Thursday, July 27, 2017

Marta! Big and Small

Marta! Big and Small 
Author Jen Arena
Illustrated by Angela Dominquez
review copy from public library

What a delightful book and I was learning so many things!  Marta! Big and Small is listed as a bilingual read aloud in the blurb on the book jacket.  This is my first bilingual book to read that put learning Spanish words within the context of a story.  I've read books that included words from another language but in a format where in this case the Spanish word and immediately followed with text to show what that means in English is wonderful.  For example; "To an elephant, Marta is pequena.  Small, very small."  Marta has lots of animal friends and sometimes acts like her animal friends.  I love the last page where she has a sketchbook with drawings of her friends.  I personally learned a lot by reading this book and think students will really enjoy it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Life is but a...Dream

Life is but a...Dream
author and illustrator Matthew Cordell
review copy from local library

At first I thought Life is but a ... Dream would be the perfect gift to give to new parents and it is but half way through the book I began pondering reading it at my Parent Information Night.  The book begins with questions and the wonder of a new life; the hopes parents, family, and friends think of.  That line of thinking continues but the world gets bigger and this is where I think teachers fit in, "I dream you were away from us, exploring unknown places."  The book continues with opportunities, worries, and growth we think about when we raise or work with little ones.  As the dream ends and the book ends the reader is presented with three wondering questions.  Questions that make us realize while we can guide and help they have their own journey to follow.  

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Softball Season {Celebrate This Week}

Today I'm celebrating softball season.

Softball season makes me sit.  Softball season makes me enjoy the sunshine.  Softball season lets me meet new friends.  Softball season gives me time to knit and read.  Softball gives me a reason to eat ice cream after a game.  It's easy to be content when softball is here, it's summer.  

Softball season ends today and while I enjoy the season, I'm a little tired.  I've been watching or talking softball since March 1st.  I've watched losses and wins.  I've watched at bats with hits and some with strikes.  I've watched two catchers in the spring and in the summer just one first-base gal.  I've watched stretches and balls caught.  I've seen frustration and tears.  I've heard grumbles to yelling to laughter and reasonableness.  I've watched leaders on the field and bottoms on the bench.

I've had a player turn umpire with younger girls and while she was earning money she kept her head in the game in a new way.  She's played since she was five and I'm happy she didn't completely walk away.  When you love something and enjoy it win or lose sticking with it is important.  

Last week I just couldn't wrap my head around a celebration.  I tried and I enjoyed Ruth's post about keep showing up for celebrations even when things are hard.  My week wasn't hard - it felt normal but nothing jumped out at me to celebrate.  So, I wanted to not only celebrate the ending of softball but little things that add to our softball season of life.  

Thank you Ruth for encouraging us to stop and celebrate things in our lives.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Haiku #10 {Poetry Friday}

summer's natural fireworks
red orange yellow

I've been admiring some new coneflowers I planted near the end of summer last year.  They aren't the typical purple color I have planted in other areas of my gardens.  I made a list of words to play around with and did some research for synonyms for blossom and bloom.  I wanted a third word to go with those two but didn't really find one I liked.  Instead, I learned a new word and decided it was a great lead for this haiku; efflorescence - state or period of blossoming.

It's late and dark right now but I hope to take a picture and include it in the am.

Thank you Katie at Logonauts for hosting Poetry Friday this week. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Princess Cora and the Crocodile

Author Laura Amy Schlitz
Illustrator Brian Floca
Candlewick Press, 2017
review copy provided by the publisher

I shut Princess Cora and the Crocodile and realized I want every student in my room to read this and every parent.  The student part is easy, it could be a read aloud.  However, the parent part could be tricky.  In the past during the winter months I held a family book group event in the evening, this book might just be a great book to use for that event.

Princess Cora works hard every day learning and training to be a princess.  She spends long hours with her nanny, mother and father working on different aspects of being a princess.  She must be clean all the time so she takes baths three times a day.  She must be physically fit so she jump roped five hundred times.  She had to read books that were not interesting and old.  One day she can't take it any more and sends a request to her fairy godmother for help because no one listens to her.  

