Children's Books

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Wishtree is the newest release from Katherine Appelgate, award-winning author of The One and Only Ivan. This tale of friendship, community, and acceptance is told from the point of view of Red, neighborhood oak tree. Red is known to the neighborhood as the wishtree, because each spring adults and children tie ribbons, scraps of fabric, and even underwear that contain wishes onto Red. This tradition hasn't been a problem until recently. Red and his animal friends work together help the people in the neighborhood. (I don't want to tell too much about the plot, because I don't want to give away too much.)
I think this book make a perfect read aloud for grades 1-6. The chapters are relatively short and manageable length for readers. The characters are engaging and speak to issues we unfortunately address each day. I can just imagine the thoughtful discussions that would come from discussions about Red and the characters in Wishtree.  Classroom teachers and librarians need to read Wishtree in order to be able to talk about it and recommend it to that special reader.


Friday, October 6, 2017

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (part 1)

      Early this year I fell in love with The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. In March I read the book and immediately felt I needed to tell all my other reading friends about it. I read it with other teachers in our staff book club. (You can read all about that here.) I purchased a copy for each of my fourth graders, and we read it together before they graduated from Lincoln Elementary. We didn't understand how a mother could be so cruel to her daughter, Ada. We were touched by the growth Ada made when she was able to escape her mother's cruelty while facing the problems of World War II England. We were so disappointed when the story ended. There were so many questions related to the characters that were left unanswered.
      We were elated to hear that Kimberly Brubaker Bradley was releasing a sequel to The War that Saved My Life in October. Hopefully our questions would be answered. Would Ada receive surgery to repair her clubfoot? Would Ada's mom allow her and Jamie to remain with Susan? What would happen to Butter? How would the town survive WWII?
     Yesterday I was able to get my hands on The War I Finally Won. I am on page 11 of the book, and I have really mixed feelings. I can't wait to keep reading, but I have such strong feelings about how I think Ada's story should turn out. Will I be disappointed with the sequel? I really hope not.
     As a reader I'm suggesting you do two things-

  • First, read The War that Saved My Life. Tell me what you think. 
  • Second, follow up by reading The War I Finally Won
Happy Reading!!!



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Burkins and Yaris, LIVE!!!

I recently had the pleasure of hearing Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris speak about next generation reading instruction. They are powerful duo. It was evident that they work well as a team, and they truly believe in pushing our thinking and teaching in order to do our best work.

My mind if so full of great ideas I want to share, but let's just start with three.
  1. A balanced reading process is as important as level.  Students should have balance between using print and meaning in their reading processes. Students who rely on either print or meaning at the expense of the other will not be able to sustain comprehension and growth. My goal as a teacher should be to realize when students do not have print and meaning balance and intervene at that point.
  2. Am I maximizing the gradual release of responsibility? Read Aloud, Shared Reading, Guided Reading, and Independent Reading allow a gradual release of responsibility from teacher instruction to students independently using the skills they have been taught. Guided reading should be the opportunity to see if students can use the skills that have been taught in read aloud and shared reading. "Guided reading should look as much like independent reading as possible."
  3. "The brain that does the work is the brain that does the learning" by David Sousa. When I can release responsibility and problem solving over to the students, they will be the ones learning.
What's my plan?
  • Video tape myself during small group today. (Yikes!) Am I leading students to the problem solving situations, or am I allowing them to problem solve through the difficulties that arise?
  • Continue to read Who's Doing the Work.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Who's Doing the Work? Thoughts from the Introduction

Who's Doing the Work? How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris takes a look at reading instruction and small changes educators can make in order to allow students to become readers who can initiate and implement strategies on their own. I have chosen to study this book this year as part of my Professional Growth Plan (PGP). My intention is to read and chew on the text by Burkins and Yaris this year.

As a Remedial Reading teacher, I am constantly working with children who are struggling with reading strategies to some degree. I work with kids each day that come across challenging parts of text, and I naturally want to fill in all the holes for the students in order for them to feel successful with the text. But am I truly helping them become independent problem solvers? What small moves can I make to help my students become proficient readers?

