Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hope is a Ferris Wheel

Title: Hope is a Ferris Wheel
Author: Robin Herrera   
Publisher: Abrams 
Publication Date: March 11th, 2014 
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel 
GoodReads Summary: Ten-year-old Star Mackie lives in a trailer park with her flaky mom and her melancholy older sister, Winter, whom Star idolizes. Moving to a new town has made it difficult for Star to make friends, when her classmates tease her because of where she lives and because of her layered blue hair. But when Star starts a poetry club, she develops a love of Emily Dickinson and, through Dickinson’s poetry, learns some important lessons about herself and comes to terms with her hopes for the future. 
What I Think: Moving to a new town, finding friends, fitting's just not easy. I do believe finding some solace in reading a book that you can identify with in some way helps though. I can think of the exact student I would have handed this book to three years ago. She was new to the school, she was a sweet girl and desperately wanted friends but she was a little quirky. The kind of quirky that is easier for adults to understand but not always as accepted by same-age peers. I think that student would have enjoyed Hope is a Ferris Wheel. I also think other kids would identify with this story though, too because at some point in our lives, I think we all feel like we're trying to find ourselves and figure out where we fit in.
     This is definitely a book that I think can ladder up or ladder down depending on the student. I totally just made up the idea of laddering up or down but the concept comes from Teri Lesesne and her reading ladders. This book seems like a book I might recommend to a sixth grader but also one I would share with a middle grader depending on the reader. It's kind of a book that bridges between middle grade and young YA.
     As a mentor text, I pulled a couple quotes where the main character is comparing hope to a Ferris wheel using a metaphor. Hope is such an abstract concept and a feeling that can be wonderful and suffocating at the same time. I imagine sharing these ideas from the book would inspire some great thinking around what it means to hope and dream and whether it's worth believing in. I imagine this discussion might ignite some very powerful personal narratives in any age level student.
Read Together: Grades 4 - 6 
Read Alone: Grades 5 - 7 
Read With: Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, Miss Emily by Burleigh Muten, The Naked Mole Rat Letters by Mary Amato,  Wonder by RJ Palacio, The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner, Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby
Snatch of Text:  
"I took out my notebook and opened it to a fresh page to write, Hope is a Ferris wheel. It was supposed to be the start of another Emily Dickinson-style poem, like my Winter poem, but after a few minutes of tapping my eraser on the desk, I gave up trying  to think of what the next line was and just wrote, It spins and spins and spins." (p. 113-114)

"Maybe hope is a Gravitron. It looks fun at first - until you're inside, and it's spinning so fast, your head pounds. Then the ride ends, and you vomit. And when you get off the ride, you can't even walk because you're so dizzy, and nothing looks right anymore." (p. 153)
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you felt hopeful. What did it feel like? Can you describe it with a metaphor? 
Topics Covered: Family, Love, Siblings, Friendship, Fitting In, Determination, Courage 
I *heart* It:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The One With a Some Presto Chango!

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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Despite the fact that it was super warm here yesterday, I'm celebrating fall and that it's almost November. As I sat in my office trying to think up what I would write about today, I realized it was time to switch my valance around. Remember back in April when I sewed a valance for my office window? If not, you can click here.

My office looked way different then! Since April, I moved all my furniture out of my office and basically have just one table in the middle where I can meet with others and work. Everyday, I walk into an empty table. It's kind of like setting up shop at Starbucks when I go there to work...minus the amazing coffee smell, and the friendly baristas, and the lovely music, and the  jazzy music. It does have a little bit of ambiance to it thanks to my valance and it makes me happy to have that little slice of me in my office.

Here's what it looked like yesterday when I was working on this blog post:

But I intentionally made the valance reversible so that I could switch to a non-flowery pattern when the fall and winter months rolled around. And here we are! I switch to this funky black and white geometric pattern. 
It was a bit of a presto chango and it made me feel re-energized a bit. I have some books stacked in the corner that I'm going to talk about next week. Just a little slice of my everyday life at work. 

What do you love about where you work? What do you do to make it your own?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 10/27/14

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 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: I read more of Landline by Rainbow Rowell but didn't get as far as I had hoped. I'm also reading The Understanding by Design Guide to Creating High-Quality Units by Wiggins and McTighe. We have had training on UbD at work and I'm trying to learn more about it because I think it's really powerful.

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

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
Jen Says: This week I'll share a couple reviews but starting on November first I'm letting Picture Book Month hijack the blog. If you're here on Mondays, you know I've been pretty sporadic with my blog posts lately so I'm mixing it up a bit for November. After the titletalk chat on Sunday night, I was inspired to do #bookaday with picture books in November. I loved when I used to do daily book pics so I'm hoping to mix in some fun pictures with new reads and share short book reviews here. We'll see how it goes but I'm already energized and thinking it'll be something fun to do. 

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!

