5 Books for You to Try (October)

Here's another fabulous list of books to try! It's Five for October!

Reading forces you to be quiet..... check this blog post for Book Reviews!
Throughout the post, for your convenience, you’ll find Amazon Affiliate links, which means Amazon compensates me if you purchase something through that link, at no extra cost to you. This helps keep this little blog running and helps fund give-aways!
Truly Madly Guilty  by Liane Moriarty
In this book you meet Clementine and her husband, Sam, their neighbors, Erika and Oliver, and more neighbors, Vid and Tiffany. Very quickly you learn that something has happened at a barbecue, but there aren't any details about what it might be. The chapters alternate between the day of the barbecue and the weeks before and after it.
Oh my goodness, I love this author. In this book you meet Clementine and her husband, Sam, their neighbors, Erika and Oliver, and more neighbors, Vid and Tiffany. Very quickly you learn that something has happened at a barbecue, but there aren't any details about what it might be. The chapters alternate between the day of the barbecue and the weeks before and after it. The back stories of the three couples are told in delicious gossipy details and make the book quite interesting. To be honest, and I know if you read reviews of this book you will find this information, the teasing quality of what-on-earth-happened-at-the-barbecue will drive you crazy. Like nutso crazy. Like you put the book down because it makes you mad. There are some subtle hints along the way and you will begin to piece it all together. Some will say that makes this book predictable and others will say they knew what was going to happen early on. I did think of a few ways it all happened, but I was still a little surprised at the turn of events. The only thing that was a little too cheesy for me was the backstory of the neighbor Harry. His part was somewhat contrived. The mystery of the barbecue is solved and you are left wondering what all these people will do next!
Overall, I loved this book and would recommend it!

The Devil's Punchbowl by Greg Iles
This is # 3 in the Penn Cage series by Greg Iles. In this book Penn is now the mayor of Natchez, Mississippi and quickly finds himself embroiled in a riverboat casino mess. The owners of the casino, led by a Chinese person that you will never meet in the book, are involved in prostitution, dog fighting to an extreme degree, kidnapping of dogs and cats (for the dog fighting) and, then murder. That is how Penn gets in the middle of it. A page-turner, but has a tendency to be violent!

This is book 3 of a series about a lawyer turned writer named Penn Cage. If you have read the first two books you know this is going to be full of dramatic twists and turns as Penn solves the mystery. In this book Penn is now the mayor of Natchez, Mississippi and quickly finds himself embroiled in a riverboat casino mess. The owners of the casino, led by a Chinese person that you will never meet in the book, are involved in prostitution, dog fighting to an extreme degree, kidnapping of dogs and cats (for the dog fighting) and, then murder. That is how Penn gets in the middle of it. The murdered person contacts Penn (before he is murdered) to tell him about the shenanigans going on with the casino and he is collecting evidence that he wants Penn to use to stop the illegal mess. Unfortunately, he is caught and killed, and then Penn is threatened by this mob since they believe the murdered person has passed on information to him. You get the drift, here! Penn, as it happens, knows some pretty talented people and he calls in his reinforcements to help solve this whole dilemma.
WARNING: This is not a chick book. The author describes things in fairly vivid and graphic details and he tends to be somewhat violent. I just skim those parts! Overall, I would recommend this book if you like mystery, murder, complicated solving of cases, page-turning action, and improbable circumstances. I would read the first two books of the series first, however!

As Good as Gone by Larry Watson
The setting is 1963 and Calvin Sidey is living on the prairie working as a ranch hand (think cowboy) and pretty much as the attitude that differences can be settled like the old-west days. He's not afraid of conflict, confronting people, or resorting to violence to make his point. Entering thie picture is his son, Bill, who travels to ask Calvin to come to his home and take care of his teenage children while their mother has surgery in another town.
The setting is 1963 and Calvin Sidey is living on the prairie working as a ranch hand (think cowboy) and pretty much has the attitude that differences can be settled like the old-west days. He's not afraid of conflict, confronting people, or resorting to violence to make his point. Entering this picture is his son, Bill, who travels to ask Calvin to come to his home and take care of his teenage children while their mother has surgery in another town. Calvin agrees. Once he arrives in the town he abandoned many years before, including leaving his children, Calvin settles in as the gruff grandpa that continues to roll his own cigarettes and tend to matters in his own way. Those matters include renters that need to be evicted and he handles this with threats, a boyfriend of the teenage granddaughter that is abusing her and I won't tell you what Calvin does about that, and the angst of the teenage grandson that is being bullied. There's also a neighbor that Calvin gets involved with and the back story of Marjorie's surgery. It's a complicated, but simple little story, beautifully written.
Would I recommend it?
Hmmmmmm...... I guess that's your answer.
To be honest I skimmed a lot of it. Too many details that I didn't find relevant to the story, which I just wanted to get to. I wanted it to be great book, but I would have to say it was just a good book- and I skipped about 100 pages. 

