Our Class Blog is Live! A Call for #commentsforkids

blogging adventures

 

My students have been blogging now for about 2 1/2 months and we finally decided to go PUBLIC. We’ve been writing reviews, bucket lists, poems, stories and working on commenting. We’d love to hear from you and your students. If you have a class blog, leave the link below and we will return the favor by commenting on your blogs, too. On behalf of my student writers, thank you!

Mrs. Mosher’s 2nd Period Blog

It’s Monday! What are you reading? #IMWAYR 12/15/14

9d8ab-monreadingbuttonpbtoya

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys and invites bloggers to recap what they’ve read this week while planning ahead on what to read next! Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers added their own twist by focusing on kidlit, from picture books up to YA.

Click on the covers for an in depth synopsis and others’ reviews

ill meet you there

I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

Contemporary YA Fiction, Release Date: 2/3/15
Alcoholism, Death of a Parent, War, PTSD, College, Romance
400 Pages, My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
I was lucky enough to read I’ll Meet You There through Netgalley, and I loved it! The main character, and recent graduate, Skylar Evans, is ready to leave the miserable, soul sucking town of Creek View for bigger and much better things at art school in San Fransisco. Freedom is right around the corner, but first she has to survive through the summer. With 3 minimum wage jobs, a scary home situation, strained friendships, and the return of hometown hero Josh Mitchell, Skylar is going to have her hands full. Josh Mitchell, on the other hand, is back from fighting in Afghanistan, and is barely holding on. His life is nothing of what it used to be and he is struggling physically and mentally. The only thing keeping him going right now is going to support meetings with other vets and working at The Paradise with Skylar. This book is so much more than a summer romance!

Such a great story and the differing perspectives of Josh and Sklyar are really powerful! I loved all the characters in the book, the setting, and really wish we could have more stories about those who have served and the struggles they have when they return home.

the summer I turned pretty

The Summer I Turned Pretty (Summer #1) by Jenny Han

Contemporary YA Fiction, 2009
Cancer, Divorce, Growing Up
276 Pages, My Goodreads Rating:4/5 Stars
The main character of The Summer… is Belly. Fifteen year old Belly (short for Isabelle) spends her summers with her mother, brother, her mother’s best friend and her two sons, Jeremiah and Conrad, at the beach. Belly has essentially grown up at the beach with these boys – through all the swims, feasts, pranks, trips to the boardwalk, and while this summer is more of the same, it’s also a summer that changes everything.

I enjoy Jenny Han’s writing, and this story was pretty good. At times I found the narrator, Belly, a little annoying, but the flashbacks and storyline were ok. I would be interested in reading #2, especially after reading the first chapter excerpt and thinking “Wait, how did THAT happen?!” From reading these few pages of book 2 it seems there will have to be a lot of flashbacks to clue readers in on what happened between the two books.

not that kind

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

Memoir, 2014
265 pages, My Goodreads rating 3/5 Stars
Disclaimer: I purchased this book in the midst of a 7 minute ebook buying frenzy. I have never seen Dunham’s HBO show Girls and don’t really know that much about her. You know where this review is going, don’t you? While I thought a lot of the book was interesting and somewhat humorous, I will be the first to admit that the majority of the book was way over my head and I didn’t get a lot of the references. While I’m happy I stuck with it, I honestly think I probably should have spent the couple extra dollars on Amy Poehler’s book instead.

all the bright places

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Contemporary YA Fiction, Release Date: 1/6/15
Mental Illness, YA romance
384 Pages, My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
This book is being advertised as a cross between The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park. Yep. That tagline definitely does All the Bright Places justice. The first pages happen on top of a school bell tower with outsider Theodore Finch contemplating if this will be the day he ends his life. He is interrupted by the beautiful Violet, who is also on the bell tower trying to figure things out. Their stories will intertwine in complicated swirls and readers will get sucked into their love story very quickly. You’ll be thinking about these two characters long after you finish the last page. This book is amazing. Funny, sad and very, very powerful. It gutted me and I still think about it. So glad I got to read this through NetGalley. Highly recommend!

dumbest ideaThe Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jimmy Gownley

Graphic Novel Memoir, 2014
Art, School life, Achieving Dreams
240 Pages, My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
I picked up this graphic novel at the Scholastic sale solely on the title. I read it the next day and while I don’t think it’s the best graphic novel I’ve ever read, it does has potential in my classroom library. The author tells the story of how his first graphic novel was published when he was in high school and how dreams do come true with hard work. While this message sometimes gets lost in some slow sub plots, I think if the right reader comes along, this book will make a big impact on his or her life. It just so happens I have a student this year who loves graphic novels and is obsessed with drawing. You can bet that this book will be on his desk Monday morning with a “READ ME!” note. I’m pretty excited to see what he things about it!

Happy Reading, everyone!

