Talk Less

11 Sep

I have a new goal this year.  And I think it is going to be a hard one.  I am going to talk less.

While it took me a little longer than most to start talking, I haven’t stopped much since.  I am a talker.  However, I am realizing that this is not always the best skill in teaching.  Especially as I am striving to make my classroom student-centered.  I notice I sometimes steal my students’ thunder.  They have this great idea to add and I say it before I get to them.  I really want to stop that.

I want my students to discover that they are smart and have amazing ideas.  If I say them, or don’t give them the time to come to them, I feel that I am robbing them of a very important part of their education.  I also want to make sure they have time to work and practice what we are working on.

So here is my new goal for the year: Talk less.  The class is not all about me.  It has to be about my students.  I know it will be hard for a talker like me, but I know it will be worth it in the end.

Wish me luck!

Week 1 in Review

7 Sep

Well, year 8 of teaching is well underway.  Overall, it was a pretty great first week of school!

I am teaching English 10 A and a section of our Tier 3 intervention class. I am looking forward to working with these sophomores.  I started the year with a writing prompt where they wrote on this quote: “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”  My friend Beth talked about using this on the first day with her students and it inspired me.  We discussed after students shared how this applies to English.  I want them to try new things in reading and writing.  Maybe it won’t go perfectly the first time.  However, we can grow and learn from those experience to become better readers and writers.

We also started a persuasive writing unit.  We discussed the aspects of persuasive writing then looked at where people make arguments in the real world.  Inspired by Penny Kittle’s work, I pulled a number of editorials as mentor texts.  So far, we have read some work by Leonard Pitts.  We have looked at what words, phrase, and techniques he uses to make is writing interesting.  We also talked about how we can see those elements that we associate with persuasive writing in his articles.  As on student pointed out, “His writing isn’t boring.”  I told my students that not a single one of them is boring and they have a lot to say and share.  We are going to work on becoming better writers and hopefully make this type of writing not so boring.

My students in the intervention class are very sweet.  It is all freshmen and it has been awhile since I have total a classroom with just freshmen.  We are working through the program together and I am trying to point out how these comprehension skills will apply to a variety of their classes.  We also have been sharing books and doing SSR.  We will also do some writing as well as the weeks go on.  I am looking forward to working with and getting to know this group more.

In all classes we have talked quite a bi about books and shared titles.  Many books have been checked out.  I am noticing a pretty awesome shift when I talk to students about reading.  In the past, most students would say they did not like reading at all.  As we have really worked together to create a reading culture in our school, more students have shifted to saying the “kind of” like reading.  The book has to interest them for them to like it.  I stress to my students that’s why they have choice in my class and why it is so important.  They seem to appreciate it.  My reading challenge to students this year is to read more than they read last year.

There were a number of great moments, but one sticks in my head.  A student joined our fifth hour on Friday.  I helped him get his folder and notebook set up then asked about reading.  He told me he did not like it at all and there wasn’t much he would want to read about.  I asked if I could bring a few books for him to at least look at.  He agreed.  In the pile, I included Rooftop by Paul Volponi.  I told him about Paul’s experiences that inspired his writing as I shared a little about each book in the pile.  During SSR time, the student did look through all the books and started reading Rooftop.  He seemed to read a few pages.  I asked if he wanted to check it out and he did.  I’m hoping this is a start for that student and he sees himself as a reader.

I really can’t wait to see where we go this year in all my classes.  I hope all teachers and students have had a great start to the 2014-2015 school year!

Classroom Tour 2014-2015

29 Aug

The last two years, I have been split between two rooms.  This year, I will be just in one room.  I have been working on making my new room feel like home.  Here is a little peak inside.

Here is a look from the door.

Here is a look from the door.

I love my centers table.  It is used in lab and I cannot wait to confer with readers and writers in all classes.

I love my centers table. It is used in lab and I cannot wait to confer with readers and writers in all classes.












Student in-boxes and notebook cart.









A look at the whole room from the front

A look at the whole room from the front












My classroom library has grown quite a bit over the last few years.


Historical fiction section









Realistic fiction, verse, graphic novels, and classics

Realistic fiction, verse, graphic novels, and classics










Sci-fi/Dystopian/Fantasy, Horror/Suspense, Memoirs, & Non-fiction

Sci-fi/Dystopian/Fantasy, Horror/Suspense, Memoirs, & Non-fiction














My teacher work area is probably the cleanest it will be all year.

