Fourth Grade Journey

A Fourth Grade Teacher's Journey Through the World of Books

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

How I Heard About It:  Being a member of the BBC (Boy's Book Club) always stretches me as a reader and "forces" me to read books that I normally might not read.  A guy in our group picked this "classic" because the play was going to be performed in Minneapolis and some of us were going to be attending the show.  I knew the the title, but really didn't know the story-line.  

What It Is About:  Pecola Breedlove is a little black girl living in the 1940's.  She is extremely unhappy being black, different, and what she considers "ugly".  Her dream is to be a white girl with blue eyes.  She prays for this day in and day out.  After an "incident" in her room, she is displaced and has to live with two other young black girls.  They are both helpful and harmful in her quest to be something new and different.  Pecola's parents both have issues which have followed them through their own lives and impacted Pecola in more ways than she can handle.  Her father's "demons" are getting more and more pronounced, and in the end have a devastating effect on his daughter.  She stills remains strong in her desire to be beautiful, white, and have blue eyes; despite what effect this will have on her self.  

What I Thought Of It:  These type of novels always make me feel not so "smart".  I had a hard time following the plot because of the writing style.  That is not the fault of Toni Morrison, but more about me and my preference for stories.  This was beautifully well-written with a really heavy subject matter.  I just couldn't "get into" the story and had a hard time understanding what was going on during different sections of the book.  It did help to see the play because it connected some of the missing dots for me.  I wish I was the type of reader that enjoyed "true literature", but for the most part it just doesn't bring me pleasure that some other maybe more "simple" type stories.  

Who Should Read It:  This is the type of novel for readers that enjoy and thrive off of deep, moving, and complex literature.  The writing is thoughtful, complex, and deeply moving.  I know many adult readers that love Morrison's writing and have read everything she has written.  The message/theme of the story is an important one.  I could also see this novel being used in high school and colleges classes to discuss race, identity, and the way we see ourselves.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  3 STARS out of 5 Stars




The Lottery's Plus One by Emma Donoghue

How I Heard About It:  It seemed that everywhere I looked I saw this title pop up.  It was on display at the public library.  A few readers were talking about it on Twitter.  I saw it at Barnes and Noble.  The cover was one that I was drawn to and curious about.  When it was time to add a new middle-grade novel to my reading life, I checked the app "Hoopla" to see if they title was there.  It was and I was soon listening to the story via my commute.  

What It Is About:  Sumac is one of many children living in a very large house with lots of activity going on.  Each child, whether biological or adopted, has been named after a tree by their four parents.  Yes, that is right; four parents.  There are two mothers that are partners and two fathers that are married.  Life is wild, fun, free, and full of adventure in this house.  The kids don't attend traditional school.  They are "schooled" living their real lives in the real world.  Life for this family takes a turn when they find out that one of their "gramps" is suffering from an illness and needs to come live with the Lottery family.  Sumac isn't sure she is in favor of this "change", but really begins to dislike it when she is displaced from her own room and "gramps" takes the space over.  She begins to hatch a plan to convince the family that he should be "placed" elsewhere and they should get back to normal.  Sumac, along with her family, learn some valuable life lessons about what truly makes up a family and what family members do for each other.  

What I Thought Of It:  This is a hard one for me to describe.  There were moments, mostly at the beginning and middle, when I wasn't sure of the story.  I had a hard time following it and/or being interested in the plot.  As I got to the middle and toward the end, the story began to grow on me.  I enjoyed the character of Sumac and could feel what she was going through with the grandfather changing up her life in the Lottery's home.  I couldn't decide what age group this was most appropriate for.  The fact that there were four parents and a variety of life-styles presented, lead me to believe it is a novel for upper elementary.  I have no problem sharing books that show the "real world", but unfortunately teach in a very conservative district.  I have read Emma Donoghue's adult novels and prefer those to this middle-grade story.  

