Success! (Follow-up to AR Frustrations)

Well, after venting about AR, I downloaded the list of AR tests our middle school owns.  I then went through the entire list, marking books that I thought would appeal to my former student.  I came up with a list of 10 or so books, each one worth at least 10 points.  I typed up recommendations and sent the email to my student (with crossed fingers!).  

She just emailed me back.  It was a success!  First of all, she can’t wait to read Wintergirls once she is done with her AR points. But in order to earn her 30 AR points, she will be reading Catherine, Called Birdy and Locked in Time. I just opened this email, which made me smile. 🙂

great choices! catherine called birdy im going to try and read along with locked in time! both books sound ahhhmazing!  thxs sooo much!

Crisis averted!  Plus a non-AR recommendation for later.  🙂


Slice of Life #17

When the alarm went off this morning, I jumped out of bed.  It’s my favorite holiday- St. Patrick’s Day!

After showering, I went out to the staircase railing and picked up the clothes I had laid out the night before.  To celebrate the holiday, my school had declared it “Green Day”.  I planned to go overboard, however.  Way overboard.  I have to represent for my heritage!  Especially as most of my students claim Italian, German, or French heritage.  

As I started pulling on my outfit, I laughed.  I could already picture my students’ reactions.  They were going to love it!

Denim skirt?  Check

White Gap favorite t?  Check

Green polo shirt?  Check

Black tights with embroidered shamrocks?  Check!

Sequined green shoes? (My version of Dorothy’s ruby red ones)?  Check!

Looking in the mirror, I was very happy with my ensemble.  Irish through and through!  But wait, what was that?  As I turned around,  I thought I saw a flash of skin in the reflection.  I turned my wrist, and there!  I hole in my white shirt!  My brand-new shirt!  It looked like the seam was never done up.  Great.  Glancing at the clock, I saw that I was already supposed to be downstairs, getting ready to leave.  I started to picture all of my basic t-shirts in my head, as I rushed to the bedroom.  What shirt could I change into?  It needed to be long-sleeved and match my Irish outfit.  

As I rifled through the drawer, I saw it.  My orange J. Crew painter’s tee.  Perfect!  I quickly took off the polo, threw the white tee into the hamper, and pulled the orange shirt over my head.  The polo went back on, and I checked myself out in the mirror.  Well, I was certainly in Irish colors now.  And I kinda liked it better than my original outfit!  There would be no doubts about my heritage today!

Slice of Life #16

I am a TV junkie.  So when I realized today was March 16th and finally time for a new episode of Gossip Girl, I was ecstatic!  All day, I kept reminding myself that I could look forward to a relaxing night with one of my favorite shows.

As 8pm approached, I put aside my Post-it highlighter and my copy of The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child.   I sat in my favorite spot on the couch, wearing my pajamas and my favorite bathrobe.  I propped up the pillows behind me and fumbled for the remote.  Two more minutes!  Inputting the HD channel, I hit the buttons on the remote for 711.  One minute!  Snuggling with the cat I made sure I had my laptop and cell phone, so that I could text my girlfriends as we watched (we love to make snide comments and send them to each other!).  

As the screen flashed to Blake Lively’s picture, I heard the opening lines….”Gossip girl here.”

Yes!  Settled in, I prepared for an hour of pure relaxation and silly, mindless fun.

Teachers College Reading & Writing Project Saturday Reunion

This Saturday I will be attending the Teacher’s College Reading & Writing Project Saturday Reunion.  The Saturday Reunions are two of my favorite days of the year…..and the best professional development!  I know that BestbookIhavenotread will be there….will you?


Slice of Life #15

While food shopping today, I was very excited because Edy’s ice cream was on sale at Acme for only $1.99 per carton.  Considering the regular price is usually around $6-$7, this was a great deal!  After picking up items at various stores, we made our way to Acme.  On the short drive there, I considered which flavor I wanted to get.  I’m a chocolate gal, so I knew it would be chocolate based.  But I also love peanut butter.  And fudge.  And the crazy flavors!  As I listed possible flavors in my head, my stomach started grumbling.  

We pulled into the parking lot and I still hadn’t made up my mind.  As we made our way to the frozen food aisles, I started getting excited.  There, on the endcap, were the remaining cartons of Edy’s.  I started to browse through them, pulling out the ones I wanted.  First it was chocolate fudge.  Then peanut butter explosion.  Or did I want sherbert?  The endcap freezer had already been rifled through by a lot of customers, so I decided to see if the normal ice cream aisles had any more flavors.

