Monthly Archives: August 2013

Curricu-Links; 26 Aug 2013

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General Multi-Topic

The Biscotti Kid

  • Featured in this post from Ms. O reads books, this Sesame Street parody of the Karate Kid teaches children to listen with their whole body.  Although Sesame Street is a bit young for our students, I can still envision them enjoying this clip and reciting the mantra: “Eyes watch. Ears listen. Voice quiet. Body calm.” What do you think?  (It kept me entertained!)

Focus on Collaboration to Start the School Year

  • I’m a huge fan of collaborative project based learning.  This is a fantastic article about setting the tone for collaboration.  Read this early in the year!

25 Things Successful Educators do Differently

  • I’m not sure if you go through the same mental soul searching that I do at the beginning of each school year, but I thought this list might be of interest to those of you who do.  I’m always trying to find a way to better myself,  and improve the service I provide to the teachers and students whom I serve.  I know I won’t be all of these things all of the time, but it’s nice to have aspirations…

Language Arts

Undocumented Immigrant in Children’s Literature

  • I’m beginning to see more literature for children on this topic.  Here’s a nice blog post from Pragmatic Mom with suggestions for book on this immigrant families.

Children’s Literature Statues

  • This is a faculty field trip I’d love to take! What fun would it be to tour the country and visit as many of these statues as possible?

Math

Robert Lang The Math and Magic of Origami

  • Robert Lang can create some amazing origami works of art. What’s really cool is, he has actually used math to break down the process.  In this TEDTalk he demonstrates how this works.  Admittedly, the math is above my head, but for you math junkies out there, and your advanced students this could be something really interesting to explore.  You can also download his software, Treemaker, to help automate the process.  (Again, I downloaded it, but don’t quite get it! )

Mr. Collins Mathmatics Blog

  • In this post Mr. Collins lists his “goto” websites.  There are a plethora of interesting sites lessons and activities for a variety of age groups (leaning to the more advanced side for most.) FYI most of the sites are from the UK so you’ll see the word “maths” a lot.

Science

The Great Sunflower Project

  • Interestingly this website is more about pollination and bees than sunflowers. Users of the site can upload data and observations.  Includes teacher resources.

Social Studies

Visit Zoos and Animal Parks Through Google Street View

  • I confess that I am a google maps/google earth newbie.  I still prefer an actual map or atlas to a GPS.  This is really cool though!  Visit zoos around the world and virtually walk through them.

Art/Music

Sculptural Masterpieces Made from Old Books

Lessons Plans fro Arts integration in All Subjects

Information Literacy/Technology

10 Ed Tech Podcasts You Can’t Miss

  • Looking for some professional development for your commute?  Try one of these podcasts.

Digital Citizenship Flashcards

5 Resources to Help Students Become A+Digital Citizens

  • Both of the above links are from A Platform For Good.org.  In this day and age, digital citizenship should be a focus in every classroom.  I hope to use some of these resources as I plan instruction this year.

Poll Everywhere

  • Create polls on the fly and receive real-time feed back through text messaging or a custom URL.  “Take the Tour” for a quick overview. Great for those EHUE teachers who don’t have Acti-voters.

Creating Infographics Using Picktochart

  • This will help you understand what an infographic is as well as help you create one from scratch.

40 Way to Innovate Teaching Using GlogsterEDU

  • At EHUE we have a GlogsterEDU account.  Glogster is an online presentation tool that allows you to create interactive multimedia posters.  Here are some ideas for how to use GlogsterEDU in your class.

Aurasma

  • This is an amazing app that allows creates an augmented reality version of a still picture.  I think it’s like a cooler version of a QR code.  I predict it will be the next big thing.  Check out this blog post about using Aurasma in the music classroom.  I think it would be interesting to use this with the children’s literature statues in the link above.

Sources for my sources: Richard Byrne (@richardbyrne), Erin Klein (@KleinErin), Joy H.

Summer Reading: The Great Unexpected

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The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech. Realistic Fiction/Mystery/Folklore.

Naomi and Lizzie find their friendship tested when a body falling out of a tree turns out to be Finn, a boy who captures hearts.  Meanwhile, across the ocean, Mrs. Kavanaugh and Miss Pilpenny discuss murder and plot revenge.

