Thursday, October 20, 2016

Lilah's review of Dragon Was Terrible

Meet Lilah, 5th grader

Thanks to a conference I attended back in July facilitated by Olga Nesi from NYC, I learned about her "Reading Ambassador" program.  I loved the idea and have started one here in my own school with 16 fifth graders.  So far it is going really well.  They have been busy reading, reviewing and preparing for a couple of author/illustrator visits we have next week.

Here are a few fun facts Lilah:

Age: 10
Favorite food: Steak
Favorite book: Big Nate series
Favorite author ever met at school: Kwame Alexander
Favorite subject in school: ELA
Career?:  Teacher

Today, Lilah read The Dragon Was Terrible and offers this review:

The book Dragon Was Terrible by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli was a great book. Even though it is for 5-7 year olds, older kids will like it, too, because it’s funny and the illustrations are colorful.

The book is about a dragon that was terrible and ruined books and other things by coloring in books, stomping on flowers and spitting on cupcakes.  When the king was fed up with the dragon, he sent the knights to search for him. Is the dragon ever found?  If so, do the knights arrest him?  You’ll have to read the book to find out!

It also has easy words so kids who are just  learning how to read will be able to read it on their own.

Thanks, Lilah, for the review!  

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mrs. Warland reviews Nine, Ten

Last weekend, I loaned Mrs. Warland my copy of Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin. She came in glowing with these wonderful words to say about the book, too many to tweak down to 140 characters.  Needless to say, she loved it!

"It was great.  The moral....The four kids, the stories, their stories leading up to 9/11 was fantastic.  Just really fantastic.  And how they all intertwined in the end.  And how she says, 'All we can see is a sea of people who could not be more different but could not be more the same standing together.'  I mean that is such a great moral.  I really liked it.  I really, really did.  I think this tells a story that no matter where you lived, 9/11 affected you.  It didn't just happen to people in NYC, or Washington or Shanksville."

-Mrs. Warland, Extraordinary Library Volunteer

The League of Unexceptional Children Get Smart-ish

As part of the Little, Brown  Faculty Lounge I received several arcs of The League of Unexceptional Children Get Smart-ish by Gitty Daneshvari.  This is the second book in a series and from the sounds of my students, you didn't have to read the first book to understand this book.  Please blow up your balloons again--We missed the book birthday by a little over a week.  Sorry about that!  Happy belated and check out what they had to say about it--All good!

"It was interesting.  There was a lot of funny stuff.  And a lot of cool mysteries.  The funniest part was when they were talking about vampires."
-Stephen, 10

"I rated the book a 4 out of 5 because in every chapter they show the young spies in London and every chapter it has a different place in London. I would recommend this book to a friend because it's funny, awesome and shows passion."

-Alyssa, 10

"My favorite character was Jonathan Murray because he was a lot like me.  He's a hard worker."

-Cameron, 10

"Nina is my favorite character because she is caring and nice. I would recommend this book to a friend if they like spy stuff."

-Lilah, 10

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

And I do research, too?

It's always hard to toot your own horn, but I can't help it for today was a pretty exciting day!  The extraordinary retired fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Harris, and I received an award from the New York State Archives.  Wild!  For three years Karen and I worked hard introducing kids to primary documents, our community, repositories and local historians in order to create a research project to submit to the NYS Student Research Award.  Kids researched what Castleton was like in its heydey!  They interviewed senior citizens, visited cemeteries and old movie theatres.  They admired wedding rings purchased from a jewelry store in our town and visited what was once an old jail.  Train wrecks, yearbooks, fire escapes, bakeries, newsrooms, wedding albums...And although the kids never won the top prize, in our minds they did. Yes, I cried when they didn't win, but I had to remind myself what hard work they put in and how much they learned about archives, historical records, primary documents and more.

Two years ago, we read the book Revolution by Deborah Wiles aloud with all of the fifth graders. Then we examined segregation and discrimination as the focus of our research projects. Some of the topics students examined were music, Title IX and literature. As a prerequisite to the research, Kathy Sheehan, the Rensselaer County historian took us on a field trip of Troy and we performed a reader's theatre.  Check this out:

Kathy Sheehan with our late superintendent, Bob Horan.
He met us in Troy that day.

Look at Bob participating in the Reader's Theatre!

Karen and I even took our show on the road!  We presented our program at four state conferences (one we even did twice because the workshop in our room was cancelled and people were anxious to learn something) and last year I wrote about it in my column for School Library Connection.

We couldn't have done it without the support of our administration and the perseverance of the village, town and county historians.  We were lucky enough to see the town and county historians today.  We reminisced about the time we had a 6:30 AM meeting with Kathy Sheehan to plan our project.  I did bring muffins to ease the pain of a sunrise meeting. But boy is that dedication or what?!

What an honor today was!  Thank you again NYS Archives for this award.  Thank you, Karen, for a seamless collaboration.  And of course, thank you to all of our students who worked so hard through and through even pulling their hair out to get the final submissions done as late as the 11th hour (literally!) on the very last day of school!

