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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

HAPPY NATIONAL POETRY MONTH!

And don’t forget to celebrate EARTH DAY on the 22nd!

Animal Ark
Created by and Photographer: Joel Sartore
Poet: Kwame Alexander
Published February 14th, 2017 by National Geographic Society

About the Book: National Geographic Kids proudly announces the release of Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures, a picture book for children ages 4-8 written by Newbery Medal-winning author Kwame Alexander and featuring photographs by acclaimed National Geographic Fellow and photographer Joel Sartore. Animal Ark pairs Alexander’s uplifting poetry and prose with more than 100 of Sartore’s most compelling images of the world’s species to create a book for children that highlights the importance of conservation and the beauty of the animal kingdom.

Animal Ark is inspired by the National Geographic Photo Ark, a multiyear effort with Sartore and the National Geographic Society to document every species in captivity—inspiring people not just to care, but also to help protect these animals for future generations. To date, Sartore has completed portraits of more than 6,000 species, photographed on either a plain black or white background. No matter its size, each animal is treated with the same amount of affection and respect. The results are portraits that are not just stunningly beautiful, but also intimate and moving.

The companion adult book, National Geographic The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals (National Geographic Books)—with a foreword by Harrison Ford—also showcases Sartore’s animal portraits: from tiny to mammoth, from the Florida grasshopper sparrow to the greater one-horned rhinoceros. In 2017, National Geographic Photo Ark exhibitions are opening at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, the Dallas Zoo, and the Cincinnati Zoo. Learn more at NatGeoPhotoArk.org and join the conversation on social media with #SaveTogether.

About Joel Sartore: Joel Sartore is a photographer, speaker, author, teacher, conservationist, National Geographic fellow, regular contributor to National Geographic magazine and founder of the National Geographic Photo Ark.  In addition to the work he has done for National Geographic, Sartore has contributed to Audubon magazine, Time, Life, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, the Smithsonian magazine and numerous book projects.  His next book for adults, National Geographic The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals  will be released in March 2017.

About Kwame Alexander: Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times bestselling author of 21 books, including The Crossover, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children. His other recent works include Booked, Surf’s Up, and He Said, She Said. He is the founder of Book-in-a-Day, a student-run publishing program that has created more than 3,000 student authors in 75 schools; and LEAP for Ghana, an international literacy project that builds libraries, trains teachers, and empowers children through literature. In 2015, Kwame served as Bank Street College of Education’s first writer-in-residence.

Book Trailer: 

My Review: I am in love with all of these animals! Do you see how cute they are?!?! And I love the message that Joel Sartore, National Geographic Kids, and Kwame Alexander are spreading with this text: “At its heart, the Photo Ark was born out of necessity… I  started to see that people weren’t paying much attention to the fate of all the others species we share this planet with. Without action, and soon, I worried that many animals could go extinct. The Photo Ark is my answer to this. By introducing the entire world to thoughts of photographs of [animals], I hope we can get everyone following, liking, tweeting, and even talking about this wondrous world of ours.” -Joel Sartore. I care deeply for all living things, and I have the same fear that Sartore has–that too many people are so caught up in their own little worlds that they aren’t focusing on the big world around us. The continual denial of climate change, the recent possible elimination of many of the EPA’s environmental protections, and so many other things makes the possibilities of us ruining our Earth even closer to reality 🙁

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Animal Ark has writing and science opportunities for the classroom. First, the theme of the book works beautifully within a science unit about endangered animals. Mix the text with the website What is Missing? by Maya Lin, and there are so many opportunities to discuss conservation and sustainability. Kwame Alexander’s poetry also gives an opportunity for poetry writing. In the Author’s Note, National Geographic shares information about haiku. Although all of Kwame’s poetry does not fit the traditional haiku format and we wouldn’t recommend it for a haiku mentor text, it shows how poets can take a traditional format and embrace yet manipulate it for their purpose.

Discussion Questions: Which animal would you like to learn more about?; What can humans do to help save these animals?; What is the theme of Animal Ark? What is the author/photographer trying to teach us?

Flagged Passages: 

Photography Outtakes!

Read This If You Love: National Geographic texts about animals, Poetry anthologies about nature including Water is Water by Miranda Paul, Books about making a difference like Dare to Dream…Change the World by Jill Corcoran & Be a Changemaker by Laurie Ann Thomson

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**Thank you to Karen at Media Masters Publicity for providing copes for review!**

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nfpb2017

Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

HAPPY NATIONAL POETRY MONTH!

Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book
Authors: Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong
Illustrator: Franzi Paetzold
Published January 11th, 2017 by Pomelo Books

Summary: Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book is a story in poems and a writing journal designed to help kids think about social change. It contains 12 PowerPack sets featuring Ameera, David, Jack, and Jenna, a diverse group of kids working together to make an impact in their community. Sylvia Vardell’s inventive PowerPlay activities make it easy for writers to get inspired, while her Power2You writing prompts extend learning. Vardell also created extensive back matter resources for young readers, writers, and activists.

Praise: “This interactive book and the abundance of resources provided will motivate students to take action through words and ideas to make their world a better place—a must have for today’s classrooms.” —Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli, Authors of Mentor Texts

“I absolutely love this book! The invitations are inspiring and offer opportunities to think about the world and respond both personally and critically.” —Mary Napoli, Associate Professor of Reading, Penn State Harrisburg

“This book will allow all sorts of emotions and thoughts to bubble forth, including difficult and painful ones . . . and that will be a source of healing.” —Ed Spicer, Educator and literacy expert

“Really glad and excited that this book will be in the hands of young people.” —Jeana Hrepich, Core Faculty, Antioch University Seattle

This book is a Children’s Book Council “Hot Off the Press” selection for January 2017 and the second Poetry Friday Power Book. The first book in that series, You Just Wait: A Poetry Friday Power Book, is a 2017 NCTE Poetry Notable.

About the Authors: Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book features the work of the dynamic team of Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, plus 12 poets: Ibtisam Barakat, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes, Robyn Hood Black, David Bowles, Joseph Bruchac, Kate Coombs, David L. Harrison, Renée M. LaTulippe, Naomi Shihab Nye, Margaret Simon, Eileen Spinelli, and Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrations by Franzi Paetzold.

Sylvia M. Vardell is Professor at Texas Woman’s University and teaches courses in children’s and young adult literature. She has published five books on literature, as well as over 25 book chapters and 100 journal articles. Her current work focuses on poetry for young people, including a regular blog, PoetryforChildren.blogspot.com, since 2006.

Janet Wong is a graduate of Yale Law School and a former lawyer who became a children’s poet. Her work has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show and other shows. She is the author of 30 books for children and teens on chess, creative recycling, yoga, superstitions, driving, and more.

Together, Vardell and Wong are the creative forces behind The Poetry Friday Anthology series.

About the Book (from the authors): Why is this a “Poetry Friday Power Book”? Because we believe in the power of poetry to express our deepest feelings, and our most powerful experiences, and to inspire us to use our words to create change in teh world. Plus, we want you to discover the power of poetry in your own thinking and writing with the PowerPlay prewriting and Power2You writing prompts that pull you into poetry and inspire you to get your own ideas on paper–creatively, whimsically, powerfully, and immediately–right now in this book…

This book offers you several choices for reading, thinking, writing, and responding. Overall, it’s a story in poems, but all of this is also organized in PowerPack groups that help you get a “behind the scenes” look at how poems work and how poets write and think. In each of these PowerPack groups, you’ll find five things:

-PowerPlay activity
-Anchor poem (from an outside source)
-Response poem
-Mentor poem
-Power2You writing prompt

Have fun reading and thinking about poetry and learning about how poetry uses just a few words but says so much and can inspire us to take action. Ready? Let’s “power up” and get started!

Review: I have an interesting relationship with poetry. I overall love it. I love writing it, and I love reading it, but I really have trouble with the analyzing aspect. It is in this very serious analyzing step that kids get afraid of poetry, but I think books like Here We Go help students learn to love poetry instead of being afraid of it while still teaching about the beauty and importance of poetry.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Here We Go is a book that is made for classroom use! There are 12 PowerPacks, each with a different anchor poem and focus. Some PowerPacks work on rhyming, some work on format, and others focus on inspiration. There are so many different ways these PowerPacks could be organized to be used in the classroom! They can be daily during a poetry unit or weekly for half of the school year–whatever works best in your classroom, but this book is begging to be in children’s hands as an inspiration for our future poets.