Themes/Content: Friendship, family, orphans, tragedy, death, revenge, relationships, forgiveness, Ireland, Irish folklore, Finn McCoul, symbolism, setting, reality, fear, coping, connectedness, crows (rooks)

Recommended for: Grades 5 and up, discussing symbolism, discussing author’s craft and word choice, readers who like a bit of sadness, but not sobbing tear-jerkers, readers who like a mystery, readers who are able to trust a story, discussing characterization, discussing parallelism

My Two Cents:  It was very hard to assign a genre to this book.  In some respects it felt like a mystery… Who (or what) is Finn?  What kind of devious revenge are the spinsters planning? In some respects this felt like folklore/fantasy… Is Finn a ghost?  What’s with all of the crows (rooks)?  Is there really fairy gold?  I think though that this is mostly a story about relationships, which I think makes it fall best under realistic fiction.  Reading the themes and content above you may get the impression that this is a dark depressing book, but in fact it is not.

For the many Sharon Creech fans out there, the writing won’t disappoint.  She just has such a unique style that on every page I was delighted with her little gems of word choice.  This was also a book I had a hard time putting down, for several reasons.  Of course her word choice is incentive enough to keep reading, but I really loved Naomi, Lizzie, and all of the characters in the book.  Naomi is down to earth and a little sarcastic (which I can always appreciate.) Lizzie is a little more needy and formal, and a chatterbox!  They make an unusual pair, but when their friendship is tested you find yourself hoping that they will overcome the challenge.  Finn is a charmer, and a mystery and the source of friction between the girls.  The odd thing is that even after finishing the book he is still a mystery to me.  The secondary characters in both Blackbird tree and “Across the Ocean” are just as interesting, each one with a unique quirk or personality.

This book could be challenging for some readers.  It is the kind of book in which you have to have a little blind faith that the confusion at the beginning of the story will work itself out by the time you reach the end.  That confusion was part of what kept me glued to this book.  I kept reading because wanted to make sense of the story.  Creech is masterful in the way that she reveals essential plot points little by little along the way.  This could work as a read aloud, but might be difficult because of the way the dialog is written (at times,) and the Irish brogue.

Here is a short video in which Sharon Creech discusses The Great Unexpected:

Similar/Paired Books from EHUE Library:

  • Blashfield, Jean F. Ireland. New York: Children’s Press, 2002. Print.
  • Burns, Batt. The King with Horse’s Ears and Other Irish Folktales. New York: Sterling, 2009. Print.
  • De Valera, Sinéad. The Magic Gifts. Dublin, Ireland: Wolfhound Press, 2000. Print.
  • Doyle, Roddy. A Greyhound of a Girl. New York: Amulet Books, 2012. Print.
  • Krull, Kathleen. A Pot o’ Gold : a Treasury of Irish Stories, Poetry, Folklore, and (of course) Blarney. New York: Hyperion Books, 2009. Print.
  • Spilsbury, Richard, and Louise Spilsbury. A Murder of Crows. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2003. Print.
  • White, Ruth. Way Down Deep. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. Print.

Favorite Quote: (There were so many it was hard to choose!)

“Her companion, Miss Pilpenny, recapped the pen. ‘Yes, Sybil, a fine and clever revenge.’

‘Shall we have a murder tonight?’

‘Indeed Sybil, splendid notion.’

‘And then perhaps a little jam and bread.'”

(Creech, Sharon. The Great Unexpected. New York: Joanna Cotler Books, 2012. 10. Print.)

The Final Word(s): Beautiful writing! Stick with it! 😀

Faculty Field Trip: Clayton (The Frick Family Home)

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FrickMansionClayton

Leepaxton at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)

Yesterday Deb and I took another faculty field trip.  We chose to tour Clayton, the Pittsburgh home of the Henry Clay Frick family.  The Clayton tour is just one of many offerings from the Frick Art and Historical Center. The partnership between Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Carnegie resulted in their both amassing huge fortunes and power as they dominated the steel industry at the turn of the twentieth century.  Their legacy lives on and today you’d be hard pressed to find a  Pittsburgh-er who doesn’t know the names Frick and Carnegie.

