Sunday, March 31, 2013

Reflecting on #TheWonderOfWonder

 Just before Easter break my students and I finished our third read aloud of the school year: Wonder by RJ Palacio. Each book we have read together as a class has had an impact on them, but I think Wonder has had the biggest impact.

After we finished the book, I made this poster to hang outside my classroom:

But then some of my students made this poster as well to hang outside the library:

But I have also made sure that Choose Kind is not just something that is shouted at students in the form of a giant poster. I also have left subtle reminders around the junior high hallway and in my classroom:
At the drinking fountain...

...On our book quote wall

...even our classroom light switch reminds students of the importance of being kind

Another way I've noticed the impact Wonder has had on my students is their amazing reflections they've written about, particularly the question I wrote as follows:

Many people who criticize Wonder say the ending is too perfect and that real life stories just don't end that happily. What do you think of how the story ended?

Naturally there were a few students who agreed with the critics, but on the whole, I received responses mostly like these:

 And then there is my favorite response to the question, how do you personally relate to the characters and situations in Wonder?

So my only question to you is: if you haven't read this book yet, what are you waiting for?

Monday, March 25, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? 3-25-13

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen and Kellee  over at Teach Mentor Texts also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

So teachers, I could really use your help with a project. It won't take much of your time. I want to know why you stay in the classroom despite all the overwhelming and disheartening obstacles we must face on a daily basis. Check out the details here.

Because I am working on the aforementioned project, I haven't been very productive in my own pleasure reading this past week. The only book I finished was:

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin
According to Godin, a tribe is a group of people connected to an idea and a leader. And while this book may be called Tribes, it is really about how to LEAD a tribe and what it takes to be a leader. Leaders are heretics. They take risks and they refuse to maintain the status quo.

While I liked the message in this book, it felt like I was reading a Powerpoint presentation more than a book. I can imagine Godin standing up in an arena full of people who paid their $1500 to come see him for the day and using the information in this book as a structure for a motivational speech. I wanted a bit more substance however, and I also wanted more credibility in the form of a references section, works cited or bibliography in the back of the book, which was not included.

Currently reading:
When Teaching Gets Tough: Smart Ways to Reclaim Your Game by Allen N. Mendler 
I just started this book so I don't yet have an assessment for how effective it is, but I'm hoping it will be helpful for my teacher retention project. At the moment, there's not much substance to the message.

Currently listening:
How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
I'm only on disc two of this novel but I'm already hooked. I love Bea and Jonah. 

Other posts from last week:
Finding Joy
Dinner at my favorite restaurant is all I need to cheer me up
It's time for an educational "Uprising"
Instead of expressing love for a character, one student has a score to settle

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Teachers, I need your help.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm currently taking a class that revolves around the idea of giving teachers a voice in a time when our professional judgment is being undermined and derided.

I had this vision of creating a video that includes teachers explaining why they press on despite educational policies that are having a deleterious effect on good teachers staying in the classroom. Many educational reformers think these policies are weeding the garden by causing bad teachers to leave, but they've been pulling up and destroying thriving crops just as much, if not more than the weeds.

It's taken me a while for the vision of my video to finally come to light, but after watching this teacher-created video that made the rounds on Facebook yesterday, I finally know what I want to do...

I've decided I'd like to take the suggestion of my friend Cindy Minnich and have teachers write a statement for why you stay in the classroom on a piece of paper, take a picture of it and send it to me. Something along the lines of this:

If you like this idea but don't want to be in the actual video yourself, you can still help me. Write your response in the comments or email it to me, and I will be the bearer of your message.

So here's what I need from you:

  • In clear, concise writing, either in a picture you email me or a message that you send me via comments or email, tell me why you stay in education. 
  • If you do send a picture, I'd love for it to be taken in your classroom if possible, but if not, anything is better than nothing. :)
  • Tell me your name (if you prefer not to give your full name, at least give me your first name and last initial) and where you teach (just the city and state is fine). 
  • You can email me your picture/response at: bethshaum at gmail dot com

Thanks in advance for any help you might be able to provide!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Finding Joy

Ever since this school year began I have been in a perpetual state of exhaustion. It's no secret that this has been a difficult school year for me. But despite being tired and overwhelmed 95% of the time, I'm trying really hard to find those small victories, moments of joy that I might miss if I'm  doing nothing but complaining all the time.

