Sunday, April 20, 2014

If Not for Franki


Everyone remembers their first year teaching. At least the bits and pieces time has been kind enough to let hover in our memory. My first year was probably no different than many others. I felt completely overwhelmed and unprepared for what I had gotten myself in for. I was hired in a new state, in a district that had so many accolades, feeling grossly out of place. As I arrived at my first "new teacher orientation" event, I was greeted by a rather spunky individual with an infectious laugh. Little did I know, this would only be the beginning of a journey in my professional career that Franki Sibberson would continue to touch. 

As I stumbled through my first year of teaching, I remember asking a team member what professional books I should read. I was feeling the same as many others, that college had left me unprepared for the real world. I realized I needed some help. My team mate directed me to the books in the library written by Franki. All the sudden, light bulbs started to go off. Franki Sibberson? The person who will always remain one of my first memories of a district I was falling in love with? She was an author?

If you have had the opportunity to meet Franki, you know that she is one of the most humble people out there. I sat through a week of new teacher orientation watching Choice Literacy videos of other amazing teachers in our district and having her talk about other professionals to learn and grow from and not once did she mention her achievements. That's just who she is. 

I learned and grew as a literacy teacher my first year alongside Beyond Leveled Books: Supporting Early and Transitional Readers in Grades K-5 and Still Learning to Read: Teaching Students in Grades 3-6, both written by Franki and Karen Szymusiak. 

At the end of my first year teaching, I ended up being RIFed. I was heartbroken. Then I got a phone call. I was being picked back up at Riverside Elementary, which just so happened to be the elementary school Franki was working at at the time. 

I was totally starstruck when I was introduced to her. I even asked my teammate, Kami, if she thought I could ask for Franki to sign my books. Kami advised me against this, because that was just not Franki. I was lucky enough to learn and grow so much more that year. I was introduced to books and authors that changed my world. I transitioned from an adult reader to a children's book reader. My classroom instruction changed. Franki made me question thing I did and look more critically at everything. 

Since then, I found a community of professionals to learn and grow from on Twitter because of Franki's encouragement. I have met amazing people at conferences because Franki has introduced me. I have started a blog, because she knew how much I wanted to, even though I struggled and kept on me about it. I have become more purposeful in my professional reading because Franki saw what I needed to continue to grow. There are more thing than I can even count that she has helped me with. 

Thank you so much, Franki! I hope you have the most amazing birthday ever. I hope you feel the love today from all those around you that you have touched!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Mentor Text: How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans


This past summer, I was fortunate enough to participate in the local chapter of The National Writing Project. This awakened a love of writing and teaching writing that I did not know I possessed. One part of teaching writing that I have come to love is finding mentor text to inspire writers, who, like myself, have not developed confidence in their writing skills yet. 

How Martha Saved her Parents from Green Beans is a perfect story to inspire stories and creativity in writing. It has such a funny and accessible story line, my students could not wait to begin their own story inspired by this book. Some examples of stories they are working on are:

How Shahad Saved Her Parents From Chicken Wings

How Ellie Saved Her Mom from Green Beans

How Maysa Saved Her Parents from Peas

This book was a welcomed addition to my classroom library! 

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What are you Reading is a meme began by Sheila at Book Journeys as a way to share what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and what is in store for the upcoming week. Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee and Ricki of Unleashing Readers use the inspiration to host a kidlit focused link up every Monday. 

This is my first time linking up to #IMWAYR and I cannot be more excited! Last week, I read some fabulous books. As a third grade teacher, I am always on the lookout for books appropriate for third graders. This can provide tricky at times, but I definitely read some great ones last week. These are some of my favs (in no particular order). 

I absolutely LOVED The Chicken Squad. I thought it was the perfect short chapter book with awesome picture support for some of my struggling readers. And could the topic be any more engaging?! I'm always a chicken book fan. If you are interested in reading more about my love for this book, head over to my blog post about it. 

