Friday, September 21, 2012

The Piggy-Back Ride of the Century

I HAD to take a second and post an amazing photo and video from today.  We had another once-in-a-lifetime moment as the shuttle Endeavor flew over our school twice.  We waited outside for about an hour with our eyes on the sky.  What an amazing year!

The kids ran after it as if they could catch it


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How We Became Pirates

Today is my second favorite day of the year...International Talk Like a Pirate Day.  Regardless of where I am, I always find a way to celebrate. Being a teacher, I can sorta go all out and get people to join in my fun.

Today we celebrated in style.  Since I have the same students I had last year they knew this was coming.  Some students wore their skull and crossbones, one girl wore fake tattoos, and I donned my pirate boots.  When the kids walked in the room they were assigned a pirate name (I was Captain Long Boots).  They could either choose their own or find one via a Pirate Name Generator website.  There was a message written in Pirate Talk.  We read Pirate Books.  Our library is filled with not one, but two pirate book displays.  These are the days when I can't think of a better job to have.

For all of you, here are two pirate books to remember for next year.  One is the book I read every year, even if they have heard it before.  The other was a book that a teacher brought me when we came back to school because he knew how much I LOVED pirates. 

My favorite illustration by David Shannon...ever

How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long, illustrated by David Shannon

This is hands down my favorite pirate book of all time.  It tells the story of Jeremy Jacob and what happened when his parents were too busy to notice he joined a ship of pirates.  Through the skullduggery and swashbuckling ways of Captain Braid Beard, he learns all about being a pirate.  For example, pirate manners which include pounding your fists on the table, talking with mouths full, and not saying please or thank you.  He learns important pirate words such as "landlubber" and "scurvy dog."  Jeremy tries to teach them to play soccer but it doesn't work out so well.  Throughout his voyage with Braid Beard and his crew, Jeremy learns some important things about becoming a pirate and being himself.

Pirateology published by Candlewick Press

My coworker, after returning from summer vacation, brought me this book.  He found it and remembered how much I loved pirates.  I was thrilled to receive it!  Part fiction, part nonfiction, it is supposed to be a "found document" about the real lives of pirates.  Inside you will find information about some of the most famous pirates, such as Blackbeard and Anne Bonny.  There are naviagtion charts, nautical terms, stories of hidden treasure and the different types of pirate flags.  What makes this book really appealing to readers, in addition to the content, is that there are things to lift, flip, turn, open, tie, etc.  Flaps on different pages reveal the inside of a pirate ship.  Leather straps are attached to a page that teaches you how to make a variety of knots.  There are letters to open and read.  It's like a more mature, and much cooler version of Pat the Bunny.  My students immediately gravitate toward these kinds of books simply because the love touching everything.  While they are enjoying that, they actually learn something!  A welcomed new addition to the pirate book collection.

A page from Pirateology

I hope you  enjoyed your Talk Like a Pirate Day in style and if not, well, yer walkin' the plank!!

Pirate display number one...including the pirate book
I wrote with my friend Brandon!

More pirate books

No landlubbers allowed!

We got very creative with our names

Ready for Pirate Day!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Spider and the...Bee?

 Usually one of the first books I read to my students in a new school year is The Spider and the Fly. Tony DiTerlizzi illustrated this poem by Mary Howitt in a film noir kind of style.  Black and white photos, amazing use of shadows, titles to hold the text - just like in a silent film, and the perfect villain and victim.  The Spider and the Fly makes a great read aloud for the first week, not only because it is one of my all time favorite books, but also because it is sinister, the kids love finding all the intricate details DiTerlizzi has added to the book (Monarch butterfly wings as curtains, a bottle cap as a mirror, etc.), and the ending is not a happy one.  Generally after I read it, it doesn't see a book shelf for the first month at least, as kids read it and just pass it on to the next person.

This year, for the first in many, I did not read the book during the first week.  I "looped" with my kids, which means I was their teacher last year in 4th grade and I am their teacher now in 5th grade.  I read The Spider and the Fly last year to them so I debated whether or not I should read it again.  I decided to jump into our first read aloud, Wonder, instead.

