It’s Monday! What are you reading? 10/21/13


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.

Have I really not done a Monday post in a month? Yikes! Let me catch you up on what I’ve been reading, and also share some titles that I hope to read soon!

Here’s what I’ve read lately:

(Click on the book covers to add these titles to your Goodreads TBR piles)

word collector

The Word Collector by Sonja Wimmer
Picture Book
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
I used this book to introduce our vocabulary study this semester. Great book!

touch blue

Touchblue  by Cynthia Lord
MG Realistic Fiction
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Cute story about life on an island. Families decide to become foster parents in an effort to save their school. Quick read!

marie antoinette

Marie Antoinette Serial Killer by Katie Alender
YA Mystery
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
I picked this up, not knowing it was written by the author of the Bad Girls Don’t Die series, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Since I recently read Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, I was familiar with Marie Antoinette’s story and understood the premise behind this mystery. I already have students in line to check this one out!

off season

The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
YA Realistic Fiction
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
I love the Dairy Queen series and stayed up way too late finishing this one, after starting it at school one day. This one had so much family drama in it that I could’t put it down and had to see how it ended. Can’t wait for Front and Center, which is book 3. Hoping my local used bookstore has it!

shadow and bone

Shadow and Bone 
YA Fantasy
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
This is one of my favorite books that I have read this year! Such an interesting fantasy story with magic and deception around every corner! Love the characters and the writing. I highly recommend this one!


I also reread Divergent and Insurgent to prepare for Allegiant’s release on Tuesday. Crossing my fingers that my preordered copy gets here on Tuesday! I will be crushed if it doesn’t. This is my favorite series that I have read. Looking forward to seeing how it ends and what happens to Tris and Four.

Here’s what I plan to read this week: (Click on the cover for more info from Goodreads)

ungifted anything but typical 0-545-08175-0allegiant

I’ve been reading a lot of YA as of late, so I’m switching over to some MG books to balance things out a little bit. Anything But Typical is one of our next book club options for my gifted students and it’s the only one of the bunch that I haven’t read. The other two are titles I’ve wanted to check out and then of course, Allegiant!!!

Happy Reading!

Lesley ♥

Weekly Wrap Up – What’s Going on in Room 213?

What an awesome week in room 213! Lots of new activities and even a celebration. Here’s a snapshot of how it went!


In first period we finished reading Wonder. While we were sad it was over, we loved this special book. We started planning a birthday party for Auggie, too. Ideas included bringing in dogs, watching Auggie Doggie cartoons, wearing Star Wars’ masks, and bringing in party food to share. While some ideas wouldn’t work with our schedule, I promised students we would have a fun time on Thursday. Students also started preparing for their end of the quarter independent reading project which will be a Smore Page. We will work on this next week in the computer lab and students can also access their projects at home.

Other classes finished reading our first class novel Seedfolks. We also worked on our Vocabulary Collector “Meaningful Writing Activity” for the week – we picked four of our self chosen words and worked on writing definitions, parts of speech, sentences and a “Mr. Stick Man” picture that shows the meaning of our word. A lot of us had trouble using the dictionary, so this was a great activity. This will now be an every other week assignment for the rest of the semester.

All classes took their first “Academic Vocabulary Verb” word list pre assessment and our words of the week were analyze, articulate and cite.  We went over assessments on Tuesday and on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday went over a word a day, specifically relating the word to other content classes. Assessments, which asked students to define each word and then apply the words to math, science, and social studies were given on Friday. A lot of great conversations were had at the beginning and end of class over these three words.


First period continued working on their reading project graphic organizer and students had questions about how to figure out the genre of their book. We also went to the library for our bimonthly visit. Students asked where the award winners section was in the library, because one of their reading requirements for the year is to read at least one award winning book. Our library does not have a specific award winner section, so I promised students we would go over genre and award winners on Wednesday.

Other classes were introduced to Class Dojo – an online behavior management system that rewards students for good behavior and helps students pinpoint what they need to work on. So far students LOVE Dojo and we are having fun with it. Each student has their own monster avatar, so I have been (affectionately of course!) calling them my little monsters. We set a goal of earning 20 positive points each by Friday to be given the chance to change avatars. What a motivator! Class Dojo has already made a difference. We are showing up to class prepared, being more kind and helpful and staying on task.


1st period was given two quick mini lessons on award winning books and genre. I created a google doc of links to lists of award winning books and put it on our Symbaloo page. We covered the Newbery, Sibert and Printz award winning lists and why they are given to authors. Secondly, I gave students a very detailed flow chart about genre. They start with Non Fiction and Fiction at the top, answer questions about their books, and follow the arrows. We also took notes on several basic genres – realistic fiction, fantasy, science fiction, dystopian, and autobiography and biography. We also talked about graphic novels and picture books being formats, not genres. It was a great discussion!

In other classes, students finished up their Vocabulary “MWA” and had lots of time to read independently. We charted how many pages we read at the end of class.


