Thursday, December 31, 2015

Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst

Paperback, 273 pages
Published: 2013

In Notice and Note Kylene Beers and Bob Probst introduce 6 "signposts" that alert readers to significant moments in a work of literature and encourage students to read closely. Learning first to spot these signposts and then to question them, enables readers to explore the text, any text, finding evidence to support their interpretations. In short, these close reading strategies will help your students to notice and note.

In this timely and practical guide Kylene and Bob:
  • examine the new emphasis on text-dependent questions, rigor, text complexity, and what it means to be literate in the 21st century
  • identify 6 signposts that help readers understand and respond to character development, conflict, point of view, and theme
  • provide 6 text-dependent anchor questions that help readers take note and read more closely
  • offer 6 Notice and Note model lessons, including text selections and teaching tools, that help you introduce each signpost to your students.
Notice and Note will help create attentive readers who look closely at a text, interpret it responsibly, and reflect on what it means in their lives. It should help them become the responsive, rigorous, independent readers we not only want students to be but know our democracy demands. 

There are some books that we as teachers swear by, and this is mine. This book was a total game changer for me as a teacher and my students as readers. The signposts presented in this amazing book are easy to understand and even easier to teach thanks to the amazing way this book is set up. Kylene and Bob walk you through their teaching of the signposts in real classrooms, give solid, usable examples for you to implement in your lessons and set it up so that all you have to do is get into your classroom and get to work!

It is so easy to get lost in strategy books to me, but this one was the easiest yet! I loved the honesty from both authors and the realness of the book. Hearing what other teachers had to say about how they implemented the strategies and how students felt about each of the strategies was great. Since I implemented these strategies in my classroom in the Spring of 2013, I have seen a tremendous increase in my students reading and comprehension abilities, skills and have even seen my particular readers (we don't call them "reluctant readers" anymore) turn into avid readers! It has been amazing!

There are even Literature Logs that students can use when learning about these strategies where they can read, write, and respond right on the text. Each signpost begins with a page for students to take notes on, a description of the strategy, then Kylene and Bob walk you through each strategy using text examples from relevant, high-interest novels. My favorite part is that you get to sit in on the conversation right there on paper and see how the strategy is used! This year, I used these for the first time and my students loved being able to write in them. They will definitely be purchased again next year!

These strategies are used for fiction texts, but just a few months ago, this gem was released for the non-fiction texts. The same concept of applying signposts while reading will be implemented through these strategies and some are even similar to the previous signposts (which will make it easier to remember for my students I am sure!). I am currently working my way through this one so that I can implement it in my reading classroom after our Winter Break! My kids are even super excited about it!

Helpful Tip:
I took both of these books (and quite a few others) to Staples and had them spiral bound!! HOLY COW Y'ALL! This was a total life saver for so many reasons. Not only can I flip through pages a whole heck of a lot easier, but for those books that you have to (sometimes... not often) make copies of, this makes it easier to flip around and not have all of that black space!  Best $3 I have ever spent!! You're welcome!!

The Little Snowplow by Lora Koehler, Jake Parker (Illustrations)

Hardcover, 32 pages
Published: October 2015

Big trucks may brag and roar, but small and steadfast wins the day in this cheerful story with timeless appeal.

On the Mighty Mountain Road Crew, the trucks come in one size: BIG. That is, until the little snowplow joins the crew. None of the other trucks think that the little snowplow can handle the big storms, but he knows that he can do it—and just to be sure, he trains hard, pushing loads of gravel, pulling blocks of concrete, and doing plow lifts to get ready. But when a blizzard arrives, will the little snowplow’s training be enough to clear the streets and handle unexpected trouble? Taking its place beside classics such as The Little Engine That Could and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, this tale of a plucky little plow will find a clear path to readers’ hearts.

This adorable book reminds us not to judge a book (or in this case, a snowplow) by its cover. While the other big trucks mock him, the little snowplow doesn't let that deter him as he prepares for what he knows he is capable of! The illustrations in this book along with the story itself are definitely catching. The story itself is one that we all need to remember- don't judge and in the same sense, don't give up on your dreams!

Super cute book with a heart-warming message!

Mentor Text Suggestion:
This book would be ideal to use to teach or review the Notice and Note signpost Again and Again. 

Counting Lions: Portraits from the Wild by Katie Cotton, Stephen Walton (Illustrations)

Hardcover, 40 pages
Published: October 2015

Exquisite charcoal drawings of ten endangered creatures—lions, elephants, giraffes, pandas, tigers, chimpanzees, penguins, turtles, macaws, and zebras—startle the viewer with their size and astonishing detail. A poetic text notes each creature’s particular qualities and behavior, while providing a quiet counting exercise and a reminder that these animals must be cherished and protected.

This exquisite book takes readers from one lion all the way to ten macaws all the while enchanting us with the art work, poetry, and knowledge. The book is HUGE (it is considered an "oversized" book) and allows the reader to really experience the art along with the beautiful words on the page.

Another of the amazing parts of this book are the last few pages which give the reader more information about each of the species being counted and their danger of possible extinction. Both of my children poured over this book (we laid it out on the floor and truly experienced it) and it prompted them to go look for the animals and research more about each one. That alone thrilled my nerdy heart!

This book is a fantastic addition to a home or classroom library!

