Fourth Grade Journey

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

Monday, October 31, 2016

An Inside Look #20 (Wish by Barbara O'Connor)

An Inside Look - With Barbara O'Connor
Author of Wish

*This was a new feature I added to my blog during summer 2016.  I don't have as much time during the school year to run the feature weekly, but definitely will when I come across a book/author/series that I want to dig into more.

*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.

*Here are the links to the first NINETEEN interviews…

*I had heard about this novel for quite some time.

*It was purchased close to its release date, but not read until a few days ago.

*The story was absolutely wonderful.  After gathering up some courage to approach this well-known author, I emailed Barbara to share my love of the story and ask if she would be willing to be a part of my "Inside Look" interview feature.  Within minutes she replied with a YES!

*I sent the questions along to her and told her not to worry about getting the answers back to me as there was no hurry.

*Within the same afternoon, she sent back the answers to me.  What a wonderful person/author.  I'm always amazed at the generosity of authors.

*Here are the responses she shared with me and I'm thrilled to share them with you...

Wish by Barbara O'Connor (Released August 30, 2016)

How did you come to know Charlie?
I was teaching a biography writing workshop to fifth graders. I gave them a set of interview questions which they used to interview a parent or grandparent. I would then help them write a short biography of that person. 

When the students brought their completed interviews back, I asked them each to share with the class their favorite question. One young boy had interviewed his grandmother. He shared the question, “What were some of your favorite activities as a child?” His grandmother had answered, “Ballet, soccer, and fighting.”

Well, bingo! There was hot-tempered Charlie.  

What do you think is Charlie's most admirable quality?
I like that Charlie is able to see the good qualities in others and strives to emulate those qualities – or at least aspire to do so.

Is there anything you wish Charlie would have changed or done differently in her story?
Well, I wouldn’t really want her to change since that would change the story, but if this were real life, I would wish she had been able to appreciate Gus and Bertha, the Odoms and the town of Colby a little quicker.

What do you think Charlie can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what she went through?
I would hope that children might be able to see all those things that Charlie was blind to and realize how to appreciate the goodness in other people. But also, I’d like to think that children from troubled families can see that there is hope and the ability to rise out of that. Of course, the value of being a good friend would be a nice take-away, too. 

How did you research Charlie and the circumstances she found herself in?
Like most writers of realistic fiction, the bulk of my research is just the sheer act of living – paying attention to one’s surroundings, listening, observing, etc. I think just being a human being is research enough in some circumstances. In other words, you don’t necessarily have to come from the same troubled situation as Charlie in order to empathize with her. Lastly, as author Joan Bauer once said, “The great thing about having a dysfunctional childhood is that it never stops giving.”

Do you and Charlie share any similarities?
Not many character traits except maybe guilt. Charlie’s guilty conscience was pretty prevalent and I’m the Mother of Guilty Consciences. LOL

Thankfully, I don’t have her bad temper – but I definitely have her love of dogs. 

What was the hardest scene to write about Charlie?
The hardest scene was when Charlie is in her bedroom after having searched and searched for runaway Wishbone. I love dogs so much and it would break my heart to have one lost.

Who do you think was Charlie's biggest supporter and why?
It’s a toss-up between Gus and Bertha. They were so accepting of her, even knowing her “bad” traits (like her fiery temper, which got her into trouble on more than one occasion). They were willing to move slowly and not push themselves on to her – to let her reach out to them at her own pace.

Why do you think humans and dogs have such a special connection?
Because everyone – both human and dog - wants to be loved. And as Bertha pointed out in WISH, dogs love you no matter what. 

What do you think Charlie is doing at the present time?
I think she and Howard are playing with Wishbone down by the creek or maybe playing Monopoly in the back of Dwight’s pickup truck or maybe teaching Cotton Vacation Bible School songs or maybe picking squash in Gus’s garden……so much to do there in Colby, NC. 

Music Monday #8 (Thriller by Michael Jackson)

"Thriller" by Michael Jackson

*We are going "old school" this week and celebrating the music of MJ and Halloween.

*As a school and district we don't celebrate Halloween like we did back in the day.  I still like to do as much as I can to make it a fun and different kind of day for my students.  This is always a fun song/video to use at the end of October.  This year Halloween actually falls on our Music Monday.

*Today is our eighth Monday together and that means it is time for another musical selection.

*I truly believe Mondays are my favorite day for our writer's notebooks.  

*Each Monday I present a piece of music to my fourth graders.  I usually present this song via a video so they are hearing and seeing the music.  

