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July 27, 2018

Picture Books for the First Week of School

There are bound to be hundreds of lists like this floating around the internet. Lists of the best read alouds for back to school. However, here is my list! These are my favorite books to share with my students for those first few days of school. Some I have read before, others will be new to me this school year. Either way, I can not wait to share them with my students!

1. All Are Welcome

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The theme of this is quite clear, all are welcome here. This is a message that we should be making obvious in our classrooms. Students may be in your class that do not look like you, but you still need to embrace them all. "In our classroom safe and sound. Fear is lost and hope is found". How beautiful! This is the type of environment I aim to build in my classroom.

2. School's First Day of School

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In this story we are walked through the beginning of a new school. The school is a little nervous about the children coming, even though the janitor explains it will be fun. When the school hears and sees students complain about school, he starts to feel bad and thinks he is awful. Your students will love seeing how school learns new things just like them! Click here to watch a video read aloud. 

3. The Name Jar

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Names are very important. It is crucial to be able to correctly pronounce your students names and have their peers do the same. I love this book for the first week of school because I love having my students learn about themselves and their classmates. Building relationships and respect is EVERYTHING. The beginning of this story breaks my heart, kids do not realize how cruel they can be to one another.  My goal as a teacher is to teach all of my students to have respect for one another and how to treat others. This is a perfect story for those values and embracing your uniqueness. Click here for a video read aloud.

4. Suki's Kimono

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This story is a little bit longer, so I would probably shorten it for my Kinders. However, it is the perfect story about being yourself. Suki's obaschan gave her the kimono to help her remember their special day. Click here for a video.

5. It's Back To School We Go

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This is one that I need to share, because it encompasses everything I love about read alouds. It brings the world right into my classroom. Follow 11 children in 11 different counties on their first day of school. After you can have your students share about their first day of school.Video here.

6. This Is The Way We Go To School

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This story was part of my reading series in a Kindergarten curriculum. I love the simplicity of it and how it shares how different kids go to school. I tie it in with talking about my kids come to school and go home. Great way to compare and contrast your school with another from a different country. View the video of the story here.

7. The Sandwich Swap

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Can we just appreciate how much students will love hearing a story written by a queen? Two friends are pulled apart by their differences, but quickly realize their mistake. At the end of this story their realize that their differences are really a good thing. I would love to have a diversity lunch to celebrate the cultures in my classroom. Have you ever done that? Click here for the read aloud.

8. Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon

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"Walk as proudly as you can and the world will look up to you." But on the first day at a new school, Molly Lou Melon runs into a bully. However, she is quick to show him how her differences are her strengths. Click here for an online read aloud.

9. I Like Myself

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This book just holds a place in my heart. To me, it is so crucial to help our students identify what they like about themselves. I pair this book with Marvelous Me and have my students complete a project about what they like about themselves. My county in PA has a high suicide rate and I am trying to do everything I can to combat that. This books helps me help my students realize their strengths. Click here for a read aloud.

10. We All Count

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Great book to introduce your students to Cree numbers. I am all about bringing more culture into my classroom! Click here for some pronunciation.

11. Disappearing Desmond

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Sometimes all we need is for someone to see us. A book can be a great way to connect students. Desmond and Gloria spend a day reading together and playing together the next. Gloria helps him forget why he ever wanted to disappear. It is amazing what reaching out to a new classmate can do! Click here to watch an online read aloud.

12. Violet

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This story is a great introduction of both race and mixing of colors. I often explain to my students that they are a piece of both of their parents. She is not blue like her dad or red like her mom. Violet is upset and confused. Her mo explains to her that it is what on the inside that counts. 

13. The Word Collector

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I love this story and I love Jerome! This is a story that I use to build vocabulary with my students. When we come across an amazing word we add it to our collection. Each day we go over the words that we have added. Start your year off right with this story and come back to it often! Click here for an online reading.

14. Be Kind

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Teach empathy to your students with this read aloud. Follow a little girl as she tries to find a way to help a classmate feel better. Kindness has a wonderful ability to spread across the world. Imagine if we all did one kind thing a day. Click here for video of the read aloud.

July 24, 2018

Eating My Way Through Louisiana

This summer I am spending 2 1/2 weeks with my best friend in Florida. It is also the first summer EVER that I am not working all summer. CRAZY! I am 1 week into my trip and have only been slightly going stir crazy; but I have my laptop, did my BTS shopping and have plenty of books to read at the pool/beach.

During my stay my Mr. came down for a long weekend. He has never been to New Orleans so we spent Friday-Saturday exploring Louisiana. Does anyone else immediately search for recommended restaurants when they go on vacation? I know it can not just be me! Through the help of the internet and the TV Food Map we made our plan.

D is a huge sports fan (baseball and football). He requested to make a pitstop at LSU before we spent the night in NOLA. Why not? Let me say, the stadium was INSANE!

Baton Rouge brought us to The Rum House.

The Rum House - Baton Rouge

This restaurant/bar was featured on the Travel Channel for both the Brisket Melt and Key Lime Pie. Let me tell you, that Brisket Melt was UH-MA-ZING! D had ordered that as well as a taco. I ordered the Mahi Mahi fingers and a jerk chicken taco.
Mahi Mahi Fingers

Key Lime Pie
Not only is the food amazing but the atmosphere is just so chill. If I lived here, this would be my place.


Cafe Du Monde - NOLA

When we finally made it to NOLA we dove right into the French Quarter. Since this was D's first time we hands down needed to go to Cafe Du Monde. We shared an order of beignets and each had a refreshing frozen Cafe Au Lait.

 Pat O'Brien's - World's Famous Hurricane

When in NOLA you need to stop for a Pat O'Brien's Hurricane! 

