Archive | January, 2015

I’ll Give You the Sun: A Review

28 Jan

Title: I’ll Give You the Sun

Author: Jandy Nelson

Format: Personal Purchase, Hardcover

Release Date: September 16, 2014

Summary (from Goodreads): Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

This radiant novel from the acclaimed, award-winning author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.

So here is how I thought I was going to have to start this review a few days ago: I think this one was a little too hyped up for me.  My expectations were too high.

That is not how I am beginning this review now that I am writing it.  Not at all.  I loved this book.  It took me a little bit to really get into, but once I was, it turned into read-every-possible-second-of-the-day and stay-awake-way-past-my-bedtime-to-get-it-read kind of book.  This book is amazing.  This book is beautiful.

I loved these characters.  Each of them.  Nelson has created characters that are flawed.  This characters make mistakes; in most cases, many mistakes.  Yet, I still cared for them. I could still feel for them.  This made them so real to me because people are not perfect.  And yes, we sometimes hurt those we love the most.  But they love us, too, no matter what.  And that’s what matters.

I really loved how the story was told.  Noah told the story from when they are 13- to 14-years-old.  Jude tells the story when they are 16 and this alternates each chapter.  I really loved the way their experiences are intertwined even with the gap in years in the story.  I wanted to know what happened to go from Noah’s story to where the twins and the people in the lives were in Jude’s story.  It kept me wanting more the more I got into the story.

Nelson’s writing blew me away.  I want to see the artwork that is described.  I want to read all of Grandma Sweetwine’s Bible.  I wish I could be even half as articulate in describing this book as Nelson is in telling the story.  I don’t think I can give it full justice.

While I had to take my time with this and did not devour it the way I expected, I would not have had it any other way.  When I read the last page, I said “Wow!” out loud.  I have not felt this affected by a book in a long time.  I hope you have the opportunity to read this book and enjoy the experience as well.  I look forward to discussing it with readers.

5/5 stars


Picture Books and Poems

27 Jan

Alright – teacher confession time: Teaching writing is hard.  Who is with me on this?  While I know I am always evolving as a teacher, writing has been an area I constantly work on and strive to improve.  I was a good writer in school and thanks to some teachers and professors who challenged me, I became an even stronger writer.  However, I have found that sometimes it’s hard to teach students because, well, writing can be hard.  And hard scares us, both teachers and students.

I have really been trying to shift my focus in writing.  There are of course changes in standards and testing, but I have been thinking what skills do my students need?  Making an argument is very important, of course, but what else is there?  That is not the only type of writing.  What other experiences can we share?

Our department has been looking at synthesis the last few years.  This is one of the strategies that work when it comes to reading.  Plus, it is higher order thinking.  We create our own ideas from what we read.  And, as I explained to students, we read literature to learn about the world and apply the messages to our lives. I want to provide opportunities for students to share what they have learned.

A large part of synthesis is using sources to support your ideas.  We know as we have been shifting our instruction that sometimes students have a hard time with this.  I did too at times.  How do you incorporate another’s ideas while keeping the paper your own?  We use these skills in research for all topics, and I know it can really help students.

So, I wanted to incorporate a synthesis essay at the end of the Raisin in the Sun unit to help students with this.  I wanted them to explore the American Dream to discover the lessons they learned as well as apply the lessons to life.  Now, where to start?  How to help them do this?

My assistant principal is amazing to bounce ideas off of and get some advice from.  I want this higher level thinking, but how do we get there.  She suggested breaking it down for them with shorter, simpler texts first.  She recommended a picture book with another text.  Picture books appear simple, but of course, have many deeper lessons that we can apply. I had success earlier this trimester practice Close and Critical Reading Questions with a picture book. I decided to go for it to give the students practice.

After a lesson planning block, I came across some ideas online.  The picture book that really spoke to me was The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson.  Not only is a beautiful books in general, but the story has a strong message about segregation.  I knew my students would have a lot to say about it.

I wanted to do more work with poetry with my students.  We had read “A Dream Deferred” before reading the play, so I turned to Langston Hughes again.  I love his poetry!  His poem “Merry-Go-Round” seemed to fit perfectly with the book and I thought we could not only practice using sources to show our learning, but have some great conversations.

And we sure did!  Friday, we went through the lesson.  I was amazed with what students had to say about both the book and the poem.  I love when students share ideas and thoughts I had not thought about.  I saw more light bulbs turn on as we started to write what we learned.  I felt so energized from such a thoughtful, productive day in the classroom.

I know that students are still nervous about the essay as it is new and different from what they are used to.  But, we continued discussing today and I have been encouraging them to try and take this risk to grow as writers.  I also tell them, we become better readers by reading and better writers by writing (and of course they help each other).  I look forward to seeing what they come up with.

