A Unique Little Seaside Bookstore

Books on the Beach is a little bookstore in Treasure Island, Florida and guess what? It’s also the local post office. It has three rooms of what looked like mostly gently used books perfect for beach reading. In the small children’s section, I found a great book about sea turtles and I was looking around for the register so I could pay. All I could see was the post office counter and yep! That’s the checkout for the bookstore too. Mail a package and buy a book – I love this concept! I said as much to the woman working there and she said, “I do too- just wish I had more time to read them.” I like checking out local bookstores wherever I go and really glad I happened upon this one!

So here’s my thoughts on the book I bought, Turtle, Turtle, Watch Out! by April Pulley Sayre. It’s a literary nonfiction text that is told as if it’s happening right now. A very smart writing style to engage young readers! It tells about the challenges sea turtles face from the time their eggs are hatched and buried to when they crawl out of that sandy nest and attempt their often dangerous journey to the sea. But most of all, this book explains how communities help the baby sea turtles to make it to the ocean each year. Now here in Florida, this seems to happen later in the spring and summer. I’m so sorry to miss it!
When I taught second grade, one of my science standards focused on the interdependence of living things in the environment and this book would be great to add to that text set. Also, a good mentor text for writing workshop for the text structure, informational features, and language. This author has written several other books on different topics, so a great non-fiction author study idea too!

There are many YouTube videos about sea turtles hatching. Here is a short one:

Loggerhead Sea Turtle Hatching

Beach, books, and local wildlife make  this one happy place! ☀


(Post from my prior blog, Back in the Classroom.)

On the morning of the conference, we awoke to several inches of snow here in Central Ohio. What a winter it has been! But one thing I know about this conference is “the show must go on!” I’ve always loved the timing of this conference. Between too many snow days and just the dreariness of winter, the Dublin Lit conference always lifts me up and sends me back to school with a renewed enthusiasm. (And this year, I was super-excited to meet some of my Twitter rock stars in person – Chris Lehman, Colby Sharp, and John Schu.) So here’s some highlights of this snowy, yet stellar day of learning:
Despite the snowy roads, I actually arrived a little early so I headed over to the vendors to check in with my favorite independent bookseller, Tami Furlong of Fundamentals. It’s been a crazy busy year between moving and just keeping my classroom going, that I haven’t been book shopping this year as much as usual. It was great to talk new books with Tami for a few minutes before she got super busy … and put aside a few books to start off my pile! (It ended up being quite an expensive day!)

Chris Lehman was the opening keynote of the day.  Words I would never imagine saying in the same sentence are “love” and “close reading”, but Chris showed us how close reading starts with something that you care enough about that you take the time and really notice the tiny details that others may not. You’re willing to (and actually enjoy) revisiting that thing again and again and each time, your experience is heightened. We “closely read” many things in life that are important to us — a favorite spot, a loved ones face, an artifact that reminds us of a treasured time. We want to bring that type of experience into our classrooms as we teach children the habit of reading closely.
Joy … love. That was the message of this opening keynote. That hour alone was worth the tense commute in the deep snow!

I have been following Colby Sharp and John Schu on Twitter for a few years evenr since Donalyn Miller was here and challenged everyone to give it a try. It was great to see these two together talking books and authors. As expected, the time was way too short but I walked away with lots of new titles and a strange urge to start smelling new books! Yes, Mr. Schu makes reading an experience that engages all the senses. I loved all his stories about how he has kids sniffing and savoring the smell of a freshly cracked spine. In both their classrooms, reading is a special event that ends with rowdy celebration. Picture lots of clapping!

Our afternoon began with author Lisa Graff sharing her journey as a reader. Interestingly enough, she went through a phase of trying to read difficult books like Moby Dick and the Bible only to find a series she loved – The Babysitters Club! But all those reading experiences led her to the reader that she became … and she believes that if anyone had told her she couldn’t (or shouldn’t) read certain things, who knows if she would have truly become a reader. Lisa had a very simple presentation – an author and her stories, but she had a message that was far from simple. Readers need to know who they are. I was relieved to hear her share how she is a slow reader, who often doesn’t remember the plots of books she’s read, who can only have one book going at a time. I will admit that I am intimidated at times by Nerdy Book Club Members – people who read a staggering number of books in short periods of time and who actually remember them well! While I thank my lucky stars to have people like Donalyn Miller, John Schu, Colby Sharp, and so many others who can read like that, I know that I cannot. And I thank you, Lisa Graff, for sharing your story and reminding me that it’s perfectly fine to be the reader that you are. In this time of “complex text”, we have to remember that our most important  job is helping students find out who they are as readers. Readers will find their way.

Another great day of celebrating books and authors! I was happy to make it home from the conference with a huge stack of new books. I enjoyed meeting Paul Zelinski who signed Circle, Square, Moose for my Room 22 readers … which I think will be a part of the Mock Caldecott that is going on in my room right now. (I know … Aren’t you supposed to do that before ALA awards? But it’s actually going well after awards.) Now if only the weather would cooperate and get us back in the classroom. Thanks, Dublin for another motivating day – see you next year!


Dublin Literacy Conference 2014

(Post from my prior blog, Back in the Classroom.)

It’s been such a long winter with crazy low temperatures, mountains of snow, too many snow days, and on top of all the weather related issues, my husband, John had not just one, but two knee surgeries since just before Christmas. I know we’ll be saying in years to come, “Remember the winter of 2014?”  But this year, like every winter, I’ve had something to look forward to. One of my favorite literacy conferences, the Dublin Literacy Conference, comes at the end of February, right when I need a boost of positive energy. A day to remind me how important our work is as teachers and how honored we are to be working with students every day. I was catching up with my daughter, Kathryn on Friday night and was telling her how I’ve been going to this conference since she was in kindergarten – and she recently celebrated her 23rd birthday! This conference has been part of my teaching life for so many winters and it really feels like going to spend the day with an old friend.  The slide show at the start of the conference highlighting the authors who have been a part of this conference for the past 25 years was pretty amazing to see. Well done, Dublin!

