July 29, 2012

Fiction Friday: Chapter 7

Oops! I didn't get Fiction Friday written and posted on Friday.  I'm so sorry! I hope you guys still posted and will link up now to keep our catalogue of great book reviews growing.

As y'all know, I'm in Seattle for a wedding of an old friend from high school. They are actually the third couple in my group of highschool friends to marry their high-school sweetheart.

This is our high school prom picture and all those girls in white, yup, they married the men behind them.  Pretty amazing, huh? (I'm on the far left.) The bride and groom are the couple in the middle.  They actually spent 6 years apart,  but are back together for good and all is right in the world.

Anyway, I had big plans to write about my two books Thursday, but I got caught up with the wedding festivities and...well...it just didn't happen.

So, back to books...this week I read two more books and I enjoyed them  both.

First up was a mix of fantasy, adventure, and historical fiction.

Flight of the Phoenix 
by R.L. LaFevers

This is the first book in the Nathaniel Fludd Bestologist series.  When Nathaniel's parents are declared lost at sea, he is sent to live with his eccentric Aunt Phil.  Nathaniel is a quiet and reserved little boy who loves to draw.  He has not quite grown up into the adventurer he is meant to be.  Aunt Phil, the last remaining beastologist (a person who studies mythological beasts), takes Nathaniel under her wing and begins his training.  Together they set off to Arabia to watch the rebirth of a phoenix. When Aunt Phil is taken by the Bedouin, it is up to Nathaniel to save Aunt Phil and ensure the safety of the phoenix.  He may just discover his inner adventurer yet.

Set in the 1920's, Flight of the Phoenix is a quick read full of adventure and fun.  Nathaniel is a very likable character with a good heart. You are rooting for him from the beginning.  Aunt Phil is a hoot and readers will love her quirky ways and sense of adventure.  I enjoyed the tie in to mythological creatures and the whole idea these creatures do exist but only a few very special people know about them.  Who doesn't want to believe that a phoenix is real or that the dodo bird is still kicking? The pictures throughout the novel are Nathaniel's drawings and offer a nice break in the text for a young reader. It is the perfect book for a 3rd grader and beginning 4th grader and would be a good read aloud for primary grades.

My second book this week was all about adventure and was the first Mike Lupica book that I have read that wasn't about sports and I loved it!

Hero by Mike Lupica

Zach Harriman thought he knew his father.  He knew his father worked for the president and he knew his father was a hero, but didn't quite understand how far his hero qualities went.  When Tom Harriman's plane mysteriously crashes, Zach's life changes in more ways than just loosing a parent.  He is faster, stronger, fearless, and has the eyesight of a hawk.  Zach's world is shaken when a stranger appears to test and train him saying he knew his father and he needs to be prepared. The same people that wanted his father dead want Zach very much alive.  Meanwhile, his Uncle John is feeding him very different information.  Who knows the truth?  Who can be trusted?  More than ever, Zach needs his father around to help him become what he never expected...a 14 year old hero.

I started reading this book on the plane and the pages just flew by.  The story is fast paced and fills the reader with endless questions.  The first chapter is actually narrated by Zach's father on his last mission for the president.  All subsequent chapters are narrated by Zach. As you continue reading it is fun to see the similarities between the two.

This book is very high-interest, jam-packed with action and mystery, while having a low-readability level.  These kind of books are hard to find, so I seriously suggest adding it to your class library. It would be the perfect book for kids that would love to read the Alex Rider series, but may not be ready for that level of reading.  The books is also very clean and has action without lots of guns and violence, so you can feel good about the recommendation if you know a student has sensitivity issues.

I could absolutely see myself reading this aloud to my class, highlighting questions and predicting.  Your more astute readers will pick up on the clues to figure things out towards the end, but a majority of the class will be captivated by the mystery of it all and try to figure things out along with Zach. You could also use the first few chapters in guided reading and/or a whole group mini-lesson.  You will hook readers right away and be able to generate a huge list of questions, predictions, and inferences.

The more the story developed the more I enjoyed this book.  I'm hoping for a sequel as the ending was a bit abrupt and not nearly enough of my questions were answers.  I would love to read about Zach's future adventures. Hero is a 2012-2013 Bluebonnet Award nominee.

