5 Books You Should Try (December)

Welcome to my monthly Book Review! There are five great ones listed here- I especially loved the last one on the list!
Happy Reading!

Book Reviews on this blog post! This includes five great ones you need to read!
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!

It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
This is the story of Lily Bloom. Yes, that's her name. She's about 23ish when the story opens and is just meeting Ryle who turns out to be a smooth talker who propositions her within the first hour of knowing her. However, nothing happens. Fast forward to some months later when she runs into him again as she is opening a flower shop and has hired his sister Alyssa to work for her. They begin a relationship that is based on loving one another wildly and you want to believe this is a storybook romance. Check this blog post for more!
This is the story of Lily Bloom. Yes, that's her name. She's about 23ish when the story opens and is just meeting Ryle who turns out to be a smooth talker who propositions her within the first hour of knowing her. However, nothing happens. Fast forward to some months later when she runs into him again as she is opening a flower shop and has hired his sister Alyssa to work for her. They begin a relationship that is based on loving one another wildly and you want to believe this is a storybook romance.
Nope.
It seems that in Lily's past she had an abusive father that beat and hit her mother regularly and her mom allowed it, stayed with him, and lied about her injuries to keep dad out of trouble. Add to this mix a homeless young man that appeared when Lily was 15 and lived in an abandoned house beside hers. Lily became his friend, fed him, gave him blankets, and then let him use her home to bathe, watch television, study, and eventually sleep. (This part is a little perplexing to me. How many teenagers could smuggle someone into their bedroom every night, talk to them, sleep, and then get that person back out in the morning without being found?) Anyway, his name is Atlas and they fall in love. Atlas moves away after high school to join the armed forces and he and Lily lose touch.
Now, Lily is with Ryle and, of course, they run into Atlas.
That's about all I will tell you because I think you will love this book and want to read all the details yourself. This book was recommended to me by Shay Shull from Mix and Match Mama. She was right in saying it's a good one. Mind you, it's a chick book, but a good one. It is a little x-rated. I would give it 5 stars!

The Last Mile by David Baldacci
In this book  you meet Melvin Mars who is about to be put to death for murdering his parents. At the last minute he  receives news that someone has confessed to the crime and he is released. Amos comes in at that point, working with the FBI, trying to find out what truly happened about 20 years prior.
This is a crime drama and continues the story of Amos Decker. This is a character introduced in Baldacci's book Memory Man. Amos was injured while playing football and now remembers everything. The memory is tricky, but eventually he can piece together clues and names and events, and solve a crime. In this book  you meet Melvin Mars who is about to be put
to death for murdering his parents. At the last minute he  receives news that someone has confessed to the crime and he is released. Amos comes in at that point, working with the FBI, trying to find out what truly happened about 20 years prior. Many other characters appear, included the confessor's wife and son, townspeople that knew the murdered couple, and Mars himself who becomes part of the investigation. Amos pulls off some great feats of memory and using clues no one else seems to pick up on and along the way makes new friends (and loses weight).
So, here's the feeling about this one: I love a good crime drama! Baldacci's books are always page-turners! It is non-stop action and usually a book I can read in a few days (even at 400+ pages for this one). I did enjoy this book and now there will be more in the Amos Decker series and I will try them!
With this book I did seem to notice that there is a lot of conversation and at times I wanted to just move on. Do the characters really need to talk all the time, especially if the talk is not relevant to the story line or repetitive? If this style of book is one you enjoy occasionally, then I would grab the book. Read Memory Man first!


The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
The book tells how they met, their first date, their engagement, marriage, and then how they came to be hosts of their own TV show. The stories of how God worked in their lives with answers to prayer and things that seem to happen for a reason are truly amazing.
Oh my, this was a fun book to read. I have been watching HGTV's Fixer upper since it first started coming on and I love that show. I actually listened to this book and I am so glad that was how I chose to purchase it because it was read by Chip and Joanna! That was the perfect touch- listening to them tell their story! The book tells how they met, their first date, their engagement, marriage, and then how they came to be hosts of their own TV show. The stories of how God worked in their lives with answers to prayer and things that seem to happen for a reason are truly amazing. It's a beautiful story and I do recommend this book. Try to listen to it if you can get it on audio! Or try Audible! It's an audible Book Choice offered by Amazon. Use my affiliate link below and you can get two audible books for free. I download these to my Iphone and listen to them on my commute to work!




