Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Happy Book Release Day Kate and Ranger!

Ranger in Time: Race to the South Pole 
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published June 28th 2016 by Scholastic Press 
Ranger, the time-traveling golden retriever with search-and-rescue training, joins an early twentieth-century expedition journeying from New Zealand to Antarctica. He befriends Jack Nin, the stowaway turned cabin boy of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's ship. They're racing against a rival explorer to reach the South Pole, but with unstable ice, killer whales, and raging blizzards, the journey turns into a race against time... and a struggle to stay alive. 
This is book number four in Kate Messner's Ranger in Time series and you can finally get your hands on it TODAY!! I know one little boy at my house who is super excited to get it! Make sure to check out the series if you haven't (you won't regret it, I promise) and all of Kate's other amazing books! 

Happy reading!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Fuzzy Mud by Lousi Sachar

Hardcover, 192 pages
Published August 4th 2015 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers 

From the author of the acclaimed bestseller "Holes, " winner of the Newbery Award and the National Book Award, comes a new middle-grade novel with universal appeal. Combining horror-movie suspense with the issues of friendship, bullying, and the possibility of ecological disaster, this novel will intrigue, surprise, and inspire readers and compel them to think twice about how they treat others as well as their environment. 

"Be careful. Your next step may be your last." 

Fifth grader Tamaya Dhilwaddi and seventh grader Marshall Walsh have been walking to and from Woodbridge Academy together since elementary school. But their routine is disrupted when bully Chad Wilson challenges Marshall to a fight. To avoid the conflict, Marshall takes a shortcut home through the off-limits woods. Tamaya reluctantly follows. They soon get lost, and they find trouble. Bigger trouble than anyone could ever have imagined. 

In the days and weeks that follow, the authorities and the U.S. Senate become involved, and what they uncover might affect the future of the world.

This book is a fantastic book for a Science class read aloud! Whether it is during an environmental unit or just to get class started every day, I know that Science teachers could do wonders with this one in their classrooms! 

Louis Sachar knows how to scare kids all the while have them begging for more. You find yourself needing to keep going because you have to know what is going to happen and if they are going to survive. This novel will definitely keep you on your toes and wanting more. I had some students lined up ready for it because I kept gasping and being my normal crazy-reader self while reading this one, and they will tell you that they were the same way! 

Happy reading!!

Teacher blogs should come with a disclaimer....

Let's be real. There are so many amazing teacher blogs out there that it is a bit intimidating. Their classrooms and lessons all look so cute, they look so put together, and then there's me! Rolling into school on two wheels because one of the kids had a melt down, having that last minute lesson idea that I have to run in and get ready, and realizing on the way to school that I forgot to put on deodorant. Yes, that was one day this year!

One thing that I have learned to do though is to not compare myself to each and every one of them. Parts of me, yes, but as a whole I cannot and will not compare myself to someone who is not me. It is not fair to me and not fair to them either. Easier said than done, right. Here's what I mean....

Is my classroom going to look like all of theirs with the cute bulletin boards, super organized classroom library, and fun fonts everywhere? Ummm.... no! But, I can use some of their ideas and implement them into my classroom. We are not the same teacher and what they are able to get done in decorating their classroom, I may never be able to replicate. AND IT IS OKAY! Same goes for you.

Finding teachers on Instagram is almost as bad as Pinterest... I get lost for hours!! Anyone else? I have found that having a notebook where I can keep ideas that I see from blogs and Instagram has been a big help. I can go back and revisit them and implement them in my own way into my classroom when I want to or if I want to. Sometimes it may be an idea from a second grade teacher and I rework it to work for my middle schoolers.

Moral to the story- don't get overwhelmed and get down on yourself. You are a ROCK STAR teacher and just because you don't have it all together like some of these amazing teachers do in their pictures doesn't make you any less. I have a friend who blogs about her house, family, and amazing things going on in our community and I remember her telling me one day, "Jennie, you only see what is in front of the camera that I have cleaned. You don't see the disaster that is on the other side of the camera where the kids have their toys everywhere, the dirty dishes are still in the sink, and my desk is a mess. Pictures only show one side of things.... the side I want you to see!" Theses blogs should really come with a disclaimer. 

So remember, they would be jealous of our rooms too because they are full of amazing kiddos who do amazing things. Even if we don't have all of our ducks in a row everyday! I guarantee you that they don't either and would readily tell us that!

Remember.... jot down some ideas to implement. Don't try to dive in and do it all. Challenge yourself to try two things a week for a while and see how that goes. Make sure that you are doing them with fidelity and consistency though and not just flying by the seat of your pants with them. These teachers are using these things in their classroom with consistency- that is one of the reasons it looks so good! Stick with it and remember- you don't have to do it all! With that being said, I wanted to share a few of my favorite blogs to check out! Sometimes Instagram can be a wealth of information and ideas too so make sure to check those out (you can even put your favorites on notice so that when they post on their blog and/or Instagram, you can find out immediately).

