Monday, December 31, 2018

My Favorite Reads of 2018

I feel like this year went by both really fast and super slow. I follow politics and so often I would read a story and it felt like that had happened months ago but it was only a week. I can't believe however, that it's already 2019!

I wanted to share some of my favorite reads from this year.

Children's Books:

The protagonist in this story gets upset and different animals react differently. Some want him/her to get angry and scream. Some to cry. But the rabbit just listened.  A great lesson for students about how they can deal with friends who are upset.

I love reading books and learning about stories from history that I was unaware of. Reckless was a horse who helped us win a battle. My favorite part is when he figures out who the cook is and sticks his nose in that tent every morning begging for breakfast.

Jim Key was a leader in the movement to protect animals from cruelty and neglect. He had a horse who could add, identify presidents and to spell. Just an incredible story!

I LOVE finding wordless books-but especially ones that the students can relate to.

I expected this story to touch my heart, I didn't expect it to also be about discovering reading. The author uses events that shaped her life to write about how dreams in America can come true. Her library card gave her the freedom to learn English for free.

We teach about writing about small moments. This author takes the seemingly unimportant idea of a haircut and elevates it to a life experience. Giving a boy confidence, seeing powerful men also getting a haircut in the same barbershop. A truly beautiful story.

I have actually seen the Statue of Liberty and I didn't know her feet indicate motion. A great story that tells how the statue came to be and what it stands for.

Chapter books for kids:

Winslow is a donkey that no one thought would survive. A boy decides he will nurse him back to heath. At the same time there is a parallel story about the boy's brother who is a soldier serving overseas. An easy read, great for teaching empathy.

I love this story as a read-aloud! Wedgie is a Corgi who believes he's the superhero protector of the family. Gizmo is a guinea pig who wants to take over the world. It's funny and the author captures the voices of these animals perfectly!

A great read-aloud for older primary students. It's all about how sometimes the universe works in our favor and it seems like fate has a hand in our destinies. Kelly is the first Filipino-American to win the Newberry Award!

Middle grade/YA/grownup reads:

This book reminded me a lot of Esperanza Rising, but it was set in the Middle East. Amal is forced to work as a servant for a powerful family. It's about standing up for what you believe and being brave when you have to be.

I don't usually read books over 400 pages. I just don't have a good attention span. It takes me a long time to read. So I'm pretty proud of myself for getting through this one. An epic story about the life of a boy who loses his mother in a museum explosion and ends up with one of the paintings. He meets many characters as he tries to survive. I can't wait to see the movie they make from it.

I was really intrigued at the concept of this book. A man finds things that have been lost and his life goal is to return them to the proper owner. I thought this was a really beautiful story about our purpose in life.

We used this book as our first fiction staff book club read. A mystery that also has cultural relevance.

I read a lot of mysteries. I wanted to shake the main character of this story a few times in the choices she makes-I mean has she never seen an episode of Law and Order?! But it was an interesting premise. A couple vacationing find a bag of money in the water-do they keep it? Will the people who lost it come looking for them? A real page-turner.

This memoir really stuck with me. Tara was born into a family with very different views of the world. Her father was always prepared for the apocalypse and had his own interpretation of religion and its principles. They "homeschooled" the children but there was no actual schooling involved-they just worked a very dangerous job for their father.

This story was pretty bleak and depressing but I think it needed to be told. Based on true events-a little girl gets dared to steal something at Woolworth's, she takes a 5 cent composition book. A man sees her and tells her that he works for the FBI and now he has to do what he says. Her family looked for her for years. I googled her story after I finished reading it. It just stuck with me. Every choice we make in life can change our destinies.

What were your favorite reads of 2018?

Friday, December 28, 2018

Classroom Resolutions

So I was trying to login to a site I don't use very often and was prompted to answer security questions. I'm used to who was my best friend in H.S. and what was the make of my first car. But the question today was: What is your dream job? I sat there for a second considering what I might have written years ago when I set up this account. Guess what it was? Teacher! I still feel that way-I feel like I'm doing what I was meant to do.

Reflection is an important part of our craft. Most days I am driving home thinking about what I can do better tomorrow. My resolutions revolve around my classroom:

1) Be more organized. I spent about 2 hours of our teacher prep day cleaning up my class. This group this year is not good at putting things away where they go. All my plastic containers for manipulatives had lost lids-I was like, what did they do with them? So we need to put things back where they go.

