Children's Books

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Barnacle Is Bored

    Look what came in the mail for me today!!! Jonathan Fenske sent me a copy of his new book, Barnacle Is Bored, and some other Barnacle goodies. Barnacle Is Bored launches in hardcover on May 10th. It's a super book, and it's lots of fun.
     I can't wait to share it with my kindergarten students. They will giggle at the funny story line and enjoy the illustrations. We'll also talk about speech bubbles. Barnacle uses speech bubbles, and so do my kindergarten students (every chance they get).
     I'll also share it with students in other grades where we can talk about using font changes to show word stress.  We can also find examples of alliteration. We will also notice how authors can use word choice wisely.
     Most of all we can talk about what it really means when you say you're bored.  This is a great book for parents, maybe 3 weeks into summer vacation, when kids start saying they're bored. Take a look at Jonathan Fenske's Barnacle Is Bored.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Let the Data Speak for Itself

Independent Reading Engagement Feb/March
     Almost 2 months ago I started this blogging journey, and many of my posts have told the story of 4th graders growing as readers.  I have written several posts talking about a boy I loving refer to as Captain Underpants Superfan. It's been interesting to really watch what he has been doing, support him where he is, and celebrate with him along the journey. At the end of February I found an independent reading observation tool in Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild.  I took observational data over a three day period.  To be honest, I was really bummed out by the data I collected.  I had a feeling that some kids weren't engaged, but the observation data gave me an honest snapshot of what was happening.
April 20th Engagement
     Today I had the joy to share my latest engagement observations with Captain Underpants Superfan. We looked at the results together, and I asked him why he has been able to remain engaged during independent reading time now. We were both so excited to see that he had 9 yes minutes circled.  I told him that I saw him at minute 7 when he wasn't reading, and he stopped reading because he was so engaged in his book he started slipping out of his chair.
     Here are a few of his thoughts about his own reading;
*I don't get distracted anymore.
*I pick out books from the library I actually want to read. I used to pick out books that I knew I wouldn't read.
*I pick out fake (fiction) books to read because I can think about the characters.
*I pretend that I am the character in the book. When I was reading Galaxy Zack I pretended to be Zack.
     I've learned that sometimes I need to take a step back and observe what my students are really doing. I don't need to be afraid or feel judged by the data. I let the data speak for itself. The data isn't judging me. It's showing me the present reality. Then it's my job to share the data with kids and work together on a plan.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

My Latest Book Finds

This week I made a trip to the local book store with my son in order to pick up the latest book by Kate DiCamillo. I kept seeing posts about Raymie Nightingale on Twitter and how fantastic it was. I just needed to get my hands on that book as soon as it came out. When I wasn't able to get it at the local library, I decided that we needed to get to the book store, pronto!

Raymie Nightingale was great, and I especially loved the quote from Louisiana Elefante. I share the same thoughts about the teachers and students at my school.  We're all here, and we're in it together.  Even though our time together is quickly drawing to a close, we can make the most of the 24 days we have left.

Of course I got the book, but I also got a taste of some new books to recommend to some of my 4th grade boys. My son kept finding follow up books to other books he's read before.  So in the end, I came home with one new book, and he had three.
The first book he chose was The Terrible Two Get Worse by Jory John and Mac Barnett. I haven't read the first book (yet), but my son told me that he thinks the 4th grade boys will love it.  So I'll do a quick read and then pick out the perfect person to share it with.

He also picked out Spaced Out by Stuart Gibbs. He really loves everything by Stuart Gibbs, and it reminded me of other books by Gibbs that I've read.  I need to find Belly Up in my library and buzz that to a couple reading friends.

All these new books have me excited about all the summer reading in store for me.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

"Ms. Mertz, you HAVE to read this!"

Readers workshop was drawing to a close, and I heard something that was just music to my ears. Jacob said, "Ms. Mertz, you HAVE to read this book!"  With a giant smile on his face, Jacob showed me a graphic novel by Raina Telegemeier called Kristy's Great Idea: The Baby-Sitters Club. Jacob went on to say, "Everybody's been reading these books.  They are so great. You need to read this. I'll give it to you when I'm finished."

You might be thinking, "So what's the big deal?  A kid recommended a book to you."  Well, here's the big deal. It's music to my ears to hear the buzz in a classroom when they are truly a community of readers. Communities of readers have a feeling of electric frenzy with kids sharing or buzzing about the books they are reading.  It's about kids seeing themselves as readers who have choice and a voice to share with others.  Nobody said, "Read this book because it's your level." Jacob told me to read the book because he and his classmates have found value in the process of sharing the experience of reading.

Could I have recommended the same book and been able to get Jacob to read it?  Maybe. Probably. Will I read the book due to Jacob's recommendation?  Of course I will.

