Saturday, December 31, 2016

#SixtyBooks in 2016!

I set a goal back this time last year to read just 60 books in 2016. I was in a reading slump and wanted to recharge my reading life. I've always loved reading and I knew I had to dedicate some time for things that I hold dear. So I jumped on board with the #SixtyBooks challenge on Twitter.

Turns out, I blew past my goal of sixty books well before year's end! I found my love of reading renewed thanks my dearest #BookJourney crew and "Nerdy" friends and authors. Even my students and their participation and excitement over Mock Newbery kept me reading throughout the early part of the school year. I didn't quite double my goal as planned, but I'm hoping shooting for 120 in 2017. But I did read 112 books in 2017!

Here are a few of my favorites!
Many were published in 2016 but some were older books, I had never picked up.

If I was giving out the Newbery here would be my top three picks!
Hour of the Bees was my 2017 favorite book of the year & my top pick for Newbery!

What were some of your favorite reads in 2016?

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Mock Newbery Book Talks: Part 2

Although, I had some grand ideas about having about 4 books out a month, that had to get scrapped as more students than expected signed up to be part of our team's book club. Initially we had 85 students sign up - we're down to about 60 at this point but holding strong. So, we've released books in two parts to have enough copies for all readers that were ready for books and to allow for some books to be released. Students are reading and reading A LOT this year. I've always had readers in my room due to our strong reading community, time to read, and book clubs but this year is far beyond any expectations.

Here's the second part of our book talks...
{Click the image} to download the entire book talk with book trailer/book talk links.
 I'm not sure if it's a front runner on the Newbery Committee but this book is a front runner in my eyes. I loved the idea of a story within a story and the fantasy and folklore that was expertly blended with realistic fiction. This story reminded me so much of my grandparents and had be crying like a baby at the end. Loved this book. Couldn't put it down. And I've read lots of great books so far this year.

 We're going to Skype with debut author about Molly & Finding Perfect. This book struck a personal cord with me and I felt like this was a book I needed to share with my students. As a teacher in a high achieving and very competitive school, I've seen numerous students struggle with anxiety and OCD. Molly is a great mirror and instantly many students connected with the story and couldn't wait to pick up a copy! Click the image above for an amazing audio teaser!

 Another personal favorite. I laughed and cried so hard as I read through Maxi's Secrets. This was another top favorite of the year. It's far more than a "dog" book and Maxi can teach us all some very valuable lessons.

I also thought it was important to add in some other titles that I didn't feature but could be contenders for the 2017 Newbery. This just helps my readers access other books and see that there are differing opinions on great reads. Click the images below for teasers for The Inquisitors Tale & Some Kind of Courage.

Which book(s) have your vote for the 2017 Newbery so far?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Character Unit Book Club

So excited to be launching my first in class book club tomorrow! I get a lot of questions about book club and you can check out my Book Club Basics post {here}.

A big thing I stress is keeping book clubs authentic. For me, these are not literature circles with a packet and jobs. Could use those roles, sure! But a real book club, doesn't function that way. In real life you read a book independently and then get together with your club to discuss and enjoy the book. In my class, book clubs operate the same way. Students read the books independently and then come together on Fridays to share, discuss, or work on something fun! We also use these books as ways to get in our Reader's Workshop mini-lessons. Since I've read all of the books, its easy to do a comprehension check as well or help striving readers. As always, you need to do what's best for your classroom. I always try and offer lots of choice and once students finish two book club novels within the unit, they are on free choice.

Our first book club of the year focuses on characters. We dig deep and look at how and when characters act out of character. We also begin to analyze how other characters and even settings can impact characters. At the conclusion of this unit, students write a literary essay focusing on their main characters. My teaching partner and I wanted to focus on books that will help build community within our team. Therefore, many of the choices deal with characters that have special needs or are dealing with problems outside of their control like divorce and having a parent in jail.

This unit could work with ANY novel with strong characters but here are few of my favorites... 
If you'd like to book talk any of these novels, click the Book Talks graphic. It will link you to my Google Drive link. You can download my SMARTnotebook file with strong character novels.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

15th Anniversary of 9/11

Books help connect students to history and each other. With this year being the 15th Anniversary of September 11th, I've found so many books to help students understand this time in American history and why this date has impacted everyone that remembers the events of the day. I feel like exposing students to high interest historical fiction and nonfiction help bridge the gap of understanding for students born after September 11th.

Here are few of my favorite reads for middle grade readers:

What are your favorites for sharing and discussing 9/11?

