Archive | March, 2015

A Great Start!

24 Mar

Well, the school year is officially more than 2/3 of the way done! Last week marked the beginning of trimester three and we are off and running.  This will be my last time teaching a third trimester; next year we are switching to semesters.

I am pretty proud of what was accomplished in trimester 2.  In English 10 A, I really focused on developing our close and critical reading skills and to move into synthesis across texts.  I challenged my students with a full synthesis essay on the American Dream based on our readings.  It was tough for them because they were not used to this type of writing.  However, we worked through and practiced and they stepped up.  They really showed what they learned on the final exams this trimester, too.  The quality of essays greatly improved from what I had seen in the past years and trimesters.  Students even told me they felt more confident going into the exam.  I was proud of them!  I am also gaining confidence in my teaching ability with some of these higher-level skills.  I will continue to work on them the rest of this year and into next year.

Now I get to teach three sections of English 10 B.  This is probably my favorite class to teach!  We start with narrative writing with memoirs.  I follow a workshop model and the students usually respond pretty well.  One of my favorite mini-lessons is the Explode a Moment lesson to help get more descriptive details in the writing.  This one is always fun and the stories students create as we practice the skill lead to a lot of laughter and strong writing moments. We had some great moments this week with this one! I love watching them grow as writers and gain confidence in themselves.

We are also able to do some of my favorite grammar units!  We start with Introductory Clauses.  In grammar, we follow Jeff Anderson‘s model of grammar instruction.  If you are not familiar with his work, you need to check out his books.  I get to borrow his AAWWUBBIS idea and the students create strong sentences and start expanding their writing skills.  These units just make teaching fun.

Plus, the reading has been really strong from the beginning.  We did book tours last week and students checked out books for SSR.  Many students have already been adding books to their To-Read lists.  I have seen students walking in the hall while reading The Selection.  Students keep asking when a book will be back in that they hope to read.  Students are talking more about what they are reading with each other.  I love seeing how reading becomes an accepted and expected part of our routine.  I still am trying to develop their life-long reading skills to carry beyond the classroom, but at least there is a start from all the work being done throughout the year.

There’s really one thing I want this trimester to be all about: fun.  I want students to have fun as they learn and grow as readers and writers.  I want my co-teacher and I to have fun as we continue to grow and learn from our students.  I hope to have some strong communities built by the time we reach June.  I feel pretty rejuvenated and ready to tackle this last part of the school year!


It’s Monday, March 23, 2015! What are you reading?

23 Mar


I know I’m posting a little bit later than usual, but it’s better late than never!  Here is a quick update on my reading life lately.

What I’ve read lately

I actually slowed down a little bit on reading.  The week of finals for trimester two was super busy, and then I found myself getting set up for trimester three, including teaching a class for the first time.  I actually had to put The Family Romanov on pause.  I just have not had the attention to give it that it deserves. I was enjoying it and it stretches me into a different genre, but I need to give my full attention to it later.  Maybe my upcoming spring break will be the perfect time.

I did read Dreamland by Sarah Dessen last week.  I wanted something to get my back in my groove after dragging a little.  I enjoy Dessen’s books and know they are usually a quick read.  I did finish this one quickly.  Overall, I liked it, giving it 3.5/5 stars.  It deals with an important issue I think teens should read about.  My issue, and maybe it’s petty, is how Dessen handled the cheer team Caitlyn is a part of.  It was full of stereotypes and really not how I experienced cheer as a cheerleader or coach.  Some parts will a little rushed for me as well.  I appreciate that this was first published in 2000 (I was in high school!) and I know I like more of Dessen’s later work much more.

What I’m reading this week

I received the Arc for Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin thanks for my friend Beth who picked it up at ALA Midwinter.  The concept fascinates me: science has progressed to pinpoint a person’s actual date of death.  You live your life knowing when you are going to die.  Denton’s Deathdate is tomorrow. I wanted to read this in order to share it with my students.  So far, I am really liking it and can see how my students will enjoy it too.  I plan on a full review once I am done.

I also hope to finally get to Glory O’Brien this week.  I just had to renew it from the library.  I am picking up my reading groove again so I am sure I will get to it soon.

What are you reading this week?

It’s Monday, March 9, 2015! What are you reading?

9 Mar


I was pretty sick last week.  I had a bit of that stomach flu that is going around.  It was a pretty rough few days.  I did read some, but a lot of my time was spent sleeping.  I am feeling much better this week and am looking forward to some of the books I have on deck.

What I read last week

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

I wanted to like this more than I actually did.  I loved the way Sylvia Plath was intertwined in the story.  I really loved getting to know the characters.  But the ending was so rushed.  There were so many important issues that Wolitzer could have explored much deeper.  So much was glazed over that I feel it could have been more powerful had more time been spent on developing the ending.  3.5/5 stars

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

I love this book!  I love how for a little bit, I was confused but I still wanted to read it.  It is such a beautiful story!  I went through so many emotions while reading it.  I am so happy I read it!  5/5 stars

What I am reading this week 

The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming

I had a very successful trip to the library last Monday.  I have been wanting to read this one for awhile.  I have been very interested in the Romanov family for quite a long time.  Plus, this is helping me to shake things up and read some nonfiction this year, too.


Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by AS King 

I think I made it pretty clear in the past that I love AS King.  I was so excited to come across this title as well in the library.  I have heard many positive things about this one.

What are you reading this week?

Afterworlds: A Review

4 Mar

Title: Afterworlds

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Format: Hardcover borrowed from library

Release Date: September 23, 2014

Summary (from Goodreads): Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she’s made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings…

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy’s novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the ‘Afterworld’ to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved – and terrifying – stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.

So much drew me to this book.  First, I liked the idea of two books in one.  Second, it seemed Darcy would be living my dream come true: move to NYC to be a writer.  Third, once again, friends of mine had a lot of positive things to say about it.  I saw it on the NEW ARRIVAL display at my public library and knew I had to grab it.  Overall, I really enjoyed both stories in the book.

I really like the novel Afterworlds that Darcy is writing in the book.  Lizzie’s story was a page turner.  Sometimes, I found myself hoping to rush through the chapter about Darcy so I could see what happened next in Lizzie’s world.  The beginning of that novel in the airport was so suspenseful that it set the stage well for an amazing story.  There were twists and turns I did not see coming.  The ending was awesome as well, something Darcy struggles with throughout the writing of the book.

That is not to say I didn’t enjoy reading about Darcy as well.  It was fascinating to learn about the publishing industry and what it is like.  There is a lot I never knew.  I also appreciated reading about the struggles Darcy had as a writer and how she worked through them.  There were times I wanted to felt frustrated Darcy for how she was acting, but I know her age had a lot to do with that.  I think she was a realistic eighteen-year-old to read.  I think Darcy grows and matures realistically throughout her story as well and it was great to read that transformation.

One tiny thing bothered me.  I am not one to be against behaviors in books like underage drinking.  However, the fact that Darcy, at 18, had no issue ordering a beer anywhere she went in New York without once being asked to show an ID kind of irked me.  I found that unbelievable.  Or it may be sign that I am getting old.  🙂 But I digress.

If you like a supernatural story as well as a realistic one, Afterworlds is a book for you.  Do not be intimidating by its size; it can be a surprisingly quick read.

4/5 stars

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorites from the last 3 years

3 Mar


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 ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS from the last three years!  Here are my favorites from 2012, 2013, & 2014.

Disclaimer: Okay this list was hard.  And I learned that 2013 was an AMAZING reading year for me.  It was really hard to not pick almost all of them from that year.


1. Summer Sisters by Judy Blume (2014)

This is a cheat.  This is my favorite book that I have reread more times than I count.  But I reread it last year, so it gets on the list.

AS King

2. AS King Books (2012 & 2013)

This is another cheat.  I have read all four of these in the last three years and I cannot choose just one for this list.  So AS King just gets added on her own.

3. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (2012)

This satire is one that I will never forget.  It is hilarious but it also makes you think about the world we live in.

4. Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers (2012)

This is my favorite Courtney Summers book.  I have had so many copies of this one because I cannot keep it on my shelf and it grows legs and walks away.

5. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (2012)

This book.  This book.  That’s all I can keep saying.  It made me cry like I have never cried over a book (and I’ve cried over a lot of books).  Beautiful.  Haunting.

6. Looking for Alaska by John Green (2012)

Hands down my favorite John Green book.  I think everyone should read this one.

7. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (2013)

This book is why historical fiction is so important: it tells a story not usually told.  It is powerful.

8. Sold by Patrica McCormick (2013)

I love Patricia McCormick for telling the difficult stories that need to be told.  Her verse was unforgettable.  This one has also made some rounds in my classroom.

9. One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (2013)

I loved Carley and her story.  I still think of her often.  This is one I love sharing with others.

10. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (2014)

My favorite book of last year.  This one amazed me with both the writing and the story.  I have loved giving it to other readers and discussing it with them.

What have been your favorites over these last three years?

It’s Monday, March 2, 2015! What are you reading?

2 Mar


Is it really already March?  I cannot believe it!  Where is 2015 going?  Thanks to a cold day last week, I got quite a bit more reading done than I have lately.

What I read last week

Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Dear Stephanie Perkins – Please write more books.  Like a lot more.  I loved all three of these books.  Anna was probably my favorite, but I love how all the stories come together and tie up in the end.  Basically, I will buy whatever you may write, Mrs. Perkins, especially more romances like this.

What I plan to read this week

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer 

I have seen this one all over friends’ feeds.  The mention of Sylvia Plath had me ready to go.  So far, I am liking it.  I am looking forward to learn more about each character’s story and understand exactly how this magical plan may work.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

I am putting myself on a book buying ban until my birthday in June (you know, gift cards will be coming).  So I am getting to all these books that have been hanging around my house and classroom that I have been dying to read but haven’t gotten to yet because I buy new ones.  This one won the Printz in 2009 and gets a lot of love from readers I know.  So it is next.

What are you reading this week?