Breaking Dawn Quote of the Day

Those of you like me, who are anxiously awaiting the the release of BREAKING DAWN, should be sure to check out Stephenie Meyer’s website. She is posting a quote from the book each day leading up to the release. She also did this with ECLIPSE and it’s a ton of fun to try and predict how the quotes are related to the book.

Quote of the Day

My favorite?

Renee: “Alice wouldn’t let us do anything else. Every time we tried, she all but ripped our throats out.”

This means Renee knows!  At least, I think it means that she knows Bella and Edward are a bit different…..

So what do you think?  What is your favorite quote?

Unbelievable!

Thanks to A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Tea Cozy for this link.

For those of who who did not click on the link (or only skimmed the article), Newsweek is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Anne of Green Gables.  I am a self-professed Anne aficionado.  I grew up reading everything from L.M. Montgomery that I could get my hands on.  Anne was one of my favorite heroines of classic literature, along with L.M. Montgomery’s Emily.  I read the books in each series over and over and over again.  One of my most prized possessions is a first-run copy of the Emily books that belonged to my grandmother.   I still read Anne and Emily’s stories when I want to relax and escape into a comfortable world away from my own.

No one recommended L.M. Montgomery’s books to me.  I found the Anne series on a bookshelf in one of my teacher’s classroom libraries in elementary school.  As I finished the first novel I searched for the second.  Then the third.  And the fourth.  I did the same with the Emily books.  I connected with both girls and their love of life, books, writing, imagination, family, and nature.  They were never extraordinarily popular with my generation, but occasionally I would find a kindred spirit among my peers.  In my own classroom, I recommend L.M. Montgomery’s books to a few of my students who I know will also connect with Anne and Emily.

The article does bring up a few good points.  Why isn’t Anne treated like other classic literature, i.e. the stories of Twain?  It’s most certainly an easier read than much of canon literature, and I wouldn’t mind seeing it on a suggested summer reading list.  Anne is fun, adventurous, and silly!  L.M. Montgomery succeeded in writing a timeless tale of growing up and growing older. The article also points out Anne’s similarities to women and well-known characters today- Carrie Bradshaw and Hilary Clinton, for example.  Another reason teens and adults today would enjoy reading her stories.  But she isn’t hugely popular.

However, one paragraph in the article made me absolutely furious.

That “Anne” has survived so long—and, with 50 million copies sold, so strong—is a small miracle considering the state of young-adult literature. It’s rare to find a best seller with a strong heroine anymore, in large part because, although girls will read books about boys, boys won’t go near a girl’s book, no matter how cool she is. Even in Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series, the strong, grounded Bella is willing to chuck it all for the love of her vampire boyfriend. “The literary smart girl is still showing up in literature, but she’s often the sidekick,” says Trinna Frever, an “Anne of Green Gables” scholar. “It is a reflection of a culture that’s placing less value on intelligence, and also treating intelligence as a stigmatized quality.” As smart as Anne is, you aren’t likely to find her in a classroom, either. She has survived largely through mothers who pass the book on to their daughters.

WHAT?!?

First of all, what is with the recent YA bashing going on in the media?  I was unaware that there are no strong girl heroines in literature these days.  And by these days, I mean since 1908, when Anne was first published.  Really?  REALLY?!  There have been no strong female heroines since then?  I had no idea!  Honestly, someone better run out and tell Sarah Dessen, Laurie Halse Anderson, Ally Carter, Cornelia Funke, Marcus Zusak, Avi, Karen Cushman, Lois Lowry, Cynthia Voight, Jeanne Birdsall, Kate DiCamillo, Meg Cabot, Trenton Lee Stewart, Ann Brashares, Lauren Myracle, E.Lockhart, Libba Bray, Esther Friesner, Jerry Spinelli, Ann Rinaldi, et. al. that they are writing weak female characters!

Seriously?  Seriously?  SERIOUSLY??  Why is it that journalists are suddenly lamenting the lack of “fill in the blank” in modern YA literature?  It is more than obvious that these reporters and bloggers are not doing their research.  One only has to google strong female characters to get list upon list of recent books.  Hell, just to find books published in the last 50 years!  It seems to me that a terrible blight of “woe are we, nothing is like it used to be, what happened to the good old days of real kids books?” is running rampant through our society.  Please, I beg of you, talk to a bookseller or a librarian or a teacher before you publish these ignorant rants.  Even better, talk to a teen!  They can tell you what is out there now and more importantly what they want to read.

