Saturday, May 31, 2014

Let's Celebrate Taking Risks!

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 taking risks!

*throws confetti*

The end of the school year in my district is on Monday. Students' last day was Friday and we have a make-up institute day on Monday because of a snow day on our institute day in January. This year is different for me because this is the first summer that I'm officially a 12 month employee and therefore don't have a traditional summer of like I did as a teacher. It's a little strange but I'm not complaining. I'll still have lots of summer fun to enjoy!

I have three friends who work with me in my district and will be changing positions next year. I'm so happy and excited for each of them. I've talked with each of them about the challenges going into their new positions and what they might do to help themselves stay positive, strong and motivated in order to take care of themselves in the midst of these challenges. I'm looking forward to checking in with them throughout the year, sending words of encouragement, and celebrating the many successes they are going to have. 

This time of year, I always find myself in reflection mode, thinking about what worked or what I'm proud of this school year, what was frustrating or challenged me this school year, and what changes I can make going forward to be better in the year to come. All year, I've reminded myself that even when I feel overwhelmed by the work I'm doing, I'm still making an impact. I've had to tell myself again and again that I'm a work in progress as much as everything else and that I have to be patient and be confident that we are moving in the right direction. 

So today's celebration is to my friends Reyna, Andrea and Gina. One is going back to a 5th grade classroom after being in a teacher leader role outside of the classroom for several years. One is going to be an elementary school principal after working as a coordinator at the district level. One is going to be a middle school principal after working as a coordinator at the district level. Each of these ladies is an inspiration to me. They are strong, caring, passionate, brave women who I am so lucky to know. Since I have known each of them, they have believed in me and impacted my life in so many ways. I admire their courage to take on these new positions, to follow their hearts, to make a difference in the lives of students in our district. And I believe they are going to continue to do great things. 

What are you celebrating this week?

Are any of you taking on a new role next school year? Or is there someone in your life who has inspired you that you would like to celebrate. I would love to hear about it!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Caminar - Poetry Friday










Poetry Friday is hosting by Diane at Random Noodling today! Be sure to stop on over to see all the other Poetry Friday posts and share the poetry love!


Title: Caminar  
Author: Skila Brown 
Publisher: Candlewick Press 
Publication Date: March 11th, 2014 
Genre/Format: Historical Fiction/Novel In Verse 
GoodReads Summary: Set in 1981 Guatemala, a lyrical debut novel tells the powerful tale of a boy who must decide what it means to be a man during a time of war. 

Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet — he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck:Communist. Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her. . . . Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is. 
What I Think: Everyone on my mom's side of the family is from Guatemala but I have never been. I speak Spanish (enough) and we participate in many traditions from Guatemala. My parents visit often, they actually just came back this past Sunday from a trip. My grandmother, uncle cousins and other extended family still live there. So why haven't I been? Mostly because my mom doesn't feel that it's safe. She worries about something happening to us and so I haven't been. Whether this is truly a reason not to go, it definitely factors in. (Another reason is that their seasons are opposite of ours here near Chicago so when I suggest we go in the summer when school is out, my mom reminds me that it's their rainy season and just not a nice time to visit.)
     My point in sharing my mom's concerns about our safety is that this book gives some insight into what people in Guatemala experienced during Guatemala's civil war which took place from 1960 to 1996 and how there are lasting effects of this war even to this day.
     Skila Brown does an excellent job of bringing what the main character experiences to life. The imagery is wonderful, letting the reader experience what it might be like to be teetering between childhood and adulthood and thrust into a harrowing situation where he has to make decisions that impact his life and also those of others. It makes me sad but I'm so glad Skila wrote this book and shared this story.
Read Together: Grades 5 - 12  
Read Alone: Grades 6 - 12 
Read With: A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, Sold by Patricia McCormick 
Snatch of Text:  
Soccer
"I did not have to be big --- just strong
enough to make a wall
with my body,
keep everyone       away
from the ball at my feet.

