Tuesday, June 12, 2018

#Classroombookaday Part I: Back to School

School is out for summer, yet I can't stop thinking about the wonderful year I've had with my fifth graders. We've done so much reading, thinking, and growing. I know they are ready to change the world! As, I've wrapped up the year, I've had several inquiries (mostly via Instagram) about my #Classroombookaday. You can get tons of ideas on how to get started from Classroombookaday.com  Jillian Heise has lots of tips for getting started and she also shares how she came up with the idea for #Classroombookaday. Plus, you can always check out the hashtag on Twitter or Instagram, too.

#Classroombookaday Basics

Let's start with the basics. I chose to do #classroombookaday to start the day off with reading together and sharing in the love of reading. Who doesn't love picture books? I made it clear to my students that there were no lessons, activities, and especially no worksheets attached to these stories. We were reading to read, think and enjoy. After each story, time permitting, we'd turn and talk and then share our thoughts. My three guiding questions were: What did you notice? What did you like or dislike? What can you learn? 

After the first two weeks of school and lots of modeling, I opened a Sign Up Genius so that kids could share two days a week. It was a HUGE hit and they loved reading to their classmates. This was optional and if no one signed up, I chose a book to read that day.

Back to School Books

The question, I most often get asked is... Where is your book list? What books did you use? So, I thought I'd create a four part blog series on some of my favorite books from the year. I may also make a Google Doc or Sheet with all my titles as well. But please note, out of our four reading days, two days a week I had students sharing titles. So, there were some instances where there were books I just didn't get to share because kids had signed up and had some of their favorites in mind. We also didn't always post our books we used as mentor texts in class -- so our board only accounts for the #bookaday reading we did Monday - Thursday.

Here are ten of my favorite "Back to School" books that I used at the beginning of the year. These books helped me build a rapport with my students and get them excited about #Classroombookaday.

School's First Day of School by Adam Rex

This is the perfect first day read aloud. Told from the School's perspective, it addresses how even the school is nervous about his first day and all the kids coming to meet him. The janitor helps get school ready and eventually school starts to enjoy his first day!

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Only One You by Linda Kraz

Our principal read this book to our students on the first week of school. Students then created some unique rocks that we displayed around the school. The story celebrates being unique and embracing your differences.

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Wild About Us by Linda Kraz

This book is a fun book featuring animals that are embracing their own unique traits and characteristics. The book features zany illustrations and even a few animal butts -- what's not to love?

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My Teacher is a Monster by Peter Brown

Quite possibly one of my favorite back to school reads. My students always love Peter Brown. From his amazing illustrations to witty stories, you really can't go wrong with a Peter Brown book. This book follows a student as he "perceives" his teacher. She gradually becomes less "monstrous" as he sees her outside of school and realizes that she might not be so bad after all.

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Where Oliver Fits by Cale Atkinson

Cale's books just bring a smile to my face. Where Oliver Fits is the perfect story to talk about finding your place and where you fit in. Oliver tries to force himself into many different groups and even changes himself to fit in. However, this doesn't make Oliver very happy. Will Oliver ever find some pieces like him?

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Surf's Up by Kwame Alexander

Kwame Alexander brings to light a book about getting lost in a book. Told by two different frogs, this book highlights the power of story. Plus, it uses the words BRO and DUDE A LOT! This book is great for audience participation. There is also a great song that Kwame and Randy wrote a song titled "Surfs Up" to accompany the book! Check it out on YouTube.

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The Bad Seed by Jory John

This book lets kids know that not everyone is perfect or even all that nice. But it's never too late to change yourself and allow yourself a fresh start. The bad seed tries to become a better seed -- does he still slip up? Of course, but he's trying to be better!

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Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett

Quite possibly my favorite read aloud of the year! This book is great for talking about grit, determination and growth mindset. It's also a fantastic book that keeps kids on their toes! The audible groans and gasps as Sam and Dave endless look for something spectacular always make my teacher heart pitter-patter.


Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Perfect for end of summer, Jabari Jumps deals with conquering our fears and learning to take risks. With the help of friends and family, it's easy to take a dive into something new! Plus, you may discover something new to love and enjoy!

