Bye bye Apostrophe?

According to this article from the Associated Press, one city in England is doing away with apostrophes on their street signs!  Now, I am a bit torn on the issue.  Apostrophes are obviously important in grammar.  But the streets they denote today no longer “belong” to those they are named after, if they even did in the first place.  So are they really showing ownership/possession, or are they just there because we are used to them?

However, I do think that if they drop the apostrophes they also need to drop the “s” at the end of each word, too.  Otherwise, they are just pluralizing everything!

 

Thoughts?

Poetry Friday

This week I altered a lesson from Comprehension Connections: Bridges to Strategic Reading by Tanny McGregor to practice with our schema. The lesson involved listening to a song, reading the lyrics, and jotting our text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections on a graphic organizer. I had never heard the song before but I loved it and wanted to share a bit.

Rachel Delevoryas

(Randy Stonehill, from Wonderama [Stonehillian/Word, 1992])

Rachel Delevoryas

With her thick eye glasses and her plain Jane face

Sat beside me in my fifth grade class

Looking so terribly out of place

Rachel played the violin

And classical music was out of style

She couldn’t control all her wild brown hair

Her nervous laughter and her awkward smile and

CHORUS • It was clear that she’d never be one of us

With her dowdy clothes

And her violin

And a name like Rachel Delevoryas

 

Read the rest here.

Adios Oscar! A Butterfly Fable by Peter Elwell

Anytime I see a new monarch butterfly book I get excited, so when I received a review copy of Adios, Oscar!: A Butterfly Fable from Scholastic, I was very happy. Even better? This isn’t your typical monarch migration story. It’s a new twist on the topic and it is great!

Oscar is a caterpillar who lives on a plant near a window. One day a monarch butterfly named Bob happens upon his plant. Bob is in an awful rush and tells Oscar to look him up when he gets to Mexico someday. Well, Oscar is just enamored with Bob, his gorgeous orange-and-black wings, and this talk of Mexico. When a bookworm named Edna decides to help Oscar learn about Mexico in preparation for his journey, he is ecstatic. Soon it is time for him to go into his pupa phase before emerging as a butterfly.

Or so he thinks.

Oscar is heartbroken when he emerges from his cocoon and discovers he has short grey wings instead of the gorgeous orange-and-black ones he anticipated. And instead of the urge to fly to Mexico, he has the urge to eat sweaters! And fly around a light! Oscar’s friends all mock him for the time he spent learning Spanish and Mexican culture, and he is heartbroken. But that all changes when he finds a note Edna left behind for him.

I loved this fable about a moth who believes he can do anything, even fly 2000 miles to Mexico. And Elwell sprinkles Spanish phrases throughout the book. He also includes an afterword with some information on monarchs and moths and the differences between the two. The illustrations are also adorable, in a great cartoon style. I can’t wait to share this with my class and the Monarch Teacher Network!

Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka

I was going to do a formal review of Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka this weekend. But then I booktalked it to both classes yesterday. And I haven’t seen it since!

Perhaps this is even better than a formal review. :) When I read a few chapters aloud to my students, they were literally in hysterics. There were shouts of, “I’ve done that!” and “My mom would flip out if she knew I did this stuff, too!”. It especially seemed to connect with boys but I had quite a few girls ask to get on the waiting list, too. Thank goodness our librarian just got her copy of Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka in this week, because I know about 20 6th graders who are going to be fighting for that copy, too!

This is a fantastic book for reluctant readers and readaholics. And for anyone who has grown up with younger brothers and sisters and done all of those things your mom would die over if she found out about. I am the oldest of six and felt like I was reading about my own life, especially when Jon talked about his adventures in Catholic school and adopting “Pagan babies” in Africa. If you don’t have this one in your classroom library, you need it!

Garden State Teacher Awards Program

Do you know a teacher in NJ who rocks?  From the NJEA:

We feel that excellent teachers are not receiving adequate recognition for their important contribution to society. The Teachers Who Rock program will recognize 24 outstanding teachers to receive this prestigious award. These teachers become lifetime members of the Teachers Who Rock Class. 

Check out the website!  Nomination forms are found on the radio stations’ websites listed on the NJEA website.  It looks like each radio station is focused on a separate part of the state (one of my favorite radio stations has the nomination form here).  The information is buried on each station’s site, so it took me a little bit to find the forms on each one.  Look around for an ad that asks “Do You Know a Teacher Who Rocks?”

Tonight PBS will be airing a documentary on NOVA that follows the monarch butterflies to their overwintering grounds in Mexico. Last February I was extremely privileged to visit the sanctuaries in Michoacan and it was a life-changing experience. The NOVA website has a wonderful page dedicated to The Incredible Journey of the Monarch Butterfly. It will air at 8pm tonight. I highly recommend taking a look at it!

Books I am Looking Forward to Reading in 2009

I’ve been so caught up in the awards bonanza of late that I realized we are almost out of January and I haven’t posted the books I am looking forward to reading this year.  This is by no means a complete list, but just a few that caught my eye from publisher’s previews, blog reading, and reviews!

