Monday, February 27, 2012

It's Monday! What are You Reading?

It is hard to keep all of the books straight. I don't know what I would do without Goodreads. I am happy I don't have to deal with spiral notebooks full of titles anymore. Here is what I got to read this past week.

Newbery Challenge: I finished Smoky the Cowhorse and started Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon. Smoky was kind of slow going for a long while, but then towards the end the storyline picked up and it seemed like all sorts of things were happening. I am enjoying Gay-Neck a lot more already. I seem to gauge how much I like a book by the speed I read it. When I love a book, it just flies by.

Caldecott Challenge: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is the only one I recorded reading. Love that book!

2011 Nerdies Book Award Nominees: I finally read some graphic novels I had been waiting for. Page by Paige written by Laura Lee Gulledge was great. The artwork was clever AND beautiful. I also appreciated seeing Paige's struggle with her own creativity and personality. Even at my age, I am still wondering who I am. There was a similar flavor with Level Up by Gene Luen Yang. What a common quandary - what am I going to be when I grow up? The last one of these that I read was a picture book - Prudence Wants a Pet by Cathleen Daly. Simply adorable.

The only other book that I managed to squeeze in was Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. I have to say that being published anywhere near The Fault in Our Stars by John Green was not helpful to this book. Me and Earl is definitely a different kind of book. I am still processing this one. This was a bit of a ramble about a hard time in a teen's life. He narrates using a screenplay type of format alternating with traditional writing since he enjoys making movies. He portrays himself as a bit of a cold fish and so I had a hard time connecting with him. I appreciated the honesty of someone frustrated with the process of watching someone die. 

For the coming week, I have some professional reading to do, some caldecotts, finishing Gay-Neck, Feynman, Hera, and a few other 2011 Nerdies Book Award Noms. I would like to finish off that list and keep trucking with some 2012s soon. I am also going to be reading a lot of Dr. Seuss this week - always fun!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Stuffed Animal Sleepover

Our LMC had its first Stuffed Animal Sleepover.  The big brown bear just had to read Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do you See?  The owl read Owl Moon.  A seahorse found a non-fiction book about Sea Horses and the rabbit found The Rabbit Problem.  The beanie babies had fun dancing with Elephant and Piggie on the Internet.  I think they had a great time at the science table too.  Check it out.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Squish Inspires Science Exploration!

Through the wonder that is NetGalley, I was able to read an ARC of Squish: The Power of the Parasite.  Squish, ever the superhero, is battling his way through problems.  As I laughed my way through this rather unique graphic novel, it occurred to me that my students would likely LOVE the opportunity to see microscopic organisms.  I tracked down a great site Nikon MicroscopyU that has some wonderful microscopy video of a wide variety of organisms that live in ponds.

Cool Amoeba Video
I set up a laptop at a table and the kids have been having a blast watching amoebas, parameciums, nematodes and many other fun critters zipping around.  Kids love to see them zooming or oozing around.

I couldn't get any real pond water and super powerful microscopes, but I contacted a fourth grade teacher that is doing a unit with microscopes.  She had extras!! She loaned me three small microscopes & I put salt, glitter, and poppy seeds in well slides.

With some nature items and a few magnifying glasses, now we had a really cool place to hang out and explore stuff.  I added some non-fiction and it was ready to go.  Thanks to inspiration from Matt and Jenni Holm, we have a great new spot in the library.

Monday, February 20, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Newbery Challenge: I started Smoky the Cowhorse and am making steady progress.

Caldecott Challenge: I managed to read five books for this challenge in the past week.  Make Way for Ducklings has always been a favorite and I still love that feisty mama duck.  She is just awesome.  Prayer for a Child is all sweetness and nostalgia filled.  Chanticleer and the Fox is fun and fablish.  The Egg Tree was also a trip down memory lane as I thought of Easter one year on a cousin's farm hunting eggs and the times I have made eggs with my children for an egg tree of our own.  Finally, Ox Cart Man was a fun way to look at seasons. All in all a pleasant Caldecott week.

I did manage to finish the Ellen Degeneres book, Seriously...I'm Kidding, but was unfortunately underwhelmed.  The books that actually knocked my socks off this week are potential 2013 award winners.  The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate was a fantastic story told by a gorilla.  I am not generally an animal story fan, so this is saying something.  The other wower was The Mighty Miss Malone. Christopher Paul Curtis has created another living breathing charming character that just pushes right into your heart.

Younger Books: Hot Hot Roti for Dadaji by F. Zia was fun and I loved seeing the interactions between grandfather and grandson.  Henry and Mudge and the Bedtime Thumps and Babymouse Burns Rubber were two series books that did not disappoint.

History: Breaking Stalin's Nose was a fantastic look into the past.  I appreciated the combination of text and pictures that told a story of two days in the life of a child of communism.  The story is compact and powerful.  I really appreciated seeing the author in a video on Mr. Schu's blog too.  It made the story come alive.  Another really fascinating piece of history was the book Drawing from Memory by Allen Say.  I loved this memoir especially since it had such a variety of illustrations including his early artwork, comics, and other bits and pieces.

Last, but not least, I finished Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley which won the Printz and the Morris awards.  I found it intriguing and certainly well done, but it wasn't exactly my typical type of story.  Because of the mysteriousness of the storyline, I was pulled along throughout, but it took a long time for me to really care about the characters.

