It’s Monday, What are You Reading?

Where has this semester gone?

What a ride.

The last official book that I read for class, in addition to our Treasures Series, was the sequel to Sarah, Plain and Tall.

Skylark, by Patricia MacLachlan, somehow was a disappointment.


I don’t think it was the story so much as the fact that it was written for a much younger audience than I am. I found myself knowing what was going to happen all along the story, and it seemed as though it was moving quite slow.

I think in reality it solidifies the fact that in order to be a good match, a book needs to be age and interest appropriate for the reader. If that reader is an old lady, or an elementary student, the writing style needs to be appropriate.

If a book is written in such a way that it can’t be followed by a young student, it won’t be a good experience for them. On the other side, if a book is too simple for an older elementary student, it can be worse because it is boring.

Learning the age appropriate books and having ideas for a variety of interests can make or break a good reading experience for anyone of any age.

And with that, I bid you adieu.


It’s Monday, What are You Reading?

This week I had the pleasure of picking up several packages at the Post Office. Three of them were my books which were written by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock. We have been communicating through email, and hopefully soon, by Skype.

In class this week we read The Night the Bells Rang.


My students had high praise for the story, and had many interesting comments. We enjoyed a treat of ice cream with real maple syrup after reading the book. It was a fun activity to tie into reading and social studies, where we are studying the New England States.

I received a message back from Natalie, after sending her pictures of my kids with their ice cream treats.

“Oh, what great photos of the kids!  I would very much like to  meet them, and visit them.

The Night the Bells Rang is based on a true story also, about two real boys who lived in Derby Line, VT back in WWI.  I knew Mason as an old man, and he told me about this bully in town who had saved Mason’s Valentine for his mother when Mason had dropped it down on the ice.  The bully went on to the war and was killed.  The townspeople said, “Well, it’s too bad he was killed, but he never did a good thing his whole life,” and Mason told me, “I knew he had done one good thing.”  That’s when I knew I had to write the story.  I made Mason a little older in my story, and that he was carrying a picture he’d done for his father (not the Valentine).

And I’ve done sugaring (making maple syrup) every spring of my life.  It’s hard work, but I can’t imagine NOT doing it.”

Back to me….  While waiting for a few hours at the dentist’s office on Wednesday, I also read “The Bear That Heard Crying,” which was a true story about Natalie’s family. I really enjoyed it. A bear helped save a lost little girl.


Also, to my son’s embarrassment, I read “If Wishes Were Horses,” which is about two sisters, who of course fight as sisters will do. It made me laugh, and of course, before it was over, it made me cry. The historical nature of Natalie’s writing is very enjoyable.
It has been very enjoyable reading something that ties in with many other things we are studying. It’s also very interesting to realize that authors are just normal people, who spend part of their time writing. I would love to be at that point. I used to do a lot of writing at our local newspaper, and I miss having time and a purpose for writing. I have many artistic endeavors that have been put aside in order to be back to teaching now.

Mock Caldecott Awards

I enjoyed reading the details of how the program was conducted. If I were to do it, it would certainly be helpful to already have a plan laid out. The biggest challenge for me is the fact that I am still learning about the materials that I am using for just our basic classroom work, and the extra projects need to be very simple. My time for more organizing and having the extra energy just isn’t always there. I can see us doing this next year, but I honestly don’t think it will be on the list for this year.

We are doing some interesting projects involving reading in our language classes, science, and also social studies classes. I have been in touch with the author Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, who is from Vermont. She was helpful in my finding the book from my own childhood, which has a similar name to a book she wrote, “Nora’s Ark.”

We are planning a Skype-session to visit with Mrs. Warnock. She has sent emails to my class and has answered many questions for my kids. Most importantly….. how many horses do you have?!

I have ordered three of her books, which we will start reading on Monday in class. The first to arrive was “The Night the Bells Rang.” It is set in Vermont in the era of World War 2. It is very good. More details in the Monday post!

I am seeing a trend in my own students in the way they choose their own books to read. A recommendation from a friend is the biggest factor. When one book is finished, someone else is always waiting in line to read the same book.

We are also gaining strides in the opposite end of the reading spectrum…. the writing process! Our Christmas program is in full swing, and is a play which was written by two students. Each year they write a brief script, and choose the play that will be completed. It was an interesting process to watch.

My seventh grade girls are also starting to write a newsletter, with the sixth grade boys asking if they can write articles, too. As a former newspaper writer, it’s one of my favorite projects.

For now, I will look forward to reading the other blogs about creating a mock award, but will need to put mine on hold until next year.



Yikes, Skypes, Beechnut Gum!

Ok, you’ll have to be old to remember that headline…… anyone care to admit?

I think Skying in the classroom is a natural extension of our current technology uses.

I have made two outreaches for Skype visits; one with a friend on the west coast who is an illustrator; and one with an author who lives in New England.

My biggest challenge is getting all the details together to actually get the project done. In the middle of plans for teaching all subjects, the extra things sometimes slip away, and the time is lost.

