Monday, May 8, 2017

Life Without a Teacher Desk

I know there are only thirteen more days of school but I've been wrestling with an idea all year... Can I live without my teacher desk? Several teachers I know have already #ditchedthedesk this year and haven't stop raving about the space and flexibility it provided. I wanted those things too. But I still wanted my own space in my classroom. I don't sit at my desk very much but I felt like I needed a place to enter grades, check over work and keep my supplies. I'll admit, I was way too scared at the beginning of the year to take the leap.

My teacher desk was big and spacious and made me feel like a teacher... Plus, it was my space.

But alas, last Friday, with only 14 days left of school, I decided to try living life without a desk for just a few days. It would be a trial run. Just a few days to see if I really could completely ditch the desk. I knew I wouldn't have to officially give up my desk (since it can easily roll out into the hallway) and I could see if I could really live the desk free life.

Today was my first full day of being desk free. And I realize --  I have space. Glorious much needed floor space! Students commented about being about to stretch out more and we weren't all on top of each other or the massive furniture. My room has so many possibilities by moving Big Bertha to the hallway. I have room for some small end tables or more seating in the library along with room for two more book shelves! once I'm not sure how I'm going to quite utilize the new found space just yet, but I get myself organized, I'll start making some plans. I can't wait to see how one small change will impact my classroom environment. For now, my home base as I'm calling it is at my small group kidney table. I still have a access to all my supplies and have a space for myself in the classroom. I really wish I would have had the courage sooner.

If the notion of getting rid of your desk is even tickling your teacher brain, try it. Do it. It may not work out - and that's okay. But it's so worth giving it a try. I'm not sure why this little change was so hard but I'm glad the desk is ditched.


Monday, April 17, 2017


It's Monday! What are you Reading?

I've been feeling the reading slump lately. I currently don't even have an audiobook which is very uncommon for me. I've been listening to A LOT of podcasts and trying to get myself organized during this end of the year push. Between writing a grant application and trying to get a lists of materials ready for Mock Newbery, I think I'm just feeling restless. Sometimes, you just need the right book at the right time. I think it's important to share these natural breaks in reading with our students. If you're not feeling it - you're not feeling it. It happens even to the most dedicated of readers.

If you enjoyed, The Distance to Home, you'll definitely want to check out Jenn Bishop's newest novel, 14 Hollow Road. This book centers around Maddie, who is trying to find her place as a soon to be seventh grader. She's a very real character that many girls will be identify with as she struggles with friendships and her first crush. To complicate matters, a tornado has hit Maddie's hometown and she's focused to deal with life at a neighbors and the disappearance of her beloved dog, Hank. As someone who experienced a tornado my freshmen year of high school, Maddie's experience brought back memories of seeing the devastation and having so many friends displaced for months. Look for Jenn's book out June 13th!

Image result for The Legend of Rock papers

If you haven't seen this book on social media, you may need to reconsider who you follow! Seriously, this book has been blowing up on Instagram and Twitter. So, when Target had this title on Cartwheel - I was there! One of my absolute favorite picture books of the year! You'll be laughing as Rock, Paper, and Scissors do battle against household objects including dinosaur shaped nuggets! Laugh out loud funny and the perfect read aloud for ANY day!

Image result for Pirasaurs!

Josh Funk is a picture book genius! I was singing this book aloud as I read it at home to myself before taking it into my fifth graders. From swabbing the deck to searching for buried treasure it's a pirasaurs life on the high seas. This book is filled with wonderful rhythms that'll make you want to sing this book aloud! Lots of fun word plays make this a great addition to any upper elementary classroom. We're Pirasaurs, Pirasaurs with spiky tails we'll raise the sails and we are never bored! Google the trailer, you'll have the song in your head all day! If you don't know much about Josh or Pirasaurs check out the {Book Trailer} and it's guaranteed to be the best minute of your day!

Image result for Children of Refuge

I could absolutely NOT put The Children of Exile down! #Unputdownable So, needless to say, I was very excited to get to read an ARC of sequel, The Children of Refuge. Refuge follows Edwy's journey from after he and Rosi split up in the woods. I'm enjoying the difference in perspective and voice and it really showcases Haddix's craft as an author. I'm hoping to settle into this book and give it the time it deserves this upcoming week! So far, the cliffhangers are on point! Haddix is the queen of the cliffhanger! Look for The Children of Refuge out September 12th! 


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Grand Slam Books!

If you're from Cincinnati, then you know that Opening Day is a true holiday! Even though, I had to go into work, students and teachers alike were decked out in their Reds gear to help celebrate Opening Day. There is even an extensive parade - baseball is a BIG deal. Whether you're from Cincinnati or not, here's a few grand slams that middle grade readers may enjoy! I'll confess that I'm not a big reader of sports books, but I try and keep up with new books and authors since they hook so many readers! Bust out those peanuts and Cracker Jacks and let's "Play Ball!"

