Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Walk This Way - Slice of Life

My son and I love our Converse.
Do they help us walk faster?
It's no secret I have short legs. It kind of goes along with the short all-of-the-rest-of-me. I didn't realize just how quickly I tend to walk to compensate for this shortness, however, until I went to a conference with some colleagues in November. Even though all of them are at least a few inches taller than me, my normal walking pace had me constantly looking over my shoulder to see how far ahead I had gotten.

I suppose one of the reasons I always kick up the pace is that I'm married to a man who towers a full twelves inches above me. We've been together since high school (which was... *cough*... a lot of years ago). I never wanted to ask anyone to slow down for me, literally or metaphorically, so I just sped up.

To be fair, there's another reason why I walk so fast. You see, I am almost pathologically incapable of being late. This caused me no small amount of stress during my formative years. My own family was always on time for everything (if "on time" = "10 minutes early"). The community in which I grew up, though, laughing referred to their time zone as "AG time". You can read "AG time" as "no more than 30 minutes late". Oh yeah, that was fun.

Here's the typical scenario in my mind:

Okay, brain. That trip will take about 30 minutes by car. Let's factor in at least 15 minutes in case there is traffic. 

Oh, wait, what if I miss a turn? Yes, let's factor in another 15 minutes to account for that possibility. 

It's 90 minutes before I need to be there? Must be time to hop in the car since I am already dressed and ready to go.

Heck, how did I get here an hour early? Good thing I have a comfy car and a book!

It's a family joke. My husband tries to hold me off for at least a little bit. Then he just shrugs, grabs his own book, and heads to the car. My sons tease me about "mom leaving time".

It's okay. I know I'm always early. Just do me a favor and promise not to be more than fifteen minutes late?

In return, I promise to never knock on your door too early. I'll just park the car around the corner and read until it's time to be there.

Come join the writing community at Two Writing Teachers. Someone is there Slicing (writing personal memoirs and reflections) every Tuesday. Let's Write! 

Monday, December 8, 2014

It's Monday December 8th

It's Monday - and I'm sharing my reading again this week.

Don't forget to check out the #IMWAYR tag on Twitter and to visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for their weekly reading and links to other posts.

More Mock Caldecott. I'm down to just one of the books in my stack that I haven't read yet. My students have started choosing their topic pick and writing opinions pieces on why it should win!
Here's my full list: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/4878838-maria?shelf=mock-caldecott-2014

Sweet, but definitely won't take my top spot!

This one is beautiful! I love the illustrations and the message of the tale.

Wow. Just wow. This one tore me up. I think counselors and parents and teachers in middle and high school need to read this one.

Some interesting facts, but more I think the writing fell flat.

I'm not usually a huge poetry reader, but this was fabulous. Not EVERY poem did it for me - but the ones that hit me, hit hard.

Coming in 2015
 Pick this one up. Great true story!

Very sweet - I love orangutans!

I can't wait to bring this one into my room. I have a student who is losing his sight, and I think he'll definitely enjoy this picture book.

Monday, November 24, 2014

It's Monday November 24th

It's Monday - and that means it's time for a reading update.

Lots of picture books this week, as I tried to finish reading the books on my Mock Caldecott list. I still have a few to go (Three Bears in a Boat and Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas)

SO cute! My fifth graders adore this sweet little creatures.

Love the illustrations, and I'm enjoying listening to my students notice as the teacher's depiction changes.

This is a big favorite in the room at the moment. I love how the kids notice what the dog sees... but I haven't heard anyone notice the ending image discrepancies yet.

Elliot is adorable! I love this one, and there are a bunch of kids who have this on their favorites list.

Beautiful images and a powerful message. I have a few dancers in my room, and they seemed quite drawn to this one.

While the novel is still my favorite (and the audiobook is also amazing), this graphic novel adaptation of the first half of the book was wonderful. The illustrations are spot on. Creepy and perfect.

