Fourth Grade Journey

A Fourth Grade Teacher's Journey Through the World of Books

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby...

How I Heard About It:  This title had been mentioned several times by different "Twitter" friends of mine.  After you seeing so many people chatting about a great book, you just have to go out and buy it.  

What It Is About:  Finn and Sean are brothers living on their own after their mother has left to be with a man.  They are making the best of their lives in Bone Gap when a stranger named Roza shows up in their barn.  They know something awful has happened to her, but she doesn't want to talk about it.  The two brothers take her in and they begin their own little family.  After Roza disappears and Finn thinks he sees the person who takes her, the two brothers each take a different approach as to how to handle this "gap" in their lives.  Sean gets back to life as he knew it, and Finn does everything he can to find Roza.  What he finds will shock both himself and the people of Bone Gap.  

What I Thought Of It:  Loved it.  This is everything readers have said it was.  I enjoyed that this story was part realistic fiction.  I also enjoyed that there were elements of fantasy and magic sprinkled throughout the story.  The characters of Finn, Sean, and Roza were quite incredible and the relationships between them were powerful.  I found myself often thinking deeply about what was truly going on in Bone Gap and asking myself many questions.  This doesn't always happen.  To me that is a sign of an incredible story.

Who Should Read It:  This is the perfect book for young adult and adult readers.  Both of these groups of readers will completely fall in love with this book and the story that is contained within the pages.  If you enjoy realistic fiction, this is the book for you.  If you enjoy elements of fantasy and magic, this is the book for you.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars

The Case of the Weird Blue Chicken by Doreen Cronin...

How I Heard About It:  I had read the first book in this series and enjoyed it.  When I saw this new copy in our school library, I took it home to read it.  

What It Is About:  This time the four members of the Chicken Squad are on the trail of another mystery.  After a strange blue bird arrives at the coop, he has a mystery for them to solve.  His "house" has been stolen and he wants the squad to find it.  When the chickens find out who stole the house, they are quite shocked.  

What I Thought Of It:  I have enjoyed both of the books in the series.  I like that they are short, have fun illustrations, and contain a fun and silly story.  I think it is great to find easy to read early chapter books for those students that are struggling with reading.  It is also a great book for students that want an easy read in-between other books.  The characters are fun and enjoyable to read about.  

Who Should Read It:  This is the perfect book for readers in second and third grade.  I would also put it in my own classroom for fourth graders that want an easy read and/or students that might be below grade level.  It is a quick and fun read and all students will enjoy the adventures of the Chicken Squad.  

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Trailer Thursday #89 (Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer)...

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer (Young Adult Novel)

Life Lesson #30 (Pay It Forward)...

"Pay It Forward"

*I've always love the idea of paying it forward.

*In my own life I try to do this as much as possible and have found great joy in doing so.

*This concept is also a major umbrella topic in my classroom throughout the year.

*This video was shared with my writers today.  A great discussion was had afterward.

*The writing was on point and I saw much engagement during their writing time.

*My fourth graders recorded their thoughts, feelings, reactions, connections, or reminders.

*Some of them even wrote about things they could do to pay it forward.

*Several of the writers shared what they wrote at the end of our writing time.  

*I think this will be a "life lesson" clip they will remember for quite some time.  

Life Lessons from this Year...
Life Lesson #1 - Be Brave
Life Lesson #2 - Be Kind
Life Lesson #3 - Be Courageous
Life Lesson #4 - Be Motivated
Life Lesson #5 - Be a Buddy, Not a Bully
Life Lesson #6 - Be Inspired: Never Give Up on Your Goals
Life Lesson #7 - Be SHOUTful (Shout Your Success)
Life Lesson #8 - Be Spooky (Halloween Week)
Life Lesson #9 - Be Kind (Part Two)
Life Lesson #10 - Be Happy
Life Lesson #11 - The Power of Literacy (Be a Reader)
Life Lesson #12 - Be POWERful
Life Lesson #13 - Be a Team
Life Lesson #14 - Be Merry
Life Lesson #15 - Be Giving
Life Lesson #16 - Be Brave (Part Two)
Life Lesson #17 - Be Positive
Life Lesson #18 - Be Dancelike
Life Lesson #19 - You Can Do It!
Life Lesson #20 - Be a Hero (Celebrating Day 100)
Life Lesson #21 - Be A Friend
Life Lesson #22 - Be Kind (Part Three)
Life Lesson #23 - Be Strong and Courageous
Life Lesson #24 - Be Fearless
Life Lesson #25 - Be a Sportsman/Sportwoman
Life Lesson #26 - Be Different
Life Lesson #27 - Think Outside the Box
Life Lesson #28 - Live Your Dream/Share Your Passion
Life Lesson #29 - You've Always Had the Power

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wonder Wednesday #89 (Celebrating Poetry)...

