Weekly Diigo Posts (weekly)

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Twitter-size Reviews

I am so behind on reviews!  Between reading for school, reading fo r the Cybils, grading, planning, and running the dogs every day, there just isn’t enough time in the day!  So I am succumbed to the pressures of my towering to-be-reviewed pile.  Over the next few days I will be posting short, Twitter-sized reviews of books I’ve read recently.

Ashes by Ilsa J. Blick- So creepy and made my skin crawl. I don’t like zombie books. I loved this one. Dystopian and dark, I couldn’t put this down. Highly recommended for high school libraries.  The characters are engaging and the story will keep you on the edge of your seat.  Warning- not a book to read as you are eating lunch or dinner!  I wouldn’t even snack while reading this one…

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School by Alexandra Robbins- An interesting look at high school cliques.  Not a huge fan of the choice to include a teacher as one of the subjects (especially as her status isn’t revealed until later in the book).  Definitely thought-provoking.



Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz- I picked this up because I have two extremely intelligent dogs and wanted to know more about animal behavior, specific how the canine brain works.  This is a science book that won’t overwhelm the casual reader and I learned some interesting things about how dogs view the world.  Recommended for dog lovers- it may change the way you interact with your pet.

National Day on Writing Round-up

I am the luckiest teacher in the world.  I work with the most fantastic teachers and this year I’ve connected with some of the English teachers in other buildings in our district.  Michelle and Kelly are awesome and we are so on the same page when it comes to tech and promoting English in our STEM-oriented schools.

Earlier this year Michelle and I were brainstorming ways to do more inter-academy activities in the humanities.  Michelle mentioned that she used Googledocs to run some fun writing contests in her classes and I brought up the idea of taking that idea and extending it to all of our academies.  Thus was born the first annual inter-academy writing contest!

We ended up holding a flash fiction contest.  Students were charged with writing a 6 sentence story (no more, no less!) and were give about two weeks to enter.  All entries were collected via the Googledoc survey.  Students could enter as often as they wished until the deadline and we advertised the contest in all five of the academies.  Within just a few days we had entries from every school!

After entries closed, we all popped into the Googledoc to choose the finalists.  We wanted two finalists from each school and we were able to hide the column showing the name of the student who submitted the entry, so we were able to judge “blind”.  Using the chat feature in Googledocs, we were able to discuss our choices as we made them.  We ended up with 160 entries, which was INSANE.  It took us a lot longer than we planned to narrow down the choices so we didn’t have the finalists chosen for the National Day on Writing, as planned.  However, I’m ok with that because we managed to get so many students involved in the contest!

Our finalists have been chosen and the anonymous stories are now posted in a single googledocs survey.  We posted the survey tonight and students are able to vote until Wednesday.  The winner will receive two trophies- one for them to keep and one for their school trophy case.  The school trophy will be passed to the winning school every year, like a Super Bowl trophy.  Yay for writing!!

How did you celebrate the National Day on Writing?

#NCTE11, Here I Come!

The registration is paid, the hotel room is booked, and my presentation is ready!  I will be in Chicago for NCTE next month and I am very excited!  (No ALAN for me this year- Just wasn’t in the cards. 😦  But when the convention moves to DC and Boston in a few years?  I’m in!)

I will be presenting bright and early on Saturday morning, so come on out and see us!  I will be with Donalyn Miller, Meeno Rami, Cynthia Minnich, and Colby Sharp.  I am very excited about our panel.  I know it’s early, but come on out to see us!

Online Discussion in the “Real World”

At the beginning of this school year, I was thrilled to learn that our district would no longer be blocking social media websites like Twitter and Facebook.  I immediately took my class Facebook page live and activated my class Twitter account.  But before my freshman dove headfirst into the murky waters of social media, I wanted to make sure that they knew how to have a conversation online.  And in all honesty, it was the perfect opportunity to review classroom discussion decorum.  (In my freshman classes, which I co-teach with my history colleague, there are 35ish students in the class at a time.  Rules are important!)

