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


Blackout Poetry

I hoard books.  I have a problem.  I know I do.  Getting rid of books is very difficult for me.  You just never know if you will have a reader who needs THAT book!  So for me, it is always a struggle.  This year, I have been very lucky.  I have  received many brand spanking new books for my classroom library. I finally felt better getting rid of some of the old, worn out books and/or the books that were never read.  I set up an area in my classroom called retired books and my students could just take as many as they wanted.  I got rid of many of my books, but there were still many left.  What should I do?

Going with my theme of trying to make the end of the year as good as the beginning, I decided to give them to the students to do Blackout Poetry.  In blackout poetry, a reader skims any page.  Students are looking for words that stick out for them.  They then try to find words that go with that word to form a poem.  The rest of the words are then blacked out.

I gave a brief explanation from https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/blog-posts/john-depasquale/blackout-poetry/ and showed them a few examples on google. Then set them off!

The pictures below were created in no more than 15 minutes (all the time we had).  If students create more tomorrow, I will post another blog.

In this example, the student highlighted the words and then made a base and part of a diamond to go with his poem.



This child was not completed yet, but you can see how her poem is turning out!


Students loved this activity and actually asked to take it out to it at recess!  Success!

How important is your reading life?

teacher readLast year I joined a twitter challenge called #sixtybooks.  The idea was to read 60 books in the year 2016.  I thought, oh what the heck, I will give it a try, but there is no way that I can read 60 books in one year. I also knew that I had to keep track of books that I read, and unsure how that would work out.  I started with a small notebook and divided it into sections: middle grade books, professional books and novels.  Basically, that is what I read.  Then I went to it.

Turns out I read. A lot.  I decided that books that I read aloud in school were also okay.  Picture books for me were not (I end up changing my mind in 2017).  I found that the more I read, the more I discussed the books with my students.  I told them about the books that I was so scared I was under the covers reading.  I would tell them about the setting in another book or how I read 3 books on the way to Virginia in the car.  I would talk about my trips to the library or how I didn’t like the ending of certain books. I talk about my book club and when/if I should abandon books.

Reading feeds my soul and I was once again making it a priority.  Last year, I had read an article on Sneaky Reading.  That is what I do.  I made time at night to read, but I would also read a page or two in the morning.  I would read middle grade books during lunch or a quick chapter at the beginning of my prep.  I found these sneaky reading times were just as valuable.  In class, we created sneaky read charts and the students would write when and how they would sneaky read.

Keeping track of the books was difficult.  I would forget all the time.  I tried an app on my phone Goodreads.  Turns out, I read almost 100 books in 2016.  I thought that was pretty cool, but the ability to talk about my reading life is one important piece to making reading come alive in the classroom.  Students know I know the books in my library.  They ask for recommendations and know I am usually spot on.  They recommend books to me and know that I will read them. They come up to me and tell me the part that they are at and discuss with me (they think I remember all the books I have read). Visitors to my class are greeted with, “Have you read this book yet?”  and then are promptly handed the book to read with the promise to come back and talk. (There are awesome middle grade books out there).

So this year, I am up to 50 books read. That counts picture books, read aloud books, middle grade books, personal novels and nonfiction books.  I have found that Goodreads is a great way to track my reading life and I have designed different shelves for each of the categories.  I also keep track on my white board for all of my students to see..What Mrs. I is reading..how many books this school year 79…how many books in 2017.

My to be read #TBR pile is huge for the summer.  What I am currently reading right now is the 16th Seduction (although I didn’t put the word Seduction on the board).  I have read everyone of these James Patterson’s goodies in order (I did tell my students that). I am also reading Fenway and Hattie (middle grade book) and rereading Launch by John Spence and A.J. Juliani.

What are you reading?


Magic Tree House is in Spanish?!

Technology has changed teaching.  I love having my global connections.  It is amazing that I can Mystery Skype with classrooms all around the world.  Today, we received and then created a Mystery Video.
We have one new connection today!  Kelsey gave her very first lesson in my classroom, so it is only fitting that we read about her journey.  Today, I copied her blog from this morning and put the students in pairs to read, discuss andimg_0476 comment on it.  They loved it.  They only had to be taught was expresso was! This was a truly engaging img_0474activity where my students were able to realize that books are published in different languages; books that they love!  They were shocked that Netflix exists in Costa Rica.

I am so grateful for the internet.  All of this, including this post occurred in under 5 hours!  img_0475



A Boy Called Bat

I have often said that the middle grade books are amazing.  I taught third grade about 18ish years ago and I really don’t remember middle grade books being as fabulous as they are now. I even recommend middle grade books to adults.  One of my friends, a retired teacher, comes in and does book clubs because the books are THAT GOOD!

The book that captured my heart this weekend was A Boy Called Bat.  I am madly and totally in love with the main character, the adorable Bixby Alexander Taylor (Bat). While as an adult reader, I realize he is on the autism spectrum, the book never says that he is.  It talks about him having a hard time with loud noises, needing order and attending a different school. I love that! I love the way Elana Arnold crafted her words to show us about autism without labeling it. Kids don’t need to label other kids.  They just need to read books where not everyone is the same, because in the classroom everyone is different.

There is just so much to this book. I need to read it again!  Bat lives with his mom and sister.  His parents are divorced.  His mom, a veterinarian rescues a baby skunk.  Bat decides that he should be the one to raise it.  I was reading it on a car ride with my husband and I told him (a non educator) all about it.  When I saw Kelsey, I told her as well! I met someone who by chance had a son on the spectrum and I told her. This book has me still thinking about it days after I have put it down.  I couldn’t wait to tell my class about it today. It is that good!

