Monday, January 28, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday so here's my opinion of what I've been reading lately:

Recently it has become a fad for second and third graders to check out Diary of a Wimpy Kid books.  Because these books are on our Wildcat Favorites, I only allow students to check them out if the book is on their reading level because these are the most popular books and students are always waiting to check them out.  So, I decided it might be time to read these books and see what all the fuss is about.

WARNING:  I have very strong feelings about the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, and you might not necessarily agree with me.  This is my personal opinion.  You are free to disagree with it.

After reading books one-six in the DOAWK series from cover to cover, I can honestly say that if this series was not already a part of our collection, I would not have added it.  Although I think that the premise behind the books was to get reluctant readers to read, I can find no value in the DOAWK books.  The main character, Greg, bullies his best friend, makes fun of his teachers and friends, finds ways to get out of his responsibilities, makes excuses for his bad behavior and seems to get away with all of it with little to no consequences...none of which I find funny or entertaining.  Greg Heffley is certainly not a role model and doesn't seem to grow in maturity at all throughout the series.  In fact, he seems to regress.   He is supposedly in seventh grade by the sixth book, Cabin Fever, and yet he talks about Santa Claus as if he still believes in him.  Really strange.  But in the first book he is very concerned about being noticed by the "hot" girls at school.  The first book as well as the other books in the series also mention other mature issues such as smoking, kissing, and shaving.  Greg has to take a puberty class in book five: The Ugly Truth. I wonder if that's the reason for the title of that one?  

The interest level of the DOAWK books is marked as 5th-7th grade, but it seems these books are marketed to younger children, especially at Scholastic Book Fairs.  I cannot see how most of the mature topics brought up in these books could be relateable to most elementary students.  Even our fifth graders have to get a parent's permission to sit on the puberty class offered by the county, so I feel justified to say that the content is not appropriate for students below fifth grade.  Yet it is the second and third graders who are so very eager to get their hands on these books in my Media Center.  Granted if the book is not on their reading level, I don't feel guilty in guiding them to a different choice, but what can I do about the second grader who is reading on a fifth grade reading level and wants to check these books out?  It's such a judgement call.  I don't want to censor and I am not going to remove these books from our collection, but I also don't feel I am doing a good job helping that second or third grade child find good reading material that is both reading level and age appropriate if I let him/her walk out with these books.  I am not sure what the answer is.  For now I have moved these books behind the circulation desk in clear view and they are available if someone asks for them, but I don't have them out in the Wildcat Favorites any more.

I might be opening up a can of worms asking this, but do you have an opinion about the DOAWK books?  Do you have other series that you suggest to younger kids who want to check out these books if you feel that DOAWK is a bit too mature for them?  I really would love to find some good alternative series to suggest to my high readers in younger grades.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Adopt a Book

I borrowed this idea from a fellow SLMS in my county...Adopt a Book.  When I weed books, I pull some that I think students might like to take home. These books are usually those that are falling apart because they are really popular with the kids, not because they have been sitting on the shelf being eating by dust and mold.  But sometimes I put weeded books that are outdated on the Adopt A Book shelf and those are snatched up, too.  I'd much rather have those books being read than sitting on a shelf collecting dust, so I'm happy to have them adopted.

I used some of my Scholastic Dollars earned from the Fall Book Fair to order a small book shelf and created a little sign to advertise the books that are up for "adoption."

The first day I put out these books, all the books were gone by 8:00am.  Seriously!  The word spread fast!

If you'd like a copy of the sign I made, you can get it here or click on the picture above.

What do you do with your weeded books?

Monday, January 21, 2013

What Are You Reading?

So I've made some progress with my 2013 Book Challenge. I'm on book #17. I know that some TL/SLMS have been posting on Mondays what they've been reading, so I thought I'd join in.

Here are just a few of the books I've read so far this year:

The Universe of Fair by Leslie Bulion

This is a book that I requested and downloaded from NetGalleyI really enjoyed this book. It took me back to my childhood days of getting a day off for the fair. I could almost taste the corn on the cob and pronto pups as I read the description of how Miller, his best friend Lewis, and the "Pest Pack" made up of Miller's six year old sister and her two neighbor friends made their rounds at the local fair. I loved that the main character was a bit of a Science geek, but still very much an eleven year old boy who just wants to have fun with his best bud. It's a tale of adenture, mystery, and even of growing up. In short, it was definitely a good read.  I know some 3rd-5th graders who would love to read this book.

