Saturday, August 31, 2013

beginning of the year read-alouds

It's hard to believe that this is the third annual post about beginning of the year read-alouds! You can find other recommendations in posts from 2012 and 2011

With all read alouds, it's really important to review the book first. You know your school and community and need to make decisions about what texts will work best for your students. As books for older readers, there can sometimes be language and situations that some might object to in a read-aloud. It's important to have a rationale for the books you select that you can share if necessary.

Also important are selecting books that represent the diversity of your classroom. Not every book can reach every student, but it's essential to read a range of texts to students. Make your selections interesting, relevant, and worthy of discussion.
So just about every teacher I know is on Pintrest, and there are a couple of beginning of the year boards that you might be interested in. There are boards here and here that have a lot of suggestions.

Below are some elementary, middle school, and high school suggestions with some (very) brief summaries.

Elementary School:

There's a great blog post at the NY Times about back-to-school read recommendations for parents to read to children or for new readers to pick up on their own. These would work well as classroom read alouds as well.

Here are some more picks:
Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt: sweet story about accidentally learning to overcome fears

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud and David Messing: helps kids see the joy of being kind to others

My Mouth is a Volcano by Julia Cook and Carrie Hartman: Louis just can't help saying everything that comes to him, but learns how to wait his turn to speak

Donovan's Word Jar by Monalisa DeGross and Cheryl Hanna: Donovan loves words and keeps them in a jar, until the jar runs out of room. What will he do?

Ruby the Copycat by Margaret Rathmann: a first-day of school story about learning to be yourself

Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth by Marie-Louise Gay: a great story about the power of imagination

Splat the Cat: Back to School Splat! by Rob Scotton: sharing summer adventures during the first-day of school show-and-tell

More than Anything Else by Marie Bradby and  Chris K. Soentpiet: a fictionalized story of Booker T. Washington and his wish to learn to read

The Bee Tree by Patricia Polocco: charming book about reading and learning from grandparents

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day by Dr. Seuss, Jack Prelutsky, and Lane Smith: these three authors/illutrators' work comes together to tell the story of a powerful teacher

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Gary Rubinstein and Mark Pett: it's ok to make mistakes!

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Toulane by Kate DiCamillo and Bagram Ibatoulline: loss and love

Middle School:

A Teaspoon of Courage for Kids by Bradley Trevor Greive: the first weeks of middle school can be great. They can also be tough. A little pick-me-up for kids.

Richard Wright and the Library Card by William Miller: story of author Richard Wright's struggle to gain access to a public library

Wonder by R.J. Palacio: Lots of buzz with this book about a boy born with Treacher-Collins syndrome told in multiple voices

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor: Addie doesn't let her situation get her down, but is waiting for a more normal life to settle into

Cinder by Marissa Meyer: sci-fi twist on cinderella as a cyborg

Girl, Stolen by April Henry: an accidental kidnapping begins this page-turner

The Dreamer by Pam Munoz-Ryan and Peter Sis: biography, poetry, and fiction blend to create this magical realism story of poet Pablo Neruda 

Storm Runners and Peak by Roland Smith: If your students like adventure, Smith writes some good ones

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz: funny and scary tales of Hansel and Gretel finding themselves in other Grimm fairy tales

Swear to Howdy by Wendelin Van Draanen: a story of true friendship and keeping secrets 

Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories edited by Dawn Metcalf , Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones: today's popular authors tell their personal stories of bullying - as bullies, victims and bystanders

Savvy by Ingrid Law: a great story about growing up and the importance of family

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson: historical fiction set in 1918 tells of orphan Hattie leaving Iowa for Montana to search for a real home

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick: If you have a doc cam, this is a beautiful book for a read aloud. In fact, I like this follow-up by Selznick even more than The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Yeah, I said it.

High School:

Monstrumologist by Richard Yancey: gory and full of adventure - a definite page-turner

The Late Homecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang: Yang beautifully shares her family's escape from Thailand and the challenge of adapting to life in the US.

Trapped by Michael Northrop: thriller survival story of teens caught in a blizzard
Guardian by Julius Lester: set in segregated south, the story of the lynching of a black man falsely accused of rape told through a boy who knows the truth but keeps silent

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins: The first in a series about a girl who discovers she's a witch. classic teen drama and situations

Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti: yes, a Holocaust book, but a really good one

Short stories/essays by David Sedaris, David Rakoff, Sarah Vowell, Augusten Burroughs, David Boyne

What are your favorite beginning of the year read alouds? Add your suggestions in the comments! Happy reading!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

gearing up

We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why.”
 - Stephen King, 11/22/63

Whenever I'm out shopping in July, I get to the "Back to School" section in the store and have to turn away. "I'm not ready for back-to-school! The 4th of July was just last week!" But then August 1 hits, and I start to plan and prepare, and I start looking at the new pencils and notebooks and just like that, I'm ready to get back into another school year.

Some of you are still looking for jobs. Check out the websites at this previous post for suggestions of where to look for MN job postings. For some of you, this will be your first year as a teacher. You've finally graduated and secured your license and are thrilled to be planning for your first year of teaching - the culmination of so many hopes, dreams, tears, frustrations, and joys. You might want to check out this post about setting up a classroom. Some of you have been at it already a few years or more. No matter how long I teach, I still get excited for the beginning of the year - a new year holds so much promise!

If you're like most teachers I know, you've been scouring Pinterest for cool new bulletin board, organization, and unit/lesson planning ideas. Maybe you've read one of the books that are getting lots of buzz in schools, like  (I'll be writing more about these later on this year). Maybe you attended a conference or workshop this summer. Did you come up with a new plan for technology for the upcoming year? Now is a great time to review what you've pinned, notes you've taken, or workshop handouts. Taking some time now just before back-to-school-workshops start to review your great ideas will help ensure you make the time to implement them.

Whether you've worked all summer or not, take a few moments here or there in the fleeting days of your summer break doing what you enjoy most. For me, it's a walk along the river and dinner on a patio. Being refreshed at the start of the year, even if it doesn't last long, helps you feel ready to take on the roller coaster of teaching!

Next up - the annual first day of school read aloud suggestion post!