Thursday, January 29, 2009

Oh No!

"HELP! I'm Trapped in My Teacher's Body" by Todd Strasser (Scholastic, 1993)

I can only hope that my students do not feel about me how Jake feels about his teacher in the quite comical book titled "HELP! I'm Trapped in My Teacher's Body" by Todd Strasser. While walking through the Curriculum Lab I was trying to think of series books that have been popular since I graduated high school in 1992. The genres that are read today vary greatly from the books that were tops in the library checkout list from JD Darnell High School in Geneseo, IL. Back then the girls were interested in "Sweet Valley High" books and boys only wanted to read about "Star Wars" and "Star Trek".

Today the kids have Harry Potter. Fantasy novels seem to be the way to go when it comes to connecting to today's youth. Since I have already read all of the Harry Potter books I was looking for another series I heard was popular "Goosebumps" by R.L. Stein. He was my intended read for this week, but then a title caught my interest and made me remember a time when a teacher of mine switched place with a student for a subject period in 6th grade because the student thought "teaching is easy, all you do is boss us around."

"HELP! I'm Trapped in My Teacher's Body" was a cute book but fairly predictable. Jake was a troublemaker, hated his teacher, a science experiment went wrong, they switched bodies, Jake learned his lesson, so did the teacher, end of story. It reminded me a lot of "Freaky Friday" by Mary Rodgers. I could almost see the Disney movie now. While I enjoyed the book, I feel that the theme has been used too many times. I was hoping the book would also help the teacher see that his way of teaching was not necessarily the best way to teach to all of his students. Yes, Mr. Dirksen did also learn something from the change, but it was not as prevalent as I was hoping it to be.

However, what I did take from the book was that I want my students to feel as comfortable with me (and I in turn with them), to know when things need to be changed up a bit. I want to be able to tap into ways that will allow my students to learn to their utmost ability. If that means that we need to watch a movie, complete an experiment or bring Art into a Social Studies lesson, then so be it. I believe that this book helped me realize that unlike Mr. Dirksen, I want to offer my students the ability to switch things up a bit.

Until next time, "keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars." (Casey Casum)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Anything But the Ordinary

As a Mom of two young girls, we have an abundance of books at our disposal. I had an Aunt growing up who was a librarian and instilled the love of reading to me, and I always knew that I would continue that love when I had children. However, lately I have found myself bored with the selection of books at our house. Taking my daughters to the Iowa City Public Library is an excellent option, but alas, they continue to want to read the same type of book - Curious George, Berenstain Bears, to name a few. I wanted to change up this habit and that is what this weeks book selections are - anything but the ordinary.

When I was looking for books to read, I wanted the books to speak to me. I walked through the Curriculum Lab and found titles that made me snicker. I thought that if the title could make me laugh, that maybe the contents of the books would as well. Some of them did, some did not, and some confused me as to how the author came up with the title to begin with. Please enjoy my rantings about the books, let me know if the books sound interesting, or if you have read them.

Bubble-Gum Radar by Rosemary Wells (Hyberion Books, 2002); Illustrated by Jody Wheeler

The story was fairly predictable for the messages offered in books for children between the ages of 5 and 7. The authors message was for everyone to realize that their actions can affect those around them. The author and illustrator were smart to use animals to portray the characters in this book. The idea of animals brings the young readers attention into the book. I know that my oldest wants to be a veterinarian and devours books that have animals as the characters. I felt that the overall message was good but the use of a "bubble-gum radar" was not clearly established. I would consider using this book if I had students who appeared to be the class bullies, but would probably not have this book in my own class library.

Max and Mo's First Day of School by Patricia Lakin (Aladdin, 2007); Illustrated by Brian Floca
An easy read that gives an animals view of the first day of school. Max and Mo are hamsters who attend school with the Art teacher who brings them for inspiration. When they are called the wrong names by the "big ones" or students, they set off on an adventure to create a name tag.

This book is designed for students just learning to read and is considered a "Level 1" reading book. The story is simple and easy to follow and the illustrations are quite lifelike. What I liked the most about this book is that the author included the "name tag" project that Max and Mo completed. By providing the students a hands on activity to complete, I believe the author brought the message of getting to know everyone full circle. I would consider having this book in my classroom library, but will 100% be completing the craft project that was provided at the end of the book.

The Star Grazers by Christine Widman (Harper & Row, 1989); Illustrated by Robin Spowart
I stumbled across this book and was really drawn in by the illustrations. Spowart has an unusual "grainy" style to his art, and you feel as if you are being transported into a dream. As I was reading the book it appears that this was the image that the author was hoping to achieve. While the illustrations are amazing, the story itself is never fully explained. There appears to be no meaning to the story that I can find. This book is truly one that the illustrations and the story have nothing in common. I really enjoyed the artwork of Mr. Spowart and will hope to find more of his illustrations in the future.

Morris the Moose by B. Wiseman (Harper & Row, 1989); Illustrated by B. Wiseman

OK, I will admit that I have a little bit of a love for moose. That is the reason that I chose this book. Never judge a book by its cover. While the illustrations are cute, the book itself is ridiculously juvenile. The story of a moose who believes that everyone he meets is a moose because they look like him, the story lost interest for me after he thought the cow was a deer because it had four legs.
This book really would only serve a purpose in my classroom library to help support those who have reading difficulties because the text is simpler.

Hooray for Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold (Scholastic, 2008)
A cute story of a boy and his pet fly. Fly Guy lets the reader believe that it is not your size that matters but what you can contribute to the effort that does. It is also a good story of friendship. The illustrations are really cute and bold in color. The story was fun and easy to read. I really liked the overall appearance of this book as well. The illustrations drew you in (who wouldn't like a fly that looks like Fly Guy?), and the story kept you interested. The theme of the book is one that would mix well with a "Character Counts" unit.
** I am completing this blog entry with all of my pictures books together because that is how I was formatting it before we attended class this week. From now on the blogs with be done individually. I will be posting my response to my novel choice separately. Sorry for the confusion.**

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

About Me

Hello and welcome to my blog. As a mother and a future teacher, I believe that literature is vital to our children's education. Some of my fondest memories are of summers spent with my Aunt, a librarian. She introduced me to a whole new world where I could control the picture in my head. So to quote one of my daughters favorite shows "take a look, its in a book, so come and read between the lines" (Between the Lions - PBS). Please enjoy this blog. I will do my best to remain unbiased and offer you, the readers, a diverse list of books to chose from.