Instagram @miss5th

Instagram @teachinginhighheels 

Instagram @elementaryshenanigans 

Instagram @creativeenglishclassroom

Instagram @hellojenjones

Instagram @Kasey_kiehl

 Instagram @jenblanca 

 Instagram @musingsfromthemiddleschool


All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Hardcover, First Edition, 316 pages
Published September 29th 2015 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books 
Rashad is absent again today.

That’s the sidewalk graffiti that started it all…

Well, no, actually, a lady tripping over Rashad at the store, making him drop a bag of chips, was what started it all. Because it didn’t matter what Rashad said next—that it was an accident, that he wasn’t stealing—the cop just kept pounding him. Over and over, pummeling him into the pavement. So then Rashad, an ROTC kid with mad art skills, was absent again…and again…stuck in a hospital room. Why? Because it looked like he was stealing. And he was a black kid in baggy clothes. So he must have been stealing.

And that’s how it started.

And that’s what Quinn, a white kid, saw. He saw his best friend’s older brother beating the daylights out of a classmate. At first Quinn doesn’t tell a soul…He’s not even sure he understands it. And does it matter? The whole thing was caught on camera, anyway. But when the school—and nation—start to divide on what happens, blame spreads like wildfire fed by ugly words like “racism” and “police brutality.” Quinn realizes he’s got to understand it, because, bystander or not, he’s a part of history. He just has to figure out what side of history that will be.

Rashad and Quinn—one black, one white, both American—face the unspeakable truth that racism and prejudice didn’t die after the civil rights movement. There’s a future at stake, a future where no one else will have to be absent because of police brutality. They just have to risk everything to change the world.

Cuz that’s how it can end.
If you had told me when I was in high school that in just a few short years we would see racial tension seeping back into the forefront of society, I can honestly say I would have laughed at you. I grew up in the South which means that (unfortunately) I am no stranger to racial tension. Though many could clearly see the line between races, I was oblivious. My parents raised us that way- we are all the same no matter what. No matter our gender, race, religious preference, or whatever else may separate us. My husband and I are raising our children with the same mindset, but now we are having to explain why some are being treated differently because of those same things. 

One of the main ways these conversations can begin with our children both at home and at school is through literature. This book is one of those that will begin (and has begun) amazing conversation and opened the eyes of many. Told from two perspectives, this novel deals with the issue of racism in a way that brings emotion to the forefront all while making the reader truly explore their own inner workings. Which side are you on? Rashad's or Quinn's? Would your minds be changed if the races were reversed? 

This book needs to be in every library. I will say that this one will be for some of my more mature 8th graders and above, but my younger students aren't quite ready for this.It doesn't mean I won't pump it up and recommend the heck out of it. Hopefully they will go talk to their parents and get them to buy it! This book is a crucial read and everyone should take the time to read it, reflect on it, and begin conversation about it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A Day that Changed America: Earthquake! (April 18, 1906) by Shelley Tanaka

Hardcover, 48 pages
Published July 26th 2004 by Hyperion 
On a Peaceful Spring Morning, Disaster Strikes San Francisco. On the early morning of April 19, 1906, the city of San Francisco was struck by a devastating earthquake that crumpled buildings, cracked water mains, broke gas pipes, and sent kerosene lamps flying. Fires quickly engulfed most of the city, leaving exhausted civilians to fight the flames with well water, sewer water, and old rags. Despite valiant rescue efforts, estimates place the death toll at around 3,000.
 Fantastic non-fiction book to add to your collection! This book brings to life the earthquake that struck San Francisco in 1906 through first hand accounts, pictures of the destruction, stories, maps and pictographs and much more. Readers are able to see what San Francisco was like before and after in the various neighborhoods from Chinatown to the outskirts. I love that there are also pictures of the artifacts that have been preserved so that you can see the damage that was done. It was fascinating to see how the people adapted to life immediately after the earthquake and subsequent fire. Cooking on makeshift stoves in the street just to survive? Wow. 

Lesson Ideas:
This book is broken into easy to read sections which would make it an easy read for students and teachers to use as a resource too! The pieces of the book can be broken apart for students to get a feel for what was going on at the time and then report back to the class (jigsaw method). 

This would also be a fantastic piece to use to show the culture of this part of America in the early 1900's. The pictures, graphics, maps, and other resources make for great conversation starters!

Reading Bucket Lists!

All teachers (no matter the subject area) have dealt with the students who don't like to read. We hear all of the excuses, we (mostly) patiently wait on the students to go through the reasons they can't read, and so much more. As a teacher of those who struggle with reading, I used to hear this daily. Did you notice that "used to" in the sentence? This year has been a game changer for me with my kiddos and their reading and I attribute it all to The Reading Bucket List!

Hope King at Elementary Shenanigans and Adam Dovico (both of whom have taught and are currently teaching at The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, GA) started spreading the word about something they were doing that was inspired by the work of Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisper: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child. I was immediately hooked! So when the day of teh periscope rolled around, I was glued to my phone!