My desk area

My desk area










These are some of my go-to resources for the classroom.

These are some of my go-to resources for the classroom.











Front view along with student absent work bin.

Front view along with student absent work bin.











I have been using my bulletin boards and posters to make my new my room my own.

I loved my "BE" board last year and am using it again this year.

I loved my “BE” board last year and am using it again this year.











Strategies that Work

Strategies that Work










I will be sharing my reading journey this year here.

I will be sharing my reading journey this year here.











I am so excited to get this school year started!  I meet my students on Tuesday.  Here are the books I plan on sharing on that first day.


I wish all the teachers and students out there a great start to the new school year!

90 Second Reads!

27 Aug

All four authors: Gae Polisner, Bethany Neal, Lara Zielin, & Carrie Harris.

All four authors at 90 Second Reads: Gae Polisner, Bethany Neal, Lara Zielin, & Carrie Harris.

On Tuesday, August 19 I attended a FANTASTIC author event at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor. This event featured four amazing YA authors: Gae Polisner, Carrie Harris, Bethany Neal, and Lara Zielin.  The premise was that each author would read four selections from her book: the beginning, something romantic, something heartbreaking, and something funny.  Each selection could not be longer than 90 seconds.  In fact, Gae chose a timer from the audience who had a bell to ring if and when the authors went over.  I absolutely loved this event!

Gae Polisner shares a funny part from her novel The Summer of Letting Go.

Gae Polisner shares a funny part from her novel The Summer of Letting Go.

Gae read from her novel The Summer of Letting Go Bethany read from her debut novel My Last KissCarrie read from her latest novel Demon DerbyLara read from her book Donut Days.  Gae told the story of why she began 90 second reads.  When her first novel The Pull of Gravity came out, she was part of an author reading.  She was told should would have only about 4 minutes to read.  She practiced and planned a reading that fit that time period – only to discover the other authors had readings much, much longer than that.  So, her 90 second reads idea does in fact stick to 90 seconds.  There was quite a bit of suspense as we all wondered if and when that bell would ring.

Bethany Neal reads her "swoon moment" from My Last Kiss.

Bethany Neal reads her “swoon moment” from My Last Kiss.

It was so fun listening to the authors read their own words.  The beginning of each book was captivating.  The romantic parts, especially Bethany’s, captured the audience.  Each heartbreaking part was truly heartbreaking.  The wording in Carrie Harris’s piece is still on my mind.  And all the authors had me laughing with their funny parts.  I absolutely loved this format, and a couple of us at the event were thinking of how we could use this in our classrooms.

Lara Zielin makes us laugh with a passage from Donut Days.

Lara Zielin makes us laugh with a passage from Donut Days.

 The ladies signed books for all of us in attendance afterwards.  I brought in my own copies of The Summer of Letting Go and My Last Kiss to be signed as well as purchased Carrie’s first book Bad Taste in Boys and Lara’s second book The Waiting Sky to add to my library.  I appreciated the opportunity to chat with Bethany about her book and my feeling towards some of the characters.  I also loved meeting Lara for the first time and talking with her as well.  It was great to meet Carrie as well after hearing so much about her from my friend Beth.  I can’t wait to share these books with my students.


It was also an added bonus to finally meet Gae in person.  Sarah connected me with Gae three years ago when she told me about The Pull of Gravity to tie into Of Mice and Men.  Gae has Skyped with my students twice and has sent me tons of sawg (including the infamous SWAG crown!).  I am so happy we finally met face-to-face and got to spend some time together.

Gae and I sharing a hug at the end of the night.

Gae and I sharing a hug at the end of the night.

Overall, it was an excellent night with great friends and authors.  I hope to have the opportunity to experience other nights like this in the future. 

On the Fence: A Review

22 Aug

Title: On the Fence

Author: Kasie West 

Format: Personal Purchase, Hardcover

Release Date: July 1, 2014

Summary (from Goodreads): For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she’s spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game.

To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can’t solve Charlie’s biggest problem: she’s falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.

