I am in a rush to post this morning because I need to get upstairs to my office where I can hear my latest project thrashing around and getting into things: three feral kittens and their mama! I have solemnly sworn that I am not going to adopt any of these cats but rather tame them, socialize them, and find them nice homes, but I do have my eye on Panda, the little tuxedo who is full of vim and vigor, and it seems a shame to keep Panda without one of his siblings to keep him occupied, and if you keep Panda and Bjarke/Minka/Waffles/Blanket (my son can’t commit to a name for the medium-energy kitten but he’s tried out all four of those; I was rooting for Minka until he decided on Bjarke, a Danish name we heard last night on American Ninja Warrior), then why not Toast too? And this is why I shouldn’t foster ferals!
The latest read-aloud with my son, Darius & Twig is just the third Walter Dean Myers novel I’ve ever read. It’s a slim book that thoughtfully explores the ways two best friends plan to get out of their urban neighborhood: one through track, the other through writing. I liked the blend of action and interior monologue as well as the ambitious use of metaphor. My son liked it well enough that he chose another Myers novel, Slam, for our current read-aloud. Fingers crossed that he will continue to like Myers’s books, because there’s 85 or so of them that we could read together!
Make Lemonade was a failed read-aloud: we got through about half of it before he said he didn’t really understand it and wanted to read something different. But I finished it on my own. It’s my third time through, first time reading aloud, and I do think it’s a very strong read-aloud, my son’s confusion notwithstanding. A great book for middle- and high-school classrooms since it’s very short and students who listen to Book 1 may choose to go on to Books 2 and 3.
You’ve read this story about a bright-eyed new pet who isn’t accepted by the cranky old pet before. But that doesn’t make Frankie any less fun. A very limited vocabulary combines with extremely lively, expressive art for a story that has huge kid (and grown-up!) appeal.
Really lovely picture book about loneliness, friendship, and making beautiful things. One I’d like to own.
Still not a fan of rhyming picture books, but Tidy did work for me: it’s a very funny story of a badger who is compulsively, obsessively tidy. As he goes to greater and more extreme lengths to keep the forest tidy, he does discover that there is such a thing as too tidy. I’m thinking this would make a great read-aloud.
I am trying to catch up on a lot of professional development reading this summer. Thomas Newkirk’s School Essay Manifesto is really a long essay itself. This thought-provoking manifesto argues against the thesis-controlled essay and for writing to think and discover. The final chapter proposes several exploratory, reflective writing assignments in place of the predictable, banal writing that typically passes for school essays.
Ralph Fletcher’s Making Nonfiction from Scratch is a quick read that will offer both new and veteran teachers some helpful ideas for teaching nonfiction. He’s especially good at identifying some of the common problems with the way nonfiction is currently taught in many writing workshops (I’m certainly guilty of highlighting text features at the expense of reading pleasure and of limiting student choice through units of writing and genre studies.)
Shawna Coppola’s Renew! Become a Better–and More Authentic–Writing Teacher would be a great summer read for veteran workshop teachers looking to refresh and revise their approach. It’s a good blend of big picture thinking (why we do the things we do) and little picture thinking (what we might do differently tomorrow). I think I most enjoyed Coppola’s strong, engaging voice and her commitment to reflecting on her practice and making adjustments to what is obviously already good teaching.
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