So, that's it for this week...even if it is bit late. I hope y'all will still link up and share more books, reviews, and lesson ideas.

Please don't forget to grab my linky button and toss it into your post so others can easily link back.

Happy Reading!

July 25, 2012

I'm in Seattle and Tell Me More Linky Fun

As I curled up to go to bed last night I was exhausted. I realized I had traveled by car, plane, train, boat, and bus all in one day to arrive at my mother's house on Bainbridge Island.  It had been a long trip and a long day.

I will be in Seattle (and surrounding areas) all week for a wedding and if yesterday was any indication of what to expect this week... it is going to be gorgeous! I'm so glad the sun came out just for me!

This is the picture I took of downtown Seattle while on the ferry to Bainbridge.  Isn't it beautiful?  I know it is gray and drizzly a lot up here, but a beautiful day in Seattle is hard to beat.  Due to wedding and family festivities, I will be pretty much MIA this week, but please plan on Fiction Friday.  I'm working on my second book of the week right now, and it's a good one.  You won't want to miss it.

Before I go, I've had so much fun reading and learning about other bloggers through Mrs. Lemons linky party Tell Me More, Tell Me More that I decided to link up today and tell you a bit more about myself. You are supposed to share your quirks and things that make you, uniquely YOU.

1) I HATE wooden utensils. They creep me out.  I don't like how they feel in my hand and I refuse to wash them because when they get wet, they get slimy and...ugh! I just can't stand it.  Really, the problem extends to all raw wood. Even popsicle sticks are a problem. I have to leave the wrapper around the bottom of the stick as a barrier while eating my popsicle. My teeth also can NOT touch the stick and most importantly, the teeth can NEVER EVER drag on the popsicle stick. Just thinking about it gives me the willies! Ugh!

2) I have always looked much younger than I actually am.  When I was a freshman in college, I flew to Hawaii for spring break and I was sitting in the emergency exit row when a flight attendant came up to ask me how old I was.  Apparently, you must be at least 14 to sit in the emergency exit row and she wasn't sure I was old enough!  Ouch! Ten years later, I'm less offended that I look so young.  My students still tell me I look like a teenager.

3) I worked as a barista for sixish years at Cruisin Coffee in Bellingham. Whenever I have a really tough day in teaching I always start contemplating going back to the coffee industry.  I loved it! I worked there for a long time and I know all the secret recipes and some regular customer orders still. I'm not going to lie, I even still dream about it. It's my "good ole days." It has also made me VERY picky about my coffee.

4) I met my husband in AP Biology in high school.  He's my best friend and I feel so lucky to have him! We started dating the summer after he graduated (he's a year older) and have been together ever since.  That's 11 years total.  We've been married for three years come August 16th.

5) All food must pass a texture test for me to eat it.  I still won't eat mushrooms or tomatoes.  Slimy and gross! There is NO WAY I could ever go on one of those challenge shows like The Amazing Race.  I would crumble at the mere mention of strange food. 

6)  I listen to all kinds of music.  I'm not even sure I have a favorite.  My iTunes playlist has everything from Yo-Yo Ma and Van Morrison to Greenday, Eminem, and George Strait. I am very excited about the new Dave Matthews Band cd, scheduled to come out in September.  Have you heard the single, Mercy?  OMG...so good!!

7) I love TV. No, really, I LOVE TV.  I'm a TV junkie. I had to create a spreadsheet this past fall to figure out how to get all my shows recorded. Surprisingly, I watch very little reality TV.  I'm more of a sitcom fan. Oh, and I love corny.  If I show you my DVR list, you promise not to judge? I had to write it all down so I could transfer to my new DVR.  This is when it hit me that perhaps I have a problem.

8) I cuss.  A lot. It's true. I use a few choice four letter words (especially the one that rhymes with duck) more than I probably should.  But, I keep it clean in my classroom and on my blog.