Some Luck by Jane Smiley
Each chapter covers a year in the life of a family. But, not every little detail- a lot of the chapters are short. In the beginning it is the year 1920 and you meet Walter and Rosanna, a young couple living on a farm in Iowa. Quickly you also know they have an infant son, named Frank, and times are hard. In 1920 they had no electricity and traveling was difficult and slow. This is actually what makes this book so fascinating!
The premise of this book (and series) is really intriguing. Each chapter covers a year in the life of a family. But, not every little detail- a lot of the chapters are short. In the beginning it is the year 1920 and you meet Walter and Rosanna, a young couple living on a farm in Iowa. Quickly you also know they have an infant son, named Frank, and times are hard. In 1920 they have no electricity and traveling was difficult and slow. This is actually what makes this book so fascinating! As each chapter reveals another year, you also get to see how the family adapts to changes in the world, their living conditions, and new inventions. Walter and Rosanna have 6 children and the chapters progressing through time tell a story about how each child grows and up and moves away or stays on the farm. Frank, the oldest, is a mischievous boy that never follows rules and this carries him into high school, college, and eventually fighting in WWII. Joe, the second boy, is calmer and almost dainty, and eventually learns to make farming work as he develops cross-bred seeds that produce more. Lillian, a beautiful girl, loves her teacher and wants to just stay and help her, but eventually must also go to high school away from the farm. Her story is poignant as the time of this book meant women didn't have a lot of options. The youngest two children, Henry and Claire, don't factor in a large way of the story (yet), but here's another interesting thing about the book. The mom, Rosanna, feels differently about all her children. She actually doesn't care for a couple of them- especially Claire. Claire becomes the favorite of Walter. There is another daughter that dies a tragic death at a very young age. This is book one in a series and the ending will make you want to get the second book!
Overall, it's a great book. It's a slow reading book, with not a lot of action, but very historical and you do get caught up in the main characters and other family members. I think you will like it!


The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
This is the story of Tom and Isabella. The book actually opens with the two living on Janus together- this is a remote island off the western coast of Australia. It's early in the 1900's and Tom has taken a commission to be a lighthouse keeper. He and Isabella are alone on the island, except for visits every three months from the supply boat. Until one day a boat washes up on their beach and they find inside it a dead man and a tiny baby. Isabella wants to keep the baby and Tom, against his good judgment, does not report the incident. They name the baby Lucy and raise her as their own.
Oh, my. This is my favorite book read in the last few months. By far.
This is the story of Tom and Isabella. The book actually opens with the two living on Janus together- this is a remote island off the western coast of Australia. It's early in the 1900's and Tom has taken a commission to be a lighthouse keeper. He and Isabella are alone on the island, except for visits every three months from the supply boat. Until one day a boat washes up on their beach and they find inside it a dead man and a tiny baby. Isabella wants to keep the baby and Tom, against his good judgment, does not report the incident. They name the baby Lucy and raise her as their own.
All is perfect until they visit their home town on a shore leave and meet the baby's real mother.
The events this sets in motion are heartbreaking for Isabella and the real mother, Hannah, for Tom, and eventually for Lucy.
You need to read this one. It is beautifully written and compelling. In the end it's a story about love- between Isabella and Tom and the baby they wanted to be theirs.

There you are reader friends! Five books I can recommend this month- not a clunker in the bunch!
These are all linked to Amazon for you, using my affiliate link.




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Worst Mistakes (and 1 Good Thing) with 1st and 2nd Graders

What a journey these last few months has been!
I have always taught upper elementary, but this year first and second grade STEM was added to my schedule.
I had no clue what to expect and how to get going with these age groups, but we tackled some STEM challenges anyway. I thought it might be fun to look back at the four worst mistakes I made
and one really good thing I learned!
STEM Challenges with first and second graders! This blog post shares some mistakes I made that you can learn from!

STEM Challenge: Although this looks like great fun and a super project you need to read this blog post before you try it! It's a mistake I made!
Yes, you read that right.
Candy Boats.
Y'all I thought this would be so fabulous. First, of all, I know kids love to build boats. With my big kids we build boats using a budget for gathering the materials and then we test the boats by counting pennies into them until they take on water. It's a much requested STEM challenge and my best-seller at TpT.
With these little ones I decided to simplify the materials and use candy to weigh down the boat- instead of pennies. They LOVED it.
But, there is an uh-oh.......
Do you know what happens when candy corn gets wet?
It gets sticky and then whoever touches it next gets sticky and then the next pieces of candy corn stick to your finger and then pretty soon it's all just a sticky glob of candy corn mess.
It only took one class for me to re-think this one.
So, we tried a different version after that!