The next morning she wakes up to a cardboard box in her room with a crocodile inside it!  The crocodile is here to help her.  He dresses up as Cora and tries to do her normal day while Cora goes out exploring the outside; getting dirty, built a fort, waded in the stream.  Let's just say the plan doesn't work out easily for the crocodile or Cora's caregivers.  When Cora returns she's quite worried when the crocodile shares how his day went.  

She rushes to her nanny, mother, and father to tend to them and help them. Over dinner Cora shares her true feelings about her training and makes requests to change her days.  She wants more book choice, time to explore, and time to rest.  Don't we all need these three things.

As I'm writing and thinking about a family book group night, I'm thinking we'll have to serve cream puffs.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


written by Randi Zuckerberg
illustrated by Joe Berger
Harper, 2013
review copy from public library

I was looking at the new book shelf in our quaint little public library and across the room on a shelf Dot. started calling my name.  You see, I like polka dots and this is a perfect example of how a book cover can entice a reader.  I asked Mr. George my favorite public librarian about the book and he couldn't stop gushing about it.  I kept wondering, How did I miss this title?

Dot loves technology.  With two to five word sentences she shows the reader all the things she can do; surf, swipe, tweet, tap, and touch are a few examples.  After much technology doing,  Dot gets all talked out and is tired.  Her Mom sends her out the door, "Time to REBOOT!  RECHARGE!  RESTART!"  I fell in love with Mom right there.  Dot perks up with a smile when she gets outside with sunshine and remembers.  Here's the interesting twist.  All the things she shows the reader she can do with technology she does outside.  For example; she swipes when she finger paints!  The ending is the best because Joe Berger the illustrator shows the reader what balance looks like.  I think you'll like what he did.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Breakfast Conversation {Slice of Life}

Me: You shouldn't be watching videos after lights out.
Me:  Technology is a tool.
Me:  We need to work on balancing when and how you use it.
Me:  Be with people.
Me:  Look up information and then put it down.
Me:  I think we are going to take a break from it for a week over vacation.

Her:  I can do that but I might need it for the car ride.
Me:  Nope, not even on the car ride, you can do other things.

Her:  I get it!  It's not a lifestyle!

This is how our day started over breakfast.  I was using my calm voice with wait time for processing. She knew I wasn't thrilled she was on it when I checked in.  Some times I do still check in just to make sure she's settled in.  I think I'll look up the definition of lifestyle but in this quiet moment we both burst out laughing as she heard my words and began processing them. 

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for fostering this writing community.

Monday, July 17, 2017

But Why Does It Work?

written by Russell, Shifter, Kasman, Bastable, Higgins
Heinemann, 2017

But Why Does It Work? Mathematical Argument in the Elementary Classroom has a great title but I found it a little misleading.  I think the word, intermediate needs to be inserted before elementary.  There is much goodness in this book for third, fourth, and fifth teachers.  I love reading about teaching mathematics but found this book a bit challenging.  It's written with a bit more technical wording and research sitings.  If you are familiar with Number Talks, I think this is a nice extension  to that body of work.  I've never heard the phrase "productive lingering" and boy did I fall in love with it.  

These are nudges I found to try within my own work.
- encourage and allow productive lingering
- engage in mathematical argument by noticing patterns 
- encourage describing what they notice
- model and guide making conjectures
- work on representing patterns observed with math tools and resources

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

"Lingering" on students' ideas about important mathematics content had, they asserted, enabled their students to engage with mathematical ideas fundamental to their study of numbers and operations."

"Teachers found that after developing the habits of noticing patterns and regularities, students extended those habits to regular math instruction as they articulated conjectures about the mathematics they were studying."

"Through these explorations, students develop a stronger sense of how the number system works with different operations."

"By seeing the same idea represented in different forms, students develop a deeper understanding of the mathematical abstractions embodied in their conjecture."

