Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever- Meeting #10

Our fourth meeting of the 2014-15 school year was on The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.  It was a great selection for the month of December and a fun read for the girls.  This was also nostalgic for some of us who read this as kids.  Some of the girls had read other books featuring the awful Herdman children, so they were interested in this book.

The girls snacked on chicken nuggets, fries, cornbread, and fruit while we had our discussion.  We used our general discussion questions to help guide the discussion.  All the girls were shocked by the Herdmans behavior, most notably burning down the barn with the chemistry set.  The lessons in this book are pretty straightforward and the answers to our general questions were pretty obvious (i.e. "Did anyone change in this book?" and "What was the lesson or moral?").

For the craft, we made Christmas ornaments that look like donuts and cupcakes.  I used this tutorial from YouTube.

Prior to the meeting, I premade the donut and cupcake ornaments and had them ready for the girls to decorate.  I cannot stress how wise this decision was because the foam needs to dry overnight.  Presumably you could do the icing and decorations in one step like she does in the video but I WOULD NOT recommend that.  The caulk took a long time to dry.  Also the foam expanded to make the bottom of the cupcakes round so they wanted to flip over in the muffin tin or resting on a table etc. as the girls were working.  I would have had caulk all over the table!   The last thing I want to do is have friends with caulk on the interior of their cars, etc.  Glitter and glue is way more manageable.  Also we used glitter, seed beads, and sequins to decorate rather than real sugar decor since we wanted to be able to store them and not attract critters.  I painted a layer of modge podge gloss to the icing so it would look shiny and less like toothpaste too ;)  I think it improved the "look."  We also hot glued a loop of ribbon to the back after the girls chose their donut and cupcake so it was hang-able.

One could say it relates to the book because the Herdmans wanted to go to church initially because of the free cake, but that's a stretch.  Mainly, we wanted to do ornaments for a holiday project ;)

supplies for project

After decoration- they were VERY sparkly in person
As the girls were working on the ornaments, they watched the movie of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  It was produced in 1983, is only an hour long, and starts Loretta Swit and a very young Fairuza Balk.  Nostalgia!  It can be purchased on Amazon here.

finishing the movie as craft dry

One of the Mamas with Opinions got these adorable shirts for the girls as a gift.

I love Girls With Opinions (Book Club) est. 2013

These are friendships that will last a lifetime.

We all had a great time!  Next month, we are reading Piper Reed: Clubhouse Queen.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ramona Quimby, Age 8- Meeting #9

Our third meeting of the 2014-15 school year was on Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary.  A classic we all remember from our childhoods, and oh so appropriate for a group of 8 year old girls who just started 3rd grade just like Ramona.  This book was a success.  Four girls gave it a thumbs up and two gave it a sideways thumb.   Not bad for this group of critics ;)

The girls snacked on veggies, egg rolls, and sweet and sour chicken while we had our discussion.  We used our general discussion questions to help guide the discussion.  The girls had a lively discussion about the chapter in which Ramona and Beezus eat tongue.  One of the Girls with Opinions looooves eating tongue tacos.  It made the other girls squirm.  She pointed out that Ramona and Beezus liked it until they discovered what it was ;)  One of our girls loves the concept of Pay It Forward, so it was fun to discuss the "pay it forward" moment in the book when a man bought dinner at a restaurant for the Quimbys anonymously.  The girls all overwhelmingly agreed that the family was very realistic.

Discussion- Thumbs up for tongue tacos! of 1.  

The host mama had a variety of art materials including stickers, cardstock paper, markers, and embellishments for the girls to make a "fancy name" picture.  Ramona liked to write her name fancily in the book.  When they were finished, the host mama put the pages in laminating paper.  They were sticky sheets you just place around picture and press down.  The girls really loved this activity.

After lamination, we had the girls show their work.

In case you wondered how hard it was to get all six to smile at once, here is a glimpse at the activity level we're dealing with.

And here's a fun video of the girls goofing around using SlowPro on host mama's phone.

We all had a great time!  Next month, we are reading The Best (Worst) Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.  Another classic ;)

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Mystery of the Singing Ghost- Meeting #8

Our second meeting of the 2014-15 school year was on The Boxcar Children #31:  The Mystery of the Singing Ghost.  A couple of the girls were a little scared to read it, but after being assured that there was no ghost and it was very Scooby Doo whodunit style, they went for it.  This book was a hit.  All the girls gave it a thumbs up which is rare for the Girls With Opinions.  Many thought it was a real page turner.  They had a lot of ideas about the characters motivations, as well as some interesting ideas on how they might change the book.

