Saturday, March 8, 2014

Book Review-The Shadow Throne by Jennifer Nielsen

Title:  The Shadow Throne
Author:  Jennifer A. Nielsen
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date:  February 25, 2014
Source of Book:  Netgalley

The Shadow Throne is the third book in The Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen.  War has come to Carthya. When Imogen is kidnapped, King Jaron makes a plan to rescue her.  Of course, nothing is ever easy for the Ascendant King, but don't discount Jaron just yet--he always has a plan.

I thought this book was the perfect conclusion to the trilogy.  At this point, Jaron knows who he can trust and who his real enemies are.  Though young, he never loses sight of saving his kingdom and the people of Carthya.  Nielsen gives a conclusion to all characters in this book, leaving the reader satisfied.  This is probably my favorite children's series since Harry Potter.  You can't help but to love and root for Jaron.

I am still at a loss in which genre to classify this book.  It is definitely Middle Grade/YA.  I prefer to classify it as Middle Grade, but when shopping for the books at Barnes & Noble, I had to look in the YA section.  As far as genre, though, I have mostly seen it listed as fantasy.  My only issue with this is that I believe fantasy involves magic and this book does not.  I prefer to think of the genre as a cross between fantasy and historical fiction.  The kingdom is a made-up place (fantasy), but takes place in the past (historical), though there are no historical facts in this book, which is a key component of historical fiction.  I never know how to describe the books in this trilogy, except that they are all excellent!

Rating:  4/5 stars.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Author Studies

Does anyone do author studies to teach reading strategies and author's craft in writing?  This wasn't something I was exposed to in college, so it is new ground for me.  I have done an Eve Bunting author study in the past and I am currently doing an Angela Johnson author study.  Angela Johnson is an Ohio author.  Her books relate to many of my students.  She has won three Coretta Scott King awards and one book was awarded an ALA notable award.  With two split-up weeks, I thought this was the best time to conduct our Angela Johnson author study.  We started with The Leaving Morning and Tell Me a Story, Mama.  Both books are very relatable to my students.  We discussed making connections and point of view.  This week, we will be reading When I Am Old With You and studying sentence fluency.  Angela Johnson is a great author to study in fourth grade because she has authored picture books for young children, middle grade and young adult novels, and poetry.  This offers a wide variety of books for the wide variety of reading levels in my classroom.  We will also be doing a mini-study of the historical fiction genre with her books Wind Flyers about the Tuskegee Airmen and A Sweet Smell of Roses about the March on Washington.  Both books offer opportunities for nonfiction companions.

If you would like to learn more about Angela Johnson and her books, you can visit her website at  There is also an excellent video on Ohio Channel where Angela Johnson discusses her books and writing process.

If you would like to purchase my Angela Johnson author study, you can visit my Teachers Notebook shop.  I will have it discounted this week only!!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

I'm a Bad, Bad Blogger!

I have no idea how you other moms and teachers do it!  I am nearly drowning this year and blogging has been one of the last things on my mind.  My sister asked me to write a blog post for her travel blog, Glam Girls Travel and it got me in the mood to write again!  I'll let you guys know when it gets posted--it's all about traveling with young children.

I think I posted a while back that I was going to try out self-contained this year.'s going!  I do miss teaching reading all day long!  I also miss only having to prep for reading & language arts.  I do like having the same kids throughout the day, though. It can be challenging at times, but I do feel like I have a better grasp on behaviors and their progress in school in all subjects.  My teammate and I have discussed it and I think we have decided to go back to switching next of the main reasons being....

I'm having a baby!  

We're expecting a little girl in May!  So, does that get me off the hook for not blogging since August?  All you moms out there know what that first trimester exhaustion is like.  Well, mine still hasn't gone away and I'm 26 weeks.  Today is actually the first day that I feel like my energy is coming back.  Thank goodness!  I'm even considering going into school tomorrow to get some stuff done that has been neglected for far too long. 

