NJEA Conference

I just came home from the annual NJEA convention in Atlantic City. What a fun day! This is the first time I have attended the convention, but I am adding it to my list for next year.

I drove down for the day, so I didn’t have time to attend any professional development workshops. Next year, I will definitely check out a few. They are all 2 hours long, so they just didn’t fit in with my schedule today. But I read over the list and there were some awesome workshops and presenters!

I did end up with a ton of free stuff. I still need to sort through it, but I received a lot of info for future field trips, which is great. I also got some samples from Prentice Hall. I have a sample of a new vocabulary program and a new reading program. I picked up a new Ticondergoga “comfortable” pencil and I can not wait ot try it out. It’s one of those triangular pencils that are supposed to be better for your fingers and hands. I stopped by the EIRC display area and got to see Erik and some other MTN teachers, which was great. Picked up a new MTN “Got Milkweed” bumper sticker and a new bookmark. Both items are hot off the presses and they are great! Of course, I entered a ton of contests so maybe I will be lucky and win one!

I also ran to the outlets while I was in AC, because they were only a block away. Needless to say, I now have to add another store to the list of places I would spend all my money. The store in question is the Borders outlet. I picked up 2 moleskine notebooks for $2.99 each, which is amazing. Moleskines are my notebook of choice for writing, so that was a good find. I also bought a GIS book for Chris, to add to his collection. I found “The Other Boleyn Girl” for $5.99, Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Twisted, “Searching for Snow”, and a new Darren Shan book. My kids will be thrilled, because they are loving Darren Shan right now.

Oh, and the most exciting? I met Walter Dean Myers and got a copy of “145th St. Stories” signed by him! He was extremely nice and talked with every teacher he signed for. He told us that no matter what he writes and thinks he focuses on, the kids always focus on what’s important to them. For example, he wrote “Hoops” as a basketball story and ‘boy’ book. Yet he always has kids telling him they love the book about the friends, “you know, that one! With the two friends!”. Yet he said, that’s what is important. It’s what the reader gets from the book, not just what the author wants them to get. Meeting him really was amazing. (Thanks to BMI for bringing him down to the convention and giving the teachers in attendance free copies of his book!)

Next on my list? I want to figure out a way to get to the Teaching and Learning Celebration in NYC in March. Jane Goodall, Jean-Michael Cousteau, Ann Curry, and more are going to be presenting! It’s awfully expensive, considering I would be paying for it myself. But it sounds so worth it!

WN Wednesday Entry

Today’s theme for Writer’s Notebook Entry (as taken from Two Writing Teachers) is: Who has changed your life? What person or people have made such a huge impact on your life that they’ve changed the course of it for you?

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Many people have changed my life over the course of the last 24 years. I sat down and tried to choose one to write about and realized I couldn’t do that without feeling like I was leaving someone out. Instead, I decided to take the topic in a new direction.

My life, both personal and professional, was changed 3 years ago when I entered my cooperating teacher’s classroom for my first practicum. Her classroom was full of monarch butterflies. They decorated the walls, windows, ceiling, bulletin boards, bookshelves, and desks. Monarchs at all stages of the life cycle were present in her room that day- eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises, and adults. To be frank, I thought it was a little crazy.

Over the course of the next few months, I slowly learned about monarch butterflies. I watched as the third-graders in my charge watched, wide-eyed, as an adult emerged from its chrysalis for the first time. I saw the wonder and amazement in their eyes as they saw their caterpillars metamorphosize in their classroom. I joined them as they waved goodbye to the adult monarchs at their butterfly release. I was amazed by their knowledge and expertise when they gave tours of the classroom or explained their classroom pets to visitors. They truly were “monarch experts”.

For the next year I was back and forth in that classroom, eventually doing my own student teaching there. Throughout this time, Sue encouraged me to take the workshop which inspired her- Teaching and Learning with Monarch Butterflies. I always managed to put it off due to work or school commitments, telling myself that I had already learned everything I needed to know in that classroom. Finally, I managed to squeeze the 3-day workshop into my schedule.