This was my first visit to the Frick home and of course the tour was amazing!  I was mesmerized by both the extravagance and the craftsmanship of the home.  Everywhere you look, floor to ceiling, there is something beautiful or interesting to see.  Henry Frick was an art collector, so aesthetics and attention to detail in the construction and decorating of the house were paramount.  I marveled at the craftsmanship, finishing, and sheer amount of the woodwork.  You wouldn’t think one could appreciate the door in Henry’s bedroom as much as the Monet in their sitting room, but I did.  Yet, for all of their opulence, the Fricks were also devoted parents who doted on their children.  This magnificent building feels warm and welcoming and there are pictures of the children in nearly every room.

Our tour guide was Cassie and if you visit the Frick I hope you have the pleasure of having her guide you.  She was not only extremely knowledgeable, but very enthusiastic as well. The only part of her tour that I didn’t like was the part where she said we had to leave our cell phones.  Not that I’m on my phone all the time, but I rely on it to keep notes.  There were so many things that she talked about that I wanted to write down, but I didn’t have the app for that.  Lesson one learned… invest in a small notebook and have a writing implement on faculty field trips.

While we’re on lessons learned here’s another.  Homework should be done before the field trip.  I should have know better.  In graduate school I read Out Of This Furnace by Thomas Bell.  So, somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind I know the story of Frick and Carnegie and the steel mills and the strikes… but that was many books ago.  I should have at least checked out the Frick website and read the history before I went.  If I had I might not be sitting here now wishing I had had a pencil (see lesson one.) Had I explored the website first I also would have also realized that the Frick offers many educational opportunities and resources for both students and teachers, including lessons, professional development, and this video tour of the home:

If you have the opportunity, take the time to visit Clayton and see how the other half lived.

Oh… and don’t forget to get dessert at the cafe!

Summer Reading: Trash

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Trash by Andy Mulligan. Realistic Fiction/Mystery.

The lives of three “dumpsite boys” become forever entwined when one day Raphael discovers a bag containing a wallet, a map, and a key.  Soon all three are running from the police and desperately trying to solve the mystery of why the bag is so important to the authorities.

Themes/Content: Poverty, trash, waste, money, corruption, power, survival, courage, fear, friendship, education, codes, standards of living, character perspective, environment, greed

Recommended for: Grades 6 and up, readers who like dramatic stories, readers who like a lot of action, readers who like mystery, inquiry projects for social awareness or environmental issues, discussing character perspective

My Two Cents: When I choose a book to read I intentionally try to not know much about it.  I rarely read the summaries or reviews before I read the book.  It took me several chapters to realize I wasn’t reading dystopian science fiction.  The conditions of squalor in which the characters live are so extreme, how could I think otherwise?  Then I started thinking about my trip to Ghana several years ago, and I connected some of the scenes described in the book with some of the poverty stricken areas I had visited then.  Here I confess that I broke out of my normal routine and skipped to the acknowledgements at the end.  Mulligan said, “Behala dumpsite is based loosely on a place I visited whilst living in Manila.” Here is what he had to say about the book:

This book is definitely not for younger students, even though young children are the protagonists.  The authorities are brutal with Raphael as they interrogate him.  Rat (Jun-Jun) is completely alone in the world, living in the midst of filth and trash with the rats as company.  Gardo takes the leadership role and gives the others strength.  They all must take drastic measures just to survive in the harsh environment which surrounds them.  The boys do find compassionate people who play a role is helping them solve the mystery.  At first solving the mystery is a matter of survival, but eventually the boys realize that they are compelled to right a wrong that occurred before they were born.

This book will be eye-opening for those of our students who are born into a life of privilege.  As we encourage our students to be more globally aware, Trash could be used to spark discussion about living conditions in developing countries and possibly as in impetus for our students to affect change.  The book might also encourage students to learn more about the environmental impact of these very real sites.

