Can’t Pick Just One

I have always had a hard time labeling my “favorite” of something.  For some reason I have an enormously hard time narrowing things down to 1.  I can’t choose just one amazing ice cream flavor; my favorite concrete has Oreos, Heath bars AND pecans.  How in the world do you choose ONE favorite song from your 40 years of life?  Favorite movie? No way!  There are too many good ones.  And don’t even get me started on my favorite book.  Can’t do that either.

Somehow it seems unfair to me.  Or just too hard to spend my time on it.  Also, every movie, book, song, food, etc. is so different from every other one there’s NO WAY to decide.  Apples and oranges here, people!  (Oh, wait!  There you go.  My favorite fruit is apples.  Organic fuji apples, thank you. 🙂 And they are the ONLY fruit that can be cooked or baked into another food).

So I already mentioned not having a favorite book, and it seems that as a teacher, that’s teh one that I most often get asked to identify.  “Hey, Mrs. Bearden!  Let me take a picture of you and your favorite for this library display!” Mrs. Meihaus so kindly asked me a year or so ago.  Nope. Couldn’t do it. I had to at least include two in my picture.  ‘Cause really ALL THE BOOKS are my favorites.  Because they’re books.  And there are just too many.

But while I cannot nail down ONE definite favorite book, I have always been able to identify a short list of titles, as well as a short list of admired authors.  And not surprisingly, the two lists often have similarities.  I can even remember a time when I mentioned many of them in an old blog post I wrote about reading.  And as I reread it, I did designate a book and an author, but I think I said it was “one of my favorites.”  There.  See, still hard people. 🙂

But here’s the thing.  It wasn’t until recently that I really could nail down what it is about why I am drawn to certain authors and why I read all of their books.  I think at one point I would have said that it was the characters.  For example, Fig Pudding has the most realistic characters ever (maybe because they are based on actual people!), and I love the way I feel when I read about a big, loving family and all of their crazy antics.  That is NOT the family I live in and it’s fun to see how the other side lives.  Walk Two Moons was another great story about a real character, and became even more “real” after I had babies.  The tears that streamed on the second read were much more intense.  And that’s another thing: I seem to be drawn to stories that bring forth strong emotions.   Guess I’m a sucker for a good cry (gotta give Fig Pudding another point in that category!).  For some unknown reason I also seem to LOVE to read books that involve baked goods. 🙂 . You put pie, cupcakes, cookies, a restaurant or a recipe in a story and it’s for me.  And man–the WHOLE series that Giada DeLaurentiis put out where the kids travel  around the world and experience the food and culture–genius (I really enjoyed the one about Paris).

And so it wasn’t until just these last few books I’ve read–with my first graders in our classroom–that I was able to see exactly what it was that make my favorites my favorites….

Because I’ve been eye-deep in the #classroombookaday challenge for the last few years, that has meant that I’ve read many less chapter books with my kiddos than I have in years past.  And also differently than previous years, I gave kids more control in choosing what those chapter books would be.  I did give them a list to choose from, rather than just having them go all willy-nilly, but ultimately they were in charge.

Screenshot 2018-05-09 21.21.31They chose Roscoe Riley Rules #1–Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs as their first book.  I put it in the pile (along with books like Clementine, My Father’s Dragon and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane) because it was a new series to me–one that I had bought for my son (who is a RILEY!) but that he had never read.  I was pretty sure it was good, since I knew the author (which I will say more about later).  We soon grew to love Roscoe and his antics, and especially were drawn to the way he talked right to us.  He tells the whole story from timeout! Not to give anything away…the major idea of the book series is that Roscoe tries to be helpful but then accidentally breaks a rule and goes to timeout, tells you the story and then is out of timeout in the last chapter.  He’s a kid, he goes to school, he has a funny family and he gets in trouble–perfect first grade fodder!