Those 3 days were the most powerful in my short teaching career. The friends and colleagues I met inspired me creatively, professionally, and personally. Since then, I have raised monarchs every spring and summer. Monarchs are my classroom in the fall, and this year they are the theme of my classroom. The power and strength of this tiny insect, less than 3 inches wide, is awe-inspiring. As I tell my students, if this tiny butterfly with fragile wings can migrate 2000 miles to forest that its great-great-great grandparents left in the previous spring, then we can do anything.

This winter, I will finally be traveling to Mexico to visit the over-wintering grounds of the monarch butterfly, in the Transvolcanic Mountains of Mexico. I fully expect to be a different person when I return. So while the monarchs themselves aren’t a “person”, they have made me the teacher, global citizen, and human being that I am today.

Cybils Nominations

Don’t forget to add your nominations for the Cybils! Nominations are open until November 21st!

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Fantasy and Science Fiction

Fiction Picture Books

Graphic Novels

Middle Grade Fiction

Nonfiction: Middle Grade and Young Adult

Nonfiction Picture Books

Poetry

Young Adult Fiction

Be sure to enter your nominations! I love the Cybils….besides giving me a great “to be read list” just by looking at the nominations, I think it is amazing that the kidlitosphere can come together to honor the best books if the year. :)

Window shopping

Am I the only one who window shops online? For the past two days, I have been filling, emptying, and refilling my carts on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com. Amazon is running their 4-for-3 promo and I am dying for some new books. However, I never order from Amazon without trying the same order at BN, to compare the final price. So far, I am coming up pretty even on most of my combinations for both sites. The problem is, I can’t pull the trigger!

I wish books weren’t so expensive. Although, I would have a house even more full than I do right now, if that were the case. Anyway, these are the books I am considering: Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes(thanks to a review on Mentor Texts), The Secret Under My Skin by Janet Mcnaughton, Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson, The Periodic Table by Adrian Dingle (thanks to a mention in the Cybils nominations!), and Shug by Jenny Han.

All of these books have been reviewed in the kidlitosphere and have caught my eye over the past month or so. Of course, I can’t seem to commit to buying them! Part of the problem is that I just received my invitation to the Holiday Scholastic Warehouse Sale. I know I will spend a good amount of money at the warehouse sale, so it’s hard to convince myself to buy new books before then! At the same time, I know that neither the warehouse sale nor the monthly book clubs will carry newer books for a few more months. I need to figure out how to get ARCS…..that would save me a lot of money!!!!!! It would also make it easier to let my students read and review new books (something they LOVE to do). Well, there’s another thing to add to my to-do list. :)

Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery by John Feinstein

This book has been on my “to be read” pile since I picked it up at a Scholastic Warehouse sale last May. To be honest, I think I didn’t pick it up before now because the cover art is a little boring and muted. Yes, I admit it- I tend to judge books by their covers!

In Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery, Steve and Susan, 13 year old aspiring sports writers, win a national sportswriting contest. As a part of their prize, they are invited to cover the Final Four as a press. This is a dream come true for both teens, who get to work as press for the duration of the event; attending closed practices, press conferences, and locker room interviews. While exploring the Superdome, they manage to get lost in an out-of-the-way part of the dome. They are excited when they see the media darlings, MSU, arrive through a back entrance. However, their excitement turns to anger and fear when they overhear a mysterious man threatening Chip Graber, star of the MSU team. The book follows their adventures as they try to expose the blackmailers who are trying to force Chip to throw the championship game.

I really enjoyed this book. I can picture the student this book will appeal to- there are more than a handful in my own class! Athletic students or sports fans will eat this book up. The book is full of real sports writers and commentators, including Dick Vitale. The story is peppered with ESPN references, NCAA guidelines, and ripped from the headlines subplots. I think this story would appeal to those who love sports stories and those who love mysteries. I have to say, I liked this book more than the Mike Lupica books I have read- the sports just seemed more “real”. I also like that Susan and Steve are in two more books by Feinstein, called “Vanishing Act: Mystery at the US Open” and “Cover-up: Mystery at the Super Bowl“. Series always hook my more reluctant readers and I am thrilled to find a good series! I am a little apprehensive about how realistic the series will be (come on, how many scandals and mysteries can a duo of teen sports writers stumble on at major sporting events?), but I will be sure to give them a shot.