I knew when we unblocked social media that I wanted to focus a lot this year on the importance of digital footprints.  When my freshman graduate from college they will have digital footprint of over a decade.  They are only 14 years old right now.  They can’t even fathom that!  I brainstormed a few different ways to talk about online discussions but nothing really stuck with me.  Then the NYTimes Learning Blog posted about their newest endeavor: The Learning Network Reading Club.  Every so often they planned to post an article that they felt would be of particular interest to students.  They would then ask students to share their responses to the article in the comments.  The catch?  Each response also had to reference someone else’s response.    In that way, a true conversation would be born.

I decided to use the Reading Club as a jumping off point for our online discussions.  In class, we talked about what good in-class discussions look like.  Together, we brainstormed a list that included looking at the speaker, being an active listener, responding to specific classmates, not just focusing on the teacher, and helping to move the conversation forward.  Then we talked about the different types of online interactions my students participate in on their own.  Facebook, Xbox, Twitter, and forums were all mentioned.  We talked about asynchronous discussions and how they differ from face-to-face discussions and the way they should be approached.  As practice, my students worked in groups and logged on to our class wiki where I had posted a link to a recent NYTimes article about the effects of Spongebob Squarepants on young children.  Talk about an engaging article!  My students had some very strong feelings about the results of the study!  The students read and responded to the article and we worked through a variety of technical problems.  This allowed us to talk about how to approach online discussions for school, as most of my students will take online classes in the future.  Things like “don’t leave it til the last minute!” were very important.  🙂

The best part of the lesson was the homework assignment.  Each of my students was charged with reading the article chosen by The Learning Network Reading Club and posting a comment, according to the posted guidelines, within a week.  Can I tell you how impressed I was with their work?  The club ended up receiving 536 comments from all over the world, and the conversation grew organically.  Every time I checked the article I was blown away by what I read.  My own students were responding to one another and students from other schools.  Some of my students even went back, on their own, and responded a second time!  It was brilliant!  Even better?  They started applying some of the same strategies in-class, during our class discussions.  My students are responding to one another by summarizing the speaker and then adding their own thoughts.  They refer to others by name in their own comments and they frequently look at their classmates rather than just addressing the teachers in the room.  It’s fantastic!

I can not wait to see what The Learning Network Reading Club chooses next.  I know my students will be participating again and I encourage you to try it with your classes.  The Learning Network recently posted a round-up of some of their favorite responses and five of my students are quoted!  Needless to say, they were thrilled.  It’s a fantastic new initiative and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

Weekly Diigo Posts (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.


I write because I have always written.  I write because it feels strange not to write.  I write because I want to write.


Why do you write?  Today is the National Day on Writing and thousands of people all over the world are participating in #whyIwrite.  The National Writing Project has compiled a list of the following ways to participate today:

Participate in Why I Write

Here are different ways you can participate or celebrate “Why I Write”:

Submit student essays to Figment.com: Figment will be accepting submissions from September 28 through October 29. Since “Why I Write” is a celebration of writing, there are no prizes, but a curated anthology of selected submissions will be available as an e-book later this winter. Submit to Figment.

New York Times Learning Network: The New York Times Learning Network will present a series of interviews with reporters who cover a range of beats and explore their writing process. These interviews will serve as the basis for lesson plans, prompts for students, discussions, and inspiration.

Edutopia: Edutopia will be celebrating “Why I Write” with a series of blogs by NWP writers. Each blog will then invite readers to share why they write with others in the Edutopia community. These conversations will take place on the Edutopia.org website and within our communities on Twitter and Facebook.

NWP Radio: On October 20 at 7 p.m. EST, the National Writing Project will air a live radio show to celebrate the National Day on Writing with interviews with New York Times education reporter Fernanda Santos, New York Times Learning Network editor Katherine Schulten, Figment founder and New Yorker staff writer Dana Goodyear, Figment teen writers, and NWP teacher and author Ashley Hope Perez, among others.

