Ready, Set, Go!

Today was the first day of my 16th year of teaching middle school English Language Arts. Even as I type this,  I am in awe (and mostly horrified) at how fast the first fifteen years have flown by. This year I plan to blog more about the things happening in room 213. Easier said than done with 90+ students this year, but I have fantastic readers and writers in my Enriched Language Arts classes, and if last year was any indication, we are off to the races to do some deep thinking and learning about ourselves and our place in the world. I look forward to sharing our journey with you!

Day 1: Welcome to Room 213!

Instead of the typical first day of procedures and expectations speeches, I wanted to do something different this year. I love Ben Bache’s PBL Project Weekly Warm Ups and my seventh grade class was instantly hooked as they studied new apps of the future and created new and exciting apps that will make consumers’ lives easier and “happier”. Tomorrow students will present to small focus groups and revise their app pitches. We will then create final presentations and share in a gallery walk on Friday. As I walked around and eavesdropped on conversations taking place, there will be apps of all sorts being shared tomorrow!

My sixth grade class is brand new to the building and so I presented Adam Rex’s School’s First Day of School as a great conversation starter. I simply asked them to jot down what they noticed as I read the book to them. If you haven’t read this fantastic picture book, I hope you check it out. I love the crayon pictures! School has a rough start, but after awhile he realizes that he’s not the only one who is nervous. It’s a great mentor text for personification, too. We had a great discussion about how the author conveyed the idea of being new to a situation and it not being as scary as you thought it might be.

My two ninth grade classes were given a spelling test on the first day of school! The looks on their faces as I asked them to get out a piece of paper and number 1-30 were priceless. I used The most commonly misspelled words in every state according to Google list that has been making the rounds on social media the last few weeks. We then had a conversation about the infographic and the data it shares. It led to a great conversation!

Tomorrow my two groups of 8th graders taking 9th grade English will be working on a 100 word story using a snap shot of their summer break. Because of shortened periods and a lot of questions today, we did not get to start on them, but this is a very creative group of writers (some of whom successfully completed NaNoWriMo as 7th graders) so I know they will jump right in. Here is an example that I used from my summer vacation last year:

Taco Tuesday

In hindsight, I had definitely used the wrong tool for the job. A three second decision had cost me a three hour visit to the emergency room. While prepping for Taco Tuesday, I decided to make my famous guacamole. Grabbing a knife from the drawer, I quickly clenched an avocado in the palm of my hand and aimed for the pit. A blood curdling scream brought my husband racing into the kitchen, only to behold the knife in my middle finger and the pit still in the avocado. I was about to get three stitches and Taco Tuesday was cancelled.

How have you shaken things up and started off the school year in a unique way? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Lesley ♥

 

 

IMWAYR 3.14.16

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What I’ve read recently:

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Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

YA Contemporary Fiction, 2015, 320 pages

My Goodreads Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This book is very intriguing and unique. A teenage girl lives with her mother and has a very rare disease. Madeline is basically allergic to the outside world and has not left the house in many years. Her daytime nurse, Carla, who checks her vitals regularly, is her best (and only) friend. Her days all run together until a new family moves in next door and Madeline meets Olly, a lanky teenager who after a series of events and Carla’s blessing, comes inside for a face to face meeting. I look forward to reading more books by Nicola Yoon in the future.

Currently in my TBR pile:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMWAYR 2.8.15

monday

 

Today I’m recapping all the books I read in January. I was able to read five books, while getting back into my classroom routine after Winter Break, and having a surprise snow day definitely helped!

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Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Biography, 5 out of 5 stars

A fascinating story about track phenom and WWII POW Louie Zamperini, and his courageous spirit. This YA adaption of the adult version is easy to read, but doesn’t skimp on pictures and details all of the hardships Zamperini faced during his lifetime.  A great addition to the informational section of your classroom library.

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Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

YA Fantasy, 5 out of 5 Stars

This is the third, and final, book in the very popular Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series and it continues the story right where book two ends. I regretted not re-reading book two before starting Library of Souls, but once I got about fifty pages in, I was once again captivated by the storyline and unforgettable characters. If you haven’t ever read this series, it centers around Jacob, an ordinary boy who finds himself in a very peculiar world. The author incorporates creepy vintage photographs into the storyline and has created a fascinating world and cast of characters. I really enjoyed this book and especially its ending. I cannot wait until the movie for book 1 comes out at the end of the year!

i crawl

I Crawl Through It by A.S. King

YA Surrealistic Fiction, 3 out of 5 stars

I am a huge A.S. King book and have read all of her books, but this one threw me for a loop. I have not read very books in this genre, and it was hard to acclimate to it. It is a very interesting story about four teenagers crippled with grief and how they are struggling and dealing with school and life while most of the adults are oblivious and incompetent. The daily bomb threats and emphasis on standardized testing at school add to the chaos of the teenagers’ lives. This would be a good fit for a high school English classroom for older readers.

