Best of the Best: Lists for the End of 2014

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‘Tis the season for “Best of” lists, so I thought I’d pull together a few of the very best.

Best Books

School Library Journal has a great slideshow of their Best Books 2014, separated into useful categories. I use SLJ all year round to help me select the very best books to add to the library, and this list is truly the cream of the crop. The slideshow format is great, since you get to see the cover of each book, which (despite the famous aphorism) really helps to give you an idea of the book. Continue reading

ePals

I recently “attended” a webinar about reaching reluctant readers, and the presenter frequently referred to ePals as a resource. In that context, he explained it as a great place for age-appropriate articles that would entice fans of nonfiction to read. Sign up for the service and articles from Smithsonian are delivered straight to your inbox.

It wasn’t until I went onto the site to sign up that I saw the true scope of ePals, and its intended purpose. While it hosts a great variety of teacher-friendly resources (lesson plans, projects, articles), it is in fact a service that matches up classes around the world as pen pals. A teacher simply signs up and makes a profile, indicating the type of classroom he or she is interested in connecting from (Spanish-speakers, students in China, students in grade 3).

Watch this video for a quick overview.

The site makes communicating with classes around the world so easy, with video-chat and email services incorporated. You can search for a class to talk with, or join a project that other classes are doing. With all the great resources (from trusted sources like National  Geographic, Cobblestone/Cricket, and Smithsonian), your class can read an article on global warming, then discuss it with another class in Argentina! Having a common discussion point can help to dispel any awkwardness.

Even if you aren’t interested in connecting with international classes, the resources on this site are top notch. There are some great project ideas, and Learning Centers with games, quizzes, articles, and videos on topics in science, current events, and books.

The site has a lot, which means it can be a bit overwhelming. I encourage you to take a look, though, because ePals is a portal to all kinds of innovative learning.

Go Here: Using Award Winning Books in Class

Now that we know who won the big prizes at the Youth Media Awards, the question is, “What now?” Thankfully, there is a fantastic resource that will help you incorporate these fantastic books into your classroom curriculum.

TeachingBooks.net (which is a bookmark-worthy resource anyway) has a fantastic page with all of the winners. Clicking on a book will take you to a page with lesson plans, book trailers, author information, and even author book readings! Using these resources will help bring these books to life.

TeachingBooks.net   2013 ALA s Youth Media Award Winners

Anita Silvey’s Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac

Book-A-Day Almanac

I love this site. Every day, Anita Silvey’s Book-a-Day Almanac features wonderful commentary on some beloved children’s books, as well as information on what happened on this day in children’s book history. It’s a wonderful place to get inspiration for read-alouds, or just a place to learn something new every day. You can also search the archives to see if she’s talked about a book you’re teaching. The almanac is also available in print.

BiblioNasium

BiblioNasium is a reading community for students and their teachers. If you’ve ever used Goodreads or Shelfari, you know how great it is to keep track of books you’ve read, books you want to read, and keep up with what others are reading. BiblioNasium offers the same experience, only in a safe community just for you and your students. It’s pretty simple to use: you create an account for yourself, and then you can create a class, complete with accounts for each student.

Teachers can create lists of recommended and required books, and they can recommend books to a specific student. Students can, in turn, keep track of what they’re reading using a reading log, and recommend books to their friends. There is even a place where parents can log in and view what their kids are reading. The best part is that, while this is a social community, students can only communicate with their teacher, and (with parental permission) with other students in their class.

I love the idea of allowing students to review and recommend books to each other; my own Goodreads and Shelfari accounts have helped me find some great books that I might not have otherwise read. The site is in beta, however, which means it’s still in a testing phase. Sometimes, the pages hang and take a while to load. Some of the functionality is not intuitive, and it may take time to figure out how to do certain things. However, it’s a work in progress, and will only get better. Signing up is free, and they don’t spam you with emails, so make yourself (and your class!) an account and see what you think!

Barnes and Noble Storytime

Did you know that Barnes and Noble posts animated video versions of favorite picture books, read aloud as a storytime? The most recent book featured on Barnes and Noble is Ree Drummond’s Charlie the Ranch Dog, and features Ree herself reading her book aloud. A very fun and easy way to bring books to life and experience some favorite picture books (Strega Nona! The Polar Express! Green Eggs and Ham!) in a new way.

Bartleby

Bartleby provides reference books, fiction books, and nonfiction books for free. You can browse the famous illustrations in Grey’s Anatomy, or learn about proper grammar in Strunk’s Elements of Style. This is a great way to access thousands of well-known and reliable resources quickly and easily. Since the information is all online, you can easily search the text for specific parts.