Then I could move,
    tap it      from one foot          to the next,
go down the field            and never lose

I could move the ball
safely, closer to the goal,
close enough to score,
but I was too afraid
it would be     taken
before it reached the goal.
So I passed
        instead. Even though Mateo's shot
                         didn't make it, I sighed with relief.
                                        Because my pass did." (p. 6)
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Visualizing, Making Inferences, Making Connections  
Writing Strategies to Practice: Descriptive, Figurative Language, Personal Narrative
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you had to be brave and trust in someone or something even though you weren't sure if you truly did trust him or the situation. 
Topics Covered: Family, Loyalty, Trust, Determination, Courage, Will 
I *heart* It:

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The One With Wordless Picture Books #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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Recently, a friend was looking for books for two kiddos who speak Portuguese as their first language. She wanted to add to their home library and encourage the parents to read aloud to the children. As we wandered the book store, she told me more about the kids and I made mental lists of books for each of them.

The more we talked, the more she worried about the kids being able to read the books and if they would be at the right level for them. I had to stop and remind her that reading aloud is as about sharing the stories and that it was okay for the parents to read the story to the kids. But then I realized what would be great would be wordless picture books where no one would be caught up in the words. The parents and the kids could both tell the story using the pictures and not feel bad about not being able to read the words. 

I also had someone ask me for ideas for reluctant writers a couple weeks ago. I had a few ideas and one of them was sharing a wordless picture book together, talking through the story and then letting them write out their own version of the story. Wordless picture books offer a perfect opportunity to talk and share stories, to be imaginative and creative.

Last year was a great year for wordless picture books if you look at the Caldecott Honor winners but there are some favorites we have from previous years too. Here are wordless picture books we love in our house and/or that I have used with students:

Do you have any wordless picture books to add to this list? I'm excited for Molly Idle and Flora and the Penguin which will be out in September. Please share any of your favorite wordless picture books!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/26/14

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: Eep! Major fail on reading and reviewing this week. I did manage to finish Jenny Han's To All The Boys I've Loved Before and it was awesome. I love her writing and especially love how she brings these characters to life. I didn't make it to the library for an audiobook so that all, folks. *shrug*

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
Jen Says: I still need to finish Caminar and that's the plan for today so I can actually review it on Friday. Cross my heart, I promise I'm going to get this done this time. I'm also going to stop in at the library and see what audiobook I can drum up. I've been spending a lot of time on my revisions and have signed up for a 30-day daily writing challenge to gear up for Teachers Write this summer. I'm so excited to be really moving along with my writing but I do feel crummy about not getting reviews up. The plan is to get back on track this 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!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/19/14

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 listened to The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen. I've also been reading To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han, Caminar by Skila Brown, and The Connected Educator by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall.

Reviewed Last Week:
 

Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
Jen Says: This week I plan to keep reading To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han, Caminar by Skila Brown, and The Connected Educator by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall. I don't have any audio books ready to go so I'm not sure what I'll end up listening to. It'll be a surprise!

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!