I reviewed one of my favorite graphic novels this week, too:

What have you been reading?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Stratford Zoo Presents: Macbeth - a graphic novel review

There is no shortage of amazing graphic novels in the world these days... but this one is now on the top of my 2014 list. 

The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth
by Ian Lendler (Goodreads Author), Zack Giallongo (Illustrations)

Paperback, 80 pages
Published September 30th 2014 by First Second
ISBN 1596439157 (ISBN13: 9781596439153)

Goodreads Summary:
The Stratford Zoo looks like a normal zoo... until the gates shut at night. That's when the animals come out of their cages to stage elaborate performances of Shakespeare's greatest works. They might not be the most accomplished thespians, but they've got what counts: heart. Also fangs, feathers, scales, and tails, in The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth.

My Thoughts:
This may be my favorite graphic novel so far this year. Yes, I've always been a huge Shakespeare fan, but it's more than that. It's the combination of art and words and the fact that it is an effortlessly fun way to introduce this story and rather sophisticated themes to upper elementary students.

The pictures are just packed with details and fun little bits that you may not notice until the second or third reading. A poor fox wants to move so he doesn't have to sit next to a skunk. Two rabbits are clearly aggravated at being seated behind the giraffe. The tantalizing scent of temptation glows as it hovers and leads the kingly lion toward the witch's cauldron.

The panel design is easy to follow, even for students who are new to comic formatting. Even with that easy style, there are plenty of details to keep the eye from boredom. Inset panels with a different color scheme show what the audience is thinking as the play progresses. Not all pages have just simple rectangular panel shapes.

Okay, so it's Macbeth. You know what the plot will be. There is murder and guilt. Temptation and hubris. Greed and punishment. Yet Lendler manages to make it his own with lots of humorous asides that break up the tension. Ketchup substitutes for blood to keep it kid friendly. It's a tragedy, but with an ending that keeps the message but lightens it up for the younger crew.

Classroom Applications:
-- Just let them read it because it's awesome.

-- Okay, it would also be a great tie in with any novel studies that relate to universal themes like greed, temptation, and punishment.

-- Want to do a Shakespeare competition? Using this graphic novel would be a wonderful way to show how to creatively alter a traditional play to make something unique and entertaining.

-- With older kids, partner with the Gareth Hinds Romeo & Juliet.

Book two will be Romeo and Juliet. Do you think I could plug a request for one of the comedies to follow? Let's get this zoo crew on Midsummer Night's Dream! 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Little Kindnesses - Slice of Life

It's been a while, hasn't it? I haven't been blogging very frequently for ... well... too long.

I'd like to take a moment to reconfirm my dedication to words. To taking the time to notice the little things and write them down. To living a writer's life and cultivating my writer's eye. I took a deep breath this evening and revisited my day, looking for something that should be committed to writing.

Okay, so time for my return to slicing. 

Today I was sitting at my desk, gathering up my things before I had to run down to lunch duty. Fifth graders were filing out. I'd love to say they were leaving quietly, but that's just not how we roll. A few were checking out books from the Lair Library.

Just as the last echoes of the final voice began to die out in the hall, I saw a head peek back into the room.

"Mrs. Selke, can I show you something?"

"Of course! Come on in."

She had a little slip of paper in her hand. Biting her lower lip, she handed it to me.

"This looks really mean," she said. "I thought you should see it."

Relief flooded through me as I realized what she held. It was a scrap of paper with some really mean things on it, that was for sure! But instead of being an unkind note meant to hurt someone's feelings, it was a bit of a script another child had written. One of my groups is working on creating their own TED talks, and two students chose to write about combating bullying.

I smiled at this fifth grader who had taken the time to try to stand up for her friends.

"Thank you for showing this to me," I said. Then I explained the situation. The little wrinkles of worry around her eyes smoothed out as she realized that the note wasn't written to wound.

