Fourth Grade Journey

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

Monday, September 30, 2013

Gifts from an Author...

Author Gifts - Suzanne Selfors

*We read The Sasquatch Escape by Suzanne Selfors for our first "Breakfast with Books."

*My book club will meet this Friday morning for the discussion.

*We are lucky enough to have the author joining us via Skype for our discussion.

*As an extra bonus, Suzanne offered to sell my students a copy of either The Sasquatch Escape or the sequel The Lonely Lake Monster. 

*She was going to personalize the books and autograph them.

*Many of the students in my class ordered either book #1 and/or book #2.

*The box of books arrived today.  Just in time for our Skype visit on Friday, October 4th.

*It was so wonderful to see the students excited to receive their books...

Music Monday #4 (9/30/13)...

Music Monday - Dreamer by Chris Brown

 *Each Monday I share a song with my class.
*We watch a video to go with the music.
*We then listen to the song again (without video) while writing in our notebooks.
*The students write their reactions, thoughts, feelings, or anything else related to the song.
*It is one of their favorite days to write in their writer's notebooks.

Music Monday Selections 2013-2014 (so far)...

Week Number One:  What I Am by
Week Number Two:  Proud by Heather Small
Week Number Three:  Roar by Katy Perry

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (9/30/13)...

*I was so happy with the books I read this week.  I also enjoy reflecting over the week!

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...

Giants Beware by Jorge Aguirre

*4 STARS out of 5 Stars!

The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech

*5 STARS out of 5 Stars! 

The Lonely Lake Monster by Suzanne Selfors

*4 STARS out of 5 Stars! 

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week...

 The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

*This is the book I'm reading for my BBC (Boy's Book Club).

The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes

*My adult book that I'm reading just for myself.   

Treasure Hunters by James Patterson

*My middle-grade novel that I'm reading. 

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Lonely Lake Monster by Suzanne Selfors...

How I Heard About It:   My fourth grade class read the first book in this series called The Sasquatch Escape for the first selection of our Breakfast with Books book club.  The book club will be "chatting" over bagels on Friday, October 4th.  The class and I were excited about the release of book number two that came out on September 17th.  I of course bought a copy to add to my classroom.  We will be Skyping with the author on October 4th.  Some of the readers in my class ordered book number one and/or book number two that will be autographed by Suzanne.  What a great opportunity for my students.  

What It Is About:  The Lonely Lake Monster takes up right where book number one left off.  Pearl and Ben are reporting for duty at the Worm Hospital.  They main goal is to find some more imaginary creatures like they did when they came across the Sasquatch in the first book.  This time around they meet a lake monster that is lonely and kidnaps Ben and brings him to his lonely island.  Since Pearl thinks this situation is her fault, she does everything in her power to rescue Ben from the lake monster.  She enlists the help of a leprechaun that she finds in the Worm Hotel.  At this point, things just go from bad to worse.  The doctor finds out about this breaking of the work "contract" and has a surprise or two for both Pearl and Ben.   

What I Thought Of It:  My students that have finished book number one have expressed their love of the book just as much as I enjoyed it.  The second installment will not disappoint.  Although there wasn't as much "action" in The Lonely Lake Monster, it is still a satisfying sequel.  The story brings in the reader in with a unique, special, and just plain fun approach.  I'm so glad that I came across this series and it is becoming a "must-read" for my students. 

Who Should Read It:  Because this is a shorter chapter book with illustrations, I think the book is appropriate for students in grades three and four.  The books have been perfect for my average and struggling readers in my class.  The format is reader friendly.  I also believe either the first book and/or the second book would make for a strong read aloud in grades two through five.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 Stars out of 5 Stars

Giants Beware by Jorge Aguirre...

How I Heard About It:  I have had this book on my bed-side table for over a year.  I'm not sure why I didn't read it, but it just sat there.  As I was gathering my books for my trip to Lincoln this weekend, I grabbed this book and put it in the car.  My wife and daughter spent the afternoon shopping while we were visiting here at college.  I took the book in the mall with me, found a cozy chair, and read the entire thing while waiting for the shoppers.  

What It Is About:  Another graphic novel that young readers are sure to enjoy.  The story follows Claudette, her brother, and her best friend as they make their way out of their village and into the big bad woods to find a giant that is supposedly eating the feet of young people.  It has been Claudette's dream and desire to hunt and kill the giant.  The three young people find adventure, terror, and mystery as the travel through the woods of death.  While they travel to find the giant, Claudette's father and his "staff" head out to find the children and bring them back to safety.  No one is more surprised than Claudette when they finally reach the giant and have some major decisions to make.  