*After I share the video, we discuss the song/video for a few minutes as a class.  It is always a joy to hear what my young listeners have to say about the song.  

*They then get busy writing in their notebooks.  We start off at the beginning of the year writing for about five minutes.  This will gradually increase as the year progresses.  

*Here are some ideas I give the writers to think about during their writing time...

*Their opinions of the song.
*Their likes and dislikes of the song.
*What the song reminds them of.
*Any connections they may have to the music.
*What they think the message in the piece may be.
*What listeners can learn from the song.
*A fictional story about the music/video.

*These are just some ideas I give to the writers.  They are really free to write anything they would like as long as it connects to the song.

*After our silent reading, we spend a few more minutes sharing out what we wrote.  

*I keep a collection of the videos on our Schoology Site so that my students can always go back and rematch them anytime they wish.

Our Musical Monday Selections for 2016-2017 
Week #1 - "What I Am" by                                                 Click Here for Week #1 Music
Week #2 - "Clay" by Grace VanderWaal                                           Click Here for Week #2 Music
Week #3 - "One Voice" by Billy Gilman                                           Click Here for Week #3 Music
Week #4 - "I Don't Know My Name" by Grace VanderWaal           Click Here for Week #4 Music
Week #5 - "Proud" by Heather Small                                                 Click Here for Week #5 Music
Week #6 - "There's a Hero" by Billy Gilman                                     Click Here for Week #6 Music
Week #7 - "Can't Stop the Feeling" by Justin Timberlake                  Click Here for Week #7 Music

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (10/31/16)

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…

Liar, Liar by Gary Paulsen

*Middle-Grade Novel (4 STARS out of 5 Stars)

My Book Review

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week…    

Darling Days by IO Tillett Wright

*My Novel Published for Adults (Memoir)

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

*My Young-Adult Novel

First & Then by Emma Mills

*My Young-Adult Novel (Audio)

Wish by Barbar O'Connor

*My Middle-Grade Novel

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Wish by Barbara O'Conner

How I Heard About It:  Have I mentioned how much I love Twitter and my friends there?  I know, I know; all the time.  One of my favorite aspects is learning about new books that are going to be released into the world.  This was one such title that I learned about way before it hit the shelves on August 30, 2016.  With the beginning of the school year and many other book titles on my TBR list, I didn't get to this title until the last couple of days.  

What It Is About:  Wishes.  We all make them.  We all hope they come true.  Wishes.  They are powerful hopes.  They are powerful dreams.  Some wishes are more important than others.  Charlie has wishes.  Many of them.  But one wish stands at the top of her list more than others.  She has been displaced from her own home.  Her mother can't get out of bed.  Her father is in jail.  Her older sister is living with a friend during her senior year.  That leaves Charlie on her own.  She begins a new chapter in her life living in a small town with her Aunt Bertha and Uncle Gus.  Anger surrounds Charlie and can't seem to get a "grip" on it.  Luckily she is surrounded by people that want to help her.  Howard, a classmate, is one such person that wants to help Charlie.  He teaches her "Pineapple, Pineapple, Pineapple."  Bertha and Gus also want to help.  They provide a home that is nothing like the one she came from.  The biggest support and help comes from a mangy mutt that has been wandering the small town, but not letting anyone get too close.  That is until Charlie.  Both of their lives will be changed forever.  

What I Thought Of It:  As I stated on Twitter, I'm so happy that I read this incredible book and so sad that I waited so long to get to Charlie's story.  And what a journey it was.  I could tell from the first lines that I was hooked!   "I looked down at the paper on my desk.  The getting to know you paper.  At the top, Mrs. Willibey had written "Charlemange Reese."  I put a big X over Charlemagne and wrote "Charlie."  The writing was beautiful, perfect, and not a wasted word.  The character development of Charlie was exquisite, thoughtful, and heart-warming.  She was definitely a young girl I would love to have in my own class.  The people that surrounded Charlie were just as important to the plot as she was herself.  Howard was one of a kind and I won't soon forget him.  The friendship he forged with Charlie made me smile on several occasions.  This title will be "book talked", shared, and read in my fourth grade classroom.  

Who Should Read It:  Well, this is an easy one to answer.  Everyone!  Readers in grades three, four, five, and six will find it an entertaining read.  Middle-school readers will enjoy the relationships between characters.  Adult readers that read middle-grade books will know they have found a gem of a book.  Be sure to get a copy of the novel, read it, and add it to your collection of must-have books.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  5+ STARS out of 5 Stars

Friday, October 28, 2016

Friend Friday #163 (Bad Island by Doug TenNapel)

Hi!  I'm Reece and I read the book called Bad Island written by Doug TenNapel

I thought this book was GREAT because they get lost and that was a cool part. 

