Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Adventures of Ai - Book Review and Giveaway

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Hi there! Today I am reviewing a fantastical ebook called "Adventures of Ai" written by Craig Bouchard, New York Times best selling author. This ebook encompasses many qualities that are sure to engage a middle school audience. There are some really funny parts that middle school kids will get a kick out of.

The story begins with three sisters begging their dad for a story. The story is narrated by the father and tells of his time learning Japanese culture. Some magical things begin to happen as he learns about the Hara family and a special child named Ai. Ai is a bit different and can do things that most cannot.
Something that I really enjoyed was that the book includes real photographs and illustrations. The combo of reality and fiction matches the fusion of history and fantasy in the the book.

 The story will casually mention famous artists like Leonardo DaVinci, and historical figures that inspire a curiosity as you follow the story and can provide for a jumping off point in a history lesson.  The asides from the narrator as he gauges the magical situations allow for a great conversation about point of view.

This ebook is great for the early high schooler and middle schooler because kids love to read on a tablet and because it sneaks historical learning into a fantasy. The writing is very well done and entertaining for young adults. Another reason your middle school/high school students will like it is because there is an Iphone and Android Game app to go along with it! This can make for a fun extra piece for a unit. Also this book is affordable so parents or yourself could get it for your class tablets for cheap. (And what teacher doesn't love that?)

Win a FREE copy by Entering the Rafflecopter Below... it's easy! All you have to do is say what types of blog posts you like to read (tutorials, book reviews, experiment ideas, creative ideas, funny, whatever it is!)

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

September Currently- Ch-Ch-Changes

I just love linking up with Farley from Oh Boy 4th Grade for her "Currently" linky! 

I am currently home in Ohio for a bit and I am loving it.My boyfriend and I were supposed to be in California this week driving up the coast but we had to postpone it because of some business stuff that came up for him. I'm looking forward to the trip!

LISTENING: I am working outside and hear the cicadas buzzing. The weather here is much more pleasant than Florida is right now. I am enjoying every second of it. 

LOVING:  Being home with my family. I am missing them a whole lot! Labor day weekend is a great weekend to visit my hometown. There is a parade, an arts and crafts festival, a big festival at my alma mater high school. It's my grandpa's 81st birthday and we always have a big cookout at Grandma and Grandpa's house. This year my mom and I made LOTS of soup for my grandpa. He has been complaining about too much vegetable soup. Grandma loves vegetable soup and she keeps making it. He thinks it has too much meat but he won't make his own soup. It's a neverending battle. Last time I was there Grandpa had bought a whole soup catalog with 250 soup recipes. The message was clear: The man wants soup. Now he can keep them in the freezer and have them whenever he wants!

THINKING: I've been thinking about a big change to come in my life... Sometimes you have to make tough choices and that's where I am right now. Send positive vibes! 

WANTING: Yeah, if someone could just clean my apartment for me, that'd be great. Thanks. 

NEEDING: I have been brainstorming and writing some poems for my fall poetry book, but I need to knock it out! Maybe this time in Ohio will allow me that!

3 TRIPS: San Francisco, my boyfriend and I have some good friends there and that was supposed to be our final stop in our Cali trip. I've only stopped by San Fran when I was working on an organic vineyard in northern California a couple summers ago. I could tell it was a place I wanted to go back! One of our friends works at Google and we are going to take a tour. :) 
Italy, I would love to eat all of Italy. Yum.
Costa Rica, I would love to go there! Pura Vida! 

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

How Getting Kicked Out of Starbucks Helped My Students Put their NAMES on their Papers {Laugh it Off Linky}

Introducing the LAUGH IT OFF LINKY, teacher-bloggers feel free to link up funny stories from the grid iron of education. You could link up a meme blog post (no story necessary), a diatribe, a rant, a story, something to make a teacher take the edge off of the tough job of educating our youth today. Teacher-non-bloggers, share your stories, memes, whatever in the comments! :)

{Bloggers---How to Link Up: Grab the image, link back to this post in your post. Link up at the bottom :) }

Soooo you're here to find out how getting kicked out of Starbucks®
helped my students to put their @#!$? names on their papers?

When I moved from second grade to first grade gifted a couple years back I noticed a few major changes:
  1. They didn't know how to tie their shoes. (Unfortunately for parents, shoe-tying was not in the state standards- went over this at open house)
  2. They lose way more teeth than second graders and are moderately obsessed with the tooth fairy. 
  3. They were super cute and eager to learn.
  4. They don't put their name on their papers. Like, ever.
  5.  I was going to go insane if it didn't change.    

When I have a huge stack of papers to grade I like to schlep it over to Starbucks®
and get it done there. I like working there because I can focus and am not distracted by the TV, chores, going to the pool, something shiny, etc. It's just me and my work and I like to knock it out with my veins caffeine filled while singing along to Rufus Wainwright pandora. 