Discussion Questions: What inspires you to write?; What is your favorite season? Why?; What are your favorite rhyming words?; How can you use your daily life to inspire you as a poet?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Writing poetry; Any poetry anthology including Out of Wonders by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, and Marjory Wentworth and When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano

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Who Wins? 100 Historical Figures Go Head-to-Head and You Decide the Winner!
Created by Clay Swartz
Illustrated by Tom Booth
Published July 12th, 2016 by Workman Publishing Company

Summary: Who would rock the mic at karaoke night? Abraham “The Great Emancipator” Lincoln or Jane “Lady Persuasion” Austen? How about a hot dog eating contest between Harry “Mr. Magic” Houdini and Mary “Mother of Frankenstein” Shelley? What about a pie contest? A staring contest? And who has a better chance of sneaking into Area 51, Isaac “Gravity Guy” Newton or Sacagawea aka “The Pathfinder”?

In Who Wins?: History, you decide the winner in over 50 head-to-head challenges between 100 of history’s most illustrious characters. But choosing the victor isn’t arbitrary. Readers must justify their answers using each of the historical figures’ six 0-10 category rankings in bravery, leadership, artistry, wealth, wisdom, and fitness; as well as facts from short biographies.

As funny as it is informative, the book is uniquely formatted so readers can match up each and every character in any of the head-to-head battles. History has never been so much fun!

Review (from 10/26/16): Who Wins? is informative, funny, and so cleverly formatted that it is going to be a star in homes and classrooms. I love how the book gives each historical figure a nickname (either one they already were given, like Satchmo, or made up, like Gravity Guru for Isaac Newton) to add a bit of humor to the book; however, still makes sure to include a plethora of information about each figure including a bio then 3 little-known facts. Each head-to-head situation also helps guide your decision by giving some example questions to think about. Let’s look at a head-to-head, so you can really see how clever it is!

In My Classroom: Whenever I begin a debate unit, I always start with a mini-debate, and I wanted this year’s to include Who Wins? because I thought it was such an awesome class resource (and my students were slightly obsessed with the book). To start, I randomly picked a male and a female historical figure from each side of the Who Wins? book for each class. I didn’t choose the middle activity yet because I wanted my students to get to know their historical figures before I gave them the rest of the topic for the debate. For two days, the students researched their figures and tried to learn as much about them as possible. We talked about making sure to not just list dates but to get to know them as a person: their strengths, their weaknesses, their personality, their education, etc. Finally, on day three, I randomly revealed the rest of the debate topic and randomly put each class into two groups. We ended up with:

Who wins WRESTLEMANIA? Queen Elizabeth I or Genghis Khan?
Who wins LIVING IN 10,000 BC? Harriet Tubman or Ramses II?
Who wins CELEBRITY JEOPARDY? Nelson Mandela or Marie Curie?

Each group then made a Google Doc that they could collaborate on, and they focuses on preparing their argument, possible counterarguments, and rebuttals to the counter argument. They could research more now that they knew the topic, and I shared Who Wins? information with them as well (see photo above).

Then, after a couple of days of collaboration, we had our mini-debate. The most successful was the Queen Elizabeth I vs. Genghis Khan because they not only researched their historical figure, but they also researched Wrestlemania which allowed the debate go to a whole different level than my other two periods. The Nelson Mandela vs. Marie Curie debate had the opposite problem: they didn’t research Jeopardy at all which made for the debate never really having a clear winner because they were just debating who was smarter. The Ramses II vs. Harriet Tubman went well though the Harriet Tubman side never pulled out their best argument: she primarily lived on the run in the wilderness! In the end, Wrestlemania was a tie; Ramses II would survive better in 10,000 BC; and Marie Curie would win Jeopardy.

Some Students’ Collaborative Notes: Here are some examples of the collaborative notes some groups put together when preparing for the mini-debate. These are not examples of the initial research notes they took on their historical figures.

Genghis Khan

Harriet Tubman: 

Marie Curie:

Second Debate Using Who Wins?For our second debate, I did things a little bit differently. Instead of giving them the historical person first, for each class, I randomly chose the center tile (the topic) and we ended up with: Rap Battle, Ironman World Championship, and Summiting Everest. I then let the students, within their groups, go through their side of the book to find the person they wanted for their side of the debate.