I have been rather IMpatiently awaiting the third installment of the LULU series so I was so excited to grab this book Tuesday! Judith Viost did not disappoint in the newest book, LULU's Mysterious Mission.  I did struggle to get used to the new illustrator in this book, but after adjusting, I fell in love with the story. Lulu goes on a mission to get rid of her new babysitter and along the way finds out a secret that has her scheming again! A great addition to our classroom library. 

Everyone has that author/illustrator who they would walk on hot coals to meet. Well Dan Santat is that person for me- which is why this is one of my favorite moments:

Or maybe this....

This is why I was beyond excited to get my hands on his new story. I knew it was going to be a favorite even before I got it. Dan Santat's inspiration for this book was his son, and you can feel that in the text and pictures throughout the book. The Adventures of Beekle is the beautiful story of an imaginary friend who goes in search of his person. And if loving the book wasn't enough, my students went WILD when I showed it to them. (They may have inherited a little of my crazy when it comes to Dan)

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald was my surprise book of the week. I had ordered it after hearing about it at MRA this year. I had had it for a few weeks, but hadn't got around to it. Finally, this weekend, as I was lazily lounging in the gorgeous weather, I grabbed it mostly because it was close and I wasn't about to go hunting. Well that was one of the best decisions because I fell in love with this book! I immediately felt attached to the main character, Theo, who was such an eccentric little girl with a resilient spirit. Then I fell in love with the story, which has roots in World War II. The history nerd in me just about fell over when I realized what the story was actually about. I have heard this book described as Chasing Vermeer meets From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Check it out- it does not disappoint!

This Weeks Reads:




So, what are YOU reading today??

Sunday, April 13, 2014

DigLit Sunday: Book Shelfies

This is my first post as part of Margaret Simon's weekly link up celebrating Digital Learning in the classroom: DigLit Sunday. Head on over to Reclections on the Teche to explore other link ups. 

While perusing Twitter one day, I came across Jonathan Werner's link to a recent blog post. I'm not sure who coined the term "Shelfie", but I loved it! I had recently introduced Explain Everything to my students as a productivity app, and had been wanting to find a way to introduce ThingLink to them. Jonathan had merged these two apps to create an interactive book recommendation. I couldn't wait to introduce the idea to my students.

 Once I showed my students a few examples, they began to create their own. I did not require them to include anything, but gave them the some ideas of things they could include in their Shelfie:

1. A powerful line from the text
2. A personal response to the text
3. A quick summary of the book
4. A book trailer
5. Link to the author's website or blog
6. Link to a blog post about book
7. Images of other books by the same author

The rest was up to the kids. They did great! Not only did they learn more about a book they loved, but they immediately began to share what they were finding with each other. Once they finished, we used a QR code to link their Thinglink and put the printed image of the Shelfie out in the hall. I couldn't be happier with the product. Franki Sibberson (A Year of Reading) had then given me the idea to keep the Shelfies up in the classroom for next years class to get book ideas.

Here are the steps we did to create our Shelfies:

1. Take a picture of you and your book with the iPad.
2. Drop the picture into Explain Everything.
3. Edit by adding text and other pictures in Explain Everything.
4. Save the picture from Explain Everything to iPad camera roll.

*Note: My classroom has 2 iPads with cameras. Because of this, we used WebDAV to export the image to their school cloud. From here, students could use either the ThingLink app or the website.

5. Import image to ThingLink.
6. Add interactive buttons.
7. Share the image by using the link, or embedding the code.

These are just a few of the Shelfies we created.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Celebrate: March Book Madness



I love Twitter for so many reasons. One of which is the ability to have 1 min PD from a community of brilliant educators any time. So when I saw this tweet from Tony Keefer, I was very intrigued:


 I have always been a huge March Madness fan and a huge book fan. The combination of these two had my mind blown! I couldn't wait to get started. Well this week we had out championship vote. Here is my list of celebrations for March Book Madness 2014: 

1. My classroom is across from the bathrooms. The books we chose had maximum exposure and even some students coming in to ask if they could read them. Many times, I would walk out of my room to kids staring at the books or having discussions with other about them. 

2. After our initial seeding, some books were ranked low because students judged by their cover. Those were some of the books that went the furthest. Hopefully a valuable lesson!