Like I said, Anne is a classic.  it doesn’t need to be taught in elementary, middle, or high school.  Sometimes that just takes all the fun out of it!  :)  And don’t worry, some of us did discover her on our own, without someone recommending her to us.  And while we may recommend her to more kindred spirits, plenty of teens and kids will continue to find her on their own.  Anne should be read by those kindred spirits, not forced on everyone and anyone who is of a certain age.  Everyone needs to find their own kindred spirit in YA- whether it be Anne, Emily, Frankie Landau-Banks, Liesel, the Penderwicks, Dicey, Tibby, Gemma, or someone else.  Let’s let the kids find their own heroines!

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes Blog Tour

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes is a young author who published her first novel, In the Forests of the Night (Den of Shadows), in 1999 when she was just thirteen. I was only sixteen then, and I remember being amazed that someone so young was publishing novels. To date, she has published a new YA novel every year since then. Right now, she is participating in a blog tour, and I jumped at the chance to be involved. As a recent college graduate, who started writing her first novel in fifth grade, she is an inspiration to my 6th grade students. She will be interviewed here on August 5th!

For now, you can read more about her on the rest of her blog tour, which started today!

July 22nd: Bildungsroman
July 24th: Cheryl Rainfield
July 25th: BookLoons
July 28th: Mrs. Magoo Reads
July 30th: Teen Book Review
July 31st: Making Stuff Up for a Living
August 4th: Bookwyrm Chrysalis
August 5th: The Reading Zone

My Middle School Language Arts Classroom…

I have spent the past few days beginning to plan out next year. I am a third year teacher, so some of my units are ready to go, others need tweaking, and some are being rewritten from scratch! However, I wanted to share what my normal day looks like so that other teachers can possible get some ideas!

I teach in a team setting: I teach Language Arts and my students have a different teacher for math, and a third teacher for science/social studies. I have two classes- my homeroom and my afternoon class.  I teach Language Arts in a 2 hours block.  M homeroom stays with me all morning, then we go to lunch, afterwards I get my afternoon class before they go to special.  Because of this, we start each day with a Do-Now. I am in charge of the Do-Now for my two classes on Mondays and Wednesdays. Traditionally, we use DOL as our Language do-now, but I want to change that next year. Granted, the ease of use is a big temptation, but the research shows that DOL doesn’t help kids use correct grammar in context. And I am willing to bet half my students just put any old answers down and wait for us to go over the correct answers together. So this summer I am revamping all of my grammar plans! This means I need a do-now. It has to be something quick and easy (we have a ten-minute homeroom) but also needs to hold students accountable. Any ideas?

Word Study: This year, I plan on using a mix of direct instruction, inquiry, and grammar in context for grammar. Right now I am writing my curriculum, based on our state and district standards. I am using Don and Jenny Killgallon’s Story Grammar for Elementary School: A Sentence-Composing Approach and Grammar for Middle School, Jeff Anderson’s Mechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage, And Style into Writer’s Workshop and EVERYDAY EDITING: Inviting Students to Develop Skill and Craft in Writer’s Workshop. Last but not least, I am waiting for Constance Weaver’s The Grammar Plan Book: A Guide to Smart Teaching. I know, it’s a lot! But when I went to the Columbia Teacher’s College Reunion Saturday back in March, I went to great session on teaching grammar in middle school. The presenter introduced all these great books to me, and I was inspired.

We have a district spelling curriculum, which means we have a spelling pretest on Mondays. Students complete a spelling contract during the week (that I wrote) and take a final spelling test on Friday.

Vocabulary is something I am still struggling with. Last year I followed Linda Rief’s model. I had my students find 5 vocabulary words each week from their reading. They then defined them, wrote each word in the sentence that they found it, and handed it in. For extra credit they included the etymology of the word. I just didn’t feel it was successful with my students, so I am searching for a new idea this year.

Reading Workshop: Reading workshop, reading workshop, reading workshop!!! I start my reading workshop with a mini-lesson. My students have one Language Arts binder that is divided in 8 sections. (I may amend this to 6-7 sections this year.) One section is devoted entirely to mini-lessons and notes from mini-lessons. The section begins with a table of contents that the students fill in each day, noting the subject of the lesson.

This year, I plan to use more short texts in my mini-lessons, so that my students have common texts but can still focus on their independent novels. This will allow me to differentiate more in conferences, but all the students will have common texts at hand. For this purpose, I am reading Less is More: Teaching Literature With Short Texts, Grades 6-12 by Kimberly Hill Campbell.

After the mini-lesson and guided practice, we break into independent reading. During this time, students read independently, putting into practice the skills we have learned. During this time, I have individual conferences with students and pull small groups. I also sometimes (especially at the beginning of the year, when I am building the reading foundation) just read with the students. This models an adult enjoying reading, something they don’t always see. They also see me enjoying their literature, children’s, middle-grade, and YA, valuing it.

