Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lunch Money and Elementary Comic Con

How could I forget to post about Lunch Money?!? A parent recently commented on my day at the beach post via Facebook and mentioned that her son enjoys the authors I had read: Dan Gutman and Andrew Clements. So I replied with a bunch of other titles by those authors that I have read this summer. But I forgot to mention Lunch Money. Lunch Money is a story about creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, and a friendly (well, not exactly) neighborhood rivalry between the two main characters Greg Kenton and Maura Shaw. And, as it seems in all or most of Clement's books, there is also an element of students bucking the conformist school system, in this case the students are selling mini comic books of their own design and creation at school and they are banned from doing so. In working together, they come up with a way to continue. The book included a diagram for creating your own mini comic book and I'm interested to try it out. Without giving too much away, I'm interested in seeing if students in the school would want to learn to create their own mini comics, similar to Greg and Maura's in the book. Either as a project option or as a free choice activity in the library, I think this idea has a lot of possibilities.

Lunch Money also addresses an important point about "appropriate" comics for school. As graphic novels pick up speed and young readers, I think it is incredibly important that we embrace this form of reading and look at all of its artistic merits. Graphic Novels offer a beautiful art form, one that many reluctant readers embrace. And not so reluctant readers, for that matter. And they're not always "easy" reading. So, a few of my favorite graphic novels for school libraries (in no particular order, since they are all pretty awesome):
1) Lunch Lady
2) Baby Mouse
3) Squish
4) The Knights of the Lunch Table
5) Frankie Pickle

In the spring, our book club skyped with Jennifer Holm, co-author of Babymouse. We talked to her primarily about her books Penny from Heaven and Turtle in Paradise, but she shared with us about Babymouse and Squish as well.

This past Friday, at Doylestown Book Shop's Children's Book Festival, I had the opportunity to meet and hear a bunch of great children's authors and illustrators from around the Philadelphia area. The books I wanted to check out most were from the Frankie Pickle series. I was able to listen to author and illustrator, Eric Wight, talk about the character and his use of traditional chapter book formatting for "real world" mixed with a comic/graphic novel layout to show events that are happening in Frankie's imagination. I was floored by this combination! The best of both world! And (don't tell the kids) the content is educational and/or has lessons embedded. Score!

Like the principal in Lunch Money, don't discount the positive power of a great graphic novel!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

What Was Your First Clue?

I recently completed the first book of the 39 Clues series. Previously, I hadn't started the series as I'm literally trying to read everything in our school library as well as everything that is coming out and everything that might not be new but that we should have. And they're already incredibly popular, so I didn't have to do much book talking to keep the, circulating. But I was curious. Why are they so popular? Now I know! Filled with drama, adventure, AND history, Grace Cahill challenges her family members to make a real mark on mankind by finding a great treasure as a part of her will reading. The end really threw me for a loop but I should really get back to the middle. The first clue was to follow Franklin, so my "marketing" plan for the fall is to feature a 39 Clues book paired up with non-fiction that will serve the reader with information too. So, for the first book, I would pair books about Ben Franklin (being an elementary school library in Pennsylvania, close to Philadelphia, we have a few {note the sarcastic understatement}of those lying around the biography shelves), Philadelphia, Boston, and Paris. I'm also trying to brainstorm my own 39 clues for the library as a scavenger hunt to start the year. This may be ambitious. Maybe. If it happens, I will share so that others may be able to solve a mystery in their school too. I'm excited to read the rest of the series, but my nightstand is already a bit crowded with my to-read list growing longer everyday. I listened to the first book on audiobook and may do the same for the next. I love listening to books as I drive. Multi-tasking at its best.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Reading Vacation Day or Happy Birthday to Me

For my birthday, my husband gave me the best gift ever! A day at the beach, all to myself, to do whatever I wanted. I love the beach. And I love to read and nap and take long walks and swim. And I do love doing those things with other people too. But I don't mind doing them on my own either. So, on this day I got to the beach early and left very late. I packed three books thinking this might be overkill, but I was wrong. I read each, cover to cover without too much effort.

First up was Andrew Clements' The Landry News. I enjoyed this story, much as I enjoy all of Andrew Clements books, but the concept that a teacher could actually sit and do nothing with no repercussions was a bit disturbing, especially in these teacher bashing times that we live in. The principal re-iterated the misconception that teachers with tenure can't lose their jobs and that simply isn't true. But I'll get off my political soapbox. I thought the concept of first amendment rights challenges was a strong one for students to understand with real context.