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Wish: A Book Review

Love at first sight is something many of us wish for. We’ve all been there. That newly released hardback that you just know you will love the instant you lay eyes the cover. These are books that stir something within our book loving souls and transport us to a new place. Wish by Barbara O’Connor was that book for me. A friend had posted an image in our Voxer chat and it was book love at first sight. I wished I had a copy.

As luck would have it, my wish came true. I entered and won a Twitter ARC giveaway and soon had my own copy to read. Upon its arrival, I stared longingly at the cover. The purple haze and swirls of color pulled me into Barbara’s world without having read a single word. I was developing a major book crush. In my heart, I was there in the twilight with a girl and her dog. I wished to know them.

I started Wish and met Charlie. A young girl who is moving in with her aunt and uncle until her mom is able to “get on her feet” again. She’s leaving her home, friends, and even his sister behind as she’s thrust into a new town filled with strangers. Charlie reminded me of beloved characters like Hollis Woods and Carly Conners. She was smart yet standoffish. And a little bit, okay a lot, feisty. Charlie didn’t need to like this new town or new family because she wasn’t going to be there long. Charlie knew her mom was bound get out of bed and get her feet on the ground in no time. For her sake, I too wished for Charlie’s mom to crawl out of her depression.

Yet, Charlie finds herself chasing after a stray dog and making friends despite her own objections to these “squirrel eating hillbillies.” As Charlie began to settle into her new home among the Blue Ridge Mountains, I too began to feel at home in North Carolina. I was there watching fireflies dance from the porch with a snoring dog at my feet. I was sipping sweet tea and smelling rain soaked tomatoes ripening on the vine. I was immersed completely in Charlie’s world. Like fog off the mountains, Bertha and Gus’ home settled around me and blurred the lines of reality. I wished for Charlie to realize the beauty of the people and place surrounding her. 

Slowly, Charlie discovers what I had seen all along, the magic within the mountains. Howard, her new best friend is insightful and honest beyond his years. Soon Charlie finds loyalty among friends, family, and a dog. She begins to know and love a world that she always wished for. As a reader, how could I not too fall deeper in love with Charlie and her family? As Charlie kept her making her own secret wish, I too began finding ways to make my own wish as well. A soft blow on a dandelion or silent wish on a twinkling star. Would Charlie’s wish come true? Would mine?

I had wished for a book to love and share, and I found that story within Barbara O’Connors’ Wish. This story was a work of the heart. Barbara’s craft and storytelling are nothing short of magical. Wish transports you to summer in the Blue Ridge Mountains and you won’t want to leave. Pieces of Wish are still lingering within my heart. Pulling at the strings and weaving its way into a forever favorite. Sharing Wish with teachers and students has allowed me to live a little longer in the foggy haze between fiction and reality.

Alas, did my wish come true? My secret wish is that my students will find a warm spot on the front porch and allow Wish to settle in their hearts and transport them to a world filled with fireflies and friendship.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Mock Newbery Book Talks

To help get students excited about Mock Newbery, I'm book talking six books from my list! Feel free to download an editable PowerPoint or check out the PDF! Just click the image below!

Happy Book Talking!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

10 Back to School Picture Books for Big Kids!

I survived my first week! I'm in love with my new group of fifth graders and all the learning and growing we've done already. I'm also really excited about all the picture books we've been reading so far this year! Here's ten of my favorite picture books to start off the year!

What are some of your favorite picture books to start off the year?
Check out the hashtag #pb10for10 for more great titles! 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Mock Newbery Book Club

I've posted on Twitter & Instagram several photos of books coming in for my Mock Newbery book club and it's been generating a lot of talk on social media. Many people simply want to know -- What is it? How did I get started? Where did I find all the books? I hope that this post can help answer some common questions and help get others started with Mock Newbery.

Before I answer some questions, I do want to be upfront. I've never participated in Mock Newbery before but I knew this is something I wanted had to do in my classroom. So, where did I get my information? Well, I started out by asking friends about their experiences. I went to a session on Mock Newbery at Nerd Camp and then I did lots and lots of research on the internet including joining groups on Goodreads and checking out various blogs by "gurus" of education. Hopefully, my research can help you out!

