Friday, July 18, 2014

Fiction Friday: Chapter 5

Happy Friday and welcome back to the next installment of Fiction Friday. Today's post will be quick. I'm leaving for Seattle today and I have not even pulled out my suitcase. Oops!

This week I read..

Dead City
by James Ponti

Molly Bigelow has always been a wee bit strange. She attends a school for gifted children, took Jeet Kune Do classes instead of ballet, and was a New York City Audubon Society Junior Birder. Not to mention, she enjoys hanging out at city morgue with dead people. Like I said, Molly's not your normal teenager. However, all these out of the box activities and unusual hobbies were really part of her training to become an Omega, a New York City zombie hunter, just like her late mother. It turns out Molly has just the skills she needs to set her apart, make life-long friends, and follow in her mother's footsteps to become a zombie hunter legend. 

I'll be honest, when this book arrived on my doorstop courtesy of Amazon, I openly mocked it. I thought are you kidding me?  Zombie fiction for fourth graders, yuck! Where has all the good literature gone? I was ready to hate it. I put off reading it. I judged the book by the cover. And then...I read the prologue. Five pages entitled "Your Probably Wondering Why There's a Dead Body in the Bathroom" and I was HOOKED. The story is told from Molly's perspective and I loved her! Molly is witty, sarcastic, and a character worth rooting for from the beginning. Here's a little sneak peak into the writing style and the beginning that kept me begging for more.

"I hate zombies. I know that sounds prejudiced. I'm sure some zombies are really nice to kittens and love their parents. But it's been my experience that most are not the kind of people you want sending you friend requests. Consider my current situation...I'm trapped in a locker-room toilet stall. With a dead body. (Ponti, 5)

Dead City was excellent. Great voice, very funny, and non-stop action throughout the book. It is appropriate for grades 4 and up and would be a fun read aloud. In many ways it reminds me of The Lightning Thief series by Rick Riordan. I couldn't put those books down because I loved Percy and his band of friends out there fighting the good fight. This is similar, expect instead of gods and goddess, they are fighting the undead. I was pleasantly surprised by this book and I am already looking at picking up the sequel. 

43 Old Cemetery Road: Dying to Meet You
by Kate Klise

Ignatious B. Grumply, a once famous children's book author, moves into a Victorian mansion on 43 Old Cemetery Road to try and cure his writer's block. Hoping for some peace and quiet so he can work, Ignatious B. Grumply finds more than he expects.  He is not alone. There is an 11 year old boy living on the 3rd floor and a ghost named Olive living in the cupola. Hmmm... Can all three of them live and possibly work together or is it time for someone to go?

I pulled this book out of my classroom collection, because so many of my students had enjoyed it last year and I was curious to know what all the fuss was about. Told entirely through letters and newspaper articles, the book is so different to read I can see why so many kids gravitated towards it. I give huge credit to Kate Klise who developed such memorable, flawed, but very likable characters using only letters.

The guided reading level on this book is a U, but I think it is more readable than that. I would recommend it for grades 3-5. As I said, my fourth graders loved it, so you already know it is kid approved!  It's unique story, word play (I. B. Grumply and Anita Sale for example), pictures, and format make it a delicious read. I devoured it in one sitting and closed the book with a smile on my face. The sign of good read.

That's it for me. More books to come next week. Has anyone read these two novels?  What did you think?

Don't forget to add your own book reviews by linking up to Fiction Friday anytime. I'm off to pack.

Happy reading!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Anchor Charts: Multiplication & Division

I started my morning in the garage. If you remember I had heaps and heaps of school stuff in there from moving EVERYTHING out of my classroom at the end of the year. There was so much that my two car garage didn't even fit one car. I really need to get everything in order.

BUT...It's hot and humid in there. Plus, there are mosquitoes and I loath mosquitoes. Apparently, they do not feel the same way. They love me. So, with deet infused bug spray, a strong fan, and a sense of purpose, I set out this morning to organize my anchor charts.

A couple of my thoughts on anchor charts...

