Monday, February 29, 2016

Small group reading in first grade

Mrs. Pryde's first graders come up to the library every Monday and Thursday to read and analyze a Sarah Weeks book. Good thing she has over 50 of them! This should keep us busy for a while!

We had been reading the books aloud and completing the forms as a group until today. That's when I pulled out the six books I had that were Level 1 readers (appropriate for Geisel incidentally).  In fact, we did the math to figure out if any of the books were actually published after the Geisel award was created, and some were and some weren't.  One was even published in 1999 and one student exclaimed how that was a LONG time ago! We split into small groups for students to read together to each other and then fill out the forms in their "Sarah Notebook." Check these studious kids out: 

One of the statements on our form is "A question I have for Sarah is..."  The kids come up with the cutest questions. Of course, I can't think of one from today but the other day we read a book about a factory and they wanted to know if Sarah ever worked in a factory or if she had solar panels. Adorable. Get ready to answer these questions, Sarah, when you visit in May!

So now you can see how I had little extra time for leaping today! 

It's February 29--Do you know where your library leapers are?

As the original "leaping librarian" today was going to be my day. That's a lot of pressure. I was going to leap in the library.  Leap in the cafeteria. Leap in the gym. The music room. The office. Well, life got in the way and I leapt a little but not as much as I would have liked on LEAP DAY! My saving grace? Everyday is leap day whether it is 2/29 or 3/1 or 4/23 or even 9/17. Whatever the day, whatever the time, there can always be a reason to leap into the next moment.

I still managed to get some leaping in, of course, and here we are:

3rd graders leaping with their country books!

More 3rd graders just plain excited to leap!

Leaping in the cafeteria with kindergarteners!

Just another leap...

More kindergarteners!

And more...Just wait till next Leap Day when they are in FOURTH grade!

Check out the girl in the grey shirt saying "Yay!"

Mrs. Pryde's first graders in the library! Jessica brought in the book,
Leopold's Long Awaited Leap Year Birthday by Dawn Desjardins, which we read aloud!

Mrs. Yager's 3rd graders 

The final leap of the afternoon!
It will be an exciting day for these kids to revisit Leap Day again in 4 years.  My plan today?  Try and recreate these pictures with the Ks and 1s.  Maybe I'll even go to the MS and find the 3rd graders just to LEAP!  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Uncovering the Facts

Today, after a short review on how to take notes, we began digging into our country research. The excitement in the room just elevated! The third graders looked like college students. Books on their laps. Laptops in front of them. Headphones on so they could listen to the Belgium national anthem. Folders and books on the floor. Research is messy and we got messy today! 

Did you know that Benin has only 10 million people? "That's WAY smaller than the US!" exclaimed Ben! "China has 1 billion people!" shared Emma. 

We realized that it is hard to find out who the current leader is and may have to dig a bit deeper tomorrow to figure it out and learn more about the different governments. 

Excellent research third graders!  Can't wait to see what you dig up tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Preparing for an International Gala

Yesterday was the first day of a month long project I am doing with Mrs. Yager's third grade class. I am so excited! I love third graders!

Each student is researching a different country and then they will dress up and be interviewed as a young person from that country at an evening International Gala for parents. We will eat food from all the world, too! It's going to be awesome. 

We kicked it all off yesterday by watching a great concert by Dave Ruch. If you get an opportunity to see this guy, you should! He was great with the kids! And even though it wasn't live, it sure felt like it was! Dave would ask the kids questions and they would raise their hands and he totally responded as if he was in the room.  It was almost weird that way.  Or they would be a little chatty after something and he would respond to that as well.  I highly recommend this concert.  We learned about different instruments in different countries and sang some fun songs together.  The 45 minutes whipped by!

Today we handed out research packets and I showed the students World Book, Britannica and Culturegrams online. I also took out books for each of them from the public library (many of my copies of any of the books are so old and some countries I didn't even have, such as Benin) and share those with the students, too. We are excited to dig into the research tomorrow!

Gluing the database passwords onto research folder.
In the background, someone has already begun sketching their flag.

Of course I'm excited about what fabulous food this young lady will bring to our Gala! 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd

I knew Natalie Lloyd was special after reading and sharing A Snicker of Magic with all my students last year. I just didn't realize how extraordinary she is. Now I do. And if I were you I would move "lickety-split fast (p.35) to your nearest bookstore on Tuesday, February 23, to pick up a copy of her newest book, The Key to Extraordinary so you, too, could be inspired and dazzled by Natalie's magical way with words.

12 year old Emma is waiting for her Destiny Dream to happen. When she does have it, she's hoping it will be clear what her destiny will be.  This may not be as easy as it sounds.  Women in her family for generations and generations have done extraordinary things so there is quite a lot of pressure on Emma to live up to her own destiny. Even when she has the special dream, things become a bit more complicated.  