They used their prior knowledge, the bios, and the stats for each person to try to pick the best for the debate. Our people ended up being:

Who Wins a Rap Battle: Muhammad Ali vs. Sojourner Truth?
Who Wins the Ironman World Championship: Jim Thorpe vs. Mildred Ella Didrikson?
Who Wins at Summiting Everest: Ernest Shackleton vs. Alexander the Great?

This time around, students were much more invested in their historical figure and with the topic already chosen, they could narrow down their research. Also, they realized how important it was to research the topic. Students also were given 2 extra days to research this time though given the same amount of time (2 days) to collaborate.

Once we got to the debates, I made a decision I was so happy about: Students were not allowed to have their iPads with them. They could have 1 Post-it note (front only) with any specifics that were tough to remember (years, prices, times, etc.), but that was it. And the debates went so much better! Students knew their stuff, and the debates were so intense, detailed, and close!

In the end, we’re still not sure who would be most successful at summiting Everest, Shackelton or Alexander the Great; Jim Thorpe is more likely to win the Ironman World Championship; and Muhammad Ali would win a rap battle vs. Sojourner Truth.

Final Assessment: As a final cumulative assessment, I asked my students to write me an argumentative paragraph stating why they felt their historical figure would be more successful than the other. Students were asked to have multiple reasons why with evidence to support their claim.

Examples from the Shackleton vs. Alexander the Great debate: 

Reflection: Using Who Wins?, I was able to create a standards-based unit that allowed students to not only debate, research, and read informational texts, but work collaboratively, think outside the box, and cite evidence to support their claims. I know the students learned from it as well, and they asked to do another, so I know they enjoyed it. They also now realize that learning just dates or facts about a person isn’t thorough research, it is important to know both sides of an argument so you can have a rebuttal, and that you need to research all aspects of a debate to ensure you are arguing for the right reasons. Overall, I call this a win!

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top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because The Broke and Bookish are particularly fond of lists (as are we!). Each week a new Top Ten list topic is given and bloggers can participate.

 Today’s Topic: Ten Reasons Why I Love Teaching Middle School

Kellee

1. They are trying to find their identity and are still moldable, so I feel like I can make a difference.

I love that I am part of these students’ lives during a very influential time. I know that elementary and high school are important as well, but I think it is iso important for kids between the ages of 11 and 14 to have positive influences in their life.

2. Middle grade books!

I love them! And I get a mix of picture books and young adult novels as well! Perfect!

3. Middle school is TOUGH, and I hope I can be a bright light in their days.

Think back to Middle School. Did you enjoy being 12? Most people say no, and most of us cannot think of a teacher who really helped brighten our days in middle school. I hope I can be that bright light that will help them remember this time in a positive way.

4. Teaching only 1 subject.

I love teaching reading. I have the ability to teach more subjects, but I love that I can just teach the one I am most passionate about.

5. The discussions we have over the world, books, or their life.

Middle school kids are so insightful, and I love the conversations we have. And I think sometimes no one listens to them, but they definitely have a voice and opinions and insight.

6. Working with teachers who are passionate about this age also (because only those who are passionate stay in MS).

Other people who are passionate about teaching are amazing to work with, but there is a special little niche in middle school for those of us who love this age. I adore working with these people.

7. Because middle school is a really fundamental time.
I’ve written a post before that showed how middle school really molded who I am today: http://www.unleashingreaders.com/?p=1625. This post and my time as a middle school teacher really show me that so much of who we become is found during the years of middle school

8. The inquisitiveness of elementary age kids + the ability of high school = middle school

I always joke that elementary school kids are too short for me to teach (they are out of my peripheral vision) and high schools are too jaded for me to teach, but all jokes aside, middle schoolers really do embody so much of what makes teaching fun. They are young enough that they are still open to learning and inquiry, but they are old enough that they think for themselves and have vast knowledge.

9. Because middle schoolers are still kids.

But they are still just kids!

10. The hours 😉 We’re 8:30-4. I am not a morning person, so that is really as early as I would like to go.

Self explanatory 🙂

Why do you love teaching/working with the age you do?

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“Theater Games to Promote Reading and Writing”

WHY BRING THEATER GAMES INTO THE CLASSROOM?

Everyone can play! Everyone can learn through playing. The Theater Game format is a charted course for the regular classroom teacher who wishes to bring the excitement, the pleasures, the disciplines and the magic of theater to the classroom.

