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







It’s Monday! What are you reading? #IMWAYR 10/27/14



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.

Here’s what I’ve read lately:

(Click on the covers to read a book’s synopsis and others’ reviews)



 Four: A Divergent Collection by Veronica Roth

Dystopian, 2014
208 Pages
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Divergent was my first dystopian book and it has a special place in my heart. I was lucky enough to get a copy signed by Veronica Roth at NCTE12 and to me she is the epitome of a cool writer. Reading Divergent scenes from Four’s point of view was interesting and entertaining. What a complex character! I like the books from the trilogy series better, but enjoyed how this title filled in gaps, especially regarding Four’s relationship with each of his parents.

blood of my blood

Blood of My Blood (Jasper Dent #3) by Barry Lyga

YA Mystery/Thriller, 2014
464 Pages
My Rating 4/5 Stars
The Jasper Dent series has given me more nightmares that I’d like to admit. I am not a fan of *anything* scary, but these books are so well written that I couldn’t resist devouring them. #3 is particularly twisted and has one of the most memorable endings that I’ve ever read. Just thinking about it seriously creeps me out. Jasper Dent is a true YA hero and surely will find his way to the screen someday soon.

Ill give you the sun

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

YA Contemporary Fiction, 2014

My Rating 5/5 Stars
Listen up, everyone – this is the BEST BOOK I HAVE READ IN 2014. It is fantastic! The main characters, Jude and Noah, are inseparable twins, with a somewhat magically connection, that end up broken and lost after a tragic event rocks their family to the core. Over the course of chapters from both twins’ point of views, the book is filled with amazing characters, sub plots and the setting is described so beautifully. This is a story about love, loss and growing up. I have read online that there is already a script written for the movie version of this book, and I think Rainbow Rowell, John Green and David Levithan fans will fill theaters for this one. This book is all of these authors rolled into one. I love Jandy Nelson’s work – The Sky is Everywhere – is also amazing. Highly suggest you check these titles out.

far from you

Far From You by Lisa Schroeder

YA Contemporary Fiction written in verse, 2008
355 Pages
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Lisa Schroeder’s novels in verse are always great additions to my classroom library. They are popular for readers of all backgrounds and interests. I like novels in verse because I find the writer’s decision making process fascinating. Intentionally having two lines on a page vs. a much longer section for impact is a valuable lesson for student writers. Alice’s mother has died from cancer, and her relationship with her dad and step mother is strained. She finds solace when she is with her boyfriend and friend, but even those relationships start disintegrating. Alice has a hard time getting over her mother’s death and starts retreating into herself and it takes an almost deadly predicament for her to come around. I Heart You, You Haunt Me is still my favorite title from Schroeder, but this one is pretty good, too.

famous last words

Famous Last Words by Katie Alender

YA Mystery, 2014
320 Pages
My Rating 4/5 Pages
Katie Alender’s Bad Girls Don’t Die series and Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer are great mystery reads and I really enjoyed Famous Last Words too. It was a little predictable near the end, but creepy enough to hold my attention. Out of all of her books, Marie Antoinette… is my favorite. Alender definitely has a genre that she writes very well. Middle School readers will devour these books.

It’s Monday! What are you reading? #IMWAYR 9/29/14


We are a month into the new school year and wow, is it going fast! I’m still catching up on my 2014 Goodreads goal of 140 books and I am behind for sure!

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.