It was about one month into school and I was grading a rather large pile of papers from my first graders that week. It was center work, tests, writing, spelling tests, reading assessments you know the pile (you probably have one going in your teacher bag).  

Well as I was going it was 'no name' after 'no name' after 'no name' until I had a pile about 1/3 of the size of my overall pile of 'no names.' 

One writing piece in particular set me off. It was a beautiful narrative piece, the little writer did everything wonderfully. Great juicy adjectives, lovely small moments, captions, drawings, correct punctuation. It was very impressive for a first grader. But yep, you guessed. 

"PUT YOUR NAME ON YOUR PAPER!" I shouted abruptly in Starbucks®. I startled the staff and patrons.

People looked, smiled and went back to their Starbucks habits. Now is probably the time, I suppose, that I should admit, I didn't really get kicked out. 

But I had an idea to fix the problem. 

 Writer's Workshop began our day that year. We were working on narratives. The next day, I shared with my students a narrative I wrote. It was called "The Time I got Kicked Out of Starbucks."

I told them how I shouted out (just like I did) and then I fabricated the rest.  I told how I continued to rant and rage and throw the papers. I told him that I was pulling my hair and shouting "Too many 'no name' papers! Why won't they put their name on their papers?" Then the manager helped me pick up the papers and told me I was disturbing the customers and asked me to leave Starbucks® and walked me to the door. 

After I read it, I asked the students what the lesson was. 

"We should put our names on our papers!"
 I asked the students if we could work together so I can keep grading papers at Starbucks®- of course a different one ;) I couldn't show my face at the other one again. 

What was funny was that this really worked! I would overhear my students all the time saying "Put your name on your work. Do you want Ms. Hilinski to get kicked out of Starbucks® again!?!"  Of course many of them caught on that I probably didn't really get kicked out of Starbucks®, since it didn't match my character. (Oh, gifted kids, you can't get anything past them).
'No names' still happened sometimes, but their frequency went way down. Whenever I encountered one, I would say to myself loud enough for them to hear "Oh, no I hope I don't get kicked out of Starbucks again!" Or I'd say, "Hmmm... somebody in here wants me to get kicked out of Starbucks." The kids would laugh and it was a running inside joke between us that kept me from saying the dreaded phrase "Put your name on the paper!"

 One of my students even made the connection that grading papers at Starbucks made me happier than grading papers at home, so if they put their names on the paper I will be happier while grading them and maybe give better grades! Haha, I loved it.. 

There was another plus! The kids had told their parents about it and many of the parents figured that I didn't really get kicked out of Starbucks®. (Some still thought that maybe I had-haha). The plus of this was: when it came to teacher appreciation week and Christmas time, my cards often included a gift card to Starbucks®

This is how I ended up with $150 on my Starbucks® account. Then I started a new habit: random act of Starbucks kindness. I know other people do this, but since I had plenty of Starbucks® bucks to go around, anytime that I went through the drive-thru I would pay for the car behind me. I guess I'm not the only Florida gal to do this because I just saw this story last week: 400 Customers Pay if Forward at Florida Starbucks.

So anyhow, sometimes you have to think outside the box to solve a problem.

 Do you have a funny teacher story? I'd love to hear it! Link your blog post up below or leave a comment with it! 

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wordless Wednesday- BOOST Sale Edition

Hi there! Happy Wednesday!

I'm linking up with Miss DeCarbo at Sugar and Spice for a special edition of Wordless Wednesday! 

My store is 28% off today when you use the promo code: BOOST.  There probably won't be a sale for a while so cash in on a deal and look ahead for the year!

Here are some Wordless Wednesday Highlights that you can SAVE BIG on in my store today!















Enjoy the sale! I know I will!
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Friday, August 15, 2014

Rethinking Craftivities {Amp up the Rigor Blog Series Linky}

This is the first in my "Amp up the Rigor" weekly blog series, where bloggers can link up ideas to Amp up the Rigor in the classroom. If you have a blog post about amping up the rigor:  Grab this image, link back to the post and link up at the bottom. 

I know this topic may be a little controversial, but I think it is important. I've hesitated writing about it. but since it is the beginning of the year and teachers are heading back to the classroom I want to offer some food for thought.

Let me start off by saying, I don't hate craftivities or teachers who use/make them.  I have many friends and colleagues who use them often. Do I think they are bad teachers? Absolutely not. I think craftivities are cute. Parents love them. Kids think they are fun.They are extremely popular on Pinterest.

But are the kids using higher order thinking skills when making a step by step craft? 

Not really. 

Of course, I'm not addressing all craftivities, some allow for oodles of creativity.  I'm addressing the ones where when the class is finished with their work it looks like their work came from a copy machine. 

I cringe in the hallways when I see a long bulletin board of completely identical work. They look cute,don't get me wrong. It's just that, well, it isn't creative. I understand the importance of learning to follow directions carefully, but what if you let the craft be open-ended? What kinds of wonderful things could they come up with if they weren't busy tracing the exact same circle as the rest of the class?

