Monday October 17th, 2016

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Each week I share a reading photo of the week. This is a peek into my room first thing in the morning. What are my students doing as they wait for the day to begin? Reading. Always reading. Makes me beyond happy.

Monday October 17th, 2016

We have continued to explore themes for our #classroombookaday titles. What theme do you see in these titles?

Monday October 17th, 2016

Here it is pretty obvious – biographies of interesting men – thinkers, artists, problem solvers and heroes. Of course, biographies featuring women will be on the horizon.

Monday October 17th, 2016

I didn’t post last week even though I was reading – I have a pretty beautiful excuse: a road trip into the B.C. mountains:

Monday October 17th, 2016

We celebrated my children’s 14th birthday with a weekend of hiking, train rides, rock hunting and family.

Monday October 17th, 2016

My sister and I on the banks of the Fraser River in Lillooet, BC. We lived here for about a year when we were children.

Monday October 17th, 2016

We got to hike in places like this – pretty spectacular scenery. Ah, the colours of fall!

Monday October 17th, 2016 Monday October 17th, 2016

Monday October 17th, 2016

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. It’s the best way to discover what to read next.


Books I enjoyed:

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles written by Michelle Cuevas and illustrated by Erin E. Stead

So very, very beautiful even though it is like this book is brewed in loneliness and solitude. There is sadness and hope. Quiet. Space. Mysteries.


Hotel Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins

Bruce just might be my favourite grump.


We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen

Like many, I eagerly anticipated this title. Klassen is so unique. I love the subtle things here. The hints. The suggestions. The not neatly wrapped up ending. The room for readers to do some work.

We Found a Hat

 I Will Not Eat You written by Adam Lehrhaupt and illustrated by Scott Magoon

Charming and sweet while still full of whimsy and fun.


Giant Squid written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann

Such a book. I love the images, the rhythm of the text and the mystery of the still not known that is conveyed.


Dog Man by Dav Pilkey

Oh, the kid appeal! I chuckled through this and did a lot of head shaking. There is one scene that involves a pile of dog poop that I know I never would have thought of – thankfully! But I am sure this will become a favourite page for some of my readers. This book is flying through my room. Kids LOVE the step by step drawing pages in the back.


Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: The Sea Pony by Ellen Potter and illustrated by Qin Leng

I adore Piper. She is one plucky kid whose energy makes her leap right off the page. Love that this series seems to stretch its appeal right into grade 4.


Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

The fantasy and magical realism in this title didn’t really shine for me. I have loved Raina’s expertise in wading around in the everyday real of young characters. This story had me too distracted. I have also read the questions and concerns surrounding this title and its depiction of the Day of the Dead celebrations at the missions.


The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

How a story about a robot can be so tender, I don’t know. Heavily illustrated which makes it wonderfully rich.


Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

I suppose that yes, we can call this a sad book. A teacher who is ill. Students who adore and miss her. But this is mostly a human book full of connection, compassion and everyday adventure and humour.


Reading Progress updates:

2016 Chapter Book Challenge: 46/75 complete

Goodreads Challenge: 278/400 books read

#MustReadin2016: 22/30 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 37/100 titles

Diverse Books in 2016: 32/50 books read

Up next? I am reading Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Monday October 3rd, 2016

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Teaching in a new to me school has kept me very busy. I didn’t get to post last week so am sharing reading highlights from the past 2 weeks.

Each week I share a reading photo of the week. My students have fallen deep into the land of graphic novels. Ben Hatke‘s Little Robot is a favourite.

Monday October 3rd, 2016

This student is showing me that 2017 is not “coming soon” in terms of the next Hilo instalment. When you are an impatient fan, time moves too slowly.

Monday October 3rd, 2016We have continued to love exploring theme for our #classroombookaday titles. What theme is explored with these titles?

Monday October 3rd, 2016

And these?

Monday October 3rd, 2016

Student voice is beginning to inform our reading community. Some of the wisdom posted up through Reader’s Statements.

Monday October 3rd, 2016

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. It’s the best way to discover what to read next.


Books I enjoyed:

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

Brilliant. So rich with possibilities to share and talk about perspective, self and the world.


Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear by Mônica Carnesi

This book is just plain adorable. What do you do if your very good friend Bear hibernates and sleeps away winter?


Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson and illustrated by David Shannon

The story of the Peacemaker and his message of peace and unity for the five warring Iroquois nations during the 14th century. An important lesson about democracy.


I loved both of these Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! titles.

We are Growing! by Laurie Keller

A humorous account of grass growing.


The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat

Amusing. Full of cookie crumbs and math learning.


Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton

A perfect beginning graphic series: funny, amusing and wonderfully quirky.

 Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea

A Year Without Mom by Dasha Tolstikova

What a gorgeous graphic memoir. A year in the life of the author when her mother leaves her in Russia with her Grandparents to travel to America for a year. Visually stunning.


The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner

Oh, this book.Who would think that ice fishing, Irish dancing, magical elements and heroin addiction could be combined to create a story that is impossible both to put down and then to keep from immediately passing on. I have much gratitude to Kate Messner for writing this book.


Rescued by Elliot Schrefer

A hard book to read. There is so much injustice here for Raja, an orangutan brought to the states to be a pet/brother for a young boy. As time passes, it becomes even more wrong. Is there a way to make things right?


Reading Progress updates:

2016 Chapter Book Challenge: 43/75 complete

Goodreads Challenge: 262/400 books read

#MustReadin2016: 21/30 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 32/100 titles

Diverse Books in 2016: 31/50 books read

Up next? I am reading It Ain’t So Awful Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas

Monday September 19th, 2016

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Each week I share a reading photo of the week. Here is the first reading photo of students in my new room! This group loves to read and they literally perch all around the room and get lost in their books.

Monday September 19th, 2016 IMWAYR

For our first #classroombookaday titles, I chose a theme around self. Students described this theme in a variety of ways: “Be who you are.” “Be you.” “Don’t be afraid to be your true self.”

Monday September 19th, 2016 IMWAYR

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. It’s the best way to discover what to read next.


On the blog:

Slice of Life: Knowing and Not Knowing (Written the night before my first day of school)

Celebration: Week One in the Land of the New

Books I enjoyed:

The Whale by Ethan Murrow and Vita Murrow

Such an interesting concept for a picture book – the story is revealed through a combination of dense, dark wordless pages (absolutely stunning) and details and further elements to the story shared through newspaper clippings at either end of the book. Quite the experience. I was fascinated.


The Listzs by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Júlia Sardà (coming in October)

I used this book on the first teaching day with the students I taught before we switched classes. It’s quirky with gorgeous illustrations and prompts wonderful list making (which we spent the morning doing). A great book to share with intermediate students who appreciate all the lovely language in the lists. Highly recommended.


The Menino: A Story Based on Real Events by Isol (translated by Elisa Amado)

Oh this book. Life with a baby and life as a baby revealed in this wonderful book. Captures how little ones transform and enchant.


Leaping Lemmings! written by John Biggs and illustrated by Nicola Slater

So if you were a lemming and all of the lemmings were going to jump off a cliff, it would be the thing to do, yes? Yes! Well, actually, no. Hold on! Lemmings all act and think alike. But is there another way? I loved all of the speech bubbles and the interesting illustrations in this title. Larry the lemming is a hero of sorts.


Even Superheroes Have Bad Days written by Shelly Becker and illustrated by Eda Kaban

We all need to use our powers for good and a bad day or a bad mood is not an excuse to do otherwise. This is a fun rhyming book about managing big emotions. Younger primary classes will relate to the message. Older groups will love the super hero antics!


Like Bug Juice on a Burger by Julie Sternberg with illustrations by Matthew Cordell

First sleep away camp can be full of emotions. This little illustrated chapter book captures them so very well.


Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke

So, well, I will start with a warning: Waiting for the sequel will feel unbearable! This book! Ben Hatke just keeps getting better. I haven’t seen this book since I brought it into my classroom. It is currently the “it” book in my room and for good reason. Relatable and fantastical all at once.


Saving the Whole Wide World (Hilo 2) by Judd Winick

I love these titles and so do my students. Funny, quirky and action packed!


Legends of Zita the Space Girl by Ben Hatke

Zita is another favourite character! This book is nonstop action. I was exhausted keeping up but thoroughly entertained.


