Sunday, November 30, 2014

Stack-It-Up Sunday, November 30

On Sundays I like to share some of the random piles of books around my house. I originally posted about my piles on this celebration post.  Along with showing everyone how messy my house is, I like to share because each pile has its own story.

Here are this week's stacks.
This stack contains part of my recently funded Donors Choose Project!

 Here are more.

 This stack has some of my NCTE books signed by the authors!

 My behind-the-couch stack has some NCTE books and some from Donor Choose. I can't wait to bring these to school tomorrow!

My picture book pile is in my reading nook. I am giving away my copy of My Yellow Balloon here (giveaway runs until Dec. 4).

What Books are in YOUR Stacks Friends?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Celebrate This Week-NCTE 14

Every week, Ruth Ayres over at Discover. Play. Build. invites people to share celebrations from their week.  Please visit and consider linking up your own celebration. 

Thanks to Ruth for providing a platform for me to share my big and small celebrations. 

Ok, so yesterday I relfected on some of my learning from NCTE 14. It may be a bit late, but I would like to celebrate the awesomeness of the weekend. 

The Gaylord National Resort is beautiful! This picture was taken from the 8th floor overlooking the lower atrium. 
Mainers on the NCTE map!

Our Saturday session. 
I had the great fortune of presenting on a panel about fostering resiliency and empathy using literature. On the panel were my friends Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Leslie Connor, Jennifer Nielsen and Susan Dee. I thoroughly enjoyed preparing and presenting this session with these wonderful ladies! It was the highlight of my weekend. 
Yes, I was nervous to say the very least. I am not a "speaker" outside of my classroom so this was certainly way out of my comfort zone. It was good for me to prove to myself that I can present at NCTE and live to tell about it. 
I stalked and met Patrick Allen. I really enjoyed his book about conferring and I am glad I got to tell him so. 
I also got to meet Franki Sibberson. I felt like I already knew her since I read her work all the time. She is such a dedicated educator and a lovely person. It was great to meet in "real life". 
Me, Lesley Burnap, Melissa Guerette, Jason Lewis, Michele Knott

This picture was taken at the Scholastic dinner. Michele is a blogging buddy (Mrs. Knott's Book Nook). Lesley and Jason are online nerdy friends. I met all three of them in person for the first time at NCTE! Melissa is one of my nerdy Maine friends. This was our second NCTE together as roommates. She is super-nerdy in the best way. Please visit her amazing blog Educate, Empower, Inspire...Teach.

Here are a few pictures with authors.
 The incredible Laura Robb
 I gushed how much I loved This Journal Belongs to Ratchet to author Nancy Cavanaugh.
I was thrilled to get books signed by Raina Telgemeier! My students were beyond impressed. 
Ok, so I might have been eavesdropping on a conversation between Donalyn Miller and Laura Robb. Don't judge, you would have done the same thing. 

Although I didn't get any pictures, I was happy to be able to share meals with friends I met last year at NCTE including Mandy Robek, Cathy Mere, Karen Terlecky, Deb Frasier, Katie Keier, Pat Johnson and my Maine friend Mary Bellevance. 

I was thrilled to meet several other online friends, but I won't begin to mention them all as I will surely leave someone out. 

 A little fun before a bookish brunch for Lynda Mullaly Hunt. This sculpture is called The Awakening. Part of it is trying to grab my head. Photo credits to Jillian Heise. 
 Penguin Books hosted a brunch to celebrate my friend Lynda Mullaly Hunt's amazing success with her first book, One for the Murphys and the upcoming Fish in a Tree (to be released in Feb. 2015 and a must read, trust me). 
Nancy Paulsen (left) and Lynda discuss how Fish in a Tree was born. Lynda describes it as a "love letter to Mr. Daniels", her 6th grade teacher. Not a dry eye in the house.
This is my best nerdy friend Susan Dee. It is because of her friendship that I was able to present with the amazing panel of authors. She is the BEST conference partner ever and the truest friend anyone could have! We have had many nerdy adventures together and I look forward to so many more. 