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A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman

YA Contemporary Novel in Verse, 4 out of 5 Stars

Ever since my colleague and I did a novels in verse unit this fall with our students (it was amazing!), I am on the look out for more novels in verse to add to our collection. This book is an interesting look at a teenage Indian girl’s life and love of ancient dance after a terrible accident. I love the Indian influence in the book and the protagonist, Veda’s resilient spirit. An interesting read for those who like novels in verse.

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Help Wanted at Mount Vernon by Holly Young and Cathy Morgan

MG Informational, 4 out of 5 Stars

I bought this book after Corbett Harrison (corbettharrison.com) suggested it as a companion for one of his Writing Lessons of the Month. While it was a little pricy on Amazon, I am glad I got it. The story is about two characters – a fainting goat and spitting lizard, who are out of work, stumble upon Mount Vernon and try to get new jobs. While trying out for several positions on the grounds, they learn all about the creative problem solving George Washington used to run his plantation in the 1700’s. A lot of cool History and Math is used in the book and while the characters’ blunders are a little cheesy, the book is pretty cool. There is also an online component that can be used for a neat PBL opportunity. I would love to have a class set of these books!

I hope you had a great reading month in January! I’d love to hear what books you loved so I can add them to my TBR list!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Classroom: Inside Outside Book Interviews

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This year my students are up and moving around, mind mapping and blogging on a very regular basis. We are doing Kelly Gallagher’s Reading Minute daily, collecting vocabulary words and using Corbett Harrison’s vocabulary boxes and Writers’ Notebook activities, while reading whole class novels via small book club discussion groups. Yes, we’ve been busy!

After a long week of working hard, I tried something new on Friday afternoon that was pretty successful: Inside Outside Book Interviews. These book interviews are based off of something I saw on Twitter awhile ago, but regrettably, I do not remember the source. While this activity isn’t flashy and is very low tech, students and I had a great time – it was loud, fun, and there was lots of movement. I’ve listed the activity’s steps below, and what modifications we will make next time. I hope that you’ll try it out in your classroom and let me know how it goes!

Inside Outside Book Interviews

  • Before starting, have students create interview questions of their choice that center around classmates’ independent reading books. (We started with 5 questions) They will take these questions and their own book to the interviews. Because students had never done this before, a lot of their questions were things like “What genre is your book?” or “Do you like it so far?”.
  • Divide the class in half. One group will be in the inner circle facing out, and the other half in the outer circle facing inward. Students in the inner circle have their books, while the students in the outer circle have their questions.
  • Explain that the outer students will be interviewing the inner students who are holding their books up during the interviews. After an agreed upon time (5 minutes) students will rotate to their next interview.
  • About half way through the allotted time you have for this activity, stop the interviews and have the class assess how things are going. When asked, my students said they were having fun, getting lots of book recommendations, but that a lot of the interview questions required one word answers, so their interviews were not taking very long. When I asked how we could make this activity better, students said that opened ended questions were a must and that having some back up questions were a good idea too. At this time I had the inner and outer circle switch places and start the process all over again. This time around students were asking more in depth questions and talking the entire five minutes.
  • At the end of the activity I congratulated all of them for doing their first round of interviews and asked for students to recognize peers that had challenging questions and/or insightful answers. This was great because the students recognized were not the ones that usually raise their hands in class. Love it when that happens!

I’ll definitely be doing these interviews again – probably once a quarter. As they evolve, we’ll work on perfecting our interview questions and how to answer without giving too much away. I’m always trying to make activities like this more fun and rewarding, so if you try these out and modify it in any way, please let me know!

Lesley ♥

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 9.28.15 #IMWAYR

IMWAYR

I’m baaaaaack! It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve posted here, but today my students will be posting their first IMWAYR posts, so I have no excuses! While I am 22 books behind my Goodreads reading goal right now, I have had read some pretty good books lately, and here are a few of them!

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.

