Monday, August 18, 2014

It's a Book Frenzy!!

Soooooooooo...we have been back in school for 8 days now.  After going through last year and learning from my mistakes with a group that was completely different than one I have ever had in my previous 8 years before them, I came into this school year ready to model and rehearse procedures like a crazy person.  So, I've had zero chance to take pictures of some of the lessons we've been doing just because I'm staying on top of my students.  They are adjusting well and 90% of the time follow all of our procedures very well.  I hope things settle down soon and we can begin enjoying the fruits of our labor knee deep in rigorous lessons.  I can already tell this year will be better than last and that's all from laying the groundwork from the first moment of us meeting each other.  Yeah!

With that being said, I HAD to take pictures on the first day of school during the book frenzy in our classroom library.  After reading Reading in the Wild and being a part of the book study (see all of those posts HERE), I was ready to implement wild reading in my classroom alongside the procedures.

I gave a couple of book talks and also gave what will now be my annual "I love reading," speech a la Colby Sharp's inspirational speech.  I wish I would have had a student film it...but maybe next year. Since I was wearing a dress and heels...I refrained from jumping on tables.  But I really really really wanted to.  My kids were cracking up and very much into it.  I had so much more fun presenting my true passion for reading this way instead of just sort of talking about it like I did in years prior.  The impact was HUGE.


Once I laid the groundwork and my students gained an understanding into just how much reading was going to become part of their 5th grade life...it was time to let them loose.  Oh, and because I gave a couple book talks from the nonfiction section of my library, so many of my kids went in that direction!!!  If I knew it was going to be that easy to get kids on that side of our library, I would have done it a long time ago.  So many new things were learned from this year's book frenzy, I love it!!!


Notice all the kids on the left side?  That's the nonfiction section!


Many of them selected books a lot faster than I've ever seen before.  This makes me nervous though as they may have just grabbed the first book they saw.  But only a handful of them have abandoned them since that first day.  The vibe in the room was also completely more positive and electric versus other years.  I even felt different watching my new group discovering how much fun they were going to have.  Wild readers are in my room already!...now it's a matter of showing them they can do it without me.

It also looks like I have quite a few World War II fans...so I am going to try to get my hands on as many fiction and nonfiction books as possible to provide for them.  I can't wait to share my interest in WWII with them as well!


This fellow has had this Pearl Harbor book since the first day and is still deep into it 8 days later.


This is what I saw after only telling them once to sit down and start enjoying their first book.  


All in all, this year's book frenzy was a success.  My students clearly have a love for reading already, at least most of them.  So, we can focus more on getting books they love in their hands and teaching them how to become wilder readers throughout the school year and beyond.

Did you have a book frenzy this year?  How did it go?  Let me know!



Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Dress Made Just For Me by eShakti!

I was recently contacted by eShakti to browse their store and choose a dress I would like to try out and show to my lovely blog readers!  Another blogger friend of mine had chosen a dress a little ways back and I was really itching to try it out for myself.  In case you've never heard about them yourself, eShakti makes both custom and regularly sized dresses, skirts, and tops.  If you want a customized dress, all you have to do is send in your measurements and from there they create a well-fitting garment!  They have a ton of very retro-inspired dresses to boot, along with trendy fashions.  For someone like me who is pear shaped and has to be careful about styles or cuts of dresses, I was really excited to pick out a form-fitting dress to see just how well the customized fit would work out.

So, I went searching through pages and pages of different dresses, skirts, and tops and finally came to this one...completely out of my realm:


Before I ordered, I took all my own measurements.  I must admit, this was a mistake.  But my husband was at work and they had already sold out of several styles I was going to try.  So, I measured my shoulder span as best as I could (they even recommend you have someone else do this part) and all the other spots like the length of my arm, bust, under bust, waist, etc.  I also had the chance to change the length of the sleeves (no thanks) and the length of the hem (I picked at the knee for work).  Surprisingly so, the dress itself was made in record speed and arrived one day after it shipped.  I'm not sure if their shipping is always this fast...but that was definitely a plus!



I did wash it first because it was quite wrinkled from the trip over to me and I didn't want to have to iron it. Heh heh.  For a sheath dress, this one first very well and the draping is quite flattering as well. Where else can you get a sheath dress that fits well?  (as long as you have someone else measure you that is)  So, by no mistake of eShakti's, the first thing you'll notice is that it is too big around my upper back. The only thing I can think of is because I did this measurement myself, but it is off by at least an inch as there is quite a lot of extra fabric there (see above picture...it is quite fitted in that area). I do plan to take this to a seamstress myself and get it fixed so I can enjoy the dress.



