Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The One With Passion-Drive Research #slice 2014


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

*          *          *

Last Friday, excited by the thought of a day off and no specific plans set, I talked to my husband about going down to The Field Museum in Chicago to visit "Opening the Vaults: Wonders of the 1893 World's Fair." Growing up north of Chicago, I had never heard of the 1893 World's Fair - The Columbian Exposition until after college when I read Erik Larson's amazing book The Devil in the White City (which I'll be reviewing later this week). 

I was completely fascinated by the book as it shares in amazing amount of hard-to-believe facts surrounding the fair and a serial killer in Chicago at the same time. When I saw that The Field Museum had an exhibit devoted to the fair, I was so excited to go. 

For a variety of reasons, I decided to go on my own to visit the exhibit. Part of my reasoning was that I really only wanted to go and visit the World's Fair exhibit, I wasn't interested in spending the whole day at the museum. And another part was that I wanted to be able to take my time and soak it all in. 

So I went. I packed myself up, grabbed Starbucks on the way, and cruised down to Lake Shore Drive and was all parked and waiting in The Field Museum lobby at 8:56, waiting to buy my ticket. Stepping inside the museum brought back all sorts of memories of every other time I visited the museum. As I waited, I tried to remember all the different visits I had made to the museum. My favorite was when I got to sleep over in the museum with my Girl Scout troop, a night I will never forget.

I got my ticket and headed straight for the World's Fair exhibit. I looked at every artifact, read every word, took all sorts of pictures. It was perfect.

In the last few weeks, I've been visiting classrooms and talking to kids about having access to laptops for learning in their rooms. Many students have used the laptops for research. They've told me how much they enjoy doing research with the laptops and how they can find information much more easily. 

My visit to The Field Museum was a different kind of learning but it stemmed from the idea that I'm so fascinated by the Columbian Exposition in general. I've been doing my own research on the fair, visiting various websites, reading books. I even contacted the curator of the exhibit and a University of Chicago librarian who did extensive work on the exhibit for more information. I've never really done passion-drive research like this where I'm delving into finding out more about a historical event. 

There are a few classes I'm working with that are participating in Genius Hour or Passion Projects and after visiting the World's Fair exhibit and jumping in to learning as much about the fair as I can, I'm experiencing my own kind of Genius Hour first-hand. I have to say that it's fulfilling and it makes me want to learn even more.

Part of me felt selfish for taking advantage of the day off to go downtown all by myself. Part of me felt guilty for spending $19 for parking, $25 for my ticket into the museum, and another $20 on souvenirs. But part of me also felt exhilarated and alive and awesome for following my passion. 

It reminds me of one of Meenoo Rami's messages in Thrive. She spends a lot of time talking about how important it is for educators to take care of ourselves. To take time to dive into our passions. To take time to feed our souls. She explains that while we are exploring what is important to us, we just might realize something we can share with students.

Last Friday, I took the day and let myself explore the 1893 World's Fair, a topic that fascinates me. I learned about the fair but I ended up also experiencing the thrill of passion-driven research that I can now share with teachers and students. Meenoo's prediction was right!

What topic fascinates you? What would you love to take the time to learn more about? Have you shared your interests/passions with students? I would love to hear what interests you!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/21/14

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 now...you 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 listening to Peace, Love and Baby Ducks and started into The Devil in the White City. I've also been reading Night Circus and reveling in the amazing description. It's one of my favorite books. Over the weekend I finally got to read The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat and it was super sweet. I loved the color palate and fantastic illustrations throughout. 

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

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
Jen Says: This week, I should finish listening to The Devil in the White City. I'm about halfway through. Next, I hope to listen to Eleanor and Park again. I'm going to keep reading Night Circus and then I'm going to dive into The Fault in Our Stars. I'm also planning to read Caminar by Skila Brown to share for Poetry Friday! It's a busy week!

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 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. 

*                  *                   *

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:  
     "I CAN'T BELIVE SHE'S DOING THIS TO ME!
     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

*          *          *

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 now...you 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!