Similar/Paired Books from EHUE Library:

  • Bailey, Gerry, and Felicia Law. Cowries, Coins, Credit. Minneapolis, Minn.: Compass Point Books, 2006. Print.
  • Bedford, Deborah J. Garbage Disposal. North Mankato, Minn.: Smart Apple Media, 2006. Print.
  • Bellamy, Rufus. Food for All. North Mankato, Minn.: Smart Apple Media, 2006. Print.
  • Clifford, Tim. Around the World with Money. Vero Beach, Fla.: Rourke Pub., 2009. Print.
  • Kent, Zachary. The Story of the Peace Corps. Chicago: Children Press, 1990. Print.
  • Ma, Yan, and Pierre Haski. The Diary of Ma Yan : the Struggles and Hopes of a Chinese Schoolgirl. New York: HarperCollins, 2005. Print.
  • Milway, Katie S. One Hen : How One Small Loan Made a big Difference. Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2008. Print.
  • Povey, Karen D. Garbage. Detroit: KidHaven Press, 2006. Print.

Favorite Quote: “The absence of money is drought in which nothing can grow.  Nobody knows the value of water until they’ve lived in a dry dry place- like Behala.  So many people waiting for the rain.” (Mulligan, Andy. Trash. Oxford: David Fickling Books, 2010. 149. Print.)

The Final Word(s): A powerful gripping mystery. 🙂

Summer Reading: White Fur Flying

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White Fur Flying by Patricia McLachlan. Realistic Fiction

Zoe and her family, who foster rescued Great Pyrenees dogs, hope that their furry friends will help the new boy next door find his voice.

Themes/Content: Family, courage, rescue dogs, mutism, Great Pyrenees dogs, writing, imagination, friendship, coping, patience, parrots, first person narratives

Recommended for: Grades 4 and up, dog lovers, read aloud, role models, Adopt a Shelter Pet Month (October)

My Two Cents: This is a heartwarming story for dog lovers everywhere.  Zoe’s entire family serve as wonderful roles models.  Her mother is passionate about rescuing unwanted dogs.  Her father is a veterinarian.  Her sister Alice has a vivid imagination and see everything through the lens of an author writing a story.  Zoe is patient and courageous, especially when it come to her relationship with the new neighbor, Phillip.

Minor spolier alert:  If you’re looking for high drama, this is not the book for you.  There is just enough drama to to add a hint of danger.  This is not a tear-jerker… no dogs die in this book.

This book would make a great read-aloud for any class.  I would be the perfect choice for October, which is Adopt a Shelter Pet month.  You could even tie in community service projects with the local animal shelter.

Similar/Paired Books from EHUE Library:

  • Bial, Raymond. Rescuing Rover : Saving America’s Dogs. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2011. Print.
  • Kehret, Peg. Shelter Dogs : Amazing Stories of Adopted Strays. Morton Grove, Ill.: Albert Whitman, 1999. Print.
  • Laidlaw, Rob. No Shelter Here : Making the World a Kinder Place for Dogs. Toronto: Pajama Press, 2012. Print.
  • McDonnell, Patrick. Mutts : Shelter Stories. Kansas City, Mo.: Andrews McMeel Pub., 2008. Print.
  • Nuzum, K A. The Leanin’ Dog. New York: Joanna Cotler Books, 2008. Print.
  • Paulsen, Jim, and Gary Paulsen. Road Trip. New York: Wendy Lamb Books, 2013. Print.

Favorite Quote:  “We laughed and laughed so much that Kodi woofed at us, and the sun came out from behind a cloud creeping across the yard and up the steps to warm our feet.” (MacLachlan, Patricia. White Fur Flying. NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013. 47. Print.)

The Final Word(s): Simply sweet! 😀

Level It

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Here’s a handy app for those of you who are setting up your leveled classroom libraries.  Level It Books is an app, for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch (available for $2.99 through iTunes) that allows you to scan the ISBN of a book to find title information, as well as GR levels, grade level equivalents, lexile and DRA levels.  Keep in mind that the database will not contain every title, especially newer titles.  According to their website they have about 150,000 titles in their database.  Not that this information is hard to find through other sources, but the convenience of barcode scanning may make it worth the price.

