Step in the Writing Workshop by Leah Mermelstein
Share is a piece of the workshop that I often let go and I know better! This book helps me to remember that share is another teaching opportunity and it will remind me how to make it purposeful for the students.

From Ideas to Words: Writing Strategies for English Language Learners by Tasha Tropp Laman
(This is one I haven't had time to read yet but it is on the top of my pile and I need to dig in a bit before Wednesday!)

Math Learning
I have a stack of professional books about math teaching pulled from my shelves.  Just as the routines and conversations are important in literacy workshops, they are just as important in math workshops.  These books will help me think about how to make those happen during the first few days.

Number Talks: Helping Children Build Mental Math and Computation Strategies, Grades K-5 by Sherry Parrish
This routine is amazing and I need to dig in and think about how it will look different in 3rd grade.

Math Exchanges: Guiding Young Mathematicians in Small Group Meetings by Kassia Omohundro Wedekind
This is an amazing book on small group instruction in math.  I won't be starting groups immediately but hopefully in the first 2 weeks so I want to revisit this one to remember the big ideas Kassia shares.

So, I'm off to plan!  There are many other books on my shelves that I will revisit as the year goes on but these are the books I pulled today to help me be ready for the first few days with a new group of children.

Any other books that I need to revisit during these first few weeks of a new school year?