STEM Challenge: This is a modified boat challenge for first graders. They loved it a lot! Check this blog post!
With the next group we used the same materials, but we gave up on the candy corn and went to pennies. This worked really well. The kids built great boats and we also laughed a lot at their counting. They count much slower than my big kids and lose their place a lot, and jump whole sets of numbers. This was still really a great STEM Challenge.

STEM in first grade needs some modifications! This blog post will help you with some mistakes I made and how I fixed them!
It never even occurred to me that cutting was going to be an issue. So, with the first class I did the same thing I do with the big kids.
I ripped off a strip of tape and left it on the edge of their work table, and fully expected they would cut it into pieces.
NOPE.
They hold scissors awkwardly and ruined a lot of tape before I had an epiphany. Which is my next point!

STEM Challenges: Here's what I do to help first graders with their tape! Read the blog post for more ideas for first and second graders!
After I discovered that cutting tape was going to be a problem I started doing it for them!
Now, I know, some of you are going to think this is a not a good idea. How will they learn to do this if it is done for them?
I have several answers for this!
First, the tape cutting was frustrating and this was causing problems with the littles crying and complaining.
Second, masking tape is expensive! Doing it for them saves me money!
Third, my class time is limited and cutting it for them allows them to get busy quickly and not waste time with masking tape wrapped around their arms as they are trying to cut it.

STEM Challenge: This is a fabulous rocket activity, but I made the mistake of using paper straws. Read this blog post to discover the details!
This fabulous STEM challenge comes from Brooke Brown of Teach Outside the Box and the first graders really, really, loved this one. It's a simple design challenge, but great fun. 
Each child needs a straw and those large milkshake straws work best.
But I ran out of them.
So, I went to my closet to get more straws and I saw these pretty polka dot and chevron straws and grabbed those. The kids were able to pick their color and they got busy blasting off their rockets.
So, you ask, why was this a mistake?
Those straws are made of paper.
Just think about that for a minute.
Paper.
Blowing through a straw.
Six year old kids.
It only took five minutes for me to have kids coming to show me their straw was bent and coming apart and wet........
Paper and blowing spit don't mix.
We quickly threw all those pretty straws away and went with a regular plastic straw which worked great!

STEM Challenges! Even first and second graders will sketch an idea and then carry out their plan! Check this blog post for more!
So, after these few months have I had some great things happen?
Of course! 
We have come a long way. The kids are getting better and better at working together, sharing jobs, and presenting their finished projects. It has been a blast.
So, here's a good thing I learned!
Check that photo above. This happened way back in September. I wan't sure if these younger kids would sketch a "blueprint" and I had not been asking them to. I figured this was something we could add later. One day, a student asked for paper because,  "I have a great idea and I want to draw it and show my team!" And that is just what he did. Just take a look at his drawing and then they are building it exactly like he imagined it.
Wonderful moment!

Alright here are some links for you for Boats and the Rocket Challenge.
Building Boats
Straw Rockets 

Come back and visit in January because I have the BEST EVER post coming about how I used Books and STEM together with first and second graders!

Thanks for stopping by!
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Roller Coasters Four Ways

Do you love roller coasters?
Once upon a time I would stand and wait on my family until the ride was over. I even let my husband take our four year old on the Georgia Cyclone without me. Then one day, I decided to try a coaster and actually keep my eyes open and
IT WAS FUN!
My favorites are the ones you stand up to ride!
Anyway, this post is all about coasters in the classroom- the STEM kind of coasters!
STEM Challenges: Roller coasters are kid favorites in STEM class. Check this blog post for four versions of roller coasters!

PAPER PLATE COASTERS
STEM Challenge: Make a marble run coaster using paper plates! Check this blog post for more!
This STEM challenge was part of a package I purchased from Brooke Brown at Teach Outside the Box. It's a fairly simple challenge and I tried it with second, third, and fourth graders. Best of all, it takes only a few materials! Easy prep and easy clean up- that's a win-win!

STEM Challenge: Make a marble run coaster using paper plates! Check this blog post for more!
These photos were all taken with the second graders that tried this challenge! We watched a 30 second You Tube video before making these. I found one that was a video of a kid that made this kind of coaster and we watched it so the kids would understand what we were building. I thought the little kids would need that visual. Then I did show them how to cut off the edges of the paper plates! 

My big kids loved making these, too! Check the video below from second graders!




