Fourth Grade Journey

A Fourth Grade Teacher's Journey Through the World of Books

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wonder Wednesday #221 (HIGHLIGHTS)

Wonder Wednesday - Weekly Highlights

*I wasn't sure what to post for this week's "Wonder Wednesday".  As I was thinking about the past week, I thought of several "wonder" moments I've had both in and out of the classroom.

*Here are a few moments that captured both my thoughts and heart.  Of course they all have to do with reading and books...

Melissa Savage was kind enough to send me an ARC of her next novel.  I abosutely loved her first book Lemons and I'm enjoying this story just was much.  

 This picture book came to me via the publisher and I so enjoyed it.  I enjoyed it even more when I shared it with my fourth grade listeners.  There is so much to think about and discuss.  

 I've been wanting to read this book for quite some time.  I was thrilled when it arrived in the mail this week via my #bookexpedition Twitter group.  I read it in two sittings and can't wait to share it with my class.  

*These two girls are lucky enough to be reading from a "manuscript" from an author that we have had connections with during the school year.  They are reading it and going to share any "ideas" they have for the story.  I can't tell you how excited they were to get this "future book" in their hands.

 As I finished this read aloud, I looked out into the classroom and noticed a boy tearing up and hiding his face in a large pillow on the carpet.  He was quite emotional and I knew he had made a real connection to this piece of literature.  

Monday, April 23, 2018

An Inside Look #50 (Author Interview)

An Inside Look with Dan Gemeinhart
(Author of Good Dog)

*This was a new feature I added to the blog during the summer of 2016.  It was a shot in the dark that it would work, but much to my surprise; it took off and over first season I conducted 22 interviews with a variety of authors.

*It has been such an honor to connect with authors and "chat" about their novel, characters, and thoughts about the story.

*I ran a series of interviews for Season #TWO over the summer of 2017.  It was great to get back to these conversations, that I decided to run Season #THREE during the 2017/2018 school year.  

*Thank you to Dan Gemeinhart for being the Fiftieth author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first FORTY-NINE interviews…


*I've read all of Dan's novels for middle-grade readers.  Each book seems to get better than the last one.  I've been lucky to meet Dan in person and he has also Skyped with a few of my fourth grade classes over the years.  I was thrilled to read his latest story and found it to be unique, special, and a complete page-turner.  

*He was kind, gracious, and giving with his answers to the questions.  It is an honor to post the responses with my "Inside Look" feature.   

*Here is a link to my review of Good Dog...

*Thank you Dan Gemeinhart for writing this story for readers and taking the time to share your thoughts with us here on the blog...

Good Dog
by Dan Gemeinhart (Released March 27, 2018)

How did you come to know Brodie?  
From the very beginning, I always knew Brodie's heart. He's one heckuva dog. His love, his utter devotion, his deathless loyalty to the boy he loves...those were there from the moment the idea sparked to life in my head, and are really the emotional engine that keeps the story charging forward. It did take me some work, though, to get to know his personality and his find his voice; it was a little tougher than it's been with my human characters. But, just through the process of writing the story and putting Brodie in those life-or-death situations, I really got to know this amazing little dog and I fell totally in love with him.

What do you think is Brodie's most admirable quality?
His selfless devotion. He would risk anything and everything - literally, his soul - to save his boy. He has questions and doubts and regrets about other things, but not when it comes to what he would do for Aiden.

Is there anything you wish Brodie would have changed or done differently in his story?
Sure! Because he's so laser-focused on finding and saving Aiden, he doesn't always treat his friends as good as he should. Tuck is an incredibly loyal companion, and even Patsy the cat risks a lot to help Brodie, but sometimes he's too blinded by his own love and mission to see that. He does eventually and he does truly love and and appreciate them at the end, but I think there are times when he could have been a better friend along the way.

