Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Non-Fiction Wednesday #NFPB2014

Thanks to Alyson at KidLitFrenzy for hosting this weekly challenge.  There are so many wonderful non-fiction picture books these days - I just don't want to miss any of them!

Flight of the Honey Bee by Raymond Huber and illustrated by Brian Lovelock

In my second grade class we have been reading about what animals do during the winter to survive. One of the great tools we use is Wonderopolis.  Last week we watched the wonder called, What do bees do in winter?  My students were fascinated by the bee video and I think they will love this book.

It tells the story of a bee scout, who's job it is to go out and search, or scout out, flowers for the other bees in the hive.  Fall has nearly arrived and the hive must have nectar so they can make plenty of honey to survive the winter.  While the story is told in narrative form, there is plenty of bee information throughout, including additional text at the bottom of each page.  Bees are so darn fascinating!  Great book.  I will read it to my class this coming week.

Toad by the Road: A Year in the Life of These Amazing Amphibians written by Joanne Ryder and illustrated by Maggie Kneen

Non-fiction poetry - I love it!  There are 4 sections in the book - one for each season of the year.  The poems are rich with descriptive language and full of facts.  There is additional information on the bottom of each page as well. A great addition to any study of frogs, toads and amphibians - as well as your poetry collection.

Have you read any good non-fiction this week?

Monday, January 27, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading? #IMWAYR

Thanks to Jen at TeachMentorText  and Kellee at UnleashingReaders for the weekly meme highlighting children's literature - picture books to young adult.  Don't forget to visit their sites so you can see what everyone else is reading this week!

It's an exciting day today because the Caldecott Medal winner will be announced.  In fact, probably as you are reading this post we already know which book was selected.  The timing of the announcement will come as my students arrive in the morning.  I hope to have the live event projected on my Smartboard as my second graders arrive.  Our whole second grade participated in a Mock Caldecott.  If you would like to read about it you can click here or here.

But now on to the highlights of my reading week!

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt

I hesitated to read this book because talking animal fantasy turns me off generally - or at least I think it does - but then I think of Charlotte's Web or The One and Only Ivan.  And I didn't read the Harry Potter books right away because I thought, "Hmmph... I don't care for fantasy."  But my daughter who was in 6th grade at the time harassed me so much, that I sat down and read the first book and then promptly read the next 2!  So, I need to be more open minded.  I think if the book is written well, it won't matter the genre or the types of characters.  

So, anyway, this book is written so well.  I love the author's style of narrative and the way she has weaved legend into the story.  I love how the story is about saving Sugar Man Swamp, but also helping a young boy come to terms with his grandfather's death.  I love how Kathi Appelt brought all the different characters and their stories together.  I love how she chose to have the narrator speak to the reader in such a humorous way.  A great book I would definitely recommend for 4th grade and up.  It would make a great read aloud for 3rd grade and up. 

Urgency Emergency! Big Bad Wolf by Dosh Archer

A new early transitional reader that I really enjoyed.  The Big Bad Wolf comes through the emergency room and has swallowed something large and can't breath.  What will they do?!  Hilarious fractured fairy tale that I know my second graders will love.  I think there are 3 others in the series.  I got this from the library, but I will be purchasing it for my class library soon.

And don't forget to come back on Wednesday for my non-fiction reads of the week.

What have you been reading?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Non-Fiction Wednesday #NFPB2014

Thanks to Alyson at KidLitFrenzy for hosting this weekly challenge.  There are so many wonderful non-fiction picture books these days - I just don't want to miss any of them!

Dolphin Baby! written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Brita Granstrom

Told in narrative form - the story of how the dolphin baby survives from birth to adult.  Just love it!  It would make a wonderful read aloud.

Deadly! The Truth About the Most Dangerous Creatures on Earth by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Neal Layton

This book is about predators and other creatures that use deadly methods to survive.  Gruesome, yet humorous cartoon-like illustrations that will certainly appeal to any kid that likes Animal Planet or National Geographic Channel.  I love the way Nicola Davies ties one section to the next with lines that entice the reader to read on to find an even more gruesome or deadly creature.

On Earth by G. Brian Karas

This book does a wonderful job of introducing the reasons we have seasons by showing how the earth is constantly in motion - from day to night, season to season.  I also like his Karas' book, Atlantic, which is another great information book, told lyrically, about the oceans of the world.  

Have you read these books?
What non-fiction books have you read this week?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Its's Monday! What are you reading? #IMWAYR

Thanks to Jen at TeachMentorText  and Kellee at UnleashingReaders for the weekly meme highlighting children's literature - picture books to young adult.  Don't forget to visit their sites so you can see what everyone else is reading this week!

