Saturday, April 19, 2014

Let's Celebrate The Simple Things!

It's time to CELEBRATE This Week with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.  Every week Ruth invites us to share our celebrations from the week and link up at her blog. What a fun way to reflect on everything there is to be thankful for. 

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This week I'm celebrating simple things with Peanut!

*throws confetti*

This morning, I spent time with Peanut while my husband took Little Bean to the grocery store. Peanut wanted to play a dart catch-and-throw game with me. As we played, I asked him what are five things that he's happy about right now. I love his answers! And here they are:

1. Tomorrow is Easter.
2. I get to play darts with you.
3. I get to see Daisy (Grandma and Papa's new dog) tomorrow.
4. Yesterday I got to play with Jackson.
5. I get a donut. (That Dad and Little Bean are bringing back.)

I like how he's happy about these simple things. 

Here are my five Peanut-style celebrations from this week!

1. I visited The Field Museum and the 1893 Columbian World's Fair exhibit.
2. I ate at a vegan place called Karyn's on Cooked with my friend, Karyn.
3. Our family snuggled on the couch to watch a movie last night.
4. It's sunny! 
5. I slept in this morning.

And then Little Bean came home and I asked him!

1. Give people hugs.
2. Give people kisses.
3. Play ninjas and be nice.

What are you celebrating this week?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Poetry Friday: A Is For Awesome

Today Poetry Friday is hosted by children's author and poet, Robyn Hood Black. Thank Robyn for sharing all the great Poetry Friday posts! Be sure to check on over at Robyn's blog for other terrific poetry posts!

Title: A Is For Awesome 
Author: Dallas Clayton 
Illustrator: Dallas Clayton 
Publisher: Candlewick 
Publication Date: March, 11th, 2014 
Genre/Format: Poetry/Picture Book 
GoodReads Summary: Inspirational artist Dallas Clayton infuses his trademark whimsical art and positive message into an absolutely awesome alphabet book.

Alliterative and rhyming words of wisdom surrounded by all new art fill this energetic alphabet book by Dallas Clayton. Bursting with color and life, each spread offers a rhythmic phrase and an abundance of artwork illustrating the featured letter. The message of dreaming big and living life to its fullest permeates every page, inviting readers to "learn some new letters that you can use to make magical words and share big ideas." 
What I Think: I'm a complete optimist and I'm not afraid to admit it because I think it's a great way to look at the world. Sometimes I get caught off guard when something suddenly seems big and overwhelming or I'm struck by an idea someone has that completely challenges or shocks me...and I've noticed lately that I've had those encounters and I've felt rattled. My change in position this year puts me in so many schools and encountering so many teachers with different perspectives and different experiences in education. I wholeheartedly believe that all kids can learn and that it's a teachers job to give kids experiences that scaffold learning for them so that they can access the learning we want them to. Surprisingly enough, I see people making decisions that don't reflect this and it hurts.
    I don't want to get off track but my point is that I so needed to read this book. I've read Dallas Clayton's An Awesome Book! and I was expecting something uplifting and I really enjoyed this so much. As I read, I thought of so many people I would love to gift this book to. Likewise, I was thinking this is a book I need to read every morning to remind me that A is for Awesome and everything is All good.
     When I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2003, I came up with a mantra that I repeated to myself every time I went out for a run, "I am beautiful, I am strong, I can run a marathon." Lately, when I run, I find myself spelling out the letters, "I-M-A-R-U-N-N-E-R." This kind of self talk completely helps me when I run but encouraging students to have their own catchphrase that they use to cheer themselves on is great. This year, I've modeled free writing for students and we say, "Bring it on blank page!" and then after we write, we say, "We proved it on the page!" Both of these phrases seem to help kids feel that they can write and then to celebrate when they have written.
     A is for Awesome is an opportunity to share some positive self talk with students. Students could choose one of the rhymes from the book and decide if they want to memorize it or if they want to write their own variation. I love the idea that they might have this phrase to encourage themselves and believe in themselves whether it's in writing or something else.
Read Together: Grades K - 3 
Read Alone: Grades K - 4 
Read With: The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds, Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud 
Snatch of Text:  
"D is for dreaming things never expected"
"L is for living life up to its fullest"
"M is for making the most of your day"
"V is for values and keeping them true" 
Writing Prompts: Write your own personal positive self-talk phrase using the ideas in A is for Awesome.  
Topics Covered: Optimism, Determination 
I *heart* It:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Rereading Princess Diaries

Title: Princess Diaries 
Author: Meg Cabot 
Publisher: Turtleback Books 
Publication Date: June 1st, 2000 
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel 
GoodReads Summary: She's just a New York City girl living with her artist mom...

News Flash: Dad is prince of Genovia. (So that's why a limo meets her at the airport!)

Downer: Dad can't have any more kids. (So no heir to the throne.)

Shock of the Century: Like it or not, Mia Thermopolis is prime princess material.

