Category Archives: Books

Thing Explainer

Randall Munroe was first brought to my attention when a parent directed to me to his fun website, xkcd.com.  One of my favorite Randall Munroe comics is “Up Goer Five,” a diagram of the Saturn V explained in simple language.  The best part, in my opinion, is at the bottom where it says, “This end should point toward the ground if you want to go to space.  If it starts pointing toward space, you are having a bad problem and you will not go to space today.”  I feel like this is the perfect metaphor for some of my lessons ;)

To my delight, I noticed on one of my “Lists That Can’t Be Missed,” that the author of The Kid Should See This, has recommended Munroe’s new book, Thing Explainer, as a great gift.  I’m one of those geeky teachers who asks for things for her classroom as gifts, and my husband kindly indulged me by putting it under the tree.

The book’s Table of Contents is called, “Things in this Book by Page.” Munroe is kind enough to put the more formal names of each explained thing underneath the titles, which you may find more necessary in some cases than others.  For example, “Boat that goes under the sea,” is a submarine.

Of course.  What do you think “The pieces everything is made of,” refers to?

Periodic table.  Maybe you got that one, but I have a feeling that, “Shape checker” won’t come so easily to you.

You’ll have to buy the book to find the answer to that one ;)

I see a lot of uses for this book in the classroom.  Have students pick a page and do research to find the actual names for each part on the diagram, for example.  Or, don’t show them a picture at first, and have them try to guess what it is as you read the descriptions. Another idea is to, once the students see some examples, have them create their own “Thing Explainer” diagram for something that is not in the book.  (Challenge them to use only the words on Munroe’s list of the “Ten Hundred Words People Use the Most.”  They can check sentences with his simplewriter tool online.)

Included in the book is a nice poster of a “Sky Toucher” which I intend to laminate for my classroom.  If you’re interested in other xkcd merchandise, here is a link to the store (which includes a poster of the Up Goer Five).

thingexplainer
Buy Thing Explainer here!

4 More Ways to Survive 4 More Days

Just in case you didn’t properly ration your Teachers’ December Survival Kit,  and you are finding yourself desperate for ways to make it through this final week before the break, here are some more activities that I’ve found from some of my favorite bloggers:

Candy Cane S.C.A.M.P.E.R.

Ugly Sweater Challenge (I love the Ugly Sweater fractions!)

Toys Go Out (scroll to the end of this post for a great book idea and a link to lesson plans!)

Quiver and Holiday Writing – augmented reality fun for the holidays

keep-calm-because-we-have-4-more-days-left

Gifts for the Gifted – Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding

As I continue this year’s Gifts for the Gifted series, I should re-iterate a few things.  First of all, these recommendations are for all children – not just those identified as “Gifted and Talented.” Secondly, these gifts will be much more meaningful to their recipients if the gift-giver follows through by enjoying the gift along with the child.  This is particularly important to remember with today’s gift suggestion.

Hello Ruby began as a Kickstarter campaign by Linda Liukas, and is now available for purchase.  Liukas wanted to create a book that would showcase Ruby, a young girl who refuses to back away from a challenge.  Linda Liukas, as she learned to program, used the imaginary Ruby as her own inspiration to persevere in problem solving.

HelloRuby

Some of you may recognize “Ruby” as a programming language – but don’t expect this to be a textbook. As Liukas states in her “Introduction for the Parent,” this book is not intended to teach programming.  Instead, it “introduces the fundamentals of computational thinking that every future coder will need.”  Targeted toward students in primary grades (I would recommend 2nd-4th), this book includes programming vocabulary, such as “functions” and “loops,” but is not a curriculum.

There is an “Activity Book” included in Hello Ruby.  This portion of the book includes 22 short activities to reinforce the coding concepts in the story.  Each one connects back to the storyline and characters, continuing with Liukas’ delightful illustrations.

I would recommend reading this book along with your child, and doing the exercises together.  If you pair the exercises along with some introductory programming activities, such as The Foos, Box Island, or Kodable, great connections can be made to the concepts in the book.  Also, be sure to visit the Hello Ruby website for more resources, including printable pages for the activity book.

For more in the “Gifts for the Gifted” series, check out this page.  If you would like more resources for programming for kids, here is my Pinterest Board for that topic.

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Gifts for the Gifted – Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome

With all of the political shenanigans going on in the world today, it’s comforting to know that we have a completely non-partisan president who is more concerned with dancing than making newspaper headlines – Kid President.

Kid President

If you want to give a gift that will inspire and make its recipient laugh, Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome is the perfect book.

KP's Guide to Being Awesome

I first wrote about this book in April, and I don’t think that I can improve on the ecstatic review I gave it back then.  So, I will direct you to that post for more details.

You could also watch this fun promo video for the book, starring Kid President as himself.

Do yourself a favor if you buy this book, and read it along with the child/ren you choose to favor with this gift.  It will be much more meaningful if it’s shared.

There are a few more pieces of KP merch available here if you are interested in pairing your gift with a shirt or poster.

Want some more gift ideas?  Check out my page of links to all of my past “Gifts for the Gifted” suggestions. 

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Library Wars

Words can be powerful weapons – even in baseball.  As the Kansas City Royals and the Toronto Blue Jays battle it out over who will advance to the World Series, their city’s respective public libraries decided to take the competition to social media.

