Fourth Grade Journey

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

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trailer Thursday #15...

Happy Halloween 2013

Halloween by Jerry Seinfield

*I shared this picture book with my students today.

*In some ways, this story is geared toward adults more than children.

*It is about the "good old days" of Halloween!  

Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds

*This was our picture book yesterday.

*The book had been displayed for quite awhile and they were more than ready to hear it.

*The story was a complete hit and read by many students later in the day.  

The Dark by Lemony Snicket

*This was a new book purchase for me.

*I was excited to share it with my students this past Monday.

*They enjoyed the story and a thoughtful discussion was had after the reading about the "DARK".

The Perfect Pumpkin Pie by Denys Cazet

*This was an interesting picture book to share with my class.

*The students were quite sure of the meaning or what truly happened in this story.

The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything
 by Linda Williams

*It is tradition in my room to share this story with my students.

*I have been reading it to my student Halloween week ever since I started teaching.

*Some years we even "act" out the different parts.  It is such fun!  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wonder Wednesday #15...

Wonder Wednesday:  Read-a-Thon

*I used to use reading competition in my classroom.  NO MORE!

*I used to use at-home reading logs in my classroom.  NO MORE!

*I used to record at-home reading minutes in my grade book.  NO MORE!

*Now, we read as much as we can both at school and at home.

*Now, we share the books we are reading with each other.

*Now, we talk about the books we are reading with each other.

  **Even though I no longer support reading competition, I do support reading.

  **Currently my school is participating in an all-school "Read-a-Thon".

  **Our "Read-a-Thon" is a fund raiser that are PTO is supporting and promoting.

  **Anything to help the school and promote the love of reading, I will always support.

  **My students are reading (just as they always do), recording their minutes, and collecting pledges.

  **As I look around the building, I'm filled with wonder because we are all reading, reading, reading!

Here is a look at some of our wonderful items promoting our read-a-thon...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Treat Tuesday #15...

Treat Tuesday - Oreo Bombs

Happy Halloween 2013...

*My wife loves to bake holiday treats for co-workers and friends.

*This Halloween week was no exception. 

*She created these tasty Oreo bombs for the people she works with.

*Thank goodness there were leftovers for the family!  


-Package of low-fat cream cheese
-Package of Oreos (normal size)
-Package of baking chocolate (melted)


1.  In a medium size bowl break up Oreos (My wife uses an electric mixer)
2.  Then mix in cream cheese until it is pretty smooth
3.  Shape mixture into little balls – about the size of a gumball or larger
4.  Lay them down on cookie tray layered with parchment paper
5.  Place the tray in the freezer for 10 minutes
6.  Dip in the melted chocolate
7.  Sprinkle with "holiday" sprinkles or whatever you would like
8.  Place back in the freezer for another 15 minutes and they are ready to go

Be sure to keep uneaten treats in refrigerator!  

Treat Tuesday - Middle Grade Novel or Picture Book

Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds

*We had saved this book to read until Halloween week.

*The listeners just loved the story and were so engrossed.

*A must read for all classrooms.  

The Daring Escape of the Misfit Menagerie
by Jacqueline Resnick

*This is our current read aloud.

*It is the first book in a new series and is a wonderful story. 

Treat Tuesday - Adult Novel

We are Water by Wally Lamb

*I know I have posted this book already, but it is truly a TREAT.

*Be sure to check out my blog post about #ABCT...
#ABCT (Adult Book Club on Twitter) 

*Be sure to check out my book give-away...
Book Give- Away 

Monday, October 28, 2013

First Book Give-Away on ReadWonder (200th Post)...

We are Water by Wally Lamb

*In celebration of my 200th Blog Post, I'm hosting my first-ever book give away.  

*Our #ABCT (Adult Book Club on Twitter) is currently reading this novel.

*Wally Lamb is my favorite adult author.  His novels are some of my favorites.

*Please check out the following link for details about our upcoming #ABCT...

 #ABCT (Adult Book Club on Twitter)

*If you would like to receive a "FREE" copy of Wally Lamb's newest novel, please leave a comment in the comment section at the bottom of this post.  

*The comment can be anything about your reading, your favorite books, your favorite authors, or why you would like a copy of We are Water.

*The "give away" will run from Monday, October 28th - Friday, November 1st at NOON.

*I will announce the winner here on my blog and also on Twitter.  

*The winner will be drawn randomly on Friday, November 1st.  

*It is my hope that you will read the novel, join in on the Twitter discussion as you read, and chat with us when the #ABCT meets on Twitter to discuss this incredible novel.

*Happy Reading... 

Music Monday #8...

"Thriller" by Michael Jackson

*We celebrated Halloween Week with this 8th Music Monday selection.

*It was amazing to me how many of my students knew this song and video.

*The writers watched this video and got ready to write.

*As we listened to the song (minus the Video), the students wrote about the song.