You can read all about how the Reading Bucket List works on Hope's blog here, but basically the students are challenged to read 60 genres throughout the school year! I know some of you are thinking, "60? There aren't 60 genres!" Well, take a look at how Adam and Hope broke the box that we have been limiting ourselves into smithereens! It is amazing. I don't want to take their thunder away and they are both full of great ideas, so go check it out there!

I will show you a glance into my classroom with it, though. My students were hesitant at first because they were intimated by the number of genres. We are half way through the year and my students who didn't read a book (not a single one) last year have already read 20 or more genres! They love the challenge of finding something within the genre that matches the criteria, showing their friends what they are reading, and seeing what I am reading. I have my Bucket List posted outside my door and my students and all of the students in my school are able to look and see what I have been reading. I haven't been grading this, only promoting literacy. I may change that next year. Adam and Hope have done a great job of including in the resource pages for students to collect book titles and more, but since I had already started my year, I just maintained what we were already doing. (I already had a "Genre" column on my book list for my students and this is how they are keeping up with which ones they have read).

My kiddos have fallen in love with reading again because of this amazing resource! My librarian has even allowed me to post the genres in the Media Center for my students so that when they are in there they can double check what they need. Now we even have other students accepting the challenge because they have seen my kids reading such a variety! My faculty is going to be participating next year too! When our kiddos see that we are invested in it, they will take it and run. One of the things that is stressed in this by Hope and Adam and I point out to my students is that a variety of book formats can fit into each genre. They might not all be novels and that's okay!

Check out the Reading Bucket List and challenge your students! It is never too late. Start with it tomorrow and scale the number of genres back. You never know, they could get them all read!

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Hardcover, 344 pages
Published March 22nd 2011 by Philomel Books

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

There are few authors that could do wrong in my eyes, and Ruta Sepetys is one of these. Her writing is simply brilliant. I have to admit that I didn't know too much of the Lithuanian side of World Ward 2 until this book, but through Lina's story I am now completely in awe of what theses people lived through. I am sure my Social Studies teachers did a fantastic job teaching, but it just didn't sink in. Throughout this novel, I found myself laughing, crying, screaming and even praying! That is what good authors do. This book was simply profound. Lina is a character that everyone can relate to and will be rooting for. Her bravery is astounding and the way she tells her story is mind boggling. I loved this book from cover to cover and will definitely be reading it again. Absolutely stunning! 

Ruta Sepetys has an investment in telling this story because this is the story of her family. This video is a fantastic resource to introduce the novel and to tell the story of the Lithuanians from Ruta's research and from the people who lived through this. Her dedication to getting this story out and getting it right astound me! There are also teacher resources located on her website here for teachers to use. Our students must know this story, and it is up to us to share it with them!

Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

Hardcover, 40 pages
Published January 1st 2007 by Scholastic Press 
A stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mails himself to freedom by a Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist.

Henry Brown doesn't know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves' birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday -- his first day of freedom.
This amazing picture book tells the amazing story of Henry Brown and his quest for freedom. This story, along with so many others, are the ones that show true American spirit. While telling the story, readers are treated to the amazing artwork of Kadir Nelson (AMAZING) which add utter magic to the story. This book is a fantastic read and one that can be used for a multitude of reasons. 
Lesson Ideas and more: 
- Teachers can use this book a Read Aloud to add to curriculum when teaching about this time period in American History. 
- Check out this great lesson from Melissa at Got to Teach! that uses Henry's Freedom Box to review plot elements. 
- This book is also a great piece for teaching the Notice and Note signposts or reviewing the signposts in context.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir by Margarita Engle

Hardcover, 208 pages
Published August 4th 2015 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

In this poetic memoir, Margarita Engle, the first Latina woman to receive a Newbery Honor, tells of growing up as a child of two cultures during the Cold War.

Margarita is a girl from two worlds. Her heart lies in Cuba, her mother's tropical island country, a place so lush with vibrant life that it seems like a fairy tale kingdom. But most of the time she lives in Los Angeles, lonely in the noisy city and dreaming of the summers when she can take a plane through the enchanted air to her beloved island. Words and images are her constant companions, friendly and comforting when the children at school are not.

Then a revolution breaks out in Cuba. Margarita fears for her far-away family. When the hostility between Cuba and the United States erupts at the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Margarita's worlds collide in the worst way possible. How can the two countries she loves hate each other so much? And will she ever get to visit her beautiful island again?
This beautiful memoir gives us a glance into the life of a child living in two worlds and trying to find herself in the midst of a world that is in chaos. Hearing from the first person narrative gives the reader a new perspective on a crisis that is sometimes overlooked. I loved this book from cover to cover and will definitely be using it in my classroom as not only a mentor text for poetry, but also in conjunction with my Social Studies teachers lessons when it comes time. I love the idea of taking pieces of her life as we are working through the historical context. Having a first person perspective through the events will definitely bring a new piece to our classrooms! Absolutely stunning piece!
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