Lulu and the Dog from the Sea by Hilary McKay

This was another download from NetGalley.  I wasn't very impressed with the writing of this book. It seemed to jump around a lot in voice which made it difficult to follow. And for this to be an easy chapter book, being difficult to follow couldn't be a good thing for young readers. I think the idea of the story is cute...finding a stray dog while on vacation, a dog who ends up "saving" one of the characters and thereby wins its way into the family's heart...pure gold.  But the execution needs work.  Having said that, I still think that my 2nd and 3rd graders would enjoy this book and would want to read more in the series so I would invest some money into a few books in this series.  Lulu seems like a fun character and her and her sister's adventures would make for a fun read.                 

Dreamland by Alyson Noel

I was very excited to read the next book in the Riley Bloom series and couldn't wait to get my hands on this book. I was a little disappointed in the storyline this time, although I understood that in order to get the bigger picture of what the "Here and Now" looks like and how it operates, it was necessary to have Riley take this adventure. It was a bit graphic at times and much less nicer than the beautiful picture that has been painted of the "Here and Now" in the first two books, but I guess that everything good must have an opposite evil.  I just hope that the next book has Riley traveling to earth to visit her sister or other lost souls again. That's the storyline that hooked me and pulled me into this series.  Even though I was a bit disappointed in this book, I am still looking forward to reading the next book in the this series, Whisper.  

How to Treat a Book by Amanda St. John

Loved this book! I will definitely be using it for Media Center orientation lessons with Kindergarten and first grades as well as a refresher for 2nd grade. It covered everything from how to take a book off the shelf, to using bookmarks, to keeping your books safe when you aren't reading them, and what will happen if you don't. Cute and informative.

Attack of the Chicken Nugget Man by Kumar Sathy

This again, was a book I was able to download through NetGalley.  First, let me say, that I love the idea of a fun book that teaches test taking skills based on national standards, but I found this book incredibly hard to follow. The storyline seemed to jump around a lot and I didn't care too much for the gross humor. There seemed to be a lot of stories within the story that just didn't make the story flow very well.  I am sure it is meant to capture the attention of young readers, but as a teacher, I would not use this book to teach with because of the "ick" factor. I did like the "silly standardized test questions" at the end of each chapter and think those could be helpful, but don't think that all the slime, mold, and just plain grossness is needed in this story. The fact that a chicken nugget is talking is enough to get the attention of a young reader.  I also think that having the standards listed in parts of the story is distracting to the reader. I would suggest putting those in a teacher's copy and leave them out in a student's or reader's copy of the book. It takes away from the flow of the story. Overall, I like the idea behind Attack of the Chicken Nugget Man, but I think it needs some work.  I will be interested in seeing if some of the issues I found distracting are addressed in the next book.

So what about you?  Have you rad any good books lately?

*I'm an affiliate for things I've bought or used personally.  If you click through any referral links (if included), at no cost to you, I will earn a commission if you make a purchase.  Thank you for your support in this way.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Dave and Pat Sargent

Today we had a visit from guest authors Dave and Pat Sargent.  Dave and Pat have been writing children's books for over 30 years and today they gave their very last school presentation to our students.  I was not aware that this was to be their last presentation, or I might have made a big production about it, but I think that is why the Sargent's didn't say anything until they arrived. 

They are a quiet couple, but a very captivating couple.  Due to health issues, Dave gave the presentation as Pat looked on.  But the students did not seem to mind. 

Dave gave students a chance to answer questions for a free copy of one of his books. He also gave students a chance to ask him questions. After the presentation, many of students came up to both Dave and Pat and gave them huge hugs.  It brought tears to my eyes to see how loving they were being.

Following their presentation, they sold copies of their books in the Media Center and autographed any of the books that were purchased.

Dave and Pat are with the Ozark Publishing Company.  This is the third author visit I have had set up with OPC and I have not been disappointed, yet.  The authors we've had visit have not charged a fee, only asked that they be given a chance to sell copies of their books.  I highly recommend getting in contact with the Ozark Publishing Company and setting up an author visit.  I don't think you'll be disappointed. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

QR Code Dewey Hunt

Last week to help the fourth and fifth graders understand the Dewey Decimal system a bit better, I created a PowerPoint and a QR code scavenger hunt.  You can get a copy of the PowerPoint I used by clicking HERE or on the picture above.

