Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Slice - Teaching is my Super Power

Teaching is my superpower -
and it doesn't even require a cape!

Today is National Teacher Appreciation Day....

Some days I feel like our nation doesn't really appreciate us. There are news stories about our greed and lack of intelligence. There are comments on EVERY news article telling teachers to "suck it up" and "just be thankful" we have jobs. We are told to "quit and find another job if you don't like it"....

And yet.

It's the day to day smiles on the faces of my students.

It's the question, "Why weren't you here yesterday?" accompanied by the disappointed look in their eyes. They understand that I was at training - or was on a trip with my own child - but they missed me.

It's the happy greeting when I see current and former parents at the grocery store or when I drop my child off for special events.

It's the quick emails or unexpected blog posts from those former students. It's them asking if there's any chance I'd want to meet up at the library for a "reunion" just a year after they've left me.

It's the invitations to graduation for kids I taught seven years ago.

This past week, I went to the movies with my family to see the latest Avengers flick. As we settled into our seats, I noticed a parent I knew. Then I saw her two children (one current, one former student). Another current student filed into the row with them. I sent a quick wave toward one of them, but when she didn't see me I just settled back into my chair.

Just a few moments later, one of the three kids noticed me and let out a little shriek of delight. They all came over to say hello with big smiles on their faces. My former student came all the way over and gave me a big hug. They weren't surprised to see me at a superhero movie - they know I'm a total geek. They were just thrilled to have the chance to get a quick moment with me during their non-school lives.

Yes, there may be children (and adults) lined up for hours to get a photo with Robert Downey, Jr. or Chris Evans. Yes, there are stores filled with costumes and action figures of this superhero team.

Still, I'll take my little slice of superherodom in the smiling faces of my students who are thrilled to see me both inside and outside of my classroom.

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

Monday, May 4, 2015

It's Monday - May the Fourth Be With You - What are you reading?

Happy Star Wars Day!

Welcome to my little corner of book heaven. Here's what I read the last two weeks. Don't forget to visit the lovely hosts of this meme - Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. There are links to a LOT of posts there!

The Epic Yarn idea is a cute one. They are board books, and each one represents the entire movie with a series of 12 images and a single word per page. 

I'm feeling a little touchy about the representation of the ladies in my science fiction this week, so I thought that that particular aspect could have used some improvement. (More details later)

On the whole, though, the word choices and scene choices are fabulous.  

Darth Vader and Friends is another adorable offering from Jeffrey Brown. He wins extra bonus points with me for including Boushh. This is for kids (and adults, let's be honest) who already love Star Wars. The "in jokes" would go way over the heads of people brand new to the franchise.

Check out the Guardian site - the Epic Yarns has a photo series about how they were created.


and Jeffrey Brown shows how to draw Darth Vader...


This upper elementary/ lower YA novel comes out this week. It's already circulating in my room with 5th graders and the kids made their own wait list. My 13 year old son also LOVED it. 

Out in June - full review later. This is a fabulous NFPB

Another adorable outing with Carl! It comes out in August. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

It's Monday April 20th - What are you reading?

Welcome to my little corner of book heaven. Here's what I read the last two weeks. Don't forget to visit the lovely hosts of this meme - Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. There are links to a LOT of posts there!

Cute picture book about knowing your own strengths - a car races trucks (comes out in May)

YES! I love Captain Marvel and this volume of comics was excellent.

Audiobook - the narrator was amazing. This story was SOOO good. It was my first A.S. King but it won't be my last.

I really enjoyed this dystopian future novel. Lots of feminist elements. The main character's way of speaking reminded me of the characters in Firefly.

Currently Reading:

Currently Listening to:

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Slice - A New, Old Hobby

As my boys are getting older, I've started shopping for hobbies. While I don't have a ton of free time yet, I know that the days are quickly approaching when I won't have my entire life consumed by homework monitoring and chauffeur duties.