Check out Raina Telgemeier's website to find out about Raina and her books.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Teachers are Readers (Spring Break Reading Challenge Results)

Before Spring Break I issued a challenge to our teachers and staff.  I encouraged them to choose a book that was new to them, read the book, and then think about kids they could share the book with.  I made a Google Doc and we all added our book titles and thoughts right in the shared document where everyone could see.

During break I kept checking on the doc to see if anybody had completed the challenge and what they had to share about the books.  Eventually, teachers started finishing their books and adding their comments.  Here are just a few of the comments:

  •  "Stella by Starlight- for our 3rd and 4th graders with background knowledge about the Civil Rights movement and segregation (AMAZINGLY SWEET book!)"
  • "The Hero Two Doors Down- Great book! Thanks for recommending the book to me Lauren.  I have already passed it on to XXXX.  This is a great book to recommend to students who like sports and it has a great message about accepting people who are different and how to respond when things don’t go your way."
  • "We the Children- This would be great for students interested in mysteries. (Third Grade has been lately, but this might be more upper level, especially as a V level) It is part of a series and left me hanging at the end of the first book!! Can’t wait to find book two now!"
  • "The Missing Pieces of Me & The Dark Ferret Society- I think XXXXX would love the first  book.I already did a book buzz with my granddaughter who is in 6th grade about both of these books.  She wants me to bring the first one to her on Saturday and then the other one when I am finished with it."
  • "Dexter the Tough- I think this book is good for kids who maybe have a tougher home life and don’t know how to deal with it.  Therefore, they lash out at school with problematic behavior.  Definitely for a more mature reader. :)
  • "Dark Ferret Society (This book was written by the wife of our 4th grade teacher. Lots of people were excited to read it.) Started buzzing to 3rd grade about it and we were making connections about the mystery books they have read. " " I just can’t wait for book two!!! Kudos Emily!" "Still reading but I LOVE IT!  Had to finish my book first, because book hopping is not my thing. :)" " am almost done with The Dark Ferret Society.  I love this book!!  Emily is a fantastic author.  I think this book should become a movie!"
  • "STAT Home Court- Basketball fans will really enjoy this book about standing up to bullies and working hard. XXXXXX and XXXX like this book because it is written by Amar's Stoudemire."
I am proud of our principal and teachers who took on the reading challenge.  I feel strongly that we are better able to recommend and buzz books to our students when we have read lots and lots of books in our classroom libraries.  We can't whisper books to kids until we've had a taste of books and authors ourselves.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

OASIS Tutoring- Helping KidsBloom

I am blessed with a job where I can watch kids bloom as readers and learners all year.  It is evident that I am not alone in this wonderful experience. Many of our kids have extra people who help them bloom.  One group of "gardeners" that have a special place in my heart are our OASIS tutoring volunteers.

Walking along the Retelling Mats
This week I was lucky enough to be asked to give a presentation to our district's OASIS tutors.  OASIS tutors are older adults who volunteer their time each week to meet with a student (or students) to build relationships and improve skills in reading, writing, and speaking. OASIS tutors are kind of like an extra grandmas or grandpas.

Passing around the Retelling Discussion Balls
I talked with the tutors about activities they could use during their tutoring sessions to provide movement breaks while still working on reading and speaking. We played with retelling beach balls, walked along retelling mats, and played character charades.  We all had a great time getting to know each other better and trying out new activities

I also shared some picture books that I recently discovered at the library.  The favorite book I shared was Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry. Stick and Stone are characters who need a friend, and luckily they find each other. It's a lovely book that shows up the true meaning of friendship. The tutors loved the book, and I can't wait to hear how they are using it with their students.  If you have not read this book, you MUST READ IT SOON!

 If you are interested in working with kids and being an OASIS tutor you can find more info at OASIS St. Charles.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Readers are AWAKE!

Readers are awake!  Today was our first day back after Spring Break.  I was excited (and a little nervous) to find out what my 4th graders read during the break. We've been working so hard to nourish a love for reading while supporting readers who are establishing their identities as readers. Would the kids be able to stick to the plans they had created? Would they actually read?

I sat down and called over Mr. Captain Underpants Superfan.  He stopped by his desk and picked up another book. He handed me this Captain Underpants #12 book and proudly said, "I'm finished." He completed the entire series, and now I could return the book back to the library. He was also reading a different book by Raina Telgemeier. The book he chose is a favorite that has been quickly making its way through the 4th grade classroom.

I wanted to ask Mr. Captain Underpants Superfan how and why he was able accomplish the plan he'd made for Spring Break reading. (Our last reading conference was creating a plan for reading over Break. He decided that he needed to finish Captain Underpants #12 and then read Smile or Sisters by Raina Telgemeier.)  Here's what he said:

  1. I found a good reading spot.
  2. I read books that I actually like.
  3. I read for a long time.

And friends, that's what readers do. We read books we love, we read in comfy places, and we read for a long time. I'm thrilled to announce that we have another Lincoln Lion reader that has awakened.