9) Penguins make me really happy.  For my birthday this year, my husband flew down my best friend to surprise me.  BEST. SURPRISE. EVER. (Best husband ever too!)
Then they had scheduled a behind the scenes tour at Sea World with the penguins.  I got to meet a penguin.
 We became fast friends.
 And, yes, I really walked out of Sea World carrying a giant stuffed penguin as a souvenir.

10) The last one you probably already know if you have been following for awhile.  I adore my dog.  I know other people love their pets, but I think I love mine more. What you may not know is that my dog has a first, middle and last name.  I thought everyone did this, but I have since been informed that is NOT true and I'm a bit strange for doing it. So, his name is officially Riley Tristan Kendall. We choose a Welsh middle name since he is a Welsh corgi. The multiple names is quite handy, especially when he is in trouble.  You can yell, "Riley Tristan! Get out of the trash!" and it works!!

So, that's a bit more about me.  Hopefully, I haven't scared anyone away with my quirks. :)

Now, it's your turn (if you haven't already).  Head on over to Mrs. Lemon's blog and link up.  Tell me more, Tell me more...about YOU and please share if we have anything in common.  Surly more people give their dogs middle names and loathe wooden utensils, right?!?

Till Friday my friends...

July 23, 2012

DIY Happy Birthday Bookmarks

Guess who got a little crafty this past week? Yup, you guessed it.  Me!

I'm so proud of myself because I accomplished two project this week and I didn't use hot glue for anything!

My first project comes from my own brain.  What?!? I'm not claiming it to be an original idea, but I am claiming that I did not see it on Pinterest first, so it feels somewhat original.

Check out my birthday bookmarks!!

I loved the idea of having something special student birthdays.  I knew if I tried to pull something together mid-year it would NEVER happen.  So, I had to get it done now. The kids at my school already get a pencil from the office, so I went with a bookmark (so me!) and I'm really happy with how they turned out.

I made three different styles of bookmarks using three pieces of scrap-booking paper. I decided to use scrap-booking paper because for less than $2 I save my printer A LOT of ink.  Plus, my inkjet can smear and that just looks tacky!

I also grabbed 3 sheets of the black happy birthday paper for the back of all the bookmarks.  This way the bookmarks would be two sided.

The steps for this little creation are quick and easy.

First, cut the paper to fit in your laminating pouches (8.5 x 11) if needed.

Then, I glue the scrap-booking paper together to create a front and back. My experience has taught me to make sure you use plenty of glue and let it dry ALL THE WAY before you try to laminate.

Next, laminate those puppies!

Finally, cut out your desired bookmark size.  I found I could easily get 8 bookmarks per sheet that were 2 inches wide and 5 1/2 inches long. Go to town with your hole punch and add a cute ribbon for the finishing touch. 

Didn't they turn out cute?!? It was really easy and I had a lot of fun "crafting."

Then, this morning I found this cupcake-ilicious cookie jar and thought it was just the right size for my birthday bookmarks.

 I mean...how perfect is that?  Hooray!

My second project was very spur of the moment.  I was walking the aisles at Michael's, saw a frame at a good price, and viola...
I made one of those super cute quote of the day frames for my classroom.  I choose really basic paper for the background and I already had some black scrap-booking letters left over from my guided reading folder project, so I went for it and I LOVE it.

I now completely understand why versions of these frames are all over Pinterest. It took me probably 5 minutes to complete and I know it will be a wonderful addition to my classroom.

If you have been considering making one - do it! They really do turn out super cute and are so easy.  Now, I'm thinking about making a menu board for my kitchen.  Wouldn't that be cute?!?

I'm also in the process of collecting quotes for my board and will share as soon as I compile an adequate list.  If you have a favorite quote, I'd love to hear it.  Please comment below and I will add it to the list before sharing with everyone.

Now, I'm linking up with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It.  Be sure to stop by her blog to link up with your own creations or troll for more good ideas.  Happy Crafting!

July 22, 2012

Have you heard of K5 Learning?

Have you heard of K5 Learning before?

K5 Learning is an online reading and math program for kiddos from kindergarten to 5th grade.  The program is designed for at home or after school use and the kids can participate in the lessons and activities completely independently.