I really do need time for being mom, too. And a little bit of sleep now and then.

BUT, we are approaching our New England section of Social Studies, and it would be a great time to introduce our books by the author from Maine. I think I need to “make a plan.”

On another note, similar to Skyping, our class has watched many live feeds in our science units. Not long ago we logged on to a site which featured a research submarine and remote diving unit that was doing experiments at the bottom of the ocean. The crew invited watchers to send questions.

One of my fifth grade boys sent a question to them, and about five minutes later, the person at the microphone said “Ryan, from Nebraska, wants to know………” Wow! Our whole room just lit up with excitement!

If you are building readers, scientists, artists, whatever your students may become, using technology to bring other worlds to the classroom is essential to their being excited about learning.


It’s Monday, What are You Reading?

Another quiet, uneventful Monday. HA! Maybe in another universe….

This week I was handed another Goosebumps book, and I had to laugh out loud before I even read it. The enthusiasm with which it was given to me was priceless. And the title…. Piano Lessons Can be Murder, is perfect for me. I have taught piano lessons for the majority of my life.


The details of this story are so “lifelike.” The horrible music teacher. The nightmares about lessons. I should have this be required reading for my piano students. (Sadly, I have not had time for scheduling any this season.) The other enjoyable thing about reading Goosebumps books, is that I instantly see one of my students as the main character. The mannerisms of the characters are so true to life of a fifth grade boy. Just perfect.

In line now is Jake and Lily, by Jerry Spinelli. This was given to me by a fifth grade girl.


I can see why she liked it. It is written in the voice of Jake and Lily, who are twins. They take turns in the writing of the chapters, which are sometimes only a very short sentence long. My student also has an older brother in class. Imagine that! I’ve just begun the book, but so far their lives and the writing style are delightful.

The majority of my reading this week has been in my students’ Treasures Reading Textbooks. I really do like this series. It includes an excellent variety of stories in many genres. We have recently been on a space journey, studied endangered species, tall tales, folk tales…. quite a variety. It’s a challenge to stay ahead of four grade levels. But it certainly is interesting!

Good night. I need to read my alphabet book again. I might have missed something.


Read Aloud

One of the first things I was told at my new teaching job, was that my students really enjoyed reading, and that having a story read to them was still a part of their routine. We just finished our first read aloud book, which was a sizable chapter book, Horses of the Dawn. I chose it because it was about horses, and I knew that all my students would enjoy it.

My next read aloud book has yet to be chosen. I would like to take time to find something worthwhile, with more purpose. I am considering The One and Only Ivan, since I have it as a downloaded book. The text could easily be shared on the smart board.

My biggest challenge is my range of students. I have everything from fourth grade boys to seventh grade girls. The interest level is quite different, although our first book was enjoyed by all. I agree with the second author’s remark about reading a shorter book. We tended to grab a few minutes here and there to keep up with our book. A shorter book would be easier to comprehend and finish.

As I write this assignment, I’m finding that my first instinct is to lead my top ten list with The One and Only Ivan. I’m going to follow that with Once Upon an Alphabet, even though my students are older. I am still finding new comedy in the writing style.

Third on my list will be Taking Flight, by Michaela DePrince; 4, The King’s Chessboard, by David Birch; 5, The Book with No Pictures, by B.J. Novak; 6, Martha Had a Little Llama, by Angela Dominguez; 7, Nora’s Ark, by Natalie Kinsey- Warnock; 8, When Marian Sang, by Pam Munoz Ryan; 9, The Girl Who Loved Horses, by Paul Goble; and 10, Rapunzel, by Paul O. Zelinsky.


On a side note, I did a quick scan this weekend of some of our new books at school. We did have diversity in the cover photos. The majority are white subjects, with a some being a variety of races, and others being depicted with animals.



The first quote from this week’s article written by Brian Pinkney that caught my eye was “Through my picture books, I would change “Where Am I?” to “Here I Am!”” I especially liked his comment about changing things within his world quietly, using his writing and artistic talent to create the gap he felt existed in the world.

When I read his description of the book Max Found Two Sticks, I immediately thought of one of my students. Race has nothing to do with the similarities. They share many characteristics. Appearance isn’t one of them.

His closing remarks of suggestions to visit with children about the cover are very insightful. I truly believe that kids learn best when they are allowed to articulate their own thoughts, rather than being pushed with facts, facts, facts.

I also like his suggestion to “Make it Personal.” I think most kids do this automatically, without even thinking about it.

We have many stories in our library which feature Native American characters. The book Walk Two Moons, is a good example. This was the first book which was assigned to me by my students.

One of my own goals is going to be to browse through our books and pay more attention to the cover art to see if we are diverse or not.

It should be interesting.

I found the second article to be a little bit more difficult to read. I agree with the content, especially the main idea of a book being a mirror. I always put myself in the stories that I read. If you look closely at the choices our kids make in their own reading, you’ll see that they probably do, too.