Monday, June 30, 2014

It's Monday! Here's What I'm Reading

Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading weekly on their blogs.   To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.

Hooray for summer! I feel like I can finally return to some recreational reading, as most of my end-of-the-school year reading was about exploration and colonization, as I was working hard to complete some integrated nonfiction and social studies units. That being said, I have some recommendations for anyone who is trying to support nonfiction reading with social studies texts. 

An important aspect of our nonfiction unit for fifth-graders has to do with their understanding and interpretation of text features, multiple main ideas, and central ideas. The World Made New is a National Geographic publication by John W. Glenn and Marc Aronson and it is full of timelines, quick facts, captions, headings, and text inserts. There are also many opportunities to teach students to accumulate information, take notes, and integrate concepts.

Another skill that we emphasize for students deals with recognizing biases: whose points of view are included and whose are not? what language choices has the author made? what information has been included and what might have been left out? You Wouldn't Want to Sail With Christopher Columbus! by Fiona MacDonald and David Salariya provided many opportunities for lessons about these concepts, as well as content information about the Age of Exploration. Incidentally, there are several more books in this series that cover other explorers and time periods of American history. 

Explorers Who Got Lost by Diane Sansevere-Dreher provided some narrative nonfiction for our unit, as well as content information about several specific explorers. The chapters are a little long, but still offer the opportunity to teach students how to tackle nonfiction that doesn't have clear headers and text features. 

I am currently finishing an adult book, The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. If anyone is looking for a book that explores the "what if" scenarios that can put people into ethical situations, I recommend this one. I also have a wonderful book pile and am happily back into my reading life. Promising an assortment of books for next week!

Happy reading!

It's Monday! What are you Reading? Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs.  To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.

I was so excited to find out that Lisa Graff came out with a new book and couldn't wait to get my hands on it because I love all of her books! Absolutely Almost is a must read so definitely add it to your TBR stacks for this summer.  It is about a 5th grade boy named Albie who struggles in school academically and feels like he isn't quite good at anything.  Due to this, he is moved from a private school to a public school so now has to also deal with being the new kid too.  He is an only child and lives in New York City with his parents, but his parents are not the most supportive. Albie's outlook on life and learning, begins to change when he gets a new babysitter named Calista.  

This book is perfect for middle grade students as they will be able to relate to a lot that Albie is going through with friendships, learning, confidence levels, changing schools, and relationships with parents too.  It would also be a great read aloud too, especially when studying characters or social issues.  Thank you Lisa Graff for writing another amazing book we can add to our classrooms and put into the hands of students! 
Happy Reading! :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Classroom Book Award Winners for 2014!

A couple years ago, I began the tradition of hosting Classroom Book Awards and students loved it! Click here to read my post about the process.  Click here to see the list of winners from last year.  

Last week was the end of the school year for us, but I just remembered I didn't post our winners for this year! Just as in the past, my students first decided on award categories and created a list of books they nominated for each category.  Once we had our list of nominations, the voting began! We repeated the process of voting and tallying until we had a clear winner for each category.  Below are the winners for our awards: 

Classroom Book Award Winners  2014

Best Book of the Year - Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz

Best Social Issues Book - Wonder by RJ Palacio

Best Series - 43 Old Cemetery Road by Kate Klise

Juiciest Book of the Year - One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Best Graphic Novel Series  - Smile and Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Read Aloud of the Year - One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Most Inspiring Book - Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper

Best Picture Book - Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt

Best Historical Fiction Book - Duke by Kirby Larson

Best Nonfiction Book - Nubs by Brian Dennis, Mary Nethery, and Kirby Larson

Most Emotional Read Aloud - The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Funniest Book - I Funny/I Even Funnier by James Patterson

Happy Reading! :)

Monday, June 23, 2014

It's Monday! What are You Reading? A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget

Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs.  To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.

One of the ARC's I received at the Book Expo a couple weeks ago was A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget.   After reading the blurb and a few chapters, my teammate and I knew we needed to read it aloud as our last book of the year with our 5th graders.  I am so glad we made that decision because the students loved it!! In my class, we finished it during the last few seconds of the last day before summer vacation.  My students wouldn't leave the room until we finished the book, even after our grade was dismissed on the loudspeaker! They were hanging on every word toward the end to find out what happened next.  I will definitely read this book aloud again next year! 

A Million Ways Home is about a young girl named Poppy who lives with her grandmother, but is forced to move to a shelter because her grandmother suffered from a stroke and is in the hospital and then a nursing home.  Poppy is so desperate to see her grandmother and bail her out of the home, that she runs away in search of finding her.  However, she witnesses a deadly robbery while she is running away and the suspect sees her! Then the adventures begin with a "witness protection program" with Detective Brannigan and his mother, a dog named Gunner, and a friend named Lizzie.  This book is a suspenseful page turner that is filled with social issues, strong characters, burning questions, and emotions.  