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Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie

My last favorite back to school read was Thunder Boy, Jr. because it touches on identity and what our names mean to us. Teaching at a diverse school makes names even more important to me. I should know them and know how to pronounce them correctly. We talk about the value of names and often students share what their names means or why their parents choose their names. It's amazing what you can learn from students just from talking about their names! This year, I also plan to use Alma & How She Got her Name the following day. I also always share how I was named after my mother's favorite song from the 1980's and there may or not be some rocking out to Barry Manilow.

What are some of your favorite back to school read alouds? 
Share your favorites below! 


Monday, January 8, 2018

Choice in Nonfiction Writing

This year, my teaching partner and I decided that we were going to allow more freedom during our Writing Workshop Nonfiction Unit. We've always allowed freedom in choice (of topic) but we've always chosen the format, usually feature articles but last year we tried out infographics. But this year - we wanted students to write a nonfiction piece where the format and topic were completely the student's decision. As we head towards personalization - we wanted students to have voice, choice and ownership in their writing.

To do this, we did have to work with our students to set up some parameters. During Readers Workshop, students had to be reading a nonfiction book. This could be on any topic and in any format  (chapter book, picture book, graphic novel) but should be a book that could give them background information or ideas for writing. This seemed to greatly help connect reading and writing and allowed students to get a jump start on research. Knowing the end, also helped our kids get ready for writing.

Before completely, jumping into drafting their writing pieces, we had students choose their format. During our Readers Workshop, we had read narratives, feature articles and infographics as a class. We also talked about how form can help us understand more complex texts. Therefore, students were familiar with the various formats and the ways they could be used. Before they started writing, however, we wanted them to take a few notes on what was important about the writing style and craft they were hoping to create.

Click the graphic to be taken to a Google Doc link to note sheet.

I had three Target plastic bins filled with mentor texts for students. One crate was filled with narrative nonfiction titles, one with infographic examples, and one with magazines so students could reference feature articles.  {Click links above for the best book bins for collections, narrative titles I had available and infographics I printed off in color and linked for students.}

Students were tasked to read 3-4 mentor texts and make observations. What were the authors doing in each text? What text features and structures were being used? How are these pieces set up on the page? Notes could be recorded on a simple note sheet we glued in our notebooks.

The following day, we started making our plans using our observations from the previous day. This also helped guide our further research. Plans ranged from extremely detailed to a simple sketch of the layout. All students, were able to create an image that related back to their noticings from the day before -- thus giving them a plan for writing. Then, they were able to spend the next several days researching and drafting parts of their nonfiction pieces.

The end result was incredibly impressive. Blown away, amazing. I read pieces that were informed, researched and most of all looked like REAL writing. Topics were diverse from defenses of a hedgehog to the assassination of JFK. I was also amazed at the risk students took, especially those choosing to write narrative nonfiction over an infographic or feature article. It's amazing how one little change can lead to so many great writing pieces. 

How do you give your students voice and choice in writing?


Saturday, December 30, 2017

A Year in Reading

This year, I've read a lot of really great books. I've read books ranging from YA to picture books. My favorite books are still middle grade fiction but I've enjoyed dabbling in nonfiction picture and reading more picture books this year (thanks to #classroombookaday) then ever before. I've also enjoyed my fair share of audiobooks, Patina by Jason Reynolds was a particular favorite audiobook of the year. My goal this year was to read 100 total books, although I experienced a few slumps this year I'm on pace to finish out the year at around 120 books.

I've tried to pick my favorite books of 2017, although I feel like I'm forgetting a few great titles. Each of these stories are filled with characters and themes that I will bring with me into 2018 and beyond. Such a great year in #KidLit. This year's Mock Newbery Book Club and #Classroombookaday have proven that investing in books and reading, is the best investment any teacher can make. Can't wait to see what the awards season has in store -- but all these books are winners in my classroom.

 What have been your favorite reads of 2017? 


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Let's Get Cookin'

Each year brings different readers into my classroom. This year my students are into practical nonfiction - they want to make, take, and do. They want to learn how to code and beat various tasks on Mine Craft. They are also loving DIY and crafting books -- especially cookbooks. I have several students that just can't get enough cookbooks. Several students have even created food or recipe related blogs on Kid Blog.

