Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Mostly Monty by Johanna Hurwitz

Here it is the last week of school and I'm adding new characters and books to our classroom library.  I justified it because I need more boy characters.   Mostly Monty by Johanna Hurwitz is going to be a great addition to our collection and the three other books in the series.  Monty is a first grader but I think a mature first grader that second graders will enjoy getting to know.  

The first chapter might be my favorite.  We learn Monty has asthma and it's just part of his everyday life, like a pair of glasses.  He is worried about starting first grade.  He settles in and loves going to the library.  The librarian, Mr. Harris suggests the students pick from the picture book area in the library but Monty wanders over to the nonfiction section because he loves reading about animals.  Mr. Harris suggest these are too hard and Monty should wait a couple of years to read books in this section.  Don't worry, Mrs. Meaney his teacher saves the day and confirms Monty is a very good reader and can read anything.  Mr. Harris congratulates Monty and lets him browse for a book.  

Monty's next adventure involves having a pet caterpillar because anything with fur would bring an asthma but this caterpillar isn't a caterpillar for long.  Then  Monty rescues some treasures from the neighbor only to realize some of them are broken and can't be repaired.  However, there is one treasure he can keep and won't upset his asthma.  Then Monty becomes a lost and found expert at school which has an interesting twist for him.  Each adventure is told with humor and honest reactions that little kids would offer as they interact with each other.  It's interesting how each story has a small twist and turn with a positive outcome.  

A favorite line to enjoy - "Reading was the one thing he could do without worrying about his breathing."

Friday, May 13, 2016

Call Me Marianne - by Jen Bryant

Call Me Marianne by Jen Bryant is a picture book every teacher of writing needs and/or poet themselves.  David A Johnson's ink and soft watercolor illustrations help make this a soothing story for readers and one where the words lead the reader's journey.  

The story begins when Jonathan takes a bus ride on the bus to the city zoo.  He notices a woman city on the bus looking at the same article from the New York Times - "Exotic Lizards Have New Home at City Zoo."  The reader quickly learns Jonathan must visit the zoo often.  He knows the names of the elephants and sometimes the keeper lets him feed them peanuts.  On his journey to the new exhibit he sees a hat that belonged to the woman on the bus.  He hurries along and finds the woman at the new reptile house.  Jonathan returns the hat and after introductions he is invited to join.  He learns her name is Marianne and that she isn't a scientist but a poet.  

They travel throughout the zoo together and she explains what she does as a poet.   It all begins by watching.  It involves reading.  It requires looking for details.  Of course, she is taking notes.  Jen Bryant's detailed description is a must read.  Here is a snippet, "Then I write them all down, I shuffle them around, like pieces of a puzzle and I read them over and over out loud.   I'm patient, very patient - "  After she shares this with Jonathan, Marianne just happens to have an extra notebook for him to use.  

This story is a fictional account by Marianne Moore, a real poet who lived in NYC and wore a black cape and hat.  She was interested in the natural world and visited the zoo quite often.  This is a perfect book to help children see poetry comes from observations.  

Thank you Violet Nesdoly / Poems for hosting Poetry Friday this week.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Poetry Friday - Finding a Purpose for Writing

This week I felt success as a writing teacher.  It wasn't during a mini lesson, a conferences, or a sharing at the end of writing workshop.  It didn't happen during writing workshop.  It happened while reading darling notes from my students for Teacher Appreciation Week.  All the work we do in school is really important and essential.  However, does all the work we do really matter if students only do it within our classroom walls?  

I received notes from so many students that were just lovely.  Most of them were of a narrative nature with kind words about our time together but two notes made me stop and think about our current poetry unit of writing really mattering.  Two of my students found a purpose to write poetry at home and I am blessed they have these thoughts.

My Teacher

When the bell rings
I go to class
I can't wait
to see her
My teacher
makes me laugh
her name is Mrs. Robek 

Your a great 
teacher with
many features
because your a 

your funny, your
happy, and far far

Radiant, shining light.
Open minded.
Big hearted.

Thank you to Sylvia at Poetry for Children for hosting Poetry Friday this week.  You will want to see her collection of poems for Mother's Day.  

Monday, May 2, 2016

Stella Batts Needs a New Name by Courtney Sheinmel

Stella Batts Needs a New Name by Courtney Sheinmel has been in my To Be Read pile for a couple of months and I'm so glad I spent time this weekend getting to know Stella.  Stella is a third grade girl with plans to be a writer.  I fell in love with her when she declared she wasn't going to wait until she grows up to be a writer, she's writing her first book right now; an autobiography.  

Stella has a younger sister who can make Stella's patience a bit thin but in the end really helps Stella figure something out.  Stella has a best friend, a group of friends, and then some boys at school who she doesn't like.  One in particular made fun of her name and changed it to Smella.  Stella doesn't want to relive the event that got her this nickname so she decides she is unhappy with her name and will change it.  Her friends love this idea and decide to join her.  How the girls go about thinking up new names is entertaining.  Her teacher doesn't love this idea so much.  Her parents "roll" with the idea, as all good parents would.  

This book has two features I enjoy and love to read; an introduction about the characters before the actual story begins and an epilogue.  When I finish a book I really enjoy, I always want to read more about the characters in the future and this doesn't always happen.  There's a lot of dialogue in this story but easy for readers to follow and understand.  I feel Courtney Sheinmel gave Stella a great voice; she defines words for the reader, she wrestles with her own thinking, and she's learning how to stand up for herself.   A fun new character to add to our classroom library with several titles.