Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Slice of Life: A Virtual Author Visit

Four classes of first graders sat on the floor of my school’s multi-purpose room. I heard murmurs of, “We’re going to meet Josh.” In the previous week, these first graders had listened to their teachers read aloud a few of Josh’s books. His books captured their imaginations and made them laugh. They learned that they were going to meet this author and get to talk to him. In the minds of these first graders, Josh was already a celebrity and a friend. I could feel their excitement as they waited for him to appear on the screen in front of them.

I had previously met children’s author Josh Funk at the International Literacy Association conference in Boston in July. I was as excited as the students to be Skyping with him at our school. Josh graciously offers his lunchtime on Fridays for Skype sessions with classrooms (he has another job besides children’s author). Within the twenty-minute author session, Josh introduced himself and his books and children had the opportunity to ask him questions. Prior to the session, teachers had brainstormed questions and each class decided on a couple they would ask. The children asked him questions such as how he gets his ideas, where he does his writing, who helps him with his books, and how he makes his stories rhyme. Inspired by Josh's book, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, which takes place within a refrigerator, one child asked about the foods in Josh's own refrigerator.

When responding to the questions, Josh discussed his own writing process offering lessons that can help students understand what it means to be a writer. He explained that he gets his ideas from everywhere, from looking around the world, and even from spying on people and listening in on conversations (this got lots of giggles from students). Josh told students that he had to revise one of his books fifteen times, showing that writing takes hard work and perseverance. I hope Josh also inspired the children to follow their passions. He asked the first graders if they liked art. He then told the students about the illustrator of one of his books, Brendan Kearney, who spent a week coloring in beans. His advice to the first graders was that they should keep working on their art because someday they, too, could have a job in which they color in beans (another giggle moment).

This was the first time I had ever Skyped with an author at my school.  The process of setting up the session involved a few emails between Josh Funk and myself to arrange a date and a few conversations with the technology coach at my school to ensure we had the capability to Skype. The process was simple and pain-free. An in-person author visit, because of the expense, is often not an option for schools. This virtual visit proved to be a wonderful alternative to connect children with an author. The opportunity allowed the children to see an author as a real person who exists in the world. He was also able to provide children with insight into the writing process in order to influence their writing lives. The connection that was made between these first graders and the author also benefitted their literacy learning as it helped to grow their enthusiasm for books and writing.

Check out Josh Funk's books at his website.
Visit Kate Messner's website for a list of authors who Skype for free. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  For more information and to find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I Read This Week...

Horrible Bear! by Ame Dyckman

When a girl tries to retrieve her kite from a bear's cave and he accidentally breaks it she throws a tantrum, stomping her way home and yelling, "Horrible Bear" all the way. The bear becomes angry about being called "horrible" and comes up with a plan to get back at the girl. Instead, they both learn the power of forgiveness and that accidents happen. This is a fun story with a good lesson. 

Dog Man by Dav Pilkey

I read this book because I know that Dav Pilkey's books have great appeal for many of my students, especially my more reluctant readers. Although not the type of book that appeals to my reading tastes, I can understand why students would like it. The absurd, sometimes gross humor is the sort that they find entertaining. The graphic format also makes this the type of book my elementary readers will find fun to read. Even though I have not read many of Dav Pilkey's books, I love the message that he has worked to get out to students about choosing books they like to read and reading for fun. He has a few videos, such as this one that help to inspire students to read.

Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

E.B. White's passion for writing began when he was young, as did his love for the state of Maine, which when he moved there as an adult provided inspiration for his books. This biography provides so many wonderful details about E.B. White's life and his writing. The book also tells the backstory of his classic books, such as Charlotte's Web. The illustrations are beautiful, but in addition photographs and writing, such as letters and story drafts, are included to bring E.B. White to life. Although written for children, there is much in the book about E.B. White's life and writing process that adults will find interesting. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  For more information and to find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I Read This Week...

The Cookie Fiasco (Elephant and Piggie Like Reading!) by Dan Santat

Hippo, Croc and the Squirrels have a problem - it's cookie time and there are four of them, but only three cookies. They must figure out how to share the cookies among them before Hippo destroys them. As the friends find a way to get "equal cookies for all" readers will learn something about fractions. In the style of Mo Willems's Elephant and Piggie books, the story is told through dialogue among the friends. Elephant and Piggie make an appearance before and after the story, as well. My students love Elephant and Piggie and I think they'll find this story a fun one to read aloud. 

Upside-Down Magic (Upside-Down Magic #1) by Sara Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins

I became curious about this book after noticing it was a favorite at my school's book fair in September. This is a story about a group of kids who have all have a magical power, but are still learning to perfect it. They are put into the Upside-Down Magic Class, a special class for students who need to improve their magical ability. Nory has a plan to make her magic normal and get herself and her friend Elliot into a regular fifth grade class. This is a fun story about magic gone wrong, but the story offers important lessons, too, about belonging and self-acceptance.

Poppy Mayberry, The Monday (Nova Kids Book 1) by Jennie Brown

In the town of Nova, everyone was a power based on the day of the week on which the person was born. Since Poppy was born on a Monday she should have telekinesis, but she still has not fully mastered this ability. Along with a classmate, who she does not get along with, she is sent to a remedial summer school. (After reading this and Upside-Down Magic I noticed a theme among my chapter book reading.) While at Power Academy, Poppy and three classmates find themselves facing a challenge in which they must show they can properly use their powers in order to be released from the academy. There is not only magic in this book, but adventure and suspense. The characters learn about teamwork and friendship and find out that they are different, but also quite unique. I enjoyed the quirkiness and imagination of this story. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  For more information and to find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I Read This Week...

The Cranky Ballerina by Elise Gravel

Ada wakes up cranky on Saturdays because she has ballet class. She attends class but she repeatedly expresses her dislike for ballet and seems to have a difficult time learning pli├ęs and arabesques. Luckily for Ada's pirouetting, which accidentally takes her out the door and down the hall, she finds an activity that suits her better. The humorous illustrations and dialogue make this a fun story about finding one's talents. 

Dog Rules by Jef Czekaj

The dog and cat find an egg and when it hatches they think the bird is their new puppy. They are puzzled when the bird is unable to learn the rules of being a dog. A black cat helps them realize their error and the bird shows he has learned something after all. I think my readers will enjoy the comic book style of this picture book.

Penguin Problems by Jory John

The penguin in this story has lots of problems and does nothing, but complain. His grumpiness about being a penguin is quite humorous. When he thinks there is no one at all who cares, a wise walrus offers him some words of wisdom about appreciating all that one does have. This books offers a gentle reminder, in a light-hearted way, to look on the bright side. 

Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke

It's summer, but Jack isn't quite enjoying it. While his mom goes off to work, he is left with the big responsibility of caring for his autistic sister. One day at a flea market, he trades the family car for seeds. The plants that grow from the seeds come to life and Jack and a new friend must fight off their evilness. This graphic novel is filled with action and the cliffhanger, I'm sure, will leave readers eagerly anticipating the second book. 

Zoe in Wonderland by Brenda Woods

Zoe spends much of her time imagining her life was different. When a man walks into her father's plant nursery, asking for a Baobob tree, Zoe hatches a plan to grow one in hopes that she can prove there is more to her than meets the eye. Zoe is also trying to work through struggles when a friend moves away and she learns of her family's money problems. Zoe shows that it is possible to overcome challenges of growing up.