Space Taxi: Archie Takes Flight written by Wendy Mass and Brawer

This is the first book in a new early chapter book series that I think young readers are sure to enjoy.  One night Archie goes to work with his dad and finds out he isn't an ordinary taxi-driver - he drives a Space Taxi.  Archie learns how to be his dad's co-pilot and is soon involved in helping solve some intergalactic crime.  The book is a little bit sci-fi and a little bit mystery.  I believe it will be available April 1st. I received the Advance Reader Copy from a parent who attended NCTE.

11 Experiments That Failed written by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

The little girl in the story is very curious and full of questions, so she designs a series of experiments...which are hilarious.  Each section opens with a question and hypothesis, then goes on to explain what happened.  Needless to say things don't always work out the way the girl expects.  A very funny book that would be a great introduction to the scientific method.

The Candy Corn Contest by Patricia Reilly-Giff

Part of the Polk Street School series, this book continues the story of Richard Best, otherwise known as "The Beast".  In this story Beast struggles with his decision to invite Matthew to his sleepover, even though Matthew smells and is known to wet the bed.  Along the way Beast learns lessons about friendship and honesty.  I am currently trying to read a stack of books from my class library that never seem to circulate - this book is one of them.  Beast is starting to grow on me. You can read my review of another Polk Street Series book here.  I think Patricia Reilly-Giff has done a great job of creating a very believable character in Richard, "The Beast".  

I have read a lot of non-fiction this past week, so come back on Wednesday when I write about those books!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Non-Fiction Wednesday, #NFPB2014

Thanks to Alyson at KidLitFrenzy for hosting this weekly challenge.  There are so many wonderful non-fiction picture books these days - I just don't want to miss any of them!

 Let's Go Nuts! by April Pulley Sayre

This book pays homage to seeds - from the tiny lentil to the giant coconut.  The fun and rhyming text make it a great read aloud.

There are 2 other books that are companions to this one - Rah! Rah! Radishes! and Go! Go! Grapes!

Eat Like a Bear by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Steve Jenkins

What a great book!  This book is full of information about what bears eat.  But I think the best part is the writing.  April Pulley Sayre describes in narrative style the bears' eating habits through the changing seasons.  Full of strong vocabulary it would make a great mentor text for writing.  And of course Steve Jenkins' artwork is wonderful.  So amazing what you can do with collage!  Along with writing, this book would be a great addition to a study of animals, seasons or hibernation.

April and Steve have teamed up before - check out their book, Vulture View, which was a Theodor Geisel Honor Book.

April Pulley Sayre has written a lot of terrific books and has a nice website you might want to check out.  I think there are even some teacher guides or lesson plans.

Monday, January 13, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading? #IMWAYR

Thanks to Jen at TeachMentorText  and Kellee at UnleashingReaders for the weekly meme highlighting children's literature - picture books to young adult.  Don't forget to visit their sites so you can see what everyone else is reading this week!

I have a huge stack of books that have been sitting around since the summer and I really wanted to read them NOW!  But, I am easily distracted by the next, best book.  I have started several graphic novels, but haven't finished them yet and I have also started The Quirks: Welcome to Normal by Erin Soderberg.  I was lucky to get an Advanced Reader copy from a parent who visited NCTE in November.

One of my reading goals is to read more early chapter books that would interest my second graders.  I have books in my class library that I have had for quite awhile, but never get read.  So, I decided to read them so I could figure out how to "advertise" them.

Second-Grade Pig Pals by Kirby Larson
So, the title is a bit silly, but its a great realistic story about friendship.  The main character Quinn has made friends with the new student Manuela, but finds she has accidentally messed things up.  I found the characters and their problems to be very typical for second graders!  Girls, especially, will be able to relate to the story.  And you can't beat the Newbery Honor Author!

The Beast in Mrs. Rooney's Room by Patricia Reilly Giff
Richard Best, who refers to himself as "The Beast" has been left back and now will be repeating the second grade.  He is worried about his old friends and being stuck with the baby class.  He also has a knack for getting into trouble.  Along the way The Beast accepts his reading struggles, makes new friends and finds he has something that he is good at and helps his class win the school banner award.  Another book that takes a realistic look at what goes on in the lives of children in early elementary school.

This book is part of the The Kids of Polk Street School Series.  I have copies of several of the other books that I brought home to read, so maybe I will feature them next week.

These aren't the type of books my second graders pick up on their own. Most second graders are drawn to series books with a familiar character.    They tend to like "funny books" and will not choose a book with a realistic problem automatically - although they do love listening to realistic fiction.  I do believe I have readers that would really enjoy these books.  Now I have to figure out a way to hook them on these titles.  Any suggestions?

