Saturday, June 29, 2013

When Is Something Worth Celebrating? | Wonderopolis

Not just for Summer Learning Apps

Paper, pencils, peace, and peas.

I've been embedded
In UBDs, EUs, EQs, CCSS,
Embroiled in intense debates
What is important?
What is essential?
Silly ol' teachers,
The answer is "easy-peasy"
As kids would say,
As I was reminded,
 During a "play date",
Paper, pencils, peace, and peas!

TILE-SIG Feature: Transforming Learners Through Student Learning Networks

Friday, June 28, 2013

Summer Reading for Teachers is Good For Kids - YEAH

Yes, I read Reading Online almost daily - all year long - even if that makes me a nerd.  But, don't paint me into being a "one genre reader"!  I certainly DO read widely and at times, a bit wildly!  I am always looking for good reading suggestions for me (and for my mother)!
So this morning's suggestions from Lori Oczkus are appreciated and I love that she considers it our "job" to live the readerly life so that our children can see us as models and so we can appreciate what they experience as readers!
 "It is important for us as educators to read—to experience firsthand not only the reading strategies we teach our students, but most importantly the joy of lifelong reading for pleasure."
Interestingly, the fact that I have already read some of these makes me feel happy too!

* For the record, I just downloaded m Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, Anna Quindlen (Random House, 2012) and The Silver Star, Jeanette Walls, 2013.  Thanks for the suggestions, Lori.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

CCSS Main Idea Song From Reading Learning Upgrade

I spent todayu doing a little PD growing in my understanding of CCSS based UBD and the CCSS based information on the web.  The power of the WWW still amazes me!  The most amazing site was one that had videos that would make a mighty-fine mini-lesson in September!  Check out this link  You will find THIS video and others.  It will be playing in a classroom in a nearby in a matter of weeks!


UBD for the beach (UBDB)

Those of you who are teachers in the 21st Century have likely heard of Understanding By Design and its framing of teaching into Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions.  I'm reading about it today in preparation for some EU and EQ writing tomorrow; however, I am also drifting, ever so slowly, into an awareness of summer mode.  Thus, when this link popped into my Twitter feed, I looked at it through the UBD lens!

EU: People develop a deeper understanding through reflection at the beach! 
EQ: How does sitting by the beach influence us?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

CCSS & Summer Reading at the SIK Site

"Reading isn't good for a ballplayer.
Not good for his eyes.
 If my eyes went bad even a little bit I couldn't hit home runs.
So I gave up reading"
Babe Ruth

When I came upon Babe Ruth's quote about reading, I was very grateful that my own once avid Little Leaguer did not find it first; yet, I know there are lots of other children (baseball and softball players, boys and girls) who really would take Babe's words to heart!  For those kids, there is an answer.  I found it as I googled Sports Illustrated for Kids, the magazine, and found Sports Illustrated for Kids, the site.  While it is not a great novel, the site is CERTAINLY CCSS aligned and filled with short informational texts that get you thinking, promote discussion, encourage more reading, and might even evoke some argument! 

Did you know that in Phoenix, the roof closes so the ballpark can be air conditioned?
Did you know that there is a swimming pool behind the right field wall?
When I read this on I did not believe it, so I went and had to prove it to myself!

I can assure you there are Matthews, Nicks..........There are many people (girls and boys, women and men) who find unusual trivia about people associated with sports, ball fields, stadiums and courts......They just might spend some summer engaged in this CCSS aligned site!  Perhaps, if they click enough times, they might even ask you to buy this book!

TIME For Kids That's Incredible!: The World's Most Unbelievable Facts and Records!

Teachers Write What are you doing this summer?

Sometimes, on the summer porch,
the breeze is so lovely 
you have to slow down.
You forget about the oppressive heat,
stacks of used glasses and piles of sweaty clothes. 
You notice the leaves fluttering slowly
next to you as you sit eye-to-eye;
a serene spot for reading, writing, talking reflecting,

It’s when you remember sitting on another porch,
long ago,
proud to listen quietly amidst wise women,
Voices long quieted, yet alive in memories,

It's when your mind wanders to the future,
You pray that you can stay on the porch
to make summer memories
for those yet to be.

* I am participating in Teachers Write along with about 1111 teachers who realize that you have to "walk the walk" if you want to "talk the talk"!

Monday, June 24, 2013

"Bone Tired" is a Wonderful Feeling

My husband claims June is the hardest month to live with a teacher (he should know)!

We pack a lot into those days before our long-awaited-summer- vacations start!  We give tests, compute grades, write reports, and compile mounds of data that will sometimes be scrutinized and other times ignored.  We wrap, pack, organize, and weed out classrooms while reflecting on the year, writing curriculum maps, moving classrooms (or grades or schools), and making Common Core aligned plans for the future (in 8 weeks)!  We think about packing 2 days into every one day and finishing up curriculum goals while simultaneously wondering about the only profession that starts "fresh" every September! 