I've never had a form-fitting dress fit me well in the waist AND the hips.



What do you think?  It fits pretty well every where else except my upper back! 

I do wish it wasn't so long, since I thought by picking the hem at the knee would mean right above the knee.  I'm not sure if I will get the seamstress to fix it though.

All in all, the dress is good quality and the fabric is nice and thick.  Since it is cotton, I know it will breathe really well in the horrible heat here in Arizona.  I would really like to try out another dress, possibly a skirt since skirts tend to fit me in the hips but not the waist.  My hubby already said he likes it and even said it's so different than what my other dresses.  So that's a plus!  As I was putting together this post, I noticed their site is having a buy one get one sale!!!

So, here are a few other dresses I have my eye on for possible customizations.


1 /  2 / 34 / 56

Want a customized eShakti dress of your own?  If you go on now, not only can you take advantage of their BOGO sale, you get $25 off when you register.  I really think number 4 and 5 need to become part of my wardrobe...they are totally not my normal style either!!  Make sure you have someone else take your measurements.

So...what dress or piece are you eyeballing?

Please note:  This dress was sent to me by the company, but all opinions expressed are my own.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Reading in the Wild: Making Reading Plans

It's time for a new chapter!!...in the book study with The Brownbag Teacher that is.  Make sure you check out the other blogs in this book study series at the bottom of this blog post.  If you missed my other posts in the previous weeks, you can click through them below:


As I was reading this chapter and now typing this post, all I can think about is how I have less than a week before I have to return to work.  Nooooooooooo!!!!  I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around a 2 month summer already coming to a close.  Seriously!  Where does it always go?  Every year, on that last day of school after the students are gone, I'm ecstatic to see my summer all splayed out in front of me.  Then, I get to this part and can't seem to fathom how it is all gone.  Soooooo...sorry aheaad of time for a dry post...but as soon as I'm done typing this up, I have to head out to my classroom to get major to-do list items crossed off.

I digress!  So, of course as I get ready to return to work, I start thinking of how I am going to teach, model, and help my students build reading plans when they are completely unaccustomed to doing so. My population of students rarely read at home, unless it is a school mandate, and most don't own their own books or visit the public library over break.  This part of the Wild Reading plan can be the most trickiest for me because it takes the most work.  But I am super glad Donalyn went into a little more detail in this book, so I feel a bit more confident going into it.

I admitted on one of those past blog posts above that I had got away from helping my students make reading plans, as I was dealing with a lot of different factors (you'll have to check out one of the posts to find out a little more)...but it did also include a lack of working technology.  So, I'll share how I used to do it in my classroom using Goodreads.  This year, I do plan to use Edmodo and I'll have to do a blog post or two on that once its up and running successfully.


Each of my former students used a school email they had to sign-up.  I spent time showing them how I used Goodreads and talked about why I had my shelves arranged the way I did.  A lot went into explaining and modeling all of this.  I had the site bookmarked on our computers in our classroom and whenever they had a spare moment, they were allowed to go on and update their status, add books, read reviews, write reviews, etc.  It was nice for me to be able to check in and see what they were reading via the site too.  Once the year was over, I only had a handful of students continue to use it though...which is why I am loving Reading in the Wild!  I'll throw in some screenshots of how it sort of looked to give you an idea of how you could possibly use it in your classroom...or for yourself!


After reading The Book Whisperer, I did have a class group page going too.  But that dwindled out once my students stopped using Goodreads when they left my classroom.  This is why I'm excited for Edmodo!!



Goodreads is how I make my reading plans.  My bookshelves are HERE, if you'd like to check them out or add me on the site.  I don't even pick up a book at the store, library, or from friends if I don't check Goodreads first.  Through reading so many books I love, enjoy, or disilike, I have figured out a sort of formula for finding books I'll devour or at least enjoy enough to pick them up.  These are all things I share with my students when I talk about how the site is very useful for forming reading plans.  If you love reading and social media, you should definitely check it out.  Goodreads is in fact my favorite social media site over Facebook (Instagram is a close 2nd).

Head over to The Brownbag Teacher's post this week HERE, because she posted freebies of her 40 Book Challenge and reflection forms.  Just a quick Google search on "The 40 Book Challenge" also wielded some great results on other people's blogs, including Donalyn's.  It is one of the "easiest" ways I have been able to get my reluctant readers and students to begin forming plans...since it does add the element of a good challenge.  Do you know any 5th graders who don't love a challenge?!

