Category Archives: Books

How We Got to Now

I’m going to break one of my blogging rules and write about something that I haven’t actually seen or read yet (I don’t think this is first time I’ve broken that rule, but I could be wrong).  I keep running across articles about it, and I heard an interview with the author on NPR.

One of the Kaplan icons for Depth and Complexity that I talk about with my students is “Change over Time.”  The new book and PBS mini-series, “How We Got to Now” is a fascinating look through this lens at different facets of the world that is familiar to us.

How We Got to Now

Cory Doctorow has an excellent review of the book by Steven Johnson here.  I immediately ordered it from Amazon, and I am eagerly anticipating it!

You can listen to Linda Wertheimer’s interview with Steven Johnson (or read the transcript) here.  I was intrigued by Johnson’s reference to the hummingbird effect as well as his interesting story about how the printing press led to the manipulation of glass in new ways as more people began to read and realized that they needed spectacles!

Not only do the stories covered by Steven Johnson relate “Change Over Time”, but they are examples of the many unintended consequences that result from events and demonstrate the interdependence of the systems in our world.

I am hoping I can use some of the stories with my students, and that they can use them as a model for some of their own research.  Storytelling is always a great way to engage the students and help them to learn about history as they consider the implications for the future.

The Most Magnificent Book Hack

You may have read my fairly recent post about the adorable book, The Most Magnificent Thing, by Ashley Spires.  This is a fantabulous book to read to your students to foster a Growth Mindset.  And, it ties in super well with my students’ current participation in the Global Cardboard Challenge.

I was looking for some other activities to tie in with the book, and came across an interesting slideshow of pictures of an event that was hosted at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum during which participants “hacked” the book.  They were given copies of the book and tons of craft material, and told to make what they wanted!

Despite the part of me that abhors destruction of any book, I love this idea.  If any book was made for a book hack, then this one is!  And I am so impressed by the amazing ideas dreamed up by the children.

Book Hack of The Most Magnificent Thing by Marie @kidscanpress.com
Book Hack by Marie of The Most Magnificent Thing @kidscanpress.com

You should also see the book hack that the famous “Property Brothers” of  HGTV did of the book.  If I can believe my aging eyes, it looks like they used Little Bits to make their very cool hack!  (This link takes you to the Facebook video of their hack, so you may not be able to view it at school.)

And, of course, a book hack would not be complete if the author did not participate!  Ashley Spires did her own amazing hack, and you can watch the embedded video below.

This entire concept combines two of my favorite topics in education right now for which you can find even more resources on my Pinterest Boards – Maker Education and Growth Mindset.  Some other great picture books that I’ve featured that support these themes are Rosie Revere, Engineer and Beautiful Oops.

Beautiful Oops

Sometimes, like the main character in The Dot, we are paralyzed by the worry that we can’t do something well enough.  And other times, we try to do something well and are devastated when it doesn’t go the way we planned.  Beautiful Oops is a book by Barney Saltzberg that encourages us to make the best of our mistakes.  It is a great book for younger children – full of interactive pages and colorful pictures.

from Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
from Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg

 

While I was looking for resources to accompany the book on the web, I found a great Pinterest Board from @KirstyHornblow that is full of ideas to go with the book.  For example, I am totally going to try the lemon juice/watercolor idea from artprojectsforkids.org.

from artprojectsforkids.org
from artprojectsforkids.org

Beautiful Oops is a nice way to talk about Growth Mindset with young students, and I am definitely going to add it to my Growth Mindset Pinterest Board.

By the way, I added a few extra resources to that board this weekend, including several that I found on Larry Ferlazzo’s site.  The one below, tweeted by @BradHandrich, fits the theme of this post quite well!

How Do You View Your Mistakes?

The Most Magnificent Thing

Once again, circumstances in my life have neatly meshed together without any conscious effort on my part;)

I have been seeing a book called, The Most Magnificent Thing, touted on many blogs.  Not sure I actually wanted to pay for it, I went ahead and requested my local library to add it to the e-books selection, as it wasn’t currently in their inventory.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

In the meantime, I attended a staff development yesterday during which we discussed a book called, Letting Go of Perfect. It’s about how to help young people deal with perfectionism.

When I checked my e-mail in the afternoon, I had a notice that my requested e-book was available.  I quickly downloaded The Most Magnificent Thing, and realized that the main character definitely has an issue with perfectionism, but finds a great way to cope with it.  This delightful picture book portrays a young girl who has an exact idea in her head of what she wants to make, but can’t quite seem to create a tangible version.  She gets quite frustrated, but gets a little distance from the project and then returns to improve it.

This book fits in so well with the message that I am trying to get across to my students about the importance of having a growth mindset and learning from setbacks.  It is very similar to Rosie Revere, Engineer.  Both of these books appear on a wonderful list posted on the blog, “A Year of Reading,” of Picture Books for Genius Hour.  (I recently added that list to the bottom of my Genius Hour Resources Page.)

Even the author’s biography at the end of the book emphasizes the importance of perseverance!

Author's Bio from The Most Magnificent Thing
Author’s Bio from The Most Magnificent Thing

For more great picture books about “doing your own thing,” check out this post from Joelle Trayers.  Also, Dot Day and the Global Cardboard Challenge are two great opportunities for your students to try to make their own most magnificent things!

Try Calling Ishmael – Or at Least Listen to the Voicemails He Gets

I had a completely different post planned for today.  But then I was hip-hopping around the internet, visiting my usual suspects, when I came across this post on It’s Okay to Be Smart.  Joe Hanson rocks.  He always has intriguing entries on his Tumblr, and this one is no exception.

Call Me Ishmael is a website/YouTube Channel that is for people who love books.  “How can that be?” you ask, “Videos are the antithesis of books.”  Well, not if they are videos that celebrate books and the difference they have made in people’s lives.

Call Me Ishmael asks people to call “Ishmael” and leave a voicemail about their favorite book.  Each day, Ishmael takes one of those voicemails, and creates a video with the transcription.

It’s really moving to listen to the impact some of these books have made.  Aside from the implications for classroom use, I just found it inspiring to listen to a few of these, and it made me think deeply about the books that have become a core part of my soul over the years.

Here are a few that I recommend:



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.