Monday, February 13, 2012

Win-Win Situation! Our School Benefits From Public Library Surplus!

    I am so thankful for a recent opportunity that rolled around for our school book room! Each year, the Williamsburg Regional Library buys numerous copies of the Battle of the Books texts so that many copies of the books can be in circulation during the busy prep months for 4th and 5th grade students. After the competition, the library has more copies than it needs to keep in circulation of the texts. 

   The children's services department allowed local schools to come out and obtain sets of books so that they may be given a second life in an instructional way. The library gave away the titles as whole sets, ranging from 8-15 books in each set. Fellow teachers at our school graciously came out on their own time to help pick up books for our school, too! :) I am very grateful to them for their support! 

   MW teachers, I will be shelving books as complete sets over the next couple of weeks. (I put two sets on the fourth grade shelf today! :) They will either be a part of the 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade collections, depending upon the difficulty of the text. Although a few are titles we do own, they will serve as much needed replacement copies of worn texts, or help beef up the size of a set. Here are the titles that we were able to acquire. You can click on the titles to learn more about the books. Enjoy!

The Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman 
The Middle of Somewhere by J. B. Cheaney
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
The Captain's Dog by Roland Smith  
The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty Birney
Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone
Fish in Room 11 by Heather Dyer
Juliet Dove, Queen of Love by Bruce Coville 
Walking to the Bus Rider Blues by Harriette Robinet
Romona's World by Beverly Cleary  
Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie Tolan
Kneeknock Rise by Natalie Babbitt
Mr. Chickee's Funny Money by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Seven Professors from Far North by John Fardell
A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck



Sunday, February 12, 2012

Multicultural Resources and Texts: Just a Click Away!

      Are you looking for some multicultural book selections that you can pull up on your computer in just a couple of clicks? You do want to add a little spice to read aloud time up by showing an electronic version of a trade book text on your computer projection screen? I have found some gems for you!

     Two of my favorite and FREE sites for online trade books is Tumblebooks and the We Give Books Foundation.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
(Dial, 2012) 

     This true story is about a boy named William who is fourteen years old and lives in Malawi. At the time, the people of his village were struggling with a drought and losing their crops. William overcomes great challenges by going to the library and studying how he could recycle materials that he had access to in order to create a windmill. This windmill brought electricity to William's village and became a hero to his community. This book is based on the adult version of the book with the same name, which was a New York Times bestseller.

The Hallelujah Flight by Phil Bilner 
(Putnam Juvenile, 2010)

     Here is a video "sneak peek" about The Hallelujah Flight that was constructed as a project by fourth and fifth grade students at Caldwell Heights Elementary School in Round Rock, Texas. Here's the YouTube clip: 

Tumblebooks - This site is a subscription site. However, if you go to Williamsburg Regional Library website (in Virginia), they have a subscription to the site, and you can enter the site by clicking on the library's name here.

Here are a just a few samples of the various titles that you can find on Tumblebooks:

Bebe Goes Shopping by Susan Middleton Eyla
(Sandpiper, 2008)

     This rhyming text shares a visit to a grocery store between a toddler and his mother. If you visit Harcourt Brace's official page for Bebe Goes Shopping, you will be able to see and share a bilingual dictionary based on language from the text. For those of you who love to share how authors and illustrators draft and plan their real work, there are draft illustrations that you can share with the children as well.  Tumblebooks also has a games page to go with this text. You can play Spell Hop and Word Search in addition to watching and listening to the book. 

Suki's Kimono Written by: Chieri Uegaki and Illustrated by: Stephanie Jorish
(Kids Can Press, 2005)
   Suki's favorite thing to wear is her kimono, and she is proud to share her love of her culture and memories she shared with her obachan (grandmother.) Her enthusiasm leads her to share about a special dance with her classmates. Suki's has the best first day of school ever because of her pride of sharing her culture. You can look at the book through Google Books as well.  

I Love Saturdays y Domingos
Written by Alma Flor Ada and Illustrated by Elivia Savadier
(Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2004)

     The granddaughter in this book is surrounded by the love of both sets of her grandparents on the weekends. On Saturdays, she visits with her grandparents on one side of the family, and on Domingos (Sundays), she visits the grandparents on the other side of her family who speak Spanish. Alma Flor Ada has written numerous children's books that celebrate Hispanic culture. Be sure to check out more of her titles at her website and the library!

