Saturday, December 31, 2016

Discovering new authors

Recently, one of my 5th grade students has been asking me to read one of his favorite authors, Mary Downing Hahn.  I had resisted because I always thought her books were in the scary genre.  I'm not too crazy about the scary genre because I just don't like scary things.  However, it seemed really important to him that I try this book.  So, I asked him to recommend one to me and he did.  I brought it home to read during Christmas break.  I just finished it last night.  

Well,  that's sort of an understatement.  I finished it last night after having picked it up 2 or 3 hours before.  That's right, I picked it up and I couldn't put it down.  I'm hooked!  The book he picked out for me was Stepping on the Cracks.  It's about a group of kids growing up during World War II.  All of their older brothers have either enlisted or have been drafted.  They spend their time wondering about where their older brothers are.  There is some sadness.  Some of the sadness comes from family dynamics, some from the fact that there is a war and not everyone comes home.  There is also joy; joy when the war is over, when love is found and when justice is served.   This book was not scary, it was full of suspense.   

I can't wait to get back to school and check out another book from this author.   The kids have always checked her out consistently. I noticed this, but I resisted.  Silly me.  

There's Something About that Word "Smart"...

I came to my blog today to write a post about a book and I found this draft post.  I re-read it and decided I can't remember why it hadn't been posted... so here it is


There's something about that word "smart."  Today, I had a student say to me, "Mrs. Brattin, I'm just not smart."  We have all had students say that to us.  I'm sure most of the time I may have said something like, "Of course you're smart!"  I decided to try something a little different.  Instead, I said to the student, "You know, I really don't like that word, smart."  He just gave me a confused look.  I felt I had to expand.  

I explained to him was that the word smart implies a finished product and that he is not a finished product.  I told him that I understand that he may be struggling with the assignment and that's okay.  Struggle just means there is more work to do.  That's our job as students; take up a challenge, struggle, learn more and get better.  

I also snuck in a buzzword those of us who follow Carol Dweck's research are all too familiar with, "yet."  I explained that he isn't an expert on the topic, yet.  However, with more work and practice, he will soon be.  I think he felt a little more empowered after our conversation. 

We also discussed words that we liked better than "smart."  We decided that being wise is something to strive for.  All in all, this was a pretty good day in 5th grade intervention class.  This student became a little more resilient today;  and that's a good thing, much better than becoming smart.   

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Turkey for Thanksgiving

A Turkey for Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting is one of my favorite books to read to students in November.  I read it to grades Pre-K through 5th.  My 4th and 5th grade students are used to me reading picture books to them.  I always tell them, no one is ever too old to read a picture book.    

In case you are not familiar with the story, Mr. Moose is on a quest to find a Turkey for Mrs. Moose's Thanksgiving Table.  He enlists the help of Mr. Goat and Mr. Sheep and Mr. Rabbit and so on.  They finally find Mr. Turkey, but he is reluctant to join them at the table.  Can you blame him?  Rest assured, Mr. Turkey is able to say "Happy Thanksgiving"  at the end of the meal.  

Sometimes the things we are afraid of, turn out to be not so scary, after all is said and done.  The things we think will affect us dramatically turn out to be not quite so different than what we were hoping would happen.  Most importantly the people who we think are our friends, are probably always going to be our friends, no matter what. 

I love this time of year.  Fall.  Pumpkin and Caramel scents waft through in the air.  Families are gathering together to enjoy food and fellowship with one another before the crazy holiday frenzy begins.  This will truly be a year to reflect about what is important.  Sometimes conversations can become a little heated. Common sense, humility and empathy should ultimately always prevail.  Our differences are much smaller than our similarities and they always will be.   

Mrs. Moose insisted that Mr. Moose find a turkey for their table.  Even though they have never had a turkey before, she thought it was necessary for the table to be complete.  So, just as in the delightful book I described above, drag up whatever style of chair you can find and take a seat at the table.  Partake of the meal in fellowship with your good friends. Celebrate your differences. Dig in and enjoy! 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Book Fair Fun!

I'm always amazed at the success of our small school book fair.  Our parents and students are always excited at the prospect of shiny new books and those cool, fun erasers.  I have to admit... I get pulled into the new eraser binge as well.  The most popular non-book item varies from year to year.  The first year I was at the helm, the chocolate calculator was a fast sell out.  The past two years, however, the secret agent pen has been most popular.  I didn't count how many Scholastic sent, but I'm guessing around 40 and all but five are gone.  

The most popular book this year was the 2016 Gamer's Almanac.   The newest Diary of a Wimpy kid was released on Tuesday and Scholastic sent me a huge box of those, as well.  I couldn't sell all 56, but eight flew out the door.  