Here are just a few of the statements that had me thinking his week:

  • "When people spend time in situations where they have little or no power, they become unable to recognize when they actually do have power." (p. 2) I want my students to know they do have the power to access texts.
  • "..we have unwittingly assumed too much of the important work- telling students what to think, when they are having difficulties, how to resolve a problem, and even when to turn the page. Not only that, but in telling them when to do something, we tell them not to act until we prompt them." (p. 3) My readers have learned to look to me or other teachers when they are having difficulties. They have learned that we will tell them how to solve the problem and what they should do. How do I go about retraining myself to allow students to do the work? This might be as uncomfortable for me as it will be for my readers.
  • "Next generation reading instruction requires us to scrutinize our lessons through a lens of student independence/dependence and involves identifying places where we are assuming student work that student could do if we let them." (p. 5)  This week I have been asking students different questions when they need my assistance. I've been asking, "What do you think you can do?" I want my students to assume the work that they are capable of doing. 
On page 6, Burkins and Yaris present four questions to guide us towards next generation reading instruction.
  1. Can students identify the areas of the work that need their attention?
  2. Can students decide the type of strategy they need to use or work they need to do to understand a text?
  3. Can students self-monitor their understanding and identify the areas of text that they do not understand?
  4. Can students share their thinking about the strategies that work for them?



Sunday, August 6, 2017

SHINE- Goals for 2017-2018

Tomorrow is the beginning of my twenty-sixth year of teaching. (How is this possible?!?)  As I look  ahead to another school year, I want to make this one the best year yet. "Shine" has been my word this year, but I wanted to put some actions behind it to have a way to spur me on. So in true Pirate fashion, thank you Dave Burgess, I am writing my goals as an acrostic.

S- Smile- I need to smile more. Sometimes I am smiling on the inside, but the news hasn't always made it to my face. Life is too short to be unhappy, and I'm going to smile.

H- Help- We all need each other. Helping students, staff, teachers, parents, and others in our school community is the way to show that I am here to give support.

I-Intentions- This year I am going to assume that people have the best intentions. At times I can be very critical about the intentions and motives people have. This puts me in a negative head space, and it isn't helpful.

N-Nurture- I am excited to find out which students will be in my classes this year.  I know I'm not their parent, but I have the honor to nurture and support them while they are in my room. We all need to know that we have someone in our corner. It's going to be me this year.

E-Encourage- Everyone thrives when they feel supported and encouraged. I want to have my eyes and heart open and looking for ways to encourage others.

It's really about having an "others" focus. When I have decisions to make this year, I want to run them through the "Shine" test.  Here's to a shine-y 2017-2018 school year.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

"Solo" Launch Team- Post 1

A few days ago I found out I was chosen to be on the launch team for Kwame Alexander & Mary Rand Hess's new book, Solo. The email gave us access to the first 18 pages, and I couldn't wait to get started.

I have enjoyed Kwame Alexander's previous books, The Crossover and Booked, so much. Kwame's word choices paint such clear pictures for me.

The first eighteen pages of Solo did not disappoint. I met Blade, the teenage son of a famous musician with a wild past and an uncertain future. I can't wait to meet more characters along the journey. 

My ARC book was delivered by the UPS man today! I'm going to try and blog about my reactions to the book without giving away any spoilers.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Lincoln Staff Book Club "The War That Saved My Life"

Lincoln Staff members are reading for book club once again. I was so happy to introduce my colleagues to one of my favorite books this year, The War That Saved My Life by Kim Brubaker Bradley. We met yesterday during lunch to discuss our thoughts and reactions to the first half of the story. Here are a couple comments:

  • "The first part of the book made it hard to put down. I had a range of emotions from sad, to joyful, to anxious for what is to come."
  • This is my favorite book we've read so far this year. 
  • "I can't wait.  I want to keep reading but I have to stop at 160. Not fair, not fair!!!!!"
  • "Looking forward to reading more and discussing...I almost cried in just the first few chapters! "
  • I'm making connections between Ada and several of our students who have experienced trauma in their lives. They are learning how to have trusting relationships with people.
  • I've never thought about World War II from the viewpoint of people living in England. 
  • I can't wait for the sequel to come out. Why do we have to wait until the fall?
Thank you, Kim Brubaker Bradley, for sharing this wonderful story with the world.