"In sharing mathematical authority, a teacher must be open to the prospect of following students' thoughts as they unfold, knowing that sometimes these ideas could lead to a faulty conjecture or a winding route to the expected destination."

Friday, July 14, 2017

Haiku #9 Plus One {Poetry Friday}

walk, hop, scamper
white bushy tail confusion
bounding along

Earlier this summer we were walking through a park downtown and spotted a white city creature at the base of a very tall tree.  At first I thought it was a rabbit but the ears were too short and the tail was too long and bushy.  It moved a bit like a squirrel.  My girls acted as if seeing a white squirrel was normal.  It brought me great confusion and I wonder if it brought the squirrel some confusion.  

Thank you Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference for hosting Poetry Friday this week.

PS - I didn't intend to declare a poetry project this summer but this haiku journey keeps happening and while I LOVE some homemade macaroni and cheese I just couldn't change the nature settings for my haiku so here's something simple and easy.  I'm adding macaroni and cheese to my menu this weekend with some turkey hotdogs and green beans.  Just how I like it.

M - many meals
A - anticipating
C - cheese
A - anticipating
N - noodles
D - delicious
C - craving
H - homemade
E - eager
E - expecting
S - simple
E - excellent

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Go sleep in your own bed!

written by Candace Fleming 
illustrated by Lori Nichols
Schwartz and Wade Books, 2017
review copy from public library

Go sleep in your own bed! is another fun book by Candace Fleming.  It's night time on the farm and the animals are all a jumble at bed time.  Pig just wants to go to bed but can't because Cow is there sleeping.  So Pig is firm and sends Cow to his own bed which is occupied by Hen.  The story continues in a similar pattern for horse, sheep, dog, and cat.  This would make a great choral reading with the repetitive phrase, "Go sleep in your own bed!"  There's some rich vocabulary to describe how each animal travels through the farm yard; tromped, straggled, and stumbled are a few examples.  Make sure you don't ignore the facial expressions for the each animal.  Lori Nicholas helps the characters show emotions and reactions with little details.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

the Friend Ship

written by Kat Yeh
illustrated by Chuck Groenink
Disney - Hyperion, 2016
review copy from public library

the Friend Ship is a charming story about a hedgehog who is feeling lonely.  She over hears someone is the forest talking about her and says she just needs to look for friendship.  I hope you've picked up on the play of words and incase you didn't, hedgehog jumps right up and imagines a ship labeled with masts, stern, topsail, and friends.  Hedgehog must own this ship because she sets off sailing and takes a journey where friends join her at various places.    Each friend has a reason to join the Friend Ship.  A few days later, surrounded by many animals hedgehog begins to feel lonely again.  Her friends offer words of encouragement and elephant helps her see what has been in front of her all the time.  The illustrations are done in natural/neutral tones creating a warm soft feeling for these characters.

I think this would make a great #classroombookaday - I'd like to hear my students discuss the author's message.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

I Get It {Slice of Life}

"I have a purpose.  
I have a reason.  
I kind of understand why people use Youtube!"

Self talk - a couple of nights ago.

Back story leading to the small moment -

I need to finish my sleeves and hem the bottom of my dress.  I've been using my serger sewing machine because I need to learn how to use it more and it's best for knit fabrics which this is.  For hems and finishing the pattern suggest converting the machine to do a cover stitch.  If you have a t-shirt on flip up the hem and that's a cover stitch.  Straight lines on the outside and a herringbone-ish stitch on the back covering the fabric edge that was folded up.  I have no clue how to convert my machine.  I look in the manual and I don't quite understand all the steps.  

I wonder if Youtube has a video.  When I was stuck changing the thread on this machine I found a video and it was a life saver!  I'm not a Youtube user.  I sometimes get frustrated when my daughters are watching it, one can get lost there but she often is watching how to videos.  My search is successful.  I started saving videos in a Serger How To folder and as I began working I found my self capturing the thoughts above.  

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for gathering this writing community.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Picture Book 10 for 10 is just One Month AWAY!

