23 Responses

  1. Thanks for your insight into a 90 minute block. I am starting in a new school this year and will be teaching Language Arts in 90 minute blocks. Your sight has given me a place to start. Thanks agian!

  2. Hi Sara!

    I work for an intervention company based in Dallas, Texas and am looking for dedicated educators and parents to evaluate and blog about Ticket to Read, an online reading technology, for grades K-6. If you are interested in giving a fair and honest assessment and are active in the blogging community, I can set you up on a pilot program or trial at no charge.

    You may view product at http://www.tickettoread.com

    If you’re interested, please contact me directly at rgroves@voyagerlearning.com

    I look forward to working with you!


    Randy Groves
    Campaign Response Team
    Voyager Expanded Learning
    toll free – 888-399-1995, ext .9576

  3. Hi Sarah,

    Thank you for posting your reviews about books. You have cost me a lot of money this month on Amazon, but I love hearing about new books. ha.

    Keep up with the great website. I have been teaching for 18 years, but hearing some news from a newer teacher who is so excited about teaching keeps it refreshing for me.

    Take care!

  4. Miss Mulhern,

    My sister is raising butterflies, and we have a question. Since we raised butterflies in class two years ago when i had you as a language arts teacher, i figured you would be able to answer our question. The butterflies have been in their crysilids for five days, and today we found one of them shaking, and it has been for about an hour now. We were thinking it might be hatching, but we are not sure. If you can answer, that would be great. Thank you!
    – Victoria V.

  5. Hi Sarah,
    I wanted to say thank you for sharing so many wonderful ideas! I am middle school LA teacher from Canada and I find that I am constantly telling people about your blog. (It’s GREAT!!)
    Thank you again and I look forward to when I have a moment to stop by and read the latest!

  6. Hi Sarah,

    I just discovered your blog today . . . walked backwards from my site to yours. What I’ve seen in just a few minutes looks very interesting. I will sit and take a closer look. I hope my site proves useful.


  7. I love AR. I teach 7th gr English and have mainly needy students to the tune of 130 total. I require my students to read two books a quarter that are at or above their level for 25% of their grade. (I make exceptions/adjustments if necessary for those students that require extra support.)After the two books have been read, I do not care what they read; I say READ anything and everything! I do not require points BUT we do have a store once a quarter where kids can get a variety of items. The items start at just 2 points. That way everyone can visit and enjoy. Because I have a loose take on this program, it seems to be very well recieved by the students. I love knowing that I do not have to read book reports and/or wonder if the kids really read the amount of minutes they turned in on their log. If a child repeatedly fails tests, I can hone in on them and try to find what the problem is. Case in point: a girl who has a 6th grade reading level keeps failing every novel she chooses. I notice the books are within her range if not easier. I find the books are lengthy so I will have her try shorter reads. If that fails, I will investigate further and see if there is a deeper problem.
    I also read books aloud and they can test on them. Yeah!
    I love the ease of AR and what it can do for me. I hope everyone who uses it will relax the rules a bit and not make it so restrictive. Loosen the parameters and you will find it very useful and rewarding!

  8. Hi,

    I’m an 7th grade ELA teacher from SC. I have also been teaching for 3 years. I’m just now mulling through my head the idea of writing workshop as well as reading workshop. Our district has just bought a brand new reading curriculum ( that I don’t completely love). So I’m trying to figure how I could incorporate the reading workshop into that. Anyway, you gave me some great ideas for professional books to read. Anyway, I think I struggle with time management and organizing my days to get the most done. How do you set up your reading and writing workshop? We are double blocked (each class is comprised of 2 -50 minute blocks) Do you do reading and writing workshop everyday? When do you fit in grammar instruction? I think I struggle with how to fit everything in. I would love for your reply on some suggestions.

  9. Hello!
    I teach 6th grade English and my principal is giving me $500 to spend on books for my classroom. I was wondering if you could give me some suggestions? The plan is to buy 4-5 copies of the same book so that more than one student can be reading it at a time. Our focus is about purchasing popular books that will get kids reading. If you had $500 to spend on books for your classroom, that you know 6th grade boys and girls will love, what would you purchase?

    Thank you for your help! I love reading your blog!

    Kimber Sotnyk
    Berrien Springs Middle School

  10. Hi Kim, First let me remind you and others how incredibly lucky you are to have funds to buy books. Yay! I must, of course, let you know that my eco-mystery novel, Island Sting, was just nominated for YALSA’s 2011 popular paperback list. So, it may be a good choice for your list. It’s high action/interest and not terribly demanding vocab. I suggest you take a look at my Spotlight this week on Authorsnow! at this link http://bit.ly/aVUgmh to learn about it and what others have to say. That’s also a great site to search for other books. You can visit my website to see some teaching ideas and I have others available if you do decide to use this book in your curriculum. Good luck!

  11. I just found this blog and from what I’ve read so far I’m very impressed! I’m taking an online workshop on blogs, wikis and podcasts to becom acquainted with new technology that I can use in my future classroom. I recently finished my teacher certification after switching from a career in retail management. I hope to teach middle school language arts or social studies. I look forward to reading more in depth your blog and as another reader commented I think that Amazon is going to appreciate my business!!!

  12. HI,
    Just wanted to wish you good luck with your wedding! AND to tell you I love your website and you are amazing! I also wanted to ask you for some advice. I will be teaching a 5th and 6th grade writing elective this coming year and I want to create something that won’t lose steam throughout the year, and won’t be a burden on top of teaching extra classes that I will be getting this year as well……..any ideas?

  13. Hi Sara –
    I have to admit that much of my daughter’s home library comes from your suggestions. I love many of the books you mention. I have two for you – wondering if you have heard of them or have checked them out:
    Fish – Greg Mone
    The Name of This Book is Secret – Bosch (There are two more books in the series with the next coming soon)

    My daughter excitedly poured through the next in the Dork Diaries series. She loves those books – and I found the first here!!

