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?
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