A Million Ways Home will be published by Scholastic on August 26th so mark your calendars and enjoy! 

Happy Reading! :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Writing Groups for Teachers--Thank you Betsy and Dana!

 Slice of Life is hosted every Tuesday by the wonderful community at All are always welcome to share stories and reflections about life, or to comment on what others share. Feel free to stop over!

Somewhere above my head is the surface of the water, but I have to say that the trees are still pretty blurry when I look up. I'm not complaining, more just explaining, the fact that I have not posted much in May--I've missed the last two "It's Monday! What Are You Reading?'s" (I'm pretty sure that no one would be interested in the reading that I've been doing) and I haven't made it to SOLSC as much as I usually do. Enough!

I was so excited when I saw the tweet in Betsy's post on Sunday.

The idea of an on-line writing club grew so organically that night of the twitterchat, just out of the passion and commitment that we all have for writing--not just for the teaching of writing, but also for the writing of writing. 

My original tweet was about the teachers' writing club that we started, and the chat was just before our first meeting. Five of us are really excited to keep this going and we have already picked out dates for meeting throughout the summer. If anyone is interested, let me know, and I'll happily share our experiences. That being said, I'm excited to fill out Betsy's google form questionnaire and have an on-line writing community, as well. Thank you to Betsy and Dana for pushing this concept along!

Summer--here I come!

Monday, June 2, 2014

It's Monday! What are You Reading? Books from BEA 2014!

Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs.  To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.

On Friday, I was in my glory at BEA (Book Expo of America) in NYC surrounded by new and upcoming books!  This was my fourth time going to BEA and I will continue to go each year.  The Javitts Center is filled with high levels of energy and excitement for books!  It is a great opportunity to meet authors, learn about new books being released, get ARCs signed by authors, and be around thousands of people that share a passion for books and reading.  One of the best parts of the day is coming home from the conference to look at all the new ARCs and make my new TBR piles, as well as think about which books I will recommend to different kids in my class.

Some of the books I have read this weekend are:

I was so excited to get my hands on an ARC of Sisters by Raina Telgemeir, which is a companion book to Smile! Smile is a well-loved graphic novel in our classroom so I knew my students would be  excited to get a first look at Sisters which will be published on August 26th.  Sisters is about Raina's relationship with her sister, Amara, and how they have had their ups and downs.  The story is written in present day while on a road trip from San Francisco to Colorado, but has flashbacks to show how their relationship changed over the years and how having a new baby brother impacted them too.   Children who have siblings will definitely be able to relate to their relationship.   Mark your calendars for August 26th to read Sisters

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DiCamillo is a new spin-off series of her popular Mercy Watson Series and will be published on August 26th.  I usually do not gravitate towards books that are for primary grades since I try to focus on books that I can read and recommend to my 5th graders, but I couldn't pass up reading this one.   Leroy Ninker has everything he needs to be a cowboy, except a horse. This all changes when he meets Maybelline, a horse, and immediately knows he must have her as his own.  The adventures begin as soon as he meets Maybelline so get ready to laugh and enjoy! Also be on the look out for an appearance by Mercy Watson towards the end of the book too!

I also picked up an ARC by Ella Burfoot titled How to Bake a Book, but according to her website it will now be Recipe for a Story.  This is an adorable picture book about putting together the important and necessary ingredients to write a story.  These ingredients include word choice, characters, feelings, problems, and even capital letters and punctuation too.  It is a very cute book for younger children when learning how to write a story and also for older children to use as a mentor book when writing stories.  This book will not be out until 2015…sorry!

I'm My Own Dog by David Ezra Stein is a perfect book to read aloud to students of all ages to talk about point of view and perspectives.  This is a hysterical book about a dog's point of view on how he has a human as a best friend.  From the dog's perspective, he is the one who takes the lead and has command over the human. In his eyes, he leads the human around with the leash, plays with fetch with the human, and lets the human follow him around.  It is a very entertaining book that kids of all ages will enjoy! This book will be published on August 7th.  :)

Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X is a picture book biography written by Ilyasah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X.  This book was published in January so it is available to purchase and read now! This is a very inspirational story of Malcolm's childhood and how his parents and family taught him important life lessons that helped him become a leader.  In this book, the reader learns about his strength, determination, and passions as well as how his parents impacted his beliefs.  The author's message written by his daughter is powerful and gives more detailed information about his life.

Happy Reading and stay tuned to hear about more books from BEA next Monday! :)