Thursday, April 21, 2016

Can you Teach Compassion by Reading a Good Book?

There are so many good books out there these days!  So, when a colleague and I learned that we'd received a grant to create a "One Book, One School" program for the beginning of next year, I figured it'd be easy to pick the book!


There are so many good choices out there, but some of them are too familiar to our students (5th and 6th graders) so we nixed those.  We said no to:

Don't get me wrong!  These are all great books and should be introduced to students, if they haven't been already.  But a lot of our students were familiar with these, so we needed to dig deeper.
Although this was a HUGE teacher favorite, we had to say no to this one because it doesn't come out in paperback until January 2017!  {insert sad face here}
Here's what we've come up with so far:
This little known book is about a girl with albinism and it's accompanying blindness.  It wasn't a big deal for her in Seattle, where she'd grown up.  But now her family has moved to Sinkville, South Carolina, and everyone treats her differently here.  On top of that, her mother is struggling with depression.

Sounds like a fun read, right?  It was SOOO good! Alice is an easy character to like; she's well-written and takes on all kinds of issues with a sense of humor and lots of curiosity.
Albie is an only child growing up in New York City, with parents who wish he didn't have such a hard time learning.  His mom thinks reading Captain Underpants is for babies, and his dad thinks he just needs to try harder.  His parents hire a new babysitter, Calista, who's working towards her Master's degree in Art.  She looks at the world differently than he's used to and rapidly becomes the person he feels most comfortable with.  As she teaches him some new ways to view things, he begins to thrive.  Although there are some disappointments in his life, somehow, ultimately you feel good about Albie's prospects.
Wendy Mass writes great novels for upper elementary and middle-school students, and this book is no exception.  Like Melody in Out of My Mind, Mia has synesthesia, the ability to see colors with sounds, shapes, or letters.  She's kept it a secret since she discovered at a young age that no one else saw colors like her, and that they made fun of her for it.

When I bought this book two years ago, it didn't sit on the shelf for more than 30 minutes on any given day.  I kid you not!  It was passed from student to student, until all interested parties had read it.
This book, unfortunately, is going to be a "no."  Not because it's not good, just because 5th and 6th graders aren't the right audience.  The book starts when Tara is 11 and begins her journey into OCD.  I jumped on the fact that Tara was 11, without realizing that it takes her into her teen years and dating, and yeah, not the stuff 10- and 11-year olds need to be thinking about yet.
I haven't read this one but have heard good things about it. I may have to pick it up and read it before we finally decide.

I don't know which one we're going to end up with, since we're all reading away right now.  But I'm curious. What books would you recommend?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Show and Tell Tuesday!

Hi everyone,

I'm linking up with Stephanie from Forever in 5th Grade this month again, to share some of the wild and wooly things that have been happening in my neck of the woods!

What's been up with the weather lately?  It snowed about an inch and a half on Saturday, and I have to admit, it WAS really pretty.  But really?  In April?  Don't get me wrong, I love snow.  In December and January, and even in February.  April?

Yeah, no.

Do you ever think that your kids know something, only to read their writing and think,  Oh. My. Word!  If I have to correct another one of these words, I'm going to scream!.  So I came up with an every-which-way-but-Sunday-way to make this a fun review for sixth graders.

They had fun working on their interactive notebooks and playing the card games.  And their writing is a whole lot better these days!
Do you need protein for breakfast every meal?  I do!  And these cottage cheese pancakes are AMAZING!  They taste almost like a sourdough pancake.  Sooo good with blueberries!  This recipe is from The Mood Cure, a very interesting book about food and, you guessed it, your mood.  Really thought-provoking!
No pictures for this one.  
We started state testing this week.
Yeah.  You know what that's like.

Hope the rest of your week is wonderful!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Six Apps to Reach All Readers!

I'm blogging over at Minds in Bloom today.  Come join me to see the six Apps that get used the most in my sixth grade classroom!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Creating a product in PowerPoint with Landscape and Portrait slides

When I first started making products for my students years ago, I always made them in Word.  And I fought the program, trying to move things around.  These days, I've gotten so used to working in PowerPoint that when I learn I can't do something in the program, I'm a little surprised.                                                                                                                                                                                            I started working on task cards for the homonyms, there, their, and they're, a few months ago.  One of my challenges was that I'd created the cards in landscape. I printed them out on card stock and laminated them to use at school and the kids had a ton of fun playing games to quiz each other.
But when I wanted to create a worksheet as a quick individual assessment, I realized that I'd have to keep it in landscape style.  PowerPoint doesn't let you shift slides from landscape to portrait in the same file.  I could have created two different files, which would have been fine for me, but I wanted to post this product to TpT, so I wanted it to be one file.
I wasn't creating this in PowerPoint to be a slide presentation, I was always planning this to be printed out on cardstock or regular paper.  So I could create two different PowerPoints, one in landscape and one in portrait.  I would need to merge them only when I turned my product from a PowerPoint into a pdf.

