Tuesday, July 15, 2014

So Many Things to Love About Comic Squad: Recess!

The world has been very excited about Comics Squad: Recess!  for a very long time!  And it was worth the wait! What a great book. I am sure I am going to need several for the classroom this year. Kid are going to go crazy with this one!

If you haven't read Jarrett Krosoczka's Nerdy Book Club post about the book, it is a fabulous story of the book and how it came to be.  

Here are 10 of the things I love about this book!

1. It is a great size!

2. It has 8 different stories!  So great for read aloud or independent reading. So many possibilities!

3. Babymouse and Lunch Lady intro the book together! What could be better?

4.  It is VERY funny!

5.  There is a lot of orange inside!

6.  It seems to be good for ALL ages--like 0-99, I think!

7.  It is a collection of stories from some of the best graphic novel writers around. This is a great way to introduce kids to new authors OR if they already love these author, they get something new!

8.  There is an ugly sweater in the book. Any book with an ugly sweater is a real treat!

9.  You can learn to draw Betty in 12 easy steps (maybe)...!

10.  There will be a Comics Squad #2!

Thank you authors for an incredible new book! 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff.  is a MUST READ in 2014. It is so good that you should rearrange your TBR stack and put this one on top. I actually think it is so good, that you should read it even if you don't read much middle grade fiction.  I can't think of anyone I know who shouldn't put it at the top of their stack.

I am a HUGE Lisa Graff fan.  I think her books are PERFECT middle grade novels. There are not many authors who can write for that age with enough depth to actually change the readers who read the books, and also in a way that it is accessible to 9-11 year olds. Lisa Graff is one of those authors.
I loved The Thing About Georgie when it came out years ago and I have loved everyone one of Graff's books, especially Umbrella Summer and The Life and Crimes of Bernetta Wallflower .

Absolutely Almost may be Lisa Graff's best book yet (even though her others are amazing!). The book is about a 5th grader named Albie who is not so good at anything. He struggles with lots of things, pretty much everything, including learning.  Albie is a character you love from the very start.  He is a great kid, someone you'd love to hang out with.  He has so many strengths and his new babysitter sees all of them. Albie comes to learn lots about himself in this book. I checked around on the web and pretty much everyone loves this book. If I haven't convinced you to read it, here are some other reviews:

Review by Betsy Bird

Carol's Corner

Barbara O'Connor

Two Reflective Teachers

Debbie Alvarez

And read all of the Lisa Graff books that you haven't read while you are at it. I love them all!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Poetry Friday -- Chicory

by John Updike

Show me a piece of land that God forgot—
a strip between an unused sidewalk, say,
and a bulldozed lot, rich in broken glass—
and there, July on, will be chicory,

its leggy hollow stems staggering skyward,
its leaves rough-hairy and lanceolate,
like pointed shoes too cheap for elves to wear,
its button-blooms the tenderest mauve-blue.

How good of it to risk the roadside fumes,
the oil-soaked heat reflected from asphalt,
and wretched earth dun-colored like cement,
too packed for any other seed to probe.

It sends a deep taproot (delicious, boiled),
is relished by all livestock, lends its leaves
to salads and cooked greens, but will not thrive
in cultivated soil: it must be free.

I love chicory. Mostly for its blueness, but also for its love of freedom. Maybe that's why I picked it for my poetry website, which I killed and brought back to life again here. It is a work in progress.

I just realized about an hour ago that today is Friday. Summer and travel will do that to you.

Linda has the Poetry Friday roundup at Write Time.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Take Away the A

Take Away the A
by Michaël Escoffier (author of Brief Thief, Me First! and The Day I Lost My Superpowers)
illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
Enchanted Lion Books, due out September 12, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

You will want this book. I guarantee it.

Best. Alphabet Book. Ever.

This is the kind of mentor text that makes you want to try writing this way...right NOW.

Here's a taste:

"Without the A
the BEAST is BEST.

Without the B
the BRIDE goes for a RIDE.

Without the C
the CHAIR has HAIR."

See what I mean?

I wish you could actually see the book, because the other part of the fun is finding the duck, the mice, the octopus, the monkey, and the cats in spreads other than their own throughout the book.