Who Should Read It:  As I just mentioned, this is a hard one for me to decide upon.  The story is fine for all readers in middle grades.  There is the theme of same-sex marriage and alternative life-styles.  This may not be a problem in some districts, but could cause some questions in others.  I think the book would be perfect for readers in grades six, seven, and/or eight.  The reading level would be fine for students in grades four and/or five.  It would just be the content that might want to be considered.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  3 STARS out of 5 Stars

Friday, April 28, 2017

Friend Friday #186 (Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin)


Hi!  We're Drew and Logan and we read the book called Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin


We thought this book was GREAT 
because it had an awesome story line and a great character named Jason.


Our favorite part in the story was when Jason finally met Rebecca because we wanted to see what would happen when they met.  



The character that we liked best was Jason because he was a cool kid and learned to like himself even though he had Autism.  


We think the author wrote this book because she wanted to write a story about a kid dealing with Autism and how other people treated him.  


We would recommend this book to our friends because it is a great story even though parts of it are sad.  


Reading to us is fun because it takes us into other worlds and helps us learn about different kinds of people.  


*This was our last read aloud.  
*We also just Skyped with the author and had a GREAT conversation about the story.
*I always enjoy getting the thoughts of my readers/listeners.  
*This time around I let the students either write a review on their own.  
*The novel was definitely a favorite of all of ours.  

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Trailer Thursday #186 (Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin)

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Book Trailer Created by Abby and Ngoc


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Book Trailer Created by Logan and Drew


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Book Trailer Created by Milana and Lexi


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Book Trailer Created by Audrey and Sophia


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Book Trailer Created by Sally and Isabella


*One of my goals this year to promote reading, books, and literacy was to expose my readers to the idea of "trailers".  

*My class has been lucky enough to be able to connect with Nora on several occasions this year.  We have had two Skype visits and she also visited us in person.

*I decided to read Nora's novel "Anything But Typical" after her visit.  I normally read more recent books, but knew this was such a powerful novel that it had to be shared with my fourth graders.

*Each student created a trailer to capture the "essence" of the story either alone or with a partner.  

*Our goal is to create a book trailer a week that we can share with our classmates.  

*We are collecting all the trailers we make and putting them into our Schoology Site.

*Each student will have their own album where they can keep all of their trailers.  Then the other readers will be able to browse those trailers and find a new book to read.   

*As the year progresses we will learn what should be included, and not included, in the trailer to make them the best they can be.

Here are Some Other Trailers that Promote this Novel...




Life Lesson #29 (Think Outside the Box)


Think Outside the Box

*This is the twenty-ninth Thursday of our school year together and that means it is "Life Lesson" Thursday.

*We talk a lot about being different, thinking on your own, and being as creative as we each can.

*I also stress how important it is to think "outside the box" and not follow what everyone does.  I really think this year's group is getting that concept and taking it to heart.

*This is not only a fun video to watch and shows the concept that I'm trying to reach.  

*I set aside time during each day for us to work in our writer's notebooks. 

*We talk about what types of writing we can do in the notebook.  Here are some of the possibilities...


-What we notice in the video
-What we wonder about
-Connections we have to the video
-Thoughts, feeling, emotions about the video clip
-Reminders we have from the lesson/message
-Create a fiction story about the video


*Once the video is shared with the writers, we spend a few minutes "talking" about what we observed.

*My writers set up their HEADING in the notebook and we get busy writing.

*During the start-up of the year, I have my students write for about five minutes.  We slowly build our stamina for writing and slowly add time to the writing block. 

*At the end of the individual writing time, we call on a few volunteers to share their actual writing and/or further thoughts about the video we watched and wrote about.

*If there is time, I sometimes share the video clip with my class at the end of the writer's notebook time.  