All in all, a busy reading week.  For next week, I will finally, finally, finish Me and Earl.....  I have it on the computer upstairs and it has been where my daughter has been working on her school project every evening, so I wait.  I will also finish Smoky the Cowhorse.  I am planning on reading the Great Wall of Lucy Wu and several other middle grade novels and a passel of Caldecotts again.  I am going to finally read some Kashmira Sheth books too because she is coming to visit in April.  With a lot going on in my life, I am not sure if I will get as much time to read this week, but I will eek out as many reading minutes as I possibly can.  ;)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Skype Visit to Romania

A few weeks ago I had the good fortune to be able to read with Cristina Milos's class in Bucharest, Romania.   I had a fantastic time with her students.  They were really sweet and listened so nicely.  I loved visiting with them and I hope to meet with other classes around the world in the future.  Reading aloud with students is a privilege and I can't think of many things I enjoy more.  Cristina made a video of our time together on their wiki.

Coming soon is another day for reading aloud.  LitWorld is promoting World Read Aloud Day.  Many other people and organizations are joining in to spread the word such as School Library Journal, Shannon Miller and John Schumacher at Change the World Story by Story and Donalyn Miller.  I hope thousands of people get involved and read aloud on Wednesday, March 7th.  I know I am looking forward to having authors Skype with our students, meeting other classes online, and even having our superintendent come to read with us.  It should be a fabulous day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I am taking the easy way out today.  I am putting in screen shots of my Goodreads page.  I am super tired, but didn't want to skip this so here is my compromise.

I had a few favorites.  I had been looking forward to Bitterblue and was not disappointed.  It is another great fantasy and I liked it waaaay better than Fire and almost as much as Graceling.  Stick was seriously intense, but quite well done.  Kepler's Dream was a surprisingly engaging family mystery.  The pictures in Naamah and the Ark at Night were fabulous.  Hippo & 11 Experiments got some chuckles out of me.  I really enjoyed Redwoods.  I learned a lot of super interesting facts.  Nothing Like a Puffin was a really bright and fun book that explained puffins by showing what they are NOT like.

I also read to a group of children in Romania on Friday morning and had a blast with them.  I shared some Jack Prelutsky, Sugar Snow (a Laura Ingalls Wilder picture book), the Oneida book from above and Punk Farm.  Here is a video on their wiki.  If you are interested in reading with them, I would highly recommend it.  It was a great experience.  

For the coming week, I am finishing Seriously...I'm Kidding for real.  I only have 2 chapters left.  My attempt at Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was stymied when I could no longer open it on my NookColor.  I will finish it this week on my computer - not nearly as comfortable.  I am also planning to dive back into the Newbery and Caldecott challenges.  Smoky the Cowhorse is up next and I have a pile of Caldecotts.  It should be fun. :)  

Monday, February 6, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Middle Grade Novels
These are the two chapter books I finished this week.  Both of them were wonderful.  I loved the people I met.  These were characters I wish I could meet for real.  Foster almost convinced me that cupcakes should be my favorite food.  Close to Famous reminded me that just because some things are easy for us, they can be very hard for others.  It made me really think hard about what might be going on inside some of my students.

Raine and the wonderful tumble of people she meets were real and quirky and inspiring. I appreciated that she had honest feelings dealing with her family and kept working at the relationships even when it got hard.  The personalities in Sparrow Road were very fun.

I took a break from Newbery, but will resume soon.  As for Caldecotts, I only read one - Alphabatics.  It was okay.  The crazy gyrations of the letters morphing into things were kind of fun, but it didn't really hold my attention.

I have had a super busy time the past week, so most of the rest of the books were what I read whenever I was stuck shopping and I stopped in at a bookstore for a few minutes waiting for other people.  My favorite of those was Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Kassen.  I really can't wait to read that one to my students.  They will love it.

I am in the middle of three books right now and so hopefully I will finish them up in the coming week.  I'm reading Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Seriously...I'm Kidding by Ellen Degeneres, and Kepler's Dream by Juliet Bell.  All are good in their own way and it is always hard to figure out which one to pick up.  I need to start my next Newbery and get a few more Caldecott's under my belt this week, but I  have no idea if I can carve out that much time.  Here's hoping!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Digital Learning Day

Created by Peter Reynolds for Digital Learning Day

Today is Digital Learning Day in Wisconsin and we are active all over school using technology to enhance and transform instruction.  Announcements were unchained from the standard location when our principal and two students used a laptop and UStream rather than our bulky camera that is pretty much chained to one room.  Students have been using technology throughout the day posting on blogs, researching, and creating.  It is exciting to see all the things that the teachers are trying today.  The challenge for our staff was to integrate one new technology tool.  In some ways, today doesn't look a whole lot different than a typical day since our building uses digital learning every day.  The only thing is that today we are pushing ourselves to go beyond our comfort zone.  Hopefully, I will have more to post as the day progresses.  Happy Digital Learning Day!

It ended up being a busy day for me helping to make sure things went smoothly around the school, but it was really awesome to see people using some of the things they saw at the Technology Petting Zoo last week.  Playaways were checked out and the iPad cart was buzzing all over the school with kids videotaping themselves and each other, using new apps, and experimenting and creating.  Some classes were posting or commenting on blogs for the first time and both teachers and students had a high level of excitement about many of these experiences.  I loved having a part in it and hope to see continued growth with both staff and students.  I have ideas about what to do next time too.  I would like to do something like Sarah's Digital Learning Fair with students teaching and demonstrating.  Something to look forward to next year.