Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lulu Series by Judith Viorst

I've vowed this summer to really get to know early chapter books.  I'm hoping to know them well enough to recommend them to the students I support in reading.  I know I need to know the characters, the story, the author's message, the supports and the challenges.  I know I'm hoping to find books that will help step these readers into other books.

One of the series I enjoyed this summer has been around for a bit, Lulu written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Lane Smith.  You've likely already read them yourself.  Though this series is a bit more challenging than most of my readers will be able to manage independently, I think it has a lot of potential for read aloud.  As a classroom teacher I see it as being perfect for read aloud at the end of second or beginning of third grade when readers could more easily understand the change in voice as the author breaks into the story to add her own two cents.  I'd also recommend it to parents looking for a longer read aloud to enjoy with their children each evening.  It seems reading the first one would set readers to read the second and third independently.

I just fell in love with spunky Lulu.  She's quite a difficult child and is used to getting her way.  She's not going to go out of her way to make things easier for anyone.  In all three books she struggles with wishes of other characters and has to learn to change her ways to get what she wants.  Lulu grows up a bit in each story.  I think young readers could identify with Lulu and the books would offer opportunities for some great discussion.  There are three books in this series:

Lulu and the Brontosaurus:  In this story, Lulu wants a pet of her own.  When her parents refuse to get her a brontosaurus for her birthday, she leaves home to find one herself.  Of course, she gets more than she bargained for in the brontosaurus she hopes to take home.  It seems he too thinks having a pet is a perfect idea --- and that Lulu would make just the right pet for him.  

Lulu Walks the Dogs:  Lulu needs a little extra spending money so she decides to walk dogs to make money.  Lulu, of course, is only concerned about making money and really doesn't care much about the pets themselves.  The dogs provide plenty of challenge as Lulu just hopes to check these jobs off her list and receive a little pay.  Fleischman, a boy all the neighbors love, tries to help Lulu, but she's not really interested in his advice.  Will Lulu ever learn?

Lulu Mysterious Mission:  Lulu is infuriated when her parents decide to take a trip without her.  To add insult to injury they plan to leave her with a babysitter.  Lulu pulls out all the stops and throws her usual temper tantrums to force her parents too come home.  However, Lulu has met her match in Ms. Sonia Sofia Solinsky who specializes in dealing with especially difficult children.  Is Ms. Solinsky all she appears to be?

These three books were such fun to read.  I hope I'll get to read more about Lulu soon!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

It's Almost Time for the 5th Annual #cyberPD Book Discussion

It's almost time.  Beginning July 6th educators from near and far will gather together virtually to discuss this year's #cyberPD title, Digital Reading:  What's Essential by Franki Sibberson and Bill Bass.  Hosted each July; this is our fifth #cyberPD global book talk.

Laura Komos, Michelle Nero, and I are looking forward to discussing this book with the #cyberPD community.  Everyone is welcome!  Digital Reading:  What's Essential can be purchased through NCTE.  Each year the selected professional book is divided into three sections for discussion.  Participants read, share and connect with one another across the event.  The event is wrapped up in a final Twitter chat.  We're excited to announce that the authors will be joining us for this final chat on Tuesday, July 28th at 8 p.m. EST.

In five years the #cyberPD community has grown from less than 15 participants to over 100.  The strength of this event has always been in the community.  There's something about reading a book, sharing your thinking, and then responding to others participating.  Seeing the thinking from the perspectives of others and growing these conversations pushes the learning exponentially.

In the past, the discussion has moved across blogs.  Having a blog was essential in having a space to share your thinking, but our move to a Google Community has opened the door for participants to respond directly on the community page.

July's Professional Book Chat:  #cyberPD
  • Week of July 6th:  Read Chapter 1 & 2, digital response by 7/9
  • Week of July 13th:  Read Chapters 3-5, digital response by 7/16
  • Week of July 23rd:  Read Chapters 6 & 7, digital response by 7/23 
  • Final Twitter Chat with authors Franki Sibberson & Bill Bass:  Tuesday, July 28th at 8 p.m. EST
***Educators in Hilliard City Schools will be discussing the assigned chapters each week on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberPD.  These chats will take place each Thursday at 10 a.m. EST.  If you do not teach in the district, you are still welcome to join these weekly conversations.  

