Blog Action Day

So I’m a little late…..

This is my contribution to Blog Action Day, an attempt to bring the global community of bloggers together to explore one issue: the environment. Today’s the day! If you have your own blog, why not join in?

Novels with an Environmental Theme:
-The Talking Earth (Jean Craighead George): Billie Wind is a Seminole Indian whose father works for NASA. She doesn’t believe in the legends and beliefs of the traditional Seminoles. Instead, she “wants answers”. Billie is punished by the elder council and sent to live in the Everglades until she believes in the little people and talking animals. Her journey takes her through the Great Swamp, meeting all sorts of creatures. Her perspective on life changes by the end of the book. A great book for dealing with over-development and endangered species.

-California Blue (David Klass): John Rodgers lives in a small logging town in California. While running in the forest one day, he stumbles upon a strange chrysalis. It turns out that an extremely rare butterfly makes its home in the redwoods. John is thrust into the middle of a vicious fight between environmentalists and loggers in his hometown- loggers that include his father.

-And Then There Was One: The Mysteries of Extinction (Sierra Club Books): While this is not a novel, I do love this book. A great non-fiction book, the author cites specific animals and explains how humans are impacting their lives. While it is a very serious topic, the information is presented in a fun and interesting manner.

-The Lorax (Dr. Seuss): This is my favorite book with an environmental theme. I read it aloud 5-6 times each year and also perform it as reader’s theater. The Lorax ties into my journeys theme, environmentalism, and so much more! Of course, I always use The Lorax with my monarch butterflies, and my students love it!

-Pond Scum (Alan Silderberg): Eleven-year-old Oliver enjoys tormenting insects, but his life takes a turn when his family moves into an old house which an assortment of animals do not want to vacate! A fun book, great for reluctant readers.

-First Light (Rebecca Stead): Peter’s father is a glaciologist and his mother is a geneticist. The family moves to Greenland temporarily so that his father can research the effects of global warming on glaciers. Thea lives in a secret world under the glacial ice. Their two worlds collide and Thea and Peter discover that their destinies are more intertwined than they ever could have imagined.

There are many more novels with an environmental theme out there. This is just a quick glance at some! Let me know if you want to add any more to the list!

A new monarch picture book!

Thanks to Cynthia Lord I have a new picture book to add to my ever-growing Amazon wishlist.
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Thanks to my constant obsession with my monarchs, I will definitely be purchasing it right away! Plus, I know a lot of my students will be able to relate to Velma’s issue with teachers comparing her to her older sisters!

Annotating Tuck Everlasting

After reading Monica’s post In the Classroom: Annotating Charlotte’s Web, I was inspired to do some annotating of my own. My class will be reading Natalie Babbitt’s “Tuck Everlasting” as our next class novel and I know I have never done the book justice. It is so beautifully written and almost poetic and I know my student’s can appreciate that. So here I am on a Sunday night, 3 chapters into re-reading the book (for the 10th time), annotating away.

Annotating is an amazing experience, because you are forced to pay attention to the whole experience of the book. I tend to be a fast reader. While this doesn’t mean I skim books, it does mean that I read very, very fast and usually miss a lot of the nuances. That’s why I am such as avid re-reader. But annotating takes re-reading to a whole new level. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend you do. I can’t wait to try this with my class!

Oh, and while annotating and trying to listen to music (to drown out the football game on in the other room), I remember a CD I loved in junior high. After searching high and low, I finally found the entire series on Amazon. Someone needs to stop me from buying the Set Your Life to Music cd’s from Amazon. I have 10 of them on my wishlist! I can imagine falling asleep to one, writing to another, reading with a third CD………

Eavesdropping

Today I eavesdropped on two of my boys as they walked out of class. Both had their novels on top of their (large) pile of books, binders, and more. One is reading the first book in James Patterson’s “Maximum Ride” series and the other is reading “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”. They were telling each other about their books, why they liked them, and if they thought the other would like it. I have never felt so proud! No one was making them read the novels and no one was making them share. They did it on their own, because they generally like the books they are reading. :)

The Book Thief

Every so often I read a book that I can’t review. Usually this is because I can’t finish the book and end up abandoning it.

This is not the case for “The Book Thief”. This is a brilliant book, maybe even life-changing. I finished the book on Sunday night, after staying up an extra hour to finish it. It did take me about a week to finish the book, but only because it is such a heavy book that I would read a chapter or so at a time. It was well worth it, though.

Run out and buy this book. Read it. Now.518gtgzstfl_ss500_.jpg

My first Donorschoose proposal!

My first DonorsChoose proposal has been officially accepted!

Check it out here!

Reading and Writing Workshop Controversy

Man, I am all about the controversy today!

