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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.  🙂

Curricu-Links: 12 August 2013

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General/Multi-topic

I’m sure that I’ve shared this before, but this website includes lessons and resources on a wide variety of topics. The newer lessons seem to be more substantial.  Searchable by subject, standard, and grade level.

Free online educational games with a focus on math and reading.

Language Arts

A blog post from Unleashing Readers which explains how Kellee reviews genre/format at the beginning of each year.

A short video posted on Watch-Connect-Read.  We should create one of these with our own EHUE teachers!

Science/Health

Blog post from Edutopia with ideas about integrating arts, writing and science to learn about ocean life.

I found this as I was exploring the Smithsonian website above.  This seems like a fun game that your students can play to learn about food chains.

Having just finished No Monkeys, No Chocolate (see review here) this article caught my attention.  It’s about how cocoa plants in Ghana are becoming susceptible to diseases because of ants.  The language will be above the heads of our students, but I thought that this might be another interesting tie-in to ecology, especially if you were using the aforementioned book.

Free online videos related to science.  Some of these may be a bit over the heads of our students, but overall, a good source.

Information Literacy/Technology

Blog post from Free Technology for Teachers.  I figured this would be useful for EHUE teachers because so many of us rely on Google calendars.

A fantastic blog post about a pledge, originally posted on SafetyWeb.com, in which a parent acknowledges that technology and social media are a part of our children’s culture.  What’s interesting to me is that this blog post was written in 2010, nearly three years ago! The influence of social media has grown exponentially since then and yet we still are hesitant to allow many of these skills to be taught in schools.

This inspiring video discusses coding as an essential skill that should be taught to all students.  Just watching the video made me want to learn more about coding and how to teach it to our students.  (Plus I really, really want to work in an office like theirs.) Visit code.org to learn more.

Sources of my sources: Richard Byrne(@richardbyrne); #tlelem, Joyce Valenza (@joycevalenza)

Summer Reading: Twerp

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Twerp by Mark Goldblatt.  Realistic Fiction.

As penance for his actions, Julian Twerski’s English teacher, Mr. Selkirk, requires him to write about the event that caused his recent suspension from school.  The project stretches through the school year as Julian avoids studying Shakespeare and avoids discussing the topic.

Themes/Content: Friendship, family, regret, bullying, writing, school, first person narratives, foreshadowing, Shakespeare, running (track), self image, Judiasm

Recommended for: Grades 6 and up, boys, reluctant readers, teaching foreshadowing

My Two Cents: This is a compelling story, set in the late 1960’s, about a boy who knows he’s done something wrong, but doesn’t want to admit it.  Each chapter chronicles another misadventure in which he tries to show that what he did to cause his suspension was not as bad as some of other things he has done in the past.  Julian is a very likable character and even though he makes a lot of poor choices, he also makes his best effort to make amends.  I can really relate to Julian because he communicates much better in writing than he does orally.  As the story progresses you can see the writing on the wall (no pun intended) as he documents his conversations.  You feel for him, when those conversations lead to misunderstandings.

The events in the story focus on Julian and his friends, all sixth graders.  Consequently there is a lot of action revolving around sixth grade boys doing typical “sixth-grade-boy” things.  There are dangerous stunts, and budding romances, and there is some language that you might expect from sixth graders out of earshot of adults.  A few of the passages might not be appropriate for some readers, but as a whole the story is very appropriate for sixth graders.

This is a good book for teaching foreshadowing because you know something bad as happened but Julian skirts the issue, leaving the reader curious about what he did.  As the story progresses, Goldblatt drops little bits and pieces of information that change your perspective about what has been written previously.  The historical backdrop does not play a very big role in this story so I put this in the category of realistic fiction rather than historical fiction.  I can recommend this a read-aloud for the right class, provided you are comfortable with the pubescent passages and text.

Similar/Paired Books from EHUE Library:

  • Aliki. William Shakespeare & the Globe. New York: HarperCollins, 1999. Print.
  • Buyea, Rob. Because of Mr. Terupt. New York: Delacorte Press, 2010. Print.
  • Canfield, Jack, and Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Hansen and Iren. Chicken soup for the preteen soul : 101 stories of changes, choices, and growing up for kids 9-13. New York: Scholastic, 2000. Print.
  • Clements, Andrew, and Mark Elliott. Trouble-maker. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011. Print.
  • Preller, James. Bystander. New York, NY: Feiwel and Friends, 2009. Print.
  • Schmidt, Gary D. The Wednesday wars. New York: Clarion Books, 2007. Print.
  • Shakespeare, William, David S. Kastan, and Marina Kastan. William Shakespeare. New York: Sterling, 2000. Print.
  • Shakespeare, William, William Rosen, and Barbara Rosen. The tragedy of Julius Caesar : with new and updated critical essays and a revised bibliography. New York: Signet Classic, 1998. Print.

Favorite Quote:  “Sometimes when you brace yourself for a storm, you get a gentle breeze.  The storm only comes when you’re braced for nothing whatsoever.” (Goldblatt, Mark. Twerp. NY: Random House, 2013. 16. Print.)

Final Word(s): Julian’s an honest character.  Read this one! 🙂