Well, as the fates would have it, we needed to have that moment in our lives.  Yesterday, in what might possibly go down as the greatest school day in history, we had a bit of a lesson from Mother Nature.  There have been bees flying around our classroom door.  We have a "bungalow" classroom, which means no hallways, just the door that leads outside.  The bees have been bothering my kids all week and I've been trying to teach them the zen moment of not freaking out when a bee zooms near your face.  This, as you might expect, was met with mixed success.

Yesterday, the temperatures hit a roasting 100 degrees and we spent much time in our air conditioned classroom. (Thank goodness for that, by the way!)  During our afternoon snack time, one student stepped outside for a moment and upon returning, one of the pesky bees entered the room with him.  Maybe to get the nice cool air?  Either way, I told everyone to stay calm as I had just the thing for this.  I have a bee keeper hat in my closet, don't even know why, and I threw it on and grabbed a container and made my way to try and grab the fellow.  The kids thought I looked ridiculous, which I did, and laughed as I marched toward the window where the bee was hovering.

"IT GOT CAUGHT IN A SPIDER WEB!"  This was the shout from the amazed student who had accidently let the bee in.  I thought I had rid the classroom of all spiders and webs before school started so was a bit surprised to hear this.  We all turned our heads and, in one of those moments where the world moves in slow motion and the blink of an eye at the same time, we saw a black widow spider leap from a hiding space and start working her web around the bee. It was amazing.  Our entire class of 25 students, after shouting their PG rated versions of expletives, ran to the window to watch.  I calmed everyone down, said this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and let them know that we could watch the whole thing if they were quiet.

"That is disgusting!" "Meg grab your camera!" "This is amazing!"  "You should put this on YouTube!" "You can hear the bee!!"  "This is JUST like The Spider and the Fly!!!!!"  And it was.  I did grab my camera and was able to video tape the whole thing.  We watched as she spun the web to grab the bee.  We watched as she made her web around the bee, I'm assuming just in case he tried to escape, we watched her "insert her venom and wait for the bee to die" as one student narrated.  We waited until she came back, then watched as she finished wrapping her dinner and cut the bee loose and yanked it back to her hiding spot in the window.

It was truly, truly amazing.  Maybe not for everyone but this was a moment in teaching that I know we will all remember and tell over and over and over again.  We missed our spelling test and we were late for dismissal...but holy cow, what a moment. Next week, I'm bringing back The Spider and the Fly.

Here, for you, are the two videos I took.  You CAN hear the bee, as well as a variety of whispered student comments and my re-occurring attempts to shush the class, as well as telling students to back away from the black widow because they were getting a little too close for my comfort.  A warning, this is not for the faint of heart, it is graphic, an animal was harmed in this movie, and yes, we will have to get rid of the black widow.  But WOW, what a day!



Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Very Bookish Beginning

This year I decided to totally recreate my classroom.  I just wasn't happy with it last year.  It felt like the space wasn't used well enough, that it wasn't organized, and it didn't have that je ne sais quoi that makes a room seem extra special.

If I know one thing about myself it is that I am at my best when I have help.  Some people like to work alone but I always get better when I can borrow, steal, "honor" as my friend John puts it, or bounce ideas off of others.  So a couple of weeks ago when my good friend Jen asked if I would like some help setting my classroom up I said yes immediately!

I am quite pleased with the finished product.  I really like how my love of books is communicated in almost every aspect of the room.  Again, most of the ideas were not my own.  They came from Jen, many, many hours scouring Pinterest and teacher blogs, and my other friend Sara.  Sara helped create the characters from Extra Yarn! and I have to say that it was brilliant.  Last year my kids loved everything written by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen so this was a fun addition. Also because I discovered many of my ideas online, I thought I would post some pictures for those of you out there who are also looking for ideas.  Steal honor away!

The view from my front door.  Those tissue paper poof balls
were really popular this year. I saw them EVERYWHERE online.
Mine are supposed to be clouds.

Another poof ball.  Writing Wall to display their work.
Also, as a theme this year, I am incorporating "earthy" stuff.
Green, blue, black, leaves, clouds, etc.

New bench seat below the window.  The characters from
Extra Yarn!/I Want My Hat Back flank the window.
+ twinkle lights.

