Monday, June 23, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I'm happy to participate in It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?, a meme started by Book Journey and Teach Mentor Texts.

I've been absent from this meme for awhile.  Therefore, I'll do a couple weeks worth of books. :)


This is a fun book for preschoolers, in which they have to find certain objects around NYC to help a boy find his dragon. The illustrations are amazing and you feel like you get a tour of the city in reading the book. Natalie gives it two thumbs up!

Another hit in the Henry and Mudge collection. talks about swimming in your skivvies. Anything that is about underwear incites a giggle-fest in our house. ;)

I thought this was hilarious! Every parent can relate with wanting to climb a tree and not come down when their child is screaming and yelling. It pokes fun at how children are perceived by parents.

A great book for beginning readers about surrounding yourself with books.

This will certainly be added to my classroom library. A funny book about dogs and accepting and recognizing differences. Gaston and Antoinette seemed be in the wrong dog families, but when they trade places things look right but don't feel right. This should appeal to all ages.

This might just be my favorite Henry and Mudge! It's all about snow and winter. I read it to Natalie and she told me she wished it was winter this week. She's my kid!! I love the simple language used by Rylant to express the feel of togetherness when Henry's family is by the fire. So simple, so true. I can't wait for winter to come back!

I love Olivia and this is no exception. Olivia is fed up with all of the girls in her class wanting to be fairy princesses. She wants to be different and unique. In the end, she chooses to be queen. Ha!


I really wanted to like this more. I'm thinking I lost something in the audio version. I do think 5th-6th graders would love it. It's perfect dystopian literature for young people--it's completely appropriate. It's one I'll recommend to my 5th graders.

I've read this before, but it was several years ago. I loved it then and I loved it once again. The sparse language (or "precision of language" as is often referred to in the book) is stunning. Lowry delivers an eery look into what can happen once people relinquish individual liberties in order to ensure a safe, stable environment. I'm looking forward to listening to the other three books in this series.

I've been reading this for a few months during silent reading time at school. The book is about the Cholera outbreak that killed 616 people in one part of London in the mid-1800s. I liked how real people who played crucial roles in solving the mystery of the epidemic were given big roles in the story. The main character, Eel, is a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kid who ends up being an assistant to Dr. Snow and determining the outbreak stems from a contaminated water pump. This book isn't for every kid, but one interested in science and mystery would enjoy it.

Oh, I so wanted to like this one more than I did. I truly loved Molly and Kip and their drive, but the rest of the book fell flat for me. I was intrigued by the night gardener and wanted to know more of his back story. I loved Auxier's Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. I'll stick with recommending that one.


n the same vein as The Help, this is a story of a young, Southern girl trying to put her family back together, but finding that family is not always related by blood. I especially liked the change over time of Starla (the white Southern protagonist) as she came to know and love Eula (the black, Southern woman with whom Starla finds on her journey).

Oh, I LOVED this one! It reminded me of a Kate Morten book. A mysterious woman in Paris leaves her apartment and small fortune in stocks to an Englishwoman of society. Obviously there is some sort of link between the two, but many more secrets are revealed throughout. A fast historical novel with a sense of intrigue and mystery.


(on audio)

(on audio--narrated by Mrs. Downtown Abby, Elizabeth McGovern!)

I'd love to know what you're reading too!

Friday, June 20, 2014


So, I've been noticeably vacant on the blog.  I haven't written on it since April!  Yikes!  I didn't think it had been that long.  You know, sometimes the demands of daily life just tie you up and something has to give.  This was my something. is out, I'm working on some really good writing with my friend and colleague Holly, and I'm ready to give this blog thing a whirl again.

Since most of us have celebrated the last day of school by now, we can step back and take some time to reflect on the things we did this year.  One of my students' favorite literacy contracts this year was based around the theme topic of CURIOSITY.  Students picked books from our school book room that they were curious to read and paired up with other kids in the class to form small book groups.  They also identified five things about which they wanted to learn more.  They did a little research on each of those five things, then narrowed their focus to the one thing they wanted to research more in-depth to learn more about.  They had a menu of options to choose from for how to present their findings.  I used to do menus all the time in my room, but I started to shy away from them because they can be hard to grade.  There are so many different projects to consider and each one requires a different rubric.  The task of grading became daunting.  However, I felt my kids this year needed to experience one menu and I rethought how to grade the projects.  Instead of me grading everything, students presented their findings to a small group of peers and the peers filled out a project evaluation form for each member in their small group.  It worked like a charm.  I got to facilitate and experience presentations, but peers got to evaluate.  Take a look at menu below:

March Nonfiction Menu--CURIOSITY
You will complete ONE of the following projects (your choice) after you have read and conducted research about a person or topic of interest.
While conducting your research, keep illustrated notes about what you are learning.  Illustrated notes are notes that help reflect your learning by drawing pictures, writing in various colors, etc.  Here is a picture of illustrated notes:
Illustrated notes help to deepen your comprehension of topic and allow you to doodle at the same time!  How cool is that?
Create a comic strip that allows readers that know little or nothing about the person or topic you researched to learn more.  Think of this almost as a graphic novel, just not quite as long.  The reader of your comic should come away with a better understanding of the significance of the person or topic about which your read.  
Create a PowerPoint or Prezi ( presentation about the person or topic you further researched.  You will present your work to a small group of your classmates.  Be sure to include the significance of the person or topic about which your read.  Have fun with this.  Make it an exciting presentation!  You could play with inserting pictures and video clips and even music to make your work come alive for the audience.
Develop a YouTube video about the topic or person you researched.  This does not mean you have to post it to YouTube.  It simply means it could be something that would pop up on YouTube if someone were to search about your topic.  The video should be informational and easy to understand.  Use your creativity.  We’ve watched several different styles of videos in class.  You have creative license as long as your video makes sense to the viewer!
Create a blog post that includes pictures and extensive information about the person or topic you researched.  Blog posts tend to be a little more personal, so make sure you insert a lot of your thoughts and feelings into your writing.  Let the readers know why you care about this person or topic.
Develop an infographic about the person or topic you researched.  There should be enough information on the infographic that someone who knew little or nothing about your person or topic can come away learning a significant amount.  Think about the infographics on the back of our Storyworks magazines.  They have a claim at the top (so should yours) and the evidence in the infographic supports that claim.  You must include illustrations or pictures to make the infographic eye-appealing.
And check out what these kids did!  They put together some amazing projects and learned so much while doing so!


 Notes on the decline of Grey Wolves

Notes on Medieval Times

Notes on Endangered Plants


Prezi on LeBron James

Prezi on Violins and Composers


Infographic on Why Penguins Can't Fly (what a cool topic!)

Infographic on JFK

By far, Prezi presentations were the most popular menu item.  It was a fun, new way to make a type of slideshow presentation.  If you're unfamiliar with Prezi, check out their website at  It's easy, free, and fun!

Curiosity is certainly a theme topic I will use again next year.  It was one of the best things we did this past year and kids should have the option to pick some of their own learning.  By doing so they were fully vested in researching and creating meaningful projects and...gasp!....learning!  What a great combo!