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?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Five Favorite Tech Takeaways

On this Friday night after a whirl-wind two days of technology learning at OETC (Ohio Educators' Technology Conference) this week, I'm decompressing and thinking of some of my favorite takeaways from the conference. While not every session was A-MAZING, there were so many really cool tips and tricks I picked up from attending. I definitely left knowing so much more than I did on Wednesday morning when I arrived. I also feel really excited to learn more and share my learning with my students and colleagues. Thankful that my district invited me to come along and get my "tech" on.

Here are my favorite {and easy to implement} five... 

Ever want to print or have students read an article online but there is too much garbage on the page?Do you find yourself trying to copy and paste the article in Goolge Docs only to have the formatting turn into a total nightmare!? Don't distress. The Chrome extension Read with MagicScroll  takes away the distracting clutter (ads, links, etc.) and gives students a clean reading page that looks like an e-book! Bonus: the font size can also be adjusted! This was a new extension for me and as I've been playing around with it on my personal Chromebook. There may be a few formatting issues when converted but it makes reading websites and articles so much easier! There is also a cool percentage tracker for kids at the bottom of the converted webpage.

I think most teachers have seen word clouds used in various ways before. However, as a Text Complexity session the website was brought up as a way to quickly and visually check a text's vocabulary and complexity. It was really cool to see a potential article or reading piece as a word cloud. The site is super simple to use too. Just copy and paste a text into the box and with a single click... a word cloud appears! Below is a sample word cloud from Kids Discover Magazine online.

After listening to teacher Andrew Moore (@think_moore) present on the Added Value of Technology, I was feeling inspired to get my kids thinking and presenting in new and innovative ways that fit their learning styles and needs. I've included a link to his presentation because he has lots of great practical examples of how you can change up your assessment of standards and offer choice. Reading teachers especially know and love the word CHOICE as we know it empowers student readers, but we can also offer choice in how students are demonstrating knowledge of books and ELA standards. 

Yes, there are times when students need to do those writing about reading activities but if we're assessing if students can compare and contrast themes across novels could they not make a YouTube video? Sing a song? Create a comic? Create a Google Drawing? You get the point. There are NUMEROUS ways for students to demonstrate and prove their understanding. I know I'm usually good about offering choice of resources but sometimes forget about the choice in presentation. He also reminded me that although technology is amazing, we do need balance in our classrooms. We should only be using tech when it adds value to our students learning or our instruction. 

Have kids that struggle to stay focused while on a Chromebook or device? Or during a long writing assignment? A fabulous extension to Chrome called Move It is the solution! I've been using Move It the past two days on my personal Chromebook and I'm digging it! You set up how often you would like a "Move It" break under the settings (I had every 15 minutes) and the app will flash on the screen and give you a movement. 

Today, I had to march in place ten times and roll my shoulders during a thirty minute period. See below for an example of a Move It suggestion. 

The best presenter, hands down, that I heard over the two days was Google Trainer Eric Curts! He offered up so many easily ways to add great Google tools into your classroom. He presented a session titled Beyond the Slideshow (great ways to get kids thinking outside the slideshow!) and another session on Google Tools for Struggling Students. He's also on twitter and you can follow him at @EricCurts and he has a wonderful and up-to-date blog Control Alt Achieve full of lots of tech ideas! Definitely check him out and follow - ASAP!

Hope you can use one of my tech takeaways! 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Doggone Good Books

It seems like every year, I'm looking for the dog books for several of my students. Dog lovers (or dog wanters) -- kids love books about furry best friends. I must admit, I'm a sucker for a great dog book. Just keep away the "dead dog books" and I know you know what which books I'm talking about! So, I've been trying to keep up with the latest and greatest dog books for my lovers of Love that Dog and Because of Winn Dixie.

If you also have students looking for dog books, here are a few great reads:

What is your favorite dog book? Any dog books on your #TBR list?
Share your suggestions below! 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Making Time for Reading

I get asked, how do you read so much? Or I'll hear colleagues comment that they don't time to read. We're all busy. I get it. But, if you're committed to literacy, you make time for reading whether it be related to school or for personal reading. Kids benefit from teachers that read. I whole-heartedly believe this. Teachers that are current on books and authors can help match kids with books, share in authentic book conversations, and model the importance of a reading life.

To help make time for reading, I've been listening to at least one audiobook while reading novels. I try and finish an audio within two weeks or abandon if I'm not feeling it. This has greatly helped to increase my book count and tackle books that are longer than my weekly stamina. I've been using the Overdrive app. Overdrive is a free app that allows you to link your library card to available audiobooks and e-books. There are also other apps like Audible and Hoopla as well.

Here's a few of my recent favorite audiobooks:

Design by Laugh Eat Learn // Theme by Pipdig