#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! 🙂

Kids Teach Kids: Rm. 202 Takes Over–Part 2

I know…Kids Teach Kids usually means students have researched something they are interested in and are sharing their new knowledge with their class–and we will definitely do that version of KTK later on this year–but for now it has to do with some great things we learned from Mrs. Mark’s class last week when we went for a little visit.  Let me explain. 🙂

Last week on Friday (the day after we had tackled our first step of ICEL and put kids in charge of our schedule), I was again looking for ways to enhance engagement and help kiddos dig in a little deeper into things in our class.  I was still considering the problem-solving protocol of ICEL and was contemplating both I and C…


…and hoped that I could challenge my writers in a different way by having them see what other first graders were doing with their nonfiction book writing.  I asked my neighbor and friend Mrs. Marks (remember her double dog dare from last time?) if she would allow us to come learn from her kiddos, as I had seen some CRAZY great stuff in there on a recent pop in to chat about something else.  She was more than happy to oblige and we went over for a lesson from her kiddos.  My students had a mental list of look-fors and were also directed to ask questions about what they saw during our visit.

We saw some pretty great writing in Rm. 204!  They had added all of the “smart” things we’d been learning about that non-fiction writers put in their books to make their readers understand.  We saw headings, diagrams, pictures, bold words, table of contents, glossaries and labels.  And we saw really excited writers with whole folders full of books!  Needless to say, this was inspiring to my kiddos!  I would have to say, one of the biggest things we walked away with, too, was all of the different sizes of books that were made in Rm. 204; our books are all just regular paper-sized books on 8 X 11 in. paper.

As we left Rm. 204, Mrs. Marks invited my writers to take a little book from her pile to try. We were so excited about the teeny-tiny ones she had!

Of course our next step was to return to our room and get to writing, yes?  Well, almost.  Ms. Turken (our Rm. 203 neighbor) needed our room for a messy project with her class (because we have a sink!), so we were working in her classroom for the morning.  So…our next step was to return to HER room and get to writing.  I didn’t even stop to give directions or even talk about what they had seen from Mrs. Marks’ class–I wanted them to get busy and SHOW me what they learned by using their new knowledge. And boy did they do just that!

See all those tiny books?

One thing we noticed about Mrs. Marks’ books that was different than our work was that they were using mentor texts to help them with their own writing.  Kiddos got ideas as well as examples for text features from the books they were reading, and then made their own texts based on those texts.  We had been just using what we were experts at and what we have personal knowledge of.  This mentor text idea was very helpful to many of my kiddos, and was the support that many of them needed to get moving on their writing.  Oh, and Ms. Turken’s room has markers, which was also a great addition (ours have been put away for a while because we couldn’t take care of them….). 🙂

We have not quite finished this writing cycle, but will do so by Tuesday, so I will share what our final products looked like.  Thanks Mrs. Marks’ friends for adding some spice and excitement to our Writers’ Workshop!  We love to learn from our friends and when kids teach kids great things can happen!

Jumbled Thoughts

One of the things that happens to over-thinkers thinkers like me is that there are often loads and loads of jumbled thoughts all up there in my head at the same time.  I find it a very rare occurrence that I am only thinking about or planning thing at a time (is this called multi-tasking or just crazy?!).  Today is one of those days when there are many things filling the space between my ears, and so as a means to think some of it through, I’m writing about it.

This weekend means that yes, I’m “off” because it’s not a school day, but when you’re a teacher you’re never really not not thinking about school or how to make your classroom a better place for the learners you spend every day with. Today this thinking was magnified as I was attending #edcampStl (Ed Camp St. Louis), learning and growing with other fabulous educators.

As with every EdCamp experience, I left with my head spinning because of all of the inspiring conversations.  Along with the general planning I’m thinking about for next week and the coming month, I’ve got some other things on my mind after today:

