Second Annual Iwanicki Book Awards

We completed our second annual Iwanicki Book Awards this year.  I had the students come up with the categories.  We added all the books that they thought should be nominated in each category.  We voted by google forms to narrow down our choices to 4 – 6 books and then we voted, again by google forms.  We had an Iwanicki Book Award party where the kids had created word searches and puzzles with the nominees.  Students dressed fancy or like the nominated characters.  Every time I announced a new book, I played music from the Oscars.

I thought I would share the winners.  There are some really, really good books there.  My favorite new books are Restart, Refugee and Grump for chapter books.  I also loved It’s Not Jack and Love for picture books.

I am running this as a slide show, which I have never done before, so I hope it comes out okay.


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I have been pretty outspoken on this blog and on social media how amazing I think middle grade books and their authors are. As technology has boomed, authors are more inclined to interact with the students. It has been amazing.  By simply liking a tweet we send, the author has done more for my students love of reading than I have all week.  Their words and responses are power for my third grade learners.

This week, we had such amazingness happen in my classroom.  It started a couple of weeks ago.  I set out several books that were a choice for my next read aloud.  Two were by the same author Liesl Sturtliff; one Rump (I have read this as a read aloud in previous years and the students love it) and the the other Grump and then two other books from two other authors. I did book talks on all the books.  I read all the blurbs.  My students were immediately drawn to Grump, because I had an advanced reader copy and they LOVED the idea that the book wasn’t published it and they may be the first third graders to hear the story.

Grump is a delightfully humorous tale of the story BEFORE Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  The dwarves live underground and are minors.  As the story progresses, we learn that all the dwarves are named for rocks. I have a student who takes that and runs with it.  He begins doing research on all the characters names and what rocks they could be associated it.  In the middle of class, I call on of my very closest friends because she knows a lot about rocks to help us!  She enlists the help of her husband..and the search is on! Meanwhile, there is a character call Herkimer. My friends mine Herkimer diamonds so I also ask if they would come in to talk about them! Unfortunately, we no longer study rocks as part of my science class.

My student then begins to make this amazing PowerPoint with all the characters, the names in the story, the possible rock they could be named after and information about that rock/mineral. He gets stuck on a couple.  So, he begins research the original stories of Snow White, hoping to find some hidden clue there.

Meanwhile, we decide to email the author.  One never does know how that is going to go.  Will she even get it? We first email her just asking about the name of the characters my student and friends cannot figure out.  We send that.  Then I sent her the PowerPoint.  Still the research continues in my class. I continue reading aloud.

A day later, I get an email from Liesl saying she got the email and is working on her answer. I get this email when I am at the gym.  I email it to my student and his parents because I cannot wait to share it with him.  He was out of power because of the terrible storms, but at 8:00 PM..I get an email back, he was so excited.

Yesterday, we get a full 5 paragraph email describing each character and the story behind their name. I am not going to share it because I want you all to get the book and read it!  I printed out the email and gave to each student.  They were just in awe!  I wish Liesl could have seen what she did for my young readers.  It was beautiful, just beautiful.

My students love this book. I read every day right before lunch. They are totally engrossed in the plot line.  Often when it is time for lunch I am met with NOOOOOOOOOO!  However, Liesl involvement in our classroom has made this time even more special.  They are more attached to the story than before. As they believe they know the author.

Other books in this series by Liesl are Rump, Jack, Red and and now Grump.  By coincidence, I came home an Kelsey, who is long term subbing in grade 6, is reading Jack!  I went on Amazon and ordered Red and Jack. I have Rump as I have read it aloud before.