1st period celebrated Auggie’s birthday with lots of food, music and a special surprise. We listened to Natalie Merchant’s Wonder and watched the video for Sara Bariellies’ Be Brave. We also made a short video – sending special messages to Auggie and others about our favorite and most important parts of RJ Palacio’s book. Here’s our video:

2nd period through 7th period worked on reflecting on Seedfolks by writing headlines for their favorite chapters. We used old newspapers as mentor texts and talked about what a headline looks like. Student then chose their favorite characters and wrote creative headlines. This visible thinking activity is a great after reading activity. I will blog about it soon. I also showed students a video to get them thinking about what they would do if they had just one day to live. If you haven’t seen this video, it is very, very powerful. My eighth graders were especially reflective and insightful when it was over. Many told me later that they showed their parents the video when they went home. At the end of class I told them that we would be participating in something called Genius Hour on Friday and I hoped they would all be here to check it out. They left class intrigued and with lots of questions!


6th grade student council election speeches were held in the auditorium for most of the period, but we had a few minutes after they were over to watch our video that we made the day before. I also showed students that I had sent RJ Palacio a tweet to show her our video and she then retweeted and favorited it. Needless to say, they are all so very proud of themselves and their newfound internet celebrity status!

My other classes took their Academic Vocabulary assessments and then we celebrated the Vocabulary Collectors of the Week who excelled on their WPA for the week. Students then logged onto their Chromebooks, which we are signed up to use every other week. I had them write down 4 things they love to do and are interested in on a notecard. They visited Wonderopolis and looked at the Wonders of the Day archives to add things to their notecards. After about 15 minutes of exploration, we stopped and I explained to students what Genuis Hour is all about. They will be given time in class to study a topic of their choice and become experts on the topic. Lots of research will be involved and they will also be required to present their Genius Hour projects before the end of the semester. By the end of the day I had answered around 75 questions and students had a much better idea of what it will look like. Preliminary project ideas include a website about cyber bullying, a video on how to shoot the perfect jump shot, a stop motion lego movie, research about cancer, how jelly beans are made and a modeling blog. Next week we will narrow down our focus and make timelines.

Phew! This week had just the right amount of new activities, celebrating of books, and fun! I hope you had a great week with your students as well!

Lesley ♥

Making Thinking Visible #1: Chalk Talks

making thinking visible

I am always a bit skeptical when something new gets put on my plate and was very leery to even look at this book when it was introduced to our staff last year. How am I going to fit this in with all the other new stuff we are supposed to do? I kept asking myself. I did eventually look at the book, and surprisingly got really into the idea of thinking routines. Last year I tried out a few just to see what would happen, and this year I have started planning which ones will fit best with certain activities I already do. I thought it made perfect sense to share these routines as I use them in my classroom and hope they will give you ideas as to how you can use them in yours as well.

What do you mean by “Making Thinking Visible”?

The authors of the book suggest that by making thinking visible, teachers are promoting engagement, understanding and independence for all learners. They have 6 “thinking moves” that are important to understanding:

  • observing closely and describing what’s there
  • building explanations and interpretations
  • reasoning with evidence
  • making connections
  • considering different viewpoints and perspectives
  • capturing the heart and forming conclusions

What are the routines?

There are 20 thinking routines listed and thoroughly explained in the book. The authors have divided them into three categories: Routines for Introducing and Exploring Ideas, Routines for Synthesizing and Organizing Ideas, and Routines for Digging Deeper Into Ideas. Here are the six I have chosen to use on a regular basis this year:

  • Chalk Talk
  • 3-2-1 Bridge
  • Headlines
  • I used to think…Now I know…
  • What makes you say that?
  • Tug of War

1st Routine Used: Chalk Talk    Untitled (36) 0 00 00-01 Untitled (29) 0 00 04-23 Untitled (19) 0 00 04-23

The first thinking routine I have used this year is a Chalk Talk, in which students are asked to think about ideas presented to them, make connections to others’ responses and then question the ideas and responses of their peers. It is very easy to implement and is an excellent way to stimulate some great “silent discussion” in your classroom!

Supplies Needed:

  • chart paper 4-6 pieces
  • prompts written in the middle of the chart paper
  • markers for students
  • a timer

Before the Routine:

  • Place the chart around the room, giving students lots of space to think and write.
  • Decide how much time students will have at each prompt and if they will rotate as a group or if they will roam freely during the activity
  • Go over the prompts with students in advance and remind them that there is no talking during this activity.
  • Set the timer for 5 minutes and direct students to their first prompt.


During the Routine:

  • Circulate as students begin reading their first prompt. Remind them that they are to respond to the prompt and then think about and respond to other students thoughts by making connections and writing their own responses.
  • Students should rotate as needed through the prompts. Note: Students need about 3 minutes at the first prompt because there are no comments yet, but will also need time to go back to this prompt at the end of the activity to read what others wrote.



After the Routine:

At this point, the class should come together and talk about the learning that took place. How did the students’ thinking change after reading others’ responses? What patterns did they notice? What surprised them?

Other Uses:

This activity can be adapted for a variety of uses, such as a unit review or brainstorming for a group project. It is pretty versatile, and just the idea of using a marker on giant chart paper and moving around the classroom instead of sitting in a desk for a period is enticing to students!