The kids are "antsy" and unfocused as the temperature heats up and events such as field day signal the end is near.  At times, kids are clingy or engage in misbehaving to signal their angst over "moving on up"!  Parents want to talk, one last time, reflecting on the year winding down and the wondering about the years ahead.  Administrators are filled with angst as they juggle questions about this year, next year, now, then, who, what, where, when and why!  Teachers work late on assessments, reports, IEPs and folders.  Most teachers are pretty wiped when they get to that last day with kids and yet, there are staff development days ahead!

This year, my own our "end-of-year-June-experience" also included: 1 preschool graduation; 1 elementary school graduation, 1 middle school graduation; 1 high school graduation; 1 end of the year party; 1 sweet 16 party; 1 retirement; 1 celebration of career; 1 celebration of moving up; 1 clebratin of moving on; 1 momma-daughter day; 1 play-date (with a 5 year old!); 1 brunch; some dog-sitting; some very big decisions; a couple of family gatherings; 4 birthday parties; many visits to rehab facilities; and a more complete understanding of the surgical repair and rehab of complex hip fractures. While all that sounds like it should have ADDED to the "challenges of the month, it actually had a somewhat different effect forcing me to add a little "sugar" to the "salty" tears and to smile as I reflect on the many wonderful, complex, intersecting aspects of a complex, full and happy life. 

As July days of sipping raspberry tea on the porch as well as writing, reading, and supporting teachers comes into focus, I am very glad that my life is full of people I love and care about.  I am 100% sure that "bone tired" is a wonderful feeling and evidence of a full life of living, loving, sharing and care-giving. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

NY Times: Obsessed with Technology

Obsessed with technology - are we? I don't get the NY Times because there are too many pages and it costs too much 90 miles north of Manhattan  But, I do read parts of it online - a readily available bargain on my tablet Kindle - and wonder how many people really do feel tablet computers are the same as TV for kids in the last generation?

I could make quite a case for the differences; however, I suspect the author's point is most accurately a call to parents (and teachers) to focus on the delicate balance between human interactions and screen time.  While I was known to disconnect our old TV antenna when the TV became an obsession and definitely abhor pulling the phone out to check messages at dinner, the advantages of our new technologies is they GIVE far more than those old I Love Lucy reruns of my own youth and the snuck in "Jerry Springer moments" of my children's youth!   SO now that there is NOTHING to watch on TV, we just need to make sure that we find and keep the balance. 

My own suggestion for keeping the tablets under wraps is to "misplace" the chargers! 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Are Substitute Teachers Qualified to Be In the Classroom?

Grades: What Really Matters?

Shortly before I found out my "teacher-grade" for this school year, I read this post thanks to my daily PD alerts on Twitter.   I thought about how I too had encouraged reading, invested in princess books, Lego readers, and graphic novels to encourage reading.  I smiled as I thought about the "absolved" lost book debts and the smiles of young writers clutching their writing notebooks on the last day.  I was lost in my thoughts as I showered  and dressed.
Shortly before I found out my "teacher-grade" I drove down the eerily quiet highway reflecting on the fact that sometimes, as teachers, we witness dramatic growth in a struggling learner over what appears to be a short period of time; yet in reality, the seeds and foundation for that student's growth are deep and required lots of nurturing and firming,
Shortly before I found out my "teacher-grade" for this school year, I was thinking about my quiet and my boisterous students, some headed off towards life without a literacy support teacher breathing down their backs.  Some would be headed to new building.  Reluctant readers, all; yet, recently many were carrying around books and was were close to finding that magic.  Would it continue through the summer?  Would next year's teachers look beyond levels, and limited fluency to see the sprouts of learning?
Shortly after I found out my "grade" for this school year, I was reflecting on our reporting and grading systems in a new "light."  Every word matters when it is about YOU and hearing you are "good" or "effective" just doesn't give you the excitement of hearing about your strengths and strong successes.   It's probably is good for all of us to sit on the other side of the desk and remember that our words and our actions, all of them, matter and make a difference. 
Shortly after I found out my "grade" for this school year, I was thinking about Kate's words and the faith it takes to to be "highly effective" when the scores don't always reflect the teaching and learning that has occurred.  Real teaching and learning, as Kate notes, is a leap of faith on both sides of the desk. 
For teachers, whether they be Highly Effective, Effective, or even still Developing, I hope that your teacher-grading system provides you an opportunity to sit stop and remember that IF you do the BEST you can EVERY single day for EVERY single student, you WILL plant good seeds and make a difference in the lives of your students.  While grades (for students and teachers alike) count, what we say and do every moment of every day is how we make a difference.  Making a difference is what matters.   

