It’s Summer–What Are You Reading? 2018 edition

If you’ve been around the block on EduTwitter, or even if you’ve been around for a while on this blog (when I used to post regularly!), you probably know about #IMWAYR–It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?  I have written about with highlights from my classroom , and also many times with my own reading.  This usually happens during the summer (which seems to be the only time I have time to both read and write!).  So here we are again, and I have a big ‘ole list of good ones to share. 🙂

It’s summer, and here’s what I’ve been reading!

Sprinkle Sundays, Mia’s Boiling Point and Smart Cookie:  I think I’ve written before on this blog about how I have a strange love of the intersection of cupcakes and books, and I started by summer reading headed down that road.  These all focus on middle-school girls and the first two also include their “tribes,” as well as at least one “mean girl.”  That whole structure is predictable, and as a 40-year-old mom/teacher it was a little silly (although I’m sure I acted exactly the same way when I was 12!), but I enjoyed them nonetheless.  I loved the way the girls were empowered to do their own thing, to become entrepreneurs, and also how they showed how cooking/baking can provide a powerful avenue for stress-relief and creativity.  Each of these stories has a strong family element, and show complicated relationships and problem-solving.  Maybe I’m just a sucker for a sweet book, but these did not disappoint. 🙂

Masterminds Trilogy by Gordon Korman: Without giving too much away (in case you haven’t read these yet but want to!), this trilogy tells the story about a special group of teenagers who discover just how special they are and then work (against most of the adults in their lives) to find answers to the questions that arise.  These books are all page-turners and I breezed through them!  They are the first that I have read by Korman, but I am interested in the countless others he’s written now. 🙂 . Thanks, Rachael, for the recommendation!

IMG_4274-min Epidemic by Reid Wilson:  So far this is the only non-fiction book I’ve read this summer.  I am a big fan of the NPR show The 1A, hosted by Joshua Johnson, and recently heard Reid Wilson, the author of this book, talking about the Ebola outbreak of 2014.  Unlike when I was a hypochondriac child (and would have been surely convinced I HAD ebola), I was interested in this topic and grabbed the book recently at the library.  It’s definitely science-heavy and also filled with way too many acronyms (which he thankfully explains), but was both interestingly written and informative.

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Who Stole New Year’s Eve? by Martha Freeman: I have read many other of the mysterious adventures of Alex Parakeet and Yasmeen Popp on Chickadee Ct, and Who’s Stealing the 12 Days of Christmas? is one of my favorites.  I have read it so many times on my own, and also to my students.  This one followed the same structure and involves most of the same familiar characters.  Loved it, too!

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 Rosetown by Cynthia Rylant: This one represents an old, favorite author I haven’t read in a long time, and who I really know mostly as a picture book author.  I have long been a fan of Cynthia Rylant, and so when I saw this on in the NEW section at the library, I snagged it.  Might add it to my class read aloud list for this year.

 

IMG_4269-minMoo by Sharon Creech:  I had to admit my hesitation of this book to Sharon Creech when I started reading it.  For some (dumb) reason, the fact that it was written in verse scared me.

I know–that makes NO SENSE, but it did. Can’t explain it.  But, as I told her, I should have trusted that EVERYTHING by Sharon Creech is amazing, and that since some of my favorite books were written by her, this would be a quick favorite, too.  And indeed it was.  Who knew I liked cows so much?

IMG_4709-minOne Hundred Spaghetti Strings by Jen Nails: See how I mentioned that I love books about food?  This one was definitely a “judge-a-book-by-its-cover” moment and I picked it just because it looked like it would be a story about a girl who cooks.  And it was.  I loved the way the character used food to figure out problems in her real life; this reminds me of how my husband uses cooking as his outlet, and also how I sometimes bake when I am in need of some “me” time to think things through.   I liked how all the recipes she made in the story were included in the back of the book.  Didn’t try any of them, but they looked tasty and like they might actually work!