I created my cover and task cards as one file in landscape. Then I created my worksheets and credits page and saved that as a separate file, and then saved them both as pdfs. I used smallpdf  to merge the two files.  It was pretty easy!  You download your first file, then add additional files.  Presto, chango!  Within seconds, you have one file, combining both portrait and landscape files into one.

I hope that helps you in some way!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. Learn from my mistakes!

Mistake #1:  Ignore Books that Book Lovers Rave About
I'd been hearing about this book for a while now, and I was aware that it won the Newbery, but for some reason, it just never made it to my reading list.  Now, you have to wonder why a book that won not only that, but the Coretta Scott King award didn't somehow attract my attention, but the fault lies entirely with me, not with the book.

Our school's PTO held a book fair last week, and when I saw the book sitting on one of the shelves, I put it in my "to buy" pile.  The parents were gracious enough to let my pile sit behind the counter since I came in and out more times than was healthy for my pocketbook!  And then, didn't the PTO go and give me all the books in my pile!  I was floored, and so grateful!

Mistake #2: Try to Sell a Book to Students That You Haven't Read
I've been able to get away with that from time to time, although it's not a habit I would recommend.  It's sloppy, but sometimes I want to get books into students hands fast.  If I'm familiar with the author, that helps, but this time I didn't convince anyone.  I could tell, because I didn't see too many kids writing the title down on their "Books I Want to Read" list.  

And now, having read it, I can see why.  I had completely missed the point.

The book is written in verse, and it goes between the pulsing rhythm of the basketball court to the confused musings of a twelve year-old.  This is the kind of poetry I love, where letters slide down and across the page, as much meaning found in how the letters are placed as in the word that's chosen.

I could not put this book down! Twin brothers, schooled in basketball by their former pro father, start to separate emotionally as one boy meets a girl.  The story is told from multiple points of view, but the lonely twin is the primary focus.  

I loved the introspection coming from a boy.  I loved the strong, Assistant Principal mom.  I loved the banter between father and his sons.  I loved the "play by play" going on in the boy's heads.  And I loved the values both parents shared for their sons.

Don't wait like I did!  Grab up this book and read it aloud to your students, or hand it to that reluctant reader who'd rather be holding some kind of athletic ball than a book in his/her hands.  

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Show and Tell Tuesday

I'm a little late to the party started by Stephanie at Forever in 5th Grade, but wanted to join with some pictures to share!

Students held our 5th annual Mini-thon, a fun-filled evening of activity and dancing to raise money for the fight against childhood cancer.  It's hard to see the amount on the first card, but 5th and 6th graders alone raised $16,374.19!  With the 7th and 8th graders, who celebrated later, they raised over $31,000.00!  So proud of kids who go above and beyond for causes they believe in!

The weather this month has been a little bit wacky!  Warm days followed by nearly hurricane-force winds, grey skies, and rain.  Welcome to March!  On one day that was especially gorgeous, I took kids outside.  We were reading a play and they broke up into groups to read.  My kids (all kids?!) love reading plays, especially if they can have a role.  It doesn't matter if their reading is smooth and fluent or choppy and uncertain.  They all want a role, and they usually help each other out.  Gotta love that!

Why are these students lying on the floor trying to imitate a spider web?  Funny you should ask!  This is what happens when a Quiz Bowl team gets a little brain-dead at a tournament, and their coach (me) decides they need a break.  What do you do when you find an empty hallway?  Lie down and try to create one huge yoga pose, apparently.
This was a big event in our home two weeks ago.  My husband Glenn was sworn in as Deputy Secretary of Education in our state.  Standing next to him on the one side are our two daughters and me (holding the Bible Glenn was given by his parents when he was seven.)  On the other side is our governor, next to him is Glenn's boss, the Secretary of Education, and at the far left is the Secretary of State.  It was a treat to meet these folks for the first time, and discover that they all are friendly and comfortable in their own skin.  It was a really lovely ceremony, topped off by a surprise late appearance from our son who was taking midterms at his nearby college when this picture was taken.

So that's been my month so far!  Why don't you link up with Stephanie and show and tell a few things that are happening on your side of the world?

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Lucky to Be a Teacher Giveaway

When I think about teaching, especially in the month of March, I realize that, despite the cabin fever we're all experiencing, I'm really a pretty fortunate professional.  I get to do something I really enjoy feel really passionately about.  I get to ignite curiosity in my students!  My eyes sparkle and my heart melts when
  • a student talks excitedly about a book
  • says "Oh, I get it now!" after working through a math problem
  • a student helps another student navigate unfamiliar territory
  • a student leaves me a note
  • a Related Arts teacher tells me my students are great to teach
I get to watch someone who doesn't know very much about something become pretty comfortable discussing and explaining it.  How cool is that?!

Brooke from Countless Smart Cookies  has organized a wonderful giveaway to celebrate teachers this month!  Click on this one if you teach these older kiddos.  I'm giving away a "teacher's choice!"


So....why do you feel lucky to be a teacher?  
Share some love, and have a great Friday!