So here were some moments of joy from my school day yesterday:

Moment #1
6th graders turned in the book reviews they'd been working on all week and many of the students wanted to share them with the class. One student read her book review for one of my favorite books, The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. After she read her review, we proceeded to have a class discussion about how we (those who have read and loved the book) wish we could have our very own J.Lo (the alien, not the singer) because he is just so adorable. Then another student attempted to explain why J.Lo's best line in the whole book, ("Can I come into the out now?") actually makes sense as he proceeded to explain why it works grammatically.

Moment #2
Due to complicated circumstances that I prefer not to spend time explaining, I lost my prep period yesterday, which normally would cause me to grumble for the rest of the day, but by the end of the period, I ended up being happier for losing my prep than if I had taken it. The short version of why I lost my prep was because I had to watch one of the 8th grade classes because they weren't able to go to their special.

I have one 8th grade class for English, but I don't see the other 8th grade class at all. The class I don't see at all is the one that I ended up watching. They were asked to bring something to work on and use that period as a study hall. Since getting my 6th graders to work independently and quietly this year is like trying to herd cats, I was pleasantly surprised when the 8th graders came in, sat down and started working on their math or social studies or other work that they had due. They were talking, but they were productive and the noise level was not detrimental to others' learning. At one point in the class period I stood up, looked around and said, "Can I just tell you how much I appreciate what you're doing right now? Everyone is working and even though you're talking, it is productive noise. I haven't been able to experience that very much this year."

At one point during the period, one of the students jokingly picked up a novel as he was perusing the books in my classroom, started to read it and said, "I'm not reading this. It has too many words in it." So I told him I have quite the selection of picture books if those were more his speed (and a cacophony of 8th grade boys proceeded to say, "Oooh! Burn!" as seems to be the 8th grade comeback of choice these days). He spent the next fifteen minutes contentedly looking through picture books when I said to him and the rest of the class, "Do you guys want me to read you a picture book?" A few said yes and gathered around the floor, but many continued their math or social studies work and the productive noise didn't transform into a hush as I had hoped. Still, I pressed on, reading both  I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen to the five students on the floor who legitimately wanted me to read them a picture book. But I soon discovered that as I continued to read, the students who were doing their work reduced their noise level and many of them even halted their own work to find out what happened to the bear and the fish's hats.

One student's astute/entertaining observations from the two books:
  • Wait Mrs. Shaum! *Spoiler alert* Did the bear eat the squirrel too? We know he ate the rabbit, but what happened to the squirrel? (I never actually thought about that. Maybe he did eat the squirrel too!)
  • Hold on! Wait! How can the hat stay on the fish? Wouldn't it just float away? (Apparently a talking fish is enough to suspend belief but the physics of a fish wearing a hat in water isn't).

After I read the two Klassen books, the student who was "burned" by my suggestion that he read some picture books wanted to read one to the class. So I gave up my chair, parked myself on the floor with the other 8th graders and listened to him read The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Hutchet Bishop. It was probably the most enjoyable class I've had all year.

Moment #3
In my homeroom yesterday, which is a class that has been a challenge to get through to this year, after finishing the last page of Wonder by RJ Palacio, one student asked, "Can we give the book a standing ovation?" And they did. 

If you've read the book, then you know why this is such a significant gesture. This was not just an appreciative response to a great book. It was also symbolic to the main character Auggie's journey throughout the story. Do I need to give them a comprehension test to see if they paid attention to the story? Nope. That moment right there told me all I need to know.

Dinner at my favorite restaurant is all I need to cheer me up

Ever since the start of Spring Forward my body has not been able to catch up. I don't think there's been a day that's gone by that I haven't felt completely exhausted. Heavy eyelids on my way to and from work everyday is a tad bit worrisome. And since Friday night is always date night with my husband, I felt the need to try to shake my feelings of exhaustion and drive to downtown Ann Arbor for dinner. Usually when my husband and I are tried after a long week we like to stay as far away from Ann Arbor as possible because we don't want to have to find a parking garage, fight for parking and then have to walk to dinner. Lazy I know. But it's the truth.

