Monday, November 29, 2010

where i live

Where I LiveTitle: Where I Live     
Author: Eileen Spinelli   
Illustrator: Matt Phelan  
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 2007   
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel in Verse   
Summary: Diana is devastated when she finds out her dad has lost his job and they must move away from her house and her best friend, Rose.  Diana's family is there for her as she deals with her feelings about moving to a new place and making new friends.   
What I Think: First of all, I love novels written in verse.  They have fast become favorites for me and this one is another I will gladly recommend to my students and teacher friends.  I think lots of kids will be able to relate to moving or to being in new situations where they might feel uncomfortable like Diana.  I vividly remember being dropped off for camp and dreading having to say goodbye to my dad and leave the friendly coziness of his car.  I would make him stay as long as possible so I wasn't the first person there.  I was fairly shy as a kid and even though I made friends easily, that first time meeting people made me nervous.  
     The poems in this book are written well and I can see how kids could easily make connections with what Diana is feeling from start to finish.  Diana is a writer, she writes poetry herself.  I think this would be great for teachers to read with students to talk about writing.  You could isolate the poems that discuss when Diana goes to a poetry writing workshop and use her ideas for writing in your own class.    
Read Together: 1 - 6   
Read Alone: 2 - 6  
Read With: Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee; Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo; The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes; Charlotte's Web by E.B. White; 
Snatch of Text:  

Looking for Poems in
My New Neighborhood

I take my notebook outside
to the hot August day:
to Mr. Barr’s dog, Tucker,
who likes to lick my knees…
to Mrs. Martin’s gazebo,
painted pink as
strawberry ice cream…
to the tassled weeds
in the lot near the old church…
to the donut shop with the blue door…
to the copper beech tree that’s nearly
one hundred years old…
I take out my pencil.
I open my notebook
and my heart.

Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Visualizing 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative, Poetry, Descriptive, Setting
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you made a new friend.  Write about a time in your life when you had to do something for the first time.  Write a poem about your neighborhood.  Think of your favorite place and describe it.    
Topics Covered: moving, poetry, family, sisters, friendship, astonomy, novel in verse, writing
Translated to Spanish: No

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Babymouse #2: Our HeroBabymouse #1: Queen of the World!Title: Babymouse #1: Queen of the World! Babymouse #2: Our Hero    Author: Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Illustrator: Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication Date: 2005 - present
Genre/Format: Fiction/Graphic Novel-series   
Summary: Babymouse #2: Our Hero is about Babymouse having to face her fear of dodgeball!    
What I Think: I have to admit, I am new to Babymouse, and the first in this series was checked out of my library, but I loved #2, Our Hero.  Babymouse is a great character, she had me cracking up at her dramatic antics when it came to waking up for school, going to school, and facing dodgeball in P.E. (no, not gym class, P.E...I'm married to a P.E. teacher...).  Anyway, it's hard not to love Babymouse.  Graphic novels have been hard for me to read because there is so much to think about.  I truly believe they can be harder than reading text sometimes.  In Babymouse's case, they aren't hard to read though.  I found myself easily understanding the illustrations.  I can see how girls would fall in love with her!  
Read Together: 3 - 8
Read Alone: 3 - 8  
Read With: Moving Day (Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls) series by Meg Cabot; The Baby-Sitters Club: Kristy's Great Idea graphic novels by Ann. M. Martin;
Snatch of Text: It's just too hard to quote Babymouse without the illustrations to go along with it.  You can check out her website to get an idea of the illustrations and the text: BabyMouse website .
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Making Inferences 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative, Characterization
Writing Prompts: Write about a time when you had to do something you didn't want to do and how you handled the situation.
Topics Covered: Friendship, Bullies, Facing Challenges  
Translated to Spanish: No

