Iwanicki Book Awards

In going with the theme of making the last day of school as good as first, I did this Dave Burgess inspired activity of the Iwanicki Book Awards.  This was several weeks in the making and revealed today. Just a quick recap. Students used Kidblog to write their nominee and convince others of their choice. Then I created a google form which they answered (using google forms for the first time).

During the week, small groups of students had created trivia questions for many of the categories. Another group also made a word search. During the Award’s ceremony, we built up suspense by playing Oscar Music and then announcing each category and the nominees. I would then say, “Here is a word from our sponsor.”  While the students waited, they worked on their trivia.   Students were cheering and yelling and there were even a few disappointed students.  I had to sit back and remember that this was all about books!  Students in my class were yelling about books! How great is that?!  The books listed below affected my students.  It made them passionate readers. They all made my students think just a little differently.

It was a wonderful activity that I hope will become a tradition.  I am glad that I pushed myself just a little harder.  The students reactions were priceless.

PS I would recommend any book on this list for anyone to read. They are all fabulous!


Best Setting
Winner: Echo
Runner Up: The War That Saved My Life


Best Supporting Character:
Winner:  Frankie in Echo
Runner Up:  Rose in Out of My Mind

Best Illustrations
Winner: The Night Gardner
Runner Up:  Journey

Favorite Character in a Graphic Novel
Winner: Snappsy
Runner Up: El Deafo

Favorite Character in a Chapter/Middle Grade Novel
Winner: Tie: Gerta in Night Divided and Charlie in Wish
Runner Up:  Frankie and Mike in Echo

war that saved my lifeBest Picture Book:
Winner: Snappsy
Runner Up: The Night Gardener

Best Graphic Novel
Winner: El Deafo
Runner Up:  The Bad Guys

Best Middle Grade Novel
Winner:  Echo
Runner Up: Tie The Night Divided and The War That Saved My Life

Favorite Read Aloud
Winner: Rump
Runner Up:  Out of My Mind
the night divided


When the day turns around..

A funny thing is happening to me.  There are moments in the day when I think, I should blog about this.  It is very interesting to me because I have heard for years, that teachers should blog and I didn’t get it.  Who has time for that? But, I am realizing that this blog is making me even more reflective and think even harder about my school day. I am grateful for that.

Yesterday I woke up crabby.  I was carrying a frustration from the day before and the night didn’t allow me to shake it off.  So, I barked at my husband, got into the car, and left.  I am sure he was happy to get rid of me! I had to change my attitude quick because this is parent conference week.  With yesterday’s frustration still lingering in my head, students started coming in.  One arrived with a bowl full of fish eggs!  How can anyone be upset when there are fish eggs in the classroom?  Oh and the students, they were so excited!  So, we are growing fish eggs! Or at least she thinks they are fish eggs! Let’s see what happens. Stay tuned..I feel another blog coming! 🙂

The second thing was my very dear friend, a retired teacher, has been coming in and holding book clubs with students.  She taught many of them in grade one.  She visited one day and the students gave her a reading list and told her to come back to talk to them.  She did! Today’s book was the Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart and about 10 students participated. There is really something special about a retired teacher who left loving her job coming in to talk with students.  I walked in and out of the book club (as I still had other students) and boy I felt so lucky. Here is a very talented teacher who has the gift of time. What a treat to watch her work.  What an experience for my students.

The last thing that happened was completely unexpected and brought tears to my eyes.  We had a fire drill and while we were outside, I saw another friend (who I haven’t seen in a few years). I went over to say hi and she said I came to see you! I have a surprise for you. When she came into my classroom, I was reading aloud (Wish, by Barbara O’Connor – great book) and she exclaims, “You are doing just the right activity.” She then proceeds to unwrap the most gorgeous bookworm I have ever seen.   My students were in awe!  It is beautiful, don’t you think! The fact that I haven’t seen her and she took her time to make it for me touched me so deeply in my heart.

So, I was frustrated when I started out the day on Thursday.  By the end of the day, my heart was full.  Little moments are what keep teachers coming back day after day.  When I got my first job my dad said to me, “Teaching and coaching are the greatest jobs in the world. It is all the other stuff that will kill.”  That was 29 years ago and I still hear his voice saying that.  This blog is helping me to focus on the little positive moments in my day. Thank you so much for reading.  You are all making me a better teacher!

Out of My Mind

I remember when I first read Out of My Mind.  It stole my heart and I was in love. I had just begun using twitter and I heard of this project called the Global Read Aloud.  I wanted to participate in the worse way.  I wanted to expand my students knowledge past the four walls of our classroom and tiny New England town.  I wanted to give this book a chance.  However, I was scared. I was nervous.  Was this book too sophisticated for my students. It was mainly about a girl with cerebral palsy. Could they handle that? I had just transferred to grade 4 after 10 years of teaching grade two.  I was not used to this new crop of middle grade books that challenged students and teachers to think about read alouds in a different light.

I thought and I thought and I thought.  Finally, I decided to jump in; to both the Global Read Aloud and into Out Of My Mind.  It was beyond amazing.  It was the first time I had ever seen a book truly come to life in the classroom.  Students rushed in after lunch to hear the latest installment.  They cheered for Melody and booed Claire and Molly.  Some cried. I cried.  I will never forget when a student said, “We are going to find out about  (spoiler) today” and it took me a minute to realize she was talking about the book.  It had truly taken up space in my classroom.

