Saturday, October 31, 2015

September/October Mosaic

I missed my September mosaic. Time just slipped right by and it wasn't until the middle of the month that I realized I hadn't done one.

This combo looks like an Insect Edition -- at the beginning of September, we were just finishing up with Monarch chrysalises, there was an awesome spider on the porch at the Casting for Recovery retreat (yes, I know spiders aren't insects...), I'm pretty sure that incredible caterpillar will someday be an Imperial Moth, and the preying mantis is eating a stinkbug (go, preying mantis!).

It could also be a Seasonal Colors and Moods Edition, or a Cute Cat / Horse Butt / Caged Dog / Ram Head Edition.

The selfie of me and AJ is a joke. In the background is Thomas Edison, holding up a lightbulb. On first glance, I thought he was taking a selfie, so we took our selfie along with him taking his. You can find Mr. E. in the Ohio Statehouse, which is where we were for the Ohioana awards reception.

The quote in the center was shared by Anthony Doerr (author of ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, and as amazing a speaker as he is a writer), and the quote at the end is from THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING by T.H. White, the book I'm currently listening to in the car back and forth from school).

The images can be seen full-size on Flickr.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Poetry Friday -- Wild Wows

This Wednesday was the perfect day for Environmental Club to stay indoors, look through our observation notebooks, write poetry, and paint with watercolors. Outside, the wind blew, dark clouds moved so quickly across the sky that at one point we could see both a downpour and bright sun out the window. 

After snack, I gave a quick demonstration lesson on using words and phrases from my notebook to write haiku

spiderwebs glisten
between green and yellow leaves
sun warms my shoulders

and Fifteen Words or Less poems

The back
of the milkweed leaf
is as soft
as velvet.

Here are a few of the students' creations (made in 45 minutes, please excuse the lack of editing):

Jone has the Poetry Friday roundup today at Check it Out

Thursday, October 29, 2015

#GNCelebration -- Graphic Novel Publishers, Websites, Imprints

This is the final Thursday for our celebration of graphic novels. We have teamed up with blogger friends at Kid Lit Frenzy and Assessment in Perspective, and it's been a fabulous month! You can read our Nerdy Book Club post telling about the month-long celebration, and you should check out the Google Community where there is now an amazing collection of resources around graphic novels!

None of this graphic novel love would be possible if it weren't for the publishers, so this week, I'd like to shine the spotlight on them.

I'll start with AMP! Comics for Kids -- Andrews McMeel Publishing. They are:
"...big believers that when you make reading fun for kids, it gets them in the book reading habit, and creates lifelong book lovers. So we’re big proponents of comics and graphic novels, because they do just that. In fact, that’s most of what we publish!"
These are the folks that bring us Big Nate, as well as many other characters, books, and series. If you explore their website, you'll find information about all their books, videos, fun stuff to make and do and know, a blog, and information for teachers and parents on teaching with comics.

Scholastic has the Graphix imprint, and a variety of activities (including a comic-maker) can be found on their website. Graphix has brought us Bone, Amulet, Captain Underpants, Ricky Ricotta, Sisters, Drama, Smile, Babysitter's Club, and Sunny Side Up. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that books from this imprint have been gateway books for some of the most reluctant readers in my classroom over the years!

First Second, the graphic novel imprint of Macmillan, may not have the flashiest, most kid-friendly website, but if you browse the SEVEN PAGE list of their books, you'll find an amazing lineup of award-winning books and authors. Lots of books you need to put on your TBR can be found there. First Second has brought us Giants Beware, Zita the Spacegirl, Adventures in Cartooning, George O'Connor's mythology series, Fable and Fairytale Comics, American Born Chinese, and many many more.

Thank you, publishers, for bringing us this vibrant format that has hooked so many of our students and helped them to develop a life-long love of reading all kinds of books! You help make our job easier!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet

Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet
by Buzz Aldrin (with Marianne J. Dyson)
National Geographic Kids, 2015
review copy provided by the publisher

Buzz Aldrin is a man with a vision. He truly believes that we can and should make plans to colonize Mars. He boldly states,
"Plans for building the first homes on Mars are already in progress. Through this book, you'll learn why I think it's time to commit ourselves to building a permanent home on the red planet."
This book walks the reader through preparing to go to Mars, getting to Mars, landing on Mars and constructing homes, and the potential to change the climate of Mars after 1000 years of human habitation on the red planet.

I am continually telling my students not to be worried that all of the possibilities for scientific discovery will be used up by the time they grow up. This book is proof of that. The amount of creative thinking and problem solving that will go (has gone) into this possibility (probability/reality) is absolutely mind-boggling.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Text Features vs. Text Structures

In fifth grade, we move past identifying text features in nonfiction, to looking at text structures -- the way the author has organized the information in the book.

