Beautiful, Beautiful Books

photo-21This picture was my happy place today.

No time in the school day brings me more joy

than our moments after lunch when we read our chapter book together.

My class is about two thirds of the way through our last novel of the year,

Holes, by Louis Sachar.

The best part is, I actually have a class set of this one.

My heart does a little pitter patter every time I see my students

get comfy with their copy as they follow along.

One girl loves to rest her chin on her desk with her eyes on the text.

Another boy likes to rest his forehead on the desk with the book in his lap.

Another is literally consumed by his book because it practically covers his face.

Just when I think I’ll catch one off task, I realize, they’re just getting in their cozy spot.

They’re bonding with their books!

So as we read today, I had a lightbulb moment.

Wouldn’t it be cool to see all the books we’ve read together in one big stack?

As the students traded turns reading pages,

I did a quick rummage around the room to collect them all.

Eight in all, and what a beautiful pile of books!

I wish you could have seen two of my girls who sit in back

oohing and ahhing at the sight.

Those are our books!  We’ve read them all this year! one whispered.

Wait, let me count them! the other joined in.

I’m telling you, books have bonded us together.

As I look at each title, I am reminded of a different time frame of the year.

It reminds me of the journey we’ve taken through this school year.

And it makes my heart feel so full.

There’s already a countdown in the teachers lounge

for number of school days left until sweet summer begins.

And I’m not going to lie, I’m more than ready.

But today, that stack of books brought me the bit of joy I needed.

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Reading is cool! I swear!

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Inspiring kids to love reading is hard.

I have some serious reluctant readers in my class,

and many others that enjoy reading,

but are clueless on how to pick out a book that’s just right for them.

I sympathize with all of the above,

because I was not a child who enjoyed reading

as much as I now enjoy reading as an adult.

I don’t want my students to become the type of kid I was.

I want them to find the books that make them excited

to find another, and another, and another.

Because these days, when I find a good book for myself,

I am hungry for more and I get sad that the latest book is over.

A teacher friend of mine, who knows nothing of my picky reading taste,

heard I was looking for a new book to read

and placed a book called The Language of Flowers in my box.

“I think you’d like this.” the note she slipped inside had said.

And boy was she right!

I finished that thing in one week!

I gave up my Saturday just to sit on the couch and finish every page!

I want to be that kind of “Book Fairy” for my kids.

I want to know what kinds of books make them tick,

make them sad because they don’t want them to be over.

I want to be the one that helps them discover their childhood favorite

that they reflect on sentimentally as an adult.

I wasn’t the child with a flashlight in my bed under the covers, reading.

I was the girl with 20 books in my library bag,

who only actually found time to read one or two in the stack.

Choosing books was more exciting to me than actually reading them.

I am now playing catch up, reading young adult books as a matter of research

just so I can recommend books to my students

and be in the know of the juvenile literary world.

I subscribe to the Nerdy Book Club so I can be up with the times

on newly published books for children.

Meanwhile,

what inspired this long rant about how reading really is cool,

is the fact that I am sitting here,

responding to “Reading Response Journal” letters from my students

and they are boring!!!

The sole point of the reading response is for my students and I

to have a way to talk about the books their reading.

They write me a letter about what they’re reading,

and I respond with my own thoughts about their book and ideas.

But these letters are boring!

I feel like I have a bunch of uninspired readers,

writing me boring letters that only follow a “how to checklist,”

and provide no genuine tone or sincerity.

Inspiring kids to love reading is hard

but to inspire them to love talking about what they’re reading is even harder.

Perhaps I need to rethink this whole Reading Response Journal thing.

But in the meantime,

I’ll continue to just inspire my kids to READ!

Applaud their choices, suggest new titles,

and encourage them to spend time in the library to find their next book.

Reading – It’s cool!  I swear!

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Bonding over Books

It’s funny how certain books bring back school memories for me.

We finished our third after-lunch read aloud today –

Mr. Popper’s Penguins.

This was only my second time reading this book.

When I was in 3rd grade, my teacher always read to us after lunch.

The two books I most remember her reading were

Mr. Popper’s Penguins and Stuart Little.

The weird thing is, I don’t really love either of these books,

but I do love the memories of this after-lunch tradition.

Sweaty and pooped from running around on the playground,

I always felt thankful for Mrs. Marchi allowing us

to lay our heads down on our desks or draw while she read.

Those ten minutes of relaxation always felt like heaven,

or at least that’s how my eight year old self remembers it.

My hope is that my 4th graders only feel the same about this

sacred read aloud time we share together after lunch.

Even if they don’t like the books,

I sure hope they like being read to, just as I once did.

What books bring back school memories for you?