Before, jumping down the book buying rabbit hole, I gave my students a short Google Form asking what they thought my library needed. Students had the option to respond by author, genre, or title. And they could make as many suggestions as they wanted. I told them I may not be able to buy all their suggestions but would find ways to make sure our classroom library was meeting our needs. After the survey, I noticed that many students were requesting cookbooks. I didn't have single cookbook in my classroom library and to make matters worse, the school library's cookbooks looked dated and a pretty "elementary" for some of my savvy young chefs. So, I set out to find a few great cookbooks for upper elementary readers!

After shopping around and asking for suggestions on social media, I found several great looking cookbooks. Many "felt" like cookbooks and had excellent photographs of foods and steps. The Kid Chef cookbooks also have sidebars with common pit-falls and solutions. Lots of great culinary vocabulary and techniques are covered each of these books as well.

Be Budget Wise: Many of these books are available on Amazon as well as cheaper online solutions like Thriftbooks and Book Outlet. Shop around as the price of a good cookbook (even for kids) can be pricey!

Here are a few of my students' favorites: 
Clicking each image will take you to the Amazon page for each book. 

How you do build your library cater to your students' needs?
What cooking essentials am I still missing in our classroom?


Monday, October 30, 2017

#IMWAYR October

I haven't posted a #IMWAYR in quite a while, so now is as good as time as any to get caught up with some of my October reads! Back to school this year has been insanely busy as I get to know my new readers, learn and teach the new Units of Study and implement #classroombookaday. I may not have been reading quite as much as "usual" but I feel like I'm finally starting to feel on top of things that are happening in the classroom.

So, here's what my reading life has looked liked recently...

I purchased Ryan T. Higgins' latest gem as birthday present to myself and I'm so glad I did! It may be my favorite of the Bruce series so far. Bruce, the mice, and the goslings are all back and looking for a new home! The end papers and "undies" of this book are my favorite of 2017! We also read all the Bruce books for #classroombookaday and the students were not disappointed either. I highly recommend this book as a read aloud for any classroom.

I had seen so much social media press about this story. So I had to pick up a copy and read it for myself. This story was great and did not disappoint me or my fifth graders. Loved the messages that change takes time and everyone gets to create their own destiny. I also loved that Bad Seed taught us that no one is perfect even bad seeds trying to be "good."

This was a recent read. I picked up a copy at our local book festival, Books by the Banks. I loved all the photographs of shelter dogs and their rescue stories. I wish there was a little more about each dog or their new lives but I think this will make a nice addition to my classroom library along with my other photography based books like Strong is the New Pretty.

My audiobook for October was Dumplin' and I'm a Julie Murphy fan for life. I love her writing style and the story of Willow Dean. I can't wait for  the next installment Puddin'. From the Dolly references to the local beauty pageant - this book takes the crown! Loved Willow's sassy and bold voice while also showing that she can be insecure and vulnerable too. A great audiobook and fantastic story! 

I'm absolutely loving the voice of Karma is in this new middle grade novel. Perfect for upper grade readers that are starting to notice changes in themselves and with their friends. Karma's dealing with a lot from family changes to the seventeen hairs she discovers on her upper lip, this story is sure to connect with lots of kids, especially girls who find it hard to fit in during those middle school years. I can't wait to finish this book and share it with my students! I'm also super excited to meet author Kristi Weintge as she's coming to a local indie, Blue Manatee Bookstore in November!

I picked this book up last year prior to the Newbery awards. But I just couldn't get into it. I wanted to love it as I absolutely love Medieval historical fiction (major Karen Cushman fangirl! Catherine Called Birdy & The Midwife's Apprentice were my jam back in 6th grade) and really enjoyed The Canterbury Tales in high school. But alas, I just couldn't dig into it. So, I rebooted this time as an audiobook. I'm enjoying the audio although it is a little hard to keep track of all the characters telling the tales even though there is a whole cast of narrators. I also almost put it down again but I've reached the farting dragon and I think I'm finally hooked enough to finish this story! Finally, starting to feel like the story is coming together and moving in a direction I can get behind.

What are you currently reading?
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