  1. Teaching Artistic Behaviors–100% Choice Learning:  Today I went to a really great EdCamp session with Kelly Lee (@yogagirly).  I wasn’t really sure what I was in for (but thought maybe it was how to add more art/design into regular subjects), and then I found out it was by an art teacher and I was really more unsure (I have a good record of picking badly by the title of the session…).  It ended up being something really inspirational, and now I’m trying ot figure out how to use her ideas in my own classroom with 2nd grade.  The basic premise is that in her art class, Ms. Lee has her room broken into “studios” based on mediums (collage, drawing, fiber, digital and painting).  Each day, artists listen to SHORT lesson or inspiration (based on a concept, artist, etc.) and then choose which studio in which to work for the day.  In their plan book, students make a goal and plan for the class time, and then spend time in that studio working to achieve their personal goal.  At the end of the class time, 5 minutes is provided for reflection on the day’s work.  As I sat and listened, I tried to imagine how I could tweak this idea to include all the subjects I teach, perhaps with just 5 studios (or decks since we’re working on being pirates!) that would work for everything we do.  Right now I’m trying to decide if something based around the multiple intelligences would work….
  2. Biography as Narrative Non-Fiction:  I am not sure if I’ve mentioned here before that my team does a really cool thing with planning, and each person (there are 5 of us) is responsible for creating the plan for everyone for one subject.  I’m in charge of writing, and so I’ve had the opportunity to share some exciting things with my teammates (and therefore their students!) this year, like blogging, a new way to think about Writer’s Notebooks, and a punctuation study.  Right now we’re about to start a new unit–biography per the curriculum calendar–and I’m having a hard time getting started.  I remember teaching that unit with 4th and 5th graders and it was BRUTAL!  I’m really not so excited about 1) trying to write that genre with little kids, and 2) planning a non-fiction unit right after we did one (we’re all working on creating picture books about the cultures we’re researching in Social Studies).  So…I’ve been on the search for some fresh ideas of how to teach biography to young writers and help them be able to successfully write about inspirational characters–most of whom are probably from long ago and hard to understand.  I know that I want to include lessons on important vs. interesting information, as well as investigations into the elements of a biography as well as the definition of a paragraph, but beyond that I am dreading the whole thing! I ran across a unit online the other day, though, that explains how to write biography as a form of narrative non-fiction, rather than expository or descriptive non-fiction (which is what we’ve been doing anyway).  I like the idea of trying something new, as well as thinking about how this could be a good transition between NF writing and the narrative fiction that we’re doing next.  This could be the bridge.  Most of the texts we share with students are written in this genre anyway, so it might not be as hard as maybe I first thought…..
  3. Valentine’s Day Questions (yep, I question a lot of things….): ‘Tis the season to celebrate.  Two weeks ago it was the 100th Day of School–which I think we ended up with a great plan for–and now this week has Valentines’ Day (ok, well, V Day is not until Sunday, but we will celebrate it on Thursday).  Again, I feel pulled to do a litany of “cute” things that kids will enjoy, full of glitter and glue and hearts and fun (here’s how we decided to spend the day last year).  I’m not at all opposed to having fun (we’ve talked before about how we have fun every day in Rm. 202!), but to put aside our learning to….wow–even as I just typed that I had an epiphany….(weird, right?)…

Let me show you a picture to explain the thought I just had:


This wrapper was funny to me because it came from a friend the day after my coach and friend, Amy, had reminded me of this question when we were talking about 100th Day Questions.  Just now as I was in the middle of saying how I didn’t think it was the right thing to do to just abandon our work and PLAY, I was reminded of what I say I’m about; play and fun and laughter are important parts of the learning we do together.  So….see why the thoughts are all jumbled?  Who knew teaching 2nd grade would be so hard!?  It’s the parties and fun parts that make me crazy, not the curriculum!  (Maybe it’s me who’s the crazy one…).

Have any suggestions?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of my jumbled thinking. 🙂  Remember, it takes a village!



Science Meets Writing Meets Popplet

We were in a little bit of an “in-between” time in writing last week and so I took advantage by doing something new.  I can thank my friend and neighbor in Rm. 201, Mrs. Appelbaum (isn’t the the BEST name for a first grade teacher??), for the idea for how to connect our writing with science.

Ok, a little background…we have just started a unit on animals in science, and so were eager to do some reading and learning.  I got a big ‘ole pile books from the library about all kinds of interesting animals and we got to work.  First we just read, but then we got to thinking about how we could record the things we were finding out as we read.  We had already done some work with Popplet (remember how Diego so ingeniously figured out how to make the camera work?), so I thought they could easily transfer that thinking to new info on animals.  Well, it didn’t go quite that easily, and I decided we needed to do backtrack a little bit.  That meant (by suggestion of Mrs. Appelbaum) that we do some webs on paper (together first, then on their own) first.  So that’s just what we did.

We started with a text about sharks:

CAM01856and then we worked together to write things we learned in our book about sharks:

CAM01849We talked about how to write just blurbs or words, not whole sentences, as well as how to add details.  After I was pretty sure they understood what to do, I set them free to try it out for themselves.  It was our first try, but still, I’d say they did a pretty great job!


Sara uses her smart reading strategies to learn about ladybugs.


Makayla, Kylie and Lauren all hard at work on their animal webs.


Landen made a web about gorillas, and even used more than one book on the topic to collect his information. Then, he turned his paper over and did another web about moths. 🙂


Jacob read about leopards. His web ended up filling up almost the whole page!