The Devil in the White City

Title: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness At the Fair That Changed America 
Author: Erik Larson 
Publisher: Crown 
Publication Date: October 17th, 2002 
Genre/Format: Non-Fiction/Narrative Non-Fiction 
GoodReads Summary:  Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book's categorization to be sure that 'The Devil in the White City' is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor. 
     Burnham's challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous "White City" around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair's incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, and Thomas Edison. 
     The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World's Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims. 
     Combining the stories of an architect and a killer in one book, mostly in alternating chapters, seems like an odd choice but it works. The magical appeal and horrifying dark side of 19th-century Chicago are both revealed through Larson's skillful writing. - John Moe
What I Think: I first read this book in 2003 after it was first published. At the time, I had recently graduated from college and was working as a counselor for Adventure Camp in the town I grew up in. We had lots of bus rides from the park where our camp was held to and from the pool, to field trips, and even to a state park for overnight campouts every two weeks. One of my fellow counselors was reading The Devil in the White City and recommended it to me. It's fun to think back on a memory of sharing books before blogging and before Nerdy Book Club. I have always been a reader but it's neat to think upon a memory and know that books have truly always been part of my life.
     I read The Devil in the White City and was fascinated by the stories - both true - of the Columbian Exposition of 1893 and alternately, H.H. Holmes, a serial killer in Chicago at the time of the World's Fair. It was amazing to me that I grew up north of Chicago and had never once in my entire life heard of the Columbian Exposition of 1893 or the Chicago Word's Fair of 1893. Many of the famous names who brought the Fair to fruition I did recognize. I loved reading about many inventions and occurrences that are still recognizable today. Equally fascinating is the story of H.H. Holmes and what he got away with during the time of the Fair.
     This is a book I decided to reread in April. I was curious if I would still enjoy it the second time around. I remember there being so many facts in this book and that some of it was indeed dry because it is non-fiction. I actually enjoyed it even more the second time around. It might be because I was familiar with the arc of the story and I remembered what was going to happen. I could focus more on the people in the story and take in a more clear understanding of each of them as well as the time. The setting is such an integral part of this story. Larson does an amazing job of depicting Chicago at the turn of the century and how Chicago as the site of the Columbian Exposition factored into plans for the Fair and even H.H. Holmes' plans.
     I recommend this to anyone who lives or loves Chicago but also anyone who is looking for a great non-fiction narrative book and is fascinated by history. This book is completely full of history and while the Exposition was over one hundred years ago, there are still so many connections to our world today. 
    This is definitely a book you would find in the adult section of a library or bookstore but a high school student could definitely read this from a content perspective. 
Read Together: Grades 9 - 12
Read Alone: Grades 10 - 12 
Read With: Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, Columbine by Dave Cullen, Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran  
Snatch of Text: 
     "It had lasted just six months, et during that time its gatekeepers recorded 27.5 million visits, this when the country's total population was 6.5 million. One its best day the fair drew more than 700,000 visitors. That the fair had occurred at all, however, was something of a miracle. To build it Burnham had confronted a legion of obstacles, any one of which could have - should have - killed it long before Opening Day. Together he and his architects had conjured a dream city chose grandeur and beauty exceeded anything each singly could have imagined." (p. 4-5)
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Visualizing  
Writing Strategies to Practice: Narrative, Imagery, Expository 
Writing Prompts: Choose an event or person from history and research the event or person. Then write about the event or person using elements of narrative writing to bring the story to life.  
Topics Covered: Integration - History, Ingenuity, Hopes, Dreams, Death, Perseverance, Will, Determination 
I *heart* It:

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Let's Celebrate How Amazing Life Is!

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...

*throws confetti*

It snowed today.
On May 16th,
in Chicago,
it snowed. 


My family has started sending group messages on Facebook.
My mom sent a message in English followed by the Spanish translation.
My aunt responded "jaja"
which means "haha" in English.
My husband wrote back in Spanish, cracking up at the whole scenario.
Ha ha. Ja ja.



At dinner, I played Tic-Tac-Toe with Peanut, 
then we did the crossword puzzle,
and then he spotted the Dots game and said, 
"What's that? How do you play that?"
I was so excited, realizing that he's at a great age to learn to play.
I explained how we draw lines and try to make squares...
but we have to be careful not to let the other player make squares.
At first we just made lines here and there,
but then Peanut realized he was giving up squares.
I watched as he thought carefully about drawing the line,
moving his hand above the page, imagining the consequences of his move.
I told him how I played Dots with my grandmother when I was little.
My grandmother was amazing at coming up with games.
We had a piece of paper and a pencil and she would draw out dots 
and we would hand the pencil back and forth to each other
deep in concentration.
I was convinced my grandmother invented Dots.
Secretly, I think there's a chance she did...
and now the game is printed on restaurant children's menu tablemats worldwide.


Yup, life is pretty amazing.

What are you celebrating this week?