Monday, August 31, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/31/15

It's Monday! What are you reading? was started by Sheila at Book Journey and was adapted for children's books from picture books through YA by Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers. You can visit either site for a round up of blogs sharing their weekly readings and thoughts or search Twitter for #IMWAYR.

Last Week's Posts

  • Smart Board Tips and Tricks. I ran a workshop on using the Smart Board and Smart Notebook software for my colleagues and put together a collection of important tips and tricks for Smart Board success!  

    Picture Books

    Between the first week of school (staff days and kid days) and getting an offer accepted on a new house (!!), it's been a bit of a busy week. I did read some picture books this week and had a brief lark in the local bookstore while running some other errands. What I did not have time for this week though was detailed write-ups.

    You Are (Not) Small (2014) by Anna King and illustrated by Christopher Weyant.

    The Day the Crayons Came Home (2015) by Drew Daywelt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers.

    There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight (2015) by Penny Parker Klostermann and illustrated by Ben Mantle.

    Float (2015) by Daniel Miyares.

    Little Miss, Big Sis (2015) by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds.

    Friendshape (2015) by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.

    First Grade Dropout (2015) by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Matthew Cordell.

    Challenges and Summer Plans

    Award-Winning Books Reading Challenge update: 13 books, 2 dedicated posts

    Dive into Diversity Challenge update: 164 books, 35 dedicated posts

    Happy Reading!

    Saturday, August 29, 2015

    Featured Illustrator, part 4: books by Ted and Betsy Lewin

    Our featured illustrator for August is one of my all-time favorites, Ted Lewin! Part 1 introduces Ted Lewin as well as my must-read books that I share every year with my students. Part 2 highlights book that he illustrated for various authors. Part 3 featured books both written and illustrated by him, while this final post will share books that are a collaboration with his wife, Betsy Lewin.

    Adventures around the World Series

    The Adventures around the World series is a collection of books by both Ted & Betsy Lewin that combine travelogue with both their unique illustration styles.

    Gorilla Walk (1999) by Ted and Betsy Lewin. Gorilla walk details the Lewin's trek through Uganda to see the mountain gorillas in the wild. Access is tightly controlled, and the detailed description and illustrations really gives you the experience of taking the trip along with them. This first collaborative book paved the way for the rest of the books that follow.

    Elephant Quest (2000) by Ted and Betsy Lewin. This book follows a trip to the Okavango Delta region of Botswana with a focus on their encounters with the wildlife.

    Top to Bottom Down Under (2005) by Ted and Betsy Lewin. Traveling to Australia, the Lewins again experience many mysterious (and a few frightening!) creatures.

    Horse Song: the Naadam of Mongolia (2008) by Ted & Betsy Lewin. In this story, Ted and Betsy travel to Mongolia to learn about the culture and witness the horse races. In their conference presentation back in 2010, Betsy confirmed that the results of the race match what happened in real life, no artistic license was used. Unlike the other books in this series, this one has a much stronger focus on the people than the wildlife.

    Balarama a Royal Elephant (2009) by Ted and Betsy Lewin. This touching nonfiction book details the authors visits to India and their interactions with the royal elephants culminating in a giant parade and Mysore Dasara celebration. The back matter includes facts about elephants in general and the royal elephants individually, as well as a glossary and pronunciation guide.

    Puffling Patrol (2012) by Ted and Betsy Lewin. This is the book that the Lewins were working on when I heard them speak. They had traveled to the island of Heimaey off the coast of Iceland to experience the annual "Puffling Patrol" when children help rescue misguided, fledgling puffins. (Really, is there anything cuter than a puffin?) Backmatter includes information about the puffins, the volcanic eruption of 1973 on Heimaey, the dire situation of puffins today, and a glossary and Icelanic pronunciation guide.


    How to Babysit a Leopard and Other True Stories from our Travels across Six Continents (2014) by Ted and Betsy Lewin. This memoir-travel journal contains a wealth of small stories and big moments in the travels of the Lewins. Each page is a bit like a scrapbook, containing photographs, memorabilia, and illustrations by both artists. Sections are organized geographically beginning in Africa, the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, South America, and the US. This is a wonderful resource to get even more behind-the-scenes details about the trips and activities depicted in their books, but this is clearly a book geared towards an adult audience.

    Click here or the featured illustrator tag to see all the posts in the featured illustrator series.