Running Favorites in Fifth

The Distance to Home by Jenn Bishop

Skinny Bones by Barbara Park

Heat by Mike Lupica

Jackie and Me by Dan Gutman

Sluggers Series by Loren Long & Phil Bildner

Wild Pitch Sports Illustrated for Kids Graphic Novel

Sports of All Sorts

The Crossover & Booked by Kwame Alexander

STAT: Standing Tall and Talented series by Amar'e Stoudemire

Rip and Red series by Phil Bildner

Guys Read: The Sports Pages

Kid Owner by Tim Green

Chickens Don't Skate by Gordon Korman

What sport novels are all-stars in your classroom?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

For Those About to Mock

It's not to early to get started planning for Mock Newbery 2018. I'm a planner and with the need to create a Donors Choose - I've been trying to be proactive with getting a book list together for Mock Newbery 2018. To prepare, I've been watching the #MockNewbery hashtag on Twitter as well as trying to keep up with 2017 #kidlit releases. I've read several books so far and have a list of other buzz worthy books and authors. Here are a few books that I feel should be on your radar (as of now) if you're thinking of starting a Mock Newbery Book Club.

Books to Keep on Your Radar: 

Several books have already been released and a few others are coming out before the end of the school year. For the Newbery Award, the committee is looking for distinguished texts based on craft, story, characters, etc. Each of these books has a distinguished quality from style choices to characters, which I feel would make them good Mock candidates. I've also enlisted several students to help me this year read and review books for my next year's book club. So far, our top pick is The Ethan I was Before for it's unique story lines and perspective. Another top contender is The Someday Birds, which is getting a lot of praise from my fifth grade readers.

Release Dates:  

  • Beyond the Bright Sea - May 2nd
  • Moon Shadow - May 16th
  • Orphan Island - May 30th
  • Walking with Miss Millie - July 4th

If you're looking for ways to get started you can check out my previous post Mock Newbery Book Club.

What books are you currently considering for Mock Newbery? 
What needs to be added to my watch-list?


Monday, March 13, 2017

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday and I've actually been in a good reading groove this week. It also helps when you're reading some amazing books! Here are the books, I've been reading this past week! 

Picture Books

Until recently, I did not have any Jason Chin books in my library. Gasp! What? I know. He's so talented and I've admired his books for a while. So, when I saw Amazon list Gravity for $6.99. I knew I had to pick up Gravity and Grand Canyon. Both books have stellar pictures. I was hoping for a little more "story" or information in Gravity but I loved all the cool science facts about gravity at the end of the book. I know my fifth graders, who are currently studying space, will snatch this book up instantly tomorrow.

I was, however, absolutely blown away by Grand Canyon. I wasn't sure if a picture book could do the Grand Canyon justice and Jason Chin proved me wrong. The images are grand and breath-taking plus it is loaded, loaded, loaded with facts! I learned so much about fossils and rock formations thanks to Jason's handy illustrations and hidden cutaways. This book is worth every penny especially if you also teach Social Studies or regions of the country. I highly recommend Grand Canyon for upper elementary classroom libraries.

Middle Grade

I love Augusta Scattergood's historical fiction. Her books are so accessible to kids and are perfect for kids that may think they "don't like" historical fiction. Currently, many of my students are reading Making Friends with Billy Wong and Glory Be in our historical fiction book clubs. Because they've loved those stories so much, I picked up another novel by Augusta Scattergood. I recently finished the audiobook of The Way to Stay in Destiny and was once again impressed by Scattergood's talent at weaving in believable and interesting characters into historical time periods. From a local tomboy who rather play softball than dance to a young boy who sneaks down to play the piano, this book does a great job at showing students that there are no such things as boy or girl hobbies. Students do not need a lot of historical background before reading which is great for students that may want to do additional research on this time period. I'd recommend for grades 4 and up.

I'm now currently reading See You in the Cosmos as a potential #MockNewbery list. It has shown up here and there on Twitter and Travis Jonker featured it as a potential 2018 Newbery on 100 Scope Notes. With such endorsement, I bought a copy and I'm giving it a shot. I don't know much about science (history or science) and I'm hoping to learn a little more as I get to know Alex better through his transmissions. So far, I'm not sure I'm connecting with Alex. I'm hoping to connect on a deeper level more emotional level as he continues to read his transmissions on the golden iPod, much like Carl Sagan's golden record. This book has definitely forced me to do a little extra outside research on Carl Sagan as he's clearly a hero and idol of Alex, so much so he's named his dog Carl Sagan.

Young Adult

How could one not read, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas after all the buzz on Twitter and social media. I ordered a copy on Amazon and by page 27, I knew I couldn't put it down. It took me less than three days to finish from cover to cover. The writing is exceptional. Can we call the Printz award, now? It's going to win. It's that good. It's not a fluke that's the number one on the New York Times' Young Adult Hardcover list. It will leave you speechless and laughing out loud all within a few paragraphs. The emotion, honesty, and rawness of the book are powerful. Plus, the questions Star asks are ones that are relevant to our students today. Angie Thomas has perfectly captured the imperfectness of high school, relationships, and family. I highly recommend this book to all teachers & readers grades 9 and up.

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