What do you think Brodie can offer to other “dogs” (and/or children) that are experiencing similar situations to what he went through?  
Really, I think it's the importance of holding on to who you are and what's important to you, no matter what. We can't control the actions of others or a lot of the things that might happen to us in our lives, but to some degree we can hopefully control whether or not we fall into hopelessness or bitterness, and whether we let ourselves be lost or twisted. Life can be incredibly hard and there is plenty of darkness in the world...we just need to do our best to be the soul we know we should be, and to look for the light even in hard times.

How did you research Brodie and the circumstances he found himself in?
For this book, most of my "research" was more internal soul-searching. I had to do more world-building than I've had to do in previous books...come up with how things work in this story, what happens to souls after we die, how spirits can or can't interact with the world, what the consequences and rules are. It's definitely fiction of course, but I had to craft it in a way that felt true and real to me.

What was the hardest scene to write about Brodie?
Definitely his death scene, which happens before the narrative begins (he's already dead and in "heaven" when the story starts) but is slowly revealed to us in little flashbacks. It's...tough stuff. It's a very dark scene not only for Brodie, but for his boy Aiden. It was pretty heartbreaking to imagine it and to keep having to revisit it, but I thought I needed that darkness to add stakes to the story, and to make the light at the end that much brighter.

Who do you think was Brodie's biggest supporter and why?
Well, without giving too much away, I'd say it was a tie between good 'ol Tuck and the angel-who's-not-an-angel. They are both with Brodie nearly every step of the way, and they both do everything they can to help Brodie on his journey.

Why do you think humans and dogs have such a special connection?  
Oh, man, I don't know! But it's amazing, isn't it? How much love and joy dogs give us, whether we deserve it or not? As I'm writing this I've got my own great dog curled up by my feet. I think the human-dog connection is one of the most beautiful, quiet little mysteries in life. It would be easy to just say that dogs love us because we feed them, but anyone who's ever really known and loved a dog knows it goes way deeper than that.

What do you think Brodie is doing as this present time?
I don't know if I can answer that without giving the ending away! :)  I do know, though, that no matter where he is, he's loving his boy, and he has absolutely no regrets about the quest he went on to save him. Thank you for the opportunity to talk about GOOD DOG and Brodie!

Music Monday #27 (Wavin Flag by K'Naan)

"Waving Flag" by K'Naan

*Music Monday is HERE and I'm excited to share a year's worth of musical selections with you.

*I know it is going to be a GREAT year of music, writing, thinking, and sharing.

*Last week we did the song "The World is Ours" by David Correy.  Later in the week, a student came up to me and asked if we could do this song.  I love when students take the lead and bring a piece of music to me.  To me that is true learning and engagement.  I checked out the song and thought it would be perfect for a Music Monday selection.  

*Today is our TWENTY-SEVENTH Monday together and that means it is time for our musical selection.

*I truly believe Mondays are my favorite day for our writer's notebooks.  

*Each Monday I present a piece of music to my fourth graders.  I usually present the song via a video so they are hearing and "seeing" the music.  

*After I share the video, we discuss the song/video for a few minutes as a class.  It is always a joy to hear what my young listeners have to say about the song.  

*They then get busy writing in their notebooks.  We start off at the beginning of the year writing for about five minutes.  This will gradually increase as the year progresses.  

*Here are some ideas I give the writers to think about during their writing time...

*Their opinions of the song.
*Their likes and dislikes of the song.
*What the song reminds them of.
*Any connections they may have to the music.
*What they think the message in the piece may be.
*What listeners can learn from the song.
*A fictional story about the music/video.

*These are just some ideas I give to the writers.  They are really free to write anything they would like as long as it connects to the song.

*After our silent reading, we spend a few more minutes sharing out what we wrote.  

*I keep a collection of the videos on our Schoology Site so that my students can always go back and rematch them anytime they wish.

Our Musical Selections for 2017/2018... 

