Friday, August 26, 2016

5 Books You Might Need to Read! (August)

Are you ready for some new books to read? I have five  great ones to recommend!
Five books you should probably read! Check this blog post for more!


Turning Angel by Greg Iles
This is a book in the series about a lawyer turned writer named Penn Cage. In this book he is involved with solving the murder of a teenager from the local high school. The story involves more murders, drugs, an exchange student from Croatia, and Penn's best friend, Drew. Somehow these are all tangled together.
This is by an author compared to John Grisham. This book is one of a series about Penn Cage- a lawyer turned writer- that returns to his home in Natchez, Mississippi with his very young daughter. In the first book I read of this series his wife had died and he then found himself embroiled in solving a decades old civil rights murder mystery. In this book  he is involved with solving the murder of a teenager from the local high school. The story involves more murders, drugs, an exchange student from Croatia, and Penn's best friend, Drew. Somehow these are all tangled together. Penn is helped in solving the case by his baby sitter, an old friend, his father, and a few other people. I enjoyed this book- definitely a page-turner! It's a fast-paced and a jam-packed with action kind of book, which I like better than normal chick books. Now, having said that, it is quite graphic in the details of some of the things that went on with the murders and the way high school students deal with one another. I did raise an eyebrow a few times and wondered how true to real life this all might be. But, considering that we all have read Harry Potter I think that's hardly a reason not to like a book!
Anyway, it was a good read- if you like detective, lawyer books! (But read the first book before you read this one- It's called The Quiet Game.)

So Much for That by Lionel Shriver
It's the story of Shep who has just purchased one way tickets to an island in Africa and has plans to move there for retirement, never to return to the USA. When he informs his wife, Glynis, she simply says, "Well, I'm going to need your health insurance" and then proceeds to tell him she has mesothelioma.
This book was on my list for a long time and I finally found it in my favorite second hand store. It's the story of Shep who has just purchased one way tickets to an island in Africa and has plans to move there for retirement, never to return to the USA. When he informs his wife, Glynis, she simply says, "Well, I'm going to need your health insurance" and then proceeds to tell him she has mesothelioma. In the next few chapters you learn about her diagnosis and then she undergoes surgery. It turns out that this specific type of cancer is difficult to deal with, the surgery is hit-or-miss, and response to chemo is also not good. Glynis battles for her life as Shep takes care of her. It also turns out that she may have gotten this cancer from exposure to asbestos. As the two main characters deal with this, Shep's retirement money flies out the window. There's another story line about Shep's best friend Jackson. The story is somewhat amusing- Jackson decides to have a certain body part enlarged and the doctor he sees for this makes a mess of it. This, of course, changes Jackson's marriage drastically. And, eventually, this problem Jackson has comes to a tragic conclusion. There are other characters woven into this story- Shep's sister that asks for money constantly. Shep's dad who is in need of elderly care, Jackson's disabled daughter, and Shep's boss. There is also a lawsuit to be dealt with.
There were parts of this book, to be honest, that I skimmed through. There is a lot of back-story that I did not find interesting. The heart of the story, however, comes down to the care that Shep provides for his wife and how it is handled in the end. It turns out to be a beautiful story.

Whiskey and Charlie by Annabel Smith
This is the story of Charlie and William, identical twins, that adopt a walkie-talkie type language as youngsters. They soon learn the NATO phonetic alphabet- Alpha, Bravo, Charlie.... and William is dismayed that his name is not part of the alphabet. Hence, he becomes Whiskey. Charlie is often (practically always) overshadowed by the more outgoing popular Whiskey and grows increasingly resentful. Their estrangement continues into adulthood until a tragic accident leaves Whiskey in a coma.
Fabulous book! I was hooked from the very first page and read all of it! (I often skim books that have long yucky passages!)
This is the story of Charlie and William, identical twins, that adopt a walkie-talkie type language as youngsters. They soon learn the NATO phonetic alphabet- Alpha, Bravo, Charlie.... and William is dismayed that his name is not part of the alphabet. Hence, he becomes Whiskey. Charlie is often (practically always) overshadowed by the more outgoing popular Whiskey and grows increasingly resentful. Their estrangement continues into adulthood until a tragic accident leaves Whiskey in a coma. The chapters alternate between their childhood and present-day as the family continues a vigil at Whiskey's hospital bed side. It was about mid-way through the book that I realized that the chapter names (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie... actually had something to do with the story unfolding in each chapter!)
Spectacular book! I loved the story lines and things are revealed throughout that you don't expect- including the way it ended. You need to read this one!