      IMG_2764 IMG_2763




Final Thoughts:

Our first Chalk Talk went really well. This sixth grade ELA class worked well moving from prompt to prompt and their feedback exit slips indicated that they enjoyed the activity. When asked what could make the activity better next time, they suggested that they have even more thought provoking prompts, more time at each prompt, the ability to have other classes comment on the prompts and to be able to revisit the same prompts at a later time. If I had to do anything differently next time, I would 1. make the chart paper bigger and 2. make sure that the prompts really lend themselves to differing opinions to provide for thought provoking discussion.

Next up…. Headlines!

Headlines are a fantastic way for students to summarize and capture what a piece of text, speech or video is about. We are writing headlines for Seedfolks, which we just finished this week. Blog post coming soon!

Waiting on Wednesday: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

New WoW

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

This week, my can’t-wait-to-be-released book is none other than…


What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

AHHH! I have seriously been waiting for this book’s release since I finished the very last page of Insurgent. If you’ve never read The Divergent Series you are sadly missing out on some AWESOME fast paced writing and action packed dystopian books. The Hunger Games trilogy has nothing on Veronica Roth’s books. I cannot wait until I get my hands on all 544 pages of Allegiant goodness on 10/22 and see how this epic storyline ends. And what happens to Tris and Four. Especially Four.

And then yes, I will be really sad that the story is over.

If I knew how to include a countdown clock on this blog, ladies and gentlemen, it would be here.

Until then, I will diligently be avoiding spoilers from Divergent Fans.

This is why I am not on Tumblr, readers.

What I Want to be When I Grow Up #sliceoflife


Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

My middle school students like to ask me questions. A LOT of questions. From “What’s for lunch today?” to “What’s your favorite book?” to my favorite question so far – “Mrs. Mosher, what’s your favorite decade?” (Obviously that one was really hard to answer. It also caused me a lot of worrying… Just how old do my students think I am? ) One of my favorite questions that I get, usually from 6th graders who don’t know me very well, is “Have you always wanted to be a teacher?” or “Why did you want to become a teacher?” My answer for some reason always surprises them.

Yes, I’ve pretty much ALWAYS wanted to be a teacher. The story of why begins when I was in second grade, which was in fact, a long time ago. So long ago, that sometimes I think that I actually may have unintentionally made it up over the years. Maybe it’s my very own urban legend. While that part of the story is debatable, what’s not is that I really, really liked going to school when I was a kid. I loved reading, music and writing loooong stories. I thought longer meant better, so I would fill up those sheets with the blue and pink lines like it was my job. I loved my second grade teacher, Mrs. Wolf, who was not so scary despite her somewhat scary-to-a- second-grader name. One day, when a few kids had returned to school after being absent, I was given the task of catching them up on reading. I have no recollection of what we read, but I do remember what happened afterwards. Once everyone was caught up and off to do whatever the rest of the class was doing, Mrs. Wolf called me over and  said, “Great job, Lesley. You know, someday you would make a great teacher.” And it was settled. I loved school and now a teacher that I adored thought I would MAKE a good teacher? I was in. So for the next decade or so I planned to become a teacher, only once wavering after a mock trial in 11th grade history class, when I thought being a lawyer would be fun. Thank goodness I got over that pretty quickly. I am one of those rare people who never changed their major and always, always knew that the classroom is where I feel most comfortable and where I am supposed to be.

Fast forward to now. I’m in my 13th year of teaching, and this school year has been both the craziest and best start to a school year that I’ve ever had. I blogged about it here a few days ago and I’m so thankful that my students have embraced our class routines and rituals quickly this year, because personally, I’ve had a rough start and have missed A LOT of school.

I’ve been dealing with an unexpected health issue this fall (I’m doing better now and will be ok) that has caused me a lot of time out of my classroom and a lot of time at home in bed. This is pretty much unheard of for me. During my first four, maybe five years of teaching I never took a sick or personal day. Writing sub plans are a chore and I just don’t like missing school. I have, however, had a lot of time to reflect and think about my teaching while I’ve been away. It’s been quite a blessing in disguise.

First, I’ve been reassured that the classroom is exactly where I’m supposed to be. Every once in awhile I wonder if there is something else out there that I’m really supposed to be doing, and for right now anyway, the answer is no. I am at home in my classroom, sharing my love of reading with my students and helping them find the one book that will change their reading lives forever. While it is not the most glamorous of professions, I honestly couldn’t ask for a better job.

Secondly, I’ve had time to reflect on what makes a great teacher and I keep coming back to – WORDS. It was just one line of positive feedback from my second grade teacher that helped make me who I am today. As teachers, our words have so much impact. Our students take to heart what we say, which can be a very,very scary thing. I am constantly talking to students about the future. “When you get to college” or “When you are an adult” are frequent conversation starters. I want all of my students to have the same passion about their future professions as I have about mine. I need to be their Mrs. Wolf. I need to be their biggest fan, their cheerleader because I can’t assume they already have one. We all know that teaching is not for the faint at heart,  but it’s also, in my opinion, the most rewarding profession out there. An opportunity to make a difference every day. I think it’s pretty cool that I can write that under my job description.

Lesley ♥