Screenshot 2018-05-09 21.21.58Our second choice–probably because the first one was HILARIOUS–was Roscoe Riley Rule #2–Never Swipe a Bully’s Bear.  We read this one in about two school days because we just couldn’t put it down.  It follows the same routine, which makes it predictable enough for kiddos that haven’t heard lots of chapter books before (makes it easier to hold all the info and characters in their head!), but told about a new rule that Roscoe had broken.  Kids connected with the “bully” theme in this one, as well as the “lovey” that the kid wanted to bring to school.

So fast-forward to our current read aloud, which is NOT a Roscoe Riley book, but is related to it because it’s written by the same amazing author–The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.  I fell in love with this book when it first came out (I was teaching 5th grade at that time) and I have read it to every class I’ve taught since then–in 1st grade, 2nd grade and 5th grade.  And I think I read it to my own kids at home at least 3 times.  Yep, because it’s that good.

And as we’ve been getting further into this book, I’ve been noticing more about what makes all these books I’ve mentioned (and the ones I listed earlier) similar: voice.  They are written in the character’s first-person voice.  They use funny ways to describe things.  The words they say are real, and I can imagine myself actually saying some of them.  The sentences don’t follow all the rules–which I LOVE–because it’s how I write, too.  The characters who tell the stories also have a little bit of a sarcastic streak in them. Which I also have.  And particularly with Ivan, there are strong emotions involved.  Because of the way Applegate tells the story, you want to (you HAVE to, really) care about what happens to the characters.

So…here’s a list of MANY of my favorite books (and their authors are also my favorites), most of which are written with a strong lead voice and probably make me either sob like a baby or laugh out loud hysterically.  Or maybe both. 🙂

1.) Walk Two Moons, Granny Torelli Makes Soup, Pleasing the Ghost and The Unexpected Angel by Sharon Creech

2.) Fig Pudding and Marshfield Dreams by Ralph Fletcher

3.) Crash by Jerry Spinelli

4.) Everything by Joan Bauer.  I’ve read them all. 🙂

5.) Roscoe Riley Rules Series and The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

6.) The Watsons Go to Birmingham and The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis

7.) The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and the Mercy Watson series by Kate Di Camillo

8.) The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

9.) Countless others that I cannot remember right now but that I will think of as soon as I hit PUBLISH. 😉

And of course since there are millions more picture books than chapter books that I’ve read and there are TOO MANY OF THEM TO MENTION THAT ARE MY FAVORITES, I ‘ll save that for another time.  And goodness, that list will be long, too.  Because I love all the books.  Just ask any kid in my class. 🙂

What are YOUR favorite books?  Who are YOUR favorite authors?  Do you know why you love them?  I’d love to hear your thinking, and maybe even get a recommendation for something that could become a NEW favorite book of mine! Please leave a comment!

 

What Do You Do With a Problem?

I am sure you’ve seen this book:

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It’s not a new one, but I just recently read it for the first time to my class.  Ms. Turken, my co-teacher, and I had decided to start our year back after Winter Break with some reminders and reteaching about problem-solving.  We started with this book, as well with a structure for what to do when they encounter a problem.

I was so excited with how much my kiddos loved this book, and as usual, they had SUPER ideas about it and how they could apply the story to themselves.  The LOVED the way the problem got bigger (with the big black swirls) as he put off solving it, and they all agreed the best thing to do with a problem is just to figure out how to tackle it, not ignore it. 🙂

Once we finished the story, Nicholas had a great idea of how we should share what we had learned with others. Then, as is so commonplace (and so great!) with our class, kids kept adding their own thoughts to his original idea and they had birthed a plan where we’d have a whole display/presentation about problems they’d found (and problems they’d had) as well as possible solutions to those problems (which was part of our protocol we’d been learning about).  I told them that I would chew on the idea and talk to Ms. Turken about it over the weekend and get back to them.