Friday, June 21, 2013

Old School?

This morning's thought! 
Smart boards are "old school"? 
I must throw out chalk,
audiotapes (yes KC), videocassettes,
When I clean today!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sunset: What's Next?

As the school year races to its finish line,
There is little time for exercising, recreating,
Even my SOL writing fell to the wayside.
Yet as the magnificent setting sun suggests,
Great endings precede a new day,
Full of wonder and promise.
Graduations, long good byes,  
Magical sunsets, moments of magical reflection, 
Predict bright futures ahead.

Some may see this as a lovely sunset,
It is.
Yet, it also beckons us to wonder,
What's next?

                                                                    My "day late" SOL

Monday, June 17, 2013

From Reading Today: Practical Advice Frames the Last Week and the First Week of School!

This morning, as the sun emerges from the horizon and as I prepare for the last week of school, I read this practical PD article in Reading Today.  For this last week of school or for the first, it's good advice to keep in your heart and in your planner too!

Practice Guides Review Research and Offer Recommendations on Topics in Literacy

 by Nell Duke
University of Michigan
April 15, 2013
The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) has released five Practice Guides on topics in literacy:
1. Teaching Elementary School Students to Be Effective Writers Practice Guide | June 2012

  1. Provide daily time for student to write
  2. Teach students to use the writing process for a variety of purposes
  3. Teach students to become fluent with handwriting, spelling, sentence construction, typing, and word processing.
  4. Create and engaged community of writers.

2. Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade Practice Guide | September 2010
  1. Teach students how to use reading comprehension strategies.
  2. Teach students to identify and use the text’s organizational structure to comprehend, learn, and remember content.
  3. Guide students through focused high quality discussion on the meaning of text.
  4. Select texts purposely to support comprehension development.
  5. Establish an engaging and motivating context in which to teach reading comprehension.

3. Assisting Students Struggling with Reading Practice Guide | February 2009

  1. Screen all students for potential reading problems at the beginning of the year and again in the middle of the year. Regularly monitor the progress of students at risk for developing reading disabilities.

    For Tier 1:
  2. Provide time for differentiated reading instruction for all students based on assessments of student’s current reading level.

    For Tier 2:
  3. Provide intensive, systematic instruction on up to three foundational reading skills in small groups to students who score below the benchmark score on universal screening. Typically these groups meet between three and five times a week, for 20 to 40 minutes.
  4. Monitor the progress of Tier 2 students at least once a month. Use these data to determine whether students still require intervention. For those students still making insufficient progress, schoolwide teams should design a Tier 3 intervention plan.
  5. Provide intensive instruction on a daily basis that promotes the development of the various components of reading proficiency to students who show minimal progress after reasonable time in Tier 2 small group instruction.

4. Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices Practice Guide | August 2008
  1. Provide explicit vocabulary instruction.
  2. Provide direct and explicit comprehension strategy instruction.
  3. Provide opportunities for extended discussion of text meaning and interpretation.
  4. Increase student motivation and engagement in literacy learning.
  5. Make available intensive and individualized interventions for struggling readers that can be provided by trained specialists.

5. Effective Literacy and English Language Instruction for English Learners in the Elementary Grades
    Practice Guide | December 2007
  1. Conduct formative assessments with English learners using English language measures of phonological processing, letter knowledge, and word and text reading. Use these data to identify English learners who require additional instructional support and to monitor their reading progress over time.
  2. Provide focused, intensive small-group interventions for English learners determined to be at risk for reading problems. Although the amount of time in small-group instruction and the intensity of this instruction should reflect the degree of risk, determined by reading assessment data and other indicators, the interventions should include the five core reading elements (phonological awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension). Explicit, direct instruction should be the primary means of instructional delivery.
  3. Provide high-quality vocabulary instruction throughout the day. Teach essential content words in depth. In addition, use instructional time to address the meanings of common words, phrases, and expressions not yet learned. 
  4. Ensure that the development of formal or academic English is a key instructional goal for English learners, beginning in the primary grades. Provide curricula and supplemental curricula to accompany core reading and mathematics series to support this goal. Accompany with relevant training and professional development. 
  5. Ensure that the development of formal or academic English is a key instructional goal for English learners, beginning in the primary grades. Provide curricula and supplemental curricula to accompany core reading and mathematics series to support this goal. Accompany with relevant training and professional development. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Teaching Jobs: Yes, we need them now!

Those who have spent some time with me in grad school classes already know I have "predicted" the great teacher shortage that is looming in the northeast.  t's been a LONG time since I saw a teacher job listed in our local paper, but last week, there were in few.

