ThirstDay 01/03/13

Awwwwwww yes. All I ever do is drink beverages while I read. Thanks to David Etkin at {Eat the Book} for hosting. Here’s what we’ve got today:


I was fortunate enough to receive an Aeroccino from Toby for Christmas this year, which means that I no longer have to douse my espresso shots with a splash of cold milk. (Toby received a Nespresso machine for his birthday. It’s pretty much the best thing ever.)

So I’m hecka spoiled, although in Seattle this sort of thing is kind of par for the course.

I have a bunch of picture books that I want to shuttle back to the library today, so I’m going to work my way through those. I’m also halfway through The Hound of Rowan. Which is excellent.

The mug is from my trip to China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan in 2009, funded by the Cultural Exploration Program.

Treat Tuesday 01/01/13



(Ooooooh, that BAAAAADGE. I made that! It’s not terribly amazing until you realize it matches Niki OhsBarnes’ new blog sooooo perfectly. Right?)



Awwww yeah. Lookit dat. I went to hot yoga this morning and didn’t want to get sucked into a snacking frenzy, so I dug out these chocolate-covered blueberries from the passenger side of the Bug.

Last night I started The Hound of Rowan, which I picked because there wasn’t a hold list of 3289456724 people on Seattle Public Library’s OverDrive. Look at how ugly that ebook title page is. Hrmph. It’s good so far.

I’ve had Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe checked out for an insanely long time. I really need to get a copy of it, but it’s the book that went along with the big gallery exhibit at the Whitney, so I’m assuming it’s $$$$$$$. Oh wait, never mind. I just checked Amazon. It’s totally reasonable. VALENTINE’S DAY GIFT PLZ!!!

I’ve also been flipping through The Paleo Solution not because I’m looking to subscribe to some radical new diet thing, but because ever since my coworker Tin suggested I reduce dairy, my skin’s been doing pirouettes of delight. So I figured it couldn’t hurt to learn more about the food I’m putting in my body, regardless of the “system” I use.

Seeking Bookroom Advice

Our school guided reading leveled bookroom needs some love. And I need some advice on where to start. How do we make the bookroom work for our teachers, rather than making our teachers work for the bookroom?

We began a major overhaul of our bookroom in 2009 as we began our schoolwide transition from SFA. We were asked not to get rid of the SFA resources we had at our advantage, so we kept everything. (SFA sets usually include 30 copies of a book and a teacher’s guide)

Here’s a (novice) video I put together to give staff a tour of the resources available.


So that was good. But then it became apparent that having 30 copies of each SFA text was a little excessive. Because if six boxes were full of Level M texts, we might not suspect that we actually only have 20 different titles.

We’re trying to weed out extra copies we have, but we’re starting from a rough starting point. This month, when I entered the bookroom, there were six paper boxes of donated book sets (woot woot) stacked up inside the doorway.

Items donated to the school bookroom; transferred to the “bookroom annex” to be processed.
Book sets to be processed.
Book sets to be processed.

PISH POSH, you say. USE SKILL GROUPS, then you won’t need all these pesky sets of texts! Yes, perhaps one day. Sometimes. But for now, we’re meeting teachers where they are, and where we are is at guided reading groups.


Surprise! Bookshelf is broken. Didn't realize until months(?) later...
Surprise! Bookshelf is broken. Didn’t realize until months(?) later…
Book sets tossed on top of a filing cabinet.
Book sets tossed on top of a filing cabinet.
Entire buckets of books taken out of bookroom without being checked out.
Entire buckets of books taken out of bookroom without being checked out.

What should we do? I understand that people are busy, so I know why things might not be left in fantastic condition. But WAT DO?

Notable Books I Read In 2012

The BEST BOOKS of 2012 have already been covered extensively. Mr. Schu has a great roundup of Best of 2012 lists if you’d like to peruse the bulk of them. ERMAHGERD BERKS!!!