But since yesterday's weather was sunny and in the 40s, we decided that the walking to dinner might do us some good. Plus I wanted to try a restaurant that recently opened by the same owners as my favorite restaurant in Ann Arbor, MANI Osteria and Bar, which I have written about before. MANI's owners' new venture is a Mexican restaurant called Isalita. But when we arrived at Isalita a little before 6 PM, the place already had a 40 minute wait. We were willing to wait the 40 minutes because I really wanted to try this place, but just for the heck of it, we went next door to MANI to see if they had immediate seating, and lo and behold, they did. We decided that we'd try Isalita another night when we could get there a little earlier for immediate seating and go with a tried and true pick instead.

It was just what I needed. Just as we did last time, we were seated at the chef's bar where we were treated to an hour-long performance of garnishing, pizza making, and previews of every dish that was dashed out of the kitchen prior to being delivered to hungry, eager diners.

Every dish that we ordered last night was perfection, just as it was the last time we ate there, starting with our drinks. I of course, ordered what I always do: sangria, a consoling drink for me since MANI's sangria is almost identical to the sangria at my favorite restaurant in Royal Oak that recently closed, aptly named Sangria. My husband ordered a strawberry mint lemonade that had just the right amount of pucker and sweetness with just a hint of mint. If I hadn't been so enamored with my own drink, I probably would have ordered one for myself too.
Cheers! Sangria and strawberry mint lemonade

We ordered two small plates for our appetizer: warm, crunchy and gooey arancini, AKA, risotto balls, which were delicious, but the real star of their small plates menu is the crispy pork belly, which is so good it will make your eyes roll into the back of your head and you may even experience a When Harry Met Sally moment if you know what I mean. ;)

Crispy pork belly with apricot marmalade
The last time we ate at MANI I ordered one of their amazing wood fired pizzas, so this time I decided to try some of their house-made pasta and went with the papparadelle bolognese. It was, once again, perfection. It was perfectly al dente, had just the right amount of sauce, and was served in a reasonable portion: just enough to satisfy you without making you feel like a glutton.
papparadelle bolognese

So I guess the lesson here is, if ever I need cheering up, a trip to my favorite Ann Arbor restaurant is in order. Despite coming home and going to bed early last night (I shouldn't have gone for that second glass of sangria), I woke up this morning in a great mood and ready to conquer the world. Well, not so much the world as that giant mountain of papers I have to grade. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It's time for an educational "uprising"

As the results of a standardized test taken by adults in Rhode Island have proven today, along with the recent refusal of teachers in Seattle to give students the Measure of Academic Progress test, it's time for the teacher scapegoating to end and for us to make a real change in education that takes high stakes testing off the table.

A couple weekends ago I attended the Muse concert at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Muse has always been one of my favorite bands, and my favorite song of theirs is "Uprising." As I stood there in the arena singing along, I couldn't help but think how apropos the words ring true for the educational climate of today. I feel like this song should be the rallying cry for teachers against all the media, politicians, and "reformers" who do nothing but bash us and try to make it all about the test scores.

There was one part of the second verse that I initially didn't fit the rallying cry the way the rest of the song did:
"We should never be afraid to die"
But given our nation's current obsession with arming teachers after the tragedy of Sandy Hook, those words actually have kind of a sad irony to them.

"Uprising" by Muse

Paranoia is in bloom,
The PR transmissions will resume,
They'll try to push drugs that keep us all dumbed down,
And hope that we will never see the truth around
(So come on)

Another promise, another scene,
Another packaged lie to keep us trapped in greed,
Green belts wrapped around our minds,
And endless red tape to keep the truth confined
(So come on)

They will not force us,
They will stop degrading us,
They will not control us,
We will be victorious
(So come on)

Interchanging mind control,
Come let the revolution take its toll,
If you could flick a switch and open your third eye,
You'd see that
We should never be afraid to die
(So come on)

Rise up and take the power back,
It's time the fat cats had a heart attack,
You know that their time's coming to an end,
We have to unify and watch our flag ascend

They will not force us,
They will stop degrading us,
They will not control us,
We will be victorious

Monday, March 18, 2013

Instead of expressing love for a character, one student has a score to settle

To celebrate March is Reading Month, I always have my students do different activities to remind them of some of their favorite books. I personally think every month should be reading month, but if we're going to set aside just one month, then let's focus on what we love about reading, right?

