Keicher Tech Day Was Dynamite

Yesterday, I traveled with a few Parma Elementary teachers and 6 of our news team students to Keicher Elementary for their tech day. Our students led sessions on iMovie and green-screen. It was one of the most magical days I have ever experienced in education. Three classrooms of Keicher third graders had the opportunity to attend 5 sessions, of their choosing, during the day.

I’m not sure that I have ever seen a happier group of kids. They enjoyed each and every moment of the day. I wish that I could have attended some of the session. The kids were having so much fun! This is the sort of eventful learning opportunities that we must provide for our students. Those Keicher third graders will never forget tech day. I image that they are home this weekend creating amazing things.

A big thanks to Stacy Arnold for throwing such an amazing event. It was as close to a perfect event as I have ever attended.

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You can read more about the event on Mlive.

Bob Shea’s Totally Secret Secret

On Tuesday, Bob Shea visited my school. Right before the kids came into the room he told me a secret about his presentations.

A totally secret secret.

I’m going to tell you Bob’s secret.

Are you ready?

When Bob Shea presents, he calls a student up to help him draw Ballet Cat. Most people probably think that he randomly selects a child.

Most people are wrong.

It is totally rigged.

Bob Shea asked me to find a student that needs a boost. A kid that is a little shy, or maybe a kid that is going through a rough time.

Bob calls that student up to draw with him, and for the next 10 minutes he makes that kid feel like a million dollars. In doing so, he also shows the rest of the school how awesome that kid it. For as long as you live, you will never experience anything more magical than watching Bob Shea make a kids day.

As our second and third graders entered the cafeteria for Bob’s presentation he asked me to point out  one of our students that needed a boost. I picked Heidi. Her house just burned down.

She lost everything.

Heidi seemed so happy when she was drawing with Bob.  A girl in her class came up to me and whispered, “I can’t believe my favorite author Bob Shea picked Heidi. Her house just burned down. This is the best thing ever. EVER!”

That student was right. Bob Shea is the best. Ever.

The story could have ended there. That’s a nice story, right?

Bob Shea took things to the next level by sending the following Tweets the day after his visit.

Since Bob’s tweets, I have received emails, texts, tweets, and direct messages asking for more information on how they can help. Book are being sent by friends, strangers, authors, illustrators, publishers, and teachers. Friends have committed to purchasing Heidi a new writing desk and a bookshelf.

Mind blown.

I am having a hard time processing the greatness that is being shown as a result of Bob’s tweet. People are so nice. So kind. So thoughtful.

Thank you, Bob Shea (I’m sorry for telling your secret).


Bob Shea Is Pretty Great

Yesterday, Bob Shea visited the students of Parma Elementary in the afternoon, and then he spent the evening with us for Family Reading Night. It was all very magical.

We had a lot of fun preparing for Bob’s visit.

Bob was amazing with our students during the visit. He made each kid that he talked to feel like they were the most important person in the world.




School ended right after Bob’s visit. He spent the next two hours signing books. I love that Bob draws a picture in each book that he signs. He is such a good guy!

From 5:30-7 parents and students came back to school for family reading night. Over 150 people packed into the cafeteria for dinner and another presentation with Bob. It was magical. Seeing a cafeteria filled with laughing families brought so much joy to my heart. It was a pretty great day.



Mrs. Miller Visits Parma

Last week, my class had the pleasure of spending the day with Donalyn Miller. Mrs. Miler visited our school earlier in the year and a few times last year. It was a joy to spend the day with my amazing students and my dear friend.

If you’ve ever attended a conference that Donalyn is speaking at, you probably noticed that she doesn’t roll into town to speak and then roll out of town. She attends sessions because she has a desire to learn and grow. It is one of the things I like most about her. When she visits my classroom, we don’t just read all day. We do what we normally do. We read, we write, we think. I loved watching Donalyn solve some fraction problems with the students. She even tried to teach them how to reduce fractions!


Our next read aloud is going to be Liesl Shurtliff’s Rump. I like to read my students Paul O Zelinsky’s Rumpelstiltskin before we start Rump to help give them context to the fairy tale.


Donalyn asked if she could read Paul’s book to my students. She led a wonderful read aloud that left my students fascinated with the numbers 3 and 7 and their role in fairy tales.


In the afternoon, a couple of my students interviewed Donalyn for their blogs. It was adorable.