Need a quote for a slide in your word study/vocabulary presentation? From the press release:
"Since we are really only able to think about the world, ourselves, and the nature of life itself (along with everything else) within the vocabulary that is available to us, the richer and more nuanced our language is, the richer our possibilities for thinking and understanding become. From this point of view, the ethical, political, cultural and intellectual imperatives for deepening a child's sense of language and its possibilities are profound. Giving them the idea that language is a vital material with which they can make and build and shape their world is so clearly of vital importance."

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Blogging Live from nErDcampmi! 2014!

Today, we are blogging live from Day 2 of nErDcampmi! This is the 2nd annual event and it is one of our favorite days of the year!  Colby Sharp and his wife Alaina Sharp and The Nerdy Book Club gang invented this camp--an edcamp focused on Literacy. Brilliant.  You may have read about how awesome it was on our blog last year!  All day, we'll be adding photos and thoughts to this blog post, live, as they happen!  You can also follow nerdcampmi on Twitter today #nerdcampmi.

8:31 a.m. We are getting ready for the Opening of Day 2 #nerdcampmi.

Hugh MacLeod Gapingvoid.com
The link to the live idea planning board

8:48 am
Babymouse and Arnie the Doughnut join us at Nerdcamp!

9:30 Session 1:
We are both in the session on Genius Hour!  Lesley Burnap (@auntierez) and Ann King (@kingandkids) are facilitating the conversation.

People and Hashtags to follow if you are interested in Genius Hour:  
  • @angelamaiers 
  • @thenerdyteacher 
  • @joykirr 
  • @paulsolarz 
  • #geniushour
  • #choose2matter
  • #20time
  • #passiontime
Some highlights from the Genius Hour Session (the group notes are here)

• Letting kids follow their passions. A little time each week pays off big.
• RULE: You may not do something that is easily google-able.
• The point is to make something that’s not already there. CREATE. Not just nonfiction research.
• Every student is a genius. Give time to share.
• Some kids want to be told what to learn; don’t want to have to think. #geniushour needs brainstorming and support.
• Builds lifelong learners.
• Genius Hour is a bad term -- we should be doing this kind of inquiry all of the time
• Creativity, inquiry, passion, collaboration, community are what’s needed
• PBL is a kind of Genius Hour 
• Genius Hour SHOULD BE A PHILOSOPHY, not a mandate 
• Genius Hour is not a program
• It’s all about the question. (Thank you, Brenda for A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas )

Even though we did not go to the session on Best Books of 2014, Katie Muhtaris created a great padlet for all of us compiling great books discussed!  You can access it here!  Get ready to spend some money on books once you click:-)

10:45 Session on Authentic Technology in the Literacy Workshop

If you are interested in this topic, follow:
@literacyspark (Katie Muhtaris)

Some big messages from this session:
"Empowerment is Better than Engagement. Ownership is better than Buy-In."

"A huge growth point for kids is when audience shifts from teacher-only to peers."

12:50 PM Getting ready to build the afternoon IDEA BOARD!

Mary Lee, Josie and Karen get ready for the PM Idea Board creation!

1:15 Session: Nerdy Math Club (F) with and @katiestrawser and @brianwyzlic

1:15 Session: Google Drive in the Elementary (ML)
@techieteacher10session notes are here

Wow. I still have so much to learn before we start with Google Apps in Ed this fall. My big take-aways were all the tools that are available when you open a doc -- research (Google, quotes, images...), ways to share, commenting and suggesting, activity log that means no document is ever completely lost.

2:30  Math Workshop with @darcyJobe and @smithand1015

Math Workshop schedule  in Darcy and Andrew's Classroom:
  • Number Routine
  • Minilesson
  • Work sites/Problem Solving Opportunities
  • Reflection/Exit Slip

2:30 Session Connecting Globally (ML)

Top resources:

Monday, July 07, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

For the It's Monday! What Are You Reading? round up, visit Jen at Teach Mentor Texts! Thanks, Jen for this weekly event!

It was a good reading week.  I read more than usual, even though I had other things I probably should have been doing. These are my favorites from the week--these are all MUST READS in my opinion as I loved them all!


Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas--This was an amazing story of an elephant seal. It is based on a true story and has great illustrations by Brian Floca. I had not heard of this book but fell in love with it immediately!  A very happy surprise read. This is one that will make a great read aloud in the fall.