The last four I’m going to mention were not the ones I read last, but I am mentioning them last because of the impact they had on me.  They are from authors I already love–Kate Messner and Katherine Applegate–but were titles that were new to me and that were about topics that were timely and hit on “big” ideas.  It’s one of the things I love about middle-grade fiction–helping kids work through important ideas and hard topics in the midst of a good story.  I am excited to try at least of these with my class this year; even first graders can handle deep conversations about big things.

IMG_4273-minWishtree by Katherine Applegate:  I know Katherine Applegate because of Ivan, and had heard the buzz about this book a few years ago but hadn’t yet read it.  And in full disclosure I didn’t actually “read” this book either–it was an audio book in my car on our recent family vacation.  (On a side note, this is one of our favorite things about traveling–sharing great stores together as a family.  Last summer it was Roald Dahl themed, previous years we devoured all of Christopher Paul Curtis’ books (we are HUGE Mighty Miss Malone fans), some years its just a mishmash of different ones none of us have heard.  Regardless of the author or the book, everyone loves this routine!).  So…the first big surprise was that the book is told by the tree.  Ha!!  I would NEVER have thought of that as a storyteller, but of course it makes perfect sense.  This one had some important things to say about being different, accepting others (specifically refugees/immigrants) and standing up for what’s right.  It’s a new favorite for sure!

IMG_4268-minThe Seventh Wish by Kate Messner: Here’s another title that I was SUPER late to the game on.  Sometimes teaching primary means I don’t always get to novels I want to read because I live in picture book world for much of the school year.  Sorry to have waited so long, but this one was TOTALLY WORTH THE WAIT!  I knew that this book dealt with the topic of addiction, and it did not disappoint with the reality of the story.  I have not personally been affected by drugs, but I can see how easily and quickly it can happen–even in “good” families with “good” kids raised by parents who did everything right.  No one is immune and I liked how through a sweet family story I got a peek into that world.  At first I wasn’t sure about the magic fish part, but now I’ve convinced that somehow that fantasy element balanced out the depth of the “hard” parts of the text.  I am SO glad I got to this one, and would recommend it to anyone. Ok, everyone, really! 🙂

fullsizeoutput_4b7-minHome of the Brave by Katherine Applegate: Oh my goodness.  Kek may be my new favorite character.  And remember how I was afraid of Moo written in poetry? This one was too, and was also had cows.  I LOVED the insights into immigrant life we got in this one, too, and how the story was told in such a real way.  Being able to see Kek’s bravery and spunk in the story was heartwarming and I love the way the story really dug into the definition of what home is, and where you find it when it seems so far away from where you are.

 

fullsizeoutput_4b6-minExact Location of Home by Kate Messner:  I found this book (which I had never heard about previously) after I read The Seventh Wish and decided I needed to check out all the rest of her books.  I loved the geocaching element of this story, as it’s an activity I learned about a couple of years ago in an after-school club I lead with a friend (plus there just aren’t many geocaching stories around I’d say!).  The “big” topic is in this book is homelessness, and the reality of how 1) quickly it can happen to those who least expect it, 2) it can happen to anyone, and that we probably know someone who is homeless (or as in this story living in a shelter) and might not even know it, and 3) homeless people are not crazy, weird, wrong, dangerous–often it happens because of things out of their control and they deserve the same respect as EVERYONE else.  People are people.  As I read this one, and connected it with the “home” theme in Home of the Brave, it got me thinking about a possible theme for my classroom this year….I’m excited to explore that topic with my students: what does it mean to them, how can we create stronger connections between home-school, and how can I make our classroom an extension of home.  I might try this as a read aloud this year, too, because like I mentioned in the last one, even little kids can tackle big topics.

And…right now I’m reading two more.  I feel a little funny putting them together in a picture here because of how completely opposite they are (one about Hurricane Katrina and the other about middle school girls who take a cooking class–ha!), but hey–variety is the spice of life, right?