Amelia and Millie working hard on their webs. Millie, who learned about hummingbirds, ended up reading at least 4 different books about her topic and adding loads and loads of facts. Amelia was researching stingrays.


Nate is getting ready to add his topic to the middle of his web.


Evan recorded facts about red foxes.


Ella Marie was super excited about learning more about bees!


Thomas found a book about bearded dragons for his work.


Ava found a book on frogs to use for her web.


Charlie was checking out a book on zebra sharks.


Diego’s learning about tiger sharks!


Peyton’s web showed many things he’d learned about hammerhead sharks! We had many different kinds of shark books on this day and they were all very popular (everyone at his table had a different shark book to read!)!

Oh, and the part about Popplet in the title?  The next day, many kiddos took the information from this draft of their webs and transferred it to Popplets on their iPads.  Some started brand new Popplets using the same process that they’d practiced here.  The best part is that this is something they’ll be able to repeat again and again as they research new topics and organize the information they learn!  SWEET!

Ok, finally, a slideshow of our work from this day:

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Robinson Nonfiction Hunt

Our class has been working with nonfiction text in a variety of meaningful ways.  Last week we took a walk around Robinson to see how many examples of nonfiction writing we could find.  We gathered a list of what we found, and talked about the purposes of these different texts.   Besides being really great detectives, I was uber-impressed with how my Rm. 202 friends were able to go on a 20 MINUTE walk through the hallways without bothering anyone’s learning!  That is definitely an example of following the Robinson Road Rule of Respecting Others, and only happened because everyone was being gritty.  WAY TO GO, 1ST GRADE FRIENDS!

Check out our adventure with some pictures. 🙂

Landen works hard to add to his nonfiction text list on a post it after he finds something in the hallway.

Landen works hard to add to his nonfiction text list on a post it after he finds something in the hallway.

Ella Marie led our super-silent first grade line down the 4th grade hall as we began our hunt.

Ella Marie led our super-silent first grade line down the 4th grade hall as we began our hunt.

We stopped at the end of each hallway so that friends could record what they saw.

We stopped at the end of each hallway so that friends could record what they saw.

The 5th grade hallway had a WEALTH of interesting nonfiction text.

The 5th grade hallway had a WEALTH of interesting nonfiction text.

Peyton stops to write a note about a diorama he saw in the 5th grade hall.

Peyton stops to write a note about a diorama he saw in the 5th grade hall.

This nonfiction writing helped us celebrate Veteran's Day and was found outside the gym.

This nonfiction writing helped us celebrate Veteran’s Day and was found outside the gym.  Besides the title, all of those flags have words to patriotic songs on them.

Kindergarten was using nonfiction in a really meaningful way!  They lost something important and needed help in finding it.  Update:  Their flag was found and returned to them!  I bet they're glad they asked for help!

Kindergarten was using nonfiction in a really meaningful way! They lost something important and needed help in finding it. Update: Their flag was found and returned to them! I bet they’re glad they wrote that news flash!

Stay tuned for more ways that we’re working on understanding nonfiction texts as both readers and writers.  What an important genre to read, write and dig into as first graders (and way beyond that!).

#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?   🙂


First Semester in Review

I take pictures of EVERYTHING, with the intent of blogging about it once we’re finished.  But then life happens and I end up with a computer full of pictures, lots of stories to be told, but feeling a tug to move on because it’s been so long since the activities happened.

So when that happens (like it did for most of what we did in our classroom in December), I usually just move on and blog about the next big thing, sad that you missed out on the awesomeness that is Rm. 202.  But not this time!  I figure I am going to give you at least a quick glance at the fabulous things my kiddos did during 2nd quarter.  So let’s commence with the show-and-tell. 🙂

Halloween (Man–see, I told you I’m behind!)

We had a great time in our costumes, but it rained and so our school-wide parade went around our building instead of through our neighborhood.  Our class parties were done with the whole grade level together, and probably the hit of the day was the photo booth.

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Veterans’ Day

We wrote letters to veterans at Aberdeen Heights.   Our whole-school Veterans’ Day celebration was pretty fabulous, too, and we were able to share a great song we’d learned called “The Heart of America” with the rest of the school.  Some boys from our class, who are a part of a group called iLead, got to be ambassadors and lead our guests to their seats.  Honor choir, which also had many members from our class, started off the whole thing with the national anthem.  What a great day!

Honor choir

Honor choir

Mia, Haleigh and Hanna sang the solo at the beginning of our song.

Mia, Haleigh and Hanna sang the solo at the beginning of our song.

5th grade shared "The Heart of America" with the audience and it was FABULOUS!

5th grade shared “The Heart of America” with the audience and it was FABULOUS!