Kansas City

After Kansas City’s library tweeted this photo following a victory over the Jays, the Canadian library responded with this:

Toronto

To see some more images from this Baseball Battle of the Books, head on over to CBC Books.

Happy Friday!

Mindset Parent/Teacher Book Study Reflection

The last couple of weeks have provided a few great opportunities for me to learn, and I would like to reflect on them in this week’s blog posts.

One of my grand ideas last year was to try a Parent/Teacher book study.  Having read Mindset, by Carol Dweck, I felt that it was the perfect book since it has advice for parents, teachers, and coaches. I applied for a grant from our PTA to purchase the books before the end of last school year with the plan to distribute them before the summer for everyone to read.  We would then meet together in person in September.

The first thing that didn’t go as I predicted was that far more teachers signed up than parents.  The teacher interest was probably due in no small part to the chance of earning professional development credit.  However, I gave the parents little incentive, and that was completely my fault.

During the summer, I sent out e-mails in an attempt to keep interest going.  These e-mails included links to SMORE flyers with book, music, and video suggestions.  There was also a link to a Padlet for feedback on the book.  Again, there was very little response.

As the meeting date closed in last week, I began to panic.  Few people had RSVP’ed and only 1/3 of them were parents.  I mentioned door prizes and childcare, which drew a couple more responses.  (However, it turned out that no one brought their child, after all.)

The meeting was from 6-7 PM. When the participants RSVP’ed, they signed up for 1 of 4 breakout sessions, and to bring snacks, napkins, or plates.  Out of the 40+ books I gave out, about 21 people came. We met in the library first, where I showed a couple of videos.  Then we pooled all of the snacks and supplies before going to breakout sessions.  Each session was in a different classroom with an iPad, and the participants shared out responses and suggestions to a Padlet for their session.  Here are some of their answers:

perseverancecommunity mindset Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 7.36.41 PM

One of my favorite quotes, from teacher Amy Huebner, was, “Prioritize your child’s learning over your time.”  She explained this to mean that we often do things for our children b/c it’s faster and easier when they could learn so much more by doing it themselves. Very true!

After coming back to the library to share the Padlets, the group played a Kahoot game on Mindset to compete for door prizes.  It was very competitive, and seemed to be a great way to end the evening! Of course, I messed up the whole experience by putting the wrong answer down for the very last question, so we had a bit of a discussion about learning from our (my) mistakes…

The next day, I sent out a form to everyone to gather feedback in case we ever try something like this again.  Only teachers responded :(  Kudos to them for taking the time b/c that was definitely not a required part of their professional development hours!

Here are some of the summaries:

enjoyment

emails

anotherstudy

time

I am very conscious of taking people’s time, so I was gratified to see the last responses.  It was also interesting to see in the comments that a few people thought it would be worth it to add some time to the actual meeting so we could have more breakout sessions and follow-up time.

One suggestion that also seemed like a great idea was to ask parents for a book suggestion next time.  Love that!

To sum things up:

  • I’m glad we did this.
  • I wish more people, particularly parents, would have participated. (We need to offer more incentives and ask for input before starting the next project.)
  • I think it would be a good idea to try this again, using the feedback from the first time to improve it.

If you would like more Mindset resources, take a look at this Pinterest Board for articles, video links, and much more!

Region 20 Library Resource Roundup

The last couple of weeks have provided a few great opportunities for me to learn, and I would like to reflect on them in this week’s blog posts.

My partner-in-crime (actually, I’m generally the victim of her crimes), Angelique Lackey, who is our school’s librarian, submitted our names to present at Region 20’s Library Resource Roundup on a 3d printer curriculum we are using.  We were accepted – which meant I got to attend some awesome sessions while nervously waiting for our presentation time near the end of the day.

One of my big interests is makerspaces, and there were some great sessions on these at the conference.  I learned how David Gallin-Parisi provides a space in his high school library for students to remix, imagine, and create using Little Bits and the 3D printer (among other things).

I also met Joe Tedesco who works for Northside ISD, a district that is doing some revolutionary things with makerspaces in the library. Joe is very interested in collaborating, and has started a Google Site called, “SA Makerspaces for Education.” (SA is for “San Antonio.”)   One idea that Northside is trying is to make “kits” for librarians to check out from their Central Office so costly materials like Little Bits can be rotated around the school for maximum usage. (For more info on makerspaces, check out this Pinterest Board or search my blog.)

At lunch, I had the great honor of sitting with Angelique, Dee Dee Davenport (our district’s Library Services Coordinator) and local author, Jeff Anderson.  Jeff has written a book called Zach Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth.   It is set in San Antonio, and the main character is a 6th grader.  It’s hilarious, and a great suggestion for Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans who are ready for a book with less pictures.

jeffanderson

Another highlight at lunch was a presentation by Moonbot Studios. Moonbot Studios is the incredible company behind The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.  This book, and the  imaginative short animation of the story, are two of my favorite resources.  A representative from the company came to speak at the conference, and then we were supposed to Skype with the author/illustrators of the book (and many others), William Joyce and Joe Bluhm.

However, a happy accident occurred.  We could see, but we couldn’t hear.  So, not to be deterred, William Joyce took us on a silent but delightful tour of Moonbot Studios – showing us work they had done as well as works in progress.  William Joyce skipped around and hammed for the camera like a young boy, and proudly showed us the Oscar for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

moonbot

I was so inspired by this wonderful day spent with librarians, authors, and makers!  This is the kind of professional development I would gladly participate in on a regular basis :)