I'm also getting ready to start Math Workstations this week.  I was busy creating some games during family movie night (luckily my hubs and kid gets it!)  I went to Dollar Tree earlier and got some dice, playing cards, flash cards, and some containers to house everything.  Once I work out the kinks and see how things run, I will definitely be posting more.  I know it's going to take some trial and error, given this is my first go-round!  

Well, I hope everyone is having a great weekend and I hope my fellow midwesterners are staying warm!  It was 45 degrees here today, which is a heat wave compared to the -35 wind chills we were having three days ago!  I am going to make a goal to post at least once a week from now on, so stick with me!  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Week-end Randomness

Look what I've been up to this week....

Yep, that's what my room looked like when I walked in this week.  Actually, I had been in one time before and moved two bookshelves and left.  Haha.  No, really, I had the kid with me and he was way too bored.  This is what happened:  

At the end of the first day of mission: organization, this is what the room looked like:
I arranged the desks first, on the advice of a seasoned veteran.  I was complaining how it's just so overwhelming when you first walk in and you just don't know where to start!  In a previous post, I wrote about how I still was unsure how I wanted to arrange my room.  Well, I decided to make the group meeting area in front of the Smart Board.  I arranged the desks in tables scattered around that meeting area.  I need to buy another rug because the one I have is too small, but you can see the corner of it in the bottom right picture.  In the top picture, I have organized my library.  Once that was done, it finally started to feel like a classroom again.  I organize my library by genre.  I use the black dishpans you can buy at the Dollar Tree.  The red bins came from Scholastic when my district ordered 900 books for each grade level!  I try to keep them separate as best as I can, so the Scholastic books go in the red bins and the books I have purchased go in the others.  

You might see I have some bulletin boards already done.  I actually left some things up from last year because I knew they weren't going to be painting.  My Daily 5 posters are still up, but that was just an oversight and I will be taking them down because I make them with my students while we are launching each component of Daily 5.  

My first official day back is not until Tuesday, but I am working Monday as though it is a real work day.  My mom is actually going to come in and scan books into my Booksource app while I do other things around the room.  It's always nice to have a helper and to help me stay focused.  Otherwise, I end up spending a lot of time talking to friends and coworkers that I haven't seen all summer!  

Another little excitement in my life is...da-da-dah...
That's right, I ordered an Erin Condren teacher planner!  I went back and forth, and I found one similar on Etsy that was less-expensive, but she really sold me on that You Tube video posted on the EC site!  I decided I MUST have one.  So I spent a little extra dough and added extra checklists and additional plastic page protectors and hopefully it will be everything I hoped it would be.  

Another really random thing from this week, but kinda goes along with my EC planner is these new pens...
Have you seen these yet?  They are Pilot Frixion GEL pens...that are ERASEABLE!!  What?!  AYFKM?  That's short for "Are You Freaking Kidding Me?!"  They are amazing!!!  Someone I follow on Twitter tweeted about them and how they are on sale on Amazon, so I splurged.  I bought two sets.  That's how much I KNEW I was going to love these pens.  And my expectations are exceeded.  Yes, they are that amazing.  And they're super colorful, and so much fun to use to write in my new EC planner!!  By the way, they are still on sale and the $2 clickable coupon is still active, so go buy them now!  

One last exciting thing that happened this week is...

Yep, that's what you think it is.  The Quiestest Pencil Sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies.  
You know what that means?  A review and a giveaway is coming soon!!

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Thoughts on Classroom Arrangements

I am still on vacation, but I'm reading Twitter, following blogs, and pinning away. It seems as though I'm the only teacher on the planet not in the classroom preparing for the new school year. This is my second vacation this summer. We did the two-vacation thing last year and I loved it. We took a larger-scale family vacay in June, then a smaller "end-of-summer celebration vacation" if you will in August. It was actually a surprise trip from my family for my big 3-0, but it was a great way to say goodbye to summer.  I loved it so much, I decided to try it again this summer. The kid and I accompanied my husband on a business trip to Atlanta, then hopped on a plane to see my sister and her husband in Orlando. We hadn't seen them since the surprise trip last August, so we were really looking forward to it. I'm going to blog about both trips with pictures when I return home. 