MARBLE RUNS
STEM Challenge: Use cardboard tubes as the pathways for this fun coaster! Check this blog post for more!
This one seems so amazingly simple and I tried it a few months back with fourth graders. They had a blast with this design and build challenge. We learned a lot about how to  connect tubes, make the tubes curve, and attach tubes to the table. We also learned to use a large piece of cardboard to build these on because we could not get them finished in one class session. They had to be stored and moving them was a huge problem.

STEM Challenge: Use cardboard tubes as the pathways for this fun coaster! Check this blog post for more!
I wrote a blog post all about these and you can check it out right here:

STEM Challenge: Use cardboard tubes as the pathways for this fun coaster! Check this blog post for more!
The kids loved these and we did take a few of them home. They were actually quite sturdy and could be carried away without damaging them. It definitely took lots of hands to create these and fabulous team work!


 DIFFERENT MARBLE RUNS
STEM Challenge: Build a vertical marble run using cardboard tubes! Read this blog post for more!
I have always wanted to try one of these and I have watched kids do this with foam tubes, but never cardboard tubes. Then I purchased a Space Pack from Science Schoolyard and this challenge was part of that pack! The idea is that kids build the marble run to connect Earth to the Moon or really whatever heavenly bodies you wish to connect.

STEM Challenge: Build a vertical marble run using cardboard tubes! Read this blog post for more!
These were really cool to build. The kids had some very imaginative ways to make the marbles fall through holes in the tubes and then into a connecting tube.  It was very exciting to watch and we knew when there were loud screams that a run had been successful! Two materials on this one- tubes and tape! Another win-win!

FOAM TUBES
STEM Challenge: Create a foam tube roller coaster with loops and curves! Check this blog post!
This challenge is, by far, the most requested challenge we complete. Kids cheer when they see it on the agenda and cheer constantly as these are built. The difference between this style and the others is one big thing: LOOPS!
Those foam tubes are flexible and can make loops for the marbles to travel on!

STEM Challenge: Create a foam tube roller coaster with loops and curves! Check this blog post!
These looping, curving, twisting foam tubes take over the large lab floor space and, like the above picture, sometimes we have to get creative when the tracks cross paths. This is another very simple STEM challenge with very few materials. You can read more about it here:

Thanks for stopping by!


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What's Going on in the Lab? Pom-Pom Blasters

This fabulous STEM Challenge is one that kids love and beg to do again. They love propelling things through the air! We call this one Pom-Pom Blasters!
STEM Challenge: This is a Quick Challenge- which simply means easy materials, easy prep, and a fast challenge. It's one you can throw together on the spur of the moment or leave with a substitute. Check this blog post for more!
This is a Quick Challenge- which simply means easy materials, easy prep, and a fast challenge. It's one you can throw together on the spur of the moment or leave with a substitute.
You can read more about Quick Challenges {HERE}!
STEM Challenge: This is a Quick Challenge- which simply means easy materials, easy prep, and a fast challenge. It's one you can throw together on the spur of the moment or leave with a substitute. Check this blog post for more!
With Pom-Pom Blasters the students have some really unusual materials, like cups and craft sticks and, of course, a pom-pom. They need to invent a way to propel that pom-pom through the air.
STEM Challenge: One of the hardest problems to solve with this one is how to hold the pom-pom in the device so that it will fly when you let it go. Check this blog post for more!
I have seen all shapes and sizes of blasters when kids work on this challenge. There is always a team that makes a sling shot. There is almost always a team that will try to make the pom-pom pop out of the bottom of the cup by hitting it in some way. This always surprises them when it doesn't work! In one of the photos above a team made a slingshot that was a wide device and it actually worked well. One of the hardest problems to solve with this one is how to hold the pom-pom in the device so that it will fly when you let it go.
STEM Challenge: One of the hardest problems to solve with this one is how to hold the pom-pom in the device so that it will fly when you let it go. Check this blog post for more!
The blasters in the above photos are ones that you blow in to make the pom-pom fly out. The kids used their straws as blow tubes, but ran them through cups first.
STEM Challenge: Kids solve it so differently than I would. Their determination to make the wonky materials work is amazing. This is a quick, easy prep challenge you can throw together on the fly! Check this blog post for more!

The one above has a spring made of craft sticks and when you push down on the cup and let go, it pops up and the pom-pom flies.
I love watching kids with this challenge because they solve it so differently than I would. Their determination to make the wonky materials work is amazing.
This is a quick, easy prep challenge you can throw together on the fly!

