Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cellar Door by Brett Gadbois -- New Middle Grade Fantasy Fiction

My little island in the has its share of authors and this is a new book by one of them.  The Cellar Door by Brett Gadbois starts with a father-son fishing trip to Minnesota but it quickly turns into a fantastic adventure complete with shape shifting creatures and dangerous villians.

Sam Bixby accidentally falls through a cellar door while investigating a house that he should not have been in.  There he finds a different world with no easy way to return to his home.  The first creature that he meets helps him learn how to shape shift into different animals and objects but gives him the caution that he should NOT try to stay in that new shape for too long or to try to shift into another shape without returning to your own.

It is up to Sam to try to use this talent to make his way in this new world and try to find the path to return to his own.  The best part of the story comes when the villains enter.  They are pictured on the front cover.

Mr. Gadbois talent lies in his descriptions of place and action.  One of my other favorite parts of this story comes at the beginning, when Sam is testing out his new abilities and turns himself into a cloud. A teacher could easily use that section to spark some great student creative writing.  

I have a few students who are reading this book right now with the plan that he will come on our morning televised broadcast and be interviewed. 

For more information and to BUY A BOOK, please see Brett Gadbois' own site at www.brettgadbois.com

Monday, January 23, 2012

Do you value SCHOOL LIBRARIES? The White House needs to hear from YOU

 MY DREAM IN LIFE HAS BEEN TO BE A SCHOOL LIBRARIAN... Please consider helping me to continue to live out this dream.  

CLICK HERE to sign the petition that is going to the White House.

 Ensure that every child in America has access to an effective school library program.

Every child in America deserves access to an effective school library program. We ask that the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provide dedicated funding to help support effective school library programs. Such action will ensure more students have access to the resources and tools that constitute a 21st century learning environment. Reductions in school library programs are creating an ‘access gap’ between schools in wealthier communities versus those where there are high levels of poverty. All students should have an equal opportunity to acquire the skills necessary to learn, to participate, and to compete in today’s world.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Wildwood Weekend -- Creating a Novel Study for Wildwood by Colin Meloy

This is the view from my backyard window and that tree in the middle is the one that swings wildly during strong storms.  We had a lot of weather this weekend and we chose  to just stay inside in the Pacific Northwest where we are, admittedly "snow wimps."  When I took this photo the rain was beginning to fall on the snow, creating this gorgeously atmospheric mistiness that reminded me of the cover of Snow Falling on Cedars.   

The weather made me really thrilled to have an amazing novel to focus on.  The book is Wildwood and it is by Colin Meloy, the lead singer and songwriter for the Decemberists, a Portland art rock band. It features two unlikely heroes, Prue and Curtis who follow Prue's infant brother into the Impassable Wilderness in Portland after he is kidnapped by a murder of crows.  Who knew that this impassable wilderness was actually hiding a whole civilization complete with an evil queen, an avian crown prince, soldiers who are coyotes and bandit heroes.  All within a stone's throw of the Willamette River. 

Sounds a little like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis? You would be right in thinking that.  

This book is very easy to like and it is quickly becoming a favorite of my fifth and sixth graders, who like quirky adventure stories with compelling heroes that are just average kids thrown into fantastic situations. The fabulous illustrations have been done by Carson Ellis, who is the wife of the author.  She's also known for illustrating The Mysterious Benedict Society. 

I created a novel study so that teachers could start to use this book with their classes and small groups.  It is available for download from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Right now, I've got it discounted to $2.00 because I'm hoping that people will take a look at it.  There are 43 pages worth of student activities, vocabulary builders and comprehension questions. The first 26 pages are a student packet suitable for guided reading. This novel study focuses on vocabulary building as well as analyzing story elements. The novel Wildwood has some great vocabulary! If your school is using NWEA MAP data, this lesson plan is suitable for students with RIT score levels 210-220 and 221-230. 

The multiple choice reading comprehension quizzes which are a part of the novel study are also available for a separate download at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

The assignments include an informational text feature called “EVIL IVY" which talks about the problem of invasive English ivy destroying some of the prettiest forests in the Pacific Northwest, including the one that I live near.  Here's a photo of some evil ivy close to my home.  

All in all -- a great weekend with a great book! I heartily recommend Wildwood to anyone who needs a good curl up read!

Also, in surfing around in the blogosphere, I found a cool looking Readability Calculator from Joe's Web Tools.  Worth a second look!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

It's a SNOW DAY!

