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 Flei├čig.
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.