How to Participate

  • Join the #cyberPD Google Community to connect and receive updates 
  • Read the selected chapters each week 
  • Respond digitally to each section by the Thursday of the assigned week
  • Thursday - Saturday take time to reply on at least 3 participant responses
Ways to Respond
  • Respond on your blog and link your post to the Google Community or
  • Post your thinking directly in the #cyberPD Community or
  • Create a digital response and post it in the Google Community 
  • You can also share thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberPD 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Trust Your Voice, Share Your Story

A few weeks ago Julie Johnson, Deb Frazier and I led a session in our district on digital learning.  As I walked around the room while teachers worked, one of my colleagues and friends called me over.  "How did you get started with digital learning?" he asked.  This is always a tough question to answer because it was really the perfect storm of a lot of events all at the same time.  For me, I think the more I found myself living in the world of digital literacy, the more I thought my students needed to get there too.  I just started reaching out digitally, and soon found myself purposefully a part of our digital world.  I knew my students needed these same opportunities.

It was a smart question, but one I grapple with articulating an answer for every time it is asked.  Finally I said, I think my biggest steps were when I started blogging.  Blogging pushed me to be thoughtful about my message, to connect with other educators, and to participate in the educational conversations that take place in digital spaces.  "Who wants to know what I'm thinking?" he asked.  I hear this all of the time, and it always makes me pause.  Why don't educators feel they have a voice?  Why don't educators feel like what they say matters?  As I looked at him, I knew there were a million things I wanted to know about his classroom, his transition from his work as a literacy coach back into the classroom, his practice, his challenges and his successes.  I know with absolute certainty he has a story.

For the next two weeks I am working with the Columbus Area Writing Project.  There are probably close to thirty people working in small groups.  Each group is writing around a particular topic.  Our group has been working on pieces around digital literacy.  Over and over again we come back to that conversation of owning your story.  In a room full of strong professionals working in a variety of situations, most teachers don't trust their voice.  The educators in the room are full of interesting questions, thoughts, and ideas, but don't trust the significance of their message.  "Write with authority" has become the mantra.  Who better to tell your story than you?

In a world full of politicians and media telling the story of education, I'm grateful to the bloggers who put their stories out there.  I'm grateful for the moments when I read a blog and feel like I've stepped into a classroom.  I'm grateful for the educators who share the way they work, their struggles and their successes.  I'm grateful to educators who talk about the professional books they read and the way these will impact the work they do with children.  I'm grateful to the educators who are willing to take a risk and share their story.

Maybe your story isn't about education.  Maybe you have a different story that needs to be understood.  My hope is that somebody reading this who is doubting that they have a story will be willing to share it with the rest of us.  Just think about the number of stories waiting to be told.  Just think about the number of stories lost because of doubt.  Yes, I'm talking to you.  Please share your story.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Digilit Sunday: MobileMonet

I often like to use images when composing.  In poetry, essay, and other writing forms I find adding digital images can create mood, help readers know more, and make a piece more visually appealing.  Using my own photos makes it easier to get just the right image for my message and keeps me from having to search for correctly copyrighted work.

As a blogger I rely on digital images to help create interest in a piece so having ways to play with images to make them stronger is something I like to be able to do.  I am always on the lookout for photo apps that help me to work in new ways.  Recently I stumbled upon MobileMonet.  I have been playing with it and love the artistic look it gives an image.  I think it will be perfect for creating images for poetry and changing the look of a picture for blog posts.

MobileMonet is easy to use.  You import your picture, choose the best artistic look  for your photo, and save to the location of your choice.  MobileMonet shares easily with many social media applications.  

Here are a few before and after images:

The app is $1.99.  I rarely pay for an app - I'm cheap like that.  This app was worth every penny.

As part of a continuous collaboration among educators interested in digital learningMargaret Simon hosts a weekly Digital Learning round-up on her blog:  DigiLit Sunday.  Stop by Reflections on the Teche (today's link-up) to read, discover, and link.  

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Mother Reader's 48 Hour Challenge: Finish Line

This weekend I have been participating in Mother Reader's 48 Hour Book Challenge.  When I woke up Saturday it was raining and looked like it could rain all day.  The perfect day for reading.  My house was a mess and really needed a good cleaning.  The perfect day for procrastinating so it was obviously just the right weekend for the challenge.  (and my apologies for the lack of photos and links...we are out of data.  As soon as I get to free WIFI I will update.)