This week's listings:
Highland CSD
1.5 Reading / Literacy
1.0 Dual Certified Sped Ed / Reading
1.0 Physical Education
0.8 French
Get to work on making sure those kids in Highland learn
to be readers and writers for the 21st Century!

Technology Webinars for Parents and Teachers

They're at it again! Those people at Verizon are turning more of my monthly donations into useful webinars that you can consider.  They are each 30 minutes - time well spent whether you are a parent, teacher or technology savvy individual!

BASKING RIDGE, N.J. – Navigating through often conflicting messages about the impact of digital media on the education and development of young people, today’s so-called “digital natives,” can be daunting for parents and other caregivers.  To raise awareness and provide some helpful resources on these topics during Internet Safety Month, Verizon is sponsoring two free, 30-minute webinars in June:
  • June 18 – “Raising Your Digital Natives Responsibly” will be led by Rosalind Wiseman, an internationally recognized author and educator who focuses on children, teens, parenting, education and social justice.  This webinar will address common challenges parents and caregivers face when raising digital natives, and suggest healthy and responsible-use strategies.
  • June 24 – “Digital Literacy, Digital Citizenship, Digital Discipline” will be led by Dr. David Walsh and Erin Walsh of  Mind Positive Parenting, whose mission is to equip parents and communities to raise children and youth who can thrive and meet the challenges of the 21st century.  This session will give parents and caregivers practical information for helping their children maximize the benefits and minimize the harms of media and new technologies.
WHEN:    Tuesday, June 18, 12:30-1 p.m. Eastern time for “Raising Your Digital Natives Responsibly
               Monday, June 24, 12:30-1 p.m. Eastern time for “
Digital Literacy, Digital Citizenship, Digital Discipline
WHERE:   For more information and registration for:
               the June 18 webinar, go to;for  
               the June 24 webinar, go to Instructions for accessing the webinars will be provided at registration.
 WHO:     Rosalind Wiseman (June 18)
               Dr. David Walsh and Erin Walsh (June 24)

- See more at:

Saturday, June 15, 2013

June Madness

It's known, in my circles, as June's Madness*.  It's different than March and December Madness in that this seasonal event is part of the lives of only those attending, working, or loving someone who works in a school!  While there are lots of people suffering from June Madness this week, it still does not get the respect of the big, financially powerful seasons that impact corporate America!  *It is important to note that in parts of the US where school ends around Memorial Day, this season is more accurately known as May Madness!
This season is marked with loud and often obnoxious sneers, jeers, jibs and even some jabs from those who are a wee bit jealous of the pending season of "vacation."  No kidding aside, July and August (*or June and July) are great perks of teaching; however, they are not really "vacations" in the corporate sense of the word. EVERY teacher I know will be doing something!  They will be taking courses, learning about Ipads, writing curricula, sifting through the Common Core, reading professional books, thinking about next year, and working in summer camps, washing windows, opening businesses, and attempting to organize their outside of school lives. Long before school begins at the end of the summer, they will have planned, prepared, set up and organized for a new book in the series of their professional lives. 
In school hallways after the children have left for the day, you can hear the hallmark stressed voices of those trying to grade papers, determine Student Learning Objectives, organize piles, complete folders, and pack rooms for summer camp deployment.  Those same people are attempting to maintain learning, complete mandated work, finish end of the year assessments and keep their people calm in schools without air conditioning and this rainy year, without outside recess. Those same voices are also interviewing teachers, thanking everyone who helped make their lives smooth, celebrating summer birthdays, and maintaining their own lives filled with graduations, birthdays, and the normal events of living.  They are expected to organize, attend, and smile at moving up, graduation, and writing celebrations as well as end-of-the year picnics, parties and "events" that mark the endings of the chapter of their professional lives.   
The last, and often overlooked sign of the season is the sense of excitement often earmarked as energy still mixed with and tempered by abject sadness and concern on faces and in the hearts of all those who are closing a chapter and moving on to something new.  Some are the faces of those whose year has been a good one filled with new, wonderful memories.  Some of those faces of the teachers who will be going on to write new chapters of their own stories in other schools.  Many of those faces are the students who even if they say they can't wait for summer, will miss the wonderful world-away-from-home where they have lived for nearly 200 days. Even the best and most exciting of transitions (graduations from pre-K, elementary and even HS) are always filled with conflicting emotions. 
I guess all this can be analogous to the reading (or writing?) of a great chapter book or perhaps even a series of great books.  Each and every part fills our souls and minds for the moments we are in it while bits and pieces stay with us even after we put the book down.  Yet, when it is really a great one, we feel a great sense of sadness that the experience is over even if we simultaneously can't wait to pick up and begin the next chapter.  
So, for the few of you who stumble on this writing that are not personally connected to June's seasonal affective disorder in any way, just know that these are the days of June Madness. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Six Ts of Effective Elementary Literacy Instruction | Reading Topics A-Z | Reading Rockets