    Wednesday, August 26, 2015

    #3rdfor3rd: Magic Tree House series

    Welcome to #3rdfor3rd where I share books that my third graders recommend for other third graders. (Please note that my third graders read a wide variety of books across a wide variety of genres, levels, and topics. Do not think that these books are "only" for third graders.) Read more about this book recommendation series and format here.

    The Magic Tree House series

    Book recommendation by Justin.

    Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve is written by Mary Pope Osborne. (It is #30 in the Magic Tree House series.)

    The summary is Jack and Annie go to the magic tree house and find a letter from Merlin. They need to go to a haunted castle to restore order to it and restore the diamond of destiny.

    There are cool characters, lots of creativity, and a nice plot. They turn into ravens because of an enchanted hazel twig. My connection in this book is I love ravens.

    I recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries.

    It is a really good book and I rate it 5 out of 5 stars.

    Book recommendation by Hania.

    The book's name is Thanksgiving on Thursday. It is in the Magic Tree House series (#27) and the author is Mary Pope Osborne.

    The characters are Jack and Annie. One day they found the magic tree house, and the magic tree house leads them to different places and times. This book is a bit latter in the series but it is not very far in them.

    I really like this book and I like all the Magic Tree House books I have read. I really like this book but I just do not know why. it might be the magic in it it might not. I am not really related to this book but like Anna I have a mom, a dad, and a brother, just my brother is younger than me unlike Anna's. I can not find my favorite part in the book cause I like the whole book.

    I would recommend this book to anyone who likes just a bit of mysteries and some magic because those are the basics of the book and I give this book five (5) out of five (5) stars!

    Click here or the #3rdfor3rd tag for more great book recommendations!

    Tuesday, August 25, 2015

    Smart Board Tips and Tricks

    I have had a Smart Board in my classroom for several years, and this year I was again asked to create and present a Smart Board workshop for my colleagues. Since I was already working to put together all this information, I thought I might as well share it more widely! This first post will focus on tips and tricks for using a Smart Board and Smart Notebook software in the classroom.

    Tips and Tricks for Smart Board Setup

    The order of operations matters. Any time that you want to use a Smart Board, be sure to complete the following steps in sequence.

    1. Make sure that the computer is plugged into the Smart Board (USB) and to the projector (Mac computers need an additional dongle).
    2. Turn on the projector.
    3. Turn on the computer.

    If the computer is connected to the projector when it turns on, it will automatically adjust its screen size and resolution to match that of the Smart Board. If the computer is already on before the projector is connected, the computer will retain its screen's aspect ratio, which may result in a disproportionate or squished look when projected onto the Smart Board.

    Troubleshooting: you may need to choose the "Mirror Displays" options in display settings, which will tell the computer to display the same screen on the projector as on the computer itself.

    Background tip: When starting up, the projector will display your computer's desktop. Keep that in mind when choosing a background wallpaper, and I recommend trying to avoid keeping files saved on the desktop. (This is an easy one to forget if you are using a personal computer. Unless you want your students to be immediately distracted by a giant picture of your dog, don't use personal photos for your computer's wallpaper.)

    Get in the habit of orienting your Smart Board as soon as you turn it on and are logged into your computer. (For SmartBoard-brand boards, you can hold down the two buttons together to activate the Orient action.) Although kids love to hit the orient crosshairs, I have found it much more efficient to orient the board myself, as precision is critical.

    Tips and Tricks for Writing on a Smart Board

    When writing on a Smart Board, always remember that the board responds to the last object picked up. If you pick up one of the colored markers to write and then pick up the eraser, anything that touches the Smart Board (marker, eraser, finger, pointer, etc.) will act as an eraser. If you put the eraser back, then the Smart Board will "remember" that the previous object was a pen, and anything touching the board will write like the pen.

    When writing with a pen on the Smart Board, be aware of where your hand is in relation to the board. Many times when my students come up to write on the Smart Board for the first time, they grip the pen in such a way that they end up resting the side of their hand against the board. They are startled to discover that they are now writing with the edge of their hand and not where the pen point is. (Having kids write with their finger or a pointer while holding the pen in their other hand is an easy solution.)

    The pen itself does not really determine its own color or style. By default, picking the red pen out of the red tray will make it write in red, but you can use the pull tab or toolbars to change the color, size, and style of the pen. I most often use this option to turn on highlighting when reading or responding to texts on the board.

    You have two options to erase "ink" from the Smart Board. You can pick up and use the eraser, which erases in a large circle shape, or you can use the eraser to trace a larger circle around anything you wish to erase. Draw the circle, tap once inside it, and all the ink will disappear. (Using the Smart Board eraser does not erase typed text or images.)

