Monthly Archives: July 2013

Summer Reading: Three Times Lucky

Standard

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. Mystery.

Life in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC is pretty typical until trouble rolls into town in the form of Detective Joe Starr.  Before long the town is buzzing with news of a murder and it’s up to Mo LoBeau and her friend Dale (a.k.a the Desperado Detectives) to crack the case.

Themes/Content: Detectives, murder, family, friendship, orphans, hurricanes, restaurants, first person narratives, kidnapping, voice, small town life, read aloud, NASCAR, humor, abuse, dialogue, word choice

Recommended for: Grades 5 and up, readers who like mystery, readers who like action and adventure, readers who like a funny story, read aloud, discussing word choice, reader’s theater

My Two Cents: Yet another terrific novel to add to my summer reading list!  Turnage has concocted a cast with just the amount of quirkiness that you’d expect from a small town.  Their names alone will catch your attention (Moses  LoBeau, The Colonel, Miss Lana, Lavender Macon, Thessolonians…) All of the town seems to meet and eat in the “café” and you’ll get caught up in their sometimes-casual, sometimes-chaotic  lives.

There are also serious aspects to the story, however.  Mo has started a “message-in-a-bottle” campaign to find her “upstream mother” who lost Mo during a hurricane.  There is also an actual murder, and kidnapping, and there are dangerous criminals in their midst.  At times the story seem humorous and light only to turn introspective or dangerous. Turnage is able to successfully work these conflicting emotions into a believable and balanced tale.

Not only would this book make a wonderful read aloud, I think it would be an excellent choice when talking about word choice and author’s craft in writing.

Similar/Paired Books from EHUE Library:

  • Barnett, Mac. It happened on a train. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2011. Print.
  • Boraas, Tracey. Police detective. Mankato, Minn.: Capstone Books, 2000. Print.
  • Fleischman, Paul. The Dunderheads behind bars. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2012. Print.
  • Giff, Patricia R. Hunter Moran saves the universe. New York: Holiday House, 2012. Print.
  • Horowitz, Anthony. South by southeast : a Diamond brothers mystery. New York: Puffin Books, 2005. Print.
  • Lane, Brian. Crime & detection. London: DK, 2005. Print.
  • Montgomery, Monte. Kid confidential : an insider’s guide to grown-ups. New York: Walker, 2012. Print.
  • Pullman, Philip. Two crafty criminals! : and how they were captured by the daring detectives of the New Cut Gang. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. Print.
  • White, Ruth. Way Down Deep. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. Print.

Favorite Quote: “Dale can choose not to worry like he chooses not to wear socks.  Miss Lana says I have more of a Jack Russell brain.  I think things apart for sport.” (Turnage, Sheila. Three times lucky. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012. 237. Print.)

Final Word(s): Three thumbs up! Great mystery, fun read! 😀

Curricu-Links: 31 July 2013

Standard

General/Multi-Topic

  • RSA Animate- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
    • This short animation provides an overview of research about motivation by Daniel Pink in his book of the same title.  If this research is correct what are the implications for education, for both teachers and students?
  • Coursera
    • “Take the world’s best online courses for free”
  • Helping Girls Unlock Their Leadership Potential
    • A great article from Edutopia.  Includes a trailer for the movie Miss Representation, a film from 2011 which explores how the media (mis)represents women.
  • Nothing to Prove
    • Speaking of girl videos… This is so awesome! I actually got choked up watching it.  If you are a girl, have girls, or know a girl you should watch it.  (One word may be inappropriate for some audiences…)

History/Social Studies

  • Primary Source Nexus
    • A wonderful, searchable clearinghouse for primary sources.  Includes a “Today in History” feature and lessons.

Language Arts:

Tech/Information Literacy

  • Readability
    • I use this browser plug-in all the time! De-clutters the webpage you are reading so that it’s easier to read the important stuff.  This has been around for a while, but as my eyesight gets worse, and I’m reading more on my computer and electronic devices,  I find myself using it more and more.

Thanks to the following for pointing me to the resources above: @TeachThought, Mr. Schu (@MrSchuReads), Joyce Valenza (@joycevalenza)

CIPA 10 Years Later

Standard

Today beginning at 11:00 EDT, ALA and Google are hosting a national symposium to revisit the impact of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Although CIPA is broader than education, if you’ve ever wondered about some of the technology choices that the schools make, this may provide some insight. You can follow the conversation on twitter at #CIPA_ALA13.  The meeting will also be archived, and will be made available on the ALA Washington Office’s Youtube Channel.