3. The students became so invested in the books they wanted to win. Both a good thing and a bad thing. When their book lost, they took it a little to hard!

4. The deeper thinking the kids did about the books never ceased to amaze me! They would try to reason against popular books being up against other popular books. Their excuses ranged from genres not matching, to the same illustrator going up against one another, to a "think and feel" book up against a funny book. When they are trying to passionately convince others of their opinion, their thinking becomes so much deeper!

5. The noise level in the classroom at the time of the championship vote was out of control! I have never felt a quiet room was necessary and the louder the better in certain cases. This was one of those cases. People walking by couldn't help but stop and stare. 

6. Though there could only be one winner, I know all the books were winners in each child's heart. 

These are just some of our celebrations. I can't wait to make this an annual tradition in my classroom! 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure

     It seems year after year, the biggest struggle I have with my classroom library is finding new, high interest, beginning chapter books for my struggling readers. This is why I was delighted yesterday to find Doreen Cronin's newest creation, The Chicken Squad

     With the distinctive voice found in her earlier, CLICK, CLACK, MOO Cows That Type, Cronin's book had me chuckling the whole way through. And who doesn't love a good chicken book? I mean really, a chicken on the cover is an automatic selling point for me! Well, these chickens do not disappoint.

   Dirt, Sugar, Poppy, and Sweetie join forces with J.J. Tully, a retired search-and-rescue hound, to solve a backyard mystery.  Tail comes to The Chicken Squad with a mystery of an unknown object in the backyard. The chickens quickly realize that there is more than Tail's tail at stake! They band together to protect the yard from this new invader. In the mists of an adventure, their new "client", Tail, gets an expanded vocabulary, a fantastic action sequence, and a few new friends.

  The second I finished this book, I knew exactly which students I wanted to hand it off to. So many of my third grade readers will benefit from the short chapters, supporting pictures, and new vocabulary this story is bound to introduce.

   Luckily, I do not have too long to wait until the next installment. The Case of the Weird Blue Chicken: The Next Misadventure will hit stores in September. Perfect timing for my next bunch of kiddos!

Monday, April 7, 2014

$11 in Coins

Today, as I walked in to school, I was not feeling my bright and chipper self. After a weekend of realizing that aging does not always occur gracefully, I had a bad case of the Monday's. The rainy, cool Midwest weather did little to improve my mood. But once again, leave it to my kiddos to pull me out of my funk, back to the land of the living!

As my students shuffled in to class, one kiddo handed me something that awakened a joy that only those kids can do on a dreary Monday. She had no idea of what she did, but how could she? One of my marvelously joyful English language learners came skipping in with this:

What you may not be able to see written so carefully on the plastic bag of quarters are the words: "Money for Books". 

She proudly exclaimed, "It's $11 in quarters, Mrs. Strawser!" pushing her Scholastic book club order form into my hand. 

To some, this may seem like an odd thing to find so rewarding.

What my student could have never known was that at the same age, I did the exact same thing. Only, my teacher responded quit differently.

Memories are funny that way. The ones that stick the closest to your heart, the ones you never seem to let go, never loose their power.

I will never forget scrounging every last penny from my piggy bank to purchase the new edition of The Bailey School Kids. And I will never forget the pain I felt when my teacher told me she would not except my money because it was all in coins. How was I to understand that even though I had enough money, It was not what she wanted. I went that month without experiencing the joy of watching that box arrive in the classroom. The humiliation my young 8 year old readers heart felt loosing an opportunity to add to what would one day become an impressive collection of books was unbearable. And thus, this memory will forever haunt me. I look back and still wonder why? Why did my teacher not see that my pennies, nickles, and dimes were brought to school accompanying a love of reading? 

And so today I accepted $11 in quarters with the happiest of hearts. The heart of a reader witnessing the growing heart of a fellow reader. This was a reminder to me in so many ways. This is what no standardized test can score. This is why I am a teacher. I can watch these kids embark on their own journey at their own pace. I try an do my best for them just like they do every day for me. 

Although, I did leave with a rather heavy purse...