Celebrating Poetry

*We have been celebrating poetry in my three reading classes.

*The room has been covered with all sorts of poetry books.

*The readers have been reading from a variety of poetry collections, finding their favorite poem, and presenting that poem to the class.

*This genre has been a HIT with the fourth grade readers...

Picture Wednesday #32 (Time for School)...

"Time for School"

*This photograph speaks for itself.  

*I know it will spark a lot of discussion and hopefully some deep meaningful writing.

*After sharing the picture, we will discuss our reactions.

*My fourth graders will then spend time writing in their writer's notebooks.  

*They can record their thoughts, feelings, reactions, emotions, connections, or ideas.

*I also encourage them to create a fiction story if they would like.  

*Some sharing will take place at the end of our writing time.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Treat Tuesday #89...

Treat Tuesday:  Apple Pie Fries

*I saw this recipe on Facebook and it caught my eye.

*I'm an apple fan and a fry fan so thought they would be great today.

*We will be giving it a try very soon in our household.  

  • 1 Pkg of Pillsbury Refrigerated pie Crust
  • 1.5 cups of Apple Pie Filling or you can use homemade
  • 1 Egg
  • Cinnamon
  • Sparkle Sugar
  • Caramel Sauce for dipping (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Chop up the Apple Pie Filling in a food processor, and blend until smooth.
  3. Lightly dust a work surface with flour.
  4. Roll one of your pie crust dough out onto a large cutting work surface.
  5. Spread smooth apple pie filling on top of pie crust leaving about ⅛" of dough around the edges uncovered.
  6. Put the second Pie Crust on top and press lightly to secure and seal the edges.
  7. Make an egg wash by mixing the egg with a tablespoon of water.
  8. Brush the top pie crust with the egg wash using a pastry brush.
  9. Sprinkle with some cinnamon and sugar.
  10. Using a pastry cutter, cut the pie crust into ½ inches wide strips, and then cut again into your desired "fry" strips. Carefully remove them and put on a baking sheet.
  11. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown and firm.

Treat Tuesday:  Middle-Grade Novel

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Treat Tuesday:  Adult Novel

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Monday, April 27, 2015

Class Read Aloud #6: Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo...

Class Read Aloud #6 - Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

*Normally I read new books to my class each year.  

*Because this is such a "top-notch" book, I wanted to read it to this year's class.  

*This was our SIXTH read aloud of the year and was a complete hit! 

*Here are a few thoughts that my listeners had...

I thought this book was…

*Cool because the squirrel could fly.  
*Really good because it had so much action and cool things in it.
*Great because it had such great characters and so many heroes in the story.  

I liked it when…

*Ulysses came back because it was a good moment in the story.  
*William Spiver broke his glasses and realized he is not blind.
*The squirrel got his powers because he was sucked up by a vacuum cleaner.  

My favorite character was…

Ulysses because he was the hero of the story.
*Flora because she was so nice to Ulysses.  
*Tootie because she was so funny.   

My favorite part in the story was…

*When the cat was thrown down the hallway because it was funny.  
*At the end because it was a sweet ending.  
*When Ulysses ate the cheese puffs because I like them too.  

It was interesting when…

*Ulysses wrote a poem because how many squirrel do you know that type poems.   

*Ulysses flew across the restaurant because I wonder what it would be like to do that.  
*Flora's mother said "I love you" because it was a sweet and loving moment.  

I was frustrated when…

*The book was done because I wanted it to continue.
*The mother kidnapped Ulysses because it was a mean thing to do.
*The mom said it will be better without you here because what mom says that!  

I give this book _____ stars!  

5 STARS =  10 Students
4 STARS =  12 Students
3 STARS =  2 Students
2 STARS =  0 Student
1 STAR =  0 Students  

Music Monday #28 - My Wish by Rascal Flatts...

"My Wish" by Rascal Flatts

*We are going classic country (or pop/country) this week and the great group of Rascal Flatts.

*There are so many great lines and words in this song that I want to share with my students.

*We will watch the videos throughout the week.  It always amazes me how quickly the students can learn the words of the song and are singing along.  

*After the viewing on Monday, the writers get their notebooks out and begin to WRITE.

*They can record their reactions, thoughts, connections, reminders, or ideas about the song.

*After the writing time a few of the fourth graders will share with us what they wrote.  