I also appreciate the reminder from my AP about how important it is to practice and to remember the power of picture books in class.  Even though I thought I’d have it all figured out by now (will I ever?), at the end of the day, I love these opportunities to grow and try something new.

It’s Monday, January 19, 2015! What are you reading?

19 Jan


It is hard to believe another week has gone by!  Is 2015 already flying for you, too?  Here is what has been going on in my reading life.

What I read last week

Cress by Marissa Meyer

I absolutely love the Lunar Chronicles Series!  I have loved how every book introduces new characters and how their story line get wrapped up in the overall story.  I really liked Cress as a character.  Plus, there was a lot of Thorne and I got to love him even more than I already did.  If you like sci-fi and twists on fairy tales, you need to check this series out!  The fourth book, Winter, is coming out in November of this year. To bide some time Fairesttelling the story of Levana, comes out later this month!

What I’m reading this week

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson 

I am excited to read what all the fuss has been about this one.  I started it on Saturday and am already falling in love with the writing.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

This is another one that a lot of my bookish friends have been talking about.  This one is already on deck for after I’ll Give You the Sun. 

What are you reading this week?

It’s Monday, January 12, 2015! What are you reading?

12 Jan

Welcome to another week!  Hope everyone is staying warm!  Here is what’s going on in my reading life this week.

What I read last week

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

I really loved this one!  I knew so little about the French Revolution, and this is what I love about historical fiction – learning something new.  I enjoyed both stories, Andi’s and Alex’s.  I found myself hanging in suspense wanting to know what will happen.  I highly recommend this one for historical fiction fans out there.

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

This book was so difficult to read.  What ‘Alice’ has to endure is just horrific.  The first night I read this, I almost wanted to stop.  I had a nightmare that night.  However, the fact is this book is a reminder of what children, teens, and even adults have to endure.  It is uncomfortable to think about, but that does not make it any less real.  This one will stay with me forever.

What I’m reading this week

Cress by Marissa Meyer

I changed my mind on which series I want to continue reading (there are a lot of them lol).  I loved both Cinder and Scarlet and I really want to continue this story.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Just about everyone is talking about this one.  I ordered it with some Christmas gift cards and it should be arriving at sometime this week.  It is the first one I plan on reading.

What are you reading this week?

Happy reading!!

One Small Word with Students

6 Jan

The first day back from break was actually pretty awesome!  My students worked pretty hard and we got pretty much all our objectives accomplished.  It was a great way to help get back into the swing of things!

I have been really working hard to write (just about) every day along with reading every day.  Today, I asked my students to consider what their word would be for 2015.  To be honest, I was a little worried if they would get the idea.  I had absolutely nothing to worry about!  My students came up with some amazing ideas and really loved thinking of a focus for the new year.

The Wordle below is just a small sampling of the words they came up with.  Can you imagine all the amazing things they can do with a focus like these?  My students continue to amaze me each and every day.

One Small Word

It’s Monday, January 5, 2015! What are you reading?

5 Jan


It’s the first Monday of 2015!  Here is what I have read lately and what I plan on reading.

What I’ve read lately

Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

Oh how I loved this book!  It was heartbreaking at parts, but it also managed to make me feel better by the end. Quincy and Biddy will be with me for a long time.  I have already passed this on to another teacher in my school.  I look forward to discussing it with her.

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris

This was everything I wanted it to be and more!  If you love NPH, you MUST read this book.  It is hilarious, of course, but also heartwarming.  I loved learning about him and his life.  Plus, the second person narration to fit with the Choose Your Own Adventure style made it a very interesting read.

What I plan on reading this week

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

I came across this title when looking for more historical fiction books for my research project.  I have been really enjoying it so far.  It’s huge (472 pages), but I’m going through it pretty quickly.  I am learning a lot about a topic I know very little about with the French Revolution.  I want to know more about Alex’s story as well as what will happen to Andi.

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

I have decided this has been sitting on my shelf for too long.  I loved Grave Mercy so much.  And the third book is already out.  I need to get caught up!

What are you reading this week?

My 2015 Word: Strength

4 Jan

Strolling through Facebook this week, I saw the question pop up: What’s your word for 2015?  I hadn’t given it a whole lot of thought yet.  Last year, my word was More. I was wondering what this year would be all about for me.

I believe this all began with the One Little Word Challenge from Ruth Ayres.  A few of my good friends started to weigh in.  I love what Beth had to say about her word.  I also loved reading Brain’s post.  I wanted a word that would guide me in the coming year.

It finally hit me today.  My word for 2015 is strength.  This is something I have been needing a lot of lately.  Life has been challenging me, both personally and professionally.  I know I will need strength to remain positive.  I will need strength to focus on the good.   I will need strength to remind myself why I do what I do.  I will also need strength for when I hit these different challenges that make me sad, angry, and question.

Here’s to a strong 2015.


What’s your word this year?