Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Do Tornadoes Really Twist?

Mrs. Leavoy's class has been busy learning about weather during their science classes.  In order to extend their learning on these topics, we spent the last two library visits looking at some wild weather: tornadoes!

We began our first visit by watching short video clips about tornadoes and storm chasers.  It was interesting to see tornadoes up close, but we all agreed that storm chasing looked like dangerous work!  After watching the videos, we then turned to Do Tornadoes Really Twist?, a nonfiction selection about tornadoes written by Melvin and Gilda Berger.  This nonfiction book was organized as a series of questions and answers.  The organization of the book made it perfect for students to browse through and focus on the questions they believed were most interesting.

Students got to work looking for some tornado facts from our book.

Reading through Do Tornadoes Really Twist?

Once students found an interesting fact, they recorded it on their organizer.  Students made sure to find a great fact to write down because we were later going to share these facts with our classmates.

Finding tornado facts using nonfiction.

Students then illustrated what they would hope to find within their own tornado!

Illustrating tornadoes.
On the class's next library visit, students picked up where they left off.  Many students still needed to finish recording their fact or finalizing their illustration.  While we waited for everyone to finish, other students checked out library books and began reading.

The students then sharpened their public speaking skills by sharing their facts with their classmates.  All students did an excellent job explaining the fact they recorded.

Students shared their tornado facts with their classmates.

Here are the beautiful finished products.  Mrs. Leavoy's class did wonderful work on this short research project!

Tornado research by Logan

Tornado research by Vincent

Tornado research by David

Tornado research by Nick

Tornado research by Jasmine

Tornado research by Hannah

Tornado research by Evan

Here are the students posing with their completed work:

The students with their finished products!

Next week we will be continuing our weather discussion with a very silly story: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Making Friends with Billy Wong

It is no secret that I often use Twitter to learn what is going on in the school library world.  One day this winter, I logged in to Twitter to find that Augusta Scattergood was giving away a few copies of the audiobook version of her newest title, Making Friends with Billy Wong.  I was THRILLED to receive a copy of this audiobook in the mail from Ms. Scattergood just a short time later!  Free books always make for a happy librarian.

The audiobook Making Friends with Billy Wong by Augusta Scattergood

Augusta Scattergood has many fans at Pioneer Middle School.  All fifth grade students read Glory Be, another one of her books.  Last year, Mrs. Rice's students took their learning a step further by creating book trailers centered upon the book.  These trailers caught the eye of Ms. Scattergood, who graciously agreed to Skype with our enthusiastic fifth graders. 

Needless to say, I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of Making Friends with Billy Wong.  This book did not disappoint!  Much like Glory Be, this selection has heart and humor, all while tackling difficult topics in a gentle and age-appropriate way.

This story centered upon young Azalea, a girl who was sent to care for her Grandmother Clark for the summer.  The summer arrangement gets off to a rocky start because Azalea doesn't know her grandmother well. Azalea also would rather be back with her parents in Texas instead of in the little town of Paris Junction, Arkansas.

Azalea soon meets other children in Paris Junction--a prissy girl, a bully, and Billy Wong, whose family owns the Lucky Foods grocery store in town.  Throughout the story, large topics such as bullying, civil rights, discrimination, poverty, family relationships, and friendships are deftly covered.  Like all of Augusta Scattergood's works, this title addresses tough subjects in a way that will be appealing to younger readers.  Above all, themes of kindness and understanding emerge as main takeaways from this lovely book.

This historical fiction story also introduced me to a portion of our nation's history of which I was not previously aware.  During the late 1940s through the early 1960s, hundreds of Chinese grocery stores flourished within the southern United States.  These stores served a vital need within southern communities, as Chinese grocers stepped in as old plantation commissary stores ceased to exist.  In Making Friends with Billy Wong, Billy's parents own a Chinese grocery store.  Their experiences within the story mirror many of the struggles and triumphs that these grocers and their families would have experienced in the past.

Although the book on its own would still be an amazing read, the audiobook version added richness and depth to the story.  The voices of Azalea and Billy were spot-on and really transported me to the American South in the 1950s (even as I listened to the book in my car near snowy Buffalo, NY!).

There is so much more that I want to say about this book, but I don't want to spoil any surprises.  Making Friends with Billy Wong is sure to be a hit with middle school audiences.  In fact, the book has already been checked out multiple times here at Pioneer Middle School.  Thank you to Augusta Scattergood for generously providing us with a free audiobook copy!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Thunder Boy Jr.

On January 6, 2016, we said goodbye to Mrs. Proudman, as she is leaving Pioneer to pursue other exciting opportunities.  Although we were sad to see Mrs. Proudman leave, it was great to see that her replacement was a familiar face: Mrs. Leavoy!  Wednesday, January 11th was our first library visit with Mrs. Leavoy's new class.  To make the day even better, we welcomed Jasmine to the class as well.

The library received many new books in December, so we wanted to take the opportunity to read some of these newer selections.  We read Thunder Boy Jr., a book by Sherman Alexie.  The main character in this book is Thunder Boy Smith Jr. (yes, this is his real name).  Although he loves his father, he isn't just like him.  He would like to have his own name, one based on something he has done in his own life.  The story goes through many potential new names until just the right name is chosen.  There were many humorous parts to this story!

Our first library visit with Mrs. Leavoy's new class.

Thunder Boy Jr. is a humorous story written by Sherman Alexie.

After reading the story, we discussed the many interesting things that Thunder Boy Jr. had done.  This led to the question of what makes each of us unique.  Each student discussed something that they liked or something they wanted to be known for.


We then took a moment to brainstorm the PERFECT nickname for ourselves based on our own unique interests.  I'm hoping that some of these nicknames will stick.  They are wonderful!

Inspired by Thunder Boy Jr., students created their own new names/nicknames.

After checking out books, students returned to the tables in order to create a self portrait that incorporated their new nickname.  The finished products were amazing!  Here are just a few examples of the finished portraits:

New Nickname: Fish Boy

New Nickname: Crazy Train

New Nickname: Tractor Boy

New Nickname: Slappy

New Nickname: Draw Girl

Next week, Mrs. Leavoy's students are beginning their unit on weather.  We'll be carrying this unit into our library visit with some weather-related activities!