"Reading challenges must allow wild readers as much autonomy and free will as possible...wild readers want opportunities to choose their own goals unencumbered by others' expectations or limits." pg. 145



Thursday, July 17, 2014

Reading in the Wild: Sharing Books and Reading Together

This week's chapter is hosted by the lovely ladies at Teaching to Inspire in 5th, Miss V's Busy Bees, and Teaching in the Fast Lane.  Make sure you click on over to their blog posts and several others at the bottom of this post or link up with all of us using the linky.  In case you missed any of the previous chapters...here are some quick links for you:


I have to admit, at the start of this chapter I decided this was my least favorite.  But then, I reached the list of books Donalyn suggest reading at the beginning of the year for read-alouds.  It was the perfect way to get me motivated to transition into the new school year and begin thinking about where I want to go with my students.  So for this week's, I wanted to share the books (with links, so you can access them as well) I plan to add to my year's read-alouds list.

"The most effective reading teachers are teachers who read." (pg. 106)


Fostering School and Home Reading Communities

While Donalyn listed quite a few ways to do this, there were a couple that I could easily see implementing since I don't know how easy it would be to get my admin and entire school on board for this school year.  But I can sure try for next year!  You'll have to read this chapter to see what I'm leaving out.  :-)  

Here's what I AM going to include this year (pgs. 92-93):
  • Reading recommendations and home reading tips whenever I communicate with parents in newsletters or on my class blog
  • Add a weekly student book recommendation to my e-mail signature
  • "I am currently reading..." sign outside of my classroom door
  • Pass out books during parent conferences and PTA/PTO meetings
  • Teach parents simple ways to incorporate more reading into family routines
The first year I successfully used ideas from The Book Whisperer was a fantastic one.  I had parents who told me they saw a change in their students (see the picture below from a district parent survey) and then, the kicker, their 6th grade teachers also told me during some vertical articulation work that they truly appreciated the way my students came to them loving reading.  They found they were able to jump right in with them!  It was music to my ears!  I got away from it a little bit the year after that as it was the year I was working towards my National Board Certification and that was my HUGE focus.  And if you have been reading my blog the last couple months, you also know this school year that just ended was my roughest one yet and so I had to focus on management and catching up instead of building my reading community...that makes me really sad, but I've now got a renewed sense of what I want to do this year!

Books that Build Communities

Like I mentioned above, this part was my favorite section of this chapter.  Several of the recommended books are those I already use in my classroom, so I didn't include them below...so I definitely order you to read this chapter to see the rest.  ;-)  I mean that in the nicest and most helpful way of course.  Which books do you already read for your read-alouds?  Do you see any below that you want to try out?

Communities that Read and Write

Ask Me by Antje Damm and BookSpeak! Poems About Books by Laura Purdie Salas



Communities That Value All Members

   
Hound Dog by Linda Urban and The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
(2 years ago my class and I got to Skype Tom and we loved his books, I never thought to use it as a real-aloud though, but I totally will this year!)

Communities That Have Fun

   
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein and I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

The Wonder Book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Communities That Care about the World

   
A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham and 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy


Laundry Day by Maurie J. Manning



Thursday, July 10, 2014

Reading in the Wild: Curating a Classroom Library

Our library is the centerpiece of our classroom.  So, I am super excited to be hosting this week's book study for Reading in the Wild with The Brown Bag Teacher and so many other wonderful teacher bloggers (check out the link-up below to explore their posts)!  It is the one spot where I won't budge when I put together my classroom at the end of each summer.  It is the first thing everyone sees when they come in our room  (no matter which door out of the 4 I have).  It is the first thing parents and visitors comment on.  It is the piece de resistance!

From the first moment I went into college, I started collecting books for my classroom library.  I didn't know what grade I would be teaching, or where I'd be teaching, but I knew I wanted a HUGE classroom library for my students.  My 4th grade teacher made me want the library of my dreams.  Hers was not huge, but it had tall bookcases surrounding a corner of the room, with an entrance between two of the bookcases and books upon books.

Here's a look at it!  It's still not as big as I want it to be, but it's getting there.  This picture was actually taken 2 school years ago, so there are a few more baskets in it nowadays.  It's a work in progress.


In fact...here is what it looked like quite a few years ago.  I hated the way it was set up and the way it looked in the classroom.  But the one above is finally just how I envisioned it for my students. Thankfully, I was able to get my hands on another bookcase in my new library above.


What's the Big Deal?

"Students in classrooms with well-designed classroom libraries interact more with books, spend more time reading, demonstrate more positive attitudes towards reading, and exhibit higher levels of reading achievement." (pg.80)


Factors to Consider When Building Yours

Throughout my 9 years of teaching, I have messed around and tinkered with how to organize my library...by reading levels, AR levels, genres.  I've tried it all.

