Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Harry Potter and My Weird Mind

Today is Harry Potter's birthday. Happy Birthday Harry!

For the past week, I have been watching all of the Harry Potter movies in order. What I have noticed though is that my mind has completely bamboozled me. There are entire scenes from the book that are not in the movies. Of course I expected that, but what I didn't expect is that I have "memories" of these scenes with the actors in them though they have never happened on screen. For example, in the book, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry is using the invisibility cloak while in Hogsmeade because he doesn't have permission to be there. His head is uncovered for a moment and Malfoy sees his head floating in the air. I have a vision of this AND of Alan Rickman grilling Daniel Radcliffe about why his head would have been in Hogsmeade. This is strange because those scenes never appeared in the movie. I also have images in my head of Emma Watson distributing badges for S.P.E.W. and knitting hats for the house elves even though these things are also omitted from the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. These are just a few of the instances and there have even been more.

This seems to confirm to me that when I read books, it is almost like I am watching a movie. I see the characters and the setting. It is like a theater in my mind. I have to say some of the scary characters are even worse in my imagination than in the movies. About the only exception to that has been the orcs in The Lord of the Rings.

If everyone experienced books this way, I believe there would be more avid readers in the world. Talking to people around me, I have found that some people don't see a single thing when they read. This is unfathomable to me. I am thankful that visualization of literature is automatic and that sinking into a good book continues to be a wonderful and fascinating experience. I hope you are also blessed with a mind that plays tricks on you when you read.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

It's Monday! What are You Reading?

Jen & Kellee over at Teach Mentor Texts host a meme every Monday that invites people to share what children's and young adult books they have been reading over the past week and what they plan on reading the following week.

What I have been reading:

My favorite picture books this week were My Dog Thinks I'm a Genius by Harriet Ziefert and The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve. My Dog is a great book encouraging art and its appreciation aside from being humorous. The Christmas Coat is a touching story and I appreciated the illustrations. Debbie Reese has a great review here that highlights some of the reasons that this book is such an accurate and effective portrayal of Native Americans. I just flat out enjoyed the story and am always happy to find books that avoid stereotypes of Native Americans.

A professional book also took up much of my time this week - Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth, and Christopher Lehman. I found this book very helpful as our school district prepares to implement the Common Core State Standards this coming year. I wrote more about that here.

The novel that I am reading right now is Neversink by Barry Wolverton. I am having fun with this community of auks and owls - oh and the extra walrus and hummingbird.

What I will be reading this week:
This week did not have a high volume of reading, but I am planning on reading a lot more in the coming week. I need to do my part for the #leagueoflibrarians participating in #summerthrowdown. I am going to get back to the Newbery Challenge with Miracles on Maple Hill. I will also be doing a re-read of A Monster Calls as I help with the high school Battle of the Books. I will be reading some of the elementary level battle books too. It should be fun. Happy reading!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Ready or Not - Here Come the Common Core State Standards

This week I was lucky enough to be part of a group of educators preparing to implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). I am lucky because we have a little time to accustom ourselves to the standards before we have to jump in and help the students meet them. We will be working all of next week on  curriculum development and planning for training the rest of the teachers in the district. This is a huge undertaking, but it is pretty exciting too.

As part of the preparation, I have been reading Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth, & Christopher Lehman. Teaching with the Common Core is not a choice that we have. It has already been decided, so the only choice at this point is the attitude that we will have as we go forward. In Pathways to the Common Core they write, "We can regard the Common Core State Standards as the worst thing in the world" (p 3). Another choice is to "see hope and opportunity" (p 8). I believe we have the choice to approach this task looking for all of the negatives or to approach it with an eye to the possibilities and the benefits that we hope for in the coming years. We may not have personally made the choice to adopt the Common Core, but we will be on the front lines implementing them. I am not a fan of every single thing in the CCSS, but there are a lot of positives tucked away in there. I am choosing to move forward with a positive mindset and while I don't look forward to the chaos that might ensue as we work through the changes, I do look forward to the teamwork and creative thinking that will emerge in the coming months. I also look forward to seeing the learning as a result of what we do. Here's to the future!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

When Does School Start Again?

Just last week I wrote about how I was relaxing, recharging, and ignoring my as yet unwritten lists of things to do. Now, I am getting a bit anxious about the calendar. When does school start again? When are my committee meetings scheduled? Is it already time to get back to work?