Source: The District Dispatch, News for Friends of Libraries, from the ALA Washington Office. July 23, 2013.

Summer Reading: Navigating Early

Standard

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool. Historical Fiction.

After his mother’s death, Jack Baker’s move from Kansas to a boarding school in Maine causes him to feel like a fish out of water.  His relationship with his father is distant both physically and emotionally and when his father has to postpone his visit, Jack finds himself on an adventure with an eccentric classmate who is on a quest to find Pi.

Themes/Content: Friendship, family, Pi, Boarding schools, Polaris, death, Ursa Major, bears, navigation, math, rowing (crew), fathers and sons, WWII, Appalachian Trail, Maine, Billie Holiday, synonyms, similes, National Geographic Magazine, military, adventure, first person narratives, synesthesia, autism, quests

Recommended for: Grades 5 and up, students and adults, students who like math, students who like historical fiction, students who like adventure, discussing constellations or stars, discussion of Pi (as well as pie,) discussion of simile, read aloud, character study

My Two Cents: Clearly this has been the summer for reading some outstanding books, because Navigating Early is certainly another winner.  I love it when an author combines such a unique storyline with such powerful characters.  There are two story threads that entwine around each other.  The first is the story of the friendship between Jack and Early.  The second is the story of Pi, interpreted by Early who sees the story in the infinite decimals places of Pi.  Pi’s story is paralleled in the quest that Jack and Early make as they navigate their way along the Appalachian Trail.

Vanderpool’s story is creative and smart and her characters are completely captivating. I laughed out loud at Jack’s sarcastic and slightly self-deprecating sense of humor.  Early is outwardly confusing  and eccentric, but as the story progresses we realize that internally, he has a much tighter grasp on reality than he communicates.  (My opinion is that Early has a type of synesthesia although Vanderpool, in her author’s note, is not quite so specific.)  Given his determination and quirkiness, Early reminds me of Owen Meany (A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.)

There are a multitude of curricular tie-ins with this book and it would make an outstanding read aloud. I’m grateful that Vanderpool included “Pi: Fact or Fiction” in her author’s note.  (If she hadn’t, rather than completing this book review right now, I’d be trying to calculate the digits of Pi.)

Similar/Paired Books from EHUE Library:

  • Buchan, Jamie. Easy as pi : the countless ways we use numbers every day. Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest, 2009. Print.
  • Dowd, Siobhan. The London Eye mystery. Oxford: David Fickling Books, 2008. Print.
  • Mass, Wendy. A mango-shaped space : a novel. New York: Little, Brown, 2005. Print.
  • McCallum, Ann. Eat your math homework : recipes for hungry minds. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2011. Print.
  • Neuschwander, Cindy. Sir Cumference and the dragon of pi : a math adventure. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 1999. Print.

Favorite Quote: (It was hard to pick just one.) “Connecting the dots. That’s what Mom said stargazing is all about.  It’s the same up there as it is down here, Jackie. You have to look for the things that connect us all.  Find the ways our paths cross, our lives intersect, and our hearts collide.” (Vanderpool, Clare. Navigating Early. New York: Delacorte Press, 2013. 291. Print.)

Final Word(s): A unique and amazing read!  Love it! 😀

Fall Reading List

Standard

As if I haven’t had enough trouble keeping up with my summer reads, here’s a preview of things to come! (A sequel to Dead End in Norvelt! Woo hoo!)

Reads for Keeps

The end of summer/early fall always brings a huge list of book releases, and here’s what I’m looking forward to in the next few months:
9780374379940_p0_v1_s260x420The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech (Sept. 3): The premise reminds me of Ruby Holler, one of my favorite Creech books.
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (Sept. 2): fingers crossed for the sequel to The Raven Boys, which had wonderful writing.
From Norvelt to Nowhere by Jack Gantos (Sept. 24): road trip with Miss Volker! This could get even crazier than its prequel.
Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Sept. 17): a new series from the creator of Bartimaeus.
slightlyHeroicCover250The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic by Uma Krishnaswami (Aug. 13): I heard about this through Educating Alice. So glad Dini is back, with all the silliness of her favorite Bollywood star and her wacky entourage.