Mia must take princess lessons from her dreaded grandmére, the dowager princess of Genovia, who thinks Mia has a thing or two to learn before she steps up to the throne.
Well, her father can lecture her until he's royal-blue in the face about her princessly duty--no way is she moving to Genovia and leaving Manhattan behind. But what's a girl to do when her name is Princess Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo? 
What I Think: Honestly, I fell in love with this movie first and then went back and read the series. After I had been out of college for a few years and I truly got back into reading children's and young adult literature, I found Princess Diaries. Meg Cabot completely cracks me up. I love what she does in her realistic fiction books. After Princess Diaries, I read as many other books by her as I could. I haven't read many of her paranormal books but anything realistic fiction by Meg Cabot I love.
     A lot of her books have pop culture references which really make them funny but I also see how some of them aren't as relevant today as they were when they were first published. I do still think readers will relate to her books even if they don't quite catch the depth of her jokes because of the link to pop culture.
     I love that Meg Cabot's characters are so real and that innocent and ridiculous things happen to them. I sometimes feel like that's my life...just one big story of the craziest things happening. I'm lucky to have silly, crazy things happen, things I can laugh about later and that's what happens a lot in Princess Diaries and the rest of the series. Mia is really just trying to do her best and trying to find where she fits in in the world...and isn't that what we'e all trying to do? But especially teenagers?
     In thinking about Princess Diaries as a mentor text, I love how Meg Cabot brings her characters to life with voice. Maybe part of it is how honest and funny they are but she does things like add in lists and she has a knack for teenage-girl-stream-of-consciousness. Another great takeaway from Princess Diaries is to encourage students to really open their eyes to stories all around them. When I started keeping a writer's notebook and looking around for stories, I noticed little everyday things that happen and I can see how they might be made funnier when incorporated into a story. Some of the funniest stories are all around us because they are common things that readers might relate to.
Read Together: Grades 6 - 8 
Read Alone: Grades 7 - 12 
Read With: Others in the Princess Diaries series, All-American Girl by Meg Cabot, Peace, Love and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle, Anna and the French Kiss and others by Stephanie Perkins, Take a Bow and others by Elizabeth Eulberg, Sean Griswold's Head and others by Lindsey Leavitt
Snatch of Text:  
     Like everybody doesn't already think I'm a freak! I'm practically the biggest freak in the entire school. I mean, let's face it: I'm five foot nine, flat-chested, and a freshman. How much more of a freak could I be?
     If people at school find out about this, I'm dead. That's it. Dead.
     Oh, God, if you really do exist, please don't let them find out about this.
     There are four million people in Manhattan, right? That makes about two million of them guys. So out of TWO MILLION guys, she has to go out with Mr. Gianini. She can't go out with some guy I don't know. She can't go out with some guy she met at D'Agostino's or wherever. Oh, no.
     She has to go out with my Algebra teacher.
     Thanks, Mom. Thanks a whole lot.
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Making Inferences, Visualizing  
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative, Dialogue, Characterization, Voice 
Writing Prompts:Write about a time in your life when you were nervous to tell a friend something because of how you thought they might react.
Topics Covered: Family, Friendship, Relationships, Love, Trust, Loyalty, Honesty, Courage, Determination, Self-Esteem 
I *heart* It:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The One Where Words Don't Come #slice2014

Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. If you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post on Tuesdays or you can just head on over there to check out other people's stories. For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here

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All day I've thought of writing about chores and how I'd rather do laundry than any other type of housework and now I'm trying to make the words come out of my head and it's just not happening. 

I'm trying to find my way into a story where I profess my love of doing laundry and expound upon why laundry is the best kind of chore and I would pick it any day over doing dishes, cleaning toilets, dusting. 

I'm sitting here with my eyes closed, remembering the smell of warm laundry right out of the dryer...feeling the soft fabric...folding and folding and folding. 

I can hear the snap of the dryer door and the clack clack clack as I spin the knob and the slam of my palm on the button that starts the whir of the machine with the clothes spinning and spinning.

But that's it. That's all I can say. I wish I had the energy to make the connection with laundry and a profound, pivotal moment in my life but it's not happening. 

What I can say is that sometimes it's not about working your way into a story or proving a point or reaching the depths of your soul. Sometimes it's about writing whatever comes to your head, letting it all out and seeing where it takes you. It doesn't always have to make sense, it doesn't always have to be toiled over, it doesn't always have to move mountains

But it needs to be written. So write.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/14/2014

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 

Last Week's Book Adventures:
Jen Says: Last week I finished A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban. She's amazing. I also finished listening to Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot and am currently listening to Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle. I'm having fun rereading in April! 

Reviewed Last Week:
Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
Jen Says: I'm sure I'll finish Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks soon and then I'm going to listen to The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. I've actually been writing lately so I haven't been reading as much but I pulled Night Circus off my shelf last week and am excited to reread it. The writing is amazing, such great imagery in that book!

This Week's Reviews:
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Let's Celebrate Classroom Visits!

