Category Archives: Books

Whatever You Are, Be a Good One

I love inspirational quotes.  When I saw this book at the store, I instantly knew I would need to purchase it.  Each of the quotations is hand-lettered by Lisa Congdon, who began the series when she was doing a blog called, “365 Days of Hand Lettering.”  The title of the book,  Whatever You Are, Be a Good One, refers to the quote by Abraham Lincoln.

whateveryouare

I really hate cutting apart books, but each of these pages is worthy of framing.  There are several that encourage a healthy growth mindset, such as, “Success is never so interesting as struggle,” by Willa Cather, and, “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my ship,” by Louisa May Alcott.  You will also find encouraging quotes about kindness and being happy.

I haven’t figured out how I will be using the book in my classroom, but my students love to look for quotes.  They enjoy browsing my Pinterest Board of Favorite Quotations, and also like to choose quotes from other books that I have in the classroom.  (I have a picture frame with scrapbook paper on the inside, and they use dry-erase markers to write a “Quote of the Week” on it.  They also use quotes in their Dream Team projects.)

Another idea would be to show the students the style of the book, and have them choose their own quotes to hand-letter.  The Paper by 53 app on the iPad is a nice tool for doing this.

You would probably not want to let younger students (K-4) browse through this book unattended.  There is a quote from Dostoyevsky that uses a word that some might consider questionable.  Many of the quotes are a bit difficult for that age group to understand, anyway.

page from Whatever You Are, Be a Good One by Lisa Congdon
page from Whatever You Are, Be a Good One by Lisa Congdon

The Giver

from Lois Lowry's Newbery Acceptance Speech for The Giver
from Lois Lowry’s Newbery Acceptance Speech for The Giver

If you visit my Pinterest Board of Books for Gifted Students, you will see The Giver, by Lois Lowry, is prominently featured.  I read this dystopian novel along with my 5th grade Gifted and Talented students every year, and those of you who know me are aware that I don’t often do the same thing more than once.  However, this book seems brand new with every group of students.  The discussions are rich and we are always able to find many connections to current events and their own lives.

The Giver is coming to theaters this August.  It will be interesting to see how the book transfers to the big screen.  You can see how Lois Lowry feels about the movie in this recent Twitter chat in which she participated that is posted on Walden Media.  More resources from Walden Media, including educational materials, are available here.  I highly recommend Lois Lowry’s Newbery acceptance speech – which gives incredible insight into the formation of the book.

In the interest of full disclosure, I recently participated in Walden Media’s “Teachers are Givers” contest, and was one of the 4 winners.  They chose a teacher each week for four weeks, based on technology lesson plans we submitted.  I didn’t expect to win, as my amazing colleague, LeAnne Hernandez, won the first week.  However, I was fortunate enough to be chosen as the second winner.  I recommend you take a look at the winning entries, as there are some fabulous ideas for integrating this amazing novel with technology in the classroom.  I was truly impressed with the other 3 teachers’ submissions, and can’t wait to try them!  If you feel so inclined, you may want to vote for your favorite lesson plan.  The overall winner will receive a hometown screening of The Giver.

If you are looking for some other resources to support The Giver, you should definitely take a look at Teachers Pay Teachers.  I have a “Depth and Complexity with The Giver” product available for $1.00, but there are tons of other related products on the site – many of them free.

Also, here is a post I did awhile ago on Book Trailers for The Giver.

Read Write Think has a lesson called, “Memories Matter: The Giver and Descriptive Writing Memoirs.”

For older students, you can find some interesting resources on Schmoop (“We Speak Student”).

Whatever you do, if you choose to use this book with your class, be sure to leave lots of time for discussion.  This is a book that demands conversation.  Thoughtful dialogues will help your students to become much more reflective about its themes and implications.  You could probably spend a year on this book, and never fully explore some of the topics it suggests.  It will definitely make an impact, and will be a piece of literature that your students will never forget.

A Great Graduation Gift

This is a reblog from a post that I did in November last year.  Now that the school year is quickly nearing its close, I’ve started hearing parents discuss what they can do to make upcoming milestones special.  Here is one idea you may want to consider.

heroes

My daughter was about to “graduate” from elementary school last year, and I started to panic.  I had seen on Pinterest all of the ideas for using the book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go, with signatures from past teachers, as a graduation gift.  But I wanted to do something a little different.  After much internet detective work, I found, Heroes for My Daughter, by Brad Meltzer. (He has also written Heroes for My Son.)

Fortunately, I happen to work at my daughter’s school – at least, I did last year, before she went on to middle school.  Also fortunately, all of her past teachers, including her Music and P.E. teachers, still work there.  I took pictures of them, and used a photo editing tool to make the pictures look like the ones in the book.  Then, I asked each of her teaching heroes to write a message to her.

She cried when she opened the gift on her graduation day.  Granted, she had already cried several times that day.  Leaving elementary school was a lot more emotionally taxing than either of us suspected. Nevertheless, she seemed very appreciative of the book.