Life Lessons for 2016-2017…          

Week #1 - Be Brains -                                                  Click Here for Week #1 Lesson
Week #2 - Be Kind to Others -                                     Click Here for Week #2 Lesson      
Week #3 - Be Safe -                                                     Click Here for Week #3 Lesson
Week #4 - Be Responsible -                                        Click Here for Week #4 Lesson    
Week #5 - Be a Friend -                                               Click Here for Week #5 Lesson
Week #6 - Be Courageous -                                        Click Here for Week #6 Lesson
Week #7 - Be Life Changing -                                      Click Here for Week #7 Lesson
Week #8 - Be Spooky -                                                Click Here for Week #8 Lesson
Week #9 - Be Kind -                                                     Click Here for Week #9 Lesson
Week #10 - Be Courageous (To Continue On) -          Click Here for Week #10 Lesson
Week #11 - Be Motivated -                                           Click Here for Week #11 Lesson 
Week #12 - Be Inspired -                                             Click Here for Week #12 Lesson
Week #13 - Be Merry -                                                 Click Here for Week #13 Lesson
Week #14 - Be a Team -                                              Click Here for Week #14 Lesson
Week #15 - Be Giving -                                                Click Here for Week #15 Lesson
Week #16 - Be SHOUTful -                                          Click Here for Week #16 Lesson
Week #17 - Be Happy -                                                Click Here for Week #17 Lesson
Week #18 - Be a Reader -                                           Click Here for Week #18 Lesson
Week #19 - Be Powerful -                                            Click Here for Week #19 Lesson
Week #20 - Be Brave -                                                 Click Here for Week #20 Lesson
Week #21 - Be Positive -                                              Click Here for Week #21 Lesson
Week #22 - Be a Friend -                                             Click Here for Week #22 Lesson
Week #23 - Be Strong and Courageous                      Click Here for Week #23 Lesson
Week #24 - Be Dance-Like                                          Click Here for Week #24 Lesson
Week #25 - Be Inclusive                                              Click Here for Week #25 Lesson
Week #26 - Be a Sports-Person                                  Click Here for Week #26 Lesson
Week #27 - Be Different                                               Click Here for Week #27 Lesson
Week #28 - Be a Hero                                                  Click Here for Week #28 Lesson

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wonder Wednesday #186 (Breakfast with Books #SEVEN)

Wonder Wednesday - Breakfast with Books 

*We had our seventh "Breakfast with Books" on Friday, April 21st.

*The readers and I met before school with the novel and "treats" in hand.

*Everyone was excited to enjoy some breakfast treats, talk about the novel, and of course be able to Skype with the author Ali Standish.

*Ali shared some background information about herself and the origins of the story of Ethan, Coralee, and Kacey.


*The readers then got a chance to share a personal comment with her about their experience with the book.

*They also asked one question they had about the book, the characters, the plot, and/or the life of a writer.

*It was such a fun and rewarding experience and my students and I are so incredibly lucky to be able to connect with such wonderful authors like Ali Standish.

*Here is a look inside our book club action...
























Picture Wednesday #31 (Flying Kid)


"Flying Kid"

*This is the thirty-first Wednesday of our year together and that means it is "Picture Wednesday".

*The biggest goal I have for "Picture Wednesday" is to have my writers really think about the image they are observing and do some deep writing.

*This image came from a colleague that knows I use images for our writing.  He shared with me a New York Times Link that featured a variety of pictures they supplied to foster writing in young people.

*After viewing all of the pictures, I decided to use this one after using another one last week.  I think there is "a lot" going on here!

*Each Wednesday I feature a photograph, image, or graphic.  My goal is to have my writers do some thinking, reflecting, and writing about the image.

*We talk about what types of writing we can do in the notebook.  Here are some of the possibilities...

-What we notice in the image
-What we wonder about
-Connections we have to the picture
-Thoughts, feeling, emotions about the visual
-Reminders we have from the image
-Create a fiction story about the picture


*Once the image is revealed to the writers, we spend a few minutes "talking" about what we see.

*My writers set up their HEADING in the notebook and we get busy writing.