I had the opportunity to try out this program with two of my students who were working below grade level this past year.  The first thing the kids do is take an assessment to figure out where their learning needs are. This assessment is emailed directly to the teacher or parent and provides some valuable feedback about the child's strengths and weaknesses in reading and math.

From there, the teacher or parent can assign specific skills for the child to work on.  The program automatically provides a list of suggested lessons and the approximate time it takes to get through a lesson.  As a teacher, I found the time appropriation particularly helpful.

Here are some quick highlights about what the K5 program includes:
  •  free online assessments of each child's math and reading skills
  • award-winning curricula based reading and math content (Seriously, you should see all the awards?!?)
  • over 3,000 online multimedia activies, personalized for each child based on their assessment
  • structured environment with lessons paced in a logical way
  • easy to use 
  • child safe with no external links, advertisements, etc.
  • comprehensive reports for parents
  • 24/7 availability and no downloading required
K5 is composed of a comprehensive reading and math program, a math fact program, and a spelling program. To try a lesson out, click here

There are lots of lessons to sample form all different grade levels. This is a screen shot of a 2nd grade vocabulary lesson on homophones. 

There is a quick introduction and then the students get to practice. There are lots of pictures to support visual learners throughout the lessons as well as explanations for auditory learners.

The math fact program is especially cool because it keeps track of student progress on every single math fact! The program keeps track and analyzes every response the child makes, including how fast they respond to determine whether or not they need more practice with that particular fact.  Then, it keeps track of everything on this master grid.  When the grid is full, the child has mastered their math facts. Pretty cool, right?

My students LOVED working on this program.  They enjoyed the lessons and working on the computer.  One of their favorite things to do was work on their math facts because they were able to choose their screen character and customize!  Boy, do they LOVE that!

I was lucky enough to try out this program for free, which was awesome!  I wish I was able to purchase this program for all my students to use at home.  I mean, wouldn't this be the coolest way to assign homework?  It would all be personalized!! Talk about differentiation.

It is available on a subscription basis for $25/month or $199/year with substantial discounts for siblings.  I know that sounds expensive, but it really is worth it. If I had a child that was a bit behind, this would be a great way to help catch them up, use technology, and have some fun.

The good news is that there is also a 14 day trial period for FREE! So, if you think you might be interested, go sign up!  Just click here to go directly to the free trial page.

I plan on recommending this program to parents of both my struggling students and my GT students this year.  That way all kids can get the extra support that they need outside of the classroom.  It's the perfect answer when parents ask, "What can I do to help?"

I hope you also find this program helpful.  If you have had experiences with K5, I'd love to hear about them below. Comments welcomed and happily encouraged!

Happy Learning!

July 20, 2012

Fiction Friday: Chapter 6

Welcome back to another Fiction Friday!

Can you believe we are already in week 6?  Thank you to everyone who has linked up to share lesson ideas and reviews of books. I have gotten so many new ideas from y'all! Thank you and and keep 'em coming!

I started the summer with 18 books on my Battle of the Books reading list, and I've read 10 of those. If I keep up my current pace, I will actually finish all 18 by the time school starts! Whoo-hoo!!  That will feel like such a great accomplishment!

This week, I started with a little fantasy and time travel...

The Magic Half centers around Miri, the middle child between two sets of twins.  Being the middle child is always tough, but being sandwiched between two sets of twins is even more challenging. After a scuffle with her brothers, Miri is sent to her room where she discovers a piece of glass from a broken pair of glasses.  She looks through it, and is magically transported back in time.  In the past, she meets Molly, the girl who lived in her house (and room) seventy years earlier. Miri figures out that she is supposed to save Molly from her terrible life.  Miri must come up with plan to return to the future with Molly, while not to disrupting history so much that it changes the future.

Honestly, it took my almost a week to finish reading this book. I had a really hard time getting into the story. I'm not quite sure what it was, maybe the part about being a fairy?!?  That seemed a bit out of place and unnecessary. I think maybe I just didn't buy into that.  I don't know, but I persevered. I told myself the same thing I tell my students sometimes when I know the book will get better, "Why not give it 100 pages?" So I kept reading and (luckily) it did get better!