Ideas for the Classroom:
This book is ideal for the Science classroom when talking about endangered species and habitats. Students will be able to get a glimpse into the life of the species through the pages and gain additional information through the final pages. After this introduction, teachers could break the class into pairs or small groups and have each one research further the species they are assigned. Using technology such as Google Earth to locate the animal could also be a lot of fun! Check out this amazing pack on TeachersPayTeachers from Meridian which has an Endangered Species activity using Google Earth already created (along with some other cool ones).

Students could also research an endangered species not featured in the book (the teacher may want to come up with a suggested list) and have your class create their own book using Counting Lions as a model. Have the students complete their research, write their poems, create their own art, and compile them all into a class book. If you can, give each child in the class a copy of the book. Staples and Office Depot both bind books if your school doesn't have a binding machine. Partnering with the art teacher would also be fantastic with this project so that they can analyze the book from an art standpoint and help the student with their art. Cross-curricular collaboration is a fantastic way to show your students the importance of all classes and to support each other!

Happy reading!

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Hardcover, 417 pages
Published May 5, 2015

Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.

It is no secret that I loooooove Sarah Dessen (GO HEELS!!!). This is her newest and I was so glad that I got to see her again at my conference and catch up. Seriously, she is the coolest person ever! This book definitely did not disappoint. Sydney is living in the shadows of her older brother Peyton and the mistakes that he has made. While he is away serving time, she is forced to come to grips with who she is, what her life has become, and how she will move forward. Being a teenager is hard enough, but add on a brother in jail, his best friend who gave even me the creeps, a mom who totally doesn't get it (in ANY way, shape or form), and a family who ends up being Sydney's saving grace, and you fall into the story and find yourself wanting to wrap your arms around Sydney and help her figure out life however you can. 

The honesty and raw emotion that I felt while reading were a true testament to Sarah's writing and her ability to suck you into a story and become invested in the character's lives. While being a teenager is tough on most all of us, it is often hard to realize that no matter which side of the tracks you are on or what your life is like, we all experience trials of all shapes and sizes. 

Like Sarah Dessen's other novels, this one will suck you in and take you on an emotional roller coaster while having you beg for more. And I have to say, the ending is perfection. The last like... wow. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson

Hardcover, 40 pages
Published January 2013

One day when Nelson Mandela was nine years old, his father died and he was sent from his village to a school far away from home, to another part of South Africa. In Johannesburg, Mandela saw fellow Africans who were poor and powerless. He decided then that he would work to protect them. When the government began to keep people apart based on the color of their skin, Mandela spoke out against the law and vowed to fight hard in order to make his country a place that belonged to all South Africans.

Kadir Nelson tells the story of Mandela, a global icon, in poignant verse and glorious illustrations. It is the story of a young boy's determination to change South Africa and of the struggles of a man who eventually became the president of his country by believing in equality for people of all colors. Readers will be inspired by Mandela's triumph and his lifelong quest to create a more just world.

Kadir Nelson has a way of not only empowering us with his words but leaving us in awe of his artwork. This is one of my favorite books not only because it is about one of my heroes, but also because the artwork is worthy of hanging on my walls. As with all of his books, I find myself staring at the art long after I have finished reading the words on the pages.

With the issues that our country is facing today, Nelson Mandela's story is a way for the door of conversation to be opened. Not only is this book written to tell us the story of Mandela's life, but also what he stood for and fought for. The last two pages give us more detailed information about Mandela's life, his marriage to Winnie, life in prison, and his life after (including his presidency).

I have to brag a little because I was able to meet Kadir this past November at the NCTE Convention in Minneapolis and had his sign my book! He is a quiet force to be reckoned with. I did not feel worthy.   

This book is a must read for all ages!

Ideas for the classroom: 

When teaching the Civil Rights Movement, use Nelson Mandela as a read aloud to compare and contrast what was going on in South Africa and in the American South. Have the students discuss and create a Vin Diagram in small groups. Meet together with a class and expand your Vin Diagram to include recent events of racial discrimination that have occurred in present day America. Present articles for students to complete close reads with to research these events. is a great resource for articles which also allows to you level the articles for your students (hello differentiation!). 

Students could then write a research paper, paragraph, or blurb comparing and contrasting each of these. You could also assign certain students to compare/contrast specific events. You know your students, so adjust your lesson accordingly!

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Hardcover, Graphic Novel, 224 pages
Published February 2010

Raina Telgemeier's #1 New York Times bestselling, Eisner Award-winning graphic memoir based on her childhood!

Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth. What follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there's still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly.

Though this book is in our school library and has made its way into my classroom library (I am sure that someone left it and it found a new home in one of my baskets, haha), I haven't read it until now! My sweet cousin Mandy gave it to my daughter for Christmas, so naturally I snapped it up and read it before she could! 

Raina Telgemeier's graphic novel gives us a glimpse of what her childhood was like at such an important time- middle school and the beginning of high school. I have my own (dreaded) memories of that time period and I could totally related to the need to fit in, living through something which you think will be the complete end of you (I fell off the back of a golf cart when I was in 8th grade and scraped the side of my face off.... seriously, it was bad), first love, physical and emotional changes and so much more. Looking through Raina's scope into her life was refreshing and is definitely something that preteens and teens as well as those of us who are a little further from that can relate to! 

This is definitely one that I will be recommending to a few of my students who may be having an interesting time transitioning and finding themselves. I loved Drama by Raina Telgemeier too and will have that post back up soon! For now, enjoy your reading and add this one to your list! You won't regret it!
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