The Six Ts of Effective Elementary Literacy Instruction | Reading Topics A-Z | Reading Rockets

#How to Twitter

True Confession: Last Sunday, I asked someone how to respond to a tweet on my phone! Yes, it was easy and yes, I know that for some of you, this is "intuitive," but for me it was a learned skill.  I've been Tweeting and following Twitter for 11 months now and it has been the BEST PD year ever for ME thanks to Twitter.  SO, when I came across this link to TCRWP's guide to Twitter this morning, I decided to "share" here too! 
Truth be told, while I glanced at this, I will not read this for two weeks when I come up for air and the summer "vacation" season of reflecting and planning for the new year begins.  But here it is for when "we" have a break in the action.  WOWSERS, PD has come a long way!




Summer Reading

Summer Reading
This list from the NCTE is a good place to start for teachers, parents and kids ! 

Monday, June 10, 2013

#Slice of life 2013 Senior Boot Camp

Last week, Amy wrote a priceless SOL about her children using the mentor text, Fortunately by Remy Charlip.  I do not yet have the book, so I guess I am using Amy's  post, based on Charlip's text, as my indirect mentor text this week as I write, once again, about my aunt's adventures after breaking her hip!  I suspect all this sounds complicated; however, living, loving and learning, too, are the complex balancing acts of family life depicted each week in our SOLs. 

  • Fortunately, she came through surgery for a reversed obliquity intertroch fracture (RevIT) easily.  She greeted her nurse with a cheery, "Oh, hi, Marie," bringing tears to not only Marie's eyes!  
  • Unfortunately, RevIT repair requires patients to not put any weight on the leg/hip for a month so her recovery will be delayed! 
  • Fortunately, our Medicare system has a system called "rehab" that provides senior citizens "places" to heal for 20 days for "free."
  • Unfortunately, finding the best-for-your-loved-one "rehab" is hard and ultimately location and cleanliness are factors that can trump the "rehab" part!
  • Fortunately, there are many "rehab" options in our the local area.   
  • Unfortunately, most "rehabs" might be more accurately called spaces where people are awaiting placement in "nursing homes."
  • Fortunately, she still has not only her marbles, but also her sense of humor, "It's like boot camp for seniors, and  I never wanted to go to boot camp!" 
  • Unfortunately, she's there for many months "learning" the Hoyer lift, butt up the bed slide, and hopefully, some day, as the leaves begin to depict their full-color potential, the senior walker shuffle.
  • Fortunately, I was there as she endured the "entry" exam that required her to remember things she used to know before spending a week in suspended time, and that invaded body parts only seen by airline screeners. 
  • Unfortunately, I was not there when she endured the Hoyer-lift-roller-coaster-ride and the physical therapy team's debate about the best plan for her.  
  • Fortunately, "a family's support helps you get to the next level" whether you are headed off to college or to boot camp for seniors!     

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Going somewhere

If you have ever found yourself sitting in a chair, car, (or booth in Friendly's) trying to make a big life changing decision (like where to attend college), you can relate to this post. I am sure there were "stakeholders" voicing thoughts about where your needs would be best met, and there was talk about costs, payment methods, and the ease of visitation. There was angst that each place had merit and yet some drawbacks.

Perhaps you can relate to the signing of papers paving the way to car, house or even dog ownership! Remember thinking that your heart was beating outside of your chest? Remember the feeling of, "Will I be able to handle this new responsibility?" 

You might remember the feeling of not knowing where the road ahead was leading, but that you were headed somewhere. I remember the way my heart pounded when we left the church that Saturday morning as a "new" family unit and when that heartbeat meant "our family" was growing. You too might know the stifling feeling of realizing that medical science did not have an answer and that you or those you love were headed down a new path.

Such is my feeling this morning as I dig deep into my heart and pray I make the  right hard decisions determining next steps for someone who has endured much.

I'm reminded as I sit here awaiting the next steps that we are all going somewhere all the time. Our lives are always changing and evolving.  However, it appears clear to me that at all of the big crossroads of life, it's best if you have someone with you on the journey.