I'm having my 8th graders write letters to their favorite book characters and then they will put them on their lockers, but one of my students decided she had a score to settle with a particular character and instead chose to vent her frustration.

I was so entertained by her letter that I asked if it would be okay with her if I shared it here. She agreed.

BTW... if you haven't read this book, there are major spoilers in this letter so go read This is Not My Hat before reading her letter.

Dear Big Fish from This is Not My Hat,

You are a mean-spirited and evil fish! The little fish did you a favor buddy. The hat you were wearing was way too small for you. How could you be so mean to Little Fish after you saw how cute he swam? He was adorable and you, I can't even talk to you right now...

You ate Little Fish! Have you no soul man! All Little Fish wanted to do was to look snazzy with a hat (that fit properly). Yes, I'll admit it was wrong of Little Fish to steal it, but it was worse of you to eat him! Now Big Fish, you sit down and think about what you have done.

Please don't get me started about that crab...

- Zoe E.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 3-18-13

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen and Kellee  over at Teach Mentor Texts also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

Last week I read and enjoyed:

Babymouse: Burns Rubber, Dragonslayer, Cupcake Tycoon, and Mad Scientist by Jennifer L. and Matthew Holm
I think Babymouse just keeps getting better and better. I'm loving her more now than I did when I first started the series. 

Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
This would be a great text to use with kids to talk about mood. Both Logue and Zagarenki are extremely successful at setting the perfect mood to lull wide awake children to sleep.

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
Most of us know the story of the Little Rock Nine, but what we don't often know is that the year after these nine brave students enrolled at Little Rock Central High School, the school board closed down the high schools for an entire year to prevent further integration. Levine uses historical events to tell the story of Marlee, a young white girl from a privileged middle class family who sees the injustices that are happening in her town and across America  and wants to do something about it. Especially when she befriends a girl at her school that will soon cause a great deal of controversy and even danger for both girls.

Currently reading:

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin
I had to read this book after Donalyn Miller talked about it at NCTE, saying that the Nerdy Book Club was her tribe. Plus, I think this is really going to help me with my project on teacher retention for the class I'm taking.

Currently listening:

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
I'm not entirely sold on this one yet. I may end up abandoning it. It's just not speaking to me.

Last week I reviewed:

Bomb: The Race to Build - And Steal - The World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
The Tucci Cookbook by Stanley Tucci

Current giveaway:
ARC of Hide and Seek by Kate Messner (ends 3/22)

Also posted last week:
"I forgot that I might see so many beautiful things"
Habemus Papam
A WONDER-ful breakthrough
Cover Reveal: Demon Derby by Carrie Harris

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bomb : The Race to Build - And Steal - The World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

He had a few more minutes to destroy seventeen years of evidence. 

Still in pajamas, Harry Gold raced around his cluttered bedroom, pulling out desk drawers, tossing boxes out of the closet, and yanking books from the shelves. He was horrified. Everywhere he looked were incriminating papers - a plane ticket stub, a secret report, a letter from a fellow spy.

All I had to do to book talk Bomb with my sixth grade literature classes was have them read the prologue. Now I have 40+ students who are clamoring to read it. When we read the first few pages of this book together as a class, I had them examine and dissect what made this an effective lead. Just about every single student hit it on the head: Sheinkin jumps right into the story, gives you just enough information to help you understand what is going on, but holds back enough to make it suspenseful and leaves you wanting more.

Bomb is a wonderful antidote to the mind-numbing history textbooks kids have to read in school these days. Ironic since Sheinkin is a former textbook writer himself. But, his author bio tells us he's trying to make up for his "crimes" as a textbook author by writing engaging nonfiction for kids and young adults. I think he's been reprieved.Sheinkin not only writes in an engaging, accessible way, but this nonfiction text reads like a spy novel. It's almost hard to believe that this is a true story. Bomb absolutely deserves all the shiny stickers it won at the ALA awards in January. 