    Write Large, Write Legibly. You will need to use larger fonts when typing on a Smart Board screen. I usually use Arial as the font with a minimum font size of 24. You want to make sure that all students can easily see and read the information on the board.

    Tips and Tricks for Managing Files on a Smart Board

    If you are using a Smart Board connected to a school computer in your classroom, then you will want to come up with a system for transferring files back-and-forth between a school and personal computer. I have found that Dropbox is an easy way to keep Smart Board files synced. I can edit files on my personal computer or school computer and syncing keeps them both up-to-date. (You can use the 'selective sync' option within Dropbox to only share a folder of Smart Board files with your school computer, rather than sharing everything.) New to Dropbox? Using this referral link helps me store more files in the cloud at no cost to you!

    Separate Originals and Class Copies: If you are using a Smart Notebook file with students, you may find it useful to save the file at the end of a class lesson to include all the notes or annotations you added as a class. I strongly recommend using "Save As" at the end of the lesson to save a new copy of your file. I use Save As and then append the date to a given lesson. (So, The-Tide-Rises becomes The-Tide-Rises-150524 if I shared it on May 24th, 2015.) Then, next year, I already have a clean copy of the file to use, or I can pull up the "after" version to see what kids came up with.

    Export Smart Notebook Files: You can use File --> Export within the SmartNotebook software to save a lesson created in Notebook as a web page, image files, PDF, or even PowerPoint. Exporting to PDF is a great way to then share your lesson with students so that they can access and refer back to the files.

    Smart Board Tips and Tricks

    Do you have any favorite Smart Board hacks or tricks? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

    Monday, August 24, 2015

    It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/24/15

    It's Monday! What are you reading? was started by Sheila at Book Journey and was adapted for children's books from picture books through YA by Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers. You can visit either site for a round up of blogs sharing their weekly readings and thoughts or search Twitter for #IMWAYR.

    Last Week's Posts

      Board Book Edition

      I got to spend some time this week babysitting my adorable 6-month old nephew, which means I also got to spend some time (voluntarily and involuntarily) reading a variety of board books this week too. Here are a few of the highlights (err, and lowlights).

      Little Hoot (2007) by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Jen Corace. I love AKR and am really looking forward to celebrating her work as part of the Global Read Aloud this year! This was an adorable story about a little owl who does NOT want to have to stay up late. Why should he stay up when all his friends are sleeping? I can see this one being a major favorite.

      Below Us, Under the Earth and Sea and With Us, on the Earth and Sea by Eric Carle. I found these two at our local used book sale and brought them for my nephew. (They are apparently old and obscure enough that I couldn't even find an image for the other!) It is a very simple text of two-word sentences and an illustration on the following page. For whatever reason, my nephew found the Below Us book particularly hilarious. The page "Miners dig." never failed to crack him up.

      Global Babies (2007) by the Global Fund for Children. A very simple story about daily life, illustrated with photographs of babies from around the world, with countries indicated. An adorable little diverse option for getting kiddos interested in the people of the world around them.

      Farm Tails by Jellycat. Books have sure come a long way since I was a kid. This is a fascinating 3D crinkly book with animal tails sticking out every which way. And ... there is sort of a story, as the animals query each other about where their tails are. Fun for grabbing and stuffing in your mouth.

      The Adventures of Huckleberry Finm: a camping primer (2014) by Jennifer Adams and illustrated by Alison Oliver. Ok, this one, hands down, wins the most appalling baby book award. Just stare at the cover and think about this for a moment.

      Huck Finn has somehow become a book of a few random, unconnected sentences about camping ... for babies. I can only assume "Little Master Twain" is rolling in his grave at this one. Just ... yikes.

      Picture Books

      Ma Dear's Aprons (1997) by Patrick McKissack and illustrated by Floyd Cooper. This touching historical fiction story is based on the author's own great-grandmother and the kind and tender relationships she shared with her family. An inside-look at turn-of-the-century life for a working African-American woman in the South.

      Middle Grade

      Betsy-Tacy (1940) by Maud Lovelace with illustrations by Lois Lenski. I had never read this series but have heard from many that it was a favorite when they were young. It very much exemplifies what I think of as the "classic" kind of children's book where very little happens aside from the everyday. Sort of the ethos in recent series like the Penderwicks.

      Challenges and Summer Plans

      #Bookaday Challenge FINAL update: days read a book 75/84, books read 130/90 !!

      Award-Winning Books Reading Challenge update: 13 books, 2 dedicated posts

      Dive into Diversity Challenge update: 164 books, 35 dedicated posts

      Happy Reading!