Be sure to click on the covers for an in depth synopsis and others’ reviews

2 a night divided

A Night DIvided by Jennifer Nielsen

MG Historical Fiction, August, 2015
384 Pages

My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

Everything Jennifer Nielsen writes is awesome. The False Prince trilogy is probably my favorite middle grade series. She writes characters so well and A Night Divided is another example of a book with characters that jump off the page. I haven’t read a lot of books about the Cold War and Berlin Wall so I was intrigued by the interesting subject matter. This story is told from twelve year old Gerta’s perspective and centers around the Wall being put up one night when her father and brother are away, and now half of her family is on the East side and 2 others on the West. The conditions on the East side are terrible and Gerta and her brother Fritz long to be reunited with their father and escape to the West. Time is running out and they are forced to make some big decisions. Highly recommend this book!!

crossing stones

Crossing Stones by Helen Frost

Historical Fiction Novel Written in Verse, 2009
184 Pages
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
My seventh graders will soon be undertaking a very big study of novels in verse (Surprise, 3rd and 6th period!) and I am still looking for good titles. I love Helen Frost’s structured verse and am in awe as I read her books. She is very talented! This novel takes place in a rural setting around two families that live near each other. Their lives are intertwined and World War I and the Women’s Suffrage Movement force the family to face an ever changing world. The whole story takes place around nine months of their lives. I wasn’t sure the subject matter and time period would be interesting, but I fell in love with these characters and Helen Frost’s beautiful words. Timeless themes of family, war, and growing up are relevant to all readers.

hello googdbye

Hello, Goodbye and Everything by Jennifer E. Smith

YA Contemporary Fiction, September, 2015
246 Pages
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jennifer E Smith is another favorite author of mine. I highly recommend The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and The Geography of You and MeHello, Goodbye and Everything in Between is another great book about teen relationships and this one centers around one night, which I was a little hesitant about at first. 250 pages about one night? It definitely works. Clare and Aiden, the golden couple, are headed off to college the next morning. Two different colleges on opposite sides of the country. While Clare has prepared a walk down memory lane for the couple, both have bigger things to figure out. Should they make a clean break or should they continue their relationship, long distance? This book had me laughing out loud at times and is pretty adorable!

I’m hoping to pick up A Night Divided  and Hello, Goodbye and Everything In Between at our school’s upcoming book fair in November. Not sure I can wait that long to get them for our classroom, but we’ll see.

Here’s what I’m reading next:

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Have a great week! ♥

(All pictures are from goodreads.com)

2nd Annual Blackout Poetry Week April 20-24th

blackout poets logo

Join us for Blackout Poetry Week

April 20th-24th 

Use #blackoutpoets on Twitter and Instagram

Fellow teacher and poetry enthusiast Jason Stephenson and I would like to once again invite all educators, students and authors to help celebrate poetry in the classroom by participating in a worldwide Blackout Poetry Event on Twitter and Instagram. You can find more information about how cool Blackout Poetry is by going herehere and here.  

Here are some examples of Blackout Poetry. Stock up on markers and get creative!

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We’d love to see you do a blackout poem of a page from your favorite novel, a newspaper article or something lying around your home. Students from all over the world will be participating and sharing their love of words.

Please contact @blackoutpoets, @lesleymosher and @teacherman82 for more information.

 

It’s Monday! What are you reading? 4/6/15

IMWAYR

Spring Break flew by and while I didn’t get nearly all the projects completed that I wanted to, I was able to read two great books and start a third. I’ve said it before, but I’m forever thankful for NetGalley and the opportunity to read new titles before they come out!

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.

Be sure to click on the covers for an in depth synopsis and others’ reviews

saintanything

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

YA Contemporary Fiction, Release Date: 5/5/15
448 Pages
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
A new Sarah Dessen book! I think this is my favorite book she has ever written, which is saying a lot because her books are all fantastic. Sydney’s older brother, Peyton, is facing serious consequences after his latest reckless behavior. Good girl and perfect daughter Sydney is once again forgotten amidst the chaos and decides to change schools to get a fresh start. Her mom continues to be obsessed with appearances while her son is in jail, while Sydney’s dad works all the time and goes along with whatever his wife says and does. After a trip to local Seaside Pizza, Sidney meets the Chatham family and things start to turn around. They show her kindness, friendship, and acceptance. I really got into this book and was surprised to learn that it is over 400 pages long. It sure didn’t feel like it! I love the characters in the book and I laughed out loud often. There are some really sweet and memorable scenes and I love the “family” theme in this book. This will definitely be a title I add to my classroom!

bright and shiny things

The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre

YA Contemporary Fiction, Release Date: 4/7/15
336 Pages
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
This is a book that I’ve seen ALL OVER twitter. The cover intrigued me and I’m so glad I was able to read it! Sage tries really hard to be perfect. Her past is a mystery and she doesn’t reveal too much to anyone. Her character is quirky and I love her voice in the book and her commitment for the environment, which definitely make for some funny scenes. Her love life is non existent, due in part to a complicated friendship with her best friend, Ryan, until the new boy Shane shows up and throws her for a loop. But Shane is trying to lay low and make it to graduation with no distractions. Little do they know that their lives will become intertwined, and while running from their pasts and outside influences, they will struggle to make a future for themselves. I hate giving away plots of books, so I hope I haven’t spoiled anything, but I did really enjoy this one. I think it will be really popular for teen readers and I’d love to see more from this author!