I started hearing about the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio a few months ago thanks to Mr. Schu at Watch. Connect. Read. The more I heard him (and others) begin to talk about the power of this book, the more I wanted to read it. I was very excited when Mr. Schu gave away some Advanced Reader Copies of the book on his blog. I’m not usually a lucky person, but apparently I was meant to get a copy of this book because I won the drawing. Also, as luck would have it, I got sick on my birthday and got to stay home from school. During my day of silence, I finished the whole book.
I don’t even know how to begin describing this book. It’s so much more than a book; it’s an experience of immersing yourself in the shoes of someone so unlike yourself. It’s an adventure, a journey. The main character August Pullman (Auggie) is born with a facial deformity, and as he says, “Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” Up until now, Auggie has been homeschooled, but he’s taking the leap of moving into a new school and all of the challenges that come with making friends, attending a formal school, and more, but he faces all with this with a major difference that he was born with.
R.J. Palacio tells this story from multiple perspectives. I’ve come to realize that these kinds of books are among my favorites. I love how the same situations are viewed completely different when seen through the eyes of several people and how individual stories weave together to tell a whole story. The story starts from Auggie’s perspective, and I couldn’t help but want to reach out and give Auggie a hug. All of my problems in life seemed so small and insignificant after viewing the world through Auggie. He’s brave, smart, and funny. I found myself wanting to spend more time with him, so I was a little sad when the book switched perspectives, but it didn’t take long for me to be glad that it did. I liked getting inside the other characters’ heads and understanding why they made the choices that they made. I easily made connections with them when I’ve been in similar situations where someone had a facial deformity. I was reminded of when my wife and I were seated with a man who had a facial deformity on our 7 day cruise. Every night, we sat with him and his wife and enjoyed some great conversation, and we didn’t once talk about the deformity. It was a challenge, but I couldn’t help but think how he probably had to explain his face to every person he came in contact with and how nice it might be to just sit and have some normal conversation. I was glad that Auggie met some of these kinds of characters in the book.
I know great things are ahead for this book. It’s early in the year, but this is a standout book that is a must-read. I’ve already ordered our copy for the media center and can’t wait to share it with students. In the spirit of Mr. Schu and others who are paying this book forward, I’m giving away my copy to a teacher in our school. I can’t wait to hear what the class has to say about the book!
Our 5th grade and 1st grade buddies returned to the media center today for another round of media center collaboration on math standards. Now the 1st graders are working on fractions. The 5th graders worked with their own teacher ahead of time to view the 1st grade fraction standards and familiarize themselves with what was expected of 1st graders. Their teacher encouraged them to stretch the 1st graders thinking within reason.
Today, we started on the carpet in the media center. I used the document camera to display the book Fraction Action by Loreen Leedy. I only showed pieces of the book at a time because I paused and allowed the students to work with their buddies to draw representations of the various fractions from the book on the iPad. They used any of the drawing apps that were installed. Once they drew their representation, students closed iPads and we looked at the representations in the book before moving to another fraction. We looked at 1/2, 1/3, and 1/4 in the book.
Next, the groups split. Half of the students used a pizza fraction app on the iPads while the other half went to the computer lab and used several fraction websites that were compiled by the teachers. I stayed with the students on the iPads and had conversations with them about the fraction app. When they reached a point where they were getting bored with the app, we moved to other math apps to practice basic 1st grade math facts.
We plan to continue the fraction lesson on another day by incorporating some fractions that move beyond the 1st grade fractions.
After seeing a video posted by Buffy Hamilton showing the buzz of energy as multiple classes worked simultaneously in the library, I decided to take a moment to capture a snapshot of the Barrow Media Center. In this video clip, you will see simultaneous classes doing very separate things. Our space and collaboration allow for multiple lessons to happen at different times taught by the media specialist, teachers, and paraprofessionals. While all of this learning is taking place, students are also still able to come to the library to checkout books by themselves.
The beginning of our buckets. We’re now up to 14.
Two ceiling tiles down & 1 about to go
This was only a very small crack last year when we tried to get the leak fixed
Peeled back ceiling above the circulation desk
Usually on our blog, I share reflections on lessons, exciting new resources, or news of great books. Today, however, I share a leak. Over the summer, our media center experienced multiple leaks. These leaks were not new. In fact, they were leaks that we asked multiple times last year to be fixed. Each time they are “fixed” within a few hours they start again. They typically happen in the warmer months when the air conditioning is working overtime. Over the summer, the leaks damaged several books along with our ceiling above the circulation desk.
Upon our return to school, we started the year with no air conditioning. Then we learned that we needed to set the air at a high temperature in order to keep the leaks from starting, which was like not having air conditioning at all. Finally, even this stopped working, and now the air conditioner just leaks no matter what the temperature is. The worst area is in front of the Smartboard where we have increased the number of buckets on a daily basis. We have 14 buckets so far and even those aren’t catching all the water that has now made a wet ring on the carpet. Two ceiling tiles have been removed and one is on the verge of falling. Due to budget cuts, there aren’t enough maintenance to come frequently to work on the problem and when they do come, they tell us there is no way to fix it.
So…we make the most out of it. I’ve invited students as they sit on the rug to take themselves to a swamp after a rainstorm and imagine the drops of water clinging to the Spanish moss before lightly plopping into the murky waters. I’ve invited students to imagine they are in the rain forest under a canopy of bright green trees enjoying a story from afar. We’ve welcomed the drops of water that hit us in the face and head during the lesson and are thankful for the cool, dirty drops of water that refresh us from the heat. We laugh when I trip over the buckets full of water and almost take my second bath of the day. We brainstorm ways we could use the water that is collecting in the buckets.
I have no idea when or if the leak will be fixed. I want it to be fixed so badly, but I try to be thankful for what we have. As the water drips, I think of the classroom I visited in Mexico where sunlight poured through the cracks in the tin sides of the building and rain water rushed across the dirt floor creating a muddy mess for the students and teacher. On this 5th anniversary of Katrina, I think of the many classrooms and libraries that lost everything and had to have classes in inconvenient places. I try to be thankful for what I have.
What physical obstacles do you face in your classrooms or libraries? How do you handle them?
Thanks to fellow media specialist, Buffy Hamilton, I found out how to make our library an app for Iphone/Ipod touch. Our library can be found in the LibraryThing Local Books app. It’s free, so download it today! You can search for our library by name (David C. Barrow Elementary Media Center, zip code, or address. You can even search our card catalog and view our blog/website from the app. I hope this helps some of you gain even more access to our collection of materials.
Last night at our PTA meeting, Georgia Collier gave a wonderful presentation on supporting readers from birth to into their independent years. One of the most amazing pieces of information that she shared was about the Wee Read program. This program is made possible through the Ferst Foundation, United Way Success by 6, and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. Any child in Clarke County below the age of 5 can register. Registered children receive one book per month that is age appropriate. These books build a wonderful home library before children even begin school. In the media center, we have a table setup with information and forms to fill out if you want to register your child. I hope you will all take advantage of this great program. I know I’m signing up my child as soon as she arrives in December!
This Friday marks the release of the movie version of Where the Wild Things Are. This week is a great time to revisit this book with your family and enjoy the magic of Maurice Sendak’s tale. I always share with students that movies and books are two different genres and we should treat them as that. We can appreciate the magic and beauty of both without claiming one or the other as “better”. This week I plan to re-read this book, and I’ll be eagerly awaiting 4:10 on Friday when I get to see the film. Enjoy!
I hope you are all continuing to have a great summer. Today, one of our favorite authors, Deborah Wiles, wrote on her blog about the difficulty of finding the sources for photographs. She also wrote about how it can be difficult to wait until the end of a piece of work to start tracking down all of the sources.
As we start to think about a new school year beginning, let’s explore ways of keeping track of the sources that we use for our research projects. If you already have a favorite way, post a comment and share what it is. I’m sure we’ll come up with some creative ways to create bibliographies throughout the year.
Be sure to check out Deborah Wiles’s blog post, too.
As promised, here is a clip from the 5th grade’s poetry reading during Poem In Your Pocket Day. These students wrote some amazing poems and got up in front of the entire 5th grade to read them. Bravo!