For a refresher course on text features, my go-to book is:

This book has a table of contents, headings, text boxes, pictures and captions, key words in bold, an index, and a glossary. (As a bonus extra, it has a narrative lead, in case you collect nonfiction books with a variety of leads!)

Here is my stack of mentor texts for text structures:

Question/Answer structure

Narrative structure

How-To structure

Sequential structure

Organized around the metaphor of a mountain

Organized numerically (bonus -- gorgeously written descriptive lead)

Compare/Contrast structure

Organized by colors

Main Idea/Detail structure

Sequential structure (tells the end first, then goes back and tells the steps)

Cause/Effect structure

ABC structure

Poem + Information structure

Monday, October 26, 2015

Making Nonfiction From Scratch by Ralph Fletcher

Making Nonfiction From Scratch
by Ralph Fletcher
Stenhouse, available late November 2015

When I got the Stenhouse Publishers Newslink email last week (sign up now if you don't get them -- they always contain juicy tidbits) and saw that Ralph Fletcher has a new book coming out soon...AND Stenhouse is offering a free online preview of the entire text...AND we are just starting our unit of study on nonfiction writing...well, it felt like the universe was aligning.

There's so much to love about this new book. Of particular note:
Chapter One -- fun parable, then check out those headings -- minilessons, here we come!
Chapter Three -- interview with Louise Borden
Chapter Six -- NF read aloud
Chapter Eleven, page 94 -- what a final draft could look like
If you preorder this book by Wednesday of this week with the code NLDH, you'll get $10 off. What are you waiting for? I know you'll want your own copy to mark up and flag with stickies!

In honor of this book and our unit of study on nonfiction writing, tomorrow and Wednesday I'll have two more nonfiction posts.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Poetry Friday

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Dave Lawler

Please Don't
by Tony Hoagland

tell the flowers—they think
the sun loves them.
The grass is under the same
simple-minded impression

about the rain, the fog, the dew.
And when the wind blows,
it feels so good
they lose control of themselves

and swobtoggle wildly
around, bumping accidentally into their
slender neighbors.
Forgetful little lotus-eaters,

hydroholics, drawing nourishment up
through stems into their
thin green skin,

high on the expensive
chemistry of mitochondrial explosion,
believing that the dirt
loves them, the night, the stars—

Oops. I think it's too late. Our first killing frost has told the flowers the cold hard truth of it all. (But don't you love how Tony Hoagland describes them: "solar-powered / hydroholics"?)

Jama has the roundup today at Jama's Alphabet Soup. Next week, Jone will have the roundup at Check it Out.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Graphic Novel is a Format, Not a Genre

Every Thursday in October, we'll be celebrating Graphic Novels here on our blog. We are teaming up with blogger friends at Kid Lit Frenzy and Assessment in Perspective, so you'll want to check out their blogs every week too! If you want to know more about our monthlong celebration, read our Nerdy Book Club post announcing it. We also hope you'll join our Google Community where the party will come together! We love Graphic Novels and we want to share that love with the world.

Last week while my students were taking a math test, I went from shelf to shelf around my classroom, gathering books for this post. That's right -- there's not a "Graphic Novels" shelf in one spot in my classroom. There are graphic novels shelved with autobiography and memoir, fables, mythology, and short stories. There are tubs for the graphic novel series (BabyMouse, Lunch Lady, etc.), but graphic novel fiction and fantasy are shelved by author's last name with the other fiction chapter books.

That's because graphic novels are a FORMAT and not a genre!


edited by Chris Duffy 


edited by Chris Duffy


by Siena Cherson Siegel


edited by Kazu Kibuishi


by George O'Connor


by Nathan Hale


by Don Brown

This is a history book that is not for the faint of heart. In the graphics, towns are erased by crashing waves, people and pets drown and starve, crowds are locked out of the SuperDome, and aid is slow in coming. In the same way that the images force us to see the truth of what happened in New Orleans, the text is completely straightforward and honest. In fact, when you get to the end of the book and look at Don Brown's source notes, you will see that nearly every (maybe every?) line of text is referenced to a primary source. This is an amazing mentor text for accurate journalistic writing. Don Brown didn't get emotionally involved in the story he was telling; he was simply the conduit to tell the story, to remind us about what went wrong so that hopefully we can get it right the next time. (Heaven forbid there's a next time.) And he told it true as a tribute "To the resilient people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast" who have been working ever since 2005 to rebuild their cities and their lives.

