Monday, July 29, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? 7/29/13

I'm linking up with Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers today to share some great books!  I hope everyone had a great week of reading.  It's hard to believe that we are turning the calendar to August this week.  Technically, we don't start school until September, but August is always a mix of the panic of vacation slipping away and the excitement of a new year starting. 

Here are some favorites from this week's reading:
 Julie Fogliano and Erin Stead are an incredible author/illustrator team.  They both have a gentle way of telling a story that makes me want to take my class outside under a tree and whisper it to them.  I loved their first book, And Then It's Spring, and this one is terrific as well.  Julie Danielson at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast had an amazing interview with Erin Stead about how she created the illustrations for this one.  I am amazed at the process.
 It seems like everyone else in the world has already read Balloons Over Broadway, so I'm a little late to the party on this one.  However, if you are one of the last remaining folks who hasn't, put it on your list.  Melissa Sweet is a master of the picture book biography.  This book is such a cool story, I even made my husband read it.  I commented on Twitter after I finished this that I probably could teach with this book every day for 6 months and do something different each day.  I loved the mixed media illustrations; there is just so much to look at on every page.
Chicken Big  by Keith Graves is a very funny take on Chicken Little.  Three chickens are not too sure what to think when a gigantic chick hatches.  They are a bit confused about the identity of this chicken, but guess who saves the day when the sky starts to fall?  This is a laugh out loud story that I'm excited to share with my students.
Rump by Liesl Shurtliff is another take on a classic story.  Rump is looking for the rest of his name and his destiny.  He discovers an old spinning wheel and an interesting talent: spinning straw into gold.  I love the characters and the setting that Liesl Shurtliff has created in this one. (The gnomes and trolls cracked me up.)  I can't wait for the two companion books to be published!
Out of Nowhere by Maria Padian is a recently published YA novel.  I don't usually read a lot of YA, but this one is set in Maine.  The fictional town of Enniston is based on the city of Lewiston, which has had a recent influx of Somali immigrants.  The story is told from the perspective of Tom Bouchard, captain of the soccer team and resident Big Man on Campus.  Through the soccer team, Tom befriends Saeed, an amazing soccer star and recent Somali immigrant.  Maria Padian has done an incredible job showing Tom's growth as events in the book unfold.  This is a really powerful story, and I think an important one for anyone in high school to read.  (Or anyone in Maine, though the truth in the fiction might make you cringe a bit for our state.  That part about the mayor is unfortunately based on real events.)
I'm currently reading Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton's What Readers Really Do. Even as a first grade teacher, it's making me rethink the way I frame my reading instruction.

Monday, July 22, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? 7/22/13

I'm linking up with Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers today.  Check them out for great books!

I think I'm on track with my summer #bookaday.  It was a good week of reading.  Here are some favorites.

These two were excellent, if you haven't seen them.  They are great for the beginning of the year.  I generally do not like counting books (I find them boring), but I laughed out loud in the bookstore when I read Count the Monkeys.  Mac Barnett is awesome.
123 versus ABC
Crankee Doodle also cracked me up.  I think it would go over the heads of my first graders, but I bet older kids would really get a kick out of it.  It has great voice, and I think it would be really fun to read aloud.
 Another book with great voice that I LOVED is The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Dewalt.  I will definitely be using this one early in the year as well.  I think it would be great with older kids, but not too old for my first graders.  It's a great book for getting kids to think about different perspectives.  I can't say enough good things about this one.
I really enjoyed Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle.  I think it's a story that easily could have been overdone, but as much as a story about a boy who wants to be a Broadway star can be understated, it is.  It made me want to visit NYC, but I settled for my showtunes Pandora station. (My copy did not have the book jacket--just realized that Jesse Tyler Ferguson of Modern Family wrote a blurb on the cover.  See?  Great book. And you don't have to take my word for it.  [nodding to LeVar Burton])
Better Nate Than Ever
I really liked these ones too.  Bee and Melody are both very special characters whose inner strength helps them overcome outward physical issues.
For professional reading this week, I read From Reading to Math by Maggie Siena.  It's a great book that looks at teaching math through the framework of literacy.  You can read more of my thoughts about this one here.

Up next this week will be What Readers Really Do by Barnhouse and Vinton, and Out of Nowhere by Maria Padian.  I've also got a stack of picture books to investigate, including If You See a Whale by Julie Fogliano and Erin Stead.  Happy reading!

Friday, July 19, 2013

From Reading to Math

I would probably describe myself as a literacy-first teacher, and my professional reading reflects that.  As a student, I was strong in both reading and math, but math was harder for me.  My beloved fourth-grade teacher, as she was taking some extra time to work with me one-on-one, declared that I was not "fraction-friendly".  It was in an undergraduate internship in a fourth grade classroom where I learned that I actually love to teach math too.  While I loved the literacy-focused positions I held, one of the things I looked forward to when I returned to the classroom was teaching math.  This book has been on my TBR pile for some time, and I was happy to finally get a chance to read it.

