Children's Books

Friday, April 20, 2018

Meeting Katherine Applegate

One of my favorite books this year has been Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. You can read my post about Wishtree here. Katherine Applegate has also written the Newbery winning, The One and Only Ivan as well as Crenshaw (and many, many more). When I found out that Katherine Applegate would be in St. Louis I knew I HAD to be there.  She gave a talk about her newest picture book, Sometimes You Fly, answered questions, and signed books.

Here are some of my thoughts from her talk-

  • Even people who are really talented sometimes feel unsure about themselves.- Ms. Applegate told the story about how she was very unsure of herself as an author. She started her career as a ghostwriter. When she tweeted back a response to my class she said, " I was a ghostwriter when I started out, but the first big thing I published under my own name was the ANIMORPHS series (with my husband, Michael). I'd already been out of college for about 10 years! Let's just say there were a lot of tries before I did anything close to flying."
  • Anything worth doing will probably be difficult.- Katherine also told a story about how she almost stopped writing when she was half way through the manuscript of The One and Only Ivan. Can you imagine? She was ready to throw away the manuscript!!! This title went on to win the Newbery Medal. Kids and adults all over the world have loved reading the touching of Ivan, and when writing got difficult, Katherine kept going. 
  • Katherine Applegate connects with readers.- The day after the book signing I was talking to my students and showing them the books signed by Katherine Applegate. They were all so excited and wanted to hear more. I tried to remember all the stories she told during her discussion, but my students still had more questions. They suggested that I tweet out their questions. So I did, and Katherine Applegate tweeted us back. We were able to use social media to connect students to a favorite author. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Proud as a Peacock

I had the privilege to share the Blogger platform with teachers from the St. Charles School District today. It was so amazing to share a little bit about my blogging journey, explain the Blogger platform a little bit, and watch as the teachers started working.

I was challenged in a keynote from George Couros to stop spoon-feeding teachers (and students). He suggested to let students do the exploring and the learning.  So I tried it. I gave the workshop participants a little bit of instruction, and then I let them explore. I let them struggle through the exploration and learning. I was a little shocked by what happened...everyone worked. Everyone explored. Everyone tried. Teachers helped each other. The room had an eerie quiet and a buzz of creative energy. The tap, tap, tapping of computer keys was music to my ears.

I'm proud to introduce you to the first of several blogs that came out of our session. They all have different stories to tell. Take a peak at the Aaron's blog...

  • Stcharlessoftball.blogspot.com is a blog created by Aaron Wright. Aaron's goal of the blog is to "retroactively post about event over the past two seasons to document our paradigm shift in program culture." Once he is caught up to the present, he wants to give game recaps and current events. Girls that graduate and leave the program will still have a presence through the living memory of the program's blog. What a wonderful gift he is giving through his blog.


Monday, April 2, 2018

Using Flipgrid as a Sharing Tool

     The Lincoln Staff Book Club is using Flipgrid as our tool for sharing with each other this time as we discuss the book, Orphan Island. Book club members are not always available to meet together at the same time, and Flipgrid provides a platform to share our thoughts with each other. I created a free Flipgrid account and added a few discussion starter questions into the grid for our group. Flipgrid creates a special code just for our questions. Group members download the Flipgrid app or use the Flipgrid website. They enter our group code and then make a video response to the discussion questions. So far in our discussion we have 12 video responses that have been recorded and 41 minutes of engagement with the discussion grid.
     Try Flipgrid the next time you have a book club discussion group.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Wild Robot and Peter Brown

Peter Brown starts Roz.
     I recently had the opportunity to meet Peter Brown on his book release tour for The Wild Robot Escapes , the sequel to The Wild Robot. I fell in love with the main character, Roz, when I first read The Wild Robot last year. Roz is a robot who finds herself stranded on an island inhabited by all types of animals. At first, the animals are not accepting of Roz since she is so different. Roz learns to communicate with the animals through close observations, and they learn to help each other. Roz also unintentionally becomes the mother of a goose she adopts.
Peter Brown adding the finishing touches. 
     The bond between Roz and her son, Brightbill, is the driving force of both books. Roz learns that being a parent takes everything she has. I just love how Roz learns how to parent through every situation. My mother's heart was breaking for Roz and her desire to protect and care for her son.
      I think all kids grades 2 and up will enjoy both of these chapter books. The plots in both stories move along with enough action to keep children interested.
     Peter Brown told me that he intentionally made the chapters short so reader could feel the accomplishment of finishing chapters. As a self-described, "reluctant reader", Mr. Brown said that he designed the book to have short chapters and supporting illustrations for all types of readers. I told him that I love to book buzz about his books whenever I get the opportunity.  If you want to learn more about the process Peter Brown used when researching, writing and illustrating his books you should visit his site.