Reading Progress updates:

2016 Chapter Book Challenge: 40/75 complete

Goodreads Challenge: 253/400 books read

#MustReadin2016: 20/30 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 32/100 titles

Diverse Books in 2016: 30/50 books read

Up next? I am still reading The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (so good) and have a number of other titles on the go.

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

I just finished the first full week of school with my new students. For me, there is lots of new. New students. New school. New grade combination (Grade 4 & 5). New community. New room. I teach and learn in The Land of New.

Nothing was perfect. But everything was about learning. Sometimes, I was absolutely the biggest learner in the room. Sometimes, I felt the beginning faith in my students that they are both learners and teachers here. I want them to always know this.

Today I celebrate that some wonderful happened. This classroom that I worked on for endless days in the summer feels like so much more with students in it. Together we are building community. It’s exhausting. But it’s fantastic.

And, there is no way I could be doing this alone. My family (parents, children, sister) helped me with set up all summer. My husband has helped me multiple days this week to hang art, affix labels and shift furniture around the room. My new school community has been supportive and willing to answer my endless questions. Things I have needed have been sourced. An iPad charger. A classroom carpet (thank goodness!). Blue markers for the white board.

I am constantly inspired by the PLN I continue to grow. You will see in this celebration that I have borrowed, emulated, utilized, shifted and considered the ideas and work of many incredible educators, authors, illustrators and artists in the work we did this week. I am always bursting with gratitude to be connected with so many creative and thoughtful individuals.

Now to celebrate!

We completed two pieces of art to celebrate International Dot Day. I wanted students to approach their work playfully and to embrace the feeling of no one way to make an art piece. I discovered the wonderful blog of artist Michele Guieu and was blown away by all that she does. After resurfacing from her blog (prepare to spend hours!), I had the inspiration for our Dot Day pieces.

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

On one wall – our collective work! Can’t wait for students to walk into this on Monday morning.

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

We are learning to think like scientists by waking up our brains to be observant, organized and full of questions. Thank you to Jess Keating and her Animals for Smart People videos. These videos are all under 3 minutes so we watch them twice and then talk about what we learned and the questions the information inspired.

Our first response web was completed together. Students will begin completing their own next week. We talked about jotting down new learning and connecting this to further questions.

Celebration: Week One in The Land of NewAll last year my students and I participated in #classroombookaday (Follow the link to the presentation that Jillian Heise and Angie Huesgen gave at nErdDcampMI 2016 for more information). Near the end of the year, I started choosing a collection of books around a theme. This year with an intermediate class, I decided to continue this and then have the students respond at the end of the week. What was their favourite book? What did they feel was the theme of the week? Which book best exemplified that theme?

We will be learning more about theme in the weeks to come, including how to think about supporting ideas from the text that confirm/illustrate the theme. What I love about this is the potential for students to be thinking and talking all week about how stories connect and what messages they include.

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

In math, we began our week with representing numbers in interesting ways. While students built and created, I learned about their understanding of place value and ability to “count up” to prove to me that their structure/creature represented the number given.

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

We have started Reading Workshop in full force. This group happily reads independently for 20-25 minutes and daily asks for more time to read. We have started to learn about genre through our picture book collection. This week we talked about fantasy stories, humour and books with rhyme and repetition. I have been trying to connect with each child to talk about books that are loved and what to read next. One important moment? When the child who told me he did not like to read and had no favourite books (on his reading survey) came to me on Friday and asked for my help in choosing a novel. The power of a reading community in a classroom full of books!

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

I finally finished covering exposed black board (non magnetic and marked up with tape marks) with book jacket covers. I call this book wall paper🙂 The covers I selected are favourite titles of mine but I hope that they also convey a few things: we are readers here, we read fiction and nonfiction, stories are important, diversity is celebrated, we will be creative here, we will share laughter, we will learn together . . .

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

I celebrate turning out the lights on Friday afternoon (okay, early evening) to chairs up, art on the wall, student words in my head. Goodnight to my new classroom community.

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community!

Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks.


Knowing and Not Knowing: Slice of Life

Knowing and Not Knowing: Slice of Life

Last summer I wrote a lot of teaching related posts on this blog. I talked about classroom libraries, nonfiction books and assessment. I made countless book lists. I wrote to reflect, to make sense of things and to share. Looking back on those posts, it seems like I knew a lot and had much clarity around what I wanted to discover and figure out.