I have a meeting the whole day Thursday then I go to a Common Core training all next week. Once that is over, August will be here. August often feels like a runaway train. July creeps by, but August always passes like a time warp. So the list-making will commence tomorrow or even later tonight. What were all of those things I wanted to accomplish this summer? I hope I have done some of them without even realizing it. I'll still write them down just so I can cross them out though. :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

It's Monday! What are you Reading?

I read 24 books over the past week, so again, I will just highlight some of the best.

Newbery Challenge: Carry on Mr. Bowditch has been one of my favorite Newberys for a long time. I first read it many years ago and loved Nat. His mathematical thinking is just amazing and it is fun to see anyone with such a passion for numbers and exactitude. What boggles the mind is that this is a novel based on a real person.

Picture Book: My favorite this week was Baby Bear Sees Blue. The illustrations are rich and gorgeous. It is a lovely book about colors.

Survival/Mystery: I am happy that some members of the #nerdybookclub discussed the middle grade novel Leepike Ridge. It is a book that we have in our school library, but I had never heard of it before. A young boy gets swept into a subterranean river and must find a way to survive in the caves. There is a lot of suspense and an intriguing mystery too.

Battle of the Books: I have always heard of the Joey Pigza series, but had never read it. I am glad that they have it on the battle list so it forced me to read this surprisingly moving book. In Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, Gantos has shown us a little taste of what it might be like to live with ADHD.

Horror: The Monstrumologist was not my typical type of book. I tend to stay away from horror, but this one had been talked about quite a bit. It grabbed my attention and I just couldn't look away. If you don't like graphic violence or blood and gore descriptions, this is not really the book for you. It really made me contemplate whether monsters truly exist.

Young Adult: I re-read How I Live Now and once again loved it. Daisy is an awesome narrator. And I finally read Ship Breaker. This was a fantastic futuristic adventure.

For the coming week:
I will finally read Darth Vader and Son. I have been on a waiting list at the library, but it is finally on the way. I will read at least one or two for the Newbery Challenge. I think Miracles on Maple Hill is next. I am planning to read several more for the WEMTA Battle of the Books in preparation for the coming school year too. Happy reading!

Summer Fun

Pete the Cat has been very busy this summer. He's been to Madison, WI, Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. Along the way he has seen the sights, read some books, ridden a horse, and taken some hikes. And as he likes to say, "It's all good."

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Change of Plans


I think I had a long list of plans for this summer, but somehow I am just letting life flow instead of checking off my list.

Great reading spot on vacation!
I am getting way more reading done than I expected, but a lot less of everything else. I thought I would be at school much of the summer, but amazingly enough, life is too full to make it over there very much and it turns out, I am okay with that. :)

I also thought I would blog a lot more often, but instead, I am outside running, biking and hiking more than I planned. So, I may end up getting less accomplished for school, but I am really relaxing and recharging. That is definitely a good thing. Hopefully that will bring me back to school with lots of energy and excitement in the fall.

Had fun in the Badlands experimenting with the camera

I wish everyone a great summer!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I am so loving summer reading time! I get to read so many books. 

Newbery Challenge: Summer is great for knocking out quite a few challenge books. Early in the week I hit Ginger Pye, a sweet story about a family and their dog. The next one was The Secret of the Andes. It was a bit of a slower read, but not bad. I found it somewhat interesting, but doubt many of my students would enjoy the lack of action. The next Newbery moved along much faster - and now...Miguel. I thought Miguel was quite an intriguing character. He is stuck in between childhood and adulthood. He wants so much to be old enough to do certain things. Any child can relate to that and there is quite a bit of action so it is still a book I may recommend to students. Finally, I read The Wheel on the School. This one was a re-read. I enjoyed it this time too. It is a very upbeat book and focuses on the power of wondering and community. It just brought a smile to my face.


Great Non-Fiction: My favorite non-fiction books this week were both picture books. Bird Talk has beautiful illustrations and great information about what birds are communicating through their songs and actions. Ocean Sunlight is another gorgeous book. Bang and Chisholm present a wealth of information about the ocean food chain in very easy to understand language. I am excited to have both for our library and can't wait to share them with students.

For Fun: I finally got to read Babymouse for President and Bad Kitty for President. I hadn't realized there would be so much instruction about the election process in the Bad Kitty book. It almost read like non-fiction at times, but the humor kept it from bogging down too much. I have to say, after the finally tally, I would have to vote for Babymouse though. Who wouldn't want a cupcake in every locker? It helps that there was so much Babymouse hype from nerdybookclub folks the past few weeks. I especially loved the blog posts from Mr. Schu and Mr. Sharp.

