Fourth Grade Journey

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wonder Wednesday #155 (Classroom Tour)

Wonder Wednesday - A Tour of Room 113

*This post is mostly for me so I can remember how my room looked to start up year #26 of my teaching career.

*It may not look like it, but I changed things up this year more than I ever have.

*During all of my different trainings, conventions, and camps this summer; I took in all sorts of new ways to set up the best learning environment possible.

*Enjoy the tour of room 113...

 Two New Posters to Foster Reading

 "Comprehension Connections"

 "Note and Notice"

 "Cafe Model"

 Student Book Bins and Community Supplies

 Class Calendar and Voting Center for #Classroombookaday

 "Be A Super Reading - Seven Strengths" Bulletin Board and Table Center #1

My Summer Collection of Books I Read to Share With My Students

 Meeting Area with Easel for Anchor Charts

 Meeting Area Book Shelves Featuring Book Bins, Poetry, Nonfiction, and Daily Read Alouds

 Meeting Area Reading Chair and Student Seating

 Geography Corner and Seating for Readers

 More Book Bins, Collection of Easy Readers, Collection of Picture Books

 #Classroombookaday Bulletin Board

 Posters to Promote a Reading Life

My New Graphic Novel Section and Student Book Bins

 Circular Book Shelf - Featuring Recommended Reading

 Classroom Library with Comfy Seating and Our Fiction Collection

 "Book Talks" Bulletin Board - Featuring Books We Book Talk

More Fiction Books in Classroom Library

 Collection of Hard Cover Books and Teacher Work Station

 Classroom Expectations (and My Reading Summit Badge)

 Four C's Bulletin Board (21st Century Learning)

 I've Had the "APPLE/Kindergarten" Poster Since First Year of Teaching

 Classroom View #1 and #2

 Classroom View #3 and #4

Ready for Year #26

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Skeleton Tree by Iain Lawrence

How I Heard About It:  My Twitter buddy @sfillner sent out some tweets about this book.  He and I seem to have similar tastes in middle-grade novels.  During a recent visit to the local library I saw this title on the audio shelf.  I was quite excited to listen to the story as my began my commute to and from work.  

What It Is About:  Chris doesn't have the best relationship with his father.  One reason might be because his dad is gone quite a bit.  His dad says he is off working, but Chris has a few clues that this might not be true.  Chris' uncle Jack is a really cool guy that enjoys doing adventurous activities.  He invites Chris to join him on a trip to the Alaskan waters aboard a boat.  Chris ventures off on the voyage and learns that another boy who is slightly older than Chris will be joining them.  Chris and Frank don't hit if off, but Uncle Jack tells them to make the best of hit.  After a terrible storm at sea, Chris and Frank are left on their own on an island or some piece of land.  These two boys must learn how to survive in the wild without the supervision of Jack.  With the friendship of a raven and the enemy of a bear, both boys learn what is truly important both in the wild and in life.  

What I Thought Of It:  This was one of the most enjoyable audio experiences I've had in quite some time.  The narrator was outstanding and I was pulled into the story right away.  Many aspects of the adventure reminded me of Hatchet, but there are also many differences.  I loved how these two boys started off hating each other and had to come to some sort of terms in order for both of them to survive the elements of the wild.  The back stories of both Chris and Frank were interesting and brought everything together.  I'm not always a fan of "adventure" stories, but this one grabbed me and didn't let go until the very last word.  

Who Should Read It:  There are so many of my former students that I know would love this story.  Middle-grade readers who enjoy adventures out in the wild will for sure be a target audience for this story.  I could see male readers taking in the story more than females, but that is not to say that girl readers wouldn't like the story.  I think it would make for an excellent read aloud in grades three through six.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Treat Tuesday #155 (Book Release Day)

Treat Tuesday - Butterfinger Bites

*One of my favorite "treats" is the classic Butterfinger candy bar.

*When I saw this recipe online, I knew we had to try it.

*In a word = DELICIOUS!!!

*Enjoy this tasty treat with one of these new books on shelves today...

2 cups Candy Corn 
1 1/4 cups Creamy Peanut Butter 
1 Bag Chocolate Chips 
White chocolate or orange candy melts for decorating (optional) 

*In a microwave safe bowl, microwave the Candy Corn for 90 seconds, stopping to stir every 30 seconds, until smooth. 
*Immediately add the peanut butter and mix together. 
*Using a teaspoon, form mixture into little balls and place them on wax paper. 
*Freeze for 15 minutes. 
*Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl - 90 seconds, stopping to stir every 30 seconds, until smooth. *Roll the cooled balls in chocolate and return to wax paper. 
*Decorate with additional chocolate, candy melts, or melted candy corn (optional) and place in the fridge to firm. 

Treat Tuesday:  Middle-Grade Novel

Treat Tuesday:  Young-Adult Novel

Treat Tuesday:  Novel Published for Adults

Monday, August 29, 2016

An Inside Look #12 (The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson)

An Inside Look - With Shaun David Hutchinson
Author of The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley

*Another summer Monday, means another "inside look" with an author.

