Archive | November, 2013

MRA 2014!

25 Nov

I am very excited about March because it is one of my absolute favorite times of the year – The Michigan Reading Association Annual Conference in Grand Rapids, MI. My first year going as a teacher was two years ago and it was aweinspiring. I met so many amazing people and built up my PLN. Last year was even better. I cannot wait for this year for a number of reasons.

First of all, two co-workers are going with me this year. I am excited to share the weekend with them and see them experience MRA for the first time.

Secondly, I of course cannot wait to see everyone again! I was unable to attend NCTE this year, so I am very excited to have an opportunity to see everyone in March.

Last and definitely not least, I am presenting this year! My mentor, department head, and friend Leanne and I had our proposal approved! We will be presenting on Sunday about the Literacy Camp we put on this year for in-coming ninth graders. I am so excited and, honestly, a little terrified. But I am looking forward to this AMAZING opportunity at a conference I love.

Will you be attending MRA this year? Find out more information at the MRA Website. Hope to see you in March!

ACT Persuasive vs. CCSS Argumentative: Input Needed!

19 Nov

Ever since I started teaching, we have been teaching the persuasive essay in preparation for the ACT Test all juniors in the state of Michigan take each year. Based on the ACT rubric, we have been working with the following elements of an essay: introduction with a thesis that gives a critical context, supporting points with specific examples, a counterargument and rebuttal, and a conclusion with a call to action.

As we started to explore the Common Core, we examined writing instruction. As you probably know, CCSS identifies three types of writing: argumentative, explanatory, and narrative. Consultants told us that argumentative and persuasive were different. From what I remember from these first conversations, the main difference is that in argumentative, students should pull from articles and sources while that is not the case in persuasive. It was something we would continue to work on.

Now, there just seems to be even more confusion in the persuasive vs. argumentative debate. While some see what we have taught as persuasive as completely different from argumentative, others see the lines as blurred. Looking at the standards in CCSS and the student exemplar writing samples for high school, I would argue that they are very similar. Even turning to the internet, it seems what we said was persuasive is actually argumentative – if there is a difference to begin with. This has lead to many conversations that leave us with unanswered questions and many of us very confused.

There are still a lot of questions in our state (When will Smarter Balanced be unrolled? Will students still take the ACT?). We still want to prepare students for the ACT writing as that is still here now. I guess my question to you is have you had similar conversations in your school? Do you distinguish between the two types of writing? Are you just as confused as I am?

I appreciate any input or insights you can provide.

Thank you!

The Lions of Little Rock: A Review

7 Nov

Title: The Lions of Little Rock

Author: Kristin Levine

Format: Paperback personal purchase

Release Date: January 5, 2012

Summary (from Goodreads): Two girls separated by race form an unbreakable bond during the tumultuous integration of Little Rock schools in 1958

Twelve-year-old Marlee doesn’t have many friends until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. Liz is bold and brave, and always knows the right thing to say, especially to Sally, the resident mean girl. Liz even helps Marlee overcome her greatest fear – speaking, which Marlee never does outside her family.

But then Liz is gone, replaced by the rumor that she was a Negro girl passing as white. But Marlee decides that doesn’t matter. Liz is her best friend. And to stay friends, Marlee and Liz are willing to take on integration and the dangers their friendship could bring to both their families.

I first heard of this book at MRA in March when Donalyn Miller shared it.  The description drew me in.  I ordered it and then it sat on my TBR pile for just a little bit too long.  A student in my class read this book and called it the best book she ever read.  She told me I had to read it.  After she turned it in, I started reading it and I loved this book!

First of all, I love historical fiction.  I also love reading about times in history I don’t know that much about.  I have been familiar with school integration and the Little Rock Nine.  But after that, I had no idea what happened.  I mean, I never assumed everything was 100% better afterward and it took time, but I had no idea what happened.  Levine does write in her author’s note that she set out to write a story about the Little Rock Nine, but many people she interviewed talked about  the year after, the “lost year.”  I am so glad she wrote about this time because I definitely learned something new.  I like to have a variety of books on many different topics and time periods students may not know about so they may also learn something new.

Secondly, I love this story and characters.  Marlee won me over on page one.  I loved the way she looked at the world.  I also loved Liz.  She is a tough, strong character and she helps Marlee find her inner strength.  The story between the two is a true story of friendship.  I cheered for the two of them throughout hoping they could find a way to be together in their friendship even though I knew it would not be that easy.  I felt invested in the story and wanted to keep reading to know what happened.  I adored the ending.  It wasn’t perfect, as it should not be, but it was filled with hope.

I highly recommend this book.  I look forward to sharing it with many more students.

4/5 stars

Criminal: A Review

5 Nov

Title: Criminal

Author: Terra Elan McVoy

Format: Hardcover personal purchase

Release Date: May 7, 2013

Summary (from Goodreads): Nikki’s life is far from perfect, but at least she has Dee. Her friends tell her that Dee is no good, but Nikki can’t imagine herself without him. He’s hot, he’s dangerous, he has her initials tattooed over his heart, and she loves him more than anything. There’s nothing Nikki wouldn’t do for Dee. Absolutely nothing.

So when Dee pulls Nikki into a crime—a crime that ends in murder—Nikki tells herself that it’s all for true love. Nothing can break them apart. Not the police. Not the arrest that lands Nikki in jail. Not even the investigators who want her to testify against him.

But what if Dee had motives that Nikki knew nothing about? Nikki’s love for Dee is supposed to be unconditional…but even true love has a limit. And Nikki just might have reached hers.

Last month (has it been that long since I have been here?), I attended a Young Adult Authors Panel at the Ann Arbor District Library with my nerdy friends Beth, Brian, Sarah, and Lindsey.  It was an absolutely amazing experience!  Terra was one of the authors.  I had heard of her books before but had not read them.  (I plan on fixing this in the near future!)  She spoke about Criminal, her latest release.  I went back to the lobby to purchase it after she explained why she wrote it.   To paraphrase, Terra discussed hearing a story about a girl helping her boyfriend with a murder.  She said she could not understand why a person would do that.  She believes you should write about what you don’t understand, not what you know.  So, she did many interviews and a great amount of research and wrote Criminal.  I am so glad she did.

I was hooked from page one.  It begins after the murder when Dee is called to the police station for the first time.  Nikki is dealing with understanding exactly what happened and her role in what took place.  I will admit, there were times I was so frustrated with her.  She does not believe she has done anything wrong, when clearly I could understand what she did as more information comes out.  She does not understand why her friend Bird is upset with her.  She is even surprised when she lands in jail herself.  However, I did get to see her as a character and understand her motivations, not matter how misplaced they may seem.

It was hard to read how much she loved Dee and how much she put into him, especially when she would talk about other aspects of their relationship and it became clear how toxic the relationship really was, even from the start.  Yet, I think this is important for teens to read.  I know that it is hard for people in a relationship – female and male – to see how it may not be healthy or how it hurts them.  Outside of it we can see it much clearer.  I feel that is a very important aspect to teens to read and then discuss.  It is an enlightening concept to look at.

Despite my frustrations at times, I can say I like Nikki’s character.  She does grow quite a bit throughout the course of the novel.  When I reached the end, I felt proud of her in a sense.  Nikki is a true complex, dynamic character.  Just as Terra said she wrote this to try and understand another’s actions, I learned a lot as a reader about something I also did not understand.

I have a student reading this right now and I look forward to conversations and discussions with her, and hopefully more students as time goes on.  I highly recommend this book.

5/5 stars