Thursday, June 29, 2017

Double or Nothing with the Two and Only Kelly Twins

written by Johanna Hurwitz
illustrated by Tuesday Mourning
Candlewick Press, 2017
review copy from public library

I was so excited to see Johanna Hurwitz has a new book out.  She's been an author I've enjoyed since I started teaching for books that are realistic and connect to readers.  Double of Nothing with the Two and only Kelly Twins is adorable and explores issues of sameness, being different, and lice.  Arlene and Ilene are identical twins.  They look alike, dress alike, and discover they like different things.  However, they do everything together until a sleepover with another set of twins or do not do everything together.  To Arlene and Ilene's surprise this sleepover is planned to be at two different houses.  The girls are splitting up and readers wonder and push through his chapter to see if they survive.  If you've experienced lice in your home or your classroom you know it's not an easy thing take care of mentally deal with.  I enjoyed reading the chapter about how the girls and their friends with the help of their school dealt with lice.  I think it could help someone after reading this.  While this is a transitional reader there aren't pictures or plenty of white space to help the reader.  Instead, this book has chapters that could stand alone which makes comprehension easier to understand.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

King and Kayla and the Case of the Secret Code

written by Dori Hillestad Butler
Illustrated by Nancy Meyers
Peachier Publishers 2017
review copy from public library

I discovered King and Kayla and the Case of the Secret Code at our lovely Main library last week in the children's section and just had to find out more about these two adorable characters.  King is a dog and Kayla is a little girl and together they are detectives.  You might be wondering how a dog is a detective.  King is a detective by retrieving things, smelling things, and thinking to himself.  It's very interesting because the humans don't understand King but his actions and the thinking the reader follows allows the reader to understand his helpful role more.  

Mason and Kayla receive letters that are in a jumbled code.  They work with King to figure out who sent them and learn how to decipher them.  I can't share the who or how the mystery is solved but readers will love how it's solved and probably want to try their own code writing.  I've been reading a lot lately about diverse books and children needing to see themselves in them, this would make a nice addition to any library for this reason.   This is a great book for transitional readers with lots of white space, picture support and text spread out.  It also looks like there are a couple more titles with King and Kayla.  I hope more books are coming.

Monday, June 26, 2017

joy write by Ralph Fletcher

I love when I find books that nurture my soul and not make me worry or panic there's more to learn or do.  Ralph Fletchers words in joy write are gentle, kind, encouraging, and offer nudges to make students and writing the focus of our work.  As I read this book, I kept reflecting on the work I read by Donald Graves when I began my teaching journey.  Ralph has created the phrase greenbelt writing to help us understand writing and writing time should be protected in it's natural environment.  This writing from us and our students should be real, authentic, informal, comfortable, personal and filled with joy/passion.  If you are feeling you need support to balance units on narrative, opinion, and informational writing then this book is for you.

These are nudges I found to try within my own work.

-give my writers moments of freedom, finding a balance genre standards

-use greenbelt writing as a way to get to know my students, as people

-remember writing workshop was not intended to be formulaic or extremely structured

-encourage, embrace, celebrate low stakes writing

-find the humor and try to enjoy feral writing students may produce

Here are some quotes that are sticking with me and might interest you in looking at this book more.

"I believe Piaget was right: we learn by doing, from our own experience.  We learn to write by writing on a daily basis."

"Blanket compliance to any program is dangerous.  Compliance doesn't allow for our intelligence, thoughtfulness, or professionalism."  (find this on page 18 for more)

"I believe it's important for kids to begin developing their own internal standards for what makes good writing."

"When you work with a reluctant writer, it's helpful to expand your definition of writing to include drawing, sketching, and doodling."

"But for many students, this low-stakes writing will have higher impact than any of the "school writing" they produce."

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Rain by Sam Usher

author and illustrator Sam Usher
Candlewick Press, 2017
review copy provided by the publisher

When I began reading Rain I was touched by the relationship between the two characters; a little boy and a grandfather.  The little boy is wanting to have creative adventures out in the rain but the grandfather is putting him off a bit and wanting to wait for the rain to stop.  The boy's ideas are creative and action packed.  The grandfather listens patiently but isn't willing to join in.  The rain stops and the grandfather has a letter to mail.  The two of them get dressed to head outside and have a grand adventure.  The grandfather wasn't hesitant this time to join in and play.  The grandfather shares, "You see the very best things are always worth waiting for."  I think with the author's message directly stated this would be a great text to help students discuss things that happened in the story to help get this message across.