So that's a wrap. I will continue to relive my nerdy NCTE experience. Experiences like this keep me motivated and renewed. I need to find a way to make the feeling last throughout the year. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

My NCTE '14 Reflection

Last weekend I was fortunate to be able to attend my second NCTE annual convention in Washington DC. After I attended last year I vowed never to miss another.  The entire experience left me invigorated, inspired and focused. Too often districts get bogged down in the "data" of testing and standards (I really hate using the word data to discuss children). This event has renewed my faith in education because of the incredibly dedicated and brilliant educators I had the privilege of learning from. It is the kids that matter. Connecting with and guiding each child as they develop as readers and writers is where our focus needs to be. 

My mind is still trying to process all that I learned and experienced during this incredible event, but here are a few tidbits I took away. 

 *During a session about reluctant readers and shame Lynda Mullaly Hunt mentioned how teachers should validate student choices in books even if the student does not like what we like. I have been guilty of this when students choose to put a book I love back on the shelves. My intention was to encourage the student to read a favorite of mine, but the message is "What is wrong with you?" This was an eye opener and something I will never do again. 

I attended a session with Melissa Sweet, Jan Bryant and Cynthia Gray about nonfiction writing. From that session I took away the importance of focusing on questions and how research should be a journey. I was reminded of the importance of using primary resources whenever possible. 

From a session about digital writing led by my friend Cathy Mere I learned about many new tools I would like to try out with my students.

The last session I attended was called Middle Level Mosaic and it was amazing! With an all-star line up including Teri Lesene, Alan Sitomer, Kylene Beers, James Dashner, Linda Reif and Donalyn Miller this session was jam packed with people, information and quote-worthy nuggetts. It was worth the price of admission just to see it. I did not know who Alan Sitomer was before, but by the end of his presentation, I would have followed him anywhere-What a dynamic speaker and passionate educator!

Some of my take aways from this session include: 
*A renewed believe in he fact that volume of reading matters. 
*Students who are struggling read far fewer words in a school day than average students. 
*"The strongest part of a book recommendation is the person giving it." Donalyn Miller
*If a child gets stuck in a particular genre, dub them "genre experts" (Donalyn). 
*"If we want students to take control of their reading lives, their voices need to be louder than ours. " (Donalyn)

When I was not in sessions, I was engaged in conversations about literacy with people I admire, getting books signed by authors or stealing very brief moments of reflection. Tomorrow I will share some fun photos including some from my session on Saturday. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Dealing with Loss and Grief-A Review of My Yellow Balloon by Tiffany Papageorge

by Tiffany Papageorge
Illustrated by Erwin Madrid
Published 2014 by Minoan Moon Publishing
Picture Book-Fiction
32 Pages
Review copy provided by the publisher

Summary From Goodreads
It all started at the carnival. That is where Joey makes a new friend: a bright yellow balloon. Joey and his beloved balloon do everything together, until the balloon accidentally slips off Joeys wrist and flies far, far away. What will Joey do without his special friend? Tiffany Papageorge has crafted a poignant tale of love, loss, and letting go that will serve as a comforting guide to children who are navigating the complicated emotions of grief. Rich, luminous illustrations by Erwin Madrid perfectly capture these timeless themes, making them accessible to even the youngest reader. Honest, unflinching, and ultimately reassuring, this book will resonate with anyone who has endured the darkness of grief, while offering hope for brighter days ahead.

My Thoughts
Joey experiences deep and genuine grief upon the loss of his beloved balloon. My heart went out to him as he grappled with all of his new emotions including sadness, anger and confusion. I love how this book is about grief and loss, but not obviously about death. It does not gloss over the topic, but shows the real emotions people feel as they deal with grief. In the end, Joey comes to a point where he can think about his balloon with fondness. I thought this was a realistic ending without being unrealistically cheerful.  
The illustrator effectively uses color to show happier times and black and white during times of grief. Muted colors represent the period where Joey begins to feel sad less often. 

Books can help children deal with many difficult situations by seeing a character go through a similar experience. I feel that this book would benefit any child who is faced with a loss such as the death of a pet or loved one.

Little Parachutes website shares other picture books about bereavement. 
Visit Teach with Picture Books for even more ideas. 