The second book I read was the third in Dan Gutman's Baseball Card Adventure series with Joe Stoshack: Babe and Me. I enjoy these books and liked the story that Dan incorporated of Babe taking the drive to visit a sick boy on the day of one of the World Series games. Oe's mission was to see if Babe really called the shot. Whether he called it or pointed at the pitcher is still debatable, but he pointed at something.

The third book I read was Andrew Clements' A Week in the Woods. Are you seeing a pattern? I've been reading my way through our existing collection, or trying to anyway. This book and the experience the students have reminded me very much of a trip our sixth graders take each year to the Pocono Environmental Education Center. I'm excited to share it with those teachers and also my fifth grade students as they look forward to the trip the following year.

Overall, I had a great reading vacation and can't wait to do it again, but for now I'll read them one at a time and love every minute of it!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Blogger Solution

If you have been wondering where I was...probably not, right? I was having trouble posting to blogger. I'm currently testing out an iPad and am without traditional Internet access via a laptop at home so I was posting to blogger from the iPad as I had done from the iPhone via Blogger in Draft. Then one day, it stopped working. And as I sometimes do in these situations, I ignored the problem and came back only to find the exact same result...again...and again. I finally figured out a work around just now. In regular blogger, I could not type in the content box. Again, I don't know why but on the iPhone and iPad this was just not a reality? But I could type in the HTML box. However I don't know code from Egyptian. In fact it all looks similar to me. But I have become proficient at using online code converters like the one I'm typing into right now. Soooo, I will hit convert, it will spit out code at me. I will copy and paste and voila you will be able to read it here. It is about 7 more steps than it should be, but when don't I make more work for myself? Hopefully I'll be seeing you a little (no promises) more often in the near future.


Testing...if this works I have found a workaround to post on blogger. Though I feel like I am jumping through pretty ridiculous hoops. If it works, at least I can post.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Serial Comma, Oxford, AND Inheritance Law

I just read THE news...about the Oxford/Serial comma. I'm not going to lie, when I saw buzz about this on twitter and lm_net, my brain was still in an ISTE haze and I thought the what, who comma? I finally got around to reading an article on the topic, found here: . And the sky is a little clearer now. I consider myself a word nerd and evidently a grammar junkie as well. I thought I did rather well with commas throughout high school and college, but when I wrote my action research for my Master's degree, one professor made this particular comma stand out, loud and clear in my brain for the rest of my days with one, simple, logical story.

First, she told us that in the world, this comma was not a big deal, BUT in her class it was. And here's why.

A lawyer friend of hers explained that if there was, for example, a will and an inheritance, that comma could mean a world of difference. So, Sally, Joe, and Mary are now splitting a $1000 inheritance. With the commas placed PROPERLY, each person gets an equal amount of the inheritance. BUT, if Sally, Joe and Mary are now splitting the same amount, Sally would inherit $500 and Joe and Mary (because they are not delineated with a comma and so are considered one entity) would split the remaining $500 and get $250 each.

See how that works? I'll bet you never look at a comma the same way again.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Author Visit Extraordinaire

In my attempt to catch up on events in out library since January, one of the big events that happened in April was our author visit with Debbie Dadey.  Debbie lives about a half hour from our school, making her an ideal choice for my first attempt at arranging an author visit.  In addition to her close proximity, she has an awesome collection of titles to her name, including The Adventures of Bailey School Kids, and she has an incredibly organized and user friendly website with step by step directions for setting up an author visit.  All of this combined to make it a relatively easy process.  I researched and booked our visit in November on the heels of our fall book fair.  I was in contact with Debbie through the intervening months, and found her to be kind, accommodating, and very personable.  

To prepare for our author visit, each grade level engaged in different activities, and each classroom decorated their door to reflect a different cover of a Debbie Dadey book.  Students and Teachers voted for their favorites and awards were given for "Teacher's Choice," "Student's Choice," and "Author's Choice."  I put Debbie on the spot a bit with that.  To facilitate voting, I took pictures of each door and made a photo album slideshow on our school library webpage in the author visit section.  I also created a voting form in Google Docs and walked students through the voting process during one cycle of library classes.  Teachers could vote for their favorite this way as well.

Kindergarten students talked about monsters during classes, had a read aloud from the first Bailey School Junior book: Ghosts Do Splash In Puddles, made their own puddle ghost craft, made newspaper monsters, read from Monster Goose (a good re yew of our nursery rhyme unit too!), and from the Emberley book: If You're A Monster and You Know It.  The song to accompany this book is available online and is linked to our library webpage under student projects.

