Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Can We Save The Tiger?

Can We Save the Tiger?Title: Can We Save the Tiger?  
Author: Martin Jenkins   
Illustrator: Vicky White  
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: 2011
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book   
Summary: A blend of facts and narration that tells a story of extinct animals and other animals that have been threatened by extinction.  
What I Think: One of my reading goals this year is to read more nonfiction.  I like nonfiction, but there are some nonfiction books that just seem so boring to me that I don't even want to open them up or I'm turned off even from flipping through them.  I happened to see people mention this book on Twitter so I put it on hold at the library.  I have to admit, when I first thumbed through this I wasn't sure what all the excitement was about...and then I sat down to actually read it and was so moved.  The summary on the jacket flap had me intrigued.  In the last year I have learned so much about how animals are treated by humans and this book points out how humans impact the lives of animals whether we mean to or not.  I think it's important for kids to realize how the way we live and the choices we make impact our world and everyone and thing that lives on it.
     The illustrations in this book are a combination of colored and black-and-white sketches.  I think the pencil drawings add to the somber mood this book emanates.  There is a hopeful message in this book, but it definitely brought tears to my eyes to read about the animals that are extinct and that are close to extinction.  As a mom, I was thinking protectively of all the animals that are extinct or have been threatened.  I also had a sad feeling knowing that my kiddos might not ever get to see these animals.  While it might not seem like a big deal if Peanut and Baby Bird ever get to see a Partula Snail or a Sawfish, it really is a big deal if we don't make changes and more and more animals become extinct.  If we don't pay attention today, more animals are going to be in trouble tomorrow.
     I'm so glad people have been talking about this book and spreading the word about it.  It deserves to be talked about and shared and I'm glad I found out about it because it's my favorite non-fiction book I've read this year.  Thanks to Martin Jenkins for speaking up for the animals!
Read Together: 3 - 12
Read Alone: 5 - 12
Read With: The Lorax (Classic Seuss) by Dr. Seuss, Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby, Hoot by Carl Hiaasen, and other nonfiction books about animals and the environment     
Snatch of Text:  
"We humans have changed the world a lot over the 
years, to make room for ourselves and to produce the 
things we need.  We've turned forests into farmland, 
dammed rivers, and built towns and cities to live in.
Some of the other animals and plants that we share 
the Earth with have coped with the changes very 
well.  But some haven't.

In fact, some have coped so badly that they're not here

They're extinct."
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Asking Questions 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Expository, Persuasive 
Writing Prompts: Research an animal that is extinct or close to extinction, then explain what is causing the animal to be endangered and what people can do about it.  Write a letter to a person in your community (a neighbor, a store, a factory, a politician) to persuade him or her to make choices that help animals or don't negatively impact animals. 
Topics Covered: Animals, Environment, People, Making Choices, Sympathy, Perspective-Taking, Integration - Science
Translated to Spanish: No

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Contribution as a Cooperating Teacher

Endings are always bittersweet for me.  I love the feeling of completing a task or a process but it's always just a tiny bit sad to see things come to an end at the same time.  Today was definitely a bittersweet ending for me because I had to say goodbye (for now) to the senior practicum student who has been working with me for the last 6 weeks.

Last year, when I was working on National Boards certification, I had to complete an entry that asked me to talk about myself as a leader, learner, and collaborator.  I used my work with university students and new teachers as one example of how I make an impact as a leader, learner and collaborator.  National Boards is all about looking at how we make an impact on student learning.  The work I do in talking with university students or new teachers about their teaching directly impacts those students that these teachers teach.  I can help the practicum students impact my students and then hopefully take what they have learned as they advance into student teaching and then teaching.

Jaclyn read and shared Fantastic Mr. Fox with students!
Today, I'm swelling with triumph in knowing that I made an impact on Jaclyn who completed her 6-week senior practicum experience with me today.  I feel like she grew so much throughout the experience and it was great to talk to her about my philosophy of teaching and to hear how her beliefs about teaching have developed after working with me.  I truly feel like she gets it when it comes to having a passion for literacy and for sharing the enthusiasm with the students while still working on developing their skills as a reader.