My favorite part in the story was when they go for a walk because they find a big rock that is actually a monster. 

The character that I liked best was Reese because that is almost like my name. 

I think the author wrote this book because he wanted to show that there can be bad islands out there. 

I would recommend this book to my friends because it is really good so they should read it. 

Reading to me is okay because sometimes I like to read to myself and sometimes I like when people read to me.  

*Reece is such a fun reader to work with.
*He takes his time with every book he reads.  I've never seen a reader take in all the elements of a story like he does.  

*Reece always has such a wide range of books.  He currently is enjoying graphic novels, but has also enjoyed a variety of other books.   

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Life Lesson #7 (Be Life Changing)

"Be Life Changing"

*This is the seventh Thursday of our school year together and that means it is "Life Lesson" Thursday.

*I recently saw this video clip via social media.  It was either on FaceBook and/or Twitter.  I was captivated by the "kindness" of these boys and wanted to share this story with my writers.

*I want my students to have "life changing" moments when they impact others in such profound ways that can change both of their lives.  This is the video that shows how that can be done.  

*Each Thursday I share a short video clip with my writers.  The clip has some type of "lesson" I want to share and teach my fourth graders.  

*I set aside time during each day for us to work in our writer's notebooks. 

*We talk about what types of writing we can do in the notebook.  Here are some of the possibilities...

-What we notice in the video
-What we wonder about
-Connections we have to the video
-Thoughts, feeling, emotions about the video clip
-Reminders we have from the lesson/message
-Create a fiction story about the video

*Once the video is shared with the writers, we spend a few minutes "talking" about what we observed.

*My writers set up their HEADING in the notebook and we get busy writing.

*During the start-up of the year, I have my students write for about five minutes.  We slowly build our stamina for writing and slowly add time to the writing block. 

*At the end of the individual writing time, we call on a few volunteers to share their actual writing and/or further thoughts about the video we watched and wrote about.

*If there is time, I sometimes share the video clip with my class at the end of the writer's notebook time.  

Life Lessons for 2016-2017…          

Week #1 - Be Brains -                                                                  Click Here for Week #1 Lesson
Week #2 - Be Kind to Others -                                                     Click Here for Week #2 Lesson
Week #3 - Be Safe -                                                                      Click Here for Week #3 Lesson
Week #4 - Be Responsible -                                                          Click Here for Week #4 Lesson
Week #5 - Be a Friend -                                                                Click Here for Week #5 Lesson
Week #6 - Be Courageous -                                                          Click Here for Week #6 Lesson

Trailer Thursday #163 (Squish #7: Deadly Disease of Doom)

Squish #7:  Deadly Disease of Doom by 
Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
(Student Created Trailer by Alex)

*Alex is my graphic novel reader.  He loves them and always has one in his hands.

*Since the start of the year, Alex has been making his way through many of the different series I have in my classroom library.  

*One of the things I'm focusing on and teaching my students is the creation of iTrailers.

*We are collecting all the trailers we make and putting them into our Schoology Site.

*Each student will have their own album where they can keep all of their trailers.  Then the other readers will be able to browse those trailers and find a new book to read.   

*As the year progresses we will learn what should be included, and not included, in the trailer to make them the best they can be.   

Here are some other trailers we found about this particular book/author...

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Picture Wednesday #8 (Stand-Up/Unity Day)

"Stand-Up/Unity Day"

*This is the eighth Wednesday of our year together and that means it is "Picture Wednesday".

*Last week we celebrated "Unity Day" at our school.  We have been working on anti-bullying strategies since the start up of the school year.  The entire school wore orange to show our "unity".

*I wanted to take some time and have my writers do some reflection and writing about this most important topic in our school and in our world.   

*I set aside time during each day for us to work in our writer's notebooks. 

*Each Wednesday I feature a photograph, image, or graphic.  My goal is to have my writers do some thinking, reflecting, and writing about the image.

*We talk about what types of writing we can do in the notebook.  Here are some of the possibilities...

-What we notice in the image
-What we wonder about
-Connections we have to the picture
-Thoughts, feeling, emotions about the visual
-Reminders we have from the image
-Create a fiction story about the picture

*Once the image is revealed to the writers, we spend a few minutes "talking" about what we see.

*My writers set up their HEADING in the notebook and we get busy writing.