  • They are much more powerful and meaningful when made WITH the students. I know this means they won't always be pretty, but it's important that the kids play a critical role in creating it. If they get sloppy and you just can't take it, then you can always rewrite a cleaner version after school, but as long as you make it with the kids, it has meaning to them. 
  • Simple is  better.  Keep it clean, simple, and easy to read from a distance. Cute doesn't always mean effective. 
  • Set up your anchor chart beforehand. Add the title and designs to the anchor chart before your lesson. Then, add the "meaty" information with the kids.
  • Black marker does not make it boring. Black marker is hands down the easiest to read. I use black constantly. If it is important, it needs to be written in a color that is easy to read. I like black, dark blue, dark, green, and purple. I use the lighter fun colors for my titles and to highlight really important words.
  • Every color does not need to make an appearance on every chart. This goes back to keeping it simple and easy to read. Can you tell it's a big theme of mine?
  • Mr. Sketch markers are the only acceptable markers to use when creating anchor charts. I'm obviously being dramatic here, but they are my absolute favorite markers for anchors. Although, watch out for the light pink. It smells good and it's pretty, but it also fades.  
  • Anchor charts are a valuable teaching tool. If you use them and reference them, the kids will too. However, just like most things, modeling is required. :) 

Several years ago, I saw this great idea about an anchor chart binder. The teacher put a picture of all her anchor charts in a binder for both teacher and student future reference. I thought this was a brilliant way to save wall space and keep a record of all the anchors for the year. While I have never been organized enough to do that, I have taken pictures of a few that I wanted to be sure to repeat the following year. The best part about the picture is that is forces me to recreate it with my students but gives me a goal for how I want things to look and what information I want to include. 

Here are just a few of my charts on multiplication and division from this past year.

This chart stared with only a header and then the model/strategy t-chart. You can see by my imperfect lines that I don't stress out too much about it being perfect. As a class we defined multiplication in the most simple terms and added to our chart as we went through the unit.

This is the division chart to match the multiplication. This was before we got into long division.

I love this one because it shows students the many different ways they could divide basic facts. Many of my students get turned around with the circles and sticks model, so they love seeing the table. The table really helps keep them organized.

This chart was generated after a discussion about the similarities/differences between multiplication and division. All information was student generated.

I took pictures of tons of my math, writing, and reading anchor charts from the last year and then gave the charts the toss. It's all part of my purge, purge, purge plan. 

Do you guys keep your anchor charts year to year?  Which ones do you save?  Any more helpful tips on keeping them pretty while also keeping them student generated?

More pictures to come...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Fiction Friday: Chapter 4

Another week of summer has come and gone, so that means it's time for Fiction Friday! This week I read...

The Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck
by Emily Fairlie

When Laurie begins the year at Tuckernuck, she is anything but excited to be a Tuckernuck Chicken. In fact, all she wants to do is get out and go to middle school with her best friend away from all the chicken craziness. The only thing holding her interest is the 80 year old mystery of the Tuckernuck Treasure, a scavenger hunt of sorts designed by the first principal of the school, Maria Tuckernuck. When Laurie and Bud accidentally discover the first clue, they begin working together to uncover the secrets of the school, find the treasure, and learn that maybe being a Tuckernuck Chicken isn't such a bad thing.

To be honest, it did take me awhile to get hooked on the story. The first chapter jumps right into the action, but not in a way that grabbed me. It just confused me. But, as any good reader does, I gave it 50 pages and you know what... I started to enjoy the mystery behind Laurie and Bud's adventure and found myself rooting for them to discover the lost treasure. 

The book is split into parts, not chapters. Two hundred and eighty-three pages split into 8 parts, makes for some long chunks of reading. However, within each part there are natural stopping points for the reader to take a break. The mystery was very readable for a 4th or 5th student and would make a good read aloud for 3rd grade. Kids could easily follow along with the book and feel like they were solving the mystery along with Laurie and Bud. In other words, there isn't that last chapter that spells everything out because it was all a web of mystery before that. The Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck is a great mystery to add to your classroom collection and is sure to be a hit for 4th and 5th graders alike. 

The Trouble with Chickens
by Doreen Cronin

Jonathan Joseph Tully, or J.J. for short, is a retired search and rescue dog with big chicken problems. When two baby chicks get kidnapped by the sinister indoor dog, Vince, J.J. knows he must rely on his traning to save the day. But, Vince has a devious plan and the chickens are more invovled than J.J. thinks. He has to find a way to save the chicks and then save himself.

The Trouble with Chickens is a great introductory chapter book for young readers. It is basically an extra long picture book, told with the same humor and fun as all Doreen Cronin books. You know the ones...Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type and Duck for President. She's fantastic! With only 119 pages, the book flys by for the adult reader, however upon closer inspection you notice how well the characters have been crafted. This is bound to be a hit with emerging chapter book readers! Great read aloud for K-2, fun read for everyone else!

Take a look at this video of Doreen Cronin introducing the book and giving you some insight into the characters and the writing style.

See? Isn't she great?  Don't you just want to go out to coffee with her and chat for awhile?  So fun!

What have you been reading this week? Link up to Fiction Friday anytime to share your thoughts, reviews, or teaching ideas using children's literature. We love to learn about more books!!