Monday, December 30, 2013

Favorite new fairy tales

Many people like to look back at the year and categorize things from the year... ok, well, I read a lot, so here are a few of my favorite fairy tale books.

My favorite picture book fairy tale is called "Elephant Joe, Brave Knight!" by David Wojtowycz.  This is a very funny little fairy tale where the brave knights (a very cartoony elephant and his side kick, the pig) are called upon to rescue a princess from a dragon, BUT things are NOT what they seem.  This would be a great book to talk about elements of fairy tales (after you've read some of the more familiar ones) and then use this as a springboard to writing your own fairy tales.  It's so much fun.  Here's Mrs. Frenzel reading it!

 I just read one I really liked. As a disclaimer, I really like fairy tales. This fairy tale was well written, has great characters and some very interesting plot twists. It's called Jinx by Sage Blackwood. The main character is Jinx who lives with his stepmother and stepfather in a deep mysterious woods called the Urwald. Jinx can see how people feel with color and shape. He doesn't share this information with anyone (although no one he does tell believes him any way). His steparents decide that Jinx is too expensive to keep (all that pesky eating) so they decide to take him into the very dangerous forest and leave him there. As the stepfather is about to leave him, they come across a man who offers to buy Jinx so Jinx goes with him. There are mythical creatures, issues of trust, magic, mystery, curses, it's awesome. It would be appropriate as a read aloud for probably second grade and up. Bigger kids will like it too. As a bonus, it was on sale for the Kindle this week for only $1.99. What a deal.

 Here's a book trailer about it.

 Far far away by Tom McNeal is also a fairy tale, but it would NOT be appropriate for little kids... mature middle school or high school students will like this one, but it is a VERY scary fairy tale. Jeremy Johnson Johnson lives with his dad and hears voices. Specifically, he hears the voice of Jacob Grimm, who tries hard to help Jeremy out. Jeremy's dad has given up on life since his wife (Jeremy's mom) left town. Jeremy is struggling to live his high school life (complete with bullies and mysterious beautiful girls) and ends up trusting the wrong people. This book has great suspense, interesting characters, and some very scary parts!

 Here's the book trailer for Far far away.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The backyard

We have been waging a losing battle with the weeds in our backyard. We live in South Florida and our yard is too small for a pool (we have power lines on our backyard line and regulations require that a pool be at least ten feet from the power lines so you don't electrocute yourself cleaning the pool. It doesn't seem unreasonable to me!) and while I like the look of grass, I apparently have not been offering the grass what it wants because the weeds have proliferated and the grass... not so much. We also had a problem with the rain running off the patio roof killing some of the grass.
So my husband said, "Why don't we just pull up all the grass and plant bigger plants?" Ok, that seems like a good idea. So we drew some pictures of what we had in mind and laid out our garden hoses so that we could see what a path would look like and my vision was that we would start on this during our winter break (when it isn't 90+ degrees with a million percent humidity). My husband wanted to start right away. In July. In South Florida. Yay. So we killed off the grass with sheets of plastic and Roundup (not my favorite strategy but some of these weeds are pretty persistent). We had stone hauled to create drainage for the rain coming off the roof. We dug up all the dead grass. We put down weed block fabric (which I would never do again). We bought and planted plants, like an avocado tree and blood orange tree, as well as ornamentals like pentas and flax lilies. And this week, my husband finished the pergola (which in the initial incarnation was just a bench, but grew into a pergola). I think the backyard is really coming together!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

How does it work?

The Booksearch app is an awesome little app that allows you to search for books based title or author, just like a card catalog, but what makes it different is that it also allows you to search by the skill you are teaching.  I know what you are thinking... "Big deal, you can use ANY book, to teach ANY skill". Well, yeah, you can, but this is sort of like pushing an easy button.  It gives you a list of books (most of them are books you probably already own or are in your school or public library) and skills you could teach from them.  It also has connections to other books with similar skills or themes.  It's meant to save you time.
So here's a little video to show you how it works.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Discovery Network

I recently joined a group with the Discovery Network called the Discovery Network Ambassadors.  Our job is to learn about all the cool tools that are available on the Discovery Network and then share them with our colleagues.  A lot of teachers have used the Discovery Network in the past for videos (they have a great collection of non-fiction videos if you haven't used them!).  As the media specialist, I'm hard pressed any more to buy DVDs because there are so many good ones available for free (at least for us because our district buys the Discovery Network for us). Video is a great way to engage your students immediately (who doesn't like to watch a video?) and with the new Common Core Standards, comparing video to text is a skill that students are expected to have.   One of the things that also makes this great, is that the videos are arranged in a searchable database, which allows you to filter your search by grade level, by subject, even by the kind of video you'd like to have.  It's very versatile.  Here's a video of how you can narrow your search.  

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Book Search

Do you teach reading?  Did you ever need to teach a lesson about a certain skill and draw a complete blank on which book to use?  Boy, I have and I really wished I had a list of all the books I ever read and what skills I could teach with them.  I totally get that you can use ANY book to teach almost ANY skill, but in my mind, there are books that lend themselves more easily to one (or more) skills than others.  So with that in mind, I created a database.  The database allows you to search for books based on the title or author or the level (either F and P or lexile, since that's what I use in my school district) but what makes mine different, is that it allows you to search by the skill you want to teach (either reading or writing).  Once you've pulled up a book title, it also includes books that you can connect to it... like fiction or non fiction or books on the same topic or theme and sometimes books that you can compare and contrast.
I also thought, "Gees, what if you are looking for a book in a place that doesn't have wifi?", (which is like no where any more, but ok.)  So I hired a guy to turn my database into an app.  And now it's on itunes!
So here's a link to my website (in case you are interested). And here's a link to my app in itunes (in case this seems like a fills a need for you!)