#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. 🙂


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! 🙂

Writing Warm-Ups: Second Grade Debut

A couple of years ago, I tried writing warm-ups in 5th grade.  The idea was the same as our math warm-ups, and would give kiddos a way of getting their thinking ready for whatever my writing lesson was going to be for the day.  For some crazy reason I stopped doing these, and totally forgot about them.  Until this week.  And then I forgot again between Monday and Wednesday and finally remembered to try one on Thursday.  So this 2nd grade debut of Writing Warm-Ups only has two examples.  But hopefully they’re really great and that will make up for it. 🙂


We are in the middle of a fiction cycle, and were to going to begin revising.  Our lesson on this day was about adding details into your draft and making the story more interesting for your reader.  This got them thinking about that before we started, and so when we read our mentor text and got into our conversation, they were ready.

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Can you tell what today’s revision lesson was about?  Yep–leads! And since I knew I’d want them to collect some good examples for us to use in our discussion, I had them do that as their warm-up.  Again, a win/win because it got them thinking, and saved time during our Writer’s Workshop since had already done that work.  They did a great job of paying attention to how the intros sounded and were able to make connections to how writers need to make their leads hook the reader so they’ll want more.  🙂

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It’s only been two days, but I can already tell these are going to give us a really big bang for our buck.  Stay tuned–I’ll have more to share next week. 🙂



#IMWAYR….on a Thursday :)

I haven’t done it often, but at least a couple of times, I’ve written about what I read, both during the summer and the school year (and in case I missed anything, check out the reading tag on the right side of the page).   And since it’s summer, and I have TIME to read again, I thought I’d add the titles from by TBR pile that I’ve gotten through so far.  At this point it’s almost a book a day!  (Oh, and the #IMWAYR is a Twitter thing–It’s Monday, What Are You Reading–if you didn’t recognize it. 🙂 )

So…at the beginning of the summer (I think it was probably after our first official library visit of the season), this was my pile:


Now, it looks like this (and yes, you’ll see that I did cross a lot of those original ones off my list, but then found TONS more that were interesting):


I’m not kidding, I could read the whole library!!  I make up for all the time I don’t read during the school year by WAY OVER DOING it once I am out for summer.   But hey, when you have time, go for it, right??

Ok…here’s what I’ve read so far.  Not quite sure if this will end up being reviews, summaries or just pictures, but it will be a list for sure:

IMG_2783    Almost Home by Joan Bauer

Remember last summer when I read Close to Famous and Hope was Here by Joan Bauer?  Well, for some reason, I found out that she wrote TONS more books than I had seen, and I had to check them out!  This one I bought at Barnes and Noble, and finished it that same evening!  This one had a similar vibe to the others of hers I had read: the main character was a young girl with family troubles, mainly on her own, and who is forced to learn a life lesson she didn’t really expect.  There was not, however, food involved in Almost Home, as I remember—Close to Famous was all about cupcakes, and Hope was Here was set in a diner.  That must have been a theme for Mark Twain nominees last year, because they were all about the same thing!

Peeled by Joan Bauer           IMG_2780

After I finished Almost Home, I went to the library to find some other Joan Bauer books.  I think I read Peeled first, but honestly I finished the next three titles in about a day and a half so I don’t really remember the order!  The main character of this one was again a strong female, and the setting included a high school newspaper.  I mentioned it to my husband, and he actually mentioned that he’d read it as a read-aloud, but that his class was a little bored by the details related to how to write a paper; maybe I’m biased already to Bauer as a writer, but I didn’t really notice.  Enjoyed the whole thing from beginning to end!

Stand Tall by Joan Bauer

IMG_2774This title was refreshing, as it included a male lead character (aptly named Tree), rather than a female lead, as her others had. There were themes of finding yourself, learning an important life lesson and overcoming adversity–like in the others–but I’m beginning to think that that’s probably what I like about her writing, so it’s ok with me!

