Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Poetry Potpourri Presentation for NCTE 2011

I had the amazing privilege of working with two very smart ladies while putting together our presentation on poetry for NCTE this year (titled "Poetry Potpourri"). Katie Doherty (some of you may know her from her informative Choice Literacy articles and videos) and her mom, Dee Doherty, were my cohorts in crime, and we had a blast the last few months, while learning a lot from each other at the same time.

It's been a little over a week since we presented in Chicago, and we wanted to share our slideshow with whomever might be interested. We are attaching the googledoc link to our slides and also the link to the resources in our handout.

We hope you enjoy and can find something to use for yourselves.

Link to slideshow...

Link to resource list...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale

I found this title on one of the many Newbery prediction lists I've been looking over and just liked the title. After reading it, I understand why some feel it may be in the running for some prestigious awards in January. The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright is quite the Olde English adventure.

Based in Dickens era England, alley cat Skilley decides he is tired of life in the mean streets of London and decides to become a mouser at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a London tavern famous for it's delicious cheese and for being over run by mice. The problem is, Skilley has a secret that isn't revealed until well into the story, and won't be revealed here, I hate spoilers! On one of his first days on the job he meets Pip, an intelligent little mouse who quickly figures out Skilley's secret. The two strike a win-win bargain and the tale is on.

Skilley and Pip encounter lots of colorful characters, many named for Dickens characters, as they go about protecting a secret even bigger than Skilley's. The authors do a marvelous job of creating the characters giving them life through their personality traits and quirks. The heroes are likable even with their faults and the villains, Pinch the bad alley cat, force the reader to dislike them. They are all used to create the feel of a Dickens classic that is written at a level for elementary readers. However, there are enough levels to this book that it will appeal to older readers too.

Throughout the story illustrator Barry Moser's drawings highlight important happenings making it even more appealing to younger readers. This was a quick read and would make for a really fun read aloud in the classroom.

Other Reviews:
Fuse #8
There's a Book
Twenty by Jenny

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Floors by Patrick Carman

I'll be honest, I haven't read a lot of Patrick Carman's books, but I know people love his work. I was fortunate enough to hear him speak at a SLJ Leadership Conference a couple of years ago, and was extremely impressed. I've been fascinated with his blending of written stories and web based features, I just haven't gotten around to reading any of his books, until now!

At our book fair in October, I saw a new book called Floors on the shelf and the back intrigued me. I recommended it to several kids who I thought it would appeal to, and reserved my copy at the local branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library in Hilliard. When I picked it up I couldn't wait to start reading and once I started I couldn't put it down.

Leo Fillmore and his father Clarence work and live in the Whippet Hotel the most unusual hotel on Earth. It occupies a large piece of land in Manhattan that would bring a fortune to the owner, Merganzer Whippet. The problem is no one has seen or heard from Merganzer in a long time. Leo misses his eccentric friend but keeping the Whippet up and running is a full time job for he and his father. On one of his daily service calls he discovers a mysterious box that leads him to a room he wasn't even aware existed which leads him to another box and so on until he collects 4 boxes in all and all is revealed.

On his quest he is introduced to a new best friend, the son of another Whippet employee is serving as doorman and interacts with a colorful cast of characters including a cranky hotel manager named Ms. Sparks who sports larger than life bee hive hair do, Mr. Phipps the Gardner who shapes the shrubbery into various animals especially ducks, Mr. Whippet's favorite animal.

Leo encounters puzzles to solve, mysterious notes to decipher and the flock of ducks that live on the roof and must be walked each day. The story of loyalty, friendship and a boy solving some difficult challenges reminded me of Charlie and Chocolate Factory and the Gollywhopper Games, two of my favorites.

