It’s Monday, October 20! What are you reading?

20 Oct

It has been far too long.  Life, as always, is crazy.  I figured a IMWAYR post would be a perfect way to get back into the swing of things.

What I have read recently:

Currently, I am reading Hate List by Jennifer Brown.  A good friend has been recommending this one for a long time.  I am liking it.  It is pretty intense at time and going in some directions I was not anticipating.  I will probably finish it tomorrow, if not tonight.

Before Hate List, I read To Be Perfectly Honest: A Novel Based on an Untrue Story  by Sonya Sones.  I love Sones and I did like most of this book.  A few parts were a bit much for me, but then again, it is supposed to be a lie, right?

What I plan to read this week:

I have had Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson for far too long without reading it. I honestly don’t know why I have not read it yet.  That must be next on my list!

I also plan on reading I am Malala.  I have had this one on my Nook for a long time.  My students are reading about Malala and Kailash Satyarthi winning the Nobel Peace Prize for their Article of the Week, so I have a renewed desire to get into this one to share more with them.

So, what have you read lately?  What are you reading this week?

Just one of those days

23 Sep

Monday was an AMAZING teaching day.  It was one of those days that really energize me and remind me how much I LOVE being a teacher.

Some amazing things are happening in English 10A.  We started the day with a discussion about Banned Books in honor of Banned Books Week.  Students shared a lot of great ideas and opinions on the topics.  We talked about choice and why it is important and starting thinking about who has the right to choose.  We discussed both sides of the issue a bit.  Students will reflect on the topic more with their Article of the Week assignment.

Even our grammar lesson was great today.  I have been following the work of Jeff Anderson for nearly five years now.  I used to hate teaching grammar; I absolutely love it now.  We start on Mondays with a mentor sentence to talk about the skill we are focusing on this week.  Last week we did semi-colons, and we are discussing colons this week.  The mentor sentence opened up a lot of discussion on skills we have started working with and the different was we may use them.  We also made some great connections.  More and more students are participating in our discussions on Mondays and sharing great ideas.

Our discussion about our mentor sentence this week.

Our discussion about our mentor sentence this week.

Another added bonus about today?  My Donors Choose books arrived!  I cannot wait to share these titles with students!!

I am hoping to carry this awesome day throughout the week.  I hope you all have a great week!

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 


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