English Companion Ning

If you aren’t already on the English Companion Ning, I can not recommend it enough.  I check the Ning everyday and love the conversations, groups, and blog postings that are shared by teachers all over the world.  The conversations in the forum are deep and thought-provoking.  At least a few times each week there is a posting that forces me to sit back and reflect on my own teaching and teaching practices.

In this age of PLC’s and PLN’s, the English Companion Ning is the ultimate personal learning network.  You can bounce ideas off of colleagues from different grade levels, different countries, and different specialties.

Not sure where to start?  Check out a few of these conversations:

Wait a Minute…Reading is Fun?!

As 3rd period filed into my classroom one of my students yelled from across the room, “Hey Ms. M.!  Reading is fun!  I had no idea!”

I laughed and asked him what he meant.

“Like, it’s awesome.  I never knew that before.  But last night I took out my book for my 20 minutes of reading and all of a sudden an hour went by.  I finished half the book last night!  It’s a really great book!  I never knew a book could be this good!”

Needless to say, I walked around with a huge smile all day.  This is why reading workshop works.  This is why requiring students to read every night, instead of filling out worksheets, works.

Oh, and the “awesome book” in question? Gone from These Woods by Donny Bailey Seagraves.

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Where have I been?  Ok, so I have an excuse- The Thief (The Queen’s Thief, Book 1) won a Newbery Honor when I was still in high school. At that point in my life, I was reading two genres- adult books and Harry Potter. (I know, I’ve regressed. I like kidlit and YA better!)

Two weeks ago I saw one of my avid fantasy readers deeply engrossed in The Thief (The Queen’s Thief, Book 1). I mentioned that I meant to read it at some point and he was shocked I hadn’t already read it, seeing as it was a Newbery and all. (My students think I have read every Newbery book. You know, because I teach language arts.) He promised to lend it to me when he finished. The next morning he walked off the bus, handed it to me, and said, “You need to read this now. it is better than whatever you are reading, I promise”. I took him up on his endorsement and set aside my current book.

WOW! How did I miss this one? The Thief (The Queen’s Thief, Book 1) is absolutely fantastic. It’s a high fantasy that sweeps you into its world on the first page. Gen is a thief and has landed himself in prison after bragging that he could steal anything, including the king’s seal. Then, the king’s magus recruits him for a the ultimate theft- stealing a mythological stone from a neighboring country. Gen thinks the whole think is a crock and waste of time, but he could use the help getting out of prison. I hesitate to say much more, lest I give away any of the intricate plot.

I loved Gen. He was annoying, sarcastic, a smart-aleck, and everything you should hate. Yet I adored him. He was so real. He reminded me of my students in some ways- completely sure of himself no matter what the situation. Self-assured and even cocky, he is a trickster and a liar. But he is also cunning and clever. The supporting characters are well-developed (though I wanted to get to know a few of them a little more). The world-building is wonderful and I felt like I was there for the whole adventure.

Plus, there are some great plot twists. As I read in the last 25 pages in reading workshop, the book owner kept sneaking up to my desk and whispering, “Did you get to the big surprise yet? Did anything especially interesting happen yet?” Periodically he would grab the book, flip a few pages, and groan that I hadn’t yet reached the big reveal. Talk about fantastic writing!

Needless to say, I am dying to read the remaining books in the series now. They are already on my wish list.

Hot Books in My Middle School Classroom

It’s time for another round of “Hot Books in My Middle School Classroom”! This is a meme I put together every few weeks/months where I share what my 6th graders are sharing and reading lately during reading.

My girls are romantics this year. Because of this, there are four copies of Nicholas Sparks’s Dear John being passed from one teary-eyed girl to the next. I don’t have any copies in my classroom library so those four girls went out and bought their own copies which they have now been passing on to their friends. Every few days I see it on another desk. And I love looking up during Reading Workshop to see one of my readers wiping tears from her eyes. How can you read Sparks and not cry!?

I have a lot of Gordon Korman fans in my classes this year, so when Scholastic offered The Toilet Paper Tigers earlier this year, they jumped on it! They have been comparing it to the movie “Bad News Bears” and giving it rave reviews. Gordon Korman can do no wrong in my eyes so I’m thrilled that this has been reissued for my students to enjoy.

The first two Cinderella Cleaners books were packaged together in the last Scholastic order and they caught the attention of a few students. There were a few orders placed and one student already started reading the first one. She is giving it rave reviews and recommending the series to her friends.

Mike Lupica’s Million-Dollar Throw is making its way from student to student and they are telling me I have to read it. One student called it Lupica’s best book yet. That’s a pretty ringing endorsement, I’d say!

And the most popular book of all right now? The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians). It crosses all genres, reading levels, and cliques. My kids can not put Percy down and I am thrilled! It means I can’t use The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians) as a read aloud this year, but I think that’s a pretty ok reason. I’m fine with the fact that at least half my students have read or are reading the books!

So what books are popular in your class right now?

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