First grade students discussed copyright and each found the example of copyright in a Debbie Dadey book.  Later, they made their own Debbie Dadey titles, like (Monster Name) Doesn't/Don't  (Action) and they gave copyrights to their titles.  First graders also had a read aloud from Vampires Don't Wear Polka Dots, and the Miss Nelson books, since Miss Viola Swamp is featured in the first chapter.

Second graders also made Debbie Dadey titles and stories to accompany their title ideas and 
read aloud from Vampires Don't Wear Polka Dots, Ghost Class, the first book in the Ghostville Elementary series, and other Debbie Dadey books.

Third Graders focused on characters from the books, making mini-biographies for the characters using a variety of different mediums: crayons, computer programs like kidpix, Tux Paint, and online programs like Voki.

Fourth graders tied in what they had learned about books being made into movies and had project choices including: making a movie poster, making a radio advertisement, and making a movie script based on one of the chapters from a Debbie Dadey book.  In addition to the other series mentioned, fourth and fifth graders also read aloud from the Keyholders series.

Fifth graders made advertising posters using glogster, an online, interactive program.  Students focused on one of Debbie's books to make their posters and focused on different elements based on a rubric.

Books were pre-ordered through Scholastic's author visit department and through Follett as well.  Debbie was able to sign many of the books in advance of the event since I was able to drive them over to her house prior to the big day.

Debbie's presentations were broken down to k-1, 2-3, and 4-5.  Each presentation was different and met the needs of the group to whom she was presenting.  The students read many of Debbie's books in advance of her author visit and continued to read the, following the presentation as well.  

It was hard to keep the books on the shelves, a "problem" any school librarian loves to have!  In addition to Debbie's website being user friendly in regards to arranging and setting up the author visit, Debbie also has ideas for lessons to accompany her books, some of which I used, but that any teacher could use in the classroom as well.  There is also a message board for students to post questions for Debbie that she does answer.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Summer Reading...In Progress

This year, at Pine Road, we are trying something different in regards to Summer Reading. We are Reading for the World Record. As of today, our school has recorded over 15,000 minutes toward our reading goal. Students are able to choose freely to read any book,or other reading material that they choose. There are lists available on our Summer Reading Page on the left hand side under Suggested Book Lists, including one created entirely by the students for the students.

I used a google docs form to enable students to submit their own suggestions and checked over the submissions. I edited students' names so that last names were kept private, but otherwise left there grammar and punctuation. Next year, I may do this with grades 3-5 instead of including 2nd because some of the younger students had difficulty with the form. I may brainstorm a different way for younger students to make peer recommendations but in order to effectively do so, I need to begin the process even earlier. The last day of school really snuck up on me. Teaching on a six day cycle with assemblies and other special events sprinkled through the last few weeks of school made it difficult to calculate the last cycle where I saw everyone before the end of the year. I will plan better for this next year.

Back to summer reading.

I love to read, and I hope to instill this same love for the children I teach. This summer, students are encouraged to read, read, and read some more. And that's it. (Well, that's not exactly it. I also expect them to play, swim, catch fireflies, eat s'mores, and generally have a great time.). But, as far as summer reading is concerned: no project. Suffice it to say, the kids were ok with this plan. And, if there were any dissenters, there are still project options on the webpage too. I'd like to add more options in the future for reader response in general, with more of an emphasis on book reviews. I'd like to use these options to help teachers throughout the school differentiate the way students respond to reading in the classroom. I'd also like to make this a space for teachers to share all the great things they are doing with students in this area throughout the school. Teachers have such great ideas and opportunities to share with one another are few and far between, so I'd love to facilitate a website that would enable teachers to share these ideas with each other.

Throughout this post, I've gotten a smudge side-tracked, but only because I am SO excited about what the future holds for our school library.

Back to summer reading...again.

This summer, I've read Tne Strange Case of Origami Yoda (excellent, and I made my own Yoda finger puppet), The Maze of Bones (also excellent - I will post more on this soon), and I'm just about to finish Schooled by Gordon Korman (and not to give away too much, but I will post on this and the extraordinary power of the student recommendation!). Up next on Audiobook is Dragonsdale, and in print is Room One by Andrew Clements. On the Nook, which I just got yesterday and will get a post all to itself, will be something from the public library once I get it all connected and registered and what not.

Second graders finished the year with a read aloud of The Incredible Book Eating Boy, and like its main character, I hope to devour quite a few books this year. You can follow my reading shelf at:

Enjoy all your summer reads!