We used our general discussion questions to help guide the discussion.  Our fabulous 3rd grade teacher, Ms. Graeve, gave us a sheet of question stems that we also used to guide the discussion.

The weather in Houston cooperated beautifully with a cool Fall evening that fit perfectly with the host mama's plans for a fire.  The girls roasted hot dogs on the fire for dinner during our discussion.  Host mama had a spread of veggies, snacks, and hot dogs as well as some fun blinking ghost rings for the girls to wear.

Roasting hot dogs

Instead of a craft, the girls made S'mores with ghost shaped Peeps.
Ghost peeps- perfect for our theme!
Roasting the ghosts

I didn't take a picture of the ghost rings, but there is one on her finger
We all had a great time!  Next month, we are going back to our Mamas With Opinions roots with Ramona Quimby, Age 8.  A classic!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Breakaway- Meeting #7

Our first meeting of the 2014-15 school year was on our summer selection Breakaway by Andrea Montalbano.  This was our first sports themed book.  We had mixed reactions from the girls.  About half liked it.  Others felt it was too heavy on soccer terminology they didn't know.  This is a very good book for discussing themes of jealousy, competition, and managing girl friendships.  It seemed to bring about a good discussion.  Three of our girls have recently signed up for soccer team so a soccer themed book club was fun for them.

We added one more mother/daughter pair this year so now we have 7 girls and 6 moms.  Six girls came to the meeting (as one mother/daughter pair couldn't make it).

We used our general discussion questions to help guide the discussion.  As usual, one of our girls always figures out a deeper meaning that the adults have missed.  In the story, Lily is suspended from the team for not being a team player for two important games.  "Breakaway" is a soccer term for when there is a sudden attack from a defensive position breaking away from others on the field.  One of our girls also shared that it had the double meaning of representing Lily breaking away from the team when she was suspended.  All the moms had an a-ha moment listening to this 8 year old clue us in on the deeper meaning.  I never get tired of listening to them discuss these books!

Eating hot dogs, fruit, veggies, and goldfish crackers while we discuss

I happened to be at a party store buying things for work and found some adorable soccer themed plates, napkins, and bunting.  As a new soccer mom, I was excited to bling out the first meeting of the year.

I found a package of coconut M&Ms at Walmart with M&Ms only in white, dark brown, and green.  Perfect for this easy soccer themed dessert.
store bought sugar cookies and icing, topped with coconut M&Ms

Our craft was a little more complicated, but with the help of the moms for quality control/accuracy checking, all girls were successful in making a soccer ball safety pin craft.  

For each girl you need 13 safety pins that are size 1 and 1 safety pin that is size 3.  You can find these at any craft store and they are consistently numbered in those sizes.  The linked directions above refer to the inches of the pins, but those sizes are industry standard (i.e. size 3 is a 2 inch long pin).

I grabbed the JPG of the pattern and sized it up on a WORD document and printed one for each girl.  The trick to the project is reminding the girls to work from top to bottom (even though as you add pins they stack bottom to top).  Spatially, it can be a little challenging ;).  

Using pliers to loosen up the loop on the big pin is important so the small ones can loop around and to the other side.  The other trick is to load all pins on the big pin facing out, after it loops around, it will be facing outwards again.  All of this is making little sense I'm sure, but if you try to make a sample prior to doing it with a group of kids, it helps troubleshoot areas where things might be confusing.  

hard at work

finished product next to pattern
Much to the dismay of one of our moms, I've stopped making bottlecap buttons this year ;)  Most of the girls weren't keeping them and it became an added expense I would rather put into materials for a craft, etc.  

We all had a great time!  Next month, we are celebrating Halloween theme with a ghost book ;)  


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Reading list for the 2014-2015 school year

Girls With Opinions took a break for the summer as vacations etc. would make it hard to find a time we could all meet.  The girls are now entering 3rd grade and we are so excited for another year of book club fun.  The girls read BREAKAWAY by Andrea Montalbano over the summer and will start the year off with that book.

Our 2014-2015 book list is as follows.