Hour of Code – Celebrating Computer Science Education Week

hour-of-code-logo

This week we have been celebrating Computer Science Education Week in my Focus Reading Intervention classes by participating in the 2014 Hour of Code. Hour of Code is a one hour introduction to computer science that provides the opportunity for anyone to learn the basics. We spent Monday and Tuesday of this week watching a couple of short instructional videos and then exploring several really cool programs.

We started with “Code with Elsa and Anna” and it was a fantastic introduction to working with block style coding. While it was a little slow and glitchy Monday from the large numbers of students all over the world accessing it (Honestly though…what a cool problem to have!)  students learned the basics of coding and moved through 20 levels of programming.

tumblr_inline_nfa2q4hM4t1s7qct1

On day two, students used Scratch, Lightbot and another block style coding program for Flappy Birds. Scratch is pretty challenging for beginners, and it was fun to watch students designing their own holiday cards and animating their names. Any time 6th, 7th and 8th graders are willingly trying new things, problem solving, and working together is a definite proud teacher moment!  It was one of the most animated and excited I have seen my students. I love that students can use their new knowledge of coding and work on projects outside of school. I have a couple 6th graders that are now determined to create their own apps and become Scratch experts.

Here are my awesome students showing off their Hour of Code certificates!

photo 1 6th grade photo 2 7th and 8th grade

It’s Monday! What are you reading? #IMWAYR 11/17/14

IMWAYR

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys and invites bloggers to recap what they’ve read this week while planning ahead on what to read next! Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers added their own twist by focusing on kidlit, from picture books up to YA.

Click on the covers for an in depth synopsis and others’ reviews

glory

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King

Contemporary High YA Fantasy, 2014
320 Pages
My Goodreads Rating: 3/5 Stars
A.S. King is one of my favorite YA authors and while I liked Glory O’Brien’s story, the plot was a little weird for me. It definitely has a Grasshopper Jungle vibe to it, so if you were in to that book, you’ll like this too. If you have never read any of King’s books, I highly recommend Please Ignore Vera Deitz, Everybody Sees the Ants, and Ask the Passengers. All are excellent!

the girl who

The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry

YA Mystery, 2013
213 Pages
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
The first chapter of this book will grab you and not let go. The main character has no idea where she is, who she is, or why her captors want to kill her. Cue the craziness! This book has major teen reader appeal and fans of Henry’s Girl Stolen will like this one too. The “twist” three fourths of the way through was a little “meh” for my taste, but I know this book will be a hit in my classroom for sure.

brown girl dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming  by Jacqueline Woodson

Memoir written in verse, 2014
336 Pages
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
WOW WOW WOW! This book is amazing. It’s the kind of book that deserves a second or third read immediately after you finish the first. Woodson shares the story of her childhood and takes us from Ohio to South Carolina to New York City. She shares story after story about her unique and loyal family members, growing up in the South, her early struggles with reading and the deep desire to be a writer. Definitely one of my top 3 books of 2014!

I also read some picture books this week that I’ve heard about online and requested from my library. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole was definitely my favorite and one of my nephews will definitely be getting a copy for Christmas.

tough boris

nesting bird

journey

sam and dave

What are you reading this week? I’m always looking for new books, so please share what’s in your stacks in the comments. Have a great week of reading, Literacy Lovers!

Sacred Writing Time With a Twist

 

writers (1)

I am a big believer in having my students write every day. Every. Single. Day. No matter what’s going on, we always make time for writing in our notebooks. At the start the year, we organized our notebooks into specific sections, made Heart Maps that captured future writing ideas, and decorated the outside of our notebooks with 5 Word Memoirs. Every month we use Corbett Harrison’s Sacred Writing Time Bingo Cards and students have a plethora of choices to pick from during writing time. I always promote student choice, but the cards are safety blankets that students can always use if they wish. Since we have been using the cards for a few months, there is now a noticeable excitement around the room when I pass them out, as students check out their options. We immediately go through each column and students star the ones they are interested in and jot down ideas in the boxes too. Hurray for writing routines!

Last week I decided to switch things up, and try something new. I chose the first chapter of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry as our mentor text and distributed copies of it to students. Recently having started this book myself, I was enjoying it because it is one of those books that grabs you from page 1. The first chapter starts with the female main character in a very desperate situation. She wakes up after possibly being drugged, has no idea who or where she is, or an answer to the biggest question, why there are two men trying to kill her. Major teen reader appeal!

The title of chapter one is “Day 1, 4:51 PM and when we finished reading the 4 pages, I asked students “What did you notice?” and we proceeded to discuss several things that stood out:

  • The title is very specific – Day 1, 4:51 PM. “This is an important detail. It was obviously done on purpose.”
  • The beginning sentences are noticeably short and get longer as the main character wakes up and adjusts to her surroundings. “Cool idea. It makes you want to keep reading because so many things happen so fast at the very beginning!”
  • The chapter ends with a MAJOR cliffhanger. “Wait! What happens next? We can’t just stop!”

