Quote of the Day

While handing in a grammar quiz this afternoon, one of my students (a reluctant boy reader) was walking to me desk with his quiz in one hand and his head buried in “The Giver”.

”Wow! I have never done this before…..walked and read a book at the same time. I have never wanted to walk and read at the same time!”

I wore the biggest smile for the rest of the day. This boy is a very reluctant reader, and when he does read the books are fairly low-level. ”The Giver” is not an easy book by any means and he is loving it! It was a proud moment.

Speaking of reluctant readers, Jen over at Jen Robinson’s Book Page has a great post up today about helping kids learn to enjoy reading. She gathered advice from teachers, librarians, parents, and authors all over the kidlitosphere and compiled it into a wonderful article. I strongly encourage you to head over to her blog and check it out!

Two Great Books

I finished two great books today. Not only that, but I actually have time to review them both.

Story of a Girl by Sarah Zarr- WOW. First of all, the voice in this novel was breathtaking. I felt like I knew Deanna. While I wasn’t Deanna, I know too many girls who were her in high school. I also see too many students each year who are in danger of becoming her.

Deanna made one mistake. One stupid mistake when she was thirteen. But it was a big one- her father caught her in the backseat of her brother’s best friend’s car. With him. Since then, her decision has been the talk of her small-town of Pacifica, Ca. Her father hasn’t spoken more than two words to her or B684AF32-864D-4D73-8BE3-CF47D6EE1CF6.jpglooked her in the eye since that day. Her brother got his girlfriend knocked up in the next few years. Her mother spends the little time she isn’t working pretending that their family is fine. And now, Deanna is employed by the most run-down, ramshackle pizza joint in town. And her esteemed co-worker? Only Tommy, the very mistake she made those years ago.

I could not put this book down. Sarah Zarr captures high school perfectly. Deanna is everygirl- she isn’t the most popular, her family is far from perfect, and she isn’t the slut she is made out to be over the town grapevine. All she wants to do is move on. Will her father forgive her? Will she ever escape Pacifica? I can’t recommend this novel enough! I put it right next to Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak on my list of must-read teen girl reads.

I also finished Gail Giles’ What Happened to Cass McBride?. I don’t think I will be able to sleep tonight, thanks to this haunting story. If I taught high school, I would jump at the chance to use this novel in a bullying unit.

I know my students will love this book. The plot centers on the recent suicide of David Kirby. One night, after a negative encounter at school, David Kirby hangs himself from his tree in his front yard.BEF3C3F4-2761-42B8-B635-4705929761C0.jpg He pins to his chest (not his shirt. His chest). the following note:

Words are teeth. And they eat me alive.

This act leads to event after event. David’s brother, Kyle is driven to an act of psychotic desperation and kidnaps the popular girl, Cass McBride, who rejected his brother. He not only kidnaps her, but proceeds to torture her by burying her alive.

The story is told through the eyes of various characters- Kyle Kirby, Cass McBride, and the investigating detectives.

This is a powerful story. It explores the themes of abuse, bullying, power, and the power our words have over others. Kyle, David, and Cass have all been damaged by the adults in their lives. In a trickledown effect, their words deeply affect those around them. Sadly, they don’t realize the power their words have on those who pass through their lives.

I love shows like Law and Order and Law and Order: SVU. In my opinion, the most horrifying stories are those that are true. This story will chill you to the bone. Why? Because it is so real. You feel like it can happen. Like it is happening around you.

Two fantastic books in one day!! It’s been a good day.

Notebooks

There is a great post right now over at Big A Little a about how posters around the blogosphere use notebooks. The comments provide some great reading, and I am happy to learn I am not the only person out there who snaps up notebooks every chance I get. At any given time, I have notebooks everywhere. You can find them on my nightstand, in my purse, in my schoolbag, in the car, on my desk, and all over the rest of my house.

My personal favorites are Moleskine notebooks. I have a couple in my purse, the small handheld size. I have a few full-sized Moleskines in my school bag as we speak. I love them for their history (Hemingway!?) and their portability. I also love the variety of notebooks available. I need to use lined paper, as I have horrid handwriting. The lines force me to write semi-legibly. :) I do wish I could find some Moleskine notebooks with colored covers. I adore pretty covers, and the only qualm I have with Moleskine is that the plain black covers don’t excite me!

I also love those spiral notebooks you can find at the bookstore. They have lined paper and the edges are multi-colored. I tend to use them for school and jotting down ideas for planning and for upcoming units. When it comes to school, I am also the Post-it queen. I am constantly writing on the lined notepads, super-sticky, for sure, in all different colors. Anytime I find post-its on sale, I grab as many as I can carry and run to the checkout. There might be something wrong with me….

Books I Want to Read

Hmmm, a few new books and series have piqued my interest and I want to pick them up.

For myself, I am dying to read Life As We Knew It. I am assuming it will fit into my classroom library, but I admit to just wanting to read it for my own pleasure. Of course, none of the local bookstores have any copies. Another book that I can’t find anywhere (without ordering it) is Leepike Ridge. The first line is absolutely magical: “In the history of the world there have been lots of onces and lots of times, and every time has had a once upon it.” How can you not want to read that?? Last of all, completely for myself, I must must must get my hands on a copy of Libba Bray’s The Sweet Far Thing. I am dying to find out what happens to Gemma, Fee, Pippa, and Ann!

Now, recently I stumbled upon a series online that I think would fit in well in my classroom, especially for my reluctant boy readers who are attracted to interesting (read: gross) non-fiction. The series is from Scholastic and is called “You Wouldn’t Want to Be….”. It covers all the grossest parts of world history. I can’t find any copies around here, and I am hesitant to buy a copy without physically seeing one and holding it first. However, I may break down and buy You Wouldn’t Want to Be an Aztec Sacrifice! (You Wouldn’t Want To¿) just because it will be perfect to read before I head to Mexico in February. I have been looking for books to use to introduce Michoacan and my journey, and this sounds perfect for researching the Aztecs in that area! Has anyone seen this series or read any of the books? Any recommendations?

Great Posts Around the Blogosphere

-Check out the Learning in the Great Outdoors Carnival over at Alone on a Limb! There are some great links to all sorts of classroom and child-related outdoor learning activities. I am about to go exploring right now. :)

-Get yourself over to the Cybils blog and look for the latest shortlists! I am surprised to see that I have only read one novel on the YA shortlist, but it’s one of my favorites of the year (The Wednesday War). I also have read about half the non-fiction titles and some of the graphic novels (a new genre for me this year) are already on my wishlist. :)

Cybils Shortlists

Don’t forget!  The Cybils Shortlists for the remaining categories are released tomorrow!  I am on pins and needles to see what makes the list for YA.  What list are you waiting for? 

How Today’s Students Learn

Watch this short video summarizing some of the most important characteristics of students today – how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime. Created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University.

While the video is aimed at college level professors, the statistics apply to almost all of our students. While my students don’t spend time on facebook in class, they do spend hours at home on Myspace (which they are not even old enough to be a part of) and AIM. I think many new teachers, and some older teachers, are seeing this and adjusting their teaching for it. But too many teachers are continuing to teach out students in archaic methods that don’t apply to their lives. I love telling my students that many of them will have careers in industries that don’t even exist yet. However, we must do our best to prepare them for this. Make technology a part of your daily classroom lessons!

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