What I Thought Of It:  Since I was able to read this book in one story, it must have been pretty enjoyable.  The illustrations/graphics were outstanding.  The color was so vivid and the detail was amazing.  Claudette and her friends were fun to read about and I was interested to find out how their journey would end.  The humor, although it might go over some young readers' heads, gave me some actual LOL moments.  It is with excitement that I wait for Monday so that I can introduce this book to my class.  

Who Should Read It:   This would be a great book to add to any classroom between third and sixth grade.  The story was heavy in illustrations, but I believe the text could be challenging for some readers.  The vocabulary at times can be on the complex side.  Giants Beware is probably most suited and perfect for readers in fourth and fifth grade.  Happy Reading!    

Rating:  4 Stars out of 5 Stars

A Surprising and Pleasant Find...

Historic Haymarket - Lincoln, Nebraska

*My wife and I are spending the weekend in Lincoln visiting our daughter who is a freshman here.

*We hadn't seen her since August 19th so were so excited to head down and spend time with her.

*After a lovely dinner last night in the "Historic Haymarket" we ventured over to get some ice-cream.

*When you notice a long line of people you know it must be good.

*As I was waiting in line, I noticed a cute little store across the way.  It was called "indigo BRIDGE Books."

*Well, since the line for ice-cream was so long, I told my wife and daughter I would be right back.  They both just smiled because they knew where I was headed.

*What a gem of a bookstore.  I only had a few minutes because they were closing shop at 10 PM.

*I did get a chance to snap a few pictures (with my newly updated Iphone) to remember my surprise find.

*When you get a chance to visit this independent book store, please do.  So darn awesome!

*If you don't believe me, take a look at these pictures.  Who could resist this place...

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friend Friday #10...

Hi!  I’m Will and I’m reading the book called Mal and Chad written by Stephen McCranie.

I think this book is awesome because it has adventures and is just plain awesome.

My favorite part in the story is when they go into Chad's dream because he was dreaming of food while he was hungry.  

The character that I liked best is Chad because he is funny!

I think the author wrote this book because he wanted to make a cool book.

I would recommend this book to my friends because it is is funny.

Reading to me is better than being read to because I get to read to myself. 

*Will is the fourth student in my class to post his thoughts for my "Friend Friday feature."

*He is a fourth grader and read the Mal and Chad books because we will be Skyping with the author next week.


Trailer Thursday #10...

Trailer Thursday - Amy Krouse Rosenthal

*Each week we spend time with picture books as part of our morning meeting.

*It is an excellent way to begin our morning meeting.
*This week and next week we will cover a variety of Amy Krouse Rosenthal's books.

*My fourth graders so enjoy her books and they lead us to great discussions.

*Here are some video clips I found about the author and "some" of her books...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wonder Wednesday #10...

*After a couple of weeks blogging about the WONDERful Wonders going on with my teaching and in my classroom, I thought I would post an entry about a topic I've been WONDERing about lately...

Wonder Wednesday - How Do I Know If I'm Getting It Right?

After seventeen days of the new school year, I find myself WONDERing how things are proceeding in the classroom.  I always have a vision of what I want my classroom to look like, sound like, and feel like.  Of course this vision is before the twenty-eight students show up at my door.  Isn't is amazing how those little eager learners can change, enhance, and even disrupt our vision.  

As each day comes to an end, I sit at my desk and WONDER how the day went...

     Did I accomplish my goals for the day?   
     Did I reach all of my students and make them feel worthy?
     Did each of my students grow as a reader?

While planning each day, I want books and reading to be the large "umbrella" that covers us from the beginning of our day together until the very last minute that my students leave.  My goal is to take things slow, easy, and to linger on the elements of learning that I hold true to my heart.  Each fall as I progress through September and head into October, it seems that the district, school, and team goals start to over-take my vision.  I WONDER why this is?

Our day begins with our first independent reading time.  The readers have the choice of a variety of picture books to read from.  Some of the students choose to read from their novels, which is totally alright with me. 

The first part of our morning meeting is sharing a picture book that I present to the class.  They absolutely love it and are all ears and eyes.  The discussions that stem from these books are amazing. 

Right after lunch we begin our reading workshop.  I provide the readers with fifteen minutes of silent reading where they can start the reading zone with whatever text they would like.  Our second fifteen minutes of the reading zone is spent reading from a "Club Book".  These are books that I have introduced to the class as texts I deem worthy and encourage them to read.  Talk about building a reading community.  The excitement of seeing my students reading from "top-notch" graphic novels and/or chapter books, is palpable.  

The reading workshop comes to an end with our class read aloud.  I began the year with Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library.  This choice has been a hit and I am thrilled I decided to start the year with it.  We will wrap up this read aloud in October with a Skype visit with the author.

