Sunday, March 9, 2014

Room with a Review: Mouseheart

Title:  Mouseheart

Author:  Lisa Fiedler

Illustrator:  Vivienne To

Month/Year Published:  Expected publication date May 2014

You May Know Her:  Hmm...not really sure!  We want to know more!

You May Find Her:  Hmm...  Lisa Fidler...where are yooooou?

Review You May Not Have Seen:  Not a lot of reviews quite yet - the buzz will begin soon though!

The Review

I'm not quite sure how I arrived by this Advanced Reader's Copy of MOUSEHEART, but let me tell you, the packaging alone, from Simon and Schuster free of charge, made me feel like I was receiving something special.  Nestled in a brown paper, the book, complete with a mock-up of the book display and cover with its pyramidical (pyramidical?) illustration in colors both vibrant and muted, definitely caught my attention.

But how would this little nestled egg hold up under the boiling water scrutiny (are ya catching my egg metaphor here) of my most critical readers:  my very own 3rd and 4th grade daughter and son?  Would it crack under the pressure? Would the plot be too scrambled? Or would it read easy (over)?  (Okay, I'm done with the egg metaphor now.)

Over the course of a week, we read this book aloud on successive evenings.  Here is what my own reviewers thought of this forthcoming book, the first in a trilogy.

My fourth grade son:  "I thought MOUSEHEART was very good. A lot of parts were very amusing to read.  This book also makes you think a little bit.  This book is sad, scary, and happy all at the same time.  I thought the characters in this book were very good.  Like, Hopper {the main character}, Zucker, Pinkie, Pup and Titus.  I really think that title matches the story.  I think that it being a trilogy is good because it makes you want to read the others.  I would read the others.  I would recommend this book to people who like action, animals, and cliffhangers.  I really loved this book!"

My third grade daughter:  "The book was awesome.  I can't wait for the sequel.  My favorite characters in order were Pup, Hopper, and Pinkie.  I would recommend this book to people that aren't afraid of rodents.  The title really makes you think about what it means.  I liked the whole story and how it was thought out.  My favorite part was one of the fighting scenes between certain characters in the book {no spoilers!}."

My children really did enjoy this book and asked me to read it to them every night.  I know this book will be a hit in my elementary school library as well.  It's a little less challenging in terms of reading stamina than Redwall and the Warriors series, to which it is being compared, and that will suit my students in grades 3-5 just fine.  A definite purchase for our collection and recommended reading, if, as my daughter cautions, you aren't afraid of rodents! 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Teaching with Primary Sources: Snow Plows Past and Present

Before Winter Break I talked to my third graders about primary sources.  And when I say I talked to them about Primary Sources, I mean...they had no idea what a primary source was.  I realized that I rarely teach with primary sources which is a shame because there are so many fantastic educator resources online, especially from the United States Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institute.  Carolyn over at Risking Failure and I decided to explore not only primary sources, but to reflect a little bit on how we teach using primary sources.  Each month, we will share a lesson with you and the "results" of our teaching with primary sources.

Carolyn has been brave enough to start us off with a fabulous lesson using primary sources related to the past and present of snowplows!  A very timely topic, I might add, Carolyn!  

::  This was a great lesson to try with my first graders.  I told them that you had created it, Ms. Vibbert, so they felt super special trying it out for you.  I had never done the See, Think, Wonder routine with any of my students, let alone my firsties, so I was a little nervous about how they'd do.  I think it's safe to say that both of my first grade classes did awesome!  Very engaged, hands in the air kind of awesome.  

::  On of of the slides, there was a date 1/14-15/10.  This led to ALOT of thinking and wondering among my kiddos.  We tried to figure out if the year was 2010 or 1910 or 1810 by looking at the photograph for clues.  Some students said they could tell because the "trolley" looked old-fashioned.  We also discussed how there probably weren't streetlights in 1810.  Another student saw the word New York and suggested that it was 1910 since there were no tall buildings.