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Magic Tree House Series

Magic Tree House #1: Dinosaurs Before Dark
Magic Tree House #37: Dragon of the Red DawnTitle: Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House, No. 1) 
Magic Tree House #37: Dragon of the Red Dawn    
Author: Mary Pope Osborne   
Illustrator: Salvatore Murdocca  
Publisher: Random House  
Publication Date: 1992 to present   
Genre/Format: Fantasy/Chapter Book - Series   
Summary: In Magic Tree House #37: Dragon of the Red Dawn, Jack and Annie are awoken by their magical friends, Teddy and Kathleen.  They find out they are being sent on a mission to Japan to find one of the secrets of happiness.  They set out with the Wand of Dianthas to work towards helping Merlin by discovering the secrets of happiness.    
What I Think: I have a renewed love for the Magic Tree House series since so many of my students have been reading books from the series lately.  This series came out when I was in middle school so I didn't read these when I was a kid.  I've read one or two before, but I decided to read Dragon of the Red Dawn ( Magic Tree House # 37, A Merlin Mission ) this weekend because I have two students read it currently.  I can definitely see the charm of these books.  I love time travel, and these kids get to time travel and go on adventures to real places and places in time.
     From a teacher's perspective, I really like that there is the element of history in these stories so kids are inadvertently learning about different places and cultures.  At the same time, they are experiencing a story and a story with some fantastical elements in it.  I would dub these books "mild" fantasy because they do time travel and there are magical elements, but it is a story about real kids.  I love when my students get into series reading, and this is one series I think is truly beneficial to them on so many different levels.  On the Magic Tree House website there are some fun interactive elements for kids, but it also has teacher's guides and printables!  Love it!
Read Together: 1 - 5   
Read Alone: 2 - 6   
Read With: Other books in the series; Fish Face (The Kids of the Polk Street School) and other books by Patricia Reilly Giff; Triplet Trouble and the Bicycle Race and other books by Debbie Dadey and Marcia T. Jones; Vampires Don't Wear Polka Dots (The Adventures Of The Bailey School Kids) and other books by Marcia T. Jones and Debbie Dadey; Lucky Dog Days (Pee Wee Scouts) and other books by Judy Delton    
Snatch of Text: "Below the tree house was a beautiful garden filled with cherry trees and long-leafed willows.  A waterfall tumbled into a sparkling green pool.
     'Wow,' said Annie.
     Jack opened the Japan book and found a painting that looked like the garden.  He read aloud to Annie:
     In the 1600s, the Imperial Garden surrounded the Imperial Palace in the capital city of Japan.  The city was called Edo (say EE-doh).  In the mid-1800s, its name was changed to Tokyo (say TOH-kee-oh)."
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connecitions, Asking Questions, Making Predictions, Making Inferences  
Writing Strategies to Practice: Expository Writing   
Writing Prompts: Choose one of the ideas discussed in the book you read, then research more about the idea and write a paragraph that has a topic sentence and supporting details.     
Topics Covered: Family, Friendship, Time Travel, Magic, Camelot/Merlin, Adventure, Problem-Solving, History, Geography
Translated to Spanish: Yes! I'm not sure if all the books in the series are, but there are books that have been translated to Spanish.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

M is for Mischief

M IS FOR MISCHIEF: An A to Z of Naughty ChildrenTitle: M IS FOR MISCHIEF: An A to Z of Naughty Children     
Author: Linda Ashman  
Illustrator: Nancy Carpenter  
Publisher: Dutton Children's Book
Publication Date: 2008   
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book (This book says it's a story in rhyme...but I kind of look at it as more of a poetry book because each letter page can stand alone.)   
Summary: An A to Z book with a naughty twist.  Each letter stands for a certain miscreant and each letter page tells that certain miscreant's story!    
What I Think:  I'll never forget when a friend posted a picture of her 4-year-old son scrubbing crayon off the wall on Facebook.  I thought it was such a classic picture.  I took the opportunity to tell my 3-year-old Peanut just how naughty that was!  I showed him the picture of his friend and how he was paying for his mistake by having to clean up the mess he made.   For days, Peanut would comment on how it was naughty to draw on the walls.  This book is like a whole alphabet worth of non-examples for kids!  I can't wait to read it with my students because of the alliteration, the rhymes, the vocabulary, the character traits, and the lessons!
     I've realized lately that it's difficult for my students to identify character traits when reading.  I love that the characters in this book are all labelled with a characteristic of their naughtiness.  My plan is to read these little by little, focusing on the character traits and then to discuss what character trait would represent the opposite of that character trait.  The idea is to generate a list of character traits students can think about when reading.
     I love a book like this that can be used as a mentor text for so very many different things depending on what you want to work on.  I went to the library to look for alphabet books after attending a Heggerty phonemic awareness training.  When I spotted this book, I knew it had great potential because of the's kind of like having to slow down to see a car wreck, you just can't help it.  With all the alliteration it will definitely be great to encourage students to listen to the beginning sounds in this book, but there are so many other ways to use this text.
Read Together: 2 - 12
Read Alone: 4 - 12  
Read With: Where The Sidewalk Ends - The Poems And Drawings Of Shel Silverstein and other poetry collections by Shel Silverstein; The Handmade Alphabet by Laura Rankin; other alphabet books    
Snatch of Text:
"Rude Ruby
Ruby, at the roller rink, is raising quite a racket.
Rams right into Rita, then she rips Roberta's jacket.
Leaves a trail of raisins, calls Renee a rat.
Ridicules the music, steals Rebecca's hat.