I feel like I need to share the book love by passing on my beautiful copy to a reader who will be able to use it more frequently with children. Please enter the giveaway using the Rafflecopter below. 
(I will ship this book within the continental US at my expense to the winner selected by Rafflecopter) 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Slice of Life-Preparing for NCTE14

Each Tuesday the amazing bloggers at Two Writing Teachers host Slice of Life Stories (SOLS). This is where bloggers link up to share anything they would like to share about what is happening in their lives. 

This week I feel very fortunate to be able to attend my second NCTE annual convention. I attended last year and it was the best professional development I have ever had. I reflected on the experience here and here

This year I am beyond thrilled to be presenting my very first session on a panel with my dear friend Susan Dee and three of my favorite authors, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Jennifer Nielsen and Leslie Connor. Yes, I know, I can't believe it either *pinches self*. 

The experience of putting this presentation together has been wonderful and humbling. With the exception of Susan and I, we all live in different states. There have been countless emails, Google docs and a Google Hangout where we were able to talk together for the first time as a team. 
These ladies are talented, dedicated and know their stuff! I feel blessed to be part of this amazing line up. 

I am very excited to get to DC to see old friends, meet some friends "in person" and make new connections. It is sure to be another experience to remember. 

If you are attending NCTE this year I hope you will consider attending our session (G.46) Grow Through It: Fostering Resilience and Empathy through Story on Saturday morning from 9:30-10:45 in Maryland B. See the Smore below for more info. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? November 17, 2014

Please visit the amazing blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers who host this terrific meme each week.

This week I finished a couple of books I started a while back. Please click on the titles to learn more about the books. 

by Jonathan Auxier
I really enjoyed this beautifully written, creepy, story.  I think students in grades 5+ will enjoy it the most. 

I finished listening to....
by Kimberly Newton Fusco
I had been meaning to read this one for a while and I am glad I found it on audio. I would recommend it to grades 5+. 

Currently Reading

What are YOU reading friends?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday-Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla

My Friend Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy hosts weekly link up to share Nonfiction Picture Books. Please visit her amazing website.

Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla
by Katherine Applegate
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Published 2014 by Clarion Books
Nonfiction Picture Book
40 Pages
Copy obtained from public library.

Goodreads Summary
In a spare, powerful text and evocative illustrations, the Newbery medalist Katherine Applegate and the artist G. Brian Karas present the extraordinary real story of a special gorilla.
Captured as a baby, Ivan was brought to a Tacoma, Washington, mall to attract shoppers. Gradually, public pressure built until a better way of life for Ivan was found at Zoo Atlanta. From the Congo to America, and from a local business attraction to a national symbol of animal welfare, Ivan the Shopping Mall Gorilla traveled an astonishing distance in miles and in impact.
This is his true story and includes photographs of Ivan in the back matter.

My Thoughts
As a HUGE fan of Applegate's novel The One and Only Ivan, I was beyond excited to find that she had published a picture book of Ivan's life. Although I have read the novel a couple of times, I learned several details that I did not know about Ivan from the picture book text and from the author's notes in the back. Reading this book, I fell in love with Ivan all over again. I enjoyed the touching description provided by Ivan's main zoo handler, Jodi Carrigan, of Ivan's love of painting and his gentle nature. 

With sparse text and fabulous illustrations, this book is perfect for all elementary-aged students. They do not need to have read The One and Only Ivan in order to appreciate this story. However, If you plan to read the novel, I would recommend reading the picture book to your students after you finish as it does give away the ending. 

Use this book...
*as part of a unit on animals or endangered animals.
*as a mentor text to discuss treatment of animals.
*to jumpstart a community service project to help animals. 
*as a nonfiction companion to The One and Only Ivan

The author has a discussion guide on her website.
Animal Planet has nice 2-3 minute video about mountain gorillas here.
Watch to book trailer.

Katherine Applegate discusses the book in this video.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Slice of Life-Emotional Roller Coaster

Each Tuesday the amazing bloggers at Two Writing Teachers host Slice of Life Stories (SOLS). This is where bloggers link up to share anything they would like to share about what is happening in their lives. 

Parents are only as happy as their least happy child. I have heard this statement several times but recently, I am finding this notion to be completely true. 

Living with an "almost" teenager is not easy. You always love them to pieces, but boy can they be moody and emotional. Everything is a crisis and keeping up with the ups, downs, twists and turns of their emotional roller coaster can leave everyone dizzy. 