As a teacher, I am so beyond grateful to authors like Liesl who go above and beyond for our students.  What it does for my student is indescribable.  They are totally invested in this series. I know when the books I ordered come in, they will fly off my shelf and I am positive they will be taken out for the summer.  Thank you so much Liesl for helping to reinforce in such a big way, that reading is fun and amazing and incredible. You have made lifetime followers from me and my students!A52A3FA1-D27D-4A5D-B787-FFF1A15F75DB


The Wild Robot Escapes

Today I spent 35 minutes reading aloud.  35 minutes! Oh my! I just couldn’t stop! The short humans wouldn’t let me! You ever get to a really good part in a book and you just can’t stop?  That is what happened today.  As a reader, I just couldn’t stop, so I didn’t.  I kept reading until the book was done.  Isn’t that what I would have done if I was home?  Read until it was over.

We read the Wild Robot as part of the the Global Read Aloud in the fall.  The Wild Robot Escapes came out a few months ago.  Until this point, I hadn’t read more than one book in a series before.  I learned that the students really loved hearing two books about the same characters.  They were immediately invested in the characters and story line.

After I finished reading, I had them go back and blog about it.  Below are some of their responses.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did! Please keep in mind that these students are in third grade.  They are 8 and 9 years old.  I am going to get a throat lozenge.

(I copied these straight from their blogs, so the spelling and grammar is what they did).

Synopsis of the story according to Amazon: Shipwrecked on a remote, wild island, Robot Roz learned from the unwelcoming animal inhabitants and adapted to her surroundings–but can she survive the challenges of the civilized world and find her way home to Brightbill and the island?

The book was amazing when I first saw Dr.molovo I knew it would not be good but It was amazing. I want another book about Roz Because I love hearing about life on the island. Roz and brightbill are amazing but I do not think she should have gave up. I love how Dr.Molovo only pretended to deystroy Roz.

I didint really like that ending because they got on the island but they dident have 1 or 2 adventures. and if Dr.Molovo didint put Roz back together i would of did something like screamed i dont  know what i would do but i would of done something. Now i like Dr.molovo

MY FEELINGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I AM MAD,SAD,EXCITED,SCARED, AND DID I SAY MAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!????????????????????????????????????????????????????MAD I AM MAD!?!?!?!?! I WANT ANOTHER BOOK!!!!!!

  I am so happy for Rozum unit: 7134! She made it back home! I am so happy. When Dr. Molovo turned Roz off In my notebook I wrote:  DR. MOLOVO IS THE WORST CHARACTER IN THIS BOOK! I was so mad! Then when she moved her to a bigger, stronger body I wrote:    YES!!! I LOVEDR.MOLOVO!!!!    I was so happy! I wrote yes so many times! I also wrote no so many times.

I am so HAPPY! The wild robot has returned! Roz is back at the island!!!! Dr. Molovo was mean at first but now she is awesome. I wonder why Dr. Molovo let Roz go! I am glad she did though. I guessed how Roz would escape. I thought she would go away on an airship.  It was an again and again. I LOVE The Wild Robot Escapes.
May 4, 2018, 1:09pm (


I think she let her go because Roz might want to go to her son because she might have wondered about the ? that Roz asked!

My first thought is that Doctor. molovo if she turned him off why did she turn her on again well I think she did that because because she new how Roz felt in the inside and she feels the same way.

My second thought is that brightbill should know what happend he saw the fight happenb  so he should know that he had to get fix.

Woah!  I am so happy that the animals and Roz got reunited in the end! Roz was meant to live on the island! I am very happy that Dr. Molovo faked the video of Roz getting destroyed! I want another book to hear about Roz and Brightbill and all of their adventures on the island! I loved this book!

Ok so first i thought this lady was crazy mean and evil i absolutely hated her. but then when i heard wake up Roz i was totally confused so when she explained i was like that its she is so awesome then when Roz asked for a favor i was like no way she is nice enough and she said yes and i said BEST LADY EVER! 


Have I really done this 30 times?

Yesterday was Open House at our school.  We do Open House the way we have done it forever.  The kids come with their parents and we open our school.  The kids take their parents around and show them work.  It is a lovely evening, one that I have always liked so much better than the Parent Orientation that teachers talk in the front of the room.  This one is about the student, and only about the student, and that is why I love it.