I’ll share more when I finish. 🙂 . Come back to check it out, will you?

So I’m wondering a couple of things…

  1. What are you reading or have you read this summer (or whenever!) that I should check out?
  2. What topics/themes do you like to read about?

PLEASE leave a comment and let’s chat about books!!  There’s still a lot of summer left and I can’t wait to hear about what you’re reading!

 

 

#ISWAYR–Week 3

So if you’re just joining this blog thread, I’ve posted about the first two week so summer reading here and here.  This makes the third installment, and it’s been fun to watch all the books I’ve been able to log so far.  There is much more of a variety that I’ve noticed in my lists this year compared to past years (2011, 2013, 2014), including many more picture books than previously–probably because I’m now teaching a primary grade, as well as have two kiddos of my own at home with whom to share great titles! (By the way, I just came across this post again, from a few years ago that I thought was interesting…)

Ok, so this week, this is what I (or we, if it’s a picture book!) read (oh, and in some cases finished):

One of my goal this summer was to start collecting read alouds to share with my new 1st graders, and this week’s books had many that I will add to my school year TBR pile.  So many good ones, though, I’m not sure we’ll have time to do anything else but sit on the rug together and READ!  Oh, well, I guess there are worse things we could spend our time doing, huh??

Oh, and one more thing.  Last week I shared how my TBR pile had shrunk and was only half as tall as the week before, but alas then I took another trip to the library.  And this happened:

Not a surprise for a book nerd, though, I guess, right??  Luckily there’s a vacation in my very near future and I will have even more just-sit-around-and-read-time!

What have you been reading?  What do you suggest I add to my pile? Have you read anything on my list? 🙂

 

It’s Summer, What are You Reading?

Yep.  It’s that time again.  Summertime!  And of course, as a teacher, it means I have time to READ!!  Ok, I am reading all the time, but this is prime sit-and-read-a-whole-book-in-one-sitting time!  So, I thought I’d share what I’ve been reading with you, and then I’d love to hear from you about what you’d suggest!

What I’ve read…

What I’m reading…

In my TBR pile…

Is there anyone who ever has time to read everything in their TBR pile?  I have the problem that mine keeps getting taller (from great suggestions) before it gets shorter (by me finishing something)!  It is totally silly, but at this point it’s up to my knees! See?

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Oh, wait–you probably want to see the spines…here’s another version (sans me!):

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Bets on how long it’ll take?  I’m sure there’s a great math opportunity in there somewhere, but I’ll save that for another day!

Ok, now it’s your turn! What are you reading?  What do you suggest I read? 🙂

 