As we talked about where we’d go with their grand plans, and it was a PERFECT fit with where we were going in Social Studies–don’t you love it when that happens?? 🙂  We were getting ready to start a history unit, and we decided to go with their excitement about problems/solutions and frame the thinking about how solutions to past problems can help us today.  We’d done that in a past year as we highlighted important people and it seemed like a great continuation and honoring of what kids were already interested in!  Again, love it when that happens–student voice is honored and our goals/standards are met at the same time!

So…our plan was to start with read alouds that show how people from the past (which was a word we had to spend a couple of days investigating because we couldn’t agree on the definition!) solved problems, having kiddos chew on this question as they listen and learn:

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We chose to read the same books to each of our classes, building on what one group of thinkers came up with and sharing it with the other group.   We have chosen books about smart and creative people, both men and women, some black and some white.  The focus has been the same, and kiddos are getting pretty good at finding the themes.  So far we’ve read these books:

I was tickled today, too, as our friend Addy heard someone say, “Take a picture of me!” and she said, “James VanDerZee!”, remembering one of the first books Ms. Turken read to us last week.  She reminded me of what the book was about and told me all about how it’s been one of her favorites. 🙂

Hear the rest (of this part) of the story here:

I’d love you to leave your comments below, and suggest some books you’d read in a history unit about problem solving!  We’re SO open to hearing about great new books!

#classroombookaday: Happy New Year!

Oh, you poor, neglected blog.  Been a whole month since I’ve written.  And more importantly, poor, neglected blog READERS–I’m sorry!!  For some reason, the last year it has been so hard for me to keep a regular posting routine.  I need to get back in the game!

I figured the easiest way to do that was to start with books.  I had grand plans of sharing our last pic of the year, and update you on our goal of hitting 300 before 2018.  Well…we didn’t quite make it, but we did get to 300, but we made it to 287, which is great!!  And like I say all the time, look how pretty that wall is!! 🙂

Then…we returned and I wanted to tell you all about it, but did you know that the beginning of the year is busy?  I know–all the parts of the year are busy. 🙂  So when we came back, we got to 295!

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Then….

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See that new red arrow?!  We hit 300 books!!  As of Jan 12 we were at 308!

And FINALLY the latest update, from this past Friday, January 19:

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321 🙂

I LOVE how this is still going, and how students, teachers and parents alike in our school are still commenting on it!  Hope I never leave the hallway we’re in, because it’s the PERFECT space to share our #classroombookaday story!

Speaking of story…there is lots to tell about the books we’ve added to that magnificent wall, but I’ll save those for another time and another blog post.  Thanks for hanging in there, blog friends, and I hope to be nicer to you in 2018! 🙂

#classroombookaday 2017: Weeks 17 and 18 (Oops–missed one. :) )

Somehow I took a picture of the wall last week but didn’t share it. 😦  Think this holiday season is getting in the way of my blogging. 🙂  So I’ll share two weeks in a row here today!

Last week we were super-focused on small groups and didn’t use read alouds so much in mini-lessons so it seems we read less, but at as of last Friday (the 8th), we had a wall that looked like this:

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That total is 254!  Amazing!!

Then…somehow this week we read and read and read and added 19 MORE!!  Not sure how we did it but goodness that number made me happy!  We’re up to 273 now, and we’re more than half full on the wall we’re using.

We were reading many topical books this week but also just some that we love!  An added bonus is that the pictures are low enough down on the wall that kids can more easily see them and help me hang them up!  Think we’ll be able to get to 300 before Winter Break?  I know, it’s only 4 days away, but my fingers are crossed.  Stay tuned!!

 

Our First Mystery Number Skype!

I shared our first Mystery Skype experiences with Ms. Turken’s brothers last week and how great the were.  After those two great starts, I hit up my Twitter friends to find our next Skype opportunity.  Instead of a location Skype, though, I had an offer for a Mystery Number Skype.  