Nowadays, one side is all nonfiction and the other is all fiction.  Then, within each basket are the separate genres.  I do have some random baskets like "Stories for Girls" and "Sports Stories" as well as "Scary and Ghost Stories" because these are 3 huge favorites.  

I have been laughed at in the past because teachers try to donate books to me since they know about my famous library on campus.  But, I am extremely picky and won't take any old book.  If it does not appeal to my readers (see the below MUSTIE acronym) I will thank them and either let them know I don't need it or I take it and donate it to a student's family or another teacher.  

When buying series books, I try to buy the entire series or as many as I can.  Donalyn does recommend only buying the first 3 or 4, especially with huge series like Goosebumps.  I have never considered this before and will most likely use this to clean my library out this summer.  Do you buy all the books in a series like me or only get the first couple like Donalyn?

Introducing Students to Your Library

I have to admit, it was very tough (and still is) to let my students "attack" the library on the very first day of school...before we have a chance to talk about how to take care of it and the books.  But a book frenzy helps me learn about my students' likes, dislikes, and reading experiences...and?  It's actually really fun to watch the kids get so excited about books, knowing many of them will be my struggling readers during the school year.  They learn that I am also very serious about reading and books in their classroom.  

After the book frenzy, Donalyn recommends you then have students discuss the library procedures and organization.  

I know I already posted this picture in an earlier book study post, but it's a must-see-again!  This past year was the first time I did a book frenzy...and it was utter chaos, but it was so successful as a jumping off point.


How to Check Out/Return Books

Sure, I tried the whole paper card and pocket system for my first several years of teaching.  Was it a pain?  Very much so!  Often, we would find random cards on the ground and then we couldn't find the book.  It would take a long time writing on the cards and pushing the pockets in to the covers. 

Thankfully, just like Donalyn, I discovered Booksource!  It's all online and it's even better if you own a smartphone or tablet type device.  You can scan your books in and check them out/return them the same way.  Or you can just type in their ISBN or title to search their database.  Things like damage and ratings can be tracked as well.  

I've always run this portion but Donalyn actually has her students do so.  I'm hoping to try this and see how it goes this school year.  What about you?



How to Take Care of Books

This was probably the biggest take away piece for me.  Donalyn recommends having your students work in table groups to brainstorm a list of guidelines to post in your library.  Some examples are, use a bookmark, do not pick off the plastic or stickers, and return books in a timely manner.

Organization

I mentioned I organize by genre.  There are genre labels on the outsides of my poor mismatched baskets (I never seem to be able to splurge for the fancy colorful baskets) from Big Lots and Dollar Tree.  I then have stickers on the covers to match those labels and a dot sticker that helps my librarians put books back for future checkout.  






Is Your Library a MUSTIE?

Last but not least, an acronym to help you keep your library updated!  

  • M = Misleading:  get rid of books that have misleading or outdated information
  • U = Ugly:  books that are falling apart or yellowing with age need to be tossed
  • S = Superceded: books like Guinness Book of World Records that are constantly updated should be switched out
  • T = Trivial:  I mentioned this one earlier.  If a book has what I deem to be a trivial coverpage (mostly outdated covers for me) I get rid of them or don't put them in my library and this also includes not collecting entire ongoing series like Goosebumps
  • I = Irrelevant:  books that your students in the past may have loved may not be loved by those you have now
  • E = Elsewehre: some books exist elsewhere in other libraries, so if you know it won't appeal to your readers, don't worry about it...they'll find them elsewhere



Friday, July 4, 2014

Reading in the Wild: Teaching Students to Love Reading

Sorry for being a day late!...the hubs and I are on vacation in San Diego (we are playing tourists in our hometown, which is always fun).  

If you have just stumbled upon this awesome Reading in the Wild book study blog post series, then definitely click over to HERE and HERE first so you can play a quick round of catch up.  I will be hosting next week's section alongside Lessons with Laughter, so you should come back for that special blog post too.  :-)

The further I get into Reading in the Wild, the more I am starting to like it over The Book Whisperer.  I love the way it fills in all the blanks that I was left to mull over and figure out!

"Read. Read anything. Read the things they say are good for you, and the things they claim are junk.  You'll find what you need to find. Just read."

- Neil Gaiman

I don't know about you, but I have figured out almost a perfect "formula" to choose books I end up loving or enjoying.  In fact, 4 out of 5 times, when I venture outside my little formula, I end up abandoning the book or rating very low on Goodreads.  But do our students know how to find the right way to choose books for themselves?  Nope!  We have to teach them and give them opportunities to do so.  That's what this chapter is all about.