As I sit in staff and team meetings where we discuss testing, data and the direction the district is heading, I often ask myself, "Am I getting things right in my own classroom?"  It just seems I differ from the larger vision. 

In my heart I know I'm doing the right thing, but to be honest, I do WONDER from day to day how I am doing with my own personal "vision" and if I am creating the "WILD" readers that I so want to create, foster, and release into this WONDERful world... 

This one gets me every time!

How cute is this!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Treat Tuesday #10...

 Treat Tuesday - Macaroni & Cheese
(by Patti LaBelle)

*I am a huge fan of Mac & Cheese.
*I was excited to see this new recipe by Patti LaBelle.  
*It did not disappoint!  

*1 tablespoon vegetable oil
*1 lb macaroni
*8 tablespoons butter
*1 tablespoon butter
*1/2 cup muenster cheese, shredded
*1/2 cup mild cheddar cheese, shredded
*1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
*1/2 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
*2 cups half-and-half
*8 ounces Velveeta cheese, cubed
*2 eggs, lightly beaten
*1/4 teaspoon seasoning salt
*1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper


1 - Preheat oven to 350.
2 -  Lightly butter a deep 2 1/2 quart baking dish.
3 -  Fill a large pot with water and bring to a rapid boil.
4 -  Add macaroni and the 1 TB oil.
5 -  Cook for 7 minutes, or until somewhat tender.
6 -  Drain well, and return to the pot.
7 -  Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt 8 TB of the butter.
8 -  Stir into macaroni.
9 -  In a large bowl, combine all of the shredded cheeses.
10 -  To the macaroni, add 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheeses, half and half, the cubed cheese and the eggs, and the seasoned salt and pepper.
11 - Transfer to the prepared casserole dish, and top with remaining 1/2 cup shredded cheese.
12-  Dot with remaining 1 TB of the butter.
13 -  Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the edges are golden brown and bubbly.
14 -  Serve hot.

Treat Tuesday - Middle Grade Book

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

*I haven't read this book yet, but know it will be a treat.

*Eagerly awaiting its arrival in the mail.


Treat Tuesday - Adult Book

We Are Water by Wally Lamb

*Wally Lamb is my favorite author for adult books.

*This new book comes out on October 22nd and I can't wait!  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman...

How I Heard About It:  This book seems to be everywhere.  I have seen it mentioned on Twitter (of course).  I have seen articles written about it in magazines and newspapers.  I have seen awesome displays at the book stores.  It was time to buy a copy of the book and see what all the hype was about.  

What It Is About:  Well, I must admit this is a bit of a difficult book to describe.  It is unique and quite different from anything else I have read.  Basically the father of two young children goes out one morning to get milk for the kids, and doesn't return for quite some time.  When he finally does return and the children question him on where he has been, he begins to describe quite an adventure that he has just been on.  It is a whopper of a story, the kids are spellbound, and the reader is taken on an adventure like none other.  There are times when the father is doubted by his two loving children, but he seems to have an answer for everything. 

What I Thought Of It:  I found a little gem of a story here.  While shopping for books this weekend, I bought this book, and read the entire thing in one sitting last night.  At only a little over one hundred pages, this story packs a punch.  The format of the book and the subject matter isn't what I normally would read, but I found myself loving this story more and more as I made my way through it.  I kept thinking how much my students would enjoy the book.  Neil Gaiman created a strong plot with more adventure than one can imagine and the illustrations added to the adventure greatly. 

Who Should Read It:  Although this is a relatively short novel, I believe it would best be suited for a fourth or fifth grade classroom.  The story line can be a bit complex at times.  Because of the illustrations this book needs to be in the hands of the reader so they can enjoy, study, and take in the unique pictures.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 Stars out of 5 Stars

Music Monday #1 - #3 (9/23/13)...

Music Monday #1 - What I Am by
 Shared on Monday, September 9, 2013

Music Monday #2 - Proud by Heather Small

 Shared on Monday, September 16, 2013

Music Monday #3 - Roar by Katy Perry
 Shared on Monday, September 23, 2013

*Each Monday I share a song with my class.

*We talk about the meaning, the lyrics, and the message of the song.

*The writers then spend between 5-10 minutes writing their thoughts in their writer's notebooks.

*It is one of our favorite days of the week to share music and do some "heartfelt" writing.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (9/23/13)...

*Another week, more great books, and time to record it all! 

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...

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles
*4 Stars out of 5 Stars!

Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman

*4 Stars out of 5 Stars!   


Einstein The Class Hamster by Janet Tashjian

*4 Stars out of 5 Stars! 

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week...

 The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

*This is the book I'm reading for my BBC (Boy's Book Club).

The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes

*My adult book that I'm reading just for myself.   

Treasure Hunters by James Patterson

*My middle-grade novel that I'm reading. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Einstein The Class Hamster by Janet Tashjian...

