Friday, August 16, 2013

My Seven Favorite Books Growing Up

Growing up I read a lot. Some of my favorite memories were going to the library with my dad, rushing home after school to go to the Bookmobile on Thursday afternoons, and reading by the air vent on cold afternoons. As a teacher, I want to instill that same love of reading in my students today.

Here is a list of my favorite books from when I was growing up. Most of these I read multiple times.

  • Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
  • Chicken Trek by Stephen Manes
  • Something Under the Bed is Drooling by Bill Watterson
  • The Great Brain at the Academy by John D. Fitzgerald
  • Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
  • Jelly Belly by Robert Kimmel Smith
  • This Can't Be Happening at MacDonald Hall! by Gordon Korman
What are you favorite books from when you were growing up?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Seven Favorite Read Aloud Books

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One of the great joys of being a teacher is getting to read aloud to my students. They look forward to hearing me read every day and even ask for me to do it quite often. I love to try to spice up the story by adding voices and stopping to add some additional information to what I've just read.

Everyone has their favorite read-aloud books. Here is a list of the books that I try to read to my students each year. Sometimes I make it through the whole list; other years I only make it through a couple of them.

  • The Best School Year Ever by Barbara Robinson. The Herdman clan is one of the craziest group of kids you will ever meet and the excitement they bring to their school will keep you and your students laughing all the way to the end.
  • Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar. These stories are short and hysterically funny. When I read, I like to change the names of the characters to students in my class. This seems to make them enjoy the stories even more.
  • The Wish Giver by Bill Brittain. This is a collection of three stories all tied together around the meeting with a strange little man at the church bazaar. It is best to remember to be careful what you wish for, especially when those wishes can be taken literally.
  • No Talking by Andrew Clements. The boys and the girls don't get along, so they start a competition to see who can go the longest without talking. Lessons are learned. This is a great book.
  • Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary. Even though the main character is a little girl in kindergarten, my third graders easily relate to what Ramona goes through. After listening to the book, many of my students will continue on to read the rest of the series.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. Not a lot needs to be said about this book. The students love the crazy adventures of Charlie Bucket and Grandpa Joe in Willie Wonka's whacked-out factory.
  • Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. The adventures of Pippi and her friends keep the students enthralled, especially with the fact that Pippi can pick up a horse and has a chest of gold. This is one of my favorites to read out loud.

What books do you read to your students? Do they have any books that get requested year after year?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My Seven Favorite Newbery Award Winners

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Every year a book is given the Newbery Award for Children's Literature.  It is supposed to be for the most distinguished contribution to children's literature.  Some years the choice is excellent and other years many people are scratching their heads trying to figure out why a particular book was chosen.

I've tried to read a number of the Newbery Award winners and some I've like and others I have not liked as much.  A few (The Giver, for example) I just downright hated.  But I guess everyone is entitled to their opinions and the Newbery Award is not without its controversies.

Here is my list of my seven favorite Newbery Award winners. These are in no particular order.
. This book is a mystery and science fiction novel rolled together. It is about a young girl in the 1970s who is having to deal with the loss of her best friend. No, he didn't die. A lot of mysterious things happen and there is a need to suspend disbelief, but this is one of my favorite books. My wife and I listened to it on our drive home from Disney World this summer. If you like it, you may also want to check out Liar & Spy, also by Rebecca Stead. This woman can write.
  • The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
  • . This is a great story about a mouse and other inhabitants of a castle, including a very nasty rat. It is full of adventure and is a lot of fun to read. If you can, try to find an audiobook version. The one I listened to had great narration and really made the story come to life.
  • A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
  • . This is a collection of stories about a young girl who visit her grandmother. Grandma Dowdel is one of the funniest characters in all of literature. A Year Down Yonder is the sequel to A Long Way From Chicago, also a truly hilarious book.
  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • . The story of Stanley Yelnats, who gets sent to a juvenile work camp for stealing a pair of shoes. He is required to dig holes to build character, but it turns out that the warden isn't telling the whole truth. This story was also made into a really great movie.
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
  • . This was the Newbery Award winner the year I was born, which may explain my connection to it. This story is a really complicated mystery, but it was a lot of fun to read.
  • Johnny Tremain by Esther Hoskins
  • . I think this was my first introduction to historical literature. This book is an exciting look at life for a young man during the beginnings of the American Revolution.
  • Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
  • . This is the story of a Birdie and her family in Florida, trying to make a go at a strawberry farm. She is excited to pick the berries, but not everyone is excited to have them around. Those are my favorite Newbery Award winners. Do you agree with my selections? What titles are your favorites?

    Seven Days of Seven Book Lists, Each Containing Seven (or more) Books

    Because I only have seven days until my summer vacation is over, I thought I might end the summer with a series of lists. The lists are about books. I love to read. I love to collect books. Some of my favorite places are bookstores. I remember...wait, I'm getting off topic.
    For the next seven days, I will be making a list of seven books that are special to me in some way. They might be useful in your classroom (some more than others), but all of these books have touched me or been a part of my life in some way. A good book is like a friend. You are never the same after having had it in your life and sometimes you have that "friend" in your life for many, many years.
    Here are the lists that I will be sharing with you over the next seven days. All of the books will be linked to, so if you see one that you like, you can easily pick it up.
    1. My Seven Favorite Newbery Award Winners
    2. My Seven Favorite Read Alouds
    3. My Seven Favorite Books Growing Up
    4. My Seven Favorite Classic Novels
    5. My Seven Favorite Series I Read as a Kid
    6. My Seven Favorite Series to Read (and that all kids should be reading)
    7. My Seven Favorite Books As An Adult
    I hope that the books that I list will strike a chord with you and that you can add some books to the lists as well.

    Tuesday, August 13, 2013

    One Week Until I Go Back to School

    A new school year is just around the corner. Teachers in my county report back to their schools on Wednesday, August 21. I will admit that the summer has flown by this year. My family did have a rather eventful summer, which may explain why time has gone by so quickly.

    Here are just a few of the things that I did this summer:

    • In June, my wife and I took our four boys to Walt Disney World. We decided to rent a vehicle and drive to Florida because the airfare was way too expensive for a family our size. That was a crazy drive (down and back!). However, everyone had a wonderful time and the boys are still talking about the trip. We can't wait to make another sometime.
    • I taught 3rd grade summer school this year in Leesburg, VA. I had a class of 12 students and we worked on Reading and Math skills for four weeks. We spent a lot of time learning basic math facts and answering comprehension questions.
    • I started working on some projects for the coming school year. To this point, I've made a few projects for students in my class to use. There is a site that I discovered called Teachers Pay Teachers, where I can post the projects to share with other teachers. If you are interested in checking out my projects (or the great stuff that other teachers have posted), please visit Teachers Pay Teachers.

    with a new team and new students, I'm sure that the new year will be full of new adventures. There is a possibility that I am switching content areas (from math/science to language arts/social studies), so other new ideas are on the way.

    P.S. I apologize for the blandness of the new blog. Construction is underway.