So today, I will sit and wait with her because we are going somewhere to begin a "new" chapter. I can't believe that going to rehab at ninety feels just like going to college at eighteen or buying a house, but somehow it does.  The hard reality, however, is that this experience may be far more like heading to "boot camp" for senior citizens. 
While I am on it, I might as well do some deep reflection and make some big life-altering decisions myself this weekend. Let's start with something small like, what should I do with the rest of my life?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Educators Connecting Online

At a meeting recently, a colleague crinkled her nose at the thought of collaborating and PD online.  I smiled and agreed to disagree on that point, but thought to myself that I too, not too long ago, shunned the void-of-personal-connection-online-learning world.  Yet, for me, this has been perhaps my BIGGEST PD year.....and I have my Twitter/Facebook/TwoWritingTeacher/NerdyBookClub world to thank for all the time I have spent online and in learning! 

This article, about this subject, popped up the other morning The cost of being a collaborative, connected educator.
I felt like Whitby was talking to me as he said, "Although sharing is the key element to collaboration there is more to it than just that. Feedback is important for additions and subtractions for improving ideas. If one is to be a successful collaborator then responding in some way to other educators becomes essential. Without responding, there is no collaboration."

Whitby suggests that educational sharing should include:
  • specific information pertaining to your field of endeavor
  • general information pertaining to education, methodology
  • links to websites, articles
  • blog posts, videos, podcasts
  • tweets
  • successes in the classroom
Then he wraps up the article by saying, "Collectively we are all smarter than we are individually. Our common core would be developed by the connection and collaboration of educators.

I agree!

School’s Out for the Summer Book Reviews

From Reading Today: Not Just for Summer Reading Lists

I'm thinking of sending this part of list home with my end of the year reports. 
It looks great and you should head on over to Reading Today to check it out. 

