Thursday, December 8, 2016

Techie Thursdays: Smithsonian Learning Lab

Want to bring the Smithsonian Museum to you and your students?

In my 2nd grade classes they are doing a matter unit. With my co-teaching group, we read a nonfiction book about glass. An add-on to try, could be this video (from the Smithsonian archives!) on Glass Blowing. There are thousands of resources, and it would be a great opportunity to teach: is it a browser, search engine, or source, about primary and secondary sources, along with how to review sources for authority, currency, point of view, purpose, and reliability. 

To help with your search, check out the Getting Started guide

Hope it builds inquiry and inspiration in your classes!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A PSA on Diverse Books

A current trend in children's books is highlighting and embracing diversity, and a book I recently reviewed, The Color Machine, gives a different lilt to that trend, echoing years past when "we treat everyone the same". I think when students are exposed to a variety of backgrounds, it is important to realize that deep down, we are all the same, we are simply human and should learn and grow with each other. 

Recently I read The Black and White Factory by Eric Telchin (Diego Funck, Illustrator) and I thought The Color Machine would be similar. It is not, The Black and White Factory was a slightly silly and very fun story about colors finding there way into a "black and white factory" that makes things like barcodes and can't have colors on them!

Clearly The Color Machine is about the diversity of the world and how it would be better if we all just got along, but in real life, we can't just take away color, how do we teach students empathy and how to embrace diversity to help them become a better generation that accepts all differences, not just race, but disabilities, gender, sexual orientation, etc.? For older students (mature 4th graders +), I think that is a heavy question, but one can start with some of these books: #booksfighthate. I also think it's important to simply learn about the world as well, starting with geography, you could do some of these promoting geography awareness activities and help students learn that the world is not as big as we think, and that all of us are interconnected. 

As I read this book, I thought more and more about the recent election, and not to get too political, but kids are smart, and they are paying attention. We need to give students a place for conversations. Some students are scared and anxious as to what this election means for them. Other students are boastful and mean. For all students, these conversations are important, and we must do so in a safe space. As you prepare to have these conversations, prepare yourself to teach diversity. Along with that, I also liked this video as a discussion starter (review before showing to students, you know your students the best). I also think it's important to truly delve into the deeper issues, not just "have diverse books." This article/book review reminds us that just because the mirror is there (diverse characters), the window may be small (the perspective and stereotypes we are sharing). Of course, when we have these conversations, we must be ready to talk about race and racism, use this book list to help you find the right words and give everyone in your classroom a mirror and a window! 

Other resources: this Delightful Children's Books blog post
10 Children's Books that Teach Diversity, I especially like Little Blue and Little Yellow, similar concept to The Color Machine, but in a slightly different way. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Wednesday Book Review: The Color Machine by A. H. Taylor

Over Facebook, the author/illustrator reached out to me with a lovely message: "I wanted to personally give you a copy of the book to review and allow the message to spread to all. Please let me know how I can get you a copy. And above all...know that you are appreciated!"

With such kindness, I should have expected a kind book! 

In "The Color Machine" we enter the town of Colormazoo, where color is very important... 

The Color Machine gives the people color, but is broken and no one can tell who is which color. 

The book alludes to the fact that there are different colored people, white, black, brown, and tan:

As the mayor "itches" to find a cure, the different people help each other, not knowing who is which color. This is turn makes everyone happier. 

While I like the premise of the book, the writing is a little awkward. It does not quite rhyme, nor does it have a pattern or pentameter, which makes it a difficult book to read out loud to children. It is a little vague as to what exactly The Color Machine does, as well as how the people of Colormazoo normally interact. It seems that a little more back story may have helped develop this story and give children empathy for the characters, as well as building connections to children to times they may have felt left out (something like, the blacks and tans were playing but wouldn't let the browns or whites in, etc.). The Color Machine is geared toward younger students, and can be a great starting point, but teachers should be prepared for deep questions and potentially uncomfortable conversations. View the book's website here: 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Wednesday Book Review: 3 Books I Couldn't Finish by Jessie Burton, Renee Ahdieh, and Kate Racculia

I read a lot of books, and sometimes I just can’t finish ALL of them. Here are the latest 3! I used to feel like I HAD to finish every book but then realized I was wasting a lot of time on books I wasn't enjoying! So I decided, if I don't like it, I don't have to finish it. That's what's great about going to the library!

The Muse by Jessie Burton
The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
This Must Be the Place by Kate Racculia

I picked up The Muse because the cover was beautiful...and the story sounded interesting too! However, I just couldn’t keep going! If you love art and history, this is a great one!

The Wrath and the Dawn sounded amazing, but I made the mistake of reading the last few pages, which gave away the ending and made me not care any more...whoops.

This Must Be the Place was recommended as a book that’s similar to Gilmore Girls, which I love! The book had the same kind of quick thinking and dialogue, but seemed to jump around and made it hard to follow.