Theater games, played in the classroom, should be recognized not as diversions from curriculum needs, but rather as supports, which can thread through each day, acting as energizers and/or springboards for everyone. Inherent in theater techniques is verbal, nonverbal, written and unwritten communicating. Communication abilities, developed and heightened in theater game workshops will, in time, spill over into other curriculum need (the 3 Rs) and into everyday life.

Teaching/learning should be a happy, joyful experience, as full of glee as the infant’s breakthrough out of the limitations of crawling into the first step walking!

Beyond immediate curriculum needs, playing theater games will bring moments of spontaneity. The intuitive comes bearing its gifts only in the moment of spontaneity.” Right now is the time of discovery, of creativity, of learning. While playing theater games, teachers and students can meet as fellow players in present time, involved with one another, off the subject, and ready for free connecting, communicating, responding, experiencing, experimenting and breaking through to new horizons.

Reprinted from THEATER GAME FILE HANDBOOK, Viola Spolin, Northwestern University Press


I had the extreme good fortune to study with Viola Spolin author of Improvsiation for the Theater and inventor of modern day Improvisation. I can honestly say she changed my life in many ways. After a long career as an actor and performer and teacher I’ve written extensively on the philosophy of education she imparted to me. (http://spolin.com/?page_id=322) Recently I’ve branched out and written my first full-length children’s adventure novel and incorporated some the lessons I learned from Improvisational Theater Games. The main one being PRESENCE is the state one must be in to tap imagination, and creativity.

To that end, I would like to introduce you to some games I learned from Viola Spolin that foster a love of words, creative writing and story-telling. I urge you to try these games in the classroom or at home for fun.

Warm-up with HANDWRITING LARGE – have the student think of their favorite word or phrase and go to the black or white board and write the word as large as possible to fill the entire board! At desks make sure they cover on page entirely with their favorite word or phrase. Urge them to “FEEL” the word as they write! It is essential the body be involved. You may coach them to feel the word in their feet, their spine, their chest – now write your word!

SINGING SYLLABLES – Have one person go out of the room and the rest of the group or class decide on a 3 or 4 syllable word. (depending on age group). Break the word into its syllables and assign each syllable to a portion of the group. Then decide on a simple song to sing. Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Happy Birthday, etc. A song where all know the melody. Have each group sing their syllable to that tune, simultaneously. Then bring in the person who does not know the word, have them wander through the singing groups and “put the word together”. It’s a lot of fun and you can use this as part of a vocabulary lesson or just for fun.

THE WRITING GAME is a more advanced game is also fun if you are teaching creative writing:

Materials: 4 pieces of paper or one divided into quadrants, pen or pencil

Label each paper 1, 2, 3 and 4. Title #1 My Dream, #2 How To, #3 A Story and #4 A letter (or any 4 disparate subjects or styles of writing. i.e., A memory, A poem, etc.)

Sidecoach calls out a number to the players. Players must begin (without hesitation or forethought) writing on that subject. Writing is to continue non-stop. Points off for hesitating or too much thinking and not writing. After a short interval coach calls another number and players must INSTANTLY SWITCH to that number’s page, writing non-stop on the new subject. Coach will call each number randomly and at intervals under one minute. Players are to switch to each subject called and continue writing where they left off.

Game continues until each player has covered each page with writing.

Focus: To switch instantly between 4 different subjects when coached

Sidecoaching: One!      Three!      Two!, etc. (giving enough time to get a flow going but not too much and vary the times from short to medium short) Keep writing! Don’t plan! No pausing – write continuously!

Points of Observation:

  1. Each subject requires a different mode of thinking and switching instantly between modes allows access to player’s intuitive areas.
  2. This is an exercise and not a test. Have fun and push to make switches instantly. Hesitation is bound up with worry that what you write will be evaluated. Judgement causes hesitation. Judgement is subjective and will cancel flow.
  3. Avoid forethought. Forethought is writing without putting it down.

My experience in improvisation has allowed me to reach into areas of my own creativity that I never imagined and the experience contributed to my life as an actor, teacher and now author.

I hope this work will do the same for you and your students.

About the Author: Gary Schwartz is an award-winning, TV and film actor, director, comedian and a master improvisational acting coach whose 30 years as a performer and improv teacher has helped transform the lives of thousands of people, both on- and off-screen.

