Summer Reading: The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill

This was the second book I’ve read from my newly created reading list from the Sasquatch 2015 nominees. I read The Witch’s Boy a couple of weeks ago and loved it, so I was thrilled to read this book and enjoy it just as much!

I created a book trailer to share with my students on Kidblog. Here it is:

Summer Reading: The Adventures of a South Pole Pig by Chris Kurtz

I saw this book listed on a librarian’s blog showing the Sasquatch 2015 nominees. Actually I saw about ten books I had not heard of before and immediately went to the library to check them out.


The first book I read was The Adventures of a South Pole Pig. I absolutely fell in love with this book and all the characters! I am trying to create a book trailer for each of the books I read this summer and am sharing them on Mondays on Kidblog with my students. Here’s the trailer I made for this book:

Paleo Blackberry Smoothie



Paleo Blackberry Smoothie
I’ve recently undergone some genetic and food sensitivity testing and discovered there are a whole host of foods I shouldn’t eat. I’ve been trying to follow the Paleo diet and my breakfast has been eggs. Well, eggs are on my list to avoid – so I’ve been trying to find something else to eat for breakfast that will be quick and easy to make in the morning before work. I also learned that I need to follow a gluten free diet – no wheat, no oats, no rye, no barley, no rice – and no dairy. So what’s a girl to do?

I made a delicious smoothie this morning that was also filling. This made two servings.

Blackberry Smoothie

1 can coconut milk

1 cup blackberries

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 T maple syrup


Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

If you use frozen berries you can eliminate the ice. You can vary the berries according to what you enjoy the most. You could also substitute honey for the syrup – whichever you like more.

21st Century Literature Circles

For the last two years, I had literature circles in my classroom. They’ve changed each year. The first year, it was very teacher driven. I assigned groups and the book they were going to read. Students had roles that I assigned. I decided what they needed to read and when they would meet. I also would “sit in” on every group’s meeting. While I met with one group, everyone else was supposed to be answering questions from a packet about their reading. YUK!

Last year, I provided the students with about five or six books from which to choose. They each chose the one they were most interested in, so the groups were based on interest. They decided their reading and meeting schedule. They also decided who would have each role each week. They were engaged and really loved it. Did I love it? Not so much. The conversations I heard as I eavesdropped on their meetings (I did not include myself in them) were pretty dull and surface level. There was not much critical thinking or deep thinking about the book, the author’s craft, etc.

This year we’re trying to incorporate as much 21st century learning into our curriculum as possible. From that the idea of the 21st Century Literature Circles developed. My students participated in the Global Read Aloud in October and blogged about the reading. I am incorporating the blogging into our literature circles. I am also throwing away the traditional “roles” from our lit circles. I really believe that the roles played a large part in why my students were not having deep conversations about their books. If someone had the “Word Watcher” role, then that’s the only thing they paid any attention to – and ended up just putting down any word in order to complete the task. This type of thing happened in all my groups and with all roles.

I want my students to love reading. I want my students to engage with the text. I want my students to have deep and meaningful conversations with their peers about their reading. I think about my  bookclub experiences. I am never assigned a role. I make notes of my thinking as I’m reading, so that I can remember what I was thinking and why and be able to share that with my friends. Did they have the same thoughts I did? Did the author impact them the way I was impacted? Did my friends feel the same way I did when I read a certain part of the story? This is how I want my students to experience a bookclub.

So here’s what we’re doing. I chose Kate Messner’s books because the reading level is appropriate for my fourth graders. The stories are exciting and she has a variety of types of stories so they will appeal to both boys and girls. This past Tuesday I brought all my fourth graders together and I gave a booktalk on six different Messner books. Students signed up for the book they want to read. I ordered them on Amazon and am hoping they’ll be in by Monday. In the meantime, we’ve refreshed our memories on Kidblog, which is what we use for blogging. Because they are not using roles, I provided them with a list of questions they can use to guide them in their blog posts. We went through the questions together, but they already know them because they are things we talk about during our read aloud as a class. Are they limited to these? No! They will document their thinking as they read using sticky notes or their reading journals. From this they’ll plan their blog posts. They will each post twice a week and comment on other posts within their bookclub group twice a week. Can they do more? Yes! I do not assign when they have to blog. It is their choice, based on their schedule, and their reading. I only require that at least 2 posts and 2 comments from each student be completed by Sunday night each week. We also went through and wrote a post together based on our current read aloud, making sure to include not only what we were thinking while we read, but also what happened in the story that made us think this.

I am hoping that by eliminating the traditional roles of literature circles, students will have a more authentic bookclub experience. I am hoping they will really engage in the story and enjoy writing posts and participating in discussion with peers through commenting. The anticipation is building – they can’t wait until the books arrive:) I’ll update as we move forward.

Global Read Aloud…Here we come!

The 14th Goldfish

It’s the Global Read Aloud…Yay!! I’m reading The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm to my fourth grade classes. Here’s the schedule we’re following, which was suggested by Pernille Ripp, the creator of this fabulous phenomenon!

Week 1: Chapters 1 – 5

Week 2: Chapters 6 – 10

Week 3: Chapters 11 – 15

Week 4: Chapters 16 – 20

Week 5: Chapters 21 – 25

Week 6: Chapters 25 – End

We’re planning on connecting with a couple of different classes around the US, and I’m still working on a connection with a school in Japan.  We’re going to use Kidblog, Edmodo, Twitter, and Skype to connect with others around the world.  This is my first time participating in the GRA, so I’m super excited to see how my kiddos do.  I think it’s very exciting! I’ll update you as we progress through the six weeks of GRA.

The One and Only Ivan


I just finished The One and Only Ivan as our first read aloud of the year.  Wow! Last year was my first year to read this, and I LOVE it! The writing is so powerful and rich! We’re in the process of writing personal narratives, and this is a great resource to use to show students how to include description, figurative language, vivid verbs, and so much more into their writing.  Not to mention, they LOVED the story!! This was a book that kept all students quiet, all eyes on me, AND begging me to read more if time was up – I mean even when I was stopping for us to go to recess.  Wait, what?! Yep! It’s that good.  If you haven’t enjoyed The One and Only Ivan yet, I highly recommend it!

Thursday Throwdown


I’m linking up with Erin over at I’m Lovin’ Lit to share how I try and make lessons more interactive.

One thing I’m trying this year is to incorporate project-based learning into my classroom. With my fifth grade social studies class, we’re beginning the year learning about the early explorers. The launch event included a treasure hunt, where students went in search of gold (which happened to be Rolos) hidden somewhere 0n the quad of our campus. They worked as teams, collaborating about where they should search, the order in which they should try those areas, and when they finally found gold, they mapped their route. After that, we talked about what we already knew about the topic of explorers, and from there, they developed our driving question. This is the question that leads our inquiry for the unit. I provided a little bit of information on navigational tools like the compass, the astrolabe, sandglass, etc, as well as on a couple of explorers.  The students worked in groups reading the information and deciding what was important for us to know. From there, the students brainstormed explorers they wanted to learn more about and developed a list of questions/criteria they wanted to learn.  They’re ultimate goal is to write a book or create a website sharing all the information they discover.  We’re just beginning the research stage, so we have quite a bit left to go on the project.

Any time you can put the direction of the learning into the hands of the student, the engagement increases exponentially. If a student is engaged, they are learning:)

How do you make your lessons more interactive?