  • A Butterfly Fable (Adios Oscar!) by Peter Elwell- A monarch butterfly book? Count me in!
  • Being Nikki (Airhead) by Meg Cabot- I loved AIRHEAD so I am really looking forward to this sequel!
  • Yes, I Know the Monkey Man by Dori Hillestad Butler- I saw this at a publisher’s preview and it sounded like a great mystery. A daughter who believes her mother and twin sister are dead when they really are not? Sounds awesome!
  • Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci- As a self-professed and proud geek, I can not wait to get my hands on this collection of geeky stories from some of the greatest in YA writing!
  • The Enemy by Davide Cali- The sample F&G I saw of this book was so powerful that I wanted to take it home and share it with my class immediately. This fable is about two lonely soldiers facing each other across a barren battlefield. What each discovers, as the story unfolds, is that the enemy is not a faceless beast, but rather a real person with family, friends, and dreams.
  • The Beef Princess of Practical County by Michelle Houts- This is the Delacorte Press MG Fiction contest winner. It’s the story of a small town girl raising steers for the county fair. When she becomes attached to them, despite their eventual fate of being sold to the slaughterhouse, problems arise.
  • The Anatomy of Wings by Karen Foxlee- This Australian import was compared to THE LOVELY BONES and VIRGIN SUICIDES.
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan- We all know how much I love my apocalyptic survival stories.
  • Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner- Another apocalyptic tale. This one blurbed by Jane Yolen!
  • My Life in Pink & Green by Lisa Greenwald- A Class of 2k9 debut that really caught my eye.
  • A Mirror to Nature: Poems About Reflection by Jane Yolen and Jason Stemple- Yolen’s poetry is some of my favorite writing. I can’t wait to read this!
  • Emma Jean Lazarus Fell in Love by Lauren Tarshis- Emma-Jean was my favorite character from 2007. I had no idea Tarshis was writing a follow-up until I saw a preview in the publisher’s catalog! I can’t wait to get my hands on this!
  • Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson- You could tell me that Anderson was rewriting the phone book and I would read it. Can’t wait to read her latest YA!
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins- Not due out until September, I am dying to scoop up an ARC at BEA this spring. I have been waiting to find out what happened to Katniss since the end of The Hunger Games!
  • Soul Enchilada by David Macinnis Gill- Ever since traveling to Mexico I have been fascinated by the Dia de los Muertos.
  • Percy Jackson & the Olympians: Book 5: The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians) by Rick Riordan- I love Percy and am excited to see the conclusion of this hysterical series.
  • Shades of Grey: A Novel by Jasper Fforde- I don’t remember who first mentioned this on their blog, but it immediately went on my Amazon wishlist. The summary reminds me a bit of THE GIVER, so I am looking forward to reading it.
  • Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems by Georgia Heard- My inspiration when it comes to poetry, Georgia Heard really connects with kids.

 

This is just a sampling of some of the books I want to read this year, and mostly for the next season. What are you looking forward to reading in 2009?

ALA Youth Media Awards (Or, I Read the Newbery!)

While watching the ALA webcast live today, my class kept laughing at me.  I would call out my predictions as the awards were introduced- for the awards besides the Newbery because I shared those predictions with them on Friday.  Of course, I was wrong more than I was right- but the kids didn’t care.  They thought it was hysterical that I yelled “Mo Willems!” before the Geisel Award was announced, and I was right.  I was wrong about the Morris Award (I predicted Graceling would get it).  I predicted one of the Caldecott honors (A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams), because I am a huge William Carlos Williams fan.  

 

And then we got to the big award- the Newbery.  The kids were on the edge of their seat.  And so was I!

2009 Newbery Award Winner:
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman- I got this one in just under the wire! But I did love it. My review gives more information on my thoughts.

I do think this will be a popular winner.  It’s creepy, well-written, suspenseful, and oozing with kid appeal.  My students haven’t read it yet and I am contemplating making it a read-aloud in the coming weeks.  But I already know they will love it. I think the committee did a great job with this one!

 

2009 Newbery Honor Books:

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt- YES YES YES YES! I was so afraid this would get shut out because it seems to be a “love it or hate it” book. When the announcement was made, I literally jumped into the air and so did my students. We were so excited! For those who think this isn’t a kid-friendly book, I say fie on you! It makes kids think and treats them like adults. While my students might not have picked it up on their own, they loved it as a read-aloud. This book screams to be read-aloud and shared. Yay Kathi Appelt!

Savvy by Ingrid Law- I own this one. Does that count? I never made it a priority to finish reading it, but now I will. And another bonafide fantasy? Kudos to the committee!

After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson- I haven’t read this one, and I don’t own it. But I ordered it tonight.

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarite Engle- And this one came out of nowhere for me. I hadn’t seen it on any Mock Newbery lists. But isn’t that what makes the Newbery great? I can’t wait to pick it up!

 

I will admit, my class and I were shocked at the exclusion of Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. That was a heavy favorite in my two classes. And I had more than a handful of students who were upset that Diamond Willow by Helen Frost was left out, too. But all in all, I am thrilled with the list!  And the reaction of my kids as The Underneath  was announced was absolutely priceless.  Talk about being engaged with their reading!  And when Gaiman’s book was announced as the winner, there was a chorus of, “You read that, Miss M.!”  and “Wow!  They decided it was eligible!” (we had talked about the eligibility issues in our Newbery unit).  

