What Do You Want to Know?

As readers of this blog know, I teach 6th grade language arts using a workshop method.  It’s not always easy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!  Is there anything you are wondering about how I handle reading and writing workshop in my classroom?  If so, comment here and I promise to answer any questions!

Here, I Promise!

I’m still here…it’s been a hectic weekend, to say the least.  My grandmother ended up in the hospital and will be getting a hip replacement (hopefully) sometime tomorrow.  Needless to say, I’m a nervous wreck.  I know she’s stronger than me and will be beyond thrilled to finally be able to walk and get around without pain, but it doesn’t stop me form worrying.  I’ll have my cell phone out on my desk all day tomorrow.  

After visiting with my grandmother at the hospital this morning, I drove home to meet up with Chris.  We joined two of my friends from school and drove into the city for a taping of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.  We got to see a performance by the Beastie Boys, who were amazing but looked so old!  And more exciting?  We saw David Cook perform two songs!  It  was amazing to be in that small studio and to have David Cook right in front of us.  And man, can that man sing!  Plus, we got Magnolia Cupcakes afterward and got to take pictures with Jimmy Fallon and David Cook.  Well worth the trip and a great distraction.  

I didn’t get all the reading done that I wanted to this weekend, but I’m planning to read a lot this week.  I’ll need to take my mind off everything else going on.  Thank goodness for reading.

Oh. My. Gods by Tera Lynn Childs

Our current class read-aloud is Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1). Always a big hit because of the adventure and “regular kid” protagonist, I am constantly on the lookout for similar books. And this year, my class has taken a special liking to Greek mythology and has been seeking it out on their own. When I read a recent blog review of Tera Lynn Childs’ Oh. My. Gods. I added to my next book order. The synopsis sounded like it might be a match for some of my girls who are enjoying Riordan’s work but also looking for something with a little more romance and girl power involved.  Tera Lynn Childs’ series fits the bill!

When Phoebe’s mother comes home from a vacation and announces that she is engaged to a Greek man and that they will be moving to Greece, Phoebe’s world is turned upside-down.  Before that moment, her entire life was planned out- she would earn a track scholarship to USC and attend with her two best friends.  Just like they have been planning since junior high.  Instead, Phoebe is suddenly whisked away to an island off the coast of Greece where she will be forced to exist for the next nine months.  Starting a new school in her senior year might just be the worst thing to ever happen to her.  Except for the fact that she is also stuck on a random Greek island, halfway across the world from everyone and everything normal in her life.

Stranded on some secret island in the middle Aegean Sea, she is forced to attend the super-exclusive (aka super-snobby) Academy, where her new stepfather is the headmaster.  Oh, and the kids who go to the school are a little different than her classmates back in southern California.  They just happen to be the descendants of the Greek gods. Yeah, those Greek gods.   Suddenly, her rock-solid plan of maintaining a B average, continuing her running/training, and getting the heck off this island in 9 months seems almost impossible.  Not to mention the fact that she now has to contend with an evil stepsister, who has superpowers, and the Grecian god she has a crush on, who just might be the biggest jerk in school.  

I loved this book and can’t wait to read the sequel, Goddess Boot Camp (Oh.My. Gods). The Greek mythology that is incorporated into the story includes minor gods and goddesses and not just the twelve Olympians that are focused on in Riordan’s series. I loved the mentions of Plato, Aristotle, and other famous ancient Greeks, too. My students are going to love the unrequited love story and the hunky guy Phoebe develops a crush on. This will make a great beach read for a lot of them this summer and I look forward to passing it on to them!

The Brooklyn Nine: A Novel in Nine Innings by Alan Gratz

For a non-baseball fan, I sure do read a lot of baseball books.  The latest of these is Alan Gratz’s The Brooklyn Nine.  In 1845 Felix Schneider is a ten-year-old immigrant  from Germany.  While working to bring the rest of his family over from Germany, he cheers on the NY Knickerbockers.  Over 150 years later his great-great-great-great-great grandson, Snider Flint, tracks down the history of a strange baseball bat that belonged to one of Brooklyn’s greatest players.  Over the 150 years in between we meet nine generations of the Schneider/Snider family, all connected by their love of baseball.  The stories are a pleasant mix of history and sport, touching on historical moments like the Civil War, the 1920’s mob, the All-American Girls Baseball League, the Cold War, and more.  But regardless of the setting, this is a story about baseball and how it connects a family.

Each story stands alone as a single thread that is woven into the family story.  I loved every story and my only complaint is that I could read an entire novel about each character.  I wanted to know even more about them!  But Gratz does a great job of telling each individual’s story and pulling you into their life.  Baseball is a part of each character’s life whether they are a spectator or player.  I love that Gratz includes female fans and players as some of the main characters because I have a hard time finding sports books for girls sometimes.  I think that The Brooklyn Nine will appeal to boys and girls alike for this reason.

The Brooklyn Nine also appealed to the inner history buff in me. It was fascinating to view some of America’s major historical events through the eyes of the Schneider/Snider family. Even better was seeing everyday life through their eyes. I would love to have a whole book about Frankie, the numbers whiz who runs the numbers game in her Brooklyn neighborhood in 1928. She’s smart, funny, and a math whiz. A female math whiz in a book is a rare occurrence. Plus, she is the world’s biggest Dodgers fan. My female sports fans need a book with a spunky heroine like Frankie. And the setting, with NY’s mob bosses and underground gambling rings? Fascinating.

