Best Book I Have Not Read

Writing, Reading, Teaching, Life, Attempting to Balance it All

Group Dynamics-part of ongoing reflection March 30, 2009

Filed under: adult learners,Calkins,professional development — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:33 pm

Several of the Staff Developers at Teachers College, (including Lucy Calkins herself) referenced on several occasion a NPR Podcast from This American Life titled “Ruining it for the Rest of Us”. The first segment was about whether a Bad Apple could ruin a group?
The Experiment included three different “bad apples” types. The:
Jerk (“Are you kidding me?” “Do you have research to prove that?”)
Slacker-does less than they can (lean back in chair, text messaging or e-mailing friends)
Depressive/Pessimist (head down, “That will never work,”)

TC brought the podcast up within the context of group dynamics. How to deal with that ‘bad apple’ ?
The research study wondered if one bad apple could spoil the whole bunch in terms of group productivity. The answer was “Yes,” but not only did the group performs 30-40% worse than the control groups but it was found that the “bad apple” also effected how the other people in group started acting and treating each other. The researcher found that other group members started showing the ‘bad apple’s’ behavior.

An interesting podcast and something worth thinking about-are you a bad apple? Or can you immediately think of a “bad apple” group experience you have had?


Vote now! March 29, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — bestbookihavenotread @ 6:42 am

No, it’s not Nickoledon’s Kids Choice Awards-it’s time to vote over at JacketFlap for your favorite kid’s book.

The following message was sent to the JacketFlap friends of Tracy Grand:

The nominees for the 2009 Children’s Choice Book Awards were recently announced. I’m excited to say that books illustrated by three of JacketFlap’s members are among the nominees! Please join me in congratulating the three nominees by clicking their names below and leaving a congratulations comment on their profiles:

Willow, illustrated by Cyd Moore

Sort it Out!, illustrated by Sherry Rogers

Those Darn Squirrels!, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

Voting for the finalists is now open. Children and teens are able to cast their vote for their favorite books, author, and illustrator at bookstores, school libraries, and online until Sunday, May 3, 2009. Close to 15,000 children and teens from around the US spent months reading and evaluating books submitted by publishers. The five favorite books published in 2008 in each of these categories are open for a nation-wide vote in March and April 2009 in each of four grade categories: K-2nd, 3rd-4th, 5th-6th, and Teen as well as Favorite Author, and Favorite Illustrator. The winner in each category will be named at a gala during Children’s Book Week on May 12th, 2009 in New York City as part of Children’s Book Week (May 11-17, 2009), the oldest national literacy event in the United States.

To enhance the awareness of the awards, the Children’s Book Council is working with JacketFlap again this year to create a Children’s Choice Book Awards Widget, which displays a different finalist book every time it loads on a web site or blog. You can get the Widget for your own blog or web site at:

Please spread the word to children so they can vote. Remember, voting ends May 3, 2009!


Tracy Grand


Sad News-Goodbye to Lookybook March 28, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — bestbookihavenotread @ 5:09 pm



Lookybook Shutters

This article originally appeared in SLJ’s Extra Helping. Sign up now!

A favorite of librarians, parents, and elementary school teachers, Web site Lookybook closed on Friday, unable to keep pages turning because of the economy.

“We were fraught with the perfect storm of issues,” says cofounder Craig Frazier, also the author and illustrator of the “Stanley” series (Chronicle) of picture books for children. “While we had seed money to get started, it became difficult in this environment to get money. It would take an angel coming out of the woodwork to step up and reverse Lookybook’s closure.”

If clicks were cash, however, the site, which opened its virtual doors in November 2007, may have flourished. It was attracting 55,000 users a month before shuttering, along with 14,000 subscribers, who used the site to peruse the roughly 550 children’s books, some of them decades old; share their favorites; store them on a virtual book shelf; and, of course, buy them from publishers.

“This grew from my own frustration of my own books falling off the retail shelf and getting harder to find,” says Frazier. “But when we created a Lookybook, it could also be embedded on a site or blog. The creative community felt this was a whole new frontier to extend the life of their book.”

