Friday, May 29, 2009

Otto Grows Down in THE PIT

I wrapped up the new read alouds for the year today in THE PIT. Ahhhhh.....let me savor that sentence for a minute.....the last new read aloud of the year....mmmmmm....that's nice. OK, I'm back. I chose Otto Grows Down by Michael Sussman because it's just plain fun! Otto wishes his baby sister hadn't been born, and that's when things get weird. Time starts going backwards but not in the typical Otto wakes up and he's a year younger and his sister is gone, no, Michael Sussman uses an American Home Video format by actually making time go backwards! For example, after making the wish, Otto sees his watch going backwards and finds himself re wrapping his birthday presents and giving them back to his friends. Later in the book, the barber makes his hair get longer, he brings the trash back in, baths make him dirty and, my favorite, "going to the bathroom is just plain disgusting!" I love the illustrations by Scott Magoon which enhance the wonderful writing. Of course the book ends right and all which disappointed some of the older students, but I think is just perfect. Next week I'll be reading each class their 5 favorite books from THE PIT sort of like summer re-runs before school's out.

As much as I love my job, I'm looking forward to the summer and especially the first weekend. I'll be participating in the 48 Hour Challenge with Mother Reader. I can't wait for breakfast with the Central Ohio Kid Lit Bloggers, I'm considering something other than yogurt and granola this time. I'm joining my blogging friends supporting our friend Mary Lee in her fishing fun. I'll pledge a dollar for each book I carry out of Cover to Cover and for each book I read during the challenge. I'm hoping to keep you posted from the beach if I can establish a wireless connection somewhere.

Monday, May 25, 2009

21st Century Classroom Add On

After reading Karen's post about the Kindle, I've been kicking around the idea of adding on, because there was one more piece to the story that involved me and the library. Since we are in the last two weeks of school and the kids can no longer check out books I asked that they come to the library with a book to read every time. I know, crazy, reading, books, in the library, what am I thinking!? Anyway, last week as Karen dropped her kids in the library she brought Jay to me with his Kindle. She asked if it was OK if Jay used the Kindle instead of a book in the library. She thought it would be OK, but wanted Jay to make sure before he assumed anything. My response was something along the lines of, "of course it's OK, it's a book isn't it?"

I've thought a lot about that conversation over the last week, and have read some of Franki's posts on 21st century classrooms and I have to say, I'm a bit nervous about all of this change. When I moved into the library last year I stated plainly that my focus is THE BOOKS! I'm really not very good at technology, truthfully it frustrates the heck out of me, so I decided that in our library computers would be used to search for books and that's about it. Oh sure I've done the obligatory internet searching and basic introductions to various programs, but honestly, the students generally know more than I do and they ended up teaching me things. I'm OK with my kids teaching me things, in fact, I love when they teach me things, but I was way out of my comfort level with this.

Fast forward back to the present and I'm being hit with all sorts of new technology that I have to figure out how to bring it into the library appropriately. For example, we now have Smart Boards which I love and have found several awesome uses for and want more. The introduction of the Kindle by a student, something that I'm not sure about, I'm kind of old school about books, I like turning pages and watching my book mark move from front to back. And a Flip camera that I purchased with the encouragement of Franki, it's a fun toy and I know I want to use it, I just wish I had more training with it. All of these are exciting new technologies that I know are going to really draw kids in, but my job just got harder. My challenge next year is to use the technology and still keep the kids loving books. Summer can't come soon enough so I can start thinking about next year!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

21st Century Literacy in My Classroom

This week, I had an interesting experience. I'm currently reading aloud Found (The Missing series) by Margaret Peterson Haddix. It is engaging from page 1 and the perfect read aloud to keep my students' interest as the school year is winding down.

Many of my students are so intrigued by this book, that they've either purchased their own copy of Found, or they've gotten a copy from the library. They're huddled in groups around the room, looking at various books, following along as I read aloud.

And then, on Tuesday, a first happened for me. One of my students (we'll call him Jay) brought in a Kindle that had Found downloaded onto it. The other students swarmed around Jay, wanting to see how the Kindle worked. Jay was the most popular guy in our class that day.

Some of you may have seen a Kindle before, or maybe you own one yourself, but for me, this was my first encounter with this wonderful tool. Jay gave me a 5 minute tutorial on how to turn pages, and how to download books. It was fascinating!

For me, that tutorial and watching the engagement of a variety of students with this reading tool, was a wake-up call. I realized that the Kindle was a reading tool that I could see myself using. I think that it will be something I may give myself for my birthday.

I still love the feel of a paper book in my hands, however, the ease of downloading a book with the Kindle, its ability to fit easily in my purse and travel with me, and the large font that is easy to read are just a few of the reasons I'm looking forward to owning this tool.

