Come See Me at NCTE!


On Sunday, November 22nd I will be presenting at NCTE in Philadelphia.  I will be at the convention all day Sunday and I would love to meet up with any readers/blogging friends!  Leave a comment if you are around on Sunday.  :)

Also, be sure to stop by my session if you will be around.

Session title:
Engaging Middle School Students through Read Alouds and a Focus on Process, Craft, and Genre

My Speech title:
‘Read to Me, Please! Why We Must Share Read-Alouds in the Middle School Classroom’

Location:  Marriott/Grand Ballroom Salon K, 5th Floor

 

 

Session time: Sunday, November 22, 2009 8:30:00 AM to 9:45:00 AM

 

Other presenters:   Laurie Stowell and Erika Daniels- Reading and Writing: Process, Genre, and Craft

Suzanne Porath- Beyond the Role Sheets: New Structures for Literature Discussion Groups


A Place for Wonder by Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough

I rarely read books, especially professional books, aimed at the primary grades.  I often read those aimed at grades 3-5, but kindergarten is a good ways away from my 6th graders (even though there are days when they don’t feel that far apart in age!)

However, I absolutely love Georgia Heard so I knew I wanted to read A Place for Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades as soon as it was published. I use many of Heard’s ideas and resources in my poetry unit, so I knew her nonfiction ideas would be stellar. I was not wrong- this is a great book for any teacher interested in growing his/her students’s knowledge about writing nonfiction.

A Place for Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades discusses how to create a “landscape of wonder” in your classroom by sharing activities and anecdotes from Heard and McDonough (a 1st grade teacher). While the activities are aimed at the primary grades I was thrilled by how much I found I could use with my 6th graders with minimal tweaking. Students of all ages need to be infected with passion and wonder! Specifically, I foresee using a lot of the activities as introduction and immersion activities when we begin our research unit. Students are always more enthusiastic when they are writing about something they feel passionate about and McDonough and Heard have developed some amazing ways of drawing those passions out of them!

 

*Review copy courtesy of the publisher

Nonfiction Monday- Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin is one of my favorite books to use as a mentor text during the year. Needless to say I was ecstatic when I saw that it was being reissued in paperback next month! I just received my review copy and have to say it is wonderful. I love hardcovers, but sometimes it is nice to just have a paperback copy to keep with my notes and the unit that I use the book with.

I use Snowflake Bentley during my multigenre unit of writing because it is a wonderful example of multigenre writing. The inner portions of each page tell the narrative biography of Wilson Bentley, a Vermont farm boy who was fascinated by snowflakes. He spent his life photographing and studying these tiny flakes of snow. Many of his photographs are still used today! The story is biographical and reads as a narrative, so this would make a great read aloud for any age.

The outer edges of each page offer more information on snowflakes and the science used by Bentley. The sidebars read less like a story and more like interviews or informational text. However, both sets of text meld together almost seamlessly….it’s a phenomenal example of multigenre writing!

Not to mention, the woodcut illustrations are gorgeous, hence the book receiving the 1998 Caldecott Medal. Snowflake Bentley is a picture book that should be in all classroom libraries, from preschool to high school!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Dog Days by Jeff Kinney

To give you an idea of the popularity of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, let me tell you about the release of the book in my classroom. Scholastic Book Clubs ran a promotion where students could preorder the book and it would arrive on the release date with a free Wimpy Kid bookmark. When I offered this option to my class, 44 of them ordered the book! They paid with checks, bills, coins, you name it- everyone wanted a copy of the book. Then they proceeded to ask me 100 times per day if the books had arrived yet. When the box came (specially decorated with Wimpy Kid drawings), they were ecstatic! Needless to say, Jeff Kinney is practically a god in the eyes of my 6th graders and that has not changed since the release of the first Wimpy Kid book.

Due to my overwhelming amounts of Cybil reading, I did not get around to Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days until this weekend. I was thrilled when the middle grade panel was informed that Kinney’s latest book was being moved to our category. Now I had an excuse to read it!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days does not disappoint. It is just as funny as the first books in the series and had me laughing out loud over and over. Kinney is an expert on the voice of middle school boys. He gets in their heads better than almost any other author. One of my favorite parts of the book was when Greg’s mom starts a book club for the neighborhood boys.