I am looking forward to booktalking this one to my class. It’s got everything- sports, history, humor, adventure, strong characters, and Brooklyn. I have a class this year that is full of Brooklyn pride, so this will definitely appeal to them. I have a feeling more than a few of them will be buying their own copy, so that they don’t have to wait to read mine.

If you haven’t read The Brooklyn Nine yet, be sure to pick it up in your local bookstore. It’s just that good!

Summer Blog Blast Tour

I have been slacking, I admit it.  But the Summer Blog Blast Tour is going on right now and there are some phenomenal interviews!

Here is the list of this week’s interviews, from Chasing Ray. Chasing Ray will be updating the post with direct links to the interviews each day!

Monday, May 18th
Andrew Mueller at Chasing Ray
Kekla Magoon at Fuse #8
Carrie Jones at Writing and Ruminating
Amber Benson at Bildungsroman
Greg van Eekhout at Shaken & Stirred
Tuesday, May 19th

Maya Ganesan at Miss Erin
Sherri Winston at Finding Wonderland
Amber Benson at lectitans
Carolyn Hennesy at Little Willow
Jo Knowles at Hip Writer Mama

Wednesday, May 20th

Barbara O’Conner at Mother Reader
James Kennedy at Fuse Number 8
Maggie Stiefvater at Writing & Ruminating
Rosemary Clement-Moore at Little Willow
Jo Knowles at lectitans
Melissa Wyatt at Chasing Ray

Thursday, May 21st

Siobhan Vivian at Miss Erin
Alma Alexander at Finding Wonderland
Laurel Snyder at Shaken & Stirred
Cindy Pon at The Ya Ya Yas
Thalia Chaltas at Little Willow

Friday May 22nd

Jenny Davidson at Chasing Ray
Rebecca Stead at Fuse Number 8
Ryan Mecum at Writing and Ruminating
Lauren Myracle at Little Willow
Kristin Cashore at Hip Writer Mama

 

Be sure to check it out!

Glee is My New Favorite Show!

Totally not kidlit related, but at least school related-  I love GLEE.  It is without a doubt, my new favorite show!

The combination of the school setting, show choir, amazing Broadway performers, and the send-up of the high school caste system is awesome.  I just can’t believe I have to wait until fall to watch more!  I foresee watching the pilot over and over on the Fox website this summer.  :)

Hot Books in My Classroom

Welcome to the latest installment of “Hot Books in My Classroom”.  For those of you who may be reading this for the first time, HBIMC is a feature I run every month or so, highlighting the books that are currently the most popular in my 6th grade classroom.  Every class is different, every year is different, and every month is different.  But one thing always stays the same- my students’ enthusiasm for reading!

We recently finished our Holocaust unit in Language Arts.  During the unit, my students worked in book clubs reading books about different aspects of WWII and the Holocaust.  One of the most popular choices was the verse novel T4 a novel by Ann Clare LeZotte.  Although we finished the unit, this one hasn’t been back on my shelf yet.  The combination of the subject matter (Hitler’s Action T4 program, which dictates that doctors euthanize the mentally ill and the disabled as “unfit to live.”) and the simple verse format attract my dormant and underground readers alike.  

For the last year I have been on the lookout for a novel similar to Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but with a female protagonist.  While the girls in my class read and love Diary of a Wimpy Kid they always ask for another book like it, but “with a girl!”  Well, this month I found not one, but two perfect read-alikes. Geek Chic: The Zoey Zone by Margie Palatini was an ARC I picked up at a publisher’s preview last year. One of my students found it on the bookshelf before spring break, read it over a few nights, and hasn’t stopped raving since. She passed it on to a friend, who did the same. Every day or so I see our classroom copy on someone else’s desk! And when they aren’t reading Geek Chic: The Zoey Zone they are laughing and giggling over Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renee Russell. Even more similar to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life is told in a journal format complete with illustrations and comics.  The girls in my class are already asking for a sequel.

Then there’s Patrick Carman’s Skeleton Creek. The fever surrounding Skeleton Creek reminds me a lot of the fever that surrounded Diary of a Wimpy Kid when the first book came out. My students are constantly discussing the book and videos. When any one student sits at the computer to watch a video I can see the other students in the room leaning back in their chairs and discretely watching behind their classmate’s head. The only problem? They inevitably scream and jump into the air when something scary happens. It makes me laugh every time!

And in the area of non-fiction, DK Eyewitness books are always popular in my classes. This year, many of my boys are very interested in WWI, WWII, and the armed forces. Right now, a few of my boys are reading Soldier.  They are experts on weapons, let me tell you!  

Finally, one of my more dormant readers can not put Nancy Werlin’s The Rules of Survival down. She begs for independent reading time each day and every morning brags to me about what page she is on. She is a realistic fiction fan but has a very hard time finding books that hook her. The Rules of Survival had her from the first page. Needless to say, I am thrilled. I’ve already bought Killer’s Cousin by Werlin for her to read next. I love when a student finds an author and book they love!

 

Those are some of the most popular books in my classroom.  What are your kids reading?

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