I posted a plea on my Facebook page - asking friends to give me some ideas about what to try. A few are on the back burner for now..

I SWEAR I'll rejoin Teachers Write this summer and pull out all my old notes and try to get that going again.

I definitely want to find the time to take archery classes.

I plan to sign up for a volunteer session at a local(ish) bird rescue so I can learn more about raptors. They have always been a love and maybe I can also use that knowledge in my writing.

For now, though, I'm relearning a former hobby. In college, I took up crocheting. Oh, I know, I was a REAL party animal! It was soothing, and I got fairly good at it.

UntitledNow, I have no real desire to make baby blankets or crochet myself a dress. I've seen people making cute little creatures and people using crochet stitches, though. It's called "amigurumi", and that sounded like a great thing to try.

My first goal is to make a simple Princess Leia. I found a pattern that sounded like it was at reasonable skill level and started to reteach myself the stitches. Thank goodness for YouTube! I can find tutorials of ANYTHING there!

I bought cheap yarn and a set of hooks on Easter Monday. This photo is one of my early (last week) practices at doing the magic circle and stitching in a round that are required by amigurumi.

On Sunday I decided I remembered enough to purchase the actual yarn and materials I needed to make my first project. This cream colored yarn will become Leia's face.


By last night, I had gotten 15 rounds completed and started searching for videos on how to change colors. I had to stop here because I have to insert the safety eyes before I continue this section of the piece. I should receive my eyes today! I plan to work on the wig/buns this afternoon if I haven't gotten the eyes yet.

I found a few other simple patterns to use. Now I just have to figure out what to DO with these little guys once I make them. The first Leia will be mine, of course....

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

Monday, April 13, 2015

It's Monday April 13th - What are you reading?

Welcome to my little corner of book heaven. Here's what I read the last two weeks. Don't forget to visit the lovely hosts of this meme - Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. There are links to a LOT of posts there!

It's been a bit over a month since I posted about my reading life, so I won't go through all the books I've read in that time. I'm going to just pick a few to share!

Picture Books:
We got to celebrate Special Delivery Day

Middle Grade Graphic Novel
This one will rate a full review - once I can get it back from the line of students who are currently passing it around my classroom. 

Don't miss the Star Wars series that are out now. There's a Star Wars title, a Darth Vader, and this AMAZING one about the best princess ever.

Middle Grade Creepy

This series rocks, and the CLIFFHANGER on this one.... seriously! 

And more creepy.... bizarre and intricate and completely entrancing...

YA SteamPunk!

I'm on the third book in this series now - definitely for older readers (mature upper middle school or high school) due to a decent amount of hanky panky. SO FUNNY!

I also did a blog tour Q&A with Andy Griffiths to celebrate the publication of the 39 Story Treehouse!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

39-Story Treehouse Blog Tour and Q&A

My students are absolutely in love with the 13-Story Treehouse and the 26- Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths. It's just the right mix of adventure and silly fun, combined with amazing illustrations. They kept asking me to find out when the next book would be released.

Thankfully, I can tell them that way will soon be over! April 7th - just TWO days from this posting - is the day that we can all rejoice in another huge dose of excitement and creativity with the debut of...

I love to create questions for these author interviews, but I knew my son and students would want to have the privilege this time. I asked them to tell me what THEY wanted to know and zipped those questions off to Andy Griffiths' publisher.

What secret insights did he share? Read on to find out!

1) What will happen when the treehouse gets too heavy for the tree? (Or what is it that is keeping the treehouse from falling?)

We will add a new level in the treehouse which contains a bigger and much stronger tree and then we’ll move all the existing levels of the treehouse into our new tree and everything will be okay again. 

2) Where do you get your ideas for the rooms and characters?

I make a long list of lots of crazy/silly things that I think it might be funny to have in a treehouse. Then I read the list out to various groups of children and see which ones they like the most. Gradually, I edit the list down from 50-100 possible levels to the 13 most entertaining ones. Once I have a good idea of the levels the story and the characters often emerge from these. 