I do teach whole-class novels, as they are required by the district. But I love the novels we do together, and they allow us to have a common text. Plus, I don’t assign the reading for homework- we treat it as a read-aloud/whole class novel. I do a lot of text marking, teaching them how to annotate their books. It’s a skill they will need in future years and one I never learned (and wish I did!). Our whole class novels are: Tuck Everlasting, The Giver, and The Devil’s Arithmetic .

Writing Workshop: My students keep a writing notebook. I start the year with a lot of activities from Notebook Know-How: Strategies For The Writer’s Notebook. My students have a little bit of experience with the workshop method in the primary grades, but not since then. I really have to ease them into it. For the first half of the year, their weekly homework is to write 4 entries in their notebook. I collect these as a homework assignment.

This year I will be using the front half of the writer’s notebook for their writing and the back half for notes and mini-lessons. I am hoping this helps keeps them more organized. And to be honest, it will keep me more organized, too!

In 6th grade, we focus a lot on persuasive writing because it is tested on the state tests. But I start the year with launching the writer’s notebook. Then we ease into personal narrative. I am working on what we will do after that! I do know I will be doing my poetry unit again because it was such a success. :) And I plan on doing my multi-genre projects again at the end of the year. Right now, I am paging through Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study for Teaching Writing, Grades 3-5 for ideas.

Read-Aloud: My favorite part of each day is at the end of class. That’s when we have our read-aloud. During the read-aloud I model higher-level thinking and other comprehension skills. And the students love it! We experience various genres and everyone. To see what we read this year, check out this post.

As for how I choose my read-alouds, it’s all about the kidlitosphere! I read reviews, read Newbery contenders, and of course turn to some of my personal favorites. The read-alouds change with each class and each year. This way, they stay fresh and personalized!

I still have a lot of work to do for next year, but I am getting excited. I love my grade level and I love teaching language arts. Hopefully, this post can help some other middle school English teachers!

Off-topic

A little bit of self-promotion….

I am selling a huge lot of teacher resources on ebay right now.  Just various Scholastic books, workbooks, etc that I bought and do not legitimately need.  Hopefully, someone else can use them!  Check them out here!

The Hunger Games

The Official Hunger Games website is now up at Scholastic.  I love the book trailer!  You can also download the first chapter in PDF form.

Check it out!

Bliss by Lauren Myracle

I hate horror- movies, books, TV shows, you name it. If it is horror, I avoid it like the plague. Somehow, the fact that Lauren Myracle’s newest novel, Bliss, is a horror story escaped me. Never mind the fact that the title is written in blood on the cover. I managed to miss all the not-so-subtle clues. In fact, I was thrilled when I received an ARC from the publisher thinking it was just the book I needed. I wanted something light and fluffy, something fun and beachy to read.

I was wrong.

Very wrong.

Myracle has crafted a true horror story, in the tradition of Stephen King. Bliss is the child of hippie parents. She’s moved around a lot, living in basements, various apartments, and most recently a commune. She loves her life on the commune, but is uprooted when her parents flee to Canada to avoid Nixon’s policies during the Vietnam War. Bliss is left with her wealthy grandmother in recently-integrated Atlanta.

Suddenly, everything she knows seems wrong and different. On the commune, health and hygiene were basic. Bliss never considered that the rest of the country might think differently. A bra becomes a necessity, make-up part of her daily routine. But the hardest part for Bliss is the fact that blacks and whites are still so separate. On the commune, her best friend was African-American. In Atlanta, her grandmother has a “negra” housekeeper. There is only one “token” black student in her prep school. And the KKK is alive and well.

Before she leaves the commune, Bliss’ best friend warns her of a vision she had- two girls that will not be good for her. Bliss ignores the vision, assuming it’s nothing. However when she begins attending her new prep school, she begins hearing a haunting, evil voice around a certain building. Her new friends seem harmless enough (though Bliss has a hard time navigating the world of high school girls), but the voice haunts her. Then, one of her new friends begins acting crazy and sympathizing too much with the Manson family (the Tate-LaBianca murders have just occurred) and romanticizing a rumor about a girl who killed herself on campus when the school was still a convent.

Myracle’s newest novel includes pieces of the Manson Family murders and the resulting Tate-LaBianca trial, as well as the realities of racism during that time. Bliss is a believable narrator and you sympathize with her complete confusion when it comes to this new world called high school. The novel also includes various snippets from another character’s diary, in between Bliss’ chapters. You see the beginnings of this character’s psychosis take hold and eventually take over their life. I spent most of the book trying to predict who that character would turn out to be.

The story is frightening. Too much of it rings true and seems all too realistic. The horror aspect is horrific, and threatened to give me nightmares (I’m a baby)! I can’t wait to recommend this to some of my students who love the Cirque Du Freak books. This is definitely not a G-rated book. I would probably give it a PG/PG-13 purely due to the horror.

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