During the summer, we read one of the short chapters from the book each night before she went to bed.  We both learned a lot about the people in the book, such as Julia Child and the Three Stooges.

When we finished the book, she said, “I think we should read it again.”

If you are looking for a great book to give as a gift to a child, then you should definitely consider Heroes for My Daughter (or Heroes for My Son).  And, if you can, read it along with her or him. Your child will not be the only one who benefits from this gift.  (By the way, both books include role models from both genders.)

Here is my Pinterest Board of Books for Gifted Students.  Previous entries for this year’s “Gifts for the Gifted” post are:  CubeletsSifteo CubesScrabble Flash, and Make-Do.  (You can also find these on the Games and Toys for Gifted Students Pinterest Board.)

Maker’s Alphabet

from Maker's Alphabet
from Maker’s Alphabet

Maker spaces are a hot topic in education forums right now.  It’s clear that our culture is craving outlets for creativity, and these are one way to address that.  If you want to learn about making from A to Z, you might want to consider backing this Kickstarter project from Melody Quintana & Sneha Pai, Maker’s Alphabet.  There are only 2 days left on their campaign (April 23, 2014 is the last day) and they have already raised double their goal of $4,500.  For a $30 pledge, you will get the hardcover book, an e-book (with links to resources for each letter), and the opportunity to vote on the letter “X”.

For more information on Maker resources, check out my Pinterest board.

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

tribes

Recently, one parent loaned me a book by Seth Godin.  Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us would probably not have taken me quite so long to read if I wasn’t stopping to take notes every 5 seconds! I found a lot of applications to teaching and learning that I definitely found valuable.

One of the popular conversations in education these days is the need to teach our students how to deal with failure.  I’m going to save my thoughts on that for another post.  But I found that Seth Godin had some interesting things to say about the tendency to fear failure.  According to him, “what people are afraid of isn’t failure.  It’s blame.”  He goes on to say that any thing that is really worth doing is going to generate conversation – and probably criticism.  He urges, “If the only side effect of the criticism is that you will feel bad about the criticism, then you have to compare that bad feeling with the benefits you’ll get from actually doing something worth doing.”  I think that’s a great message that we should convey to our students.

Along those same lines, Godin gives the secret of being wrong. I hope he doesn’t mind if I divulge that right now.  “The secret of being wrong isn’t to avoid being wrong!  The secret is being willing to be wrong.  The secret is realizing that wrong isn’t fatal.”

I deal with this in the classroom daily.  Students will be afraid to even attempt an answer sometimes.  I sometimes coax them into it by asking them to think of the worst thing that will happen if they are wrong.  Or I point out a recent incident (and trust me, there are many) when I was wrong and I surprisingly did not self-destruct. Invariably, I can convince the student to take a risk by using those techniques.

I have many other notes, but I will leave you with one last thought that I read near the end of the book.  As is often the case in my life, the timing could not have been more perfect.  You see, the day before I read this particular passage, I took my 5th grade class on a tour of Rackspace, a company located near us that has been named one of the top companies to work for.  In a section of Godin’s book called, “Ronald Reagan’s Secret,” Seth Godin gives the example of Graham Weston, executive chairman of Rackspace, who needed to convince his employees of the wisdom of a recent business decision. Instead of giving a speech to persuade them, however, Weston met with every single employee “who was hesitating about the move and let them air their views.  That’s what it took to lead them: he listened.”

So often, that is what our students need.  They just need someone to listen, to assure them that their voice has been heard.

Teachers like that, too – every once in awhile ;)

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain

fantastic elastic brain

One of my student’s parents made a request for me to talk more about mindsets with my first grade GT class.  I’ve been sending information home to the parents about fixed and growth mindsets, and infusing my own language with “growth mindset” phrases, but I haven’t done any explicit mindset lessons for the K-2 crowd.  I went to work hunting for something that might appeal to 6 and 7 year-olds without overwhelming them.

There isn’t much.  I’m going to add that to my list of “Books I’m Going to Publish in the Future Because Apparently No One Else Has Thought of Them Yet.”

I did find this gem, Your Fantastic Elastic Brain, by Dr. JoAnn Deak.  The illustrations are colorful and cartoonish – appealing to younger students.  The book is a bit longish, so you may need to split it up into a couple of sessions.  It gives a simple explanation of the basic parts of the brain, but the best pages deal with the elasticity of the brain.  There are relatable examples of skills that we learn over time, and the importance of stretching our brain by taking chances and trying hard.

There is a $4.99 app for the book, but I haven’t downloaded it, so I can’t give you a review.  It appears to be the book in electronic form with some additional interactive features.

The book was published by Little Pickle Press, which is “dedicated to helping parents and educators cultivate conscious, responsible little people by stimulating explorations of the meaningful topics of their generation through a variety of media, technologies, and techniques.”  You can find other books and interesting resources on their site, including a lesson plan to accompany Your Fantastic Elastic Brain.

neurosculptor
illustration by Sarah Ackerly for The Fantastic Elastic Brain