Friday, May 30, 2014

Poetry Friday: Sumer


Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing, cuccu;
Groweth sed
and bloweth med,
And springth the wode nu;
Sing, cuccu!

Awe bleteth after lomb,
Lhouth after calue cu;
Bulluc sterteth,
Bucke uerteth,

Murie sing, cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu,
Wel singes thu, cuccu;
Ne swic thu naver nu.

Sing, cuccu, nu; sing, cuccu;
Sing, cuccu; sing, cuccu, nu!

I won't make you click through for the translation from Middle English:

Summer has arrived,
Loudly sing, cuckoo!
The seed is growing
And the meadow is blooming,
And the wood is coming into leaf now,
Sing, cuckoo!

The ewe is bleating after her lamb,
The cow is lowing after her calf;
The bullock is prancing,
The billy-goat farting,

Sing merrily, cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo,
You sing well, cuckoo,
Never stop now.

Sing, cuckoo, now; sing, cuckoo;
Sing, cuckoo; sing, cuckoo, now!

And here it is, sung as a round:

Diane has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Random Noodling.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Thank You, Erin Soderberg for an Amazing Skype Visit!!

Last week, we had the opportunity to Skype with author Erin Soderberg. Erin is the author of The Quirks: Welcome to Normal and The Quirks in Circus Quirkus--the first two books in a series that is quite popular in our classroom this year!  

The kids were VERY excited about this Skype visit. Our last Skype (another highlight of the year!) was with author Barbara O'Connor. We had read her book How to Steal a Dog aloud so everyone in the class had read the book together. But The Quirks was different. I read the first book in the series over winter break and knew immediately that my students would love it. I handed it to a student who handed it to another student. Within a week, there were so many kids that wanted to read the book that we asked our librarian to order more. He ordered 5 and a group of kids had their first book club around the book. I bought 2 copies of the 2nd book in the series and that began to circulate.   By the time we had the Skype visit, almost all of the students had read at least one of the books.  

This book took on a life of its own in the classroom. Usually, when I find a book like this, I decide to read it aloud. And I may have, had it been earlier in the school year. But this series was one that my kids LOVED to read on their own. They loved the story and the characters. They loved that it was the buzz in the room. And they loved that they could read something independently that seemed a little bit harder and longer than the books they were comfortable with. For many of my students, this book gave them confidence to stretch themselves as readers. It helped them see how much they'd grown.  This book didn't make its way around the classroom because I shared it. Instead, the students owned this one--that's what makes it such a perfect book for 8 and 9 year olds.

In February, I wrote about this series as a MUST HAVE for 3rd and 4th grades. If you don't know The Quirks books, there are 2 in the series. Both focus on a family, called The Quirks.  The Quirks are anything but normal.  They are quite..quirky. Each family member has some kind of quirk or power but they try to hide these from the rest of the world as they often get them into trouble.  Such a perfect mix of real life and fantasy--no wonder kids love it.

There is also a lot of fun in the books--fun magic. Two of my favorite shows growing up were I Dream of Jeanie and Bewitched and the magic in these books reminded me a bit of those shows--very fun magic that I so wished I could do when I was younger!  

Author Erin Soderberg was amazing during our Skype visit. She had the kids engaged in the first 30 seconds with her enthusiasm and personality. She talked to us a bit and let us in on a few secrets about the Quirks. That was fun! Then we asked questions.

Before the Skype, we brainstormed questions for Erin.  I loved listening to their questions.  The thoughtfulness of each question made me happy and it became clear how well the kids knew the story and the characters. I also loved how clear it was that they understood authors. During the creation of the list, they kept talking and saying things like "I wonder why she decided to..." . They so understand authors as decision-makers and many of their questions focused on that part of the process.

It was a great day and we can't WAIT until the 3rd book in the series comes out in January 2015.  My students are already begging to read it first even though they will be in 4th grade next year.  They are VERY excited about this upcoming book!

Again, this book is one of my favorite new series for middle grade readers.  I'm so glad that there are more books coming! 

Monday, May 26, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Jen at Teach Mentor Texts has the link-up. Go check out what everybody's reading!

I'm getting ready for the summer edition of #bookaday and Mother Reader's 48 Hour Reading Challenge. Here are my three stacks:

General TBR

Fish Finelli (Book 2): Operation Fireball (you know me...I'll have to find
the first book in the series before I can read this one...)

Professional Reads/Annual Re-Reads

I'm sure I'll add more to this stack as the summer goes by. I can't wait to dig into

For the NCTE Excellence in Poetry Committee

I've already read a couple of these. I'm most looking forward to

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Power of Precise Language

It's DigiLit Sunday at Reflections on the Teche!
Check out all the digital literacy posts for this week.

As we wrap up our final research/nonfiction writing project, it's fun to see that my students are much more savvy about Internet searches than they were even a couple of months ago when they were satisfied to pose the exact question I'd given them to Mr. Google and fumble around with whatever information he decided to give them.

After their Evil Teacher forced them to use an encyclopedia repeatedly to gather information, my poor benighted students are much more willing to browse an online article (or even, heaven forbid, a book) for basic information before heading to more specialized sites. (Resisting the urge to say, "Told you so...")

And they are learning the power of precise language both in their Internet searches, as well as in their spoken language. My favorite example of the first is the girl who got lists of celebrities when searching "famous science people from Texas." She got what she wanted when I suggested she switch to "famous scientists from Texas." One precise word makes a huge difference. My favorite examples of the second include the boy who told me, "There were lots of presidents in my state." When I expressed confusion about how that could be, he reworded his statement to say, "There were a lot of presidents born in my state." Another student complained, "There's nothing about history in this book!" When I located an entire section about history in the table of contents, he reworded his statement, "There's nothing about the history of the native people of Florida in this book." Much better. Much clearer.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Poetry Friday -- Today by Billy Collins

Peony and Ant by Mary Lee Hahn

by Billy Collins

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like...