Music Monday Selections for 2014-2015…

Week #1 = What I Am by and Sesame Street Characters
Week #2 = Proud by Heather Small
Week #3 = Dreamer by Chris Brown
Week #4 = Roar by Katy Perry
Week #5 = What Does the Fox Say by Ylvis
Week #6 = Rainbow Connection from the Muppets
Week #7 = Good Time by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepson
Week #8 = Thriller by Michael Jackson
Week #9 = Hall of Fame by The Script and
Week #10 = Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka
Week #11 = Count on Me by Bruno Mars
Week #12 = Superheroes by The Script
Week #13 = Something New by Axwell Ingrosso
Week #14 = Clouds by Zach Sobiech
Week #15 = Do They Know Its Christmas by BandAid
Week #16 = What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
Week #17 = Shooting Star by Owl City
Week #18 = Happy by Pharrell Williams
Week #19 = The World's Greatest by R. Kelly
Week #20 = Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) by Shakira
Week #21 = Somewhere Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz
Week #22 = I've Lived by One Republic
Week #23 = I Believe by Yolanda Adams
Week #24 = The World is Ours by David Correy
Week #25 = Dream Big by Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband
Week #26 = Fireflies by Owl City
Week #27 = My Fight Song by Rachel Platten

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (4/27/15)...

Thanks to Jen and Kellee for hosting this idea on their site.  Here is a link to their site...

Books I Read this Past Week… 

The Bohemian Flats by Mary Relindes Ellis

*3 STARS out of 5 Stars!

*My Book Review

Eeny Meeny by M. J. Arlidge

*5 STARS out of 5 Stars!

*My Book Review

The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

*4 STARS out of 5 Stars!

*My Book Review

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

*5 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week 

The Genius Files:  License to Thrill by Dan Gutman

*My middle-grade novel

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

*My young-adult novel

House of Echoes by Brendan Duffy

*My adult novel

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge...

How I Heard About It:  I received an ARC of this novel from NetGalley.  The "press" describing this book grabbed my attention and I was quite excited to get started on this "thriller."

What It Is About:  Helen is a detective in London.  She is on a case of a serial killer who kidnaps two adults, holds them in different type "cells", no food or drink and only a gun laying between the two victims.  The victims must decide who is going to kill the other and the one who kills is released to freedom.  After a series of kidnappings and "releases", Helen realizes she is connected to all of these couples.  She just can't figure out what this connection has to do with the serial killer.  Helen and her team spend all of their time trying to track the killer and stop these brutal crimes.  She receives a major shock when she finds out these killings go all the way back to her own childhood and the horrific events that occurred in her own home.  Will Helen be able to find the killer before she does damage to "two" people from Helen's detective team.

What I Thought Of It:  It has been a long time since I have read a real mystery/thriller.  This story was a refreshing change of pace from the regular type of books I normally read.  The mystery and suspense begins on page one and doesn't let go until the very last page.  I loved the entire story and the plot kept me guessing the entire time while I was reading it.  The reviews on Netgalley stated this was a bestseller in England and I can see why.  I hope it does just as well here in the States.  

Who Should Read It:  All adult readers will find this a satisfying read.  Fans of mysteries and thrillers will be completely engaged by Helen and her search for the serial killer.   It will be fun to see if this book gets as much press here as it appears to have gotten in Europe.  I'm going to be telling all of my adult reader friends to check out this book.  It is a complete page-turner.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friend Friday #88 (The 39-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths)...

Hi!  I am Sam and I read the book called The 39-Story Treehouse written by Andy Griffiths.

I think this book was awesome because I love what happens in the story.  

My favorite part in the story was when Mr. Stupido "un-invents" because it was a very funny moment.  

The character that I liked best was Terry because he was the main character and I could relate to him.

I think the author wrote this book because he wanted to have a fun book for kids to read and to continue an awesome series.  This is book number three.  

I would recommend this book to my friends because it is great and funny and I know that kids in our class like this series.  

Reading to me is fun because I can read fast and think about what is happening in my mind.  It is really fun when you read a book like this one.  

*Sam is a 4th grade reader in one of my three reading classes.  He was the FIRST reader to get his hands, and eyes, on this book.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Trailer Thursday #88...

Worrywarts by Pamela Duncan Edwards (Picture Book)

Just Jake by Jake Marcionette (Graphic Novel)

The Genius Files by Dan Gutman (Middle-Grade Novel)
*Book #5 was just released and is the final book in this awesome series!

Denton's Little's Deathdate by Lance Rubin (Young-Adult Novel)

Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge (Adult Novel)

Life Lesson #29 - You've Always Had the Power...