It was Gary’s 18-year association with world-renowned theater educator and author, Viola Spolin – famous for training the very first improvisational theater troupe in the US which led to the creation of today’s well-known Second City improv troupe – that has provided the foundation for his work today. In 1988 Gary co-founded the Spolin Players improv troupe (www.spolinplayers.com), and is the only master teacher to have ever earned an endorsement from both Viola Spolin and her son, the legendary original director of Second City, Paul Sills.

Originally from New York State, Gary began his professional career as a mime at age 13, performing up and down the Hudson River with Pete Seegar, Arlo Guthrie and other great folk entertainers of the 60’s. In the 70’s and 80’s he appeared in numerous film and television projects including the Oscar-winning feature film Quest for Fire and 65 episodes of the Emmy-winning TV series Zoobilee Zoo, with Ben Vereen. Since then, as a voice actor, Gary has gone on to work with Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand, Tim Burton, Kenneth Brannagh and many other well-known directors. Details of his extensive acting career are available at IMDB.com. (www.imdb.com/name/nm0777229).

Currently Gary resides in North Bend WA. He is founder of The Valley Center Stage, North Bend’s Community Theater. He teaches theater games locally and around the world. He also teaches acting for animation and writes on Spolin.

He has recently authored his first children’s novel The King of Average (978-0-9975860-7-7 Paperback ),  published by Bunny Moon Books. It has been named to The Best Books of 2016 lists by Kirkus Reviews and IndieReader.com. More information can be found at his website http://gary-schwartz.com

About The King of AverageJames isn’t the world’s greatest kid, but he’s not the worst, either: he’s average! When he decides to become the most average kid who ever lived, James is transported to another world where he meets Mayor Culpa, a well-dressed talking Scapegoat who recruits him to become the new King of Average.

He’s joined on his quest by a professional Optimist and his grouchy companion, an equally professional Pessimist. Together, they set out on a journey of self-discovery that leads them all the way from the Sea of Doubt to Mount Impossible, the highest peak in the Unattainable Mountains. When James stumbles into a Shangri-la called Epiphany, he uncovers the secret of who he really is.

Follow James on his hilarious, adventure-packed journey to find self-worth in this heartfelt middle grade novel The King of Average by debut author Gary Schwartz.

 

Thank you, Gary, for this fun-filled and kinesthetic-focused post!

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newbery medal

On Monday, we found out that The Girl Who Drank the Moon won the 2017 Newbery Medal and The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz, Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk, and Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryan earned Newbery Honors. Watching the Youth Media Awards live is always one of my favorite days of the year because it they always make me so happy for the books I’ve read and so excited for the ones I haven’t read yet (as well as a bit sad for the wonderful books that weren’t honored). This year, the ALA awards were even more fun to watch because I was able to enjoy it with my Mock Newbery Book Club.  Although none of our Mock Newbery predictions were honored by that committee, we were so excited to see so many books we read this year honored.

Starting a Mock Newbery Book Club this year came about because of a few reasons. First, I’ve been fascinated by the Newbery Award since I was a kid. I remember having to read Newbery winners/honors when I was in school, and I was always enthralled with the list. Being on the Walden Book Award Committee also helped me understand how book awards worked and made me want to share it with my students. Third, Michele Knott was willing to share what she has learned from her own Mock Newbery experiences to help me get started on the right foot. And finally, I had a group of kids that wanted to do it with me and were passionate. That is what really made all the difference.

To Get Started

Before officially starting the club in September, I scoured Newbery prediction blog posts, the Mock Newbery Goodreads group, the Mock Newbery prediction list, and starred reviews to come up with a list of books that I would share with the club. In the end, I chose 26 titles to split between the 3 months we’d be reading. Each month had a list of 7-9 titles for students to choose from, and they were asked to read 2 a month to equal 6 or more titles read before voting day.

2016-10-04 12.20.15

T0 help my students have access to the novels, I began a Donors Choose project which was fully funded (THANK YOU!). I ended up with 3 copies of each book to share with my club. (I’ve also since received a grant to continue the book club during the spring though we haven’t decided what we’re going to do yet.)