From Reading to Math: How Best Practices in Literacy Can Make You a Better Math Teacher by Maggie Siena (Math Solutions, 2009) is the perfect book for literacy-minded teachers who also teach math.  Whether you enjoy teaching math or you are maybe a little bit wary of it, this is the book for you.  Siena takes what we know about good literacy teaching and looks at how that applies to math.  Good teaching is good teaching, no matter which part of the day it occurs.  Here are some of my take-aways from the book:

  • Attitude is everything.  Siena writes about how we relish our read aloud time with students because we love books.  Our enthusiasm and passion for reading is demonstrated every dayHow are we demonstrating the same enthusiasm for math?  Do we get excited about opportunities in math?  Siena talks about the myth of the "missing math gene" that is perpetuated by parents and unfortunately, teachers, who may have struggled as students in math.  We need to approach math with a growth mindset for our students and for ourselves.
  • Decoding is important in math too.  In her section about decoding, she explained how letters and numbers are both symbols that have different meanings in different contexts.  (A g can sound like gem or girl, and a 5 can mean 5 o'clock, 5 apples, or 5 tens in 58.)  We teach children to decode letters by creating a print-rich classroom and giving them multiple opportunities across the day to see letters and words in different contexts.  We should be doing the same with numbers.  This is leading me to rethink how I am dedicating wall space.  I took a lot of my math stuff down when I moved my calendar routine onto the Promethean Board, but I will be returning some of those things in the fall.  Number lines, hundreds charts, and math word walls need to be where kids can see them all day.
  • We expect higher-order thinking about books; we need to expect the same level of thinking in math too.  Our end goal in reading is to make meaning.  Math, too, is all about comprehension.  It's not about getting the correct answer, but about knowing why the answer makes sense.  Fluency in math as well as reading is about doing it accurately and making meaning from what you've done.  Siena writes about the kinds of open-ended questions to build understanding, encourage reflection, and anchor math learning to meaning rather than algorithms. 
Siena's sections on the workshop model, comprehension strategies, assessment, and conferring with students are very helpful and worth revisiting.  Even though I do these things in my classroom on a daily basis, framing them from a literacy perspective made things a little clearer for me.  I know that some of the things I read will be echoing in my head as I'm working with my new students in the fall.  My favorite line in the whole book was on page 2 (note: that's when you know you're in for a good read): 

"In my quest to do everything, I've returned to the saving grace:  I'm a learner too."

Monday, July 8, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? 7/8/13

After a very long, hot week, it finally feels like there's some air here in Maine!  I can't imagine living somewhere where the temperatures stay in the high 80s and 90s all summer.  I think I would melt.  I'm linking up with Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers.  Check out either link to find lots of great books!

I'm trying to participate in the #bookaday challenge this summer, which is looking a little more like #bookaday-ish.  I did manage to catch up this week with a stack of picture books, so I think I'm back on track now.  Here are a few favorites from this week's reading:

Chu's Day is a very cute book about a little panda with a sneezing problem.  I think my first graders will really enjoy this one because it is not as predictable as it first appears.  Adam Rex's illustrations are great, as always, and the text is simple and accessible to earlier readers.

I love anything that Steve Jenkins does, especially his book Actual Size, so when I heard about this one, I had to find a copy.  It doesn't disappoint.  The book looks at a lot of animals that I had never heard of, so I think kids will really enjoy it.  I thought it was really interesting, and I'm glad that there are no longer 6 ft. millipedes!

I found this book as I was perusing the shelves at my local library.  I picked it up because it is written by Patricia MacLachlan and her daughter, Emily, who also teamed up for two of my favorite poetry books, Once I Ate a Pie and I Didn't Do It.  (If you haven't read either of those titles, I suggest you add them to your list!  They are class favorites year after year.)  This is not a poetry book, but it is a very cute story that I know kids will enjoy.  Bittle is about a dog and a cat who are not really sure what to think when a new baby arrives at their house.  The  book follows the antics of the dog and cat as they get used to the baby and come to love her as one of their own.  I think I'll pair this book with Denise Fleming's Buster or Kevin Henkes' Julius: The Baby of the World

I loved Okay for Now.  The book had amazing voice, characters, and themes.  I'm sure there are more than a few middle grade students who can relate to Doug and will appreciate finding themselves as the protagonist in a novel.  Reading this book has made me reflect on the Dougs I've taught over the years and whether I could have done more for them.  It's a novel that will stick with me for a long time, I know.

Assessment in Perspective by Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan is a title that has gotten a lot of buzz on Twitter and blogs this spring.  I was excited to finally get a chance to read it.  It's a quick read and definitely worth your time.  I wish that something like this had existed when I was taking my undergrad assessment courses, since it explains all of the different types of assessments in a very clear way.  The last two chapters of the book, "Assessing Authentically, Every Day" and "The Student's Role in Assessment" really made me think about my assessment practices.  I got several new ideas that I'll be testing out in the fall.  I highly recommend this one for professional reading.

I'm hoping to get back to the library for some new books today or tomorrow.  I'm excited to read Beholding Bee by Kimberly Newton Fusco, which is waiting on hold for me, and I'm hoping to find some other books on my list as well.