Monday, November 30, 2009

The Reading Zone

Most Recently Read Book:

The Reading Zone

By Nancie Atwell

Nancie Atwell has pretty much been my idol since forever because she is all about reading and writing workshop. Having gone through middle school and high school with reading and writing workshop, I have always been a big supporter of reading and writing workshop. Believe it or not, I actually had a dream last night that I had a classful of lots of my former students and I was talking to them all about reading and getting them all excited about reading just like Atwell talks about in this book.

I have read lots of books about reading and promoting reading with students this year. This is another one that I definitely think every reading teacher should get their hands on...I even think any subject teacher should get their hands on this book actually. My philosophy about teaching reading to kids has evolved recently. I realize now, more than ever, that as a teacher, my main goal as far as reading goes, should be to get kids excited and motivated to read. Reading needs to be all about having fun and talking about books. I seriously cringe at reading logs and book projects. Honestly, the biggest thing I have taken away from the books I have read recently is that we should truly think about what we do as adult readers (and hopefully, if you are a teacher...any kind of are a reader). Do you sit down and write a summary of every chapter after you read it? Do you sit down and draw a picture to illustrate what you are visualizing when you are reading? Do you stop and fill out a venn diagram to compare the character in the book you are reading with another book you have read? Come on. I know you don't. Why? Because when you are reading, you're probably totally in the zone. As a good reader you probably apply all the great reading strategies that we teach kids about in school, but they happen so quickly and you don't let yourself get sidetracked thinking too much about the book. You're just in the zone. If you had to read a book and do a project all the time you probably wouldn't do it. So why do we make kids do it? Why? Why? That's right, it doesn't make sense.

As an adult I love to read books. I usually write up a basic review here on my blog...but that's just one way I share what I've read with others. Reading is very social. We need to get kids reading. Talk to them about books. Ask them to tell us about their favorite books. Atwell talks about asking kids to write letters every three weeks about their favorite book they have read in the last three weeks. Three weeks gives them lots of time to have read at least one whole book and to throroughly write a letter about the book. They can choose which book they want to write about and it's much more critical and closer to higher level writing (like high school or especially, college) which is what they need to be practicing and it tells so much more than a little box on a reading log.

Bravo, Nancie Atwell! This should be mandatory reading for every teacher! Down with reading logs!

The Word Eater

Most Recently Read Book:

The Word Eater

By Mary Amato

I recently read The Naked Mole-Rat Letters by Mary Amato because it is up for the Rebecca Caudill award this year. Last week, I saw this book on a list of good read alouds and picked it up at the library. I definitely agree that this would be a great read aloud! This is such an intriguing story about a little worm who loves to eat words...and when he does magical things happen! I like how the main character finds the little worm, Fip, and experiments with his powers. When she does, she helps herself and also, unknown to her, helps kids in another part of the world. It is a great story. I think this book would be a good book to read with Canned because they both in a little way address child labor issues without being all about the problems of child labor. I think this book would work for a little younger audience than Canned but they would definitely go well together. Another kudos to Mary Amato for a great book! (Although, I definitely have a soft(er) spot in my heart for The Naked Mole Rat Letters.)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fa La La La La La La La La!

It seems like Thanksgiving went by in a flash...and now it's time for Christmas! Yesterday we put up the Christmas tree and our Christmas decorations! Jordan was a great help!!
We have a fake-y tree so we had to put it together. Chad was calling out colors and letters and Jordan was checking each branch to make sure he gave Chad the right one. It was a great letter/color practicing game!
Find the branch, hand it to Dad!
It was such a perfectly sunny day. I love when sun comes in the windows and I can take pictures with great lighting. It makes me look maybe even a little bit professional when I'm sooo not.
This ornament was new to our tree this year! Isn't he sweet?
He's not looking at the camera but I love the sweet smile and his little dimple! If you look really really closely in the background you can see my reflection in the's really small...
And now we're in Christmas mode! I love seeing the sparkly lights on the tree. It makes the house feel very cozy. Today Chad's parents came over and we took our Christmas picture so I've got to get those printed and hopefully I'll have the cards out sooner than later this year!!!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm a little late on my Thanksgiving post but at least it hasn't been a week yet! I was up at 4:00 in the morning with my aunt getting the bird in the oven. After that we went back to sleep for a little bit and then when we woke up again we were all about getting everything else ready. It all came together pretty well actually! (The only down side was I so didn't get a shower until after we ate!) Jordan is being goofy in this picture and I'm unshowered and un-made-up!
The turkey and part of the table!
Another goofy Jordan face!
Jordan finally crawled into Jane's lap so she could help him with his Thanksgiving dinner. This was his face when he first tried the cranberries!
By now he couldn't get enough of the cranberries!
Apple-cranberry pie! Doesn't it look great!?! It was very yummy! We had pumpkin pie, also, of course! And...later, Silvia came over with strawberry shortcake that was amazing!
Happy Thanksgiving to all! We have lots of be thankful this year! So happy for our family and friends and that everyone is healthy!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Speaking of Family and Friends