Bomb: The Race to Build - And Steal - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
Published: September 4, 2012
Publisher: Flash Point
Pages: 272
Genre: Nonfiction/History
Audience: Middle Grade/Young Adult
Disclosure: Purchased Copy 

If you buy this book or any book through Amazon, it is my hope that you also regularly patronize independent bookstores, which are important centerpieces of thriving communities. While I am an Amazon Affiliate, that by no means implies that I only buy my books through their website. Please make sure you are still helping small, independent bookstores thrive in your community. To locate an independent bookstore near you, visit IndieBound

Friday, March 15, 2013

"I forgot that I might see so many beautiful things"

My students and I have been reading Wonder by RJ Palacio as our class read aloud since January. This week we came to a very pivotal moment in the story that brings out a lot of emotions, within the characters and also within the reader. Communities of readers are built on moments like these.

And despite the fact that my future in the classroom is uncertain right now, and despite my perpetual exhaustion since our Spring Forward on Sunday, it's weeks like this one that reaffirm my vocation and tug at me, reminding me why I'm here in the first place.

Besides the emotional catharsis of reading Wonder together, a couple other reaffirming moments happened in the classroom this week:

Moment #1
Earlier this week I had a dream that one of my students was single-handedly responsible for getting one of my favorite authors/illustrators, Adam Rex, to visit our school. When I told her about this dream the next day, she had this look on her face like she was blown away that she could manage to not only infiltrate my dreams, but that she was also able to carry out such an amazing feat as to get a rock star author like Adam Rex to visit our school. Her reaction to this new knowledge was, "Really? I was in your dream? And I got Adam Rex to come here? I could do that. Do you want me to do that? I'm on it."

Then the next day, this same student approached me and said, "Guess what Mrs. Shaum? You were in MY dream last night. Adam Rex did come to our school and for some reason you were wearing a big curly rainbow wig. But then you got mad because he poured caramel sauce over himself since he didn't want to repeat himself by doing chocolate syrup again, but he got it all over the carpet in the classroom so you were not very happy."

So Adam Rex, I apologize if you get a random email from a 6th grader in Michigan. My dream, accompanied by her own, apparently gave her a mission she feels the need to carry out.

Moment #2
Today the 6th grade Skyped with my friend Kellie who works for Walden Pond Press. When I finally met Kellie in person at NCTE in November, we spent a wonderful dinner together and the one thing that really struck me when she talked about WPP's books is how enthusiastic she was about the titles her imprint puts out for kids. I immediately had the idea that what better way to get kids to want to read WPP's books than to have someone directly from the publisher book talk them.

My instinct was not wrong. Kellie book talked four titles today and by the end of the day, this was the waiting list:

Notice that one of the books has a shorter waiting list than the others. Why is that? Because I was the one who book talked that one. So clearly Kellie is a rock star book talker, but also, I was able to reaffirm that it helps if teachers branch out and find other people and methods to get kids excited about books instead of doing the same thing over and over again. I mean, I've had The Fourth Stall in my classroom library all year, but it wasn't until Kellie book talked it that I had kids clamoring for it. When I talked to the kids after Kellie's Skype visit, a large number of them said, just as I did, that she was an amazing speaker and that she knew how to get kids excited about books. That was music to my ears.

*Title quote from the song "Beautiful Things" by Andain, which is also quoted in Wonder.

The Tucci Cookbook by Stanley Tucci

I always scratch my head and look dubious whenever I see or hear that a celebrity has "written" a cookbook. But having directed the foodie cult classic Big Night, and seen him on the talk show circuit, I already knew that Stanley Tucci is no slouch in the kitchen.

So I came into this cookbook with much less cynicism than, say, this one or this one, and I have to admit, I was quite impressed with the thoughtfulness with which the recipes were put together and also the desire Tucci has to share his family history in order to prove his credibility. It's as if he's saying, "Hey people, all those other celebs? They're just cashing in. Me? I actually have a legit, storied history here." And, well, let me just say that I love Stanly Tucci so that's part of the reason I give him a pass. He's always seemed above the fray when it comes to all the privilege and antics of the Hollywood crowd. Whether that's only my own perception or the actual truth, I don't know, but to me, he's much more of a salt-of-the-earth kind of guy.

