Making Thinking Visible

Making Thinking Visible
Making Thinking Visible

Arts Integration

Arts Integration
Arts Integration

Summer Reading: Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Every day this month when I've come to school,  a colleague friend has updated me on the amount of wake-ups we have left.  "25 wake-ups!"  This one phrase creates two emotional reactions in me:


ANXIETY: How will I get everything done?  How will we be ready?  I have to do this...and that...and this...OMG. Where is my Prozac???

Or ...
SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW (this summer): I will meditate every morning, do yoga everyday, read all of the non-professional books piled on my nightstand, cook gourmet meals, and finish the children's book I started writing three years ago.  And I will lose 30 pounds.

Yes, it's true.  My emotional pendulum is swinging erratically. As always, I need to find some middle ground. Somewhere in-between my depths of despair and manic fantasies,  I've compiled a list of books that I intend to read or reread this summer.  Some of these are children's books.  Others are adult reading, but all promise delightful escape.

#1   The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama

I've read this book 4 times in the last 15 years.  I believe that favorite stories should be visited often, like people.  The first time I read this book, and every time since, I finish it with such a sense of calm and peace.  It's as if I've just spent an afternoon in a Japanese garden.  The Chinese protagonist finds himself in Japan at his family's vacation home, in the 1930s as Japan invades China.  He is in limbo between China and Japan's hostilities, between illness and health, and between childhood and adulthood.  You will fall in love with Matsu and Sachi .  I'm starting my summer off with rereading this because I need to begin it with peace.

#2 The Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley

I love a good mystery.  I especially love Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce series.  Flavia is an 11 year-old chemistry genius who solves mysteries and combats her bossy older sisters by plotting poisonings.  Her mother is presumed dead, and her father is detached and grief-stricken.  The family has ruination and bankruptcy constantly hanging over their heads, but Flavia's pluckiness and genius save the day.  This title is the latest in the series.  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is the first book in the series.  This is a worthwhile escape!

#3 Creating Cultures of Thinking by Ron Ritchart


I've been writing about Making Thinking Visible by Ritchart, Church, and Morrison all year.  This is the next natural step for me.  As educators, parents, and citizens, we must settle for nothing less than environments that bring out the best in people, take learning to the next level, allow for great discoveries, and propel both the individual and the group forward into a lifetime of learning. This is something all teachers want and all students deserve. In Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools, Ron Ritchhart, explains how creating a culture of thinking is more important to learning than any particular curriculum and he outlines how any school or teacher can accomplish this by leveraging 8 cultural forces: expectations, language, time, modeling, opportunities, routines, interactions, and environment.  This book focuses on the language we use with students.  I can hardly wait to unpack my thinking about this resource!

#4  From Reading to Math: How Best Practices in Literacy Can Make You a Better Math Teacher by Maggie Siena

This is one of those books that I buy and then put on my shelf until I'm "ready" to digest it.  I've had it for a year.  I'm ready for it.  The title grabbed my attention because of the literacy connection.  The names cited in the write-up definitely made me "sit up and take notice."  The amazon write-up is below,

"Are your students engaged and motivated to read and write but hesitant during math instruction? Do you want your students to be as excited about math as they are about literacy? This unique resource explores how best practices for teaching reading and writing can help you become a better math teacher. Drawing on the work of such educators as Richard Allington, Carl Anderson, Marilyn Burns, Cathy Fosnot, Stephanie Harvey, Heidi Hayes Jacobs, Ellin Keene, and Diane Snowball, the author describes strategies that work in teaching literacy and how to successfully implement them in the math class."

#5 The Lost Track of Time by Paige Britt

This is a new read for me.  I found it in our BOGO Scholastic book fair at school. Fantasy fiction is one of my favorite genres, and the back cover summary appealed to me on many levels. Check it out below:

"She dreams of being a writer, but how can she pursue her passion when her mother schedules every minute of her life? And how will she ever prove that writing is worthwhile if her mother keeps telling her to 'get busy!' and 'be more productive'?

Then one day, Penelope discovers a hole in her schedule-an entire day completely unplanned!-and she mysteriously falls into it.  What follows is a mesmerizing journey through the Realm of Possibility, where Penelope sets out o find and free the Great Moodler, the one person who ma have the answers she seeks.  Along the way, she must face an army of Clockworkers, battle the evil Chronos, take a daring Flight of Fancy, and save herself from the grip of time."

#6 Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Every once and a while, as readers, we find a story that we think about...for years.  This is "that story" for me.   I reread it every August.    I actually imagine Jesse, Tuck, Miles, and Mae still out in the world.  It's a bittersweet read for me.  I want Winnie to choose what will make me happy.  Babbitt's writing is poetry, "The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning...It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color...These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after."  Enamored,   I even researched the meaning of the word tuck and the symbolism of the Ash tree.  I adore this story, so I need to revisit it again.

And last, but definitely not  least...

#7 Felicity by Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver is a Pulitzer-Prizewinning poet.  Her poems and essays connect every day life to the natural world.  I can get lost inside her words the way I get lost inside a Georgia O'Keefe painting.  This is her latest book of poetry, published in October 2015.  I haven't been able to read it yet, but it is waiting for me.  If poetry isn't usually a genre you reach for, try Mary Oliver.  She'll transport you to a happy place, I promise!

My students also are creating reading lists for themselves.  We've been making book recommendations to each other and keeping a running list on our front board.  At the beginning of June, they'll be asked to choose 9 books for their summer reading lists.  For a freebie to help you do this with your students, click below!

We are also setting BIG reading goals for the summer.  Students are choosing to read a 5k, 10k, half-marathon, or marathon over the summer (3, 6, 13, or 26 books).  They send post cards announcing their successes and complete their training guide.  In the fall, they will get to visit me to celebrate their reading success with a post-race celebration.  To check this reading program out, click below.  My students have LOVED this! Their parents have, too!

Whatever your summer plans may be, I hope they include bliss.  Until next time...
                                                                                                Teach on, my friends!
                                                                                                  Tracy @