This was year 30 for me.  The 30th time I have done this.  Boy am I old!  As fate would have it, I gave my 30th Open House in the exact same room (although newly renovated) that I gave my first.  I have switched schools, rooms and grades many times, but my 30th Open House was given in the same one as my first.  Isn’t that crazy?! I don’t think I could have ever predicted that!

My Open House is brought to you by all of the great educators that I follow, learned from and stolen from over the years. I thought I would share on here. Not one of these ideas is originally from me, so I can take no credit at all.

This first activity is one I have done for 28 years.  I used to use the students clothes and stuff them with newspaper, but as the years have gone on, newspaper is harder to find, so I adapted:

I also had up the Best Part of Me bulletin board that I talked about in this post.


Then Scholastic Books had a great idea to create this shelf below.  We made binding of all of the chapter books I have read (top shelf) and many of the picture books.  I just love this so much!E2F6DAE0-688B-42EB-96A3-EFBF63EC5FE5

We also created reading buddies.  This is a take on the reading frogs we made last year.  Every child had to make a book jacket for their favorite book.


Last in my classroom was our Jo Boaler bulletin board.  Jo Boaler is a math professor at Stanford who is my math hero.  She has combined current brain research with what is best for kids. She has created classroom norms for math class.  Honestly, I kinda hero worship her.


As you can tell, I have books everywhere.  I also have 2 gaming chairs; 2 “living room” chairs, and 2 comfy chairs.  I have two rugs and two tables.  Students work where ever they want.  Also at Open House, I had out 6 computers so students could show parents the nonfiction books they were working on.  In the back of my room in a world and United States Map.  On those, we mark all of the places that we have had a connection with.  There are a lot!

Outside is our fraction activities. We created a fraction number line city and compared fractions.

And last, but not least is my Fish In A Tree bulletin board. Fish In a Tree is an outstanding book by an outstanding author.  Read here to learn more.


Reaching year 30 has been such a milestone.  It has caused me to be even more reflective than ever.  30 years of highs and lows.  30 years of vacillating between loving and hating my job.  Last night was definitely one of the highs.

March Book Madness 2018 – the Finale

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote this blog about March Book Madness. The winners were announced!  My classroom screamed and screamed!  Some happy, some not so much.  Either way, didn’t matter to me. I had 8 and 9 year olds passionate 67C9DEC8-60E7-4B8D-B9E0-14E1441FE685about reading; loyal to a book and excited for reading.

7D36C468-F5A7-4EF0-B86A-D086AA1DAAC9The winner of the picture book category was  Not Quite Narwhal and the winner of the middle grade book category was Restart.

After I announced the winners and the class calmed down (somewhat) I had them hop on computers and put down their thoughts and feeling in Kidblog.  Kidblog is a blogging platform for kids that is controlled by the teacher.  Kids can posts, comment and discuss any subject matter.  Below I have included some of their thoughts. I hope you enjoy as much as I did.
















Breakout by Kate Messner

Anyone that reads my blog on a regular basis knows that I love the new crop of books 16CEC2CB-E553-400A-81FD-D02E19FEB1B3being written by middle grade and young adult writers.  I am a HUGE fan of  the author Kate Messner.  Marty Maguire is a must read aloud first book of the school year for me.  In my classroom library, she has her own book bin, with many of her novels.  Not only does Kate write with much variety; her books are all very different; but she is also active on social media.  She has been the first author to tweet at us this year and my students claim that they are famous because of her.  When an author tweets at your class, it is reading gold.  Students read more!

I was given the opportunity to preview her new book Breakout and I jumped at the chance.  I just turned the last page and I had to blog about it.  It is brilliant!  Absolutely brilliant!  I felt every emotion possible as I devoured the book. I laughed, I cried, I was mortified, I was shocked but most of all, I was sad to see the characters go.

