Catching Fire

I think I am dragging out my experience with Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games). I don’t want it to end! It’s fantastic and awesome and I am afraid that when I finish it, I will be stuck until the third book comes out!

The book is AMAZING.

What Do You Want to Know- Question #7

From Jessica Wright:

Thank you…thank you in advance. I have few questions:
1. Do your students maintain daily journaling for both reading and writing? How do you keep up with that?
2. What do your reading mini-lessons focus on and do you have any professional books that guide you?
3. Do you conduct small group instruction in reading workshop (i.e. guided reading)?


I’ll take these one at a time.  :)

Do your students maintain daily journaling for both reading and writing? How do you keep up with that?

My students do not journal.  Instead, they have a writer’s notebook, where they write a few times each week.  I do not check these, other than spot-checking that the homework is done when assigned.  Once a marking period, my students use a rubric to assess their notebooks.  Honestly, they are their own toughest critics!  It works out well and forces them to think about the work they do.  I love it!  I designed postcards for the students to use to assess their work and it’s simple and easy.  I then collect the postcards and record the grade.  While they assess, I walk around and look over their shoulder to make sure I agree with their assessment. I haven’t had a single issue yet.

My students do not journal in reading.  Instead, I require monthly letter-essays.  Here is my post explaining how letter-essays work.

2. What do your reading mini-lessons focus on and do you have any professional books that guide you?

My mini-lessons are strategy-based.  I base the lessons on what my students need.  I use a ton of professional books, but these are my absolute favorites:


Do you conduct small group instruction in reading workshop (i.e. guided reading)?
I do not use guided reading in my workshop, but I do meet with small groups as I see the need.  I will pull students that I see need extra time or practice with me.  I also use a lot of book clubs and literature circles.

What Do You Want to Know- Question #6

From Sara:

Will you have your students develop a summer reading plan?


In short, yes!  But I assume you want the long explanation.  Below is what I wrote last June:

I have spent the last few days working on my summer reading and writing packets.  Because my students enter middle school next year, I will not see them when September rolls around.  This makes it difficult to hold them accountable for summer work, as they know they won’t be seeing me that first day of school!  I really have to rely on intrinsic motivation.  And maybe some bribing. ;)

Last year I made a summer reading packet, which was for parents and students.  It had 2 pages about summer reading and the positive effects it has on student learning and retention.  Then I listed 3 pages of books for all types of readers, divided by grade level (3-5, 7-8, 9+).  I am planning to hand out the same packet this year, but it needs some revising.  My students this year have become voracious readers, to begin with.  The packet will be adjusted for their needs.  Also, they love reading new books, and sharing their opinions on them.  I am adding a lot of new books to my booklist, along with a page of links to sites that might interest them.  The links will be a nice mix of blogs, publisher’s websites, and places like GoodReads.

I have never given summer writing work before, but I was inspired by this post over atTwoWritingTeachers.  I am using Stacey’s packet as a template and adjusting it for my soon-to-be 7th graders.  It will be an interesting experiment to see if I get a response to the reading/writing work packet.


How did it go?  I received about 25 emails throughout the summer; students telling me about their reading and writing.  In August, I received 4 completed packets!  That’s about 10% of my students, a great percentage considering my students move to a new school after leaving me. This year, I am hoping to get back even more completed packets.  I’m working on the activity packet for this summer as we speak, so I will be sure to share it when I am done.

Along with the packet I also hand out a separate packet for parents and students to share.  This is a packet about reading and reading aloud.  It explains and/or reminds parents about the the value of reading, sharing books, and allowing students to choose their own novels.  I also include a very, very, very long list of recommended reads.  I cull these from my own reviews, SLJ, Horn Book, other bloggers, and various other sources.  I want my students to feel like they can still fall back on my booktalks and recommendations even when I am not there!  So far, it has worked great.  I’m also updating that list as we speak and I will share it when it’s done.

Hopefully this helps!

What Do You Want to Know- Question #5

Today’s question is from Natalee.

Scheduling is an issue for me- our classes are only 45 minutes long and I have a hard time getting in everything I need and want to do.

One area that I failed at with implementing workshops this year (my first year doing workshops) is conferencing. I’d love some tips on conferencing.


Right now, scheduling is not an issue for me, because I see two classes for two hours each.  But next year I foresee scheduling being a problem- I will see four classes for 55 minutes each.  I can’t even imagine how I am going to include everything that I do now.  I see each part of my reading and writing workshop as essential, so it’s going to be tough.

So far, I have sketched out a very basic schedule.  I’m sure this will change 100 times between now and September.  And probably 20 times after that!  But here’s what I am thinking so far….