The recipes in this book are quite simple and easily attainable for a home cook, though not particularly new or innovative. But hey, there's nothing wrong with simple, easy and traditional, right?

Unlike my most recent cookbook review, the photographs in this cookbook definitely engaged my salivary glands. In fact, the photographs were so appetizing that I found myself wishing there were more.

I've made a few recipes from this cookbook since checking it out at the library and I have to say they were all successful, but my favorites were the Milanese Risotto and the Egg Tart with Spinach and Potatoes (posted below).

Egg Tart with Spinach and Potatoes
Serves 4
  • 1 large Yukon Gold potato, peeled (I left the peel on because I'm lazy like that)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 pound fresh spinach, stems removed, leaves washed, coarsely chopped, and blanched in boiling water for 1 minute (I was lazy and used frozen spinach)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chopped, fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Place the potato in a pot filled with cold salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until just tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Cut the potato in half lengthwise and then into thin half-moon slices.

3. In a medium-size bowl, whisk eggs until frothy. Squeeze all the water out of the spinach and add to the eggs along with the potato slices, salt and pepper to taste, and parsley. Stir to incorporate all ingredients.

4. Heat a 10 to 12 inch nonstick ovenproof frying pan or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and oil. When the butter has melted and is foaming, pour the egg mixture into the pan, sitting well. Continue to cook and stir until the eggs become slightly scrambled, about 2 minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the eggs are firm but still moist, about 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and flip the egg tart onto a serving plate. Slice and serve immediately.

Wine pairing: Sparkling, light white, and medium white

The Tucci Cookbook by Stanley Tucci
Published: October 9, 2012
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: 400
Genre: Cookery
Audience: Adults
Disclosure: Library Copy

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Lucky Leprechaun giveaway hop

For my portion of the blog hop I am giving away an ARC of:

Hide and Seek by Kate Messner
Expected Publication: April 1, 2013
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 256
Genre: Mystery
Audience: Middle Grade

Goodreads summary:
José, Anna, and Henry are junior members of the secret Silver Jaguar Society, sworn to protect the world's most important artifacts. When they discover that the society's treasured Jaguar Cup has been replaced with a counterfeit, the trio and their families rush to the rain forests of Costa Rica in search of the real chalice. But when the trail runs dry, new mysteries emerge: Who can they trust? Is there a traitor in their midst? With danger at every turn, it will take more than they realize for José and his friends to recover the cup before it falls into the wrong hands.

Terms and conditions:
Must be 13 or older to enter and have a U.S. mailing address
One winner will be selected
Use the Rafflecopter widget to enter

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam

It's not everyday you get to share in the moment of the election of a new Pope with your students. But a little after 2:00 today, our principal came on the PA to announce that there was billowing white smoke coming from the Sistine Chapel and to pray for whoever had been chosen.

My prep period is the last hour of the day so I spent the entire time glued to NBC News's live feed. If the election of the last few Popes was any indication, it was likely we wouldn't see the new Pontiff for another hour. Sure enough, when 3:00 came and it was time to get my homeroom back for the last 15 minutes of the day, that's when things really started to set in motion. The new Pope was announced after the 3:10 bell for prayer, at which time students usually get their backpacks and coats as to be ready to leave at the 3:15 bell. Today, no one left the classroom after the 3:10 bell because they didn't want to miss anything. And we all stayed in the classroom and shared in this historic moment to see Pope Francis I, the first Pope from South America.
I told them they could leave to get their things, but they all stayed to share in this historic moment

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

a WONDER-ful breakthrough

I'm still amazed at the ways in which the book Wonder by RJ Palacio touches the lives of everyone who reads it.

I'm currently reading this book to both of my sixth grade literature classes, and while one class BEGS me to read everyday, the other class has remained stoic in their emotions about it. They listen attentively and answer questions with pinpoint accuracy during class discussions, but I have yet to really get any sort of emotional response from them.

Until today...

