Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Teacher's Wish

This year there seemed to be a common theme in several of the novels we read together - wishing. We analyzed our characaters' wishes and learned: Wishing helps you hope. Wishing doesn't make things come true. Wishing things for others shows you care about them. 

As we read our last read aloud, I Wish You More, together as a team, I began to think about my wishes for my students. Many of my wishes are for the future of my students as many I will not see again for several years if ever again. I want them to have new teachers and experiences that challenge and change them. I hope that some of my wishing on acorns, stars, and flowers will bring my students some good luck in the future.

A Teacher's Wish

To my students

I wish you more
good days than bad.

I wish you more magic
and mischief
than repetition.

I wish you more stories
and love and laughter
than the boredom of being

I wish you more challenges
than easy answers. 

I wish you more books
than I could ever buy.

I wish for you to stay
readers, creators, and believers
no matter how old. 


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Celebrating Our Reading

As the end of the year starts to feel more real, it's important to stop and celebrate all the good that's happened in the year. I know it can be hard with parties and stir crazy students, but it feels amazing to stop and reflect on all the great things happening that just feel routine at this point.

Something, really important in my room is celebrating our reading successes. The initial idea came from Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild. We didn't compare goals because we're all different readers. For some a HUGE reading success was reading 10 books this year, for others it was reading 79, 87 or even 104 books.  We counted any books they wanted. Some students included picture books as well as novels - other kids wanted their count to be strictly novels. I told them that all reading is valuable and worth celebrating - so we did just that.

We took 20 minutes of class time and made our awards (I made one too! I read 61 books this school year) and then we went outside to capture this memory! If I've done my math correctly, we've read over 2,000 books this year! The best part for me is that you can't pick out my students that told me they were non-readers at the beginning of the year - because they are all readers now. Thanks impart to a growing classroom library, Mock Newbery book club and some of my at-times-relentless-crazy book loving nature.

I'll print these as 8x10s and hang them in my classroom next year. I really wish I had started this tradition 11 years earlier. Hopefully, it will become a new tradition of readers celebrating and looking up to other readers. We also had sixth very dedicated readers complete the 40 Book Challenge and step outside their reading comfort zones this year. #BucketFilled

We also wrote Farewell Letters today. Each student wrote a reflection to his/her homeroom teacher. They could reflect on the year, their favorites/not so favorites, and even share their summer plans. These letters were truly heartfelt and amidst the crazy of our party today, it made me realize just how much I'll miss this group of students.


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.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Technology Thursday: Flipgrid

A little background: Our school set up an optional book club for The Innovator's Mindset. And of course, at the word book club, I was there!  At meetings we discuss the book for about 15 minute and then have another 20-30 minutes to learn about innovative ideas in teaching. At our last meeting, we were able to get some ideas about some cool websites, etc. students could use to get in some "tech" time but also give our students more voice in the classroom. During this session, we were introduced to Flipgrid and the basics of how it worked. It seemed pretty awesome but I didn't have a lot of time to investigate.

Thankfully, I work with a lot of fantastic risk takers! My wingmate and fellow 5th grade teacher, Miss Burlew, got it set up and tested it out with her class. Then she shared the videos! I was so amazed with what students had to say about their book club novels in 1 minute and 30 seconds or less! I knew I had to get my Flipgrid account set up ASAP! Setting up the account is SUPER easy and literally took less than 10 minutes -- maybe closer to 20 if you want a cool customer header like me.

I can then post my personalized link to my Google classroom or my Schoology page for my students to access. Students click the link and they are are instantly part of my class! So easily. There is an option to add a class password but since I'm not sharing my link, I currently don't see a need to add one more password to my fifth graders' lives.

This week, instead of having students write out a reading response, I'm going to have them answer some of the questions using Flipgrid! Language Arts Teachers, this also helps meet and document those speaking and listening standards!

What is Flipgrid?

It's a website that allows students to record short videos in response to a question or topic. It reminds of a video version of Padlet in the way it looks and is set up. It's also super user friendly and there is a free version (that's not a trial) for teachers to use.

Currently, I'm testing out the free version, although I think the upgrade may be worth it to use the entire school year. Students easily click the link of the topic they want to respond too and click a big green plus sign and start recording! It's so easily! It counts them down and shows them how much time they have left on their video. If they like it, they can publish it to the Flipgrid board - if they don't like it, they can redo it as many times as they need too! Then students can like and watch each other's videos - I disabled sharing and since I don't have the upgraded account students can't leave comments and I can't leave feedback.

The set up is so teacher friendly! 

Here's what my page looks like when my students go to my Flipgrid website. The homepage is a hub of all the topics/questions the teacher has posted for students to answer. Currently, I only have two topics.

The questions are below. There is a word limit so directions and questions need to be creative. I also gave my student a handout with the questions restated so that they could write a quite script. I also noticed I had left out the word "book" from Book Club so I had to do some creative editing! Mistakes happen and editing is also easy peasy! 

When students are ready to reply to a topic they click the big green plus sign and they're ready to go! It'll give them a 3-2-1 countdown and set 1 minute and 30 seconds on the clock. If you pay for the upgrade you can adjust the time limits you give your students. So far, 1 minute and 30 seconds has been plenty of time for this quick reading response.

Teachers see the number of responses, time spent recording, topics created, and an activity line graph. Pretty cool data when you log in. It really gives me a snapshot of who's been online now that students are starting to post their reading response videos.

