Thursday, June 30, 2016

Teachers Write Tuesday Quick-Write

Today's Prompt led me to notice an ant carrying around a dead comrade. I had so many questions! Where was he taking him? How did he die? Are they going back to the colony or away? Here is what I wrote in my notebook:

I looked this up (arrow to my note: "Ant carrying another ant (dead)") to see if this was a common
ant "thing". It turns out scientists have discovered that ant colonies that don't remove their dead have higher mortality rates than those that do. I'm curious how the ants themselves discovered this. Is it a natural instinct? Where do they take their dead? Just "away"? Or do they have a "spot"? Is there an ant cemetery?

::looking up more info::

::found an NPR interview from 2006::
(By the way, the opening to this story is fantastic)

One woman's name keeps popping up: Deborah Gordon (Stanford Professor of Biology). She is often interviewed by NPR, does TED talks about ants and so forth.

Apparently there is an ant cemetery. It's underground and there are ants that pile up dead ant bodies just to take the pile down again, move it, pile it up, take it down, and move it back again.

This could be because successful ant colonies have a surplus of ants and they just need something to do to fill the time! Fascinating.

Read more here about lazy ants:

Monday, June 6, 2016

Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago

Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago

Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng, reads, at first, as a simple children's book about a young girl and her father and their time spent on the road as migrants. The text is spare since it is told from the young girl's perspective, but as this review from Smithsonian's Asian Pacific American Center's BookDragon blog points out, the details emerge in the illustrations. 

I read this book three times in a row and I am itching to reread it to pull out whatever details I couldn't catch in the first three readings. You will want to read it over and over as well, because there is more than one story going on here. On their journey, they encounter other travelers, soldiers, and symbolic figures that add depth and layers. I can't wait to analyze this with my students next year to discuss the symbols and perspectives shown.

Some other resources I incorporate into my 7th-grade World Geography class when we discuss migrants and refugees include:

Turning Refugee Crises Into Country Music

The devastating cost of closed borders, in one map

Where the Streets Have No Children

Border Challenges: Responding to the Global Migration Crisis

Tracking Four Decades of Refugee Migration [Interactive Map]

The World’s Congested Human Migration Routes in 5 Maps

And, of course, there are many excellent articles from Newsela.

I borrowed this from my public library's *New Books* display, but I will be purchasing it to pair with my copy of Migrant for my Social Studies collection. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

10 Steps to Pull Off a Beach Book Bash

10 Steps to Pull Off a Beach Book Bash

1. Pick a spot

We have a pond on our school grounds that is perfect for this event. Find any space that works for you (water body or not) with plenty of shady spots nearby!

2. Promote

I usually create a digital flyer to pull up in class and use on social media and email to promote the event and remind students and parents. I used to use good old Microsoft Publisher, but now I love Canva for its beautiful images and fonts. 

3. Request contributions

You can't go to the beach without a stocked cooler! I set up a Google Form with Choice Eliminator (Volunteer Spot works too!) for parents to sign up for drinks, snacks, and gift cards to Anderson's Bookshop and B&N for prizes. Here is an example of our sign-up from this year: Beach Book Bash Sign-Up

4. Gather prizes

It wouldn't be a Beach Book Bash without book-related prizes! Throughout the year, I'll use Scholastic Book Order points to snag some books to raffle off. I'll also keep my eye open for freebies from book stores like bookmarks promoting summer reading programs and YA author visits. This year, I hit the jackpot when I attended Book Expo America in Chicago. I was able to add a lot of promotional goodies to the Beach Book Bash prizes like stickers, pins, posters, water bottles, and even some autographed items! 

5. Plan games

While some students will just want to chill on towels, we wanted to have some games and activities planned as well. This year, we used the Build Your Own Deck feature on the HeadsUp app on my iPad to build a deck of our favorite authors, titles, and characters from the year. This is one of my favorite moments to watch! There's something about a thirteen-year-old jumping up and down screaming, "He wrote Booked and The Crossover! He visited Granger!" at the top of his lungs. In the past, we've also gathered old t-shirts and showed students how to make a no-sew t-shirt book bag

6. Prepare students

Sunburns are no fun, so we remind the kids (and parents) verbally and through emails and social media about the importance of bringing sunscreen and hats. We show them pictures from previous years of kids chilling on beach towels with their friends and favorite books. I'll bring some extra beach towels and sunscreen, too.

7. Inform staff

We let our teammates know well in advance when the Beach Book Bash is so they know how it may impact their math and science plans. We've done it as a whole team before (120 kids) and we've done it with just concurrent class periods (about 60 kids). 

We also check with the P.E. staff to make sure that the area isn't being used for P.E. classes that morning and also to borrow a few outdoor items like footballs and volleyballs.

We love to involve our LMC Director, too, because she is the heart of summer reading in our building. After textbooks and library books have been collected, she reopens the LMC for Summer Reading Checkout. On the Beach Book Bash day, we stop in the library first to stock up! She even orders shopping bags for the kids to take home their book stack! Readers can check out as many  books as they like! And even during those hectic last days, she finds time to stop outside to visit the Bash and snap pictures of readers with their books inside her big picture frame. I love those photos!

8. Document!

Speaking of photos, either designate a parent volunteer or make sure you have lots of room on your phone to snap tons of pictures. I share them on Homeroom for parents to see, on my class Instagram account, and add them (last minute!) to our end of the year slideshow. 

9. Celebrate!

Don't forget to relax and have fun with your readers! It takes some planning and coordination to pull this day off, but we like to kick off our flip flops and chill on a beach towel for a few minutes with the kids before it's all over! 

Other ways to celebrate: share reading totals for the year, talk about summer trips and plans, and get excited about new books being published over the summer and at the beginning of the school year (Harry Potter, anyone?!)

10. Party on!

Don't let the fun end at the Beach Book Bash! Share your summer reading plans with students! I stay connected with my readers through my class Instagram account and document my summer reading adventures there. You can find us at @walsh204ela on Instagram. After all, we do the Beach Book Bash to keep our reading momentum going!

Do you host a Beach Book Bash? I am always looking for new ideas! I'd love to see what you do! Connect with me on Twitter @storiestoldinsf