Always Mom, Forever Dad

Title: Always Mom, Forever Dad 
Author: Joanna Rowland  
Illustrator: Penny Weber 
Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers 
Publication Date: May 15th, 2014 
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Picture Book 
GoodReads Summary: In today's world, more and more children have parents who live separately. As these children move between homes, they can't help but wonder: will mom still love me? Will Dad? In this reassuring picture book, young readers see children who have two households,whether because of divorce, separation, or other circumstances, experiencing life's ups and downs with both parents, secure in the knowledge that Mom will always be Mom, and Dad is forever Dad. 
What I Think: Books will always be a great way to share stories with kids because they give us the opportunity to talk about real life topics that might be difficult to discuss. They give us a starting point and a safe way to approach topics because we can think through the lens of the characters in the book. Kids can ask questions and share their thoughts in safe place because it doesn't have to be directly personal to them, it can be about the book or about the characters in the book but we can relate to them and learn from them. Always Mom, Forever Dad is a book just for that, starting conversations and sharing ideas.
     I really enjoy how this book helps children see how it's okay if your parents are divorced. It makes me sad to think that kids might feel badly if their parents are divorced or separated. Life takes is in all sorts of different directions and sometimes to places we never expect. I believe parents want what is best for their children but sometimes what's best for their children is taking care of themselves and making sure that they, as parents, are in healthy relationships. It's sad to see parents get divorced but sometimes I believe it's what's best. This book helps kids know that their parents will always love them even if they aren't married.
     As a mentor text, I can see how this might be a book that kids can read and make connections to but it can also be a great opportunity to get kids thinking of their own personal narrative stories about their parents. There are also lots of examples of AAAWWUBBIS that are great for middle grade students to look at.
     I was excited to share the cover reveal for this book back in March and now I'm excited to share the book itself! 
Read Together: Grades 2 - 4 
Read Alone: Grades 3 - 5 
Snatch of Text: 
"When I'm with my dad, he makes me pancakes for breakfast. He takes the whipped cream and puts a happy face on them. I decorate his pancake like a jellyfish and we laugh." 
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when something changed. How did you feel about the change? What helped you deal with the change or feel better about what had changed in your life?
Topics Covered: Family, Relationships, Love, Belonging 
I *heart* It:

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Let's Celebrate Real Role Models!

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 real role models!

*throws confetti*

In discussions with teachers, coaches, and administrators recently, I talk about how amazing Twitter is as professional development and how I've connected with educators via Twitter and blogging. We had our first district Twitter chat last week and the topic was being a Connected Educator. People often ask me what they should tweet about. They wonder aloud, "What do I have to say that anyone cares about?" These questions always throw me because most of the time, I don't think too critically about what I tweet, I just tweet, I share my story. Obviously, I take more time to blog but that's because I'm attempting to say significantly more in a succinct but hopefully interesting way. Last weekend at dinner, the topic of what we post on Facebook and Twitter and other social media and how it is perceived came up and that caused me to think even more deeply about what I put out for others to read.

On Monday, I shared thoughts I had after reading blog posts from Ruth, Donalyn, and Katherine. On Tuesday, Ruth shared a link to an article that outlined how relationships might be different if we shared more, supported each other through ups and downs, and celebrated along the way. I completely, wholeheartedly agree. 

I try to share different aspects of my life without getting too personal but while trying to keep it as real as possible. I'm conscious lately of keeping this balance. I want to share the me that contemplates life through reading and writing and teaching and learning but also the me that struggles to get blog posts up, read all the books I set out to read on Mondays, and come up with ideas to write about. I'm not perfect. I remind myself that I'm enough at least once a day. But I do try to pay attention to everything I have to be grateful for...because there truly is a lot. This usually means that the celebration comes through a lot whether I'm blogging or on Twitter. 

I would like to dedicate this post to strong, brave, passionate, real women like Ruth, Katherine and Donalyn, who I have the extreme pleasure to know. I consider myself incredibly lucky to count them as friends and as teachers, mothers, readers, and writers I look up to. My new favorite word is "iteration". I'm a big-time believer in the growth mindset and the word iteration seems to capture this idea of continually growing and updating as I go. The version of me that writes this today will be different from the version of me who writes next week's Celebrate post. Day by day, I aspire to be just a sliver as amazing as these wonderful ladies.

If you haven't visited their blogs lately, I invite you to stop by to visit them and their stories.

What are you celebrating this week?