Once Miri got back to her present time and started working out a plan to save Molly, the book did pick up. The story became much more interesting and I was easily able to finish the book. I liked Miri very much as a character.  She was smart and witty and so thoughtful about things.  I thought Barrows did a great job capturing her family dynamic and creating an urgency to save Molly.

The reviews on Amazon are very positive and it seems that children really enjoyed the book.  (Which is perfect, because it WAS written for them.) I'm curious to see what my class thinks about this one in the upcoming year.  It wasn't my favorite, but maybe I'm just not the right target audience.  I think girls, grades 4-6, would enjoy the novel and the magic and mystery surrounding this time travel adventure.

Has anyone else read it?  What were your thoughts? Please comment and share!

Next, I was looking for a little adventure, so I read...

Night of the Howling Dogs is based on the true story of a boy scout troop camping at Halape (a remote spot under a volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii) in 1975 when a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit and was followed by a 300 foot tsunami that rose 50 feet above sea level. I know, yikes?!?

Although the novel is based on the scout troop and true geological events, the story is completely fictional.  Dylan's adventure begins with his scout troop hiking out to Halape and get settled in camp.  There is a new edition to his troop, Louie Domingo, who is making life much more difficult for Dylan.  There is a secret between them that continues to build tension until... boom...the earth begins to quake. Suddenly, survival is the only that that matters.  During the hours following the quake and tsunami, Dylan learns the true meaning of leadership and that maybe, just maybe, that Louie isn't so bad.

Wow! I mean... WOW! This was an action packed incredible read.  I couldn't put it down and even woke up early one morning to finish it. (5 am early) If you enjoyed reading Hatchet, Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, or other survival stories, you will LOVE this book. 

This is a picture of Halape after the tsunami.  The coconut grove shown is frequently mentioned in the book.  Click the picture to go to the USGS website for more information about the ground movement during the earthquake and before and after pictures.

The chapters were short and fast paced making it easy to devour.  This would make a great read aloud for 3rd through 5th grade.  The kids would be absolutely captivated and begging you to keep reading, just be prepared for all those Hawaiian words that will pop up.

I looked around online because I thought the reading level would be much higher on this book but most websites say ages 8 and up. I was surprised because there is some pretty dense vocabulary throughout the book, which would make it a more difficult read for students with limited vocabulary exposure. I'd say a 4th  or higher for independent readers, but younger readers could read and LOVE this book if it was read with them. I would highly recommend this book!

Well, that's it for today.  What books for kids have you read this week that you could share?  I'd love to hear your thoughts, recommendations, lesson ideas, and more. (I even want to know about duds...that's important information too!)
Join the fun and link up with your own children's literature post. Please remember to grab my linky party button and link back to me, so everyone can join the fun.  Also,  make sure to link directly to your post, not just your homepage.  Thanks y'all and as always... HAPPY READING!

July 18, 2012

Favorite Childhood Books

When have I ever turned down the opportunity to talk about books?  That's easy....um... never!

As all teachers do, I love books.  Actually, I think it is more than love. Is there a word for that?

That being said, I simply had to join the Must Have Picture Books linky party, graciously hosted by The Teacher Wife
The Teacher Wife
The rules state that you can only choose 5 books.  Well, everyone knows that is basically impossible. How do you choose just five books?

I needed a category to help me narrow down my options, so I choose childhood favorites.

My picks are all books I read and loved as a child.  I have since used them in my classroom with much success.  Great books are simply great books regardless of the publishing date.

The Talking Eggs is a beautifully illustrated book about a young girl, Blanche, who lives with her mean older sister and equally mean mother. On a trip to the well, sweet Blanche meets an elderly woman who shows her many amazing and unique things.  Blanche never laughs or says unkind things and follows all the directions given by the old woman, so she is rewarded with talking eggs.  Upon returning home, her mother and sister want their own talking eggs and the treasures inside, but their own greedy and nasty ways prevent them from gaining any riches. 

Excellent book for teaching character traits and cause and effect.