A Blast from Our Past

This documentary won an honorable mention in 2013.  It is from our very first year and is about a hotel that used to be right on Main Street in Castleton.  It's actually quite interesting.  They were lucky enough to get their hands on many primary documents and artifacts.  I was with the kids the day they were in the Village Hall and the ledger of the hotel was discovered in the back room. Needless to say, I was leaping!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Gertie's Leap to Greatness Blog Tour!

One of my 4th graders leaping on 10/4, Gertie's Book Birthday!

I'm honored to be the next stop on Kate Beasley's Gertie's Leap to Greatness blog tour!  That just makes me leap even more!

I was one of the lucky ones to get to know Gertie before anyone else when I received my arc last month.  I couldn't stop leaping and you won't either once you read the first line!  You can read my whole first review here:  GERTIE REVIEW

Once you read it you can't stop yourself from leaping into the Gertie fanclub.  At least I can't.  So...I found a few podcasts to listen to.  First "The Yarn" is dedicating many episodes to the making of "Gertie." Here's the first episode with Kate Beasley and Jenni Holm (Yes, THE Jenni Holm talking about her first book)  The Yarn Podcast #30

THEN, on my podcast kick I found Matthew Winner's interview with Kate on ALL THE WONDERS.  This was a great one and kept me intrigued throughout my run yesterday.  I could listen to Kate speak for many hours.  Matthew talks about this book being a great read aloud.  I completely agree and Matthew is a great reader aloud, if I must say so myself.

A couple of weeks ago I passed my arc along to a Mackenzie.  Mackenzie was in 5th grade last year and one of my star readers.  She went above and beyond in reading during our Mock Newbery project and for the past two summers attended almost every single one of my total of ten summer book groups.  She loves to read and has wonderful insight to share when chatting about books.  Needless to say, I miss her now that she is in middle school.  But I knew she would be the perfect person to share my arc with. I almost stopped in my tracks Yesterday I received an email from her:

Wow, this book stopped me in my tracks. It is soooo good!! Thank you so much for sending me this book, I absolutely loved it. The way the author narrates Gertie was perfect, so perfect that I finished the book in a day. I loved all the characters, especially Junior's jumpy personality. This will definitely be a Newbery winner. The kids down at CES will leap for this book, literally. Again, thank you sooo much for this book!

I almost stopped in my tracks when I read that because in the "All the Wonders" interview, Matthew brings up the exact same point that 11 year old Mackenzie does about the narrator!

Later today I received this from Mackenzie:

Leap into adventure with Gertie as she aims to become the best fifth-grader in the whole universe. From Zombie Frogs to sweet chocolates, this is a girl you can't beat.

Definitely a good opening line to a review that can't be beat!


When I was asked if I would join the blog tour, I was told I could highlight someone who goes above and beyond and spreads the joy of reading.  I couldn't come up with just one.  I'm surrounded by people like that.

Fifth grade math teacher, Brenda Kelliher, is amazing.  She is an innovative teacher, thoughtful, works long hours for the kids, attends all sporting and arts events that her students are in and is one of the most creative people I know.  Even though she teaches primarily math, she loves to read and is always asking me for book recommendations.  She tries to read as many books from our Newbery list as possible and even held a lunch book group last year to be more involved.  Brenda's creativity really shines when it is author visit time and she writes a song for the author that we make into a music video with her students.  In her next life, Brenda needs to be a songwriter and music video director.  I KNOW Brenda would LOVE to write a song if Kate visits.  Hint-Hint. And of course, Brenda leaps with me whenever I request her to!

Here we are the day of the "Hoops Against Hunger" basketball game last Spring

Alissa Pryde and I always joke that she is going to set up a second desk for me in her first grade classroom. Alissa and I collaborate so much that her students think of me as their second teacher. Another creative teacher and one who goes above and beyond, Alissa and I love working together on many projects but most especially Mock Geisel.  We had first graders reading nearly 20 books independently and critiquing them based on Geisel criteria.  These kids Skyped with authors, determined their favorites and stood by those winners in a debate.  It was incredible!  We met authors and librarians through this project who have now become our friends and kids continue to check out daily our Geisel books from last year.  We are very excited to start the project again in a few weeks!

Alissa and I doing a random leap in the hallway last year!

Lastly, I cannot write about colleagues who spread the joy of reading without mentioning fifth grade ELA teacher and my co-teacher on so many projects, Sid Reischer.  It started out with him taking a leap with me four years ago when I asked if he would do a Newbery project with me and the whole fifth grade.  Now it is almost the entire ELA curriculum for the quarter.  Not only do we do Newbery together but we collaborate with authors, the Towers Falling project, phenomenal research, July trips to NYC to plan for the fall, author visits and so much more.  Sid and I complement each other so well both in the classroom and out.  I feel like I owe part of my success in the library to him.  Sid reads. I read.  The students all read and we are all happy.  I can't wait for Sid to meet Gertie.

Sid and I leaping at Little, Brown and Company when we visited them this summer

So go find your colleague who is "Great Like Gertie". Let them know how much you appreciate them and then take a leap together--literally and figuratively. It will be a win-win for everyone!