View original post 82 more words

Curious about Creative Commons?

Standard

One of my goals as an educator is to promote a community of ethical users of information.  As such, there is rarely an instructional day during which I am not pontificating on the importance of honoring copyright and citing sources.  You will also hear me encouraging students and staff to use Creative Commons licensed resources.

The School of Open (through Peer to Peer University) is offering several free facilitated courses, including Copyright 4 Educators (US) and Creative Commons for K12 Educators.  Registration ends August 4th and the classes begin August 5th.  More information can be found on the Creative Commons website.

Most adults are familiar with copyright and it’s symbol (©.) The content creator is automatically granted the copyright to his/her work.   This means that from the instant that work is created, he or she has the right to say who can use it and under what condition it is used.  Very simply, copyright means “ask permission before using.”  The use of copyrighted material in the school is made more complex by “fair use” which stipulates that small portions of copyrighted material may be used for educational purposes without asking permission first, provided the work is given attribution.

Creative Commons is a (relatively) new type licensing for original works.  As with copyright, these works can be written works, (including books, poetry, websites, and more) music, images, video, dance, and any other type of work that can take a physical form.  A creator can assign his or her work a creative commons license with different levels of permissions.  So although you don’t need to ask permission to use the work, there may be restrictions on how it is used.  These restrictions can be combined into Creative Commons licenses.  The four types of restrictions are:

  • Attribution- You must give credit to the original creator
  • Non-Commercial- You cannot use the work for monetary gain
  • No Derivative Works- You cannot change the work or create a new work with it
  • Share Alike- You must license your new work with at least the same restrictions as the license of the original work

Here is a great infographic to help you make some sense of it all:

I know that with all of the other responsibilities of the classroom teacher, sometimes ethical use of information can take a backseat.  The internet has made it unbelievably easy to borrow the works of others, and our students don’t even realize that they may be infringing on copyright.  I urge you to learn about copyright and Creative Commons, practice ethical use of information, set standards for ethical use of information for your students, and consider giving your works Creative Commons licenses.

Summer Reading: Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie

Standard

Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie by Julie Sternberg.  Illustrated by Matthew Cordell (@cordellmatthew). Realistic Fiction.

Eleanor’s awful August begins with the devastating news that Bibi, her babysitter, is moving far away.  After Bibi leaves, everything reminds her of Bibi and makes her sad.  Eleanor wonders how her life will ever be the same.

Themes/Content: Babysitters, friendship, change, family, coping, loss, novels in prose, first person

Recommended for: Primary grades, students with friends/relatives moving away, introducing prose novels

My Two Cents:  This is a short, sweet book that makes the reader realize that the magnitude of a problem is in the eye of the beholder.  To an adult, a friend moving away may seem like a minor loss compared to other situations, but to a third grader this is a great tragedy.  Eleanor’s new babysitter handles the situation with compassion, not trying to step into Bibi’s shoes, but finding her own path into Eleanor’s heart.

Although the novel is written in free verse, there is not a lot of figurative language.  This might be a good way to introduce free verse because the text is so direct.   Cordell’s illustrations are on nearly every page and work well to draw attention to specific lines of the text.  As much as I don’t like to stereotype a book, I think that this book will probably appeal more to girls than boys, and therefore might not be the best choice for a read aloud.

Similar/Paired Books in EHUE Library:

  • Bowe, Julie. My last best friend. New York: Scholastic, 2007. Print.
  • Bryant, Annie. Bad news/good news. New York: Aladdin Mix, 2008. Print.
  • Cabot, Meg. Moving day /#1. New York: Scholastic Press, 2008. Print.
  • Carbone, Elisa L. Starting school with an enemy. New York: Knopf, 1998. Print.
  • Danziger, Paula. Amber Brown is not a crayon. New York: Putnam’s, 1994. Print.
  • Krishnaswami, Uma. The grand plan to fix everything. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011. Print.
  • Mattox, Wendy A. Babysitting skills : traits and training for success. Mankato, Minn.: Capstone Press, 2007. Print.
  • Sternberg, Julie. Like bug juice on a burger. 2013. Print.

Favorite Quote:

“Natalie saw a plastic grocery bag,

hanging from the branch of  a tree, swaying.

‘like a magnolia,’ she said.

‘A plastic grocery bag magnolia.'”

Final Word: Cute for the right audience.  😐