55 minutes total:

10-15 Minutes:  Independent Reading

25-35 Minutes:  Mini-lesson and Independent practice (in reading, this could be combined with independent reading for some lessons)

10-15 Minutes:  Read Aloud

At this point in time I am thinking of doing a 3 day cycle- 3 days of reading mini-lessons and then 3 days of writing lessons.  Grammar would be incorporated into writing, which I already do.  Vocabulary would be incorporated into reading.

I already foresee this being insane!  I know I am going to have to work very hard at keeping my mini-lessons condensed to actual mini-lessons.  No more going off-topic!  And no more rambling.  I know I am going to have to work very hard at making my workshop work next year.  But I am prepared for that.

As far as conferencing, I already admitted that this is my weak point. A lot of my conferences are informal, off-the-cuff meetings with students.  However, I still keep track  of their reading and writing after these conversations.  I just don’t worry about conferencing as much as I should.  That’s one of my goals for this summer- read more about conferencing and figure out how to make it an integral part of my workshop.  Right now, my letter-essays do serve the same purpose as more formal conferences once a month, with my informal conversations taking place the rest of the month.


The Clique Summer Collection Giveaway!

It’s June, which means it’s my birthday month!  I’m kicking off my month of giveaways with an awesome  prize- the Clique Summer Collection!  Perfect beach reads, these are a huge hit with my students!

How do you win?  Comment below and tell me about the best summer of your life!  What made it so special?

How to Enter:

  • All you need to do is leave a comment on this post to enter, telling me about the best summer of your life. If you would make sure your email address is in the comment, that would make life easier for me. 
  • If you link to this giveaway in any way (on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) I will give you one extra entry for each link. Please leave a separate comment for each link, to make my life easier!
  • Open to US resident only (sorry!)
  • Contest ends Friday, June 19 at midnight Eastern Standard Time.


One (1) Grand Prize winner will receive:

The Clique: Summer Collection Series (5 books!)

    • The Clique Summer Collection: Massie
    • The Clique Summer Collection: Dylan
    • The Clique Summer Collection: Alicia
    • The Clique Summer Collection: Kristen
    • The Clique Summer Collection: Claire


The Pretty Committee is spending the summer apart, but they’re never far from drama… Five girls.  Five stories.  One ah-mazing summer. 

 The Clique Summer Collection: Massie 
Massie gets BE-yoo-tiful… 
After Massie Block gets kicked off her high horse and out of her ultra exclusive Westchester riding camp, her parents force her to do the unthinkable-find a summer job. Not one for dog-walking or brat-sitting, Massie comes up with the ah-bvious solution: She’ll be a sales rep for the cosmetics brand Be Pretty. Massie fully hearts her new role as fairy gawdmother of makeup-until she discovers transforming LBRs into glam-girls takes more than a swish of her royal purple mascara wand.  
The Clique Summer Collection: Dylan 
Game, Svet, Match… 
Dylan and her TV-host mom are off to Hawaii’s Aloha Tennis Open. While Merri-Lee interviews tennis’s wild child Svetlana “Tennis the Menace” Slootskyia, Dylan lets the tropical sun melt away the memory of getting dumped by two guys at the end of seventh grade. But between avocado mud masks and poolside naps, she falls in love with a preppy, tennis- obsessed hawtie. Dylan soon realizes the only way to score a date with him is to master the game. Can she convince moody Svetlana to spill the secrets of her tennis success, or will she end up oh-for-three in summer love? 
The Clique Summer Collection: Alicia
Alicia takes on Mission Spalfa: Spanish Alpha! Back in Spain to visit her relatives, Alicia discovers that Spain’s newest pop sensation ¡Ignacio! is searching for a true Spanish beauty to star in his new hit-single video. She can’t believe her luck! If Alicia is cast as a true Spanish beauty, Massie will never call her fake-Spanish again. The only trick: She’ll have to beat her super-bonita cousins to win the coveted spot. Adios, bimbos! 
The Clique Summer Collection: Kristen 
While the rest of the Pretty Committee have scattered across the globe, Kristen gets stuck spending her summer landlocked in Westchester. Just when she’s about to send an SOS to her friends to rescue her from her summer of boredom and solitude, she scores a job looking after hang-ten hawtie Dune Baxter’s younger sister, Ripple. Suddenly, Kristen goes from bored to board as she rides the wave of first love… 
The Clique Summer Collection: Claire 
Battle of the BFFs! 
Back in Orlando for the summer, Claire is reunited with her Florida best friends, Sarah, Sari, and Mandy, after a long year apart. Her FBFs haven’t changed at all. Too bad they think Claire has . . . and not for the better. Claire sets out to prove her loyalty by entering Kissimmee’s Miss Kiss pageant. But when a very special visitor shows up and vows to win the crown, Claire finds herself torn between Keds and couture. Will Claire finally kiss-immee her past goodbye-once and for all?


Find more information visit:


That’s right, you win all five books!  And they are so fun!

So tell me- what was the best summer of your life and why?


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