Thursday, May 29, 2014

School's Out For Summer!

The playground is completely silent. The swings have stopped swinging. The seesaws have stopped teetering tottering up and down and the banyan tree has not one child climbing in it. This can only mean one thing, SUMMER VACATION IS HERE!!!!

Parents often ask me for ideas as to what their child can read over the vacation. Here are the lists that I send home with students at the end of each school year.

For First Graders Going into Second Grade

For Second Graders Going into Third Grade

For Third Graders Going into Fourth Grade

For Fourth Graders Going into Fifth Grade

Happy summer reading!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Walking and Listening to "The Mighty Miss Malone"

Curtis, Christopher Paul. The Mighty Miss Malone. Listening Library. 2012. $39.60. ISBN 978-0307968227. Digital download from Overdrive.

In my mind, Christopher Paul Curtis can do no wrong and The Mighty Miss Malone is no exception. Every story he tells sucks you in, has you believing in the characters and feeling all that they feel. His descriptions of certain situations and events make you feel as though you are standing right next to the characters, experiencing it right along side them. The only fault I could find in his books is that they end. I didn't want them to. I'm never ready for them to. This is a sign of an amazing book.

The Mighty Deza Malone is one tough cookie who is not only bright, but has more faith, hope and resilience than one would expect any twelve year to have, especially with all that is going on in her life. Her father, Rosco, has suffered many set backs and  decides to leave the family to go and find work in Flint, promising to contact them when he is settled. Life for Deza, her brother Jimmie and their mother isn't easy once he leaves.  After her mother loses her job, they decided to leave Gary, Indiana and head to Flint to find Rosco. When the Malone's arrive in Flint and are unable to find Rosco, they end up living in Hooverville, a shanty town which is a  30 minutes walk from Flint. While her mother is able to find work, Deza enrolls in school and experiences prejudice in a way that she hadn't before. One evening, after singing for the camp and being told that people would actually pay to hear his voice, Jimmie sneaks off in hopes of earning some money to help support his family. After Hooverville is raided by the police, Deza and her mother must start over again. Will they ever find Rosco? Will Jimmie make it as a singer? Those questions and more can only be answered by reading or listening to the book.

Bahni Turpin was just a delight to listen to. I appreciated how she made Deza sound like a child her age would. This doesn't happen often audio books, often times when the reader does attempt a child's voice, they get it all wrong. Ms. Turpin got it all right, it was authentic and genuine. Deza's "second brain" voice was so much fun and the perfect match, sinister, sly, up to no good voice. When Ms. Turpin sang as Jimmie, you felt Jimmie grow taller as Deza had described him. It was lovely.

Bonus Feature! Christopher Paul Curtis reading the Afterword of the book. Hearing from him the importance of the Joe Lewis and Max Schmeling boxing match was key to this story. I hope people don't skip it as they read or listen to this book. 

Favorite chapter title: The Man in the Beautiful Two-Toned Shoes

Here is a picture I took one morning as I was walking and listening. It was HOT and only 6:30am. This summer is going to be brutal.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Kendamas and Frisbees and Hula Hoops, OH MY!

The school year started off with children being Kendama crazy! Everyone had them, they played with them constantly, taught each other tricks and were having fun watching me attempt (and fail) the simplest of catches. It was so insane that we had to make a special Kendama Parking Lot in the library, a place where they could keep them safely while they were in class. As the year went on though, I saw fewer and fewer Kendamas. What was on the rise? Rainbow Loom! Rainbow Loom bracelets were popping up on wrists all over from kindergarteners to the fourth graders. The wait list for the Rainbow Loom books has been insane. The enthusiasm behind both of these fads was huge, so I decided to jump on this.

Step One: Which fads should we learn more about? After talking to some 3rd graders about fads I created a list popular items. I then narrowed that long list down to just a handful, all of which I felt there would be ample interest and hopefully information on. What were those fads you ask? Kendamas, Rainbow Loom, Silly Bandz, Rubik's Cubes, Hula Hoops, Yo-Yo's and Frisbees.

Step Two: Groups were formed, topics were chosen, questions were asked. We talked a lot about the questions they had written and likened ourselves to archeologists. We knew that for some of our questions the answers would be easy to find, right there on the surface. Even though these questions were easy to answer, they were still vital to our research because they set the foundation. Others would take some digging while others we may have dig and dig and dig and may never find what we are looking for in the time that we have.

Step Three: Books solely on these topics are not easy to find so I turned to the internet to see what kind of information was out there for the children to use. I decided to create a Symbaloo, my first ever, to make access to the websites I had found simpler for the kids. The kids LOVED using the Symbaloo. It was incredibly easy for them to access and navigate through. I will definitely be using this tool again. Thank you Shannon Miller for introducing this tool to me.

Step Four: How are we going to share what we learned? Our students love Comic Life. It is a tool that is easy for them to use, has endless possibilities, allows them to be creative and is something that they are all very comfortable with. The sound effects are just amazing and tons of fun. There is nothing better than walking through the library and hearing the noises that goes along with the stretching feature or the spinning of a photo or text box. Love it!

Here is just a sample of the final product:

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Walking and Listening to "Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy"

Foxlee, Karen. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy. 5cd's. 6:20hrs. Listening Library. 2014.  ISBN 978-0-8041-6836-6.