   Here is a bonus! One of my favorite sites about early literacy, Reading Rockets, which is from WETA, the PBS station in Washington D.C.  This video is an interview posted by Reading Rockets and it is a little over 13 minutes long. It gives great insight into how she learned English and became an author. Be sure to explore her many other texts for a great author's study of her style of crafting writing. 

    Reading Rockets also has an excellent section to celebrate Black History Month, which you can explore by clicking here. There are additional video interviews with authors, book lists, activity suggestions, and sources of background information. Be sure to bookmark and explore the bounty of information here. :)


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Some Suggestions for Mentor Texts to Highlight Voice in Writing

     Our school division is embracing the 6 +1 Traits of Writing. The traits were developed by author Ruth Culham. Currently, our school is focusing on learning more about highlighting the trait of voice. Voice is the way writing comes alive! It sounds like the writer or the main character is sharing his or her story right in person. There's nothing dull or plain about it, and it grabs your interest. It's clear what the author's purpose is with the writing as well. Writing has a great voice when an author adds descriptive vocabulary, gives a story a unique spin, and brings a heartbeat to the writing!

     I've listed a few of my favorite examples to highlight voice in a variety of ways. Please click on the book titles or author names for links to more information about them. :)  

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson 
Told in a first person voice, the story is expressive and there is a honest voice present that kids can identify with. The book has its own website at: One of my favorite websites for writing instruction inspiration, Writing Fix, has a lesson where Enemy Pie is used with other traits that are focused on: ideas and organization. You can view it through Williamsburg Regional Library's subscription to Tumblebooks storybooks online. Also, you can watch it being read aloud on the Storyline website:


Alice the Fairy  by David Shannon 
Scholastic, who publishes many of Culham's professional resources, has an example voice lesson posted on its website that you can access by clicking here. You can go directly to a three page PDF of mini-charts from Scholastic through this lesson as well. You can show the charts under the document camera, paraphrase them on a larger chart intermingled with class comments about the book, or keep as a growing anchor collection of mini-charts for the classroom. 

This Is Your Life Cycle by Heather Miller 
This book is told in a game show format, "hosted" by Bob Beetle. Miller writes in the voice of Bob, and the author creates a clear, distinctive character that sounds just like you are sitting in the audience. It grabs the attention of the reader and they stay tuned for the whole "episode!" Great texts to connect this story to are Harry Bliss's Diary of a Worm/Spider/Fly trio.

The Night I Followed the Dog By Nina Laden 
This is a first person narrative of an evening of a boy investigating a night in his dog's life, which leads to many surprises! You can read the entire text online through Tumblebooks courtesy of Williamsburg Regional Library.

Thank-You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco - This is a memoir from Polacco's childhood.  Her voice of worry, being upset, and relief as a student who struggled as a reader come out clearly in the word choice throughout the story.  Polocco is a master storyteller because her voice is authentic and knowing. I highly recommend doing an author study on Patricia Polacco. Her texts that are written as memoirs show how everyone has a story to tell and a voice to share. As I say, she "makes the ordinary extraordinary just by writing it down!" 


One Green Apple by Eve Bunting
Bunting wrote this story as an internal conversation spoken by the main character who is trying to find her words and confidence in English. It's an interesting way to look at a book where the main character is literally seeking to find her own voice. Eve Bunting, who is one of my favorite authors to do an author study with students, writes in a distinct style that helps the reader understand this character's perspective in a wonderful way. When she does indeed find her voice, it is clear that she is empowered and has unlocked the power of sharing your own voice.

Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter
In this book, a girl named Eva searches for ideas for writing.  The voices of characters are distinct throughout the book as each gives their advice for Eva about writing. The advice includes ideas such as  to watch around yourself carefully, don't neglect the details, "try to find the poetry in your pudding" (use words in a new way), stretch the truth when needed, and make something happen rather than waiting for it. You can also tie in discussing character traits as each character is distinct in this text. Check out a great guide for a lesson on one of my favorite sources of inspiration for writing lessons. This site is called Writing Fix, and the lesson also features two more traits of discussing ideas and word choice. Scholastic also features a lesson on their teacher resources section of their website.

I will post about more texts that are great for voice and various traits throughout the year, so stay tuned! :)