Summer Secrets by Jane Green
The book opens with meeting Cat, an alcoholic young woman that is struggling. You quickly learn her back story- a cruel father and a mother that was chronically depressed. The story switches then after her father's death and her mom begins to tell her a secret. Ends up being somewhat predictable, but light reading with a few twists that are a surprise.
This book's cover proclaims it to be the perfect summer beach read and although I don't normally like chick lit, I thought I would try this one.
The book opens with meeting Cat, an alcoholic young woman that is struggling. You quickly learn her back story- a cruel father and a mother that was chronically depressed. The story switches then after her father's death and her mom begins to tell her a secret.
Interwoven into her mom's revelation you learn about mom's early life. Mom, named Audrey, married Richard and moved to London. Richard was not a pleasant person, and after a few months Audrey returned to the US, to Nantucket, to help her aunt Judith organize a home for sale. There Audrey meets Brooks. Brooks, it turns out, is part of Audrey's secret. When this is revealed to the daughter, Cat, it also sends Cat to Nantucket to meet Brooks and his family. The meeting is a huge disaster.
Eventually, the story delves into Cat's struggle with overcoming alcoholism and the meltdown of her own family back in London. She does return to Nantucket and the book ends with all the things that happen there. It does turn out to be somewhat predictable (like all chick lit books), but I did stick with it. Most definitely, you will learn a lot about AA meetings and alcoholism. This would make a perfect beach book (like the cover says) because it's light reading and you will not think about it for days afterward.

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt
Oh my.  This is the story of Joseph an eighth grader, 13 years old. After some trouble with a juvenile center Joseph is taken in as a foster child with Jack's family. There Joseph learns to do farm chores as he struggles with his past. This includes the fact that he has a daughter- named Jupiter. Yes, he is 13. This was a fabulous, very short little book!
Oh my. 
This is the story of Joseph an eighth grader, 13 years old. After some trouble with a juvenile center Joseph is taken in as a foster child with Jack's family. There Joseph learns to do farm chores as he struggles with his past. This includes the fact that he has a daughter- named Jupiter. Yes, he is 13. So, was the mother. Little by little Joseph's story is told- abusive father, never cared for, and when he meets Maddie things change. He loves her, despite their ages and improbably she has a baby. Joseph attends school with Jack and they have several encounters with bullies that create a touching and brother-like relationship. I won't reveal what happens eventually, but this tiny little book will startle you in many ways. The ending was a surprise.
Now, you also have to totally get past the fact that two 13 year-olds became parents, but here's the main thing I loved about this book. There are no vivid details about these events. When there are adults or kids that are speaking profanely you never see their words. The author just tells you that words not fit to be heard are being spoken. This is a young person's book for sure, but a very clean and appropriate one. I don't think it would be one I would recommend to elementary age kids!  But, for you I would highly recommend this little book (75 pages). It will stay with you for a while.

There you go reading friends, five new books for you to try! (All of them are linked to Amazon for you, but I am not being compensated for it!)
Come back at the end of September for more and come back on Wednesdays and Fridays for science and STEM! And, one more thing, go visit Doodlebugs Teaching for Five for Friday Posts!





Friday, August 19, 2016

5 Things I Learned about STEM from First Graders!

After a few years with upper elementary grades, I am in the midst of a new adventure! I will now have first and second graders! Oh my! Let's just say this is a tad scary.....
But, a few surprises came my way during the first days with the very smallest engineers.
We built bridges!

First Grade STEM: Each child had ten counting cubes and four craft sticks. All I told them was, "Build a bridge." Check this blog post for more!
I really wanted to dive right in with a STEM building event because I knew these little engineers would not sit still and listen for as long as my big kids. So, we watched a "Crash Course" video about Engineers which included a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge. This gave us a good way to talk about bridges and then kids went to their tables. Each child had ten counting cubes and four craft sticks. All I told them was, "Build a bridge." I did not tell them each one of them should build the bridge, but that is what they did (and it's what I expected.)

Here are the things I didn't expect!



First Grade STEM: After each student built their individual bridges and we shared them, I then asked them to put all their materials together and build one big bridge. Cceck this blog post for more!
After each student built their individual bridges and we shared them, I then asked them to put all their materials together and build one big bridge. Some groups actually cheered when they discovered they would be able to join the materials! Look at the photo above. That group actually talked about what jobs each would have, "You be the snapper and I will be road layer, and then Carlie can straighten it when it gets crooked." It was fairly amazing to see the kids work together and talk about what they were doing!



First Grade STEM: You would think that all their bridges would look alike since the materials are so limited. But, they built amazing little bridges with ramps and turns and extras- extras like a team that built a boat to go with their bridge! Check this blog post for more!
Another unexpected thing! I had no idea if they could build a bridge with those wonky materials, but just look at that photo. Another thing, you would think that all their bridges would look alike since the materials are so limited. But, they built amazing little bridges with ramps and turns and extras- extras like a team that built a boat to go with their bridge!



