Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Reading Julia Golding

I was browsing around in bookstores this week, thoroughly enjoying myself and finding all sorts of treasures in the 2nd-hand book stores in Aberdeen. For an incredibly low price I got myself a series of 6 books by Jonathan Wylie, some David Eddings books (which I loved when I was younger and just wanted to re-read for nostalgia's sake) a copy of the Midwich Cuckoos (have to say I adore John Wyndham - especially The Chrysalids which we had to read in school when I was about 15)... oh, and a set of George Macdonald fairy tales :)

Today I was looking through Julia Golding's books in the children's section of another store and remembered how much I enjoyed them. I don't know how many people are familiar with her books so I thought I'd share some of the titles today.

Julia Golding is a British author and has written many books, winning the Nestle Smarties Book Prize in 2006 for The Diamond of Drury Lane.

I particularly like two of her series - one is fantasy and one is historical.

The Companions Quartet was the first series I read - and I promptly bought the entire set for the school library.

In brief it tells the story of a girl named Connie, who moves to a seaside town to live with her aunt. Connie has never fitted in and believes that it will be the same in this new place. Instead she discovers the Society for the Protection of Mythical Creatures and learns that the town is full of adults and children who are Companions to banshees, pegasi, krakens and selkies, as well as other mythical creatures. Connie discovers that she is the rarest of the rare - a Universal Companion, the first person in over 100 years who can communicate with every creature on land, in sea and in air. She has enormous power - and learns that this power corrupted the previous Universal who now wants Connie to join him in his bid to take over everything.

The really fun part about this series is seeing all the mythical creatures - and I particularly liked going to the website and finding out what type of Companion I would be :) It helps if your kids know something about myths -they'll understand it better - but it's a great adventure series anyway.


 Golding's other series that I love is the Cat Royal series. There are 6 books in print and one shorter novella that is available as an e-book.

These are set in 18th century England and the story begins in Covent Garden. Cat Royal is an orphan who lives in the Theater Royal in Drury Lane. Each book has a mystery element (hidden diamonds, plots to kill a duke, family mystery etc. ) and Cat rubs shoulders with everyone from actors to street riffraff to the aristocracy. As the series progresses Cat travels to France, Jamaica and even America but even more she goes on a journey of self-discovery. Themes such as slavery, revolution and class distinctions run through the books as well - and I especially like the way that Julia Golding realistically showcases 18th century life in a variety of places through Cat's travels.

These books are geared toward 10 year olds and higher - I loved them as an adult :) - but a strong younger reader could certainly handle them.

And even though the covers look girly - and the protagonist is a girl - there are plenty of characters to interest the boys as well including former slave Pedro, street gang leader Billy Shepherd and pirates!
A seriously good read!!


So that's my British pick this week :) Try Julia Golding's books - you won't regret it :)

Monday, 22 July 2013

Castles, glens and some school work

The weather in Scotland has been absolutely stupendous this last week! We've actually had a heat wave and I got sunburned (just a little) while hiking!! Fabulous weather and gorgeous scenery - I do so LOVE the Cairngorms!!

These are some of the views from our Sabbath hike this week. My mom and I didn't make it to the summit of Culardoch - it was a little hot and quite a long walk for us when we haven't done a lot of walking for a year :) but we took a beautiful circuit back through the hills. Here's some of the scenery we went through :)

Our tea spot :)

Coming through the woods on the homeward stretch

We came around a corner and bumped into this group
of Highlanders in the middle of nowhere! No idea what
they were doing - perhaps a reenactment of some kind!
It was great fun seeing them though!!

It was HOT!! And not a cloud in the sky!

Scotland has tons of castles and Castle Fraser is one of my favorites.  There was a jousting tournament taking place this week! Great fun - it's a beautiful castle and the day was superb. We lolled around watching the knights on their horses, eating ice cream and taking photos of walled gardens and castle walls. :)

And finally, despite all this fun I managed to finish a back to school resource and got some CUTE scissors that will be recognizably mine and thus will not disappear into kiddy desks!! A most productive week :)

Nice, aren't they? They've got owls on the blades!

These were fun to make :)
Find them HERE if you're
interested. :)

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Getting through the To Do list

A few weeks ago I took part in a linky where we made a To Do list for the summer. I re-read it this week and realized that, while I have accomplished some of the things on it, I am a little behind in other areas!


I am pleased to say that I have made some progress with my list:

1. Most of the pre-holiday items are checked off (although I still have some paperwork to complete for my daughter)

2. I have started reading one of the PD books on my list - Math Exchanges - and I am enjoying it very much. I will definitely be revamping my Math Centers next year and trying to incorporate more exchange time. I highly recommend this book (by Kassia Omohundro Wedekind) if you haven't read it already.

3. Although I am one of the world's worst procrastinators when it comes to uploading resources to TpT I have actually finished two products :)

Some years I have kiddies who don't celebrate Halloween. When that happens I use pumpkins as our decorating theme, craft theme, class activity theme. Pumpkins are safe - and they double as a harvest theme :) I don't actually know if I will have a pumpkin year or a Halloween year when school starts again in September but I am going to be prepared either way.