My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.)-Every Peter Brown book is a MUST READ in my opinion. I so love this new one about a boy and his teacher. Love the way the story unfolds and I find new things in the pictures every time!

Pardon Me!-Thanks to Beth at Cover to Cover for sharing this book with me during my last shopping spree.  This is an almost wordless picture book. A fun story with great illustrations.  Kids will love it and I don't think you can ever have too many good wordless (or almost wordless) picture books.


Rain Reign-This is definitely one of my favorite reads of the year.  This is a great story of a girl named Rose and her dog Rain.  Rose is diagnosed with Asperger's and she is character who will stay with me for a very long time.  This is the perfect middle grade novel--great issues to discuss without being too heavy for 4-6th graders. Love this one. (It doesn't come out til October and it seems unkind to share it when you can't really get it yet, but it is so good that you should order it right away and block off some time on its release day to read it!)


The Revision Toolbox, Second Edition: Teaching Techniques That Work-I loved Georgia Heard's Revision Toolbox when the first edition came out so I was excited to see this one. This one is the same great thinking bout revision and the importance of changing our students' stance about revision. Georgia also includes lots of specific ideas for narrative, informational and persuasive writing which I needed as I think ahead to the school year.

And I am currently reading Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times by Eric Sheninger. I have followed the author on Twitter (@NMHS_Principal) for a while and have been hearing lots about the book. Even though it is intended for administrators, I am learning lots and seeing the impact technology can make on a whole school.  I have not read much but I already have lots to think about.  

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Poetry Friday: The Prairie Town

Main Street, Burlington, Colorado, Reflected in the Bank Window

The Prairie Town
by Helen Santmyer

Lovers of beauty laugh at this grey town,
Where dust lies thick on ragged curb-side trees,
And compass-needle streets lead up and down
And lose themselves in empty prairie seas.

Here is no winding scented lane, no hill
Crowned with a steepled church, no garden wall
Of old grey stone where lilacs bloom, and fill
The air with fragrance when the May rains fall.

But here is the unsoftened majesty
Of the wide earth where all the wide streets end,
And from the dusty corner one may see
The full moon rise, and flaming sun descend.

The long main street, whence farmers’ teams go forth,
Lies like an old sea road, star-pointed north.

Trade out the "teams" for pickup trucks, and this is my hometown. Where I'll be for a couple of weeks starting next week. Looking forward to some "Mom Time!"
This poem was a Poets.org poem-a-day recently.

Heidi has the Red, White and Blue edition of the Poetry Friday Roundup at her blog, My Juicy Little Universe.

June Mosaic

As of yesterday, we've been out of school exactly a month. It's been a busy month, and just glancing at the mosaic, you can see it's been a green month!

Row 1: The big orange big orange kitty meets the big orange classroom fish, who is home for the summer. We love Snowville Creamery milk, yogurt and creme fraiche. So, naturally, we drove all the way to Pomeroy (near Athens) for their open house. We stayed until the cows came home. Speaking of home, we're already finding evidence that there will be a bumper crop of acorns this year.

Row 2: Dew on the cuke. The fountain in Goodale Park (those are baby elephants spouting off on top -- so cute!), along with the irrelevant sign about ice, the lily bloom, and the

Row 3: ducklings. This dinner on the patio at Mazah's new home inspired the beginning of my "wishes" series of poems (the poem that goes with this photo can be seen at Today's Little Ditty). It has been the Summer of the Black Swallowtail. It all started with this egg on my parsley and these hijackers who came on dill I brought from the community garden. See rows 6 and 7 for where we're at now with this fun project!

Row 4: Ruth Ayres and her family made these cute cookies for all the bloggers who attended the All Write pre-conference dinner. I had surgery on both thumbs June 3. Just this week, I was released from the splint and given permission to swim again. The healing process is amazing. There's that cuke again, and a shasta daisy.

Row 5: Ohio Monsoon Season. 2.5 inches of rain in about an hour created Easement Lake. This is the first time it has ever come all the way up under our back fence into our yard. Then that night, we got another 2 inches, for a total of 4.5 inches in less than 24 hours. It still amazes this girl who came from the arid high plains where in a good year they get 17 inches of precipitation...for the year, and we got a third of that in a day.