Boy, am I glad I did!  I had assumed that only the “regular” flavors were included in the sale, and not the premium flavors.  The premium flavors are rarely included in sale prices.  But when I opened the freezer doors, I found the Girl Scout cookie flavors with the $1.99 price tag!  Immediately, I grabbed a Thin Mints carton.  But then I saw the Tagalongs carton.  Which one did I want?!  While I debated, my fiance grabbed them both and said, “Just buy both of them.  You know you want them!”  He already had a carton of Strawberry Cheesecake in his hand.  

“You know this means we’ll have to do two separate orders, right? It’s limit two per customer,” I told him, as I balanced my two cartons.  

“I know.  We’ll just pay separately.  No way are you going to be able to decide between Tagalongs and Thin Mints,” he said with a smile.

He was right.  We made our way to the self-checkout and I held the freezing cartons in my arms, very excited about the delicious ice cream I would have for the next couple of weeks!

Accelerated Reader Frustrations

The middle school in my district uses Accelerated Reader.  Students are leveled and each level is responsible for attaining a specific number of points each marking period.  For example, Level A students might be responsible for 50 points, Level B for 35 points, and Level C for 15 points.  The district seems to own a select number of tests (and I’m sure it’s a large amount…’s just not every single test available ) and the students must choose their books based on the tests which are available, in order to receive the points they need.  Every so often I get an email from a former student asking for book recommendations, but each one ends with the same plea- “It has to be an AR book!”

This past week, I received one of these emails from a student.  At the beginning of last year, she was one of my most reluctant readers.  By the end of the school year, she was one of my most enthusiastic readers.  She loves Laurie Halse Anderson, Margaret Peterson Haddix, and Melissa Morgan.  She left school with big reading plans for summer vacation and I couldn’t have been prouder.  Last week she sent me an email asking for some recommendations.  I immediately recommended Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Every Soul A Star by Wendy Mass, and Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall by Wendy Mass.  I was thrilled when she emailed me back this weekend…..until I read the email.

the first book [Wintergirls] sounds ammmazing..there’s just one problem! it’s soo new its not an AR book and i only have 5 points and need 30! right now im reading daniels story..and i wanna read a child called it but, its not an ar book.

ARG!  I don’t even know how to respond to her!  She would LOVE Wintergirls. I know she would.  But it’s not an “AR book”.  So instead of reading the books she wants to read and is dying to read, she is forced to choose books off of a preconstructed list.  I am frustrated beyond belief.  How is this helping our kids become readers?  It only makes reading more of a “school mandated” activity that reaches into their independent reading.  My former student told me she doesn’t think she will be able to read any of the books I recommended until the summer, because she has to read her AR books.  And she has only enjoyed one book from the AR list this year.  It’s the most frustrating thing this Language Arts teacher has heard in a long time.

I am sure AR works great for some kids.  And I’m sure it gets some kids who never, ever read to pick up a book- because they are forced to.  But it is not creating readers.  And in some cases, it’s destroying the readers that I worked so hard to create.  With the money that is spent on programs like AR, the US could be funding classroom libraries for teachers, filled with new books and classics alike.  We could train teachers in reading workshop.  We could help create a generation of readers!  And the fact that we are losing this opportunity is heartbreaking.

Right now, I am reading an ARC of Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child (review coming soon)  If we could give every Reading, English, and Language Arts teacher a copy of her book, we could do more for our kids than any canned program ever will.  When will our Department of Education realize this?!

*Follow-up post found here.

Slice of Life #14

This morning I was very excited to attend the Bat Mitzvah service of a former student.  This would be my first Bat Mitzvah and I was relying on one of my co-workers to help me with the intricacies of the service.  She helped me decide what to wear and what time to arrive at the temple.  Thank goodness!

As I sat in the temple, watching my former student as she proudly read from the Torah, I couldn’t help but smile.  It’s amazing to become such a part of a student’s life that they want to include you in an event as important as their Bat Mitzvah.  My former student looked beautiful and so grown-up as she led the service today.   Her parents looked so proud as they wiped tears from their eyes.  When her father read his speech to her, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.  It was a gorgeous ceremony and I was so happy to be a part of it.

After the service, my co-worker and I made our way to the front of the room and waited to speak with our former student.  When she turned around and saw us, her face lit up.  “You came!  Thank you so much!” she said as she hugged us both tightly.  We congratulated her, told her she looked beautiful and so grown-up, and then let her get back to talking with her other guests.  As we left the temple, we couldn’t help but smile and comment on how grown-up she had become in such a short time.  It really was a beautiful morning!