First Grade STEM: Some groups that made ramps because, "You have to drive up on the bridge!" There were some kids that used extra cubes to hold the ramps in place since they did tend to slide. Check this blog post for more!
Speaking of ramps! Yes, there were some groups that made ramps because, "You have to drive up on the bridge!" There were some kids that used extra cubes to hold the ramps in place since they did tend to slide.
Some even had ramps right in the middle of their bridges and when students pointed out that the ramps in the middle would lead straight into the water I heard this, "Well, you know, bridges don't have to be over water!"



First Grade STEM: Some kids wanted a double-decker bridge with stacking roadways. The bridge in the top photo shows what kids did often. They pulled apart the cubes and slid the craft stick between cubes to hold it in place. Check this blog post for more!
Some kids wanted a double-decker bridge with stacking roadways. The bridge in the top photo shows what kids did often. They pulled apart the cubes and slid the craft stick between cubes to hold it in place. Y'all these are first graders! I thought that was pretty genius!



First Grade STEM: They talked about the task, they solved problems when things would not stay in place, and they rebuilt when they got knocked down. They were fabulous! Read more on this blog post!
Total engagement! I knew this! I have STEM with upper grades and they are always almost 100% engaged with tasks. The little engineers were, too! They talked about the task, they solved problems when things would not stay in place, and they rebuilt when they got knocked down. They were fabulous!

This was the easiest little opening challenge and the first graders taught me a lot! I taught them what the word precarious means! (As in Don't Bump the Table!)

Go visit Doodlebugs Teaching for more blog posts!

Come back soon for more of:


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What's Going on in the Lab? Gliding Bridges!

Hello STEM Friends!
Are you ready for a  little bit about bridges?
STEM Challenge: In Nepal, people in remote villages build a bridge that crosses rivers by installing a rope across the river. Dangling from the rope is a passenger carrier and once you are seated in the carrier the passengers pull on the rope to glide the carrier across the river. We decided to try to build a model of this gliding bridge! Check this blog post for more!
We have built a lot of bridges in STEM Class!
In fact, you can read more about bridges right here:

I knew students loved bridges and I was looking for a different  kind of bridge when I happened upon an article about a gliding bridge. In Nepal, people in remote villages build a bridge that crosses rivers by installing a rope across the river. Dangling from the rope is a passenger carrier and once you are seated in the carrier the passengers pull on the rope to glide the carrier across the river. What they really need is a bridge like the one in the above photo but these are quite costly. Instead they often have rigged up their own version of a foot bridge or a gliding bridge- and in many cases these have been disastrous.
We watched videos about the bridges in STEM class and then decided to try to build a model.
First, we had to decide what a gliding bridge is!

STEM Challenge: After a little research we determined that a gliding bridge is a rope pulley system that carries passengers across a river or canyon by means of the passengers themselves. Once seated in the carrier the passengers reach to the overhead ropes and pull until they have crossed over to the other side. Check this blog post for more!
After a little research we determined that a gliding bridge is a rope pulley system that carries passengers across a river or canyon by means of the passengers themselves. Once seated in the carrier the passengers reach to the overhead ropes and pull until they have crossed over to the other side. What makes this work is two things: great supports on each side of the river and pulleys or some kind of ability for the rope to be easily pulled.


STEM Challenge: Build a bridge. Knowing that the supports on each side of the river were very important led to the first decision each team had to make. They were given a choice of what material to use for their anchors on each side. Check this blog post for more!
Knowing that the supports on each side of the river were very important led to the first decision each team had to make. They were given a choice of what material to use for their anchors on each side. We used two lab tables that were about 2 feet apart for our river banks. The kids could choose from three types of foundations- rocky soil, sandy soil, or clay.

STEM Challenge: Build a passenger car for a bridge system. The next decision was the passenger carrier. What should it look like? Wow! We had so many different ways to cross that river! Our passengers were ping pong balls! Check this post for more!
The next decision was the passenger carrier. What should it look like? Wow! We had so many different ways to cross that river! Our passengers were ping pong balls! Again, the kids had to choose from available materials and decide how to build the carrier. Some of them chose craft sticks! What do you think happened when these carriers were tested? (Hint: They might have been heavy!)

STEM Challenge: This challenge presented so many dilemmas! One of the biggest problems to solve had to do with connecting the "rope" for the pulley system. Kids learned very quickly that the rope had to be securely attached to the support on each side. Check this post for ore!
This challenge presented so many dilemmas! One of the biggest problems to solve had to do with connecting the "rope" for the pulley system. Kids learned very quickly that the rope had to be securely attached to the support on each side. Look at the clever ways they found to attach the rope! The photo on the bottom right is a pulley the team designed!

STEM Challenge: To test the final bridge system kids had to demonstrate a crossing. We all cheered if their passenger car made it across without a mishap! Check this blog post for more!
To test the final bridge system kids had to demonstrate a crossing. We all cheered if their passenger car made it across without a mishap! What a fabulous real life model we built and the learning was just amazing!

So, there you have it- that's what we have been doing in the lab! How about you?

Coming soon:
Popcorn Challenge
Potatoes
First Graders!