Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Goodbye, Summer Bookaday

Another summer has come and gone, friends.

And this summer's Bookaday Challenge brought its fair share of remarkable books my way.  Unfamiliar with Bookaday? Read here http://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/the-fifth-annual-bookaday-challenge/.

All of the books I read are posted on Goodreads.  Here are my Top 10 favorites.

10. Gabby and Gator by James Burks.

A sweet graphic novel about searching for friendship. This one was given great reviews by my daughter and by some of my students this summer.  Great for second and third graders.

9. Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

Historical fiction is alive and well in this Newberry Honor book.  Hattie Big Sky is an engaging middle grade novel that tells the story of Hattie, a 16 year old teenager who leaves Iowa to run her late uncle's homestead in 1918 Montana.  I look forward to reading the sequel!

8. Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

What a fun and hilarious story about Rumpelstiltskin's true life as a boy living in a magical kingdom with trolls, pixies, poison apples, and even his friend "Red" of Red Riding Hood fame.  I'm excited to read this book to my students this year and I look forward to future fairy tales by this author. 

7. Kit Feeny by Michael Townsend

This is the perfect graphic novel for 2nd-4th grade kids who enjoy quirky humor.  In "On the Move", Kit and his family move to another city.  Kit misses his old best friend, but realizes that there are new friends all around him at his new school.  Both silly and funny, I am excited to recommend this book to a few of my boys.

6. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This book is beautiful.  It is haunting, thought-provoking, and poetic.  This book is not intended for middle grades, so sadly, I will not be reading it to my third graders.  It tells the story of the narrator, recalling himself at 7 years old, when he discovers a supernatural secret at the farm down the road.  I will be reading this again.

5. Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Another wonderful graphic novel, quite specifically for girls.  In this book, 6th grader Raina severely injures her two front teeth after coming home from Girl Scouts.  What ensues is years of braces and surgery.  This will be perfect for many of my girls, especially later in the school year.  (The main character also deals with some adolescent issues such as acne and boyfriends.)  A true coming-of-age story.

4. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

I loved this young adult/adult novel.  I'm a big fan of this author, but it was nothing like her previous work.  Out of the Easy is set in 1950 New Orleans. Josie Morain is the daughter of a brothel prostitute who wants desperately to go to college in another state.  She becomes tangled in an investigation that will challenge her ability to fulfill her dreams.  If you're looking for superb character development and an intriguing story, this one's for you. (But not for your third grader.)  

3. Like Bug Juice on a Burger by Julie Sternberg

I adore this chapter book.  It is PERFECT for 3rd grade girls.  In this sweet book, Eleanor goes to camp for the first time and she encounters many challenges while away from her family.  It is the sequel to Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie, and both books are written in verse format.  They will be matched well with my girls who are exclusively graphic novel readers.

2. Quiet by Susan Cain

Quiet by Susan Cain is one of the best nonfiction books I have read in years.  It wasn't specifically geared toward teachers, although there is a chapter about introverted children in the classroom.  Quiet is about being an introvert in a world that is quite dominated by extroverts.  It is smart, includes plenty of studies and research, and completely changed my perspective about how I nurture my introverted students.  I highly recommend it.

1. Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

Navigating Early was, beyond a doubt, my favorite book of the summer.  It is another piece of historical fiction, set at the end of WWII.  Jack moves from Kansas to Maine to attend a boarding school.  There, he meets Early Auden.  The two boys end up on an adventure that is certainly reminiscent of the book Holes by Louis Sachar.  (Thank you to Susie Highley for the comparison!)  

This is a book with multiple layers that will leave you thinking for days afterward.  Vanderpool has a way with words that had me going back to reread certain sections multiple times.  I don't want to stalk the author, but I would love to visit the coffee shop in Wichita where she did a lot of her writing!  

Although I won't be reading this to my third graders - they need an understanding of Pi = 3.14 first - I know my own children will adore it someday.  It is highly deserving of the #1 spot on my list.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Let's Be Real: Writing Process Vs. Product

Bulletin boards are my nemeses.  They haunt me, just like that old show Unsolved Mysteries once did when I was a child.  (And still does, actually.)  Every summer, one of my biggest challenges is: What in the world do I put on that outside bulletin board?

Lucky for me, this past summer, I had the wonderful fortune of learning from Lester Laminack at the Indiana Partnership for Young Writers summer institute.  He had a brilliant suggestion about displaying student writing.  Why not display writing in the process of being written?  See Mr. Laminack's website here http://www.lesterlaminack.com/

I thought about this.  At one point in our district, we were expected to display perfection on the outside walls.  The problem is, how does this even remotely convey the reality of how my students are working through the process of writing?  Writing is so fluid; never quite finished.  Revision seems so scary and monumental when we teach it as a STAGE, but really, revision, starts the minute we begin drafting.  I want to convey this to everyone who walks by our 3rd grade room.

So this past week, the bulletin board started going up.  

In the center, I will post the standard, skill, or craft move that we are working on.  Then, the student work displayed will show our work on that specific standard, skill, or craft move.  Even if the spelling isn't perfect.  Even if the periods aren't all in their correct places.  (Gasp!)

When I talk with parents, administrators, or other teachers about the writing progress of my students, I'm hoping that they will see our work in progress and in process.  

Teaching writing is like watching a tree grow.  It is often slow, but there are gains over time.

So take that, bulletin board.  You are staying up and growing all year long.