Over at Two Writing Teachers, Stacy pointed me in the direction of this article from Education Next. As a proponent of Lucy Calkins’ Reading and Writing Workshop approach, I was slightly offended by the article’s tone. While I do agree, slightly, that TCRWP has become more scripted over the past decade, I think it is something that was bound to happen when 10,000 educators in one city become bound to the program. However, I use a lot of my TCRWP experience in my own classroom. I think because I teach 6th grade, I avoid a lot of the problems some people have with the program (ie. phonics vs. whole language, etc). I see the difference in my room. Most notably? My students are reading. And reading constantly. Voraciously. Passionately. And critically! I mix Calkins’ methods with Nancie Atwell’s in my reading and writing workshops.

After reading the aforementioned article, I googled for some more Lucy Calkins news. The first site returned was this article from National Review Online. It concerns controversy in NYC schools over TCRWP Reading Workshop.

This article angered me. My library does not consist of trash. I have classics, Newbery winners, Printz winners, and new novels on the best seller list. Name me one adult who reads classical, canon literature all the time. I can list on one hand the adults I know who read, period! I want my students to love reading. If that means sometimes they are reading the middle school equivalent of chick-lit, then so be it. Over the course of the school year, my students will read at least 30 books each, from a variety of genres. Some books are destined to be classics, some already are, and some never will be. Does that make them less of a reader?

What do you think?

Assigning Homework to Parents?

While surfing my numerous education blogs this afternoon, I stumbled on this post. A 9th grade teacher at Montclair High School not only assigns homework to his students; he assigns homework to their parents!

It seems that this article is causing a lot of controversy around the blogosphere. I think your opinion on his tactics depends a lot on where you teach. As a teacher in a suburban, upper-middle class school, I love the idea. I don’t think I would ever use parent homework as a constant assignment, but I love the idea for a special project! Of course, most of my parents are well-to-do and would have no problem completing an assignment alongside their child. However, we are a Title I school, so I do have a few students every year on free/reduced lunch. I also have students whose parents do not speak English. However, I would gladly partner with these students. I would love to assign something like this as a reader’s response assignment. I could have parents and students read a short story. Each would write a letter to the other regarding their thoughts and connections. I would write a letter to those students who could not involve their parents. Of course, this is only doable in a class where the majority of students have involved parents.

I don’t know…..How do you feel?

Cybils

It’s Cybils time! Head on over to Cybils.com to nominate your favorite children’s or YA book for this great award from the blogosphere!

Here is the official press release:
Here’s the official press-release from co-founder Anne Boles Levy:

Will Harry Potter triumph among critical bloggers? Will novels banned in some school districts find favor online?

With 90 volunteers poised to sift through hundreds of new books, the second annual Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards launches on Oct. 1 at http://www.cybils.com. Known as the Cybils, it’s the only literary contest that combines both the spontaneity of the Web with the thoughtful debate of a book club.

The public’s invited to nominate books in eight categories, from picture books up to young adult fiction, so long as the book was first published in 2007 in English (bilingual books are okay too). Once nominations close on Nov. 21, the books go through two rounds of judging, first to select the finalists and then the winners, to be announced on Valentine’s Day 2008.

Judges come from the burgeoning ranks of book bloggers in the cozy corner of the Internet called the kidlitosphere. They represent parents, homeschoolers, authors, illustrators, librarians and teens.

The contest began last year after blogger Kelly Herold expressed dismay that while some literary awards were too snooty – rewarding books kids would seldom read – others were too populist and didn’t acknowledge the breadth and depth of what’s being published today.
“It didn’t have to be brussel sprouts versus gummy bears,” said Anne Boles Levy, who started Cybils with Herold. “There are books that fill both needs, to be fun and profound.”

Last year’s awards prompted more than 480 nominations, and this year’s contest will likely dwarf that. As with last year’s awards, visitors to the Cybils blog can leave their nominations as comments. There is no nomination form, only the blog, to keep in the spirit of the blogosphere that started it all.

See you Oct. 1!

I’ve made my nominations, so head on over to make your voice heard!

Interesting Book Projects

I am trying to come up with an interesting yet not overwhelming book project to assign. I know what I want my 6th graders to read- an award-winning book. I will let them choose ANY award-winning book, whether it be a Newbery, Printz, etc winner/honor book. However, I don’t know what I want them to do with the book once they complete it. I am leaning towards a paper bag book project, yet I hate book reports.

In the next few weeks, I will be modeling and assigning our first reader’s responses. I am thinking I might have my students write me a letter about their book (to serve as a jumping off point for their bi-monthly letter-essays) and design something artistic. Maybe a story quilt? That sounds like it could be fun. Well, at least not torturous!

Any ideas out there???

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