Week #1:  "What I Am" by                                                  Click Here for Week One MUSIC
Week #2:  "Hopeful" by Bars and Melody                                         Click Here for Week Two MUSIC
Week #3:  "Somebody" by Lemonade Mouth                                  Click Here for Week Three MUSIC
Week #4:  "Dream Big" by Ryan Shupe                                            Click Here for Week Four MUSIC
Week #5:  "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield                                 Click Here for Week Five MUSIC
Week #6:  "The World's Greatest" by R. Kelly                                    Click Here for Week Six MUSIC
Week #7:  "Candyman" by Zedd, Aloe Blacc                                   Click Here of Week Seven MUSIC
Week #8:  "Thriller" by Michael Jackson                                         Click Here for Week Eight MUSIC
Week #9:  "Clay" by Grace Vanderwaal                                           Click Here for Week Nine MUSIC
Week #10:  "I Don't Know My Name" by Grace Vanderwaal           Click Here for Week Ten MUSIC 
Week #11:  "Brand New Eyes" by Bea Miller                               Click Here for Week Eleven MUSIC
Week #12:  "You Will Be Found" from Dear Evan Hansen         Click Here for Week Twelve MUSIC
Week #13:  "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka                    Click Here for Week Thirteen MUSIC
Week #14:  "Rise Up" by Andra Day                                          Click Here for Week Fourteen MUSIC
Week #15:  "Carol of the Bells" by The Piano Guys                     Click Here for Week Fifteen MUSIC
Week #16:  "This is Me" from The Greatest Showman                Click Here for Week Sixteen MUSIC
Week #17:  "A Million Dreams" The Greatest Showman        Click Here for Week Seventeen MUSIC
Week #18:  "I'll Be Your Water" by Keb Mo                              Click Here for Week Eighteen MUSIC
Week #19:  "The Champion" by Carrie Underwood                  Click Here for Week Nineteen MUSIC
Week #20:  "Can't Stop the Feeling" by Justin Timberlake             Click Here for Week Twenty Music
Week #21:  "Legends" by Sleeping with Sirens                    Click Here for Week Twenty-One MUSIC
Week #22:  "Geronimo" by Sheppard                                   Click Here for Week Twenty-Two MUSIC
Week #23:  "Fresh Eyes" by Andy Grammer                     Click Here for Week Twenty-Three MUSIC
Week #24:  "One Shining Moment" by Luther Vandross     Click Here for Week Twenty-Four MUSIC
Week #25:  "Happy People" by Little Big Town                  Click Here for Week Twenty-Five MUSIC
Week #26:  "The World is Ours" by David Correy                 Click Here for Week Twenty-Six MUSIC

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (4/23/18)

Thanks to Jen and Kellee for hosting this idea on their site.  Here is a link to the site...
Books I Read this Past Week…

Every Little Step - My Story by Bobby Brown

*Autobiography (3 STARS out of 5 Stars)

*Listened on audio and was just a guilty pleasure listen.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

*Young-Adult Novel (4 STARS out of 5 Stars!)

The 11:11 Wish by Kim Tomsic

*Middle-Grade Novel (3 STARS out of 5 Stars!)

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week

 Tangerine by Christine Mangan

*My novel published for adults (Audio)

The Truth About Martians by Melissa Savage

*My middle-grade novel 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

How I Heard About It:  You would have to be living under a rock to not have heard of Jason Reynolds.  I have been reading his books over the last couple of years.  Each one brought me enjoyable and a lot of learning.  After reading and hearing RAVE reviews of this young-adult novel, I purchased it.  The book sat on my bedside table for a bit of time.  Once I started, I couldn't put it down.  

What It Is About:   Will is a teenage boy who has lost his brother to a shooting.  Will is hurt, angry, and sad.  Will knows the "rules" of the neighborhood.  You don't show your feelings, but you get even.  Will decides to get even for Shawn's death.  He grabs his older brother's gun, and enters the apartment elevator.  Will lives on the 7th floor and needs to get himself to the ground level.  The entire story takes place as Will makes his way down in the elevator to the street level to find the guilty party.  As the elevator stops at each floor, a variety of people enter.  These "people" all have had connections to both Shawn and Will.  Are they real?  Are they ghosts?  Are they memories?  That is what Will must figure out before it is too late.  