2) Step up my guided reading. Especially those last few weeks before break I was not very good about meeting with my groups. Something always came up and we had to do assessments. I will be better at doing that religiously-that's how my kiddos will learn how to read.

3) Patience. I'm going to try to be more patient with my kiddos. I have 10 boys in my class this year and they are always busy or not doing what they are supposed to be doing. It drives me crazy. We waste so much time! We need to get it together for our transitions and coming back from brain breaks.

What are your resolutions this year?

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Defending the Grinch

I do training sessions that give examples of how to incorporate the concepts of Kaplan's Depth and Complexity. Many teachers talk about Language of the Disciplines being a hard one to use in our primary classes. This is one way I like to use it.

I introduce them to videos and pictures from a court proceeding. We talk about the different vocabulary-judge, jury, defendant, trial, lawyer. Then we watch a lawyer in action and talk about their jobs. 

After reading the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, I ask the students to be a lawyer for the Grinch. How would they defend him in court? How would they convince a judge not to send him to jail? Now I have gotten complaints from parents that we are teaching the kids our actions do not have consequences. I disagree-I think we are teaching them about what a lawyer does on a daily basis which is to defend clients who may have done bad things.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Give All Students A Voice

I have been listening to the sessions from Matt Miller's yearly summit called "Ditch That Textbook"-#ditchsummit . The first session this year was from a man named Ken Shelton. He spoke about a lot of inspiring things-but what stuck with me was his advice to give every student in your class a voice. That often we value participation and those students who speak up to answer questions, when every student in the class has something to share. So with the tech tools available today, he has his students respond to questions on Google docs and checks in with all of them that way.

I think this really stuck with me because I was that student. I always was a good student. I always did my homework and paid attention in class. However, I sat in the back and never raised my hand to participate. My family decided that it was a fear of failure-I think I just didn't have confidence in my abilities. In 10th Grade my teacher suggested that I take the AP English class. I was surrounded by students who had been in GT classes their whole lives and felt like I was not good enough to be there.

But my teacher saw something else. She would frequently read my test essay answers to the class as an example of what she was looking for. Those answers were nothing special, but she wanted me to know I was just as good as these other students. One day she asked me to stay after class. I was terrified but quickly found out that she just had advice for me. She told me to participate more. That in college that was how I was going to make friends. I would answer a question and people would come up after class to agree or disagree. Whatever her reasons for doing this-it meant a lot to me. This was almost 30 years ago and I still remember that conversation. She didn't write me off just because I wasn't one of the star students.

I was speaking to my sister recently about her 4 year old. He started Pre-K this year and it's their first child so she always has questions. When she met with his teacher she said that her son is very quiet-she wishes he would speak up more. She also relayed a story about how he picked up the dinosaur counters and was asking her the names of them. The teacher scoffed that she didn't know. In my opinion here was a missed opportunity. She could have engaged him in conversations about dinosaurs-used those stories in their read-alouds.

I try to make sure I have a conversation with each student one-on-one every day. I ask them questions about their families, their interests and I remember what they tell me. Yes, it's great when students often participate and become part of the discussion, but that doesn't mean the others have nothing to say. We just have to find a way to still give those students a voice.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Runaway Food Books

After my Gingerbread unit I always like to follow up with a week of other runaway food stories. Here are some of my favorites:

Set in the southwest, the tortilla runs away and gets eaten by a coyote. The animals chasing him are desert animals too.

Set in Hawaii and it includes a recipe for Musabi.

A story that makes me hungry! The cornbread runs away but is too spicy for the gator who eats him. I like that it's a different setting in a bayou in Louisiana.

I am very aware of being culturally sensitive and know that sometimes books like this are simply stereotypical. But I think this book give a good opportunity to introduce vocabulary like synagogue and rabbi. We actually eat latkes and see how they taste before we read this story.

Then the students write their own Runaway Food stories. Who is chasing them? What happens to the food in the end? Using the patterns from the stories we read, they create their own versions. Who would chase their food? Would it end up getting eaten?

Here is what this year's class came up with:

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Creating Christmas Emojis

I truly believe that we have to give our students opportunities to create and design. I facilitate PD sessions about this and often teachers express a concern that they can't fit those types of activities into their curriculum. Here's an easy way to incorporate it for the holidays. I had the students design an emoji for the holidays. Some of them really embraced this challenge and I believe, designed something people could someday see on their phones!

He said it was Rudolph. :)

A quick little activity to get their creative juices flowing in a way they would enjoy.