Friday, February 5, 2016

A Book, A Cake and an Afternoon Together...

A quiet picture book with soft colors and plenty of white space, Waiting embraces the story of five animal friends sitting on a windowsill, each waiting for something. As time passes, they see clouds and rain, fireworks and snow. Other animals stop by--one for a short time and another that shares a surprise. Waiting is a beautiful book that begs to be read again and again.

Thrilled that Kevin Henkes’ Waiting received a Caldecott and Geisel Honor, my family was determined to celebrate! And since the best celebrations always involve cake, that’s exactly what we made.

The Process
We started by baking a cake in a 9 x 13 pan. While it cooled, we re-read Waiting and talked about our favorite parts, and how we'd re-create them on our cake. Then, we mixed several drops of blue food coloring and one drop of green to a tub of whipped topping. Blue frosting would be an easy substitute, but I’ve noticed my children have a difficult time spreading frosting on cakes so we prefer to use whipped topping. 

IMG_1433.JPGAfter “painting our sky” on the cake, we sprinkled shredded coconut around the pan to make the window panes and ledge. Since the puppy who was always waiting for snow was one of our favorite characters, I brought out the snowflake sprinkles. However, in a house with multiple children, no decision ever seems to be unanimous. Sooo…. we added rainbow sprinkle to represent the fireworks right alongside the snowflakes. Why not? 

To complete our work of art, we put the final touches--animal crackers on the windowsill. 

Now that our masterpiece was complete, the waiting was over, and we could dig in! We hope the taste of victory is just as sweet for your family.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Reward of Giving

All the way back in November, Travis Jonker held a giveaway for Kwame Alexander's forthcoming novel, Booked (HMH Books, April 5). The stars in my literary heaven were aligned that night, and I found myself reading a tweet announcing I had won the copy. To say I was excited is just a bit of an understatement. Soon after, the package arrived, and I sat like many of us do, holding the book in my hands not yet opening it, just basking in the anticipation of what was to come. I took a picture, tweeted a thanks to Jonker once more, then held the book and traced my fingers over the cover... for a day or two. As eager as I was to read it, I did not want the moment to come when it would be over. I read all of the information on the back cover--twice--then, grinning from ear to ear, decided I could finally crack it open (gently, of course). Eleven pages into it, I knew Kwame had written a gem and had hooked every single child that would ever have this book in his or her hands. I put the book down again, knowing how lucky I was to be holding it, thinking about how much I admired Alexander's voice, and again thinking that I never wanted to finish Booked.

Scrolling through Twitter notifications, I saw Stacey Riedmiller commented, "OH MY..." on my pic of the ARC and suddenly, I knew what would become of this copy. I let Stacey know I'd be sending it her way as soon as I finished reading it. Her enthusiasm overwhelmed me and I wondered if Jonker had this same feeling when I thanked him--and used most of my 140 characters on exclamation marks. The idea grew and soon others were in line for the book. Kristen Picone had the amazing idea of people leaving thoughts on post-it notes as we read the novel. Every time the book was shipped off to a new reader, we cheered for one another. Every time the book was received, we spent days commenting back and forth. Scott Fillner sent pictures that cracked us up. Kwame joined in the conversations.

It was awesome.

literacybigkids When @kwamealexander's BOOKED looks so fly in your classroom library. TY @Beth_Parmer 🤓#nerdybookclub…

kwamealexander's avatarAppreciate that Jimmy. Who got next?!…
You've done it again @kwamealexander Lyrical, empowering, honest, relevant, & emotional. #titletalk #nerdybookclub

These strangers suddenly became the best book club I had ever been a part of, and while I'd give anything for our club to fly to the same city and meet over coffee or beers, I'm thankful for the way we came together. Tweets, YouTube clips, pictures, Vines, post-it notes, snail mail and A BOOK. We read and shared, and reflected on how we'd bring this experience to our students. Because when you read children's literature, you know you are reading for the reader you will hand it to, the child that needs that book. There is not a doubt in my mind that we will all buy copies of Booked for our classrooms or libraries. We will all buy a personal copy so we can stare at it on our bookshelves and reflect back on this amazing experience. But, I don't think it will quite end there. I think there will be another book in store for our new book club. I can't wait to find out what it will be.

Want to read some of our Booked club comments? Check out this Storify!

As always, thank you to my Pay It Forward mentors, @mrschureads and @loveofxena.

Friday, January 15, 2016

How Do I Measure Growth?

In the next couple of days, I will receive data on my students from their standardized online reading assessment. This test has the power to prove they are gifted in reading, that they have made adequate growth over the past few months, and determine if they are on track to meet year-end targets. According to the state, my students' scores will reflect how well I do my job. These scores will be plotted and recorded and used for future planning, and will not know nearly as much about the children as I do.

The scores will not reflect the child who raised his hand, asked if he had to read the entire passage, then complained that it was too long and said he didn't feel like it, so he clicked on an answer and moved on to see if he could find a question with less reading. It will not show the kid who got frustrated after the first five minutes because every time she asked for help, I couldn't offer help so she just clicked away until finally the torture was over. The data will not mention that the test text is not engaging and there are no pictures, yet in an effective classroom real books with those very components will be used on a daily basis. It will not take into consideration the number of students who are comfortable reading on a screen and using a laptop vs. the students who have had considerably less time using technology.

So when the scores are revealed, a lot will be "discovered" about my students and me, and I'll let others dissect it. I have data that is far more valuable. I have students that at the beginning of the year wouldn't pick up a book, and today, they come up to me and say,"I just finished this book! What should I read next?!!" There are students that at the beginning of the year wouldn't engage in read-alouds that now raise their hands to share their thoughts, and students that wave their hands madly in the middle of a story because they have a connection or insight that they have to share before I turn the page and read further. I have students that come up to me first thing in the morning and ask if they can share with the class the book they read last night because others might want to read it. Every. Single. Day. Kids eager to read. Eager to share. That is how I measure growth.