All great books, just not for me! Check them out today! For now, #SoManyBooksSoLittleTime

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Wednesday Book Review: Let's Celebrate 5 Days of Diwali! (Maya & Neel's India Adventure Series, Book 1) by Ajanta Chakraborty, Vivek Kumar

I have celebrated Diwali my entire life and enjoy spending time with my family, eating special foods, and the fireworks. Now that I have a child of my own, I wanted to learn more about the holiday.

Let's Celebrate 5 Days of Diwali! (Maya & Neel's India Adventure Series, Book 1) By Ajanta Chakraborty, Vivek Kumar

As I was thinking about it, a friend posted this book on her Facebook page. It turns out it's by one of the founders of Bollywood Groove, a local dance studio that teaches Indian dance to children and adults. I ordered it immediately! I loved that the book had a note for parents, that explained how in India each home may celebrate differently:

I read it and then asked my mother and mother in law the story of Diwali. For our home, it was the same except for Dhanteras. In the book, they celebrate by buying pots and pans, and in our house we would celebrate by praying to Lakshmi (Laxmi).

Otherwise, we follow the same traditions, with the addition of blessing our businesses on the Diwali (where they pray to Lakshmi, we do it again specifically to bless the businesses for the new year).

I really enjoyed this book, with the simple descriptions of the various rituals and the "Info Zoom" on The Story of Diwali:

 One of our students checked it out!

This year Diwali was on October 30th and New Year was on October 31st (it made for a very busy weekend!). I look forward to reading this to Baby T every year and starting our own traditions!

Happy Diwali everyone and Saal Mubarak (Happy New Year).

Buy the book today: Let's Celebrate 5 Days of Diwali! (Maya & Neel's India Adventure Series, Book 1)

Chakraborty, Ajanta, and Vivek Kumar. Let's Celebrate 5 Days of Diwali: Maya & Neel's India Adventure Series, Book 1. Chicago, IL: Bollywood Groove, 2016.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Wednesday Book Review: Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak

Book Review: Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak. 

Pak, Kenard. Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn. New York: Henry Holt, 2016.

This is a wonderfully simple story about a little girl walking through nearby parks/forests and then her small neighborhood and town.

She walks and picks flowers:

Looks at the leaves changing:

Walks through her town feeling a chill, and getting ready for colder weather:

This book is beautifully illustrated, and the small details will enthrall children. The small details and repetition (the small blue bird, the dog, etc.) reminds me a little of Jan Brett's books where small animals return page after page, and kids delight in finding these small friends! 

I can't wait to read this to Baby Thakkar and take a nature walk with her to find flowers, leaves, and maybe even a few other surprises! 

Read aloud the book Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn, and take a nature walk, or try a themed walk!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wednesday Book Review: Ideas Are All Around By Philip C. Stead

Book Review: Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead

Stead, Philip Christian. Ideas are all around. New York: Roaring Brook, 2016.

The basic premise is that someone is supposed 
to write a book today, but doesn't have any ideas. 

However, his dog wants to take a walk, and as they walk they see and find ideas!

I liked how he took photos of real places/things and added his own drawings at the bottom (left). 

as well as the text (in typewriter font!) to tell the story (right).

The 2 page spread below:

The way he describes things was also wonderful. As a want-to-be-writer, I loved his way of explaining that this was his childhood home:

I think Ideas Are All Around has great potential for a creative writing class or as a jumping off point for young writers (like to start Writers Workshop).

If you are doing a writing project, this book has some great ideas to find *ideas!* Want to jump start your students' writing? Read aloud the book Ideas Are All Around, grab some iPads and my quick reaction sheet and get the ideas flowing today!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wednesday Book Review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon By Kelly Barnhill

The Girl Who Drank the Moon Cover Image

Book Review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon By Kelly Barnhill

I read The Girl Who Drank the Moon in about a week! When I first got the book, my initial thoughts were that I really like the concept, and I wondered if what perspective they would tell it from - the witch? the girl? the townspeople? Enjoyably, they told it from the perspective of the witch, the girl, 4 main characters in the town, and the Bog monster. 

Dealing with Dragons Cover ImageThe Girl Who Drank the Moon reminded me of Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede, one of my childhood favorites. The chapters titles and writing had a similar style. 

I throughly enjoyed The Girl Who Drank the Moon, even though it was a little slow in the middle. I loved the concept and the way all the stories intertwined over the years and families, it was incredibly detailed and I enjoyed learning more about the witch and her relationship to the other characters. I would have liked to know more about her background, but I understood that the story had to keep moving. All in all, I would highly recommend this book! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wednesday Book Review: More-igami by Dori Kleber, illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Book Review: More-igami by Dori Kleber, illustrated by G. Brian Karas.