I hope she is able to continue to share a love of reading with students as she continues on to student teaching and that her enthusiasm for reading and teaching continues to grow.  It's an amazing feeling to know I could model how to be a teaching of the will and the skill of reading and even more awesome to know that my modeling did carry over and she understands what I believe teaching reading is all about.

Jaclyn is the 5th senior practicum student I have hosted and I look forward to welcoming more students from the university into my "classroom".  Most of my experiences with practicum students have been positive.  Only once have I felt like it was a lot of work and energy that I put into making a tiny fraction of an impact.  I have to honestly say that was hard and sometimes exhausting but even that one time when I felt like the student still had a lot of growing to do, I felt like I made a difference no matter how miniscule.
Jaclyn with Eric Rohmann and Lois Lowry

And that's why I continue to offer to be a cooperating teacher.  It's not easy, it does take extra work, and sometimes patience but I know that I can make some kind of a difference - big or small.  The bonus is working with an amazing practicum student because it makes me feel like I made a massive impact.  I'm sad that I won't have my sidekick with me on Monday who I can talk to and brainstorm with but I'm elated knowing that her experience was so positive and that I had the opportunity to work with someone who will be a great addition to the field of teaching.

I recommend hosting a practicum student or a student teacher.  Have you hosted a practicum student of a student teacher?  How was the experience for you?  What was the highlight of the experience for you?  Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking about being a cooperating teacher?  I'd love to hear about your experience or your thoughts!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Hold Me Closer, NecromancerTitle: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer    
Author: Lish McBride   
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.  
Publication Date: 2010   
Genre/Format: Fiction-Fantasy/Novel   
Summary: Sam finds out that his witch-mother bound his necromancy powers when he was a baby.  Now, he finds himself being attacked by the most powerful necromancer in his district without any real understanding of what necromancy is all about.
What I Think: It's so hard to write a simple summary of this book and do it justice!  I loved Sam as a character.  I kept finding myself visualizing this book as a Jack Black movie.  The humor is fantastic.  McBride does an amazing job of talking about the severity of Sam's situation while still keeping it light-hearted and funny.
    I am a huge fantasy fan.  This book is great because it doesn't ready like an uber-fantasy book but it does have elements of magical creatures in it.  I haven't read a book with a necromancer in it before.  It also has cocky gnomes, talking heads, and hybrid were-hound-fairies.  It's pure awesomeness.
I would definitely have this in a high school classroom...possibly a middle school classroom.
     Thanks to Twitter, Lish McBride herself told me there will be a sequel that's due out next year with lots more cheeky gnomes to love...hate? it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cupcake: A Journey to Special

CupcakeTitle: Cupcake    
Author: Charise Mericle Harper   
Illustrator: Charise Mericle Harper   
Publisher: 2010
Publication Date: Disney Hyperion Books   
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book   
Summary: A plain, vanilla cupcake ends up on the cake platter alone after all his brothers and sisters, who are fancy and decorated, are eaten up.  A candle overhears him crying and can relate because he’s ordinary compared to all of his brothers and sisters.  Together, they begin their journey toward special!
What I Think: I seem to be running into a theme in the picture books I’ve been reading lately!  I grabbed this book because of the sparkly, glittery cover.  I have a thing for glitter…but the colors and illustrations are sweet, too.  I love that there is a recipe in the back of the book for cupcakes and frosting! Kids could read the book, read the recipe and make the cupcakes, or read the recipe, eat cupcakes and the recipe could go home to be made at home.  Kids could decorate their own cupcake and then take a picture and create a name for their cupcake.  You can talk about symbolism, then they can create a cupcake to represent themselves and ask the students to write an explanation of how they decorated their cupcakes.  Yum!  I’m ready to make cupcakes now!  
Read Together: Pre-K - 12   
Read Alone: 1 - 5  
Read With: One by Kathryn Otoshi, Blue Chameleon by Emily Gravett, The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss   
Snatch of Text:
“One day, in a big bowl, flour, sugar, eggs, milk,
and baking powder were all mixed together.

