Monday, July 28, 2014

Fiction Reading that will lead to treasures!

This past week's reads!

As promised, here is my second week of treasures and gems! With the summer rapidly advancing, I knew I needed to bump it up a notch in my chapter book reading so that I will be able to advise my upcoming 3rd -5th graders with authentic booktalks.  The books depicted in the photograph above were my reading selections over the past 4-5 days.  My husband rarely saw my face this past week, since I had a book cover in front of it most of the time.

I must admit, my favorite from the bunch was KING OF THE MOUND.  I actually stayed up way too late last night (past 1AM) just so I could finish this delightful book by Wes Tooke.  This is one of those books, you simply can't put down.  And when you do, you can't wait to dig into some nonfiction reading to learn more about Satchel Paige, Neil Churchill, barnstorming, segregation, semi-professional baseball in the 1930's, polio, and more.


Where to begin... As I was absorbed in reading King of the Mound: My Summer with Satchel Paige written by Wes Tooke, I could not help but think how easily this historical fiction book captivates and effortlessly prompts the reader into research.  As parents and educators, isn't that exactly what we want to happen for our children/students?  We want children to develop and pursue inquiry questions just because something sparked a seed of wonder. 

When a book hooks me, my first tendency is to research a bit about the author.  I want to know more about the personal side of an author because in a way, reading is such an intimate activity.  It's just you and the magic of the words composed by an individual you will probably never meet.  When you get pulled into the story, you somehow have this unique connection to the writer.  So, let me begin with Wes Took.  According to his website, Wes was born in New York but raised in Boston, and was an avid Red Sox fan.  However, his birthplace certainly drew him back in, since his first book, Lucky, is about a bat boy for the Yankees during the summer of 1961, one of the most memorable seasons in sports history. His second book for middle graders is King of the Mound.

Having three brothers, I cannot even begin to compute how many hours I spent in the bleachers (or during one lucky season, in the dugout since my father was the coach) watching baseball games.  Since I grew up in Massachusetts, we were raised Red Sox fans.  However, years later I would marry a man who was an avid Yankees fan, and he steered both of our children to the Yankees side. Oh well.

Regardless, whether you are a baseball fan or not, this book will impact you. While written for middle grade students (4th-6th), readers of all ages will enjoy this book.  King of the Mound has something for everyone.   Wes Tooke tells a good tale, weaving history and fact into a fictional story of a boy who takes first steps on the road to physical and emotional recovery from a bout with polio, thanks to help from a solid new friend and a baseball hero.  A nice touch to the layout of the text is that the 18 chapters all have baseball innings as titles --- the first chapter is titled “Top of the First” and the last “Bottom of the Ninth.”

So, there you have it... my gem of a book for the week.

Now, to treasures in technology tools.  Since, King of Mound provokes the reader to research details from the text, you must explore WONDEROPLIS.  Winner of countless awards, Wonderoplis is a place where "natural curiosity and imagination lead to exploration and discovery in learners of all ages."  After reading about the power of Satchel Paige's fastball, I searched Wonderopolis for "fastball" and of course, there is a "wonder" for me to explore and discover.

My next treasure trove is the Library of Congress.  I had the incredible opportunity to spend one week this summer in DC at the Library of Congress.  There were 28 educators from all over the USA in my session, and we learned how to search for and analyze rich primary source documents.  After reading King of the Mound, I wanted to explore more about Satchel Paige and was curious to see what types of primary source documents were available.  By going to the Library of Congress website and searching for documents on "Satchel Paige," I found not only photographs, but also a Congressional resolution commending Paige on his contributions to baseball.

Another great site is EXPLORATORIUM.  Searching for "baseball' led me to additional resources and activities such as "How to throw a curveball" and "Finding the sweet spot."   How easy this book makes it to connect PE to language arts!


Next, I explored DISCOVERY EDUCATION (which our students have access to) and I located ample resources on polio and Satchel Paige which will further expand my understanding of King of the Mound.


Locating resources and information is one thing.  Sharing new learning is the next step we want to challenge our students to undertake.  Using technology tools makes sharing new learning fun!  Using the information I located on the various sites,  I could use an iPad and take a free app like Educreations and provide a historical glimpse into the life of Satchel Paige.  If I am more of a science buff, I might want to create a narrated slideshow on the history of polio by also using Educreations.  Perhaps I want to share how my baseball skills have improved by experimenting with the activities from Exploratorium.  I could document my experiences by taking photos with the iPad and use Educreations to share my experiences.

To share out these creations, students with support from teachers or parents can tweet, email, post the URL created through the Educreations app.  Or students can easily create a qr code and attach the code to the inside cover of King of the Mound.  Then, each student who checks out this book from our school library, would now have access to additional background information with a quick scan of the qr code.  Students teaching other students!