Hello from the normally rainy Pacific Northwest!  This was this morning's view from the backyard and my son and I have been loving the four inches of snow that we've received.  I spent some time today using the app called "Pages" to create a special activity for upper elementary students that helps them to practice their note-taking skills while learning the process behind how their school or school district chooses to call an emergency snow day.  

I think that it is important to give students a chance to be reporters and that being able to gather information from an interview is a skill that deserves greater work.  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Martin Luther King Day -- What's in my front hall

Happy MLK Day!  I put together this bulletin board display for the front hall of my school.  I found some historical images of MLK and colorized them.  I think that they're realy eye-catching when placed surrounding one of my favorite quotes from his "I Have a Dream" speech.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

It's available on my Teachers Pay Teachers Web site.

A page of these bookmarks are available for FREE from the same site.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor and Alice in Wonderland Book Club Discussion Guide

I've been running book clubs during our lunch recesses for some of my students who need greater challenge.  I've had the most success with Frank Beddor's The Looking Glass Wars which starts an amazing trilogy that is a take off on "Alice in Wonderland."  Only Alyss at the beginning of this story is a bored princess with a strong, but not very disciplined imagination.  Today was my second time running the club with my 5th and 6th graders. 

The questions that seem to get the most discussion are about imaginations.  This is my favorite one:

  • Alyss’ magical gift is her imagination.  How do you know when a person is imaginative? What’s the opposite of imaginative? Does Alyss strike you as someone who is particularly imaginative at the start of this story?

 The kids really have strong opinions on the use of imagination in real life.  One student mentioned that, considering that air travel was once an impossible thing, could teleportation someday be possible.  Another student considered that even people who we think could have the most unimaginative jobs might benefit from highly inventive imaginations.

I really enjoyed today's discussion and, since it went so well the last two times, I've decided to make my questions available for download from my Teachers Pay Teachers store. 

Here are some other resources:

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Liebster Award

This is cool.  One of my favorite teacher bloggers and TPT sellers, Ann Marie from Innovative Connections has given me and four other people the "Liebster Award" with the understanding that we pay it forward.  

Here’s an explanation of what the award is all about:

Liebster means “dearest” in German, and the award is intended to help up-and-coming blogs get the attention they deserve.

 In order to accept the award, the blog owner must do the following:

  1. Copy and paste the award on our blog.

  2. Link back to the blogger who gave us the award.

  3. Pick our five favorite blogs with less than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have been nominated.

  4. Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more blogs.

The Liebster Award has spurred me on to work harder on reading other blogs and I'm working on improving my reading list so that I can enjoy other people's ideas and will try harder in the New Year to comment because I do think that comments can really give people a boost!

Here are the five that I would like to offer the Liebster Award to -- in no particular order as well.  

The Teacher Show
 Mr. G's Creative Classroom -- This is from Steve G. who is currently a newer blogger like myself as well.  I love the fact that he's working on root words and has a root of the month on his blog.

Mr. Harvey's Literacy Solutions by Chadwick Harvey.  His blog is very new at this time but I'm always really impressed by what he offers on Teachers Pay Teachers, especially his MLK Day resources.  

Mrs. Knapp's Sack -- Cristina Knapp is a fellow SmartBoard user like myself and has an amazing design sense.

SciPi's mission is to cure math phobia.  She is also one of the most collegial bloggers and TPT sellers and is always willing to offer constructive suggestions.  I really like following her.

And I'm returning the award to Ann Marie of "Innovative Connections" because she deserves to collect them... like a string of Oscars on her blog shelf. .

Monday, January 2, 2012


Posted by Picasa
Jen Runde from Runde's Room offered the chance to make a collage of the images from your blog.  Here's my favorites from the half year that I've been blogging.  Good times, good times! 

Thanks for the idea, Jen! 

By the way, I created this collage in Picasa. 

2012 -- My BEST year EVER!

While I hope that 2012 is my BEST YEAR EVER, I'd also like to help the students at my school realize that they can make it their best year as well.  So I've created a collection of three activities that focus on goal setting and character education.  It's on SALE for a BUCK on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

But I also made the third part of it available for free.  I'm calling that part "So This Year" and it asks students to consider a goal that they plan on achieving this year.  They need to consider the steps that they will take in order to achieve this goal.  Then they illustrate it as a comic strip. 

Living it LARGE is my shot at getting students to consider which character traits they admire in their friends and adults that they look up to.  It's called "Living it LARGE" because I think that those traits should be lived as if they are written in ALL CAPS!  LIKE YOU'RE SHOUTING!  OUT LOUD!  REALLY REALLY LOUD!

My goals this year are to continue to love my job and to continue to come up interesting ways to help learners be critical of information as well as LOVE READING!