When the boys bring copies of their favorite books (comics, nonfiction, etc), Mrs. Heffley tells them they aren’t real books and then brings out her favorites- Little Women, The Yearling, Old Yeller, and Anne of Green Gables. Obviously, the boys are horrified.

The are the exact same types of books our teachers are always pushing us to read at school.  They have a program where if you read a “classic” in your free time, they reward you with a sticker of a hamburger or something like that.

I don’t know who they think they’re fooling.  You can get a sheet of a hundred stickers down at the arts-and-crafts store for fifty cents.

And Greg’s definition of a “classic” sounds pretty much the same as my sixth graders’s definitions…

I’m not really sure what makes a book a “classic” to begin with, but I think it has to be at least fifty years old and some person or animal has to die at the end.

I admit, I was cracking up there!

Greg is spending the summer at home in this book because his parents can’t afford to go on vacation this year.  Of course, he ends up getting in more than enough scrapes.  But the best part is when he ends up with a dog.  Gosh knows I can sympathize with the sometimes annoying aspects of having a dog!  Greg is also getting older and that comes out a few times in the story.  He is in love with a high school girl, instead of a middle school girl, which is like a whole new world.  However, anyone who is familiar with Greg knows that nothing ever works out the way he planned it to.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days was not my favorite of the WImpy Kid books, but it does not disappoint. I laughed out loud more than a few times and my students laughed even more than I did. Definitely recommended for any fans of the Wimpy Kid series!

*Cybils nominee

*Personal copy

Lincoln and His Boys by Rosemary Wells

Lincoln and His Boys by Rosemary Wells was inspired by a 200-word fragment written by Willie Lincoln about a trip he took with his father, Abe Lincoln. Wells was doing research for another novel when she read the brief piece and it inspired the writing of Lincoln and His Boys.

Written in the viewpoint of Wilie, Tad and Willie, and then Tad, this is a gem of a book. A small volume at less than 100 pages, it perfect to hand to some of my more dormant readers. Especially those who have no interest in historical fiction. Wells presents a look at Lincoln as a father through the eyes of his adoring sons. The only politics they are interested in is war and getting attention from their father. I think boys will especially connect with Tad and Willie because they are rambunctious boys who burst into cabinet meetings and sweep the papers off the table. They build a fort on the roof of the White House to hold off the south. And Lincoln is an indulgent father who allows them to act crazy and have fun.

Readers also see the deep relationship between the boys and their parents. I loved seeing the little acts of kindness between them. The book is entirely grounded in fact and none of the actions are fictionalized. Just the dialogue and certain details have been imagined.

Lincoln and His Boys is a quick read that I would not hesitate to hand to some of my dormant/struggling readers. The text is at a 4th grade level (or so) and includes illustrations, but even I learned some new facts about Lincoln from the story! I think this would make a great book to ease kids into historical fiction.

 

*Review copy courtesy of the publisher.  Cybils nominee

The Last Invisible Boy by Evan Kuhlman

Finn Garret is slowly becoming invisible.  Ever since his dad died on a flight home, Finn’s been turning whiter and whiter.  He figures that soon he will disappear all together.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first picked up The Last Invisible Boy. An initial flip through the book gives the appearance of a Wimpy Kid read-alike.  However, within a few pages the reader knows they are dealing with a very different book here.  This is not a humorous, light-hearted book like many of the illustrated novels out there today.  And that’s a good thing.  Finn is telling his story, with his own illustrations, and his voice is spot-on for a twelve year old boy.  It’s bittersweet, angry at times, and will even bring tears to your eyes.

I loved the voice in this story.  Finn writes like most of my 6th graders.  He goes off on tangents at times, at others writes very dryly, and then WHAM!  Out of nowhere he hits you with an amazing and powerful few pages.

I really enjoyed this book and look forward to passing it on to some of my 6th graders.  I think it will appeal to boys and girls alike.

 

*Review copy courtesy of publisher

Attention Middle School Teachers!

I am looking for a few “words of wisdom” for a presentation I am doing this week.  If you are a middle school teacher who uses read alouds in their classroom, I’d love to hear your thoughts/comments.

1. Why do you read to your middle schoolers?

2. How do you choose your read aloud material?

Thanks so much!

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