Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Making Memories

Over the last several weeks we've been working on a literacy contract (which is a reading and writing cycle) focused on families.  We've read realistic fiction chapter books with a strong family theme, we've read memoirs, we've written our own memoirs, and we're currently wrapping up making scrapbooks.  Admittedly, I wasn't sure the scrapbook thing was the best idea I'd ever had.  I have strong convictions about Language Arts consisting of reading and writing, not arts and crafts.  I tried to be loose with the idea of a scrapbook, but my students knew me too well.  They demanded a rubric, of all things.  Never one to deny some guidelines, I quickly created what they needed.  The rubric consisted of loose requirements:  the scrapbook had to revolve around some type of family (after all, that has been our theme topic since mid-November), it had to be five pages in length, it had to represent a significant time in the life of its creator, and the book had to have significant items or representations throughout (it did not have to have pictures...these can be hard to print and/or find.  Rather, students could paste in ticket stubs, magazine cutouts, stickers, items they created to represent important memories, etc.). 

After covering the requirements, I felt a bit better.  There was a direction students could take with creating a meaningful scrapbook.  It might not all be a loss or waste of time.  While I felt better, I was still not completely comfortable.  I allowed myself the reprieve of knowing that students were doing some hard-core thinking and writing during this time too.  They have been working on short pieces of writing about memories in their lives.  They have all read a memoir, and I've read aloud several memoir picture books.  We've talked about the elements of memoir and they have chosen which particular significant memory they want to explore.  They've worked hard on this, crafting engaging leads and helping the reader to infer the significance of the event without explicitly stating it.  There was real writing happening in room 100 over the last several weeks.  Surely it would be okay to devote 30 minutes a couple of days this week to creating a scrapbook.  Surely.

Today we completed our second day of work on finishing up the final copy of the memoir and crafting the scrapbook.  AND IT WAS WONDERFUL!  There, I said it.  It was amazing to see the work and thought my kids put into creating a special piece of text that means something to them.  I thought their memoirs were turning out well.  Little did I know I would be blown away by the things I was seeing for scrapbooks!  Take a look at some of the work that was being done today in our classroom.

Most of the students in my fifth grade room are planning on using these scrapbooks as Christmas gifts for loved ones.  I often get frustrated with the lack of meaningful work the standards fail to address.  A scrapbook with a purpose is a perfect example.  Not just scrapbooking to fill time, but scrapbooking to investigate and remember a significant time in a child's life with family.  Is there any better gift to receive from your child at Christmastime?  I think not.  So while I'm still not a Language Arts and Crafts teacher, I am an embracer of creativity and exploration of all things meaningful.  Go forth and create memories!

Monday, December 9, 2013

It's Monday! What are YOU reading?

I'm participating in the meme created by Book Journey and Teach Mentor Texts and will be reviewing both children's and adult books.

I've been MIA from the #IMWAYR scene for a couple of weeks, not because I haven't been reading, but because I've been BUSY!  We can all relate to that this time of year, right?  Here goes my attempt at catching up!


The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

A cute book about dealing with the fears of going to school. Natalie loves this book, but she can't understand why the owl teacher doesn't have another teacher with her. Ha!

Pumpkin Town by Katie McKy

This book is about pumpkin seeds that get scattered in a town and the boys that go save the town by chopping the pumpkins and vines. I think it could be developed a little more. It's choppy. On the upside, Natalie has fallen asleep the last two nights I've read this to her.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

What a fun book!  I bought this book at NCTE for my four-year-old daughter, Natalie.  Ssshhh…it's a Christmas gift!  I've read a lot about this book and only heard glowing remarks.  And now I see why!  Mr. Tiger is a wild man who only wants to act as a tiger would naturally act.  Once he finds his way to the wild, he realizes he misses his friends.  When he comes back home, he understands he has started a social revolution with the message of: be yourself!  A great book to teach theme and talk about the power of illustrations in a picture book.  Mr. Tiger is a keeper!

Check out Jen Vincent's Nerdy Book Club post about Mr. Tiger here.

Watch Peter Brown talk about Mr. Tiger!


Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

If I could give this book more than five stars, I would! It's my pick for the Newbery! I absolutely love the story of Willow Chance and her struggle against the world after her parents are taken from her. She is taken in by a Vietnamese family while she awaits her fate in the foster home system. A truly gifted girl, Willow must learn to alter her world and do the best with the hand she's been dealt. Through it all, her favorite place remains the library because: "books=comfort. To me anyway." How could you not fall in love with a dynamic character that adores a library? Her uniqueness shines and she is absolutely amazing. Through it all she learns, "When you care about other people, it takes the spotlight off your own drama." A lesson from which we all could learn.

Some of my other favorite lines from the book are:
-- "It has been my experience that rewarding and heartbreaking often go hand in hand."
--"A second can feel like forever if what follows is heartbreak."
--"If there is anything I've figured out in the last months it's that you can find labels to organize living things, but you can't put people in any kind of group or order. It just doesn't work that way." HOW TRUE WILLOW!!


Oh, this is angsty. I think I would have liked it even more if I had read it, rather than listened to it. That being said, it's still a great investigation about what life is like for boys struggling with their sexuality. A great text that could easily be used in high school.

There were several other books that I shared with my students that fit into the category of memoir (we're reading and writing memoirs right now in class), along with some Thanksgiving books.  However, I've read all of these before and reviewed some of them on this blog.  I also plan to incorporate those title into some other blog posts soon.  I want you to see the great work my kids are doing with memoir writing!



What are YOU reading this week??

Sunday, December 8, 2013

I was a guest blogger for Kirby Larson on Tuesday! Check it out!

Kirby with her new book Duke at NCTE 2013.  I even got to hang out with Kirby at the Nerdy Book Club gathering.

I had the good fortune of being Kirby Larson's guest blogger for her weekly series called "From the Office of the Future of Reading" on Tuesday.  It was so fun to contribute to Kirby's great blog.  She's celebrating blog posts from teachers from all over the country.  What a great way to get some new ideas and see what other people around the U.S. are doing with their classes.  When I showed my 5th graders the blog post I wrote the other day, they were very excited to see some of their work on an author's website.  Thanks Kirby for the great opportunity!

Click here to read the post I wrote about Literacy Contracts for use in intermediate and middle school ELA classrooms.