A Quick “Hello” to My Students

Today I introduced my blog to the students in my classes.  I wanted to make sure that they had a way to keep up with my reviews/booktalks once school ends.  Because they are going on to middle school, I won’t be able to grab them in the hall and say, “I just read a book that is totally perfect for you!”.  Hopefully, this blog will take my place (at least partly)!  When I explained this to them, I got a few responses like, “Why can’t you just transfer to middle school with us?!”  That certainly made me smile.

Hello to anyone who is visiting from my Language Arts classes!  Feel free to comment guys, or email me at thereadingzone@gmail.com.   Just be sure that you only use your first name on here- no last names!  Last initials are ok, though.  Remember, you want to be safe. :)

I can’t wait to hear about your summer adventure packets, and I am looking forward to mailing out lots of 7th grade survival kits in August!

Summer Adventure Packets

Tonight, I finally finished the summer adventure packets for my kids! It was definitely a labor of love, but I feel like they are finally perfect. Jen Barney shared the packet she uses in her class, and I used Stacey‘s as a mentor/template and then added in my own activities. I can’t wait to see if any of my students take advantage of this….

You see, my students move on to the middle school next year, so they will be responsible for emailing or snail mailing their completed packets to me. That’s a hefty amount of responsibility in the summer! But I have some truly awesome 7th grade survival packs planned, so hopefully someone completes it!

I will also be handing out my list of amazing books, places to get books, and blogs to check out. This is the first year I will be doing this, too. This way,my kids will have a list of books I love and think they will love, even if I can’t booktalk them!

Summer Literacy Packet (6th grade)

Must-reads 2008

So Proud

Today, my students began presenting their Multi-genre Projects. I have never been so proud of them! Their projects and presentations were passionate, creative, and thoughtful. The pride they had in their projects was evident from the moment they stepped in the room. They were confident in their presentations, excited to share their passion, and willing to share bits of themselves with me and their classmates.

Many of the students went above and beyond the requirements, which is amazing for a project that was completed at the end of their last year in our school. Instead of the usual boredom and no-effort work I see at this time of year, my students worked diligently on these projects. It is absolutely amazing the effect that academic choice has on student effort. Because they chose their topics and cared about them, they were willing to spend the time to make their project “just right”.

We reflected on the project together, and they came up with a few reasons for their enthusiasm.  All of them agreed that choice was very important in this project.  It was the first time most of them were allowed to choose anything they wanted, with no restrictions.  Then, they were able to choose their genres (although everyone was required to write an encyclopedia article).  Even though it was overwhelming in the beginning, choosing anything they wanted let them pick something they were passionate about.  Thus, we had topics ranging from piano, to Hello Kitty, to Tyra Banks, to Greek mythology, to F-16s, to 9/11, to Pearl Harbor, to Lupe Fiasco, and even more.

The freedom to choose their genres allowed them to create multiple ways to communicate their research.  The girl who researched Tyra Banks created a modeling portfolio with photos, an autobiography, a birth announcement, an advertisement for America’s Next Top Model, and a diary entry.  The boy who studied F-16s included the specs, an advertisement, encyclopedia, and more.  Every project was just perfect.  And everyone chose amazing ways to present their information!  We had models of the Twin Towers that opened to reveal papers.  There was a traveling mythology museum, a model F-16, and a homemade suitcase.

I had tears in my eyes during the presentations today.  My students have grown so much this year, and no where was it more evident than in this project.  I am so proud of them!

Failure

This past weekend, JK Rowling was the commencement speaker at Harvard University.  While some students were upset at having “only a children’s author” as their speaker, I have found her speech to be inspiring.  Two of my favorite quotes follow:

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

-J.K. Rowling, 2008 Commencement Address

“We do not need magic to transform the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have power to imagine better.”
-J.K. Rowling, 2008 Commencement Address

Those who doubt JK Rowling’s talent with the written word need only read the above quotes and the rest of the transcript from her speech.  This “mere children’s author” is an inspiration to anyone who has ever faced failure and doubt, and to those who believe in the power of their dreams.  Magic is possible, and it allows us to change the world around us; for the better.

48 Hour Book Challenge in the Classroom

No, I am not that crazy!  But today I brought in my stack of books, piled them on the desk in the front of my room, and explained to my students what I spent my weekend doing.  After that got over their shock, I told them that part of the reason I participated was to get a great pile of books to recommend to them for summer reading.

I passed out our summer reading plan worksheet to the class and explained that while I want them to complete their required summer reading, I also want them to read the books that they enjoy, just as they have been doing all year.  Because I won’t be there to make recommendations and pass out new books, I want them to have a list of books ready for this summer (and hopefully into next year).  For the summer reading plan, I planned to begin by booktalking the books I read for the Challenge.  Later this week the students will recommend books to their classmates.  At the end of the week they will formulate a summer reading goal.

Today’s booktalks went really well!  Most of the students wrote down 3-4 of the titles I read over the weekend, and many of them wrote down even more.  So thank you, Mother Reader!

48 Hour Book Challenge Final Wrap-up

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Total Pages Read- 3498

Total Time Reading- 19.50 hours

Total Books Read – 17

This was my first foray into the Mother Reader’s 48 Hour Book Challenge. I didn’t set any goals going in, other than to read a lot! I could not dedicate the entire 48 hours to reading, as I already had a dinner planned last night (which was well worth it, as I learned I am going to be an honorary “aunt”!) and today I had to dedicate a few hours to food shopping and cooking dinner.