There are several additional features which add value to this app:

  • Library: You can use the app to keep track of books in your classroom library.  Set up a new library in the app and then scan the ISBN to add the book to your library.
  • Wish List:  Keep track of suggestions from students and colleagues
  • Roster: Create a student roster and you can keep track of who has your books.

The creators of the app hope to have teachers make recommendations and submit levels.  “One of our goals with this app is to create a network of teachers that will provide input into our ever expanding database of book data.”

There may be other players out there offering similar functionality, but this is the first I’ve seen of an app like this.  Sorry, I don’t know if there is a comparable app for android devices.

Summer Reading: Seagulls Don’t Eat Pickles

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Fish Finelli: Seagulls Don’t Eat Pickles by E. S. Farber.  Illustrated by Jason Beene. Mystery.

After making a bet with Bryce Billings, Norman “Fish” Finelli and his friends, Roger and T. J. set out to find the lost treasure of Captain Kidd.  The boys worry when they realize the Mystery Man, and his equally mysterious partner, are also searching for the treasure.

Themes: Friendship, mystery, treasure, Captain Kidd, bullies, fishing, boating, ocean life, ghosts, pirates, trivia, imagination, first person narratives

Recommended For: Grades 4 and 5, readers who are interested in treasure, readers who like mysteries, teaching about characters’ traits, read aloud, readers who like trivia, “Talk Like a Pirate Day”

My Two Cents: This is a great mystery for fourth graders with plenty of opportunity for extension into other curricular areas.  Fish, Roger and T. J. have vivid imaginations and distinctive character traits: Roger seems to be the practical joker in the group; T. J. is constantly snacking on something and Fish seems to be a walking encyclopedia.  In fact, “Fish’s Fun Facts,” random bits of trivia associated with the story, are interspersed alongside of the text.  I’ll have to admit though, T. J.’s constant snacking on sugary treats has me a bit concerned that he’s on the fast track to obesity, diabetes, or both.

There is just the right amount of silly dialog, gross-out humor and word play to make this book appealing to both girls and boys.  Throughout the book Beene’s illustrations are black and white caricatures of the action.  As the book ends it’s clear that this is the first in a series.

I would have liked Farber to include an author’s note at the end of the story, explaining which facts about Captain Kidd were historically accurate, and recommending additional resources.  There is a discussion guide available from the publisher.  “Talk Like a Pirate” day is Thursday, September 19th.  This book would be a great way to work it into your class.

Similar/Paired Books from EHUE Library:

  • Avi. Windcatcher. New York: Avon Books, 1992. Print.
  • Bryant, Jennifer. Kaleidoscope Eyes. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. Print.
  • Cheshire, Simon. The Pirate’s Blood and Other Case Files. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2011. Print.
  • Colfer, Eoin. Eoin Colfer’s Legend of– Captain Crow’s Teeth. New York: Miramax Books/Hyperion Books for Children, 2005. Print.
  • Dixon, Franklin W. The Twisted Claw. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1969. Print.
  • Harrison, David L. Pirates : Poems. Honesdale, Pa.: Wordsong, 2008. Print.
  • Lassieur, Allison. Pirate Hideouts : Secret Spots and Shelters. Mankato, Minn.: Capstone Press, 2007. Print.
  • Levy, Debbie. Sunken Treasure. Detroit: KidHaven Press, 2005. Print.
  • Mason, Paul. Pirates. North Mankato, Minn.: Smart Apple Media, 2005. Print.
  • McDonald, Megan. The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2009. Print.
  • O’Donnell, Liam. Pirate Treasure : Stolen Riches. Mankato, Minn.: Capstone Press, 2007. Print.
  • Osborne, Mary P. Pirates Past Noon. New York: Random House, 1994. Print.

Favorite Quote:

“‘Seagulls don’t eat ice cream!’ shouted T. J. ‘Seagulls don’t wear sneakers! Seagulls don’t—‘

‘SEAGULLS DON’T EAT PICKLES!’ Roger yelled at the top of his lungs.

OH NO! Our secret password!”

(Farber, E.S. Fish Finelli:  Seagulls Don’t Eat Pickles. San Fransisco: Chronicle Books, 2013. 38. Print.)

The Final Word(s): A fun mystery with a dash of adventure.  🙂