Our Process

My group of 7th graders (ranging from 10 to 20 students) met twice a week during their lunch time. Some students came every day instead of just twice, others only came once a week which was the minimum to be part of the voting. For the first 3 weeks of the month, we spent book club time reading or recommending books to each other. Book talk was all throughout the room–so much book love! The last week of the month, I set up discussions around each book for the students to look critically at each book while looking at the Newbery criteria. Students also had the opportunity to discuss the books they were reading at any time electronically through small groups that I set up on Edmodo. This was the process throughout October, November, and December/January. Then the last week before we voted, we sat in a circle and shared the book we were going to vote for as the winner and shared why.

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By the end of our process, 12 7th graders and 2 6th graders who chose to read the books on their own were able to vote. To determine our winner and honors, I used a process similar to the Newbery committee. Students were allowed to vote (through a Google Form) for their top 4 books (the committee does 3). Their top vote received 4 points, second vote 3 points, etc.

Our Vote

Mock Newbery Winner & Honors

Ghost by Jason Reynolds (16 points) *Odyssey Honor
Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee (15 points)
Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (12 points)
Save Me a Seat by Gina Varadarajan and Sarah Weeks (12 points)
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown (12 points)

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager (10 points)
Booked by Kwame Alexander (8 points)
Pax by Sara Pennypacker (7 points)
Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard by Jonathan Auxier (7 points)
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk (6 points) *Newbery Honor
Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd (6 points)
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor (6 points)

Received votes totaling 5 or less points (in alphabetical order):
As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds *Schneider Award, Coretta Scott King Honor
Full of Beans by Jennifer Holm *Scott O’Dell (Announced 1/11)
Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill *Newbery Medal
Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz *Newbery Honor
Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson
Samurai Rising by Pamela S. Turner *YALSA Honor for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults
Seventh Wish by Kate Messner

Reflections

I cannot wait to go through this process again next year, but I hope to make it even a better experience. Here are some takeaways I have:

  • I need to spend more time looking at the criteria and what it means with the students as well as possibly looking at past winners. It is really hard to get them past “I like it.”
  • I need to decide if I want to give less options next year to allow for more people to read each book. They had A LOT of options each month, so some books only had 1 student read them thus couldn’t win even if that one person gave it their #1 spot. (Perry T. Cook, Girl Who Drank the Moon, and Wolf Hollow suffered from this.)
  • I need to figure out how to ensure that all members come to the discussion days because it is really hard to discuss books if not everyone is there. How can I keep kids coming without making it feel like another class?
  • I need to figure out how to structure the discussions better. With each person reading two, I can’t have all books’ discussions going on at once because a person cannot be in two places at once. That is why I like electronic or written discussion, but I have to work on getting more use out of these mediums.

Our Viewing Party

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Then, on Monday, January 23rd, at 8am ET, we all gathered in my classroom to view the ALA Youth Media Awards live. This was all of my students’ first time watching the awards, and  I loved going through the experience with them. Although they were so sad that their favorites weren’t honored, they were so ecstatic when a book they did know won something.

I cannot wait to do this again next year!

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barkus-cover

Barkus
Author: Patricia MacLachlan
Illustrator: Marc Boutavant
Expected Publication June 6th, 2017 by Chronicle Books
http://www.chroniclebooks.com/barkus.html

Today we are happy to be able to be able to exclusively reveal the teaching guide for Barkus by Patricia MacLachlan. This is an early chapter book that is a must-get for all of our early elementary friends.

About the Book: Meet Barkus. Barkus is loyal. Barkus is generous. Barkus is sometimes a little too energetic! But in the end, Barkus is family. The exuberant Barkus and his lucky young owner jump, whirl, and twirl across this delightful early chapter book series from two award-winning book creators.

About the Author: Patricia MacLachlan is the celebrated author of many timeless books for young readers, including Sarah, Plain and Tall, winner of the Newbery Medal. Her novels for young readers include: Arthur, For the Very First Time; The Facts and Fiction of Minna Pratt; Skylark; Caleb’s Story; More Perfect than the Moon; Grandfather’s Dance; Word After Word After Word; Kindred Souls; and The Truth of Me. She is also the author of countless beloved picture books, a number of which she co-wrote with her daughter, Emily.

About the Illustrator: Marc Boutavant is an illustrator, graphic artist, and comic strip author. He lives in Paris.

About the Guide: This guide consists of discussion opportunities and classroom extension activities designed for use by Pre-K through second grade students in classroom, small group, or individual assignments.

You can also access the teaching guide here.

Recommended For: 

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Don’t miss out on this one!

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