I can't wait to get this into the hands of my 3rd - 5th graders and hear how they like the Whippet Hotel adventure. The good news is that it is the first in a series and it has the feel of a very popular series, and as with his other books it includes a cool interactive web site here.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Okay for Now Makes for Grand Discussion

The first Grand Discussion of the school year was held last Thursday and 51 kids and parents attended. Joyce and I chose Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt. Usually leading up to the event I hear comments questioning my judgement, I don't take it personally because I know in the end, after reading and discussing even some of my most questionable book choices, the folks leave happy and understanding why I chose what I chose! With Okay for Now most liked it from the get go and understood completely why it was chosen. So many themes and topics for discussion that it was tough to get it all in in an hour, but we did our best and another successful event is in the books.

As I looked over our list of previous titles, it appears that author Gary D. Schmidt knows how to create books that create conversation! We've done 3 of his titles, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, our very first Grand Discussion title, Wednesday Wars and of course, Okay for Now. We started the evening with an interview with the author that some parents found on line and ended the evening with Joyce interviewing several participants for her Dublin Lit Conference presentation in February.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Great Picture Book for Veteran's Day

A quick post today. A few years ago, a colleague introduced me to a great book to share with students on Veteran's Day. Here is a link to the original post.

America's White Table is a great way to celebrate and remember all those who have fought in wars to protect our country.

With November 11 being tomorrow, I thought this was a great time to bring this out from our archives.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Great Moment in Conferring

I went to school feeling sick today, and didn't have a whole lot of energy. I started my morning with reading workshop, and the most amazing thing happened. While conferring with a student who struggles with his reading identity, he said the following to me (I am quoting as much as possible, but there may be a paraphrase here or there):

"Mrs. T, I started reading the 39 Clues series today."

I asked him why.

"I've been watching Luke read the series and he has inspired me." (inspired was definitely his word, not mine!!)

I inquired again about why he was inspired.

"When he reads this series, he gets so into the book, he forgets that all the rest of the class is in the room. I want to know what that feels like."

OMG!! I don't know what brought more goosebumps:
  • the fact that as a reader who struggles to find good choices for himself, he observed a classmate and wanted that same feeling as a reader
  • his language about the entire thing
  • the fact that his classmate is so immersed in his book, he is inspiring all those around him
I think it's a combination of all three things. It was truly a great moment in conferring!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Writing Celebration

Well, the celebration definitely isn't mine; I just looked back at my last post and realized it was over a month ago -- yikes!! I have a huge list of ideas to blog about, but just haven't found the time to do so. With NCTE 2011 just around the corner, I'm hoping to turn that around now.

But, on to the real writing celebration. Recently, we did some mini-research in our classroom of the 28 finalists for the next Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The students' research, learning, and final presentations were amazing! But, as a teacher, the huge excitement came after this mini-research was done, and my 48 students went back to choosing what they wanted to write again.

Much to my delight, with all the emphasis we have put on wondering this year and their enjoyment of the research process, many students chose to research yet another topic in which they were interested. I could talk about each and every one of them, but tonight I want to focus on one group of girls.

After hearing me talk about visiting the 9/11 Memorial on a recent trip to New York City, they wanted to know more about what happened that day in 2001. When I asked them why, they said they were either not born yet or were just babies; they wanted to learn more about this tragedy. So, they were off, checking with many sources to find the information for which they were looking. While that was delightful, it is how they made our school setting work for them as learners that is really the celebration of this anecdote.

The art teacher in our school runs an art studio -- students have a variety of choices as artists each time they enter the art room. These four girls first used their choice in writing workshop to investigate the information about 9/11, then they used their choice to build the twin towers in the construction area of the art studio during art period, and finally they used their choice on how to publish their information to share it with their classmates -- they put all the information about 9/11 on the towers they had built. They also added a backdrop for the beautiful blue September sky of 9/11, and designed a way to have a paper airplane fly into their towers.

I am so proud of these girls; they truly have made our school work for who they are as learners and communicators. And the pride they had in what they discovered and how intrigued and impressed their classmates were -- it just can't be measured!! Like I said, this is a real writing celebration!! And a celebration for the wonder of CHOICE as well!