I adore Kasie West’s books. When I was scrolling on Twitter back in July and saw she had a new release, I knew I would buy it.  I didn’t even have to necessarily know what it was about; I just knew I wanted to read it.  This book did not disappoint. I also love that this novel takes place in the same town as West’s novel The Distance Between Us.  

I absolutely loved Charlie.  As with the ideas I discussed in my review of Dairy QueenCharlie is not a female stereotype.  She plays sports and is very athletic.  She is described as “tall and strong.”  However, now she is having a hard time dealing with what it means “to be a girl” and wonders it she can be a “real girl” and herself.  What I loved is that Charlie discovers that her own preconceived notions and stereotypes of what being a girl means are not necessarily true.  She also learns how important it is to be true to herself and who she really is even as she starts to discover new aspects of herself.  I think that is a strong message for girls today to read.

There are a number of other parts of her life Charlie is dealing with as well.  Along with figuring out her feelings for Braden, Charlie is dealing with some other personal issues, particularly the death of her mother when Charlie was very young.  While there are definitely aspects of romance in On the Fence, it was not too overpowering and there is enough of the other parts of the story to keep it engaging and realistic.  Plus, I loved so many of the characters, especially Charlie’s older brothers.  Especially her brother Gage.  They are fun, funny, and memorable.  

On the Fence was a very enjoyable read.  Not too light, not too heavy.  It was just what I needed as summer is winding down and I’m still finding my reading groove again.  

4/5 stars 

Dairy Queen: A Review

21 Aug

Title: Dairy Queen

Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Release Date: May 22, 2006

Format: Paperback gift from friend

Summary (from Goodreads): When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.
Harsh words indeed, from Brian Nelson of all people. But, D. J. can’t help admitting, maybe he’s right.

When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.
Stuff like why her best friend, Amber, isn’t so friendly anymore. Or why her little brother, Curtis, never opens his mouth. Why her mom has two jobs and a big secret. Why her college-football-star brothers won’t even call home. Why her dad would go ballistic if she tried out for the high school football team herself. And why Brian is so, so out of her league.

When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.
Welcome to the summer that fifteen-year-old D. J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, learns to talk, and ends up having an awful lot of stuff to say.

As with many books I read, I had heard of this one from a few different friends who loved it.  In a session at #nErDcampMI held by my friends Sarah and Cindi, Dairy Queen came up again as we discussed diverse literature and the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign.  I had brought it home to read this summer so I could see what it was about.  

Overall, I did like this book.  For one thing, I love DJ’s voice and Murdock’s writing style to create it.  At times, long, almost “run-on” sentences are used by DJ as she tells her story.  I really loved this!  It felt like I was sitting next to her and just having a conversation.  I could hear a teen girl saying many of the things DJ shares.  And the way DJ tells her story creates her entire character.  She is honest.  That is what I loved the most about her.

I also love that DJ a pretty unique female narrator.  DJ works hard on her family farm.  She plays sports.  She even has a lot of knowledge about football.  She’s not perfect.  This book came up in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks discussion because DJ is a diverse protagonist in this way.  I can really appreciate that, and we definitely need more narrators and characters like DJ to help more students see themselves in literature.  I really enjoyed getting to know all parts of DJ.

A few parts of the book did drag for me at times.  While I read it in just a few days, there were times when I felt like I was just pushing through the book and it did not hold my attention as much. However, I so much enjoyed DJ that I do want to read the other books to know the rest of her story and what happens to her.  Sarah recommended listening to the audio for the rest of the books, and I do believe I am going to follow her advice.  Because I love her voice so much, I think hearing it out loud will be an even better reading experience.

3.5/5 stars 

Happy Birthday (plus one day)!

20 Aug

On Tuesday, August 19 this little blog turned one!  I started sharing my thoughts a year ago, and I’m still keeping up with it.  It is some kind of record for me.  What I am proud of this year is that I blogged every month, even if it was just once when I was a bit overwhelmed and in my slump during that last leg of the school year.  I will take it!

In the year to come, I hope to keep building up my blog.  I will continue to review books.  I also want to showcase more of the day-to-day in my classroom.  There are lessons I just love and I think “I need to share this!”  Then, something comes up and I never do.  My main goal for this year to come is to focus more on teaching.

Thank you for following my thoughts!  I am looking forward to sharing more with you in the year to come. 

Mrs. Crawford :) 


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