In the Classroom: Inside Outside Book Interviews

Untitled presentation (2)

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 ♥

Blogging Adventures in Room 213, Part 2 – It’s All About That Paper

or sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing


Please check out Part 1 of this series “Getting Started is Half the Battle” 


When starting blogging in the classroom for the very first time, I found that my students have varying backgrounds when it came to the Internet, let alone blogging. As teachers who use technology every day, don’t take for granted that your students do too. Some of my eighth graders have several Tumblr pages, while others don’t know how to successfully navigate around the World Wide Web. Yes, really.

My first step was a little show and tell. I showed students this blog and used it as a “mentor text” of sorts. It was a hit. Not necessarily the content, but the actually blog? Insert high five emoji here.  I showed off the main parts of a blog – title, heading of post, content of post, categories, comments, etc. You can have students point these out too.

Next I asked students to do a super quick brainstorm on what their blog’s theme would be and then do a quick pair share with their table mates. Definite student buy in at this point!! I then gave students pieces of 11 x 17 paper and asked them to design their blog using the main parts and include at least one post. They worked on it for almost a whole period and then were asked to bring it back completed in two days for our next step.

Gallery Walk time!

I love gallery walks around the room for assignments like this. When we do gallery walks, students are 1. given 3-5 post its to write positive comments on them to stick on whatever they are sharing and 2. it is silent so everyone can focus. I also mention that we should make an effort to make sure everyone has comments on their project, which seems to always happen.

I love this intro to blogging and it really helps out with formatting in the long run. It gets kids excited and ready to jump to their own space online! Next up in this series will be Part 3: Where Should We Blog?





It’s Summer Reading Time!



It’s officially the first day of summer break and I am so, so excited for the opportunity to unwind and recharge after what seemed like one of the longest school years in the history of school years.

I always bring home a box of books to read over the summer and this year is no exception! This time around there is a wide variety – professional development titles, books that have been sitting behind my desk waiting to go into my classroom library (I always read them first) and just for fun – The Harry Potter series! I’ve been wanting to reread it for a few years and recapture the awesomeness that I had when I read it the first time around.

While I already have a couple more titles on hold at the library and a few upcoming releases pre ordered, this will be the majority of my summer reading. I didn’t include the HP books in the pictures below, because I need to get a new copy of  The Sorcerer’s Stone and we all know what they look like anyway! Here’s a random fun fact that may make you feel old – HP#1 came out in 1997! Wow!

I’m not sure what I’ll read first, but I am going to try my hardest to get to as many as I can before August! Happy reading, everyone!





TTT: The Top Ten Books I Read in 2013

Top Ten Tuesday

is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish


The Top Ten Books That I Read in 2013

2013 has been an excellent year of reading! For this top ten, I opted not to include older books that I read this year even though some of them (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Shadow and Bone, and maybe one or two more) would have made this list. While it’s really, REALLY hard to narrow down my favorites from 2013 to only 10, I tried my best and will probably second guess myself long after this post is published. Here we go!!



out of the easy



pivot point


runaway king

this is not a good idea


My number 1 favorite of 2013….


Winter Break: A time for reading!!

Woo Hoo!

I’m officially on Winter Break for the next 16 days and it really couldn’t have come at a better time. My students and I definitely needed a break and time to recharge. While I have several things planned already – celebrating the holidays with my family, undertaking a few cleaning and organizational projects, and simply recharging my batteries, I have also waited with anticipation for these days off for one sole purpose. I am so excited to read and attack my Winter Break book stack! My pile includes 9 books and I think I definitely have a good chance to finish all of them.

I am particularly excited for a few of these and can’t wait to share how my opinions about them. One of my resolutions for 2014 is to review more books – so I am hopefully setting myself up for some good review opportunities from the start!


Not surprisingly, there are a few additional titles that are on my Christmas list, so my stack may need to be adjusted a bit depending on what’s under the tree. I am really looking forwarding to sharing these titles with my students on our first day back and getting them into our class library though, so I am very determined to get these all read!

What books are you ready to read over the holidays?

Words are Life: The Book Thief Movie Trailer

book thief

We all have favorite books. Books that were significant to us at a particular time in our lives. Books that we have read countless times and still treasure our dog eared copies that may be held together with staples, string and tape. Without a doubt, my all time favorite book is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I listened to it on audiobook a few years ago and I think it honestly changed my reading life. Yep, for me this book was a GAME CHANGER. I was entranced by Death as a narrator and little Liesel Meminger’s story set in Nazi Germany, and it seemed like every book I had ever read up until that moment had just been a book. This was something different. A tale that resonated with me so much and I will never, ever forget that reading experience.