Kathy graciously and bravely agreed to pick Jordan up from our babysitter's last Monday when Chad had basketball games and I had my National Board meeting/class. She took Jordan and her daughter, Maddy, to our library and then to McDonald's...all before she went to our house and cooked an amazing spaghetti sauce and noodles for us! How awesome is she?

Here's an oh-so-cute picture of Jordan listening to the audio books at the library. Love it!

Bears Lose

Last week, Chad and I went to the Bears game with our friends Chris and Nikki while Jacquie babysat for us! My parents, our regular babysitters, have been out of town for about a week and won't be back for another week yet. I miss them but it's nice to know we have other family and friends there to help us when we need it!

Since we were making the trip into the city, I asked Chad - like I always do - if we could go to Ed Debevic's. I love that place!!! I have a slight obsession with it. It's always more fun with friends so I was excited when Chris and Nikki wanted to go. Here we are in all our Bears gear! I had about 4 layers on!

Chris and Nikki sporting their Ed's hats!

We've been to the new stadium two or three times but this was my first time going up to the columns. How sweet is the background of this picture? Can you see the orb above me? There was another one in the same place but over Chad. It got cut out when I cropped the picture but it was very cool. I love old places that have least, that's what I believe.
Chris and Chad before the game. We were on our way to the pro shop and stopped to see the players warming up.
Unfortunately, the Bears lost the game. The had lots of chances and it was close in the end but we didn't win. I am going to admit that I kind of snoozed my way through the 4th quarter...maybe some of the 3rd quarter. It was cold but I was tired. It was a late night for us!

The Tale of Despereaux Movie

I finished The Tale of Desereaux by Kate DiCamillo this week and last night we watched the movie. I honestly didn't love love love the book so I wasn't sure what to expect from the movie. The movie is really different from the book! I'm really not sure which I like better. There were aspects of each that I liked and didn't like. In the book I liked the Despereaux's mother was a little more dramatic and that his father asked Despereaux to forgive him for turning him in to the Mouse Council. In the movie, I kind of liked how they started with the fancy soup day instead of starting with Despereaux and then having to go back and back and back with every addition of more information. I liked Roscuro a little better in the movie but it was still hard to believe that he could switch from a nice rat to a vengeful rat and then back again so quickly. I didn't like how in the book Botticelli just led Despereaux straight to the princess but in the movie it wasn't all that different. I really should just give up my obsession with this book and the movie...I just can't believe neither of them turned out to be as great as I expected and I wish they were. Oh well.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dear God,

Lord God, I trust in your goodness and mercy. I am sorry for all the bad things I have done. I'm sorry for all the good things I have not done. I want to love you with all my heart.

Thank you so much for everything I have in my life. Thank you for keeping my family and friends healthy and happy and safe. Please, watch over them and help them to be healthier and happier and safer tomorrow than they are today.


The Tale of Despereaux

Most Recently Read Book:

The Tale of Despereaux

By Kate DiCamillo

I have read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and Because of Winn-Dixie by DiCamillo. I think Edward Tulane is probably my favorite because it's such an enchanting and heart-warming story. This book was really sweet but a little to anti-climatic for me. I love that the chapters are so short. It seemed like the reading went really fast that way. I love that Despereaux is not your average mouse. He is such a brave mouse. I guess I kind of wish the end would have been more exciting. I hate to give it away but this book didn't quite live up to my expectations. I think I'm going to go watch the movie though, I feel like that just might change my point of view just because this book seems like it would make a good movie.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The White Giraffe

Most Recently Read Book:

The White Giraffe

By Lauren St. John

This book has a great beginning, right away I was pulled into the story because of what happen right at the beginning. Overall, I liked the book but there is some magical stuff that happens that was cool but it also makes me think. I love fantasy as a genre but this book was very realistic except for these powers that the main character has. It was a good book in terms of the plot because the main character is off trying to find poachers but the magical part threw me off. I guess I'm not sure what to think overall. It was an easy read, I liked the characters and the plot but it wasn't my favorite book of the year. This book is up for the Rebecca Caudill award but if it was me voting, this wouldn't be the one I would pick to win it all.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Most Recently Read Book:


By Cynthia Kadohata

I love pieces of historical fiction. This genre is closely tied with fantasy/sci-fi/dystopia as one of my favorite genres. For book club we read Moloka'i by Alan Brennert which is about people with leprosy who were quarantined on an island in Hawai'i. It coincided with the Japanese internment after Pearl Harbor was bombed. This book is all about a girl and her family who is relocated to an internment camp and focuses on her story. It is a really beautiful story about family, loneliness, isolation, developing relationships, and following your dreams. It was a simple story and nicely written. I really enjoyed the story. I love books that give a snapshot of someone's life during a period in history that is often overlooked, forgotten, or just not in the spotlight.

Historical fiction makes me realize how important it is for students to know about what people went through in the past. I understand the importance of history, obviously, but these stories really make me realize how important it is to read them in order to be able to connect with people from the past. I think history becomes so much more remarkable when you are able to make a more personal connection with the people living in a different time period. It could be through historical fiction or biographies/autobiographies that read like fiction. When we connect with people it seems to be so much easier to have a true appreciation for what people have gone through before us to have gotten us to where we are in the world...good or bad. I realize more and more how essential this genre is to influencing human connections in our world today.

The Extraordinay Adventures of Alfred Kropp

Most Recently Read Books:

The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp

By Rick Yancey

I am a total fan of classic stories revisited with characters and plot-lines carried into the present time like The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan and this is another one of those books. The main character is a boy who is a direct descendent of King Arthur. I like how a young kid gets thrown into adventures of the Knights of the Round Table. It was an entertaining action-packed story...but I have to say not the best writing out there. I definitely think boys would enjoy this book though. It would be a good attention-sustaining easy read.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Hunger Games

Most Recently Read Book:

The Hunger Games

By Suzanne Collins

I love when I finish a book and I can easily declare it one of the best books ever. I don't even know where to start to describe this. I guess this is how you think of it: 1. reality TV - think Survivor where people are pitted against each other backstabbing and outwitting each other until there's only one person left standing; 2. UFC - think nothing held back bloody fighting; 3. starvation - think the kind of world where the rich people have it made and the poor people struggle for food to feed their family. Put all those together, add a little romance and you've got the hunger games. It's an amazing book. It really made me think about our society and how we aren't all that far from the dystopia in The Hunger Games.

This book easily compares to other dystopic books like Lois Lowry's classic The Giver and its companion books and Clockwork Orange. Believe me, it's amazing and definitely worth reading!

The Graveyard book

Most Recently Read Book:

The Graveyard Book

By Neil Gaiman

I am a lover of fantasy and it didn't seem like it quite at first but this book is a great addition to the fantasy genre. This book is about a toddler who escapes the brutal murder of his family only to be taken in by ghosts in a graveyard. It's a lovely story of a boy growing up in a graveyard, raised by ghosts, learning about life from ghosts. Not until further into the story did I really get the entire picture of the entire fantasy world Gaiman imagined for this book. I would definitely recommend to anyone reading this book that you keep reading and give it a chance to develop. Just stick with it, it's entirely worth it in the end. Brilliant.

Monday, November 16, 2009

My New Car!!!

I still can't find my camera, but here's what my new car looks like:
It's a 2010 Honda Insight Ex (hybrid!!!!)!
Isn't she purty? I feel completely thankful that we were able to fit this into our budget. It is a million times easier not to have to worry about anything going wrong with my car (hopefully not!). I love that it's a hybrid, it is fun to drive and to see when I'm being "green" and energy efficient. Chad even spent most of yesterday afternoon reorganizing the garage so my car would fit. It was a lot of moving bikes and strollers and other cluttery-garage madness but finally my car fit!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Craft Social (Yet Again!)!!!!!!!

Ohmygosh, we have had a long day...but I want to post a couple of pictures from the Craft Social last night before I collapse into a deep, dreamy sleep.

We were so excited to go to our third craft social. I'm not sure why I got it into my head that I wanted to host a craft...I think it was party Kathy's doing...but maybe it seemed fun at the time, but I decided to host a craft. It actually was a lot of fun. I had memories of my Close To My Heart days, which I loved, but could also be stressful. Anyway! I hosted a table where people could come and make holidays cards WITH FUN FABRIC YO-YOS! I thought they were very cute. I actually got a ton made for myself so I'm making lots of headway towards my own holiday cards!