3) Why do you count by 13s? (This was the most frequently asked question!)

When I first asked Terry to draw a picture of a treehouse I asked him to draw one with a bowling alley and a tank full of man-eating sharks. He really got carried away and in addition to these levels he added eleven more. So we ended up with a picture of a 13 level treehouse which I knew we just HAD to write about. We had so much fun doing the first one (The 13-Story Treehouse) that we decided to double it and add another 13 levels to make The 26-Story Treehouse … and after that we added another 13 levels to make The 39-Storey Treehouse. 

4) Will you go beyond "39" stories?

Definitely! There will be a 52-story treehouse as well as a 65-story treehouse … and who knows how many more after that!?

5) If you could pick only 13 rooms for your very own treehouse, what would they be?

A bowling alley, a tank full of man-eating sharks, an anti-gravity chamber, a maze of doom, the world’s scariest rollercoaster, a chocolate waterfall, a see-through swimming pool, a baby dinosaur petting zoo, an invisible level, a chainsaw juggling room, a watermelon smashing room, a boxing elephant called THE TRUNKINATOR and a volcano for toasting marshmallows.

So, there you have it my friends! Straight from the horse's.... err... author's mouth.

Don't forget to pick up the 39-Story Treehouse from your favorite bookstore this week!

Interested in more interviews with Andy Griffiths? The School Library Journal ran a fun one with him about a year ago... 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Must Read in 2015 -- First Quarter Update

I carefully selected a Must Read in 2015 list. A few titles ended up on the list after NOT getting read in 2014. A few are to help me meet the Pop Sugar Challenge.

For my full list - check out this post: http://www.mariaselke.com/2015/01/must-read-in-2015.html

Read so far...  (12 done of 39) 

Jump started....

I read these two in November 2014. I had already decided to put them on my list, so I'm still counting them.
Feed - Maybe closer to 2.5 - mostly due to the audiobook narrator. I just couldn't take all the "duuuudes" and the valley girl style slang. It's a shame - I was really looking forward to this one. The premise is fascinating, but I didn't feel like the things I really wanted to hear about got expanded on enough.

Poisoned Apples: Fascinating poems on feminism. I loved the fairy tale allusions. As always with a book of poems, some of them I liked better than others. Still, totally worth the time and attention to read these.

January 2015: Just like last year, my first month was extremely productive for this challenge.

Beautiful writing and creepy illustrations were the perfect combination for this retelling.

Surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. Were there unrealistic aspects? Sure. But the hook of "what's going on here?" kept me going. This book was on my book gap list for 2013 AND my Must Read in 2014 list. I FINALLY read it!

I read this one for Cybils too, which is why there wasn't a star rating. I liked it a lot, but wasn't nearly as impressed as everyone else seemed to be. (probably a 3.5)

Listened to this one. I really liked it, but maybe all the extreme praise it got had my expectations too high and it didn't hit "5 star" for me.

Very cool premise. I definitely enjoyed this one, and the description of "Sherlock + Doctor Who" was the hook for me.

So glad I made the time for this title! I listened to it, and Tim Federle was the perfect narrator.

Yet another title I kept meaning to read, and thoroughly enjoyed. I love the fact that this dragon based fantasy won a Schneider!

February: My pace slowed down more than a bit this month. I read a lot, but less from my Must Read list.

Another audiobook. Sometimes the narrator doesn't do it for me - and that was the case with this one. Still, the premise is so fascinating! "EOs" - will they use their power for good or evil?

I LOVE THIS SERIES! *coughs* Sorry, but I really do. The perfect blend of mystical and mythical. I love the boys in this series, and I absolutely adore Blue. The author, though... she's my hero.

Hysterical! Definitely for older teens, as there is some hanky panky. I love the mix of steampunk and a unique twist on vampires, ghosts, and weres.

I'm doing well on the Pop Sugar challenge, too... just a few more categories to go!

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