So, a huge shout out to Jay who brought 21st century literacy into our classroom. And, a huge thanks to Margaret Peterson Haddix for writing a book like Found, so engaging that a student had to get it on his Kindle!!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Let's Do Nothing in THE PIT

On my recent visit to Cover to Cover Franki pointed out a book that she was sure was my kind of book! Let's Do Nothing is a perfect book to end the year with. Cartoonist Tony Fucile has captured the spirit of summer and imagination in this book. As soon as I took a look at it, I began to hear the voices in my head....wait, not those kind of voices...the voices of Frankie and Sal and how they would sound in THE PIT.

I introduced it today for the second to last rotation through the library and the kids are loving it. Frankie and Sal decide they will do nothing, but every time Frankie has an idea, like sit as still as the statues, Sal's imagination force him to move, like to shoo the pigeons. Or when the boys are giant redwoods, Sal's imagination has Frankie's dog going to the bathroom on him. My favorite is King Kong climbing up the Sal as the Empire State building and putting on Sal's glasses. The gorilla's face is priceless and the kids, all ages, laugh loud. There's not many things better than a class full of kids laughing at an awesome book, it makes me laugh every time too.

Another feature of the book is the little intro that Tony Fucile uses before the story. Frankie and Sal have a whole "scene" before the title page that reminds me of watching a movie intro before the credits roll.

We're all loving this book in THE PIT and the kids are impressed to find all of Tony Fucile's movie credits like The Little Mermaid and The Incredibles. The only downside to this book is that I can't help thinking that I still have two weeks before I can wake up and DO NOTHING!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

An Advance of the Next Calvin Coconut

A while back I posted about a new series I had found called Calvin Coconut. The series takes place in Hawaii and I liked it a lot. Saturday I was at my favorite book store, Cover to Cover on High Street in Columbus and I ran into my blogging friends Franki and Katie and of course owner Sally. We had some great conversations about the title in each other's stacks and then WOO HOO! Sally came out with a cart full of ARCs! We felt like we had found gold, I picked up a few and the conversations continued. At some point I mentioned the Calvin Coconut series and Sally went to her office and handed me an ARC of the next book in the series, Calvin Coconut: The Zippy Fix. YESS! SCORE!! JACKPOT!! (I'm doing a little happy dance here!) I couldn't wait to get home to read it. Here's the artwork for the cover and illustrator Jacqueline Rogers website. I'm happy to report that I like the second just as much as the first. Graham Salisbury is on to something here!

In this Calvin Coconut adventure, Calvin gets even with Stella, a high school girl that lives with his family, by putting a cat named Zippy on her pillow. Since Stella is highly allergic to cats her reaction causes her to miss going on a date. Even though Calvin gets in trouble, he is not without a conscience and begins to feel guilty. When he finds out that Stella's birthday is few days away he decides, with his mother's help, to buy her a CD of her favorite musician. The catch is that he doesn't have enough money. Calvin is determined to buy the CD and works odd jobs, collects pop cans for the refund, and selling shave ice from Uncle Scoop's Lucky Lunch truck at the beach. Through it all, Calvin deals with the bully Tito, learns the value of hard work and money, and feels better in the end when Stella absolutely loves his gift. In fact, she loves it so much that she invites Calvin and his little sister Darci into her room to listen to it.

As in the first book Graham Salisbury portrays Hawaiian children in a fun and informative way. The setting of the story is based on his childhood home and school and is completely realistic and authentic. I love that Calvin is not a perfect kid, just a normal kid that gets into some trouble but figures out a way to make things right in the end. I love the characters created, from Tito the bully to Mr. Purdy the ex-Army school teacher to Julio and Willy, Calvin's best friends. I love that Graham Salisbury has given us books set in a culture that is unfamiliar to most of us and I love that both books are well written.

Look for Calvin Coconut: The Zippy Fix next fall. Look for Calvin Coconut: Trouble Magnet NOW!

Katie, this one is headed your way next, I think your son will enjoy it!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wednesday Night Reflections

I just got back from my youngest daughter's Senior Award Night for high school. It is a program where many, many scholarships are given from local business entities. It is also a time to find out who did well on their AP exams, and a time to to see the large numbers of students who were National Merit scholars. Finally, the graduation awards for cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude were announced, as well.

The amount of talented youth on the stage was staggering. Some of them were talented students, some had given many hours of service to people less fortunate than themselves, some were talented student-athletes, and some had displayed many leadership qualities.

I was a proud parent as I watched my daughter on that stage. She had worked hard to earn the honor to be there.

I was also proud as a teacher. Seven of my former students were on that stage. Five of those seven earned major local scholarships for a variety of reasons - film-making, sports, academics, leadership, desire to be a future teacher.

It made me realize that what we do each day as teachers is so important. All of the students on that stage were there because of strong family support, but also because each year, a teacher (or teachers) made a difference in their lives that contributed to the person they are now. How fortunate I feel to have a job that is so important.

Monday, May 11, 2009

48 Hour Challenge is Coming!

A belated Happy Mother's Day to all you moms!

So, what better time to say that I will again be participating int Mother Reader's 48 Hour Book Challenge?! :) For me, it will be the weekend right after our last teacher workday (June 5 - 7). I can't think of a better way to celebrate the closing of a school year than to blog and read for one whole weekend! It will be bliss!