Here I am showing my new blog friend, Lindy, I think how to tie a knot...not sure exactly!
And here are my Craft Social crusaders: Kathy and Silvia. They were so nice taking care of me! Kathy made me a sandwich and Silvia brought me treats and made me a terrarium! It's so cute. You can see some of the projects we made. I'll try and post closer up pictures later...when I'm more coherent. (Need sleep...)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Saving the Earth

Today I'm teaching a lesson about answering questions after reading a book and the book I'm using is called "Introducing Planet Earth". It's a simple book but it talks about how proud Earth is to be the only planet in the solar system that can sustain life, and how it rotates so everyone around the Earth gets its fair share of sunshine. It made me refocus on how important the Earth really is. It does say we can trust it to keep rotating for us for billions of years to come...but after movies like Wall-E and AstroBoy I really realize more and more how much we have to pay attention to what we do to our Earth.

I am by no means completely eco-friendly but I am proud of a few things we do around our house...little things that I hope make some kind of a difference. I'd love for you to share simple changes you have made to be nice to our Planet Earth!

1. We recycle like crazy. Seriously, everything that can be recycled, we recycle it. We already up-sized from the small orange box to the giant brown recycling bin and there are many times when it is completely full.

2. We use the Target shopping bags every time we go get groceries...AND now they scan a special coupon barcode that gives us 5 cents off for every bag we use when we check out. It's only 5 cents...but it's something!

3. When I pack my lunch in the morning, I use the reusable buckets instead of plastic baggies or foil so I don't have any waste that way...I've even started packing real silverware with my lunch.

4. I take a water bottle or mug filled with water to work and refill it throughout the day versus buying water bottles. I even took my mug into Starbucks the other day to get hot tea and she only charged me for the tea since I had my own was less than $1 at STARBUCKS!

5. And, finally, this is the one I am most proud of. I didn't think we were going to be able to do it, but we actually did it and it's not that big of a deal now. On a "green" website I read that one of the things you should never do is buy papertowels. It makes sense, but at first I completely thought there would be no way we could ever possibly live without paper towels. We used them for everything: napkins, drying the table, drying our name it, we used papertowels. When I thought about it, I told Chad I really wanted to try and not use papertowels as much so we bought a ton of kitchen towels at Target. My sister's boyfriend thought we were crazy and said maybe we could compromise and not use as many I kept that in mind. Less papertowels was at least better. After a few months with the dishtowels though we ran out of papertowels one day and we just never went to buy more. We are papertowel free!!!! Sometimes it freaks out other people when they come over because they instantly look for a papertowel and we don't have any...but I'm proud to say we are papertowel free!

These are just a few things we do! It's amazing what you can do if you put your mind to it. Little changes will really add up. What do you do to protect our wonderful Planet Earth?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Skippyjon Jones!

We had a sunny, Skippyjon Jones Sunday! In case you don't now, Skippyjon Jones is a fun Siamese cat who is the main character of several Skippyjon Jones books. He's a cat who thinks he's a chihuahua who goes on all sorts of imaginary adventures. He's so much fun!

It was a great day today! We did Skippyjon stuff all day! Here you can see all our Skippyjon day fun ready to go!
The dining room was all decorated for Skippyjon fun!

Jordan had fun eating fun-colored jelly beans and coloring his Skippyjon pages!

The blue ones were his favorite!
Here's me trying to be all photographer-like.
Fun tissue flowery things to add to the festivity.
Hard at work.
Mmm...snacking on blue jello-o with pineapple and oranges that we made on Saturday. Jordan was all excited to eat the blue jell-o he had stirred up the day before but couldn't eat yet.
Skippyjon cake!
Jordan and I with cake!
After cake we played memory/concentration with Skippyjon cards!
Finally, it was time to go to the library to actually meet Skippyjon!!!! We listened to two Skippyjon stories and danced. Jordan and Maddy got these cool cat masks! At the very beginning, Jordan and Maddy were sitting on the floor and all the kids were silent waiting for the story to begin. Skippy was up on a giant screen and Jordan pointed, looked at me, and said, "Mom, It's Skippyjon Jones!" It was classic and super cute. I was so excited he was that happy to see him. Very fun! The whole day celebration was worth it for that moment.
Jordan and Skippyjon!!!!!!
Family photo with el Skippito Friskito!
One last hug, because we love you Skippyjon!!!!!
Whew! Chad and I have both agreed that we really like the bugs and the flowery decorations. It makes it feel fresh and springy in here...even though it's not. We like to pretend!

Party Prep!

Yesterday we spent the day getting ready for our mini-Skippyjon Jones party. Here are some snippets of what we were working on. I'll try to post later the real pictures of our party. So much fun!