The DIstance to Home by Jenn Bishop

"And tonight's starting author, making her first start is...JENN BISHOP!"

Yes, another debut author has done it again for me and this time I really need to figure out a way to convince my high school freshman daughter to read it with me in a mother-daughter book group. Maybe if I bribe her with oreos, she'll consider. 

But seriously, if you have a daughter (or son) in the midst of the middle grade years, this book is for you two to read together.  Not only should you have oreos on hand, but also a box of tissues (and maybe a hot dog). Get ready.

Told between this summer and last summer, we meet baseball loving 5th/6th grader Quinnen whose older and revered, sister, Haley, died last summer.  We never find out how until the end and that suspense keeps you turning page after page without stopping for a breath.  What happened? How? When?

Last summer Quinn played baseball.  This summer she gets her baseball fix not by playing but by attending Bandits games (the local minor league team).  Also, her parents think that it might help the family to invite one of the players to live with them and as much as Brandon drives Quinn crazy at first, she definitely misses him once he's gone.

Helping Quinn navigating this summer without Haley and without baseball, is Quinn's friend, Casey, pitcher, Hector and of course, her Mom and Dad.  Through the summer they are all there for one another. Casey gets a ball signed for him by one of his favorite players.  Quinn yells "mofongo" to Hector to help him get in the game and Quinn and her parents finally learn how to accept their new family of three.  "It's three now. Just three.  But three's a lot better than one."

I read this book in about two sittings and at the end I was just really glad I had a box of tissues by my side.  I felt sad but hopeful.  Things are going to be ok for Quinn.  It just took a summer to get the dust off her mitt, fill up with ballpark food and find the courage to move on.

Last summer, Haley gave Quinn her personal list of "Top Five Books of Fifth Grade." This summer, I wouldn't be surprised if some of my students put The Distance to Home on theirs.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The winding road to Jewell Parker Rhodes coming to CES

This is a "Where's Jewell?" picture

The most lovely, inspiring, joyous, huggable Jewell Parker Rhodes visited our school on Thursday. Her aura and magic is still lingering.  I imagine it will hang over us for a long time to come.

This post is not just a recap of our day, but a history of our relationship with Jewell...

It All Started with Sugar in 2013

Rewind three years and it all started with a Sugar book group for the 2014 Newbery project.  Look!  I even found the photos from our Skype with Jewell!  We have loved her ever since.

And now these kids are in 8th grade!  It's crazy how time flies...

Fast Forward to Late Winter/Spring 2016

We are so fortunate that we received arcs of Towers Falling through the Little Brown Faculty Lounge.  Mr. Reischer read it as a book group and both he and the students loved it.  Then I read it and loved it. Then Mrs. Warland read it and then....and then...and everyone who has read it since has loved it. Even our custodian picked up a copy on his break starting a few weeks ago.  I heard he just finished it.

A few pictures from our Skype in April with Jewell:

Here Mr. Reischer is giving feedback to Jewell

This Week

Jewell dazzled us this week as we welcomed and embraced her in our CES community for a few short hours this Thursday.  And she was a true sport about it, too!  Just moments after her toes felt the red carpet, I swept her into the office to have her say good morning on the announcements.  That's when she shared to our whole school community that in November she will be a grandmother to a little girl named Clara.  We are all so happy for her.

At our school wide assembly, we introduced our theme for the year, "We can be heroes" which came from Towers Falling.  We sat Jewell right in the front so she could watch it all.  To kick it off, Mrs. Golden's first graders sang an awesome song about heroes.  Next, we all loved hearing about the heroes of the students in Mrs. Kelliher's class.  We learned about the circle lesson in Towers Falling from Mr. Morse's class.  Mr. Reischer's class performed a great skit teaching us the important lesson on how we can all be heroes and all the fifth graders sang  a beautiful rendition of, "This Land is Your Land."  

Mr. Reischer's class skit*

Mr. Morse's class did the circles from Towers*
Mrs. Pryde's first graders came up and shared a timeline of her life.  Then Jewell and I did a little Q and A and that's when everyone in the room fell in love with her!  Silly me, I didn't even give her the questions in advance, but you would never know! She answered them so eloquently, you would have thought she had days to prepare.

                                        Mrs. Pryde's class timeline*

Do you think this shirt was worn on purpose?
This is your life, Jewell!

Each 4th grade class researched and
created a Jewell Parker Rhodes from A-Z book*

For more pictures from that day, check it out here:  SCHODACK FLICKER for JEWELL (All pictures with an * are from this set.  Thank you Jason McCord!  I couldn't take many pictures myself!)

Jewell boarded her plane for California at noon.  She was with us for such a short time but boy did it make an impact.  People were talking about it the whole afternoon and next day.  Thank you, Jewell and Little Brown for bringing us all together!

Ms. Martin, Mrs. Hanna and Mrs. Brewer's third graders are loving Sugar.
They made this welcome sign for Jewell to hang by the red carpet!

I hope I have given the day what it deserves.  We love Jewell and were so thrilled to have her visit our school. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  We look forward to collaborating throughout the year and more! xoxo