Things I Learned on My Summer Vacation

Summer is one of my favorite times of year.  I love being able to sleep in and stay up late.  I LOVE traveling and exploring new places (or revisiting old, favorite places for the 20th time hee hee).  Most of all, I love the time to be able to read, write, learn and really digest new things that I don’t have time to attend to during the busyness of the school year.  I thought I’d share some of that learning I’ve been doing.  First up–math! You probably don’t know about this fabulous place in NYC called Mathematics in the City.  And if that is true, then you also don’t know about the amazing teacher leader/trainer/consultant/math guru named Kara Imm.  Man, I’m sorry for you, and want you to book a flight right now.  Seriously it’s worth every penny.  It’s ok.  I’ll wait. 🙂 So, anyway, my experiences with Kara go back to a couple of years ago when she first came to Kirkwood to help us learn more about fractions.  Yes, I survived.  I learned alot and I even had some fun along the way.  I definitely began to understand fractions in a way that I know I didn’t when I was in school.  That new understanding really helped me as I then taught my 5th graders (at the time) to truly understand fractions and what they mean, not just how to do an algorithm or figure out a formula.  She then came back a year or so later and helped us through a lesson study–again with fractions–and we learned a little more. Well, fast-forward to today (a couple of years later), and we were lucky to have Kara back AGAIN.  This time she worked with our whole staff, around many math topics, and helped us all bond as we figured out how to best help kids understand mathematics.  One thing I love about the way Kara presents is that there is ALWAYS some teacher-doing-math time.  I never did that kind of thing until I went to a writer’s workshop presentation many years ago and they had me write (which I thought was totally weird).  From that first moment, I totally got how important it is, though, for teachers to feel the same struggles and frustrations as their students go through.  We got to work through many hard investigations and work through them the way our kids would.  It was really interesting that for many of us, these problems were made harder than they needed to be, though, because of the way WE learned fractions.  Like I mentioned before, I wasn’t taught the WHY but just the HOW, which in many ways is not the easiest or most efficient/effective way to solve the problem.  So, giving this same investigation to 5th graders who don’t have a UNLEARN many inefficient strategies isn’t really that bad.  Our kids are not so confused and frustrated as we are. We did two big problems: one called Muffles’ Truffles (which involved early multiplication) and another with a scenario about Frank, a farmer, and how far he drives.  It’s a problem that involves a gas tank and figuring out (with fractions) if Frank has enough to get him where he’s supposed to go.  While there’s not really any way to truly understand the scale of our conversations and they work we did without being there, here are some notes that my partner and I used to draft our thinking.  There’s also a picture of the chart we made for our Math Congress (which is a topic I haven’t written much about but TOTALLY should!), which was a way to consolidate and present our final draft to the other mathematicians. IMG_489911694842_10204737906631950_6188272882800941260_n

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 We talked multiplication and we talked fractions, we talked Math Congress (nope, haven’t written about it yet…), and we also discussed the topic of basic facts.  This is a hot topic in math these days (and for a while, really), and for many years we’ve responded with daily kill-and-drill activities, timed “mad minutes,” and crazy stressing out on memorizing lots and lots of facts.  Kara brought some info related to how important it is to respond in a different way.

For many people (including teachers, parents and students), being QUICK is best.  But we were reminded that being quick doesn’t equal being mathematically PROFICIENT, which should really be our goal.  She gave us information on how facts DEVELOP, they don’t come first.  She also helped us see that the facts (in this case we focused on multiplication tables) are not random (which is how many kiddos see them, saying “there must be 100s and 100s to learn!”), but are connected.   Seeing those connections and building on the RELATIONSHIPS between facts is how to both LEARN them and UNDERSTAND them rather than just MEMORIZE them.  For many this was mind-blowing, and for others it was validation of what we already knew to be true.  For sure, though, it was nice to be “allowed” to deal with learning facts in a different way going forward.

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My notes from Day 1 of our Math Institute.

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More notes from Day 1. It seems I was so busy DOING math on Day 2 that I didn’t write anything down!

One more important topic of discussion (and of course we experienced them, too!) was number strings.  In short, these are a related set of problems that kiddos use mental math to solve.  Practice is done regularly (maybe even every day), and these help mathematicians become more flexible as well as see the relationships and connections mentioned earlier.  I’ll write more about this next part later (yeah, like I said I would with Math Congresses), but one way we learned to assess newly gained knowledge is to use a two-pen test.  Yep, it’s just what it sounds like: a test you take with two different pens.  The first one is a timed portion to see what kiddos know how to do quickly, and then the second pen is used to finish the rest of the page, with whatever time frame is needed.  Teachers can get all kinds of useful information about what facts kids know and which ones they still need to work on.  Genius.  We will definitely be trying these out in 2nd grade this year!

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Whew.  That was a lot.  I know I tend to be long-winded, so if you hung in this long I TOTALLY appreciate you.  🙂

Now I ask you–what did you learn on your summer vacation?

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See? Minds blowing!