Row 6: Three views from The Inn at Cedar Falls, where the central Ohio Choice Literacy writers were treated by über-editor Brenda Power to an amazing writing retreat with the theme "Renewal." Two swallowtail caterpillars

Row 7: and the chrysalis that another made while I was at the retreat. The butterfy "nursery" in my office. The first two tomatoes of the year (black cherry), and there's that cuke again, with some almost big enough to harvest! Watch for my "Cucumber in a Tomato Cage" to make an appearance on the Choice Literacy newsletter, The Big Fresh!

Almost every month, inquiring minds want to know: How do I make my mosaics?
First, I take thirty or more (and sometimes less) pictures every month.
Next, I make a set on Flickr. (This month's set is here.)
Then, I go to Big Huge Labs and use their Mosaic Maker with the link to my Flickr photoset.
Finally, I download, save, insert, comment, and publish!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Reading History

Last week, the historian in my house was hustling to finish his current read so that he could begin a book about World War I on June 28, the date 100 years ago when Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated and the domino effect of events leading to the declaration of World War I began.

I was between books as well, so I dove into

World War I for Kids: A History with 21 Activities (For Kids series)
by R. Kent Rasmussen
Chicago Review Press, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

Just about everything I know about WWI, I learned by reading the graphic novel from the Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales series, TREATIES, TRENCHES, MUD, AND BLOOD. In many ways, I liked World War I for kids better.

Hale's book is more of a sequential story of the war, whereas WWI for Kids is more topical. I personally like the topical approach.

Rasmussen begins with a very clear introduction that focuses on WWI as "the most important turning point of the 20th century." He makes the point that "Change is the essence of history..." and suggests that the reader not focus so much on particular battles or on who won or lost the war, but on "what events were truly significant, why they happened as they did, and how they were connected with one another." He also encourages close attention to maps when studying the war. "It is impossible to understand any war without knowing something about its geography." I can imagine reading aloud this entire introduction both as a book hook and because Rasmussen does such a succinct job teaching the reader how to read and learn about history.

I had a hard time with the first two chapters (The Road to War and Stalemate on the Western Front) and chapter 4 (Other Fronts), but the ones that were organized around topics rather than politics and chronologies were fascinating to me. I learned about the horrors of Trench Warfare, the changes of technology in The Weapons of War, The War at Sea and the development of submarines, The War in the Air and the development of airplanes, and the role of animals in Animals Go To War. It was fascinating to learn about how and when the US become involved (Enter the United States), but I lost some of my reading stamina in the chapters The Home Fronts, Ending the Fighting, and Beyond the Armistice. One of the things that kept me going throughout the book were the archival photographs, the maps, and the sidebar information and stories. I think it will be important to share with young readers who are just beginning to tackle longer nonfiction that these variations in preference and stamina are normal.

I imagine that this book, and its companion World War II for Kids: A History with 21 Activities (For Kids series)will be very popular in my 5th grade classroom.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Celebrating Mr. Schu with a Donation to The Reading Village

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 and Super Reader, Mr. John Schu at Watch. Connect. Read. We have so many reasons to celebrate Mr. Schu! His blog is one that keeps us up to date on new books, new authors, and new book trailers. Mr. Schu reads more than anyone we know and by knowing him, we read more too!  He has shown us what a reading community can look like in a school, with the library as the hub. We aren't sure how he does all that he does but we know that the reading community is better because of him. We love his Newbery Challenge and his Book Release Calendar. We love the Sharp-Schu challenges and the Trifectas.  

Mr. Schu is generous with his book giveaways as he is always one to pay it forward with books. Mostly we are celebrating Mr. Schu because of his generosity to this reading community that we love.  It seems he is always giving something to children, teachers, and librarians. His passion is contagious and we are so glad to celebrate him and his blog today!  If you don't follow John, you can find him on Twitter at @MrSchuReads. And if you want to hear Mr. Schu himself talk about his library, I had a chance to interview him for Choice Literacy a few years ago.

To honor John, we are making a donation to The Reading Village. This organization is one that is working hard to build a culture of literacy in Guatemala.  Building leaders in literacy and bringing a culture of reading to communities is key to making change.