Archive | April, 2015

Ares: Bringer of War

30 Apr

You’ve probably heard Gustav Holst’s Mars: Bringer of War,  from The Planets. This recording is seven minutes long, so keep reading while you listen.

Well, I just read Ares: Bringer of War a graphic retelling of the Greek god’s story, by George O’Connor.


Ares: God of War is the seventh book in the Olympians series. This book tells the exciting story of the Trojan War, and the Gods’ interference in this epic battle. War-lover Ares butts heads with Athena, goddess of military victory–and their conflict will have repercussions for generations to come.

This is a new series to me, and  Ares: God of War  is the first book I have read in it. Now I am anxious to read the rest. There are seven books in the series so far, all of which have received excellent reviews. They have a website that you can check out here.

This is a set of books that should be in any class that studies Greek Mythology, or that has kids with an interest in it. If you have kids reading the Percy Jackson series, these would be the perfect companion books for them.


Finding Inspiration

29 Apr

I am always on the lookout for picture books that connect, however tenuously, to what we are doing in class. Today’s two books are all about imagination, inspiration and creativity, which connects to the Invention Convention we are working on.


Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking is written by Elin Kelsey and illustrated by Soyeon Kim. It encourages young readers to observe nature and think about how animals face their problems and use their imagination to solve the problems. The diorama like artwork here is spectacular, with each two page spread offering a source of inspiration in nature.


My Pen, written and illustrated by Christopher Myers, is an illustrated work of pure poetry. The text plants the seed of an idea as to what the narrator can do with his pen, but the shaded and detailed drawings in black ink on white background give wings to the text.


This is a deep, contemplative book full of rich ideas and creativity.


What a difference a day makes

28 Apr


Last week was tough and I knew the tough week was going to have a really tough ending. Wednesday I taught perhaps the worst Math lesson of my career about placing fractions with unlike denominators on a number line. I took everything back from the kids and told them I would redo the lesson on Monday.Knowing how hard a week it would be, I had arranged for a sub and took a personal day on Thursday. I was in charge of Lit. night Thursday evening and had to present about close reading to the staff on Friday morning.

While I was home, I  got some disappointing news. Not bad news, but something I had hoped for hadn’t worked out. I was far more upset about it than I expected to be and was glad I’d been home to receive it.

Lit night went well,despite the fact that the person in charge of getting the snacks forgot and had to run out between his after school club and the start of the event. I had assigned myself a plum job: sitting at the greeters’ table, making sure families signed in and offering the kids their choice of a non-fiction book to take home and add to their home libraries. It was the perfect job for that night because I didn’t really feel like mingling for fear I might burst into tears at my disappointment.

The next morning, I was the third of four presenters and, fortunately, I ha the funny part, sharing the book Shark Attack 


and talking about  close reading strategies using intentional read alouds and shared reading with non-fiction. I didn’t feel at the top of my game, but, once things got rolling, it went OK.

By 11:30 on Friday, when our presentation ended, I was exhausted.

A quiet weekend helped me get some perspective and ready to face this week, which had a really great start. I redid the fractions lesson and it went well. What a difference a day makes!

Yard Sale by Eve Bunting

27 Apr


At Friday’s PD workshop, someone commented that Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting was so sad. It is, but it is also filled with hope. In writing we are using Bunting’s book The Wall, to talk about a time we lost something. 

Bunting’s new book, Yard Sale, is equally as poignant as the two books above. But, also like them, there is hope and community.

Publisher’s Summary: Almost everything Callie’s family owns is spread out in their front yard—their furniture, their potted flowers, even Callie’s bike. They can’t stay in this house, so they’re moving to an apartment in the city. The new place is “small but nice,” Mom says, and most of their things won’t fit, so today they are having a yard sale. But it’s kind of hard to watch people buy your stuff, even if you understand why it has to happen. With sensitivity and grace, Eve Bunting and Lauren Castillo portray an event at once familiar and difficult, making clear that a home isn’t about what you have, but whom you hold close.

Like many of Bunting’s books, Yard Sale tackles real life problems in a way that will get kids thinking.

2015 Hub Reading Challenge Check-In #11

26 Apr


So far, I have read 29 books for the Challenge, although I have actually read 47 books on the list.

It has become rather hard to read for the 2015 HUB Challenge and the 2016 Morris Award, so I have decided that this will be my last post on that topic, even through the Challenge continues through June 21st. I will officially consider myself finished after listening to the audiobook recording of Skink – No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen.


Carl Hiaasen is one of those authors I rarely seek out, but when I read one of his books, I wonder why I don’t read more that he’s written. I have never read any of his books for adults, which always seem to get good reviews and his fans love him.  I’m a little that way with Neil Gaiman, too.

