iPad, uPad- Why I, a Teacher, love my iPad

I got the best birthday gift ever this year.  My husband bought me a 32GB wireless Apple iPad!  I was floored when I opened the box. Just a few days earlier I had finally started to consider getting an e-reader.  (I love my paper books.  I was very anti-e-reader. Still prefer my paper books).  I had watched many of my students start using e-readers in school and I was attracted to the ease of carrying more than one book when I travel.  I read very quickly and when I travel I need to bring a huge pile of books.  The airlines are not a big fan of that. I had decided on a Nook (which I still highly recommend!) so I did not expect to get an iPad!

It’s been about two months now, and I know some people are interested in my thoughts.  I absolutely love, love, love my iPad. It’s been a life changer for me.  First, I use it a lot as an e-reader.  I still prefer to read paper and ink books, but the iPad is awfully convenient.  While I can’t add the books in my iPad to my classroom library (like I do with all my paper and ink books), it has been a great way to read more adult books.  I tend to buy all YA and middle grade books because I can use them in my classroom library.  Otherwise, I would have so many books that I would end up living in a house made of books, and that would probably be dangerous.  I can just see myself grabbing a book that catches my eye and just knocking everything down.  Bye bye kitchen!  Anyway, back on the subject- it’s great to have an e-reader because I can read adult books and not worry about what to do with them afterwards.

I can also carry lots of books around at once. When I finish one book I can immediately begin another one.  This is very convenient.  As I said before, I read quickly and I hate getting stuck without another book after I finish one.  I also love that I can carry books around everywhere I go.  I find myself reading at the dog park, at lunch, waiting to meet up with friends, at the beach, in the car, and in waiting rooms.  I am reading even more than I already was.

Now, the iPad isn’t perfect as an e-reader.  The biggest issue I have is the glare.  The screen has a big glare whenever I read outside.  I make sure I read in the shade, and I use the Apple iPad case (that protects the iPad) as a sort-of shield and that helps a lot.  I also changed the iPad’s settings so that the screen isn’t as bright and the background of the pages is a yellowish color instead of bright white.  I haven’t had a single situation where I haven’t been able to read due to glare.  It just takes some juggling sometimes.

I don’t just use the iPad as an e-reader, though.  That’s the beauty of the iPad- you can do so much with it!  I find myself downloading new apps everyday.  I have an amazing Astronomy app that helps me locate constellations and planets.  I love downloading the newspaper and my pictures.  Most recently I downloaded Flipboard after hearing an interview with the developer on NPR.  Flipboard is a personalized magazine using your social networking contacts.  It takes links, photos, and updates that your friends post on Twitter and Facebook and puts them into a magazine layout.  It’s clean, crisp, and looks just like an issue of your favorite magazine.  I can’t recommend it enough!

I have been doing some research into using the iPad in the classroom and I am brainstorming ways I might use it.  One idea I have is to use it during conferencing to take notes (with a stylus).  The iPad could serve as my notebook with notes uploaded every time I sync.  Do you have an iPad?  How do you use (or plan to use it) in the classroom?


Pretty Little Liars Series (Books #1 and #2) by Sara Shepard

I’ve had students begging me to read this series for the past few years.  For some reason, I never got around to it.  (Not sure how I feel about 6th graders reading it, but their parents bought them!)  When I saw that ABC Family was making the series into a TV show, I decided to read them this summer.  So far I have read the first two in the series, Pretty Little Liars and Pretty Little Liars #2: Flawless.  I have to admit- they are addicting!  No one would ever accuse them of being high-brow literature, but they are certainly fun.  Like a cross between Desperate Housewives, Mean Girls, Law & Order, The Real Housewives, and I Know What You Did Last Summer, they are pure fluff and brain candy.  Even a little trashy.  But I found myself furiously turning the pages!