I love illustrations that are soft; warm tones, thin black lines to offer details and simple ways to show action.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd

I discovered the book Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd when @jenjmcdonough shared it during a Wonderopolis twitter chat.  The book begins with the question, "What is wild?  And where can you find it?"  As I read this book, I discovered it's more than just defining wild.  It's a book showing readers how to wonder and notice.  It even shows the reader that you might not notice right away but if you spend more time looking you will notice new things.  Wild can be captured with different senses.  The reader follows a young boy and girl as they explore wild in the great outdoors to a city setting.  The author lives in Washington DC; loving the woods and the beach while the illustrator Abigail Halpin lives in Maine.  I think both of their settings and experiences are clearly shared throughout the text.  This will definitely be a read aloud within the first month of school.

Here's a page of text to help nudge you to explore this book.

"Wild is full of smells - fresh mint, ancient cave, sun-baked desert, sharp pine, salt sea.  Every scent begging you to drink it in."

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros

The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros was my first summer professional read and lifted my soul.  It gave me hope and reminders why I became an educator.  I read it on my Kindle and have over two hundred notes.  I can't think of another book I've read recently that had so many thoughts I wanted to refer back to help my overall thinking.  The premise of the book - "I'm defining innovation as a way of thinking that creates something new and better...innovation is a way of thinking.  It is a way of considering concepts, processes and potential outcomes; it is not a thing, task, or even technology."  This is a book for classroom teachers and administration.  Often there are things mentioned for the whole of a district but as I reflected on those thoughts they apply to a classroom setting.  

If it's in your stack this summer, move it up.  If it isn't in your stack stop what you are doing and buy it or borrow it as soon as possible!  If you've already read it, you might want to revisit it.

These are nudges I found to try within my own work.
-start things slower, establish relationships with students and between students
-make growth mandatory for myself as an educator and my students
-create things with the knowledge we are acquiring, taking a growth mindset a step further
-adjust to my learners, don't let them fall into a pattern of compliance
-teach about resiliency, try and fail and try again
-try some new or different things at a district level to "lead"
-blog more again, share and connect with others

Here are some quotes that are sticking with me and might interest you in looking at this book more.

"Change is an opportunity to do something amazing."

"We forget if students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them."

"...relationships are at the crux of everything we do"

"But to develop these traits in our people, we must empower them; we must inspire innovation, rather than demand compliance."

"Change is inevitable.  Growth is optional."

"I believe it's possible to have kids who are deep thinkers, creators, and innovators, and still do well on their exams, but I do not want to forsake those critical elements for the latter."

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Farmer Duck is 25 Years Old!

Readers everywhere are so lucky Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell and Helen Oxenbury is being celebrated by Candlewick Press.  In 1992 it made it's first appearance in the inaugural list of new books for Candlewick Press.  Together they have had an integral part in developing readers.

This book couldn't be more timely to be revisited.  We need books about friendship, justice, and fairness.  Poor Duck does all the work around the farm while the farmer lays in bed eating chocolates and being lazy.  Even though it's summer, I think I need to find a group of emergent readers to join in and chorally read this with me.  I can hear them in my head after I read, "How goes the work?"  They read with energy, "Quack".  The animals plot how to get the farmer out of bed and their plan surprised me a bit.  It leaves the animals working together to run the farm.  While the text appears perfect for emerging readers I think older students would have a lot to say around justice and fairness.  I'm also thinking it's a great visual for teamwork.

As I read this book, I thought it would pair well with Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin.  A huge shoutout to Candlewick Press for this copy to preview.

Monday, June 5, 2017

A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen

A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen is a book to revisit a few times to discuss different aspects of writing workshop.  Right away, I could empathize with main character as she describes her older sister.  Quite often younger siblings have a comparison hurdle to overcome.  The little brother is stuck, unsure how to get started writing and worried he doesn't know how to write.  The older sister is encouraging and they actually have a little writing conference to help him get started.  The older sister is positive and offers suggestions, isn't that what we try to do as teachers?  I'm reminded about my classrooms filled with kindergarten writers.  The little boy brings his story to sharing circle at school and "reads" his story which is a verbal retelling more detailed and involved than his actual writing.  I love how the little boy admits he's stuck and his peers offer helpful suggestions.  Writers grow with peer feedback.  The ending is a celebration in itself for this new writer and one I can't give away.

I'll be honest, at first I wanted the boy's writing to be more phonetic because I thought the book was about the actual writing but it's not.  It's about a process.  It's about a community that supports each other.  This will be a must read for next year in our room.