Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Roald Dahl Day

Roald Dahl Day (which takes place on September 13th every year, his birthday) is a day to honor the memory of that very funny and creative man who brought so much joy into so many people's lives through his writing. Philip Ardagh, no slouch himself in the funny author department, has chosen his 10 favorite children's books by Dahl!
Are you a Dahl fan looking for some more great books to read? Well, do not forget his wonderful memoirs, Boy and Going Solo. Also be sure to try:

Philip Ardagh's Eddie Dickens Trilogy
Kaye Umansky's Solomon Snow books
Maryrose Wood's The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series

And if you are an adult interested in World War II spy stories, check out The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington by Jennet Conant!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Science Homework: Using netTrekker!

Today I visited Mr. Montgomery’s 6th grade science class. Students talked about last night’s homework and their successful and challenging searches. Here are a few tips for using netTrekker:

1. Check your spelling. Then check it again!

2. Try searching for variations on your search terms: broader and narrower terms (e.g. if “dog” is your search term, “canine” would be broader, “poodle” would be narrower)

3. Can your search term mean more than one thing? E.g. “scale” can refer to music, or a piece of scientific equipment, or a mathematical model, or drawing and painting. If this happens and you get too many off-topic hits, add another keyword to narrow down your results.

4. Instead of using the search box, use the main contents page to locate what you need! It is often faster and more efficient.

5. Remember, when you use the search box in netTrekker, it does NOT search through the full contents of every website on the Internet! It searches the name and description of the sites it indexes.

E.g. one netTrekker site that contains a pH scale showing ammonia is Chem 1: The pH scale. netTrekker’s description says “Acting as an overview from the General Chemistry Virtual Textbook, this site explores the pH scale and its characteristics including a chart mapping the various levels of the scale.”

If you search for “pH of ammonia” you get no matches because the word “ammonia” doesn’t appear in the name or the description of this site or any of the others! But if you search for “pH scale” this site will be your first hit!

Remember the list of subjects on the main page? You can also find this site and others by following the table of contents:

Science > Chemistry > Acids and Bases > pH > Scale

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Suggestions for Mystery Readers

Parents who sign up to be mystery readers in the classroom often stop by the library looking for help, which we are happy to provide (note: you are welcome to borrow books from the school library for your mystery reader visit and we can advise you on good selections - we also appreciate as much advance notice as possible). I hope the following suggestions will be useful!

You can check out my list of great readalouds to help you get started. This page from the American Library Association is full of useful information aimed at parents. Some books are ideal for one-on-one sharing but do not lend themselves as well to a group reading, while other books beg to shared with a large audience.

Once you've chosen your books, practice reading them aloud clearly, varying the volume of your voice, adding dramatic pauses and otherwise bringing the material to life. Make sure the book is a good fit for you: are you comfortable with any regional accents or dialects that come up in the book? Does the book genuinely appeal to you? (If so, your enthusiasm for it will shine through!) Do the rhymes scan well?

Here are a few tips for getting a great discussion going after you've decided what to read:

Look at the author's and illustrator's websites or online biographies (or check for notes in the book itself) so you can share interesting background information with the class. Maybe the book was inspired by a true story or the author lives locally or owns a dog just like the one in the book! These kinds of details really enhance the overall experience.

Prepare some open-ended questions to ask that encourage children to think on a deeper level (rather than questions that have a simple, factual answer), such as the motivation of various characters, why the illustrator portrayed certain scenes in a certain way, why the plot was resolved the way it was, and so on.

Consider the artwork in the book: what materials and techniques did the artist use and why? Picture books are a unique genre in that words and text together create a whole that is more than the sum of its parts; neither can stand alone. Ask children to notice the font: how does it enhance the story?

Being mystery reader is daunting to some, but it is also a wonderful opportunity to share your love of literature with an eager audience. Happy reading!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Non-fiction book report for 5th grade

This month 5th graders will be reading a non-fiction book for Ms. Russell's class. In addition to their book report, they will be working on their research skills in library class by researching the topic of their chosen book using online databases.

Students will have time to select from non-fiction books in our school library. If you wish to borrow from the public library instead, you can check out some recommended authors and websites below. Make sure you evaluate all titles in terms of age appropriateness as well as whether they meet the parameters Ms. Russell has set.

Rhoda Blumberg
Russell Freedman
Sy Montgomery

Classic Non-fiction from the TeenZone at KCLS

The Sibert Medal, an award for exceptional non-fiction given by the American Library Association (which also gives out the Caldecott & Newbery Medals).

Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12 offers detailed annotated lists for those who enjoy science.

The Cooperative Children's Book Center has numerous reading lists, many of which focus on non-fiction. Select first by grade level, then by topic.

Happy Labor Day! Exploring Careers...

Welcome back to school! I hope everyone had a nice, relaxing (if rather rainy) Labor Day. Labor Day has been celebrated since 1882 as a way of honoring the many workers who contribute to the United States.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" is one of the most common questions adults ask young people. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has put together a website called What Do You Like? which gives upper elementary and middle school students information about select career choices. It is a fun site to browse and helps remind students of the many exciting possibilities open to them in the future - as well as the relevance of all the hard work they do now!

Some books to explore include the Scientists in the Field series, In Their Shoes by Deborah Reber and, for younger readers, the What Can I Be? series by Muriel DuBois.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Meet Cornelia Funke & the producer of the Harry Potter films!

On Sunday, September 19th, acclaimed German author Cornelia Funke (Dragon Rider, Inkheart, The Thief Lord) will be coming to Seattle to promote the musical based on her new fantasy novel, Reckless.

She will be reading from her new book (to be released on September 14th), and talking to the producer of the Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes movies about what it's like to take a book and turn it into a stage production. You'll also get to hear a performance of one song from the musical and get your book signed by Cornelia.

Starting September 14th, two tickets are free with the purchase of Reckless from University Book Store! You can purchase the book in person or pre-order over the phone (206.634.3400 or 1.800.335.READ).

Read more about the event by going to the Showbox website. Check out the Get Reckless website for more on the book, the show, what fans are saying and details of a live video chat she's doing on the book's publication date!

Funke is a perennial favorite in our school library and one of the few authors in translation to make it big in the world of English-language children's fiction. If you haven't read her imaginative and beautifully written fantasies, don't delay - they are too good to miss!