Enter Problems in the Pumpkin Patch , a set of word problems with a pumpkin theme. We can still do "Halloween" centers but avoid the witches and ghosts and goblins. :)

Last year my class did a LOT of open-ended Math projects and loved them. They made fantastic center activities and really fostered critical thinking. The first projects were heavily teacher guided but by the end of the year all I had to do was hand out the material and my students were off and running completely independently.

I'm definitely going to do them again - and one of the projects will be this one:
The Pumpkin Patch Contest

I think it will work very nicely with the pumpkin word problems and will make an interesting Math bulletin board display in October. 

Next up on my "cross off the list" projects is a Back to School open-ended project. 

I'm going to begin the year as I mean to go on!! 

Inquiry, critical thinking, exploration, creativity and learning - all in a fun way! :)

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Missing in action... but still here

I had great plans for blogging this summer but holidays, I find, have a way of scuppering the best of intentions :)

Scotland is glorious - we've had sunshine almost every day and it hasn't rained yet!

Yesterday I finally got my new camera and my mom and I spent the afternoon playing with it. It's just a small camera but it has an amazing number of features - it's quite extraordinary what technology is capable of nowadays.

Here's my mom's garden - I'm still on a learning curve with the camera, remember :)

I love her little faun statue - so Narnian :)

I can't get thyme to grow at home but
my mom has several varieties scattered

We spent about half an hour hanging out the upstairs window seeing what effects we could get at night. Of course, none of the pictures look exactly like what we could see but I did like this one of my dad in his garden room. It doesn't get dark until nearly 10:00 at this time of the year so he spends a lot of time out here :)

Anyway, this was just a quick little "I'm still around" post. We have a lot planned for this week - including a long hike into the hills near Braemar and an evening visit to the park to see the opera Tosca screened live and possibly a visit to a castle to see a medieval jousting tournament. :) The weather is supposed to stay fine so my new camera is going to get a workout. (And I'm thinking the castle trip might result in some fun classroom project ideas - they are percolating in my brain right now and will hopefully result in something more concrete by next week. :) 

Hope everyone is still enjoying their holidays if they're still out of school - and for those of you who are back I hope that the new year is going well :)

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Wings of Fire

I was trying to think what to blog about over the summer and thought it might be fun to review some children's books :) Since I'll be in the UK I thought it would be a good time to re-read my favorite British authors (which some of you may not be familiar with :) ) and tell you what I like about them.

Having said that however, my first review choice is not British :)

Tui T. Sutherland lives in Massachusetts and I just LOVE her series, Wings of Fire (published by Scholastic)

She's written 3 books in the series so far - book 3 just came out (and I am waiting for my copy to arrive) and book 4 will be out in October (sigh - it will be a long wait!)

I am a big fan of fantasy - and if it involves dragons that's even better. Throw in a prophecy and I'm hooked. Plus, as a bonus, there are great maps of Pyrrhia in the book> (shades of Anne McCaffrey's Pern novels!!)

5 young dragons are brought up in a secret cave under a mountain - they are the dragonets of prophecy and are guarded by the Talons of Peace. A little quirk appears early in the story: The dragonets were supposed to be from 5 specific species of dragon but unfortunately the Skywing egg was broken so a Rainwing egg was substituted instead. We're not sure how this will affect the prophecy... :) but it's keeping me enthralled trying to guess what will happen!!

The dragonets escape from the cave and search for their families. They all have different desires and each book focuses on one dragonet but continues the overall storyline. In book one, Clay the Mudwing finds his family; in book two Tsunami, the Seawing finds hers. So far the protagonists have had to make difficult choices and I expect this will continue with the rest of the series.

Having said that, I've already been surprised quite a few times - the storyline has NOT gone the way I thought it would, which I just LOVE! - so who knows what will happen to Glory, Starflight and Sunny! :)

I seriously couldn't put the first book down and then read the second one immediately after!! (And book three had better get here SOON!)

There is some violence - dragons fight and kill each other - and there's no sugarcoating of the results of war but some of my grade 3 students read the books and loved them. They're definitely a great choice for grades 4 and 5!!

There's a lot in this series - themes of prejudice, loyalty, friendship , choices, empathy, senselessness of war... - all wrapped up in a fantastic adventure story.

I was thinking of trying the first book as a read aloud next year - just for the discussions that I'm sure will result. :)

Has anyone else read these books? What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

A sad and lonely classroom...

I always think a classroom looks so sad at the end of the year. :(

Here's mine all packed up for the summer. My room suddenly seems so huge!!

All I have to do tomorrow is pack away my computer and take out the last few things that I couldn't carry to the car today - and then I'll say goodbye until August 27th. :) Poor little classroom :(

What else did I do today? Well, I finally finished a mental math game that I started last term - i.e. I prettied it up and got it uploaded. :) I love being able to text and email fellow teachers while I'm working - and I LOVE the fact that I can be thousands of miles away from them and still talk. 