      Saturday, August 22, 2015

      Featured Illustrator, part 3: books written and illustrated by Ted Lewin

      Our featured illustrator for August is one of my all-time favorites, Ted Lewin! Part 1 introduces Ted Lewin as well as my must-read books that I share every year with my students. Part 2 highlights book that he illustrated for various authors. This post features books both written and illustrated by him, while Part 4 will share books that are a collaboration with his wife, Betsy Lewin.

      Books about People Written and Illustrated by Ted Lewin

      After illustrating books for others for many years, Ted Lewin eventually branched out into writing and illustrating his own stories. Many of these stories are based on his extensive travels, some of which can be linked to trips he did initially for books written by others.

      Sacred River: the Ganges of India (1995) by Ted Lewin. This incredibly-illustrated book tells about the importance of the Ganges River and highlights the interactions of individuals with the river during the course of a day. The story concludes with details about Hindu cremation and scattering in the river.

      Market! (1996) by Ted Lewin. This book features six different markets from around the world. Each market is given a few two-page spreads depicting the sights, sounds, and colors, along with a brief description of the market itself and the goods sold there.

      Storytellers (1998) by Ted Lewin. This book is set in Morocco and follows a young boy and his grandfather on their walk through the city to where the grandfather will perform as a storyteller. Here though, the story focuses on the two of them and not on the tale-to-be told. Incredibly detailed illustrations bring this country and its people to life.

      Nilo and the Tortoise (1999) by Ted Lewin. Set in an island in the Galapagos, Ted Lewin took some of his own experiences during his Galapagos visit and transposed them into a young boy, Nilo, who is briefly stranded when his father's boat breaks down on the way to pick him back up. Much of the story focuses in on his encounters with the incredibly varied wildlife on the island.

      How Much? Visiting Markets around the World (2006) by Ted Lewin. This collection of comparative illustrations features several markets from different countries and continents (different than those featured in Market!).

      Books about Animals

      Stable (2010) by Ted Lewin. This story is more a reflection on the role of horses in the past and present, told through the lens of the modern Kensington Stables, the last remaining stable in Brooklyn. Some of the illustrations are reminiscent of those in Peppe the Lamplighter and Pennies in a Jar, which makes me think that Ted Lewin spent some time at these stables as study for those books as well.

      This series of four "I Like to Read" beginning reader books were published by Holiday House as part of a series with many other authors and illustrators, including Betsy Lewin.

      Look! (2013) by Ted Lewin. In the predictable text of this story each page contains the sentence, "Look!" followed by an animal and an action verb. This African savannah tour ends with the same pattern repeated for a young child connecting to the story.

      What Am I? Where Am I? (2013) by Ted Lewin. Here, the two title questions serve as the structure for the book. A small circular illustration shows a part of the animal ("What am I?") while a page turn shows the full animal ("Where am I?") and another page turn shows their natural habitat. Some of the animal portraits have particularly endearing expressions.

      Animals Work (2014) by Ted Lewin. This book is structured around the work that animals do, connecting animals to each other (three pages in a row, for example, of animals who carry). The story comes back again to Ted as a little boy at the end, caring for his cat. A map of where the animals live is also included.

      Can You See Me? (2014) by Ted Lewin. The first half or so of the book features closeups of different rain forest animals followed by the "Can You See Me?" question. The end offers a little variation in the sentences and ends with a wide view of the rain forest. (I'm sure the biggest complaint about this book is the fact that it is not a hide-and-seek kind of book as the animals are not hidden in the wide views like you might expect.)


      I Was a Teenage Professional Wrestler (1993) by Ted Lewin. This memoir of Ted Lewin's teenage and young adult years is amply illustrated with family photographs, including many of his wrestling career and unusual pets, like a lion. Near the end of the story, illustrations and paintings join the photographs as Ted's art career springs to life. A fascinating look at the improbable story of an incredible artist.

      Tooth and Claw: animal adventures in the wild (2003) by Ted Lewin. This collection of memoirs focuses around different animal-related adventures Ted Lewin has had in his adult life. Each chapter shares a different story with illustrations, photographs, and ephemera, and an author's note afterwards provides details about the location, as well as additional facts about the animals.

      Click here or the featured illustrator tag to see all the posts in the featured illustrator series.

      Thursday, August 20, 2015

      Assignment Tips for Google Classroom

      Google Classroom is an easy and efficient way to organize your classroom assignments and projects, particularly if you are having kids use any Google Drive programs, including Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Draw, etc.