After I went over each of the Dewey sections, students broke into groups and followed clues to QR codes.

They used the QR code app i-nigma to scan the codes to see if they were correct and then they read their next clue.

You might remember from THIS post last year, that I taught the Dewey Body Buddy to 2nd grade last year to help them remember the different sections.  I reviewed that lesson with 3rd grade this year and also taught it to 2nd grade.  You can get a free copy of the PowerPoint I used by clicking HERE or on the picture above.

They each took home a Dewey Body Buddy study sheet that they completed during the lesson as well as a bookmark to help them remember the sections. If you'd like a copy of this lesson, you can click HERE or on the picture above.

How do you teach the Dewey Decimal System or have you ditched Dewey altogether?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

It's the 100th Day of School!

This week I've been celebrating the 100th Day of school with my K and 1st grade classes.  Just like last year, I set up centers, but I did things just a bit differently.  Instead of 10 different centers, I only set up 5 and we rotated through all 5 of them rather than choosing 5 to go to.  Much easier to organize and set up.  And this year I spread it out over the whole week rather than trying to get 8 classes in on the same day.  So much better!

Here are the centers I set up:

A timer is set for 100 seconds and students sit with their eyes closed until the timer goes off so that they experience how long 100 seconds is.

Then they get to write their names as many times as they can in 100 seconds.  When the timer goes off the second time, they count how many times they were able to write their names and discuss why some students were able to write their name more times than others.

At the next center, students got to experience what 100 looks like.  They were able to look at 5 containers with 5 different types of objects in each and then make a guess as to which container held 100 items.

The kicker was that they all had 100 items in them.  Then students were led in a discussion as to why some containers were more full than others and how 100 can look different depending on what is being counted.

At that same center, students then drew a picture on a stuck note and added it to our 100 sticky note picture collection.  This was a new addition to what I did last year.  Students could draw whatever they wanted.  We had quite an art collection going!

At the next center, students built a tower using 100 plastic cups. Last year this center was a 100 Lego tower, but my son was very reluctant to let me borrow his Legos last year, so I decided to change it up a bit this year and use cups instead.

I think this was everyone's favorite!  And it was much quicker to pick up than 5 or 6 sets of 100 Legos.

At the next center, K made snowmen and 1st made snowflakes until we had a collection of 100.

Many of the Kindergarteners wanted to take their snowmen home, but I convinced them to let me keep them for a few more days for our collection.

The final center was the 100 button sort center.  Last year I had students sort in different ways, but I quickly learned that there really wasn't enough time to sort in more than one way with 100 buttons, so this year, I had students just sort by color. 

It worked much better and most students were able to do this without much guidance.

All in all, I think it was a successful celebration.  It was much smoother than last year and the kids still had a great time with only 5 centers. The best part is that since I have enough items for 10 centers I can rotate them out each year so that it's a different experience for the first graders every year.

If you're interested in these 100th Day Centers, I have a 100th Day Packet available on Teachers Pay Teachers for only $5.00.  You can get it by clicking here or on the picture above. 

So do you celebrate the 100th Day of school with your kiddos?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Looking for Guest Bloggers

Are you a school library media specialist or teacher librarian or do you know someone who is?  I bet you or that SLMS or teacher librarian you know has some great ideas for lessons, library centers, organization, check out or other media center related activities. Aren't you just dying to share them with others in your field?  Why not share these ideas on Sharing the Shelves, a collaborative blog for SLMS and teacher librarians like yourself?

STS is looking for more guest bloggers so if you have an idea you think is great, don't keep it to yourself!  Email me ( and let me know if you're interested.  I will add you as a contributor and you can get to sharing!  The more ideas that are shared the better the resource Sharing the Shelves becomes. So don't just sit there! Send me an email! And thanks for sharing the shelves with others!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My 2012 Reading Goal...REACHED!

Last school year, when I went on my first book binge, I was searching for a way to keep up with all the books I had read and discovered the social media website GoodReads.  I quickly joined up and have been tracking the books I've read this year.   GoodReads made it very easy to keep up with not only what books I've read, but when I finished them.  I love that I now how a record of the books I've read and enjoy looking back at my list.  GoodReads also has a fun reading goal challenge so I joined up.  My goal was to read 100 books in 2012 and I met that goal.  Wahoo!