What I Thought Of It:  I'm always eager to read something new by Jason Reynolds.  I recently saw him speak right here in the Twin Cities, and he is bigger than life.  His written message is wrong, but his spoken message is even more powerful.  There was so much to this story.  It is definitely a book that I will be rereading because of the deep and meaningful messages strewn throughout the pages.  The words are sparse on each page, but boy the content, theme, and lesson are incredibly strong.  I could feel the tension and frustration that Will felt.  That elevator ride was not only stressful on the character, but the reader as well.  

Who Should Read It:  Long Way Down is an extremely important story and I think it should be required reading for high school and/or college readers.  Of course adult readers will also come away with a whole new perspective on this world we are living in.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Life Lesson #23 (Be Brave and Courageous)

"Be Brave and Courageous"

*This is the TWENTY-THIRD Thursday of our school year together and that means it is "Life Lesson" Thursday.

*One of the biggest messages I try to share with my students is to make a positive impact on the world.

*This isn't always easy, but I work very hard to spread this theme/lesson/idea each and every day.  

*I love this video and the message it portrays.  I always want my students to know that they need to be BRAVE and be COURAGEOUS.  If they are, they can accomplish anything they want.  This video clip captures that theme and/or lesson.  

*I set aside time during each day for us to work in our writer's notebooks. 

*We talk about what types of writing we can do in the notebook.  Here are some of the possibilities...

-What we notice in the video
-What we wonder about
-Connections we have to the video
-Thoughts, feeling, emotions about the video clip
-Reminders we have from the lesson/message
-Create a fiction story about the video

*Once the video is shared with the writers, we spend a few minutes "talking" about what we observed.

*My writers set up their HEADING in the notebook and we get busy writing.

*During the start-up of the year, I have my students write for about five minutes.  We slowly build our stamina for writing and slowly add time to the writing block. 

*At the end of the individual writing time, we call on a few volunteers to share their actual writing and/or further thoughts about the video we watched and wrote about.

*If there is time, I sometimes share the video clip with my class at the end of the writer's notebook time.  

2017/2018 Life Lessons...
Week #1:  Be a Reader                                                                      This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #2:  Be Kind to Others                                                              This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #3:  Be Safe                                                                             This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #4:  Be Responsible                                                                 This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #5:  Be Brains                                                                           This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #6:  Be a Friend                                                                        This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #7:  Be Life-Changing                                                              This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #8:  Be Spooky (Halloween Fun Edition)
Week #9:  Be a Bully - NOT!                                                              This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #10:  Be Courageous (to continue on)                                     This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #11:  Be Motivated                                                                   This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #12:  Be Inspired                                                                      This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #13:  Be Merry                                                                          This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #14:  Be a Team                                                                       This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #15:  Be Giving                                                                         This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #16:  Be SHOUTful                                                                  This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #17:  Be Happy                                                                        This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #18:  Be a Reader                                                                    This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #19:  Be POWERful                                                                 This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #20:  Be Brave                                                                         This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #21:  Be Positive                                                                      This Week's Life-Lesson
Week #22:  Be a Friend                                                                      This Week's Life-Lesson

Wonder Wednesday #220 (Jason Reynolds)

Wonder Wednesday - Author Speech

*I was lucky enough to attend a speech given by Jason Reynolds.

*Red Balloon Book Store, local independent, sponsored him for an event.  He was in town (St. Paul) to talk about his two newest books.

*He spent time talking about the "track" series and the newest one Sunny.

*Jason also discussed the book For Everyone.  I of course bought both.

*Not only was it a great night listening to this awesome author, but it was fun to connect with some of my local "NERDY" friends.