Here’s what I’ve read lately:

(Click on the covers to read a book’s synopsis and reviews)


killer instinct

Killer Instinct (The Naturals #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

YA Mystery, Expected release date 11/4/14

My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

This is the 2nd book in The Naturals series and it starts right where #1 ends. The Naturals are a group of misfit teens with incredible talents and are used in a secret FBI project to solve crimes that no one else can. While this book is centered around Dean and his super creepy father, the main character, Cassie, is still dealing with trauma and feelings from events in book 1. I love the characters in this book and feel that this series is set up so well for a successful teen CSI type psychological thriller TV show that I would not be surprised if it happens sometime soon!

upside down

           Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana

     Middle Grade Historical Fiction, 2014

   My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

This book takes place in the Ninth Ward neighborhood of New Orleans before, during and after Hurricane Katrina. Armani Curtis and her family are celebrating her 10th birthday on the day the devastating hurricane changes their lives forever. This book is long at 320 pages, but would make an excellent read aloud if you have the time. I had to read it in sections because of the lump in my throat that wouldn’t go away. I participated in a mission trip to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and helped rebuild a house. While there, we toured the city, including the Ninth Ward. This book really resonated with me. Beautiful writing and a very sweet main character that will stick with you!

bronx masquerade

 Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes YA

Realistic Fiction, 2001

My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 stars

This award winning novel is centered around a poetry slam and gives readers a glimpse at the lives of 18 different teenage writers in a Bronx High School. The poems are gritty, heart wrenching and most often, heartwarming. I loved the poetry aspect of this novel, but did find the multiple points of view hard to keep up with. It was challenging to follow all of the sub plots and keep everyone straight. I did appreciate that after each poem there was commentary from Tyrone, who moves the story along with his thoughts and updates about how this group of teenagers is transforming while sharing their writing with each other. This book would be a great addition to a poetry unit with older readers and writers about finding your voice.

geography of you and me

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

YA Realistic Fiction, 2014

My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

Fans of Smith’s other books, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and This is What Happy Looks Like, will not be disappointed with her newest title. Set in New York, and a plethora of other places, this is a sweet look at two teenagers who meet each other in the middle of a sweltering summer blackout in NYC. I did enjoy the first two books more, but this one will definitely be as popular as the others with young readers. I also just found out the The Statistical Probability… has been picked up and optioned for a movie. This would be interesting to see on the big screen!

It’s Monday! What are you reading? #IMWAYR 9/8/14


We are starting our 3rd week of school, and let me tell you, I have some readers this year! We have set up our interactive notebooks, talked about the 40 Book Challenge, and most classes are reading 20 minutes a day already. I’ve managed to read a little bit too, and hopefully I can catch up on my Goodreads goal by the end of the month.

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.

 Here’s what I’ve read lately:

(Click on the covers to read a book’s synopsis and reviews)


Nest by Esther Ehrich

Historical Fiction, Release Date: 9/9/14
336 pages
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 stars
Nest is one of those books that is hard to put down. The main character, Chirp, has such an unforgettable voice – she’s vulnerable, sassy, wise and unsure all at the same time. While Chirp is an expert on birds and loves to watch and observe them, she is still very much figuring things out at home and school. After a family tragedy, life gets very hard for Chirp and she becomes a shell of her vibrant self. It takes an adventure and a lot of understanding to come back to where she belongs. I loved the 1970’s music and culture references throughout and the themes of family, friendship and love are very strong. Beautiful book!

payback time

Payback Time by Carl Deuker

Realistic Fiction/Sports, 2010
304 pages
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
This is my first read by this author. I picked it up at a book sale, while crossing my fingers that it would be a good fit in my middle school classroom. I was super excited that 1. it takes place in Seattle, which is my favorite city, and 2. it is a great book that will be an excellent addition to my classroom library. Mitch is an overweight sports reporter for his high school and he and Kimi, the photographer assigned to work with him, stumble upon a football mystery while working their senior year. Mitch and Kimi are excellent students with bright futures, and find themselves way over their heads as they unravel a story of ineligible players, cheating coaches, and a state title on the line. Fans of Mike Lupica and John Feinstein sports books will like this one, too.


Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey by Nick Bertozzi

Historical Fiction Graphic Novel, 2014
128 Pages
My Goodreads Rating: 3/5 Stars
I plan on doing a quarter long unit with my seventh and eighth grade students in my reading intervention class that centers around explorers, and specifically Sir Ernest Shackleton, the great Antarctic explorer. Shackleton is a fascinating person to read about! While I am not sure this is the best book for my students, it does have some very cool layouts of the ships and some interesting maps. Bertozzi also has a similar book on Lewis and Clark that is probably worth checking out.

Happy Reading, everyone!

Lesley ♥

It’s Monday! What are you reading? #IMWAYR 8/11/14


Helloooo, August! I can’t say I am particularly happy to see you, as summer for this teacher is rapidly coming to an end. Here’s what I’ve read lately. I’ve been looking for some YA books to pair with Romeo and Juliet for my 9th grade English class and haven’t been successful. If you know of any (that aren’t in this post) please let me know!

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.

 Here’s what I’ve read lately:

(Click on the covers to read a book’s synopsis and reviews)

 everything leads to you

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

YA Contemporary Fiction, 2014
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5
I loved LaCour’s Disenchantments, and was looking forward to this one too. It does not disappoint. It is all about behind the scenes of moving making, old and new Hollywood, friendships and relationships. Cool book.

clockwork angel

Clockwork Angel (The Internal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare

YA Fantasy, 2010
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5
The Infernal Devices series is the prequel to The Mortal Instruments series. I love the world Cassandra Clare has created with these books and Will Herrondale’s character is everything! Loved it and can’t wait to read #2.

beastlyBeastly by Alex Flynn

YA Urban Fantasy (remake of Beauty and the Beast), 2007

My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
This is book #1 of my quest to find some contemporary lit to go with Romeo and Juliet. I liked the story a lot and I am sure that students would really enjoy it too.

warm bodies

Warm Bodies by Issac Marion

High YA Urban Fantasy, 2010

My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
I read another book about zombies! This is book #2 I chose to read in my search for books to pair with R&J and I really enjoyed this one too. It is funny, endearing and has smart writing. It took me awhile to get over the creep factor, but definitely a great book that I am glad I read.

perfect chemistry

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

YA Fiction, 2008

My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Possible book #3 for my R&J unit is set in Chicago, and is probably one of my favorite star crossed lovers adaptation I’ve read. Great story for older readers.

escape from lucien

Amulet #6 Escape From Lucien by Kazu Kibuishi

MG Fantasy, 8/26/14 Release Date
I was happy and excited to find out that I was pre approved to read this ARC on Netgalley and although the whole book did not have color in the posted version, it is amazing! This volume is action packed and several new characters are introduced. Students will love it! I’ve already preordered it for my classroom, and really want to read #5 and this one again before I hand it to students. I might have to do that in secret!


Sisters (a companion book to Smile) by Raina Telgemeier

MG Realistic Fiction, 8/26/14
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
This was another ARC pre approval on Netgalley. Sisters is a great graphic novel for fans of Smile. It is funny and would be a great mentor text for using flashbacks. I thought it was a cute story and have already preordered for my room!

when I was the greatest

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds

High YA Realistic Fiction, 2014
My Goodreads Rating 5/5 Stars
Oh, how I love this book! I would have given it a few more stars if I were allowed. Fans of Matthew Quick’s Boy 21 will like this one a lot. Set in Bed Stuy, New York, the story centers around 3 teenage boys – Ali, Noodles and Needles.  Definite mentor text for characterization.

While none of the books I read to possibly use for my Romeo and Juliet unit will work in my middle school classroom, I read a lot of great books over the past month. Thankful for summer reading!

Coming Full Circle With the Wonder of Wonder & Part 2: Julian’s Chapter

julians chapter

A little background…

During the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, my school read Wonder by RJ Palacio for our first “One Book One School” event and promoted the book’s “Choose Kind” message all year long. Students embraced the story and it was a great experience! My students and I used this resource from the Help Readers Love Reading blog and it helped tremendously with student background knowledge and prompting discussions. I highly recommend checking both Wonder and pairing it with this blog if you haven’t already. As you can imagine, it was very exciting and rewarding to discuss and refer to Wonder with students and staff members throughout the year.