Since that year, I have read it every year.  Last year, I was moved to grade three.  Again I debated the appropriateness.  I knew that I couldn’t live without those characters. I knew that my third graders needed them as much as I did. So, again, I jumped in.  Again, the characters became real to us. Flash forward to this year and I am at the end of reading it for the 4th time.  Yesterday, while reading one important part, students were completely memorized.  Tears forming in eyes.  One student saying, “I am getting chills.”

I am so glad I took a chance on this book.  It has taught me that students crave sophistication in their read alouds.  They want to be hooked by a good story.  They want to talk about it.  They are ready.

I have recommended Out of My Mind to everyone, adults included!  Be sure to read it if you haven’t. You won’t be disappointed.


March Book Madness

I love this program.  I absolutely love this program.  This is the third year of the program and I have done all three years.  For the past two years, my students have participated in both the picture and middle grade divisions.  It is required for all of my students to read all of the picture books.  The middle grade books are optional.  They are challenging for third graders.  The books, however, are beyond amazing.  They should third graders what it is like to get absorbed completely in a book and allow that book to take you places. The graphic novels make the choice more accessible to students.

However, for my class this year, it has been the historical fiction books that have taken over the classroom.  My classroom is a buzz during reading.  Students beg for more reading time. A student who had gotten to the end of Echo started to blurt out the ending in front of the class. The class booed him so he would stop.

Students are stretching themselves.  They are pushing themselves as readers and learners.  They are becoming more confident in their reading abilities, in themselves.  Reading has has taken on a life of its own. “Get into your books,” is met with cheers and “it’s time to stop” creates boos!  Today I heard, “Oh no, I can’t stop. I am a really good part.  Well, it is a bad part, something bad is going to happen!” (The Honest Truth)

Student have learned about hearing impairment, the South in the 60’s, the World Wars, the Berlin Wall, homelessness, dyslexia and so much.  The characters were amazingly flawed and beautifully diverse. In later posts, I will talk about individual books.

Tomorrow the first round comes out.  I know my class will eager await.  Some will be heart broken…


Update: Students cheered and yelled.  Some where very disappointed.  Echo losing was the hardest loss.  Snappsy was also another blow.  Bonus was: students wrote literary essays on why they thought their book should win.

Is Reading Aloud Really Important?

I like the quiet.  I love the early Saturday and Sunday mornings before anyone gets up.  During that time, I read the paper, check my twitter feed, surf the internet and then read for pleasure.  It is during this time that I find amazing nuggets of education gold.  One c5__atrwuaad1t9-jpg-largesuch Saturday, I ran across a Scholastic contest for a library.  I wrote about the importance of read alouds (Scholastic Super Reader).  I didn’t think much about it.  I just wrote from my heart.  Well I won!  What?!  How exciting is that?  I never win anything. I certainly didn’t think I would win this!   Then yesterday, I was tagged in this picture!  Looking at the words today, that completely sums up my beliefs.

I truly, truly believe those words. Read aloud changes lives.  Read aloud makes kids think differently.  It is everything in my classroom and more.  It is our academic piece, it is our morning meeting, it is our place to question, wonder, discuss.  It happens every single day.

During my read aloud, students learn all the academic pieces of reader harder texts, we discuss vocabulary, make predication and all the “stuff” they need for school.  Also, and just as important, we discuss and solve problems as a class.  This year alone, through the safety of read alouds, we have discussed homelessness, being different, cerebral palsy, mean girls, poverty, loss of a parent, animal issues and so much more.  We start off our year with Marty McGuire.  For the first time, many of my third graders are introduced to mean characters and/or characters that can be different and sassy.  We struggle with Peter as he deals with his emotions (Pax) with the loss of his mother and pet. We argue about whether Pax (a fox) should be free or with Peter. We fall in love with Ivan (The One and Only Ivan) and wonder if/why Mack is mean and just because a character is mean, is he/she always that way. We learned about learning differences in Fish In A Tree and studied dyslexia and have frank conversations about ADHD.  We learned about MS and discussed homelessness and how life can be really hard sometimes. (Crenshaw). We had a mom of a cerebral palsy child come in so we could understand Melody better (Out of My Mind).  Ms S also gave us great advice on how to talk to someone in a wheel chair who is nonverbal.

I love this point in the year because we have so many shared experience that we begin to make connections among the books.  Claire and Molly are mean to Melody (Out of My Mind), is there a reason for that like Shay (Fish In A Tree) and Mack (One and Only Ivan). Mr Dimmings (Out of My Mind) is not really supportive of Melody.  She needs a teacher like Mr. Daniels (Fish In A Tree).  We discuss themes across all the books.  The problems in the book become our problems and ones that we refer back to often.

My students are also participating in the March Book Madness challenge.  Many are attacking the middle grade books.  These books are difficult for grade 3.  However, because of the read alouds done in class, they are better able to handle the sophistication of these books.  Reading a story from two points of view helped them with the Honest Truth.  I read aloud Ruth and the Green book with allowed them to understand better Brown Girl Dreaming. Because we have tackled the tough issues together, they are now ready to try on their own.

I could go on and on about the importance of read aloud in my classroom.  I am sure once I hit the publish button, I will think of 30 more things to stay. However, for right now, I will end with read aloud is the most important part of my day. Period. The end.


What is the most important part of your day?