                                                                  Squashed by Joan Bauer


The premise of this book made me laugh out loud at first–it’s a girl who raises a prize pumpkin for the festival and is dealing with some villains who don’t want to see her win!  Sounds a little silly, but in a weird way, the pumpkin becomes as much a character as the girl, and you are quickly rooting them both on to win against the “bad guys.”  As with other Bauer books, I liked the way she develops characters, realistically sharing what they would go through and including believable dialogue.  Liked it even more than I thought I would!

Rules of the Road and Best Foot Forward by Joan Bauer

IMG_2784 IMG_2789Told you I was on a roll with Joan Bauer books, huh?  It’s what I talk to my kids about with “trusting an author.”  I figured (just like with Jerry Spinelli, Sharon Creech, Ralph Fletcher and the like) that if I liked one of her books, I’d like the rest of them.  So far, that rings true!  Rules of the Road and Best Foot Forward are actually related to each other–I found out as I began the second one–and have the same main character.   As with other Bauer books, the main character is a strong, independent female, and similarly there is a theme of a teenaged person trying to find themselves and figure out their place in the world.  In this case it’s Jenna, who is hired as a driver for an older woman for the summer, and who learns alot about herself and others along the journey she takes (literally and figuratively).  The setting of both books is split between Chicago and Texas, and the focus is on a major shoe company that Jenna works for (the lady she’s driving is the owner).  It seems a little silly at first (just like the pumpkin idea in Squashed), but it doesn’t take long to start to care so much for the characters and their plots, that the shoe part just makes sense.

                                                                                                             Backwater by Joan Bauer

IMG_2790I had to get one more Bauer title in, since I had found it in the library, and the timing of it was a little funny–I read it while I was on a cruise (Get it?  BackWATER?  I was on the water?  Ok, I’ll laugh by myself. 🙂 ).   The title seemed a little confusing considering there was a cabin in the woods on the cover, but you quickly find out the connection and it makes sense.  This one had similar traits to others I’ve read, but the main character had a stronger involvement with family than in most of the others; she wasn’t as alone and on her own this time.  Instead, she helped someone else find their place in the world (and in the family) and in turn learned some valuable life lessons along the way.  Another great book!

Recipe for Adventure Series by Giada De Laurentiis 






I have to admit that I was a wee bit skeptical to see Giada’s name on a book.  I mean, sure, she might be a fine writer, but she’s not known for that.  She’s known as an expert on food, not on words.  I must also add that I’m not entirely sure that she even wrote these (man, sorry, I guess I’m extra cynical today!).  BUT then I read them, and for the audience for which these books are written, I am sure they are lovely.  I did enjoy the melded aspect of food, family and time travel (sorry for that spoiler), and for the most part I was entertained.  I mean, I did read all three, after all.  Were they the best books I’ve ever read? No. But they were quick fun reads, and spoke to my love of food and culture, even including words from other languages as well as recipe cards that you (or your kiddo) could make at home once you’re finished.  For someone, they may be just the thing to get them into books and into reading, and for that I say–go for it!

Marty McGuire Has Too Many Pets by Kate Messner

IMG_2772I read this one pretty soon after school was out, mainly because I have read the other two Marty McGuire books and loved them, but also because I was researching possibilities for read alouds for my littles for next year.  Since I’m moving back to primary, the list of favorites I’ve been sticking to for the last decade will no longer work!  This was as good as I thought it would be–the characters are funny, believable and often surprise me.  I did honestly laugh out loud with this one, too, when I found out what one of the pets were; I had to Tweet @KateMessner and tell her how pleased I was with that part of the story!  I knew it would be one I could read at home, too, to my own kiddos.  Well done, Ms. Messner!  Another great one.  I have Waking Up Missing in my TBR pile, now, which is a Messner book I didn’t discover until just last week.  Excited to read it!