School’s Out for the Summer Book Reviews
by Sara Long | Jun 05, 2013
As many schools and teachers start to pack away their instructional materials and shut their doors for summer, youngsters and their parents are sure to celebrate the arrival of more leisurely days spent playing outdoors and spending time with friends and family members. For some, the end of school may mean a chance to read books in the back yard or patio or it may announce the arrival of departures as some children head off to summer camp or on family vacations. For others, it may signal a time to help as an older family member grills food outside. Whatever the case, summer’s blissfully relaxed months are sure to offer inspiration for newly-published books such as the ones reviewed this week by members of the IRA Children’s Literature and Reading Special Interest Group. All of these books relate in some way to the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Put on some sunscreen, grab a hat, and read one of these suggested titles or a book you’ve been saving for just the right time. It’s here now.
Atinuke. (2013). Splash, Anna Hibiscus! Illus. by Lauren Tobia. New York: Walker Books.
SplashAnna Hibiscus and her family are enjoying a day at the beach in Africa, or "amazing Africa" (unpaged) as the irrepressible girl always calls it. After making their way to the right spot, all the family members settle down with their own pursuits. After all, relaxation can take a lot of effort. The playful waves along the edge of the sand tantalize Anna Hibiscus, and she wants someone to join her in splashing in the water. But everyone else is too busy burying each other in the sand, braiding hair, smoothing on sunscreen, talking, and enjoying themselves to be bothered. Not to be denied, Anna Hibiscus heads to the shallow part of the water to play. Once she and the waves make their own fun and her infectious giggles of delight fill the air, one by one, her family members joins her. Readers will love this spunky, independent girl and be drawn to her personality through the text and softly-colored illustrations. It's hard not to celebrate the joy Anna Hibiscus and her family find in the simplest moments shared together.
- Barbara A. Ward, Washington State University Pullman
Cocca-Leffler, Maryann. (2013). A vacation for Pooch. New York: Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt Publishers.
a vacation for poochIt is time to pack for summer vacation, but Pooch can’t go to the beach with Violet. They each pack a bag as Pooch is going to a snowy vacation on Gramp’s farm while Violet heads for the beach. Though Violet is sad that Pooch has to suffer being away from her, once she arrives at the beach she starts to enjoy the sun and the sand. However, as she reaches for her packed bag and her crayons and favorite doll, Molly, she realizes her bag has gotten switched with Pooch’s. Now she is feeling guilty and gives Gramps a call to check on Pooch’s assumed misery. Gramps assures Violet that Pooch is just fine and he is actually having lots of fun on the farm and taking naps with Molly. The gouache cartoon-like illustrations are delightful and truly capture the spirit of a young child separated from her pet in this small-sized book for young children. Visit the author’s webpage to see all of her artwork and books.
- Karen Hildebrand, Ohio Library and Reading Consultant
Fox, Tamar. (2013). No baths at camp. Illus. by Natalia Vasquez. Minneapolis: Kar-Ben Publisher/Lerner Group
no baths at campMax is home from camp, and when his mother tells him it is bath time, Max vehemently tells his mother that he wishes he were back at camp because “there are NO BATHS at camp.” As Max continues to tell his mother about all the things that happened at camp, his fun included rock climbing, painting, dancing but also things like canoeing, and throwing water balloons, and swimming and catching frogs. Mixed media illustrations depict all the fun and water-related activities that kept Max busy and clean during his week at camp including the shower and shampoo on the evening before Shabbat. Several Jewish traditions thread through the story of Max’s summer camp experience.
- Karen Hildebrand, Ohio Library and Reading Consultant
Hutmacher, Kimberly. (2012). Your senses at the beach. Minneapolis: Capstone Press.
your senses at the beachIn addition to pointing out the many sensory experiences on a hot day at the beach, this book could also be used for a read aloud before a writing activity for young writers and readers. Pointing out the “… feel [of] the warm sand and smell the salty air” (p.1) teachers could guide children to use their five senses not only to enjoy an environment but also to think about using sensory words in their own writing. Another page says, “Listen! Waves crash/Seagulls scream.” (p.9) Wonderful examples of language and words full of color and sound and smell make this a useful book on many levels.
- Karen Hildebrand, Ohio Library and Reading Consultant
Idle, Molly Schaar. (2013). Flora and the flamingo. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.
floraClad in her pink bathing suit, bathing cap, and flippers, Flora happens upon a beautiful and stately flamingo. In wordless text and lift-the-flap illustrations, Flora attempts to mimic the graceful movements of the flamingo but as the lithe flamingo flexes in directions the stout little Flora can’t manage, Flora burst into tears. The flamingo patiently begins to teach Flora the dancelike movements of the graceful bird. A double-page spread fold-out bursts from the middle of the book as Flora and the flamingo enjoy the dance. Molly Idle worked in animation at DreamWorks, and this talent is brought to life in this fanciful and beautiful wordless experience in print.
- Karen Hildebrand, Ohio Library and Reading Consultant
Joyner, Andrew. (2013). Boris on the move. New York: Scholastic.
borisWhile it’s true that there’s no place like home, home can get to be too much of a good thing. Tired of the sameness of his home, Boris longs for adventures like his parents once had. After all, they once traveled in their van all over the world and saw many exotic sights. Now the globetrotting couple has settled down in Hogg Bay where they plant vegetables and enjoy their version of the good life. This simple story about Boris and his family, depicted as warthogs, will have plenty of appeal for young readers. The book even starts out by saying that Boris and the reader of the book have a lot in common. As Boris makes his yearning for adventure clear, his parents respond accordingly and take him on an adventure. Although he’s disappointed that the trip on which they embark is quite short, still he finds plenty of adventure and a frightful moment or two while he’s exploring. He even finds an orange cat, his own version of a fierce tiger. The story reminds readers that there is plenty of fun to be found in anyone's back yard or close by. The line illustrations and text are delightfully rendered and filled with surprising details that warrant a second look. See the publisher's website for a lesson plan. 
- Barbara A. Ward, Washington State University Pullman
Peschke, Marci. (2013). Kylie Jean: Summer camp queen. Illus. by Tuesday Mourning. North Mankato, MN: Capstone Press.