Why should we as teachers teach students how to self-select reading material you ask?


Read-Alouds

I always tell other educators and noneducators that no matter what we are told to do as teachers from year-to-year, read-alouds will be the one thing I will stand firm on and NEVER stop doing!  In fact, it is my favorite part of the day.  We come in after lunch, sit on in our library/living room in the dark, with my Victorian lamp turned on, and read for about 15-25 minutes.  Being able to share books my students would not have access to or not think to try out is the BIGGEST reason I stick to it every single day. When do you do your read-aloud?  Donalyn shared she does hers for the last 10-15 minutes of the day.  I'd love to do it then because I can easily see my students being better at end-of-the-day transitioning.  It definitely gives me something to think about.


Selecting Read-Alouds

Donalyn provides several ways to select read-alouds to work in your classroom and I can say there are a couple I need to try.  Sure, I have my short list of go-tos that students have loved in the past and that I also enjoy.  I try to choose books that hit almost every genre  as well as switching between male and female major characters...this is because I realized one year I was unconsciously reading books that seemed to have girls as the protagonist every time.  But do I read nonfiction or poetry to my students? Nope!  This is something I need to work on for sure.

And I too am "guilty" of reading The Lightning Thief every year as well.  It is HUGELY successful with students every year and I don't notice a lag in it either...so I continue to read it despite the chapters being too long to read in one regular sitting and the month and a half or so that it takes to get through it.  But Donalyn does recommend considering time constraints and book length when selecting books for read-aloud...so I might leave behind one of our beloved read-alouds this year.

Also?  I don't know about you, but I am very strict with books I select.  I follow the same criteria I do when selecting my own books.  There are teachers on my campus who read books I would never recommend to others because they don't come with high reviews or they may be books that you wouldn't necessarily consider quality literature.  But the tips Donalyn gives will need to come into play as well.   What criteria do you follow in order to choose your read-alouds?

Guest Teachers

I had to crack up as I read this part of the tip list!  I HATE leaving our read-aloud book within reach of a guest teacher because I have stated not to read it in my plans every year since I started teaching and read the short book I leave behind.  But, it seems every single one of them do it anyway.  Grrrrrrrrr!!!  So, I have had to start hiding it before I leave for the day.  Two years ago, I think we were in the middle of The Lightning Thief.  I came back and found they had read a chapter.  My kids were distraught because they didn't understand any of the dialogue that happened in the story and were insanely bored by a chapter that past students have always enjoyed.  I asked why and they said...SHE DIDN'T USE YOUR VOICES!!!  It cracked me up and annoyed me at the same time, but I just went back and reread the chapter to them and they didn't mind one bit.

Creating Book Buzz


Book drawings are a HUGE deal in my classroom that I started doing after reading The Book Whisperer, so I was over the moon to read about how to do this in a more detailed way in Reading in the Wild.

The above book you see in the picture is one from a very popular series in my classroom year-to-year.  I read Among the Hidden every other year (City of Ember is in subsequent years), so when we finish the kids scramble over who gets to read the 2nd in the series.  I think I have 2 copies and thankfully, our school library has another 2-3 copies!  So, the drawing is super important to use in cases like this.  

A big idea I pulled from Donalyn's tips this time?  Only allow students to read drawing books for a week so other students don't have to wait so long.  I was not limiting the time these past couple years and will implement this in my classroom from now on.  


At the end of the year, we have a book poll to choose and vote on our favorite reads of the year.  I then display them on this Hawk's Choice board for the incoming class.  This is an idea that I got from Beth Newingham and adapted to fit my classroom.  We use a Google Form in order to gather the data quicker...and vote quicker as well.  This particular picture was from our awards 2 years ago.

Keeping Track of Your Reading Life

In the past, I have used Goodreads with my students.  But we no longer have access to student email accounts, so I don't really have a way of signing them up.  In my first book study post HERE, I mentioned I will be using Edmodo now.  But I still want a way for my students to keep track of their books in a way similar to Goodreads.  So, I really loved this section of Chapter 2!


Donalyn provides the form you see below in the Appendix.  I am definitely going to have my students keep these updated in their notebooks and also share their recommendation on Edmodo.  It will be a fantastic combo!!


How will you teach your students to love reading differently than in the past?

Come back next week!  I will be hosting Part 2 of Chapter 2 and can't wait to share how I curate my classroom library.  I'm sure I will learn new ways to improve it as well and I hope we can have a conversation back and forth about how you curate yours.  See you then!