Frazier cofounded the site with Craig Virden, former president of Random House Children’s Books, illustrator Ron Chan, and Robert Locke, CEO of RFID-firm Vue Technology. All believed strongly in the idea that a digital children’s book shop could help spark readership—and sales—of children’s stories that sometimes lose their way, or never hit the best seller’s list. Instead of having copies languish in warehouses, publishers could grant permission to Lookybook to digitize the pages of stories to generate new interest—and, ideally, sales—of the books.

“That’s part of the reason we didn’t make the books too big, too perfect, or with zoomable type,” Frazier says. “Because it was really about the sale of the book.”

Nevertheless, Frazier says he heard from teachers who were using the digital copies in classrooms, often placing laptops under projectors or putting them up on a whiteboard to read the stories to children—without actually buying the copy. While that may not have been something publishers wanted to know, it mirrors many experiences in resource-strapped K–12 schools when teachers are often forced to borrow books from libraries, and even other parents, to fill thinning classroom shelves.

“The impact of this going away is very sad,” he says. “Especially for schools where this filled a need.”

Still, to Frazier, and to many in the children’s publishing world, nothing digital can ever replace the experience of sitting with a child, listening to the crack of a spine as a book opens, feeling the weight of crisp pages, and watching as little fingers dance across rich illustrations and type.

Yet Frazier sees the potential for a site like Lookybook dovetailing to preserve physical books in this digital age. As print of demand systems improve, readers may peruse more stories online, read through a copy of a beloved children’s book or a newfound favorite, and click to buy that one copy. Publishers wouldn’t face books molding in warehouses, and authors and readers would never again hear those heartbreaking words, “out of print.”

“We may be going away,” says Frazier. “But I don’t think this idea will be going away by any means. The genie is out of the bottle.”


Hunger: A GONE novel by Michael Grant March 26, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,young adult — bestbookihavenotread @ 11:21 am
Tags: ,

gone-by-michael-grantWhile shuttling back and forth on the train to TCRWP Coaching Institute, I had the opportunity to finish reading the ARC of Hunger, book 2 in the GONE series by Michael Grant. I always have great anticipation for a second book in a series after loving the original book, but with that anticipation also comes the worry that maybe I won’t think the sequel is as great as the first one. 

Well I need not have worried about Hunger. It is a great sequel to Gone, picking up where the first book left off. Things are still pretty horrible in the FAZE (Fallout Alley Youth Zone) with tensions between Coates Academy students and townies n0t as tense as those between  “normal” and those who have “power”.

Now that the kids have figured out how to survive the big 15 birthday poof, new challenges to put off death come in the form of hunger, zekes, and each other. The first chapter pulled me in immediately (and made my stomach turn, but I am pretty wimpy) and made me want to read without stop, just as the first book did. 

You will want to read the first book Gone before Hunger is released so you are familiar with the well-developed characters of Sam, Lana, Diana, Caine, Computer Jack, Astrid, Edidlio, and Drake, as well as the meaning behind “Hungry in the dark”, “Nestor,” and “gaiphage”.  

The chapter titles of this book also count time in a countdown of  hours and minutes (example: 106 Hours 29 minutes).  Hmm…liked it in the TV show 24, like it here.  

The book is due to be released May 26, 2009 and Michael Grant has hit it out of the park again! Without doubt this book needs to added to your summer reading list.


Richard Peck, Lucy Calkins, Author’s Readers Theater, Oh My! March 21, 2009


Sarah Weeks, Richard Peck, Avi, Pam Munoz Ryan


My favorite quote of the day comes from Richard Peck:

“You learn the most from the experiences you would have avoided if you could have.”


The day was wonderful I will have things to share, but for now it’s time to go to bed so I can get up early again for tomorrow. 

If you ever have the chance to attend the TCRWP Saturday Reunion you will not be sorry. What an amazing day. 