With a graduation party, Father's Day, a lot of home to-dos, and some planned time with friends, I wasn't sure I was going to make it.  I didn't reach my goal of 14 hours, but I did manage to read for 12.9 hours.  I started at 11:30 Friday night (and promptly fell asleep) and am ending at 9:30 on Sunday.  In past challenges I counted networking, but this year my total is straight book reading time.  

One of my goals this summer is to build my familiarity with early chapter books.  I want to read as many as I can, get to know their level of difficulty, gain understanding of their story, and create a bank of books I can recommend to my young readers.  I have decided to focus on series books as there seems to be some correlation between putting readers In a series they like and their reading growth.  For the challenge I decided to read a few of these titles.

Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot by Anna Branford and illustrated by Elanna Allen.  This is the first book in a series and will be at the top of my recommendation list.  I really enjoyed it.  As I read this book I couldn't get away from thinking about what a great read aloud it would be with its strong character, its hints at strategies for solving problems, and its voice.  This would be a good book to read aloud setting kids up to read subsequent books in the series.

In this story, Violet goes with her mom to the market one day.  Her mom sells some of her knitting there.  Violet spies a beautiful blue china bird at another table. The bird is $10.  Violet needs a brilliant plot to be able to buy it.  With some outside the box thinking, maybe she can find a way. 

This book will surely be on my list to recommend to my second graders as they are ready.  The structure of the story, the make up of the characters, and the arrangement of text with occasional illustrations will surely support them as they read.  There is a bit of vocabulary to figure out, but the text supports this as they can be figured out by use of context.  They are also often repeated.  There are snippets in text in which character feeling is understood by inferring analogies provided by the author.  Would make for interesting conversation.  

Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen.  This is another book on my list for recommendation to students transitioning to chapter books.  Mercy, a pig, lives inside the house with Mr. and Mrs. Watson.  One night Mercy sneaks into bed with The Watsons.  All are dreaming peacefully when the bed starts to shake and fall through the floor.  Is it an earthquake? What will happen to them?  

This book is part of a series and perfect for those first steps into chapter books.  The larger text may feel more comfortable for readers beginning to make this transition.  The larger text also makes moving through the book feel faster and the illustrations make the book appealing.  While I'm not sure I'd consider it a mystery, it does have that mystery-like feel as you try to figure out what has made the bed start to fall through the floor and wonder if Mercy will be able to save the day.  Some of my readers who enjoy mystery would probably like this book.  I know my animal lovers would love it, for sure.

During this time I also enjoyed Lulu Walks the Dog by Judith Viorst (loved it...talk about a great read aloud), Magic Bones:  Be Careful What You Sniff by Nancy Krulik, and All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (a five tissue read - out of five tissues, but worth every tear).  I also got a bit further in my professional reading.

Thanks, Mother Reader, for hosting again.

Mother Reader's 48 Hour Book Challenge

This weekend I will be joining Mother Reader's 10th Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge.  This will be my fourth year to join to the fun. It looks like the perfect weekend for reading as it is raining outside again.  

I hit the starting line at 11:30 last night and fell asleep fifteen minutes later so let's hope I get a little better at staying awake to read.  Unlike all the participants I forgot to consider snacks which is probably better in the long run.  

The first book up is Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot.  

See you at the finish line.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Mother Reader's 48 Hour Book Challenge

I've just finished picking up books from the library, and loading my Kindle with books, for Mother Reader's 10th Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge.  This will be my fourth year to join to the fun.  Participants have a window beginning June 19th and ending June 21st to get started reading for 48 hours.  The goal is to read as much as you can during those 48 hours.  There is a 12 hour minimum participation to be eligible for prizes.

In the past, I've used this event to kick off my summer reading.  This year the event is a bit later so I'm already off and running, but will work to make reading a priority this weekend.  As I've done in the past I will push the middle grade line a bit and spend much of my time focusing on chapter books for young readers.  I'm always trying to get acquainted with more of the possibilities for students.  I will pepper in a professional read and a most likely a bit of YA as well....unless I change my mind.  ;o)

I'll be picking between some of these titles:

I'm thinking I will kick off my reading Saturday morning, but we will see.  I will be keeping my time using Amazon's Book Time on my Kindle again this year.  I just can't find an app from iTunes that allows me to time reading sessions and record titles in this way.  I'm open to suggestions.  I hope you'll consider joining this fun event to celebrate summer reading.