All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker
It's the story of Jenny Kramer, a teenager that is viciously attacked and raped after a party. The attacker gets away and her father becomes obsessed with  finding him. Jenny is given a treatment that supposedly erases her memories of the attack, but not the fact that it happened.

This one was a top pick from Amazon and that's why I ordered it.
It's the story of Jenny Kramer, a teenager that is viciously attacked and raped after a party. The attacker gets away and her father becomes obsessed with  finding him. Jenny is given a treatment that supposedly erases her memories of the attack, but not the fact that it happened. After that you begin to encounter a large number of people that are part of the story. The narrator of the story is a psychiatrist that is treating Jenny and her parents. He sees all three of them..... think about that. Seriously, when one of them tells Alan something, how can he not use that information as he is talking to either of the other two? What could he do with that information? As the investigation into the rape continues a witness says he saw a man walk into the woods on the night of the party and that man had on some distinctive clothing. Imagine what Alan does when he comes home to find his wife holding that article of clothing- that just happens to belong to his son. This book has all kinds of twists and turns! It was a page-turner and the ending was not what I expected at all.
Yes, you should try this one.
Things to think about: (1) The writing style is pretty weird. The narrator, Alan, jumps back and forth in time as he tells the story. It also includes his conversation with his patients. When Alan talks his words are in quotes, but when the patients speak their words are italicized. It was a little annoying to me. I mean, just put it all in quotes!
(2) The ending is a tad bit contrived. 
(3) Would a psychiatrist ever really treat several members of the same family? I think not! At least I hope not!

Moo by Sharon Creech
The story is about Reena, age 12, and her family. She has a little brother named Luke, and her parents are in need of new jobs, so they move to Maine! Quickly Reena and Luke meet a neighbor, Ms. Falala and her group of odd pets, a cow names Zora, a cat, a pig, a parrot, and a snake. Check this blog post for books to read!

The title of this one caught my eye and then I realized who the author was, so I bought it. If you have missed any of Sharon Creech's books GO GET THEM NOW! Start with Pleasing the Ghost, Love That Dog, and Hate That Cat. Those three books were ones we read in my third grade class every single year.
So, what about this one? Moo!
You will notice immediately that it is written as prose, poetic style, with an interesting use of fonts and words arranged on the pages in vertical lines sometimes. 
The story is about Reena, age 12, and her family. She has a little brother named Luke, and her parents are in need of new jobs, so they move to Maine! Quickly Reena and Luke meet a neighbor, Ms. Falala and her group of odd pets, a cow names Zora, a cat, a pig, a parrot, and a snake. The kids do chores for Ms. Falala and slowly Reena begins to work with Zora to train her for the county fair. Some neighborhood kids help her with the training.
It's a sweet, sweet story of friendship, a stubborn cow, and the wisdom of an older lady that helps the children as they learn about Maine and their new lifestyle. The ending will make you cry a little. It's a beautiful little book and one I read in about two hours. This would make a fabulous read aloud story but only if all the students had a copy so they can see the way the words dance across the pages!

That's another month of books to recommend to you.
Come back at the end of November for more! Right now go visit Doodlebugs Teaching for more blogs to check into!




3

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Are you ready?
We tried three sports related challenges recently and WOW this was a big hit!
Huge.
HUGE!
The challenges were challenging, but the results were spectacular.
STEM Challenges that are sports related! Wow, these were great! Check this blog post for more!


So, here we go with 3 ways to add some sports to your STEM class and 2 great hints about materials!

STEM Challenge! Build a basketball goal and a free throw shooter! Check the blog post for more!

The first one we tried was about basketball. The goals were trickier to make than we expected!
Especially, the net.
You could definitely tell which little girls had used tulle before. Those were our experts.
STEM Challenge! Build a basketball goal and a free throw shooter! Check the blog post for more!


Kids also had to build a device to try to make a basket. You could hear us cheering all over the place every time someone actually scored. There was definitely a learning curve to these gadgets!
Take a look at this quick little video where I actually caught a basket being made!





