Fourth Grade Journey

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

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Wonder Wednesday #317 (Top Five)

Wonder Wednesday (Moments of Distance Learning) 

 *During these difficult times of transition, changes, and isolation; I find myself looking for the "good" in the world.

*Even though I miss my fourth grade students tremendously, there are always positives and highlights to appreciate.  

*This week I would like to share my top-five moments that I have shared with my WONDERful young people that I have the honor of working with on a daily basis.

This past month we have spent our time reading, enjoying, and thinking about the books that author Elly Swartz wrote.  I'm excited for our next virtual book club which will be on Thursday, May 30th.  Elly will be joining us via Google Meet.  This brings me JOY.  

I don't normally do a "class novel", but during our time apart, I wanted the readers to have a text they could share in.  When our school closed, I sent home a copy of Holes to each person.  This week we started reading the story and sharing our comments online.  This is one of my all-time favorite middle-grade novels and I'm excited to be sharing the book with a new generation of readers.  

One of my favorite times of the day is our morning meeting.  The class gathers via Google Meet and enjoy that time together.  The highlight is "games" time.  Today I introduced a scavenger hunt to my students.  I would say an object and they would have to go find.  The last person back had to turn off their camera.  We all had smiles, laughs, and lots of giggles.  As soon as we finished, they asked to play another round.  I think we have a WINNER!   

Before we began "distance learning", we were enjoying an ARC of Quintessence by Jess Redman.  This was actually the first thing I thought about when I heard school was being cancelled.  I decided to film myself reading the chapters and sharing that reading with the kids via our Schoology site.  It has become one of their favorite activities they are completing each day.  I've gotten notes from families how they find their child in a comfy spot listening/watching me.  Warms my heart!   

I'm trying to maintain our classroom community through Padlet and Flipgrid.  Last week I shared some links of the Padlets we have completed and shared.  I've also introduced the fourth graders to FlipGrid.  Watching and listening to their short video clips has been such a joy.  They are getting better at their presentation skills, expression, and  creativity.  Love it! 

Monday, April 27, 2020

An Inside Look #137 (Author INTERVIEW)

An Inside Look with Kim Baker
(Author of The Water Bears)

*The first season of interviews ran from June of 2016 to March of 2017.  

*Season #two ran during the summer of 2017.  

*Season #three ran during the school year of 2017-2018.  

*The fourth season ran during the summer/fall of 2018.

*Season #five ran during the 2018/2019 school year. 

*During summer 2019, the sixth season ran.  

*The seventh season of interviews ran during the fall of 2019.  

*I'm excited to be back for season #EIGHT with brand new interviews/authors.  

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

*This is the Sixteenth interview in which I'm calling Season #EIGHT.  

*Thank you to Kim for being the One-Hundred Thirty-Sixth author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.

*Here is my review of the Novel...

The Water Bears

by Kim Baker

(April 21, 2020) 

How did you come to know Newt? 
I got to know Newt through the writing process. I’ve learned that I’m the type of writer that will start writing one story, and it will morph into something entirely different. I wish I was more efficient, and maybe some day I will be. So far each of my books has started with an entirely different plot but the main characters are static. I have to find their stories through the writing process. 

I knew from the first page that Newt would be Latinx, struggling with his identity, and from a working class family. As a kid I didn’t see a lot of kids that shared my circumstances so I try to help feel that gap now. I got to know Newt as I wrote. 

What do you think is Newt’s most admirable quality?
I really like the way that Newt sees the world. He loses his perspective a bit when he’s struggling, but with time and support he gains the ability to be open to the world and curious about the world around him again. I really wanted to draw a parallel with water bears/tardigrades. Kids are amazingly resilient. They struggle and hurt and get anxious just like adults, but with the right tools and relationships they can learn to adapt and thrive.

Is there anything you wish Newt would have changed or done differently in his story? 
Oh, gosh, at different points of the drafting process I had *very strong feelings* about some of Newt’s choices and actions that did not appear in the final version of The Water Bears. But that’s revision, and it’s so important for finding the best version of the story. I’m happy with Newt’s arc now. 