I did finish listening to The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry this week. It was Ok, but I didn’t love it. We have an exciting author visit this week and I am trying to finish the third book in her most current series before she comes with the  co-author of their new book. I will keep you guessing about who it might be, but I am trying to control myself and not go completely gaga over her when she comes. Look for details on that in about a week.

Last Night & this morning

24 Apr

Stressed & exhausted, I took personal day yesterday, so I could go back last night for Literacy Night. The attendance wasn’t great, so each of the families that arrived got to choose a book for each child, rather than one book per family.

The evening was on a jungle animal theme and I had the joy of ordering the books. I chose these for the younger readers

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and these for older readers

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This morning, I am part of the team presenting to the staff about intentional read aloud and close reading. We are giving books to the staff too. They are getting

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After that I can relax. I got a big box of books this week full of Morris Award submissions and another box of yarn for a sweater I am knitting for me. It’ll be a rip-roaring weekend at my house.

Today’s Pre-Invention Convention Read Aloud

23 Apr


Reading about Chester Greenwood yesterday got the kids thinking about things they use that can be improved. Today, our read aloud looks at Ben Franklin inventions that are still around because the basic design was good. His ideas have just been improved.

Now & Ben : The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin, written and illustrated by Gene Barretta, features two page spreads that show a modern invention on the left and the Ben Franklin original on the right.


The text explanations are simple but point out how Ben Franklin is still relevant today.The end pages playfully depict various inventions of Franklin and the year that they were invented.

This book is an excellent tool to add to an inventor’s toolbox.

Flouting Convention

22 Apr


Today’s read aloud is Earmuffs for Everyone: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs by Meghan McCarthy.  I’ll tell you more about the book below, but first, let me tell you why I’ve chosen it.

Our Science Expo is on June 2nd and, contrary to the intention, I have decided that my class will have an Invention Convention, rather than a traditional science fair.  For the last few years, the 4th grade has done an engineering and design project involving pet carriers. Teacher who lead that project has moved on and none of us left behind have taken it on. I like the idea of the kids ding an engineering and design project and I think they will learn more from that than by doing a science project or demonstration. It’s real life application of scientific principles. We have Inventors Notebooks and have through about problems and frustrations we face. Today we will read Earmuffs and really dig into an idea.

Earmuffs for Everyone: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs  is the perfect read aloud because it doesn’t just talk about Chester Greenwood. It begins by talking about the other inventors responsible for inventing earmuffs. Then we get to Chester, who improved on a pre-existing idea. It also walks kids through the patent process and the movement to create a Chester Greenwood Day.

The backmatter is equally important. McCarthy’s Author’s Note shows us the meticulous research process she used to write her story so convincingly.

All in all this is an excellent book for any classroom. I highly recommend it.

Please share why you are interested in this position

21 Apr


For the last two years, I have been on of two PD facilitators at my school, an additional responsibility that comes with a stipend. I knew it was a three year gig when I signed on last year, replacing someone who moved to another school.

Last week, my principal invited me to make an appointment to talk about that position. She was very sweet when she started and I could tell that she was kindly trying to tell me that the position had been eliminated. I let her know I was neither shocked nor hurt and knew it was coming. She looked relieved. She also told me about a new position for next year: intervention specialist with the PD facilitator position rolled into that. She explained the school district  would fund one position, she would use building funds for an additional position.

For a few days I thought about it and asked some follow-up question. She announced the position at a staff meeting last week and handed out the application. I looked over the questions. There were five questions in all. I could come up with ideas on how to answer the last four questions, but the first one had me stymied. I didn’t complete  the form. When you can’t articulate why you are interested in the position, it seems unwise to apply for it.

And I am happy with that.

2015 Hub Reading Challenge Check-In #10

19 Apr


Although there are still several weeks left in the Challenge, I think my participation might be nearing the end. I have hit the goal of 25 books, having read 28. The Morris Committee work has ramped up considerably, which s good and I just read something fantastic I can’t tell you about.

I have made a decision that, for the last few weeks of the 2015 HUB Reading Challenge, I will only enjoy audiobooks. There are a few I haven’t managed to track down yet, in CD form or as a download, so that will be my mission.

I just started  The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry,


which is reminiscent of Gail Carriger’s Finishing School  series that I have rather enjoyed. Here is a trailer for The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place.

Publisher’s Summary:There’s a murderer on the loose—but that doesn’t stop the girls of St. Etheldreda’s from attempting to hide the death of their headmistress in this rollicking farce.

The students of St. Etheldreda’s School for Girls face a bothersome dilemma. Their irascible headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her surly brother, Mr. Godding, have been most inconveniently poisoned at Sunday dinner. Now the school will almost certainly be closed and the girls sent home—unless these seven very proper young ladies can hide the murders and convince their neighbors that nothing is wrong.

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