Tweet #whyiwrite: Tweet why you write and include the hashtag #whyiwrite so that everyone can see the many reasons people write.

Post on Facebook: We’d like everyone to post why they write on their Facebook pages on October 20 and encourage others to do so. Let’s create a national dialogue about writing!


Visit Why I Write for more information and links to essays from tons of authors about why they write.

“Please, Call them “Commercials” — Not Trailers!”- A New Era for Book Ads

I am happy to share the following press release with you.  Daniel Nayeri is a fantastic author and I have enjoyed his books in the past.  This past May, I picked up a sample ARC of his newest endeavor- Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow: Four Novellas, a collection of four novellas.  I was intrigued, because novellas are an underused way of writing for the YA crowd.  I picked up the sample and read it this summer.  It is awesome.  I highly recommend the finished copy, coming this month.  It’s perfect for YA readers who may be hesitant to pick up a longer novel due to time constraints, busy schedules, not “loving” reading (yet!), or a variety of other reading “excuses” that I hear weekly in my classroom.  Nayeri presents the answer with four novellas that are large on story but thin on page number.

Press Release (courtesy of Candewick):

Please, Call them “Commercials” —  Not Trailers!
YA author Daniel Nayeri makes his solo writing debut on October 25th, when his collection of four novellas,
titled Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blowreleases from Candlewick Press.
In an ambitious promotional project, Nayeri worked with a leading production studio, Plywood Pictures, to produce a series of four commercials to accompany each story from the book.

Viewable here, prepare to say “wow!” — http://vimeo.com/groups/strawwoodbrickhouseblow 

Says Nayeri about the final clips, “Each of these commercials tries to give a sense of the tone of each story. I tried as hard as I could to keep my nose out of it. The Plywood Pictures guys are pros. They’ve done this for companies WAY bigger than me. So I said my peace and got out of their way. I love what they came up with. I’d love to see more book commercials, instead of trailers. From a writer’s perspective, they didn’t mess around with a story that I spent years laboring over. They made their own thing.”

Fast Facts about the Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow videos:

1. The visual effects side for “Our Lady of Villains” took about 45 hours..not including at least a day of screen tests and noodling around with the technology.

3. “Toy Farm” was filmed entirely in Plywood Pictures studio with green screen backgrounds. (photo attached). Using stills and some digital camera tracking tools, they were able to fill in the rest of the scenes digitally. The impressive train and trestle were filmed on the green screen, as were the puffs of cotton, but everything else was a conglomeration of various photos of national parks which were sourced online.

4. The real trick for the “Wish Police” commercial was simply the machine. The machine took a couple days to design on paper and then about 2.5 days to build. (early blueprint attached with photo of assembly)

About the book:

This bold collection of novellas by Another series author Daniel Nayeri features four riveting tales. These modern riffs on classic genres will introduce young adult readers to a broad range of writing styles that explore universally compelling themes such as identity and belonging, betrayal and friendship, love and mortality.

Straw House: A Western sizzling with suspense, set in a land where a rancher grows soulless humans and a farmer grows living toys.

Wood House: This science-fiction tale plunges the reader into a future where reality and technology blend imperceptibly, and a teenage girl must race to save the world from a nano-revolution that a corporation calls “ReCreation Day.”

Brick House: This detective story set in modern NYC features a squad of “wish police” and a team of unlikely detectives.

Blow: A comedic love story told by none other than Death himself, portrayed here as a handsome and charismatic hero who may steal your heart in more ways than one. With humor, suspense, and relatable prose, this hip and cutting-edge collection dazzles.

Written entirely on an iPhone, this quartet of YA novellas by Another Pan and Another Faust author Daniel Nayeri showcases four different genres.


Thank You, Steve Jobs.