The Misadventures of Salem Hyde: Spelling Trouble by Frank Cammuso
In this new graphic novel series Salem, a sassy, impulsive and lovable little girl, is a witch.  In order to help her adjust and learn to be a proper witch her grandmother sends for an animal companion.  Whammy, the cat, has his hands full as he tries to help Salem prepare for the the Spelling Bee.  All sorts of hilarious problems occur as one spell after another goes wrong.  Thanks to a parent for this Advance Reader Copy!  Readers that like Frannie K. Stein will enjoy this series.

These are just a few of the books I read this week.  Please visit my Goodreads page to see what else I'm reading!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Teaching Students What Real Readers Do - Making Our Thinking Visible

I recently wrote a post recommending the book, What Readers Really Do?  One of the ideas in the book that I really connected with related to the strategies we traditionally teach students to use - predicting, connecting, inferring and visualizing.  We often teach the strategies in isolation.  This keeps students engaged but often keeps their understanding at a surface level.  Authors Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton suggest that we need to show students how a real reader uses these strategies in an ongoing fashion.  This past week I have been experimenting with some of the lesson ideas in the book. I am not an expert and don't even know if I am doing it correctly!  All I know is I am always looking for ways to help my students improve their comprehension and enjoy reading more.

When January arrives in second grade I feel it's time to "amp it up" a notch.  I want my students to start digging deeper in their independent reading.  Many are beginning longer chapter books.  They often struggle to stay focused for the entire book and their comprehension often breaks down.  Most have no problem identifying setting, characters problem and solution.  Some can even describe the main characters in simple terms.  But I want them to go deeper.

The first thing I thought about was my book selection.  The authors recommend books that are character driven.  At first I was ready to look for a shiny new book that might meet my needs.  I do this sometimes.  I make more work for myself or re-invent the wheel.  So, I looked at some of my chapter book read alouds that I often use in my classroom.  I thought about why I use them.  I thought about my goals for my students.  What did I want to focus on?  I decided I wanted to focus on 2 things.  First, I wanted to show, or make visible for my young students what "thinking about their reading" looked like - I hoped this would help them keep track of their understanding across a longer book as well as make them aware of their own thinking. Hopefully this would help them notice important details and stay connected to the book.  Second, I wanted them to begin inferring about the characters in their books.  So, with that in mind I jumped right in!

I decided to use Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins.  I think the story is definitely character driven, although the characters are toys.  I also thought this was a good choice because the author does such a good job of "showing, not telling"  which would give my students an opportunity for inferring.  The beginning of the story starts inside a backpack with the characters trying to figure out where they are going.  However, it is very confusing because the author doesn't tell us these characters are toys.

I began the read aloud by reminding my class about our previous discussion about "thinking while we read" and "thinking about our thinking" the day before.  I gave no background for the book and didn't do a preview.  I even took the book jacket off since it had pictures on that might give away important details.  I created the T-chart with the headings and told the class we would be charting the thinking we did as we read.  And then I began to read.  I paused after 1 or 2 sentences to ask the students what we had learned so far, or what we knew so far.  I used turn and talk to make sure all students were engaged.  I found it interesting that instead of sharing a detail from the story, they jumped right to a prediction or inference.  I responded by saying either, "Why do you think that?"  or "How do you know that?"  I found it helpful to restate what they had said in the form of a "I wonder" statement.  I also noticed that students began to start retelling every detail of the story, instead of telling important information they had learned about the story so far.  So, I needed to remind them on the second day that readers notice what they think are important parts of the story.

 As we continued with the story, I paused to review some of our past wonders to see if we knew any answers yet.  You can see that I used a different color marker to show where certain details had answered our questions.  A few students thought there were 4 different characters in the backpack because one character was referred to as both Lumphy and a buffalo.  This confusion was eventually cleared up and it was nice to see those students figure that out.  I only used the t-chart technique for about half of the chapter.

What I liked about this method was that normally students that are confused either remain silent or ask for me for clarification as we read.  While I usually let other students respond to misunderstandings I like that this method allowed everyone to see our thinking.  I felt more students were engaged and figuring out for themselves what was happening in the story.  I didn't ask the comprehension questions or model my own thinking during this lesson.  I wanted the students to take the lead and I wanted to use their ideas.

As we began the second chapter I wanted students to try using the t-chart themselves.  I would read a passage or paragraph and then pause for them to fill in the chart.  Sometimes we would do a turn and talk first, sometimes I would ask students to share their thinking.  Below are a few of my student's t-charts.  This was challenging for some students who aren't able to write quickly.