The skaters find her rudeness too repulsive to ignore.
They spin her round and round so fast, she rolls right out the door."
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Identifying Story Elements - Characters, Making Inferences   
Writing Strategies to Practice: Characterization, Rhyme, Alliteration, $100 words 
Writing Prompts: Choose your favorite naughty character and write a poem using alliteration about his or her opposite goody-two-shoes character.      
Topics Covered: Behavior, Friendship, Character Traits   
Translated to Spanish: No

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hottest, Coldest, Highest Deepest

Hottest, Coldest, Highest, DeepestTitle: Hottest, Coldest, Highest, Deepest     
Author: Steve Jenkins   
Illustrator: Steve Jenkins  
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Publication Date: 1998   
Genre/Format: Nonfiction-Geography/Picture Book  
Summary: This book uses artwork, maps, and diagrams to bring to life the hottest, coldest, highest, and deepest places on Earth among others.   
What I Think: I'm still exploring nonfiction text for students...when it comes to reading, I like to stick to fiction or historical fiction unless I'm reading a professional educational book.  I'm not used to reading nonfiction with pictures and all the great nonfiction text features.  I have some students who really love this kind of reading, I think those that struggle with reading and understanding stories seem to prefer nonfiction texts.  This book has definitely made me want to look for great nonfiction for my students.  I love the artwork in this book and I love the premise of looking at the -est places all around the world.  In my mind, there is just enough information about each place.  I love the diagram that puts the height, length, degree of coldness into perspective and the map that shows just were the -est might be.
     Speaking of -est, I think this book is great for teaching superlatives.  The combination of nonfiction text and the repetition of the use of superlatives make this a great way to look at comparative and superlative forms.  
Read Together: 3 - 12 
Read Alone: 3 - 12  
Read With: What Do You Do with a Tail Like This? (Caldecott Honor Book) also by Steven Jenkins; Nonfiction about any of the places in the book  
Snatch of Text: "Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world.  Its peak is 29,028 feet above sea level."
"The highest mounts in North American is Mount McKinley (also called Denali), in Alaska, at 20,320 feet.  Mount Whitney, in California, is the highest peak in the continental United States.  Its summit is 14.491 feet above sea level."
Reading Strategies to Practice: Using Nonfiction Text Features; Activating Background Knowledge; Making Connections
Writing Strategies to Practice: Writing Expository Text 
Writing Prompts: Choose one of the places from the book, then research more information about that place and write a paragraph/essay that develops the main idea you chose using supporting details.    
Topics Covered: Geography, Maps, Adverbs - Superlatives 
Translated to Spanish: No


Monday, November 8, 2010

Ten Tiny Babies

Ten Tiny BabiesTitle: Ten Tiny Babies     
Author: Karen Katz 
Illustrator: Karen Katz 
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: 2008  
Genre/Format: Fiction-Nursery Rhymes/Picture Book  
Summary:  This is a counting up story about ten roly poly babies!  These babies are busy and the reader gets to join in on the fun!  
What I Think:  I'm a fan of the bright colors and round baby faces in this book!  These busy little babies had me wanting to turn the page.  The rhymes were fun and the actions had me envisioning a class of preschoolers acting out what the babies were doing.  I think this would be great for looking at verbs and also for vocabulary development for English Language Learners.  A bonus - the adorable babies in this book are multicultural!!!
Read Together: Pre-K - 3
Read Alone: 1 - 3 
Read With: Counting Kisses and other books by Karen Katz; Five Little Monkeys Storybook Treasury (A Five Little Monkeys Story) By Eileen Christelow; This Jazz Man By Karen Ehrhardt 
Snatch of Text: "3 bouncy babies jump and...hop!
Along comes another...but he just can't stop! 
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Visualizing 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Word choice - verbs
Writing Prompts: Choose one of the verbs from the story and brainstorm synonyms for that word.  Put them in order from least to greatest.  Write a story about a baby who has gotten out of his or her crib and is on the go, include your interesting verbs in your story!  
Topics Covered: Babies, Family, Multicultural, Counting, Word Choice, Synonyms, Vocabulary Development 
Translated to Spanish: No, but Karen Katz has other baby books that have been translated to Spanish.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010

