Thursday, April 19, 2012

RI Mock Newbery 2013 - May Reads

(I will be adding to this post as I make it through the list ... favorites at the top)

The One and Only IvanThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. I loved it. Not sure if kids will appreciate its somber tone, but I sure did. Killer comments close out many of the tiny chapters: "Old age is a powerful disguise." ... "I always tell the truth although I sometimes confuse the facts."

Actually, now that I think about it, it's almost like a novel in verse, even though it's written as prose. Applegate's writing is a hell of a lot more poetic than so many of those "verse" novels out there that just seem to have returns sprinkled randomly through sentences.

And it's based on a true story.

WonderWonder by R.J. Palacio
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I completely second Brandi Rae's review, and rather than trying to paraphrase, she said I could just use it for mine:

"For the most part I really enjoyed this. Auggie was born with many extreme facial deformities. After extensive surgeries, he is starting 5th grade; attending a public school for the first time. This was thoughtful, funny, touching ... the rotating points of view were varied enough that upper elementary would like it as well as lower middle school (good 5-7 book). There were some flaws (I did find the ending ridiculous). But overall, a good book ...."

The Amazing Adventures of John Smith, Jr. AKA HoudiniThe Amazing Adventures of John Smith, Jr. AKA Houdini by Peter Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A gritty-ish local setting and an engaging style made this book appealing; I felt like the characters rang true (well, except for Angel at the end). However, there was a lot of randomness, and then the book just ended.

Also, are super-short "chapters" the new trend in children's lit?

The Mighty Miss MaloneThe Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A classic Curtis novel. Which is to say that it includes a certain kind of family dynamics and certain quirks in the narrator. Set during the Depression, which seems to be a popular choice for authors lately. Liked it but didn't love it, although I did enjoy the Manipula Mobile explanation and the line "Hoping is such hard work."

Here Come the Girl Scouts!: The Amazing All-True Story of  Juliette 'Daisy' Gordon Low and Her Great AdventureHere Come the Girl Scouts!: The Amazing All-True Story of Juliette 'Daisy' Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure by Shana Corey
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Fantastic illustrations, but the text was just ok. I thought the extra information at the back of the book was more interesting than what was included.

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny—Detectives Extraordinaire!Mr. and Mrs. Bunny—Detectives Extraordinaire! by Polly HorvathMy rating: 1 of 5 stars

I ended up skimming most of this, because after several chapters I felt like Horvath was trying hard to be whimsical, but really the story was just kind of dull. I did enjoy the "Guess that lump!" game, and The Marmot was entertaining. But the overall plot didn't quite make sense, I don't know why Mrs. Treaclebunny kept showing up, and what was with the Google and Glade Plug-in mentions? Were they corporate sponsors?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Universal Design and Creativity

At the School Librarians of Rhode Island conference last month, I attended a session on Universal Design for Learning (UDL). The speaker, Lori Cooney, described UDL as a way to make lessons "usable to all students without the need for accommodations for disabilities and learning styles." But really, you're building in the accommodations up front by giving an array of assessment choices that play up different strengths.

Since this was my first year in a school library, and I'm there less than a day and a half (and still working 32 hours a week at my office job), I think the fact that I came up with measurable lessons at all was an accomplishment!
80-word Wordle for this blog

But perhaps my professional goal next year will be offering more options for the kids to demonstrate their knowledge v. one assignment for everyone. It will take longer to plan and longer to evaluate, so I may just pick one class to start with.

One limitation, however, is that we only have four computers in the library for an average of 26 kids in each class, which makes using online tools like Voicethread or Wordle slightly impractical. That's why I had my fifth-graders create paper slide videos for presenting their research.

But I still plan to learn more about tools that Cooney introduced in her presentation, such as Quizlet for creating flashcards. I guess I will need to be creative with what we have to work with in our 30 minutes of instruction.

And speaking of creativity ... if you haven't seen it yet, I recommend Ken Robinson's "Do Schools Kill Creativity" Ted talk.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


I used Paul Zelinsky's Rapunzel in a Grade 4 unit on summarizing, and told the kids that I first encountered the book via an episode of Reading Rainbow. They looked at me blankly. I tried to give more information about the show, hoping to elicit some recognition. At my mention of LeVar Burton, I received the response, "Oh, yeah, I just saw him on an episode of 'The Big Bang Theory.'" I had a sad.

But now I have a happy ... a new app,, will be bringing Reading Rainbow back!

In the meantime, I give you Jimmy Fallon's Jim Morrison singing the theme song.
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