Fox Valley Reading Council

2018 Winter Newsletter

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A letter from our Presidents

Happy New Year! We are very excited to be celebrating the new year 2018. With a new year comes new approaches. We know how it is to balance work, home and life in general. When can we find the time in a day or a weekend to stay up to date with our professional development? Luckily, two of our own, Jessica Walsh and Jan Newport are exploring writing on February 10, 2018. As a member of the educational community we encourage you to join us for a free workshop; there is always a take away, no matter what level or age group. Explore new ways of thinking, a different approach or a new idea; we all learn from each other. Bring your friends and colleagues.

Change -how can we bring new ideas to our members in a creative way? Our spring event will be a series of Twitter Chats, 20th century book club! Starting Wednesday, February 21 and continuing for two additional Wednesdays, we encourage everyone to try something new, step outside your comfort zone, change your approach....”transform” our schools one classroom at a time. Join us in reading Creating Cultures of Thinking by Ron Ritchhart. For one hour a week, share your ideas and bring something new to your classroom. We encourage you to create a Book Club at your school and together join us on Twitter. Challenge yourself, challenge your colleagues, and challenge your administrators to rethink your approach to thinking.

Are you a leader? Are you involved in a community activity? Do you need opportunities to round out your evaluation portfolio? Consider joining Fox Valley Reading Council as an officer or as a committee member. No matter your level of commitment, there is something for you. Officers meet six (6) times a year and organize events; committees range from Illinois Reads to Books for Babies. If you are interested, email one of the officers or ask at our Winter Event on February 10th. Officer Elections are around the corner, come join the Fox Valley Team!

Katina and Denise

Meet our speakers for our upcoming event!

There is still time to sign up for our free winter event! Growing Student Writers

Saturday, Feb. 10th, 8:45am-12pm

1812 Williamsburg Avenue

Geneva, IL

Join seasoned classroom teachers and teacher leaders, Jan and Jessica, for an event focused on growing student writers. Jan and Jessica will showcase current best practices for how to get kids to want to write, encourage independence in writing, create a culture of writing in the classroom, and build a safe place where writers are free to invest in their writing--all despite teacher's curricular constraints. Jan and Jessica will also address the role of technology and what to do about your own comfort with writing. We know you will find the content of this workshop encouraging not only for your students, but also for yourself!

RSVPs are enabled for this event.

Give Back! Here a few simple ways!


When- February 21, February 28th, and March 7th (7-8pm)

Join us this Spring for a series of twitter chats around the book Creating Cultures of Thinking by Ron Richhart.

Creating Cultures of Thinking by Ron Richhart inspired me to consider what my dream classroom would look like and be like, if students were doing the “work” of learning. Looking beyond the collaborative learning community I tried to create each year and began to evaluate the purpose of learning, the culture of learning, making thinking visible, make thinking engaging, having students authentically collaborate on their work. Creating a classroom with excellent routines that focused on behavior, management, planning, and executing the details of instruction had always been a strength for me, yet, I hadn’t thought of exploring the idea of thinking as a routine that students need to be exposed to. That creating a culture of learning included me analyzing what Mr. Richart calls the 8 forces we must master to create a culture of thinking for our students. The 8 forces include; language, time, modeling, opportunities, routines, interactions and environment; all forces that I had looked at in isolation; not as a unified force that helped students to do the work of thinking. If you are interested in exploring CCoT please consider joining us this spring for a Twitter Chat that explores this text and allows you to dabble with the concepts presented in your classroom.

Submitted by Moira Arzich, 7th grade ELA and Social Studies teacher at Scullen Middle School

Tweet at the Tavern! A 20th century book club.

Wednesday, Feb. 21st, 7pm to Wednesday, March 7th, 8pm

1702 Commons Drive

Geneva, IL

Here's what you need to do- First purchase the book and then get reading! Anybody who signs up will have access to all of the questions prior to the tweet. Next, make sure you have a twitter account. It's super easy to sign up and it's free! You can use your computer, smart phone or a tablet. Then, it's your choice! If you are feeling insecure and need support to be a part of our Twitter chat just come on by the Claddagh. We will be there sipping on beverages and having a snack. We are there to support you. If you prefer to stay in your pj's and tweet away from home- great! We will talk to you then. Lastly, while you are tweeting make sure you use the #foxvalleyreads after or before each comment you make so that everybody can see what others have to say. Have fun! This is an awesome way to connect with others.