My 12 year-old is a deeply compassionate, thoughtful, friendly and loving girl to everyone (outside of her family). She has many interests and is in several clubs at school. She participates in her school play and in a play at a local children's theater each year. She absolutely loves to perform, sing and dance and spend time with her theater friends. 

Mostly she plays small roles or in the "ensemble" which is theater speak for "extras". She does a wonderful job in these small, but important roles, however as she gets a bit older she longs for bigger, more visible roles. This week she auditioned for two plays. She rehearsed her songs, memorized her monologues and gave her best in the auditions. Then we all hopped on the emotional roller coaster. After each audition she waited for the coveted "call back". As much as the audition panel insists that call backs do not necessarily mean you are up for a bigger role, that is exactly what they mean. They do not call you back if you are being considered for the ensemble. The call backs come in an email that she waited for at the computer. When one did not come, her cheerful, "I did so well Mom" squeal turns to a heartbroken "I thought I did so well Mom" wail in my arms after she didn't get the first call back. She did, however, get two small roles with a couple of lines and not the ensemble which made her happy. 

Then on Saturday she auditioned for the play at the children's theater. This organization produces phenomenal productions with children from second grade to 8th grade. If you are lucky enough to get an audition (which fills up online in just minutes after opening) then you are guaranteed a part. There are usually so many children that they break up into two casts. It is a resource we feel lucky to have right here in our town. 

She auditioned, but didn't feel that she did very well and sort of down played the whole experience in an attempt to not get her hopes up. Then she waited again for a call back, not really expecting one. When the email arrived there was no containing her excitement. Screaming, jumping hugging, laughing she was the picture of preteen glee. The roller coaster chugs skyward! "I don't even care now which role I get as long as I got a call back!" she cried. 

She spent the next three hours back at the theater as my husband and I waited at home on pins and needles. Finally she called us to come get her. She was crying. Down plunges the roller coaster. I arrive (after breaking many speeding laws) to find my daughter in a puddle of tears as she comes to me for comfort. This call back was not what she hoped. "They made me memorize all these lines then never asked me to read them, but they asked two other girls to read them" she chokes out through her sobs. Other mothers are try to console her pointing out all of the other children who are leaving the auditions disappointed. 

As a mother it is so difficult to see your child hurting. The evening was filled with a range of emotions as she waited for the final email with the assigned roles which did not come before bed time. 

She found out her role the next morning. She is in a group of her friends with similar roles and she is thrilled. It was not the role she was hoping for, but she is happy. Her roller coaster is heading up again. The morning was spent calling her grandparents, highlighting her script and practicing her songs. All is right, for the moment, in her world and we can all enjoy this upward rise while it lasts. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?-November 3, 2014

Please visit the amazing blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers who host this terrific meme each week.

Picture Books
by Mike Curato
I had been anxiously awaiting this picture book. It is as good as I had hoped. Great book about friendship and finding ones place in the world. Grades K-3. 

by Marla Frazee
This wordless picture book is a new favorite! Frazee's signature illustrations and a unique story line make this appropriate for all elementary grades. 

If you visit regularly you know I have been working on the next one for a while, but I am really enjoying it nonetheless. 
by Jonathan Auxier

Currently Reading 
by Debbie Miller and Barbara Moss

Still Listening
by Kimberly Newton Fusco

What Are YOU Reading Friends? 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Stack-It-Up Sunday-November 2, 2014

On Sundays I like to share some of the random piles of books around my house. I originally posted about my piles on this celebration post.  Along with showing everyone how messy my house is, I like to share because each pile has its own story.

Here are this week's stacks.
I got these books from my public library on my Friday visit. Sophie's Squash is for my partner teacher as she begins a long demo of decomposition by observing a pumpkin. Great mentor text for that! 

This is the stack of books I brought in to me supervision meeting this week. Hoping to read or reread all of them this school year. 

TJ's current stack. He has moved some of his faves to the car.

Beside my chair in my reading nook are a mixture of books to read and/or review. 
Molly is in two plays this fall/winter. Her scripts sit on the kitchen counter, where else? 

What do you have in your stacks?