Fast forward to May….

This spring, RJ Palacio released an ebook companion to Wonder called “Julian’s Chapter”. If you haven’t read Wonder, Julian is the bully and antagonist of the story that creates a lot of trouble throughout the book. Like any good reading teacher, I kept the release to myself, as I wanted to surprise my students with it and wow, were they excited! They remembered Julian as the bully and mean kid and did not have nice things to say about him. We read “Julian’s Chapter” over the course of a little over a week (it’s a lot longer than I thought it would be) and it was a great way to end the school year. I read it with the students and didn’t preview it ahead of time. This lead to some great discussions as we found things out together.The Help Readers Love Reading blog has some great resources for Julian’s chapter, too. It’s no surprise that reading a story from the bully’s perspective is a unique opportunity and students learned a lot from this read aloud. Every story has two sides and by the end, we appreciated that Palacio gave her readers more story.

Without giving too much away, “Julian’s Chapter” gives insight into why Julian acts the way he does, his home life and how he comes to terms with what happened during his fifth grade school year. He goes to visit his grandmother in Paris and this was my favorite part of the story. His grandmother tells a story from her childhood that Julian has not heard, and it kept my students and I on the edge of our seats. Full disclosure, this part really got me choked up and there was a mad dash to get the teacher some tissues that day! Overall, revisiting RJ Palacio’s characters was a great experience, and one that I’m sure students will remember for a long, long time.

Looking back……

As an educator, it doesn’t get better than this. Through two stories, and lots of discussions over the course of 8 months, we ended the school year full circle – promoting the “Choose Kind” message with a shared reading experience that students will not soon forget.



Literacy Loot: Shoes, Totes and Tequila!

literacy loot meme

In an effort to find some interesting items for this week’s post, I challenged myself to find things from places other than Etsy, which is my go to site for all things cool and unique. Honestly, this was a really tough task and I struggled a bit. I hope you like what I came up with!

♥ Click on the pictures for more information ♥

♥ Scroll to the bottom for links to past Literacy Loot posts ♥

 Literacy Loot to Wear:

shoes of note

These “Shoes of Note” Flats from ModCloth ($64.99) are too crazy not to share. I loved reading all the reviews, from mostly English teachers, about how excited buyers were to wear these to school. Cute!

alice necklace

This “Down the Rabbit Hole” Necklace from Out of Print ($32) is perfect for Wonderland fans of all ages.

 Literacy Loot for the School:

Jo Tote

Calling all Little Women fans! This “Bookshelf Bandit Tote” in “Jo” by Out of Print and listed on ModCloth ($19.99) has an adorable pattern that I love. All of the “Bandit Totes” are worth checking out.

greatest first lines mug

The “Greatest First Lines of Literature Ever Mug” from Bas Bleu ($12.95) would be a great addition to any classroom, whether it holds pens and pencils or some much needed morning caffeine!

Literacy Loot Items for the Home:

tequila mockingbird

This Tim Federle book would be the perfect adult book club read. Funny and entertaining, this title is listed on Amazon ($11.46).  The sequel, Hickory Daiquiri Dock, a cocktail book for new parents, comes out in December.


Previous Literacy Loot Posts:

Introducing…. Literacy Loot! Week 1

Literacy Loot (2) Reading signs for the home

Literacy Loot (3) Buttons and T-shirts

Literacy Loot (4) Library Stamp, Notebook iPad Cover, T-shirt

Literacy Loot (5) Read & Write Banners, Grasshopper stapler, and Grammar Plates

Literacy Loot (6) Teacher Treasures: Teacher Business Cards, Shelf tree wall decals

Literacy Loot Week 7: Teacher Treasures PART 4: The Best of the Best

Harry Potter Must Haves and a Book Scented Candle