This month I am joining in on National Novel Writing Month - NaNoWriMo!  The idea is to write 50,000 words in one month.  I was hesitant at first, but now I am embracing the concept of just getting all my thinking inked and then being able to go back to edit and revise.  As a student, I was lucky enough to have teachers who taught with Writer's Workshop.  I wholeheartedly believe in the process of writing, but it has been a long time since I sat down to draft a narrative (don't worry, I haven't forgotten the pages upon pages I wrote for National Boards last year...but that wasn't this kind of writing...).

I forgot how hard it can be to write without thinking too much!  When I write with my students, I am a pro at the free write.  I can easily sit for ten minutes and just write as much as I can about anything and everything that comes to mind, but so far, writing a novel has me looking like my 2nd grader: blank page in front of me, looking at the wall, now looking at another wall, now looking back at my blank page, writing one idea, then looking at the wall, and now the other wall...I have my ideas but I'm thinking too much about exactly how I want to say it.  In the true spirit of NaNoWriMo, I'm going to push myself to just write, and to get my ideas down.  I know I will have to go back and make changes. I know I will have to edit.  I know I will have to revise.  And that's okay!  You are free words, you don't have to be perfect, you just have to spill forth!  For now, I just have to work on getting my thinking inked or I'll never even sniff 50,000 pages.

It's day three and I'm already learning about myself as a writer and identifying with my students as writers.  In the past few years, as I have been reading and reading and reading like crazy, I have learned about myself as a reader.  I have read enough books that I have experienced the thrill of finding an amazing book that brings me to hysterical tears and wailing and books that are hard for me to connect with where I find myself understanding the frustration of struggling with a book.  Gaining this perspective has helped me identify with my students and be able to better teach them with this perspective.  Last year I decorated a writer's notebook with my students at the beginning of the year and filled mine little by little as I went.  I love having that as a resource that I can refer back to now that I want to write more about my ideas.  As a writer, I understand how important that notebook is now!  I recognize how safe it makes me feel to know I can look in there and get an idea when I stare at this blank screen and think I have nothing to write about!  And last night, as I reread what I have and thought about the dialogue I have included already I could feel my worries about it not being right and not being good.  I'm sure my students have that feeling, too.  Already, I am anxious to see how I grow as a teacher by participating in NaNoWriMo and becoming a writer as much as I have become a reader.
A little tired, but overall, enthusiastic! Day Three - 6:00AM
What are you thoughts about NaNoWriMo?  Have you joined in before?  How did you do?  What have you learned about yourself as a writer?  If not, how do you feel about teaching writing?

I'll post more about NaNoWriMo and what I learn as I go along!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Don't Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!Title: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!  
Author: Mo Willems  
Illustrator: Mo Willems 
Publisher: Hyperion Books For Children
Publication Date: 2003  
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book
Summary: The blue, wide-eyed pigeon desperately wants to drive the bus but the bus driver specifically tells the reader not to let him drive the bus!  He can be persistent that pigeon!
What I Think: I think this book is just too funny.  I love the illustrations, it would be fun for kids to act out how the pigeon acts throughout the book.  I think this book is a great way to start off an introduction to persuasive writing.  The pigeon pulls out all the stops when it comes to trying to convince the reader it's okay to drive the bus!   
Read Together: K - 12 
Read Alone: 3 - 12
Read With: Dear Mrs. La Rue: Letters From Obedience School By Mark Teague; I Wanna Iguana By Karen Kaufman Orloff; Hey, Little Ant By Phillip M. Hoose; Because of Winn-Dixie By Kate DiCamillo; Charlotte's Web By E.B. White  
Snatch of Text:  
"'Hi!  I'm the bus 
driver.  Listen, 
I've got to leave for a little while, 
so can you watch 
things for me until 
I get back?  Thanks.  
Oh, and remember: 
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!'

'I thought he'd never leave.'"
Reading Strategies to Practice: Making Connections  
Writing Strategies to Practice: Persuasive 
Writing Prompts: Write a letter to the bus driver persuading him to let the pigeon drive the bus...or not, if you agree with him! 
Topics Covered: Persuasive, Emotions 
Translated to Spanish: Yes! No Dejes Que La Paloma Conduzca El Autobus! / Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (Spanish Edition)

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