When I taught second grade in the beginning of my career, I collected a few books in the Miss Malarkey series. Judy Finchler does not disappoint in these additional titles. I love this one about the angst teachers feel when leaving their students with a substitute. I've definitely been there!
I may read this one aloud this year about Miss Malarkey's quest to match each student with at least one can't-put-it-down title. This is my challenge that I happily take on each year!
This one would be great for easing students into the reality that although their teacher is getting married, they will still be loved and cared for.
I also have a collection of Black Lagoon titles, but this one was new to me. Now that we have so much more technology in our school, this would be a great addition. I am thinking it would provide a good comparison to Goodnight, Ipad! as well.
Similar in theme, this one is about the mysteries of music...
I am 2 full weeks into my Book-A-Day challenge, and although I taught all this week, I am still on track. Whew! Today, I finished 8 Keys, which is a Reading Bowl selection for our district this year. I must admit that I struggled to get into this one. I don't think I hit "the zone" until almost 100 pages in (you know, that zone where you are committed to a book and can't put it down?).
Part of that could be that I read this immediately after I read When You Reach Me, which shares many coincidences: both have 6th grade female protagonists with male best friends, experience bullying, and are receiving messages from an unknown source and struggle to piece together the mystery). There are more similarities I could list. So, I spent those first chapters comparing the books, which I am sure took away from 8 Keys.
Nevertheless, it was a pretty good read. I just preferred When You Reach Me instead - better writing, better character development, better suspenseful elements.
It is amazing to me that after only three days of this camp, I have experienced so much. My teaching has been stretched to new limits as the six of us teachers have come to a place where we now finish each other's sentences during instruction. We truly feed off of each other, and have built a professional trust that usually takes months to achieve. They have taught me so much about how to teach.
And the students. The living example that learning can be fun - and funny. Laughter has abounded, and the aha! moments are frequent occurrences. The insight these kids have and the connections they make are astounding. If only one more week...
But we know that part of what makes this so special is the program's brevity. As we send them off to middle school, I wonder what special things they will be doing. Is it possible they will remember a four-day camp at the end of their fifth grade year?
With teaching full-time this week, I have relied on picture books to keep me faithful to the challenge. I am on track now, and here are books 11, 12, and 13.
Warning Do Not Open This Book is a silly one that will be great for craft lessons. It is an interactive text in which author Adam Lehrhaupt warns the reader that danger will follow for those brave enough to continue reading. If you loved There Is A Monster At The End Of This Book with the Sesame Street character, Grover, then you will love this one as well.
Spoon is a text whose theme is taking pride in being yourself. In Weasels, we discover a very intricate world in which these animals actually exist. There are metaphors and symbols to discuss, as well as hyperbole and figurative language.
Ok so today in the second day of Serendipity camp, I noticed that for all of the wonderful units that we were teaching (STEM-like critical thinking challenges, mathematics problem solving, public speaking, and archaeology), there were none that were dedicated to reading. I also noticed on the first day that one of the students was carrying a copy of Catching Fire, and another was busy writing her own chapter book.
Toward the end of today's events, a student made a connection between the totem that her group was making and the Mockingjay symbol from the Hunger Games series. Well, this turned into a discussion of the books, then other books, then other authors. Other students joined in sharing their current summer reads and books they had read this past school year. Soon all of us were gleefully sharing our favorite moments in various books while busily writing down titles we had not read. It was a priceless moment.
What these kids all seemed to have in common was a love of books and the written word, carrying them around with them, even at this busy camp. We have quickly bonded these last few days through the academic challenges, but now we had found yet another tie to bind us.
I shared with them my Summer Book-A-Day Challenge, and they thought it was cool. We agreed tomorrow to continue our conversation and share more books. Like these amazing students, I am proud to call myself a reader.
Today I began teaching in our district's camp for gifted learners called Serendipity, to fulfill my final requirements for gifted certification. I had no idea what to expect, but I really had a ball. With only 14 students, my fellow teachers and I were really able to learn the students quickly and create a unique learning experience for them.
It is almost as good as a new school year, but without all the ceremony of creating the perfect physical space. With only four days in all, the emphasis was on the teaching and learning. Period. There was an urgency in everything - learning names, making connections with kids, assessing prior knowledge, and planning for the next day. This is what teaching is all about. Good stuff.
And yes, I did read a great book for the day, Ish, another by Peter Reynolds. I only wish I had discovered this gem of a picture book earlier this year, as this was known this year among my Diamonds as the adjective of choice. How do you describe something that doesn't quite fit into a neat category like all the others? Ish. Perfect!
I love Dr. Seuss. I love the artistry it takes to write books in rhyme, all while providing social commentary. For years, I have exposed my students to The Sneetches, Yertle the Turtle, and The Lorax, and we never cease to have great discussions about the moral issues that they pursue. I just finished The Butter Battle Book, and it also does not disappoint.
In this one, we see how two groups of people, defined only by how they choose to butter their bread, can disagree and eventually go to war over their differences. The ending is left up to the reader, which I love. The implications of this are countless and timeless as we grapple with current events. Can't wait to see what the students think of this one.
I also read The End of Molasses Classes by Ron Clark, the famous educator and co-founder of a school in Atlanta. This is a charge to all educators to keep stretching ourselves to keep students engaged. I have learned that our students have so much to tell us if we just ask them, then listen. If we trust them, they will trust us - to teach them, to learn from them, and to share in their lives.
In school, I was not a reader. Though I was an excellent student, I actually adored school, mathematics was always my favorite subject, and reading, well, was simply a subject that I tolerated. It wasn't until fifth grade when I discovered Judy Blume that I knew I could be a reader. It would be years, however, until I got that same just-can't-put-this-book-down feeling again. I had no guidance in sustaining that feeling, so I assumed that it was a fluke.
As an educator, I now know that reading is thinking, and it has little to do with reading levels, reading roles, and packets to complete. As students are learning to read, these things have their place. But in order to get students to think, they have to be interested enough in what they are reading to actually finish, and to then engage in discussion about what they read.
This is precisely why reading picture books with fifth graders is so important. The words are easy enough so that the focus can be on the thinking process and how to analyze a piece of text. We can discuss theme, character development, pacing, and voice. I discovered the power of wordless picture books last year, which open up a whole new world of analysis.
Yet students can have that same feeling with a novel of their choosing. Again, they just need a little guidance. For the last few years, I have been building on my classroom library, and since I read most of the books, I can usually steer a student to some books, authors, or a genre they would enjoy. And that is where the fun begins. If we can get kids to see the beauty of reading, then we will be "growing readers" as Donalyn Miller of The Book Whisperer fame has shown us.
Published in 2009, this is not a new book by Rebecca Stead. I have purchased her latest offering, Liar and Spy, for my classroom library this year, but have not yet read it. Let me tell you, When You Reach Me has everything I like in a book: great voice, terrific complex characters, and twists and turns to keep you guessing. A must read for your collection.