So, let's pause with the STEM challenges for a moment while I tell you about my goof up with this series of challenges.
I had some little rubber balls that look like soccer and basketball balls that I planned to use for these challenges. But I didn't have a football.
So, I headed to Amazon.com because you can buy anything there. Seriously.
And I found the ones you see in the photo above (which is linked to Amazon in case you need those since they really are cool!) The description said the balls were 2.5 inches in diameter and I was super excited. Like wouldn't those be perfect?!
Need some cute foam balls for a STEM challenge! These could be perfect!
And no, they were not perfect.
Because diameter and circumference are very different which means the balls were maybe slightly, okay a lot, too big.
You can see in the second photo that they were just too much. The smaller balls are all ping pong balls or the size of ping pong balls. And by the way we found that a regular ping pong ball worked great!

STEM Challenge! It's time for football. Check this blog post for more!


On to FOOTBALL! The next sports challenge was to build a goal and a kicker. Now, we went ahead and tried those giant footballs and the kids loved them. They were just harder to use with the catapulting devices the kids had built. They tried them a lot anyway, just because they looked like real footballs.
STEM Challenge! It's time for football. Check this blog post for more!

The hardest part of the football challenge was getting that goal post to stand up. Kids tried all kinds of genius ways to prop it up. They also had to make a kicking device and used the materials
very creatively to make something to propel those little footballs. (Oh, see that little furry football in the above photo. That one came from a girl's headband I found at a party store. It was fur and fluffy and worked pretty good actually.)
And before I forget this.......
We used a lot of craft sticks for this one!
In fact, we use craft sticks all the time. Or straws. Or both.


Speaking of craft sticks. I get a lot of them donated to our lab, but when I purchase them it's always in a giant box like this one. They last forever and we recycle- meaning we take things apart and reuse the sticks!
Get the giant box. Don't be fooled by those little packs at the Dollar Tree. Get the big box.


Finally it was time for soccer. Coincidentally, our students were in the middle of our annual school soccer tournament.
STEM Challenge: All about soccer! Build a goal and goalie! Check this blog post for more!

They were very excited about making the soccer goals and a goalie to block kicks. The best part was the way in which the goalie was decorated. They made crazy hair and green hair and labeled their shirts with famous soccer player's names. Total fun!
STEM Challenge: All about soccer! Build a goal and goalie! Check this blog post for more!

The goalie part of this structure was the most amazing! It had to move and attempt to block shots! Our presentations for this challenge were spectacular as kids from other groups attempted shots and the presenting group tried to stop them.

So, there you are! Three great sports challenges and two fabulous ideas about materials you can try.
Also try to make it over to Doodlebugs Teaching and visit a few more teacher blogs!

0

What's Going on in Second Grade? Towers!

Hello STEM Friends!
Some of you that join me here often know that I am tackling STEM with some small friends this year. First and second grades were added to my schedule (along with third, fourth, and fifth). We started the year off with some simple designs!

Like Towers!
STEM in 2nd Grade: Build a tower using straws and index cards! More on this blog post!

My big kids love towers and we have built a ton of them! All kinds of materials and combinations of materials. Like spaghetti, toothpicks, play-doh, water, satellites, buckets, tennis balls, you name it and we have tried it. One of our favorite items to use (for just about everything) is straws. So, I thought this might be a good item to try with second graders!
STEM in 2nd Grade: Build a tower using straws and index cards! More on this blog post!

They had straws and index cards and a little bit of tape. I did talk to them before we started to let them know that tape is a precious material and must be used well. I almost never give extra tape. The big kids learn to use it well. But, just look at those towers above- do you see those tiny little bits of tape they used? Awesome.
Not to mention their awesome towers!
They were trying to make multiple levels, like the floors of a building.
STEM in 2nd Grade: Build a tower using straws and index cards! More on this blog post!

I very quickly also noticed that these kids knew how to insert straws inside another straw to connect them! Is this something kids just know how to do? They combined straws and those cards in some interesting ways!
STEM in 2nd Grade: Build a tower using straws and index cards! More on this blog post!

One of the biggest problems I saw was in getting the structure to stand up. In one of the photos above you can see a team that tried to use the card wrapped around their straws as a base. We all laughed because it did resemble a canoe. But, it also worked!
They were also not inclined to tape their tower to the table. The first question my big kids always ask is, "Does it have to be free-standing?" The littles tried to build without taping the tower down until I suggested it to a group and then they all caught on to using that technique. I mean, really, a skyscraper is attached to the ground! 
STEM in 2nd Grade: Build a tower using straws and index cards! More on this blog post!

