Monday, December 28, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 12/28

Here are some books I have been reading in the last couple of weeks:

A Murderous Procession by Ariana Franklin is the fourth in the Mistress of Art and Death series. These are murder mysteries set in the middle ages when a woman doctor was thought to be a witch. The main character of this series was from Sicily and therefore received medical training and has learned to perform autopsies to determine cause of death. However, this must be done in secret in England or she will be shunned for being a witch. I really have enjoyed all of the books in this series. In this one, the main character is in mortal danger herself as she accompanies the princess on a journey across Europe. Fans of mysteries and historical fiction will enjoy this book for adult readers.

I have had Bluefish by Pat Schmatz on my shelf for years. I finally brought it down and read it. What an amazing story. I love the way the teacher in this book helps the main character to learn to read. It is a beautiful story about perseverance in the face of life's challenges and the struggles that some people have to find family. I highly recommend this one to grades 8 and up.

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick was a tough book to read. In a lot of ways, I was glad I read it while I was sort of distracted and not able to fully immerse myself in the story. It is an important story about the true events that happened to a young boy in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge took over and there was awful genocide. This is an important story to know about, but really tough to read. I would recommend it for grades 8 and up, but with fair warning that it is quite graphic in parts.

I also have been reading with my ears this week. We did a road trip from Milwaukee to Savannah to visit my sister and her family for Christmas. On the way down, we listened to the first Harry Potter book because I love Jim Dale as a narrator and it was an entertaining reread for both my husband and me. We also listened to the first season of the Serial podcast. So intriguing!

What I am Currently Reading:

I started to read IQ84. That seems like it will take me quite a while to get through, because it is so long. I also started reading Dorothy Must Die because my sister had it on her shelf and I wanted to see if I would like it. I have requested it at my library and will hope to be able to continue reading it soon. I am also listening to Girl on the Train during our road trip back to Milwaukee. It was a great choice for a book that keeps us both intrigued.

What's Next?

I will be reading Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free for my book club. Otherwise, I will have to see what comes up this week.

What are you reading this week? I would love to hear from you in the comments! Have a great reading week!

Monday, December 14, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 12/14

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? --From Picture Books to YA is a weekly meme started by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers. This is a chance for bloggers to recap their week of reading and share their plans for the next reading adventures they will take. Visit the host blogs for a list of great blogs participating in this meme and a whole bunch of titles to add to your to-read lists.

I didn't get a chance to do much reading this week. It is so busy at this time of year with all the holiday preparations. I would much rather be at home reading than in the crowded stores on the weekends, but alas, I have had to be in the shops. 

Books I Finished This Week:

I really enjoyed Crossing the Wire by Will Hobbs. I picked it up because I have some boys who would be interested in this type of story, but I wanted to make sure they would be able to handle the storyline. This is a great adventure book that really highlights the challenges of immigrants and the real struggles of families in Mexico. I am looking forward to sharing this title with the boys in my class. I would recommend it for grades 4 and up. 

Books I Am Currently Reading:

I am almost finished with A Murderous Procession by Ariana Franklin. It is one of the books in the Mistress of Art and Death series. I really like these books about a woman who is a doctor in medieval times but has to hide it in England because it is seen as heretical for a woman to be practicing medicine. Her specialty is doing autopsies, which is also unseemly in that time period. 

What's Next?

I will choose from my shelves according to my mood. That is about the best plan I can come up with right now. 

What are you reading this week? I would love to hear from you in the comments! 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Celebrate This Week 12/12

It's Saturday and that means it is time to reflect on the week and celebrate things both big and small. Join our community and celebrate this week by linking up or just stopping by the host Ruth Ayres' blog to read others' celebrations.

My biggest celebration is just a fantastic week at school. Our classroom just seems to be clicking into place. We did the things that matter this week. My students sustained their independent reading and are finishing more books and thinking deeper about them. Our math times went well. Our writing times are fun and productive. We are all enjoying our days at school. Does it sometimes get crazy? Yes, of course. Do the students still manage to drive me nuts some days? Yes. However, the majority of my day is a pleasant and enjoyable experience. This is such a nice situation and it doesn't always work this way. There are two things I did in the last two weeks that I think made a big difference.

First, I changed our morning schedule a bit to start our day with morning meeting instead of starting with quiet work and then doing the meeting. I think this focus on starting with our community has helped some students to center themselves during the day and to work on our shared goal of learning. This little change in our timing seems to have given us a more productive day each day.

Second, I have been working my way through the first Unit of Study for Teaching Reading. I am adapting it slightly since I already had my workshop pretty much set up. However, the language of the unit and the lessons about reading intensely are definitely helping my readers to focus. I need to improve in making sure readers in my classroom have goals that they are working on and keep track of. I also need to improve my record-keeping routines. The Units of Study are helping me with this because they give me the coherence in my teaching to help me get there.

The other fun thing at school is the holiday celebrations. We are doing some fun things as we approach the holidays, including a door decorating contest. It was really fun to brainstorm with my class and to come up with our idea. Yesterday, we spent a lot of the afternoon making the snowflakes and toys and presents and candy canes to put in our North Pole scenes. We also made some elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus. The students are so proud of our efforts and confident that they will win the hot chocolate party. It is a lot of fun!