The 3 main toys in this book take on the personalities of children.  This of course, is not clear to my second graders...yet.  I love that they wonder if Stingray is "dumb"?  Stingray often appears to be a know-it-all while exaggerating and providing a lot of misinformation to the other toys.  As an adult I know Stingray behaves a lot like a 4 year old, but to my second graders she appears dumb.  A few students are wondering if Stingray "is bragging".  Most of my students have figured out that Lumphy is a stuffed buffalo and Stingray is a stuffed toy that looks like a stingray. The third character is named Plastic, and none of my students have wondered about what Plastic is yet.  As the authors of What Readers Really Do? say, the authors like Emily Jenkins of Toys Go Out will provide more clues as we continue to read the book, and students will have more opportunities figure things out.  I look forward to seeing how my students use the clues in the book to describe each toy character's personality.  I wonder if they will be able to revise their thinking as we continue - many students get stuck on one idea and miss opportunities to revise their thinking.  I wonder if they will begin to see patterns emerge across the book.  My goal is to get them to see these things themselves, instead of me pointing them out.

One more quick note I want to mention.  I was excited to notice several of my students using this technique during independent reading!  They were using post-it notes.

I look forward to experimenting with this method next week.  I definitely think a small guided reading group to help with this method might be a great idea too.

I recommend you read the book!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Non-Fiction Wednesday, #NFPB2014

Thanks to Alyson at KidLitFrenzy for hosting this weekly challenge.  There are so many wonderful non-fiction picture books these days - I just don't want to miss any of them!

I absolutely love the following 2 books.  Both are illustrated using collage and both are about birds.  One takes place in a tropical paradise and one takes place in the Arctic Tundra.

Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore

This book tells the story of the Puerto Rican parrot which nearly became extinct.  The author weaves together both the history of Puerto Rico and the parrots' struggles to survive along with the story of how scientist worked to save this beautiful bird.  If I ever get to Puerto Rico I know I will find a way to view these special creatures.  I wish I had read this book before I had finalized my Mock Caldecott list because I would have surely included it among my favorites.

This book has been on my TBR list for awhile and my library finally got a copy.  The story of how the Godwit migrates from the Alaska to New Zealand is told in narrative fashion.  The accompanying illustrations are beautiful.  I just love collage.  It makes me want to try this type of illustration with my students, or try it myself!  I especially love the author's note at the end that explains her inspiration for the book.  She actually grew up in New Zealand and describes how the community welcomed the Godwit back to celebrate the arrival of spring!

Both of these books would make great additions to any study of birds, migration, seasonal change and even Social Studies.

I highly recommend these books.  Have you read any good non-fiction lately?

Monday, January 6, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Thanks to Jen at TeachMentorText  and Kellee at UnleashingReaders for the weekly meme highlighting children's literature - picture books to young adult.  Don't forget to visit their sites so you can see what everyone else is reading this week!

Having a couple of weeks off from school has allowed me to read a lot.  Here's some highlights from my week.

Invisible Inkling by Emily Jenkins

Hank has an invisible friend, but he's not imaginary!  He's a bandipat from the Peruvian Woods of Mystery, and he helps Hank deal with the day to day problems of a school bully.  There are 2 sequels to the book also!

Waiting for the Magic by Patricia MacLachlan

There's something about dogs that just make a our lives so much better!  In this book 4 dogs help a family cope when the father decides to leave.

How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor
Georgina decides to steal a dog to help her homeless family find an apartment. A great story about a girl  in a horrible situation struggling to do what is right.

Clementine and the Family Meeting by Sara Pennypacker
I just love the Clementine series.  I still crack up laughing every time she calls her little brother vegetable names!   In this installment Clementine has a difficult time adjusting to the family news.  (I won't give away the news.)

I read a few series that I have been meaning to try.  I enjoyed them and look forward to adding them to my class library.  I would consider these Early Chapter books, grade 2 and up.

Middle Grade and Young Adult books that I enjoyed.  Loved, loved Eleanor and Park.

Graphic Novels I enjoyed and recommend - The 26-Story Treehouse is more of a combination early chapter book and graphic novel.  While this installment of The Flying Beaver Brothers wasn't my favorite the series deserves a place in my class library.  I think my students will love those crazy beavers. And I continue to be a giant fan of Toon Books!  They do an awesome job of creating graphic novels that are high interest and that my reluctant readers can read independently.  

 In my search for more mentor texts for my upcoming personal narrative unit in writing workshop I came across these little gems.

If you want to see what else I read this past vacation please check out my Goodreads list!

Happy Reading!