Today was the day I have been dreading because, you see, this was the day where we came to a pivotal part of the story that just happens to be really sad. Like "can't see to read through your tears" sad. And while I've read this book four times already, I still managed to let loose a torrent of tears while reading it in front of both sixth grade classes. My eager class who always begs me to read the book remained stoic in their emotions (or they were just really good at hiding them) while I sat there blubbering through the words on the page. But something magical happened in my usually stoic class: as I struggled to read my way through the sad part, I heard an accompaniment of sniffles and snorts to backup my own tears, along with a few students who got up out of their seats to grab tissues.

It was a moment I will always remember with this class because they allowed themselves to be vulnerable when most of them have spent a great deal of time building up their middle school armor of dispassion and indifference. The only time they generally show emotion is to declare something unjust, unfair, or just plain dumb. Who would've thought that a fictional fifth-grade boy named August Pullman could get them to open their heart and affix it directly to their sleeve.

Cover Reveal: Demon Derby by Carrie Harris

I am so excited to reveal the cover of Carrie Harris's new novel. Not only do I love her previous two books, but she has visited my classroom a couple times so yeah, she's pretty darn awesome. And her author bio is 100% true: she is incapable of being serious for more than 5 minutes. Which is why I think you should put this book on your to-read list today because you know with her sense of humor, this book is going to be awesome.

Author: Carrie Harris
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Paranormal
Age Group: Young Adult
Expected release: March 2014

Casey kicked cancer’s ass. Now a demon wants to kick hers...

Casey hates being known as the girl who survived cancer. She wants people to treat her like her old self, fearless and strong. And after a creepy encounter with a crazy guy in an alley, Casey is all about reclaiming her power.

So when she has a chance to try out for the Apocalypsies roller derby team, she jumps on it. Being a derby girl would prove that she doesn’t need anybody’s pity. It doesn’t hurt that Michael, the team manager, is almost unnaturally hot. Which makes sense when Casey finds out that he’s not even human.

Michael’s got a secret: he trains demon hunters. That crazy guy in the alley? Demon. And the fact that Casey went head to head with evil and lived makes her a threat to demonkind. Casey thought she’d already fought and won the battle of her lifetime. But it’s only beginning...

From Carrie Harris, author of BAD TASTE IN BOYS and BAD HAIR DAY, comes a knockout new read for anyone facing their own demons—inside and out.

About the Author
Carrie Harris is the author of BAD TASTE IN BOYS and BAD HAIR DAY. Her husband is a cancer survivor and a ninja doctor, and her three kids are already in training to fight evil someday. She collects monster-themed clothing, is physically incapable of being serious for more than five minutes at a time, and isn’t a derby girl…yet.

Carrie Harris | Twitter | Facebook

Monday, March 11, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? 3-11-13

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen and Kellee  over at Teach Mentor Texts also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

So last night I made kind of a big announcement and I have been overwhelmed at the amount of love and support I have received. I feel so blessed to be a part of such a strong, supportive reading community.

But anyway, to the books...

Last week I finished:

Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin 

FANTASTIC! I will definitely be writing a longer review of this one soon but wow! Steve Sheinkin, keep writing nonfiction because kids need these kinds of texts.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
I will definitely be pairing this text with Wonder by RJ Palacio. Lots to discuss here. Especially the less-than-neat ending. 

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain 
So I like totally understand myself better after reading this book. And while I can be an abrasive loud mouth on occasion, that's really only when I feel strongly about something. Otherwise, I'm a total introvert. And learning about the way introverts' minds work is definitely going to help me better explain myself when my husband finds it difficult to understand where I'm coming from when I find myself needing solitude.

Currently reading:
The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner
I know there are some Nerdy Book Club friends right now who are wondering what the heck took me so long to pick up this book and all I have to say is, I defer to the giant TBR mountain where sometimes gems unfortunately get pushed to the bottom of the pile. 

Currently listening:

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
Again, this is another one that took me too long to get to. 

Last week I reviewed:
Tyler Florence Fresh

I also posted about:
Skyping with Audrey Vernick on World Read Aloud Day
Students creating their own buttons for "read a button day"

Current Giveaway:
Ruined by Paula Morris (U.S.) ends 3/13