 The Story of Ferdinand is about a bull who just LOVES to smell the flowers.  When he is stung by a bee, Ferdinand accidentally misrepresents himself as a fierce and brave bull.  He is immediately selected to go into the bull fighting ring with a matador, but when there he continues his passivity and sits right in the middle of the ring and smells the flowers.

Great book for character traits and just a fun read aloud.

 In Petunia, Petunia discovers a discarded book on the farm and realizes that a book is just what she needs to be more knowledgeable. She carries the book around everywhere.  Her friends (thinking she is full of knowledge) ask her for help and she offers them the worst possible advice.  In the end, Petunia learns that it is not enough to carry a book around with you; you must learn to read and with reading comes knowledge.

A fabulous book to highlight the importance of learning to read and talk about author's message.  The kids also find the illustrations quite comical.

 The Story About Ping takes place in China on the banks of the Yangtze River where Ping lives on the Wise Old Boat with his HUGE family.  Each day he and his family are sent out, but they must come back when the whistle calls.  Scared of being the last duck on the boat, Ping does not go home one night only to find himself on an adventure he would rather avoid. 

Good book for theme and authors message. I've just always loved this story.

 In The Jolly Postman or Other People's Letters, the postman goes around town delivering letters to fairy tale characters.  Each page has a letter that can be pulled out and read separately.  For example, Goldilocks writes to the three bears apologizing for causing so much trouble. It's lots of fun to read fairy tale mail and all the letters make great examples for different types of texts and writing formats. 

This is a fun one to incorporate into writing and reading responses.

What books did you read and love as child?  Please share your favorite childhood books and memories around the books below in the comments section.

I think my all-time favorite was Madeline.  Just classic! I could recite the whole book as a kid.

"In an old house in Paris, all covered in vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines..."

I could probably still recite the first few pages, but not the whole thing anymore.  Sadly, I haven't figured out how to incorporate that into my classroom, so it didn't make my list today.  Any ideas? 

For other books I love and book lists I have created, click below.  
Favorite Fall Read Alouds
Favorite Picture Books for Teaching Comprehension
Favorite Baseball Books
Fiction Friday

And stay tuned for many more to come.

Happy Reading!!

July 17, 2012

DIY Pom-Pom Erasers

Hello, my name is Amanda and I am a Pinterest addict.  Hi Amanda!

It's true.  Since joining the world of Pinterest, I can't get enough.  There are so many ideas to steal borrow.

I have tried my hand at a few crafty things, but that is not really my forte. Many of those projects are simply out of my league, but if it can be accomplished with a glue gun and and glue gun only, I'm ALL over it!!

One of the most brilliant and simple ideas I have seen is the pom-pom hot glued (woot! woot!) to a dry erase marker.  Seriously...genius!  It's a built in eraser.  Why have I not thought of this before?

I took the dry-erase markers from Staples (remember the ones that I paid close to nothing for?!?) and went to town.  It took me a whopping 15 minutes.  Glue, pom-pom, hold!  Very complicated directions. 

I'm stoked about how they turned out.  I love the black marker with bright pom-pom!

I plan on giving each one of my students a marker with pom-pom during the first week of school.  I will add student names (via printed labels) to each marker to personalize and students will be responsilbe for keeping track of their own dry erase marker.

If a new eraser is needed, well then, I'll just bust out my glue gun and go to town right then and there.  Y'all keep a glue gun in your classroom too, right?

Hmmm... what else can I do with just a glue gun?  Ideas?  Please comment below.

July 16, 2012

New Blog Design!!

 Hi friends,

Welcome to my new and much improved blog!!  I am so excited about my new design.  When I saw it up and running for the first time I let out an audible squeal of delight!

A HUGE raccoon thank you to Christi over at Ms. Fultz's Corner for the fabulous design.  If you were thinking about getting a blog make-over, she is wonderful to work with and has some great ideas.  I highly recommend her. Just click here to go straight to her blog design page.

Now, the raccoon she found for me is probably my favorite part.  Isn't he the cutest?  I love his balck and white polka-dot belly.  I feel like he needs a name since he will represent The Teaching Thief blog.

Theodore? Ralph? Tucker? Bernard the Bandit?

I'd love to hear your ideas! Comment below.