That's how you get students engaged in reading, writing, researching, creating, and sharing!  Let's provide students with engaging books like King of the Mound and encourage them to question, explore, discover, create, and share.

King of the Mound is a nominee for the 2015 Intermediate Nutmeg Award. 

Happy exploring,
Mrs. M.

a place where natural curiosity and imagination lead to exploration and discovery in learners of all ages. - See more at:
a place where natural curiosity and imagination lead to exploration and discovery in learners of all ages. - See more at:
a place where natural curiosity and imagination lead to exploration and discovery in learners of all ages. - See more at:
a place where natural curiosity and imagination lead to exploration and discovery in learners of all ages. - See more at:

Friday, July 18, 2014

Treasures of the Week!

On August 21, 2014, I will officially be employed as the school media specialist at Pomperaug Elementary School and I could not be more excited and grateful for this opportunity.  To teach in the community in which I reside is a gift.  I promise to never take it for granted.

I wanted to create a blog for my students and families which will promote the treasures and gems I find throughout the year. 

So, I will begin with some of the exciting books and tech tools I discovered while in Las Vegas at the ALA (American Association of Librarians) Conference.

TECH TOOLS: This past year, I taught the 5th and 6th graders at James Morris School in Morris, CT how to use INSTAGROK for research.  I was THRILLED to hear it announced at the AASL workshop on the "Best Tools for Teaching and Learning 2014."  instaGrok is an innovative educational search engine that combines sophisticated semantic technology with an interactive user interface to make learning more engaging, personalized and fun for everyone. instaGrok is used by hundreds of thousands of students, teachers and everyday people every month.  Pomperaug students... get ready to use instaGrok this year!

Also announced at ALA was this tool:
I was not previously familiar with this tool, but oh, how I saw countless possibilities for integrating this tool into my instruction and student learning.
Here's one way I plan to use this tool with my new students this year.  When I recently read Flora & Ulysses written by Kate DiCamillo (my favorite author, by the way) and the winner of this year's Newbery Award, I simply could not get one line of text out of my head.  I so very much connected to this particular line because each time I leave my parents house in MA, as I pull away, I always look back knowing either my mother or father will be standing at the door or looking out a window waiting for me to glance back for one more wave goodbye.

Using, in just 5 seconds, I created this poster of my favorite line from Flora & Ulysses!
Imagine using this tool as a way for students to share profound lines from a text they are reading independently.  Or use these posters as a way to inspire creative writing especially for those reluctant writers. Or use this tool to create a hook for your next read aloud.  Use it to kickoff discussion about a significant scene or event in a text or in history.  Exciting tool for sure! @recitethis will be one of my favorite tools this year guaranteed!  Also, you must read Flora and Ulysses.  To "meet" Kate DiCamillo, take a look at these videos. Kate is the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Read her acceptance speech for the Newbery Award-It's a delight!

NEW BOOKS:  Take a look at just a sampling of some of the "advance reviewer copies" I received FREE while at ALA.
 The first book from this pile that I want to share with you is: I am Amelia Earhart written by Brad Meltzer (@bradmeltzer), a New York Times Best Selling Author and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. This biographical account, told in a fun, conversational style, is part of a series called "Ordinary People Change the World."  Each book focuses on a particular character trait which was exemplified through the life of the hero. The illustrations are reminiscent of characters like Charlie Brown by Charles Schultz and the illustrations with "thought bubbles" add to the text. 

Check out Brad's website to learn why he chose to write this series. Plan to borrow this book from our school library when school resumes or if you can't wait, check to see if Southbury Public Library has a copy.  The series is written for K-3 students, however, all ages will be motivated by the message of the text and will appreciate the photographs of Amelia included in the supplemental pages.

The next book I received FREE of charge at ALA is: Unlikely Friendships.

Who doesn't enjoy reading about the power of friendships and bonds especially in the most unexpected ways!  The author of this text, Jennifer S. Holland (@jsholland36) was present at the conference and autographed this copy for our students!  She is a science and nature journalist - we need to skype her this year!  The text grabs you as a reader right from the first line in the introduction: "My husband John's best friend was a raccoon."  Readers will discover scientific explanations for some of the friendships, and other times, the reader will be left with a lovely mystery. Students will delight in the relationship between Albert the sheep and Themba the African Elephant and be stunned that a spaniel named Sophie will actually ignore her natural instincts and not only befriend an Owl named Bramble, but kiss and spoon with him!  And that's just two of over 40 fascinating tales of Unlikely Friendships! Borrow this copy at our school library or visit Southbury Public Library and start reading it today!

So, just a little taste of what's to come this year as I commit to sharing my gems and treasures with you.

Keep reading and creating,
Mrs. "M"