"You did the right thing, you know. If this had been what you thought it was, it would have been so important that someone came forward so we could fix it."

She darted back out of the room, her steps already looking lighter. Maybe we can't completely end the culture of unkindness in one giant leap, but even small steps take us closer to the prize.

Come join the writing community at Two Writing Teachers. Someone is there Slicing (writing personal memoirs and reflections) every Tuesday. Let's Write! 

Monday, November 10, 2014

It's Monday November 10th

Don't forget to visit our lovely hosts - Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers to get more book ideas for YOUR pile!

Mostly a Picture Book Stack this week!

Some I grabbed for my Mock Caldecott but I have already read - like Julia's House and Noisy Paint Box.

Some were new but for the Mock Caldecott (Quest, Kid Sheriff, and Extraordinary Jane).

Clink and One Big Pair of Underwear were suggestions based on other people's blogs last week!

All were excellent!

I'm working on a Mock Caldecott list for my 5th graders. I am trying to choose about 20. Some are from other Mock lists I've found, and some are on the list because I liked them and already have a copy. I have 18 so far.


Other Books This Week:

Some awesome stories and some just okay (as is normal in an anthology). Some are great for Notice and Note strategies!

I've been reading this one with a group of colleagues. I've taught the first two signposts and will be teaching a third this week.

(Graphic novel - T+) So odd. Excellent premise but I had a lot of trouble following some of the battle sequences.

Hysterical! I need to find a group to use this with this week!

I also managed to blog a picture book review this week! It was Carl Sagan's birthday this past weekend, too!


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan biography - NFPB 2014 Review

Searching for a way to ignite the minds of young scientists and explorers? I have just the book for you...

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos
by Stephanie Roth Sisson
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published October 14th 2014 by Roaring Brook Press
ISBN 1596439602 (ISBN13: 9781596439603)

Goodreads Summary:

For every child who has ever looked up at the stars and asked, "What are they?" comes the story of a curious boy who never stopped wondering: Carl Sagan.

When Carl Sagan was a young boy he went to the 1939 World's Fair and his life was changed forever. From that day on he never stopped marveling at the universe and seeking to understand it better. Star Stuff follows Carl from his days star gazing from the bedroom window of his Brooklyn apartment, through his love of speculative science fiction novels, to his work as an internationally renowned scientist who worked on the Voyager missions exploring the farthest reaches of space. This book introduces the beloved man who brought the mystery of the cosmos into homes across America to a new generation of dreamers and star gazers.

My Thoughts:

The narrative begins by sharing the galactic address of a little boy who "was curious about everything". We watch Carl fiddle with electricity, examine caterpillars, and daydream about rocket ships. We see him attend the World's Fair and get hooked on robots and the night sky.

This is what I want kids to see. I need them to see how their young lives and fascinations can fuel a life of curiosity and discovery.

We see Carl explore the world through books and science fiction. Yes! I am a huge advocate for getting kids hooked on science fiction so they can begin to ask their own "what ifs" about the world.


The book is filled with a delightful mixture of illustrations. I love how Sisson uses all the available space on the pages. She uses diagramming style to add in little details. She adds in some comics style panels. She has pages that are tilted and pages that are designed to be unfolded and viewed vertically. Even the color scheme fits well to showcase Sagan's early 80s style. Overall, her style reflects the childlike wonder and awe about the universe that Sagan seemed to hold onto for his entire life.

Classroom Uses:
-- allow students to pick something Sagan describes to learn about in more detail (robots, stars, space travel, science fiction, theories about alien life, Mars, the other planets in our solar system, and more).
-- explore the excellent back matter
-- view old episodes of Cosmos - or watch some of the new ones with Neil Degrasse Tyson.

Carl learns, grows, and teaches. He explores, experiments, and dreams. Let Carl's journey inspire the young scientists in your life! 

Check out Kid Lit Frenzy every week for more nonfiction picture book recommendations!

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