Dancing Shoes Take 1

I welcomed my new friends to first grade a couple of weeks ago.  Then the other I got my first “I’m Ready for 1st Grade” video.  It came from Mille, and man is it awesome!  Well, actually she sent me two, but I’m just posting this one.  She even got her little brother to join in on the fun.  Check it out, friends, then send me your own!  Way to go, Millie!  You are indeed ready for 1st Grade! 🙂

Home Visits!

I am sure by now you know that I am returning to first grade, where I began my teaching journey so many years ago (wow–I was just a kid then…), and am super excited about it.  I am excited to return to many things that are the same, but am also excited about some “firsts” that will happen in this move back to first.  There are several, but first up (hee, hee) it’s home visits.

When Riley was in kindergarten (which is somehow 2 YEARS ago now–how did this happen??), I was excited when we got an email from his teacher about coming for a home visit.  I hadn’t heard of our teachers doing them before, and in fact I think that was the first year they started.   I remember Ms. Dale showing up at our door (which was awesome in itself because we don’t actually live in the district and she had to drive extra far to see us) with a big smile and a game of Candyland.

Now, for me as a parent, the experience was probably different than most when initially meeting their child’s first teacher; I have worked with Ms. Dale for 14 years and so have a relationship and already knew she’d be an amazing match to my kiddo.  We were already comfortable with each other.  But for my kiddo, this visit was priceless.  HIS teacher was coming to HIS house to meet HIM!!  While he was at first really apprehensive (and actually ran away from the door to hide when she knocked!), once I left them alone and they started playing the game, he quickly warmed up to her and they had a great time.  The visit was short and sweet, but I know for sure that it set a very positive tone for the rest of their year together.  There was much less “worried” talk about school after this and more excited banter about when he’d get to see his teacher again and when he could go to kindergarten.  And we had a really cute picture of our little man with one of his new favorite people:

Ok, so that's not the actual picture we took at our home visit, but I couldn't NOT include that very special lady--Ms. Dale--in this post.  :)

Ok, so that’s not the actual picture we took at our home visit, but I couldn’t NOT include that very special lady–Ms. Dale–in this post. 🙂

So…as a start to kindergarten, this seemed like a fabulous way to begin to connect our family with our new family at Robinson.  For both my kiddo and myself, it took away nerves and gave us an opportunity to see his teacher as a person, not just a teacher.  But on the other side, I know that it also gave her a chance to connect with Riley on “his turf”–to see where he plays, where he eats, where he sits and reads a book on the couch with his mom.  And if we had a dog, I know she’d have met our dog so that when he wrote story after story about that dog Ms. Dale would know who he meant.  Instead, she met his little sister. 🙂

As we started planning for our first grade year this fall, I remembered back to this special day with my kiddo and suggested that maybe we try this with our new friends.  There is research to show that there are benefits for teachers and families in every grade level and it was exciting to try it with another grade of little ones in our school.  The team and our principal thought it was a great idea!

So here we are and I’ve just begun my home visits for this year.  I have only gone to a few, but so far I have met 5 kiddos, 3 older brothers, 1 older sister, 2 little sisters, 1 little brother, 3 dogs, countless dolls and horses; played several games of War and Go Fish, read almost 10 books and of course become acquainted with the fabulous parents that are so kindly sharing these lovely children with me this year (hopefully I didn’t forget anyone in this list!).  It’s been great to see how comfortable they all have been, and how proud they seem to be that THEIR teacher is in THEIR house sitting on THEIR couch.  I love how I’m already able to picture these little learners in my classroom, too; I know this will add another important level to the way I put our classroom together this year since it will be for kids I actually know–not just faceless names on a classlist.  And as I was telling one of those kiddos as I sat on her green couch the other day, I am excited for how this will alleviate some of my first day jitters (yes, even teachers get those!) because instead of wondering who will walk in my door, I’ll be ready to welcome old friends to our new home.  I’m pretty jazzed about that part.