*During the start-up of the year, I have my students write for about five minutes.  We slowly build our stamina for writers and slowly add time to our writing block. 

*At the end of the individual writing time, we call on a few volunteers to share their actual writing and/or further thoughts about the visual in front of us.

Our Images from 2016-2017...  
Week #1 - Back to School -                                                                  Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #2 - Be Kind to Others -                                                             Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #3 - Be Safe -                                                                              Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #4 - Be Responsible -                                                                  Click Here to see IMAGE
Week #5 - Animal Friendship -                                                             Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #6 - A Helping Hand -                                                                Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #7 - A Running Jump -                                                               Click Here to See IMAGE

Wonder Wednesday #163 (Bookstore Author Visit)

Wonder Wednesday - A Visit with Abby Cooper

*I'm so lucky to have connected with such incredible authors over the past few years.  It is even more WONDERful when that author is local and we can "interact" in person.

*I met Abby this past July at #NerdCampMI.  It was such a privilege to meet her and talk about the new novel that was being released during the camp.

*After reading the novel, I knew I wanted to share it with my class.

*We are currently sharing this book as our read aloud and everyone is loving it.  I can't wait for Abby to visit us to talk about the story in person.

*She has been on "tour" the last few weeks visiting many of our Barnes and Noble bookstores in the area.  Both myself and some of my students went to the book signings and chatted with the author.  I love when my readers get as excited about getting their own personalized copy as I do.  We are building a reading community one reader at a time.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Liar, Liar by Gary Paulsen

How I Heard About It:  While browsing the shelves of the public library, I came across a whole bunch of Gary Paulsen books that I have never read before.  It has been fun to listen to these short middle-grade novels on the commute to and from work.  

What It Is About:  Kevin isn't proud of it, but knows he is a really good liar.  He actually thinks everyone lies all the time, but just won't admit it.  He looks at his lying as a gift and is going to use it to his fullest ability.  When he wants to get the attention of a girl at school, he goes into operation "lie" to spend as much time as he can to figure out how to get the girl.  He creates lies to his teachers, his classmates, and even his family.  For a bit, everything goes according to plan, but after awhile the lies, stories, and myths catch up to Kevin and he has to decide whether he is going to continue the "stories" or come clean.  

What I Thought Of It:  This was another Paulsen novel that I quite enjoyed.  The narrator was awesome and I found myself smiling and laughing out loud on several occasions.  The plot line is very relatable to young people which made me enjoy it all the more.  There were a few sections of the story that I think were a bit mature for the elementary reader, but they also might just read right over it and not really "catch" on.  Several life lessons were presented during the telling of the story which I appreciated for what would be considered a "light" story.  I'm ready to move on to some other audio books, but I'm glad I have spent some time with this particular author.  

Who Should Read It:  Because it is a shorter book I thought it would be perfect for my fourth grade readers.  After reading it, I do have a couple concerns about some of the content and conversation used in a few parts of the book.  I'm not sure they would stop me from having in my classroom, but something to think about.  It might be perfect for the male reader in grades five, six, and even middle-school.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Treat Tuesday #163 (Happy Book Birthday)

Treat Tuesday:  M&M's Popcorn Balls

*I have not tried these yet, but we have a plan to give them a try in the near future.

*They sure do look delicious!

1/2 cup butter
4 cups marshmallow
8 cups popcorn (no butter), popped
1 package (12 ounce) M&M’S® Brand Milk Chocolate Candies Harvest Blend
1 cup white chocolate
1 cup dark chocolate
1 teaspoon orange food coloring

1. Place M&M’S® Brand Milk Chocolate Candies Harvest Blend in freezer for at least 15 minutes to firm before using.

2. Melt butter over medium heat. Add marshmallows. Stir constantly until marshmallows are melted. Remove from heat immediately.

3. Fill a large bowl with popcorn. Pour marshmallow mixture over popcorn and fold gently with a spatula.

4. Add M&M’S® Brand Milk Chocolate Candies Harvest Blend, continuing to fold to mix evenly.

5. Grease a cookie sheet or plastic cutting board. Apply a thin layer of oil or cooking spray to your hands and grab a small handful of the popcorn mixture. Gently form into a ball and place on the cookie sheet. Repeat for the rest of the mixture.

6. Place popcorn balls into the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes to set.

7. Melt dark chocolate. Spoon into a resealable plastic bag.

8. Melt white chocolate. Stir in food coloring evenly. Spoon into a resealable plastic bag.

9. Snip the corner of the dark chocolate bag to create a piping spout. Drizzle evenly over the popcorn balls to create desired pattern. Repeat with white chocolate.