The Lemonade War Series by Jacqueline Davies

IMG_2787IMG_2786I remember reading somewhere on Twitter last year about a whole school that reads The Lemonade War as a read aloud.  Yes, every classroom!  Kinda liked the idea, and so tried that first book in the series last summer.  Haven’t gotten around to suggesting that idea to my boss (but hey, @grrprincipal, if you’re reading this and want to try it, I’m totally game!), but still might read it to my own class.  When I asked my “tweep” about why they read it, they mentioned the family themes in the book, as well as the lessons kids can learn about being an entrepreneur–they have competing lemonade stands, after all.  In these subsequent titles, the main characters are the same, but are solving different problems: in one there are mysterious candies that show up around Valentine’s Day, as well as a missing bell on their grandmother’s property on New Year’s Eve.  I enjoyed these as much as the first, which is nice since sometimes sequels don’t fare as well as the original.

Picture Books

It’s funny that for my summer reading challenge (which is self-imposed really, and is just to read as much as I can), picture books seem like a cop out.  I know, picture books are books as much as 500 page novels, but maybe it’s that they’re so short.  Or maybe I’m just vain.  It’s probably just a personal problem, but I guess when I say, “I’ve read 25 books so far this summer,” it means more if those 25 books are novels, chapter books, rather than picture books.  Phooey.  Who cares.  They’re good, too, and they’re going to become much more important in my life again, now that I’m teaching 1st grade again.  So, that being said, I’ve read these 3 so far, and have some others laying around to try soon:

IMG_2788I have to laugh as I look at this picture again, because of the continued influence that both The Quiet Place and Rapunzel have had on my kiddos.  Allison is 3, and is in a princess phase (I think this may be genetically imprinted in little girls!), so got Rapunzel from the library, but was really disappointed that it was different than the Disney version she knows.  And ironically, my children have built their own Quiet Place just today with the boxes that our two big living chairs came in.  Inspiration is everywhere!  The other one, I Want My Hat Back, is an favorite we had to reread.  I believe it’s nominated for the ShowMe Reader in Missouri this year.  Yay!

Clementine, Friend of the Week by Sara Pennypacker

IMG_2793I have been a fan of Clementine for many years, and even in my 5th grade class, a year didn’t go by without sharing at least one of her books.  Even big kids can appreciate silliness, and laughing together is a great way to connect and also learn to love books!  I have already read Clementine’s Letter and Clementine and the Spring Trip, and was sure I had read all of her adventures.  Somehow I’d missed this one until now!  And just like all the other silly tales, I laughed out loud and enjoyed every minute of Clementine’s antics.  🙂

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

IMG_2791Just when I think I am a knowledgable teacher in terms of good books, I find something I’ve never heard of, in this case My Father’s Dragon (and the series that follows).  As I was polling my friends for suggestions for 1st grade read alouds, more than one person mentioned this one.  Again, I’d never heard of it–and I’ve even taught primary grades before!  Glad that Leah and Christy suggested it, though, because it was great, and I can totally see how a class of younger readers would love it!  My kids at home did. 🙂

Boys Adrift by Dr. Leonard Sax

IMG_2794It was bound to happen.  I had read almost 20 books  that were works of fiction before I got to a professional book.  For me, this was a big deal.  This one is actually a choice from school, and we’re going to have book clubs on it (and some other titles also related to educating boys) this fall.  I was interested in this book both because I have a son, and because of what’s happening lately in regards to gaps between girls and boys, how boys are getting left behind.  I also chose this title from among the choices because of the “why” nature of it; many choices were related to what to do to help boy learners, but I needed to understand the nature of the problem first.  I am so interested to discuss this with the really smart people I work with, as we brainstorm how to address what these needs look like in our school population.  Using what we’ve learned, we will make changes and we will help the boys (and girls, too!) in our school succeed!