All I can really add to the conversation is to humbly provide recommendations for books I connected with this year. I’ve tried to filter out some of the great books you probably know about (Wonder, Green, etc.), unless they particularly resonated with me. Some months have more books than others, because some months I read more than others. You can tell when I was finishing my National Boards.

I didn’t consciously chose to include more nonfiction than most lists I’ve seen, but I do want to point out how important I think it is to highlight more traditional expository writing. YES, lyrical nonfiction books are fantastic, but we do a disservice to our kids when we aren’t seeking out good books of the type they’ll encounter when they’re doing research, even if they’re not as thrilling for us to read.

I owe a lot to the book recommendations from Nerdy Book Club folks who I’ve given shout-outs below.

I’ve included children’s books and adult books, and not all of them were published this year. Images were either created by me or swiped from GoodReads.





TRUTH TIME. I actually like the trailer for C. R. Mudgeon better than the book itself. Do yourself a favor and watch (or rewatch) Julian Hector’s work:





Watch me pimp out The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place on Mr. Sharp’s Nerdbery video:









Phew! What a year! I eagerly await your input on these selections.

Pathways to the Common Core: Writing PD Documents

Tonight is the second book study Twitter meeting for Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement.

As a member of the FWPS CC Transition Team, I have a few documents that I think might be useful to districts trying to disseminate information about the standards.

For the three types of writing (K-5), here’s a concept sort I made using definitions, book covers, and writing exemplars from CCSS Appendix C.

Download it as a Word document here: ConceptSort Modes of Writing.

Additionally, we’re going to give teachers time to explore writing resources by doing a jigsaw WebQuest.

Download it as a Word document here: WebQuest Modes of Writing.

I’m posting these because I assume some of my book study peepz might want to see them. If you use them, please acknowledge somewhere that they were designed by MOI!!! Shannon Houghton!!! for Federal Way Public Schools.

Another cool thing our district did was put together an “Intro to CCSS” video. Check it out here:

Send a note my way in the comments if you found any of this useful! Godspeed!

2012 HB Awesome Awards! (PART ONE)

It’s time for the big reveal! Here are the first chunk of results to our 2012 HB Awesome Awards, as voted by my students.

The book awards got their name based on several student suggestions. Almost all the awards start with the word “Best,” so some wanted to call them the B Awards. The H comes from my last name, Houghton, and AWESOME has kind of been our word for the year — as a class, it seems to be the best word we can find when something is really interesting/great/cool.

Best Squish Book

#3 Squish 1: Super Amoeba; #2 Squish 2: Brave New Pond; AND #1……

Best Book that’s Mostly Sadness

#3 Wonderstruck; #2 Never Forgotten; AND #1…..

Best Read Aloud

#3 TIE between Robot Zombie Frankenstein and Wonderstruck; #2 The One and Only Ivan; AND #1……..

Best Nonfiction Book

#3 An American Plague; #2 Here Come the Girl Scouts; AND #1……

Best Fiction Book

#3 Alvin Ho; #2 Squish; AND #1………………..

Best Poetry Book / Book in Verse

#3 Love That Dog; and A TWO-WAY TIE FOR FIRST PLACE…..

Best Graphic Novel

#3 Smile; #2 Squish; AND #1…………..

Best Series

#3 Alvin Ho; #2 Diary of a Wimpy Kid; AND #1……………….

Best Historical Fiction

#3 The One and Only Ivan; #2 Dead End in Norvelt; AND #1……………

Best Picture Book

#3 THREE-WAY TIE between Boy + Bot, Vote for Me, and People; #2 The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man; AND #1………..

Best Chapter Book

#3 The One and Only Ivan; #2 Alvin Ho; AND #1………………

More awards will be revealed later today and tomorrow! Thank you so much for all your support and for the great reading memories.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Thanks as always to TeachMentorTexts for hosting this! It’s my first time participating FOR REALSIES.

I’ve been mentally busy this week. My mind is racing and it’s really hard to stay focused on school stuff. So here’s what I’ve been reading. Each image links to my GoodReads review.

