Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mysteries and Chronicles...

So the book fair has rolled into our media center at school, and well, most would guess that I would be super excited. I mean books, books, and more books and all! The truth is that as much as I love perusing the shelves to see all the new books I can put my hands on, usually I tend to get a little on the jealous side as the book fair in the media center means less points for our class. Yes, I know - how petty, but you don't think that I buy those thousands and thousands of books in my room all by my little ol' self do you?! 

No worries though! I completely forgive the book fair this year! I have already set a small box aside - no judging allowed here! But really...the pièce de résistance (did you read that with a French accent because I typed it with a French accent ;) any~who...the pièce de résistance of the book fair this year is one Mr. Chris Van Allsburg. Holy Moly! I feel as if I have been living under a rock. Why did I not know all about The Chronicles of Harris Burdick? I loved The Mysteries of Harris Burdick! Chronicles was released in October of 2011, so having just now having set my greedy paws upon it, I feel a little behind the times. 

I am giggling now as I type this, but I swear to you it was like a light from above shone down on this book, guiding me straight to it. My sharp intake of breath probably startled everyone around me. I grabbed that book up and looked for the closest person to share with. Quickly walking (because no running in the hallways at school lol) I made a beeline for the lounge looking for a kindred soul to share my excitement in the release of a followup text for The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. All I found were looks of amusement as teachers tried hard to be as excited (or care even) as much as I did. Finally, our GT teacher walked in the lounge for a snack, and I cornered her. Yes, she had read The Mysteries...I couldn't get her to the media center quick enough! Seeing her excitement, I knew I found a kindred soul. 

The introduction to The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. 

Chris Van Allsburg is beyond amazing in his illustrating. I have had his portfolio addition of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick framed in my room for years.

Over the years I have had many students create wonderful stories using these illustrations! Now, I can share The Chronicles of Harris Burdick as a followup to their own writing, and we can read what some pretty famous authors envisioned as they created stories from his illustrations.

I promise you I smiled ear-to-ear forever that afternoon. Just look how powerful sharing something you are passionate about can be! I want the same for my kiddos! 

That leads me to the next great find, and interestingly enough, yet another reason I forgive the book fair from taking points from us this year, wink wink. Our media specialist received one copy of Steven Layne's book Igniting a Passion for Reading: Successful Strategies for Building Lifetime Readers. Whew! What a mouthful of a title, but just what I want for every kiddo that steps through my door. As of right now, I have not completely finished it, but I have enjoyed what I have read so far! Reminds me a lot of The Book Whisperer.

Here is a peek at my kiddos as they enjoy their own passion for reading and writing. I love watching them as they spread out around the room and enjoy a good book! Students are reading, responding to reading, or writing during this time. Most days only a few students have to be redirected, and my most favorite sound in the world has to be the groans and sighs as I tell students it is time to clean up and pack up! Most students want to stay right where they are, reading and writing! LOVE THAT!



Now we have had a hit whirlwind pace as we have tackled sensory detail and figurative language. All of if has been leading us to writing our own narrative story, and we start planning and writing our own personal experiences Monday! We have already shared many narratives as we have studied the craft of writing, and now we will go back and dig deep looking at these narratives.





Just look at all of the exceptional narratives we have already shared. The Silver Swan and The Orange Shoes both made me tear up. So moving! Because we have already spent some time with these texts, bringing them back out and revisiting them will allow us to look at what makes a narrative "a narrative" without taking up to much time. This will also allow us to read and enjoy a few more selections... Sister Anne's Hands by Marybeth Lorbiecki is a sweet and touching story of acceptance, so although our main focus is looking at the narrative structure of the text, we will not miss out on the opportunity to talk about the theme of the story as well. Just about anything written by Patricia Polacco makes an excellent narrative pieces worth sharing! When Lightning Comes in a Jar is beautifully written and illustrated. I love sharing this story because of the connections we can make with Fireflies! by Julie Brinkloe, another sweet narrative that is easily connected to by most kids. In all honesty, I am sure when I pull out Polacco's narrative, most of my kiddos will be almost as familiar with it. She is such a favorite of third grade, but I can't help but to share her stories again!