*Some writers wrote about likes/dislikes, reactions, feelings, thoughts, or connections to the song.

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
Week Number Four:  Dreamer by Chris Brown 
Week Number Five:  What Does the Fox Say? by Ylvis 
Week Number Six:  The Rainbow Connection by The Muppets 
Week Number Seven:  Good Time by Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (10/28/13)...

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...

We are Water by Wally Lamb

*I was so excited for the release of this book last Tuesday.

*I have been reading it slowly so I enjoy each and every page.

*This is our current #ABCT (Adult Book Club on Twitter) selection.

*For more information see #ABCT (Adult Book Club on Twitter)

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


The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes

*One of my adult books that I'm reading. 

Treasure Hunters by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

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

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

*Another adult book I have on my shelf, but not reading as much as I would like. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Liberating Stories (My First Post on Nerdy)...

*I recently posted (this past Thursday) a retro book review on the Nerdy Book Club site.

*The book was Larger Than Life Lara by Dandi Daley MacKall.

*It got me to thinking of the first time I had the opportunity to post a retro book review.

*This is the review that was posted on the Nerdy Book Club this past May.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could go through life without any fears?  This premise isn’t realistic, but sure is “liberating” to think about.  The idea that I’m writing this blog post for the Nerdy Book Club is completely liberating to this forty-five year old fourth grade teacher.

Before I share an all-time favorite book with the illustrious members of this book club, I feel the need to open up and share a bit of my story.  I must confess that this kind of sharing would be high on my list of fears similar to the lists Gabriel and Frita created in the book The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going.

As I child and young adult I lived with many fears of my own;  the fear of not being great at sports, the fear of standing out, the fear of not fitting in, the fear of the neighborhood kid down the street, the fear of heights, and on and on.  It took me a long time becoming comfortable in my own skin and to accept myself for who I was and who I was becoming.  It isn’t an easy thing to admit, but if we are going to face our fears, we need to take a risk, be honest, and share our story.

After graduating from college and becoming an elementary school teacher I began to fall in love with books, the stories with amazing characters, and all they had to offer.  The list of my favorite books is endless but one favorite touched me in a way that I will never forget.

The Liberation of Gabriel King is one book that I hold close to my heart.  Gabe is living life in 1976 while his fourth grade year is coming to an end.  He is worried (and fearful) about starting fifth grade with the two biggest bullies in school.  These would be the top three on his list of fears.  When I was starting fifth grade, these same three fears would have also been on my list had I created one at the time.  Isn’t it amazing how stories can imitate life?

Gabe’s best friend, Frita, is a black girl with a spit-fire personality and doesn’t back down to anyone; including the two bullies Frankie and Duke.  I wish I would have had a friend like this back in 1978 when I was starting fifth grade.  She decides it is time to put these fears of Gabriel’s behind him so he can start a liberating life.  During the summer of 1976 while the country is celebrating the bicentennial, Frita helps Gabe tackle the lists of fears one by one.  Gabe isn’t sure how this will help him start fifth grade, but he goes along for the ride.  Once Frita sets her mind to something, there is no stopping her.

They start small with his fear of spiders and before he knows it, Gabe has a pet spider that he even is required to name.  During the journey of facing his fears, Gabriel learns that Frita also has a list of fears that she is working on liberating.  These two amazing young people have an incredible summer full of experiences; some positive and some not so much.   The biggest surprise comes when Gabriel learns Frita’s number one fear and realizes he needs to help her face it in the same way she helped him.

The first time I read this book, it took me to places I hadn’t thought about in years.  Sometimes this was painful, but more often it was liberating to me to know that I wasn’t the only young boy that had a long list of fears.  There are times when characters come alive, leave the page, and sit beside you while you take in the story.  This happened to me as I came to know Gabe and Frita.

We all find ways to face our fears in life, take risks, and liberate ourselves to live a more enriched and authentic life.  One of the biggest influences for me in my own life has been books; both children’s and adult.  As I look back at all the stories I’ve encountered in my lifetime, it is truly mind boggling at how each and every character and their story has helped me to liberate and free myself of fears that I have likely been holding onto since my own childhood.

Give yourself the gift of The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going.  This novel is truly a gift and one that I know you will keep close on your reading shelf and more importantly your heart.

Back Pocket Stories (Blog Post on the Nerdy Book Club)...

“Back-Pocket Stories” by Patrick Andrus

A special character will remain your friend.
A special place will reside in your memory.
A special story will stay in your heart. 

If you are lucky enough to get all three; then you have a book that will forever be in your back pocket.

When asked to do my second RETRO book review (I know can you believe it) I knew just the story I wanted to share with my fellow Nerdy Book Club members.

I’m definitely not known as the Book Whisperer, but around my school, community, and friends; I am known as the “book guy”.  There are certain books that are always in my back pocket to recommend as the “go-to” suggestion.   One of these stories is Larger Than Life Lara by Dandi Daley Mackall.