On Friday, I packed up everything and closed the big metal cases.  They have all been pushed to the side, waiting for pick up on Wednesday.  By the end of the fair, kids were beginning to ask about the Spring fair.  Yes, it is a buy one, get one!  I hope Scholastic continues to offer this.  I think it is a great compliment and respectful gesture to all those parents  who support the full price fair in the Fall.  

Although it was a very hectic week in the library with regular checkouts, tutoring and book fair madness,  I'll miss the smells and sights of the shiny new  books.  One of the best parts is all the scholastic dollars I'll get to spend on several of those Shiny. New. Books. fair, until next Spring!  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Book suggestion: Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Fever 1793 by author Laurie Halse Anderson provides the reader with a plot that is engaging, emotional and thought provoking. I love when fiction books rely heavily on non-fiction events. The author includes quotes at the beginning of each chapter that are written in that times vernacular which made the words the author has written even more believable. I think if I were a student reading this I would want to learn more history about this time period in our nation. I am going to suggest this to our middle school social studies and communication arts teachers for a cross curricular study. Post Revolutionary War time frame with lessons of compassion for today's youth. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Teacher's Write Summer 2016 begins!

Today is the second day of Teacher's Write for Summer 2016.  I really love this group.  This is my third summer.  The first summer I wrote a lot.  Last summer, not so much.  This summer I am ready, committed and excited to participate. Today's prompt led me to thinking about the future.  

The prompt was to think about what you see when you go 100 steps:  

No matter which direction I go 100 steps, I end up in a field.  And sure there are lots of things you can explore and find in a field.  But, that’s not where my brain went.  I’m thinking about the future because I want to do some futuristic writing, so what will 100 steps look like in the future.  The closest town that has quite a bit of industry is about 20 miles away.  Could it expand this far south in the next 25 years, or so?  Will my farmhouse be the old house on the street that everyone wants to demolish for a strip mall?  To try and figure this out I looked up how large is a large city, like New York City.  According to what I found it is 305 square miles.  If that were a perfect square that would be around 17 miles across (which seems small.) I think I’m safe.  I hope if I can still walk 100 steps in 25 years, I end up in a field.  

Friday, March 18, 2016

Just a rainy day!

Today in 6th grade ELA enhancement class kids had the opportunity to have an electronics day.  We had finished a test and it's a rainy Friday. What could be better than zoning out in the computer lab, playing your favorite game?  I was pleasantly surprised when they wanted to play Kahoot!.  They didn't want to zone out on their own.  They wanted to do something together!  Yippee!

I have played Kahoot! at workshops, but honestly I really don't know much about it.  So, I was honest and said,  "I don't really know much about it, but, I would love to watch you."  Apparently the kids already have accounts made for other classes (kudos to those teachers!)  This plays into what we talk about all the time.  Don't be afraid to learn from students!  I know I have lots to learn.  I know things... but they know things too and I will be missing out if I don't give up some teacher ego and learn from them.

So, a lazy, rainy Friday afternoon turned into school for the teacher.

Here's a link if you would like to check it out:


Happy Friday Afternoon!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Kate Messner at Write to Learn Conference

       This past week I attended the Write to Learn Conference at the beautiful Tan-Tar-A resort in Osage Beach, MO.  I know that I'm now a librarian however after looking at the conference brochure I decided that there was a lot there for me as a school librarian.
       Kate Messner was a Thursday pre-conference workshop presenter.  I have followed her career as an author of wonderful children's books and also as a teacher for teachers.  Her revision book is once that I have featured earlier in a blog post.  Unfortunately she was snowed in and couldn't be at the conference in person.  When I found out that she was going to lead the workship via Skype, I wondered how that would translate.  It was fantastic!  Of course I would have loved to have shaken her hand, but she was such a wonderful presenter that sort of thing became not so important.  I was able to see and hear her excitement about writing for about 6 hours. She spoke about mentor texts,  a topic I had read about and sort of understood, but now really understand.  This topic will certainly be applicable to the work I do in the library.

         She continued her presentation with teaching the process of revision.  What I gleaned from this is that revision shouldn't be so formal and structured.  It should take place in smaller chunks in such a way that students don't even realize they are doing it.  She spoke to that dreaded phrase that we all hear from students, "I like it the way it is,  I don't want to change anything."  And, the also popular, "My mom thinks it looks great."  Defending against those types of arguments can be daunting.  That is why not giving kids a lot of time, all at once, is so important.  Let the combination of several mini revisions be what sets the stage for learning how to make growth in writing happen.
          This first day set the stage for what was a wonderful conference.  I left the room feeling excited about my place in the world as a teacher librarian.  I figured out that just because I'm not in a classroom, I can still give students what they need to be successful writers.  I'll just be doing that from a different perspective.  And, here's the perk...  I'll get to have a lot of fun and won't have to do the actual grading.  Shshsh,  don't tell my teacher friends that.  They will all want to become librarians!