And then, with just the right amount of
baking in a toasty hot oven…

…Cupcake was born.”
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Making Predictions   
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative, Expository
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you helped someone feel special.  Describe what makes you unique.  Decorate a cupcake to represent you and then explain what qualities the cupcake represents that make you special.   
Topics Covered: Diversity, Fitting In, Being Different, Integration - Cooking/Foods, Adjectives
Translated to Spanish: No

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Thesaurus Rex

Thesaurus RexTitle: Thesaurus Rex     
Author: Laya Steinberg   
Illustrator: Debbie Harter 
Publisher: Barefoot Books
Publication Date: 2003  
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book  
Summary: A day in the life of Thesaurus Rex is fun when he adds in lots of interesting synonyms to describe what he does throughout his day.
What I Think: I still have my giant, red thesaurus that I lovingly used throughout high school and college.  The tabs with the letters have long since fallen off but it’s still my go-to reference for synonyms.  I love sharing it with my students and teaching them to use a thesaurus so they can include more interesting words in their writing.  This book is so cute and a fun way to introduce the idea of synonyms to students.  I love that his name is Thesaurus Rex because after you read the story you can talk about his name and introduce the thesaurus itself.
     One activity I love to do with synonyms is to put them on a continuum so students can think about when they would use the synonym.  Usually we started with one word and put that in the middle then we decide whether the synonyms go above or below the word depending on if they are less or more of the synonym.  For example, if the word is “tell”, the word “whisper” would be above the word but the word “demanded” would be below the word.  I’m always careful to tell kids that just because the word is listed as a synonym in the thesaurus it doesn’t mean they can interchange those words.  They have to make sure the synonym that replaces the word makes sense with the sentence.  For my students who are deaf and hard of hearing or for English language learners who maybe haven’t heard the synonym they have found used, this is harder to do.  They’ll need help deciding which thesaurus sounds right or their writing might end up sounding awkward…but at least they’ll be able to look for synonyms to learn new words and vary their writing.
Read Together: 2 - 12   
Read Alone: 2 - 12    
Read With: Many Luscious Lollipops (World of Language) by Ruth Heller, If You Were an Adjective (Word Fun) by Michael Dahl  
Snatch of Text: 
“Thesaurus Rex goes exploring:

Splish, splash his feet are soaking!”
Reading Strategies to Practice: Using Context Clues, Making Connections 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Expository, Poetry, Descriptive Writing, Word Choice 
Writing Prompts: Explain a day in your life and what you do when you wake up until you go to bed.  Write a poem about a typical day for you using the thesaurus to find descriptive adjectives.
Topics Covered: Dinosaurs, Thesaurus, Reference Books, Adjectives, Parts of Speech, $100 Words 
Translated to Spanish: No