One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

IMG_2819This was the debut novel from Lynda Hunt.  It was also the debut of my reading anything off of the Truman Award nominees list.  I’ve always read Mark Twain nominees, because these were what my 4th-5th graders read, but the Truman ones were for middle school.  Who cares, right?  I know.  Dumb reason.  Well, I found this one at the library and MAN am I glad I picked it up.  At first it reminded me of Almost Home (remember my Joan Bauer binge?), because of the girl with mom problems who has to live in foster care.  This one took a little different turn, which I really loved, and was especially touched at the end.  I cried!!  I am pretty certain this was the first time I’ve had that much emotion in a story that actual tears have come.  Sounds like a great book!  The only thing that is frustrating about it is that she doesn’t have anything else for me to read yet! 😦

Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica


This book was totally a case of read-what’s-lying-around.  Grant had checked it out–not sure why or how he found it–but it sounded interesting, so I threw it in the car for our LOOONNNGGG drive to Disney.   Now, while I found it really interesting, I was a little bit bothered by the language and some of the topics discussed (so reader beware: this is not for youngsters!).  I have never worked in the restaurant industry, and while I’m not sure how true-to-life it is, Dublanica makes it sounds CRAZY!  Some of the things that happen in the kitchens are a little surprising.  Anyhow, the book is actually based on a blog that he used to write (of the same name), and that was cool.  Plus he’s a great writer, so it was definitely a page-turner.  Thanks for leaving this lying around, Grant.  Found a good read really easily. 🙂

French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano

IMG_2821Last year I was given a BIG pile of books (mainly about fashion) from my sweet friend Lisa. One of them was Lessons From Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer Scott.  I devoured it in pretty much a day (and this was DURING the school year, which was weird.  Must have been the weekend…).  I have never visited Europe, but I would have to say that France is a place I’d love to go someday.  I don’t know what it was about the book, but it made me so enamored by French culture.   I loved the “secrets” she shared, which really just seemed like sensible ways to live your life and be a lady.  So…when I saw the cookbook version of this book, I was reminded of the original and had to find it to read it.  This one–French Women Don’t Get Fat–was just as great!  This one was written by an actual French woman (Jennifer Scott had just spent time with a French family), and who better to explain how I can be French and fabulous?  LOVED this one.  Again I am inspired to change some things based on the Parisian way.  And to find more books like this to read. 🙂

Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka

IMG_2822If you know me, it’s no secret that Ralph Fletcher is one of my favorite authors (and hey, I even mentioned him somewhere in this post, I think), and I am always on the look out for a good book written by him.  I ordered Guy-Write earlier this year, but hadn’t had a chance to pick it up til the other day (I think I’m about a 1/4 of the way through so far).  I mention it because I actually found this text in that Fletcher book.  I was inspired to read both of them, actually, because of the Boys Adrift book by Dr. Sax.  For years I have been interested in helping boy writers find their voices, but now more than ever I am hoping to sharpen my skills and add to my knowledge.   In Guy-Write, Fletcher does an interview with Jon Scieszka (of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Stinky Cheese Man fame), and it was hilarious!!  This book was there, and it sounded so interesting and it did not disappoint.  So funny and real and written in a way that made it a really quick read.  Grant even said he might try it as a read aloud with his class this year, which I thought was a great idea, too.  Plus, I thought it was doubly cool that Scieszka was named the First National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, which is an amazing honor (I think I’d kinda want to be one)!  He has a goal to help boy readers and writers, too, and with such a great platform on which to do his work, I know he’ll help make changes for boys everywhere!

So there it is.  My list so far.  I’m pretty proud of it and am reminded of how great it is to get lost in a good book.  The places you go, the people you meet and the things you learn are amazing.  I can’t wait to continue to add to my list!  After all, summer’s only about halfway over, right?   🙂


This is HARD!

I am a writer.  I am not a published author, but I see myself as a person with an opinion, something smart to say, someone with ideas to express.  I do that is many venues, and one of them includes following along in each writing cycle that I ask my students to go through.

