Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Storytelling with iTouch


After reading the story, I Wanna New Room, to grade 2 and kindergarten I asked if anyone wanted to do a book talk on the book using the iRig microphone connected to the iTouch. Two girls from grade 2 volunteered and while students found books they did a book talk. I didn't help them. The girl in the video did it on her own three times and kept adding details with each practice. She also noticed that if she had the microphone too close to her mouth the sound wasn't clear. With each new attempt she improved on both those things. The other 2nd grader held the iTouch and would tell her to move the microphone down or hold up the book.

The next group was kindergarteners. They loved hamming it up using the microphone. While students looked for books about 6 girls decided to book talk on the book we read called, Zero. It is interesting seeing what kindergarteners remember about the book. I used Corel Studio and will put it on the LCD screen outside the library. The video buffers a lot and for the Internet so I redid it from a .wmv file to a .flv.

.wmv file


.flv file



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Garbage Barge

Fun read aloud with older students. It is a longer book so students need a good attention span. YouTube has an interesting video on how the book was made. I showed this first to the students. Make sure you use your New York accent when reading the story. There's one line where the New Yorker says, "forget-about-it" but the spelling is funky so I completely misread it. The kids laughed the hardest at that... I sounded like a baby gurgling. You can also use a crusty sailor voice so it is a fun read aloud. Make sure to tell students it's based on a real story.

I have had some interesting conversations about recycling because I live in Taiwan and their recycling program is incredible - about the only thing I throw away is tissue paper and tape. Everything else is recycled 6 days a week. Ironically, when the garbage truck in Taiwan shows up it plays a similar tune that the ice cream truck used to play when it came to my neighborhood in the U.S. in the 70s (Well maybe not a similar tune - I don't think the ice cream truck's tune was Beethoven like the Taiwan garbage truck but the dinging bells are similar.)

If you don't get into reading this book and ham it up, it will be a long, dull read aloud. You have to have fun with it. One teacher told me that the illustrations reminded her of the creepy Lady Elaine on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Ha! Do you remember her?



Monday, February 20, 2012

Little Red Riding Hood Reader's Theater

Grade 1 students did a reader's theater of Little Red Riding Hood from a series called, Playtales, by Moira Butterfield. The books include ways to build costumes and props. I used some of them but the students mainly did backdrops. I also have a box of props that are odds and ends I've collected over the years and students took from the box whatever grabbed their fancy. I have done this holding the book in front of me and turning the pages for the students or as in the video I scanned the pages and had the story on the smartboard (or LCD projector) for students to read from. This way everyone reads along and I find the rest of the class is more engaged. The microphone helps project students voices that are too soft and lets others ham it up. I also have a student run the computer, a video camera, and regular camera. Usually the comment is, "My arm is sore!" by the time they finish the play. I also choose a have only one child read one narrator speech bubble. This way the entire class is included. You could also add two narrators per speech bubble if you run out of parts. The speech bubbles are color coded which helps students with reading their parts. Some of the vocabulary is hard for 1st grade.

Here's a short video:



Sunday, February 19, 2012

Book Trailer and Review of 2012 Newbery Medal winner


Here's a good book trailer for the 2012 Newbery Medal winner, Dead End in Norvelt.

Here's my review:

I finally finished this book and not because it was bad. Quite the opposite. I kept writing in my reading log all the one-liners I liked - inking up 13 pages.  Then I started to read the first chapter out loud to the grade 5 classes - many laughing hysterically at the outlandish behavior of the characters. There are 8 classes and it takes 10 days to see them all – throw in the fact I got bronchitis and it got dragged out another week - but voila, I am finally done with the 2012 Newbery Medal winner… and oh boy, is it a winner, from the nose-bleeding main character-named-after-the author, Jack Gantos, to the no-nonsense, unsqueamish, Norvelt historian, Miss Volker.

Gantos is grounded for the summer for shooting off his dad’s rifle and mowing down his mother’s cornfield. He acts first and thinks later – or doesn’t think at all in some cases. He’s like a Sherman tank. Plus, his chronic nose-bleeding problem makes it hard for him to hide any emotions; his nose becomes a geiser when he is frightened or lies or gets excited or sees dead people. And this is the summer of death. Death of a town. Death of his neighbors. Death of deer, rodents, corn and his summer vacation. When Gantos becomes  the “hired hands” for Miss Volker, little does he realize that his new job involves not only typing the obituaries for Miss Volker who writes for the newspaper, but it means donning his Grim Reaper costume from Halloween, and driving Miss Volker, who also happens to be the Norvelt Medical Examiner, to examine the bodies of people who have died in town. Things become suspicious after about half a dozen old ladies die in the town and whispers of murder spread like “air leaking out of a crypt.”

Miss Volker has arthritis that has transformed her hands into “talons of a hawk perched on a fence” and some funny images surround them throughout the story. She asks Gantos to line up her Girl Scout Thin Mints on the kitchen counter so she can sweep them off the edge and into her mouth like she is “scoring a goal in hockey.”  This will make a fine meal she claims and asks him to also leave a glass of milk with a straw. At one point Gantos who is on his way to play baseball gets stopped by Miss Volker who wants to write an obituary and he knows he’s going to miss the game because “Miss Volker always liked to take her time. The hands on her kitchen clock were just as useless to her as her own two hands.” Later when they examine a dead body, Miss Volker has to sign the death certificate but she can’t write so she has Gantos (whom she calls her hired hands) help her, “I pressed the pen between my hand and Miss Volker’s twisted palm and together we managed to slowly scrawl her name; letter by letter, as if we were receiving it from an Ouija board.” She drops the phone often when calling Gantos and one time hollers as the phone clatters on the floor, “Dang phone!” When she sees Gantos father hauling a Norvelt home out of town on a flatbed truck she “tried desperately to open the door handle but her fingers were so rusted together she gave up trying and leaned out the open window. ‘You should be ashamed of yourself! These are Norvelt homes,’ she shouted, “Mrs. Roosevelt said our homes should stay right in town and never, ever be destroyed!’”

Miss Volker talks to Gantos about how each of us carries history within ourselves. How “every living soul is a book of their own history which sits on the ever-growing shelf in the library of human memories.” This is why Miss Volker always links the obituary of a townsperson to a famous story in history. This book did remind me of my own history growing up with five siblings in the suburbs and having a brother who had nose-bleeds that had to be cauterized by a doctor. But there’s more to the story than just a person’s history. It is the importance of learning from history and learning from past mistakes.

Some readers might find the nose-bleeding gross while others will find it funny. The dad is disrespectful toward other cultures calling the Russians “Commies” and the Japanese “Japs” and some might find it offensive. However, later in the story it is balanced by Miss Volker’s obituary that talks about being respectful and shows his dad was scarred by the war. While Ganto’s dad is a little crude, insensitive, funny, and sneaky; he’s more like an immature boy versus a cruel man. The reader can see where Jack gets his sneaky ways. The two are like conspirators as they defy his mom and plot behind her back to mow down a cornfield, build a bomb shelter, get out of punishment and fly an airplane.

Here are some of the great lines. Have a good laugh.

When Gantos learns to drive Miss Volker comments: “You’re a fast learner,” she remarked. “You’ve gone from slow poke to safety hazard in one day.”

“Something had to be wrong with me, but one advantage about being dirt-poor is that you can’t afford to go to the doctor and get bad news.”

Gantos dad bought a military plane at an auction that was cheaper than a car and joked that at the next auction he’d see what Sherman tanks were. “That would be so cool, I thought. I wouldn’t have to learn to steer – I could just drive in a straight line and run things over.”