Monday, April 4, 2011

Blue Chameleon

Blue ChameleonTitle: Blue Chameleon     
Author: Emily Gravett 
Illustrator: Emily Gravett 
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 2010 
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book 
Summary: A lonely chameleon tries to find where he can fit in.  He tries to make himself look like other animals and objects, until he finally finds out he is happiest being himself. 
What I Think: Sometimes the simplest books can convey strong meanings and this book is definitely an example of a book like that.  The subject of fitting in and figuring out who you are is relevant to anyone.  I’m finding that I’m still learning who I am even as an adult.  Chameleons are such interesting animals to begin with in the fact that they can change colors to match their surroundings.  It works perfectly that the author uses a chameleon as a symbol for how we as people might change to fit in with different people or in different situations. 
While this book does tackle a serious topic, the illustrations make the book simple to understand and so funny.  I love laughing at how closely the chameleon can make himself look like a boot or a banana.  He really does try his best, but he just doesn’t look quiet like any of these things.  The most exciting part is getting to the end and seeing him so excited to realize where he really can fit in.
Because I work with students who are deaf or hard of hearing and sometimes also learning English as a second language, I’m usually looking for books that can develop their language skills or vocabulary.  While the text in this book is very simple and consisting of an adjective and a noun on every page, it does make a great example of nouns and word that describe them.  Most of the adjectives are colors but the author does include, “swirly”, “stripy”, “spotty”, and “colorful”.  I’m always on the lookout for $100 words and this book can introduce the idea.  Kids can come up with their own adjectives even!
Read Together: Pre-K - 12 
Read Alone: 1 - 12 
Read With: Art & Max by David Weisner; Unlovable by Dan Yaccarino, One by Kathryn Otoshi
Snatch of Text:  

“Pink cockatoo

Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Inferences, Making Predictions
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative, Expository 
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you didn’t feel like you fit in; what did you do to try and fit in? Write about something that makes you unique.  Research more about chameleons and write about what you learned about chameleons. 
Topics Covered: Integration – Science, Animals, Chameleons, Parts of Speech, Adjectives, $100 Words 
Translated to Spanish: No, but this is such a simple text that you could translate it. In fact, I think this would be a great way to show the difference between how adjectives are used before the noun in English but after the noun in Spanish.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Bit of Me(me) 4/2/2011

I seriously need a break from blogging this week while I spent time with my family and enjoyed spring break!  This is the first time my husband and I have both had spring break at the same time in a few years.  It was kind of nice that our breaks were staggered...for a bit...but I do like that we can all be together.  It makes me super excited for summer when we'll all be off together and will be at the water parks and Great America.  I'm already counting down the days until Great America opens (on May 9th!) because I'm so eager to be able to go on rides with Peanut.  Last year I was pregnant or at home with the baby so I didn't really get to do rides.  And, just in case you thought maybe I overlooked or forgot that we're also going to Disney World, I so didn't forget.  I think about our Disney trip at least three times a day.  I love Disney and I'm so excited for that part of our summer.

Wait, I'm not supposed to be talking about spring break or summer vacation, this week for A Bit of Me(me) hosted by Danielle over at There's a Book, I'm supposed to be talking about something I would change about myself!

This week's question:
If you could change something about yourself, 
what would it be and why?
This is a mega hard it bad that it's a hard question for me?  Honestly, I'm an optimistic person.  I'm so thankful for everything that I have and for the person I am.  Remember how I turned 30 last year?  And this a few short months...*gasp*...I'll be 31?  I'm so okay with being 31.  I love who I am and while I'm not perfect and I recognize that, I know I do my best to be the person I want to be.

If I absolutely had to change something about myself though, I guess it would be my likeliness to get defensive about what others say about me or my kids.  I'm torn because I think I should get defensive about what I do for my kids and what other people suggest I do for my kiddos but at the same time I feel like I could be a little more gracious about it.  If your a mom, I'm guessing you have some idea of what I'm talking about here.  It's as simple as someone why your baby isn't wearing socks (he pulled them off) or why your son's cheeks are red (he was running around).  But I feel like people feel like it's okay to ask all sorts of questions about kids and what you're doing to help them or take care of them and it drives me crazy, really crazy, really easily. 

I'm not sure why it drives me nuts as easily as it does.  I know I do a good job taking care of my kids.  I like to do things my own way so I guess maybe it bothers me that people are stepping in because I feel like they are questioning me as a mother.  Like I didn't think about it or notice when I totally have thought about it or noticed whatever it is they're asking about.  It gets me all riled up just writing about it.  What do you think?  Is this something normal that all mothers feel or is it something I'm too sensitive about?  If I could reduce the defensiveness it brings out in me I would, I would want to be more gracious about handling questions and taking advice from others.

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