STEM Challenge: This is a Quick Challenge- which simply means easy materials, easy prep, and a fast challenge. It's one you can throw together on the spur of the moment or leave with a substitute. Check this blog post for more!
Another idea with my Quick Challenges is to make the bins of materials, place the task card inside, and leave these for your early finishers or kids that need something to make them think!

You can see more details about Quick Challenges right  {HERE}

Well, that's what we have been up to in STEM
Class! How about you?
COMING SOON:
More grade 1 & 2 Robots
Easy and Quick Egg Drops 

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5 Ways to Add STEM and Christmas in Your Classroom

Merry Christmas! 
If you are looking for something crafty and STEM related this post is for you!
I have five challenges you can try with kids from first grade to fifth grade!
STEM Challenges for Decmebr: CHeck this blog post for five ways to add STEM to your Christmas classroom activities!
This post contains affiliate links for Amazon. By purchasing an item on Amazon's site using these links, I will receive a small compensation on your purchase.
STEM Challenge for first graders! It's a cute little Christmas tree made from interlocking cubes!
First Grade Trees were a hoot! This actually happened accidentally.
In my first and second grade classes I have six tables and one day recently I gave each table different materials. I invented something each table could build with those materials and then we rotated from table to table for the whole class. One table had interlocking cubes and the task was to build a tree.
The group in the photo above made theirs a Christmas tree! So, here's your STEM challenge for firsties: Read them a Christmas picture book, give them a bin of cubes, and tell them to make a Christmas tree. They will love it and so will you! It's easy prep and easy clean up!
If you need interlocking cubes, these are the kind we use:

Click on the image to get to Amazon!

STEM Challenge for December! It's the Brown Bag Christmas Tree! A few materials and a lunch sack and you have a little tree!
Here's a variation of a STEM Christmas tree. We used this challenge with third, fourth, and fifth graders. It's called the Brown Bag Christmas tree.

STEM Challenge for December! It's the Brown Bag Christmas Tree! A few materials and a lunch sack and you have a little tree!
It's a super easy one that uses a variety of easy to gather materials and brown lunch sacks and the kids design and build a tree. You can find this one in my TpT store right {HERE}!
If you use STEM projects a lot, like we do, I suggest you keep the larger containers of craft sticks like this one:

Click on the image to go to Amazon!


STEM Challenge for December: Design a package to transport cookies for a Christmas gift! Check this blog post for more!
My third and fourth graders tried this one. They had to design a package to safely transport some cookies. The cookies would be "mailed" to someone for Christmas so they also had to decorate the packages.

STEM Challenge for December: Design a package to transport cookies for a Christmas gift! Check this blog post for more!
They loved this challenge - especially dropping the packages to test their durability for being mailed. We broke a few cookies, but still ate them anyway!
This one can also be found in my TpT store right {HERE}!

STEM Challenge for December: Build a sleigh to hold packages and then find the perfect angle of ramp to slide it down! Great fun. Check the blog post for more!
Oh my, did we have fun with this one! This was tested by fifth graders. They had to build a sleigh, decorate it, and experiment with ramps to find the best angle for sliding the sleigh. We know Santa doesn't ride down ramps to deliver presents, but maybe he has to use a ramp to take off in that sleigh and get airborne! Right?

STEM Challenge for December: Build a sleigh to hold packages and then find the perfect angle of ramp to slide it down! Great fun. Check the blog post for more!
Some of them were quite creative in adding elves, Santas, presents, and reindeer to their sleigh! We loved this challenge and you can find it right {HERE}!


STEM for Christmas: Use Christmas candy and build the perfect container to hold it! Check this blog post for more Christmas STEM!
Christmas Candy Boxes is a challenge we tried a year ago, but I could not get it tested and finished before the Christmas season was over. So, when February rolled around we tried it again with some slightly different rules. Like the candy box had to be heart shaped and we used Valentine's Day candy instead.
The photos show you the possible ways to use this challenge for Christmas candy boxes. Just modify the rules a little bit and you can do it!

STEM for Christmas: Use Christmas candy and build the perfect container to hold it! Check this blog post for more Christmas STEM!
 You can find the Valentine's Day Candy Box Activity{HERE}, but make those substitutions and you can challenge your kids to build the perfect box for Christmas goodies!

So, there you are - some STEM challenges for this busy holiday season! Kids will love them!

Speaking of goodies: Check Doodlebugs Teaching right now for more Blogging goodies from other teachers!

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