    There is also Out of My Mind – Lisa Railsbad(?)

    So many great books.

  14. Sarah-

    I have been reading your blog for about a year now and I am trying to find if you have any old entries that might list books that you have chosen for your literature circles.

    I currently teach 8th grade reading and am looking for some classic titles as well as any that you highly recommend or have had success with. If you could email me some ideas that would be great!

    Thanks and I hope you are enjoying your new job 🙂

    • I always switch up my lit circle books. Honestly, I think any book can work as long as you are passionate! I always used WWII historical fiction during our Holocaust unit. Each lit circle read a book that focused on a different aspect of the war and then presented what they learned to the class.

  15. HI,
    First congratulations on your wedding! You looked lovely! Secondly I would like to ask you if your found the book Less is More- Teaching through short texts– a worthwhile purchase?
    Thanks so much for your time! I love your blog!
    Ann Greenfield

  16. Hello! I am a special education teacher in Minneapolis, MN. I am coteaching a Language Arts class at a middle and high school for students with Autism. I am really wanting to introduce Balanced Literacy to our school, specifically our Language Arts department. Our kiddos really struggle with comprehension and writing and I think a workshop model would work really well. I wondered if you could share with me how your classtime is set up to include everything. My general education partner is using a common class novel, but I know that I can use that in the workshop setup. We have 80 minute classes in a block schedule. I teach 4 sections of 7/8th graders and 2 classes of 11/12th graders. Any guidance you could give would be great!

    • In 6th grade, I alternated reading one day, writing the next (with a lot of writing integrated into reading). However, I only had 40 minutes each day. I would break 80 minutes down like this:

      15 minutes Independent Reading
      20 minutes minilesson/modeling/independent work
      5-10 minutes read aloud
      5 minutes quickwrite
      15-20 minutes minilesson
      20 minutes writing

      • Sara,

        I am a previous teacher and currently and independent education consultant. I would like to know if it is possible for you to do a review on the CCSS ELA Lesson Plan Templates I designed enable K-12 Science, History/Social Studies/Technical Subjects and English teachers to work collaboratively when planning Reading/Informational Text lessons. As you likely know there is an increased focus on informational texts in grades 6-12, which makes it all the more important for teachers of these different subjects to be able to work together in developing lessons. In addition, the lesson plan templates give teachers the freedom to use their classroom materials/resources which are already available to them in lesson preparation. Each lesson plan has the grade specific standards included in drop down menus for teachers to easily access and insert into their lesson plan as they are developing lessons together. You can download a sample on my website under Common Core at http://www.stars-edu.com. I would like to mail you one of the full CD’s and hope that you will write a review of the templates on your blog. The CD’s are all ELA CCSS and the grades per CD are K-5, 6-8 and 9-12.

        Is there an address I can send the CD(s) to ensure you receive it?

        Thank you
        Quisha Brown
        Stars Educational Consortium
        “Universal thinking for Extra-Ordinary Stars”
        (734) 365-7298

  17. We launched our BoomWriter Storytellers Camp in association with WGBH. BoomWriter Storytellers Camp is a new one-week online camp that brings campers together to write, edit and publish original works, with first chapters offered by “Author of the Year” Jeff Kinney, author of the delightful Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Campers use the engaging BoomWriter platform to help develop a five-chapter story. The Camp’s daily schedule, interesting story themes, attractive presentation and interactive modules help keep campers engaged and enthusiastic, and helps prevent summer ‘learn loss.’ Kids can register today for a camp session
    starting July 22nd.

    Details here:
    * Camp information & registration:
    * Press:

    We would love to share this camp with your community. Can you please advise if
    there is any promotional opportunity for this writing camp? Please advise if you
    need more information. I’m happy schedule a call later this week to share more

    Tara R. Greco
    VP, Marketing
    BoomWriter Media
    Cambridge, MA 02142
    Office: 617-401-3138
    Cell: 617-417-1353

  18. Dear Sara,

    It has been discussed among many experts that early childhood development is enhanced when the learning process is engaging for both parent and child. Hey, Baby, Look! is a new children’s board book, created especially for the zero-to-three, infant and toddler market. Written by Kate Shannon and illustrated by award-winning Morgan Owens, Hey, Baby, Look! is steeped in brain-based research and meant to optimize interactive learning in a positive and playful way.

    As a nominee for the 27th Annual Minnesota Book Awards, “Hey, Baby, Look! applies the most current academic and brain research to maximize your child’s learning in a fun and interactive way,” according to Dr. Rita Brodnax, a PhD in Educational Leadership and the Application of Neuroscience to Teaching and Learning.

    We would love for you to read and review this book for your followership. Is there a preferred mailing address for your receipt of materials? If so, I would like to send you a gratis copy of Hey, Baby, Look! If you’d like to speak with Kate or Morgan, I would be very happy to put you in touch with either.

    You’re also invited to follow our story on FaceBook at /katesbluedream, on Twitter @katesbluedream, or via Pinterest /katesbluedream. A sincere thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon!

    Warm Regards,
    Kelly Martinson
    Education & Outreach Coordinator
    Blue Dream Books, LLC

  19. I just found your blog and have enjoyed reading the comments. Our school district is insisting our elementary teachers do ability grouping for the 90 minute language arts block. We have filed a grievance, and are going to arbitration in early November. Can anybody give me some current research on why ability grouping hurts kids? Thanks so much!

  20. Hi Sara,

    Thank you for working to share so many resources with teachers! Please consider sharing some of my blog posts from Literacy Coach Musings (http://literacycoachmusings.wordpress.com). I appreciate all you do!


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