      The first post in this series, Figuring out Google Classroom, provided an overview of what Classroom is and why you might want to use it. The second post, Setting Up a Class in Google Classroom, provided a step-by-step look at how to set up a class and add students. This post offers tips and tricks for using Google Classroom to assign and manage student work and projects.

      Assignment Setup within Google Classroom

      You can add an assignment directly from the stream page. Clicking "Assignment" pops up the assignment options. You need to provide a title for your assignment and the date that it is due. Optional information includes adding a description and a specific time for the due date. You can also use the icons in the bottom left to add a link to a file, link to a Google Drive item, embed a video, or add a hyperlink to another web site.

      Clicking the "Assign" button makes the assignment visible to students within Classroom and will send students an email with a link to the assignment. You can also click the arrow next to assign and choose "Save Draft," which allows you to save your progress but does not yet make the assignment visible to students. (Google will automatically save the draft while you are working on it, just in case.) You can edit an already-created assignment, or you can click the trash can icon to delete an assignment.

      Tips for Creating Assignments

      You should think carefully about how you want to name assignments. Having an organized naming convention for assignments will make it easier for both you and your students to find the appropriate files and assignments during the year.

      One of the best features of Google Classroom is how it integrates with Google Drive files. If a student creates a file for an assignment, Classroom automatically names that file with the name of the assignment followed by the student's name and that file is automatically shared with (and visible to) the teacher.

      Within the Classroom file in Drive for the teacher, Classroom will create a new folder for each assignment, which contains all of the individual student files created for that assignment. For students, the Classroom folder for a given class will contain all of their files for that class. In both cases, the files and folders are sorted alphabetically. This is where a quick and concise assignment-naming convention is invaluable.

      Some people recommend numbering all assignments consecutively. (Starting with 01 gives you 99 assignments during the year, while starting with 001 gives you 999.) If you teach a range of subjects within a single class, however, it might make more sense to number those individual subjects consecutively.

      For example, I teach language arts, social studies, and drama. For my students, I think it makes the most sense to categorize assignments by topics: Writing 01, Writing 02, Reading 01, Reading 02, SS 01, SS 02, etc. Following the subject and number would be the assignment title: for example, Writing 01: Personal Narratives, as shown above. This keeps all writing assignments sorted together, sequentially, making it easy for me and my students to easily jump to the correct assignment within Drive.

      Students - Working with Assignments

      Students will receive an email when a new assignment is posted, and those assignments are also visible within their stream in Classroom. Clicking an assignment in Classroom brings up two tabs for students: Instructions and Your Work. Instructions includes the title and description provided by the teacher, along with any links or attachments. Your Work allows students to create or edit any Google Drive files to complete the assignment.

      Clicking on a Google Drive file from Your Work will open that file in another tab. When using a Google Drive file, students click "Turn In" when they have completed an assignment. This will redirect them to Google Classroom where they have the opportunity to write a private comment to the teacher before again clicking "Turn In." Once an assignment is turned in, a student will no longer be able to edit that file. (A student may choose to "Unsubmit" a file through Classroom to regain editing ability.)

      For assignments that do not require a Google Drive file, students have the option to mark an assignment as finished. This is useful because it provides a visual signal to the student and the teacher that an assignment has been finished.

      Create Templates within Google Drive

      For some assignments, you may want to create a template for students to edit, rather than having them create a file from scratch. First, go into Google Drive and create whatever template file you want. For this example, I created a Google Drive document with a space for a title, student's name, and where to start typing their personal narrative story.

      Tip: Use the same naming convention for assignments when creating your template document. This will keep all files and assignments easy to find.

      (In the example below, I did not. Therefore, as a teacher, I will see the folder in Classroom "Writing 02: Personal Narratives" with all the student files within, but the students will see the file "Personal Narrative Template - Their Name" in their Classroom folder. If they go looking under "Writing" alphabetically, they will not find it.)

      Once you have created your template, you are ready to create the assignment in Classroom. If you attach a Google Drive file, you will have three options to choose for students: students can view file, students can edit file, and make a copy for each student. Choose "make a copy for each student" if you want each child to individually edit the template. (Students could edit file would let all students edit the same file.)

      Templates are a great way to standardize files or can also be used to create worksheets or short answer responses where students must fill in information or answer questions provided by the template file.

      Assignments within Google Classroom

      How do you use the assignment feature within Google Classroom? Share any tips below. Feel free to also ask questions about what you are still wondering. Questions might be answered in future posts! Click here to see all posts about Google Classroom.