As we continue to share and revisit personal narratives, we will begin planning and drafting our own. When we begin, it will be important for us to look at narrowing our topic. Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee and The Screaming Mean Machine by Joy Cowley are two of my favorite ways to do this! I tell my kids to think small, but write big!                    

We have done a lot of gathering seed ideas and studying author's craft, leading up to our first narratives. We should be thoroughly prepared. "Should" being the key word, lol. 

We are still working just as diligently in our reading as we build stamina. Here is a quick summarizing strategy that I shared with my kiddos this past week. I saw it online a number of years ago, so I wish I knew who to give credit to. I am also really loving the "Someone, who, but, then, so" organizer all over Pinterest right now. I shared that with my kiddos as well, and they picked up both very easily. Most of our reading lessons will come from our writing mentors this week. We will continue, always, to look at theme, but we will also touch on story elements. We will even further look at breaking down plot elements and refer not only to our mentor texts but to our read aloud as well.

One of our fun little read alouds this week, because you always need one just for fun, was Chicken Big by Keith Graves. Great hyperbole to wrap up our figurative language study! The smallest chicken had us all cracking up! We made lots of fun predictions with this one, too! 
Last week was the first week for us to actually have assigned homework, so I enjoyed sharing this little beauty! Greatest Homework Excuse Book Ever by the fourth grade students of Sycolin Creek Elementary was a perfect discussion board for what it means to be responsible for your own actions. This was also an easy discussion in theme.
Just look at all those mentor texts! Wow! Lots of reading! far ~ just wait ~ more to come!
What would the love of reading be without sharing! 
Seems that I have been pretty long-winded tonight ladies and gents. I am guessing that if you have made it this far, I am lucky, and it would behoove me to wrap it up. :)

So on that note, have an awesome week all, and of course....Happy Reading!

Follow on Bloglovin

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

When I was little,

When I was little, we couldn't jump on our laptop and blog away our days and nights! ;) Boy, am I glad I am not little anymore. Oh wait...I mean I am glad to be older. No, that's not it LOL...wish I was still a little bit little hehe, but glad to be a bit more grown up, sometimes, wink wink!

We have jumped in to complex sentence structures with both feet! The grammarian in me just LOVES teaching this! Well, I should say the grammarian-wanna-be! Lord knows, there was a time that teaching complex sentence structures made my head hurt and my eyes cross. That was until I spend one summer afternoon at the workshop of Mr. Jeff Anderson, aka "the write guy." Yes, I know I repeat myself at times, but I promise you that his wonderful book Mechanically Inclined changed my teaching life; can you hear the sigh? I swear I should get paid as his agent or something as much as I brag on his work, but all the same, I am thankful to have found it. Sadly enough, I have become a "write-guy groupie" of sorts, and if he ever makes it close enough, I go out of my way to make it to one of his workshops. 

I now look forward to this part of writing, and we have a ton of fun with it! So much so that I almost feel smart enough to call myself a grammarian. Just don't look to closely at all that I have written here. ;)

Well now... how was that for a rabbit trail? Anyway, let's just say that there are plenty of "aaahhhhwwwwheewwbuuusss" howls happening in our room right now. Actually, that is our fun way of saying AAAWWUBBIS, which is an mnemonic device to help my kiddos recognize subordinating conjunctions and dependent clauses, comma causers: although, after, as, when, while, until, because, before, if, and since. 

One of the fun lessons in his book Mechanically Inclined refers to When I Was Little by Jamie Lee Curtis as a gentle introduction to the ever-so-lovely subordinating conjunction, and luck of all luck, wouldn't you know I already had the book. After reading the book, I display some of my own when I was little thoughts, and we discuss what we notice about the sentences. This truly is an easy bridge into complex sentences, and it is so simple that it's genius! The fun part is listening to their ideas of "when I was little." So cute, my kiddos!
All of this opens the door to the idea of independent clauses, dependent clauses, and comma causers, and builds the habit of looking for where to put the comma if they happen to use one of these words in their writing, which is what we want, right?! We have fun with the poem on the first few days, and trudge through those first looks of furrowed-brow, open-mouth confusion until the light bulbs start glowing, the brow relaxes a bit, and the slack mouth forms into smiles as they see just how easy it can be. Don't you just love seeing those light bulbs start glowing!


