Thursday, December 22, 2011

Electronic Eye - a column I write for VOYA

Four times a year I write a column on online and electronic resources for VOYA. This is a professional journal for school and public librarians. It stands for Voice of Youth Advocates. This is the latest one and reviews resources for electronic audiobooks.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


This is my last minute present from my son to my darling sister-in-law. It is a candle holder that has been decopagued with tissue paper that was stamped with snowflake designs. We put a silver cord at the top of the canning jar. We took pictures along the way for fun with the Blogger app.

I have this beautiful theory that it would look lovely hanging from a tree this summer. But maybe that's just because I am already dreaming about summer.

Happy Winter Solstice!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Gingerbread house in 7.5 graham crackers

This was today's "First Day of Winter Break" activity.  It is the world's easiest gingerbread house recipe and takes only seven and a half graham crackers and no milk carton in the middle. 

Since I had so much fun, I decided to write the plan down for you in graham crackers and royal icing. 

The 7.5 graham cracker gingerbread house plan.  Make the first floor with the crackers on the left.  Place the "top" graham cracker on the top of the floor.  Create the roof with the graham crackers on the right.  Decorate! Happy Holidays! 

1. Make royal icing. Here's a recipe from the Wilton Cake People! 

2. Put icing in a Ziploc bag. This helps keep the icing from drying out too quickly. Cut off one corner of the bag for piping.

3. Make the first floor by piping icing on the edges of the first floor pieces and creating a box with them. The inside piece gives the house extra strength.

4. Coat the bottom of the top piece with royal icing and lay on top of the first floor.

5. Affix the inside of the roof pieces to the top of the first floor in the center. Use them to brace the triangular side pieces.

6. Coat the bottom of the roof pieces with royal icing and lay on top. The roof pieces should touch the triangular side pieces as well as the internal

7. Pipe additional icing at the edges.

8. Decorate! Consider adding features like a dormer window or a massive chocolate cookie snowman.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu - surely on the short list for the Newbery?

When I was a kid, there was an animated movie version of "The Snow Queen."  A sliver of ice falls into the eye of a young boy named Kay and it works its way into his heart, turning it cold and making him fall prey to the beautiful Snow Queen.  His friend Gerda has to journey to save him, even though he doesn't feel as if he needs saving.

I still remember the dialogue as Gerda fights to get her friend back.  "Kay shall remain with me," says the Snow Queen in her icy and measured voice. 

This Hans Christian Andersen story is the backbone of Anne Ursu's new novel, called Breadcrumbs.  But what I like about this version more than anything is how real the characters of Hazel and Jack seem to be.  They have always been best friends but now they are in the fifth grade and Jack appears to be pulling away from Hazel.  This is something that Hazel cannot understand or accept, and she has had to accept much in the last year with her father leaving and re-marrying.  Hazel is completely misunderstood by her teachers and classmates and only has her mother and Jack to turn to. That, and her wild imagination.  This is something that she and Jack had always shared.

Hazel and Jack's other friend Tyler are the only ones who believe that something is wrong when Jack doesn't return to school after an incident where a piece of glass flies into his eye.  Hazel is the only one brave enough to recognize that she has to follow him into the woods to find him.  And she does so with a hastily-packed backpack filled with energy bars and a baseball signed by Joe Mauer.

Hazel, while brave, is also filled with self-doubt.  She often feels small, "like a splotch" or a little feathered dinosaur that has to go up against a T-Rex.  But she continues with her quest despite her fears and doubts.  I love that this book shows a courageous character who struggles and stumbles and then gets back up. 

The book has already won several accolades and I am very hopeful that it is at the front of the minds of Newbery committee members.  

Here's the awesome discussion guide from Anne Ursu's site.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Roanoke : Theories need evidence

The students in one of classes that I taught today presented their theories about what happened the "Lost Colony" of Roanoke. I have an activity that asks them to weigh twelve evidence cards against their theory in an effort to see whether or not there are enough facts to support their ideas. They put the evidence cards on a chart that they draw. I have this lesson available at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. 

I've done this a lot in the past but this year I decided to use my iPad and Flip cameras to record them presenting their findings. They did a great job with that. They chose to take several takes to get their ideas down straight.

In the process of weighing the evidence, a few discovered that they no longer liked their initial theory, which I think was a great outcome.

Here's a copy of the chart with all of the evidence cards placed on it.
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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pedro's Journal Google Earth Lit Trip

I'm thrilled that my Pedro's Journal Google Earth Lit Trip is now available on  Jerome Berg, who runs the site, did a great job helping me to edit it and make it even more useful.  Check out the Vimeo that he made for it as well!

GLT Pedro's Journal from GoogleLitTrips on Vimeo.

This Google Earth lit trip can also be used as a part of my Pedro's Journal novel study which is available on my Teachers Pay Teachers store. This novel study features work on words for historical fiction and can help work on skills for students who have NWEA RIT scores in 191-200, 201-210, and 211-220.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

RIT scoring the novel study -- The Maze Runner by James Dashner

This is the first year that my school is using MAP data from NWEA.  We are all working really hard to understand and apply the data.  In addition to attempting to create a links page of free online games that target different RIT scores, I'm also looking at many of our literature circles and novel studies to see what RIT scores they target.  

This one for the Maze Runner by James Dashner works well for students with RIT scores 211-220 and 221-230.  The reason for this is because it helps students analyze character and make inferences.  It's available at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.