Years ago I was taking a class from the incredible and educated Patti Green; who is a local guru in the area of reading and writing.  At the end of her presentation, she shared with us some of her favorite recent reads.  Patti threw out this title and expressed how she couldn’t get over the power of the story.

On my way home, I stopped by the bookstore and purchased the book.  Thank goodness they had it or I would have been the disappointed child who didn’t get what they wanted when they wanted it.  When I got home, I sat down and opened up to the first page.  A few hours later, as I wiped away the tears that were streaming down my face; I closed the book and knew I had found a special story that would stay with me for years to come.

Being that it was summer, I put the book at the top of my read-aloud pile of books I would be sharing with my students once school started.  Larger Than Life Lara was the first book I read to my students that fall and I can still remember the complete silence during certain scenes in the story.  It was the ending of the book that brought back the watery eyes (of the teacher), the gasps from students, and the utter silence as I finished the final page. 

With the success of that first year, this little gem of a story became a standard read-a-loud of mine for many years to come.  You know you have found the perfect and special book when you get the same reaction year after year after year.  I couldn’t keep the book to myself and shared with  colleagues who also read it to their students with the same success as I had found. 

A few years ago, for whatever reason, I made the personal goal of not sharing the same book from year to year.  There are certain titles I miss, but overall I am satisfied and pleased that each year I share new titles with my class.  Of course this book (and many others) is  “book talked”  and becomes a favorite to my readers. 

I suppose I should tell a little bit about the story.  That is all you are going to get because I don’t want to give too much away.  Lara is the type of story you have to experience for yourself without knowing too much. 

The main character Lara is starting a new school (again).  Lara is a LARGE girl who stands out among her classmates.  Not only does she stand out because of her weight, more importantly she stands out because of her incredibly unique and special personality.  It just makes me smile now as I think of Lara.

Her experiences in school haven’t been easy and this new start is no exception.  The kids in her class have it out for her; because as we all know students “peg” the new kid and especially the new kid who doesn’t fit the “mold” of the other students.  The school is putting on a play and all students will have a role or job.  A group of kids decide this is the perfect opportunity to “WELCOME” Lara to school and let her know what they think of her.

I’ve said too much.  Just know that this is one of those stories that will become for you what it became for me.

A book that will give you…

*A special character named Lara.
*The special place of an elementary building.
*The story of Lara and her experience that will…

FOREVER remain in your heart and in your back pocket! 

Patrick Andrus is a fourth grade teacher at Prairie View Elementary School in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.  He has had twenty-three years of wonderfully liberating experiences teaching young children.  The biggest gift he gives his students is the gift of words, stories, and incredible characters like Lara.  It was about a year and a half ago that he took the risk to enter the world of Twitter, his own blog, and connecting with the incredible members of this book club. You can follow him on Twitter @patrickontwit and his blog

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friend Friday #14...

Hi!  I’m Katlun and I’m reading the book called Cardboard written by Doug TenNapel.   

I think this book is cool because how can you try to make cardboard into real life! 

My favorite part of the story is when the mouse bites the guy that owns it  because it was funny.  

The character that I liked best is his dad because his dad was going to save his kid.

I think the author wrote this book because he wanted to have kids really enjoy it.  

I would recommend this book to my friends because I really liked it and know they would too.
Reading to me is the way of power because learning is power.  

*Kaltun is a 4th grader in my class.

*She is a joy to watch read because she gets into the "zone" each and every day.

*This book has been getting so much "wear" and "tear" in my class that I had to buy another copy at the book fair today. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Trailer Thursday #14...

The Perfect Square by Michael Hall

*I shared this book with my class this year.
 *A great discussion was had about "creativity" and "imagination".
*We will create our own designs next week out of our perfect squares.

My Heart is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall

Cat Tale by Michael Hall

The Daring Escape of the Misfit Menagerie by Jacqueline Resnick

*We started our third read aloud this week.
*I chose this wonderful book by a wonderful author.
*The beginning of the story grabs the reader right away.
*It has been so enjoyable to share this book with my 4th graders.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wonder Wednesday #14...

Wonder Wednesday - 
     Skype Visit with Sharon Creech

*Yesterday was an absolute wonder for myself and my 4th grade class.

*One of my all-time favorite middle-grade novels is Walk Two Moons.

*A new favorite Sharon Creech novel is The Boy on the Porch.

*We had the honor of Skyping with Sharon and what a wonder it was.

The wonderful Sharon Creech!

 Question and Answer with the author of The Boy on the Porch.

 Love that Dog in Spanish and German.

 Sharon sharing Love that Dog in other languages.

 The book was even published in Chinese.  

 Each student had the opportunity to ask a question of this award-winning author.

 Sharon sharing some of the actual medals she has won.  How cool!  

 What an opportunity to be face to face with an author.

 Wrapping up our Skype session with a peek at Sharon's writer's notebook.