Friday, October 24, 2014

El Deafo

Title: El Deafo 
Author: CeCe Bell 
Illustrator: CeCe Bell 
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams 
Publication Date: September 2nd, 2014 
Genre/Format: Autobiography/Graphic Novel 
GoodReads Summary: Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful—and very awkward—hearing aid.
The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear—sometimes things she shouldn’t—but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her as she is. After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she’s longed for.  
What I Think: I'm thrilled that CeCe shared her story! I especially love that she told it in graphic novel format. After working with students who are deaf and hard of hearing, I know how important it is for them to be able to connect with others who have similar experiences that they do. I worked primarily with hard of hearing students. Many wore hearing aids and FM systems similar to the Phonic Ear that CeCe wears in the book. The trickiest part about being hard of hearing (in my opinion), is that people don't quite understand how much your hearing loss impacts you. I remember so many times when a classroom teacher told me my student could hear just fine when really he or she maybe could hear but not clearly understand what he or she was hearing. Because a person who is hard of hearing can hear a lot of what is going on, I think it makes it seem like he or she knows what is going on in the conversation but there are times when they don't. I spent a lot of time working on coping strategies with my students. We would talk about what to do in different situations depending on what was happening. There are different strategies they can use to advocate for themselves depending on what makes listening difficult in a situation. 
     Being deaf or hard of hearing is not easy and there usually aren't many others who are also deaf or hard of hearing to connect with. Lots of times, students who are deaf or hard of hearing are in mainstream classes and rarely see another student who has a hearing aid or uses sign language. Having El Deafo is great because students can read about a character they can identify with. Many students who are deaf or hard of hearing rely on visual cues just like CeCe in the book. This is why I love that this book is in graphic novel format. It makes CeCe's story accessible to so many readers regardless of their age level.
     My sister is hard of hearing. Growing up, it wasn't something we talked about much or paid attention to. She wore a hearing aid for a short time but after feeling like it only amplified all the noise in the room, she stopped wearing it. It wasn't until I was in college, student teaching and working with hard of hearing students that I realized how she was impacted by her hearing loss. I went to school to work with students who are deaf but once I was student teaching, I realized how a hearing loss can impact a child who is hard of hearing, whose hearing loss isn't as severe as someone who is deaf. My sister would mis-hear certain phrases or song lyrics and she often asked us to repeat what we said. School seemed more difficult for her than me and she was often so tired at night. After reading El Deafo, I knew this book was one my sister needed to read. At first she wasn't excited to read it. Bringing attention to her hearing loss isn't something she enjoys but as she started reading it, she softened to the story. Knowing that there were others who felt how she felt seemed to help her know she wasn't alone.
     For readers who don't know anyone who is deaf or hard of hearing, this will be a great read. I hope and anticipate that they'll think differently about kids who have hearing loss and who might have to wear hearing aids or FM systems. For readers who are deaf of hard of hearing, this will be a great read, too -and possibly more so. I hope and anticipate that they'll find a real life character they can identify with and it might make them think differently about themselves and their hearing loss. It's pretty amazing to be able to identify with a character in a book and I don't think it's often enough that a child who is deaf or hard of hearing gets to do that. 
     This is a super special book and I hope you share it with readers of all ages! Kellee Moye contributed to the Teachers' Guide for El Deafo if you are interested in checking it out, click here. I also blogged about books with deaf or hard of hearing characters in them when I celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Schneider Family Book Award.
Read Together: Grades 3 - 5 
Read Alone: Grades 3 - 12 
Read With: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo, Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby, Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John 
Snatch of Text:  
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you didn't feel like you fit it or like someone left you out of a conversation. How did it make you feel? What did you do about it? 
Topics Covered: Family, Friendship, Adversity, Courage 
I *heart* It:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The One With a Love of Mentor Texts #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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When I started this blog in 2010, I thought a lot about what I believed about literacy. I had recently worked on my National Board certification in Early and Middle Childhood Literacy and my philosophy on reading and writing with students had evolved drastically from when I was doing my undergrad. Looking back, I'm so glad that my focus for this blog was on mentor texts. I continue to wholeheartedly believe in the power of authentic texts to support students - and teachers - and everyone - as readers and writers. 

In September, I shared my thoughts on Ruth Culham's recent book The Writing Thief: Using Mentor Texts to Teach the Craft of Writing and I'm now excited to share information about an upcoming Google Hangout on Air with authors Ruth Culham, Varian Johnson, Kate Messner, Lisa Yee, and David Harrison. This event will be hosted by the International Reading Association (IRA) and Scholastic and will focus on making the most of mentor texts. Doesn't that sound amazing?

This event will be streamed live on Tuesday, October 28th at 8 – 9 pm ET on IRA’s YouTube channel which you can find here: . No registration is required. One super exciting thing to look forward to is that audience members will have the chance to win a virtual visit with one of the five author participants. I've been told that details will be provided during the plan to be there! Be sure to follow @IRAToday on Twitter for more information and follow and tweet along with the Twitter hashtag #mentortexts.

I'm already thinking of questions I might like to ask of the guest authors! I find that the more I write and the more I read, the more I see connections between the two. Ever since participating in NaNoWriMo and Teachers Write, I pay significantly more attention to what I notice authors do in their writing as I read books. I'm so much more aware of decisions the authors made, I have a completely different understanding of the intention and dedication that goes into writing books I adore, and a heightened consciousness of the true craft of writing. I could go on and on about mentor texts but I'll wait until next week's virtual visit!