In the quiet suburb of Rosewood, Pennsylvania there are 5 best friends.  Ali, the ringleader, brought them all together in middle school.  Inseparable, they rule the school until suddenly Ali disappears.  One minute she is there, the next the police are mking pleas for her return on TV.  Hanna, Spencer, Aria, and Emily are in the midst of it all. Right before 7th grade begins, the girls are thrust into a manhunt.  But now the years have passed, Ali has never been found, and the girls have all drifted apart.

Then, each girl starts receiving IMs, notes, and text messages from someone named “A”. This person knows secrets, things about each girl that no one else knows.  No one except Ali.  Ali, who they have each realized was manipulative and powerful, knew the deepest and darkest secret of every girl. So who could be sending these messages? And why are they threatening to spill the secrets?

Drawn together again, the girls slowly begin to rebuild a very fragile friendship. While the story is fluff and a little over-the-top, I think a lot of teens (and adult women!) will recognize themselves and their own friends in story.  We all grow up and grow apart, while wishing it wasn’t happening.  Shepard’s characters are realistic and the more you read the more you begin to understand why they are the way they are. Each girl looks like she lives the perfect life, when the reality is very different.

Like I said, these are very quick reads.  I flew through the first two books and look forward to finishing the series.  I can see why ABC Family picked this up a series- it makes for great TV.  (Appropriate for teens)

*my own copy used for review

My 40-Book Challenge

I have received a lot of comments asking me about my 40-book challenge.  I plan to use it again this year, with a few modifications, for my freshmen and seniors.  I can’t take credit for this idea at all- that goes to the incomparable Donalyn Miller.  Donalyn, the “Book Whisperer” has a fantastic professional resource that every English teacher should own. In The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child, Donalyn discusses her 40-book challenge, in which she challenges each student she teaches to read at least 40 books over the course of the school year.  I took this idea and made a few adaptations to use it in my classroom this past year.

I drew up a document that had a table on it, with a variety of genres.  Looking back over my classes for the past few years, I decided how many books in each genre the students would be responsible for reading.  I want them to have choice but also wanted to guide them towards books they might not otherwise pick up.  The genre requirements are something I would probably change every year to best fit each class.  To give a few examples, I required 3 historical fiction books, 5 fantasy, 3 science-fiction, and so on.  The largest percentage were realistic fiction because it was the perennial favorite in 6th grade.  I also left 10 books open to free choice of any genre.  While the students moaned and groaned a bit, I think the genre requirements were very helpful.  They didn’t hold any students back but they also helped more reluctant readers because they provided guidance.

Now, when I hand out the requirements there is a stunned silence in each period.  Most of my students freely admit that they may have read 3-4 books the previous year, so 40 books sounds like an insurmountable amount.  However, I just tell them that I have complete faith in them and I know they can do it.  If they ask what happens if they don’t read 40 books, I just tell them that isn’t an option.  And that as long as they are always reading when we read in class and they do their reading at home, they will be fine.  I do explain it a little differently to parents, though.  I tell them that even if a student doesn’t complete 40 books, the goal is to read more than they did the year before and to increase their skills.  More importantly, it increases their enjoyment of reading because the 40-book requirement helps them find something they do like!  But I ask the parents not to tell their kids that it’s “ok” not to read 40 books.  If they think they don’t have to, many won’t!  The challenge holds them to a high standard and I like that.

Did all my students complete 40 books?  No.  Did they read a lot more than they did in the past and become more passionate readers?  Absolutely!

Sailing Away…

I am leaving in a few hours for my honeymoon!  I will be sailing on the Norwegian Epic (our first cruise!) and spending some time in Florida.  I can’t wait to snorkel in Roatan, visit Mayan ruins in Costa Maya, and swim with dolphins in Cozumel.  It should be amazing!  The blog has a few posts scheduled to go up, but I won’t be tweeting or responding to comments/emails until I get back!

Winner of Linger Giveaway!

Scholastic was kind enough to offer a copy of Linger to one of my readers.  Those who entered the giveaway were each given a number in the spreadsheet and then random.org was used to choose a random integer.  The winner of a copy of Linger is….

Cassy L. from NJ!

I will be forwarding your information to the Scholastic rep and you can expect your book soon!  Congratulations!