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???

Donors Choose

After waffling for a bit, I just submitted my first proposal to Donorschoose.org. For those who don’t know, “DonorsChoose is a simple way to provide students in need with resources that our public schools often lack. At this not-for-profit web site, teachers submit project proposals for materials or experiences their students need to learn. These ideas become classroom reality when concerned individuals, whom we call Citizen Philanthropists, choose projects to fund.” Anyone can choose a project to fund, and you can fund with any amount you want. It’s really a great site and there are so many great proposals!

I originally went to the site because I need supplies for my monarch butterfly unit for the rest of the year. I used to buy everything myself, but with a mortgage payment and bills now I can’t afford to do that! As it turns out, as a new member you can only request certain items from a preselected list on DonorsChoose. Well, I spoke to my class and they asked for books. Lots and lots of books, as they said! I took a survey and got a list of 25 books (fiction and non-fiction) they are dying to read and submitted a proposal. It is currently in review and I am anxious to see what happens. My students will be THRILLED to get new books for the classroom library and I will be thrilled to not have to spend my own money!

Now, I still need to find a way to get my monarch supplies funded. It’s only $100, but I honestly can’t justify spending my own money on it when I have so many bills to pay! This being a grown-up thing really has its downfalls! Before this year, I had gotten into the habit of buying everything for my classroom with my own money, because we don’t get any type of budget. I probably spent close to $2000 each year. I’ve already spent close to $300 on this year and I just can’t do it anymore. If you are feeling generous and want to help us, feel free. ;)

Click the link to donate to our classroom! You can enter any amount you like- we’ll take $0.50!

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_xclick&business=evil_twin2327%40yahoo%2ecom&item_name=Help%20Us%20Raise%20Monarchs%21&buyer_credit_promo_code=&buyer_credit_product_category=&buyer_credit_shipping_method=&buyer_credit_user_address_change=&no_shipping=1&no_note=1&tax=0&currency_code=USD&lc=US&bn=PP%2dDonationsBF&charset=UTF%2d8

We need $100 to get the following (from LiveMonarch):
500 Mixed and Milkweed seeds for your region
Online tutorial “Adopt a Caterpillar” a 30 day personal learning experience for each child
One Sock Enclosure perfect for outdoor protection of your special critters
One Small Caterpillar Castle.
One Large Caterpillar Castle.
One Jumbo Caterpillar Castle.
Watering Floral Picks to keep field collected cuttings alive.
25 Rooted Milkweed Cuttings – certificate provided or request immediate shipment below.
Ten Monarch caterpillars – certificate provided, redeem when your plants are ready.
Four Monarch Pupae – certificate provided, redeem whenever you want them.
200+ Free Milkweed Seeds native to your region.
*Northern – Asclepias Speciosia – can survive a hard frost and long winter.
*Southern – Asclepias Curassavica – Fast growing favorite for egg laying and warmer climates.
Mini Posters: “Missing” Have you seen a Monarch?
Lifecycle sheet for all aspects of the Monarch Butterfly: basic quick review of all developmental stages.
Butterfly refuge garden sign
Adopt A Butterfly Handouts

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