Dear Cathy,

I'm so excited today!  It's July 10th which means August is coming up next and on August 10th we are lucky to host Picture Book 10 for 10.  I really should go back and reread your book, More than Guided Reading.  I remember writing my initial thoughts as a blogpost and discovering you left me a comment.  Talk about being starstruck!  Then you wanted to know some of my must have picture books to use in my classroom and I think that brought me anxiety, uncertainty, butterflies in my stomach.  We started chatting via Twitter and all of a sudden a little flake of an idea turned into a snowball rolling down a mountain and we were co-hosting a social media event together.

Now Cathy, I am a bit worried this year.  I've been spying on you a little bit and have noticed you are out and about.  You are on the coast and then you are getting coffee and then you are shopping for books without me.  It looks like you are zipping and zooming around stopping here and there.  I am not doing those things right now.  I'm back home here in Ohio holding down the fort.  I have a focus for my picture book sharing this year.  I purchased two new books.  I'm looking through resources for some titles to add to my list, I need 8 more.  I might even duck into my classroom to glance over the books I already own.  I really can't wait for you to see my list because it's matching up to another small project I'm collaborating on, thanks to Tony Keefer.  I like how I wrote small project, I'm pretty sure that's what Tony said in his direct tweet.  

So, Cathy I just want to remind you of the details for our #pb10for10 event.
  1. Grab a Badge (I like to select the image and save image as...)
  2. Join the #pb10for10 Google Community
  3. Choose Your Favorites:  All you need to do is choose ten picture books you cannot live without for whatever reason.  In the first days of this event, everyone shared their ten very favorite titles.  This still works.  You will notice, however, that many past participants choose some type of theme to determine their selections.  We'll leave this up to you.
  4. Narrow Your List to Ten:  It isn't easy, is it?  We've seen some crafty ways to get around that number, but really ten is plenty. 
  5. Write Your August 10th Post:  Write a post about the ten books you cannot live without.  Share your post on August 10th and link it to the Picture Book 10 for 10 Community.  
  6. No Blog?  No Problem:  If you don't have a blog, this might be the perfect time to start one --- or now with the Google Community it is quite easy to just post your favorites directly into the community without a blog.  We will also be tweeting from the #pb10for10 hashtag.
  7. Comment:  On August 10th (and maybe for a week --- there are a lot of posts) take some time to read posts from other participants.  Please comment on at least three.
Hurry Home Cathy!  You've got some work ahead of you!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Idea to Action; Sharing my Super Reader Life! {Celebrate this Week}

I'm celebrating Idea to Action; Sharing my Super Reader Life!

I've been trying different things to share my reading life visually with my students and families but my various attempts never took off too successfully.  I'd start with excitement and think it would be effective but it would fizzle on my end or my viewers end.  Then I was having trouble archiving these sharing so if I wanted them all for a lesson, I could find them.

Today I'm celebrating launching my new Instagram account mrs.robek_reads

But here's the what I'm celebrating more...the planning behind this new Instagram account.  I recently read Every Child a Super Reader and I plan on implementing a lot of ideas of this text.  After reading this text I was even more motivated to share my own reading life in hopes of making my reading mentoring more visible.  I love photos and I love Instagram.  I've shared reading life pictures on my own personal account but for students I would share different things and word my thinking differently.   

My planning became key for this project.  

I found Scholastic has a hashtag #superreader which I decided to use on all my post.  Then I decided if I wanted to find certain things for me I could start those hashtags with mr - Mandy Robek or Mrs. Robek.  I like to share and want to show my students my reading spots, where I get books and where I sneak in reading; #mrreadingspots, #mrgetsbooks, and #mrsneakyreading will archive these categories.  The super reader strengths; belonging, curiosity, friendship, kindness, confidence, courage, and hope will have their own hashtag that starts with mr - Mandy Robek or Mrs. Robek, then super reader, then strength; #mrsuperreaderbelonging.  This seems like a lot of thinking but once I took notes for what each strength could show from my reading my archiving makes sense to me and I am SUPER excited!