What do you have to celebrate this week? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Monday, December 7, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 12/7

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? --From Picture Books to YA is a weekly meme started by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers. This is a chance for bloggers to recap their week of reading and share their plans for the next reading adventures they will take. Visit the host blogs for a list of great blogs participating in this meme and a whole bunch of titles to add to your to-read lists.

Oh, my goodness! It has been so long since I last linked up! This Fall has been a tough one, but I am hopeful that the rest of the year will be a little more sane and normal.

I have been doing some great reading during these few months! There are so many fabulous books out there and I happen to have a bunch on my shelves. I am just going to highlight a few of my favorites because it has been so long.

Books I Finished:

I reread Throne of Glass because I had my Kindle with me while staying with my mother and I had it on there and needed a good distraction. I knew I wanted to read the rest of the series and thought this would be a good time to read it. I also was mistaken thinking that it was a trilogy. I devoured these three books and got to the end of Heir of Fire and was really surprised that the story did not get resolved. Now, I need to go seek out the fourth book which, luckily, came out this Fall.

I highly recommend this series!

I read The Martian for my book club. It is not a book I would usually pick up to read, but I enjoyed the story. I did study engineering for a few years, so the scientific sections were fascinating to me. My husband, on the other hand, could not handle that stuff and gave up on the book. The people in my book club said they just skimmed the technical parts and ended up enjoying the story. This is a book I recommend. Just know that you might have to give it a little longer to hook you than usual.

I loved The Water Castle. It is a great middle grades story that I know a lot of kids will connect to. I thought a lot about how this story would be great to read along with Tuck Everlasting because of the idea of the fountain of youth and water that might make you immortal. I think kids could really sink their teeth into the deep ideas presented here. I highly recommend this book.

I love, love, LOVED The Mark of the Dragonfly. It is a beautiful and intriguing story. I was hooked from the beginning and could not put the book down. I highly recommend this one as well.

Learning to Swim was a fast-paced mystery that I read in one day. I was caught up in the story and trying to figure out what had happened. I did figure out some of the mystery, but it took so many twists and turns that I was not fully sure until the very end of the story. I recommend this one to adults who like a suspenseful story.

Books I am Currently Reading:

I am reading Crossing the Wire by Will Hobbs.

What's Next?

I have The Heir sitting on my desk. I will probably get to that one soon. I am not sure what else I might read. I have been very spontaneous about book choices lately and will probably go with whatever strikes my fancy.

What are you reading? I would love to hear from you in the comments! Have a great reading week!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Celebrate This Week 12/5

Come celebrate with us on Saturdays! 

I have had such a difficult time making the time to blog this year. I could give it all sorts of excuses, but it really comes down to not deciding to put my butt in the chair and write. I hope to correct that and continue to write with more frequency in the coming weeks. 

This week's celebration includes a few things from other weeks in which I had the ideas but did not write them up. Better late than never, right?

First, I celebrate the creativity of my students. I had just finished reading aloud Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin and I wanted to put up a display of artwork. So I thought about it and decided to have my students depict scenes from the book in our watercolor project. They turned out so well! I was amazed also at the details that they decided to include in their art. I love that we have this shared book experience! Then, also there is the one piece of art that gave my colleagues and I a few chuckles after school (look at the pictures and you will see what I mean).

This is a tower with a thorny bush at the bottom, of course.

We have been reading The One and Only Ivan now. I love that one of my students made the connection between Mack and King Barf. We were talking about how Mack seems to only think about money and this student brought up this connection. It was followed with a chorus of "Yeah, I was thinking that too." So fun to hear their thinking!

This is a carnation that one of my students brought me the day before Thanksgiving break. When I asked her what it was for she said, "because I love you." So sweet.

In the middle of November, I had the opportunity to attend a day-long workshop with Lucy Calkins presenting about the Units of Study in Teaching Reading. Mind Blown! Of course, I immediately purchased the units and then read and reflected about my own classroom and the workshop environment I had created so far this year. The workshop and the things Lucy had to say really helped me to rethink some of the extras that I had been trying to do. I have started using the first unit for 4th grade, with some modifications since I already had some procedures and routines in place. I stopped trying to figure out how to work in other reading work to look more like other reading classrooms in my building. I lost a huge weight off my shoulders and we have started to sink into the work of reading intensely and deeply. I love it.

My district started something new this year with our calendar. We had teacher work days Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It was awesome! I had a ton of time to rearrange my classroom and work on the never-ending work of sorting and labeling my class library. I am very pleased with the amount of work I was able to accomplish in those three days and I really like the new arrangement as well.

This week was full of amazing reading time. My students were able to sustain their independent reading time for 40-45 minutes each day. Even on Monday, which was the day after a week-long break for them. I am loving seeing most of the students really becoming avid readers.

In my personal life, I celebrate time with family and friends, a new fancy Kitchen-Aid mixer, fitting in regular workouts again, HGTV, and spring-like weather in December in Wisconsin.

What do you have to celebrate this week? I would love to hear from you in the comments!