Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spring is such a great time to bring poetry into the classroom…actually anytime is, but poetry in the spring brings a freshness, a new energy to reading and writing.  So I have a few poetry books and anthologies to share. These are not new, but maybe some of these books have been lost on your shelves as they were for a time in mine!

Been to Yesterdays Poems of a Life by Lee Bennett Hopkins- I just read this from front to back for the first time.  It has been sitting in my shelf and I didn’t realize it is truly a memoir of a difficult time during Hopkins youth.  The poems, a mix of free verse with some internal rhyming and chronologically ordered, speak of a family constantly moving to beat the rent, of a divorce, of a beloved grandmother passing. My heart hurt for the little boy so beaten down by life. My heart sored for the perseverance of a young writer’s dreams for his future.  This book is perfect for intermediate and upper grade classroom libraries and could make for very good close reading discussion.

Toasting Marshmallows Camping Poems by Kristine O’Connell George- This is a wonderful selection of poems about a very common Midwest activity- camping!  George includes a variety of forms- free verse, concrete poetry, poems for two voices to create pure pleasure for young readers.  I use poems from this book often as models for writing workshop with elementary classrooms.

Old Elm Speaks Tree Poems by Kristine O’Connell George- I think Kristine O’Connell George says so much in so few words! These poems bring a humanness to the trees and invoke memories of times past meandering in the woods or playing in the special tree in the back yard. Again her poems are wonderful for teaching poetic devices to our young poets!!

Moving Day by Ralph Fletcher- Actually any of Ralph’s poetry books are wonderful for showing kids that poems can be about anything.  In Moving Day, Ralph creates a series of poems that tell of all the drudgery involved in moving- packing boxes, saying good-by, leaving things behind…  He is so good at creating a story in a poem.

Poetry Matters Writing a Poem from the Inside Out by Ralph Fletcher- this is a practical book written for kids to help them see the wonder of poetry and to encourage them to write poetry themselves. Ralph explores poetry through three lenses- emotion, image and music. Simplistic yet a perfect entry into poetry!

That’s it for today.  Happy reading. Share the passion!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I have a few more books to share today.  Happy reading.  Share the passion!!

The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies- This is a new series about sibling rivalry!  Evan is about to enter fourth grade and his brainiac sister Jessie is skipping a grade and will not only be in fourth grade along with her brother but in the same class.  Evan loves his little sister and in the past was her defender when she was bullied by a small group of girls in her class. But, what Evan has in street smarts, he lacks in the classroom so he fears his sister will make him look dumb.  The conflict centers around a war, a lemonade war- Will the winner take all or end up the loser? This book is great for grades 2-5. Each chapter leads in with a special word or phrase that includes a pronunciation and definition which is kind of fun!

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate- I know I should have read this last year, but I am trying to make up for lost time and books!! If you have students that are animal lovers, they will find it hard to put this book down. Ivan is a gorilla stuck in a small cage in a run-down mini-mall where he and several other lonely wild animals are kept to entertain and entice customers!

Ivan has a huge heart – a heart that will break if he is unable to save Ruby, a baby elephant from ending up just like him, lonely. Ivan seems more human than us, and teaches us lessons in love, determination, and sacrifice.  Great for third grade and up and younger strong readers!

I Survived the Attacks of September 11, 2001 by Lauren Tarshis- Story is always at the heart of historical events and The Attacks of September 11, 2001 is no exception.  Tarshis creates a vivid image of this horrific day in New York City seen through the eyes of Lucas a young energetic kid who is experiencing his own personal crisis. He skips school to visit his Uncle Benny, a New York City firefighter and suddenly the chaos of the day unfolds.  I have to tell you, I found this a little hard to read. It brings back memories of that … well- it brought tears to my eyes as I read.  Lauren Tarshis ends the book explaining why she chose to write about this day and I do believe she handles it in a way that creates a clear picture of this significant event in our history but doesn’t sensationalize.  This is a very quick easy read. It is listed for grades 3-8 for interest level. This is part of an “I Survived” series about other noteworthy events in history.   


Friday, March 14, 2014

Ok.  I have finished three books that I believe belong on our shelves for students to read!,

1.         Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg.  Thank you Janelle Owens for getting this book in my hands!  Loved the characters.  They are quirky, nerdy- but in a way that I wish I was.  (I wish I could learn a second language in less than a month!) There is great tragedy in the book, but this leads to lasting friendships and new family ties. Willow is a middle school genius with a vocabulary that may scare students initially away from reading the book.  Encourage them to stick with it, because they will get caught into the story and hopefully have a hard time putting the book down. Crazy things just keep happening to Willow and her new family that will make you laugh out loud and sometimes tear up.  This book is for middle school and middle grades. (Be aware of a scene early in the book where Willow speaks of how babies come to be!)

2.        A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd- Love, love , loved this book. I saw a tweet from Colby Sharp saying he was reading this book and I realized I owned it! The story reminds me in some ways of Holes, of things lost, a curse that keeps a family from finding happiness.  The characters truly become your friends and your family! Felicity, the main character is a word collector.  She sees words form above people’s heads and she keeps a journal collecting words- trying to make sense of words and the world! She makes a new friend Jonah with the gift of “Know-How.” He is able to see people’s troubles and help fix them.   To me the book is really realistic fiction that hints of magic- maybe the kind of magic we all possess if we learn to persevere and live with HOPE! (Middle grade, middle school – but really anyone can enjoy this read.)

3.        The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson- Historical fiction based on a cholera epidemic in London in 1854. Hopkins weaves actual historical figures in with fictional children to create a tale the takes a young street urchin named Eel from a life of living on the streets to assisting a famous Doctor to find the cause of the spread of the “blue death.” All the while he is trying to hide from people in his past that could ruin his future.  This is a good book for grades 3 and up. It is a pretty easy read and a good historical fiction for kids that have never read this genre before. It has a nice author’s note at the end that gives factual information on this event in history.

That’s it for now!!  Hope you are all reading and sharing with your teachers and students!!!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Teachers ask, “How do I get my kids to read longer than ten minutes without distractions? How do I stop my students from fake reading? How can I teach reading when the kids don’t read?” 

What do we believe kids are capable of doing?  How long can we sit and read without being distracted? Are we creating a culture in our classrooms, in our schools that says to everyone around, “We love to read. It is our passion. It helps us to make decisions, to answer questions, to make sense of our world and we want to share that passion with you!”

We need to spend time reading kids’ books of all genres, searching for themes and interests, and characters we know will connect with the kids in our classrooms. We need to then share those books with our kids—selling the books, promoting the books, loving the books so our kids will come to love them too.  Books should be everywhere in the room, visible so kids can see them, and touch them and dig into them.

We need to have a climate where we talk about books all the time. What we are reading now, what we hope to read next and encouraging students to be that kind of reader as well. We want them to know what others in the class are reading so they can make suggestions to their peers, and know who to go to when they are looking for a new book to read.

We need to fill our rooms with rich new literature that speaks to this generation—graphic novels, picture books, mystery, fantasy, biography, informational … books that will pull even the most reluctant readers in, and make them ask for more. We can’t just have classrooms with only old reading series texts, and leveled books written specifically to teach specific skills.

And we must believe that everyone is capable. We must believe kids can read and read for lengthy periods of time because to not read is like not breathing!  Do we believe?