This account, is for my students and families.  It's also for my friends interested in using it or sharing it with their students or own children.  It's public, but I do monitor who is allowed to follow me on any of my social media sites.  I won't be sharing my posts each time I post something via twitter but may toss out a reminder or an update about how it's going.  So, if you are interested in following my journey click the follow button on Instagram.  I'm really excited about how this week has been shaping up!

Thank you Ruth for giving us an opportunity to stop and celebrate something in our lives!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Haiku #8 {Poetry Friday}

dark low heavy clouds
looming grayness over head
summer downpour soon

I was running errands today with my daughter and I wanted to stop at one more store quickly.  I really needed a few things at Trader Joe's.  She checked my favorite weather app (Dark Sky) and said, "you have 20 minutes before heavy rain for the hour."  I replied, "I can do this."  As I looked to the sky for a chance Dark Sky wasn't right, this haiku is what I saw.  I appreciated the nudges from last week where friends suggested I could break away from the 5-7-5 pattern.  Mary Lee gave me something I could visualize; short, longer, short.  I thought I'd give it a try but I wanted to make sure I posted and shared today so I didn't even collect a list of words first, which I've really enjoyed.  So, I stuck to 5-7-5 because comfort led this piece without my pre-writing, collecting routine.

Poetry Friday is hosted this week by Carol at Beyond Literacy Link.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Mae and June and the Wonder Wheel

written by Charise Mericle Harper
illustrated by Ashley Spires
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017
review copy from public library

I was excited to see Charise Mericle Harper of the Just Grace series has a new book written for transitional readers.  June and her dog Sammy are trying to stay away from June's older sister Isabella, she's a teenager now and doesn't like to play anymore.  Together they decide their next mission will be to find a new friend to play with and luckily new neighbors are moving in next door.  In the meantime Grandma Penny sends a gift, a wonder wheel to put together.  Chapter 8 is all about building the wonder wheel and the different categories they will inquire about each week.  June and Sammy watch the new neighbors a lot and hope she, Mae will be fun to play with.  Unfortunately, at school Mae is spending time getting to know other new friends.  The story is about fitting in, making new friends, and being a good friend.  It's not always easy making new friends and I love how June could share her Wonder Wheel with Mae; giving them something in common to start a friendship with.  I hope there will be more  Mae and June stories coming.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Pest, Duck, Jan Thomas - Perfect Combinations!

written and illustrated by Jan Thomas
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co, 2017
review copies from public library

I knew when I saw these two new titles by Jan Thomas at our public library, I would immediately fall in love.  I found myself not reading her books in second grade as much because they are simpler. I missed the love and enjoyment my kindergarteners had with her titles.  I was surprised when I dabbled in #classroombookoftheday at the end of the year that my students had missed listening to Jan Thomas books in kindergarten and in first grade.  We read my collection and joy just radiated with belly laughter.  I can't wait to add these titles to my collection and include them in a daily read aloud at the end of our day.

There's a PEST in the Garden! is filled with voice, character energy, and humor.  There's a pest in the garden eating the crops that have started growing.  Dog, donkey, and sheep try to predict what Pest will eat next while Duck is warning them it could be the turnips!  Pest eats the item not predicted and Duck comes up with a plan to save his turnips.  I can't give it away but let's just say the new garden has a fence to avoid the Pests.  Did you notice Pest went to Pests?  The illustrations are filled with information to help tell this story.

Leave it up to Duck to be worried something is chasing him and require help from his friends.  Each friend listens to the clues and imagines an unfriendly creature.  Thankfully, Dog recognizes the creature and the friends come to find out the creature is trying to return a turnip to Duck!  The creature drops an acorn and gets scared when the friends try to chase him to return it.  This book as with all of Jan Thomas books are filled with voice, character energy, and humor.  