To make matters worse, Warren Steele is threatening to come to town and tear down Emma's beloved family owned Boneyard Cafe.  Emma's got to find the treasure, knowing that if she does, she will be able to stop Mr. Steele.  Or will she?  What could possibly be in that treasure that could save her family and her town? Needless to say, Emma is determined.  She will "save [her] town's heartbeat--the Boneyard Cafe." (p.85)

There is so much in this novel to love.  The language for one.  The morning after Emma has her dream she is so nervous that she wonders, "Is it possible to be so nervous your brain coughs up words you didn't even know it'd stored?" (p.60) or "Everything wonderful is possible." (p.149) or "When life gets heavy, sometimes your heart needs to cut loose." (p.163) or....and I could go on and on.

I love all the characters and want to enjoy a long mug of Boneyard Brew with each and every one of them. Well, maybe not Warren Steele or Beretta Simpson.  But everyone else, of course! And believe me, you can taste and smell that delicious, undeniably unique Boneyard Brew through the pages. Are they making books now with "smell-i-vision" or "taste-i-vision"?  If so, this one has it! It's that special ingredient for sure.

And then there's the music!  There are obvious music references and other more subtle ones, like the crow named, "Penny Lane."  Some you didn't think fit in but they actually did, like Emma listening to "White Stripes."  I know I was happy when Patsy Cline was mentioned.

I'll tell you what, we don't have to think twice about what Natalie Lloyd's Destiny Dream was--It's writing these incredibly magical lovely middle grade novels, with fun loving characters who you want to become BFFs with, join their Club Pancake. Seriously, although this is not a sequel or even a companion novel to Snicker, but Felicity's way of seeing words has certainly rubbed off on Natalie through Emma Pearl Casey's voice.  

ps-I have to thank Victoria Coe, author of the next book on my TBR pile, Fenway and Hattie,  for sending me her ARC after reading a tweet of mine on how I tried to reserve a copy from the library  only realizing it was not out yet!  Victoria went that morning to the post office and mailed me her copy!  The #kidlit world is amazing all around!  I owe her a cup of Boneyard Brew for sure!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban

This is a beautiful book that shares a part of our history in such a way that will make it easier to talk about and understand with my middle grade reading students.  World War II for Japanese Americans born in this country was not a time looked at with fondness.  I know this first hand because my mother-in-law, born in California in 1940, knows about it first hand and never speaks of it.  Manami's story, although a little older, could have been "Grandma's" story. 

From the beginning, this book is filled with questions to ponder.  Knowing no dogs are allowed in the camps, what would you do with your beloved Yujiin?  I can see early on, fascinating and educational discussions about the camps and the War will ensue with students.

When the family arrives to arrives at Manzanar to the barbed wire, guard tower, lack of green for a garden, Manami's father says with a positive twist, "The soldiers say it will be a village...We will make it a village." (p. 28) and they do.

Shortly afterwards, Manami stops talking.  The dirt, not like her island sand where she comes from "coats her throat so [she] cannot speak."  And the questions to think about continue:  Is it Manami's fault that her older brother, Ron, came from college in Indiana?  Why did her older sister, Keiko, stay in college?

Each chapter is a month in time at the camp.  In June, Ron thinks about joining the US Army. More questions--Should he go?  Why the conflict with going or staying?

Manami draws pictures of Yujiin and sends them in the sky, hoping for him to come to her.  "Each morning, I make a wish for Yujiin to come and I send new promises in the air." (p.81)

The months go on and the challenges of living in Manzanar continue.  Stray dogs show up, but none are Yujiin.  Is Yujiin getting Manami's messages?  Will Manami ever be able to love another dog?Will Manami speak again?

Go ahead and grab a cup of tea, a rice ball and sit down for a few hours and enjoy this special historical novel by debut author, Lois Sepahaban.  You won't want to get up till your finished.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Little Brown Book Groups + Picture Day

About half through book groups, I get obnoxious and insist it it PICTURE DAY!  Today was that day.  Can't you see me with my hands moving together so the groups are in the frame? "Get together! Get together!"  "______ look up!"  "_______ Smile!" All that hassle, but it is worth it in the end.  Kids do smile.  The adults even grin.  And you can't help but think that we've lightened up our authors' days just a smidgen.

I've mentioned before that we received 40 ARCS for students to read and review.  We started a couple of weeks ago and all books in this first round will be finished by the end of break.  Then we will begin Round 2.  It's very exciting.  I've really only heard positive things about the books.  I'm in Peter Brown's The Wild Robot group and it has surprised me.  Although it started out a little slow, it has picked up tremendously and love the discussions and conversations that we have about it.  Who knew a book about a robot and a gosling and all other forest animals, could be so intriguing and thought provoking?  Certainly not me.

I'm also leading The Best Worst Thing by Kathleen Lane. We are about two thirds of the way through and there are still a lot of questions unanswered.  In this group, we have more participants than books so there is some sharing happening.  Fortunately (or unfortunately) one of the girls read so far ahead on the first or second day that I've been able to hold on to her book.  One student in my group already said, "I love this book because you never know what's coming in the book or the next chapter."  This is true.

