Fourth Grade Journey

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

An Inside Look #41 (Author INTERVIEW)

An Inside Look with Alan Gratz
(Author of Ban This Book)

*This was a new feature I added to the blog during the summer of 2016.  It was a shot in the dark that it would work, but much to my surprise; it took off and over first season I conducted 22 interviews with a variety of authors.  

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

*I ran a series of interviews for Season #TWO over the summer of 2017.  It was great to get back to these conversations, that I decided to run Season #THREE during the 2017/2018 school year.  

*Thank you to Alan Gratz for being the EIGHTH author of the third season.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first FORTY interviews…


*This was a favorite read of mine from this past summer.  I remember being at the pool and pretty much reading the entire thing in one afternoon.  I absolutely LOVED the story and couldn't wait to reach out to the author and find out more.

*I had interviewed Alan for The Refugee and I was hoping he would be willing to do a second one about this newest novel.  He was and I couldn't be more grateful.  

*Alan Gratz was kind, gracious, and giving with his answers to the questions.  It is an honor to post his responses with my "Inside Look" feature.   

*Here is a link to my review of Ban This Book

*Thank you Alan for writing this story for readers and taking the time to share your thoughts with us here on the blog...

Ban This Book
by Alan Gratz (Released August 29, 2017)

How did you come to know Amy Anne?
Amy Anne is based somewhat on my wife, who used books to escape from a chaotic home life when she was a girl. She's a little bit me too though, as I struggled for a time in school with expressing my own opinions about things. I was always more outgoing and talkative than Amy Anne ever is, but I was afraid to say what I believed or wanted, always deferring to other people's desires first. So Amy Anne has her roots in both of us.

What do you think is Amy Anne's most admirable quality?
Amy Anne has a strong sense of right and wrong. I think this is a trait that a lot of elementary and middle school kids share. They know when someone is getting a raw deal, or when someone is being shown favoritism. It's that innate sense of justice that leads Amy Anne to break out of her shell and become an activist. 

Is there anything you wish Amy Anne would have changed or done differently in her story?
Well, I wish Amy Anne would have spoken up the first time she had a chance to, at the first school board meeting, but then there wouldn't be much of a book to follow it! She wishes she had spoken up too, and that drives her to become more outspoken as the book progresses. 

What do you think Amy Anne can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what she went through?
I hope that other kids who see injustice in the world--be it book banning or something else--will see that they do have a voice, and that it does matter whether or not they use it. Kids don't have a lot of agency or authority in our society, and unfortunately they learn that people don't weigh their opinions as heavily as they do adults' opinions. I want to show them that when they work together, and they have a strong, consistent message, adults will have to take them seriously.

How did you research Amy Anne and the circumstances she found herself in?
For all the book banning info, I relied heavily on the American Library Association. They track book challenges across the United States, and in addition to publishing a yearly "top ten" they publish an occasional book highlighting all the book challenges and bans throughout time. (It's a big book.) That volume also contains action plans and resources for meeting and countering community book challenges. That book was my bible for Ban This Book!

Do you and Amy Anne share any similarities?
Well, we both love to read! Though I think Amy Anne makes a lot more time for reading than I do, so I respect her for that. She's also very good at making friends and bringing people together for a cause, and I think I'm pretty good at that too. And neither of us likes chaos. :-)

What was the hardest scene to write about Amy Anne?
Probably the quieter moments. As a person who's very comfortable being up in front of people and speaking, those parts of Amy Anne's story were easier for me. The harder ones were the emotional ones where she's alone.

Who do you think was Amy Anne's biggest supporter and why?
Amy Anne's biggest supporter in this book is her librarian, Mrs. Jones. She sees in Amy Anne a reader, an activist, and a future librarian--all things Mrs. Jones is herself!

Why do you think some people have such issues with certain books/stories for children by banning them and others want to expose their children to as much as possible to prepare them for the real world?
Our world is beautiful and wonderful, but it can also be scary and challenging. Some parents react to that by striving to prepare their children to face the frightening and sad parts, and a great, safe way to do that is through books. Kids can experience the difficult and confusing parts of the world on paper first, and develop opinions and responses to them before they have to run into them in the real world. Other parents respond by trying to shield their kids from the horrors of the world as long as possible. They discourage or outright prevent their kids from watching movies or reading books that will expose them to what's to come to preserve their innocence for as long as possible. I think that's at the heart of book banning--parents trying to protect children from the real world for as long as possible. I think that's misguided; I definitely fall into the former camp. But to each their own. Until, that is, they insist that everyone be forced to share their opinion and start removing books from the library...

What do you think Amy Anne is doing at the present time?
Reading From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler!

Music Monday #8 (Thriller by Michael Jackson)

"Thriller" by Michael Jackson 

*Music Monday is HERE and I'm excited to share a year's worth of musical selections with you.

*I know it is going to be a GREAT year of music, writing, thinking, and sharing.

*Each year I use this piece of music to celebrate Halloween.  We don't do much in our school as far as the holiday goes, but my writers ALWAYS enjoy this piece.   

*Today is our EIGHTH Monday together and that means it is time for our 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 the 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 Selections for 2017/2018... 

Week #1:  "What I Am" by                                                  Click Here for Week One MUSIC
Week #2:  "Hopeful" by Bars and Melody                                         Click Here for Week Two MUSIC
Week #3:  "Somebody" by Lemonade Mouth                                  Click Here for Week Three MUSIC
Week #4:  "Dream Big" by Ryan Shupe                                            Click Here for Week Four MUSIC
Week #5:  "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield                                 Click Here for Week Five MUSIC
Week #6:  "The World's Greatest" by R. Kelly                                    Click Here for Week Six MUSIC
Week #7:  "Candyman" by Zedd, Aloe Blacc                                   Click Here of Week Seven MUSIC

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (10/20/17)

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 Creativity Project
by Colby Sharp

*My Professional Resource Book (5+ STARS out of 5 Stars)

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

*My Young-Adult Novel

Greetings from Witness Protection by Jake Burt

*My Middle-Grade Novel

Christodora by Tim Murphy

*My Novel Published for Adults (Audio)

Friday, October 27, 2017

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.

*One of the biggest messages I try to share with my students is to make a positive impact on the world.

*This isn't always easy, but I work very hard to spread this theme/lesson/idea each and every day.  

*The video captures the hearts and imagination of each and every writer.

*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.  

2017/2018 Life Lessons...
Week #1:  Be a Reader                               This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #2:  Be Kind to Others                       This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #3:  Be Safe                                      This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #4:  Be Responsible                          This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #5:  Be Brains                                    This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #6:  Be a Friend                                 This Week's Life-Lesson

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wonder Wednesday #197 (Author Visit with Erin Soderberg)

Wonder Wednesday - Breakfast with Books

*Our first book club of the year was on Thursday, October 12th. 

*For the last several years I have invited Erin Soderberg to join our book club and discuss her book The Quirks:  Welcome to Normal.   

*This has been a fantastic book club pick because it is the perfect book for beginning fourth grade readers.  I also love it because it is the first book in a series of four.  Fourth grade readers LOVE the Quirks.  

*During our book club the readers enjoy some tasty breakfast treats that each reader brings to share with the club.  Once our plates are full of breakfast treats, we gathered in the reading area to begin our conversation with the author.

*We had the chance to share our comments about the book and what we thought about it.  The readers also got to ask questions of Erin and hear her responses live and in person.

*This has become one of my favorite days of the school year.  Erin is awesome with the fourth graders and this is the perfect way to kick off our "Breakfast with Books" book club year.  

*Here is a look into our time with Erin and all the fun we had...