In both books, carefully notice the end pages before and after reading the text.  Cute connections once you've read the story.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Uncovered Advice {Slice of Life}

It's Monday morning and I'm talking through the day with my middle daughter.  She's got to get dressed, pick up her room, pick up a sewing project in process, start a second sewing project for fair, get ready for work, work, and make cupcakes with her sister that are red, white, and blue for a picnic we are going to tomorrow.  Increase the pace at which you read this because I do talk fast and I forgot to mention she was just eating breakfast for the day.

Her response - "Slow your roll."

I got really quiet and walked away and thought maybe that was a bit too much so soon.  Then I thought about starting the school year with my new friends.  While there's a lot of excitement to get going right away and there's a lot of energy for doing things just right and the to do list starts growing, maybe I need to "slow my roll".  After a little internet research I learned "slow your roll" is a metaphor for "applying the breaks, calming down, and/or take it easy.  I think those are three things worth considering in August. 

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for fostering this writing community.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Every Child a Super Reader

I'm so excited to study and work with the text, Every Child a Super Reader this upcoming school year through The Literacy Connection. (stayed tuned for updated information this year at  I've heard both authors Pam Allyn and Ernest Morrell speak at different conference and I always walk away feeling inspired in my work and inspired to be a better person.  

It makes me sad to admit, I've had students leave my classroom not loving or very engaged with reading and I can honestly say I've given it my best shot with each one.  I've found books of interest and even written simple books about something they like.  I've been flexible in the different types of reading and genres they can read.  I've modeled being a reader and when we do find a reading hook, I get more books by the author or in the series.  With all this effort, I still feel sad I just couldn't hook that child.  But what if...they understood more about being a reader?  What if they experienced and saw modeled strengths of a super reader?  Pam and Ernest have outlined and shared  those strengths with readers; belonging, curiosity, friendship, kindness, confidence, courage, and hope.  

Each strength has it's own chapter and begins with examples and defining the strength as a reader.  Ideas are shared for promoting this strength in your classroom.  There's a focus lesson with an action students can take for the specific strength being discussed.  Then there's a close reading lesson and directions to think through the specific strength using a mentor text.  There are suggestions for using technology with each strength and ideas to help families promote the super reader strengths at home.  

For teachers who love some details for instruction or ways to apply what they have read the last third of the book is just for you.  Concrete examples for different reading structures are discussed.   There are language stems to help discussions and each strength is described in the different reading structures and examples for what each strength looks like.  For example; in reading about reading partners courage looks like this; I work with different people in my class - even if they're not my best friends.  I could go on and on about the valuable ideas but will be sharing more about this text as we work through it this year.  

I would like to share with you another invaluable component of this text, picture book lists for each strength gathered in collections of K - 2, 3 - 5, and 6 - 8.  

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

- throughout the year show students how 7 strengths are apparent in our/their work as readers
- focus more on building a social community around reading within our classroom
- make heart maps earlier in the year to get to know children and not just in a poetry unit
- celebrate small reading steps and more often with my readers
- explore

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

"Super reading impacts every aspect of a child's life: the personal, social, academic, and civic."

"The child who reads gains comfort, community and connection to the wider world."

"The lack of questions in classrooms is a direct consequence of children's disengagement from reading, writing, and a love of learning."

"Choice is crucial.  It is important to give children the agency to discover their interests, likes, and dislikes as readers in order to build their identities as readers."

"Stamina is the most underrated yet crucial element of how super readers build their muscles."

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Knowing {Celebrate this Week}

Today I'm celebrating knowing.

Tuesday night I received a group text message welcoming a first grade teacher in our building to the second grade team.  We needed to add a teacher but I've been a bit worried and trying to let go that I didn't have a confirmation on my own teaching assignment.  As I reread this text message I began to infer, I must be staying on the second grade team.  I could of just replied and asked if my inferring was right but I did some detective work and found out those being moved this year got a phone call.  I didn't get a phone call.  I didn't want to make a phone call.  Yippee I get to spend more time with transitional readers and writers.  I get to really put things together after figuring it out for three years to make this year the best one yet!  It's nice to have the knowing, my mind is finding peace.

Thank you Ruth for encouraging us to stop and notice Celebrations.