*It has been such an honor to connect with authors and "chat" with them about their novel, the characters, and their thoughts about the story.

*I have had such fun connecting with authors and "picking" their brains.

*Here are the links to my first ELEVEN interviews...

*I first learned of Shaun David Hutchinson when I read his novel We Are The Ants which I enjoyed very much.

*After reading that novel I looked into what else he had written and found this title.  I was intrigued by the title and the cover.

*You can't really compare the two stories, but they were both so wonderful, interesting, and page turning.

*While reading The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley I could not put it down and probably finished in a  day or two.

*As I tend to do when I love a novel, I reached out to the author and had a few back and forth conversations with Shaun.

*Here are his responses to my questions about the main character Andrew...

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson (Released January 20, 2015)

How did you come to know Andrew?  
Through many, many drafts.  I started with this idea about a boy who was living in a hospital after the death of his parents.  I didn’t know much more than that when I started writing.  The first couple of drafts consisted mostly of Drew wandering around the hospital causing mischief, and it took a while before his story really came together.  With every draft, I got to know Drew and his story a little bit better as he revealed a little more to me about who he was and why he was there.  Some characters spring fully formed onto the page, but Drew was kind of shy, and it took a long time to figure him out. 

What do you think is Andrew's most admirable quality?
His compassion.  He’s dealing with the loss of his family, and not dealing with it particularly well, but he still cares about the people in the hospital and wants to take care of them even when he’s ignoring his own needs. 

Is there anything you wish Andrew would have changed or done differently in his story?
That’s tough.  I think it’s difficult to ever finish a book.  There are always things I want to change or add.  But the one thing that still bugs me is the ending.  Not the comic book ending—which I think is perfect—but the chapter that leads up to that.  I think I rushed it a little, and I’d probably do that a little diffently.

What do you think Andrew can offer to other young people that are experiencing similar situations to what he went through?  
Hope.  I write a lot about dark topics.  Depression and death and suicide, but the one thing Drew offers is the idea that no matter how bad things get, there’s still hope out there.  My early drafts of The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley were called The Walls because the hospital is something of a metaphor for being trapped by guilt and despair, but at the end Drew realizes there’s still life beyond the walls.  And I think that’s true for all of us who find ourselves trapped by darkness.  There’s always life beyond the walls. 

How did you research Andrew and the circumstances he found himself in?
I took a lot of liberties with Drew’s experiences in the hospital.  For instance, it’s highly unlikely that a remote hospital like Roanoke would have the facilities necessary to deal with Rusty’s severe burns.  But I drew on my own experiences training as an EMT.  I worked some shifts in hospitals and rode along with local paramedics.  A lot of the descriptions of patients—including the young boy who drowned—were based on real experiences I’d had during that time.

Do you and Andrew share any similarities?  
I think we both have a tendency to get trapped in our own heads and difficulty seeing beyond the pain we’re experiencing in the moment.  When bad things happen to Drew, he gets tunnel vision, and that’s something I also deal with. 

What was the hardest scene to write about Andrew? 
The scene where he has to perform CPR on the dead boy who’d drowned.  That was taken directly from my own life.  I was with paramedics who were called to a the house of a young boy who’d drowned, and he was clearly dead when we arrived.  He was on the front lawn, and his entire family was out there, screaming and crying, and we had to work on him.  The paramedic in charge had me perform CPR on the boy while they worked on him even though they knew there was no chance to save him.  It was the first time I’d really seen a dead body, and it still haunts me to this day.

Who do you think was Andrew's biggest supporter and why?
I think Drew was collecting surrogate family members in the hospital, so he had a lot of supporters, but I think his biggest supporter could have been Miss Michelle.  I took a little criticism for casting the social worker as a potential antagonist in the story (and that criticism is probably justified), but Miss Michelle is really only an antagonist in Drew’s mind.  The reality is that she, more than anyone else, wanted to help Drew.  That was her job.  And I think if he’d spoken to her sooner and let her help him, she would have.  Of course, then the story would have only been twenty pages.

Why do you think people fill up their lives by helping others when they are dealing with their own pain and/or issues?  
 I was on this panel about grief with Jason Reynolds, and we were talking about the ways in which people deal with it.  He said something really profound that stuck with me.  He said (and I’m paraphrasing here…hopefully not badly) that no one really gets over grief.  That we’re all just looking for people to share it with.  I think that’s why we help others when we’re in pain.  We’re looking for people who understand what we’re going through. We’re looking to support others in our situation while simultaneously seeking out that same support for ourselves.  When I’m going through a bad depression it helps me to make other people smile.  Doing so doesn’t always make me feel better at the time, but it helps me know that I can and will feel better eventually.

What do you think Andrew is doing as this present time?  
I’ve never quite been able to let go of Drew, so he pops up occasionally in other books.  I think he’s still out there trying to figure out his life.  He’s working on more Patient F comic books, thinking about Rusty, and living the best life he can.