What DID we all do before the days of chatting, texting and emailing?!!

So here's my X/Out game - I had fun playing with colors today :) 

 Wishing all my American friends a happy 4th of July tomorrow. Hoping for fireworks here too - and for a clear night on which to see them :)

Monday, 1 July 2013

To Do's

I am linking up with Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies with a list of things to do before school starts again :)

Since my summer holiday only really began today my list of To Do's is still in progress...

In fact, I've barely got off the couch where I have collapsed in a happy stupor, knowing I don't have to get up at 6:00, don't have to rush around like a lunatic feeding dogs and finding clothes, don't have to drive into school in the morning traffic... It's wonderful!!

Next week I'm heading to Scotland to spend most of the summer with my mom and stepdad - I haven't seen them since last year so I'm really looking forward to it but, of course, it means a lot of things have to get done fairly quickly. I can't think about school stuff until all this is off the list :)

1. Get dogs sorted out. Buy an immense amount of food so that my husband, daughter and father (caregivers while I'm away) don't have to. Will write up feeding schedule and post on fridge, make sure everyone knows where and when dogs have to be at different times during the summer... it's a bit like organizing doggy day care!!

Bear already looking sad :(

Panda - she'll be so busy getting into trouble she
won't even know I'm gone!!

2. Take The Tortoise to the Aquarium for his summer vacation - and annual weigh-in. I'll get him back in September once he's been vetted and he can return to the classroom.

The Tortoise in his summer home in my garden.

3. Clean house thoroughly so I don't feel guilty leaving my husband to fend for himself for a while.

4. Air out suitcase, find winter clothes (I'm pretty sure I'll be needing my sweaters in Aberdeen even if it IS summer!!) and pack as lightly as possible.

5. Make sure my daughter is ready for university - banking, visas etc. - since a) she is transferring to a university in Canada and b) I won't see her again until Christmas. I would prefer NOT to get an email like I had LAST summer saying that she forgot to get her visa and got slammed with a massive one-off fee at the airport which she "had to pay with my credit card"!!!

6. Get into school and clean my classroom!! I'll have a week to decorate and plan when I get back (before we have to be in for meetings etc.) but the room really needs another gutting - and definitely the boards need to be stripped and the paper cabinet reorganized.

7. Order a BioBubble - I want one for my classroom next year and would like to have it arrive before the end of August!! Look at this blog post by Christi Fultz - doesn't this look like an awesome thing to have in a classroom?!!

8. Get my hair cut!!!!

Once I'm settled in Scotland my To Do list changes slightly:

1. Start walking every day (!!!) and look into getting a summer membership at the gym down the road.

These are the hills just 10 minutes from my mom's
house. See all the heather? :)

2. Work on TpT every morning and get the half-finished projects finished and uploaded plus get all the stuff that is in my head out into reality. I am going to try and be disciplined and make myself a schedule so that I have some Ta Da! moments this summer :)

  • Mental Math sheets
  • Problem packs
  • Scoot games - my class LOVE them!
  • Open-ended Math projects
  • lots of other stuff :)

3. Read the pile of PD books I have promised myself - I have a long list and am hoping to get through most of it. I'd like to contribute to some of the great book studies that are taking place this summer.

  • Pathways to the Common Core
  • What's Your Math Problem?
  • Math Exchanges
  • The Differentiated Math Classroom

4. Visit my own house (30 minutes from my mom's) and organize renovations for when my son moves over later this year. This could end of taking up a lot of my time if we're able to get contractors to go in - but it will be fun to visit home supply centers and pick out materials. :)

Our house - that one day we hope to live in :)
5. Visit some castles :) and garden centers. Walk along the river and on the beach. Collect those wonderful smooth beach stones that we don't have here.

Castle Fraser

The River Dee - a 5 minute walk from my mom's house.
Doggy heaven - tons of them play here in the evening.
None of them are on leashes and I've never seen any fights!

6. Sit in the garden in the sun (hopefully) and enjoy the fat bumblebees, lavender bushes and magpies. Watch the morning and evening dog parades from the kitchen window (EVERYONE in Aberdeen walks their dogs twice a day!)

7. Enjoy the time with my parents.

My mom, my aunt and me last summer

8. Celebrate my 26th anniversary and my parents 30th wedding anniversary on August 20th. Sadly my husband won't be with me but we will Skype :)

My wonderful husband enjoying the hills of Scotland.
When I get back home:

1. Go straight into school and re-paper boards, set up classroom, make labels for cubbies, organize binder and substitute binder, prepare and copy lessons for first week...

Hopefully I will have created all the necessary items for all of the above by August 26th :)

So yes, lots to do - but plenty of time to have fun as well :)

Get your To Do lists written and go link up - we can all hold each other accountable :)