Ahh...five more days of school...need I say more?

Violet has today's Poetry Friday roundup at Violet Nesdoly / Poems

Please note that Jone and Buffy have traded weeks at the end of next month. Jone will be hosting on June 20 and Buffy will have June 27.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

History -- Graphic Novel Style

Graphic novels count for your summer #bookaday and for the 48 Hour Book Challenge, so put these on your TBR if you teach grades 4-8 or simply if you want to brush up on your American History.

by Nathan Hale
Harry N. Abrams, August 1, 2012
review copy purchased for my classroom

With a given name like Nathan Hale, how could you NOT write about Nathan Hale? This book is the set-up for the whole series. Nathan Hale is about to be hanged for treason. (On the cover, bottom left is the British officer in charge and, bottom right, the doofus hangman.) When Hale says his famous words, he is sucked into the Book of History and can see ALL of history. He delays his hanging by telling the Brit and the Hangman great stories from history. In this book, the focus is Hale's story, and the big picture is the American Revolution.

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad!
by Nathan Hale
Harry N. Abrams, August 1, 2012
review copy purchased for my classroom

Big Bad Ironclad focuses on the race between the North and the South during the Civil War to develop ironclad ships. Big picture: Civil War.

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party
by Nathan Hale
Harry N. Abrams, August 6, 2013
review copy purchased for my classroom

The Donner Dinner Party should also be known as "How Many Bad Decisions Can Be Made Based on Pride, Greed, Stubbornness and Competition?" Focus: surviving a winter stranded in the Sierra Nevadas. Big picture: Westward Movement.

by Nathan Hale
Harry N. Abrams, May 13, 2014
review copy purchased for my classroom

If you're like me, you're a little fuzzy on why World War I was fought. The politics of WWI are extremely (EXTREMELY) complicated, but Nathan Hale does a masterful job of bringing them down to kid level. To help the reader keep track of all of the countries involved, he draws each nationality as a different animal. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Free YA Audiobooks!

Every week from May 15-August 20, Sync offers a pair of FREE YA audiobooks for readers to download with the Overdrive app on their desktop computer or mobile device.

Each YA book is paired with a classic. This week, the pair is Warp: The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer and The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.

Once you download them, they are yours to listen to immediately, or whenever you get the chance! 

I'll be downloading them all, but there are a few I'm especially looking forward to:

June 12 – June 18
CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein, Narrated by Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell

THE HIDING PLACE by Corrie Ten Boom, John Sherrill, Elizabeth Sherrill, Narrated by Bernadette Dunne 

June 26 – July 2
FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK by Matthew Quick, Narrated by Noah Galvin 

OCTOBER MOURNING: A Song for Matthew Shepard by LeslĂ©a Newman, Narrated by Emily Beresford, Luke Daniels, Tom Parks, Nick Podehl, Kate Rudd, Christina Traister 

Happy Listening! Happy Reading (with your ears)!!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Central Ohio Blogger Breakfast to Kick Off to 48 Hour Read and Book-A-Day

Our last day of school is on Monday, June 2.  We are having lots of conversations in our classroom about summer reading and the joys of having extra time to read. Even by 3rd grade, some of my students already see summer reading as a chore so they looked a little confused the first two times I shared my excitement for the 2014 48 Hour Read and Summer Book-A-Day (#bookaday)

Mother Reader started her 48 Hour Book Challenge many years ago. Although I have never participated as a challenger, I have participated many years just for fun. For me, it is like a Hallmark Holiday--if Mother Reader says that June 6-8 is the 48 Hour Read, then I have a great excuse to read.  You can read more about the challenge in the link above. Mother Reader also posted 48 Hour Challenge FAQs last week.  If Donalyn challenges me to read a #bookaday, I give myself the gift of reading time each day.

I think one of the reasons I love the 48 Hour Book Challenge is that it is a great way to kick off summer reading and #bookaday..  No matter how much I read in the winter and spring, there is less and less time to fall into a good book during the last few weeks of the school year.  With all of the end-of-the-year things there are to do to close out the school year and to focus on the classroom community's last few days together, taking time for my own reading, always takes a backseat for a while. So, the 48 Hour Read and the #bookaday challenge help me make time to jump back into my reading life.

Another reason I LOVE the 48 Hour Read is that we often kick the weekend off with a Central Ohio Blogger Breakfast and Book Shopping Spree.  (If you are a Central Ohio blogger and would like to join us, email one of us and we'll give you the details!) We started this little tradition a while ago and it is amazing how it has evolved.  Funny thing is that many of us have become great friends through blogging and the fact that we all live close enough to get together once in a while is quite fun.  The morning is always filled with great talk, lots of laughing, delicious food and very heavy bags of books!  In 2008, I began the 48 Hour Read alone, getting my hair colored. In 2009, we decided that in Central Ohio, we might need to change the name of the challenge to the 48 Hour Shop! And in 2011, we discovered the fortifying power of granola, thanks to Bill Prosser.  I am sure 2014 will bring lots more fun and great books!

Now on to the reading plan.  I don't feel like I have a lot of 3rd grade-ish books to catch up on.  I spent lots of last summer reading transitional chapter books and feel like I can keep up with new ones easily. I've also kept up on lots of great new nonfiction as I've been trying to build my library in that area. But I seem to have fallen behind in my middle grade, YA and adult reading. I have already created a mental TBR stack that is bigger than anything I can read in one summer alone. But I do have a stack that I want to read early on in the summer. 

These are my summer MUST READS so far.