The Book Thief is a strongly crafted story.  A deeply rich tale of innocence, love, hatred and the power of words. I’ve been patiently following all of the movie buzz for this book and now that there is a trailer I am beyond excited. I cannot wait to see how Hollywood has adapted this heart breaking story. You can add this book to your TBR pile here and see the trailer here. Enjoy!


Kindle Fire HD Giveaway

Hey, literacy lovers! Check out this really cool contest from Alison at Kid Lit Frenzy and many others. Only a week or so to enter. Check out the details below… Good luck!

Welcome to our Kindle Fire HD giveaway!

Sponsored by 
Kid Lit Frenzy
Read Now Sleep Later
Nite Lite Book Reviews
The Windy Pages
The Book Pixie
There’s a Book
The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog
Teach Mentor Texts
The Reading Date
Nancy Tandon
Read Write Mom

Show our blogger friends some love and at the same time earn entries into the giveaway!

The Kindle Fire HD winner (US only) will also get their choice of

1 July or August Kindle eBook from Kid Lit Frenzy
1 YA Kindle eBook from Read Now Sleep Later
1 MG Kindle eBook from There’s a Book

If you are not from the United States, use the second Rafflecopter to enter to win

up to $20 worth of books from 
and an ARC or signed copy of a book from Kid Lit Frenzy
(A list of possible prizes will be posted after July 14, so check back!)

If you are a blogger, you can earn an extra entry by re-posting the giveaway. Copy the HTML from this page and paste it into a new post. We cannot count your entry unless you leave us the link, so remember to paste the link into the Rafflecopter widget. If you cannot embed the Rafflecopter widget, here is the Share Link for the Kindle Fire HD (US only) and the Share Link for the International $20 widgets.
1. You must be 13 years of age or older to enter, or have a parent/guardian enter for you. All entries are subject to verification.
2. We will notify the winner via email within 48 hours after the contest’s end (11:59 pm on July 29).
3. The Kindle Fire HD winner must have a mailing address in the United States. The International ($20 books) winner can be anywhere except the United States.
4. The winners will have 48 hours to reply with their mailing address or another winner will be chosen.
5. Contest sponsors are not responsible for items lost in the mail.
6. We love comments, but please do not leave personal information such as email or mailing addresses in the comments! We are using Rafflecopter because it will keep your information private.
Questions? Please email the organizer, Alethea, at frootjoos at gmail dot com.
Good luck!

Inspired by Kathy at I am a Reader

Viva Las Vegas – A tale of two conventions

Hello, Literacy Lovers!

This weekend we were in HOT and sunny Vegas celebrating my husband’s 30th birthday.  We had tickets for the UFC Fan Expo and to see the highly touted fight- UFC 162. Yes, I was racking up major supportive wife points all weekend.

While walking around the convention center floor, I watched fans, young and old, scrambling for pictures and waiting for hours to get the autographs of their favorite fighters, and I couldn’t help but draw parallels between this event and the NCTE conventions that I have been lucky to attend in the past. If you’ve never been, let me tell you that the NCTE exhibit hall is not for the faint at heart. It is packed with adoring teachers and librarians seeking out (ok, sometimes stalking) authors and ARCs. We all know there are certain authors we would wait in line for a very, very long time to see. I’m looking at you, Patrick Ness, John Green and Veronica Roth.

While dutifully taking pictures for my husband and patiently sitting through hour long Q & A sessions, it was pretty inspiring to see fighters take the time to sign countless autographs and answer (what seemed to me) the same questions over and over. The way the audiences reacted to their heroes’ stories and the pumped up promoters touting Saturday’s fight was infectious. Even as an outsider, it was easy to get caught up in the hype and electric atmosphere.

If you’ve never been to NCTE or a convention for teachers, I highly suggest finding a way to go. I am very thankful that there are conventions for teachers and librarians, so we too can get caught up in the hype of seeing our author heroes and listening to their inspiring stories. After such an uplifting weekend, it’s easy to go back to the classroom and hype up our students with tales of meeting authors and showing off new titles while promoting a love of life long reading at the same time.

Have a great week!


Speaking of conferences… I’ll be at nErDcamp in Battle Creek, MI on Thursday. Will I see you there? 🙂