There is exciting news as well.  A tweet from the author Elana Arnold reveal that there are two more books in the works with Bat in them.  I can totally see this book having its own bucket in my library! This book is definitely worth a read or two from you!

There is a bit of money…

I love money.  I love, love money. I have never had a lot of it, but I just love it.  Like most teachers, most of money goes right back into my classroom.  (Don’t tell my husband) My absolute favorite words to hear from any administrator is, “there is a little bit of money…”  I don’t ever even hear the last part.  I am already spending money in my head.  I don’t care how much; the money will be spent..in full..and to the last penny.

Today we were told that we could get books for our library.  Even just thinking about that makes me happy!  90% of my library is mine. I personally own it. 30 years of scrounging, book orders, book fairs, book drives, begging, stealing, Christmas gifts, end of the year gifts, more of my own money I care to admit etc. I am very proud of my library.  It is big!  It is well organized.  The students love it.  However, I will never say it is complete.  EVER.  You can never have too many books.  Each year brings a different crop of students, with different interest.  I lose books, students don’t return them, they break.  I ALWAYS need new books.  Also new books add a renewed sense of energy to the library. So to hear there is money, I have already spent it. It took less than an hour.

About two months ago, I applied for a grant for diverse books; mostly series.  Hoping that I get that grant, today, I spent money on graphic novels.  What are graphic novels you non educators want to know?  These delicious, amazing fabulous nuggets of literature turn nonreaders into readgraphicnovelers.  They settle students with attention problems and captive even the most reluctant student.  What are they?  They are the 2017 version of a comic book.  Archie and the gang.  Remember them?  I do! I remember spending my whole $2 allowance to buy them.  I would want until we had to go on a long car ride and I would buy them.  Then to my dismay, it would take me all of 20 minutes to read one.  UGH!

Today’s graphic novels are pure genius.  Complex story lines and detailed illustrations are the perfect recipe for captivating young minds. Most of my students have read every single one of the graphic
novels in my class.  I have about 2 or 3 buckets of them. Truth be told, graphic novels disappear (and don’t return) quicker than any other book category in my library.  Students follow Baby Mouse as she goes on her sassy adventures.  In Smile, they empathize
with Raina as she gets braces.  In Roller Girl, they learn about the sport of roller derby and what it means to never give up and always try your hardest.  El Deafo follows the life of a hearing impaired girl as she deals with a hearing aid.  The list goes on and on.

As a teacher, I am so thankful for the incredible authors that write graphic novels for the middle grade years.  When students hit third grade, they all feel like they should be in chapter books.  It is almost like thick books are a status symbol to them.  While they love picture books, they don’t tend to read them during independent reading time. (again, I wonder..status symbol?)  However, readers of all levels flock to the graphic novels.  While vocabulary and comprehension may be complex, the illustrations scaffold the skills to help promote understanding.  These high interest books have created many readers in my classroom.  They are the first place I will look when a student says, “Can you help me find a book?”  If you haven’t looked at a comic book graphic novel lately, I suggest you try some out.

Oh, and that money, spent..all of it.  I will turn it tomorrow so the order can be processed.  After all, I have readers waiting!



Desire wins

So, I have been slacking.  Terribly.  I haven’t posted in a while.  We were on break last week and I didn’t post.  I thought about it. I thought about how there must be something I could write about.  But I didn’t post.  I needed a break from Kathy the teacher.  I wish I could say I did no work, or I didn’t think about work, but as many of you know, that is impossible.  First of all, we think about our class, all.the.time.  Then, in today’s technological world, I check twitter and pinterest.  Even my Facebook page, which used to be for friends and former students, is now full of following my eduheros and specialty groups.  Sometimes it is hard to separate Kathy the human from Kathy the teacher.

I was spending time with one special tiny human.  I asked her if she read the Magic Tree House books.  She said, “what level are they?”  I said they are a M.  She said, “I can’t read those, I am a J -K-L.” I said, “well, you can go to the library and read whatever you want.” This gave me pause.  Great pause.  She went on to ask me the levels of the kids in my class.  I told her only their parents and I know.  She was astonished.  She then told me that there is someone in her class at an F and could I believe that.  She wasn’t misbehaving.  We were just having a conversation.  But it gave me pause.

A few years ago, I leveled my library.  Students were placed in levels and could only read out of that bin that had their level.  I didn’t take into account their desire.  That didn’t matter.  The test I gave them told me that they were an M, so they were an M.  It didn’t feel good to me.  It just didn’t feel right.  So I started allowing my students to read one level above and anything below.  This felt better, but I was still labeling them.  I tried to be diligent about testing so they could move levels quicker.  I still felt uneasy.

The following year, I started March Book Madness. These books were not leveled.  Truth be told, these books were hard.   Very hard.  But an amazing thing happened.  These books started flying off the shelves.  Students were requesting to read them.  They were discussing them in the morning. Reading partnerships developed.  Students began to ask me to “talk them into the book.” In order words, give them information to get them started.  Then they started to talk each other into the books.

I will never forget the time that I was being observed.  I had a student reading the Night Divided, which is about the Berlin Wall.  She was probably about a level o?  This book probably a level t?  My conference with her and her explanation knocked everyone’s socks off.  Her understanding was amazing.  She should not have been in that book, if I followed firmly to levels.  Oh but I am glad she was.

The students that year taught me such a valuable lesson.  Desire out wins it all.