1.  BREAKAWAY by Andrea Montalbano
2.  THE MYSTERY OF THE SINGING GHOST (Boxcar Children #31) by Gertrude Chandler Warner
3.  RAMONA QUIMBY, AGE 8 by Beverly Cleary
5.  PIPER REED, THE GREAT GYPSY (also published as PIPER REED, CLUBHOUSE QUEEN) by Kimberly Willis Holt
6.  HOW TO STEAL A DOG by Barbara O'Connor
7.  RULES by Cynthia Lord
8.  PICTURES OF HOLLIS WOODS by Patricia Reilly Giff
Summer selection for 2015- FLORA AND ULYSSES: THE ILLUMINATED ADVENTURES by Kate DiCamillo

Looking forward to a great year!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Just Grace and The Flower Girl Power- Meeting #6

Our sixth book Just Grace and the Flower Girl Power was our first deviation from the Mighty Girl Reading List.  As I've read many Mighty Girl selections, I'm finding a ton of contenders for them when they get older, but we weren't finding so many for their age level after reading five selections from the list already.  A few we could have read now, but I think their messages will make more of an impact when the girls are 3rd and 4th graders.  So I've been scouring the internet for books and came upon this silly little book.  Most of our girls like graphic novels (BabyMouse, Amulet, etc.) so I thought this book would be right up their alley.  It ended up being a hit with the girls.  The style of the book is short paragraphs with comic strip illustrations.  The light story line was perfect for the end of the school year.  This was our last meeting of this school year, and will pick back up with book club in September.  The next book selection is assigned for the whole summer.  With vacations, etc. we figured book club during summer would be difficult to coordinate, and decided on a summer selection that they would have a few months to read.

We were greeted by this cute sign ;)

Two of our girls weren't able to make it.  Strep throat has made the rounds in Houston, Texas.  One had piles of homework to complete after being out with it last week, and one had come down with strep the day before.  We were so sad they couldn't be there.  I have to say that it is VERY sweet how much these girls want to be at book club.  They are so bummed to miss it, and I'm glad they love book club so much.

The girls liked the book.  We had all thumbs up.  I really was wondering how our discussion would go (since the book didn't deal with any major issues, and was a silly book) but they had lots of opinions to share.  We used our general discussion questions.  The moms laughed and laughed at these girls.  They are so opinionated.  When asked what they would change about the book, one girl expressed that she really wishes Luke (a UPS man) would have worn some different costumes.  Cracked us up.  Look at these girls!

all have something to say.

this peanut always has something to share.  love her!

The host mama really rocked planning this whole meeting.  She found the cutest craft, served Chik Fil A nuggets, and generally raised the bar for all future book club meetings ;)  Here is the craft she found for the girls to do.

Tissue paper flower bouquets

She had the tissue paper precut and taught the girls how to make the flowers.  They loved them!

our fearless leader teaching the girls how to make the bouquets

striking a pose with their bouquets (sassy!)

such good friends!

Due to computer issues, I did not hand out bottle cap buttons for their lanyards but promised them for next meeting ;)  Here are the bottlecap images for Just Grace and the Flower Girl power.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Year of the Dog- meeting #5

Our fifth book The Year of the Dog followed a Taiwanese American named Pacy through a year of her life as she attempted to find herself and her talent.  Its a cute book with cartoon illustrations inside as well that the girls loved.  

I purchased some Chinese fans and chinese new year themed napkins from a party store to make the table more festive.  The girls had Ginger Lime chicken bites and white rice with soy sauce for dinner.  (If you leave off the green onions, kids generally like it.  Its a family favorite at my house and easy to prepare).

Festive dinner girls

The girls liked the book.  We had all thumbs up.  The book deals with themes about race and culture that was eye opening for the girls.  In one scene, Pacy decides she cannot try out for the role of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz because she is Taiwanese American.  There is also a camp she attends with other Taiwanese Americans where some girls make fun of her and call her the name "twinkie" (yellow on the outside but white on the inside) because she does not speak Taiwanese.  One of the girls has a close family friend who is Taiwanese American, so the book was exciting for her to read and learn about her friend's family customs.  Every new year, she gets a red envelope from her friend with money for luck.  The book does a great job of sharing different Taiwanese traditions, and also how the family in the book blends both cultures.  

Some discussion questions for the book we used were from this study guide at Grace Lin's website.  

For the activity, we used two activities from Grace Lin's website.  I used the snipping tool on the computer to pull the images off the website and imbed in a Word Document so we could print them out as a worksheet.

The first was a drawing sheet how to draw the dog.  We printed this out and gave to the girls as a fun worksheet.
Dog worksheet

The second was instructions for how to paint the FU (for luck).  Here are the instructions:  
Grace Lin Chinese New Year banner craft instructions

We gave the girls red paper plates and yellow paint to paint the FU on.  I printed this worksheet with the image of how to draw the FU for each to use as reference.
How to draw FU worksheet

As always, at the end of the meeting, I gave the girls their bottle cap buttons for their lanyards.  
Here are the bottlecap images for The Year of the Dog.
Lanyard is filling up ;)

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Magic Half- Meeting #4

Our fourth book The Magic Half was written by the same author as Ivy and Bean (which most of the girls have read in the past and loved).  It involves time travel between present day and 1935, twins, and some magic.