Writing is funny. There were times when Newt was being stubborn or frustrating. A character shouldn’t always be perfect and likable because it’s not realistic and it doesn’t make a very good story. If they’re like real life people, they make mistakes and bad choices. As the writer, you might be tempted to to make life easier for the character, but that doesn’t make a very good story. 

What do you think Newt can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what he went through?
I hope he can offer a little hope that they’re not alone. That’s the primary purpose of any story, but especially a story like The Water Bears. Sometime kids that go through intense experiences like Newt might feel like they are broken, or will always be on the outside looking in at those that have not had to go through the same experiences. It’s not true. 

How did you research Newt and the circumstances he found himself in? 
Research is one of my favorite parts of the writing process! For The Water Bears, I got to research a lot of my own special interests and piece them together like a jigsaw. 

On the heavier side, I don’t know what a bear attack is like, but I have survived trauma. I worked at a children’s crisis center for years, so I’ve got a good sense of the ways that kids deal with trauma, along with the tools that can help them through it. 

On the lighter side, I researched keeping goats, tardigrades, marine biology, food foraging, soap making, cryptozoology, and abandoned vacation destinations. My curiosity took me in a lot of directions. I tell kids I get to meet at school visits that the most important thing you need to be a writer is curiosity. That’s it. Everything else you can figure out. And one of the coolest things about being a writer is you can research what interests you, and people will usually try to help. It’s like a magic writer license. :) 

Do you and Newt share any similarities?
We are both Latinx. I grew up working class too. We are both animal lovers and adore our large, wild families. I like to explore the beach. Murphy Island has a flock of formerly captive parrots that were inspired by escaped parrots in Los Angeles that would raid our persimmon tree and wake me up. I spent a good part of my middle school and teen years in artsy communities in New Mexico. Murphy Island is partly a mash up of New Mexico and the Pacific Northwest, where I live now. This was a pretty personal story close to my heart, so we probably have more commonalities than I even know.

What was the hardest scene to write about Newt? 
It always made me cringe when Newt struggled to cope with stress. it’s hard to write scenes where our character’s are hurting. You care about them and as the writer, it can make you feel a bit guilty. But on the flip side, it’s great to watch them triumph too. The great Richard Peck said, ""A children's novel ends not with happily ever after, but at a new beginning, with the sense of a lot of life left to be lived.” Isn’t that great? Without giving anything away,  I think the hardest scene might be a turning point at the end, when we see him thrive and know that everything is going to be all right. I wanted to get it right and give Newt and his friends what they deserved after everything they’d been through. 

Who do you think was Newt’s biggest supporter and why? 
That’s a great question! I think he had more support than he knew. One of the themes of the book is community and found family. Just about everyone in the story wishes him well and wants to see him survive and thrive, but for a while he’s hurting too much to see it. Part of growing up is recognizing that others also have problems. Newt needs to look outward to find all the love and support he has from the imperfect people around him. We recognize each others’ fragility and it bonds us. 

Why do you think young people, like Newt, are sometimes more resilient than adults, and are able to recover from “trauma” and able move forward? 
I think it’s more that we hope they can be resilient, and we don’t always see the long term effects. Their brains are still developing so trauma can have a greater effect. We understand more about child development now, so there are more resources and tools to help them navigate crisis. With support, grown ups and kids alike have the potential to overcome so much. One of the most important aspects is consistent, positive relationships. When children don’t have that at home, they need it from adults at school and the community. Resilient kids are made,

What do you think Newt is doing as the present time?  
If Covid-19 has reached Murphy Island, I hope he’s sheltering in place with his family and animals. But we get to make a better world in fiction, so I think he’s enjoying a peaceful, fun day exploring the world with his friends.

*Here are links to the One Hundred Thirty-Four interviews...

SEASON #ONE (2016-2017)

SEASON #FOUR (Summer 2018)

SEASON #FIVE (2018/2019)

SEASON #SIX (Summer 2019)

SEASON #SEVEN (Fall 2019)

SEASON #EIGHT (Winter/Spring 2020)

Interview #121 with Melissa Savage (Author of Nessie Quest)

Interview #122 with Tamara Bundy (Author of Pixie Pushes On)

Interview #123 with Lindsay Lackey (Author of All the Impossible Things)

Interview #124 with Tae Keller (Author of When You Trap a Tiger)

Interview #125 with Jamie Sumner (Author of Roll With It)

Interview #126 with Hena Khan (Author of More to the Story)

Interview #127 with Phil Bildner (Author of A High-Five for Glenn Burke)

Interview #128 with Leslie Connor (Author of A Home for Goddesses and Dogs)

Interview#129 with Gillian McDunn (Author of Queen Bee and Me)

Interview #130 with Jody J. Little (Author of Worse Than Weird)

Interview #131 with Jenn Bishop (Author of Things You Can't Say)

Interview #132 with Kaela Noel (Author of Coo)

Interview #133 with Rebecca Stead (Author of The List of Things That Will Not Change)

Interview #134 with Gae Polisner (Author of Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me)

Interview #135 with Emily Blejwas (Author of Like Nothing Amazing Ever Happened)  

Interview #136 with Joy McCullough (Author of A Field Guide to Getting Lost) 

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Thanks to Jen and Kellee for hosting this idea on their site.  Here is a link to the site...

Books I Read this Past Week...

Ways to Make Sunshine by Renee Watson

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

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

Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker

*My Narrative Nonfiction Book

Letters from Cuba by Ruth Behar

*My Middle-Grade Novel

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Wonder Wednesday #316 (Community Builders)

Wonder Wednesday - Connections from a Distance

 *We are well into our way with distance learning and overall I believe the new world of distance learning is going well.

*My main goal is to stay connected with my learners and keep the fourth graders connected with each other.

*I received the idea of "Padlets" from my friend Jess Lifshitz. 

*I've used some of her ideas, tweeked a few, and added some of my own. 

*We have been enjoying posting our ideas, thoughts, creations, and pictures on the daily Padlet. 

*Here are the first twelve days of our community builders...

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Scritch Scratch by Lindsay Currie

How I Heard About It:
*This middle-grade story came to me via #bookexpedition.  This is my Twitter reading group that shares Arc's to spread the book love.  I had heard a lot about the novel so I was excited to read.

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *Claire is less than happy when she has to help her father on his job.

2.  *She is even more unhappy when the job lands her on a "ghost tour" bus through downtown Chicago.  

3.  *While on the tour, Claire thinks she is the last person on the bus during one of the stops, but soon realizes she is not.  This is her first "encounter" with the ghost.  

4.  *At first she thinks she may be imagining things, but then the ghost shows up at Claire's home.  

5.  *With the help of her family, and friends, Claire begins a search for the ghost boy to find out what he wants and why he is "haunting" her. 

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *This was a great middle-grade story that grabbed my attention at the get-go and held on to the very end.  

2.  *I'm not always a fan of "scary" stories, but this was enjoyable, mysterious, and interesting.  

3.  *Even though there were some middle-grade scary scenes, I found myself reading late into the night.  I just hoped I wouldn't hear any "scritch scratching" behind my own doors.  

4.  *The plot "lines" work perfectly and I enjoyed how Lindsay wove connections between Claire's story and the ghost from the past.  

5.  *The author wrote a fantastic story blending wonderful characters with lots of mystery, suspense, and intrigue. 

Who Should Read It:

*This will be the perfect book for young readers in the fall of 2020; especially around Halloween time.  I think the novel would be so fun to read to a class and experience the "scary" together.  Individual readers in grades three through six would be ideal.  Of course middle-school kids would also get a "fright" out of Claire's adventure.  Happy Reading! 

Rating:   4 STARS out of 5 Stars