So I have to say a HUGE thank you to those of you who have already welcomed me into your homes, and to those of you I haven’t met yet—I’m coming!  And I’m excited!  See you soon! 🙂

 

Things Teachers Do in the Summer: TRAVEL

In addition to finding tons of great, new books to share with my new class, I also had some fabulous opportunities to travel with my family!

Ok, I’ll give you one guess as to where we went.  Alright, you can have two or three guesses if you need them, but if you know me at all, or if you’ve spent any length of time here on this blog you already know the answer.:

This IS indeed, the Happiest Place on Earth!

This IS indeed, the Happiest Place on Earth!

We spent the first 10 days after school was out in our favorite place, which is the week we typically go because it’s not too hot yet, and the crowds aren’t as crazy as later on in the summer.  This year’s weather was a little weird, though, because Tropical Storm Andrea decided to come for a visit at the same time as we did.  It was rainier than normal (not the usual 3 o’clock shower that is over in 5 minutes) and cloudy most of the time we were there.  But hey–we didn’t let that get us down!  We’ve been to WDW many times, but we always find a way to make new memories.  Two highlights from this trip were the Princess dinner we had at Akershus Royal Banquet hall–in Epcot’s Norway pavilion–for Allie (which we actually went to on Daddy’s birthday–HA!) as well as a Pirate cruise that Riley took with a small group around Crescent Lake near Epcot.

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I was so surprised as how shy she was around the princesses.  Those are pretty much the only two that she would talk to–when the others came around she was buried in my shoulder hiding her face!  She did the same thing for Mickey and the others, too, which just surprised me because of how naturally outgoing she normally is!  Our prince was not at all bothered by all the pretty ladies who came to our table, though, and he took pictures with them instead!

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I don’t really have many good pics of Riley’s cruise, but that’s mostly because I wasn’t there!  He took off in his pirate skipper with the tour guides and 5 or 6 other kiddos in search of Captain Stinkyfeet who had stolen the pirate treasure!  I was so proud at his willingness to do that without us (he’s learning to let go 🙂 ) and he had a SUPER time. It was all he could talk about for days afterward!

The one other highlight of the trip was meeting up with some an old 5th grade friend and his family who happened to be there at the same time as we were:

What fun to run into Keelan, his sisters Macie and Amelia and his parents!  Fun in the Florida sun!

What fun to run into Keelan, his sisters Macie and Amelia and his parents! Fun in the Florida sun! (Doesn’t Riley look like he could be related to all of them?)

Disney is usually our big excursion for the summer, but this summer we finally got around to going somewhere else in the world (which is honestly a BIG DEAL for our family!).  So in July we packed up and headed east to Charlotte, NC to visit some friends who had moved there a few years ago.  We spent a lovely weekend with their family (of which I have NO pictures–I realized this after we were home…) and then headed to Asheville for the next few days.  We were excited to see the mountains, as well as enjoy Asheville’s food scene, which is focused on sustainable, local, fresh ingredients and is right up our alley!

Several days we went driving on the Blue Ridge parkway, which is the scenic route through the Blue Ridge mountains and afforded us some AMAZING views, along with tunnels and roadside overlook points to stop and check out.  We went shopping, ate some fabulous food, and also visited the Western North Carolina Nature Center.  While we’re definitely still lovers of all things Disney, this was a great time for our family and it’s the trip that Riley keeps going back to when he reminisces on his summer fun!

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This one cracks me up! Just an example of the cool rocks we drove next to on the road–here we stopped to look at the water running down the walls. Obviously it was more interesting than smiling at me for the picture!

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We also learned that Asheville is home to the highest point east of the Mississippi river–Mount Mitchell.  So fun to trek to the top of it!  Such beautiful views from way up there!

IMAG0854IMAG0882IMAG0872Doesn’t that picture just say it all?  WE HAD FUN!!

What did you do this summer?  What adventures did you go on?  Where did you visit?  Leave a comment and tell me all about it!  Send me a picture, 5th grade friends, and I’ll add it to the blog! 🙂