We got our day started by answering a easel question that asked: “If you wanted to figure out my mystery number, what questions would you ask?”  We practiced with how to ask things that would put the numbers into groups, or to narrow down the whole 100s chart into smaller pieces, rather than just ask “Is it 47?” or “Is your number 82?”

We had a few practice rounds, using 2-digit numbers less than 50 (because we had agreed upon this with our Skyping friends), and then we were ready to go!

Armed with 100s charts and super math questioning skills, we called our new friends, who were in Kansas.

One of the things I love about doing Mystery Skypes (numbers and locations) is watching how kids step to the plate, so to speak, and try things they are unsure about.  In this situation, kiddos seem to be more willing to take risks and try things that they aren’t sure is totally correct, to throw out ideas that may not work.  Kiddos who may not be first to speak up in class volunteer to ask questions and talk to the other class, and we meet new friends in new places that we can solve problems with–why would you NOT do Mystery Skypes all the time??

I was excited to hear kiddos use the vocabulary we had used on our practice runs, like LESS THAN, GREATER THAN, EVEN, ODD, as well as TENS and ONES.  They worked hard to then mark their 100s chart to match the information they were receiving from their friends, and in the end we figured out their number was 20!!

And, you can see in the picture, that our number was 39, which they guessed correctly, too!! 🙂

Who wants to do a Mystery Number Skype with us?  We’re keen to try again, and soon we’ll be ready for a 3-digit number!!

#classroombookaday 2017 UPDATE: Week 16

Wow–what a great week we had in first grade!  I’m excited about both the number of books we were able to read as well as the titles that we were able to experience and learn from together. 🙂

Here’s our wall as of December 1, 2017:

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We’ve read 242 books!!

The books we shared this week were on a variety of topics, as we are studying many things and also adding in some extra topics of interest.  So this week, we added these 18 books:

Can you tell what we were learning about?  I love how when you see the covers all together, you can really tell the intentionality with which they were chosen.  The topics and stories were used to help kiddos make connections to what they are learning (and doing), as well as to get them thinking about older topics in new ways.

I haven’t measured, so this is just a guess, but I’d say we’re halfway down that big wall!  What amazing work, first grade!  Wonder how many we’ll end up with, and even bigger, I wonder how many words we’ve read together in all of those books!?

 

 

#classroombookaday 2017 UPDATE: Week 15

I think we’re on Week 15.  This time of year it seems I lose count.  Something about how school weeks with only 2 days gets me all messed up.  I’m sure you can relate. 🙂

So…whether it’s week 15 (or some other number), we’re up to 224 books! The wall is filling up so fast and perhaps the best part is that the pictures are about kid-eye-level so it’s even more interactive from here on out! Check it out. 🙂

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We’ve been busy reading lots of different kinds of things over the last few weeks, including getting into some non-fiction texts.  We’re having some great conversations about whether a book we read are fiction or not (sometimes kids are tricked when there are illustrations instead of or alongside photographs).  This happened in a book we read about St. Louis architecture (which WAS non-fiction), as well as one written by local Kirkwood author Dan Killeen (who is visiting us soon!!) that also had real places in St. Louis in it but was about talking dinosaurs, and so therefore was not a teaching book. 🙂

We read an interesting book about Betsy Ross this past week, too, that had us really digging and studying to figure out who the book was about and why they wrote a book about her.  Eventually we saw that she had made the first American flag, and there was an interesting detail about how she didn’t like Washington’s suggestion of 6-pointed stars and instead used 5-pointed stars that she could cut out of a square of fabric with just one little snip.  And since there was a how-to in the back of the book, we had to try it out!

New additions to the wall are also the context for our newest math investigation–all about a double-decker bus–as well as a book we read for Thanksgiving and some that we just read because they’re good. LOL

I just had another library visit today (and this branch had the most AMAZING automated return system!) and am excited about the new books I got for this upcoming week!  Please come back next week to see what our wall looks like then! 🙂