*During the start-up of the year, I have my students write for about five minutes.  We slowly build our stamina for writers and slowly add time to our writing block. 

*At the end of the individual writing time, we call on a few volunteers to share their actual writing and/or further thoughts about the visual in front of us.


Our Images from 2016-2017...  
Week #1 - Back to School -                               Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #2 - Be Kind to Others -                           Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #3 - Be Safe -                                          Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #4 - Be Responsible -                              Click Here to see IMAGE
Week #5 - Animal Friendship -                          Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #6 - A Helping Hand -                              Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #7 - A Running Jump -                             Click Here to See IMAGE 
Week #8 - Stand-UP/Unity Day -                       Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #9 - Home Sweet Home -                        Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #10 - Camouflage -                                  Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #11 - Dream Big-                                      Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #12 - Sidewalk Biking -                            Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #13 - HUG -                                              Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #14 - Happy Frog -                                   Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #15 - Hair Dryer -                                     Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #16 - Goodbye 2016/Hello 2017              Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #17 - Ghost Rainbow                               Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #18 - Winter Drive                                    Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #19 - Animal Friends                                Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #20-  The Writing Cabin                           Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #21 - Travel Companion                           Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #22 - Guitar Land                                     Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #23 - Airplane???                                     Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #24 - Concert in the Air                            Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #25 - Water Sir?                                       Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #26 - Sunset Floors                                  Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #27 - Covered Sky                                    Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #28 - Playtime                                          Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #29 - City in the Sky                                 Click Here to See IMAGE
Week #30 - Lunch Time                                     Click Here to See IMAGE

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Treat Tuesday #186 (Happy Book Birthday)

Treat Tuesday:  EASY OVEN BAKED SPICY CHICKEN TACOS

*Recently we got together with some friends and they served these up.

*Our family loves Mexican food and these were delicious.

*The friend shared the information via Facebook where I got the recipe from.

*I'm also very excited for the new books that are out today.  I've been waiting for Beartown by Fredrik Backman.  I've loved his other novels.







Ingredients...
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound cooked chicken, shredded (I used cooked Rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 (1 ounce) packet Old El Paso Hot & Spicy Taco Seasoning
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomato, drained
  • 1 (4.5 ounce) can Old El Paso Chopped Green Chiles
  • 10 Old El Paso Stand and Stuff Taco Shells
  • 1/2 (16 ounce) can Old El Paso Refried Beans
  • 2 cups Mexican Blend Cheese, shredded
  • Toppings such as Old El Paso sliced Jalapenos, sour cream, salsa, chopped cilantro, shredded lettuce, or any of your favorite taco toppings!

Directions...
  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Line a 9x13 baking dish with foil. (I originally made this by spraying the pan with non stick spray. That is totally fine to do, but using foil can help in keeping the shells crisp.)
  2. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet.
  3. Add onion to skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent and fragrant.
  4. Stir in the chicken, taco seasoning, tomatoes, and green chiles. Stir to combine fully. Reduce to simmer and allow to cook for 5-8 minutes.
  5. Place the taco shells in the baking dish, standing up. I was able to fit 10 taco shells in the dish by adding 2 on each side.
  6. Spoon 1 tablespoon of beans into the bottom of each taco shell. Top with the chicken mixture, almost to the top of each shell.
  7. Sprinkle each shell generously with shredded cheese, the more the better!
  8. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until cheese is fully melted and the edges of the shells are browned.
  9. Remove from the oven and top with your favorite items such as jalapenos, sour cream, cilantro, and salsa.
  10. Enjoy!
  11. ***TIPS: Be sure to drain the tomatoes completely, this will help the taco shells to not get soggy while baking!
  12. If you prefer your tacos not spicy, just omit the green chilis and use regular Old El Paso Taco Seasoning. Just as delicious!


Treat Tuesday:  Middle-Grade Novel











Treat Tuesday:  Young-Adult Novel










Treat Tuesday:  Novel Published for Adults