With all the light-hearted, fun-to-read graphic novels that are available, you might think this is an odd choice for our give-away today, but this is an important book that will expand your notion of what a graphic novel can be and what graphic novels can do for readers.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

BLOG TOUR: One Word from Sophia by Jim Averbeck and Yasmeen Ismail

There are some books that I pick up and know right away that I need to own a copy. I know when I walk into the hall and share the book with colleagues, they too will want to own a copy. And I know that if I buy a copy and put it in my classroom, I may never see it again as the children will circulate it among themselves for months.

This is how it's been with One Word from Sophia by Jim Averbeck (@jimaverbeck) and Yasmeen Ismail (@yasmeenmay).   Sophia is a little girl who is getting ready for her birthday. She wants one thing for her birthday--a pet giraffe.  She wants one VERY badly and tries to convince everyone she can that she should have one.   She uses slide shows, maps, graphs and more to try to convince her family that she should have a giraffe.

There is so much to love about this book and so many possibilities for the classroom. First off, it is a fabulous read aloud.  We read this as a #classroombookaday just for fun. It is a great story with a great character and the language is so engaging! Not only is Sophia engaging in the way she tries o convince her family of her true desire but her parents responses have invite some great conversations around vocabulary too.  I plan to revisit this book during our persuasive writing unit later this year as Sophia has persuasive skills like no other picture book character I know!  And if you want even more ways that this book can invite quality conversations, you can read this SLJ article and see how Paul Hankins plans to use it with his high school students.

You'll definitely want to check out this book as your kids will love it (whether they are 5 or 15). It is one of those books that I think we'll revisit often and find some new amazing thing each time.

You can read and watch more about the video on Simon and Schuster's site.

And make sure to visit the other stops on the ONE WORD FROM SOPHIA blog tour!
10/19/2015 - Jen at Teach Mentor Texts
10/20/2015 - Jennifer at Reederama
10/21/2015 - Franki and Mary Lee at Two Reading Teachers
10/22/2015 - Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers
10/23/2015 - Crystal at Reading Through Life
10/24/2015 - Alyson at Kid Lit Frenzy

Happy Reading!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Math Monday -- Growth Mindset Edition

Flickr Creative Commons photo by Psyberartist

Flickr Creative Commons photo by Emily L

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Shelley Ginger

Our guidance counselor did a fabulous growth mindset lesson last week on how neural pathways are built in our brains. She talked about how new information is as tenuous as string or thread, but that with repetition and learning, pathways become as strong as yarn and as durable as rope.

On Friday, my math class did a pre-assessment on 5.NBT.2 -- understanding patterns of place value in numbers that are multiplied/divided by powers of ten, exponents, and metric measurement.

We're only two months into the school year, but my students understand that pre-assessments are to show what they know so that I can better meet them at their level. They have learned to approach them with a sense of curiosity -- a pre-assessment is a sneak peak at what they'll learn in the coming weeks. But these concepts on Friday were so far out of their realm of background knowledge that one student told me his neurons weren't string, they were spider webs! Not to be outdone, another student said, "Mine aren't even spider webs...they are CLOUDS!"

My response was, "That's okay, because in two weeks -- **finger snap** -- you'll understand all this!"

This will be a fun two weeks in math, and we'll keep a close watch on the way our learning grows as the strength of our understanding progresses from clouds to webs to string to yarn to rope.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Poetry Friday -- The Belly of the Whale

Wikimedia Commons

Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale
by Dan Albergotti

Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life’s ten million choices.

If "the belly of the whale" is the point of no turning back in a hero's journey, then that is definitely what October is like in the classroom. Except I think someone forgot the supernatural aid...unless those are the literacy and numeracy coaches!!

I like the attitude of the speaker in this poem. If you've got to be in the belly of the whale, then at least you should kick back and rest...maybe even get a little work done!

Amy has the Poetry Friday roundup today at The Poem Farm, and remember, Jone will have the roundup on the 30th, not me.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

10 Graphic Novels Recommended by 3rd Graders

Every Thursday in October, we'll be celebrating Graphic Novels here on our blog. We are teaming up with blogger friends at Kid Lit Frenzy and Assessment in Perspective, so you'll want to check out their blogs every week too! If you want to know more about our monthlong celebration, read our Nerdy Book Club post announcing it. We also hope you'll join our Google Community where the party will come together! We love Graphic Novels and we want to share that love with the world.  And don't forget to visit Kid Lit Frenzy today for your chance to win a prize!

Graphic Novels are quite popular in our classroom. Last week, I talked to my kids about this post and this monthlong celebration and asked them which 10 Graphic Novels they'd recommend to other 3rd graders. This is the list they came up with. These are the books that are being read like crazy in our class right now.

Babymouse (all of them!)

Squish (all of them!)

Lunch Lady (all of them!)