Loved: The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech. Creech is such a fabulous storyteller. She pulled me in and made me care about the characters. I will write a review later so won't say much now, but I would definitely recommend this middle grade novel when it comes out later this year.

Fantasy: I can't believe it took me so long to finally read Howl's Moving Castle. This was great fun and in some way reminded me of the Tiffany Aching stories though I can't exactly put my finger on why that is. I will have to try some more of Diana Wynne Jones' works now that I have tasted one. I saw the animated video (steampunk/anime style) too. I did prefer the book, but the movie was certainly a fun romp.
For the Coming Week: I am still waiting for Darth Vader and Son and will be starting Carry On Mr. Bowditch and Miracles on Maple Hill for the Newbery Challenge. I imagine it will be another great week of reading. Happy summer reading!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Sense of Wonder

We knew that Montana and Wyoming would be amazing, but we were not prepared for the sense of wonder that really just blew our minds when we arrived. We traveled through Bear Tooth Pass and saw incredible views of the alpine tundra and even took a brief hike. 

Our next excursion that day took us to Trout Lake in Yellowstone where there were fields of wildflowers, a peaceful lake, a beautiful sunset and even Trout spawning under the bridge.

What really put the icing on the cake though was finding a copy of Rachel Carson's book, The Sense of Wonder. When we were sitting around relaxing at the cabin, I found it on the bookshelf.

Carson explained that many adults have lost their sense of wonder and have become blind to nature's gifts. "A child's world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement." (p. 42) She adds that, "If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in." (p. 45) It seemed to fit perfectly with our trip. We were all sharing the wonder of the world around us. 

She also addressed something I think about sometimes. What if I don't know the names of the plants or animals or whatever it is that we are seeing? Carson seemed to believe that having all of the specific facts isn't the point. "It is more important to pave the way for a child to want to know more than to put him on a diet of facts he is not ready to assimilate." (p. 45) She points to the simple activities saying, "Exploring nature with your child is largely a matter of becoming receptive to what lies all around you." (p. 52)

Reading this book helped me to be more aware of our surroundings and to revel in the world around us throughout the beautiful week our family shared. I hope I am able to keep that sense of wonder alive my whole life. I never want to become blind to nature and its many layers. Carson's book also reminded me of Wonderopolis and the way they encourage wondering, exploring, creating and sharing through their marvelous website. They inspire curiosity and encourage a thirst for learning. 

I wish you a fabulous summer filled with hours of wonder and discovery!

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's Monday! What are You Reading?

This was a crazy week since we went on vacation to Yellowstone and Montana. Last week I don't think I did a post, so I have quite a  few books to choose from as I look over what I have been reading.

Best Middle Grade Action/Adventure: The Lost Hero and Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan. With that, I have finally finished reading all of the 2011 Nerdy Nominees. Wahoo! I had put off reading Son of Neptune because it was a sequel and both of them and they were quite lengthy. I am glad that it made the Nerdy list though or I may never have gotten around to it.  They were fantastic, on the edge of your seat kind of books. 

Best Y/A Action/Adventure: I had been saving Insurgent for my vacation. It was hard to wait, but it was great to have time to re-read Divergent and then follow it up immediately with the sequel. These were also well worth the wait. Now I need Roth to get the next one out in light speed.

Most Bizarre: Death in Yellowstone was incredibly gruesome at times, but incredibly fascinating. The many crazy ways of dying boggle the mind. Also, people's capacity for making poor choices seems to be endless. I have to say that after reading the book, I was creeped out when out running along the road. I was just waiting for a grizzy, bison, elk, moose, or some other random creature to pop out at me. This isn't so unusual as it might seem since I passed bison and deer when driving into town.

Best Overall Reading Experience: On our way to Montana, we stopped in Beartooth Pass to hike a bit in the alpine tundra and when we arrived in Montana, one of the first things we did was go on a hike around Trout Lake in Yellowstone. Later that same day, I found Rachel Carson's fantastic book The Sense of Wonder on the bookshelf in our cabin. I will write a full review soon, but it was just awesome to sit on the back porch gazing at the Absaroka Mountains and reflecting on our hikes as I read Carson's encouragement to share the wonder of nature with the children in our lives. 

For the coming week: I never did get to Ginger Pye for the Newbery Challenge, so I will have to hit that this week. Otherwise, I am looking forward to Darth Vader and Son and for the rest, I am leaving it wide open.