Again I don't think step by step craftivities should be done away with, but I do believe that they should be used sparingly.  And of course there is another option: modification! Take the craftivity idea (from Pinterest, or TPT or wherever you got it) and figure out how to allow unique expression.

For example, a few years ago I did a mini-unit of pickle activities with my pickle-obsessed class. In the writing craftivity, each child gets the same pickle, but they create their own pickle character and write their own pickle story. When I did this activity in my class none of the pickles looked the same. They were all so unique. 

When allowing the kids to make their own craftivity, I model how to think creatively. I did a Monster Math lesson where my first grade students created their own Monster Math problem. They were to create their own monster math problem and create a monster that showed the answer of the problem 
I had the kids meet me at the perimeter of the rug. (I use the word perimeter so they start knowing the meaning of that word early- a tip I got from my mentor teacher).

Using construction paper, scissors and glue, I created my Monster Craft in front of them, modeling my thinking out loud. I asked questions like, "Which body part should I cut out first?" "Why would that make sense?" to allow the kids to explain their reasoning. 
"Okay, I will start with her body. I want her to be triangle shaped. I think I like the color purple. I have to make sure that the body is big enough so I can put arms and legs on her." 
 It was a quick mini-lesson but it allowed the kids to visualize how to make their own craft. As you can see they each created unique ideas to match their Monster Math problem These certainly weren't cookie cutter, but it was a craftivity!

Am I saying that this Monster Math craftivity lesson was perfect? Absolutely not. Next time, I would have them write on lines, for one thing! But, it met the standards, demonstrated mastery, encouraged higher order thinking and it was a craftivity!

I often see teachers use these step-by-step craftivities as a culminating activity to finishing a unit, chapter, or standard. In my opinion, a culminating activity should allow for higher order thinking. I believe mastery  of a skill indicates that you can take it to the next level.  You can create something, evaluate something, explain something, build something, etc.  to demonstrate your mastery of the skill. Utilizing project choice boards, real life connection activities, and simulations are all great ways to demonstrate higher order thinking and mastery of a skill. Another idea is to include the craftivity as a choice in a project choice board.

In a time where students are expected to be inside the box so often in standardized tests, it is so important for them  to go outside of the box in projects and activities. It is our job to instill creativity and outside the box thinking in our little learners. 

I'm wondering, 
What things do you do to instill creative thinking in your classroom?
What are your thoughts on craftivities? Do you use them? In what ways?

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dreams Come True by Jennifer Lynn Adams

Sometimes it just seems like things happen for a reason...

That's how I felt this week when I stumbled upon a GEM of a book while at Comedy Night at Brewhouse Gallery. I was there to check out this new place, hear some comedy, drink some coffee and check out the art. I did not expect to be leaving with a children's book! I was so excited to find this and it's perfect for the beginning of the year. The book is Dreams Come True by Jennifer Lynn Adams. When I first saw it I was captivated by the cover and the subtitle
 "A Little Book on the Power of Words."

I paged through the book and thought "Yep, I need this!" As I was checking out, the Brewhouse people let me know how incredible the author is. They told me how she was Miss Wheelchair America this year and how the owner of the gallery was a judge for Miss Wheelchair America. After the pageant, he invited her to perform there and she did!

Jennifer Lynn Adams won Ms. Wheelchair America 2014!
Can I just say that I love her ninja reference?

The book is great for a writing workshop lesson It could also be used for a character & guidance lesson about choosing your words carefully.

Jennifer does motivational speaking in schools and I'm trying to hook her up with some schools in my community! To learn more about Jennifer and her amazingness, check out her website: www.jenniferlynnadams.com and like her on facebook.

I'm so glad I found this book, and more importantly this incredible person.

I was so inspired that I made a free resource set, download this FREEBIE "Words Have Power" Resource Set to Teach Tolerance & Acceptance in your Classroom:

Please kindly leave feedback if you download!
Don't forget to enter the giveaway from my Giveaway Groupies Blog Post! Only ONE DAY LEFT!

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Girl Empowerment in Literature

Does anybody else just love the "A Mighty Girl" site? I'm a HUGE fan! I first came across them when Goldieblox made that amazing Rube Goldberg machine advertisement, and facebook suggested I check out their page. If you didn't see the video check it out here:
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Anyhow, Mighty Girl is a collection of resources, toys, books, movies, etc. that are supportive of empowering young girls. What caught my eye recently was their Ultimate Guide to Independent Princess Books. I just love this! One of my favorite fairytales to read aloud is Paper Bag Princess. 

It's so important when building your library that you are being cognizant of including books with strong female characters. Many books are littered with images and situations where women are dependent on a man for happiness, strength, ideas, etc. I believe it's time we put the damsel in distress to rest! 

What are your favorite girl power resources or books?