where all things literacy come full circle…

Archive for the month “February, 2012”



I am so glad that I was introduced to a wonderful novel titled Wonder by RJ Palacio. I have been an evangelist for this book since I heard about it. A book about a boy who has a facial deformity, never gone to school until his 5th grade year. What a wonderful summary!


I was so happy to have this book in my hands before I went to the Utah Valley University Engaged Reading conference. The first day, I was asking librarians and teachers from all over the state of Utah and from other parts of the country if they had heard of this book. All had said, No. I was shocked!  I was surprised!  I couldn’t believe that they hadn’t heard of this book. So, I did my best in selling this book to them. Many wrote down the title.

Donalyn, Me, and Wonder

The next day, I met my new friend Donalyn Miller. After her keynote, I went up and we chatted for a second. She asked me, “What books did the speakers talk about yesterday?”

I said, “Last years, but they didn’t mention any new books from 2012.”

She said, “Okay, that’s where I will start.”

I then said, “No one has heard of Wonder.”

She then said, “I will talk about Wonder, that book is going to win a ton of awards.”

When the cover of the book showed up on her screen, a few of the teachers whom I shared the book with previously looked at me and shook their heads and had a smile on their face. Donalyn then went on and expertly sold the book!

Stampede for Wonder

This past week, I bought another copy of the book for my classroom. I then showed the book trailer, which is awesome, to my class and shared the video of the author reading a chapter out loud. (Find these on youtube) I then held the book up and told the class that I LOVE this book. I told them it is probably one of my favorites of all time. I made a sign-up sheet and placed it on the whiteboard. I asked the class who would want to read this book? All hands shot up instantly! I told the class that they can sign up after lunch. There were a lot of moaning and groaning going on. Before the lunch recess bell rang, I had a line at my door. Once I let them in, there was a literal stampede at the sign-up sheet. One parent couldn’t understand what the kids were doing at the whiteboard. I told her that it was for a book. She couldn’t believe it. I had 17 names on the sign-up sheet (out of 27 kids).

The first name to get the book was a girl and by Friday she was past page 200. She got the book on Wednesday. RJ Palacio mentioned me on her Tumblr, thanking me (among many others) for being such an advocate for her book. You, Ms. Palacio, wrote an awesome book that I LOVE, thank you (and my students thank you) for doing this!



First Ever Skype Visit

I was able to set up my first ever SKYPE visit with author Lindsey Leavitt. Lindsey is the author of the Princess for Hire series, with the first book called Princess for Hire. My class and I were extremely excited for this opportunity. I told my principal, staff developer, and librarian about this visit and they were eager to come in and visit and see what Skyping was all about.



Pitfalls to Avoid

Please search former teacher and author Kate Messner’s blog about how to set up a Skype visit. I did this but made a few mistakes. The day before, I brought my laptop to school and tested the Skype software to make sure it would work. Make sure that your district’s server will support the Skype software. I also did a test call to make sure my speakers worked as well.

What I didn’t do was make sure the attachment converter worked. For Macs, this is a small cord that attaches to your computer and then attaches to the plug of the projector. When I came to school to see if this attachment worked, I was shocked to find out that it didn’t. I scrambled to figure out what to do. I also have a MacBook Air, which makes things a little more complicated then usual.

I ran down to the Kindergarten classroom, and asked the teacher if I could use her Mac laptop. She asked for how long, and I said, just for a half an hour. She said yes. I was extremely grateful that she allowed me to borrow her computer. I took it to my classroom, and had to download Skype to it. The newest version wouldn’t work, but Skype did have a past version still available to download. This did work.

The Visit

Once I had to all set up, we were ready for our virtual visit. A couple of minutes after our set time, the phone started to ring. My students, visitors, and I were on the edge of our seats! When I accepted the call, Lindsey came onto the big screen and started to talk about her writing process. She showed the class her notebooks where she keeps her ideas, and the various copies of her manuscript as they went through the editing and revision process. We even got to see her writing room! She then asked for questions.


Once my first student asked her question, our connection disconnected. This happens all the time with Skype. You need to be patient, and often wait for a few minutes. We did both.


She did come back. I had a few students wait in line to ask their question. As they asked their question they looked into the camera. They asked the question and the author would answer that question to the whole class. Make sure that you have students write thoughtful questions before the visit on index cards. I also made a sheet for each student to write five things they learned about writing and two things they could immediately apply to their writing. This made the visit extra meaningful as well.

Lindsey was awesome and the kids loved the experience. We learned a lot from her and I hope that we will be able to do it again (maybe next year). 


The Mighty One…


The year 2012 has started out great for children’s literature! I just finished reading Christopher Paul Curtis’ latest and (may I say) greatest book The Mighty Miss Malone. It was a great read and I was not expecting the twist at the end. There were several moments where I could not get Miss Deza out of my mind…I was constantly thinking about her.

This book is a great addition in historical fiction (and I think CPC does his best writing in this genre). It’s a great companion piece to the masterful Bud, Not Buddy. There are so many ways that a teacher (or even a homeschool teacher) could use this book teaching within the Great Depression Era. This book could be widely read by both boys and girls. A super great read aloud. Furthermore, a great read for students who love history and students who love a good adventure story!

I am a HUGE fan of his other books (especially The Watsons’ Go to Birmingham – 1963).

I am so indebted to my #nerdybookclub friends for recommending great books that I might not otherwise have picked up. Your recommendations so far have not failed.

The One and Only Ivan

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot

I am Ivan. I am a gorilla.

It’s not as easy as it looks.

This is how the story opens of Ivan, a silverback gorilla. One page, two lines, 14 words, and an awesome illustration of…Ivan.

This is a (true) story of a captive gorilla who lives (in a cage for over 27 years) at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Here we meet a wonderful cast of characters: Stella, an aging elephant with a cruel circus past; Bob, a mutt of a dog who sleeps on Ivan’s stomach; and little Ruby, a baby elephant who comes to live at the Mall. I fell in love with Ruby.
I don’t want to tell you much more because I want you to enjoy this book and fall in love with the characters as I did.

This book would be wonderful as a read a loud for grades 1 on up. When I taught first grade, I know my students would have loved this book. It’s also an excellent choice for reluctant readers and struggling readers. The spacing of words and sentences, varied sentence and chapter lengths, and wonderful word choice and voice makes this a great read for these students. Actually, all would benefit from knowing Ivan.

This book trailer is one of the best I have seen. The music, the images, the tone captivated my class. I used this trailer to book talk this book to my class. Children nowadays are so image driven that a good ol’ fashion book talk can suffice now and again, but when you have a trailer of this caliber, you had better use it.

My class of fifth graders were held captive once I hit play. After the trailer was over, I asked my class who would like to read this book? ALL hands shot up. I think I just sold this book to twenty-seven kids. 🙂

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