What is it? That was the most asked question on social media. Mock Newbery is essentially a "mock" or fake Newbery committee made up of students. Students read books that are getting lots of buzz or praise that may be Newbery contenders for the medal in January. Students read the books and analyze the books as would committee members on the actual Newbery Committee. Students look for ways books are distinguished in topic, characters, style and theme. You can check out the Newbery Criteria {here} but be warned it's not super kid friendly. I'm working a way to get it more kid appropriate.

The rules for Mock Newbery are simple. Books must be written within the year of the medal, so all books must have a 2016 publishing date for the 2017 medal. Also, all authors must be American citizens or residents of the United States. Lastly, books to be considered should add a "contribution to American literature."

Everyone has their own opinions and ways of running a Mock Newbery Club. Therefore, I did quite a bit of research just to see how others ran a Mock Newbery Club. Here are a few resources that I found really helpful as I started my Mock Newbery journey back in May.

All links will directly take you to the Newbery posts/articles.

Kids Talk Kid Lit Blog 

North Oakview Library Mock Newbery

Literacy for Big Kids Mock Newbery

#MockNewbery Twitter search

School Library Journal Mock Newbery List

ALA Newbery Winners 1922 - Present

After reading some posts and getting my ideas forming, I decided it was time to start thinking about a list! I bounced lots of titles off friends and other Mock Newbery participants. I set my list at the end of last year knowing I wanted to create a Donors Choose to get my books by August. Thankfully, my project was funded and I will have plenty of books to share around. I do not know if all books would be considered "distinguished" by the actual Newbery panel but I chose books that spoke to me and would open up doors for my students. There are several other books that I wish I had on my list and I may add them or recommend them as time goes on but alas I had to stop somewhere!

Twitter gave me tons of inspiration!

Mock Newbery stack from my amazing friend and fellow 
#BookJourney member Scott Fillner (@sfillner)

Here's a few other lists I used to help get me started:

Mr. Shu's Goodreads Mock Newbery 2017 List

Goodreads Popular Mock Newbery Books

Mock Newbery & Caldecott 2017 List

For Those About to Mock 2017 Contenders

My List: 
To keep things manageable and keep discussions going, I set up a monthly reading list. Students will be asked to read at least one book on the monthly list in order to participate in that month's committee meeting. Students may always read ahead but I want students to be able to form sub-committees to discuss thoughts on the same book each month. I've also aligned my choices with book releases and units of study so that students can also be reading these books for class activities / book clubs as well.

In my list I tried to incorporate various styles, genres, topics and reading levels. Hence, you'll find higher level historical fiction like Wolf Hollow and some lower level realistic fiction like Weekends with Max and his Dad all on my list. Roller Girl was an honor book last year, so I did also add Ghosts (released in October) to my list as well. Added incentive, the Mock Newbery crew are the first to read my four copies! I'm also championing debut authors like Jenn Bishop, Melanie Conklin and Elly Swartz because their novels all touched me in a very special way.

There are so many ways you could run a Mock Newbery club. Some teachers do it school wide, grade wide, or even as an entire class. Others make it an optional after school activity. Your level of comfort and interest are your only limits.

This year, being my first year, I'm holding an optional book club with just my team of 120 students. Since our school has nearly 2,400 students -- school wide was not something I felt comfortable running my first year. In fifth grade alone we have nearly 800 students so I wasn't quite ready to tackle a grade level after school activity as well. Thus, I decided to start small with just my team. I'm hoping for about 30-40 participants out of our 120 students. Our school has quite a few rules about holding after school activities so for this year my teaching partner and I will run our Book Club during our FLEX (intervention) period in which we have two 30 minute blocks that we could combine for an up to an hour of book club time. We plan on holding 1-2 meetings a month for an 30 minutes - hour during this time period. I'm still working with other teachers to coordinate this effort but I think this will work best for our team. I'm hoping that every other Friday, we can meet just like a real life book club and discuss what we've been reading. I also have some author Skype sessions in the works as well as a few other "fun" activities planned leading up to the awards in January.

To get started, I created a letter to pass out at Open House so that parents know about this great opportunity as well as the students. The book list is on the back of the letter so that students may start reading early if they choose! It's never too early to start the buzz. I also plan on going over this whole class within the first few weeks of school and passing out another letter/tentative sign-up.

Since we do not know all the important dates of our building, I haven't set an official calendar but I'm hoping to set all my dates by the end of August. I also plan on having one meeting in August to introduce books and talk about some of the Newbery criteria and expectations. I'm currently working teasers for each our September books to get all the students excited about joining Mock Newbery Book Club!

What other questions do you have?
Who else is considering Mock Newbery?
I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments!

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