As the students publish their finished pieces, I will share them here. If you have any of your own when I was little thoughts, please share them here. I would love to share them with the class!
This is another fun mentor text that I will pull out
later to review  and practice :) You should see the
responses for this one! 

I have started reading homework this week to a chorus of boos, but for the most part, I think they are getting used to the idea as they see my expectations. It doesn't take long for most to see that I am not trying to torture them; yes I know, believe it or not! In discussing our expectations, we have reviewed common reading strategies that help on those benchmark like passages. Definitely NOT my favorite kind of reading, but it has to be done I guess. If it were up to me, we would all sit around in comfy chairs that are in cozy places and read whatever we wanted as long as our hearts content! But I guess they didn't ask me, LOL.

I only have one little picture book to share today. Can you believe?

Where's My Mummy? by Carolyn Crimi was one of the sweet (cheap) little finds I found on my minute hour long run into Books-a-Million. I really didn't buy it so much to read aloud, but rather just to add to my library. As soon as the kids saw it though, their begging and pleading won out, and I read it aloud. The pleasant surprise was all of the wonderful alliteration and onomatopoeia in it. So yet again, I planned that!

With little baby mummy, I shall say goodnight! Happy Reading!

Follow on Bloglovin

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My shelf runneth over

Here is the question of the day...If a person knows they may very well need an intervention, then do they really need an intervention? Probably, but I'll just keep closing my eyes and pretending I am perfectly normal. Everyone thinks exactly like me, and everyone thinks this is heaven right here! I had lunch with my wonderful hubby yesterday. When I headed out to stop back by the school to finish up planning for the week, it seemed like a complete sin not to stop by one of my favorite places in the world, Books-A-Million. You know - just for a moment, just to look around, I will be in and out in a flash! Well, a minute turned into an hour. I mean - just look at all those sales tags! Whoo Hoo! Couldn't pass that up...found so many great titles that have me picturing some very specific kiddos in my class. Cannot wait to see their smiling faces when I share a great book talk (or two, or three, or...) Monday morning!

Just loving my great new additions to our library!

So here is where the whole intervention question comes to
play ~ these are all of the selections from our book order that
I had not  yet put away! Hmmm...No I think that's just fine! ;)

This is why I do what I do when it comes to buying new book selections for my class each year and then making such a fuss when the box comes in, genuinely showing them how excited I am to put my hands on the new books and share them. These kiddos couldn't get the books from me fast enough after our book talk, and they walked all the way out of the building reading! What a great billboard for the love of reading! LOVE it! On the flip side of all this book buying, where do I put all the books? Goodness, I have done some very creative shelf arranging and rearranging this week. Hence, my shelf runneth over! Somehow though, I know I could never have it any other way. I think my kiddos are already with me in secretly hoping our district hears our plea and valiantly offers to build onto our classroom. 

One of the great activities we did first thing this week was a sensory detail and simile writing with donuts. We shared examples of simile and reviewed all of the delicious sensory details for taste and smell. Students had to write about "the day Mrs. Dunn brought donuts to school." They each enjoyed their sticky pastry (you should have seen the pencils by the time we were finished :) and wrote using as many similes and sensory details as possible. Some of my favorite: my mouth watered like a waterfall, the golden brown pastry was calling my name, she cracked open the box with a pop and the class went wild, it melted in my mouth like cotton candy. What a great success this activity was!
All in all we had a very busy week, and I have shared many titles with you. We have read many more since and have some great selections coming up.

This first one does not count as one of my "picture book a day selections" because it is a graphic novel, but I am dying to share because of the author's note. You know how I love a good author's note!

What a shining example of why writers write! This will definitely be moved up to the launch of my writing workshop next year! For me, this is an amazing example that we all have a story to share! We all have the potential to be great writers!

In honor of National Talk Like a Pirate Day, we celebrated by reading Tough Boris by Mem Fox and then greeting each other as pirates. So fun! Arrgghh matey, I have surprisingly great pirates in my room. This book is also an amusing look at how the illustrations can play a critical role in carrying the story. Kathryn Browns illustrations really show a deeper side to Tough Boris.
We had such a blast looking at figurative language last week, and we have just a bit more to go! 