It's time to CELEBRATE This Week with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.  Every week Ruth invites us to share our celebrations from the week and link up at her blog. What a fun way to reflect on everything there is to be thankful for. 
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This week I'm celebrating classroom visits!

*throws confetti*

This week I visited eight different teachers in my district who are integrating technology into their instruction. These specific teachers all applied for and received laptops to use in their classroom. We have about 50 teachers who received laptops and I get to visit their classrooms, offer ideas, and gather feedback from them and their students for how to support technology integration across the district. It is so exciting to hear from kids about how the laptops change the learning they do in their classrooms.

I saw students...
  • typing stories
  • giving feedback to peers by leaving comments in Google Docs
  • doing research on colleges and universities
  • presenting Genius Hour projects using Power Point
  • sending e-mails to ePals
  • using Edmodo to access resources to learn about the scientific method
  • peer reviewing presentations that were created with Google Presentation, Prezi and Padlet

More than that, I saw students...
  • helping another student save a document
  • thinking of a synonym to might use in a search to locate information
  • using standard English grammar and punctuation so that her ePal would know she is able to write formally in English
  • collaborating to create presentations that other students will be able to use as a resource
  • evaluating a product and offering feedback
I've visited schools throughout the school year and have provided professional development for teachers but being in these classrooms and interacting directly with these students was so refreshing. After seeing what they are doing and talking with them, I have so many more ideas and so many more discussions to have. As the year winds down, I've been reflecting on the year and thinking what I have learned in this new role. While I've accomplished a lot this year, it's exciting to see a vision of what still needs to happen this year and then what I can plan to do next year.

This week was the beginning of many classroom visits that I have planned for the next month and a half. I'm so excited to hear from more teachers and students as I reflect on the year and think through how to support teachers in order to provide transformative experiences for students. It's an exciting time!

What are you celebrating this week?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Rereading A Crooked Kind of Perfect

Title: A Crooked Kind of Perfect 
Author: Linda Urban 
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers 
Publication Date: September 1st, 2007
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel 
GoodReads Summary: Ten-year-old Zoe Elias has perfect piano dreams. She can practically feel the keys under her flying fingers; she can hear the audience's applause. All she needs is a baby grand so she can start her lessons, and then she'll be well on her way to Carnegie Hall.

But when Dad ventures to the music store and ends up with a wheezy organ instead of a piano, Zoe's dreams hit a sour note. Learning the organ versions of old TV theme songs just isn't the same as mastering Beethoven on the piano. And the organ isn't the only part of Zoe's life in Michigan that's off-kilter, what with Mom constantly at work, Dad afraid to leave the house, and that odd boy, Wheeler Diggs, following her home from school every day.
Yet when Zoe enters the annual Perform-O-Rama organ competition, she finds that life is full of surprises--and that perfection may be even better when it's just a little off center.  
What I Think: Six years later and I still love this book! Here is what I wrote about Crooked Kind of Perfect when I read it in April of 2008, " I loved this book! It is so cute. It is about Zoe, who dreams of playing the piano...but her agoraphobic dad gets roped into buying an organ instead! She ends up learning to play the organ and competing in the local Perform-O-Rama competition. I love how she goes through 10-year-old drama that any girl can probably relate to. What really got to me though when her dad is too freaked by all the people to watch her performance and her mom misses her birthday and then almost misses her perform because of her dedication to her work. I realized how most kids are just so desperate for their parents' love. Kids can be so forgiving when their parents let them down. It made me think about how much my parents mean to me and how much I really mean to Jordan now. I have to say, I did shed a tear at the end. There is also a little 10-year-old crush just to add a little romance to it all! This is a great story!"
     When I think of Linda Urban's writing, I love being able to think of her characters from A Crooked Kind of Perfect but also from Hound Dog True and The Center of Everything. All of her characters are so memorable. Linda does an amazing job of bringing her characters and their emotions to life. Her writing makes it hard for a reader to not empathize with her characters. As I read Zoe's story, I could feel her vulnerability. She wants her parents to support and believe in her, she wants friends she can connect with. Sadly, she doesn't have those things but we see how she stays true to herself and how things work out for her. I feel so connected to Linda Urban's characters and they have stayed with me to this day. 
     When I first read this book, Peanut was almost one and now he's almost seven. As a parent, I read this book with a lens for how much Zoe wants to connect with her parents. This book is just as great for adults as for young readers. I think the honesty in this book is what readers will connect with the most. As a mentor text, Linda is a master at developing characters and helping us see into their heads and their hearts.
Read Together: Grades 4 - 6 
Read Alone: Grades 4 - 7 
Read With: Hound Dog True by Linda Urban, Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead
Snatch of Text:  
"I am not excited. I am the opposite of excited. Never trust an exclamation point."
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Visualizing  
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative, Characterization 
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you were forced to do something you didn't want to do or that was different from what you expected. 
Topics Covered: Family, Friendship, Courage, Determination 
I *heart* It: