Monthly Archives: July 2013

International Dot Day

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Today is two months to the day until International Dot Day.  This event has been recently publicized in the blogosphere and of course I was curious…

From the Dot Club Website:

“International Dot Day was launched by teacher Terry Shay when he introduced his classroom to Peter H. Reynolds’ book The Dot on September 15, 2009. (Fun Fact: Terry chose September 15 because the original publishing date of The Dot is September 15, 2003!) The Dot tells the story of a caring teacher who reaches a reluctant student in a remarkably creative way. The teacher dares a doubting student to trust in her own abilities by being brave enough to “make her mark”. What begins with a small dot on a piece of paper becomes a breakthrough in confidence and courage, igniting a journey of self-discovery and sharing, which has gone on to inspire countless children and adults around the globe.”

This year September 15th falls on a Sunday, so the date might make for some interesting scheduling.  Still, I’d love to to see EHUE students and staff participate.  Let’s start planning now!  A free resource guide is available after registering.  Are you ready to make your mark on the world?

Writing and Awesomeness

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I somehow stumbled onto Jeff Goins Writer via someone else (a tweet, a post, who knows… sorry, I’ll never be able to track it back and give credit…)  The post that caught my attention was actually written by a guest author, Nick Thacker.  (Three Signs you’ve Found Your True Passion… I believe I have by the way… especially #2.)

After reading the above post, I started to peruse the other posts and investigate the blog.  Jeff Goins offers advice and guidance to aspiring writers; “Regular Doses of Inspiration and Awesome.” As someone new to the blogging world, and slightly intimidated by allowing the world to peak into my thoughts, I was simultaneously excited, intrigued, and terrified by this find.  One of the next posts that I read was “Five Weak Words that Make your Writing Less Effective.” I was a little freaked out.  Who know how many I had already used?  I’d read only one post and I already felt so inadequate.  A quick scan of some of the other posts and I knew had come across a valuable resource.

Needless to say I will be following this blog.  Although this blog appears to be written for “writers,” as teachers, our goal is to cultivate writing in our classroom.  I can’t help but think that just by ingesting some of his inspiration and awesome we can help our students develop into skillful writers as well.

Idea Board for nErDcamp 2013

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The more tweets and posts that I read about nErDcamp 2013, the more disappointed I am that I was not able to attend!  How kind of the participants to take notes and share! (Not that I expected anything less!  Thanks all!)  Check out the idea board below.  Click on the session link to read the notes.  I love some of the suggestions for the School-Wide Literacy Projects.

When is nErDcamp 2014?  I need to mark my calendar!

Idea Board for nErDcamp 2013 – Google Drive.

Summer Reading: Sophia’s War

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Sophia’s War by Avi.  Historical Fiction.

Sophia Calderwood, vowing to avenge her brother’s treatment in a British prison, takes drastic and dangerous steps to aide the Patriots as they struggle to win the American Revolution.

Themes/Content: The American Revolution, family, Benedict Arnold, John Andre’, Nathan Hale, New York (during the American Revolution), spies, trust, war prisons/prisoners, first person narrative, women in the American Revolution

My Two Cents:  Recommended for grades 5 and up.  Avi again does not disappoint with this well researched historical piece.  He does an amazing job of capturing Sophia’s voice and the apprehensive climate of the time.  Sophia’s War weaves three stories, two of which are historically accurate (Benedict Arnold and the war prisons) and one (Sophia’s tale) which is completely fictional.  Sophia’s personal war is a two-fold.  She’s at war with the British, but she also struggles internally and questions her motives as she helps the patriots.  Is she truly taking these actions to ensure the victory of her country or is she just trying to get revenge for being disregarded at a young age by the man she admired.

Includes a glossary of 18th Century terms, author’s note and a bibliography.  Although there are some descriptions of the horrors of war, none are overly graphic.  This would be an outstanding read aloud for our 5th grade when studying the American Revolution.  As much as I love historical fiction, I have to say that I’ve never been excited about history.  Avi has show me a different perspective by creating such an engaging story which makes these historical events come alive.  No longer are Arnold, Andre’, and Hale simply historical figures, they are developed characters with strengths and flaws.

Pair this with books from EHUE Library:

  • Allen, Thomas B. George Washington, spymaster : how the Americans outspied the British and won the Revolutionary War. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2004. Print.
  • Anderson, Laurie H. Chains : seeds of America. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2008. Print.
  • Griffin, Judith B. Phoebe the spy. New York: Scholastic, 1977. Print.
  • Hale, Nathan. One dead spy : the life, times, and last words of Nathan Hale, America’s most famous spy. New York: Amulet Books, 2012. Print.
  • Murphy, Jim. The real Benedict Arnold. New York: Clarion Books, 2007. Print.
  • O’Dell, Scott. Sarah Bishop. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980. Print.
  • Purcell, Martha S. Spies of the American Revolution. Logan, Iowa: Perfection Learning, 2003. Print.
  • Thompson, Paul B. Liberty’s son : a spy story of the American Revolution. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 2010. Print.