Usually this is a relatively easy task.  I’ve been writing for myself for years now, and have TONS of ideas to choose from in my many Writer’s Notebooks.  And as long as the genre is something non-fiction, I’m ok.  And then this time every year a fiction cycle rolls around and I start to get nervous.   For whatever reason, writing a story is just not something that comes easily to me.  It seems that every story I do end up writing has something to do with Santa Claus or Christmas.  Other than that, I got nothing.

So when we got to Thursday–drafting day–I should have been ready to sit down with my students and use my own seed idea and nurturing notes to draft, I had a little confession to make instead.

“THIS IS HARD!” I started.   I had to admit to them that I was not ready to draft.  I had to tell them that, in fact, I didn’t even have a start of an idea.  I had NOTHING!  Ok, not nothing–I did have 7 years of Writer’s Notebook filled with ideas, but nothing that spoke to me and said, “Hey, Mrs. Bearden–write a story about this!” or that could easily fit into a Santa or Christmas story (that’s all I know how to write about, remember??).

So on drafting day, instead of drafting, my job was to figure out my idea.  But I needed help.  And I knew just the people to ask. 🙂

As my students worked on their own drafts, then, I went back to work digging through my notebooks to find anything that I was at least a little bit interested in.  I wasn’t really even sure what I was looking for, but I did end up finding a couple of cute stories from my childhood.  Then one about my little brother.  And another about something funny my husband did when he was a kid.  And so finally my wheels starting turning…

After a few minutes, I at least had a start:

                       IMG622          IMG623

What I came up with was an idea to incorporate many stories from my childhood (about me, my brother, my dad, my husband) into one, set in an old house I used to live in. The trouble was figuring out how to do that.  All I had to do was just begin to mention all of this to my students and within about 10 seconds I had at least 10 possibilities–one that even had a link to Christmas!  Love it.

And do now my hard work continues as I try this weekend to come up with my draft.  And believe me, it’ll have to happen, regardless of how impossible it feels to me now.  They’re counting on me.  I ask them to do it, so I should be able to do it, too, right?  I’ll let you know the answer to that when I figure it out.  Hopefully before Monday. 🙂

What’s your favorite genre to write?  Is there one that’s easier or harder for you?  Tell us about it!

Fiction Frenzy!

We have been busy over the last week collecting new ideas in our notebooks as we start a fiction writing unit.  As with every unit I teach, there are specific strategies that I teach about how to collect for that genre; the idea is that these can then be used over and over again once you know how they work.

Together throughout the week we read several books together, then looked at an idea we could pull out of that book to use in our writing.  First we read The Wreck of the Zephyr by Chris Van Allsburg and talked about how to meld real and imaginary events into the same story.  Then we read Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter, and talked about how to collect “interesting people” to use as characters.  We also tried a strategy that Eva, the girl in the story, uses when she asks “What if?” and then twists the story in an interesting way.  On Thursday we read Moira’s Birthday by Robert Munsch, and brainstormed “messy situations” that we could use in our stories to add interest, conflict and fun.  Lastly, we tried something that I knew my writers had probably never done, and that I knew they’d love.  And they did.  🙂

Let me tell you about it.

The big idea was that kiddos were given pictures from which to get inspiration for a story.  The strategy was a lot like something we did at the beginning when we first started our Writer’s Notebooks.  The first time around, though, the pictures were from magazines, and this time they were from my iPhoto albums.  Yep,  pictures of my kiddos–I knew my school kiddos would be excited about this one and give it their all.  They really love anything related to my family, which I love, too.

We rotated pictures around the room, two at a time, and kids brainstormed ideas for stories that they could write.  Each time they got a new picture, they could then start a new idea, or add on to the one they were already writing.  Here are the pictures we used for inspiration:


The activity was really fun, and I am pretty sure that many of these ideas will become the seeds they’ll choose to publish.  Be sure also see the posts about it on our blogs.  Maybe you could even try it yourself.  What stories would you come up with from these pictures? Comment and tell us about it!  We’d love to use your stories as inspiration, too! 🙂