2/21, 2/28, AND 3/7

RSVPs are enabled for this event.

THE BOOK NOOK- A place for you to read about books we love!

Picture Book

I received a copy of Last stop on Market Street By Matt de la Peña when I attended a scholastic book fair event with Mr. Schu. He gave the book away and I knew I immediately wanted it in my classroom. (GRL M)

CJ and his nana take the bus after church on Sundays. He wonders why they always take the bus and not a car like other families. His grandmother shows how taking the bus introduces CJ to new and interesting people along the way. Their bus adventure ends at the last stop on Market Street. CJ observes the run-down homes and graffitti-filled walls. He asks his nana why they come to such a dirty neighborhood. She tells him to look at the world and appreciate the beauty. He finally understand why they came to Market Street.

By chance I helped Matt at the IRC conference this year during his book signing. I was ecstatic to meet the author who wrote this colorful, whimsical envisioned book.

Submitted by Katina Kastrantas, ESL teacher at Bower Elementary School


I remember when I was in my undergraduate program at National Louis I took a class called Multicultural Literature with Dr. Ruth Quiora. Every week we read several books and share our thoughts about the books. I remember coming back to class after reading this story.

Where do I begin? And when do the tears stop? This story is also about a nine year old young girl but who lived in the Czech Republic during WWII. Her family was one of a few fortunate families in the 1940's. She lived a good life until news spread that there would be a war. Hana used to spend her days with her friends and attending school. When the Natzi soldiers arrived to her town she had to stop playing at parks, attending school and wear a yellow star stitched to her clothing. From that day her life changed forever.

Years later a a group of children in Japan see a suitcase. They attended a Holocaust Education Center in Tokyo and wanted to learn more about who the suitcase belong to and return it to its rightful owner. The story was sad but has a wonderful ending.

New Sci-fi!

Picking up after the turmoil of the ending of its predecessor The Diabolic, The Empress by S. J. Kincaid delves into a world of futuristic politics and technology. I was interested enough at the end of the first book to pick up the second when it came out, and found the sequel an enjoyable read. It was surprising that Kincaid took Nemesis, a character meant to be an emotionless and ruthless killing-machine and put her in the role of a galactic Empress, ruling alongside her quick-witted love interest Emperor Tyrus. One downfall of the first book was the fact that these two were somewhat forcefully written to be completely enamored with each other - a “can’t live without you” vibe that at times felt unsettling. Unfortunately this book did continue that trend, and Nemesis spends a large amount of the book worrying about Tyrus and little else. However, I found this manageable, as there is a balance between the romance and the overall plot. Now that Nemesis is empress, she faces the threat of angry and resentful galactic nobility. I always find a story about corrupt politics and backstabbing allies to be compelling, especially since the reader is never quite sure who to trust. This holds true in The Empress. In addition to the politics and the threats constantly looming over Nemesis and Tyrus, the novel also finds the time to build on its lore and help readers learn just enough about the galaxy and its origins. Not enough to answer every question, but enough to spark curiosity and interest. There’s a nice blend of real science with fiction to make the story distantly plausible, but also with enough touch of fantasy elements that the elements of the world Kincaid builds are dramatic and make for an engaging read.

I found the character of Neveni the most interesting. She’s a planet-born girl thrown into the world of high-class politics. Her voice felt the most reasonable, and her concerns the most likely. Suffering a great loss in the story, Neveni speaks as a voice for the common people in the court, giving the story more interest and a sense of reality. I’d say the strongest point of The Empress was its ending. Unlike The Diabolic, when writing this ending, Kincaid knew she wasn’t going to finish the story yet. As a result, the final twist at the plot is surprising and frustrating in the sense that I can’t find out what happens yet. The twist is made even more surprising considering it was the result of about two or three previous surprises in the book that manifested into one large shock that the book promptly ended on and didn’t resolve. There’s a good chance I’ll be picking up book three when it comes out, supposedly in fall of 2018.
I have a confession the make. I love, love, love reading young adult literature especially science fiction. I am a grown 48 year old woman but I just devour these books. Warcross, written by Marie Lu is no exception. From Amazon, "For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn't just a game-it's a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty -hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the International Warcross Championships--only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation...