As a teacher, I knew that the writing style would appeal to all students; it is told from three different perspectives, Lizzie and Nora (two best friends) and Elidee (an African America seventh grader who moves to the town with her mom because her brother is in the prison).  It is two weeks before the end of the school year and the characters need to contribute to a time capsule.  While they are doing this, there is a prison breakout of two inmates.  The prison is located in a 99% white suburb.

The story is told through letters, text messages,drawings, poems and recorded conversations (to name a few).  I totally felt like I was seeing the story unfold.  Each main character had a definite voice, however, so did the secondary characters.  All the characters are playing in my head right now as I process this fabulous book.  The writing type will keep even our more reluctant reader entertain.

As Kate weaves the story, lessons are subtlety spun throughout.  She interweaves history and facts to help the reader get the full picture of the message she is trying to portray.

I hope that this blog post doesn’t appear to be jumping all over the place, as I process the brilliance! This book will definitely have a place on my library shelf! Kate Messner has proven yet again why she is one of my favorite middle grade writers!

March Book Madness 2018

Last year, I wrote a blog post about this amazing program.March   Book Madness is a reading program where 16 books compete against each other in bracket fashion, similar to the basketball March Madness.  It is single game elimination.  Students vote online with other students around the world.

Titles come out in Octoberish.  I start gathering, begging, borrowing and not quite stealing all the titles.  I read every single book; all the picture and all the middle grade books.  This year, I did not know about many of the titles so that was exciting!  In order to spark the enthusiasm in my readers, I need to be enthusiastic myself.  It is not hard.  The books are amazing.

In grade three, with my variety of readers, I make it mandatory that every student read every picture book.  The middle grade books are optional, however, this year, I read 4 aloud to my class.  However, if my students decide to read a middle grade book, I have read it so I can be there to help assist in comprehension if needed.

This year, for the first time, I decided not to put out two of the middle grade books, feeling they were maybe just a tad too mature for my young learners.  I also purposely read aloud Orphan Island due to a part I actually skipped (I have never done that before in a read aloud either).

I introduced the books on January 3rd and students began reading them.  On February 14th, we watched as the brackets were decided and immediately realized this was going to be tough.  Voting began, I believe, March 8th.  Students used the google form to vote with children around the world.  On Wednesdays, the next round was announced.  Students couldn’t wait to see if their book made it to the next round or not.  Shrieks of delight or groans could be heard on Wednesday mornings as I announced the next round.

67C9DEC8-60E7-4B8D-B9E0-14E1441FE685Today, we found out who made the championship game.  There were lots of groans as the favorite, It’s Not Jack In the Beanstalk didn’t make it.  That was definitely a class favorite. The students loved the sass. The book is hysterical and a must read!  However, many students are excited by Shark Lady (a nonfiction book) has also made it to the finals.

In the middle grade category, I had read aloud Restart and the students loved it.  However, it is going against Refugee.  I had not read aloud that book, but students who read it absolutely loved it! Both books are absolutely brilliant.    Reading 2017    Is a blog in which I discuss both books.

Today, I had student led conferences.  Many students shared their personal brackets withBB8E2850-76EB-4ECD-81C7-7B5F82720BE0 their parents.  With pride, they told their parents how they read all 16 picture books and which one was the best and why.

It has been said that reading is one of the most important factors in school success.  This program keeps reading exciting and fabulous.  Students felt like they were part of a club and they wanted to discuss books and how they voted.  Some are trying to read all of the March Madness middle grade books.  A couple students have ventured off to last years list.  There is a new energy surrounding reading and it is contagious.

This program has also helped in other ways.  Students did not know about brackets, so we learned about them.  We have also used Kidblog (a blogging program for kids) to write our opinions and share with the class.  We have used Padlet to connect with a middle school friend and her class in upstate New York.  Thank you Mrs. Grose’s class.

I love this program and I am eternally grateful to the organizers of it! (Tony Keefer and Scott Jones). Here’s to next Wednesday and the final decision!