Two of our favorite characters from last year.
We also added a quote from the book Extra Yarn that reads
"Soon, people thought, soon Annabelle will run out of yarn."

Math supplies, Annabelle from Extra Yarn, and
the book that inspired her addition to the room! 

Close up of Annabelle.  I knit the little sweater she is working on.
The yarn travels from the magical box to her, over the window,
and to Rabbit and Bear on the other side.

Library.  Poof Ball.  Green leafy thing from Ikea.
Definitely stole this from a teacher blog. 
Kids will "tweet" quotes and ideas from
books they read by writing them on post-it notes and
placing them in the speech bubbles. 
When I told them about this today they
were super excited.  They are all now creating
their own @Names.
Another view of the library.

Shelf one with books from their summer reading
list, as well as books that connect to what
we are learning across the curriculum on top of the shelf
+ succulant.

"Be inspired by Nature."  Books on display to go along with our theme.

My new Cuppow!  I love this handy insta-portable-travel mug!
My life has been amazing since I bought it!

And there you have it!  Day one today was amazing.  I can't wait to get things going.  Congrats to all those who also started school.  I hope your room is as comfy as mine!

Monday, September 3, 2012

September Book Events

Sorry for the delay!  I've been busy in my classroom throughout the past week, desperately trying to put the finishing touches on everything.  So here it is, better late than never!

Los Angeles

September 12
* Author/Illustrator Harry Bliss (illustrator of Diary of a Worm) will visit Mrs. Nelson's, 5 pm.

September 13
* Two authors of middle grade books, Lisa McMann and Margaret Peterson Haddix, will present their work at Mrs. Nelson's, 5 pm.

September 15
* Jamie Lee Curtis, author of When I Was Little, will present her new book at Children's Book World, 10:30 am

September 22
* April Habril Wayland, will involve children in a performance based on her new book, New Year at The Pier--A Rosh Hashanah Story, at Children's Book World, 10:30 pm

* Four YA writers from LA will visit Once Upon a Time Bookstore to present their dystopian books.  Authors include: Lissa Price, Marie Lu, Scott Speer, Jennifer Bosworth. 7 pm

September 27
* Two YA authors, Anna Carey (Eve, Once, Rise) and Josephine Angelini (Starcrossed, Dreamless!) will visit Mrs. Nelson's, 5 pm.

September 29
* Marla Frazee, illustrator  of Stars, will present her new book Boot & Shoe, at Skylight Books, 11 am.


September 8
* Jennifer Butenas reads her picture book, A Moment in Time, at Wellesley Books, 10 am.

September 9
* Author/illustrator Mary Newell DePalma reads from her new book, Bow-Wow-Wiggle Waggle at the Eric Carle Museum, 2 pm

September 15
* Join Maisy and her creator Lucy Cousins in a day of activities at the Eric Carle Museum, 10 am - 5 pm

September 19
* Sharon Creech, author of Walk Two Moons, presents her new book The Great Unexpected, at Wellesley Books, 4 pm

September 20
* The Carle Honors Benefit Gala and Art Auction will take place at the Eric Carle Museum with an unbelievable cast.  More info, including how to get in and how many limbs it will cost to enter are here:

September 22
* Shelia Cunningham, author of Willow's Walkabout, A Children's Guide to Boston, will present her book at Wellesley Books, 10 am
* Caldecott-Award winning illustrator Jerry Pinkney presents his thoughts on Ezra Jack Keats at the Eric Carle Museum, 1 pm
* Author Ruby M. Harmon and illustrator Eric Hamilton share their newest book Dromedary and Camelot at the Eric Carle Museum, 2 pm

September 23
* Jane Schoenberg reads from her newest book, Stuey Lewis Against All Odds, at the Eric Carle Museum, 1 pm

September 24
* Sarah Stewart and Caldecott Medalist David Small present their new picture book, The Quiet Place, at Porter Square Books, 10 am
September 25
* Loren Long, illustrator of Otis, presents his new book Nightsong at Wellesley Books, 4 pm

September 30
* Newbery Honor author Grace Lin presents her new book Starry River of the Sky, at Porter Square Books, 3 pm