How I Heard About It:   I believe it was first Colby Sharp on Twitter that mentioned this book.  When I saw it at the book store the other day, I decided to buy it to add to my classroom collection.  At this time in our year, I know it will make a great addition to the classroom library.

What It Is About:  Einstein is a genius hamster that resides in the classroom of Ned and his other classmates.  He is a small animal, but has a huge amount of factual knowledge.  When the class has the chance to participate in a trivia game show, Ned and Einstein know that their class has a chance to win.  The problem is no one in the class can actually hear Einstein except for Ned and a couple of other class pets.  They come up with a plan to help the class prepare for the game show while their teacher keeps falling "asleep", the principal keeps "popping" in, and the other class pets cause problems for Einstein and Ned.  

What I Thought Of It:  This was a delightful little chapter book.  It is part early reader, part graphic novel, and part chapter book.  The story was fun, cute, and charming.  It is amazing that as a reader you begin to root for a little hamster named Einstein.  Although a simple story, I found many "deeper" themes and messages underlying the main story.  The graphics/illustrations added greatly to the story and were fun to look at and use to add to the text.  

Who Should Read It:   I'm excited to introduce this book to my 4th grade class tomorrow.  I would say it is on the easy side for my readers, but I also know they will enjoy the book.  I think some of my struggling readers will also find great success with it.  This book could easily be a part of any 2nd through 4th grade classroom.  I love when I find a "chapter book" that is on the shorter side and a bit easier because I think there are so many students that need these kinds of books.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 Stars out of 5 Stars

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles...

How I Heard About It:   It seems like most of the books I'm reading come from the advice of Twitter.  This is the case with Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles.  As I would scan through Twitter each day, I would see people talking about this book and the new companion book Living with Jackie Chan.  The more I saw these two titles, the more I knew I had to read them.  This first book did not disappoint. 

What It Is About:   Meet Ellie, Corinne, Josh, and Caleb; four high school students making their way through their young-adult lives.  Each has their own battles they are dealing with, but Ellie's pregnancy brings them all together in a way they never expected.  Corrinne stands by Ellie and attempts to help her deal with this situation and all the underlying reasons of how she got herself here in the first place.  Josh is trying to be one person in front of his "buddies" and another guy who he truly wants to be.  Caleb is navigating his way with a new relationship with Corrinne and also stand by his life-long friend Josh.  All four must deal with hard life lessons, both in school and at home.  One thing for sure, none of them will be the same by the end of the school year.  

What I Thought Of It:   A completely enjoyable and engaging read.  I pretty much read it in a few sittings.  I was drawn in on page one and the story didn't let me go until the very last page.  Even as an adult reader, I could relate to these four young people and what they were going through.  I thought the alternating viewpoints in each chapter worked marvelously for this work of fiction.  As the reader, I could feel each character's pain and I was rooting for them and a positive outcome from a negative situation.  I'm looking forward to reading the companion book.  

Who Should Read It:   This is definitely a book for high school readers and above.  I will be recommending it to my college freshman daughter as I know she will enjoy the story.  I think any adult reader that enjoys a great solid fiction story, will find this a satisfying read.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 Stars out of 5 Stars

Friday, September 20, 2013

Friend Friday #9...

Hi!  I’m Moustapha and I’m reading the book called Bone written by Jeff Smith.

I think this book is great because there is a lot of action in the story.  

My favorite part in the story is when the rat creatures come because then the fight began.  

The character that I liked best is Fone Bone because he's a good guy.  

I think the author wrote this book because he wanted to write a book with lots of action in it.

I would recommend this book to my friends because it is a great book. 

Reading to me is great because I like listening to stories and reading stories. 

*Moustapha is the third student in my class that is posting for my "Friend Friday."  He is a fourth grader and loves to read as many books as he can get his hands on.  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Trailer Thursday #9...

Sidekicks by Dan Santat

*This book is making the rounds in my room and the students are loving it.

Mal and Chad by Stephen McCranie

*Another awesome book that the readers are eating up.

*They are trying to read all three books before we Skype with the author in October.  

Cardboard by Doug TenNepal

*A third graphic novel that is being adored by my students this fall.  

*They have requested that I get the other books that he has done.

Wonder Wednesday #9...

Wonder Wednesday - O.R.E.O Challenge & DOT Day

*We participated in the O.R.E.O challenge this week during our math time.

*Here is a link to the challenge to get more information about this project...

*We also celebrated International Dot Day by creating our own DOT pictures/designs.

*Each student picked a different color dot, glued it somewhere on a large sheet of white paper, and created a picture, object, or design from it.  

*It was amazing to see the creativity flow from the students onto the paper.

*They certainly "MADE their MARK!"