Saturday, June 07, 2014

48 Hour Book Challenge

Thank you, Mandy, for the picture!
Yesterday started with a blogger breakfast/bookstore fest and ended on the couch, burning through the last chapters of Shannon Hale's Dangerous

Without setting out to read a book for the WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, I realized that this book is a perfect fit. Hale's main character was born without her right forearm, but this is not a book about a girl with a disability. It's about a girl who saves the world from an alien invasion.

The last time I checked in with Shannon Hale, she was writing about princesses (who were also all strong girl characters, regardless of their royalty), so this switch to seriously science fiction was quite a shift. But a good storyteller is a good storyteller, and strong characters are strong, whether or not they are missing limbs.

There's too much teen romance for this to be a book I would put in my 5th grade classroom library, but I would definitely recommend it to all of my students (especially the girls) who have read The Hunger Games.

One of my favorite things about this book was the literary references. In the acknowledgements, Hale credits her high school English teachers, and notes that she has quoted Poe, Shakespeare, Keats, Yeats, and Frost.

On page 56, Maisie goes to space for the first time and tries to describe  what it's like to look back at the Earth.
"I wish I could explain better. NASA's next urgent mission should be to send good poets into space so they can describe what it's really like." 

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Poetry Friday

Sonnet I
by Phillip Britts

How often do we miss the fainter note
Or fail to see the more exquisite hue,
Blind to the tiny streamlet at our feet,
Eyes fixed upon some other, further view

What chimes of harmonies escape our ears,
How many rainbows must elude our sight,
We see a field but do not see the grass,
Each blade a miracle of shade and light.

How then to keep the greater end in eye
And watch the sunlight on the distant peak,
And yet not tread on any leaf of love,
Nor miss a word the eager children speak?

Ah, what demand upon the narrow heart,
To seek the whole, yet not ignore the part.


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No commentary. Just read it one more time. 

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Carol and Catherine switched roundup weeks. Go to Carol's Corner this week and Catherine's blog next week.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Einstein the Class Hamster

Third graders love to laugh. I have learned that over and over again in the classroom.  One of my favorite times to hear laughter is during Reading Workshop. In all the quiet of the workshop, I often hear a chuckle, a laugh or a giggle--someone is reading something hysterical.  This doesn't seem to happen as much in 4th or 5th grade but it happened almost daily this year in 3rd.  These kids who love to laugh also love books that make them laugh. I've noticed recently that some of the "funny" books in the classroom make it around the whole classroom somehow. I notice someone laughing over a funny book and the next thing I know, a child is reading it even if it does not fit their usual taste in books. And then they are passing it along to someone else.  I'm not usually a fan of funny books and I don't often "get" 3rd grade humor.  But I am trying. Last week I purchased Einstein the Class Hamster because it looked like the kind of book 3rd graders would love. I hadn't planned on reading it but I had students in mind who I knew would like it.

Well, the book arrived and I had some time so I sat down and read it. The book is about Einstein, a class hamster, who knows more than the teacher and is desperate to teach others what he knows. He runs a game show from his cage (even though no one really notices).  Within pages, I was laughing out loud. Really, I was laughing out loud at a hamster that runs his own game show. Of course--that's funny, right?  Well, I finished the book and am so glad that I did.  I laughed out loud in many places and couldn't wait to share it with my students. It was a fun read. I all of a sudden understood why these funny books make their rounds in the classroom. A light laugh-out-loud book about something goofy just makes you happy.  And I decided I'd try to read more funny books over the summer--it seems to be my reading gap-one I hadn't realized until I read this book. And since I realized how important funny books are to 3rd graders, I want to have more that I can recommend and talk to kids about. So I've added My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish (and maybe its SEAquel --hah!) and the The 13-Story Treehouse to my "funny books" TBR list.   I am hopeful that there will be a sequel to Einstein, The Class Hamster sometime soon too.....

Sunday, June 01, 2014

May Mosaic

May was a beautiful month, don't you agree?!? (And a pretty yummy one, too!)

You can see the pictures on Flickr here.

Celebrating Mother Reader With a Donation to First Book!

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Will Clayton

Even though our blog birthday was on January 1, we are celebrating it all year! On our 8th Birthday, we decided to celebrate 2014 by celebrating others who inspire us every day. Each month, on the 1st (or so) of the month, we will celebrate a fellow blogger whose work has inspired us. We feel so lucky to be part of the blog world that we want to celebrate all that everyone gives us each day.

Our year-long blog birthday celebration continues as we honor blogger Pam Coughlan, aka Mother Reader, with a donation to First Book.

Pam also started blogging in 2006 and has been active in the Kidlitosphere over the last 8 years through the CYBILS, KidLitCon, and Kidlitosphere Central. She has written some hilarious posts throughout the years, and heads up BACA (Bloggers Against Celebrity Authors).

But what we'd like to recognize MotherReader for most of all is her 48 Hour Reading Challenge. In its ninth year this year, this read-a-thon has become an end-of-the-school-year ritual for us. We usually gather with local bloggers for breakfast and a trip to our local independent children's bookstore, Cover To Cover, and launch our summer #bookaday with a weekend filled with as many hours of reading as possible.

This year, Pam has taken the 48HRC to a whole new level by focusing on the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. She writes,
"I'm hoping with lots of participants over the weekend, that we can saturate the blogosphere with dozens - nay, HUNDREDS - of titles that show the beautiful range of the human experience. That's our challenge."
In honor of all of the reading Pam has inspired over the years with her blog and with 48HBC, and especially because of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks focus this year, we are making a donation in her honor to First Book, a non-profit organization that provides access to new books for children in need. In their video "Empty Shelves," First Book states their mission poetically. Because of access to books: 
"Heads fill with thoughts,
Homes fill with works,
Schools fill with learning,
Communities fill with leaders."
Thank you Pam! Thank you, MotherReader, for all you have done for books and literacy and the Kidlitosphere!

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.