Talk about insightful observations! Of course students wanted me to continue reading to find out what happens next, but I told them that it was now up to them to decide what happens. I threw out some directions – “Start the story 5 minutes, 5 hours or 1 day later and show what happens. Use suspense and descriptive details just like the author did. Go!” Students did some of their best writing of the year and after 20 minutes had gone by, hands shot up all over the place because they all wanted to share their stories. Proud teacher moment, let me tell you!

For the next week, the majority of my students continued their stories on and off during Sacred Writing Time and that is the proof that it was as successful lesson! A pro tip teacher bonus – I also had a drawing to see who got to check out the book first.

When writing activities come together as seamlessly as this one and students have FUN while working hard on pieces they are proud of – it builds community, writing skills, and an awesome story to tell all of you!

Happy writing, everyone!

♥  Lesley

 

It’s Monday! What are you reading? #IMWAYR 11/2/14

IMWAYR

 It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys and invites bloggers to recap what they’ve read this week while planning ahead on what to read next! Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers added their own twist by focusing on kidlit, from picture books up to YA.

ivan

Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate

 Picture Book, 2014
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
The One and Only Ivan is my favorite book. This picture book tells the story of how Ivan made it to the mall in Tacoma, Washington and eventually to Zoo Atlanta. It is fantastic and the note at the end from one of Ivan’s favorite zoo keepers made me tear up. Such a special story. I look forward to reading Ivan’s story to my students every year.

chasing brooklyn

Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder

YA Mystery, 2010
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
This is one of Schroeder’s longest novels in verse and it is very hard to put down. I enjoyed the two differing perspectives and the characters Nico and Brooklyn were interesting to follow. A sad story about loss and grieving. I would really like to add this one to my classroom library.

Blogging Adventures in Room 213 – Part 1, Getting Started is Half the Battle

or sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing

 

To blog or not to blog?

When I started this page a year and a half-ish ago, I’d always dreamed of having my students start blogging too. But how exactly to make that happen was a little intimidating. I talked myself out of it over and over again, telling myself it would be too much work up front, and too much to manage and keep track of, while all along, there was a tiny teacher voice in my head chanting “Do it! Do it!” You hear that nagging voice from time to time, too, I’m sure. Continually watching several teachers rave on Twitter about their students blogging was a constant reminder that I should just take the student blogging plunge. Still, I waited.

Fast forward to this past August, when I attended #edcampILECbus and sat in a session all about Kidblog, an online blogging platform designed for students and class blogs. I watched in amazement as the facilitators showed off former students’ blogs, some even from 1st graders who were clearly doing amazing work. OK, message received. I vowed to sign up for a Kidblog account and give it a try.

Why blogging?

Blogging has “cool factor” and teens are very intrigued by the idea of creating their own little corner of blogosphere. Some already have Tumblr pages so they were a little less wide eyed, but still pumped that they were now the “experts” in the room. Blogging wasn’t a tough sell, I can tell you that. From day one I kept dropping little hints about starting blogs and they had a ton of questions for me. Questions are some of the highest compliments students can give. It means they’re interested. Really interested.

I want my students to write with an authentic audience in mind. We write in our Writers’ Notebooks “on the daily” as they like to point out, but they don’t publish the majority of these shorter pieces. If their work is out there for the world to see, it is a whole different ballgame. A magnificent ballgame where i’s are capitalized, and spelling and punctuation are checked twice.

Ready, set, stop?

After setting up Kidblog accounts and passwords for my two classes – one an 8th grade inclusion ELA class, and the other a 9th grade English class for advanced 8th graders – I ran into a big bump in the road. While every student in my advanced class has computer and internet access outside of school, only about 1/3 of students in my other class do, and this class is notorious for not taking advantage of lunch and time after school for assignments. Because I don’t have a classroom set of computers, (though one can dream about it. Every.Single.Day.) I knew that some blogging would have to be completed outside of class. I have access to Chromebook carts and computer labs in my building, but once PARCC testing starts I will be lucky to get on my OWN computer during the day. While I wanted to keep high expectations for my students, the reality of requiring students to blog outside of school would probably be a big flop with one of the two classes. Time to reevaluate my plan and rethink this whole thing.

After much thought, I decided that I didn’t want to wait. Let’s do it, tiny teacher voice in my head! My new plan was this – I would start blogging with my 9th grade class and work out all the bugs with them and then bring my other class onboard slowly. If I could sell blogging to class number 1, they could help advertise it to class number 2. [Insert evil English teacher laugh here] Finally, it was time to launch blogging!

We’re officially bloggers!

We’ve been blogging for about a month now in class number 1, and while there have been bumps and pot holes along the way, it has been a welcomed addition to our classroom routines and rituals. My end goal is that after a month or two of everything running smoothly for the first class, class number 2 will soon beg to blog inside *and* outside of class and also want to stay in at lunch and after school. We’ll see how it goes.

In Part 2 of this ongoing series, I’ll talk about students’ first experiences with learning about blogs, and posting and commenting. Stay tuned, literacy lovers. We’re getting to the good part!

♥ Lesley