The first computer I ever used was an Apple IIe.  At my aunt’s house, I logged onto AOL and discovered the internet.  At school, our new computer lab was soon full of similar Apple computers.  I remember indoor recess sessions at my elementary school spent playing Number Munchers and Oregon Trail.  The Apple computers were easy to use and we were drawn to them.  Then, when I got to high school, we had a lab full of brand new iMacs and I was officially in love.

Slowly, people around me fell in love with Apple, too.  Today, my brothers and sisters own a variety of iPods.  My youngest sister doesn’t remember a world without iPods and iPhones.  My friends bought Macbooks, iMacs, Macbook Airs.  Currently, my brother is saving his money for his first Mac laptop.  I ordered my Verizon iPhone the morning preorders were available and I love it.  My friends own iPhones.  In fact, I learned of Job’s death from a text on my iPhone.   I raced to open my NYTimes app to see if the news was true.  I then pulled up the Apple homepage.  All on my phone, thanks to Apple and Steve Jobs.

When I was in college and could finally afford to buy the laptop of my dreams, I purchased my first Macbook.  I saved for months and researched for even longer.  The day my refurbished laptop arrived, I tore into the packaging.  Right out of the box it was ready to use.  My love grew deeper.  Today, I am using a Macbook Pro and can not imagine ever going back to a PC.

I also remember watching Steve Jobs as he introduced the iPod.  A few years later, my now-husband purchased me an iPod touch for Christmas.  I still have it.  I salivated over the industry-changing iPad when it was introduced and my amazing husband surprised me with one for my birthday.  I use Apple products everyday and they have changed my life.

I’ve been an Apple fangirl for most of my life.  At my techy high school, Steve Jobs was an idol.  His innovation and willingness to try and fail served as an example to us all.  This commercial was an inspiration to my class.  The school put up “Think Different” posters all over, which I loved.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify and vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Tomorrow, I will share Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement address from 2005 with my freshman.  I’ve already posted the above commercial on our class Facebook page and our school BBS.

Two days ago, I sat in our faculty room during my prep and watched the announcement from Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California.  I was hoping to see a surprise appearance by Steve Jobs, wearing his trademark blue jeans.  While he didn’t appear, the announcement left me excited and of course, wishing I could upgrade to the new iPhone 4S.

Tonight, I mourn the loss of a true innovator.  Steve Jobs, I thank you for being an inspiration.  You lived your life proving that liberal arts and engineering not only can go hand-in-hand, but that they must go hand-in-hand.  You weren’t afraid to fail and you showed the rest of the world that sometimes failing is the only way to truly succeed.  You changed the way we communicate with each other, the way we consume and create media, and our expectations for personal and mobile computing devices.  Steve, you had the courage to think you could change the world. And you did.  I thank you.


It’s Time for the Cybils!

I am very excited to announce that I will be a Round 1 Panelist for the Middle Grade Science-Fiction/Fantasy category for this year’s Cybil Awards!  I tend to focus on YA here on the blog, but I have a special place in my heart for MG science fiction and fantasy.  It’s what my youngest sister loves to read and what many of my new freshman enjoy reading.  I am looking  forward to some great nominations this year!

The Panelists and Judges:

Round One

Charlotte Taylor
Charlotte’s Library

Anamaria Anderson
Books Together

Donalyn Miller
The Book Whisperer

Justin Colussy-Estes
Guys Lit Wire

Sarah Mulhern Gross
The Reading Zone

April Conant
Good Books & Good Wine

Rebecca Newland
My Reading Frenzy

Round Two

Melissa Baldwin
One Librarian’s Book Reviews

Hayley Beale
100 Great Children’s Books

Kim Rapier
Si, se puede

Rosemary Kiladitis
More Coffee, Please

Gina Ruiz

There are some great bloggers in my group, huh? 🙂

Remember, nominations are already open!  Head over to the Cybils blog to get your nominations in!