The host mama's daughter made this adorable sign to greet her guests.

The host mama served the girls a dinner of corndogs, tator tots, and juice boxes and had some other snacks out on the table.  Typically we have our discussion of the book as the girls eat.  

Most of the girls liked the book.  We had all thumbs up, and one thumbs down.  They discussed whether or not they would have gone back in time or not, and how the girls helped each other.  I know I say this every time, but the moms are always so impressed with how much the girls remember from the book, how their opinions differ (and they proudly share their views), and how much insight they have into the stories/characters.  They are really thinking about what they read.  I would have never imagined that the conversations would be so rich and interesting.

hands raised

lots of opinions ;)

For the activity, the girls wrote themselves letters for the future to be opened in 10 years (when they are 18 and seniors in high school....hard to imagine!).  Prior to the meeting, an email was sent to the moms asking for input from the girls about the trends for this school year.  I found most of the stuff by googling, and by just knowing what the girls are into.  We included those two printed pages in the letter, along with their letter to themselves.  Due to their ages, we felt that a free form letter would take more time/scaffolding from the adults, so we made a template for them to fill out about their interests now, and their predictions for the future.

 This has some good prompts for an open ended letter.  This was used as inspiration for our template.  I found it via Google from TeacherWeb.
Write a Letter to Your Future Self

Here is the template we created for the girls to fill out.
Letter to the Future template

Here is our trend sheet to be included with the letter.
Trends from 2013-2014 school year
(For whatever reason, the formatting is always getting screwy with this one.  It IS possible to fit it on two pages if you mess with it.  I don't know why it keeps changing on me).

The host mama also printed out two sheets of personalized stationary for each girl so they could add a real letter to themselves.  

As always, at the end of the meeting, I gave the girls their bottle cap buttons for their lanyards.  
Here are the bottlecap images for The Magic Half.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Turtle In Paradise- meeting #3

eating dinner- we only had 5 girls this time as one of our girls was sick :(
 Our third book Turtle In Paradise takes place in the 1930s in Key West.  The girls are all fans of Jennifer L. Holm's graphic novel series BABYMOUSE so it was interesting to us all to see her versatility as an author.  Although nothing like BABYMOUSE, it is a great little read and a fun adventure story.  It was really interesting for the girls to read about a young girl's adventure during the depression era, and many references to comic strips, foods, places, and products were foreign to them.  I found a website called HELP READERS LOVE READING written by an amazing teacher who is doing his part to make reading more interesting to his students.  It takes the book chapter by chapter and shows pictures of actual places, maps, comic strips, and even YouTube videos that show Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, and Shirley Temple.  

For our discussion, I brought my laptop to the host mama's house and using an HDMI cord, was able to show this website on the TV screen.  We wove our general discussion questions into the presentation/discussion.  He even gives question prompts on each page asking the girls things like "In chapter 14 she compares Pork Chop and Beans to Laurel and Hardy.  What does she mean with that comparison?"  I can't say enough about this site.  Its awesome! 
Help Readers Love Reading- Turtle in Paradise pages
watching Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire dancing
watching The Three Stooges

I'm always amazed at how much the girls remember from the books and their opinions about the story.  They are so savvy and think so much about the characters and their points of view.  I love the discussions with them.  

Instead of doing a craft this time, I thought it would be fun for the girls to do vintage inspired hairstyles using a headband.  I found this YouTube tutorial on how to stick your hair into an elastic headband to make it look like a messy updo.
Quick and Easy Vintage Hairstyle Headband tutorial

The girls watching the tutorial

Vintage inspired hairdos
so cute!

Because I like craft projects, I decided to make the headbands using fold over elastic and the following rosette tutorial.  But you could just as easily get some elastic headbands without embellishment and have just as much fun doing hairstyles.  

I used this tutorial to make the flowers for the headbands using old T-shirts:
T-shirt rosette tutorial
I thought this was a nice tie in to the book as well since the Depression era was all about stretching your dollar.  The original reduce, reuse, recycle.  

Fold over elastic is way more expensive and precut to 1 yd. lengths at Jo-Anns.  I got more for my money by ordering from Etsy.  
Shabby Rose Trim fold over elastic for headbands

For those who don't want to make rosettes but would like to trim out the headbands, they have affordable flowers available on ShabbyRoseTrim's store.

I've also noticed that a new trend in headbands is basically fold over elastic tied in a knot at one end.  Couldn't be easier to make that.  If you order your FOE from ShabbyRose, and cut and tie, you can recreate those for a lot less than the stores sell them for.

As always, at the end of the meeting, I gave the girls their bottle cap buttons for their lanyards.  
Here are the bottlecap images for Turtle in Paradise.