This  year, I was happy to attend the conference as a classroom teacher once again. For the past five years, I’ve attended the conference as a literacy coach and so my perspective was a little different this year.  Here are my big take-aways this year:

So can you think of a better way to start the day than a keynote by Penny Kittle talking about creating a passion for reading in your classroom? I’ve been lucky enough to see Penny a couple of other times but her success in turning busy, high school students into avid readers never ceases to dazzle me. As an elementary teacher, I know that we can get most kids hooked on books but how do we keep it going through high school? This drop-off in reading through middle school and high school tells us we cannot work in isolation from each other. Teachers from all levels need to collaborate together but how often does this happen in school districts? I’ve loved seeing this conference transform over the years and it truly is a K-12 conference.

So it’s a literacy conference but guess what? I spent much of my day learning about math! I have been frustrated this year with a math program our district is using. Too much testing, too many paper/pencil tasks, and too little real-life connections that will make kids love math. So I was thrilled to go to sessions on math workshop. Author and math coach, Kassia Omohundro Wedekind, approaches math workshop with the same philosophy that we do with reading and writing workshops. What are your building’s beliefs about math? This big picture is just what I needed to get back on track with my math teaching. Also, enjoyed a session by teacher, Meagan Erwin on ideas about writing about math and exploring multiple strategies. Glad to see this conference looking at literacy beyond the ELA classroom.

If you’re a lover of literature, there is nothing quite like listening to an author walk through the history of their books. Bryan Collier was amazing as he told the powerful story behind Dave the Potter and Knock, Knock. I don’t think anyone in that audience will read those books in the same way again.  Simply beautiful. (But I was so mad at myself this morning when I realized I bought one of his books and did not get it signed!)

Now that the conference is over, I am ready for spring … and it can’t come soon enough!

Social Studies Literature: People Changing the Land

(Post from my prior blog, Back in the Classroom.)

One of our 2nd grade standards is all about the positive and negative consequences when people use and change the land. When I was putting together our read aloud list for this part of our unit of study, I was looking for a range of angles. Here’s what we read this year:

There’s an Owl in the Shower by Jean Craighead George
Note: A strong chapter book that shows how complicated environmental issues can become in a community. Things get heated when loggers can’t provide for their families because the government steps in to protect the owls’ habitat.

The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry

Jaguarundi by Virginia Hamilton

Country Road by Daniel San Souci

Barn Savers by Linda Oatman High

The Story of Silk by Richard Sobol
Note: I haven’t read this one yet with my 2nd graders but it’s a beautiful book about a community in Thailand and how the production of silk is truly a community effort and a source of pride.

Exploring Our Backpacks: What’s That in your Backpack?” article from Toolkit Texts, Grades 2-3
(How logging provides us with paper and pencils; “how-to” structure embedded)

As we read, we kept an on-going anchor chart listing the book title, how people changed the land, positive and negative effects. (I’m still figuring out to post pictures using my WordPress app on IPad!) We discussed throughout each read-aloud how city leadership has to continually consider this balance. For next year, I need to find some more titles to add to this list. I’d love to find a strong picture book that does what The Owl in the Shower does – show both sides of an issue and how complicated change can be.


Gearing Up for Caldecott

(Post from my prior blog, Back in the Classroom.)

Awards week is one short week away, so this week I’m spending time reading and talking Caldecott hopefuls. Wish I could have started earlier, but we’ll do what we can.

We’ve spent a lot of time in my classroom lately talking about how to rate books. The reading logs we use during independent reading have a space to award a book 1-5 stars. Usually my second graders base that rating on how well they liked the book. Upon returning from winter break, we’ve added this star rating to our home reading as well. Our latest reading logs that we use to record home reading have a space for the star rating and our reasons why. Our conversations over that week shifted from how well we liked a book to how well the author or illustrator crafted the book. So when we talk about a book being funny, we ask “What did the author and illustrator do to make you laugh?” We talk about how the richness of details in illustrations, character descriptions, exchanges between characters, and so on contribute to the responses we have as readers. Together, we developed a rubric to help us decide on a star rating when we’re unsure. Pretty serious stuff for eight year olds! I really wanted to have these conversations and experiences looking at books in a different way before we took on our Caldecott work.

So here’s the plan for this week. I got ideas for my Caldecott short list to read aloud from many other blogs – Calling Caldecott, Goodreads, and my first go-to spot, Mr.Schu Reads. I think I read that Travis Jonker, who is on the Caldecott Committee this year, considered something like 600 books! I’m just hoping that some of the books we are reading and rating actually get a nod from the committee. I was nervous putting together my list and couldn’t get my hands on some hopefuls at this late date. Here’s our list:
Brave Girl
Flora and the Flamingo
Niño Wrestles the World
Warning: Do Not Open This Book
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild
Hello, My Name Is Ruby
The Story of Fish and Snail
The Dark
Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great

So this week, we will look at the criteria, read and discuss books, and rate them. I like the idea of separating story and illustration as we discuss what we appreciate that the author and illustrator did and concerns we have. I also think I’ll take Travis Jonker’s suggestion of having kids rate on a scale of 1-3 instead of 1-5. All this before next Monday!

Last year was the first time that I actually watched the awards due to all the One and Only Ivan frenzy on Twitter and it was so exciting. I think I actually screamed when the Newbery was announced! I hope that this week builds that same level of excitement for my second graders!