Informational Text Writing Celebration

I shared the work that we did with our informational text writing unit, but I didn’t share with you the way we celebrated our hard work!  After each kiddo had spent time on their poster, we were ready to share our hard work with each other.  Differently than in past units, we decided to have a whole-5th-Grade celebration, so we could see everyone’s amazing writing.  As we visited each classroom’s writing samples, kiddos (and teachers!) gave compliments to each writer on a sheet that each kiddo then got to keep.   Great job, 5th grade!

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Door Decorating Contest

To celebrate the last week before Winter Break, our school had a door decorating contest.  There were some rules that we had to follow, but other than those, the theme was fair game.  IMG_1983

While we had a week to work on our door, there really wasn’t alot of time to create during school hours (we did still have things to learn, after all!).  We worked at recesses and after school one day to get our ideas together.  The plan looked like this:


  In case you can’t tell, there was a theme of a night sky, where I would be featured in the moon and kiddos would be showcased on stars.  Lots of glitter was to be included, too.  Sounded like a great idea, and so we got to work.

Now…I wish I could tell you that we ended up with a great door decoration, and that we won first prize–but actually what happened is we ran out of time and didn’t even end up getting all the stars on the door, or the letters, or the Milky Way…instead they ended up with a sign and a bowl of M&Ms to entice the judges to give our door high marks.  Bribery?  Maybe.  Creative either way.

Beginning Another Informational Writing Unit (this time with research!)

If you haven’t had a chance to read about the AMAZING work that we did with our last on-demand writing sample, you must check it out!  It was the beginning of this second informational unit, and after it we were ready to get to work with the next steps.  Those steps involved starting an essay about a common topic, one that all of us had some background knowledge about–Westward Expansion.  But even before we could start talking about what we’d do with that topic, we had a conversation about what we already know as writers of nonfiction.  We used an analogy floating around our school (I’m sure many people use it, but I most remember my friend Mrs. Harris talking about it with her 4th graders last year) about a suitcase that you fill with learning every year.  The idea is to get kids to understand that they are expected to be learning things “always and forever” (not just for that moment), packing it in their suitcase, and then carrying that knowledge or skill with them wherever they go in the future.  So with this image in our heads, we created one on our chart:


We then began by jotting down as many ideas as we could think of related to Westward Expansion, putting one idea on a different post-it.  We organized our post-its by topic (i.e. some were related to Lewis and Clark, some to the Gold Rush, some to the Pony Express, etc.), and put each topic on a different sheet in a booklet we had made together.

Since we were all working on the same topic, and since this is just the beginning of the unit where we’re learning how this whole thing works, we made sure to steal share ideas to make sure we all had enough subtopics for each category (the idea was to have 5 topics, each with at least 3 subtopics underneath).  We talked together, got ideas from other writers and added to our own work.

Then, when it was time to draft, we again went to our laptops and iPads.  At first when I mentioned that they would flash-draft all 7 paragraphs in one class setting (the 5 topics in their booklet plus an introduction and conclusion), some kiddos were a little freaked out.  Once we talked about the benefits of doing the draft this way, and how easy it would become to add, revise and edit their piece along the way, they were ok.  This is as far as we got before we left for Winter Break, and we’ll pick up at this point when we return in a few days.  What great thinking we started here!

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Winter Sing-a-Long

For one of the last hurrahs before we left for Winter Break, we gathered in the gym as a school for a sing-a-long.  The kiddos knew that we would sing Winter Wonderland and a few other favorites (because they’d been practicing them in Music with Mrs. Kesler), but they didn’t know that we had prepared a surprise song to perform for THEM!  It was The Twelve Days of Winter Break, and each grade level group had prepared a line of the song.  The verses were like this:

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 3.52.32 PMCan you guess which one we were responsible for writing?  One hint: it’s technology related…

Here are some pics of the fun, including Mrs. Sisul as a Roadrunner, and 4 teachers playing 2 pianos simultaneously.  That’s talent, people!!

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Gotta love a principal who will do crazy things like this for her kiddos! WE LOVE YOU, MRS. SISUL!

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Mrs. Bell, Mrs. Kesler, Mrs. Dix and Mrs. Hong tickled the ivories together to accompany our sing-a-long.

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Probably the best part was on the last verse–12 inches of snow–when “snow” was tossed on the crowd. Messy, but fun!

So that’s that.  I was way behind, but I was able to fill you in on a teeny, weeny bit of the fun we had in 2nd quarter.  I will do better in the upcoming months.  Maybe.  I’ll just promise to do my best, ok?  Trust that even if it’s not on the blog, it’s happening in our room anyway!

Thanks for reading, and here’s to a super new year!

(And thanks for staying for such a LONG POST!  Just noticed that as I finished it…)