The last few months after her mothers passing have been tough for Ophelia. Deciding that the family needs a break and some time away from home, Ophelia's father takes a job curating a sword exhibit at a museum in a foreign city. While exploring the museum Ophelia stumbles upon Room 302. As she enters what appears to be an ordinary room, she soon realizes nothing is as it seems. You see there is a door inside this room and Ophelia is drawn to it. Peering down inside the keyhole she discovers a boy, trapped, living on the other side. The young boy begins to tell Ophelia the most amazing story of his life and how he was chosen by the wizards to stop the Snow Queen. Not believing his story at first, Ophelia comes up with an excuse to leave and heads out to meet her sister. But she doesn't stay away long, she is drawn back to the boy and with each visit she learns more of his story and how he needs her help. Helping the boy isn't as one would hope and needs to be done before the Wintertide Clock chimes. In helping the boy, Ophelia encounters some rather creepy things, like misery birds and after each encounter she vows that will be her last. She can't seem to stop though and becomes even more determined to save the boy and stop the Snow Queen.

Jayne Entwistle's voice is the perfect match for this story. I loved her accent and thought it added something important to the story. At various times when the Marvelous Boy was telling his story, I swear for some strange reason, I would hear the very last words in the song "The Perfect Nanny" from Mary Poppins, "Sincerely, Jane and Michael Banks." Kooky I know, but it made me smile.

Favorite chapter title: In which dinner is eaten in a revolving restaurant ad Ophelia falls asleep at a crucial moment.

Here is a picture I took while I was out one morning walking and listening. The sunrise was beautiful that day due to all the vog.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

What Pet Should I Get?

This project was purely accidentally. It didn't start off to be research project, it started with a lesson on how to use the table of contents in a nonfiction book. You see I had chosen a book on cockroaches to teach the students how to use the table of contents. I figured that this was a topic that while yucky, would grab hold of their attention. I then told the children that I was planning on buying Mrs. Kiessling a pet cockroach. That idea was met with lots of, "Ewww...does she like cockroaches?!" and "I don't want a cockroach for a pet!" After we answered some questions I had about cockroaches, using the table of contents to guide us to the answers, we decided a cockroach would be a really, really bad pet.
Inevitably in every class a child would then ask, "What kind of pet are you going to get her?" Having no answer since I honestly wasn't planning on buying her one, I asked them what kind of pet they would get her if they could get anything they wanted. They had a bazillion answers and a light bulb went off in my head. Why not have the children pick an animal, any animal they would want as a pet, gather information on it and from that make the decision as to whether or not it would make a good pet? They were engaged, they were excited, they were hooked. I was on it!

The animals choices ranged from the obvious, cats, fish and dogs to the total opposite end of the spectrum, termites, elephants and T-Rex's (yikes!). After writing down a few things they knew about those animals and a few things they wanted to know they were ready to begin their research.

In groups of two, the children gathered their information in various ways, both from books and by using Capstone's PebbleGo. This was our first time using PebbleGo and it couldn't have gone smoother. The kids loved using it and got a ton of information from it. Thank you Teresa for the trail!

After gathering their information, we needed to find a way for them to share it. Being poetry month, why not share what they learned via a Haiku? We talked about what a Haiku was, read some Haikus, practiced  breaking words up into syllables, even wrote one together using the information I had gotten from my pet lion research. The kids got right to it. While this was easier for some than others, with some extra help and guidance, they were all able to get it.
 The Haikus were typed up and the illustrated. I recorded the children reading their Haikus.  Take a listen and view the final product.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Walking and Listening to Neversink

Wolverton, Barry. Neversink. 7 hours 13 minutes. Listening Library. 2012. $40.00 ISBN 9780449014790. Digital Download from Overdrive

Egbert, a walrus, has decided to throw himself a surprise birthday party. Not only has he invited all of his friends in Neversink, but he has also included the owls, which does not go over well with his friends, all of whom are auks. You see there has been trouble in the past between the owls and the auks and the two birds now live very separate lives in Tytonia. At first the owls laugh at Egbert's invitation but as time goes on and they realize that their food source is potentially in danger, they decide to go. Why you ask? Well, Egbert has promised them that Lucy Puffin will be making her world famous fish smidgens. The owls think this maybe the answer to their potential food shortage. When Rozbell, a power hunger evil owl, takes his first bite of Lucy's fish smidgens, he is hooked and demands that she provide them for all the owls. While Lucy has always enjoyed making fish smidgens for family and friends, preparing them for everyone soon takes a toll on her and on the fish supply in Neversink. Especially troubled by the toll that this is taking on his wife, Lockley realizes he must do something to put an end to this. Will Lockley's plan makes things even worse for Neversink?

Favorite chapter title: The Worst Party Since Chapter Four

Emrhys Cooper does a nice job narrating the book. For the most part it is easy to hear to differentiation in the character's voices, however I had a very hard time distinguishing between Lockley and regular narration. I felt that those two voices were just a bit too similar. My favorite voices were all for the supporting characters, such as the mole. I felt those characters personalities were captured perfectly.

Here are some pictures I took while I was out walking and listening.