I loved participating in the challenge though. I finally got a chance to read a lot of the books that I have been meaning to get to but never do for one reason or another. Most of the books I read were already published, because they tend to get moved to the bottom of the pile when I receive an interesting ARC.

What I learned:

  • While I am a fast reader normally, the competitive nature in me forced me to read even faster. This meant that I could not savor books that I really loved, and that frustrated me. It also meant that I skipped reading one of the books I really wanted to read, because I had been warned I would want to savor it.
  • The other people in my life think I am crazy to do this. And reading is a bit solitary, so the BF spent the hours playing his new video game.
  • I am getting old! Staying up past 2am to read used to be a very frequent occurrence. Friday and Saturday night I could not keep my eyes open past 12am!
  • It takes me 30-45 minutes to write a review and it is difficult to cut down on that, even if it means having more time to read.
  • Even if I pick out my books beforehand, I still end perusing my piles in between books and choosing different ones.

What I Finished:

Rumors: A Luxe Novel (The Luxe) by Anna Godbersen- 419 pages
Thumbelina: Tiny Runaway Bride by Barbara Ensor- 149 pages
Secrets of My Hollywood Life by Jen Calonita- 255 pages
Turnabout by Margaret Peterson Haddix- 227 pages
Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School by Ruth McNally Barshaw- 190 pages
Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth- 162 pages
The Trial by Jen Bryant- 168 pages
Physics: Why Matter Matters by Dan Green- 122 pages
Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M.M. Blume- 264 pages
Regarding the Bathrooms: A Privy to the Past by Kate Klise- 144 pages
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale- 314 pages
Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson- 250 pages
Welcome To Camden Falls (Main Street) by Ann M. Martin- 174 pages
Belle Teal by Ann M. Martin- 214 pages
In the Small by Michael Hague- 124 pages
How to Raise Your Parents: A Teen Girl’s Survival Guide by Sarah O’Leary Burningham- 141 pages
Two-Minute Drill: Mike Lupica’s Comeback Kids by Mike Lupica- 181 pages

Two Minute Drill (Comeback Kids) by Mike Lupica

This was a nice book to end the challenge on. I really enjoy Lupica’s books and was glad to have a chance to read some of the new Comeback Kids series.

Two-Minute Drill: Mike Lupica’s Comeback Kids is the story of the kid who tries and tries, but just is not a gifted athlete. Scott is smart, and his parents are proud of his academic and athletic accomplishments (ok, even if he mostly has academic accomplishments). He has just moved to a new town and is stunned when the most popular kid in sixth grade, Chris, befriends him. Chris convinces Scott to join the town football team, which he does. Even though he knows he will never get off the bench, Scott is happy to help the team and to just be a part of game day. However, even Rudy got a chance to prove himself, and Scott does, too.

I felt like this book really rang true. The boys were realistic, not just caricatures of 12 year old boys. Mike Lupica really knows preteen boys! I felt like I was reading about my own students. That’s one of the reasons I always enjoy Lupica’s book. They are timely and believable- both of which are very important to reluctant readers. I think this series is perfect for boys or girls in the middle grades, and even into middle school.

48 Hour Book Challenge

Rumors: A Luxe Novel (The Luxe) by Anna Godbersen- 419 pages
Thumbelina: Tiny Runaway Bride by Barbara Ensor- 149 pages
Secrets of My Hollywood Life by Jen Calonita- 255 pages
Turnabout by Margaret Peterson Haddix- 227 pages
Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School by Ruth McNally Barshaw- 190 pages
Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth- 162 pages
The Trial by Jen Bryant- 168 pages
Physics: Why Matter Matters by Dan Green- 122 pages
Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M.M. Blume- 264 pages
Regarding the Bathrooms: A Privy to the Past by Kate Klise- 144 pages
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale- 314 pages
Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson- 250 pages
Welcome To Camden Falls (Main Street) by Ann M. Martin- 174 pages
Belle Teal by Ann M. Martin- 214 pages
In the Small by Michael Hague- 124 pages
How to Raise Your Parents: A Teen Girl’s Survival Guide by Sarah O’Leary Burningham- 141 pages

Two-Minute Drill: Mike Lupica’s Comeback Kids by Mike Lupica- 181 pages

Total Pages Read- 3498

Total Time Reading- 19.50 hours

Total Books Read (so far)- 17

How to Raise Your Parents: A Teen Girl’s Survival Guide

How to Raise Your Parents: A Teen Girl’s Survival Guide by Sarah O’Leary Burningham was a nice break from the fiction I have been reading all day. It’s a cute book with different strategies for dealing with parents. After all, as Burningham points out, why should the parents get all the “how-to” books?

I was nodding along with much of the book, as I myself was a teenager not that long ago. Some of the scenarios are a little over the top and stereotypical, but most of them are accurate. The book lends itself to reading cover to cover or just perusing it. My only complaint is that it is listed as a teen girl’s survival guide. Why not just teenagers in general? Nothing is the book is all that gender specific- it easily could apply to guys or girls. I wonder if it’s just the fact that more teen girls buy books that guys? Hmmm…

In the Small by Michael Hague

I am not a big graphic novel reader. But I figured the Challenge was a good reason to give at least one more a shot. I chose a random ARC from my pile and it turned out to be In the Small by Michael Hague.

Bestselling illustrator Michael Hague is well-known for his fantasy illustrations. In the Small is a science-fiction/dystopian story about the end of mankind. While I appreciate the theme of environmental consequences, this was just too dark and gory for me. I think if I had read the story it would have been a bit better, but the illustrations just made the blood and gore too real for me. This is a good story, but one I would recommend for 8th grade and up.

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