I'm working on a feedback form so that students can watch others' videos and give some feedback to each other. I'm hoping this will also help give my students some more practice thinking and discussing their book club novels. Flipgrid is an easy (and free) way to empower your students and let them share their thinking with the class!

How do you honor #studentvoice in your classroom?

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Enlisting Expert Readers

I read a lot. Although this year, honestly, I'm little (okay, a lot) behind my pace from last year. But I'm not letting that stop me from adding books to my library - thanks to the amazing nerdy community on Twitter. Twitter is the pulse of #KitLit -- but usually these are the opinions of adults. Expert adults, but adults nonetheless. I know my readers & I usually understand what books and authors kids will like but obviously, I'm not a fifth grader. Therefore, this year I've enlisted some "experts" to help me curate my library and decide on books to add to (or drop from) book clubs. Just like, I go to experts like Mr. Shu or Donalyn Miller for book talks and advice as a teacher, I go to my expert readers for help getting a kid's perspective on new books and authors.

I get feedback all the time from the students in my classroom but my experts are the readers of readers. This year, I've enlisted the help of two expert advisers this year. Both have really helped me this year read and review book choices especially for those students that have read "everything." Plus, it gives those well read students a voice and leadership role within the classroom. They often help with book talking or promoting within our classroom.

This year my experts have recommended and promoted The Girl that Drank the Moon and When the Sea Turned to Silver, two books that they read before me! They have impeccable taste! Although, my experts may not represent all the kids in my class - they represent a population of eager readers that are building their own TBR lists and piles and piles of books. Currently, one expert is weighing in on the Ethan I was Before while another is reading my ARC of Someday the Birds to see if it should go on next year's #MockNewbery. They've been such a blessing this year -- I literally finish (or even just share) a book and pass it along to get their honest opinions.

When I asked them both to share a few favorites - the resounding (and in unison) answer was "THE GIRL THAT DRANK THE MOON!" They both told me this book would win the Newbery, and they were right. Then after a pause, "Any Mock Newbery book." This includes a few favorites such as The Hour of the Bees and Paper Wishes. Giving students ownership of class libraries is important. As teachers, we need to remember to get student feedback and really know our students as readers. I'm hoping with some expert advice we'll keep curating a great list of books to share with some eager readers this year (and next!).

How do you enlist "experts" within your classroom?

Friday, February 24, 2017

March Book Madness

Are you gearing up for some March Madness? What about March Book Madness? My students are so absolutely pumped up about participating in this year's March Book Madness. Last year, I created my own March Madness spin-off and it was pretty easy to put together but I had to create all the brackets, voting forms, etc. This year, after attending Nerd Camp (Michigan), I decided to join the global March Book Madness started by two teachers (Tony and Scott) from Ohio. My fellow Buckeyes have made jumping into a tournament of books so easy!

They've literally done all the work for us! Thanks guys! There is a link of tips (for newbies) and the books and brackets are already completed! Plus, they've linked loads of book trailers and also have a map so kids can see all the schools participating! My students have been watching trailers and reading some unfamiliar titles so that they're ready to fill out their middle grade brackets next week. We'll then need to make some tough first round decisions! There are also brackets for picture books and YA titles. I may actually give my students the picture book list on the back because we've read so many!

I started creating my bracket today after school but... I ran out of tape. #teacherfail. Thankful for Amazon! I'm hoping to get it finished up next week so that we can start moving our books toward the final match-up and get our reading game on!

If you're looking for a cute display The Brown Bag Teacher (Catherine Reed) has a Book Madness Freebie in her TPT store! I just printed mine at FedEx Office and laminated! I also used Scotch expressions colored masking tape to make my straight (or almost straight) bracket lines. A trick, is to use push-pins on the books so you can easily move them around!

Happy Reading,

Monday, February 20, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's been far too long since I've joined #IMWAYR hosted by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers . The year started off with me in a deep reading slump. I had read so many wonderful books in 2017 that I was feeling a major book hangover early on in 2018. I'm feeling back in the groove, so I figured I'd share what I'm reading this week with It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Middle Grade Fiction

The Ethan I Was Before by Ali Standish

I finished up a five star read early in the week. If you haven't put The Ethan I was Before on your TBR, you need to add it right now! The book is so well written and unique as it blends several subplots (including flashblacks) into one story that is unforgettable. It focuses on main character, Ethan, as he begins to examine how he was before witnessing a tragic event. Ethan's PTSD makes him an unreliable narrator at times as he comes to grips with his life before the accident in Massachusetts and his new life in North Carolina. This book will strike a chord with lovers of The Thing About Jellyfish, The Bridge to Terabitha and Walk Two Moons.

Image result for The Ethan I was Before

This is a great book you'll want in your classroom library. I felt like this book tackled many tough issues but on an appropriate level for middle grade readers. The story will be one that'll stay with you long after you've put it down! I can't wait to see what debut author Ali Standish releases next!

When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin

My love affair with dog books continue. I did a post earlier this month about my students' obsession with dog books, you can check it out {here}. Because I also love a good dog story, I downloaded When Friendship Followed Me Home as my next audiobook. The author himself is the narrator on the audiobook. This book had me hooked from the very beginning.

Image result for when friendship followed me home

Well crafted characters and an adorable homeless dog make this story unputdownable! I'm about half way through the audiobook and plan on finishing it this week even if I have to drive around town as an excuse to finish it up! Readers that loved Maxi's Secrets or The Honest Truth, will love this "more than a dog" story!

Up next in my TBR pile... 

Fenway and Hattie and the Evil Bunny Gang by Victoria J. Coe

What are you reading this Monday?
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