Thursday, February 28, 2013

Scholastic Book Orders

Parents, you are welcome to place an order with Scholastic Book Clubs online. Click the banner below to visit the Book Club website. You can shop from a variety of book catalogs that feature titles for all ages, interests, and abilities. Add the books to your online shopping cart, pay, and then the books will be delivered to my classroom shortly. I will then deliver the books to your child so they can begin reading. 

Have fun shopping!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

News Websites for Kids

We've been learning about theme in our reading lessons during this unit, and this week we've been focusing on finding themes in nonfiction. Here are two great websites with nonfiction resources that I've used.

  • Dogo News - - This is a fun, kid-friendly website that includes news, movie information, and book reviews that are safe for kids.

  • The Mini Page - - This is a newspaper for children that was formerly printed in the newspaper but is now published online. Check out the fun articles and games available for kids!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The One and Only Ivan

In class right now we are reading aloud this year's Newbery Award winning book The One and Only Ivan. We're hooked! Here's a wall for you to post your thoughts about the book as we read along.

The book trailer for The One and Only Ivan:

Here's author Katherine Applegate answering questions about her book:

Monday, February 18, 2013

John Henry - Steel Driving Man Homework

This week's homework was about the story of John Henry. Read the passage and choose one of the questions below to answer. Post your answer by clicking on the comment button below.

  • If you were the author, how would you have ended this story?
  • What other character or person does John Henry remind you of and how are they similar?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Weekend Plans

Looks like I'll be busy this weekend! Along with grading student poetry anthologies, I've got these books waiting patiently for me. What books are waiting on your "to read" list?

Biography Project

We just finished a unit on nonfiction. In the past the kids enjoy nonfiction and do particularly well with expository nonfiction. Our goal this year was to become more familiar with narrative nonfiction because it is a genre they are less familiar with and one they will begin to see more often.

This year we decided to expose kids to more narrative nonfiction by reading biographies. Together we read stories such as Henry's Freedom Box, Marvelous Mattie, Minty, Wilma Unlimited, Sky Pioneer and Rosa.  (By the way, this is also a terrific unit for exposing the kids to famous African American and Women Heros!! The kids were amazed to hear about Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and other heroes from the past.) We focused the kids thinking by asking them questions:

  • Why do you think this person is important? 
  • What questions do you still have about this person? What would you ask them if you were able to talk to them in real life?
The kids chose a biography from our school or classroom library and began reading. After they finished reading, we had them complete a little project. We printed out the head of the person they chose. The student then drew the rest of the person and wrote what they learned. Here's a few examples of the finished product. They had fun.

Louis Armstrong - We printed out the person's head. Some of the pictures we used were colors, others black and white. The kids had a blast!

The students had to make a timeline of important events in that person's life. We asked them to include at least three big events other than the person's birth or death.

The kids also had to tell why the person they chose was important. What was their big contribution? The bottom text box was for the kids to write their questions for that person if they were able to talk to them. 

Another example - Walt Disney

Another example - Jane Goodall (post-it at top covering student's name)

After the projects were completed we put them on display in the classroom. The kids have enjoyed looking at them.

Anchor Charts

When I first began my teaching career it wasn't unusual to cover the walls of the room with many commercially made materials like posters or bulletin board sets. Times have changed! I make a lot of the posters that go up on the walls with the kids so that they are relevant to the the kids. Our principal says it leaves "tracks of our teaching." 

Here's two posters that I made during our last unit. One is for main idea and the other for cause and effect. Bear in mind that I'm no artist. I try to keep the illustrations simple and focus on the content that I want the kids to pay attention to. :)

One of my students pointed out that the Titanic was actually the RMS Titanic, not the SS Titanic like I drew! How's that for detail oriented thinking!

Sorry for the glare, but I do get them laminated because I move the posters around the room quite a bit. If they aren't laminated, they don't last as long!

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Puzzle of the Green Bear - Homework for week Feb 11

For homework this week we are reading an article about a polar bear with green fur. Think about what you read in the article. Add a comment to respond to this question:

  • What did you find interesting in the text?