Central Grocery and Deli - NOLA

After a fun night on Bourbon Street we needed to refuel ourselves. That took us to get a muffuletta at Central Grocery. They are located on Decatur Street and boast to be the home of the Original Muffuletta. Whether it truly is the first or not, it is delicious and the deli has been in the family for 3 generations. 

Willie Mae's Scotch House - NOLA

Ever get to a restaurant and they tell you there is a 45 minute wait? Typically we say "bye!" and go to find a new place. No no no, not when it comes to Willie Mae's. you get in that line and you wait, I promise you, it is more than worth the wait. 

So what do you order? Easy - the fried chicken with Mac and Cheese - your foodie self will thank you. 

It has been 3 years since Willie Mae has passed, but I am certain her memory will live on in her food.

Creole Creamery - NOLA

Our final stop was to get our sweet tooth fix at the Creole Creamery

I couldn't decide so I had the sampler.

D has the Skyscraper Sunday.

July 23, 2018

Scholastic Reading Summit

Literacy is a passion of mine. As an educator, I am always looking at how can I improve myself as a teacher. My students deserve the best, that is why I continue to return to school and attend Professional Development Conferences out of my own pocket. When I am paying out of pocket I select ones that feed my teaching soul and lift me up.
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Scholastic Reading Summit was a conference I first attended last year. Since then I was hooked! When you attend Reading Summit you are surrounded by like minded individuals, which is nice for me since I typically attend them solo.  It can be intimidating to put yourself in a situation like that, but remember, the best things happen outside of your comfort zone. 

Author Meet and Greets

This is probably my favorite part about this conference. You get to mingle with some amazing authors. Again, this is where the huge advantage of traveling solo comes into play. Last year in Washington D.C. I sat at the same table as Andrea Davis Pinkney. This year I sat next to both Carmen Agra Deedy and Pernille Ripp (founder of Global Read Aloud). 

When I attended last year I had no idea what to expect. The authors that attend the conference are not there simply to sign some books. They are the keynotes, and oh my word, they take your breath away. I wish I could find the words to share with you about how I felt in those moments. I laughed. I cried. I felt completely inspired. It is hands down the reason I went back again. And those are only the speakers, you still have two sessions to attend!
Jewell Parker Rhodes

Jewell Parker Rhodes is one of my favorite YA authors. Her stories put life right into you. She has written books that help students deal with tough issues. We need authors like that. Ones that write so brilliantly that it makes my job as a educator easier when selecting books for my students. Not only is she an incredible writer, she captivates you with her speaking and personality as well.  **Ghost Boys is a MUST read if you have not yet done so. Read it. Share it. Learn from it.

Carmen Agra Deedy

Carmen Agra Deedy has written one of my favorite picture books, "14 Cows for America". I have been reading this book to my classes for years. I have read it in both K, 2, and 5. It is based on the true story of the Maasai tribe and their gift of 14 cows to America to help heal with the pain of September 11th.

Andrea Davis Pinkney is another gift to our students. She (as well as her husband) have written some beautiful stories that I share with my students while teaching them about social justice. Their book "Martin Rising" was included in our swag for the conference. If ever there was a person you can approach with confidence, it is her. She is so welcoming!

Each time these authors speak, they are sharing the same message - the importance of teachers and the importance of literacy. Teachers, you are making a HUGE impact in so many lives. Yes, theses authors are writing beautiful stories, but it is nothing if you are not sharing them with your students. Even if you teach elementary and have YA books you want to share. Our schools are K-5 and it always gets around how much I love to reach. Students seek me out, they share what they are reading and I make suggestions to them. You can be an advocate for literacy and a beacon to students even if they are not in your classroom,

The Workshops

When you register for Reading Summit you will select two sessions to attend. One that I very much enjoy learning about is Booktalking and how to get your students to do it.

Booktalking is one aspect of hooking students that I have enjoyed learning more about. In my 5th grade classroom I would conduct a book raffle with each Book Order I placed. I would show book trailers for the ones I was raffling. I can say this book talking is one aspect that I need to become better at in my Kindergarten classrooms.

Next year in Kindergarten my goal is to send out a monthly LITERACY newsletter to our families. It was suggested to select two students each month to book talk one of their favorite books. What a fantastic idea!
After this book talk he GAVE us a copy of Refugee. Please, read it.
Did you know that Scholastic has Booktalks ready for you to use? Yeah, I didn't either. They coordinate with book fairs. Simple print and read!  Check them out here. They also have tips for you and for students. Find more booktalks here.

The Books

BOOKS! There is nothing like walking through carefully selected and recommended books by people like John Schu. Each summer I take a break from purchasing books, except for at the Summit. All the books are 25% off so I get more bang for my buck.  This year I was much more selective with my purchases as I have been on a mission to add diverse authors to my classroom library in a push for #ownvoices.


This is always a fun part. Why? Because awesome freebies! Last year I made a mistake and did not check my bag first and ended buying a book that was included in there. Oh well, lesson learned, but can you ever have too many copies of Blob Fish?
2018 SWAG
The theme this year was celebrating Harry Potter, so we all got a copy of the first book.  Two picture books (I have been wanting Martin Rising so that was SUPER exciting), a Professional Development book and a data and research book - for sharing with your principals.

 2019 Locations/Dates

My first year attending I simply picked the nearest location. This year I made my selection based on the authors (I NEEDED to thank Carmen Agra Deedy for her book). I can confidently say that I was not disappointed with either location. Keep an eye out for when registration opens! If you are able I also recommend the breakfast with John Schu! 

As for next year, Denver was the most appealing because it is an area that I would LOVE to see. The timing works out perfect because my Mr. actually has shut down the week of the 4th so we will be making a vacation out of it! Now, who do you think will be the authors?
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