"You've Always Had the Power"

*I love this week's life lesson.  

*What better lesson is there than to instill the idea that everyone has the power in their own lives.

*We will watch the video once or twice as a class and discuss.  

*The kids will then write in their notebooks.  

*They can write their reactions, thoughts, ideas, feelings, connections, or reminders.  

*If there is anyone that wants to share at the end, they are invited to do so.  

*Who knew the Wizard of Oz would still be teaching us lessons after all these years!  

Life Lessons from this Year...
Life Lesson #1 - Be Brave
Life Lesson #2 - Be Kind
Life Lesson #3 - Be Courageous
Life Lesson #4 - Be Motivated
Life Lesson #5 - Be a Buddy, Not a Bully
Life Lesson #6 - Be Inspired: Never Give Up on Your Goals
Life Lesson #7 - Be SHOUTful (Shout Your Success)
Life Lesson #8 - Be Spooky (Halloween Week)
Life Lesson #9 - Be Kind (Part Two)
Life Lesson #10 - Be Happy
Life Lesson #11 - The Power of Literacy (Be a Reader)
Life Lesson #12 - Be POWERful
Life Lesson #13 - Be a Team
Life Lesson #14 - Be Merry
Life Lesson #15 - Be Giving
Life Lesson #16 - Be Brave (Part Two)
Life Lesson #17 - Be Positive
Life Lesson #18 - Be Dancelike
Life Lesson #19 - You Can Do It!
Life Lesson #20 - Be a Hero (Celebrating Day 100)
Life Lesson #21 - Be A Friend
Life Lesson #22 - Be Kind (Part Three)
Life Lesson #23 - Be Strong and Courageous
Life Lesson #24 - Be Fearless
Life Lesson #25 - Be a Sportsman/Sportwoman
Life Lesson #26 - Be Different
Life Lesson #27 - Think Outside the Box
Life Lesson #28 - Live Your Dream/Share Your Passion

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds...

How I Heard About It:   As I was browsing for audio books at the library I ran across this book and remembered Donalyn Miller mentioning it either on Twitter or GoodReads.  I checked it out and looked forward to "listening" to this story.  

What It Is About:  Matt Miller is in high school.  He has just lost his mother to cancer and is heading back to school.  His father has turned to alcohol to "deal" with the death so Matt is pretty much on his own.  He finds a job at the local funeral home where he sits in on funerals to watch the family members grieve.  Matt decides he will wear his black suit that he wore to his mother's funeral.  During one of the funerals he meets Love who has just lost her grandmother.  She has lived with her for quite some time because she lost her parents.  They begin to see and rely on each other to deal with their loss.  Matt's dad ends up in the hospital after drinking too much and falling.  Now he is really on his own.  Matt has the support of the funeral home owner, a best friend, and his new relationship with Love.  Are things finally looking "up" for him?  

What I Thought Of It:  This was an enjoyable listen.  The narrator did a wonderful job of telling this story.  One of the elements that I really liked about the story was the character of Matt.  He was so likable, strong, and stood up for what he believed in.  He was a true survivor.  The funeral home owner was also a huge positive force in the plot, and I wish there were more people in the world who were like him.  I'm so glad that I checked out this audio book and got to experience this really beautiful story.  

Who Should Read It:   The novel is geared toward the young adult reader.  I also think adult readers will enjoy it as much as the younger reader.  I believe the setting is in the 1970's so if you enjoy stories set in the past, you will be attracted to the book.  I think Matt would also make for a strong role model to high school readers.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars

The Bohemian Flats by Mary Relindes Ellis...

How I Heard About It:  One of my all-time favorite novels is called The Turtle Warrior by Mary Relindes Ellis.  A reader friend of mine told me that Mary had a new book out.  I was quite pleased to hear this.  

What It Is About:  Raymond has left Germany to make for a better life for himself in America.  He traveled the Atlantic to reach New York and made his way to Minneapolis.  It was the early 1900's.  Ray settled into the Bohemian Flats located along the Mississippi River.  The people here were eclectic, poor, and working hard to get by.  Ray began working in the flour mills.  After several years Ray's brother Albert, his wife, and their two young boys joined him in Minneapolis.  They were not happy with their life in the "flats" so they moved to farming land in Wisconsin.  The story follows Ray, Albert, and a cast of interesting characters as they try to create a life that is better than they knew in Germany.  They have to overcome illness, war, and a variety of other difficulties.