You can also post a comment to respond to another reader's thinking. Your comment might sound like this:

  • "I agree with (student's name) because ... "
  • "I disagree with (student's name) because ... "
Here's a video to give you an idea of what the green polar bears look like in real life.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Kidblogs....Mossman Readers Rock!

Next week we will take some time in the computer lab to explore our own individual blogs that I've set up on We will use our blogs to share what we are reading, writing, and thinking about. I've made a few posts to get us started.

Go to and click on the title of a post you would like to read. You have to log in to see the post. To log in, type Hamilton and then your class number if you are in my class (Hamilton7, for example) or Tomci and then your number if you are in Mr. Tomci's class (Tomci2, for example). Enter the password we shared in class and then you are on your way!

Mossman Readers Rock!

Post a comment to let me know what you think!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Writing Unit 5 - Writing Poetry

We just finished up a quick unit on poetry in Writer's Workshop. To be honest, I am not the best at writing poetry. I totally understand how some kids who struggle with writing or confidence issues feel because I feel that way when asked to write poetry. My kids are used to workshop and have been exposed to poetry every year so it is not a big deal to them. But to me, poetry is the most challenging...probably because I wasn't exposed to it as a young writer (or reader for that matter!) and my brain gets stuck on the notion that poetry is somehow just so different from prose. So as a teacher this is the unit that I dread the most!

However, while my writing was not so great, the kids' writing during this unit turned out fantastic. Some of them are just natural born poets. Those who struggle with the rules and conventions of fiction or nonfiction find their voice as poets because we teach them that poetry doesn't always follow the rules. It's fun to see the child who usually struggles suddenly come alive as a writer when they understand that poetry truly is about the heart of the message and not so much about periods and commas or capital letters.

Our district bases the writing units off Georgia Heard's marvelous book Awakening the Heart. There are five "doors" that poets look through. I want the kids to see that these doors are remarkably similar to the places that writers look for inspiration when writing fiction or nonfiction also. Here's pictures of the "doors" in the writers' notebooks. We folded a page back to make a door. On the inside of the door kids brainstormed possible topics for poems. Then on the following blank pages they drafted poetry relating to that door. The icon on the front of the door matches very basic construction paper doors with pictures on them to remind the kids what each door represents.

The heart door - what is special or important to you? If you've done a heart map in your notebook before this is a great link. Many of the topics on the heart map will appear on this list also.

The observation door. Look close - but then look CLOSER. What do you see, hear, or notice? What can you notice about the classroom, or a pencil sharpener, or the backpack closet? You can observe anything. This is a good opportunity to include simile and metaphor as you really observe...or as I say...look close, but then look CLOSER.

The concerns about the world door. Don't you love my Earth drawing? Ha ha. This is the place where we think about the things that make you worry or that you feel are a problem in the world - pollution, saving animals, etc. - it all belongs behind this door. Some of these topics can be fairly serious. A lot of the kids included onomatopoeia in these poems, whether it was the sounds of machines chopping down trees in the rainforest or an angry person pounding their fist.
The wonder door. What questions do you have? What do you really wonder about? These can be serious topics - why don't I have a brother or sister - or not so serious topics - why can't we have pizza for dinner?
The memory door. Think back to a special moment. What sensory details do you remember about it? Why is it so special to you? This is a good door to also touch on imagery and sensory language since the kids will need to include those kinds of details when recalling a specific memory.

I'll see about posting student samples shortly. We have our writer's celebration for this unit on Thursday and the majority of the kids are pumped to share.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Get Ready for Robots! Homework for week February 4

For homework this week we are reading an article about the NAO robot. Think about what you read in the article. Add a comment to respond to this question:

  • What did you find interesting in the text?

You can also post a comment to respond to another reader's thinking. Your comment might sound like this:

  • "I agree with (student's name) because ... "
  • "I disagree with (student's name) because ... "

Edit: Here's a video showing the robot in action. After watching it do you still agree that the robot would be a good thing to have?