Congratulations to all of the winning authors today and the amazing committees!  

 

 

*And to complete my bragging, I read and loved The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks back in the spring. And I own The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves, both Printz Honor Books. :)

 


Class Newbery Watching and Reaction

(Stay tuned for my personal reactions to the awards today).

At 10am, my students walked out of Spanish class and into the library.  The librarian and I had been trying to get the webcast to work and were at that point desperately watching the mouse move around the screen as our computer tech managed a quick installation from the other end, which would hopefully allow us to watch.  My cell phone kept buzzing as it received Tweets about the Alex Awards.

Right in time for the second award to be announced, the webcast worked!  We all gathered around the laptop, too afraid to set up the projector in case we interrupted the connection and dropped the announcements.  My phone continued buzzing, as my tweets were bout 30 seconds ahead of the announcements.  We were thrilled when Laurie Halse Anderson won the Edwards Award, excited when i predicted the Geisel and one Caldecott Honor, and on the edge of our seats for the Newbery announcements.

 

Below, our reaction to the announcement that The Underneath won an Honor!
cimg3374

(They almost immediately begged me to send a congratulatory email to Kathi Appelt, so I obviously obliged!)

 

cimg3375(Please laugh at my hysterically excited reaction to THE UNDERNEATH)

Welcome, Kelly Gallagher!

Kelly Gallagher, author of the upcoming Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It (available to read online here), has been on a blog tour all week.  Today I am thrilled to introduce him here, at TheReadingZone!  For the past few days, Kelly has been answering questions posed by you, the readers.  I am thrilled to include his responses here!

From Ann- As a teacher, what can I do about programs like Accelerated Reader? How do I keep my job (as an untenured teacher) but still instill that passion for reading in my students?

 

The key word in the question is “untenured.”  :) The good news is that AR
allows students to read real books…and good books, too. The bad news is
that the love of reading is undermined by the dumb quizzes and the quest for
points. I would explore ways of using the books but reducing the quizzes and
point grubbing (See McQuillan’s study in Readicide). Read Alfie Kohn¹s
Punished By Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes—great book.

After you are tenured, close the door and do what you think is best for your
kids. Take a more active stance. Educate others on the long-term
de-motivation caused by  ³carrot² programs. Model, model, model. Surround
kids with great books.

 

From Clix- Oh! I’d want to know if he has a blog ;)

I don’t, but I do have a website, www.kellygallagher.org

 

From Lisa: I have been flipping through and reading over at The Tempered Radical. I guess my big question is how do we help them love reading AND do well on the test. Obviously we have to care about the test whether we actually care about it or not. : ) I have my own ideas on this subject, but would like to hear his.

If you turn students into readers, they will do fine on the tests. There is
a direct and strong correlation between time spent reading and performance
on mandated reading tests. Not surprisingly, students who do the most
reading are the students who score highest. Conversely, students who do the
least amount of reading frequently score the lowest. If we want our students
to score higher, they have to read more. Incidentally, I have not had a
single student in over 20 years of teaching who was a non-reader and who
also scored high on the verbal section of the SAT. Not one. On the other
hand, I can pretty much predict which of my students will score well on the
exam before they take it. You guessed it: the readers.

 

It seems that reward programs for reading are all the rage now- from AR (Accelerated Reader) to Scholastic’s Read 180. How does a teacher work with these mandated programs when the district is unable to purchase more than a few dozen tests? In other words, when students must complete reward programs but can only choose books from a small, preselected list (that often includes more classics than anything else!), how does a teacher continue “the good fight”?

 

The best thing about AR is that it gets kids to read good books. The worst
thing about AR is it ties all reading to a stupid reward system‹a system
that teaches students to read because they can earn points (instead of
reading because of the value of reading itself). I believe this harms young
readers. Many studies have shown that reward systems like AR actually
decrease reading motivation once the ³treatment² is finished.
If your administration forces you to use the program, try to get them to
change their minds. I think the first thing teachers can do is challenge the
school¹s decision to use the program. Ask to see justification‹studies that
indicate that there is a long-term benefit from using the program. Share the
McQuillan study (and others) cited in Readicide. Ask administrators what we
are really teaching kids about reading when we tie all their reading
activity to earning points from shallow multiple-choice assessments.
Worst case scenario: do everything possible to augment your classroom
library. In Reading Reasons I discuss a number of ways one can build a
classroom library without breaking the bank.


As soon as I hear back from Kelly, I will update with his responses.  But what do you think of Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It? I have been recommending it to everyone I know and I think this is one of those books that will change the culture of our schools. It may start small, but people are going to be talking about this one! I absolutely agree with Kelly and his assessment of reading in our schools. See my review here.
Thanks goes out to Kelly Gallagher, as well to as the teachers who submitted questions. I appreciate Mr. Gallagher including TheReadingZone on his blog tour and wish him well as he continues his tour!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,593 other followers