More Parts by Tedd Arnold and Who Let the Cat Out of the Bag? by the Fourth grade students of Newcastle Ave. Elementary are both an amusing look into idioms! We giggled and giggled, and then we had fun creating our own idiom masterpieces. Here are a few:




We giggled even more looking up the origin of some of the very common figures of speech we all use every day.  Here is a fun song with everyday idioms in it. :)                                                                                                                          

Zero is the Leaves on the Tree by Betsy Franco is another quick look at metaphor for us - such beautiful illustrations by Shino Arihara. We were singing fools as we looked at all the great metaphor and simile used in music. Students of course loved the Katy Perry song Firework shared in an earlier post. I just couldn't make them fall in love with this old school use of metaphor in this song. Hmmm...wonder why? It was a very catchy tune back in the day! I love Bette Midler's version, but they were NOT having that. I wanted to play it over and over just to see the looks of confusion and anguish on their faces, but I guess that would not have been very nice of me, hehehe.

That pretty much wraps up the figurative language focused on last week. We have even more ahead of us though!

Scarecrow by Cynthia Rylant, The Snow Speaks by Nancy White Carlstrom,  The Lonely Scarecrow by Tim Preston, and The Perfect Bear by Gillean Shields are great and perfectly seasonal examples of personification (Well, maybe all but The Snow Speaks). Because I have already read two of the four, we will be able to go back and look more closely at these texts without taking up too much time. We won't forget to revisit Red Sings from the Treetops.

The next books are a promise of outrageously fun and loud reading. I love hyperbole! You can always find tons of hyperbole in most any tall tale, but these are some of my faves!


Just look at that title: Steamboat Annie and the Thousand-Pound Catfish by Catherine Wright. I mean if that doesn't scream hyperbole, then I don't know what does! Library Lil by Suzanne Williams is another great example, and I will be excited to share my autographed copy! Yes, insert nerd giggles here! And oh how I love to pull out my country cowpoke accent for the Widdermaker by Pattie Schnetzler. Although I am not an official cowpoke of any sort, I do feel that being a southern Arkansas girl qualifies me as somewhat the expert of cowpoke accents. How loud and crazy we can be when reading hyperbole!


All of these great titles and the practice in sensory detail and figurative language are still leading us to our first narrative of the year. We will wrap up these studies soon to really start digging deep and getting ready to publish something personal to each of us. As we go through this process, I will write a personal narrative of my own to share and model. There are so very many amazing mentors in writing personal narratives. I will try to fit in a few each week that we work on our own. I will be starting with The Orange Shoes by Trinka Hakes Nobel, but I will also be using another wonderful title The Silver Swan by Michael Morpurgo. I love that this is from a young boys point of view and that it ties in so nicely to our study of The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White.
I feel as if I am rambling on and on about books, but of course, those of you that know me well, know that this is not a new trait. I have a few more to share to be caught up on some of last week's read alouds, and then I will wrap up this impossibly long post.

From our last book order, we had a few sweet little picture books that my kiddos could just not wait for me to read. Say Hello to Zorro! by Carter Goodrich is beyond adorable! Zorro cracks me up in his crankiness, but what a happy little ending. Great little text to revisit theme ~ acceptance is a wonderful thing!

Now I have professed my love of Melanie Watt and Scaredy Squirrel with you. You just cannot imagine how excited my kiddos were for me to share our new Melanie Watt book. You're Finally Here! played perfectly into our use of idioms and similes this week. Don't you just love it when it works out that way. That's when I wink and say I planned it. 
Alright, I think that is enough picture books to have me caught up for a bit. Now just to share a few personal things and then I am off to grade some papers.  I am loving my new welcome flag outside my room. It fits quite nicely with the one already at my door ~ now more than ever, we have Flamingos and Butterflies!
Friday Night Lights ~ without rain this week! Whoo hoo!

Fuzzy pics of my boys playing! First is Justin finally being taken down after running the ball for a first down, and the next is Joshua coming up with a recovered fumble giving the ball to the Eagles! This time just goes by so quickly.

So not only did Ms. Shewmaker, Katie Bird, and I conquer the climb in our latest 5K, Katie one first place in her age group! Love spending my time with these great girls; even if they do make me feel older than dirt sometimes.
That's it for me friends! I am off to get ready for another awesome week of learning!

Happy Reading!

Follow on Bloglovin