kylieKylie Jean Carter's lifelong ambition is to be a beauty queen, something she's been preparing for much of her growing up years. She’s keenly aware of how a beauty queen should look, act, and think, and she uses every opportunity to conduct herself as though she is auditioning for a pageant or engaging in competition. When summer comes, she attends a camp where she learns lots of skills, makes friends, learns about sportsmanship, and sets her eyes on becoming Camp Queen by earning the most number of points for activities. But to her surprise, although there is another camper who looks just like her, she doesn't act like Kylie Jean at all. Instead, Miley shows poor sportsmanship when she doesn't win the daily competitions, and almost causes Kylie Jean to lose her cool. Young readers will warm up quickly to this Texas charmer and the letters from camp she sends to her parents, brother, and dog, Ugly Brother. As Kylie Jean looks for solutions to Miley’s rudeness and her own dilemmas, she shows that even a secure girl can feel a little homesick and that there’s more to becoming a camp queen than being in charge or winning everything. Young readers will love the illustrations and this girl’s can-do, exuberant spirit. For more camp fun, check out what Ivy and Bean series author Annie Barrows has to say about summer camp in "Reading, Not Rules" on the Engage blog.
- Barbara A. Ward, Washington State University Pullman
Ransom, Candice. (2013). Iva Honeysuckle meets her match. New York: Disney-Hyperion.
ivaIva and her cousin Heaven’s families are going on vacation to Stingray Point on the Chesapeake Bay. The beginning of the vacation does not quite start the way Iva envisioned in those six kids and two families in one small vacation house make for a hectic household. Iva, always on the lookout for a new adventure, is worried that this solitary stretch of beach holds nothing for her to explore. Then she hears about the legend of a sea monster and so her exploration for Chessie begins.
- Karen Hildebrand, Ohio Library and Reading Consultant
Spilsbury, Louise. (2013). Look inside a tide pool. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Library.
look inside a tide poolAs children and parents head to the beach for summer vacation, the discovery of a tide pool is common and fascinating. This book guides young readers to explore what is actually alive within this habitat of the tide pool. The book is divided into four sections: At the Top, On the Rocks, In the Water, and Rock Bottom. As readers plunge into the tide pool captioned color photographs bring the life within the tide pool into visual reality along with fact boxes and bold text to highlight marine vocabulary. A helpful glossary and index are included at the end of the book in addition to further reading and websites.
- Karen Hildebrand, Ohio Library and Reading Consultant
Watt, Melanie. (2013). Scaredy Squirrel goes camping. Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press.
scaredyScaredy Squirrel has returned hoping to avoid another adventure. Scaredy never goes camping and decides it is better to watch about camping on his new television set. However, his electrical cord is not long enough to plug into an outlet. He decides to get a verrrrrry long extension cord and plug it in at the campground. Now he has to prepare for his trip to the campground and this preparation presents the hilarity in this new adventure with the timorous squirrel that actually lives in the wilderness but must now venture outside for a wilderness trek to the campground for electricity. His checklists and exercises to prepare for this adventure are truly funny. Melanie Watt has written another most enjoyable new adventure for Scaredy to overcome his fears to discover he enjoys the out of doors. Children will enjoy these activity pages at the publisher’s website.
- Karen Hildebrand, Ohio Library and Reading Consultant
Greenwald, Tommy. (2013). Charlie Joe Jackson’s guide to summer vacation. Illus. by J.P. Coovert. New York: Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan Publishers.
charlieFollowing on the author’s Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Extra Credit, Charlie is now off to summer camp, Camp Rituhbukkee (read-a-bookie) for kids who like to read. His parents have shipped him off for three weeks and Charlie is determined to turn all the nerdy kids there into normal kids like him. Charlie becomes somewhat of a star on the camp basketball team, works on the camp newspaper and leads the campers into a strike after they read the biography of Lech Walesa, and in the end helps another camper with a cheating dilemma. Charlie is also writing letters to a Zoe, a girl from home that he likes. This is a great middle school book especially for readers who like the Big Nate series.
- Karen Hildebrand, Ohio Library and Reading Consultant
Griffiths, Andy. (2013). The 13-story treehouse. Illus. by Terry Denton. New York: Feiwel and Friends.
Imagination runs BIG in this opening book for the new series, The 13-Story Treehouse. Andy and Terry live in the treehouse, but it is a huge treehouse like no other with monkeys and gorillas, shark tanks and bowling alleys, an underground laboratory, a see-through swimming pool and a marshmallow machine that follows them around popping marshmallows as needed.  As the boys, who are author and illustrator of new books, are trying to meet their new book deadline for Mr. Big Nose their publisher, they find they are constantly being interrupted by the outrageous distractions in the treehouse or all the fun things to do in their fantastical environment. The catnary (cat + canary) has escaped, a burp-gas-filled bubblegum bubble machine has malfunctioned, the giant gorilla is after more bananas, the sea monster is disguised as a mermaid, the monkeys have gone berserk and much more zaniness is keeping the boys from meeting their publishing deadline. This fun-filled chapter book is written so that each chapter stands alone and will make a great read-aloud. Looks like the beginning of a series that Wimpy Kid readers will enjoy.
- Karen Hildebrand, Ohio Library and Reading Consultant
by Sara Long | Jun 05, 2013

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Binder and Other Scary Dreams!

I think we all have a few scary dreams that haunt us at points of our lives.  In HS, I used to dream that I showed up at my locker ready to take off my coat (you always wore a coat in Albany) and realized I forgot to get dressed.  Fortunately that never really happened.  I have had many, many dreams that I overslept or forgot to go to work and fortunately, so far, that has not happened either.  My husband still has a recurring dream of chasing a plane down the runway!  Too much traveling some would say - but it's a scary dream none-the-less! 

These days, as I am learning from my colleagues, many teachers are having what I will call "scary binder dreams!"  Here's how it goes:

You walk into your end of the year conference and the administrator, we'll call her Ms. Admin, turns around slowly in her chair to look at you and as her face appears in your line of sight, you realize that her face has been taken over by Freddy Kruger.   Instead of the smiling, how do you think your year and goals went conversation you were expecting, you hear the croak of, "This binder was empty.  How am I supposed to say you are Effective?"
You reply shakily, "But it was full when I turned it in last week?"
Ms. Admin just laughs, not her laugh, but Freddy's......and then you wake up!    

I am turning in my binder tomorrow in preparation for my own meeting next week; I can only imagine what my weekend dreams will be like!