Top Ten Picture Books

After reading this post over at the Seattle Post Intelligencer blog, I decided to make my own list of top ten picture books. My criteria range from my own personal favorites to those that I love to use in writing workshop.

Top Ten (in no particular order)

The Lorax (Classic Seuss) by Dr. Seuss

Night in the Country by Cynthia Rylant

17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymoreby Jenny Offill

Don’t Laugh at Me (Reading Rainbow Book) by Steve Seskin, Allen Shamblin, and Glin Dibley

Hurry and the Monarch by Antoine O Flatharta

Nothing Ever Happens On 90th Street by Roni Schotter and Krysten Brooker

A Chair for My Mother 25th Anniversary Edition (Reading Rainbow Book) by Vera B. Williams

The Journey: Stories Of Migration by Cynthia Rylant

Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz

Wow, what a variety! I never realized my choices of picture books runs such a gamut of topics and authors. So let me see your lists!

Madeline L’Engle

I love this quote:

“A book, too, can be a star, ‘explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly’, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.”
~Madeleine L’Engle

Poetry Friday

I haven’t participated in Poetry Friday yet, but here goes!

I am a huge fan of e.e. cummings. This is my favorite poem by him.

you shall above all things be glad and young.
For if you’re young,whatever life you wear

it will become you;and if you are glad
whatever’s living will yourself become.
Girlboys may nothing more than boygirls need:
i can entirely her only love

whose any mystery makes every man’s
flesh put space on;and his mind take off time

that you should ever think,may god forbid
and(in his mercy)your true lover spare:
for that way knowledge lies,the foetal grave
called progress,and negation’s dead undoom.

I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance

That last line has become a mantra for me, words to live by.

YWP NaNoWriMo

Today we started our novels in class!

We began by really pumping up the idea of writing an entire novel. The kids have been dying to write fiction, so I have been building up the idea of writing a novel. I handed out their YWP NaNoWriMo workbooks, printed off the NaNoWriMo website. I combined the elementary and middle school workbooks, making one perfect 6th grade book. Today we did our contracts (the kids LOVED them), magna cartas, and worked on first lines. When I finally handed out their official novel notebooks, the kids were completely ecstatic! They got to work “write” away. By the time we went to lunch, the kids were bragging to all their friends that they were writing novels.

I walked around while they were writing. Nothing they were writing would even be classified as half-way decent, but that’s the point of NaNoWriMo. Quantity over quality. They know I am collecting their completed workbooks for a grade and they in December they will be choosing 2-4 pgs of their novel to revise, edit, and hand in for a grade. Hopefully, we will find some gems in their 10,000 words! (10,000 words was the individual goal we decided on as a class).

We’re off to the races! I will be sure to keep you updated on our progress. We should be good next week- it’s week #2 that will be hard!

In other news, I haven’t started my own NaNoWriMo. I’ve got a terrible case of writer’s block. Blah!!

Miley Cyrus?

I am slowly morphing into a 6th grader……I have been listening to Miley Cyrus’ latest single on repeat for almost 30 minutes. This is what happens when you are around 12 year olds all day! (For those wondering, the song is “See You Again”).

Tomorrow we start NaNoWriMo in class. I have run off 38 copies of the Young Writer’s Workbook (much to the chagrin of everyone else waiting for the copier this afternoon!), picked up 38 composition books, and teased my kids with the promise of an awesome project for November. I think we will be aiming to 10,000 words written by the end of November. Or we will make it our goal to fill out the composition books we start. I also plan to write alongside the kids, because I know how hard NaNoWriMo is and I want them to see that I will also struggle, but that I will battle through and reach the goal! (Notice the positive thinking here….hehe).

Tomorrow we will begin by signing our “contracts”, beginning our workbooks, and doing our first writing. We’re off to the races!!

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