10. Return to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to set chocolate.

11. ENJOY!

Treat Tuesday:  Middle-Grade Novel

Treat Tuesday:  Young-Adult Novel

Treat Tuesday:  Novel Published for Adults

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Nix by Nathan Hill

How I Heard About It:  This particular novel was written up quite a bit this past August and September.  The prerelease buzz was quite positive and the author is from right here in the Twin Cities.  I believe is a professor at one of our local colleges.  I wrote the title down and kept it on my radar.  When we started the school year and the next "season" of the BBC (Boy's Book Club), it was my turn to select a novel for the group of guys I teach and have a book club with.  I decided to give this new novel a chance.  

What It Is About:  Sam is a college professor and one days sees his mother on the news for throwing rocks at a political candidate in a park.  She has been arrested and facing charges.  Sam isn't sure how to handle this news because he hasn't seen his mother since he was a young boy and she walked out on him and his father and was never heard from again.  The story goes back and forth between Sam trying to decide what to do with this new information about this mother and his childhood with her.  It also covers the time period before Sam's mom marries his father and the life she lived after leaving her family.  There are quite a few supporting characters that add greatly to the story.  The plot also includes some historical events from our country's past.  

What I Thought Of It:  I can't believe this is the only novel published for adults that I have read this fall.  I'm spending so much time reading middle-grade and young-adult novels.  Plus this was a mega-read at over 600 pages.  It took me most of September and October to get through it.  There were sections that I just loved and couldn't stop reading and then there were others parts that I struggled with and found my doing the old "skim and scan".  The writing was unbelievable and Nathan Hill has quite a way with words.  The overall plot was intriguing and quite the story.  

Who Should Read It:  This novel isn't for the "casual" reader.  It is long, complex, and deep.  Readers that enjoy history and politics will find this a terrific read.  If you are looking for a novel published for adults that shares a unique storyline with interesting characters, then this is the book for you.  It is a commitment, but well worth it.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Masters of Disaster by Gary Paulsen

How I Heard About It:  Another audio book.  Another Gary Paulsen book.  Another middle-grade listen.  I've been on a roll.  It has been fun!

What It Is About:  Three boys trying to fit in.  Three boys trying to make a name for themselves.  At what lengths will they go to become "known".  One of the boys is the idea guy.  The second guy is the planner.  That leaves the third kid to actually pull off the stunt and/or adventure.  They make a list of things they will do, record them, and hope that their classmates, especially girls, will begin to notice them.  One crazy incident after another takes place, and at moments they aren't sure they will survive all this "craziness".  

What I Thought Of It:  I have been enjoying listening to a bunch of different middle-grade novels.  They are quick reads/listens and make my commute so much more enjoyable.  It seemed during this listen I would get phone calls and forget to stop the audio.  I wasn't engaged in this Paulsen story as some of the others I've recently listened to.  Overall it was a fun and good story.  I just didn't find the "depth" I normally like.  The younger audience will for sure find this a great read because of the adventure, silliness, and wacky things these three young boys set out to do.  

Who Should Read It:  As I think about this story, I already have some of my own readers in mind that will enjoy the book.  Boys may tend to be the perfect audience because of the characters and plot, but I don't want to limit it to just them.  Readers in grades four and five would be best for the book.  It is so great that Paulsen is able to write such different stories and I look forward to bringing in a variety of his novels into the room to expose them to my readers.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  3 STARS out of 5 Stars

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (10/24/16)

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 Scourge by Jennifer A. Nielsen

*Middle-Grade Novel (4 STARS out of 5 Stars)

My Book Review

The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech

*Middle-Grade Novel (3 STARS out of 5 Stars)

My Book Review

Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven

*Young-Adult Novel (5 STARS out of 5 Stars)

My Book Review

Road Trip by Gary and Jim Paulsen

*Middle-Grade Novel (4 STARS out of 5 Stars)

My Book Review

Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen

*Middle-Grade Novel (4 STARS out of 5 Stars)

My Book Review

The Nix by Nathn Hill

*Novel Published for Adults (4 STARS out of 5 Stars)

Review Coming Soon!

Masters of Disaster by Gary Paulsen

*Middle-Grade Novel (3 STARS out of 5 stars)

Review Coming Soon!

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week…    

Darling Days by IO Tillett Wright

*My Novel Published for Adults (Memoir)

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

*My Young-Adult Novel

Liar, Liar by Gary Paulsen

*My Middle-Grade Novel