Tag Archives: SPARK!

An Amazing Kickoff

Pardon the football reference, but it IS Superbowl Sunday!  However, I’m talking about the kickoff I’ve had to a new year of reading. If January is any indication of how the rest of the year will go, I’m in for a terrific trip around the sun!

In anticipation of the ALA Youth Media Awards that were held January 28th, I tried to read as many books as I could that made Mock Newbery and Mock Caldecott lists. I always love trying to guess which books will make the final cut,and my track record is pretty dismal. However, I almost always love the choices the committee members make.

CLICK HERE FOR A COMPLETE LIST OF AWARD WINNERS

I felt like a winner by being able to read so many fantastic books this January, and this is only the tip of the iceberg of books still on my TBR stack. Here are the middle grade novels that kicked off 2019 for me:

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And here are the picture books that kicked off my Year of Picture Books 2019:

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I’ve already started digging into my February stacks and loving ’em! I’d welcome any suggestions of your favorites. I almost always make choices based on recommendations since there is so little time, and so many books I want to devour!

Here’s to A YEAR OF READING in 2019!

screen shot 2019-01-27 at 9.45.11 amShared Spark! OPENING LINES- We talk with students about the importance of leads and how those first lines can hook a reader. A fun Spark is to share a few opening lines from books and invite students to choose one and take off from there. Have students write for 5-10 minutes and see where those lines take them. It’s fun to share and discover where a lead may guide a writer and discover the endless possibilities. For more quick write ideas you can check out SPARK! from Stenhouse Publishers.

One More Off My TBR Stack!

33294200THE POET X by Elizabeth Acevedo

National Book Award, Pura Belpré, and Golden Kite Honor Award Winner!

Elizabeth Acevedo is renowned for her slam poetry, and now she is just as accomplished as a kidlit author. Her debut YA novel, The Poet X, tell us the story of Xiomara Batista. Xiomara (See-oh-MAH-ruh) and her twin brother (whom she refers to only as Twin) were miracle babies to their older parents who thought they’d be childless. Mami is ultra-religious and wishes she’d been a nun, Papi is a reformed womanizer who let’s Mami run the household. Xiomara feels unheard, but has so much she wants to say. She decides to write it all down in poetry in the notebook Twin gifted her. She finds love, but is forbidden to date or be around boys. She wants to join the slam poetry club, but must attend confirmation classes instead. Will Xiomara get to be her authentic self or will the collision course she is on with church and Mami’s rules destroy her chance at the life she desires? Amazing story in verse. I kept rereading sections to savor the #DeliciousWords!

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How Can We Increase Our Touches With Writing?

This week was the book birthday of my second professional text with Stenhouse IMG_1514-1Publishers SPARK! Quick Writes to Kindle Hearts and Minds in Elementary Classrooms. I felt a great deal of joy on this occasion, but I also experience what many authors have shared-a bit of trepidation. When you have put everything you have into your “baby”, you want the world to welcome it and love it as much as you do. I can tell you that my admiration for all writers and authors has increased exponentially as I appreciate the courage it takes to put a piece of you out into the world and let it go.

I created SPARK! because I know that the only way we get better at something is with practice, I could see that with my own kids in dance and soccer, as well as any task they excelled in. But with our tight teaching schedules many kids aren’t getting nearly enough writing practice as they need.

My son Casey’s soccer coach gave his team some great advice, “If you want to up your game you need to increase your touches with the ball, every-single-day.” That meant time and touches outside of practice. Casey found dozens of small moments each day to increase his touches and practice his footwork and ball drills-usually in our living room! It made all the difference for him as a player.

I want to increase the touches our kids have with writing each day-outside of the regular practice of writing workshop. Short bursts of practice throughout the day that can increase their skill and confidence. But I also wanted those touches to move beyond the same drill and skill and kindle creativity, engagement, and enjoyment.

I curated a collection of “SPARKS” or prompts to “Kindle the Hearts and Minds” of our students because I wanted them to grow as writers, but also as humans through their writing. The obvious benefit is that builds up the volume of writing. We’re building in opportunities for fluent practice and because they are low stakes (not graded or assessed) they encourage more creativity and risk-taking. Maybe less obvious, but also important, are how they can be used to develop off-page skills. We aren’t just raising readers and writers who are college and career ready, we are raising human beings who need to be life-ready These quick writes encourage critical thinking, creativity, communication, mindfulness, appreciation and a host of other social emotional skills in  addition to writing skills. I’ve set up each chapter with a different focus so teachers can choose from a variety of beneficial sparks.

And the beauty is that it doesn’t require much of our most precious commodity–TIME. Most of us can find 5-10 minutes in our busy schedules, why not use it to increase those touches our kids have with paper and pencil, or even keyboards, to spark wonder and curiosity, explore their thinking, increase their appreciation and compassion, or play with ideas. I believe with a short investment of time we can yield some terrific results with our students’ learning and lives.

I’ll try to share a SPARK! with each blog post this year to encourage you to give them a go, or you can preview the whole book here for free at the Stenhouse Website.

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Shared Spark! One way we can use quick writes is to help our students reframe their thinking. I offer some quotes as sparks for students to respond to that give them an opportunity to reflect and possibly reframe their thinking to embrace a more positive outlook or mindset. Try one of these:

  • “Folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”-Abe Lincoln
  • “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”-Wayne Gretsky
  • “What doesn’t challenge you, doesn’t change you.”

Students are free to respond in any way they choose for about 5 minutes. I often take the next 5 minutes to let them share their thinking and appreciate the diversity of responses. Let me know if you give it a go!

One More Off My TBR Stack!

Harbor Me

HARBOR ME by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson has an uncanny ability to create incredible stories that speak directly to her readers’ hearts and to tap into the raging currents of our time. I can no longer read one of her books without hearing her voice- layered with passion and lyricism. In this story six 5th grade students in Brooklyn are sent to the art room alone each Friday- just to talk- by their very wise and trusting teacher. It becomes the ARTT (A Room to Talk) room and gradually each shares their hopes, fears, and experiences in such a way that you do not pity them, but want to embrace them. As Ms. Laverne shares, “Every day we should ask ourselves, ‘If the worst thing in the world happened, would I protect someone else? Would I let myself be a harbor for someone who needs it?” The response of these students in word and deed is a resounding, “I WILL HARBOR YOU.