Archive | February, 2014

Article of the Week Reflections

16 Feb

As I have written before, I started doing Article of the Week thanks to the idea from Kelly Gallagher.  I had heard about this strategy quite a few times from studying Kelly’s work and hearing him speak. I always thought it was an amazing idea, but I could also have excuses why I should not do it: The kids will hate it, How will I ever find the right articles, It will take too much time.

This year, I am trying to really consider everything I do in my classroom. What do students really need? What will help them in their futures, such as in college and their careers? I am really trying to tie what we do to their lives and the real world, not just prepare them for one test. I thought a lot about the Article of the Week. I could see many advantages to this assignment: exposure to real world events, practice with informational text, and growth of critical thinking skills. So, I went for it this year hoping that I would not fall off doing them.

I am very glad I have followed through with this assignment. It is true that students complain each Monday when I pass out the new assignment. However, I know Article of the Week is hitting the goals I had set. For example, the second article I shared with students was about Syria. Most of my students were not aware what was happening in Syria until I gave them some background and they read the article. I look forward to the initial conversations we have about the article each Monday. Students get very fired up about the topics as well. When I shared the article about the teen who was found not guilty of killing four people when driving drunk because of “affluenza,” many students were fired up. In fact, seniors made connections to that story and the character of Biff in Death of a Salesman. Despite their protests, students have a lot to say and think about with these topics.

The most interesting part of this assignment is read the students’ reactions they write. A long with some deep thoughts, I can learn a lot about my students and have topics to discuss when conferring or talking with them in class. I have to also say that reading these responses make me hopeful for the future. My students are very open minded and want to see the world a better place in their lifetimes. No matter what they may say or not say in class, I gain amazing insight about my students. That makes this assignment worth it more than anything else.

I recommend teachers to consider something similar to this with their own students. We want to ensure we are preparing our students for more than a test and this is one of many ways we can do so.


Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Will Make You Cry

4 Feb


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Each week they post a new list for bloggers to answer.  This week’s topics is Top Ten Books That Will Make You Cry.  Well, there have been many books that have made me cry in my reading life.  Here are some of the biggies that stick out in my mind.

1. The Outsiders by SE Hinton

This book is the first book I can remember making me cry.  I was so invested in the characters and the story that losing any of them would have upset me.  I cried so hard, my brother and uncle thought something was wrong with me.

2. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I described this book to others as completely destroying me, in a good way.  This is one I cried through the last quarter of the book and when I was done reading the book.  A beautiful story.

3. Wonder by RJ Palacio

I sad cried and happy cried in this book.  The sad cry affected me in front of a class that I was reading it to.  My co-teacher had to take over reading for me as I struggled to put myself together.

4. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

To quote a friend, this book makes my heart smile.  It is a happy cry for sure.  And the story stays with you for a long, long time.

5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

To be honest, when I describe this one to people, I do tell them I laughed more than I cried.  That is true; however, there were many tears.  Just watching the movie trailer has made me tear up.  I see a box of tissues coming to the theater with me.

6. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I swore to myself that everything was going to be ok.  I knew what was going to happen and that would make it easier.  I was so wrong.  A strong, deep cry comes at the end of this amazing tale.  The movie, of course, made me cry as well.

7. Of Mice and Men by John Stienbeck

I was terrified to teach this book to sophomores.  When I read it, I was curled up in a ball crying.  This amazing tale of friendship was so short, so moving, so powerful.  I didn’t know how I would read it or talk about it with students.  The emotion in this book is a strong bonding moment in my classroom.

8. Winger by Andrew Smith

The tears for this one snuck up on me.  I don’t think I cried until I finished reading it.  A very sad ending indeed.

9. One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Oh Carley Conners.  You broke and healed my heart so many times throughout your story.  Mrs. Murphy was a cause of my tears as well.  I have had students read this one and share their feelings with me on this one.

10. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Lina’s story is heartbreaking.  I think what upset me more and teared me apart was the fact that I had no idea what Lithuanians experienced at the hands of Stalin.  I cried with Lina and her family through their horrific journey.

What books have made you cry?


Peak: A Review

1 Feb

Title Peak

Author: Roland Smith

Format: Paperback, personal purchase

Release Date: May 1, 2007

Summary (from Goodreads): The only thing you’ll find on the summit of Mount Everest is a divine view. The things that really matter lie far below. – Peak Marcello

After fourteen-year-old Peak Marcello is arrested for scaling a New York City skyscraper, he’s left with two choices: wither away in Juvenile Detention or go live with his long-lost father, who runs a climbing company in Thailand. But Peak quickly learns that his father’s renewed interest in him has strings attached. Big strings. As owner of Peak Expeditions, he wants his son to be the youngest person to reach the Everest summit–and his motives are selfish at best. Even so, for a climbing addict like Peak, tackling Everest is the challenge of a lifetime. But it’s also one that could cost him his life.

Roland Smith has created an action-packed adventure about friendship, sacrifice, family, and the drive to take on Everest, despite the incredible risk. The story of Peak’s dangerous ascent—told in his own words—is suspenseful, immediate, and impossible to put down.

I have heard about this book for quite awhile.  Whenever teachers share popular books in their classrooms, Peak came up over and over again.  I found a copy in the “bargin bin” at Barnes & Noble this summer because of a small mark on the top of the book.  I picked it up.  Like many other books I buy, it kept falling further down my to-read list.  One of these days I will learn to listen to my friends and colleagues and just read a book as soon as possible after they tell me.  I loved this one!

I think what I enjoyed most about this book is how much I learned.  I am not a climber in any way, shape, or form.  I knew very little about climbing Everest until I read this book.  I basically knew it was dangerous, you need oxygen when you got higher up the mountain, and many people have died trying.  I had no idea how long the process took and how long people had to take acclimate to the atmosphere that far up.  I had no idea climbers had to “climb high, sleep low,” making climbs to the various camps a number of times up and down.  I definitely still have no desire to go up to Everest myself, but I have so much respect for what people do to get there.

This was a book I never wanted to put down because I wanted to know if Peak would make it to the summit.  There is the perfect balance of suspense and plot to keep me hooked from beginning to end.  I have already started sharing this title with students and encouraging them to add it to their lists.  I highly recommend this one for any reader that appreciates an engaging adventure story.  Readers learn so much from this book and are entertained while learning.  Peak, Sun-jo, Zopa, Holly, Josh – every character helps make this a story readers want to read.

4/5 stars