What I Thought Of It:   As I mentioned, I was quite excited to read this story.  The beginning had great promise.  I enjoyed reading about Ray leaving Germany, his journey to America, and starting a new life in Minneapolis.  The people he met in the "flats" were fascinating.  Then the story moved back to Germany to tell Albert's story and it lost me a bit.  The plot moved a bit too slow for me and I found myself skimming parts here and there.  When the family reunited in Minneapolis, I became more interested in the story.  From there on out, the plot seemed to ebb and flow at different parts of the book.  I did finish the novel, but didn't enjoy it as much as her first book.  It could have been because it was historical fiction and that isn't my favorite genre.  

Who Should Read It:   If you enjoy a family story in a historical fiction setting, then this is the book for you.  The story line about Minneapolis is also interesting, especially for readers from this area.  The book is well-written and the characters are interesting to read about.  Adult readers will find this a satisfactory read.  Happy Reading!

Rating:  3 STARS out of 5 Stars

Wonder Wednesday #88...

Wonder Wednesday:  My Weekly Top-Five

*My last several Wednesday posts have been about our Picture Book March Madness Voting.  Now that was FUN!

*I really wasn't sure what to do for this week's Wonder Wednesday.

*During one of my reading classes on Tuesday I was thinking about aspects of my language arts teaching that was going really well.

*Here are my top five "literacy" moments from the last week or so (in no particular order)...

5.  The Terrible Two by Jory John and Mac Barnett

*Some kids in my third reading class started asking me about my "homeroom" book club that I run and Skyping with authors.

*This title and Jory John came up and they asked if they could Skype with him.  I told him we already did, but they were welcome to read the awesome book.

*The "hold" list for this book grew quite long today.

4.  Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

*We just finished our sixth read aloud on Tuesday, April 21st.

*The class absolutely loved the story of Flora and her flying squirrel.

*There was a sigh of a relief as I closed the book.  I took this as satisfaction with the conclusion.

3.  Minnesota Comprehension Assessment (Reading)

*My reading students took the reading portion of the MCA last Friday, Monday, and Tuesday.

*I decided long ago to NOT teach to the test and instead trust in my readers that they will "soar" through the test because they are life-long readers and have read A LOT this year.

*It was a joy to watch my readers take the test with ease, no stress, and show what strong readers they are.

4.  Breakfast with Books (Final Book Club)

*We have had a wonderful year of books, discussions, Skype visits, and author visits.

*For our final book which is coming up in May, I decided to give them a choice between two novels.

*Some of my readers are reading Pie, some are reading Honey, and some are reading both.

*We will Skype with Sarah Weeks during our book club.

*It is a good sign when the readers expressed their disappointment that this is our last book club.  

5.  Just Jake by Jake Marcionette 

*Recently, I ran across this book (and the sequel) at the bookstore.

*I then found out it was written by a teenager.  How cool is that!

*I'm been sharing the title with my readers and they are going crazy for these two books.

*It is so much fun when this happens and the book hype travels around the room and from reader to reader.  

Picture Wednesday #31 (Writing House)...

"Writing House"

*I love this picture or possibly an optical illusion.

*I'm sure it is going to lead to some wonderful writing by my fourth graders.

*After discussing the picture a bit as a class, they get busy writing in their notebooks.

*The writers can record their thoughts, feelings, reactions, connections, reminders, or noticings.

*Another option is to create a fiction story based on the picture.  

*A few of the writers will share what they wrote at the end of our writing time.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Treat Tuesday #88...

Treat Tuesday:  Fresh Berry Slab Pie

*Summer is right around the corner, or so we hope.

*This is the perfect dessert to serve at any summer gathering.

*Practice now to get it just right and then you will be ready to serve it up during June, July, and August.  


box Pillsbury™ refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box
packages (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
cup sugar
tablespoon milk
cups assorted fresh berries (sliced strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
cup strawberry glaze


Heat oven to 450°F. Remove pie crusts from pouches. On lightly floured surface, unroll and stack crusts one on top of the other. Roll to 17x12-inch rectangle. Fit crust into ungreased 15x10x1-inch pan, pressing onto corners. Fold extra crust even with edges of pan. Prick with fork. Crimp edges. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

  • In medium bowl, mix cream cheese, sugar and milk until smooth. Spread into crust-lined pan. Refrigerate about 1 hour or until set.

  • Gently mix berries and strawberry glaze. Spoon berry mixture on top of cream cheese-topped pie crust. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

    Treat Tuesday:  Middle-Grade Novel

    Jack - The True Story of Jack & the Beanstalk by Liesl Shurtliff

    Rump - The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

    Treat Tuesday:  Adult Novel

    The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer