Author Visit with Rukhsana Khan

Our school hosts various authors throughout the year,which is pretty amazing, considering we are all the way in Singapore! This year, we had an author visit from a well known children’s author, Rukhsana Khan. Her books include Big Red Lollipop, Muslim Child, and The Rose in My Carpet. Not only is she an amazing and accomplished author, but she was a captivating speaker! The room full of 5th grade kids were engaged, excited and laughed as they listened to her stories.

In one of our sessions with her, she shared her story about immigrating to Canada from Pakistan at a young age. She shared about her different struggles including being seriously bullied for being different in her school.   She shared with us her journey to becoming a writer and the funny stories along the way. She had the entire audience eagerly waiting to hear what happened next. (I don’t think I’ve ever met a writer who wasn’t an amazing story teller!)


Rukhsana also shared a few stories of teachers that made a strong positive impact on her life and encouraged her to write. One teacher had her keep a creative writing journal. She even brought in the journal and showed us the letter that the teacher wrote to her after an entry. One of the students asked her to read it aloud. She shared the positive feedback that the teacher wrote in her notebook calling her a poet.

Our words can impact our students positively or negatively. I was reminded of the power that I have as a teacher. I was reminded that I need to continue to tell my students that they are writers. Thank you Rukhsana for inspiring our students and even our teachers!


Also, I found out that our school hosts an annual children’s literature conference! How cool is that?! This year it will take place from Feb. 1-3rd. We will have the following authors presenting: Chris Crutcher, Kadir Nelson, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, and Deborah Wiles.  I can’t wait to meet and learn from them! Check out the website for more information on registration and the authors.


The Great Unexpected Package

It was my first sunny and humid Halloween morning in Singapore.  I looked at my school mailbox and I found an unexpected package peeking out. It was sent from my friend Jane in Chicago. I wondered what she could have sent me. My birthday had already passed, and Christmas was still months away.

As I read the description on the customs label, it said the content was a book?! I opened the package quickly and at first glance, I couldn’t believe it. How did she know this was the book that I’ve been wanting? I’ve been waiting to see when it would sell online here in Singapore since it just came out in the States. I’ve been reading blog posts and tweets about this book! I couldn’t wait to get my own copy. How did she know?

It was the new Sharon Creech book called The Great Unexpected. I immediately pulled the book out of the package, opened it up and immediately stumbled across this.

I couldn’t believe it. Sharon Creech had signed the book to “2 Apples a Day”!  With even more confusion, I read the note inside, of course on Domo stationary from Jane. Now it all made sense. My friend heard of her book signing nearby in Chicago and got her to sign a copy for us. Jane mentioned our blog to Sharon, and she said she knew about it and even followed it.

When Melody and I discovered that Sharon followed our blog a few months ago, we were soo ecstatic. We are both HUGE fans of Sharon Creech and love her books! Now we have our first book that has been signed by the author for 2 apples a day! If any other authors want to send us signed copies of their book, we will gladly accept and blog about them too. 🙂

So a huge thank you to Jane Cho for getting the book signed and sent to us! Also, a big thank you to Sharon Creech as well. I will definitely be blogging about the book after I read it. When I told my students the story about the book, they begged me to read it to them! Make sure to check out Sharon’s blog:


Read Aloud Recommendation

This year, our schedule allows me to do read aloud everyday for at least 20 minutes, which has been amazing! I was really unsure about what book to choose as my first read aloud for my fifth grade class. In the past I used to do a lot of different fun, beginning of the school year type of picture books. After asking many different teachers and doing some research online, I decided to stick with my initial gut feeling about this book I had just read before school started.

This was a book that was causing a lot of buzz among teachers and students. I read a few different reviews on teacher blogs about it. It is a newly published book, by a new author, R.J. Palacio. It’s called Wonder and it’s about a boy August, who is born with severe facial deformities. He has been home schooled by his mom up until 5th grade, when his parents decide to enroll him into a private middle school. As soon as I started reading this book, I fell in love with August and was intrigued by the story. I love that the author also changes perspectives by telling it from different characters point of view.

The one reason that I was really hesitant about using this book for my fifth graders was that it was a longer book, about 300 pages. Even though the chapters are very short (a few pages, not too much text on a page), I was worried that it would take too long to get through. However, we are currently on week three, and at the halfway point. My students are always telling me that read aloud is their favorite time of the day! So many of my kids are loving this story, I’m so glad I chose it.

One of the core values of our school is compassion, and I’m hoping that we can really discuss in more detail what compassion is and looks like by using this book as a jumping ground. So whether you are an elementary teacher or not, I highly recommend you read this book. If you are a 5th grade teacher, make sure you get a copy for your library.

During the read aloud, I have students sometimes write post-it notes on different characters and what they are thinking. Here are a few of them.

The Act of Writing

Happy August everyone! I hope everyone is having a fabulous summer, especially if you are a teacher. You deserve the time for rest and rejuvenation. I feel like other people (non teachers) always get jealous that we have such long vacations, but honestly, if we had to do what we do, all year long with no summer break, I don’t know how we would survive! 🙂

My summer vacation is pretty much over now, so I guess it’s time to get back to blogging! This past July, I had a chance to attend the Teachers College Reading Institute. It was amazing as always. One of the keynote speakers was author Christopher Paul Curtis, who was a funny and charismatic speaker, which would be expected if you have read his books. He kept us laughing, smiling and almost crying with his keynote speech. This one thing he said that really stuck with me was how he described writing.

“Writing is an act of revelation. The more I wrote, the more revealed I would be. ”

-Christopher Paul Curtis

As he shared stories about how his writing connected and reflected his own life in many ways, I was reminded about how my writing reveals who I am. I was also reminded of the importance in keeping up my writing, especially as I am going through these big changes this year. So stay tuned for more posts, hopefully more on the summer institute and transitioning to a new school and country!

Caine’s Arcade: A Cardboard Arcade

I’ve just finished day 3 of the Teachers College Reading Institute. It has been intense, tiring, and inspirational. It’s like a much needed retreat for teachers. Of course I’m learning so much, and trying to process and make sense of everything. I’m meeting a lot of amazing educators from all over the world, plus some of my colleagues at my new school! Even though I’ve been to the summer institutes before, each time I go, I take away new revelations and nuggets that spur me to become a better teacher. I’m so thankful for all the energy, excited and encouragement that these leaders in teaching reading and writing give to us. I’m still processing everything, and I will try to post some more concrete things I’ve learned soon.

During today’s closing keynote session, Kathy Collins shared a clip from the short film Caine’s Arcade as an illustration about how she was given some much needed inspiration and hope after watching this. This was the first time I heard about this, but I guess it did go viral a while ago.

So if you haven’t seen it yet, please watch it!

Book Exchange

Our student council has a great event that they do every year called a book exchange. We had our book exchange this morning in the cafeteria when kids came to school. Basically, a few weeks ago, the student council collected books from students that they had read and were willing to give away. For each book that they brought it, they received a ticket. Then, on the day of the book exchange, all the collected books are put on the cafeteria tables. Each kid gets to choose from the selection of books, depending on how many tickets they have.

It’s a great way for kids to get new books to read and get excited to read. It’s nice having it at the end of the year, because by now, students have exhausted library and classroom books. Also, they will have some new books that they can read during the summer as well.

Here are the books that one of my students got from the exchange. He told me came to school by 7:30am (School starts at 8:10am) in order to be one of the first people there! I love his eagerness to get books!

Guest Blog Post: Writing to Mo Willems

Julia is an experienced Kindergarten teacher who enjoys using the reading and writing workshop model in her classroom. She even had Lucy Calkins as a professor at Teacher’s College. She is a fellow New Yorker, co-worker and friend. We are excited for her next journey!

My last year’s Kindergarten class loved Mo Willems. We read every single Mo Willems’ book available at the school library and I purchased titles unavailable at school. Naturally, Mr. Willems was chosen for our Aurthor Study unit.

During Reading Workshop, we discussed Mo Willems’ writing and illustration style.
During Writing Workshop, we tried one or two of his styles in our own writing.
Towards the end of the unit, children wanted to meet Mo Willems. They wanted to know if he could come to Korea or if we could take a class trip to his office.

We didn’t get to go to his office in New York, but we went to the local post office to mail our letters to Mr. Willems. Each child wrote a letter and lined up at the post office to mail their letters! Children asked me if we’ll ever hear back from him. I didn’t think we would, so I told them, “Mr. Willems is reaaaalllly busy.”

The school year ended. I enjoyed my summer vacation and came back to work a week before school started. And there sat a large brown envelope in my mailbox. An envelope from Mo Willems office in New York!!!! “Ahhhh Ahhhhh Ahhhhh!”

I brought it to my classroom, shut the door, and opened the envelope like a little kid opening a Christmas present. Mo Willems wrote back to us and sent us an autographed book poster! Mo Willems ROCKS!

*I highly encourage you to allow each child to send their own letter at the post office. (Rather than sending it in one large envelope.) They loved it. For most of them, it was their first time mailing something, let alone their first time at the post office.

Poetry Read Alouds

My all time favorite poetry read aloud books are Sharon Creech’s, Love That Dog and Hate That Cat. These two stories follow Jack  on his journey with poetry and the teacher Miss Stretchberry that pushes him along the way. It’s a story that kids and adults can appreciate, smile and learn from. On Sharon Creech’s website, you can find some good teaching resources for using both books!

Sharon Creech’s Love that Dog

and the sequel…

Sharon Creech’s Hate that Cat

Another fun poetry read aloud book is Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston. This book was recommended by another 5th grade teacher. I did get to read the book, but didn’t get to read it to my kids. It’s a fun fantasy story written all in rhyme. It would go well during a poetry unit for upper elementary kids!

Here are some other good poetry resources!

Scholastic Poetry Site 

Poetry for People

Poetry Foundation

Online Poetry Classroom

Poetry Resources from NYC Department of Education

Do you have any good poetry read aloud books or resources that you recommend?

Read Aloud…is it worth it?

Yes, it is totally worth it! I had a chance to present with another amazing 2nd grade teacher, Elaine, at my school about the joy and importance of read aloud at the KORCOS conference on Friday. It was a pretty relaxed and hopefully informative session for the people that came. Here is the slide show that we presented. A lot of these nuggets of information we gained last summer at the Teacher’s College Summer Reading Institute.

We also modeled reading aloud two different picture books. Some of the strategies we modeled were stop & jot, turn & talk, allowing students to envision by not showing the pictures at first, and thinking aloud as you are reading as a mentor reader for your students.

Elaine & Me

Here is a link to the wiki site, where we put a list of books we recommend for read aloud, book clubs, poetry and mentor texts.

I absolutely love read aloud time with my students. I’m glad I could share some of this passion I have with other educators at the KORCOS conference. Again, if you have any questions about any of our posts or other education related questions, feel free to leave a comment.  We will do our best to respond to your questions. Or just let us know that you stopped by our site. 🙂 Like Melody mentioned in her post, we ❤ comments!

Part 2: Tips for Launching Successful Book Clubs

Here is part 2 on my series on books clubs. Part 1 you can find here. 🙂

Part 2: Tips for Launching Successful Book Clubs

1. Observe & Model Book Club Discussions– I do a fishbowl activity, where one book club sits in the middle and has their discussion. The rest of the class sits on the outside and makes a circle around them. They sit silently and take notes on what they notice about the discussion. After a few minutes of the discussion, they stop talking and we share what noticed.

2. Book Club Constitution– Have students come up with a constitution that has expectations and roles on how their book club will work. Some of my groups came up with a set order that the kids will share when they first start their discussion.

3. Book Club Chart- This something new I’m doing this year. I got this idea from Lucy Calkin’s unit of study book, Tackling Complex Texts. It is a chart where each group has a row where they write down the book they are reading and the assignment they have until their next meeting day. It’s nice to have it hanging up so I can see it and it helps them as well.

4. Schedule- Try to have a consistent schedule on when book clubs meet. I have students meet every other day in their book clubs. On days that they don’t meet, they are doing independent reading of book club books or their other books they are reading.

What things do you do to get your book clubs running smoothly?