Friday, March 2, 2018

How do I stop talking so much during guided reading?

I've read Who's Doing the Work? How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris a couple times, and I have questions regarding small group reading instruction. The majority of my day consists of small group reading instruction, and I honestly do too much talking. When looking at the gradual release model, small group reading instruction is the step right before independent reading. Small group reading should be the opportunity for students to show how well they can use reading strategies by themselves under the watchful eye of the teacher. On page 82, Burkins and Yaris describe the teacher's work during guided reading.
"The teacher facilitates rather than directs the lesson, observing students as they resolve challenges in the text and making notes about the reading process. There is is extensive student interaction with the text."
Today I had a couple minutes to talk directly with Jan, and I asked for her about my question...How do I stop talking so much during guided reading? Jan's response was helpful and doable. She said, "Take notes. Take running records. Start writing and keep writing."  While the students are interacting with text I can take notes and running records based on what students are doing.

I think I can do that. Please comment below to share what you do during small group reading so that your students are doing most of the work.

Check back to see how it goes...

Who's Doing the Work? Question #1

   I had the privilege to attend a workshop led by Jan Burkins, co-author of Who's Doing the Work? How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More. Here are just a few thoughts from the presentation. (More of my takeaways will follow in later blog posts. Stay tuned.)
   The first question is, "Are you paying enough attention to how your students read?" Listening to students read and having conversations with them afterward can give a snapshot into their reading processes.
The goal is to have students using print and meaning equally in order to have efficient reading processes.  Students can rely too heavily on print and less on meaning, rely to heavily on meaning and less on print, or utilize print and meaning equally. We can use a Venn diagram like the one on the left to analyze student reading. This will tell us more than just looking at student reading levels. If you would like to dig deeper into this idea, read chapter 1 in Who's Doing the Work.

Questions to consider.

  • How do I currently look at the reading processes of students?
  • What would a reading process Venn diagram look like for each of my students?
  • How could I use the Venn diagrams to make decisions regarding reading instruction?
  • What information can I gleam from analyzing student's reading process instead of reading level?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Wishtree Staff Book Club

During January several staff members have been reading Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. We have 17 members of book club this time, and I have been busy finding extra copies of the book as more people jumped into book club.  This time of the year is tricky for book club because unseen obstacles like snow days or sick days can impact the amount of reading time available. Even though there may be obstacles it's important to pick a good book and keep reading.

I had already read Wishtree, and I couldn't wait to share this amazing story with my fellow readers. I missed our first discussion day because I was sick, and I was a little disappointed at some of the responses I heard. Some readers were having a difficult time getting into the book. Some were confused with the point of view. "Keep reading," I urged them. I knew that eventually they would discover the magic. They would be drawn to Red and the way Red held the community together.

Today was our final discussion, and those who finished reading the book loved it. Here are a couple comments:

  • I have really enjoyed it and I know others have also.  It has also been great to have kids say...hey my teacher is reading that book too!
  • ...I wonder if the parents will ever start being friends?! Great book!
  • I loved watching a friendship evolve...I think there is hope for the parents.
  • I enjoyed this book!! I enjoyed reading it with my kiddo too and seeing him get the big idea in the book. It was so interesting how the author chose to write from the tree's point of view.
  • ...I feel that it ties together really well with the whole aspect of welcoming and interacting with others who aren't necessarily like you.
It was also exciting to have Katherine Applegate tweet a comment about our book club.

What can learn from staff book clubs? I have a couple ideas:

  1. Reading in a book club helps provide accountability for readers. 
  2. Book clubs provide us with opportunities to share with our families.
  3. Students are watching us. They are watching us as readers. 
  4. Book clubs may introduce us to books we may not read otherwise.
  5. Book clubs are fun!