Here's my GoodReads bookshelf for 2012:

Some of my favorites books that I read in 2012 were...

Source                               Source

Radiance and Shimmer by Alyson Noel
These were definitely in my top 10 for the year.  There was just something about the way these books were written that drew me in and made me want more.  I have ordered the third and fourth books in the series, Dreamland and Whisper, and am currently reading the companion series, the Immortals, although I would not recommend the Immortals series for an elementary library. It's definitely more high school material.

Source                                         Source

Just about every Margaret Haddix book I read from The Shadow Children series (similar in feel to the Hunger Games, but maybe not quite as graphic, although just as intense) to The Missing series (Sci Fi meets Historical Fiction meets adventure) to her stand alones, The Always WarEscape from Memory, Double Identity, and The House of the Gulf I loved!  None of these books disappointed and all left me wanting more.  I think Haddix is now one of my all time favorite authors.

Source                       Source                              Source

The Matched Series by Ally Conde
Oh! So good!  I could not wait until books two and three came in.  I read them in two days.  If you liked the Hunger Games, you will also enjoy Matched, Crossed and Reached.

Hank Zipzer books by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver
I reluctantly picked up book #1  Niagra Falls, or Does It? and began reading it only to find myself laughing and rooting for Hank, an adventurous fourth grader who with the help of a concerned P.E. teacher discovers that he has dyslexia.  I read books 1, 2, 3 and 16 because those were what we have in the Media Center.  I plan to order more of these.  I know some students who could relate to Hank and will enjoy his adventures, or misadventures, rather.

Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford
I read this book in about an hour and a half so it's a quick read, but a really good one.  It is an inspiring story about a young boy who is basically overshadowed by his big brother and is all but forgotten until his brother goes into a coma after being tackled during a football game.  I boo hooed happy tears by the end of this book.

Grandpa Hates the Bird: The Battle Begins by Eve Yohalem
This was a book I downloaded on my Kindle Fire.  I was looking for a funny, quick read, and this book delivered.  I laughed so hard, I cried. It reminded me a lot of my dad who also hated a bird we had when I was little.  So funny and it was a free download!

Science Fair by Dave Barry
This is another great action/adventure/science fiction book.  I was glued to the book!  It was suspenseful, but not scary. It has something for the geek and the sports enthusiast as well.

Source                   Source
The Gollywhooper Games by Jody Feldman and Floors by Patrick Carman
Modern day Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory-type books, these books have adventure, suspense and mystery...a perfect combination to hook those reluctant readers. And there are more books to come in the Floors BONUS!!!

Mockingbird by Katherine Erskine
I loved this book and I think it is because I've had students like the main character, Caitlin.  It really gave me a different perspective on things and made me think differently about how to handle certain situations with certain students.  I'd definitely recommend this book to any teacher who works with students with special needs.


So B. It by Sarah Weeks
This book is about a girl and her mentally disabled mother who end up living with a kindly neighbor.  Such a touching book!  I'd give it 3 tissues on the nose meter.

I enjoyed making that 100 book goal so much that I am setting a new goal for myself for 2013...120 books!

I have made a book goal chart for the Media Center so that the students can see my progress.  I really want to encourage students to set a reading goal for themselves, so I am hoping that this chart I've made for myself will be a good model for that.

We should be getting a new book order in any day now and I can't wait to get those books processed so that I can get to reading them.  I don't feel too guilty about wanting to read them before the kids because when I read new books, I know what they are about and can recommend them to specific students.  So it's really for my job that I am gobbling them up!

I am a little worried that I might run out of books in our Media Center to read, but I recently found out about the website NetGalley that provides free advanced copies of books to librarians (as well as other professionals) and joined up.  I have both a Kindle Fire and an iPad and can download book requests to these devices once the requests have been approved.  So far I have 12 approved books, but I haven't started reading any of them yet because I am still reading a few books that I got for Christmas.  I hope that reading books through NetGalley will also help me to figure out what books to order, or not order, for the Media Center.

So, have you ready anything good lately?  Maybe I can add it to my pile of books to read for 2013.

*I'm an affiliate for things I've bought or used personally.  If you click through any referral links (if included), at no cost to you, I will earn a commission if you make a purchase.  Thank you for your support in this way.