MORE-IGAMI. Text copyright © 2016 by Dori Kleber. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by G. Brian Karas. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Joey loves folding things. Road maps, accordions, (and a fold-a-way bed)!

Then Sarah Takimoto's mother comes to school and shows them a wondrous thing - origami!

After that, Joey has a new passion! He wants to become an origami master and knows it will take practice. He folds everything in sight, art paper, recipes, money, anything!

Then he goes to the local restaurant, because everyone knows fajitas always make you feel better. Mr. Lopez loves his pyramid napkins and asks Joey to make more!

He makes many more:

Will Joey become an origami master? Read More-igami and find out!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wednesday Book Review: School's First Day of School, by Adam Rex and Christian Robinson

Book Review:
School's First Day of School 
By Adam Rex and Christian Robinson Rex, Adam, and Christian Robinson. School's First Day of School. New York: Roaring Brook, 2016.

School's First Day of School is an adorable book about the school building worries. The story is very cute and simply written, and encompasses a child's worries about school wonderfully. I love the relationship between the janitor and the school (the janitor explains that students will soon fill the school):

Then I love the building intrigued by a fire drill:

I also love that they end the day in the library (or what looks like the library to me, with a Read poster, shelves and tables/chairs):

The illustrations are beautiful and filled with small details. For example, I love how all the houses and the school building have "faces." Makes the school seem more personable! 

More detailed photos:

Overall, a great book to start conversations about what might be worrying a child before going to school, or to read aloud in the classroom to help students remember that everyone is worried and nervous on the first day of school, even the school itself!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Wednesday Book Review: Get A Hit, Mo! by David A. Adler

Book Review:
Get A Hit, Mo!
By David A. Adler New York : Viking, published by Penguin Group, 2016

Get A Hit, Mo! is a Penguin Young Reader Level 2 (labeled Progressing Reader). I really like this letter to parents and educators (right) that gives activities to enhance the reading (especially if your child or students like to read the same book 100 times, this might vary the re-readings), ideas like adding -ing to words and making connections, in this case, thinking about Mo's feelings when he has a hard time hitting the ball and connecting yourself to the text and thinking about a time when you had a hard time.

This would be a great book to use for sub plans or for a child who is failing for the first time and needs a reminder that it's ok to fail and to try again. It also has an African American main character and family, along with a female coach and a diverse team of children. 

After reading the story, I felt that it was a little didactic and not really interesting to kids. As an adult, I felt like it was predictable (spoiler alert - he gets a hit!). They also repeat that he can't hear what Coach Marie is saying, but they never tell us what she says. I would have liked it if it was something like keep trying, or focus on the ball, or some other either growth mindset or baseball skill related encouragement.

But, if you have a child who loves baseball, is not a big reader, and wants to feel successful at reading and see themselves in a book, this might be a great step into reading book as it has a lot of repetition, short words, and an easy to follow plot. Support a local bookstore and buy it at Anderson's!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

April 2016: Bookmark contest! The book fair is coming!

April is when I feel like things are hitting their stride and the kids can really do things on their own. It's wonderful, especially since I'm not feeling great pregnancy wise. I had preplanned so that the end of the year would be as planned ahead as possible (in case I was sick or unable to go in, most school things could still run as normal).

The bookmark contest is now an annual event. This is our second year! I saw the idea from another librarian. She had started it to celebrate School Library Month and National Library Week in April. She sent me her document. I changed the school and dates and viola, we had a bookmark contest entry form! This is this year's:

The book fair is coming May 4 - 6 and we are in full media blitz mode! See how I get the kids ready!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

March 2016: March Author Madness!

I feel like January and February draaaaaaagggg on but March is really the worst culprit! Our school does not have a single day off in March :(

In some ways, this is great, as we can keep a momentum going. In other ways, it's terrible as there are no breaks to look forward to or rejuvenate with. It's also gray and gloomy and horrible outside.

To keep us excited, I have March Author Madness going:

A couple years ago, my husband taught me about March Madness. I wanted to get more kids into reading and thought this might be a fun way to reach more kids (especially kids that aren't usually readers). I was thinking about March Madness and decided to have March Author Madness! I have students vote for their favorite authors and then I make brackets and the authors go head to head to vote for the most favorite author of our school!

I use Google Forms and my class website to have them vote. To get ready for that, in January I made my class website a center. I taught students how to access it and then use it to have free choice between a few different educational websites (Encyclopedia Britannica database, Kid Info Bits database, Brainpop Jr., and Brainpop).

This made it easy to transition to voting every week, as they already knew how to get to the website. I showed them how to vote and they loved it! I also made a bulletin board to show the results. After only 3 years, I finally figured out how to make an actual bracket board! I also got smart and only let 16 authors through to the 2nd week (instead of 30 + like previous years).

After 5 weeks of voting, we have a winner!

Jeff Kinney wins again!

Coming in April, Bookmark Contest!