There may be a tie-in to giving to charity based on blogs posted and books read. Stay tuned for more information.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

New Books for the Library

I just finished a stack of books from the library and I had some stuff waiting for pick up at my favorite book store, Cover to Cover so I made the trip over and thought I'd let you know some of what I brought home.

Boo Hoo Bird by Jeremy Tankard: Everyone loved Grumpy Bird in THE PIT so I was excited to see that there is a sequel. In this one, Bird gets bonked on the head with a ball and all of the animals try to help him. I think it's just as good as the first adventure with the animals and can't wait to share it in THE PIT. I couldn't help thinking about the You Tube of "That really hurt Charlie!" so bird may adopt an English accent for this one!

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: I succumbed to the pressure and bought the Newbery winner. Even though I'm not a big fan, I know a lot of kids will like the weirdness of it all. After talking to a number of librarians I realize it's not any darker than some of the Harry Potter series which I love.

Roscoe Riley Rules #5 Don't Tap Dance on Your Teacher by Katherine Appleton: I can't keep books 1 - 4 on the shelves and they all have waiting lists so imagine my surprise when one of my second graders informed me that there was a book 5!? WHO KNEW!? I guess I should have but it's pretty fun when one of the kids beats me to the punch on a new book.

The Sherlock Files #2 The Beast of Blackslope by Tracy Barrett: I loved the first mystery solved by Xena and Xander Holmes (my review) and a group of kids connected with it as well, so I was excited to see book 2 out. Tracy Barrett really developed the mystery in the first book and kids could figure it out if they paid attention to the clues.

A Whiff of Pine , a Hint of Skunk: A Forest of Poems by Deborah Ruddell Illustrated by Joan Rankin: A collection of fun poems about animals and plants in the forest. The illustrations are awesome with lots of expression on the animals' faces. The poetry flows nicely and will be fun for kids to read aloud. My favorite is Beaver Biography.

With only a week of circulation left, many of these books will be waiting for kids to check them out next year, but I'll introduce them and hope they pick them up at the "big" library this summer.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bee-Wigged Silly Fun That Works

When you are an over sized bee, it's hard to make friends with bees or people. However, if you find a toupee on the ground that makes you look almost human you can become the BBOC (Big Bee On Campus) in no time.
That's exactly what happens to Jerry Bee. All he wants is a human friend but of course we're all deathly afraid of bees, let alone HUGE bees. One day walking down the street he stumbles upon what looks like a hair piece, puts it on and suddenly everyone thinks he's a boy and not just any boy, about the best boy ever, he was helpful, funny, artistic, generous, a terrific speller (spelling bee, get it?) complimentary of the school food, bus safety monitor, cheerleader, and grand marshal of the school parade,WHEW! Tragedy strikes when his toupee blows off during the parade and everyone runs in fear when they realize he's just an over sized bee. Luckily, the toupee turns out to be a talking guinea pig who vouches for Jerry's good character and the two of them are friends forever. I know it sounds a bit sappy, but Cece Bell's pictures are fun to look at and laugh about and the book is just plain fun.

A friend of mine, Lori, who teaches kindergarten, was at my house and asked if I knew of any good books about bees. Bee-Wigged just happened to be in my stack of books from the library and I pulled it out for her. I warned her that I hadn't even read it, but she took it and decided to use it. The next time I talked to her, she was thrilled with the choice. Even though it is clearly fiction, an observation made by the kindergartners immediately, the bee theme tied in nicely with her lessons and the kids loved it asking for it to be read many times over. Lori had her kids create pictures of Jerry Bee and make speech bubbles for what he might say. As you can see, it made for a great hall display and a fun lesson on what characters think and say.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

I Want To Be Free

I Want To Be Free, a story written by Joseph Slate and illustrated by E. B. Lewis is actually a retelling of a story from the sacred literature of Buddha. Slate says about this retelling, "I moved its setting and language to another time, as I believe its themes to be universal." Lewis, the illustrator, was even a little more specific. He moved the setting to the Underground Railroad of Kentucky and Ohio. He even spent some time touring the Rankin House in Ripley, Ohio trying "to reflect on the risky and humane actions that helped free slaves during those times."

In this retelling, the topic is slavery, and how a slave escapes. The story is written in verse, and has a refrain that does a lovely job moving the story along:

"Before I die, I want to be free.
But the Big Man says, 'You belong to me.' "

This refrain captures well the theme of the story -- freedom.

Beside the fact that this story is written in a lovely verse style and the fact that the pictures done in watercolor by Lewis greatly enhance the text, I had to purchase this book after reading it because I think it will be a great platform to discuss with my students what the institution of slavery was like. This is a topic I need to address with my 5th graders, and this book will be the perfect starting point.

There is a second part of this story, however. During his escape, the runaway slave comes across an orphaned child who is crying. Instead of leaving him behind for the master and his dogs, he takes the child with him. A much harder journey for the slave, but in the end, because of his actions, he finds both redemption and total freedom.

I Want To Be Free
is another "must have" for me in order to enrich my social studies' instruction.