::  As we went through each of the slides (we did all four), the classes kind of skipped around a little bit - they shared their see, think, wonder not in linear order, which I thought was okay.  If they had had trouble coming up with "wonder" observations, I would have stepped back a little bit and had them do the process in order, but they didn't seem to have any trouble.  I will say that I did not write down their thoughts.  Maybe next time, now that they are familiar with the process.

:: My favorite parts were when a student said he thought the photograph was from the past "like 1980 or something"!  That always makes me feel ancient! Another student, after we looked at the final "present"  slide, said "I wonder what snow plows will look like in the future!"  Today I received a packet of illustrations from that class showing just that!  YAY!  I love lessons where the classroom teachers feel they can extend them in their classrooms.

Both of the classroom teachers enjoyed this activity as well.  One teacher asked me if we could do more See, Think, Wonder.  Another student requested books on snow plows {which I did not have!} so I ordered some.

Thank you, Carolyn, for a fantastic lesson!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Creating Movie Dialogue Using Primary Sources

After several weeks of feeling like a creative slug, I finally got a jolt of inspiration made possible, in part, by a request to the Twitterverse.  I was looking for some lesson ideas for my third and fourth graders that utilized primary sources and technology.  Of course my trusty tweeps guided me to the Library of Congress website and from there things fell into place.

First, students will access TR Calls on Neighbors at Christmas, 1917.

Then they will complete the Graphic Organizer I have created and that is available here.

I welcome your comments and any suggestions  you might have for improving this graphic organizer.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Inside Out and Back Again

Not only is that the title of a wonderful book by Thahhah Tai but it's kind of how I feel my life has been these past couple of weeks. I love the saying, "If things aren't adding up, try subtracting." and it's so true. Sometimes you just need to cut back to get back in the groove.

 :: Did I tell you I'm attempting to achieve National Certification? On of the positives of this process is seeing how supportive my tweeps and my IRL peeps are when it comes to sharing their experiences and "lessons learned." I hope I will stick with it and follow through - I am giving myself to December to decide whether or not I will need to "subtract" this particular endeavor.

 :: Using the fabulous librarian from Voices from the Inglenook as my guide, I've been attempting some Visible Thinking Routines with my second graders. I think they are enjoying so far and I'm looking forward to coming up with a "bank" of routines that they can then choose from.

 :: We are fortunate to have Ginjer Clarke coming to visit our school in November. Beginning next week, I will be using her books to introduce my younger students to nonfiction text features and the joys of reading the facts!

 :: My fourth grade students have just finished up studying some of Virginia's native peoples. This week we will read Encounter by Jane Yolen so that they can gain a new perspective on Columbus' discovery of America.

 :: And it's just AMAZING how a little book talking will get those books FLYING off the shelf. I showed this video from A Tangle of Knots - SO LONG A Tangle of Knots! LOL!

Saturday, September 28, 2013


(For Amelia 1995-2002)

I cannot pretend
to know
what you would be like today.
Your likes
and your dislikes.
Would I recognize you
if we passed on the street?
(How I wish we could)

The day we gathered
in the Meeting House
was the last warm day
of summer;
a belated commencement
to fall.

We could barely stand
to begin again.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Welcome to the New Classic Six!

Every since, well forever, I've been drooling over Sherry's adorable blog design {okay, the content's swell too but as a librarian I can't help but judge a blog by its cover}.  I finally asked her about it and she told me that Lori over at Imagination Designs had dreamed it up for her.

A few months later, wa la {okay, I know that's supposed to be voila}...the new Classic Six!

And let me tell you, dear readers, Lori got it {me?} in one take {not counting my, "Oops, did I mention I'd really like to see..." episodes}.  And did I mention she's super nice?

So thank you Sherry {I hope you work on commission} and thank you, Lori, for my new, beautiful, fresh, clean, happy, chirpy, sunny design!
Imagination Designs