Grammar + Art = Fun!

Grammar can be boring.

For me, I always loved it!

Diagramming sentences, explaining parts of speech,

I loved it all!

However, sometimes you need to bring in the Joy Factor

when it comes to dry grammar lessons.

For example, this week I taught my kiddos how to

correctly punctuate a line of dialouge.

Discussing where quotation marks and commas belong

in dialogue can be pre-tty boring!

Here’s how I made it come to life:

I read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus,

which is basically dialogue throughout.

Students love it!  And not to mention, it’s a great series!

We then examined a quotation from the book,

written correctly with quotation marks and a comma.

Students were then each given their own quote from the book

but written without any punctuation.

They rewrote it, demonstrating appropriate punctuation.

We also had a great discussion about words that can replace said,

like yelled, replied, answered, and more.

I encouraged the students to find a new word for said to add to their quotation.

Finally, I surprised them with a guided drawing of Mr. Pigeon himself!

Art brings wonders to the classroom!  I’m telling you!

Who knew quotation marks could be so much fun?

Here makes a great plug for a project I’ve posted on Donor’s Choose.

I’m hoping to add more art activities like this one to my classroom,

especially when I teach science.

If you’re feeling a little generous, check out my project.

Save the Arts in our classroom!

Thankfulness Thursday

Many of my students do not have the childhood that I had long ago.

Some do not come home to two parents

nor do they come home to ones that drive them to soccer practice

or nag them to clean their room.

They might come home to McDonalds for dinner

or a screaming match between mom and her boyfriend.

Some don’t have a bedtime,

and some don’t have their own room.

As a teacher, I try to bring any kind of version of “normalcy”

and try to stick to any kind of promises I make.

I try to give them stability.

I am thankful today for my dad.

My amazing, generous, thoughtful father.

Who today, gave an hour of his time

just to read and bond with a few of my students

over a book about one of his all-time favorite baseball players.

Roberto Clemente.

He started a “Boys Book Club” that he’ll be hosting for a month

with four boys in my class.

I felt so proud listening to him tell them about

this legendary player, someone these boys had never heard of.

When Dad and I spoke prior to plan the book club meeting,

I was wagering it’d take about 15-20 minutes.

I was wrong.

Today my dad sat and read with these four boys for 40 minutes.

When they finished, I took the time to go and ask each one,

“How’d it go?”

My heart melted watching their faces turn to smiles

as they told me all the new things they learned

and what a great time they had.

I felt so proud.

That’s my dad!

How lucky I am to have a dad who’d want to come in

and spend time with my students.

Who’d want to come in and actually try to make an impact

teaching and sharing lessons of the world.

Thats my dad!

Today I’m thankful for Dad!

i love books!

Reading aloud to my students after lunch

is one of my favorite traditions.

Not only does it quiet them down after lunch,

but it feels like bonding.

I try my hardest to choose books from a variety of genres,

and I love to pick ones that are award winners or from book lists.

But most importantly, I try to choose books I’ve never read.

(Except for Maniac McGee.

The chapter book read aloud that forever will be one of my favorites

thanks to my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Smith!)

Why would I choose books I’ve never read?

So that I can connect with my students as we share

the adventure of these books together.

Because, in my opinion, there’s nothing better

than bursting into genuine laughter with your kiddos

or feeling that same sense of “awwwwww”

when I tell them it’s time to stop for the day.

Today we finished Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.

Ahhhhh.  Great book.  Funny book!

And I loved it when I read the last line,

they all applauded and cheered.

Then one quickly asked, “Can we read Fudge-A-Mania next?”

Another, “Can I borrow that book now that we’re done?”

Well, perhaps we’ll have to make time to come back

to Fudge and Peter later on this school year.

But wish us luck as we move on to a new genre: fantasy.

As we read The Mysterious Journey of Edward Tulane.

(A bunch of my students read this book last year and swore by it!)

Reading.  It brings people together.

What are your favorite chapter book read alouds?

i guess i loved them after all

I’m a 4th grade teacher once again.

I won’t lie, it feels a little strange.

I’m used to kids who know my routines and expectations.

After all, I had my last group for two years.

Starting over is weird.  It feels unfamiliar.

But at the same time, it feels so refreshing.

My last bunch was a little tricky to handle at most points.

They were chatty, and needed a very firm hand.

It was like I was their only mother.

Irresponsible, dishonest, and even rude at times,

But they were lovable.

All they needed was someone to say, “No,” and mean it.

And a person who would make a promise, and actually keep it.

I’m pretty sure that group will always tug at my heart

a little more than any other class I’ll ever have.

My first day of school highlight was getting visits from three of my old students (during class!)…just to say hello.