This is a question even my big kids struggle with! What is the height of a tower? How tall does it have to be? My big kids want the tallest possible and will go to great lengths to just keep adding to their structures so they will have the tallest in the class!
The second graders were not much different from my older students. They wanted a tall tower, too.
We stopped working several times to talk about not striving to be the tallest, but instead focusing on getting a standing tower!
Incidentally, the towers my first graders built one day had the opposite. The first graders were more worried about making the structure and creating the "story" behind it!
STEM in 2nd Grade: Build a tower using straws and index cards! More on this blog post!

And, speaking of standing up..... who knew that index cards could be so heavy that their towers would topple over. They did and the kids were a little frustrated. I, however, find frustration to be a great thing. That's how you learn to persevere!
STEM in 2nd Grade: Build a tower using straws and index cards! More on this blog post!


Using the index cards as the floors of a building proved to be a great idea and many groups were successful with that idea.
Now, go all the way back to the top and look at that first photo.

The group in the photo wanted to add the index card in the middle so their tower would look like the Eiffel Tower. I helped by suggesting they cut little notches in the cards to go around the straw legs. When I came back in a minute to see how that was working they were actually trying to cut notches in the straws to insert the cards in!
Which is fairly brilliant.
And also a little hard to do!
They ended up taping their deck in the middle of the Card Eiffel Tower!

Here's the scoop:
Materials: 5 index cards, 15-20 straws, tape. Build a tower!
Super simple and they had a great time!
So, what are you doing in your STEM Class?



0

Best Playground Ever!

So some of you know that I was asked to add first and second graders to my STEM lab rotations. 
Y'all I know nothing about those age groups so I have relied on friends to get me going. My daughter also encourages me since she taught first grade a year or so ago. First graders are just full of life and funny and they can build a lot of things. Second graders can do a little more, as I am discovering. So, recently we tackled a Playground Challenge!
STEM Challenge: Build a playground! Every group build something different. Check this blog post!

Before we go any further let me tell you that this STEM challenge came from my good friend, Renee, at Science Schoolyard!
This challenge came from a Back to School pack!


STEM Challenge: Build a playground! Every group build something different. Check this blog post!
We tackled this in six groups. Every group had the same materials and each group built a different playground apparatus.
The See-Saws were really funny. First, we had to decide what that is, but some kids acted it out and they caught on quickly. The hardest part for them was making the see saw actually move from side to side. The above model has a smiling person riding and having fun!


STEM Challenge: Build a playground! Every group build something different. Check this blog post!

Look at that amazing slide. The girls in this group meticulously worked on that ladder because you have to have one! The kids were very impressed with this one. The cardboard tubes are a handy supply to collect, by the way. We use them all the time! Just ask parents to save them for you! I promise you will get tons and you will likely have to ask parents to stop sending them!


STEM Challenge: Build a playground! Every group build something different. Check this blog post!
Monkey Bars were a little tricky. This group in the photo also worked hard to make that ladder. They had trouble getting the structure to stand up so they added two sets of bars together- like in an X shape. They explained that you could climb the ladder and climb around and then slide down any of the poles. Pretty genius! See all those straws? That's another material we use all the time. Ask parents to buy you a box or a bag from the dollar store!



STEM Challenge: Build a playground! Every group build something different. Check this blog post!
The swing sets were trickier to make than you would think! The frame was fairly easy- if the kids remembered to make the side legs in a triangle shape. Some tried just two poles on each side, which didn't work. The had to add support legs for that method! Adding the strings was also hard for their little fingers. Oh, they could get them attached, but making the swing level was hard. Every group that made a swing set had a different method. The foil above is supposed to be the sand pit under the swing set.
Another building material we use all the time is craft sticks. I buy them in large quantities and then we reuse them! Like these: 

STEM Challenge: Build a playground! Every group build something different. Check this blog post!
I am guessing that the climbing dome was the hardest structure for them.  We looked at photos of a dome or jungle gym and they tried so hard to make one. The one in the photo above is the closest anyone came to a dome shape that you could climb on. The foil around the top of it was a terrific idea!

My second graders LOVED this challenge. Go visit Science Schoolyard and check out her STEM and science activities. Also, go visit Doodlebugs Teaching for more blog posts to read today!



This post contains affiliate links. For more information on what that means, see my About Me Page
1
Back to Top