Getting up early (again)

I’m up at the crack of dawn to attend the 76th Saturday Reunion for The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. I’ve dreamed and drooled over this for many a year. It starts with a keynote from Richard Peck and then offers choices for 4 more sessions (20+ for each session) before having a Closing talk, a reception and then a debrief with the people attending the Coaching Institute.
It’s hard picking what to go to, but I have the train ride to narrow my choices down a little more. I am planning on seeing Lucy Calkins talk about Best Practices in Reading Workshop for grades 3-8 (TC has a Reading Units of Study in the works for publication in 2010), Author’s Readers Theatre with Avi, Sarah Weeks, Pam Munoz Ryan, and Brian Selznick, but still need to read through the 100 + choices again en route.


some quick pics from the school visit today March 20, 2009

Filed under: middle school,TCRWP,Uncategorized,writing workshop — bestbookihavenotread @ 9:25 pm
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School Visit-Sixth Grade in the Bronx

Filed under: coaching,Literacy coaching,TCRWP,writing workshop — bestbookihavenotread @ 5:23 pm
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img_17891Isn’t this an amazing doorknob?

It is the handle to leave the classroom where we did what they call a Mega Lab  visit to a sixth grade classroom to watch our coach Audra model a revision lesson. I even managed some great video on my Flip that I will post from her lesson. I also have a lot to communicate about the school, principal, teachers, students and the whole experience this morning. Wow! In some ways this beautiful doorknob is symbolic of the whole experience. I need to collect my thoughts so I can coherently describe the experience.

Next up tomorrow Teacher College Saturday Reunion! Another early morning, long day, and tons of learning. I can’t wait!


Third Annual Literacy Coaching Institute-Lucy Calkins Keynote March 19, 2009

Today’s Institute kicked off in a beautiful chapel with Lucy Calkins describing the institute as the “emerging crown jewel of the Teachers College Institutes”. She went to relate a wonderful story about her 90 year old father who has just accepted a new job as a doctor and the TC Think Tank Thursdays. 

She assured us our heads would be “exploding” with good ideas of how to work with our colleagues; She was not exaggerating-mine already is!

Thursdays for the year are dedicated time when 75-80 of Lucy Calkins colleagues get together to do their best thinking. A dedicated day once a week for thirty years has been one of many reasons Teachers College has been so successful.  The need to make time for what we value in terms of our  personal literacy beliefs was emphasized. 

Everything from how to handle late arrivals to meetings to different parts of the 5 week cycles of Study Groups, Support Groups, Work Groups, and Courses she participates was discussed. I’ll have more to say about that topic when I’m not quite so tired.  

The last session of the day was facilitated by Audra Robb, whose study group I have been assigned to for the work within the NYC schools. We found out that we will be observing her teach a lesson in a lab site classroom, as well as teaching a lesson with a partner tomorrow morning! 

I will be presenting the Mini-Lesson Demonstration/Teaching and Active Engagement parts of a revision lesson from UOS to a class of sixth graders. My partner will start with the Connection part of the Mini-lesson and wrap up with the Link before we both confer with students about their work.  I need to bring in a chart of a piece of my writing that we can use during the lesson as a model. I’d better get to it!


Things I’m excited (and a little worried) about March 16, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — bestbookihavenotread @ 5:04 pm

Here’s the short list of what I’m excited (and worried) about:

I’ve never been to New  York City (unless you count the airport, which I don’t!).

I’m going to stay with the parents of a teaching friend and take the train into the city each day.  

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a non-suburban school.  

I have never used public transportation in North America and not since the early 1990’s. 

What am I taking to read with me?
Hunger by Michael Collins

Drood by Dan Simmons

Reading for Real by Kathy Collins 

a magazine of some sort

We’ve also been asked to bring Units of Study-Small Moments: Personal Narrative Writing and Raising the Quality of Narrative Writing, our favorite picture book for primary and intermediate schools, and student work samples.  I think I’m going to bring In November by Cynthia Rylant and Thundercake by Patricia Polacco.  It’s really hard to decide!