What I want to write about today is different classroom arrangements. I got rid of my desk last year. I was really worried I would miss it, but I really didn't. I never sat at my desk during class anyways, so I just used my kidney table as a "desk," which I only sit at in the morning during check-in and during small groups. I also brought in another kidney table for my co-teacher. She spent most of the afternoon reading block in my classroom, so she really needed a space of her own.  I wish I had pictures, but essentially both kidney tables were in the back of the room, along with our library area. I would like to move things around this year, here are some thoughts:

General Classroom Layout:
I've always wanted my small group area in front of the Smart Board. It makes sense to be able to make charts, hop on the Internet, or display something necessary for a read aloud or lesson.  My biggest concern with that, though, is that creating this space in front of the board takes away space for desks when I want students to learn from there and see the Smart Board.  I also saw an arrangement where the teacher moved her small group table to the center of the room.  I really liked that idea (again, to be able to utilize the Smart Board during small groups, and also it seems like it might be better to monitor behaviors during Daily 5 and math workshop.  

Library Area:
I've always loved the library area in my classroom. I have three long bookshelves full of books and one tall bookcase I brought from home. I bought paper lanterns at Target this summer to hang in the library area for softer lighting. I like students to be able to sit in the library to read and relax. In the past, I've also used this space as a meeting area. My biggest problem with my library last year is that some of my students chose to sit there and goof around while I was with a small group and couldn't see them. My first thought is to not make my library so "closed off" but my gut tells me this could happen no matter where my library is in the room. I also need to think about if I want to maintain the library as my meeting area. If not, I can have it be a smaller area in the room. 

Computer Area:
I have three desktop computers provided by the district in my classroom. They have to be against the wall in my classroom because of wall outlets and Internet connections. I also have three Google Chromebook computers that I got through Donor's Choose last Christmas. The Chromebooks are more mobile, but I like them to be plugged in throughout the day when not in use. Last year, I had another table that formed "L" next to the desktop computers. I think I like the idea of all of the computers being in the same location, but they don't have to be. that's got me thinking!!

Your thoughts??
How are you arranging your classroom this year?  Do you change your layout each year or essentially keep it the same?  Anyone else remove their teacher desk from the room? 

Well, off I go to look at more classroom layouts on the 'net! 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Book Talk Thursday-The False Prince

If you have not read this book yet, RUN, don't walk to your nearest bookstore and pick it up.  I say bookstore because it's so good I imagine there will be a LONNGG wait list at the library.  Would you believe me if I say this is more than likely the best fantasy book I have read since The Hunger Games?  I know, The Hunger Games isn't technically fantasy...but I think you get the idea.  It is really, really, really good!

Ok...on to the synopsis.

Sage is an orphan in the kingdom of Avenia.  You can tell right away that he gets into a lot of trouble, but it always seems like it is for the greater good.  A wealthy man buys Sage from the orphanage and Sage quickly realizes this man has a purpose.  There are three other boys with him that were also orphans and they all somewhat look alike.  The man tells the boys right off the bat that he is looking for a boy that will replace the prince of Carthya, who was thought dead four years ago when his ship was overtaken by pirates.  He wants the prince to become king so that he will be able to rule Carthya from the background.  Sage and the other boys are taken to the man's home in Farthenwood to train and become The False Prince.

Right away, you will fall in love with Sage.  He is feisty, but you can tell has a good heart.  I like his spunk and his attitude.  The character development in this book is amazing.  You will also find some twists and turns in this book.  I predict a lot when I'm reading, and I'm often right, which sometimes ruins the book for me.  I did not predict a few plot twists, which made me love the book that much more!

The chapters in this book are also very short, which I think makes the book great for a read-aloud.  After I gushed and gushed about this book for a few days, my husband very quietly snuck it into his carry-on so he could take it on his next business trip to read!

And guess what?  This book is the first in a TRILOGY!  Yay!  The Runaway King is already out (and I am currently reading it!) and the third book, The Shadow Throne is due out March 1, 2014.  Also, I was checking out Jennifer Nielsen's website and it looks like The False Prince has been optioned by Paramount Pictures!!  Go read this book RIGHT NOW!