This summer, I have been quiet. School related thinking has been about boxes and change and a whole lot of unknown. I have more questions than boxes and I had a whole lot of boxes. If I were to start a list of what I don’t know, I wouldn’t know where to begin and no idea where to end. I forget to breathe just thinking about it.

Knowing and not knowing is full of confusion.

I don’t know my students. I don’t know this community. I don’t know the routines and rhythms of the school. I don’t even know the full capacity of what I don’t know.

My ignorance is a safety net.

There are many things I couldn’t pack in those countless boxes. On the eve of the new school year, they swirl around me, reminding me that they won’t walk through the door with me tomorrow. They will nudge me to the corner and then stop and watch. I am on my own. Knowing I am without them.

How strange it will be to walk into a school after a long summer break and not have children rush to me with happy smiles, big hugs and bubbly chatter. I will be other in a place I am wanting to belong. It has been so long since I have been a stranger.

Knowing and not knowing is lonely.

I have not brought histories with me. Knowledge and experiences of the dramas and the traumas we have lived through and learned from.  I can’t hold up pieces of art, books from the shelf, photos from the wall and ask, “Remember this?” We don’t yet have memories. We don’t have favourites. We don’t have anything to smile back upon. Everything is about forward.

Relationships are the ticket to everything. This, I know. Yet, tomorrow, I will walk in to this new school with no relationships. I did, however, leave many behind. I have walked from a blooming, bursting garden full of blossoms and prickly bits to stand in front of a patch of soil that looks, right now, just like dirt. Likely, it is full of unknown seeds that will begin to sprout. I need to discover the right balance of water, light and space.

I need patience and faith.

And time, of course. Always time.

I left familiarity.


Understanding of place.

The comfort of what is known.

I now wait in this strange place between knowing and not knowing.

Ready for forward.

Ready to know new things.

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

Monday September 5th, 2016

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Each week I share a reading photo of the week. During the summer, these photos will be about getting my classroom library up and running for a room full of readers in September.

Still adding to the shelves. More titles have since been labelled and are out on the shelves. I will be bringing in some more titles once I have a better sense of who my students are as readers. And I meet them (finally) this week!

Monday September 5th, 2016

I was away last week on Vancouver Island and did lots of great reading and lots of fantastic walks and hikes with my family.  A few pictures below.

Monday September 5th, 2016 Monday September 5th, 2016

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. It’s the best way to discover what to read next.


On the blog:

We updated our #MustReadin2016 lists. Here is mine

For #nfpb2016: First Read Alouds in a Grade 4 & 5 classroom

Books I enjoyed:

Bring Me a Rock by Daniel Miyares

I so love Miyares’ illustrations. The expressions on the faces of these insects! Rich material here to talk about power, community and contributions.

Bring Me a Rock

Wolf Camp by Andrea Zuill

One little dog with wolfish aspirations heads to camp to be transformed.

Wolf Camp

Monsters Go Night-Night by Aaron Zenz

Oh this is the perfect gift for little ones – bed time is a big event! It is super cute. I read this in the bookstore and there was a toddler there with his grandmother. I kind of wanted to ask if I could read it aloud to him. I think it would have been a big hit.

Monsters Go Night-Night

Inspector Flytrap #1 by Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell

Seriously silly and spirited. Part of a new series about A Venus flytrap whois a detective. He solves BIG DEAL mysteries with the help of Nina the Goat, his assistant. An illustrated chapter book.

Inspector Flytrap #1

Stinky Cecil in Operation Pond Rescue by Paige Braddock

Cecil is a toad who utilizes his stink power when necessary. Can he and his friends save their pond from development? I bought this one for my new class.

Stinky Cecil in Operation Pond Rescue2

The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly

Soledad lives with her little sister Ming and their nasty step-mother in a run down apartment in small town Louisiana. Life is nothing like it was in the Philippines. The girls miss their father who went back to the Philippines and has never returned. They mourn their mother and sister who have passed away. They manage their grief over what they have lost and their anger over their present circumstances in a variety of ways. Both rely heavily on imagination and pieces of the stories that their mother once gave them. A story of family and new lives. A fantastic main character.


Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin

Reading a book like this reminds me that books like this are my kind of books. Achy and real. Books that squeeze my heart. Characters I want to know. An emotional ride. A beautiful, teary emotional ride. But full of hope, not sad. At least not too much sad. The hope wins.

Counting Thyme

How to Speak Dolphin by Ginny Rorby 

Whoa this book. Lily has lost her mother. She lives with her step father and her little brother Adam. Adam has autism and while his father can’t face the reality of Adam’s needs and struggles, Lily is fully entrenched in the day-to-day care of Adam. This story tackles many themes – family, friendships, animal rights and boundaries. An excellent middle grade novel.

How to Speak Dolphin

Reading Progress updates:

2016 Chapter Book Challenge: 37/75 complete

Goodreads Challenge: 241/400 books read

#MustReadin2016: 20/30 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 32/100 titles

Diverse Books in 2016: 30/50 books read

Up next? I am reading The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Fall update: #MustReadin2016

As we head into the fall, It’s time to update our progress with our #MustReadin2016 lists.  Making progress? Where has your reading life taken you? Please share!


My original list had 30 titles on it. By April 1st, I had finished 12 novels from the list. Since then, I have completed 8 more.  I keep congratulating myself on choosing such fantastic reads. I also know this is much more than luck – I have a well-read reading community that helps guide my choices.


Here are the titles I had finished at our Spring update.

Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm 

Fat Angie by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo 

More Happy Than Not by  Adam Silvera

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart

Stand Off by Andrew Smith

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Paper Hearts by Meg Wivott   

This is the Story of You by Beth Kephart

Since then, I have read the following titles (listed in the order I completed each novel). I loved all of these novels and so thought I would, very briefly, attempt to convince others why these titles truly are must read books!

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Full of adventure, wartime atrocities, human kindness and connection. It also tells the story of a real historical event that many of us know nothing about – the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, the biggest and most tragic disaster in maritime history. Heartbreaking, compelling, an incredible read. And, very possibly, one of my all time favourite historical fiction titles.

Salt to the sea

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T Cook by Leslie Connor

Kind of a perfect middle grade read. A title that celebrates family, community, resilience and strength of character. I have plans to read this book aloud with my new class this fall.

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T Cook by Leslie Connor

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina

Dramatic family relationships, young love, coming of age, and New York in 1977 and all that that means . . . the Son of Sam murders and the fear surrounding this time, fires, blackouts, financial hardships. I highly recommend this YA title.

Burn Baby Burn

Booked by Kwame Alexander

This novel in verse celebrates language, words and relationships. Throughout the book, all of these things are all wrapped up in each other in some pretty wonderful ways.


Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar

This book transports the reader to a time and a place and a family and a story that you want to walk around in and experience every tiny sensation – the smells of the Mexican cooking, the sound of a lone bee buzzing in your ear, the vastness of a desert ranch, the tingling feeling of a story that is wrapped up in history and magic. I don’t always love magical realism but in this story, it worked. I wanted to believe all of it. And maybe I should . . . One of my favourite middle-grade novels of the year.

hour of the Bees

House Arrest by K.A. Holt

Just thinking about this book again and I start breathing deeply. Reading it was an emotional topsy-turvy ride. I recommend this book to everyone. It’s written in verse with words that grab tight. Released at the other end, one is transformed by incredible courage, honesty and humanity.

House Arrest by K.A. Holt

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

There is sadness here but it’s life sadness and the learning and the revelations in these characters make this such a rich MG read.

raymie nightingale (1)

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Yes, really, as good as all of the raving. I fell hard for this story of Peter, Pax and Vola. Beautiful, emotional and raw. I had to keep reminding myself to breathe. Fantastic writing by Pennypacker.


If you have been participating in #MustReadin2016 and written an update post, please share using the #MustReadin2016 hashtag!

Leave your link in the comments if you have written a post. Please try to visit a few of the other #MustReadin2016 bloggers/readers and get inspired!

Want to know more about #MustReadin2016? Read here This post also includes links to all of the bloggers who wrote Must Read lists.

Next update will be onDeember 31st,  2016!

I am travelling today so won’t be visiting posts until later this evening. Looking forward to reading about everyone’s progress and possibly starting a draft of my #MustReadin2017 list!