I enjoyed this book! It would be great for boys or girls grades 6-12. There is action, a little romance and some nice twists and turns.

Beth Herrig, Reading Specialist at Georgetown Elementary School

Getting Excited about Non-Fiction Writing! A teacher's perspective.

"Why is the sky blue? Why does Swiss cheese have holes? What is Fool's Gold? How do waterfalls form?"

Sound familiar? Children are naturally curious and ask many questions. How do we channel that curiosity into their study of non-fiction writing? Easily! First, get them asking their own questions by brainstorming their wonders and writing them down. If students are stuck, try That's where the questions above come from. This site offers plenty of questions and answers! Next, choose a format to have students show the answers to those questions: Will they make a Power Point with their research? Will they make a book? Will they put their information on a poster board? Will they write a report and make a diorama? Will they write a play or a quiz show? The options are limitless! Finally, do the research, document the sources, and answer the questions!

Many teachers have begun to use Genius Hour concepts to channel those passions and questions with direction from A. J. Juliani. If you haven't heard of Genius Hour before, please put it into your search engine. Many topics will come up. You can search to your heart's content and even take a course! The origin of Genius Hour comes from Google.

· "The search-engine giant, Google, allows it’s engineers to spend 20% of their time to work on any pet project that they want. The idea is very simple. Allow people to work on something that interests them, and productivity will go up. Google’s policy has worked so well that it has been said that 50% of Google’s projects have been created during this creative time period. Ever heard of Gmail or Google News? These projects are creations by passionate developers that blossomed from their their 20-time projects."

What is Genius Hour and how do we use it in the classroom? From the site it explains, "Genius hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom. It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school." Not only can a teacher use Genius Hour throughout the year, but then the informational Writing Common Core standards become much easier to follow. Students already have the background knowledge connecting their research to non-fiction writing. It's probably my students' favorite time of the week! It does help to have one-to-one devices with which to do the research, but I also have many informational books. Frontloading a lesson on how to do research on student computers is essential.

Teachers use informational writing curriculums, like Lucy Calkins or other units of study, to teach the Common Core standards. According to the writing Common Core standards, students are to "examine a topic and convey those ideas clearly." Rubrics guide students with leads, transitions, organization, elaboration, craft and conventions. For the students in my third grade informational writing unit, students have a choice on their topic and follow the rubric, thus making an informational book using some of the same text features found in non-fiction literature. First, students are immersed in non-fiction books to see all the text features options. Then, students use an outline guide (Fig. 1) to write down the information they researched on their topic. Next, the teacher models how to write an introduction and a conclusion. Then students compile their information into a rough draft and decided how to organize their information per page. Finally, a book is ready to be published! My team uses a nonfiction book template from teacherspayteachers author "3rd Grade Dual" as a free download for students to create a book on their topic. (Fig. 2-4) All that's left is to have a publishing party to celebrate what's been learned!

Enjoy the learning process of inquiry and your students' passions. You'll be amazed when your students can answer the questions that "inquiring minds want to know!"

Submitted by Dawn Lutz, 3rd grade teacher at Williamsburg Elementary School

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Got Tech?

Here's a great app to try!

"BookBuddy pro is a powerful book management application that gives you access to your entire book catalog, anywhere. Using BookBuddy pro is fun and easy, allowing you to quickly find any book in your library, share your favorite books, and keep track of borrowed and lent books."

As a reading specialist I believe that having a classroom library with lots of variety is one of the keys to getting kids to read. Over the last 10 years I have invested lots of time and money (of course) to build a library that I know kids will be excited about. Before BookBuddy pro, I attempted to keep track of the books I had checked out and to whom. I constantly lost track of my books and it was frustrating! BookBuddy has solved all of that. It is an app I use on my phone to check my books in and out of my personal classroom library. Its easy to input books (most can just by scanned in). I love having my entire libary at my fingertips when I go to a book store or a reading conference too! I no longer buy double and triple copies. At $4.99 it's so worth it!

Submitted by Beth Herrig, Reading Specialist at Georgetown Elementary School