Favorite Quote: “Dear Reader: It is a terrible thing to see a man hang.  But that is why I did what I did.  Was I right to act in such a way?  You must decide.”  (Avi. Sophia’s war : a tale of the Revolution. New York: Beach Lane Books, 2012. Print.)

The Final Word(s): Awesome! Two thumbs up! Read it! 😀

X marks the spot: Beatboxing brilliance from TEDxSydney and this week’s favorite TEDx talks

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This is so amazing that I just had to re-blog… Music teachers, you’re going to love this!  While individual students might not be able to work the beat box the way Tom does, can you imagine beat box jazz ensembles?  I can!

Pair with books from our EHUE Library:

Orgill, Roxane. Skit-scat raggedy cat : Ella Fitzgerald. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2010. Print.

Weinstein, Muriel H. Play, Louis, play! : the true story of a boy and his horn. New York: Bloomsbury, 2010. Print.

Mr. Schu Visits Randyland

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From Mr. Schu: Watch. Connect. Read.: I took Anita Silvey’s Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac to Randyland.

How sad is it that it took me reading a visiting librarian’s blog to realize that Pittsburgh is home to this awesome creation!

Mr. Schu brings up a great point of curiosity… the characters in books are trapped in their settings.  If they could step out where would they go?

I’m also ashamed to say that I haven’t yet perused Anita Silvey’s Book-A-Day Almanac.  Needless to say EHUE will soon be acquiring a copy…

Who’s up for a trip to Randyland?

Summer Read: Same Sun Here

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Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani, Illustrated by Hilary Schenker. Realistic Fiction.

Pen pals, Meena and River, become fast friends as they discover that they have much more in common than they ever thought possible.  Told via alternating bits of correspondence, the story spans an entire school year, with happy, sad, and uncomfortable conversations along the way.

Themes/Content: Friendship, writing, culture, India, Kentucky, social activism, environment, immigration, citizenship, coal mining, mountain top removal, stereotypes, prejudice, Appalachia, family, poetry, voice, presidential elections, Barak Obama

My two cents:  Recommended for grades 5 and up.  I really wanted to love this book, but I had a hard time believing it.  Meena begins the conversation by asking River to be completely open and honest in his writing…. and surprisingly he actually is!  I know it’s possible for two kids to be so forthcoming so quickly, but it’s just not believable.  Their correspondence is also full of political overtones.  Again, not to say that two sixth graders would not ever discuss presidential elections and environmental activism, they just seem mature beyond their years. (Be aware that a few of their conversations may not be suitable for everyone.)

(Spoilers ahead…) Finally, there is also just a little too much coincidence for this to be believable.  They both have fathers whose work keeps them away from home for long periods of time; they both have extremely wise, caring  and strong grandmothers; their homesteads are impacted by greedy companies destroying the environment;  River’s school gym is crushed by a boulder dislodged as a result of mountain top mining; River ends up on the cover of Time magazine … Sorry, but there are just way too many cards falling into place…

Favorite Quote: “I like that library books have secret lives. All those hands that have held them. All those eyes that have read them.” (House, Silas; Vaswani, Neela (2012-02-14). Same Sun Here (Kindle Locations 741-742). Candlewick Press. Kindle Edition.)

The Final Word: So-so. 😐

Summer Slacking

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Well… I’ve been slacking a bit this summer… not so much with reading, but definitely with writing. I’ve decided to give my writing a kick-start with my new WordPress blog.
I’ve put a pretty good dent in my summer reading take-out box, but have yet to write about anything.  So here’s a quick update on what I’ve tackled so far:
  • Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury- Historical Fiction/Mystery.  Egyptology, Napoleon.  Grade 6 and up.
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman- Dragon Fantasy, Music, Families. First in a series. Grade 6 and up.
  • Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger- Mystery/Humor, politics, friendship.  Begs to be read while wearing a fake mustache.  Great read aloud.  Grades 4 and up.
  • May B. by Caroline Rose Starr- Historical Fiction/ Novel in Prose.  Survival, learning disabilities, life on the prairie. Grade 5 and up.
  • Prairie Evers by Ellen Airgood- Realistic Fiction.  Family, friendship, chickens. Grades 5 and up.
  • Legend by Marie Lu- SciFi/Dystopia.  Survival, rivalry, epidemics.  First in a series.  Grades 6 and up.
  • This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel- SciFi/Horror. The apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, alchemy.  A few gruesome scenes. Grades 6 and up.
  • The Enemy by Charlie Higson- SciFi/Horror.  Zombies, survival, rivalry.  First in a series.  A bit too violent for EHUE (Will not be at our library.) Grades 8 and up.
  • Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz- Dark Fantasy. Orphans, puppetry, magic, witches, family. Grades  5 and up.
  • The Trouble with Chickens by Doreen Cronin – Mystery/Humor.  Search and rescue dog is asked by their mother to find two kidnapped chicks.  Good read aloud. One of a series. Grades 4 and up.