Donalyn types responses to interview questions.

I feel very blessed that my students got to spend the day with Donalyn. It sort of blew them away when they found out that someone can make a living traveling around the world talking to educators and kids about reading.

5 Videos I Loved Last Week

I saw some pretty amazing videos last week that I hope everyone gets a chance to watch. Here are 5 of my favorites.

1. Nothing Funny – Eric Thomas is one of my favorite motivational speakers. One of his quotes is part of the wallpaper on my computer. I love sharing his work with my middle school football players. I cried and cried and cried while watching his Nothing Funny video last week. It is a must watch for every human.

2. How To Draw a Cat- Bob Shea is coming to Parma tomorrow! I cannot wait for our students to get to hang out with one of the coolest dudes in the world. During our author visit prep we painted Ballet Cats. I’m not one to do a whole lot of art projects with my kids, so this was a bit of a stretch for me. The kids loved it! Maybe you should paint a Ballet Cat or two.


3. Grace Lin’s Ted Talk- I’ll be thinking about this video for a very long time. It is amazing how one person talking for 12 minutes can make you think so much.

4. Twenty Yawns trailer- last week, my pal Mr. Schu debuted the trailer for Jane Smiley and Lauren Castillo’s Twenty Yawns.

5. A New Dav Pilkey Video!- This video (via Mr. Schu) made me smile. I watched it with my son (Dav’s biggest fan).

The Yarn Unravells Lindsay Eagar

Today’s episode of The Yarn marks the first time I have taken tape that Travis collected and used it to put together an episode. 

It was a lot of fun listening to Travis and Lindsay chat about Hour Of The Bees. I hope you’re happy with the finished product!


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5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Interview: Lauren Castillo

I think that Lauren Castillo is pretty awesome. It is an honor to call her a friend. I’ve been in love with her work long before we became friends. One of the first books I ever talked about on this blog was her picture book Melvin and the Boy. There is something about Lauren’s illustrations that make readers feel like they are home. If I had to place an illustrator’s books in a rocket and send them off to space for aliens to discover, I would probably send out Lauren’s books. Wouldn’t you want an alien to view our world through Lauren’s art? I know I would.

The one and only Lauren Castillo was kind enough to answer my questions about her latest project, Twenty Yawns. Thank you, Ms. Castillo!

5,4,3,2,1 Interview

My questions are in black, and Lauren’s responses are in red.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about Twenty Yawns?

Twenty Yawns is about a girl named Lucy and her parents who spend a very long day at the beach. They come home, and everyone is exhausted except for Lucy who can’t fall asleep. So she goes and collects her stuffed animals and brings them to bed. Now, surrounded by her dear friends, she is able to peacefully drift off to sleep. I hope the book will be a comfort to many little readers.

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2. What is best part of your job?

The best part of my job is waking up every day and knowing that I will eventually be able to share the work I’m doing now with kids, and that there is a possibility it will inspire one of those kids, and that is everything I need to keep going.


3. What’s the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part of my job is also one of the most rewarding parts. A lot of research is required to make a book, whether fiction or non fiction. I learn something new with every illustration I make.


4. Why should people come to Nerd Camp?

There’s a school full of passionate educators and book creators, sharing their knowledge and their love of literature. What more do you want?


5. What advice do you have for the young creators in my classroom?

Write about (and draw about) what you know. And whenever you get stuck, take a walk. Observe the world around you. I guarantee you will be inspired to write or draw something new.


Lauren Castillo is the illustrator of many books, including The Reader by Amy Hest. She has also written and illustrated several books, including Caldecott Honor book Nana in the City and The Troublemaker. She lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. To learn more, visit
Twitter: @studiocastillo.

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Same Table – Same Book

I’m always fascinated when a book goes from nobody in my classroom reading it, to multiple kids in my classroom reading it. I was in the middle of a reading conference this morning with a student reading a Weird School book when I noticed that two students at the table next to me were reading Dork Diaries. Now Dork Diaries is a fine series, but it is one that hasn’t made the rounds in my classroom this year.


I’m not exactly sure how these two students ended up reading the same book. I think I’ll ask them tomorrow. My hunch is that one of them was reading it and they started talking about it, probably while I was trying to teach them about fractions, and their classmate thought it sounded pretty good.

As the year has progressed, it has been wonderful to see their reliance on me for book recommendations go down, as their knowledge about books has gone up.