Picture Books

Magritte's Marvelous Hat: A Picture Book CoverHow Many Jelly Beans? CoverThe Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy) CoverMonday Is One Day CoverImogene's Last Stand CoverSadie and Ratz Cover

Middle Grade/YA Novels

See You at Harry's Cover

I need to read the Colby/Jen discussion of the book — I’d been waiting to finish reading it first… Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

Grown-Up Books

Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk To Help Students Learn, Grades K-6 (2ND 09 Edition) CoverTraveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith Cover

I’m in the middle of reading The Hobbit with my husband, and my class and I are right at the GOOD part of The Mysterious Howling, so I hope to finish those this week. ALSO, I got my copy of Squish 3 when I met Jenni Holm yesterdayyyyy, so I need to read that too!

The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again CoverIncorrigible Children of Ashton Place #01: The Mysterious Howling CoverSquish #03: Squish #3: The Power of the Parasite Cover

It seems like more and more publishers are releasing their new books right to OverDrive, the Seattle Public Library’s eBook service, and I’ve been able to snag some new titles faster than I would if I placed a regular hold. Here’s my partial bookshelf:

#Bookstack, of sorts, featuring @KateMessner, Candace Fleming, etc.

But some titles I apparently need to still see in person, as Mr. Schu mentioned on my review of How Many Jelly Beans?.

This weekend, I also updated my NetGalley account, so I have a bunch of goodies there that I’m saving for my travels to Michigan this Thursday night. Yessss.

All images are from the best bookstore on the planet, Powell’s.

Babymouse for President

Today we learned about the Marty McGuire Book Club on this Wednesday, as well as the #babymouse4prez photo contest. If you want to enter, you can tweet a picture of yourself with the hashtag #babymouse4prez, or you can e-mail your photo to I got some great inspiration from my students for what my picture might look like!

Mock Caldecotts: A How-To Guide

So hard to believe that our SECOND annual Mock Caldecott award season is over, but it’s time to reflect and think about what we can do next year to make it even better. Today, I’m going to walk you through what we did in our class.

You probably know that any book published in 2012 by a US illustrator is eligible for the 2013 Caldecott. That means you can start reading potential Caldecott books RIGHT NOW! Yay! One of our bulletin boards is dedicated to recording all the Caldecott-eligible books we enjoy as a class. By the end of the year, the list looks something like this:

Between January and June, I usually include a few new books in our daily CAFE strategy read alouds. I record the books we read, and I keep them on the list after students leave and come back in the fall. This can get a bit tricky if you don’t loop with your students. This year, I only kept three of my students, so at the beginning of the school year, I created a bucket of books with all the eligible books we’d read last school year so everyone could be caught up.

In September and October, we continue this pattern of reading a few potential books in class. Whenever I check out new books from the Seattle Public Library, I point out during our morning class meeting which ones are eligible.

November is National Picture Book Month, so I read eligible books every morning during class meeting. Then in December, I continue that morning routine under the title of “Mock Caldecott Preparation.” :) I haven’t had any complaints from students or admins yet.

By the time January rolls around, we’ve read about two dozen books. The first full week in January, I check out any books that I’ve overlooked (using other Mock Caldecott lists and best-of lists as a guide). At the end of the second week in January, we create our short list. Here’s the video I put together to refresh students’ memories on all the books we’d read. Everything’s listed alphabetically.

Students pick their top five books, and I rank order their choices. This year, I also allowed write-in candidates, as the only titles I put on the ballot are ones we’ve read as a whole class. That’s how Sidekicks made it onto the list this year.

The Friday before the ALA Midwinter Conference, we use our short list to vote for students’ top three titles. We release our list the Friday before the official decisions, so our votes aren’t swayed by the “real” votes. This schedule got a bit botched this year due to SnOMG, so we weren’t able to watch the live webcast of the awards on Monday. Normally, students come in early for snacks and beverages (because we’re on the West Coast, we almost always have to arrive at school early).

This poster was a huge help in explaining the other book awards — this year we also read the Geisel honor, the Schneider Family award winner, and the Sibert award winner.

Can’t wait for next year!