Mr. Reischer can't say enough good things about Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes.  We love Jewell.  We Skyped with her two years ago when her Sugar was on our Newbery list and before that I loved Ninth Ward.  I'm excited to know that come this fall we will have another JPR book in our library, and most likely on our Newbery 2017 list.

Mr. Reischer is also leading the One Wish book group.  Again, I have only heard good things about the book.  

Once again Mrs. Gregware from the main office is helping us out with leading a book group with May Day.  After the first day I received a text from a mom in that book group exclaiming how her child already loves the book!  I believe the excitement continues…

We love getting Ms. Zampella involved, too.  Since her group is reading the book about magic, Nothing Up My Sleeve, I wonder if they will do any tricks for us when they share the book to the class after break?

And new this time is Mrs. Warner.  After the first meeting, she went home and took copious notes to share with her group.  I like that in a book group leader!  Here she is with her Fitzgerald Trout group.

Because we didn't have enough books for all of our students, we added in some other books in our rotation. The incomparable Mrs. Warland is leading a group on two Newbery winning books-Number the Stars and Sarah Plain and Tall.  The group loved the intensity and mystery in Number the Stars so much they already finished it and the plan is to read Sarah Plain and Tall over breakSome of the kids are holding maps that Mrs. Warland printed out to go along with their reading.

Mr. Reischer is enjoying revisiting Newbery Honor winner, Pam Munoz Ryan's Esperanza Rising with his homeroom book group. Today when we were together as a group sharing about our books, their faces lit up the room! They love the book so much.  If we ever got Pam to come visit our school, she would meet a whole lot of fans! (Note: EVERY student that was in Mr. Reischer's Echo book group chose to be in this one! Hmmm…ya think we have some Pam fans here or what?!)

And I was lucky enough to revisit So B. It by the amazing Sarah Weeks. My group is loving the book, too.  We've cried, laughed, discussed and are currently planning a birthday party for Heidi with Devil Dogs, tea, Jell-O and jellybeans since her birthday is the same day as our next meeting (February 12).

And since it's my group, of course we had to LEAP!

All in all, a great day for pictures and book group discussions!  I don't know about the other groups, but I do know that most of the time we just talk about the books and if we're lucky we get a page or two read aloud (the kids do love when this happens).  I think out of my three book groups today, only one read.

Happy Reading and thanks again Little Brown for this wonderful opportunity for my students!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Happy Book Birthday to Surf's Up!

I've always been a big birthday fan.  Fondly remember my first bike on my 6th birthday all decked out with a yellow banana seat.  Had my pregnant mom spinning 45s on a hot June day at my 50s theme birthday party when I was 9.  Made everyone play games at my "Game Themed" 12th birthday party.  Threw myself a rockin' 17th (not 16, that's too cliche) birthday party, a 24th birthday, 40th, 45th...Anyway, you get the drift, birthdays are important ways to celebrate life, accomplishments, challenges, obstacles we overcame and a time to really look forward to what's to come.

My first and second graders will always remember February 1, 2016.  This was the day we celebrated, sang, and ate cake in honor of the book birthday of Surf's Up by our friend, Kwame Alexander and illustrated by our new friend, Daniel Miyares.  You know we were hoping deep down for Daniel to come to Castleton Elementary School, and we are not ruling anything out, however we got the second best thing--Daniel projected on the screen as we chatted and asked him questions.  The kids asked great questions in front of a palm tree/tiki lamp backdrop, while he shared his insights into illustration and being an artist.

Finally, we sang happy birthday and dove into the cake.

Didn't Price Chopper do an amazing job on the cake decorating?

Doe loves Daniel as much as the rest of us. Here she is taking a break from cake serving to say "Hi!"

Thanks so much, Daniel, for a wonderful virtual visit!

In lieu of a FTF with Daniel, NorthSouth Books mailed me 66 (one for every first grader) backpacks. I am not a drawstring bag fan, but this one makes the exception! Thank you, NorthSouth!

Then this afternoon I had Mrs. Pryde's class in to work on our Sarah Weeks project and crazy me said, "Let's say 'happy book birthday' to Kwame!"  "Yeah! Yeah!" the squealed.  So I ran and got my phone and in 7 seconds the kids gave Kwame their good wishes.  I texted it out to him, switched my phone off from vibrate and waited.  While the class was still in the library, Kwame texted back and I, of course, shared it with the students.  How cool is that for them?

Speaking of Kwame, it is hard to believe a whole year has gone by since the 2015 Newbery announcement.  I will always remember that weekend and then the Monday (Snow Day!) and Tuesday afterwards. We had a cake ordered that we had to tell Price Chopper to put on hold.  We Skyped with Kwame the next day to wish him a congratulations.  Those kids (and me!) were pumped!  Landon, Noah, Eli, Jack, Liam, Chris, Andrew...and those are just a few of the kids.  Someone even cried when they heard it was a snow day because we'd miss watching the Youth Media Awards live.  It was crazy! Oh! And we had cake then, too!