Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Celebrating Babymouse

Colby Sharp wrote an excellent blog post for Nerdy Book Club last week on celebrations. In fact it is so good you need to go read it and then come back here. I’ll wait. (POST)

Back? See, don’t you just want to be in his classroom? Man, I sure do. And if I couldn’t be in his class, because I’m obviously older than he is, I wish I taught across the hall. That kind of enthusiasm is contagious and I’d love to be around it every day!

I think what Colby was showing in his post is something I believe in so strongly. We need to celebrate with our kids – show them how wonderful reading is. Not because they will earn a reward or points towards AR, but because reading is awesome. It builds the community in our classrooms when we share stories.

C. Alexander London wrote on Nerdy Book Club this past December (POST). I saved this quote from his post, in fact I enlarged it and it hangs by my desk in my classroom. He said, 

It’s a fact: people can survive without books. People can even have wonderful, full lives without books. But they can’t long endure without community, and community is built on stories.

Community, stories, celebrations. That’s what my classroom is all about and that is what I wanted my reading camp this summer to reflect. Today it did, and in a big way. I have wanted to celebrate Babymouse in reading camp. I love those little pink books. I love them because of "Ellen", a student who I had two years ago. Ellen never smiled. She read about two years below grade level and was so embarrassed by that. I remember showing her the first Babymouse book. She took it, read it that night, and came back for another. She read the entire series over and over that year and came into her own. I had the opportunity to teach her for fourth and fifth, then she moved on to sixth. That was the year I went to NCTE. I happened to meet Jenni Holm one night at our hotel. When I realized who she was I hugged her and didn’t really explain why but just said I needed to. Returning home several days later I sought out Ellen. When I found her I told her the story of meeting the author of Babymouse. I told Ellen I hugged Jenni Holm and then asked if she wanted to hug me. She did and then said, “It’s like I hugged her. Did you tell her I love her books?” Yep, sure did. Babymouse made Ellen confident and feel like she was a reader. I will celebrate this series the rest of my teaching career.

So today we did just that. Each child in camp (ages 7-12) has been reading Babymouse. They came today dressed in something “inspired” by the series. We had cupcakes with pink icing. We talked about the books. We talked about what makes us readers. We made plans for our reading vacation (because there’s no camp for two weeks). It was glorious. And although I feel like I already celebrate a lot with my students I plan on doing even more of it. Sitting around, telling stories, talking about books. What could be better?

Do you love Babymouse? If so, there is just a little time left to enter the #babymouse4prez contest. CLICK HERE for information. 




All photos of students from reading camp celebrating Babymouse today.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Slice of Life – Writing Communities

 Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers.

I’ve just returned home from another wonderful conference in Warsaw, Indiana – All Write. I went last year on a whim. I had met a few people on Twitter and we all decided to go. I looked at the presenters and was impressed; so many of my favorite authors for professional development were going to be there. It was more amazing than I had imagined.

See, the presentations were excellent. Jeff Anderson, Terry Thompson, Cris Tovani, Katie Wood Ray. My mind spun. My company was amazing too. Friends from Twitter I had spoken to over the past two years. I left All Write last year with a burning desire to write.

NCTE in November gave me more of this feeling. It’s the reason this blog began. The first post on here goes into some detail about it. I remember being so nervous to write the first post. I wasn’t sure what others would think of my writing. Would my voice come through? Was there something I really needed to share beyond what was already out there?

And now I’ve just come home from my second time at All Write. As always, I learned a ton. One thing that really got me thinking was from Donalyn Miller’s session. She was discussing reading communities and how we need to teach kids the habits of strong readers because once they leave our safe haven of our classroom it isn’t as easy to keep reading. The people around you matter.

It was one of those moments where I was thought,  “That’s it!” I remember as a child I wanted to write but never thought my writing was good enough. There was no workshop model then at my school. The only writing we did was when it was assigned: topic assigned, rough draft, edited by teacher, final draft. I didn’t know any writers. I didn’t really believe I could be one.

Then I met all of these wonderful teachers. Some write for kids. Some write for teachers. Some write for their blog audience. All of them are amazing cheerleaders. And the funny thing, when I was around them, I began to believe I could write. I watched Penny Kittle pull out her writer’s notebook while sitting next to her at NCTE.  I listened to Donalyn Miller talk to Mindi Rench about her new book. I watched and absorbed many conversations around what friends were writing. And I began to write.

One year later I’ve written one hundred and forty three blog posts for my blog. There have been thousands of comments. I’ve written for Nerdy Book Club and Choice Literacy. I’ve written guest posts for friends’ blogs. My writing journal is becoming used more and more each day. I am part of Slice of Life and did the March challenge (and completed it!). I joined Teachers Write for summer writing. And I’m beginning to get serious about writing a book. I trace all of this back to the people I surrounded myself with. When surrounded by readers in the classroom, children become avid readers. Surrounding myself with writers I found the same to be true. I am grateful for my friends and grateful for this community. Let’s write! 

It's Monday! What are you reading?

I’m joining Jen & Kellee (and many other bloggers) in discussing what we are reading this week. Join us! Go to their site and link up your own blog.

I love how my “reading weeks” have a different feel to them each week. This one was more about chapter books. My goal had been to focus on Newbery, but I only got one Newbery finished. Will refocus on Newbery this week before I leave for vacation.

Here’ s my reading week:

Favorite Book would have to be:

Other good reads of the week:

And here’s hoping more Newbery books are finished by next week! 
Have a great reading week!

Sunday, June 24, 2012


I’ve just returned from the amazing All Write conference. I was in Warsaw, IN for four days. I come home with wonderful ideas on reading and writing. With the happiness of spending time with friends I only see in real life a few times a year. And with a complete feeling of exhaustion.

The first time I went to All Write with this group I naively thought I’d rest up. No children to wake me in the middle of the night. My own hotel room to catch up on some sleep. I didn’t realize since we only see each other two or three times a year we were going to squeeze every minute out of the conference. I’m grateful for the chance to see them and wouldn’t change a thing about it.

I will write more later about it but for now there is a post up on Jen Vincent’s blog about what I learned from All Write:

And my first article from Choice Literacy is also up:

You need to be a member to be able to read it.

Hope your summer is going well and you are fitting lots of reading, writing, and relaxing it.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Kids' Comic Revolution

I’m writing up an article about graphic novels right now and have been immersing myself into that world, much to my boys delight. When I was debating as to what to listen to on today’s run, I remembered that Colby Sharp had shared some info about a new site and podcast that revolved around graphic novels. The site is called Kids’ Comic Revolution and is hosted by Dave Roman and Jerzy Drozd.

I quickly looked it up and loaded the podcast. Because I was in a hurry I loaded the second episode instead of the first. But what a podcast it was! It began and ended with some of Colby’s students talking about what graphic novels, series, and graphic novelists are their favorites. Then the actual episode was an interview with one of my favorite illustrators, Kazu Kibuishi. So wonderful to hear his insights into his profession and the Amulet series, you really must listen to it. I only wish this had come out when I was teaching this year, I have some kids that are just addicted to Amulet.

Here’s the link to the site: KIDS' COMIC. You can get to the podcast from it. The hosts of the podcasts are also on Twitter and links are on the site for that as well. Great resource!  On my next run, episode 1.